Iris Prize film festival

Suryatapa Mukherjee is a freelance writer originally from Kolkata. She is now based in Cardiff and a graduate of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism

The Iris Prize Festival is a six-day celebration of LGBT+ filmmaking in Cardiff, often described as the “Academy Awards of queer cinema”. This year, between 10 and 15 October, 35 international short films will compete for the prize — the world’s largest for a short film — which allows the winning filmmaker to produce another short film here in the UK.

I first heard about the Iris Prize Festival five years ago while still in university and I sincerely thought everyone was talking about an Irish film festival. I went along to this ‘Irish’ film festival and you can imagine my surprise when it turned out to be something completely different!

This happened at a crucial point when I was coming out, so it was surreal seeing stories and experiences I recognised up there on the screen. I came out properly some months later when I published an article on one of India’s leading LGBT+ websites, but looking back I realise that the festival was one of the many things that helped me make that leap into the unknown. It creates a platform for LGBT+ experiences to be articulated in various languages and across various cultures, and this year the programme seems particularly diverse in terms of representation. There is even a film from Ireland!

As well as the 35 shorts competing for the main prize, there are 10 feature films and a separate category of 15 short films competing for Best British Short. Among the features, I’m really looking forward to the Israeli film In Between, directed by Maysaloun Hamoud; the story of three very different Palestinian women sharing a flat in present-day Tel Aviv.

There’s also Signature Move, co-written by its star, the Pakistani-Canadian comic Fawzia Mirza. Mirza’s character is a Muslim lesbian struggling to come out to her desi mum while falling in love with a Mexican-American woman and the art of lucha libre wrestling.

The Book of GabrielleThe Book of Gabrielle

Then there’s The Book of Gabrielle, written and directed by Lisa Gornick, about a lesbian who strikes up a curious professional relationship with a straight man. It’s Gornick’s response to Philip Roth’s controversial novel The Humbling, in which a lesbian falls in love with an older man – a book Gornick found infuriating.

Gornick is also an artist and a performer, and will be performing her ‘live drawing’ show What is Lesbian Film? during the festival and signing copies of her book, How to do it, which is featured as a plot device in The Book of Gabrielle.


This year’s Best British category is dominated by female filmmakers (a first, so I’m told). Olivia Crellin’s documentary Sununu: The Revolution of Love follows Ecuadorian transgender couple Fernando Machado and Diane Rodriguez as they balance parenting and political activism. Another favourite is Dionne Edwards’s We Love Moses, about a teenage girl’s first crush. Edwards says that the lack of stories featuring young, black, female protagonists inspired her to make the film.

We Love MosesWe Love Moses

I’ve not yet seen all of the international short films (there are 35 of them, after all) but I’m especially looking forward to Manly Stanley Takes New York, Shelby Cole’s documentary about Edith Woolley, aka “drag king” Manly Stanley. There are a number of great documentary shorts this year, and Jari Osborne’s Picture This follows self-described “queer cripple” Andrew Gurza as he organises a sex-positive play party, which the international media all-too-predictably label a “handicapped orgy”.

Leandro Goddinho’s film Pool is a captivating story that follows a young woman, Claudia, as she researches her grandmother’s past. During her investigation she meets Marlene, an older woman who has transformed an empty swimming pool into a place of memories. Goddinho wrote this film for the LGBT+ victims of the Holocaust.

This year’s festival also includes four panel discussions on various topics relating to queer cinema, including a talk chaired by Carrie Lyell, editor of DIVA magazine, on sexism in the film and media industries. Cornish filmmaker Joan Beveridge, herself shortlisted for the inaugural Iris Prize in 2007, has been conducting research into why a greater number of female filmmakers don’t make the jump from short films to features, and her findings will play an important part in the discussion.

This year’s festival ends with a one-day carnival of food and live music (including an appearance by M People’s Heather Small!), and let’s not forget the awards show where we’ll find out who has won the all-important Iris Prize itself. I can’t wait!

Visit the Iris Prize website for more information about this year’s festival

All images courtesy of Iris Prize Festival. Image descriptions:

Featured: Image is a still from the film Signature Move. Two women sitting opposite each other rest their foreheads together, sharing an intimate moment. They are sitting outside in front of a beautiful city skyline at night. One woman cradles the other’s face in her hands.

1. Image is a still from the film The Book of Gabrielle. Two women face each other, the one on the left grabbing the other’s chin affectionately. They appear to be mid-conversation.

2. Image is a still from the film Sununu. A transgender couple smile while looking over a small baby they are holding between them. The shot is framed as if they are a happy family.

3. Image is a still from the film We Love Moses. The camera is positioned as if facing a door that is slightly ajar. A black woman peers straight through the opening and into the camera. Her face is partially obscured but her right eye is the focal point of the picture.

Annie Nightingale is a true musical legend. Starting out as BBC Radio 1’s first woman DJ back in 1969, she has been at the forefront of new music ever since and has continually championed new artists and emerging genres. She used to hang out with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who and is now affectionately known as the Queen of Breaks, due to her love and promotion of breakbeat. She is Radio 1’s longest serving broadcaster and the only woman DJ in the world to have been awarded an MBE. In addition to her many achievements and accolades, the one she is most proud of is the ‘Caner of the Year’ gong awarded to her by the now defunct dance music magazine Muzik in 2001. She presented the Old Grey Whistle Test, the classic and influential music show from the 1970s and 80s. The radio critic Gillian Reynolds described her as, “the first on the floor and the last to slide under the table”. Her life has been one of progression, parties and pioneering graft. In addition to her 3-5am Friday morning show on Radio 1, she began a four-week takeover of BBC 6 Music last Sunday. The woman is 77-years-old.

Nightingale was a patron of Sound Women, a collective set up in 2011 with the mission to, “build the confidence, networking and leadership skills of women in radio and audio”. A Sound Women report found that women made up only 10 per cent of studio operators, one per cent of editors, that only 16 per cent of women working in radio were living with dependent children and that after the age of 35, women left the radio industry “in droves”, while 60 per cent of men working in the field were over 35-years-old. Sadly, Sound Women folded last year, but its impact is still being felt within the industry.

To mark 50 years of Radio 1, Nightingale has been talking recently about her experiences of life at the station and in music, more generally. She has spoken about the rampant sexism she experienced at Radio 1 in the early days, such as being told that women’s voices lacked the “required authority” and being initially rejected for a job because male DJs existed as “husband substitutes for housewives at home”. Despite these hurdles, she has not only survived, but thrived.

Which is why it’s so disheartening to read the following comment she recently made to i newspaper:

I’m really pleased now we have Clara Amfo, Lauren Laverne and may [sic] brilliant female DJs. But I’m not for a 50/50 gender quota. I want to be judged on my ability to do the job. I don’t think I was taken on because I was a woman or just to tick boxes

Based on the opposition she faced back in the 1960s and her incredible musical talent and knowledge, I agree that it seems unlikely that she was taken on simply because she was a woman. Nightingale has proved her worth tenfold. What I disagree with is the suggestion that quotas have to necessarily mean a drop in quality.

Disclosure: I am in support of quotas. Our government, public bodies and entertainment industry need to be representative, which means embracing diversity. In almost every sector, with the exception of fashion modelling and sex work, women are underrepresented in either pay or visibility. We continue to be judged on our appearances in a way that men are not, subject to sexual harassment, discriminated against or even sacked for becoming pregnant and still bear the dual burden of paid work, housework and childcare. If you are a BAME woman, lesbian, bisexual, trans, disabled or older, the challenges you face are likely to be even more acute.

When people state that they are opposed to quotas, it seems that what they’re really saying is that there is insufficient talent within a particular group and that recruiters will invariably have to compromise on skills in order to ‘tick a box’. Either people need to look around, broaden their horizons and explore the many gifted people out there, or they need to seriously reflect on their own internalised misogyny, racism, transphobia, ageism, homophobia, biphobia and ableism.

Nightingale also stated that she wants to be, “judged on my ability to do the job”, a commendable view that I think many people would share. In order for this to happen, however, we need to get that foot in the door. At the current rate of play, full equality remains a long way off.

The image at the top of the page is a black and white shot of a record deck and a mixer. I searched far and wide for an image of Annie Nightingale that we could use under a Creative Commons licence, to no avail. Sad face. Picture taken by D. Sinclair Terrasidius and shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Woman on computer
Tilly Grove is September’s monthly blogger

Everyone knows you’re not supposed to read the comments. It’s my job, so I don’t have much choice, but I can at least say with certainty that the adage is correct. Society’s most hateful certainly seem to reside below the line where content ends and comments begin: where those viewpoints you thought were outdated or completely out of line seem alive and well.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International reported that in the run-up to the June 2017 election, Diane Abbott received more than half of all abuse aimed at female MPs. Abbott has detailed the kinds of messages she receives online, and having moderated countless political discussion boards, I’d say it’s really the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, no one is moderating the tweets she is sent but I can at least delete comments calling her a variety of racist slurs, insulting her appearance and generally dehumanising her.

Some people who dislike Abbott, like Mark Wallace of the ConservativeHome website, have dismissed the idea that racism is why she receives so much criticism, instead branding her “incompetent”. It’s not untrue that she did make some mistakes in the run-up to the election, for example, giving an interview where she got figures relating to Labour’s proposed increase in police numbers wrong and appearing unfamiliar with a report being discussed with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News.

Abbott has since said that her performance in the election campaign was affected by her health — Abbott lives with type 2 diabetes and faced six or seven consecutive interviews without having eaten enough food.

These slip-ups could certainly be considered embarrassing and she should be held accountable for them like every other politician. However, the vitriol she received for relatively minor infractions just doesn’t add up. A white male politician like Boris Johnson is well-known for his “gaffes“, even though in practice they have sometimes been examples of racism.

Even a white woman like Theresa May doesn’t seem to receive the same levels of hatred, when she has been under fire for wrongly deporting thousands of overseas students and gay asylum seekers, and allowing wide-scale abuse of women in Yarl’s Wood to continue. It is not a reach to suggest that the same people who despise Diane Abbott don’t hurl the same levels or same type of abuse to such politicians with far worse records.

Women of colour have been telling us about the rampant bigotry they face both online and off for years so if white people are shocked, we just haven’t been listening. And as much as you should avoid reading the comments, they can teach us a lot about the kinds of views that still persist.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has caused outrage recently by discussing his staunchly anti-abortion views on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. His belief that abortion is never acceptable, even in instances of rape, has been branded unacceptable and archaic, and anyone who believes in the right to bodily autonomy will agree with that. But spending any time in comments sections makes it apparent that, to some, this isn’t actually all that controversial an opinion to hold.

I’ve seen countless comments calling abortion murder and insisting that women should just keep their legs closed if they don’t want children. More than that, though, abortion is still criminalised under the circumstances of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities in Northern Ireland. In England, abortion is legal up to 24 weeks under the Abortion Act 1967, but many women around the UK still face barriers in being able to get one.

We don’t live in anywhere near the kind of progressive society that we might like to think we do. Though online commenters might be just one type of person and from one section of that society, and though some of them may just be trolls, the people who think using racist slurs or that women should be imprisoned for getting abortions are still very much there.

It’s tempting to just ignore them and carry on avoiding the comments but, ultimately, that doesn’t make them go away. Comment boards are a breeding ground for hate and without people wading in to battle those abhorrent views, they go unchecked.

Even if just one person thought these opinions and behaviours were acceptable, we should still be challenging them rather than brushing these instances aside as extremist views.

Unless we acknowledge and address these viewpoints as part of the society we’re trying to make better, our plan of action will always be fraught and unfinished.

Image by Sergey Zolkin, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a woman using a laptop. Only her hands and forearms are visible in the picture and the laptop appears to be resting on her legs. The picture is in black and white.

Nasty Women UK is an intersectional movement that aims to bring together people of all genders, races, faiths and LGBTQIA identities through the platform of the arts. This coming weekend they will be running an art exhibition and weekend of events that celebrate the diverse artistic achievements of creatives from across the UK in support of gender equality. The exhibition can be found at Stour Space at 7 Roach Road, Hackney Wick E3 2PA and is open from 6.30pm until late today, Friday 22 September, and from 9am until late tomorrow and Sunday.

This Saturday 23 September will be the final performance of Siân and Zoë’s Sugar Coma Fever Nightmare at the Aces & Eights in Tufnell Park in London. Their show will be at 9pm following anther alt-sketch group Sam and Tom. They say that they will immerse you in a series of darkly sweet sketches: a Scrabble board haunted by an inadequate demon, a pair of mariners fishing with dreamcatchers, a toddler’s trip to the abattoir, and why you should always put your gumshield under your pillow for the gum fairy. You can read our review of Siân Docksey’s Edinburgh show here.

At Trafalgar Studios in London is Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Apologia which passes the Bechdel Test and raises topical issues surrounding the second and current waves of feminism. The play centres on Kristin (Stockard Channing) an eminent art historian and 1960s political activist who has recently published a memoir causing tensions within the family which comes to a head at her birthday dinner. The production runs until 18 November.

2Faced Dance Company presents Outlands which will tour in autumn 2017. This brand new triple bill of contemporary dance showcases and celebrates some of the best up and coming female choreographers from India and the UK. Outlands features three world premiere works by choreographers Hemabharathy Palani and Ronita Mookerji from India and Emma Jayne Park from the UK. It can be seen at DEDA in Derby on 27 September, Kala Sangam Arts Centre in Bradford on 28 September, mac birmingham on 29 September, Salisbury Arts Centre on 30 September, The Place in London on 3 October, The Lowry in Salford on 4 October, Swindon Dance on 6 October and The Courtyard in Hereford on 10 October.

The Fierce Festival in Birmingham is committed to showcasing the best international live art across Birmingham city centre. This year’s festival will explore topics such as clubbing, mental health, fandom and queer culture through live art, theatre, dance, music, art installations, activism, digital practices and parties. The festival runs from 16 to 22 October 2017. Ahead of the festival Fierce will also be presenting Boner Killer by alt-cabaret star Erin Markey in a double bill with GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN’s Frankenshowat at The Yard in London from 3 to 14 October. They say: “Driven by Whitney Houston’s lesbian mythologies, Europe™, and a Pretty Woman accident, Markey sacrifices her own life to transform humiliations into feminist hope.”

The Secret Keeper by Angela Clerkin opens in October in London before going on tour. It’s a Gothic fairy-tale for adults with a political heart, about secrets, collusion, whistle-blowing and collective responsibility. It’s at Ovalhouse in London from 11 to 21 October followed by Milton Keynes, Coventry, Greenwich, Oxford, Plymouth, Leicester, Sheringham and Newbury up until 10 November.

And lastly, a group of female theatre-makers are in the middle of making a new piece of feminist theatre, Unsung, exploring the untold stories of four inspirational and pioneering women from UK history. Its development began in March 2017 at the Holbeck Underground Ballroom in Leeds and it will undergo further development this autumn at Square Chapel Centre for the Arts in Halifax before touring regionally in 2018. Check out their (subtitled) trailer here:

Image one is of Erin Markey in Boner Killer. Markey leans in to an audience member with an intense expression on her face which could be a smile or a grimace; you can see a lot of her teeth. She holds a microphone up to her mouth with one hand and holds a baby doll with the other. Her hair is in a high ponytail.

Image two is of 2Faced Dance’s Outlands and is courtesy of Hemabharathy Palani. It shows a dancer lying on the floor with her back arched and twisted and her arms held aloft. Her face is turned upwards. She wears a delicate brown and green/yellow costume.

Image three is of The Secret Keeper. A woman wearing a old-fashioned dress with lace around the neck holds a dollhouse. She is lifting the roof of the dollhouse and looking in. Light is shining out of the dollhouse windows while smoke comes out of the chimney. A darkening sky and trees can be seen behind her.

The video is a trailer for Unsung. Vox pops with the actors are interspersed with footage from an early performance and post-show discussion shot in a theatre and outside.

Sex worker rights

Tilly Grove is September’s monthly blogger

At the 2017 Trades Union Congress (TUC), a motion was presented in support of the decriminalisation of sex work.

For sex worker rights activists, many of whom are sex workers themselves, this issue is at the crux of their movement.

Whether or not sex work should be considered a job or a form of violence against women is a question that has featured in feminist debates for decades. Those who fully advocate decriminalising sex work do so because they believe that granting sex workers the support, labour rights and legal protections of any other type of employment is the best way to help them stay safe.

As the TUC, the Labour Party and left-wing movements more generally seem to be more attentive to the needs of marginalised groups and those that have experienced discrimination, you would think that supporting a policy of decriminalisation — which is advocated by many organisations such as UNAIDs and the World Health Organization, to name a few — would follow. Indeed, when asked about his stance at a talk, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did voice support for decriminalisation.

However, Corbyn’s comments were met with criticism from other MPs in his party, who argued that his views were not official Labour policy. In fact, neither Labour nor the Conservatives have a stance regarding sex work in their manifestos. The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have both committed to full decriminalisation in theirs.

Unsurprisingly, then, the motion at the TUC conference was rejected. In response, Harriet Harman, Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham, tweeted that only “pimps and punters” benefit from sex work.

Harman is an advocate of abolishing sex work, alongside some women’s rights groups like Equality Now and feminist writers including Julie Burchill and Kat Banyard. Those on this side of the argument feel that no woman would ever choose to have sex in return for money. They believe that sex work is violence against women, both individually and by promoting the subordination of women, and as such dispute calling it work at all.

Others support policies like the Nordic model, commonly used in Nordic countries like Sweden and Norway, which decriminalises sex workers but makes paying for sex a crime.

Sex workers and decriminalisation activists argue that criminalising any part of the industry necessarily causes harm to workers, whatever the intention. As in the case of criminalising abortion, it simply forces the work further underground, as well as inviting police surveillance of vulnerable women and leading to increased violence against workers: since the Nordic model was passed in Northern Ireland, there have been increased reports of attacks on sex workers. In Norway, Amnesty International reports that sex workers who are immigrants have faced deportation.

Even in England, where sex work itself is not a crime, sex workers are raided and arrested for working together — which is often done for safety. This is classed as brothel-keeping, which is considered a crime, even though the workers are simply operating from the same building. If the sex workers are migrants and found to be guilty of these crimes the consequence could be deportation.

When Banyard wrote an article claiming that legalising prostitution — which is not what is being advocated — requires accepting “industrialised sexual exploitation”, Labour MPs including Harman, Diane Abbott and Naz Shah retweeted it. A legalisation model of sex work, as seen in the Netherlands, makes sex work legal only in specific conditions controlled by the state. These conditions may include registering yourself with the police, undergoing weekly health checks and only operating in designated areas. If a worker fails to do this, they could be arrested. Decriminalisation is favoured by sex workers because although sex workers and businesses must comply with the law, they cannot be prosecuted for being sex workers in any circumstance. This distinction is vitally important.

Abuse may occur within the sex industry, but it occurs in every industry, and it’s widely accepted that employment rights and protections are the most effective way to tackle this. Just because a sex worker is being paid doesn’t mean they automatically lose their right to consent to carrying out the work. If sex workers aren’t ever believed to have consented to doing their job, it can become trickier to identify actual abuse and coercion.

Support for the decriminalisation of sex work and listening to what sex workers want is directly aligned with the beliefs of left-wing and feminist ideology. Sex workers want better working conditions and protection from abuse and violence. To support them, we must accept that they know what they need to achieve that better than anyone.

Image Nicolas Ladino Silva, from Unsplash.

Image is of a woman sitting with her legs crossed on a bench, against a brick wall. The photo is in black and white. Only her bare legs are visible in the frame and they are the focal point of the shot.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 19 September 2017, 6:40 am


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.

Why women are better off single (The Sydney Morning Herald)

From the article: “Women, by contrast, learn from an early age that love is work. That in order to be loved, we will need to work hard, and if we want to stay loved we will need to work harder. We take care of people, soothe hurt feelings, organise chaotic lives and care for men who never learned to care for themselves, regardless of whether or not we’re constitutionally suited for such work.”

Tories defeated on NHS pay rise motion after DUP backs Labour (Independent)

Parents Pull Son From School Because of Transgender Classmate (Brittney McNamara at Teen Vogue)

From the article: “According to the Independent, Nigel and Sally Rowe have taken their 6-year-old son out of a Church of England school after one of his classmates came out as transgender. The parents said they plan to homeschool their son so he avoids the ‘political agenda’ they believe is in place, and because they think identifying as transgender breaks some sort of social contract.”

TERFs are using Nazi tactics. Don’t let it work. (Another Angry Woman)

From the article: “What the transmisogynists want more than anything in the world right now is to stop talking about their repulsive ideology and their repugnant tactics, and talk about the merits and drawbacks of political violence. They want to draw sympathy from the gullible centre, who uncritically lap up victim-playing rhetoric, because centrists dislike impoliteness far more than they reject hate.”

Are You Living Authentically, Or Are You A Female Lead Sprung From The Imagination Of A Young Male Auteur? (Reductress) [Satire]

From the article: “Whenever Jake isn’t with me, I just sit in a dark room and wait for him to call me. One time I told Jake I wanted to run away to Morocco to start anew and just be, but I wouldn’t actually do that without him. Jake is the only one who could ever really ‘awaken’ me.”

These Badass Indian Women Change Tyres and Sweep Patriarchy Under the Rug (Manasi Nene at The Ladies Finger!)

From the article: “The titles that Bhanot gives her paintings are clearly reflective of her characters. For example, her paintings have delightful titles like ‘Not Your Mom’s Bahu’, ‘Talking Back With The Selfie Gaze’ and ‘Sweeping Patriarchy Under The Rug’.”

A momentum shift against assisted suicide (Washington Examiner)

From the article: “In our profit-driven healthcare system, where care is expensive and assisted suicide is cheap, patients with terminal illnesses, people with disabilities, the elderly, and the poor are in grave danger of being pushed towards a death-too-soon.”

How the female Viking warrior was written out of history (The Guardian)

Why we need to celebrate ordinary women of colour’s successes (Metro)

One PR campaign, 32 photographers, no women. Nikon has an optics problem (The Guardian)

Lena Waithe and Donald Glover Both Made History at the 2017 Emmys (Slate)

“Talented triple threats Lena Waithe and Donald Glover made Emmy history on Sunday night, becoming the first black woman and first black person respectively to take home awards in their categories. Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (along with Aziz Ansari) for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Χάρης Κλέντος on Flickr. It is a photograph showing somebody outside at sunset. The person is silhouetted against what appears to be a mountainous or moorland landscape – there may be the sea or a river in the background. The sun is setting and the sky is pink and deep blue. The person is standing with their head inclined upwards. They have what appears to be a bunch of wild flowers in their hand and they have these held in a way to suggest they are sniffing them.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 12 September 2017, 11:37 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.

Some women need a hysterectomy after sterilisation device Essure (BBC)

From the article: “In 2015, a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggested that women who had a hysteroscopic sterilisation were 10 times more likely to need follow-up surgery than those who had a traditional sterilisation – 2.4% of those surveyed, as opposed to 0.2% amongst those having a standard sterilisation.
In the US more than 15,000 women have reported problems to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including pain, allergic reactions and “migration of device”. Carl Heneghan, from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University, has criticised the regulator’s failure to act on such findings. “How much evidence do you need to say let’s withdraw this from the market?” he asked. Victoria Dethier is angry that she and so many other women feel they have been ignored. “No-one is listening to us,” she said. “There are many women coming forward… we need to be acknowledged.”

Usborne apologises for puberty book that says breasts exist to make girls ‘look grown-up and attractive’ (The Guardian)

I never thought I’d have to get an abortion as a Muslim woman – until the day I did (the Tempest)

How White People Subtly Reinforce White Supremacy When They Laugh at Black Names (Everyday Feminism)

Why Men Don’t Believe the Data on Gender Bias in Science (Wired)

From the article: “Scientists are supposed to be objective, able to evaluate data and results without being swayed by emotions or biases. This is a fundamental tenet of science. What this extensive literature shows is, in fact, scientists are people, subject to the same cultural norms and beliefs as the rest of society. The systemic sexism and racism on display every day in this country also exist within the confines of science. Scientists are not as objective as they think they are. It is an extremely destabilizing realization for someone whose entire career has been rooted in the belief in human objectivity.”

Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man (The Guardian)

From the article: “The phrases sometimes used for men who partner with successful women – taking it in his stride, not put out by, OK with, dealing with, cool with – are reminders that female success can be regarded as some kind of intrusion or inappropriate behaviour.”

The Anti-Fascist Sex Workers Who Were Institutionalised for Challenging Mussolini (Vice)

From the article: “If these women ever acted out of turn for any reason, they would be arrested and accused of “violating public decency”. And then, once they were arrested, they would often make their predicament worse by calling the fascist regime out. When they did that, the eventual punishment was very harsh.”

Cycling magazine apologises over ‘token woman’ picture caption (the Guardian)

L’Oréal firing Munroe Bergdorf isn’t championing diversity, it’s centring white fragility (Huck Magazine)

Boots cuts price of morning-after pill after weeks of controversy (The Guardian)
From the article: “It also emerged on Thursday that Boots had issued the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a charity that advises women on their reproductive health, with two legal threats over its campaign for the firm to reduce its prices for the pills. It hired Schillings, the London law firm used by many celebrities, to write to the BPAS accusing it of harassing senior executives by running a campaign that encouraged those opposed to Boots’s behaviour to contact them. The charity said that ‘people writing to Boots senior executives through the BPAS campaign for more affordable contraception included women who needed to use EC [emergency contraception] in a range of circumstances, from being the victim of sexual assault to having missed a pill, as well as pharmacists, GPs and other healthcare professionals who had seen women with unwanted pregnancies s a result of struggling to access EC, and also lifelong customers.’ Clare Murphy, BPAS’s director of external affairs, said: ‘We are pleased to see that in future Boots will be providing a cheaper emergency contraceptive product across its stores nationally. We are extremely saddened that Boots feels the need to resort to legal warnings against a charity representing the concerns of women in the process.’”

In the midst of a disaster zone, why are we judging women on their shoes? (The Pool)

From the article: “The reaction to her footwear choice is wholly, madly, deeply disproportionate to its importance in the narrative, which should first and foremost be focusing on the fact that 30 people lost their lives and 17,000 are currently sleeping in makeshift beds, their homes and livelihoods devastated.”

Rock’s not dead, it’s ruled by women (The New York Times)

Vagina is not a dirty word (The Pool)

While you celebrate the third royal baby, remember all of the women in Britain who aren’t allowed a third child (The Independent)

Banning size zero models is small fry. What fashion needs is diversity (The Guardian)

2017 in Review: The Lot for Female Playwrights Worsens (Victoria Sadler)

From the article: “And, men, if you think women aren’t writing interesting enough plays, maybe its because they’re not writing for you. Challenge your own perspective on the world and consider that those stories that don’t speak to you, well, they may well speak to the other fifty percent of your audience.”

Privileged kids like Hetty Douglas need to stop fetishising working class culture (Huck Magazine)

Why must girls’ school uniforms be less practical and less comfortable simply because they have a vagina? (Times Educational Supplement)

From the article: “We are physically constraining our girls in so many ways. We are telling them they should be display items, not amazing kinetic contraptions of wonder. We’re hobbling them with skirts and tights and shoes and then wondering why they feel self-conscious, weak and are sometimes shying away from physical activity.”

Let’s stop laughing at dangerous men like Jacob Rees-Mogg (The Pool)

Out of the closet and into bookshops: where are all the queer books? (The Bookseller)

Proposals to increase number of female MPs in Commons rejected (The Guardian)

Can thrillers really be feminist? (The Pool)

How the role of nuns highlights a low view of women’s work (The Conversation)

We need to put an end to fatphobia in woke spaces (Melissa Toler)

From the article: “This fatphobic culture has given folks the green light to treat fat as a condition to be avoided at all costs. We act like we’ve been given a permission slip to treat people in larger bodies with disrespect and deny their humanity.

“And once someone is considered to be less than human, exclusion, marginalization, and abuse become easy next steps.

“I have no doubt that fat liberation should be included in our work towards social justice. It makes sense that the work to eliminate dehumanizing policies and practices based on color, gender, ability, and sexuality should extend to body size.”

Rap and the gender gap: why are female MCs still not being heard? (The Guardian)

The Men Who Left Were White (Josie Duffy at Gawker)

From the article: “…There’s a history of abandonment in America, a history of leaving black women and black children, and it did not start with black men.”

When free speech means bullies yelling over bigots (Louise McCudden at The Queerness)

From the article: “Only yesterday, the model Munroe Bergdorf was attacked by a furious Piers Morgan on the very same show for expressing her own right to free speech. Munroe Bergdorf, however, has not been able to make a richly-paid career out of saying “controversial” things, as others have done. Nor is she able to carry on in her profession, as this doctor is presumably doing. And yet, Munroe Bergdorf has done exactly what these tedious, insufferable bigots think they are doing – and the exact opposite of what they are doing in reality.”

Don’t Ask Your Girlfriend’s Dad if You Can Marry Her (Jill Filipovic at US Cosmopolitan)

From the article: “There are few things that demonstrate less respect for an adult woman than asking her dad if she’s allowed to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. In an attempt to “respect” a woman’s father, you’re disrespecting her.”

Why it’s best to leave contraception to those who need it (The Guardian)

Channel 4’s The Undateables asked Scots Paralympian to recruit disabled people for the reality TV show (Sunday Herald)

From the article: “I have so many qualities that make me undateable and none of them are to do with my disability. I am proudly unapologetic for these things because, although there are many people who would find me undateable, there are also a lot who can’t help but fancy the cycling bibshorts off me.”

Here’s Everything That’s Wrong With Jim Carrey’s “Meaningless” NYFW Comments And The Sexism They Represent (Bust)

Girls’ school shoes are hobbling their chances in life (The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Bethan on Flickr. It shows somebody sitting on a fence with only the lower half of their body visible – they are wearing jeans and blue pumps. Their hands are folded in their lap. The fence is wooden with wire netting in the middle, through which can be vaguely seen a green countryside landscape, which is slightly out of focus.

Why we need to stop feeling guilty around sugar

by Guest Blogger // 2 September 2017, 9:00 am

Tags: , , ,

Catherine King was August’s monthly blogger

I am in a long-term relationship with chocolate. It has been a deliriously happy partnership with relatively few arguments and if deprived too long from my soulmate I can literally swallow a Toblerone bar whole. I absolutely adore the stuff and being a non-smoker and non-drinker, I consider it to be my one vice. My ‘guilty’ pleasure, as it were.

In her piece for The Pool, Roisin Agnew focuses on the idea of ‘unhealthiness’. She expresses her dismay that, “we don’t appreciate how our worst and least healthy behaviours often bring about our moments of greatest happiness.” While noting that labelling foods as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ may not be helpful I lean towards this view.

Now, more than ever, in the midst of the ‘clean eating’ frenzy, I steadfastly refuse to stop eating my sugary sources of joy. It is one of my greatest passions. One of my earliest memories is of three year old me watching my chocolate ice-cream slowly melt before slurping it straight from the bowl in sheer ecstasy. Even now, my heart skips a beat when I catch sight of a Ben’s Cookies sign anywhere in London. So this idea of ‘guilt’ about joy such as this – or, even worse, my most loathed phrase ‘guilt-free’ used in connection with any sweet treat – is nonsensical to me.

Yet I do appreciate the positives in an eating programme that encourages more fruit and vegetables. Clean eating guru Madeleine Shaw, for example, makes sure to use “healthy fats” and “no refined sugars” in her recipes; her food is brimming with a splash of coconut oil here, a heap of avocados there and, of course, let’s not forget the almond butter. Through her food suggestions, Shaw wants her followers to “get the glow” – the same “glow” that she now feels after turning to this way of eating and transforming her previous poor health. Terminology such as this will always make me cringe, but Shaw does often appear to be healthy and revitalised.

Surely there is some validity then to something that makes people feel genuinely good and well. A friend of mine expresses similar fondness for a healthy eating programme she joined in 2013. “The principle of Weight Watchers is portion control,” says Grace. “It teaches you balance but it also teaches you restraint in a healthy way”, adding that “nothing is forbidden … it doesn’t make me feel bad about myself.”

An end to a fun, albeit uninhibited, time at university coincided with a doctor’s warning that she was at risk of diabetes, sparking both a newfound health kick and an unexpected love for cooking. Four years later, sharing her recipes on Instagram has now not only garnered her a significant following but Weight Watchers themselves have also expressed their interest in her recipes. I can also attest that her food is pretty fantastic.

Through her success however, Grace has seen a somewhat darker view of the social media side of clean eating: “Sometimes people are so negative on Instagram … the whole reason I joined was to find people who wanted to eat what I love to eat too.” The perfectly angled shots of plant-based meals combined with the opinionated comment sections can, Grace says, “fuel self hate” when ultimately “it’s not real … you are putting some filter on your food to make your Weetabix look good.”

Similarly, in her recent Guardian piece ‘Why we fell for clean eating’, Bee Wilson questions the contradiction behind the label: “A movement whose premise is that normal food is unhealthy has now muddied the waters of ‘healthy eating’ for everyone else, by planting the idea that a good diet is one founded on absolutes.”

Clean eating is certainly experiencing a backlash, Wilson’s article being one of many examples. The question now then, is where to go from here? While hilarious Instagrammers like Deliciously Stella act as constant reminders that there is no one way to eat, we still need to go further. Because guilt runs deep, and we absolutely must stop some types of food being synonymous with this word.

Instead, I suggest a new word, let’s say a ‘consciousness’ around eating, an ‘awareness’ of what we put into our mouths. Unless medically advised to do so, self-imposed deprivation of gluten or dairy won’t necessarily benefit your body but rather could detract from your contentment with eating. And the events of 2017 have already proved the old cliché that life is indeed too short.

If you want to have that chocolate cake, please, please do. Balance, variety and moderation are key and good knowledge about the benefits of different foods is essential. Eliminating your favourite treats forever, is not.

Image is of some green Hass avocados from the Max Pixel site and is used under a Creative Commons licence.

F-Word monthly guest blogger

As we ease into autumn it’s time to welcome Tilly Grove as September’s monthly blogger.

In her own words:

“Tilly is a writer and social media moderator based in London. She has been blogging about feminism and social justice since she completed her war studies degree at university and ended up doing her final year dissertation on the intersection of gender and war.

A lot of her work and activism now is centred around sex worker rights and she is a passionate advocate for the decriminalisation of the sex industry. She speaks openly about mental health, especially in regards to her experiences having borderline personality disorder and the stigmatisation thereof.

Moderating comments online exposes Tilly to some of the most challenging views and individuals in society but this serves as inspiration to keep challenging harmful narratives that are still prevalent. When she’s not getting angry about something online, she can probably be found watching a documentary about Princess Diana or listening to a podcast about female serial killers. She realises this combination of hobbies may seem fairly concerning.”

Image by Karim Ghantous, from Unsplash.

Image is of a row of books with an artistic focus on how the spines are lined up. The camera focuses on the titles in the middle of the frame and artistically fades out as we move towards the edges of the frame.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 29 August 2017, 3:11 pm


It’s a short and sweet round-up this week 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.

Journalist Kim Wall Remembered As A “Badass” By Her Friends (Buzzfeed)

On Beauty, or Why Zadie Smith’s Comments Aren’t About You (Feministing)

False rape allegations are rare – rape is not. Stop using the case of Jemma Beale to discredit all women (Independent)

From the article: “It doesn’t matter that thousands upon thousands of rapists lie about rape without a single judge opining on how damaging this is to the real victims of false accusers. Beale must stand, potentially, for all women who accuse any man of rape, because that’s what the rape culture narrative demands. If Beale didn’t exist, the patriarchy would have to invent her (and most of the time it does).”

When Your Hair’s Not 3B: Unachievable Natural Hair Goals (Ninette Iheke, gal-dem)

From the article: “Now that I’m quite old in the natural hair game, I realise just how unachievable and quite frankly ridiculous my expectations were. In the grander scheme of things it makes sense when you take into account the fact that the natural hair community, for the most part, champions those of 3a – 3c hair textures. There is very little representation of women who find themselves on the kinkier and coarser side of things, sporting 4a – 4c textured hair.”

The Bi Eye: Male Gaze, Female Gaze, or Something In Between (Robin Jeffrey, The Mary Sue)

World’s least self-aware human makes a website explaining why you should date him (The Daily Dot)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to chandlerchristian. It is a ‘diptych’ like image showing half of the same person’s face with two different facial expressions. In the first image, the person has their hand resting on their face, chin slightly raised and eyes cast downwards. In the second image, they are looking directly at the camera with a neutral expression – perhaps a vague smile. The person has dark hair and eyes. They also have orange and pink flowers entwined in their hair.

[Content note for sex, brief references to sexual violence, food.]

Every few years there is a study in human sexuality which claims that women’s sexual orientation is nothing like they claim it is. The latest one from Cornell University in the US is reported in Broadly under the headline Straight people don’t exist, new research says. Straight women were asked to watch pornographic videos featuring only women while their eyes were observed for pupil dilation. Both the Broadly article and the study’s director treat bisexuality rather as if it has only just been discovered but might be applied to almost everyone.

The idea that “everyone is a bit bisexual” was one I often encountered when I began to come out in my early twenties, a fact I was reminded of when Jennifer Hughes recently described the sense that she was maybe causing a fuss by coming out. Of course, all those who assured me that “everyone is bisexual” would, in all other circumstances, describe themselves as straight. One of the friends who insisted on the universality of my sexuality wound up, within the same conversation, declaring that the idea of kissing a woman made her queasy.

This is not to say that my friend’s pupils wouldn’t have dilated while looking at a pornographic video featuring a woman.

Pupil dilation is one possible indicator of sexual arousal, but it may also indicate other states of excitement, such as fear or disgust. Arousal is not the same as an emotional drive such as desire; in sexual violence, a victim’s body may exhibit various physiological signs of sexual arousal, which have precisely zero relationship to how an individual feels about what’s happening to them. This is one reason why those studies which suggest that vehement homophobia indicates latent homosexuality are pretty ropey as well as offensive.

Meanwhile, genuine sexual arousal (involving mind, brain and body) is not the same as sexual attraction. If we could somehow prove that a video of a woman masturbating (for example) caused a straight woman sexual arousal, it would be unclear whether she’d be thinking “I would like to have sex with that lady!” or “That looks like a fun thing to do!”. In our culture, women are asked to see ourselves in sexualised images of other women every day.

When last Christmas, I saw an advert for bacon and banana trifle, my stomach rumbled loudly. I did not want the trifle, but the advert had successfully triggered my brain and body’s general enthusiasm for eating. Horror remains a popular date movie genre, not because people normally find violence and gore sexy, but because fear and sexual excitement are physiologically similar and once the credits roll, there’s nothing to fight or run away from.

Of course, large numbers of straight women may, in fact, experience some degree of attraction to other woman. Indeed, we know a minority of straight women will have had same-sex sexual contact at some point in their lives. However, they are still straight women. Why? Because they say they are. Because however they experience sexual attraction, they understand themselves as being straight.

The labels we use to discuss sexual orientation are imperfect and very much of our time and culture. Some people may reject them altogether, while others may find themselves moving between them. Being straight does not necessary mean never looking twice at someone who isn’t a man, just as being a lesbian doesn’t mean never looking twice at someone who isn’t a woman. Being bisexual doesn’t mean you have to find men, women and non-binary people equally attractive, all the time. Other labels suit other people, including those on the asexual spectrum.

These labels deserve our respect. People lie about sex, no doubt – one reason why the estimated percentage of LG and B people varies wildly according to how, when, where and exactly what question is asked. Yet what people say about their identities and their desires is still going to be far more accurate than any quantitative measure available to science.

It is especially important that women are listened to on this stuff; of all the ways in which culture polices women’s sexuality, our sexual desires and expressions, being told that what we really want isn’t what we say we want is one of the most sinister aspects of this oppression. It is the one most often used to justify sexual violence.

The Broadly article concludes with a quote from the study’s director, Ritch C. Savin-Williams:

“If you look at women, the self esteem of lesbian women tends to be higher than that of straight women,” Savin-Williams explains. “Maybe they feel like they have more freedom [to be who they really are]. Granted, society may not always like it, but it is your own authentic self.”

Unfortunately, bisexual women (who also definitely exist) generally have even lower self-esteem than straight women. Someone who thinks that straight women are lying about their sexuality might imagine that bisexual women are our most “authentic” selves, but our sexuality is routinely dismissed by articles such as these. When not being told that everyone is bi, we are told that we don’t even exist – that we are straight women trying to seem more interesting or lesbians with one foot in the closet.

It’s really important to talk about sexuality as a spectrum or perhaps more accurately, a scatter diagram. The unwavering binaries of heteronormative culture do harm straight people with the idea that men and women are so different they’re practically incompatible but are still irresistibly and exclusively attracted to one another.

However, this conversation does not begin with telling people that what they know about themselves is incorrect.



[Image is a photograph of part of a feminine face. The face has light brown skin, black hair and brown eyes and is wearing large glasses. The eyes are staring ahead and the vague reflection in the glasses implies that this person is looking at a screen.

This photo was found on Pixabay and is in the public domain.]

For my first F-Word playlist as your new music editor, I find myself thinking about the state of mind of the UK in 2017. I am trying, as I often do, to make sense of life through music. It’s often not possible to do so, but I like to try anyway.

Before we go any further, please let me issue the following warning: this playlist contains a number of songs that feature the occasional use of the other F-Word. There is also one particularly choice use of the word ‘bollocks’, so you might find it unsuitable for work.

Effectively, this is a playlist of four acts that is a kind of sonic brooding on life in the UK over the past four months. Because of this, it’s made up of mainly new music, with most of the songs being tracks that have been released in the past year. Similarly, most of the artists featured are UK artists, but not all. We go in hard, with Noga Erez, Kate Tempest, and Speech Debelle and friends, then reflect in the middle with Jane Weaver, Overcoats, Connie Constance and London Grammar, and finish fiercely and loudly with Honeyblood and Gossip.

It’s been a rough few months, in a rough year, with even the usually restrained Economist newspaper observing in July that “Britain is having a very public nervous breakdown”. They were talking about the Brexit negotiations, but as a comment it could be seen to have wider connotations: The General Election, Grenfell and its fallout, for example.

In the final act of the playlist, we move into something that could be called a spirit of defiance and solidarity. In part this is because this summer has seen the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which decriminalised (in certain contexts) male homosexuality in the UK. In a related note, this playlist is launching the same weekend as Manchester Pride. It seemed fitting then, given that all of this is taking place at the end of a summer of violence within a year of growing intolerance, that both Pride and the anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act be musically marked.

I’ve also been writing a lot about women and music festivals this summer (both here and on my blog) and, as such, feel a strong need to share the following clip with you of Gossip performing at T In The Park back in 2007. Beth Ditto is owning that stage. She may be flying solo these days, but that should hardly preclude her from a headline slot at a festival sometime in the future.

Picture of bee decoration hanging against window by Cazz Blase. All rights reserved. Image shows a round glass window decoration depicting a bee against a yellow glass background hanging against a window. A back lawn, grey concrete of a carpark, greenery of gardens and red brick of buildings can be glimpsed through the window that the decoration is hanging against.

Video One: Georgia, Feel It: This video is made up of a number of women and girls of a variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds, all playing Georgia’s drum kit in a variety of styles and settings with various intensities of expression and technique. They range from an asian girl, who appears to be about eight or nine, to a black lady who appears to be in her 40s. Georgia also features. She is the one with long brown curly hair and a red plaid shirt.

Video Two: Natasha Kmeto, Pour Down: The words ‘Pour Down’ are in white against a backdrop of nightclub style slowly flashing lights of different colours, a series of flowers then appear alternately against the flashing lights, and these are then intercut with shots of Natasha Kmeto performing the song against the same background of lights. These then give way to shots of Natasha performing the song from different angles with a range of different coloured lights and lighting effects being used to frame her face.

Video Three: A sweat soaked and ebullient Beth Ditto leads Gossip and a very boisterous crowd at the T In The Park festival through a sing a long rendition of the bands anthemic ‘Standing In The Way Of Control’. Beth is running amok on stage and exhorting the crowd, generally owning the stage.

#ThatsHarassment campaign

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

Many of us think we know what sexual harassment looks like. Sometimes this causes more subtle, everyday instances of harassment to go overlooked — you know, situations that feel so familiar that we don’t even notice when things go awry?

These are the moments actor David Schwimmer and director Sigal Avin want to bring our attention to in their series of videos titled #ThatsHarassment.

Each of the campaign’s six videos explores a different ‘everyday’ circumstance in which women experience harassment. Each one is also based on real incidents that have happened to women.

While these videos may not come as a shock to women who have experienced the scenes they depict, they’re extremely eye-opening for those who haven’t or perhaps never thought of what it might be like to feel unsafe in these spaces.

The Co-worker

Much like a recent SNL sketch, this video showcases the ‘faux feminist’ man. He pretends to be super supportive of women, but only to boost his social credentials. This guy literally says he’s “The biggest feminist there is” after inappropriately touching his co-worker without her consent.

He even says if anyone makes her uncomfortable, he’ll take care of it. Yet he’s participating in the very behaviour he’s criticising. He tries playing the protector role — but instead is a thinly-veiled predator.

The Actor

Celebrities shouldn’t get away with harassment just because they’re famous. A woman working as a stylist asks the actor she’s dressing to make a video for her niece’s birthday, but by the end of their conversation is no longer interested in it.

The actor exposes himself for what he is by the middle of the video. He thinks he’s irresistible because of his status as a prominent actor — but she’s not buying it. It can be a punch to the gut when you find out your idol is a creep and it’s heartbreaking to see the woman’s face as she realises this actor her niece loves is a scumbag.

The Boss

The scenario in this video is probably a lot more common than some people think. A 2015 survey found that one in three women have been sexually harassed at work. If the harassment comes from an employer women can feel pressured to avoid speaking out from fear of losing their job.

The boss in this video really preys on that fear by telling his female employee that they had been looking for someone older and with more experience for the job, but that he was glad that they had chosen her.

He also exhibits characteristics similar to the co-worker, but instead of faux feminism, he’s trying to make sure she feels ‘comfortable’ at the company — while becoming the one who makes her uncomfortable. When she rejects his kiss, he makes her end on a hug so he “knows everything is good between them.”

The Doctor

We put our trust in healthcare professionals to give us the care we need, so it really makes your skin crawl to witness someone abusing that trust. In this video, a patient goes in for sinus issues, and that somehow leads to her undoing her shirt buttons.

He then gives her a ‘breast exam,’ letting his hands linger and very obviously making her uncomfortable. He tells her that she has sinusitis, which she expected from the beginning, and which he could’ve easily diagnosed without groping her.

The Politician

Unfortunately, a predatory politician isn’t something that really surprises the world anymore.The journalist in the video has to continually shut down the politician’s advances just to get her interview.

The Photographer

This one might be the most disturbing of all the videos. Not only is a photographer taking advantage of a young model, but at the end, we see there’s a room of people just watching it happen. We want to believe someone would stop this behaviour if they saw it but this video shows how damaging and consequential bystander apathy is.

This campaign is extremely important in showing people subtle, everyday ways sexual harassment can present itself. It also helps validate victims’ experiences by letting them know they weren’t out of line in thinking someone’s behaviour was inappropriate.

Image from Youtube, by #ThatsHarrassment. Used under Fair Use.

Image is of a male politician and a female journalist in a comfortable-looking office. The camera looks through at the pair from behind blinds as if spying. The female journalist wears a smart blue dress and the male politician wears a black suit. The journalist is conducting an interview. The pair sit on black leather couches, facing each other.

Mother and two children on a sofa

Kat Arksey is a Family Support Practitioner and mama to a bouncy toddler. When she’s not singing nursery rhymes and covered in Weetabix she’s working with families in need to help them make positive changes. Kat has a BA in Sociology and a MA in social work and is a qualified social worker. Kat’s reading interests are motherhood, feminism and gentle parenting

They say that it takes a whole village to raise a child. If you live in 2017, it takes a couple of Facebook mummy groups.

I had my first baby in April 2016. When I was pregnant I would read parenting forums almost daily to answer each and every question on my mind. I wanted to read what other pregnant women had experienced. I was fascinated by the changes that were happening to my body and the tiny person I was growing inside it. I wanted to talk about it to someone who understood.

Little did I know that these communities would become part of my life as a mother. I have joined a number of Facebook groups for parents, breastfeeding mums and those that give advice on baby-led weaning. You name it, there is a group for it.

I find this shift in how parents, mostly women, gain access to information and advice fascinating.

While some of these groups feel like an agony aunt page, women’s questions can be answered instantly by thousands of other parents who have lived through a similar experience. It is quite powerful when you think about it.

Many of the things my mum’s generation were told seem outdated now. They had advice available in the form of parenting books, many of which set strict feeding and sleeping schedules for the baby. It was once widely accepted knowledge that babies should feed every four hours which we now know can have a detrimental effect on the breastfeeding relationship. Women had little advice and support especially when it came to breastfeeding. That is why I like these groups.

Mums today can access support at the click of a button. Not only can they tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience from perfect strangers in parenting groups but they can use the internet to access studies and articles that give them new information about child development. If our parents followed the lead from their parents, this generation are following their own lead by taking the bits they want from information they seek out online.

The flip side of this is that we can become oversaturated in information which can feed into anxiety. I know how anxious being a mum can make someone and can imagine why some parents may feel they need confirmation from others to settle these worries. Some might argue that this is counterintuitive to us trusting our ‘motherly instincts’.

Or perhaps this online world encourages a culture of oversharing. I have seen pictures of a baby’s rash, baby poo and mucus plugs (yup!). Some posts dish out intimate details of relationship breakdowns and dysfunctional sex lives. Some ask for advice on things they probably already know the answer to or could have used Dr Google for. Maybe some of these women are simply craving interaction. Is the stereotype of the lonely stay-at-home mother still relevant today, or do these online hubs mean that we are finding new ways to connect with our peers?

I know that being a mother can be very lonely. Looking into the lives of strangers and comparing them to our own family can be satisfying and seeing ‘real’ posts can make us breathe a sigh of relief because they make us feel ‘normal’ (blogs like The Unmumsy Mum seem to have this effect).

However, these groups naturally create a channel for mums to judge each other. Some mums may feel inadequate alongside their online peers and strive for parenting perfection (whatever that is). I have felt like a failure in comparison to the so-called ‘perfect mums’ who appear to be providing a wonderfully natural and organic upbringing for their little ones.

I laughed when I read a post on a Facebook discussion group about breastfeeding that started with “wise ladies that live in my phone.” But to me, it really summed up this new era of online parenting advice. Technological advances and the social changes that come with them seem to have crept up on us without us realising how very different our experiences are to those of our own mothers.

These groups can validate our parenting choices and give us confidence and the feeling that we’ve got the back up we need, especially when our choices might be questioned by others. Let’s hope we can use them as an outlet for expression rather than allowing them to feed anxiety about how we parent our children.

Image by Alexander Dummer, from Unsplash.

Image is of a mother sitting on a sofa with her two young children. She is holding an iPad that she and both her children are looking at. She looks as if she is about to smile.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 21 August 2017, 10:00 pm


Welcome to 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 am a black British woman living in America’s South. I see racism everywhere (The Pool)

Dad Accused Of Inappropriate Behavior With His Son Said It Never Would Have Happened If He Were a Woman—And He’s Right (Elle)

Ain’t Never Scared: The Necessity of Learning From Black Feminist Refusal (RaceBaitR)

From the article: “We still, always, do abolition today and tomorrow as subversive intellectuals, feminist killjoys, Black radicals, “nasty women,” activistic accomplices, muhfuckin’ goons. We will, as Black women have long shown us, celebrate, because we’ve always, always, been met with imminent danger. We will celebrate—regardless, to creatively purloin Alice Walker—because things have always been trying to kill us. And they, once again, will fail. This is not naïveté; this is the melodious acumen of Black feminism.”

Know someone who should work at WikiTribune? (Medium)

Please don’t issue blanket apologies for your children on public transport (Robyn Wilder, The Pool)

A Woman Who Asked A Man For Career Advice Was Told “Does Your Boyfriend Not Help You?” (BuzzfeedNews)

7 Unmistakable Signs Your Allyship Is Performative (Liz Brazile)

The Problem With Rupi Kaur’s Poetry (Chiara Giovanni, BuzzfeedNews)

From the article: “Other minority writers, who trade in specifics and details, not broad-reaching sentiments and uncomplicated feminist slogans, would probably not achieve the same level of success. It is the paradox of the minority writer: the requirement to write in a way that is colored by one’s background, but is, at the same time, recognizable enough to a Western audience that it does not intimidate with its foreignness.”

4 Self-Care Tips for People of Color After Charlottesville (Lara Witt, Teen Vogue)

Joss Whedon Is a ‘Hypocrite Preaching Feminist Ideals,’ Ex-Wife Kai Cole Says [Guest Blog] (The Wrap)

Can our kids really go gender free? (The Pool)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Mark Dixon on Flickr. It shows a placard depicting an anti-fascist symbol of a swastika underneath a ‘no’ sign (a red circle with red diagonal line running through). The placard is being held aloft, clearly during a march or protest – possibly during the counter-protest at Charlottesville.

Why we need feminist role models

Charlotte Wylie was July’s monthly blogger

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a feminist. Even before I knew the word, I could feel myself striving with every inch of my being to be considered equal to the boys in my class; to live my life joyfully without fear of being treated as lesser. I credit this desire to my parents and, in particular, my mother.

When I was growing up, my mum always prioritised learning. By learning I don’t mean that she stood over me while I did my homework (although she somehow conned my sister and I into thinking verbal reasoning books were fun), but rather she wanted us to be active citizens in the world and to fully engage with it. She was instrumental in showing me that there are many different perspectives and experiences to be had and that people will tell you their stories if you will just listen.

As an adult, our interests did not always intersect, but she was willing to listen to me explain why I liked a certain band, film or piece of art, even if it wasn’t to her taste. This openness to new ideas and different perspectives is something that I strive to emulate as I navigate my way through life, particularly when trying to be a better intersectional feminist.

In an age where women are taught that the only way to succeed is to become ‘one of the boys’ and join in with the banter, we often forget that it is kindness and compassion that are the most important skills to learn. One way of teaching and increasing empathy is an exposure to literary fiction. Exposing someone to a wide range of different views and life experiences can help them to broaden their perspective on particular issues and become more tolerant and accepting of others.

We can also turn to positive role models in fiction to teach us how to be more open. These stories can help us form ideas of and understand how we want to live our lives, especially when we are younger. Seeing courageous and complex characters who treat each other with compassion sets a strong example for how we can form meaningful human relationships.

In some cases, these characters can also show us that we are not unusual or alone, which is particularly important for young women who are trying to figure out who they are against a slew of patriarchal expectations. Not everyone has a positive feminist role model in their family but that does not mean that these role models are impossible to find. In addition to literary characters, our inspirational teachers, colleagues at work and friends can all act as examples of how we can live our lives with more compassion and curiosity.

It has only been in the past few years that I fully began to appreciate everything that my mum did for my sister and I. She opened our eyes to all the beauty that the world has to offer and taught us the importance of being kind. It is a trait that can be easily forgotten.

My mother Catherine taught me to never feel limited because of my gender and that I should not have to alter my personality to feel accepted by a group of people. I learned that I should interrogate my preconceived ideas and prejudices. She believed that growing and changing was a fundamental part of life. Ultimately, the road to true equality is still one that is longer than it should be, but one way of moving it forward is to live a life that inspires someone else.

Image by Pan Xiaozhen, from Unsplash.

Image is of a young girl, perhaps three years old, reaching out to play with some bubbles that appear to her right. She is looking to the right with her right arm outstretched, as if trying to catch them. She wears a bright red, short-sleeve shirt.

A man and a woman who have just got married
Catherine King is August’s monthly blogger

Something strange has happened since my boyfriend and I got engaged recently. We have both discovered a slight aversion to using the word fiancé.

I never expected this. In fact, I assumed if a proposal was to ever occur that I would do exactly what Monica did in that all-too-familiar Friends moment (The One with Monica’s Thunder, Season 8, Episode One to be precise) and start screaming “I’m engaged!” repeatedly from any balcony that I could find. This didn’t happen and nor was I entirely graceful in saying yes. What actually happened was that I swore profusely and repeatedly shrieked “Is this a joke?”

Aside from my ridiculous, yet — as I’m sure many who know me will attest — predictable reaction, it was a very special moment and we are still truly over the moon. And although we have both referred to each other as “fiancé” at least once or twice, something about it is still slightly odd to us.

I guess the best comparison would be that new shoe feeling. Except that these are fancy shoes; the ones you’ve bought for that specific fancy thing. You’ve longingly had your eye on them for months and have finally splurged all your hard-earned cash to get them, but during the first couple of wears, you still feel a bit too formal. Maybe even a tad ostentatious and probably a little self-conscious.

But then, isn’t that what a wedding day is, at least in part? Whether it is a ceremony in a woodland clearing or you are sitting in the pews of a grand and very stony church, the air of formality is certainly palpable for at least the first few hours. And so many elements of a wedding, even the bits that look the prettiest, are still symbolic of a patriarchal society — the white ‘virginal’ dress, the physical handing over of the bride to the groom and the assumed notion that this is and should be the best day of a woman’s life. Preferably, she should be no older than 35 because, um, babies? *eyes roll back very far into head*

In 2017, the very idea of marriage can occasionally feel a bit jarring. There are contemporary films, television shows, books and articles that are teaching women to value their intelligent, curious minds and to use their strong, willful words as they please. Once-dormant female voices are now hollering left, right and centre for full ownership of their bodies and choices, whether Trump likes it or not. There are voices that actively encourage women not to feel obliged to delay their careers in order to start a family and let them know that it’s fine to not want to start a family at all. And within this, today’s Tinder-swiping, Naked Attraction-watching demographic of young women makes for a more fluid, accepting attitude that encourages a broader spectrum of romantic possibilities.

Part of what makes the Millennial generation so progressive is the ability to take elements of certain old ways of life and embed them within the new. Whilst it’s impossible to completely separate marriage from its patriarchal roots, we should still honour the feminism within a woman’s choice to depart from these traditions and create our own unique celebration of love.

Not being particularly religious, neither my fiancé (I said it) nor I have any desire to marry in a church. Nor do we want anyone to feel too formal. The extent of our planning thus far consists of looking at weird barns and trying to work out what is the earliest, most acceptable time to be drinking.

There is nothing outdated in cementing a mutual love for one another. I will still be just as loudly feminist and ambitious as before except now with a slightly wider knowledge of centrepieces and wedding planning. Overall though, I’m pleased to say I don’t think I will suffer from too many pre-wedding jitters. To echo Phoebe’s sentiment (The One with the Prom Video, Season 2, Episode 14), marrying your “lobster” is probably the least scary thing you’ll ever do.

Image by Allef Vinicius, from Unsplash.

Image is of a man and a woman who have just got married. Only the back of the man’s neck and shoulders are visible, with the woman’s hands resting just below the back of his neck as if she is hugging him. She wears purple and gold nail polish on alternating fingers. He wears a pale beige suit jacket.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 14 August 2017, 3:45 pm


Welcome to 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 really shouldn’t be applauding men for finding their wives attractive while we regularly deride fat women who love themselves without the male gaze (Wear Your Voice)

Meet Sophlynne, who says queer Twitter is ‘something special’ (Gaystar News)

The above piece was written by our features editor. You can read more from Sophie HERE.

Dispossession [Review] (Helen McCookerybook)

Thank you, Sinéad O’Connor, for showing the messy reality of mental illness (The Guardian)

I, a Fat, Beautiful Black Woman, Get Lots of Sex. Why Does That Bother You? (The Root)

Guitar music is in the doldrums, but all-female bands are spearheading its revival (New Statesman)

Attitude Pride Award Winner Wins Asylum Bid to Stay in the UK (Attitude)

From the article: “The Home Office needs to catch up with the rest of the UK, drop its vile ‘proof of sexuality’ policy and move on from 1967. All LGBTI people seeking asylum in the UK want – like anyone else – is to be treated with fairness, dignity and humanity.

“Having been forced to flee by hate and intolerance at home, being branded a liar by the Home Office is demeaning and cruel for LGBTI people seeking asylum.”

She joked she was going to start stealing from drunk dudes to make a powerful point (Upworthy)

Lesbian/Queer Masculinities – by Dr. Finn Mackay (Discover Society)

From the article: “Recent surveys and commentary, mainly from the US, but also from here in the UK, suggest that younger generations have an increasingly fluid conceptualisation of their sexual and gender identities and are less likely to identify rigidly as either straight or gay, or as either men or women … What do these apparent societal shifts mean then for the identities of lesbian, gay and bisexual?”

Taylor Swift’s Sexual Assault Testimony Was Sharp, Gutsy, and Satisfying (Slate)

Fat Women Don’t Get To Be Androgynous (Refinery29)

From the article: “Seriously, google ‘androgynous woman’ and 99% of the photos will be of skinny white women.”

I was an intersex child who had surgery. Don’t put other kids through this (USA Today)

From the article: “Intersex people have been the last bastion of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ with doctors commonly telling parents for many years that the best thing they could do for their children was to have surgery done, even when they are infants, so they can grow up ‘normal’.”

Woman’s Post About Being Manterrupted While Reading ‘Men Explain Things To Me’ Goes Viral (Huffington Post)

From the article: “All Lara B. Sharp wanted to do last Wednesday was read by the pool. But the title of the book she was reading, paired with the fact that she was a woman in public, made her a victim to some unsolicited mansplaining.”

This feminist photo gallery is reclaiming ‘cute’ (I-D)

From the article: “In those photos, my models are being sexual, they are not being sexualized. The difference is where agency lies. They are subjects not objects. I also have no problem with porn, I believe that feminist porn can and does exist.”

Military pushes back on Trump’s transgender ban (The Hill)

Jess Phillips: Men on the left are the “absolute worst” (Labour List)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Ivan on Flickr. It shows a person playing a black electric guitar. They have dark, chin-length hair and an expression of concentration as they play. They are wearing a faded looking T-shirt with a blue collar and blue (unreadable) motif on the front.

I’m rather ambivalent about high heels. I like how they look but not how they feel and, much as I admire those with the flair and commitment to be able to carry off daily heel-wearing as if it’s part of their own natural fabric, I think it’s a bit rich when some employers insist that a proportion of their workers master this art at the same time as completing a day’s work.

This means I was pretty disappointed to find it was probably going to be ‘business as usual’ for employers imposing on women in this way when, back in April, the government rejected actor and temp receptionist Nicola Thorp’s petition to introduce a new law banning them from doing so.

This happened despite Thorp’s employer at the time reviewing their appearance guidelines, thanks to her activism. (This was just as well as far as I’m concerned because the dress code Thorp was expected to follow was truly revolting.)

The good news is that the issue is in with a chance of getting picked up again because researchers Max Barnish, Heather May Morgan and Jean Barnish have recently published a review of articles and existing primary studies assessing the benefits and effects of high heels and their findings have led them to highlight the importance of employees’ bodily autonomy:

Our evidence synthesis clearly shows that high heels bring psychosexual benefits to women but are detrimental to their health. In light of this dilemma, it is important that women’s freedom of choice is respected and that any remaining issues of explicit or implicit compulsion are addressed [my emphasis].

On Wednesday, the researchers argued their case on the Economia website, pointing out that the statement released by the government when rejecting Thorp’s petition cited the existing Equality Act 2010’s preclusion of this practice “in most circumstances” on the basis that discrimination on the grounds of gender is against the law and this would “generally include requirements that women wear something that is bad for their health if men do not have to”. Along with seeking clarification on this, the researchers have been suggesting the introduction of specific legislation to prevent compulsory high heel wear in workplaces. This quite rightly frames employers imposing a dress code that discriminates against women as a workers’ rights issue.

I took part in a BBC Radio Scotland discussion on this topic last week and, while I was pleased to find the debate focusing on the unreasonable and oppressive demands of employers rather than personal fashion preferences (i.e. the right to wear heels on one’s own terms), I thought it was interesting to see that one of the first responses to BBC Radio Scotland’s Gary Robertson’s tweet quoting that “High-heel wearing should not be forced” was “I will never give them up!”

It seems that, much like so many other practices that become oppressive when people are told they have to do it, critiquing this enforced element is likely to be conflated with critiquing the practice itself and, essentially, telling people they shouldn’t partake in it at all. This familiar re-framing seems rather convenient for those who actually are telling individuals what to do because it shifts attention away from complaints about the rights of business to impose on workers by positioning those who actually challenge that power as nasty killjoys impinging on individual freedoms.

Let’s be clear: wearing uncomfortable shoes because you want to is a personal liberty but being pushed into doing so because you might lose your job if you don’t is not.

The discussion with Liz Brewer, Gary Robertson and Hayley Millar that I took part in will be available via BBC iPlayer for another 20 days from the time of this posting and can be found from 1.53.29 to 1.59.37.

You can share your experiences of workplace discrimination and find out more about Nicola Thorp’s campaigning at the ‘Who are you wearing’ website. (Fun off-topic fact: If you recognise Thorp, that’s because she happens to play Nicola Rubenstein in Coronation Street!)


Image description and credit

Close-up of light brown lower legs, ankles and feet on a tiled floor. The right foot wears a black pointed high heel shoe with a suede-appearance, while the left one is bare and rested on its side slightly. The free shoe is lying on its side in front, with the angle revealing a spool heel style.

By Senlay and shared under a Creative Commons license.

Sarah Wilson is a freelance writer and a recent graduate in English Literature currently trying to work out what she wants to do with her life. She’s interested in writing about feminism, education and social mobility, and in her spare time you’ll find her vowing to spend less time on social media while fervently scrolling twitter for the third time that day

When I was about thirteen years old I marched into the Tammy section of BHS, pocket money in hand, and bought my first bra. Not because I needed one – far from it – but because I was so exasperated with my flat chest that I actually thought it better to wear an empty bra and pretend I had tits than wait for puberty to eventually hit.

When I write it down here, it sounds a little absurd. One might think that a child only one year into her teens worrying because she didn’t have the breasts of a fully grown woman was suffering from some kind of delusion. But for anyone else who grew up female, it’s not difficult to call to mind how frighteningly early the sexualisation of your body sets in, fed by images in magazines, films and adverts that punctuate your everyday life. It’s no surprise then that I breathed a sigh of relief for girls everywhere when I heard the recent news that the Advertising Standards Agency will be cracking down on sexist advertisements.

I say ‘girls’ specifically here. While women in the world are fighting for education, equal pay and protection against male violence, the absence of perfume ads using half-naked women to make sales might seem a small victory. But it’s crucial to remember that advertisements are likely among the first place that young children – boys and girls – pick up gendered messages. Whether it’s blue toys for boys and pink for girls or lingerie ads featuring impossibly airbrushed women, it’s through these images that we first learn what being a boy or a girl means; and it makes for grim watching.

One study conducted earlier this year found that women in the adverts surveyed were statistically more likely to be shown in the kitchen than men, more likely to be wearing revealing clothing and less likely to be portrayed as funny than their male counterparts. While the age of men featured in the ads ranged between twenties, thirties and forties, women were mostly in their twenties. Men were also 62% more likely than women to be portrayed as intelligent.

It’s this last one that really gets me when I recall my teenage years, in which I and countless other young women learned with an astonishing rapidity that the very worst thing one could be was not unintelligent but unattractive; undesirable to the men around you. As the late John Berger once so aptly put it: “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at”.

When I was fifteen years old, I ditched my glasses for contact lenses and learned how to perfect the messy comb-over fringe that was for some reason so popular at the time. In tandem, I discovered that putting on a ditzy persona allowed me to (finally – though not very effectively) flirt with boys in my school. Though I was still doing well in lessons, I suddenly stopped reading books and frequently performed a ‘watered-down’ version of myself. I remember distinctly, it being one of the few occasions he’s ever snapped at me, my father scolding me for feigning unintelligence – knowing perfectly well that I was bright and academically able. I was lucky – I snapped out of it.

Of course, to claim that this performative act was solely the product of sexist advertising would be hyperbole. But it was certainly part of a culture that teaches girls that they exist to serve men and not themselves; as sexual objects, wives and domestic partners. When this culture is reinforced in early years – as advertisements make possible – it sticks. From the very first day that Sweden permitted any commercial advertising in their country back in 1991, they banned advertisements directed at children for this very reason, citing research showing that kids are unable to fully distinguish between programming and advertisements until around the age of 10.

I can testify myself that it takes time and a great deal of effort to unlearn the stereotypes and body ideals that girls grow up clinging to and boys end up enforcing. It might only be a small step, but by monitoring sexism in advertising, young girls and boys in the coming generation might be spared ever having to learn them.

Image courtesy Classic Film on Flickr

Image depicts an advert from 1962 featuring a woman cleaning an oven

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 7 August 2017, 7:26 pm


Welcome to 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.

White Veganism Doesn’t Care About Black Lives (gal-dem)

Call Me By My Names: A Story of Shame, Trauma, and Liberation in a Chinese Name (Zine)

From the article: “For twenty-two years I had been conditioned to regard my Chinese identity—starting with my name—as a source of embarrassment and inadequacy. Now, choosing to introduce myself with my Chinese name as an entry to reclaiming this identity was, and still is, a sorely vulnerable act.”

We wrote about women’s health not being taken seriously & your stories came flooding in (The Pool)

We don’t need ‘macho’ stereotypes to entice boys onto the dance floor (The Conversation)

Using a fitness app taught me the scary truth about why privacy settings are a feminist issue (Quartz)

We need to talk about digital blackface in reaction GIFs (Teen Vogue)

From the article: “[To] be looped in a GIF, to be put on display as ‘animated’ at the behest of audiences,” as Monica Torres describes for Real Life, is an act with racial history and meaning. These GIFs often enact fantasies of black women as “sassy” and extravagant, allowing nonblack users to harness and inhabit these images as an extension of themselves. GIFs with transcripts become an opportunity for those not fluent in black vernacular to safely use the language, such as in the many ‘hell to the no,’ ‘girl, bye,’ and ‘bitch, please’ memes passed around. Ultimately, black people and black images are thus relied upon to perform a huge amount of emotional labor online on behalf of nonblack users. We are your sass, your nonchalance, your fury, your delight, your annoyance, your happy dance, your diva, your shade, your ‘yaas’ moments. The weight of reaction GIFing, period, rests on our shoulders. Intertwine this proliferation of our images with the other ones we’re as likely to see — death, looped over and over — and the Internet becomes an exhausting experience.”

Facebook’s complicity in the silencing of black women (Ijeoma Oluo at Medium)

Of Course Abortion Should Be a Litmus Test for Democrats (New York Times)

From the article: “Nineteen hyenas and a broken vacuum cleaner control the White House, and ice is becoming extinct. I get it. I am desperate and afraid as well. I am prepared to make leviathan compromises to pull us back from that brink. But there is no recognizable version of the Democratic Party that does not fight unequivocally against half its constituents’ being stripped of ownership of their own bodies and lives. This issue represents everything Democrats purport to stand for.”

I deleted my baby apps when I realised how much they fetishise motherhood (the Guardian)

What happens when you track down your online trolls (The Debrief)

From the article: “When I eventually tracked down my Keyser Soze, I was even angrier to find out he was a ‘normal’ person. An adult man who holidays with his girlfriend in Italy, shares videos about dogs being saved from floods on Facebook and, apparently, has an alter ego for sending women they’ve never met ‘I know where you live’ messages. After finally keeping him on the phone long enough to read what he’d sent to me back to him, I was taken aback by how distraught he was and yet completely unsympathetic.”

Documentary on Swedish kids growing up without rigid gender roles (boingboing)

I had a shit birth. Here’s six reasons WHY I really want others to know (Every Mum Should Know)

Not here to make friends (Anne Helen Petersen)

From the article: “Writing about those stars often makes me melancholy, less because of their personal decisions, and more because of what those decisions reveal about the resilience of the image-flattening machine.

“Which is why it’s always such a delight to look into a star archive — like Theron’s, or Kidman’s, or Witherspoon’s — and find these moments of resistance and weirdness. Of course, all three of those women have survived in Hollywood because of their whiteness and their beauty. But that survival is also a testament to their stubbornness, their talent, their bitchiness, and their insistence that they are far more complex, far more worthy of your time and consideration, far more than the sum of their exquisite parts than the publicity world would have you believe.”

Police accused of threatening sex workers rather than pursuing brothel thieves (The Guardian)

From the article: “Women’s safety is being [compromised]. It goes against the home affairs committee’s call last year for women sharing premises to be decriminalised. The police are permitting a terror campaign against sex workers. Even having a key [to enter the premises] is deemed to be assisting in running a brothel.”

State pension reforms hit women for £5.1bn ‘substantially’ increasing poverty, major IFS study finds (Independent)

From the article: “Proportionally, we find a larger reduction in household income for lower-income women, with the reform increasing the measured income poverty rate of women aged 60 to 62, who are now under the state pension age, by 6.4 percentage points.”

The reason why straight men are having sex with other men, according to a sexologist (Indy100)

From the article: “If you look at this belief that women’s sexuality is more receptive – it’s more fluid, it’s triggered by external stimuli, that women have the capacity to be sort of aroused by anything and everything – it really just reinforces what we want to believe about women, which is that women are always sexually available people.

“With men, on the other hand, the idea that they have this hardwired heterosexual impulse to spread their seed and that that’s relatively inflexible, also kind of reinforces the party line about heteronormativity and also frankly, patriarchy.”

Dear Christian Men in Tank Tops (Krysti Wilkinson)[Satire]

Experience: I am a professional mermaid (The Guardian)

Meet The Disability Rights Campaigner Whose Shock Election Win Saw Him Topple Nick Clegg (Buzzfeed)

PETITION: Demand Property Mogul lifts ban on domestic abuse survivors renting a home (Care 2 Petitions)

True crime makes great TV. But must it linger on women’s corpses? (The Guardian)

For Black Women, The Wage Gap Can Be A Matter Of Life And Death (The Establishment)

The image is used under a creative commons with thanks to Victoria Pickering on Flickr. It is a black and white photograph of what appears to be a protest taking place at night. The protesters are facing away from the camera towards a row of lit up shop fronts. Part of a placard one of the protesters is holding can just be read from the angle and it says: ‘The revolution has always been in the hands of the young.’

Jordan King is a freelance writer, focusing on intersectional feminism and fiction. She is studying English Literature and Journalism full time, and feels very odd about referring to herself in the third person. When she’s not playing with words and trying to be a serious writer, she’s unhelpfully spilling chocolate somewhere on her clothing and most likely embarrassing herself.

“I was going to get my tubes tied, but as a woman there really is something in your body that will make you wake up one day and suddenly need a baby.” It surprised me to hear these words coming from the woman I was talking to. Granted, we were at a five-year-old’s birthday party, but she seemed an unlikely candidate for a ‘women are made to be mothers’ endorsement. However, this would not be the last time my binary ideas about ‘types’ of women would be challenged. My categorisation of ‘motherly’ women and ‘non-motherly’ women was soon to come crashing down, along with my separation of ‘liberated’ women versus the opposite.

In the gap between leaving one university and starting at another, I took a job as an au pair. I wanted to see a new place and to make some money. I enjoyed the job and learned a great deal, but in the second week I came to the realisation that absolutely nothing about childcare comes ‘naturally’ to me.

I was good at the playing part – being a hyperactive person came in useful here. But I didn’t know how to deal with “I don’t want to brush my teeth” as an argument and, to my own surprise, I struggled with being affectionate. Don’t get me wrong, I ended up adoring the child. But I had to put sticky notes up in my brain that said “caress hair in motherly way”, “tend to every level of ‘wound”, “hold her hand – yes, even just to the next room”, and so on. It also felt very overwhelming to have to think of every little thing for another human being. I had to focus really hard on remembering that the kid needed me to tell her to wipe her face, even though she can see and even feel exactly what I can.

I am not against the idea of having my own children one day, but my current focus is academia and my career, and I foresee this being the case for a very long time. So when this lack of motherly ability affected me so badly emotionally, I couldn’t explain why. I started to devalue everything I was good at, because I wasn’t good at this one thing that every woman is supposed to be able to do. I knew what was happening in my head but I couldn’t understand why. I am an educated, well-read, supposedly liberated feminist who knows that my worth is not determined by my mothering ability.

I would even lie to my best friend about my days with the child so that he didn’t know I wasn’t so great with kids. I wanted him to think that I wasn’t the motherly type because I chose not to be, not because I couldn’t be. I was worried that this guy who knows me well, is a radical feminist himself, has great politics and who loves me dearly, would see me as ‘less’ because motherly affection and softness weren’t among my defining characteristics.

Moreover, I became extremely disappointed in myself for feeling and thinking this way. I felt that I had failed as a feminist, that I couldn’t possibly believe all the things I wrote about if I wasn’t buying into them. I felt that I had not successfully liberated myself and the powerlessness this delivered was staggering.

This anecdote is nothing profound; it merely serves as yet another example of the patriarchal pressure women experience to fit into a certain male-approved version of how we should be. Furthermore, it proves that we’re all affected by it. The ‘woke’ ones, the socially aware ones, the feminists, the writers, the scholars, everyone. And this is important to realise. We have to allow ourselves the time and the resources to process our feelings and their origins.

It took a very emotional, very confusing experience for me to realise that recognising and resisting sexism does not constitute an impenetrable shield against internalising it. And that in fact, internalising it does not make me a bad feminist – it makes me a person who cannot help be influenced by the myriad manifestations of patriarchy.

In all feminist spaces, we need to ensure that we support each other to work through this internalisation of oppression rather than expect knowledge and understanding of sexism to cancel this out. And as I see myself as guilty of this expectation, this is my first attempt to infiltrate feminist media by merely offering recognition of anything you are feeling and solidarity for its impact on you. You have not failed in your activism because you find yourself affected by the society you live in, whether through feeling insufficient because of an absence of motherly instinct, or something completely different. As an activist, you need to fight for your own right to be human, too.

Vintage typewriter
With the three or so weeks of British summer behind us, it’s time to look forward to August and welcome Catherine King, our new monthly blogger.

In her own words:

“Catherine King is a television worker based in south-east London. Her passion for writing truly began during her studies as an English Literature undergraduate in London; being exposed to a wide range of both old and contemporary writers in one of the greatest cities in the world really does create an insatiable hunger for words! Having been a regular contributor to her university newspaper and publishing various freelance pieces since then, she is excited to now be writing far more regularly.

Catherine is continually impassioned by the ways women are oppressed in a patriarchal society with a particular interest in how sexism affects women both professionally and personally. Alongside this, she also has a keen interest in female body image, mental health and the importance of reminding the world that funny women do exist and are not an alien species.

As well as being a television fanatic — from reality nonsense to gritty crime dramas — she also enjoys reading anything concerning bargain furniture buys or how to wear culottes correctly.”

You can follow her on Twitter @SupahGinjaNinja

Welcome, Catherine!

Image by Cliff Johnson, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is a close-up of a vintage typewriter. Some rows of keys and the top of the typewriter are in the frame, along with two watches that are artfully resting on the keys. The typewriter is a rich brown colour, whose keys have a bronze trim.

Welcome to 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.

Are music festivals doing enough to tackle sexual assault? (The Guardian)

Stop supporting & protecting abusive men (The Fader)

From the article: “I am so tired of teaching men. I am tired of being patient with men. I am tired of spending time making men better. Sometimes I feel like, if men are as smart as they have convinced the world that they are, why can’t they do the work themselves? The same is true for white people. At some point, we have to take the training wheels off.”

Your fat friend wants you to read the comments (Medium)

From the article: “When we talk about what it’s like to be fat, you tell me about body image and self esteem and confidence because those are your struggles. But they aren’t mine.

Where your challenges are deep-rooted and internal, mine are external. As a fat person, the world refuses me at nearly every turn, rejecting my body like a bad organ transplant. Doctors refuse to treat me, and some refuse even to touch me. Strangers regularly mock my body publicly, shouting insults openly, and no one responds. Even loved ones assume that I am constantly trying, and failing, to win the body I was meant to have. That I am shirking a responsibility to achieve a more acceptable body — one like yours.

No, mine aren’t issues of body image or self esteem, they’re issues of concrete exclusion. The world I walk through begins the moment that good, thoughtful people abandon reason and compassion. Mine isn’t a challenge of not thinking well of myself. Mine is a challenge of external harms born of external pressures.”

Saggy boobs matter (The Slumflower)

From the article: “If you are having trouble accepting your body, please look at mine and look at how socially unacceptable my boobs are. But also look how bossy, snatched and GLOWY I look! I’m living my best life and my boobs aren’t going to stop me from meeting someone amazing. They’re literally gland sacks. And they’re actually pretty awesome. Shout out to my boobs.”

The Inking Woman: Paula Knight – Showcasing the Artists of the Latest Exhibition at London’s Cartoon Museum (Broken Frontier)
Please note: The Inking Woman exhibition is now closed.

Study Finds People Are Morally Outraged by Those Who Decide Not to Have Kids (Vice)

I am the sex worker who took a selfie with Corbyn – this is my side of the story (Independent)

From the article: “When Jeremy Corbyn speaks in our favour he’s demonised and when he’s pictured with one of us he’s demonised. Every interaction a politician has with a sex worker or any statement that one makes which isn’t imbued in negativity or ‘savior’ rhetoric is met with disgust.”

So you don’t enjoy penis-in-vagina sex? You’re not alone (London Central Counselling)

From the article: “As I said above, PIV is a cultural mainstay of heterosexual life. There is still pressure on a vagina-owner to ‘submit’ to being penetrated (showing that they like it but not too much and not having opinions about what the sex should be), and that they must be entered only after protracted negotiation (if they give it up too easily they are a slut).”

Government considers reforming gender identity rules (Channel 4)

The Men Who Never Have to Grow Up (New York Times)

From the article: “Matthew Klam’s ‘Who Is Rich?’, one of the summer’s best-reviewed novels, stars the fabulously immature 42-year-old Rich, who teaches cartooning at a workshop on a college campus, where he reflects on his thwarted ambitions and desires.

“‘Where were the cuties of my youth?’ he complains. ‘Women in their 40s had replaced them, hunching toward the grave.’”

Can assisted suicide ever be safe when disabled people are so unequal? (Philippa Willitts at Global Comment)

Anne Dufourmantelle dead: French philosopher who wrote book on risk-taking dies rescuing children (Independent)

Don’t call them riots. That dismisses the anger over Rashan Charles’s death (Franklyn Addo at The Guardian)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Tortuga Music Festival on Flickr. It shows people at a music festival behind a stage barrier. Two people at the front of the audience have noticed the camera and are pointing towards it. One of the people has long-ish brown hair, is wearing sunglasses and appears to have their face painted with a blue design. The other person is wearing a baseball cap backwards on their head and is holding what appears to be a pink mobile phone in the hand they are using to point.

The F-Word is recruiting!

by Joanna Whitehead // 28 July 2017, 7:00 am

Tags: , ,

The F-Word is looking for UK-based volunteers to join our team of editors. We have two roles available: features (co-editing with Sophie) and guest blog content (co-editing with Monica). Both positions offer an opportunity to play an exciting part in building The F-Word as a feminist resource.

If you’d like to take on either of these roles, we’d love to hear from you! Here are some details about what the positions involve and how to apply:

For both roles, your main duties will be:

  • responding to pitches and reviewing opportunities (including spotting and avoiding spurious content)
  • sourcing ideas and commissioning features/blog posts/reviews/interviews, with a focus on encouraging new voices from a range of backgrounds and 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
  • 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 and blog sections
  • 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.

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 ( with a brief message setting out a) which one you would like to apply for and why you want to take it on, b) how you would develop this area of the site and c) any prior relevant experience.

The deadline for applications is 1900 on Sunday 27 August.

Please note that we will shortly be recruiting for a fiction editor and a social media editor. We don’t currently have the capacity to recruit for more than two roles simultaneously, 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 image at the top of the page is an aerial shot of a black woman’s arms typing on a computer with a blue keypad on a round, white table. The person is wearing a black, long-sleeved sweater and a gold watch. Picture taken from WOCin Tech Chat and shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

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