Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 2 May 2018, 10:30 am


It’s time for (a slightly late!) weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

Where are all the queer women on TV in 2018? (Sophie Jackson, Dazed)

From the article: “This is why queer people – queer women in particular – need their own shows. When queer characters only exist in the context of straight television, the reality of queer lives is often erased in the narrative. They follow a stringent formula: dating, engaged, married, babies. All their friends are straight. When queer characters aren’t protagonists, they’re often put on a heteronormative conveyer belt so as not to disrupt the status quo of the straight show they exist in.”

Sophie was previously an editor for The F-Word and has contributed to the site in the past. You can read more from her HERE.

‘I Feel Pretty’ and the Rise of Beauty-Standard Denialism (The New York Times)

Jealous of Kate Middletown’s post-pregnancy perfection (Grazia)

Aging Ghosts in the Skincare Machine (Medium)

What Fullness Is (Roxanne Gay on Medium)

From the article: “I had to face the extent of my unhappiness and how much of that unhappiness was connected to my body. I had to accept that I could change my fat body faster than this culture will change how it views, treats, and accommodates fat bodies. And I had to do so while recognizing that losing weight wasn’t actually going to make me happier — which may have been the bitterest part of all.”

“Stop ‘tat-calling’ women – our tattoos aren’t for you” (Stylist)

I became incontinent at the age of 30 (The Pool)

For the ‘But-But-But What About Harvey Weinstein?!’ Brigade When Bill Cosby Being Found Guilty Is Too Much (Kirsten West Savali, The Root)

From the article: “For the men defending Cosby, it’s about being free to be rapists without consequence like the rich white men they clearly want to be. As for the women defending Cosby? Get Out.

“No, Cosby can’t get away (anymore) with rape like police officers get away with raping and murdering black people. No, he can’t get away with rape and sexual assault like white men get away with raping and murdering black people. He should have remembered that—or, better yet, just not sexually assaulted anyone at all. While this may seem like a novel idea to some, it’s not without precedence.”

The truth about trans wars (Neil Mackay, The Herald)

Caster Semenya the obvious target in IAAF changes that only create a legal minefield (Hannah Mouncey, Guardian)

The Finkbeiner Test: A Tool For Writing About Women In Their Professions (Christie Aschwanden, The Last Word on Nothing)

Has Mumsnet become a hub of online transphobia? (Huck Magazine)

From the article: “The anti-trans community on Mumsnet is something of an open secret. It has been present for years, and it appears that there has, for a while, been a lax approach to tackling this particular form of hate speech.”

The image is used under a creative commons license and was found on Pixabay. It is a photograph of a blue flower covered in rain droplets.

Woman on laptop

We’re almost midway through the year and holding onto hope that we’ll see a few more sunny days. As we creep into May, we welcome Vanessa de Largie as this month’s guest blogger. In her own words:

“Vanessa de Largie is an Australian actor and writer who divides her time between London and Melbourne.

She is the monthly sex columnist for Maxim Magazine’s print issue and her words are regularly published in The Daily Telegraph and The Huffington Post.

In 2017, Vanessa performed her controversial one-woman-show in London’s West End called: ‘Every Orgasm I Have Is A Show of Defiance To My Rapist’.

Vanessa is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Don’t Hit Me! about her journey through domestic violence.

She is currently doing a post-graduate degree in communications (journalism) at Charles Sturt University. In her free time, she dabbles in art, film, poetry and music.”

Welcome, Vanessa!

Featured image by Brooke Cagle, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a woman working on her laptop in a cafe. She is casually dressed, in a denim jacket and hoodie, and appears very focused on what she’s doing

Church of EnglandSharon Jagger is April’s monthly guest blogger

I am in the throes of writing up my research for my doctoral degree, which focuses on how ordained women negotiate their belonging in the Church of England.

The first female priests were ordained in 1994 and can still be barred from some churches; unlike secular organisations who may be obliged by law to promote gender equality, religious organisations are exempt, essentially allowing any parish not to accept female priests.

In my research, I have heard lots of stories of people refusing to take the sacraments (the bread and wine in Communion) from female priests. These priests are also wrestling with masculinised language and imagery in the Church and biblical texts that many consider sexist.

Having interviewed 27 amazing female priests, who talked about their experiences of gender and religion, I think their voices should be heard more widely, both in the Church and in society generally. As I write my thesis, I have the nagging thought: “Who is going to read this?”

There are creative ways of amplifying the voices of those we may not normally hear. Some academics have explored ways of using artistic practices to broadcast ideas arising from research. Art, music and drama have become ways of communicating important messages beyond the rarefied academic world. Sandra Faulkner’s book, Poetry as Method, is a good example of these techniques in action and Tiina Rosenberg’s Don’t Be Quiet, Start a Riot links them to feminist performance activism.

So, I have turned to ‘transcription poetry’ as a way of rescuing the words of the female priests I interviewed from languishing in the pages of my thesis. This means taking the women’s actual words and arranging them into a poem.

One of the most interesting topics we discussed was menstruating, particularly at the altar, which has all sorts of symbolic meanings for priests. This was the theme I chose for the poem.

Rosemary Radford Ruether in Through the Devil’s Gateway, edited by Alison Joseph, discusses how Christianity has seen menstruation as “the curse”— an inheritance from ancient purity laws and something which still lurks within the symbolic even now. Ruether says, because of the male monopoly on religious and public power, “Women come to think of themselves as debilitated and polluted, rather than magically powerful, because of their bleeding.”

Hearing stories of priests who menstruate during rituals and in religiously symbolic places is an important way of exploring how this patriarchal ‘curse’ of framing women as ‘polluting’ can be challenged.

In the interviews, these female priests were funny, rebellious, subversive and determined to challenge the negative taboos around menstrual blood. The poem that sprang from these stories shines a light on deeply embedded, gendered ideas that mean women are often alienated from sacred space and religious symbols.

There is humour in the poem but there is also an underlying poignancy in the way the women feel othered and portrayed as tainted and weak. Whilst the priests use religious language, their words will resonate with those of us who understand menstrual shame. These are the voices of real women describing their lived experience:

We all had the same experience the first time we had to preside* during our period

Oh. We shouldn’t be doing this
What they’re really scared about is you menstruating in the sanctuary
But I don’t go around saying, “Oh look at the diary, I’m going to wear my white alb and no pants”
Although sometimes, sometimes…What if?

Men produce stuff as well. Men bleed as well

We went to a mosque for Friday prayers, it was a huge deal
We wore our cassocks and scapulars
We covered up our hair and went into Friday prayers

And I had my period

I was so aware of it, thinking “I wonder if they know”
It was like we were smuggling in tampons
Right. I’m going to have to improvise here
I’ve got a used tampon in my pocket


I never thought about menstruation so much
That whole sense of taint comes out
The dirtiness
Impurity on ritual impurity


“Oh, have you got your period, love? Well, why don’t you just sit down
Because I know you’re going to cry”
They were saying, “Have you ever said communion while you were menstruating?”
Of course I have
It was a sort of shock for them to process this

Menstruation and blood and the sanctuary – a real stumbling point

They’d never had a woman before
She went into the vestry and found the churchwarden going through her handbag
“What do you think you’re doing?”
He said “Well, I was just checking to see if you were carrying tampons
because if you’re menstruating
I won’t be able to take communion from you”

Imagine I pulled out a used tampon

You just bring it and put it on the table at the Mass and just offer it all
It somehow becomes linked with Christ’s sacrifice
And there is something strange for me
Something meaningful to me celebrating Mass whilst I’m menstruating
The whole of sense of sacrifice, suffering, blood
There is something quite powerful and female about that

Mass as menstruation envy

Beginning of puberty and periods and things and flows of blood from women
asking how Jesus is reacting to all this
The symbolism of the Eucharist
“It’s my body” and there’s blood
You drink blood from the chalice

That Wise Wound

“Let’s all celebrate our menstrual cycle”
Let’s not do that. Let’s be glad that one day they’ll stop

*presiding at Mass, or Eucharist, or Communion, where the priest blesses the bread and the wine at the altar

Featured image by Michael D Beckwith, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of the interior of Chester Cathedral. The image looks down the Church’s main aisle, with the altar in the distance as the focal point. The pews face each other rather than the altar

Congratulations to Stephanie Lim and Sophie Cartman who will be writing for Chortle during this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Chortle specifically sought reviewers who were of colour or working class to diversify its critics and I’m looking forward to reading their reviews.

Bridget Christie is on tour with her new show, WHAT NOW?, at the moment. “Is rolling news affecting your ability to enjoy the simple things? Like baking, gardening and autoerotic asphyxiation? This new show from multi-award winning member of the Metropolitan Liberal Elite, and star of her own Netflix special, is for you.”

Norwich’s popular monthly storytelling event True Stories Live is taking part in the Women of the World Festival with an all female line up this Sunday 29 April. There’s a heap of other events taking place at Norwich Arts Centre and across Norwich over the weekend as part of WOW – I’ll be at Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould on the Friday so come and say hi if you are too!

At the end of this week on Sunday and on Monday there will be two performances of Are There Female Gorillas? at The Drayton Arms Theatre in London. Are There Female Gorillas? is created by experimental artist Grace Strickland de Souza and actor/writer Sophie Ablett and is inspired by female experience, focussing on the issue of body hair.

Damsel Productions’ Grotty runs at the Bunker Theatre in London from 1 until 26 May. Grotty is a dark, funny and provocative satire of East London’s lesbian subculture. The play explores themes including intergenerational tension in the lesbian community, struggles with mental health, identity and grief.

Tara Theatre in London will have a month-long season of events, I’ll Say It Again!, by women artists, celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage in the UK from 2 May until 2 June. There are a huge number of events, but the ones that really caught my eye were We Are The Lions, Mr. Manager, the remarkable true story of Jayaben Desai, leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick Film Processing Factory strike, Half-Breed, an energetic one-woman dark comedy about finding your voice, fearlessness and escape, The Secrets of the Bluestockings, a quirky new show from Tricity Vogue, Ginger Blush and Audacity Chutzpah providing an alternative history of literary ladies, derring-do and dangerous wandering wombs and Strange Fruit – A Tribute to Billie Holiday, a captivating cocktail of songs and stories from Billie Holiday’s life.

RashDash are ripping up Anton Chekhov’s revered 1900 play and reimagining Three Sisters with electric guitars. They’re at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre between 3 and 19 May before touring to the Yard Theatre (22 May – 9 June) and Tobacco Factory Theatres (12 – 16 June).

Anne Bertreau has put together a list of six shows by and with female theatre makers at this year’s Brighton Fringe which will be worth a read if you’re going.

Breakin’ Convention, the annual hip hop dance festival running at Sadler’s Wells in London between 5 and 7 May, features several key works by women this year including: Elsabet Yonas who has created a work for five women that looks at the dancers’ shared experience growing up in families with absent father figures and the way this has shaped their purpose and intention; House of Absolute, an all-female dance group who specialise in waacking, jazz dance and spoken word, and Myself UK Dance Company, an all-female collective who continue to examine the female identity through lyrical street dance and spoken word.

Inspired by Grace Jones and Afrofuturism, Rachael Young’s Nightclubbing imagines a different future for women of colour through striking intergalactic imagery and visceral live music. It opens at Camden People’s Theatre from 8 to 12 May before touring to Brighton, Cambridge and the Latitude Festival.

Before It Starts by Naked Frank is at the Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell between 8 and 10 May. They say: “If you are squeamish about staring the hard truth of teenage homophobia in the eye and laughing lavishly in its face, then this isn’t the show for you.”

The Bush Theatre in Shepherd’s Bush have put together the world’s first arts festival dedicated to fertility, infertility, modern families and the science of making babies. Fertility Fest runs from 8 until 13 May with 150 artists and fertility experts in a week-long programme of events, entertainment, discussion, debate, support and solidarity.

There are a couple of good things coming up at the Omnibus in Clapham: Bicycles And Fish on 18 May which combines comedy, storytelling and original songs and The Yellow Wallpaper running from 5 until 24 June which is based on the cult short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

And finally, it’s my show and I’ll shill it if I want to: The Exploded Circus, a contemporary circus show with an all-female cast and creative team, goes on tour from next month. It’s what I’ve been organising for the last few months when I haven’t been here writing about theatre from a feminist perspective here. We’re in Worthing at the Pavilion Theatre from 18 – 20 May, at Curve in Leicester on 26 and 27 May, at The Lowry in Salford on 16 and 17 June, at the Imagine Luton festival on 23 and 24 June, at The Ffwrnes in Llanelli on 27 and 28 July and at Winchester Theatre Royal on 7 and 8 September with dates in Glasgow, Burton upon Trent, Lancaster and elsewhere still to be announced. If you happen to catch it I’d love to know what you think!

Until next month.

Image one is a promotional image for Mimbre’s show The Exploded Circus. Photo by Eric Richmond, design by Long Arm. It shows three women swinging diagonally on a trapeze, with an explosion of colour behind them. They look outwards as if they are seeking something.

Image two is a promotional image for We Are The Lions, Mr. Manager. It shows a woman with a bindi smiling with her fist raised. She is in colour. She is in front of ranks of British policeman in old fashioned police helmets who are all in black and white.

Image three is of Rachael Young in Nightclubbing and is by Marcu Hessenberg. Young looks forward powerfully, leaning on the rail behind her. She wears an enormous feather headdress in dark green and black, a gold dress slit to her navel, long thin plaits down to her waist and glitter under her eyes.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 23 April 2018, 4:00 pm


It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

We’ve lost our boy (Fat Gay Vegan)

From the article: “Morrissey saved my life with his music, but you have got to be fucking joking if you think that means I am going to sit around and not say anything about his outrageous statements laced with the language of the far-right. People who perpetuate racism by using hateful language need to be held accountable, not celebrated. Morrissey’s dedication to saving animals does not give him a free pass when it comes to the promotion of For Britain. His cultural legacy does not make space for him to perpetuate dangerous ideas without serious and determined critique.”

Are CGI models taking jobs away from real people of colour? (Dazed)

Ask Bodyposipanda: My ED Made My Sex Drive Disappear — Will It Ever Come Back? (The UnEdit)

From the article: “Of course it’s damn near impossible to view yourself as a sexual being when you’ve been so trapped in self-destruction. In order to feel your own sexuality you have to feel connected to your body, and you’ve just spent a long time trying to wipe your body out of existence pound by pound, punishing yourself, and denying yourself the most basic of bodily pleasures: nourishment. So how do you heal from that? I think you start by getting back in touch with your own body and re-acquainting yourself with the sensations of living.”

Woman’s bad mood CURED by random bloke telling her to ‘smile’ (The Rochdale Herald)

“Not technically beautiful, she has an engaging laugh”: 35 years of being described by men (Tracey Thorn writing in the New Statesman)

The week that took Windrush from low-profile investigation to national scandal (Amelia Gentleman, Guardian)

Diane Abbott calls for trans solidarity at fundraiser for London LGBT+ centre (Jake Hall, indy100)

As a trans woman of colour, my words are met with silence (Miss Blanks, Guardian)

From the article: “When we talk about #MeToo, we must always remember to honour the true origins of the campaign. Like many other social justice movements, it rose from the struggles of black women and was co-opted by white women.”

I Don’t Get Weighed at the Doctor’s Office—and You Don’t Have to, Either (Melissa A. Fabello, Self)

From the article: “There is undue respect for thin bodies in our culture, so the scale isn’t forced on me. My body, at first glance, isn’t inherently seen as a problem to be solved. But for people of size, requesting not to be weighed will likely be met with far more derision and suspicion.”

There Are No Winners in The Belfast Rugby Rape Trial (Ireland’s AdvoKate)

The image is used under a creative commons license and attributed to Siddharth Mallya (Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22440687). It shows a branch of cherry blossom against a setting sun.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 16 April 2018, 9:07 pm


It’s a bumper round-up this week due to staff holiday where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous fortnight. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

What to say when someone tries to mansplain away the gender pay gap (New Statesman)

From the article: ‘“Women have children so aren’t in the highest paid jobs.” There are many responses to this, if you can keep yourself calm enough. The easiest is that men also have children.’

A letter to Asian girls (Et Cetera)

From the article: “There is a lower beauty threshold for people like me. When my Asian friends tell me they don’t find Asians attractive, I am angry, but I also understand. I have hated my appearance for nearly all my life, and this hatred has defined attractiveness as always white and never Asian. Because it was my appearance that marked me as different, a body that never belonged in this country, a target for middle-aged white men.”

Sexually charged ‘Ogle-ins’ allowed 1970s feminists to humiliate catcalling men (Timeline News via Medium)

What About “The Breakfast Club”? Revisiting the movies of my youth in the age of #MeToo (Molly Ringwald, The New Yorker)

How Feminists in China Are Using Emoji to Avoid Censorship (Margaret Andersen, Wired)

Remembering the wit and wisdom of Maya Angelou (Moya Crockett, Stylist)

The Sanitized Words of Complicated Women (DIANCA LONDON POTTS, shondaland)

From the article: “In the wake of #BlackGirlMagic’s rise and the hunger for narratives penned by black women and women of color, the work of icons like Lorde, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison feels more accessible and abundant than ever. Yet the key word here is “feels.” It is so easy to find a plethora of popular quotes or sepia-toned photographs of your favorite author standing at a podium or seated at their desk with their fists resting beneath their chin, looking every bit the literary revolutionary you aspire to be. You can buy vintage copies of their books and drink from mugs emblazoned with their portraits.

“But how much of their personal truth is being fully represented in these quotes, in these photos? In our enthusiasm to uplift the women mainstream canon has historically overlooked, we flatten the topography of their lives. Their sharp edges are dulled in order to be palatable to the masses, and we celebrate what works — for us.”

‘Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would’ Is the Most Savage Twitter Thread in Ages (Electric Lit)

For Jewish Corbyn supporters, this antisemitism row feels like gaslighting (Rachel Shabi, Guardian)

Winnie Mandela was a hero. If she’d been white, there would be no debate (Afua Hirsch, Guardian)

From the article: “Our ambivalence about apartheid is the elephant in the room. As a nation, one of our techniques for glossing over this uncomfortable fact has been overly beatifying Nelson Mandela, whose posthumous glory has always struck me as coming at the cost of forgetting the others. Who now remembers the names of Robert Sobukwe – the profound pan-Africanist whose medical treatment for fatal lung cancer was obstructed by the apartheid government, or Elias Motsoaledi, convicted at Rivonia alongside Mandela and not released from Robben Island until 26 years later.”

“We consider Nelson Mandela to be safe because of his message of forgiveness, because of truth and reconciliation, because he accepted the Nobel peace prize with apartheid-regime president FW de Klerk – decisions to which Madikizela-Mandela was fundamentally opposed. She was a radical until the end. Each rejection of that radicalism is an endorsement of the tyranny she fought against.”

Roseanne’s Gender Nonconforming Character Seems Designed to Appease Anti-Trans Feminists (Brynn Tannehill, Slate)

From the article: “After Mark attempts to go to the first day of school in a skirt and a blouse, the character Roseanne asks him if he feels like a boy or a girl, and accepts him when he says he identifies as a boy. That’s nice, as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far. In real life, if someone like Mark were to express a female gender identity, support from Barr and her followers would evaporate instantly.”

The Impact of FOSTA/SESTA on Online Sex Work Communities (Jessie Sage, Cyborgology, The Society Pages)

From the article: “My sense from being a part of the community is that clip producers who create and sell their own content and who use Google Drive in the process; escorts who advertise erotic services on Craigslist, Backpage, and RentBoy; and sex workers of all sorts who use Twitter and Reddit as a platform to discuss safety measures and build community with other sex workers and fans are, by and large, independently managing their own careers, making their own decisions, and, therefore, not trafficked. In fact, escorts describe sites like Backpage as having made their jobs safer by enabling them to solicit clients from the safety of their own homes rather than out in the streets. One result of FOSTA/SESTA is that independent escorts and trafficking victims alike will be pushed back into the streets to find clients. That is to say, those being affected by these bills are not the ones who the bill is ostensibly aiming to protect. Moreover, the bills do not come with any funding to help actual victims of sex trafficking (which, for the record, sex workers are probably most committed to and have the greatest stake in fighting).”

On (not) watching gendered violence on stage (Exeunt Magazine)

CN: One instance of disablist language

What’s the ​best way to get written out of history? Be a middle-aged woman (The Guardian)

Unruly, Adjective: The body that says ‘I am here’ (Carmen Maria Machado, Unruly Bodies, Medium)

Almost all violent extremists share one thing: their gender (Michael Kimmel, Guardian)

The Simpsons’ Apu Response Is What Happens When You’re on the Air for Too Long (Jen Chaney, Vulture)

From the article: “Many parents in America have found themselves in the position Marge does in this episode: excited to share some once-beloved book, film, or TV show, only to discover that it looks very dodgy in the light of 2018. At first I was delighted to see The Simpsons offer a take on this, but as written by Jeff Westbrook, ‘No Good Read Goes Unpunished’ — a title that has a defensive air about it from the get-go — just brings up a bunch of stuff and expects to win points for doing so without actually truly reckoning with any of it.”

The SWARM (Sex Worker and Advocacy Resistance Movement) Collective take over Neville Southall’s Twitter account and tweet to his 127,000 followers on 9 April 2018

7 Sex Workers on What It Means to Lose Backpage (Melissa Gira Grant, The Cut)

From the article: “Sex workers have used the internet over the last decade to carve out some independence, safety, and community in their work. For many, advertising online is a form of harm reduction — a way to choose how to work and whom to work with. To lose online ads means different things to different sex workers: For some, it means losing the equivalent of a paycheck, and for others, it will lead to losing control over their jobs, if not losing their jobs altogether.”

6 Sex Workers Explain How Sharing Client Lists Saves Lives (Kitty Stryker, Broadly)

Voiceless Again: FOSTA/SESTA and Online Censorship In the Age of #MeToo (Kitty Stryker, Bitch Media)

News groups ‘need to do more’ to help women journalists facing online harassment for doing their jobs, study finds (Press Gazette)

The image is used with permission of L. Taylor. It is a photograph of a windmill in the town of Leiden in the Netherlands on a very sunny day. The windmill is visible over the canal where a number of boats are out on the water.

Vanessa de Largie divides her time between the UK and Australia. She is a journalist, sex-columnist, blogger and author

I have lived with vaginismus for half of my life. It’s a condition where the vaginal muscles tighten when penetration is attempted; something the NHS describes as the body’s automatic reaction to fear.

It’s an unconscious muscular reflex that can happen during pap smears, sexual intercourse and while inserting a tampon.

Vaginismus is often associated with sexual assault or sexual abuse. I have experienced both and I strongly believe this is a key reason why I live with this condition.

The best way I can describe vaginismus from my own personal experience is that when it happens, my vagina shuts and goes into lockdown. It can be incredibly painful and traumatic.

But do you know what has been more traumatic? How men have reacted when faced with my condition.

In my experience, men have interpreted my condition to simply mean that I have a ‘tight’ vagina. They have loved the friction caused by vaginismus during initial penetration. I’ve even found myself tolerating pain during sex — knowing that it’s considered ‘an attribute’ to be a ‘tight vessel’.

Of course, the idea that a ‘tight’ vagina is appealing is tied to the fetishisation of Asian women as ‘small’ and ‘cute’, something a one-night stand reminded me of by telling me, post-coitum, that I had “a tight pussy like an Asian girl.”

There are not enough words to describe my repulsion and revulsion. What is worse, he believed he’d given me a compliment and seemed confused by the heavy silence which hung in the room.

But not only was his comment degrading to Asian women and to myself, he was putting down all women who didn’t possess ‘tight’ vaginas. His comment brought up a plethora of insecurities within me.

If I’m really honest with you, despite myself I have internalised the idea that having a ‘tight’ vagina is something to be proud of. I have prided myself on the fact that men I’ve slept with have told me I have a tight vagina; I have something that is considered ‘golden’ amongst them.

Do you want to hear something more revolting? In regards to the possibility of giving birth in the future, I have decided that I will have a caesarean, so I can hold on to my ‘prized possession’. Because what am I without the riches between my legs?

I am disgusted by this confession, which is why I thought it was important to share my story. I proudly identify as a woman who believes in gender equality yet I have a grubby little secret which I hold on to with immense guilt. I allow men to validate me by how ‘tight’ they perceive my vagina to be.

Internalised misogyny describes a state of being where women and girls believe, at least in part, that the gender stereotypes they are socialised into are true. If a woman with vaginismus is dismissed by doctors, exists in a world that doesn’t recognise her condition or receives social reward for it despite her pain, is it so hard to imagine that her sense of what’s real is warped?

More open discussion and recognition of vaginismus could work to make women living with the condition feel safer and perhaps more secure, and challenge the notion that we’ve been ‘gifted’ with ‘tight’ vaginas.

Vaginismus Awareness reports that 2 out of every 1000 women suffer from moderate vaginismus at some point in their life. But due to the secrecy and shame that surrounds female sexual health, the condition flies under the radar.

Today, I’ve come clean: for my own self-worth and for other women and girls who also suffer from this condition because of past sexual trauma, high anxiety or fear of penetration.

My vaginismus is not for male sexual pleasure. And I will no longer lay back in pain in exchange for it.

Featured image by ANMOL, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a woman lying on a bed, clutching the duvet and curled into foetal position. She is wearing a soft pink slip nightgown and lies against grey-blue sheets

#PayMeTooAmy works in digital communications and the only thing she loves as much as feminism is dogs

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past six months you can’t have failed to witness – or be part of – the transformative #MeToo campaign. Beginning in Hollywood but spreading rapidly to other countries and industries, it laid bare the extent of sexual harassment in the workplace. The shock was in how commonplace it was, as hundreds of thousands of (mainly) women shared their experiences.

Hot on the heels of this movement comes #PayMeToo, launched on Monday, April 2, by a cross-party group of MPs including Stella Creasey, Layla Moran and Nicky Morgan. Last year, Theresa May introduced gender pay gap regulations requiring all employers with over 250 staff to report the difference between their male and female employees’ average earnings or face enforcement action from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

#PayMeToo encourages women to find out what the pay gap is where they work, what their employer is doing about it, and – crucially – to talk to co-workers about what they earn.

Few things in life are as opaque as pay; it goes without saying that you just don’t discuss how much bacon you bring home. But how did we get to a place where discussing our salaries is so off-limits? Why is it that we feel able to talk with close friends about the most intimate details of our sexual relationships but many money-making women are deeply uncomfortable revealing what is in their monthly pay packet?

Part of the problem is the close association between money and success. It’s not surprising that a capitalist society would teach us to judge our own and others’ worth first and foremost by our wages. If we make more than others we’ll feel ‘braggy’ and that we’ll be resented; if we make less we might feel ‘whiny’ or worry that others will pity us. This is particularly true of women, who are taught not to be ‘showy’ if they are successful, or told they are ‘always dissatisfied’ if they think they aren’t being fairly rewarded.

This is coupled with an unspoken sense that there’s something terribly crass and impolite about discussing how much we make. Like we should all pretend that we exist purely in the realm of the spiritual and don’t need money to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. Again, this is exacerbated for women, probably born of some Victorian-era sensibility that we should be far more concerned with family and godliness than the vulgar arena of business.

But is it really doing us any favours to keep schtum about pay? Six months ago, it was almost unthinkable that so many would speak out about sexual harassment. The silence only benefited those in power, and especially those who abused that power. By telling women they had ‘brought it on themselves’ or that it was just ‘banter’, or even that if they mentioned it they would lose their job, a culture of shame and fear was allowed to grow alongside a deliberately muddled sense of what was considered ‘acceptable’ behaviour.

Just as #MeToo gave a voice to those who had suffered sexual harassment at work, so perhaps #PayMeToo will empower women to talk about their income. At the moment, it’s possible that many women are unaware of their legal rights over pay. They might be aware of a large pay gap at their organisation or of an equal pay issue, but don’t want to be labelled a ‘troublemaker’ or see their career suffer if they raise it. A grassroots movement around sharing experiences could be just what is needed to give women the confidence to realise that they are being treated unfairly, demonstrate how far-reaching the problem is, and give them a sense of the reward to expect for their skills and experience.

But this is just one piece of the puzzle. Although companies are required by law to report on their gender pay gaps, the data is very top-level which makes it difficult to see what is causing the disparity – it won’t always be good old-fashioned discrimination. It is up to companies to analyse the data, work out what is contributing to their pay gaps and put an action plan in place to reduce them.

Research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission outlines many factors that contribute to gender pay gaps, some of which we can’t necessarily expect employers to be able to tackle. These range from the subjects men and women study at school and university, a lack of affordable childcare, lower statutory pay for fathers on paternity or shared parental leave, and the way that roles traditionally performed by women, such as social work, are chronically undervalued.

It is complex, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t roll up our sleeves and try to sort it out. According to research by The Fawcett Society, at the current pace of change, it will be another 100 years before women are earning as much as men. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t got that long to wait, and I’m excited to see what #PayMeToo will achieve.

Featured image by Rawpixel, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a Muslim woman working in an office, wearing a colourful headscarf. She is in a meeting room and is clapping her hands as if she has just watched someone give a presentation.

Wonder Woman

Sharon Jagger is April’s monthly guest blogger

When Wonder Woman was reimagined on the silver screen last year, there was much for feminists to celebrate.

The sight of her dodging bullets in the most recent film gave me the same frisson I felt as a teenager watching the 1980s TV series. I almost bought some merchandise: a T-shirt with the words ‘strength, grace and love’ under an image of Wonder Woman looking gorgeous. I didn’t buy it; something was not quite right.

One of the reasons I enjoy Wonder Woman is her physicality: seeing a woman punch her way through feminine stereotypes is always gratifying.

Iris Young’s essay, ‘Throwing Like a Girl’, explores how women are conditioned not to take up space, use expansive gestures or exhibit muscular force, but to be delicate and passive in movement. When we see physically strong women breaking out of these patterns, it stirs something in us.

Ripley in Aliens, Trinity in The Matrix, Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, and Wonder Woman are physically strong women who have faced peril yet prevailed. It is exciting because they show us female bodies that are acting outside what Young calls “feminine modalities” – those constricted ways women are supposed to act. You can picture what ‘throwing like a girl’ looks like, I’m sure.

The creation of Wonder Woman in the 1940s, by William Marston, sprang from his own feminist agenda. As outlined in Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, Marston loved women. He lived with two, both of whom bore his children. His wife agreed to this ‘thruple’ so she could continue her career while having childcare available at home. Marston transferred his unconventional attitude to sex, love and women on to Wonder Woman, believing women would one day rule the world.

During the interwar years, feminism and activism in the US were on the up. Charlotte Perkins Gilman had just written Herland; Margaret Sanger, a campaigner for birth control, was at the peak of her fame (incidentally, it was Margaret Sanger’s niece who was Marston’s lover); Lou Rogers, a female feminist cartoonist was popular and some were predicting that there would be a female US president before the end of the 1940s. It was here that Wonder Woman exploded onto the scene: feminism personified, with bullets ricocheting off her golden bracelets.

However, Wonder Woman’s feminist credentials are complicated by Marston’s penchant for bondage, believing that all women secretly want to be sexually dominated. The early storylines in DC comic books frequently saw Wonder Woman, showing as much flesh as possible, in chains and ropes, being gagged, spanked and whipped. Being chained by a man was Wonder Woman’s weakness, and though the imagery was overtly about patriarchal oppression, it was also about kinky sex in which the male was dominant. The fetishisation went hand-in-leather-studded glove with Marston’s idea of feminism.

Whilst the 1940s version of Wonder Woman had strong feminist messages, Marston believed that one of women’s real superpowers was ‘love’, mostly manifesting in maternal love. It is this essentialism and idealisation of women that sets alarm bells ringing.

In the 1950s, Wonder Woman was instead portrayed as fashion model, babysitter and movie star, as women were forced back into the domestic realm after the war. She was rescued from domestic drudgery by Ms., a feminist magazine launched by Gloria Steinem, which featured the words ‘Wonder Woman for President’ on its debut cover in 1972.

But there were divisions amongst feminists over what Wonder Woman really meant for women. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique fell out with Gloria Steinem for telling women that they, too, ought to be ‘wonder women’. Betty had a point.

A friend of mine, fed up with the unrealistic expectations placed on her as a wife, mother, and full-time breadwinner, decided to divorce her husband. Explaining her feelings to her (ex) in-laws, she simply told them that she wasn’t Wonder Woman. Their reply was: “Oh, but we all thought you were!”

Here’s the rub: if we are not vigilant, Wonder Woman begins to morph into a model of the woman who carries the entire domestic burden whilst seeking, and possibly needing, to participate in the economic world while fighting the patriarchy in her spare time, if she has any energy left.

Wonder Woman has been used as a propaganda tool for feminism. But she has also been used by anti-feminists, as a model for a woman who serves patriarchal and capitalist ends. Whilst we eat popcorn, we can take from her fiction the feminist messages that are edifying (maybe the T-shirt should just say ‘strength’). But when we come out of the cinema, we need to resist being turned into patriarchal versions of Wonder Women along with the chains designed to keep us in our place.

Featured image by Creative Tail. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Image is a minimal cartoon avatar of Wonder Woman, with only her face and shoulders in the frame. She stands against a coral-coloured background.

Sophie McKay is a London based writer, playwright and performer

What constitutes a ‘woman’s story’? Well you’ve got the usual haven’t you: the first sexual experience in all its uncomfortable glory, the dress you can’t fit into any more and periods. Yes, they’re sure to crop up somewhere. The female experience: particular, domestic and pertaining almost exclusively to womankind. It’s an old stereotype that women tell stories that are “personal” or “introspective”, that are somehow lesser, that fall into the well-trodden tropes just mentioned. This is both patently untrue and marginalising. But why are women’s personal experiences deemed to be so worthless?

Here lies a deep problem: that one group (predominantly white, usually middle class, cis-gendered men) is perceived to tell stories that are universal while most other groups tell stories that are “niche” and pertain only to those of the same group. While some stories should only be told by those who experience them, does the logic follow that only those who have direct experience can find anything of enjoyment, inspiration or solace in those narratives? Even if an individual doesn’t have the same lived experience of an artist, this does not mean that they can’t find anything of interest in that artist’s work.

This bias against women’s stories and women’s art is reflected on UK stages. In 2017 the Royal Court was the only major London theatre that programmed a season of female-dominated writing with 10 of their 17 shows being written by women. At the National Theatre only seven of the 21 shows programmed there for 2017 were written by women. The Young Vic staged two out of 16, the Almeida only one out of six. And the Old Vic weighed in with a disappointing zero plays by women.

Regionally the picture is similar, Theatre Royal Bath’s 2017 summer season featured one play by a woman and Chichester Festival Theatre’s featured three out of 12. The situation becomes bleaker when we consider how few of these women are WOC, LGBTQ+ or older women.

Admittedly there are drivers for change, such as Tonic Theatre and Act For Change who are pushing arts organisations to scrutinise their approaches to gender equality and diversity. Theatres are starting to make public commitments to programme more diversely. But it doesn’t seem to be shifting quite fast enough.

The programming of major London venues reflects the fact that there is still reluctance to programme new or more experimental work in the UK with revivals and classics taking up a considerable amount of programming space and budgets. One could argue that this is indicative of the impact of government and cuts to the arts more broadly. While undoubtedly classics should hold a place in our theatrical experience, we should be driving for more diverse and new stories. And this doesn’t have to negate historical works either; there are plenty of forgotten works by women: Elizabeth Cary, Alice Childress and Augusta Gregory to name a few.

Theatre offers us a greater opportunity for sharing and understanding. It is, at its heart, a forum – a literal bringing together of people. With its intimacy, instant reaction and culture of post-show discussion, theatre puts us in a unique setting to reflect on shared or differing experiences. It is based around the notion that underneath it all there is probably more holding us together than pushing us apart.

A cold, temporary rehearsal studio in Dalston isn’t the most obvious of settings in which to have been reminded of this sentiment, but that’s exactly where I have found it lately. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of the Arcola Theatre’s new Women’s Company, a collective open to women and non-binary people in East London. We’ve been developing a piece of devised theatre called Smile, Darling and it’s been empowering to hear so many different stories and approaches to both theatre and the world more broadly, from a range of women’s voices of differing ages and backgrounds. Stories ranging from the political through to the personal, stories about sickness and bodies, about anger, heartbreak or happiness. Stories dealing – essentially- with what it means to be a woman and a person in the world we live in today.

It’s a female and feminist perspective, a piece that puts women and women’s stories centre stage. As a group we’ve made work about our differing experiences, dealing with topics ranging from oppression, to sexuality and identity. Being part of this piece has for me been a reinforcer of the fact that women’s stories are powerful, provocative, funny and filled with empathy. But women’s stories doesn’t mean ‘just for women’, this is a show that will appeal to any other number of people. After all, those attributes are what make great storytelling and great theatre. Oh and there may be some references to periods, but don’t let that put you off.

Smile, Darling from the Arcola Theatre Women’s Company plays on 13 and 14 April as part of the Creative/Disruption Festival.

Arcola Theatre posts news about its community companies and training opportunities at its participation Twitter account @ArcolaPart.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 3 April 2018, 1:08 pm


It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

Redefining the term “nude” in fashion (The Pool)

From the article: “The purpose of any business and/or industry is to serve those in need and, for far too long, the fashion industry has refused to do its job and serve all women of all races. By nude being defined as beige, it tells women who aren’t that complexion that they are invisible. But, thanks to women like Ade Hassan, Joanne Morales and Nadine Ndjoko Peisker, women are powerfully reclaiming the colour nude and illustrating that it can no longer be – and never should have been – defined as a single shade (or two) of beige.”

Who does she think she is? (Longreads)

From the article: “Let’s be daring for a minute and consider an alternative theory: The internet does not hate women. The internet doesn’t hate anyone, because the internet, being an inanimate network, lacks the capacity to hold any opinion whatsoever. People hate women, and the internet allows them to do it faster, harder, and with impunity. It’s developed into a form of relaxation after a hard day of being ground on the wheel of late-stage capitalism. Melvin Kranzberg’s statement that “technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral” holds true here: The internet lets us be whoever we were before, more efficiently, with fewer consequences.”

This Harlem Renaissance star dressed in drag, sang dirty songs, and hit the town with three ladies on her arm (Timeline News, Medium)

On The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, and hiring men who want women dead (Jessica Valenti, Medium)

EVENT: Cooking On A Bootstrap: Jack Monroe in Conversation (At the British Library)

Cross-dressing: a secret history (1843)

Oppose antisemitism and malicious accusations by supporters of the Tory Party (Jewish Socialists’ Group statement)

PE is hell: How to actually get kids enjoying physical activity (Another Angry Woman)

Housing benefit to be restored for 18- to 21-year-olds after fears young people will be made homeless (Rob Merrick, Independent)

Email Sign-Offs Employers Will Fire You For, Especially If You Happen to Be a Woman (VALERIE NIES, McSweeneys) [Satire]

Paris Lees: “Visibility Alone Isn’t Enough” (Vogue)
On Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31st), writer and campaigner Paris Lees explains why, despite society having woken up to trans people, she – and many others – still don’t feel safe.

White Out: Trans Visibility Must Extend to Women of Color (Samantha Riedel, Bitch Media)

The ‘Roseanne’ Reboot Is Funny. I’m Not Going to Keep Watching (Roxane Gay, New York Times)

From the article: “As I watched the first two episodes of the “Roseanne” reboot, I thought again about accountability. I laughed, yes, and enjoyed seeing the Conner family back on my screen. My first reaction was that the show was excellent. But I could not set aside what I know of Roseanne Barr and how toxic and dangerous her current public persona is. I could not overlook how the Conner family came together to support Mark as he was bullied at school for his gender presentation, after voting for a president who actively works against the transgender community. They voted for a president who doesn’t think the black life of their granddaughter matters. They act as if love can protect the most vulnerable members of their family from the repercussions of their political choices. It cannot.”

Decades Before Judy Chicago’s ‘The Dinner Party,’ Virginia Woolf’s Sister Made a Set of Dinner Plates Celebrating 50 Historic Women (Art Net News)

From the article: “The Famous Women Dinner Service is a 50-piece ceramic dish set featuring portraits of famous women from history, completed between 1932 and 1934. The subjects range from Hollywood star Greta Garbo to the Queen of Sheba to Marian Bergeron, who in 1933 became the youngest-ever Miss America at age 15.
“It’s a major proto-feminist work,” Matthew Travers, a director at London’s Piano Nobile gallery, told artnet News. “All of the women they depicted did something interesting and powerful, and often were quite scandalous—the Bloomsburys might have said ‘liberated’—in the way they lived their private lives, and often did not conform to the patriarchies they were living in.”

Trans visibility is greater than ever – but that’s a double-edged sword (Shon Faye, The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Louise on Flickr. It is a photograph of a bird’s nest with speckled eggs and a row of delicate pink flowers resting on the side.

Introducing April’s guest blogger

by Monica Karpinski // 1 April 2018, 10:00 am

Tags: ,

Fountain pen nib

As we edge into warmer weather it’s time to introduce our next monthly blogger, Sharon Jagger.

In her own words:

“I am white, working class and middle-aged. Growing up in the north of England in the 70s and 80s, I remember having a strong feminist instinct and raging against the injustice of girls not being allowed to play football, resisting being channelled into sewing and cooking classes at school and arguing with the local vicar about why women were not allowed to be priests.

Decades later, I find myself in the final year of a PhD, studying how women did, in fact, become priests in the Church of England and how they have fared in what is, frankly, a sexist institution.

I am based at the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of York and teach sociology and social policy ‘on the side’ whilst writing my (troublesome) thesis. I work at a resettlement hostel for women vulnerable to homelessness and, because we all need to enjoy a bit of limelight every now and then, I perform in a feminist musical duo called Union Jill. If I could get paid for the number of hobbies I begin and then discard, I would be a wealthy woman.

It is a privilege to be April’s guest blogger and I hope you will find my choice of subjects stimulating, informative and perhaps entertaining — I will try my best. My PhD may get a mention, as I am now banned from talking about it in my local pub. Above all, my hope is to get the feminist discussion going.”

Welcome, Sharon!

Featured image by MJ S, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is a close-up of the golden nib of a vintage fountain pen. The nib sits against a blank white background

It’s quite a short and sweet round-up this month. See you again in April!

Congratulations to Thanyia Moore who has won the 2017 Funny Women Award.

Black Theatre Live, a national consortium of companies touring BAME-led work, have loads of interesting stuff going on including a national tour of Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok which is currently running at Manchester Royal Exchange before going to London, Bury St Edmunds, Poole, Peterborough, Margate, Derby, Watford, Sheffield, Hexham and Coventry. Also check out this interview with Phoebe McIntosh whose play, Dominoes, is also touring now.

Grumpy Old Women Live are just about to embark on a brand-new 60-date nationwide tour with To The Rescue from 28 March to 24 June. They seem to be going literally everywhere so hopefully they’re going to a place near you!

International Burlesque Hall of Fame winner and LGBTQI+ icon Rubyyy Jones presents The Ruby Revue on 4 April at Hackney Showroom; a glittering showcase featuring neo-feminist burlesque, drag queens, queer performance, gender blending, provocative lip syncers and shameless strippers.

In Scotland, Dive Queer Party have announced a couple more dates, beginning with the Goddess Awards on Thursday 5 April, celebrating the divine feminine and the Goddess inside all of us and featuring a glittering line up of strong and powerful feminine energies. Homage will be on Thursday 7 June. Both events will be in the Gilded Balloon’s Basement Theatre and will raise money for Waverley Care, Scotland’s HIV and Hepatitis C charity.

Ahead of a UK tour, Coconut will open at Ovalhouse from Wednesday 11 until Saturday 28 April. Based on the writer’s own experiences, this production explores Guleraana Mir’s first-hand knowledge of interracial and intercultural relationships as she asks, do you ever feel like you’re constantly disappointing people?

Siberian Lights will bring their world premiere of Dames to Pleasance Theatre, London from Tuesday 17 April until Sunday 29 April. “Drowning in their own word-vomit, six drunk millennials collide in a Ladies and try to figure out the world beyond the club. This shambolic, kaleidoscopic, darkly comic production explores the primal needs of companionship and affirmation to get to the heart of female friendship.”

US “smart, brazen and straight talking” standup Iliza Shlesinger will be performing at the Lowry in Salford on 16 April, the Southbank Centre in London on 17 April, the Glee Club in Birmingham on 18 April followed by other European venues.

Tumble Tuck will headline the Who Runs the World? season at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington from Tuesday 24 April until Saturday 12 May. It’s described as a funny, brutal and heartfelt one-woman show that seeks to examine the self-worth of young women today and emphasis we place on winning when sometimes just taking part is the real achievement.

And lastly, I should have given them a shout out before but check out the Bechdel Theatre podcast. Hosts Beth Watson and Pippa Sa talk gender representation on stage and all things to do with women in theatre with a different special guest on each episode. They also feature discussion of current and upcoming Bechdel Test friendly theatre shows.

Image one is courtesy of Dive Queer Party. It shows a performer in dramatic clothing including a purple satin dress, a furry hat and white gloves holding up a Brussels sprout in their right hand. They purse their lips and look directly at the camera. They have a full face of make-up including painted on eyelashes, a lot of blusher and glittery lipstick.

Image two is courtesy of The Thelmas’ Coconut. It shows performer Guleraana Mir looking worriedly at the camera with both her hands held up. In her right hand is a tiny version of a white man in jeans and in her left hand is a tiny version of a British Pakistani man wearing a shalwar kameez. She herself wears a bright orange shirt and is in front of a blue background.

This post was edited on 20 April 2018 to remove incorrect information about the tour dates for Dominoes.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 26 March 2018, 10:23 pm


It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

She died fighting for justice. Let this queer, black feminist inspire you to act (Upworthy)

From the article: “As a black, lesbian feminist who was able to reach government official status, Franco’s death was not in vain. Her memory should serve as an example of why serving others is so important. Say her name and continue fighting for her causes by advocating for the world’s most vulnerable and disenfranchised people.”

This is how it feels to be exhausted (The Pool)

From the article: “In some ways, talking about this can feel particularly difficult – shameful, even – if you’re disabled. Many of us spend a lot of time being ‘strong’ or fighting to be seen as coping, perhaps in part because we live in a society that still largely views disability as weakness, or because we ourselves are relentlessly striving – to hold down a job, to see friends or to appear ‘well’.”

Lesbians, gays and straights – here’s what you can do to better support bisexual people (The Independent)

From the article: “In my experience, lesbian and gay people can often make you feel as if you’re “letting the side down” if you choose to date someone of the opposite sex. I’m aware of lesbian women who point blank refuse to date bisexual women, with this being explicitly stated on some dating profiles. We know that this kind of discrimination is already rife in relation to race and can safely assume that those who are trans, disabled or from another marginalised group have to contend with multiple levels of prejudice.”

The above piece is by our excellent editor Joanna Whitehead. You can read more of Jo’s work here.

‘Toxic’ Twitter is failing women by letting online violence thrive – new research (Amnesty International UK)

Can the crime genre ever be feminist? (Stylist)

I fought with the YPG and I’m upset by the patronising reaction to Anna Campbell’s death (Alexander Norton, Independent)

Let’s Talk About: Mandatory Waiting Periods (Abortion Rights Campaign, Ireland)

Ireland’s government approves abortion referendum bill (Harriet Sherwood and Henry McDonald, Guardian)

Same Course, Different Ratings (Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed)

A study says students rate male instructors more highly than women even when they’re teaching identical courses.

An Incomplete List of Things Black People Should Avoid Doing so They Won’t Be Killed by Police (Michael Harriot, The Root)

A study by the [US] Center for Policing Equity has concluded that police use more force against black suspects even when the data was adjusted for whether the person was a violent criminal.

In Praise of Tender Masculinity, the New Non-Toxic Way to Be a Man (Terra Loire, Electric Lit)

From the article: “The best thing about Tender Masculinity is that it’s not only a necessary antidote to our media portrayals of men — it’s also already here. There aren’t a lot of Tender Man characters yet, and we’d love to see more, but a few books and movies are promoting this low-swagger, high-emotion ideal. These are the fully-realized male characters we need to celebrate and see more of.”

Dealing with Everyday Racism as a Black Mom with a White-Passing Son (Ndéla Faye, Broadly)

From the article: “Part of motherhood is being thrown into a whole new world, but as the mother of a ‘white-passing’ child, I’ve been thrown head first into a place where a playgroup leader asks if I am my child’s guardian—but immediately refers to my white friend and her white baby as ‘mom and baby.’ A place where an Irish woman corrects me on the pronunciation of my own child’s Irish name. A place where I see people flinch with surprise as I nurse my son in public, and I wonder whether they think I’m a hired wet nurse, and keep smiling even though I feel like crying.”

Episode 60 – In Conversation With Zohra Moosa [Executive director of Mama Cash] (desi Outsiders)

On the backlash faced by the women’s rights movement (4.58): “At any one time, it’s always going to look like we’re making some advancements and also that we’re facing immense backlash. And from my perspective, that’s inevitable. Every time you take two steps forward, there is a chance that you’ll have to take one step back. And that’s part of the progress. If you’re receiving no backlash at all, probably you’re not actually achieving as much as you think you are. It’s when you’re receiving backlash that you realise you’re actually challenging some of the fundamental forces that are still holding women back.”

You can find zohra’s writing at The F-Word here.

We haven’t been able to locate or write up a full transcript of this interview at the time of posting this round-up. If you know of one, please let us know in the comments below.

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to A.J♡inspiration on Flickr. It is a black and white close-up image of flowers.

Man and woman at work
Marion Scovell is the Head of Legal at Prospect, a trade union that regularly campaigns for women’s rights at work

This year has seen no shortage of public sexual harassment scandals: think the Presidents Club scandal, Harvey Weinstein and Westminster.

Each story and revelation has brought on a new wave of shock, solidarity and disgust from women all around the world. They have also raised questions about what can be done to stop sexual harassment at work.

There are many reasons why sexual harassment at work goes unreported and unpunished. For one, women may not feel safe or comfortable reporting the incident. As well as the fear of not being taken seriously, some women might feel that speaking out could cost them their job or subject them to more discrimination. Not to mention the huge amount of emotional labour and energy that goes into raising and seeing through sexual harassment claims.

But there is support available to make this process easier — one thing that any woman can do is to join a trade union.

According to the latest available government statistics, around 6.2m people in the UK were trade union members in 2016. Members were more likely to be women, and while overall membership levels have dropped for both men and women from 1995-2016, the rate of female membership has remained relatively stable and has overtaken that of men. I believe that this is because unions have a long history of working towards achieving gender equality in the workplace.

Women have been significantly disadvantaged by six years of cuts in employment and equality legal rights. Some of the most significant changes have included abolishing procedures, such as the statutory questionnaire, which gave people who thought they were being discriminated against the power to gather information very early on in their claim.

Protection from harassment at work has also been diluted. The Equality Act 2010 expressly outlawed “third party harassment” in order to protect female workers from facing harassment from clients and customers. But these provisions were repealed by the coalition government in 2013, which has resulted in less legal protection for workers. The Independent argues eloquently that the repeal of this law absolved The Presidents Club from protecting their hostesses from being harassed by their patrons.

All of these moves have been compounded by the fact that it’s now more difficult for tribunals to make changes for the good of workers. Government reforms mean that in successful cases, tribunals no longer have the power to make recommendations which will affect the wider workforce.

Harassment can occur in any workplace. Take the example of a case Prospect, the union I work for, took to an employment tribunal. Our member was a high-flying professional working in a traditionally male-dominated role in the public sector. Following a change of job, and a new manager, she was subjected to sexual harassment and bullying. Although her grievance was partially upheld, the employer’s response was to move her to a position that was less desirable, which had a long-term, detrimental effect on her pay and career development.

Following a preliminary hearing and months of preparing her legal claim, the case was settled quickly. As a result, she was re-graded and received compensation and an apology. Most importantly, she was able to get her career back on track.

As well as resolving individual harassment claims, unions have a unique role in collective bargaining. For example, they could negotiate equality policies to ensure that employers take preventative measures against harassment.

Unions have supported women in a wide range of cases, such as raising awareness of discrimination against older women and supporting Ecuadorian cleaners in their bid to receive a living wage while working as cleaners at Topshop. Under the law, an employer must allow a union representative to accompany a worker at a grievance hearing, but this statutory right does not extend to other representatives or lawyers.

If matters are not resolved in the workplace, unions can support members in bringing a claim to an employment tribunal; this can be complex, stressful, and extremely costly. And without union backing, it can be much harder to go through the process and act on the protection the law allows.

It can be difficult — and even feel impossible — to fight against a system that discriminates against you. Unions are dedicated to supporting women at work and fighting for their right to fair treatment, whether on a policy, organisational, or personal level.

Featured image by Raw Pixel, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a man and woman at work, dressed in corporate-casual attire. They are walking along the outside of a building and have taken their jackets off, as if coming out of a meeting

Want to be part of The F-Word team?

by Joanna Whitehead // 22 March 2018, 10:44 pm


The F-Word is looking for a UK-based volunteer to join our team of volunteer editors. We are currently seeking a features editor (co-editing with Christina). This position offers an opportunity to play an exciting part in building The F-Word as a feminist resource.

If you’re interested, we’d love to hear from you! Here are some details about what the position involves and how to apply:

For this role, your main duties will be:

– responding to pitches and reviewing opportunities (including spotting and avoiding spurious content)
– sourcing ideas and commissioning features, with a focus on encouraging new voices from diverse perspectives
– working with a broad range of contributors, from those who have never written for publication before to experienced journalists
– editing and posting features, in line with our style guide
– moderating comments on published features
– working with the other section editors and The F-Word team, where necessary
– attending Skype meetings every two months

What you will bring:

– enthusiasm about The F-Word and developing our features section
– some time, energy and regular internet access
– ideally, some editorial experience (particularly in terms of adhering to a set style guide)
– the ability to give submissions a critical edit, making sensitive suggestions to the author and offering guidance, where needed
– familiarity with blogging platforms and at least basic HTML skills
– a willingness to work in a team, alongside another features editor
– commitment to the role for at least six months (with a minimum period of one month’s notice)

It is frequently reported that women don’t put themselves forward for leadership roles as often as men do, despite extensive qualifications and experience. Along with this, we’ve seen women who attain positions of power saying they did not feel entitled to them until they ‘gave themselves permission’ or were given an opportunity by a more privileged male counterpart. This has led us to collectively take the decision to invite applications from self-identified women/genderqueer people/non-binary people/those who do not define as male.

The F-Word is an online magazine dedicated to talking about and sharing ideas on contemporary feminisms from the UK and elsewhere. The collective goal for the site is primarily to provide a platform that welcomes and shares perspectives representing intersectional feminisms through contributions from a diverse range of women and non-binary people. This includes writers and editors of minority ethnicities (including Black, Asian, migrant or refugee people and individuals of dual or multiple ethnic heritage), along with those who are disabled, LGBTQ+, older, sex workers or working class. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, so please don’t be put off from applying if you’re interested but don’t identify with the perspectives above, particularly if you feel your own is currently under-represented in the feminist blogosphere. We are particularly interested in hearing from people of colour or those who identify as BAME.

Please note that The F-Word is run entirely online by unpaid volunteers. We are aware of current discussions around the politics and ethics of expecting people to work for free, but can unfortunately only offer permanent volunteer roles. The fact nobody involved in the site is paid for their work here means there is no hierarchy or differentiation between paid and unpaid positions.

To apply for either of the roles: please email us (editor@thefword.org.uk) with a brief message setting out a) why you are interested in this position, b) how you would develop this area of the site and c) any prior relevant experience.

The deadline for applications is 7pm on Sunday 15 April.

Please note that we still have vacancies for a social media editor and a visual arts editor. We don’t currently have the capacity to recruit for these roles, but hope to start work on recruitment in these areas as soon as we can. Watch this space!

In the meantime, please feel free to get in touch informally if you would like to put yourself forward as a potential section editor in either of these areas.

The picture at the top of the page shows a black woman sitting on a blue couch with a laptop on her knee. She is wearing black jeans and a black jumper with the word ‘karma’ on it. She is looking towards the camera with a smile on her face. Picture taken by WOCin Tech Chat and shared under a Creative Commons license.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 19 March 2018, 4:40 pm


It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

What the parole board approving John Worboys’ release did not take into consideration (i Newspaper)

From the article: “The public’s response to this case shows how seriously we take sexual violence. We find it abhorrent and we expect the police, courts and prisons to do their job, investigate properly and protect the public from this extremely harmful crime. The system isn’t doing that job properly. And the only way we know that is the women, the ones who were harmed by this man, have had to hold their nerve and take on every fight, again and again. We have to learn from this.”

Academic Says Trans Women are Parasites for ‘Occupying the Bodies of the Oppressed’ (Newsweek)

From the article: “Addressing the suggestion that trans people using public bathrooms is dangerous, Pallas told Newsweek, ‘People are not aware that trans women have been using women’s services for decades without an issue. Some trans women are extremely vulnerable and at risk of abuse. In the current climate, vulnerable trans women with nowhere else to turn might feel unsafe accessing women’s services.’”

‘I wouldn’t want this for anybody’s daughter’: will #MeToo kill off the rock’n’roll groupie? (The Guardian)

How Sharon Stone Won a Rom-Com Leading Role Written for a 25-Year-Old (Julie Miller, Vanity Fair)

These Are the Women of Color Who Fought Both Sexism and the Racism of White Feminists (Anne Branigin, The Root)

Economic abuse destroys lives – it must be taken seriously (Louise Tickle, The Guardian)

The crisis in modern masculinity (Pankaj Mishra, The Guardian)

From the article: “As manly virtues arose, attacks on women, and feminists in particular, in the west became nearly as fierce as the wars waged abroad to rescue Muslim damsels in distress. In Manliness (2006) Harvey Mansfield, a political philosopher at Harvard, denounced working women for undermining the protective role of men. The historian Niall Ferguson, a self-declared neo-imperialist, bemoaned that “girls no longer play with dolls” and that feminists have forced Europe into demographic decline.”

Take The Cake: The Perks Of Being A Spinster (Virgie Tovar, Ravishly)

From the article: “I am deeply aware of the non-consensual nature of men’s education in misogyny, but I’m not willing to date or romantically consider anyone who hasn’t done an enormous amount of work (and who will probably do a whole bunch more work) to un-learn his commitment to my second class citizenship.”

Stormy Daniels deserves fairer treatment (Jill Filipovic, CNN)

From the article: “Would we be so quick to doubt Daniels, and so hasty to make her the butt of a joke, if she had a different job? Getting paid to engage in consensual sexual acts on camera doesn’t make one a liar or an irredeemably immoral person; it makes one a person who has gotten paid to engage in consensual sexual acts on camera.

“And while it’s interesting, in a prurient way, that the President – who enjoys the backing of the evangelical right – might have cheated on his postpartum wife with a porn star, the real story here is the attempt to shut her up, and then to trash her when she refuses to stay quiet.”

Stop fetishising my block! (Ruka Johnson, Trench)

From the article: “Sadly, it took me years to feel proud of where I come from in the face of ridicule and oppression. And the very same people who made me ashamed to live here are the ones now exploiting it for clicks and views.”

Trans people: what do you really want to know about them? (Being Drusilla)

From the article: “I’m sure that we’re agreed that discussing a group of people without including that group in the discussion is potentially or actually very dodgy indeed; ‘nothing about us without us’, as it were. So, if you want to ask the sort of questions you’d feel embarrassed about asking face to face, go ahead…”

Why we still love Tracy Beaker (The Pool)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Ami on Flickr. It is a photograph of a field in the snow with some wintry trees with bare branches in the background. There is a slight blur as if the snow is being blown up by the wind and the sky is clear with a pink tint.

Amy Schumer I Feel Pretty
Katie Jane is interested in representations of race and gender in popular culture. She is currently teaching English in a secondary school in London and aspires to become a comedy writer

A few days ago, Iskra Lawrence came up in a conversation with some friends. After explaining to one of my close friends that Iskra Lawrence is a ‘plus size’ model, who is actually a size 14 woman, she chimed in with “Oh, like us.”

Now, my friend is much slimmer than I am and when she uttered those words, I felt I had to respond and let her know that she is not even close to being ‘like’ Iskra Lawrence. Since that happened, I’ve been thinking about why I had the impulse to shut her down.

Why did I have to respond to my friend and remind her that our bodies are different? Why did I have to discredit her feelings? For me, Amy Schumer’s new film, I Feel Pretty, raises similar questions.

The film, set to release on May 4 in the UK, is about Renee Barrett (Amy Schumer), a single woman living in New York. We see Renee as a woman who is uncomfortable in her own skin; she doesn’t feel like a worthy, attractive woman. That is until she suffers a head injury and suddenly, miraculously looks in the mirror and sees herself anew as beautiful and sexy.

Movie trailer, I Feel Pretty

It’s not clear whether or not Renee sees herself as someone physically different, but to the rest of the world, she appears as the same Renee. With her newfound beauty in tow, Renee’s confidence skyrockets and wonderful things start to happen. She meets a guy, has an interview for a new job and just seems to be a happier version of herself.

After I watched the trailer, I read a lot of criticism about it from various different news and social media outlets, which can be broadly narrowed down into two key issues.

The first is that the film makes it seem like women who have self-esteem issues need to suffer from some sort of injury in order to ‘wake up’ and feel beautiful. I acknowledge this criticism but find it simplistic and inaccurate. The head injury is just a device within the film which kick-starts our hero’s journey. It allows the main character to develop and it opens the door to the true message of the film. It may be clumsy, but it should not be taken so literally.

The second is that Amy Schumer is the epitome of a privileged woman and so the depiction of herself as ‘gross’ and ‘ugly’ is hugely problematic. There is no doubt that Schumer has many attributes of privilege: she is able-bodied, white, blonde and wealthy.

It’s important to consider how privilege shapes characters and narratives in films, however, I think it’s dangerous to completely dismiss Schumer and women like her for the pure fact of privilege. Discrediting another woman’s feelings is easy — I did it to my friend and we are doing it to Schumer.

Schumer has created an entire comedic career through self-deprecation and obviously feels that she doesn’t match Hollywood’s ideals of what a woman should be. To be fair to Schumer, she doesn’t.

She may have markers of privilege but her demeanour and body shape are dissimilar to those of leading ladies like Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts. Schumer candidly speaks out about her inability to meet Hollywood’s lofty standards.

If Schumer, or women like Schumer, feel out of place, ugly or less than – who are we to tell them otherwise? Who are we to tell them that their feelings are invalid?

Sometimes Amy Schumer’s irreverent comedy can miss the mark. Just last year, Schumer filmed her own version of Beyoncé’s politically-charged music video ‘Formation’. Aptly, Schumer received huge backlash from fans.

Despite apologising and insisting that her video was not a parody, events like this have left some of us sceptical of Schumer and her ability to sensitively manoeuvre issues of race and include them in her feminism. I’ll admit, when I first started watching the trailer for I Feel Pretty, I was unsure what I would think. After watching the trailer in its entirety, I think it will be a film worth seeing.

As a woman of colour, I didn’t watch this trailer and feel angry at the main character’s perception of the world. What I did see is a film that is trying to sway the focus away from appearance and more on the ways in which women invade and take up space around them. Of course, the ways in which each and every woman navigates her way through the world is different, but I think this film is simply trying to promote the idea that self-confidence should be worth more than the importance we and others place on our exterior.

Featured image is a still from I Feel Pretty, 2018, directed by Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn.

Featured image is of Amy Schumer playing Renee Bennett in I Feel Pretty. She is confidently walking into a corporate office building in a pink blazer and matching miniskirt, with her right hand raised in the air. She is smiling to herself

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 13 March 2018, 1:21 pm


It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. This week we’re focusing, in particular but not exclusively, on International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day (both took place last week) and we’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

Model Munroe Bergdorf quits as Labour LGBT adviser (The Guardian)

The Male Glance (VQR)

From the article: “If we were less busy celebrating our perfect vision, we might notice that under the mask we spotted there may lurk a rather interesting and even intentional subjectivity which—in addition to the usual universal human things we all share—has been trained from birth to constantly consider and craft its own performance from a third-person perspective. In other words, women—in addition to being faces whose deceptions we seek to expose, because they are that too—are walking around with the usual amount of self-awareness and a few meta layers to boot. There’s better performance art in almost any woman than there is in a thousand James Francos.”

Three men making ballets about ‘woman’? It says all that’s wrong in classical dance (The Guardian)

From the article: “The problem with Femmes, apart from the sheer, kitsch ghastliness of the concept, is that it epitomises the lack of agency of women in classical dance. The reverence for the feminine implied by Balanchine’s quote has always been contingent on women knowing their place. Ballet relies on women to make up most of its performing workforce, but overwhelmingly reserves positions of artistic power for men… And, as Femmes demonstrates, the attitudes that underpin this imbalance are deeply entrenched.”

Sun journalist who contacted sex assault victim three times for story was in ‘serious’ breach of harassment guidelines, rules IPSO (Press Gazette)

The Great Stink (Long Reads)

From the article: “The problem is that men’s pain is, still, so visceral, so dominating, and women’s pain is so easy to dismiss. Men’s panic about being accused of violence has overwhelmed women’s actual experiences of violence in the public imagination.”

International Women’s Day: Girls Rock London (Incorporated Society of Musicians)

From the article: “Giving girls and women the confidence to perform is key to what we do. We know that women are more likely to write music on their own, but not share it with the world. Increasing the number of women onstage is a political act – it changes who we hear from and what we hear about. Getting more women on stages means the music we hear becomes more representative of a larger world view, inspiring activism in turn.”

A message from the women of Yarl’s Wood on International Women’s Day (New Statesman)

From the article: “We women here in Yarl’s Wood did not anticipate our freedom would be taken from us or the impact it would have. We are on a hunger strike because we are suffering unfair imprisonment and racist abuse in this archaic institution in Britain. This is a desperate measure due to desperate circumstances. We feel voiceless, forgotten and ignored. We needed a voice and more importantly we needed someone to listen. We needed to be reminded that we are human beings because trust us when we say most of us are so dehumanised by this process of detention and the way we are treated in detention that you start to forget.”

Cancer Research’s ‘obesity is a cause of cancer’ campaign ignores the very real issue of medical fat phobia (Metro)

From the article: “Fat people experience hatred and stigma in education, the workplace, and yes, even the medical field. If Cancer Research really cares about our health, perhaps they should focus on the bigger picture. Medical fatphobia is a huge problem, pun intended, and with this campaign Cancer Research have positioned themselves as part of the problem.”

Yes, let’s battle period poverty. But there’s so much more to fight for (The Guardian)

Top female lobby journalists say ‘we need to show it’s not an all-boy’s club’ on International Women’s Day (Press Gazette)

‘I regret having children’ (Macleans)

From the article: “Recognizing regret as part of the maternal experience requires a sea change in thinking: that “mothers are owners of their bodies, thoughts, emotions, imagination and memories—and are capable of acknowledging whether all of this was worthwhile or not.”

Overlooked (The New York Times)

From the article: “Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. Now, we’re adding the stories of 15 remarkable women.”

Sexism, drugs and rock ’n’ roll – when will the music industry finally wake up to #MeToo? (The Pool)

From the article: “When a very famous white rockstar called two female staffers at the NME offices and hurled abuse at them, the concern was not with their wellbeing but with contacting the publicist to ensure he’d continue having a relationship with the mag. Damage limitation trumps human decency. There are countless stories I could tell you like this and they span most music magazines I’ve worked for.”

Improbable’s D&D Producer to members of the Garrick Club. (It’s all a personal opinion, you understand…) (Improbable’s blog)

A Thank You Letter to My Mum, Whose Indonesian-ness I Tried to Hide (gal-dem)

From the article: “It’s quite ordinary for children to be embarrassed by their parents and get angry for seemingly no reason. But I did have a reason. I wanted to be ‘normal’ – or the normal that I knew. I didn’t want my friends (who were mostly white and English) to see that side of my family. Like any child eager to fit in, I picked up signs and signals from books, television, and my peers about what was ‘acceptable’ and ‘cool’. Being brown definitely wasn’t on the list, let alone the sounds my mum made on the phone to our family, so I pushed it all away. I would roll my eyes at my friends or laugh at her, and I hate myself for it now.”

If You Care About Sex Trafficking, Trust People in the Sex Trades — Not Celebrities (Alana Massey, Allure)

From the article: “Sarah McLachlan guilting me into rescuing another shelter animal? Send me the adoption papers. Leonardo DiCaprio, Kendall Jenner, and Samuel L. Jackson acting vaguely threatening so I register to vote? Show me to my polling place. I honestly think that celebrity involvement in social and political campaigns can bring new audiences to important issues. Which is why I was momentarily gobsmacked and then incensed by a celeb-heavy PSA featuring Seth Meyers, Amy Schumer, and others calling for an update to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and for support of SESTA…”

Confession: I hate International Women’s Day (Georgina Dent, Women’s Agenda)

From the article: “Do you know who is doing the legwork to get the myriad IWD events, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, seminars, cocktail parties off the ground? Women.

“And do you know what they’re getting in return? In plenty of cases, very little.”

Is Brexit trashing your future? Here’s how to help stop it (Luke Lythgoe, InFacts)

From the article: “Young people will have to live with the crappy consequences of Brexit for decades to come. But it’s not too late to stop it. As Theresa May’s Brexit botch-job unravels, there’s a real possibility that she’ll be forced to flip the final deal back to the people. We need to be ready – here’s how.”

DWP spent £100m on disability benefit appeals, figures reveal (The Guardian)

Beware the man with no female friends (Johanna Leggatt, Guardian)

#PressForProgress: part three (M Magazine)
[The final instalment of a three-part series engaging with women across the music industry.]

Caron Geary (aka MC Kinky): “Men don’t own the basis of music, but they still own and control the record companies, and woman are still seen as a marketing tool by the industry. Ageism for women more than men is still prevalent. Who gets the roughest treatment Madonna or Mick?”

Part one: https://www.m-magazine.co.uk/features/interviews/pressforprogress-part-one/
Part two: https://www.m-magazine.co.uk/features/interviews/pressforprogress-part-two/

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Jennifer C on Flickr. It shows a cluster of pink cherry blossom.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 5 March 2018, 4:18 pm


It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

I, Tonya betrays its central character (1843)

From the article: “The problem with Rogers’ framework is that it puts too much emphasis on the discrepancies between Tonya and Jeff’s anecdotes. It treats those discrepancies as if they are more significant than the verifiable facts of her tough upbringing, her battles with the figure-skating establishment, her athletic achievements, and the attack on Kerrigan. And yet the “wildly contradictory” interviews aren’t contradictory all that often: the only major divergences concern domestic violence. “He beat the hell out of me,” says Tonya, but the filmmakers aren’t so sure. In one scene, Tonya fires a shotgun at Jeff, and then declares, “I never did this.” In another scene, Jeff slams Tonya’s head into a mirror, but Jeff assures the viewer that nothing of the sort ever occurred. It’s a disastrously misjudged moment. Not only does it turn spousal abuse into a joke, it gives us permission to enjoy all of Harding’s traumas from a distance, as if they were part of a legend, a white-trash tall tale – which is precisely what the film scolds the general public for doing.”

Yarl’s Wood: Inside the crisis-hit immigration detention centre (Independent)

“We won’t stop until our voices are heard” – inside the hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood (The Pool)

A generation of shrinking girls (New Statesman)
CW: eating disorders

From the article: “I am angry at how comfortable this society seems to be with girls who punish and neglect their own bodies – even and especially under the banner of a health-obsession. I am angry at how much time and energy the utterly brilliant upcoming generation still seems to be wasting on hating themselves and hurting their bodies, just like we did only rather more efficiently. I am not angry with them. I’m angry at the rest of us for not taking better care of them. And I am angriest of all at how normalised this has become.”

Taking ‘no DSS’ landlords to court was a real social service (Rebecca Nicholson, The Guardian)
[About Rosie Keogh, who won compensation for sex discrimination from an agency refusing to consider her due to her being a state benefit claimant]

Self-harm – and why it’s time we paid attention to it (Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, The Pool)

Young Brixton activists recreate film posters with black leads (Rupert Neate, The Guardian)

‘Why won’t you work with us?’ (Various women writers, Broadcast Now)

Mike Pence hopes to end legal abortion “in our time” (Lily Peschardt, The Pool)

Australia could become the first country to eliminate cervical cancer (SBS News)

From the article: “The latest research shows there’s been a dramatic decline in the rates of Human Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – the infection that causes about 99.9 per cent of cervical cancers – due to the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine.”

Once more for the people at the back: abortion rights and trans rights are the same struggle (Another Angry Woman)

From the article: “To me, feminism is always and has always involved liberating women from our biology. A refusal to define us by whether or not we can bear children. I’ve written before about how this biological essentialism promulgated by transmisogynistic bigot feminists is identical to that promulgated by misogynists. I’ve also defined my stance as pro-trans and pro-choice. But I want to say it once more, loudly, for the people at the back: trans rights and reproductive rights are intimately linked. You cannot have one without the other. It all boils down to bodily autonomy.”

Homeless charity helped target rough sleepers to deport (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Amanda Slater on Flickr. It is a photograph of a single white ‘snowdrop’ flower with droplets of moisture on the petals. The background is unclear but appears like it could be a woodland scene.

Empowered by numbers

by Ania Ostrowska // 28 February 2018, 9:28 am

Tags: , , , , ,

Our film editor Ania Ostrowska summarises the latest report on the numbers of women directors and cinematographers in British film industry

With an abundance of press coverage condemning the likes of Harvey Weinstein and highlighting some exciting new initiatives addressing gender bias and sexual harassment in the film industry, it is easy to believe that the situation for women in film must be changing for the better… But is this really so?

Woman filmmaker image

Indeed, during the Golden Globes awards ceremony back in January, Natalie Portman made a point of introducing the best director category as a list of “all-male nominees”. On the other hand, the Academy of Motion Pictures has just nominated the fifth woman in its history for Best Director (Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird) and the first ever woman (yes!) for Best Cinematography (Rachel Morrison for Mudbound). However, while some are looking forward to the upcoming Oscar night, seeing these nominations as harbingers of change, the situation in the UK doesn’t look that rosy. This year, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) voters has nominated only men in those two important creative categories and the awards ceremony on 18 February was once again dominated by men who won pretty much all the non-acting categories except (of course!) Make Up & Hair. A notable exception was the combined victory of Rungano Nyoni (writer-director) and Emily Morgan (producer) in the Outstanding Debut category for I am Not a Witch.

In the era of social media and viral videos, where media hype can be easily created and as easily extinguished, it is sometimes useful to go back to statistics and old-school number crunching. Almost two years ago I blogged about three reports on the situation of women working in the British and other European film industries. One of those 2016 reports, addressing the UK industry only, was authored by Calling the Shots, research team based at the University of Southampton. Looking at women in key creative roles (directors, writers, producers, executive producers, cinematographers and editors) in British films in production in 2015, this report found that women constituted only 20% of key creatives, out of which only 7% were of Black, Asian, or Ethnic Minority identity, making BAME women less than 1.5% of all personnel employed in these roles.

The Calling the Shots team, comprising Dr. Shelley Cobb, Prof. Linda Ruth Williams (now at the University of Exeter) and Dr. Natalie Wreyford, have now produced a new report, presenting data on women directors and cinematographers in all films qualifying as ‘British’ in production between 2003 and 2015.

This concludes that only 14% of directors and 7% of cinematographers who worked on almost 3,500 British films were women. There was a small improvement in the number of women in both categories over 12 years (28 directors in 2015, compared to 23 in 2003 and 13 cinematographers in 2015, compared to five in 2003). However, it is crucial to note that those numbers peaked in the interim (61 women directors in 2013 and 41 women cinematographers in 2010), with the report’s authors noting that there has even been a recent “decline of small gains made in previous years”. They also argue that the small percentage point increase (from 11% to 13% for women directors and from 2% to 7% for women cinematographers) signifies stagnation in the British film industry, similar to that in Hollywood.

A closer look at the data also reveals that women directors in the period studied worked alongside men co-directors much more often than men directors collaborate with women co-directors. For 23% of the films shot by women cinematographers, credit was shared with at least one man cinematographer, while only 2% of men cinematographers credited a woman cinematographer. The report also finds that women were much more likely to support and work with other women across roles: 43% of films with women cinematographers also had a woman director. (Rachel Morrison’s Oscar-nominated cinematography for Mudbound belongs in this category, as the film was directed by African American woman director Dee Rees.)

Women of colour were even more poorly represented within this disappointingly small group of directors and cinematographers:

Forty-eight of the women directors are women of colour (10% of all women directors and 1% of all directors). Only 10 women of colour were employed as cinematographers over the 12 years – just 4% of women cinematographers (or 0.3% of all cinematographers)

In half the films where a woman of colour was a cinematographer, another woman (whether white or of colour) directed the film. For films directed by a man or men, only four BAME women cinematographers were employed between 2003 and 2015, with three of these working alongside a white man cinematographer.

Whether these numbers compiled by women academics have the power to change the industry remains to be seen. When the report’s authors approached Destiny Ekaragha, director of the award-winning film Gone too Far (and only the third black British woman to have directed a feature-film with theatrical distribution in the UK), she was sceptical but added: “Do I think that the report will empower and embolden women and non-white people? Yes. For that alone, it’s useful.”

The data could also come in handy in social situations, should anyone confidently claim women behind the camera in the UK have it really good these days!

To request the full report, please contact the authors at CallingtheShots.Women@gmail.com or follow them on Twitter:

Shelley Cobb @bellecobb
Linda Ruth Williams @lindaruth1
Natalie Wreyford @nataliewreyford

All images courtesy of Calling the Shots.

Images description:
1. A person with a small frame, probably a woman, shown from chest down, is standing next to a brick wall wearing jeans and a black jumper. They are holding a clapperboard and have a walkie talkie on their hip and tapes and metal pegs on their belt, suggesting someone working as a production assistant (or other junior role) on a film set.
2. Bar chart titled “Percentages of directors”, showing what percentage of women worked as directors on British films each year between 2003 and 2015.
3. Bar chart titled “Percentages of cinematographers”, showing what percentage of women worked as directors of photography on British films each year between 2003 and 2015.
4. Pie chart titled “Women of Colour employed as cinematographers” showing in percentage points who directed the British films on which women of colour were cinematographers between 2003 and 2015.

Emily Chudy is an LGBTQ+ journalist, writer and blogger from south London

For many, the word ‘marriage’ brings puffy dresses and drunk, distant relatives to mind. For the LGBTQ+ community, marriage is the subject of an upsetting and divisive political debate.

Thankfully, 26 countries worldwide now allow equal marriage. But, for the majority of LGBTQ+ people worldwide, marriage still isn’t an option. And in recent years, some governments have held public referendums when deciding whether or not to legalise equal marriage.

Some see this as a positive opportunity for debate, but what are the darker sides of a yes/no vote on human rights, and should they ever be up for debate?

I’m British and came out as bisexual after 2013, so thankfully I have never lived in a country where I couldn’t get married. It’s a nice feeling, but it’s a transient one. If I do get married to a woman, there will be 169 countries where that marriage isn’t valid and I won’t have to travel all that far to find one.

Northern Ireland is the only country in Great Britain that hasn’t yet passed equal marriage, and recently, it was announced that Labour would back a referendum to bring equal marriage to the country. My first thought was optimistic; the country has attempted to bring same-sex marriage forward before and failed, so perhaps a positive referendum result could finally get it passed. But a referendum also tends to incite divisive debate which could harm the already vulnerable LGBTQ+ community.

The Republic of Ireland passed equal marriage through the process of a referendum in 2015. I spoke to Áine, a bisexual woman from Dublin, to get her opinion on the vote. She said:

Despite my opinion that the legality of marriage equality shouldn’t rely on a referendum and it should simply be passed without a vote, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see the public’s reaction to it as a topic before, during, and afterwards. Because either side had to campaign and sway public opinion, I think that I and a lot of others had the advantage of witnessing a massive improvement in the general public’s views about gay marriage and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Obviously, there were aggressors and uncomfortable moments if you were a member of that community. My friends and I, allies and members alike, were also quite furious about having to see posters from the ‘No’ side daily on our commutes into college or work, warning the public about the death of the ‘traditional’ family. As tedious and unnecessary as putting marriage equality to a vote was and is, on the other hand, the build-up that came along with it made an already fantastic result even more fantastic

Australia’s recent equal marriage ‘opinion poll’, in contrast, was not a fair debate. Reports show that the debate was skewed and bitterly divisive; the No side ran an aggressive campaign, producing homophobic leaflets full of misinformation and claiming equal marriage would lead to “a loss of parents’ rights”.

I spoke to Australian resident Paul Fenwick about his views on the vote, which he voiced on Twitter after the law passed. He believes that although the result was positive, the nature of the vote was unfair, and a lot of work still needs to be done in Australia to reach true equality.

Lots of people have been telling me it’s great that Australia voted yes to marriage equality in the recent referendum. I have to explain that it wasn’t a referendum, is not legally binding, and was an expensive attempt to get a different result than what the public wants. Even if we ignore the fact that it’s abhorrent to be asking the majority whether a minority should have basic human rights, the government has known for years that there’s a strong majority support for marriage equality. Instead, we got an opinion poll. It was designed to skew results. By having the poll, the government encouraged questioning whether some consenting adult couples should not have the right to marry

Despite many people arguing that they didn’t agree with the Australian opinion poll, it could be argued that the referendum was a positive move, spurring the government into action and seeing the law pass much quicker. Without a referendum that demonstrated the widespread support of same-sex marriage, equal marriage may have taken years longer to pass.

This said, aside from the fact that these referendums essentially position and validate the majority as those with the power to decide whether or not minorities deserve basic human rights, a key problem with putting equal marriage to referendum is what could happen if the No side won. After the Brexit referendum in 2016, it was found that racial and religious hate crime in the UK surged. Similarly, if a No vote was reached, people against equal marriage would then hold a government-and-vote-backed viewpoint that they could hold against LGBTQ+ people, potentially leading to further discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

While referendums on equal marriage could indeed push laws to pass quicker, the bottom line is that governments shouldn’t gamble with human rights or suggest that they are something it’s reasonable for the public to debate.

Unwillingness is no longer an excuse for politicians not to act. LGBTQ+ people should not have to ask their neighbours for their rights, and governments must recognise this, and work together with the community to progress equality.

Featured Image is by Yannis Papanastasopoulos from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero license.

Featured image is a rainbow Gay Pride flag flying in the wind against a bright, cloudy sky. Only the hand of the person holding the flag is in the frame.

If the contents of this article have affected you, please visit MIND LGBTQ for information and support

International Women’s Day is once again the focus for some female-led work, often with a passing reference to the anniversary for partial women’s suffrage.

Suffragette City, a partnership between the National Trust and The National Archives, will re-create the life of a real Suffragette activist, Lillian Ball, a dressmaker and mother from Tooting, who was arrested for smashing a window in 1912. It runs from 8 March at WSPU Café in the London Pavilion.

Southbank Centre’s annual flagship festival, WOW – Women of the World, will run from 7 until 11 March. This year “celebrates the seismic changes brought about by women and men historically on gender equality, and identifies the future solutions still needed to overcome modern day challenges for women and girls.”

Stratford Circus Arts Centre have announced a week of performances to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. They explore the many fronts women continue to fight today for equality, 100 years on from the first women getting the vote. The shows include writer, performer and ex-boxer Libby Liburd with a new show unveiling the fascinating stories of female boxers, Fighter, poet and live artist Helen Seymour’s debut solo show To Helen Back which recounts her experiences of recovery from illness, cabaret star Fancy Chance globe-trotting and time-travelling in Flights of Fancy and Benin City’s Shanaz Dorsett will perform her first solo headline show and launch her debut EP Cake.

Contact Young Company celebrates the 100 year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act (1918) with She Bangs the Drums. This show is based on research at the People’s History Museum and will take place in the Museum of Science and Industry’s characteristic 1830 Warehouse as part of the city’s Wonder Women 2018 radical feminist festival. It runs from 8 until 11 March.

The Vault Festival continues in London with more shows than I can possibly do justice to, but some more highlights are:

  • Good Girl, frank and funny storytelling about the darker side of being a good girl, runs from 28 February until 4 March at 9.30pm, prior to transferring to Trafalgar Studios 2 from 5 to 31 March
  • Freud The Musical, a one-woman show about sex, madness and medicine, runs from 14 until 18 March at 7.45pm with an extra live / relaxed matinee on 18 March
  • A Girl & A Gun, reviewed by Mary Paterson for The F-Word here, runs from 14 until 18 March at 7.20pm
  • Once the festival is over at the Vaults, it’s going to be hosting the extraordinary-looking (and quite expensive) An Evening of Meat. A “unique dinner installation which destabilises our gaze and draws out our innermost contradictions as we become part of each performer’s journey.” An Evening of Meat runs from 27 March until 22 April.

    Proto-type Theater’s new show The Audit (or Iceland, a modern myth) looks at the human cost of the corporate and personal greed that consumes countries. It’s on tour from today in Lancaster before going to Salford, Stockton (BSL interpreted), London, Leeds, Lincoln, Oxford, Norwich and Ipswich.

    Alula Cyr’s debut production Hyena celebrates female strength with awe-inspiring acrobatics and synchronised displays of sisterhood. It’s on tour from 1 March to Bristol, Derby, Brighton, Folkestone, Newbury, Harlow, Goole, Barnsley, London (as part of Circusfest) and Malvern. You can find out more here.

    Sh!t Theatre will be in London for a month from 19 March before going on tour to Bristol, Canterbury, Norwich, Manchester, Colchester, Reading, Leeds, Portsmouth, Cambridge, Hove, Poole, Harlow and Plymouth. DollyWould is about country legend Dolly Parton, cloning, branding, immortality and death.

    Mack and Salt (formerly known as Deadpan Theatre) are taking Third Wheel to Bloomsbury Theatre from 19 until 21 March. Back in August, Deirdre McLaughlin described the play for The F-Word as: “a musical comedy which explores the ins and outs of friendship when individuals who love each other enter and exit the frame at unexpected times and communication becomes blurred.”

    There are a few interesting shows coming up at the Blue Elephant Theatre. Oneness is a contemporary physical theatre play about identity and mainstream culture in today’s world and how this affects the way women see themselves which plays on 16 March. The Glorious Tour is a female-led exposé of the heightened emotions surrounding motherhood, adolescence, growing up and letting go which runs from 21 until 24 March. At the Heart of Things from 19 until 22 April combines movement improvisation, visual imagery and devised text to create a contemporary adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s book De Profundis that dives into female sexuality, queer identity and homophobia.

    A little bit outside my usual remit but possibly of interest is The Other Art Fair which this year has women making up 51% of the participating artists including Morag Mysercough, May Parlar, Fei Alexeli, and Carolina Mizrahi. It runs from 22 until 25 March.

    And while we’re on the subject of art, on 26 March a sculpture will be unveiled in Southwark Park which is the outcome of More Creative: a creative arts programme from charity Create bringing adults with learning difficulties and primary school children together to design and make a new sculpture. South Londoners, give them your support!

    And lastly I’m horribly aware that this is very often too much of a London-focused blog, so it’s worth mentioning that Kathy Burke’s new production of Lady Windermere’s Fan will be broadcast to cinemas on Tuesday 20 March 2018. I recently really enjoyed Burke’s interview on Richard Herring’s podcast and I think her production will be worth a watch.

    Image one is from Suffragette City and is made up of surveillance photographs of suffragettes who had been imprisoned in Holloway. It is a series of blurry black and white photographs of women wearing Edwardian clothing. Crown Copyright, courtesy of The National Archives.

    Image two is a publicity image from Contact Young Company for She Bangs The Drums by Benji Reid. It shows a figure in a voluminous white skirt, suffragette sash and trainers leaping up in the air in a Manchester street.

    Image three is from DollyWould from Sh!t Theatre. It shows two performers wearing red sparkly dresses and with white-painted faces standing on stage holding cans of beer. Behind them is a screen showing the words “TOUCH YOUR WOMAN” and on the floor in front of them are two enormous fake breasts.

    Image four is a photograph by artist Carolina Mizrahi titled ‘Vanessa’. It shows a figure sitting down with their hands on their knees. They wear high heels, a dressing gown with feathers at the hems and wrists and a flower round their neck and look straight at the camera. The most striking thing about the image is the colours are very heightened; there is a strong blueish tone to the figure’s skin and to the image as a whole. It is very stylised.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 26 February 2018, 4:36 pm


    It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

    As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

    If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

    Roxane Gay on clothes in the workplace: ‘I have never been good at dressing like a woman’ (The Guardian)

    From the article: “I wear clothes that allow me to feel comfortable and confident. That is how I choose to dress like a woman. I have always been aware that the freedom to wear mostly what I want has been influenced, in large part, by the women who worked before me – women who, throughout history, refused to allow their ambitions to be constrained by narrow ideas of what it means to dress like a woman. Dress has evolved as the role of women in contemporary society has evolved. Sometimes, dressing like a woman means wearing a trousersuit; other times, it means wearing a wetsuit, or overalls, or a lab coat, or a police uniform. Dressing like a woman means wearing anything a woman deems appropriate and necessary for getting her job done.”

    Cis is not a slur (The Queerness)

    From the article: “Given how we as a society have treated those who have been named, labelled, identified as other, it is no surprise that there was fear of being given a label. If you can label me, what is to stop you treating me as I have treated those who have been deemed to deviate from the default. However in saying we both wear labels, have identities, we are challenging the idea there is a default and an other, and that the default is only known as normal.”

    #MeToo: Emmy the Great speaks out about music industry men (GQ)

    From the article: “Throughout my career, I have constantly batted off exhausting banter from professional contacts that remind me of one thing: I am a body, a body, a body. Yet I often thought of myself as a machine during these moments, daydreaming of how, through sheer resilience, I would one day gather enough power to remove myself from their company. I would be interested to know how many male artists have had to think of that.”

    Wherein White People Prove My Point And Send Me Hate Mail (Ellie Mystal, Above the Law)

    From the article: “The concept of being able to proudly say what you really think is foreign to him, because what he probably ‘really thinks’ is so disgusting that he can’t get away with saying it anywhere other than his own alt-right enclave. It’s why these people think ‘political correctness’ is such a scourge. Because when these people crawl out from under their rocks, decent people are horrified. And these guys mistake that horror for hyper-sensitivity.”

    The Other Is, My Mother: An Interview with Juniper Fitzgerald, author of HOW MAMAS LOVE THEIR BABIES (Rachel Aimee, Mutha)

    From the article: “How Mamas Love Their Babies is the first of its kind, but I hope it won’t be the last. When Heather Has Two Mommies was published in 1989, it was the first children’s book to depict a lesbian family. Twenty-eight years later, LGBTQ-inclusive children’s books are not uncommon (though we still have a long way to go). I hope this book will be a wake-up call for the publishing industry. The children of sex workers deserve to see their families reflected in the books they read. No more excuses.”

    Juno Mac: How Does Stigma Compromise The Safety Of Sex Workers? (KUCB) [TED Radio Hour transcript]

    From the article: “A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was nervous after she was attacked at work, so I said that she could see her clients from my place for a while. During that time, we had another guy turn nasty. I told the guy to leave, or I’d call the police. And he looked at the two of us. And he said, you girls can’t call the cops. You’re working together. This place is illegal. He was right.”

    Op-Ed | Azealia Banks Absolutely Deserves Another Chance (Jake Hall, High Snobiety)

    From the article: “For an endless string of stars, controversies either of this level or worse are forgiven or justified by their talent, but Banks had her career derailed almost instantly because she was pegged as the ‘angry black girl’ – a notoriously racialized stereotype weaponized against all minorities to dismiss them or to imply their words aren’t rational, that they’re coming from a place skewed by passion.”

    DIAMANTE reveals Thelma and Louise inspired video for ‘Had Enough’ (YouTube) [Music video]

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Jonas on Flickr. It is a photo showing small brown shoots pushing their way up out of snowy ground.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 19 February 2018, 3:24 pm


    It’s time for another weekly round-up where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the issues covered in the articles we’ve picked.

    As always, linking to articles does not mean endorsement from the F-Word and certain links may be triggering. We welcome debate in the comments section and on Facebook/Twitter but remind readers that any comments containing sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist language will be deleted immediately.

    If you notice that we’ve missed out any important articles from the past week, feel free to let us know.

    Trolls are lying about assaults at ‘Black Panther’ showings (Nicole Bitette, Daily News)

    Migration & marriage: women of colour and the politics of surnames (Shahnaz Ahsan, Media Diversified)

    Meet The Dominatrix Who Requires The Men Who Hire Her To Read Black Feminist Theory (Amanda Duberman, Huffpost Personal)

    From the article: “Mistress Velvet is a dominatrix with a syllabus: ‘…I am now given this platform to make white, cis men think about things in certain ways. Just allowing them to be submissive doesn’t always allow for the more drastic shift in the framework and thinking that I want. So I have to bring in my girls, like Audre Lorde and Patricia Hill Collins, and make these men actually read about black feminism. Then, it’s moving from them simply fetishizing black women, to realizing: This is a systemic issue I’m contributing to by the virtue of being a white man and being rich.'”

    Their ‘cute’ ad is the tip of the iceberg—this is how the DWP damages real relationships (Grace Fletcher-Hackwood, Prospect)

    From the article: “Nobody expects to be given financial help from the state without some conditions. But are the conditions proportionate to the help? 14 million people are living in poverty, many in work. And their benefits have been frozen while the price of rent and travel and food continues to soar. And yet, from sanctions to Universal Credit, the government continues to demand ever-increasing compliance, and meekness, and loss of privacy, in exchange for so little money that you’ll need to use a food bank anyway.”

    The Many Lives of Pauli Murray (Kathryn Schulz, New Yorker)

    From the article: “Murray herself felt she didn’t accomplish all that she might have in a more egalitarian society. ‘If anyone should ask a Negro woman in America what has been her greatest achievement,’ she wrote in 1970, ‘her honest answer would be, “I survived!”‘
    [From April last year, but shared by Kee Hinckley and Dan Weese via Facebook in connection with Black History month.]

    Ruby Tandoh: ‘Food fads are toxic – they erode the faith you have in your appetite’ (thejournal.ie)

    From the article: “Often the ‘body positive’ movement is used to just bolster the supremacy of slim just-a-tiny-bit-wobbly bodies, but that leaves behind so many people whose bodies are bigger, fatter, disabled, whatever.

    “So I want to book to not only be body positive, but fat positive, supportive of people with eating disorders and mental health problems, inclusive of people of all sexualities and genders… all of this stuff plays into a meaningful kind of body positivity that benefits everyone, not just a select few.”

    My Ready Meal Is None Of Your Fucking Business (Cooking on a Bootstrap)

    From the article: “Many of the families I have worked with over the years are living in temporary accommodation, usually a bed and breakfast paid for by their local council due to a shortage of available social housing, or private landlords ‘willing’ to take on a tenant on benefits. These generally have no cooking facilities whatsoever, for insurance purposes and safety reasons, as cramming a hob next to a single bed that is usually pressed against the wall poses a risk to fire and health. After the Grenfell tower tragedy, dozens if not hundreds of residents were living in hotel rooms nearby, for weeks and months, with no cooking facilities available. They lived off ready meals, microwaved in their contraband microwaves, and takeaways. Ain’t nobody on earth, not even me, who can turn that into a cheap option. I dare you to tell someone who has been the victim of a house fire, is living with PTSD and anxiety, has lost their home and their job and doesn’t even have a saucepan, to pop along to the shop and pick up some spices because it’ll work out cheaper.”

    It’s not just men who abuse power in the workplace. Women do, too (The Pool)

    From the article: “After the #MeToo movement takes a pause and we’ve had all the conversations we need to (which could be some time), I think we need to consider women in the workplace, not as vulnerable to men, but as aggressors themselves. I’ve had too many friends with appallingly behaved female bosses and, as unsisterly as it sounds, I don’t believe that women can’t abuse power, either (I promise I have no affiliations with Philip Davies). When I’ve interviewed women who have experienced maternity discrimination, their bosses have been women, as well as men.”

    Rape culture and the duet (Nora Research)

    Response to Mary Beard by Priyamvada Gopal (Medium)

    From the article: “But I will urge you to rethink the problematic concept of a ‘disaster zone’ (Trump was more upfront — he called them ‘shitholes’) and what that really means in geopolitical terms in terms of who does what and who is responsible for their appearance as spaces of catastrophe. Still more troubling is your notion that moral bearings (‘civilised values’!) understandably disappear in spaces where people struggle with the worst things that can happen to human beings. We know that, in fact, some of the most courageous human actions, borne of deep decency, manifest themselves in these situations and not on the part of white saviours but those at the sharp end of misery. We also know that in zones like Hollywood, or indeed, academia, that have very little truck with ‘disaster’, notwithstanding the copious amounts of mediocrity they put out, we have seen depraved behaviour and enormous amounts of misconduct.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Matthias on Flickr. It is a black and white, close-up image of a knife and fork. The image is so detailed that droplets of moisture can be seen on the cutlery.

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