The comic strip: Stereotype bags

by Guest Blogger // 21 July 2017, 7:00 am

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Silvia Carrus is an Italian illustrator and comic artist living in London. She loves to make comics about feminism and animals, and is the author of ‘Feminist Cat’ and ‘The Feminist Superheroes’. Check out her work on Tumblr and tweet her @silviargh.

This month’s comic depicts someone trying to force a woman to wear differently labelled bags on her head according to the stereotype they think fits her best. None of them are a comfortable fit because, for example, although she is a woman, she also likes sports and wears masculine clothing. The person then can’t decide whether to replace the ‘woman’ bag with ‘lesbian’ or ‘man’. The woman rejects all of the bags.

The Feminist Library - Anaïs Charles

Anaïs Charles is a passionate feminist and storyteller beginning a career in filmmaking and journalism. She graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in politics and is currently based in London. The Feminist Library is her first short film

Can we know where we’re going as feminists if we don’t know where we’ve come from? That’s the question that I faced head-on when I made my first documentary (now on YouTube), a collaboration to celebrate the work that The Feminist Library in London has been doing for decades.

The Feminist Library is a treasure trove of feminist history, documentation and literature. Founded at the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the 1970s & 1980s, it remains a hub of feminist activism. Being entirely dependent on donations, however, its future is constantly in question.

My good friend and co-filmmaker Lucile Smith came across the library in early 2015. When she suggested we make a film about it, I jumped at the chance.

During the early days of the women’s movement, and pre-internet of course, the library was an especially precious resource for women wanting to educate themselves on the issues they faced. It was also an invaluable place for these women to find others who’d embarked on the same journey that they had. It was a time of discovery, community activism and consciousness-raising groups.

What about now? As Jalna Hanmer, a women’s studies professor and leading voice on gender-based violence, says “Young women don’t know anything about the women’s liberation movement. So it’s really hard to keep women’s history alive.”

We interviewed some of the founding members of the library collective, such as Gail Chester, who still runs the library today. “There are articles about consciousness-raising groups, there are articles about the small group process. I think a lot of that work is really in danger of being lost – in the sense of acquainting younger women with that history, which is really important for informing their activism,” she said. The library’s first employee, writer Zoe Fairbairns, told us that the library “was about simply setting the record straight and restoring women back to the mainstream of which we are half.”

Each and every woman we spoke to buzzed with passion as they recounted their involvement with the library. I often left these interviews shocked that I hadn’t learned this history at school and embarrassed that this was the first time I was showing the women who came before me the gratitude and respect they deserved. Why hadn’t I known all this before?

As Alice Wroe, founder of feminist project Herstory, says in the film: “…these women had literally paved the way so that I can live the life that I do now. I felt really inspired first … and then I felt really upset and angry that my education had let me down, that I’d got to this point and no one had ever told me about these women.”

The filmmaking process

Feminism continues to evolve to better include non-white and non-cisgender identities, although there is still a way to go before these groups are fairly represented. This was reflected in the filmmaking process; I have spoken about this in more depth in an interview with She Translates.

As a filmmaker, this experience has taught me that I have a duty not to let that history disappear; to fight for the herstory of women to be considered on a par with the history of men. “When we’re taking a book off the shelf [here] for instance, it’s not just a book” says library collective member Yula Burin. “We’re holding knowledge that’s born out of the real intricacies and difficulties, the joys and the pains, the sorrows and struggles of women.”

We are empowered when we know where we’ve come from. When this knowledge is integrated into who we are today, we know what’s at stake and understand ourselves more deeply than ever before. This, I hope, is what viewers will take from my work.

The Feminist Library is available on YouTube

Image is of the film poster for The Feminist Library, courtesy of the author.

The poster features the words ‘The Feminist Library’ in colourful speech bubbles, with each bubble attributed to a different woman. The women are drawn in a colourful cartoon style. At the bottom of the poster there are a group of activists holding signs in support of the library.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 17 July 2017, 2:12 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, which include some links for International Non-Binary People’s Day which took place on 14 July.

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.

Angela Rayner’s accent is not up for scrutiny (The Pool)

From the article: “Shock, horror – woman born in Greater Manchester, representing seat in Greater Manchester, has a broad Manchester accent.”

Why are we so unwilling to take Sylvia Plath at her word? (Lit Hub)

An open letter to Glastonbury, from a victim (Life on Laura Lane)

From the article: “This is a story about a girl who contacted a giant festival who cater for hundreds of thousands with a request for help and was met with compassion, love and overwhelming acts of kindness.”

How I deal with nasty comments online (inews)

If anonymous social media accounts are banned, it’s women who will suffer most (Blasting News)

From the article: ” Preventing women from being anonymous online exposes them to either real threats of violence that all too often come true, or isolates them from humanity, locking them in a high tower of protection from abusive men, rather than tackling the abusive men in the first place.”

The dangerous hollowness of Netflix’s eating-disorder drama, To The Bone (The Pool)

From the article: “Collins’ character, Ellen, is the anorexic you never were, but always dreamed you could be: cool, quirky, beautiful, she never throws full-on tantrums in the middle of McDonald’s because she’s convinced they’ve swapped her Diet Coke for the sugared version. She never shits herself in public due to a mistimed laxative dose. Hell, even when she’s spitting out food, she manages to make it look kinda sexy.”

Celebrating What It Means To Be Black And British, Parts 1-4 (The Voice)
A series of Q&As with black British artists who took part in the ‘We Are Here’ Project, which was co-curated by our visual arts editor Erin Aniker: (Joy Miessi) (Kariima Ali) (Freya Bramble Carter) (Dayo Adesina)

From Part 4 (Dayo Adesina): “I think for every young girl dealing with identity is tough, but there is a specific inner turmoil that forms around having to figure out who you are when issues of race and gender come into play. I walk through the world with a multifaceted sense of self. Some days I feel so sure of my identity, like my life is up to me and other days I am in a state of crisis. My work helps me to explore these feelings.”

Excommunicate me from the church of social justice (Autostraddle)

From the article: “I self-police what I say in activist spaces. I stopped commenting on social media with questions or pushback on leftist opinions for fear of being called out. I am always ready to apologize for anything I do that a community member deems wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate- no questions asked. The amount of energy I spend demonstrating purity in order to stay in the good graces of fast-moving activist community is enormous. Activists are some of the judgiest people I’ve ever met, myself included. There’s so much wrongdoing in the world that we work to expose. And yet, grace and forgiveness are hard to come by in these circles. At times, I have found myself performing activism more than doing activism. I’m exhausted, and I’m not even doing the real work I am committed to do. It is a terrible thing to be afraid of my own community members, and know they’re probably just as afraid of me. Ultimately, the quest for political purity is a treacherous distraction for well-intentioned activists.”

Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman to win maths’ Fields Medal, dies (BBC)

The 4 heroes of the Stonewall riots you didn’t learn about in history class (Gay Star News)

Man’s girlfriends find out he’s cheating – and start dating each other instead (Pink News)

Jodie Whittaker: Doctor Who’s 13th Time Lord to be a woman (BBC)

‘I had two children adopted without my permission’ (The Guardian)

From the article: “‘I’m very angry,” says Amy. ‘I genuinely think they had it planned all the time because it’s easier to take a child into care than it is to support a family. It’s affected my whole life. I’ve had mental health problems because it’s very difficult to lose two children. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that pain. And I don’t have the ability to trust anybody – especially anybody in authority – any more.’”

Feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia wins the prestigious Goethe Medal (

From the article: “Butalia, based in New Delhi, co-founded India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, in 1984. She is currently the publisher of Zubaan Books, which focuses on socially conscious, culturally relevant books for adults and children that challenge various social taboos and gender cliches.”

14 July was International Non-Binary People’s Day:

Listen to us (Emma Rose Kraus at The Gayly)

This Vogue Cover On The “New” Gender-Fluid Trend Is Really Pissing People Off (Buzzfeed)

From the article: “The cover story discusses how Malik and Hadid are “part of a new generation embracing gender fluidity.” In one passage, the author says the couple have a “blasé attitude toward gender codes” because they share clothes.”

the south african modelling agency responding to the real world with a non-binary board (i-d)

Debates About My Gender Have Convinced Me Of One Thing: It’s Time To Get Louder (Let’s Queer Things Up!)

From the article: “As a non-binary writer, I’ve personally felt the cultural backlash against non-binary people as we’ve made real strides in visibility. As someone who has published a lot of written work around gender and non-binary identity, I’ve been the recipient of harassment and abuse from total strangers who take issue with how I define my own experiences. I’ve also watched as other non-binary folks in my community have had to endure the near-constant pain of erasure, invalidation, and even violence.

“But these aren’t the conversations that cis people want to have. They want to have the ‘is he or isn’t he lying about his identity’ conversation, the ‘let’s turn your lived experience into a fun intellectual exercise’ conversation, or my personal favorite, the ‘I see no problem with suggesting you don’t exist’ conversation.”

Is He A Neoliberal Sellout Or Just Cheating On You? (Reductress) [Satire]

Banal sexism (language, a feminist guide)

From the article: “Sexism also has ‘hot’ forms, and those are the ones mainstream discourse finds it easiest to recognise and condemn. The western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of the Taliban and Boko Haram; the more liberal parts of the western media have no difficulty in recognising the sexism of Gamergaters and Donald Trump. But what you might call ‘banal sexism’—ordinary, unremarkable, embedded in the routines and the language of everyday life—is a different story. It does often go unnoticed, and when feminists draw attention to it they’re accused of taking offence where none was intended or embracing ‘victim culture’. These knee-jerk defences are often delivered with an air of surprise—as if the people responsible hadn’t realised until that moment that anyone could possibly dissent.”

To hell with sympathetic sexism. ‘Busy mums’ don’t need your patronising help (Sian Townson at The Guardian)

From the article: “Women and girls are often exposed to such questions as: does your father help your mum with the cleaning? Or statements such as: girls can like Lego too; or, if my wife needs me to take the kids, she only has to ask. We might think critically about an obviously biased or malicious statement – but against this kindness we are more defenceless.”

Black Female Feminists: Historians of the Future (Women’s enews)

Ecuador Launches National Plan to Combat Violence Against Women (Telesur)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Eric Parker on Flickr. It shows a person with a bright green dyed mohawk. They are wearing glasses, a black vest-style top, a black choker and black ripped up jeans. There are piercings in their ears and they also have septum and lip piercings. They are positioned so that their profile faces the camera, their expression thoughtful and their eyes looking off into the distance. They are holding onto a black backpack with a number of badges pinned to it.

Josephine Tsui was a regular contributor to The F-Word between 2010 and 2015

Bubble tea has been sold in Bristol for decades by East Asian restaurants and East Asian women. It brings about satisfaction as an interesting drink that combines fresh fruit, tea and tapioca balls. Recently, the tapioca balls have evolved to jelly, which can be flavoured with aloe vera or lychee. When I drink bubble tea, I feel lucky to be Asian and able to experience it. It truly adds a little sparkle to my day when I have one.

In the past, I have brought my Bristolian friends over and many times they have found the whole experience odd. One commented that it was confusing to have to drink and eat at the same time. The thick straws are used to suck up the tapioca balls but also drawing liquid to my mouth. For me, this is part of the fun of drinking bubble tea: a sweet refreshing drink interrupted occasionally with a nice tapioca ball. I haven’t pressed my friends to join me in the future.

Last year, a new independent bubble tea shop set itself up in Quakers Friars near the Apple store. I was pleased because I always welcome access to my favourite drink. However, this place is designed differently from my frequent haunts. Based in a newly painted hipster container, there are chairs outside so you can enjoy your drink in the sunshine. The massive selection of flavours has been whittled down to 12 already selected favourites to choose from. A white Bristolian woman is managing the booth.

Last weekend, I passed by the stall again. It was a hot summer weekend and the queue outside of the painted container was long, containing Asians and non-Asians alike. Suddenly the issue of drinking and eating at the same time didn’t seem to be so much of a problem. It was as if bubble tea had been discovered by the owner of this stall.

There was never a queue like this at the other bubble tea shops I’d visited. Why was this one doing so much better than the other ones? I thought of all the times I tried to introduce bubble tea to my friends only to be met with resistance. I would never consider having my own bubble tea stall because it didn’t feel there was enough demand. However, I now realise perhaps there isn’t enough demand to sell bubble tea because I’m an Asian woman. There is plenty of demand for bubble tea if it is repackaged to be sold in their neighborhood by a white woman. Who gets to define what is “hip” and popular?

This experience reminds me of the new fad in coconut water. The South East Asian community has been selling coconut water for decades in Britain. Then comes along Vita Coco, making it “the best drink for rehydration after yoga”. White women all over Britain are now buying Vita Coco and paying £2.50 for 500ml, as Asians wonder “What is in all the hype?” We never believed in all the magical properties of coconut water because we’ve been drinking it forever. If coconut water did really contain magic, wouldn’t it be in your best interests to go to the Asian supermarkets where you can buy it much cheaper? Each can is sold for under £1. White women’s preferences are changing the landscape of coconut water, and Asian shops are not benefitting.

I don’t have a problem with anyone’s food preferences. Love bubble tea or don’t love bubble tea; it doesn’t matter. This is about institutional preferences, not individual ones. The debate on cultural appropriation is long. Looking back at the bubble tea stall, I wonder who is capitalising on the rise of bubble tea in Bristol? it certainly isn’t the Asian women.

Image description and credit:

An out-of-focus woman of East Asian appearance in a white scarf stands in a car park, holding out a plastic cup containing pink bubble tea, which is fully in focus. The cup has “Fresh tea” and “Fresh made” written on it. By Daniel Lee, shared under a Creative Commons License.

Having compassion online can make you a better feminist

Charlotte is July’s guest blogger

Each week in July, Charlotte will discuss a different element of the ‘toolkit’ she personally uses to navigate the world as a young feminist. This week, Charlotte looks at the importance of having a nuanced, compassionate perspective when online and taking time to reflect before having a knee-jerk reaction

I don’t know about you, but I feel I’ve lived several lifetimes between the beginning of May and the end of June in 2017 alone. Having reinstalled the BBC News app after deleting it in a fit of pique in January, my body instantly tenses every time I see a notification. I feel I’m not alone when I say the past few months have caused me to live my life with a sense of constant background panic.

It is so easy at times like these for us to hide in the corners of the internet where everyone has the same opinion as us and view any opposing viewpoints as either dangerous or ignorant. We pick our sides and draw lines in the sand. This is dangerous not only for ourselves but hinders wider efforts to change things for the better.

In 2016, I found myself repeating one key phrase: “I think it’s a lot more nuanced than that”. Maybe I had watched too much Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for my own good, but I think it was mostly because 2016 was the year I realised that I didn’t hold the definitive opinion on anything.

Yes, it took 27 years for me to realise that I don’t always have the answer.

This isn’t to say that I don’t feel very strongly about things. There have been many major injustices in the past few years and I am definitely ill at ease with the current state of global affairs. Anger and bile are ever-visible in the mainstream media and have engulfed Twitter.

Online, the world is evoked and expressed simplistically so as to distill it into 140 characters or to fit the demands of the 24-hour news cycle. It is easier to conclude that something is bad or impossible if it does not fit into your worldview. It is a lot more difficult to consider that maybe you do not have all the information at your disposal; that another person’s viewpoint is characterised by their unique experiences. We fight on digital battlegrounds, howling that our experience must be the only one that matters because we alone are witness to our unique view of the world.

Social media can be used to mobilise a movement, as seen by the Women’s March in January. It can also be used to instantly broadcast our hurt and pain or our seething resentment or our anger. This doesn’t always allow space for one to decide how they really feel about an issue. It can feel like there is not enough time to read the context and to look at all sides and evaluate.

This nuanced, compassionate perspective is particularly important for young feminists. A couple of years ago, I went to the Feminism in London conference and was struck by how many differing opinions there were in the discussions. Naively, I assumed everyone was going to have the same opinion on certain issues as me and it did take me a minute to properly listen to these viewpoints and reserve my judgement. I found this was the case in particular for the older generation of women at the conference, whose experiences growing up were so very different to my own. I still didn’t necessarily agree with everything that was said, but it made me appreciate that while there are certain issues that universally matter to women, the order of priority wildly varies from person to person based on their own unique set of experiences and perspectives. And that is something to celebrate rather than condemn.

The journalist and activist Naomi Klein recently spoke about her experience helping to create The Leap Manifesto, aimed at combatting climate change and fighting for Indigenous rights in Canada, saying that if you agree with every opinion in a room, you haven’t got enough perspectives involved. In order to address any issue and actually make substantive change, we have to allow all perspectives to have their say and listen openly.

I’m still going to add my voice to the crowd when I feel passionately about an issue. But I’m also going to take a minute, breathe and try to look at the issues from all sides.

Image by Andrew Worley, from Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a silver keyboard being held out to the camera against a blurred yellow brick wall. Only the forearm and hand of the person holding the keyboard is visible. The person has a colourful tattoo on their forearm.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 10 July 2017, 3:41 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.

Media Reacts To Blac Chyna With Slut-Shaming, But Stays Silent On Abuse Allegations (Ravishly)

From the article: “These reactions to Chyna on social media feel rooted in misogynoir: the people perpetuating them seem to believe that Chyna’s only objective has been to ‘trap’ Rob with a baby, out of spite. This narrative continues to vilify Black women; it suggests that Chyna couldn’t possibly have been capable of a loving relationship. As a Black woman, she was merely an angry and vindictive Jezebel so hellbent on her own revenge that she needed to create a human life with an abusive partner.”

‘I don’t Bocat’ – Fighting Cunnilingus Stereotypes (Gal-Dem)

From the article: “Is it really emasculating to put your head between a woman’s thighs and focus solely on her pleasure? Or perhaps women are too embarrassed to confess that they are not receiving oral sex? But why would anyone not want give pleasure to the person they are sleeping with?”

The gender wars of household chores: a feminist comic (The Guardian)

We Need To Talk About Johnny Depp (Huff Post)

From the article: “We didn’t want to talk about how a beloved public figure might be capable of abuse. But this is a conversation we need to have. Because while public opinion of this case might change, the memory of the mistrust, of the victim blaming, and the vilification of Amber Heard will remain.”

The Woman Whose Powerful Grenfell Speech Went Viral Has Been Removed From Facebook (Buzzfeed)

How to Mentor the Less Experienced Man You’ll Eventually Work For (Reductress)[Satire]

On “Person-First Language”: It’s Time to Actually Put the Person First (Radical copyeditor)

From the article: “When a language rule—which was created specifically to respect people’s agency and personhood—gets in the way of actually respecting the person in front of you, it’s time to ditch the rule.”

Dear White Writers, Please Stop Doing These Things (Submittable)

ACTION ALERT! Seventy year old woman facing trial for brothel keeping (English Collective of Prostitutes)

SERF ‘n’ TERF: Notes on Some Bad Materialisms (Salvage)

From the article: “The claim of this declarative ‘gender-abolitionism’ is self-contradictory. Take Sheila Jeffreys, ever a quotable exemplar. ‘You can’t create a hierarchical sex caste system if you don’t know who is female and who is male’, she says. So, not knowing would be good, right? Wrong. It seems we have to double down on the knowability of femaleness and maleness created under that very system.”

Call to action: release the women! No arrests, no deportations! (Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM))

From the article: “On the 29th of June, police raided houses in Swindon. As a result of these raids, three migrant sex working women are in custody and are due to be deported. They were arrested as a result of the UK’s brothel-keeping laws, which criminalise women working together in a shared space for safety. These laws push sex workers into working alone, making us vulnerable to violence. The raids were done under the guise of “safety”, but arrest and deportation is violence at the hands of the state.”

This New York man is all your dating nightmares made real (The Pool)

From the article: “What a bloody hero he is, throwing precious scraps of his time on a woman he doesn’t even want to bang before trashing her in a magazine for notoriety.”

Is Phoebe Waller-Bridge really the new face of Doctor Who? (The Guardian)

Dog Found Alone At Airport With Heartbreaking Note From His Owner (the dodo)

From the article: “The whereabouts of the woman who had been forced to leave Chewy behind aren’t known, but Gilliam hopes that by sharing their story, it will help other people with pets in abusive situations. If escaping with a pet isn’t possible, local animal rescue groups can provide care for them in the meantime so both can make it through. Shelters will often assist in finding a way to keep pets and their owners together in these cases, too.”

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Dominique Darcy on Flickr. It is a photograph of a wall of street art. The image is a person’s face looking directly forward at the viewer, very intently. The person has reddish coloured hair or may be wearing a red headscarf or veil. The main image is surrounded by swirls of blue, green, purple and pink.

Rows of books at a market

As we move into July it’s time to welcome this month’s guest blogger: Charlotte Wylie.

In her own words:

“Charlotte Wylie is a legal editor based in south-east London. Originally from Scotland, she graduated with a degree in Chinese Studies, studying one year at Peking University in Beijing.

Charlotte’s interest in other languages and cultures has grown into a life-long love of learning and search for new experiences. As a writer, she is interested in different perspectives and interrogating the behaviours developed as a result of patriarchal values, be it a lack of nuance in the media or internalised misogyny.

She is currently in the process of launching a blog that questions whether there is a ‘right’ way to grieve and how grief is portrayed in the wider world.

In her spare time, Charlotte tries to travel as much as possible but failing that, enjoys art galleries, reading and film.

You can follow her on Twitter @LottieWylie.”

Welcome, Charlotte!

Image is by Freddie Marriage, from Unsplash. Used with Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of various boxes of books laid out next to each other along a table, that appear to be for sale at a market. Various rows of books are leaning against each other in different directions, giving the photo an artistic effect.

Hope springs

by Guest Blogger // 5 July 2017, 3:49 pm

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This is a guest post by Holly Donovan. She is an actor and producer and has spent the last five years working in the theatre industry in London. Her credits include numerous classical plays, as well as new writing. She is currently producing No Place Like Hope at the Courtyard Theatre with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

My name is Holly and I am an actor. I graduated from drama school in 2012, full of hope for a career that would be incredibly successful and exceed all my dreams. Although this was a little too positive and very naive, I did not at that time realise that my career would actually be grossly sexist and that my opportunities would be shockingly few and far between.

At drama school no one warned me that there would be little to no parts for women. My boyfriend graduated with me, and as we worked together in the industry I began to notice that for every one opportunity that I had, he had 10, even though we were with the same agent. I took work at the agency to see what was really out there for young actors; I was right, for every one casting that came into the office for a female role, there would be at least 10 for men.

What was even worse was that the one opportunity for a woman usually involved very few lines and more often than not some nudity. I was disheartened to find out that I didn’t really have much hope in the industry, as even when I got a part I was normally merely a plot device for the four men on stage around me.

I once went for an audition for a classical play. Usually the women in classical plays have decent roles even though they are always outnumbered by the men on stage. I was excited for this audition and worked my socks off for it and I was lucky enough to get a recall. After many hours of preparation for this all-important second audition, I turned up ready and raring to go.

However, to my dismay, at the beginning of the recall we were asked by the male director to raise our hands if we had a problem with nudity. I looked around me to see if any of the other women attending dare raise her hand; no one did. Were we all OK with being naked on stage? Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the initial advert and it certainly wasn’t in the script!

I asked why there needed to be nudity. The male director and theatre company founder told us that actually the female lead needed to be totally naked for many scenes. I said I had a problem with it. I didn’t get the part.

Things gradually got worse. I went to an audition for a commercial. It was to sell a beauty cream. My audition was three minutes long and I was told that I was too fat and that they were looking for smaller builds. I spent the next six months desperately trying to become thinner in the hope that would help me get a part.

I had more horrible experiences: I was duped into performing in an unpaid film where there was no crew, just a sole man filming scenes of me changing outfits and refusing to let me eat food. My agent asked me to send in a self-filmed tape of a scene from a film where a woman is performing a blowjob. There was a play where at the last minute I was expected to wear a see-through nightie.

This culture begins with the writers, then is perpetuated by producers and onwards into the industry. More female parts need to be written and then produced in theatre, TV and film. Until we start seeing female leads, surrounded by other women in balanced casts, nothing will change. Having one strong woman surrounded by four men doesn’t count as being equal.

I’ve stopped moaning and I’m doing something about it. I am now producing a play. It has two incredibly strong female leads and a majority female creative and technical team, only the writer is a man. This project is taking everything I have: all my savings, all my time and pretty much all my soul!

We have to stop accepting the status quo that we see in the theatre, film and TV around us. It does not represent real life, and it creates a horrible, sexist industry. I don’t want to women to think they don’t have a hope in the arts; I want to stand together and change it. Let’s get the balance right.

You can read more about No Place Like Hope and its Kickstarter campaign here.

The image is a photo from the campaign. It shows an actor looking directly at the camera with a serious expression. Underneath her face are the words “Let’s get this balance right.”

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 4 July 2017, 1:33 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.
New measures on violence against women to be put in domestic abuse bill (The Guardian)

From the article:”New measures to protect women and girls from crimes committed overseas will be included in legislation on domestic abuse, the government has said.

The new legislation would allow the UK to ratify the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention.

Laws to be included in the bill will allow certain offences committed by British citizens anywhere in the world to be prosecuted in UK courts.”

London Pride insults the people it’s meant to celebrate (Dazed)

This excellent piece is by our very own features editor Sophie Jackson!

From the article: “Instead, #LoveHappensHere erases the reality of LGBT+ lives and replaces it with a prettier narrative. London is painted as a liberal haven free from homophobia and transphobia, and allies don’t feel any pressure to change their behaviour, or take any real steps to support the LGBT+ community. There is no space at this Pride to discuss what it is really like to live as an LGBT+ person in London, because ‘allies’ are shouting over us.”

Northern Irish women win access to free abortions as May averts rebellion (The Guardian)

From the article: “Mara Clarke, director of the Abortion Support Network, which offers financial assistance to women in need of abortions said: “This is an incredible step forward. Anyone travelling for an abortion will save a minimum of £330, thanks to today’s announcement. However, they will still have to pay for flights and accommodation, childcare and time off work.

“And there will always be women who cannot travel. Women who don’t have someone who can watch existing children, or women made pregnant by controlling or violent partners. And no one should have to travel. We rejoice today – but the work will still be here tomorrow.”

Have you heard the one about the dead hooker? (The Howl Sanctuary)

From the article: “In terms how the general populace views whores (incidentally, at this point in time, the word ‘whore’ is like the ‘N’ word, in that I’m allowed to use it but you’re not); we’re still in the dark ages. Imagine back to the time that Oscar Wilde was obliged to hide his sexuality in plain sight whilst being persecuted by the law and you’re getting close.”

The state of women in comedy (Chortle)

Being Pretty Is a Privilege, But We Refuse to Acknowledge It (Allure)

From the article: “Here’s the math: If I did not look the way I do, then I would not be on TV or on two book covers. I would not have a beauty column or an Instagram with more than 100,000 followers. This does not mean that I have not put in work and effort and done my job well, but my beauty is not something that I earned. I did not work for it, yet it has opened doors for me, allowing me to be seen and heard. And for me to pretend that it does not exist denies the ways in which being perceived as pretty has contributed to my success and made the road a bit smoother.”

Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children (ProPublica)

After Everest: can mountaineering tackle gender myths in Sri Lanka? (openDemocracy)

A hundred shades of Pride (Meghna Majumdar at The Hindu)
[About Chennai’s ninth Pride march]
From the article: “Another group of allies were a group of staid elderly ladies strolling by calmly. Dressed in a kurta and palazzos, with her grey hair in a bun, one of them looked as if she had walked right out of a charity get-together photograph from the Society pages.

“‘We are sex workers,’ she says. ‘Some of us have attended this march before, but this is the first time we are attending this together, as a collective of sex workers from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka and other states. Hence, the red umbrellas,’ she points them out with a smile, ‘In solidarity.’”

London’s Pride Posters, Ranked by “What the Fresh Hell Were They Thinking?” (Autostraddle)

Is the saccharine message of #Loveislove really what Pride is about? (The Guardian)

From the article: “The old Queer Nation chant – ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it’ – may now sound aggressive and disruptive to our diplomatic, assimilating 2017 sensibilities, but it’s never been more relevant. Forget tolerance or acceptance: they’re outdated concepts that suggest we’ve something to be sorry for. Being ourselves is our right. #LoveIsLove, yes – but it will never be enough.”

A man said Johnny Depp physically abused Amber Heard, so finally she is believed (The Pool)

Where are you really from?: The hidden lives of PoC in rural Britain (Skin Deep Mag)

Despite Legacy Of Racism, Black Women Rock On (The Establishment)

Let’s Not Mistake The Dickies’ Onstage Warped Tour Rant for Anything but Misogyny (Noisey)

“Sorry for bothering you!”: the emotional labour of female emails (New Statesman)

Watch Wimbledon for great tennis – with a side serving of sexism (The Guardian)

From the article: “Give the men better billing than the women, structure the event so that the men’s singles is treated as the main event and the women’s as a sideshow, and then act surprised when the casual tennis fan is more familiar with the men’s game and holds it in higher esteem. It’s worked for Wimbledon for 130 years, and it creates a feedback loop between the media and the public (or the media’s perception of the public) that leads to a situation in which the hour-long review of the 2016 championships broadcast by the BBC can cover all four women’s quarter-finals in 43 seconds while devoting over nine minutes to the men’s.”

Butch is not a Dirty Word: 12 Stunning Portraits of Women who are Pround to be Masculine (The Independent)

The message from Jay-Z and Beyoncé is not feminist (The Guardian)

From the article: “But the saga of Jay-Z and Beyoncé is familiar for all the wrong reasons. It’s the same script shared by women such as Sylvia Plath, Frida Kahlo and Hillary Clinton: powerful, talented women whose partners should be proudly elevating them but instead humiliate them with public affairs.”

We Are Here exhibition explores “what it means to be a British BME woman today” (It’s Nice That)
This exhibition is co-curated by our visual arts editor Erin Aniker and also features some of her work! This link appeared in the last round-up but we have decided to include again as a reminder. We Are Here opens 6–9 July at Alev Lenz Studio, 73 Kingsland Road, London. Panel discussions and workshops will also take place across the weekend. For more information check the Facebook event page.

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Gael Varoquaux on Flickr. It shows a person with curly dyed blue hair standing in front of Monet’s famous ‘water lilies’ painting; a striking canvas daubed in soft blues and greens.

Blonde woman thinking

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

In a perfect world, women would not be judged on their appearance.

There is a chance to change the tide and some women have led the charge by demonstrating that they can feel confident in their skin, despite not meeting conventional beauty standards.

Still, these leaders — think models Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham, singer Demi Lovato and movie star Jennifer Lawrence — have yet to completely dismantle widely-held patriarchal ideals that women need to look a certain way to be accepted and called beautiful.

Shockingly, only 20% of women in the UK say they have high body esteem, according to the 2016 Dove Global Beauty and Confidence Report. Body esteem refers to how someone evaluates their own body and appearance.

Over 10,500 women from 13 different countries were surveyed and their responses don’t get much better.

Globally, 85% of women and 79% of the girls quizzed reported opting out of social activities at least once due to perceived insecurities about the way they looked at the time.

Overall, nine in 10 women and seven in 10 girls said that they had stopped themselves from eating or otherwise put their health at risk. Six in 10 women believe social media encourages women to look a certain way, while seven in 10 women and girls believe that the media and advertising set an unachievable beauty standard for women.

These are global results, despite different countries having their own ideas about what constitutes beauty. It seems that women all over the world are affected in similar ways by the pressure to appear a certain way.

In 2015, Superdrug created a project called Perceptions of Perfection. They sent the same image to designers in 18 different countries, asking each to photoshop the image to reflect the country’s ideal beauty standard.

The UK’s ideal body image model has thinner legs and arms and a flatter stomach than the original image, in a similar vein to a handful of other countries.

The model from China has been made rail-thin, while countries like Peru, Colombia and Spain seem to have tampered less with the original image.

How can women strive to love their bodies and appreciate them for all they do in a world that’s constantly telling them to strive for an ideal that’s clearly inconsistent?

Learning self-love is a personal journey and everyone’s path will be different. Some might feel strong from steering clear of media that promote an unattainable body image. Others might enjoy leaving positive messages on Post-it notes on their bathroom mirror.

What’s clear is that the ideal body women are pressured to aspire to is a construct that depends on where you live. This knowledge in itself may be enough for some women to start questioning their own standards of beauty.

Many women are already doing this, with movements going on all over the world that strive to help people become more confident in their skin. Some of these movements expand to include support for low self-esteem and discussions about the standards of masculinity.

The Body Positive is a movement started by activists Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott, following Sobczak’s own experiences with an eating disorder and the death of her sister. It primarily focuses on young adults and while it has a stronger female following, it is designed to be helpful to anyone struggling with body confidence.

Another great initiative to look into is Body Image Movement. Founded by Taryn Brumfitt, the movement centres on the idea that everybody deserves to love their body rather than see it as an ornament. Brumfitt is the director of Embrace, a social impact documentary on body image.

Many of these movements don’t just encourage body positivity — they’re actively working to make changes to the way the media presents models of beauty. Do some research — we can and will make a difference if these issues are spoken about widely.

No matter how you handle it, one thing is for sure: it’s time to get on board with the body-positive way of thinking. Women should be happy and proud of the skin they’re in.

Image by Ilya Yakover, from Unsplash. Used with Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is of a woman with dark blonde hair, staring directly into the camera. Her hands are pressed together and are covering her mouth and nose, as if she is thinking. The lighting of the shot is moody. She wears a black sleeveless dress and black nailpolish.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 27 June 2017, 3:59 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.

Tate Britain displays work of Khadija Saye, artist lost in the Grenfell fire (Evening Standard)

Trans woman: Police pinned me down and pulled off my bra (Gaystar news)

Women writers’ work is getting lost in translation (The Conversation)

MPs to argue Northern Irish women have right to abortion on NHS (The Guardian)

From the article: “How can it be right that if a Northern Irish woman comes to England and needs her appendix out, as a UK taxpayer we don’t charge her, but if she needs an abortion we do?” she said.

“Challenging the government’s decision to continue charging women for this service isn’t about the ability of the Northern Irish assembly to make decisions on matters like abortion rights, but how we treat all our citizens fairly when they are here on our shores.”

Feminist body hair is rarely an option for middle eastern women (i-D)

From the article: “The connotations of body hair among brown women are remarkably different than what they are for white women. ‘Our discomfort with the body hair, especially that of black and brown women is not just influenced by patriarchy but is also a remnant of colonialism,’ Naz Riahi, the Iranian-American founder of Bitten said. ‘This is a system in which we were taught that fairness, lightness, whiteness and all the comes with it – blue eyes, blonde hair, less body hair – is more beautiful, appealing, better.'”

Why A Pro-Life World Has A Lot of Dead Women In It (Harper’s Bazaar)

Orange Is The New Black Mirror? We’re Here For It (Bust)

How do we build an inclusive culture for disabled cyclists? (The Guardian)

Tory Government’s benefit cap is unlawful and causes ‘real misery for no good purpose’, High Court rules (Independent)

We Are Here exhibition explores “what it means to be a British BME woman today” (It’s Nice That)
[This exhibition is co-curated by our visual arts editor Erin Aniker and also features some of her work!]

A Simon Cowell charity single is not what the victims of grenfell tower need (i-D)

From the article: “Do you understand the scale of this? Let me give you some more context. Personal context. My people were in that building. Two friends, who I considered family, and three relatives. I emailed and called the RBKC (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea), the KCTMO (Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation), and hospitals across west London for three days straight, begging for information on the hundreds still missing. They told me nothing. To this day, nothing.”

Jesus College to discipline students accused of shouting woman-hating, rape-inciting chants (Cambridge News)

Finnish citizens given universal basic income report lower stress levels and greater incentive to work (Independent)

Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for (Ellie Mae O’Hagan at The Guardian)

The Dark Genius of My Best Friend’s Wedding (Vanity Fair)

Festivals dominated by male acts, study shows, as Glastonbury begins (BBC)
[Via Cazz Blase]

What it’s like to be a Muslim woman with an eating disorder during Ramadan (ABC)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Charlotte Cooper on Flickr. It shows a placard being held aloft at a pro-choice rally which reads ‘If you’re against abortion don’t have one’.

Feminist Fightback

Vanessa Griffin is a member of Feminist Fightback. You can follow Feminist Fightback @femfight

The personal is political. Talking to other women about our experiences and making choices about how we engage in relationships and relate to our minds and bodies is incredibly important.

As feminists, we know what it means to be treated as if we are less than others. This means that we need to show solidarity to other people who are oppressed. We have a particular responsibility to other women who are engaged in struggles in areas where feminist arguments are especially urgent, like sex work, reproductive rights and low wages for work typically gendered female, like cleaning. This is why Feminist Fightback supported the recent strike action by cleaners at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Feminist Fightback is an anti-capitalist feminist collective that was started following conferences in 2006 and 2007. Inspired by the politics of a range of anti-capitalist feminist struggles, we believe that no single oppression can be challenged in isolation from the other forms of exploitation that intersect with it.

More recent activity has focused on reproductive rights: actions to stop pro-life groups harassing women outside abortion clinics, disrupting the 2017 March for Life in Birmingham with direct action and campaigning against denial of NHS maternity care to those who can’t show a UK passport. Feminist Fightback supported the TFL cleaners’ strike with direct action in 2008. We still see fighting for work that is traditionally done by women to be properly valued as a feminist issue.

It was the sixth day of ongoing strike action by LSE cleaners. I left the house at 5:15 am for a 6 am arrival at the picket line, which is harder when it’s still dark outside. Cleaners start their shift at 6 am every day. Despite the time of day, the atmosphere on the picket line was great. Cleaners and union organisers from United Voices of the World union (UVW) rallied some inspiring speakers and there was frequent dancing to Shakira between 6-8:30 am. Some of the best slogans were “We are not the dirt we clean” and “London School of Exploitation”.

The London School of Economics includes specialist institutes for both inequalities and gender yet outsources cleaning to a private contractor. This allows cleaners to be employed on different (significantly worse) pay and conditions than other LSE staff when it comes to sick pay, annual leave, pensions and maternity/paternity leave.

The cleaners, who are all migrants and/or black and minority ethnic also had problems with the way they have been treated by their managers, including harsh discipline and a lack of respect. Cleaners voted to keep striking one day a week until LSE agreed to offer them the same basic conditions as other LSE employees. Mildred Simpson, one of the cleaners who has been at LSE for 16 years said: “We want equality — nothing more, nothing less.”

London university cleaners in smaller, more radical unions have won strikes over the past few years including at King’s College London, Senate House and Guildhall over pay and conditions and to receive the London living wage. The LSE cleaners fought not just for themselves but on behalf of their colleagues and other workers. They risked the loss of earnings, further victimisation by bosses and ultimately risked losing their jobs, but as one of the union organisers said, this was always a fight they had a good chance of winning.

On June 8th, we learned from the UVW that the LSE cleaners won their strike. From spring 2018, all cleaners at LSE will be brought in-house, meaning they will receive the London living wage and the same annual leave, sick pay and pension as others employed by the university.

This will not be the end of the fight for better working conditions for university cleaners and for women more broadly. UVW say this has set a precedent for outsourced workers at universities, and it looks likely that catering staff at SOAS will soon follow suit. Maybe we will see you on the next picket line?

Image courtesy of author, used with permission

Grenfell Tower has become a symbol of systemic, institutional and structural inequality. It represents the ignored, the marginalised, the vilified, the misrepresented, the misunderstood and those who are too often the victims of discrimination and prejudice. The victims of this horrifying disaster are a direct legacy of a political system, fuelled by a right-wing media, bent on stirring up division and hate, which has, for too long, dehumanised and disregarded vast swathes of our society.

Under the Tories’ leadership, cuts to public services have been unprecedented, disproportionately affecting the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities. The housing crisis has reached a critical epoch, particularly in London, where social cleansing, under the guise of ‘urban regeneration’ is removing established social housing tenants from their homes in order to sell these on to private companies. Profit is being placed before people and an elite minority are benefiting to the detriment of a significant majority.

The staggering disregard for certain lives is embodied in Grenfell Tower. Some effort has been made to address safety measures for council houses and privately rented properties, however. According to Channel 4, “Labour have put two pieces of legislation before Parliament on this issue since 2015”. Last year’s attempt was defeated, with all 309 Tory MPs in attendance voting against this. This is unsurprising when you consider that a staggering 39% of Tory MPs top up their income as private landlords, renting out at least one property. As Dawn Foster correctly asserts in The Guardian, this matters because “it means that housing legislation is being formed by people with little personal connection to the housing crisis”.

When you look at the names and faces of the “missing” people from Grenfell Tower, it’s clear that significantly large proportions are BAME. The man in the video below argues that a tragedy of this magnitude simply would not have happened had the tenants been “blonde haired and blue eyed”, i.e. white.

I would agree. This is no coincidence. BAME people, at every level of society, are more likely to suffer disproportionately, in all aspects of private and personal life. Looking specifically at housing, research conducted by the Institute for Race Relations shows that overcrowding is most commonly experienced by Black African and Bangladeshi groups. Bangladeshi households are 63% and Black African households 75% more likely than White British households to suffer ‘housing deprivation’ (indicators of which include overcrowding and an absence of central heating). Race continues to be a key factor in how people live in contemporary Britain.

I recently went to see Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of the recently published Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, speak at the Emerald Street Literary Festival. She described researching the “big data” about race and life chances in the UK through statistics published by governmental organisations such as The Department for Education, The Department for Work and Pensions and the NHS. She found that a black boy is three times more likely to be excluded from school than the rest of his classmates. That job hunters with ‘white-sounding names’ are called to interview far more often than those with African or Asian sounding names. That black people receive harsher sentences for the possession of drugs, even though they use drugs at a much lower rate than their white counterparts. Education, employment and the criminal justice system are institutions, Reni argues, that we cannot avoid interacting with.

What Reni is describing is institutional and structural racism. She feels that we cannot live in this country without being realistic about the UK’s racist legacy and the fact that racism continues to lie at the heart of our culture. Reni stated that “history is written by the winners” and mentioned learning about only a handful of black historical figures in Black History Month, but never as part of the mainstream curriculum. She is not the first person to acknowledge this.

By ignoring this part of our history, Reni argued, we cannot expect to have “an accurate perspective of racism and inequality right now”. She rightly acknowledged that the past shapes the present and that it was unhelpful to be obtuse about this. Reni also felt that, for some white people, being associated with racism is worse than actual racism.

This feeds into a larger discussion about how privileged groups and individuals often centralise themselves when marginalised people try and talk to them about how their language or behaviour hurts them. The existence of the hashtags #notallwhitepeople or #notallmen speak volumes about the failure of privileged groups to simply listen when questions are being asked or concerns raised. Rather than putting aside their own feelings and ego, privileged people often make this about their hurt or angry feelings, rather than focusing on the bigger issue.

White people: we need to stop doing this.

No-one likes to be told that something they’ve said or done is hurtful or offensive, but privileged folks need to hear this in order to amend their behaviour. Rather than relying on BAME people or other marginalised groups to do this, however, it’s up to white people to educate and inform themselves and those around them about the racism that continues to permeate our culture. Having a black or Asian partner, child or friend does not make you immune to racism.

White people: we need to think about the privileges we enjoy because of our skin colour. If you’re not sure about what these might be, ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ is a good place to start. We need to challenge racism where we see it and within ourselves. Stating that you “don’t see colour” denies the very real and painful discrimination that many BAME people face every day. Think about how you can be a better ally to BAME people. Buy Eddo-Lodge’s book. Support BAME businesses. Read this ‘Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves’. Stop appropriating BAME culture. Consume the incredible breadth and diversity of BAME culture. Ensure that BAME people are represented in positions of power and influence in your organisation.

We now know that the residents of Grenfell Tower made a number of efforts to raise their concerns with their housing provider and local council, to no avail. This is because poor people, BAME people, older people, LGBT people and disabled people are easier to dismiss as an irritation or as trouble-makers than white, middle-class folks who broadly possess more money, power and influence. We know that these groups are more likely to be living in poverty than white people and austerity measures brought in by the current government have exacerbated this to a horrifying degree.

Theresa May’s initial failure to speak with the victims and families involved in this tragedy is no surprise. How can she look these people in the eye when her party and policies are responsible for so many of the ills that poor and BAME people disproportionately suffer?

I view the Grenfell Tower tragedy as a direct result of a racist and classist society. We cannot view this case as an isolated incident. It is a part of a much broader, embedded ideology of prejudice and discrimination. For things to change, it is vital that we recognise this.

The image at the top of the page shows two women on a busy street holding a banner which reads ‘Greed Kills’. It forms part of a series taken by Wasi Daniju of people on the streets following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Picture shared under a Creative Commons license.

The video embedded in this article shows a black man wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap and a white t-shirt. He is speaking in a crowded street, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and speaks directly to the camera.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 20 June 2017, 10:17 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. The past week has seen the horrific (and heartbreakingly avoidable) fire at Grenfell Tower in Kensington as well as the terrorist attack at Finsbury Park Mosque. We have included some articles about both of these events in the round-up.

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.

The Universal Phenomenon of Men Interrupting Women (NY Times)

From the article: “The fact that women are outnumbered in every room puts them in a position where they’re often coming up against gender-based stereotypes,” said Deborah Gillis, president and chief executive of Catalyst, which works for women’s advancement in business. “Women are too hard, too soft, but never just right. What that means is that women are seen as either competent or liked but not both.”

Dear Non-Fat Friends (McCormCorp)

Please Stop Commenting On People’s Bodies. You Don’t Know Sh*t (Scary Mommy)

From the article: “Fuck it all, for real. We deserve to exist in whatever form we wish. You can think whatever the hell you want about that, but you need to keep it to your damn self. Do not project your bullshit onto others.”

White Men Of Academia Have An ‘Objectivity’ Problem (HuffPost)

We owe it to the residents of Grenfell Tower to politicise this tragedy (The Pool)

From the article: “This is in the context of a government that has repeatedly rejected improved housing regulation as ‘unnecessary red tape’ and even voted against a law requiring landlords to make homes fit for human habitation. (72 of the MPs who voted against the measure are landlords.)

“When Grenfell Tower residents repeatedly pointed out their concerns, no one in power listened to them. The poor, it seems, are easily ignored. It’s hard to imagine this being the case if, rather than social housing tenants, they were barristers and bankers. It’s been reported people in Grenfell Tower wanted to take on the landlords over their fears of the building’s fire risk but they couldn’t afford it and – due to government cuts – there’s now no legal aid to help them.”

Two women feared dead in Grenfell Tower were ‘threatened with legal action’ for questioning fire safety (Independent)

“Mariem Elgwahry, 27, and Nadia Choucair, 33, reportedly received letters ordering them to stop their campaign for improved safety.

“Both women were fighting the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation for building improvements, with help from the Radical Housing Network, The Mirror reports.

“Pilgrim Tucker, who works for the group, told the paper: ‘The TMO’s response was to threaten tenants with legal action and send out letters. Nadia and Mariem would have received them too.'”

From King’s Cross to Grenfell Tower (Crooked Timber)

From the article: “I’m reminded of a distinctive moment in my younger life—not just King’s Cross, but also the fifty-six dead of the Bradford stadium fire disaster (11 May 1985), the one hundred and ninety-three who died on the Herald of Free Enterprise (6 March 1987), the thirty-five who were killed at Clapham Junction (12 December 1988), the ninety-six who were crushed at Hillsborough (15 April 1989), or the fifty-one who drowned on the Marchioness (20 August 1989). Perhaps it was coincidence that these catastrophes happened cheek by jowl, in a way that they just haven’t since. Or perhaps much of it was something to do with the ascendant political ideology of the time, that starved vital infrastructure of much-needed investment, and that celebrated the quick search for profit. One of the good things about living in England over the last quarter century is that this run of disasters came to an end, and things became quite a bit safer. But of course the predictable consequence of the politicians’ collective cchoice to embrace the economics of austerity over the last seven years—and even more so when it is conjoined with the Tory fondness for the execrable landlord class, a widespread dislike of safety regulations, the cuts in legal aid, and the politics of the majority on Kensington & Chelsea Council, especially when it comes to housing—is that we would regress in some measure to this second-half-of-the-1980s world, and everything that is coming out now about the Grenfell Tower saga suggests that we have so regressed.”

Exposing the copy n’ paste Tory lies about the Grenfell fire (Another Angry Voice)

From the article: “…So be careful what you believe on social media. If it’s not backed up by reliable sources then either disregard it, or search out the truth for yourself.”

The Classist, Racist Disorganisation at Grenfell Tower is Disgraceful (gal-dem)

Finsbury Park terror attack: one dead near north London mosque – latest updates (Guardian)

Imam from Muslim welfare centre protected Finsbury Park suspect from angry crowds (Metro)

‘We didn’t recognise that he was dangerous’: our father killed our mother and sister (Rossalynn Warren talks to Ryan and Luke Hart, Guardian)

From the article: “‘I was shocked at the ease with which others, sitting behind their desks, could explain our tragedy away within an afternoon,’ Ryan says now. ‘It was very difficult to read that they were sympathising with a man who caused Mum and Charlotte misery their entire lives. One writer even dared use the word ‘understandable’ to justify why they were murdered.’ This second Daily Mail article, a column by psychiatrist Max Pemberton, argued that a man killing his children ‘is often a twisted act of love’. The article was later removed from the site.

“’You’re reading it and thinking, ‘”This is bollocks,”’ Ryan says. ‘But you know people around the country are also reading it, and those ideas are being driven into their minds. It reinforces in the abuser’s mind that what they’re doing is OK.’”

Mormon girl, 12, is stopped from speaking as she explains why she is gay to church (Independent)

10 great documentaries about iconic musicians (Stephanie Phillips)

‘Cruel and humiliating’: Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay calls out treatment by Mamamia (Sydney Morning Herald)

Woodland Mall apologizes for kicking shopper out over her summer outfit (Michigan Live)

Amber Rose Brings Back The Bush And Schools Piers Morgan On Feminism (Bust)

From the article: “Rose put Morgan in his place but he still didn’t seem to understand anything she stands for. He illustrated this by saying, ‘Shall we have a cup of tea instead & discuss where you’re going wrong re feminism?'”

White feminism doesn’t know what to do with Amber Rose (Zoé Samudzi at Black Youth Project)

From the article: “Given mainstream feminism’s genital fixation since the beginning of 2017, this hypocrisy is confusing. Women should reclaim their bodies and feminists should be in support of women’s bodily autonomy, yet Amber Rose is a ‘bad feminist’ for having a feminism centered on reclaiming her body and sexuality?

“These misogynistic respectability politics also take on a racial element when it’s clear and observable that many of her most vocal critics are white, and are not making critiques of the substance of her feminism, but rather her nude selfies. While the likes of Emma Watson can take a slightly racy photograph “for fashion” and not get her feminist credentials revoked, and Lena Dunham can toy with nudity as a comedic prop and be the feminist voice of our generation, Amber Rose is painted as almost incapable of having the ability or intelligence to use her own body to put forward a feminist politic.”

Teenage girl charged with murder after killing man who allegedly tried to rape her (Independent)

The Data That Proves the Myth of the ‘Absent’ Black Father Is a Total Lie (Everyday Feminism)

The 11 stages of Ramadan … as told by Chandler from ‘Friends’ (Step Feed)

NI women could get free abortions in Scotland on the NHS (Irish News)

Megan Stodel has recently written on this subject for the F-Word HERE.

JK Rowling is asking how the Finsbury Park attacker was radicalised (Independent)

From the article: “Those who dehumanise & stereotype muslims have no moral high ground from which to deplore demonisation of secular westerners by Islamists.”

I believe Bill Cosby (Vox)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to ChiralJon on Flickr. It shows a tribute at the site of the Grenfell Tower fire; a wicker heart hung from a wall, surrounded by handwritten tributes and photographs.

Just before I head off to Glastonbury Festival for a few days (where I will definitely not be going to see Johnny Depp) here’s the June stage round-up.

Marisa Carnesky will be at the Udderbelly South Bank from tonight until Sunday 25 June with Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman. Here’s Carnesky’s showreel (the showreel is soundtracked by Peter Pan from Armando Sciascia Orchestra a film tune from the 1950s but has no text.)

Between 22 and 24 June alternative standup comedian Siân Docksey is hosting a mixed bill of comedy previews at The Glory in Haggerston. Promising politics, videogames, whoopass, lemons, gay lemons, surrealism, avocados and more lemons I’m sure they’ll be fun evenings. The other acts are Eleanor Morton, Joe Hart and Sophie Duker.

This Friday 23 June Funny Women are holding a charity comedy gala in support of Brighton Women’s Centre. The show is at the Assembly Hall, Worthing Theatres and features Kerry Godliman, Felicity Ward, Lucy Porter, Ellie Taylor, Desiree Burch, Ayesha Hazarika, Kelly Convey and Harriet Braine with Zoe Lyons hosting.

Judith Lucy and Denise Scott will be at Soho Theatre from 27 June until 7 July with their comedy show Disappointments; Soho guarantee that this show will make you feel better about your lives or at least help you accept the rut that you’re in, which sounds like quite a promise!

Next month Greater Manchester Fringe is happening. Events that appeal to me include S/he/it Happens, All I Want is One Night, Wood, Katharine Ferns is in Stitches and Samantha Pressdee.

Coming up at the Blue Elephant Theatre in south London are Escape 2 on 7 and 8 July from LCP Dance Theatre which tells the emotional journey of a refugee using innovative aerial dance and multimedia; The Break-Up Monologues on 19 July hosted by Rosie Wilby, a themed comedy, storytelling and spoken word night which looks back at some best and worst relationship breakup stories and Here Comes Trouble on 27 July from Keira Dance, a personal investigation into womanhood and Keira Martin’s individual identity.

I quite like the look of everything at the Postcards Festival at Jacksons Lane in north London in July too. I enjoyed Boys Club when I saw it, plus Sarah Blanc’s It Started with Jason Donovan and Tanter’s Vixen sound great.

Hopefully not featuring any known domestic abusers in their lineup, Latitude Festival has some really good things this year. My favourite show from last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Hot Brown Honey; Sh!t Theatre with DollyWould, a riotous and challenging work on the iconic image of Dolly Parton and all she embodies; new one-woman show Hear Me Raw by Daniella Isaacs; Gagglebabble, The Other Room and Theatr Clwyd will join forces with Sinners’ Club which is based on the life of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK and Vanessa Kisuule will come to Latitude with Sexy which presents a conflicted women who loves poetry and smashing the patriarchy with a well-timed slut-drop. If you’re going to be there, let me know what these are like.

Katherine Ryan is going on tour between September and November this year as well as also being at Latitude.

And lastly a couple of things to watch and listen to:

  • A video of Fiona Shaw reading Shakespeare’s Sister, part of the essay A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (subtitled).
  • Breaks by Bez Kinte Theatre Company in a podcast from Ireland’s RTE (unfortunately not transcribed).

Image is courtesy of Marisa Carnesky and shows the performer standing on stage with the two halves of the box used for the ‘woman sawn in half’ trick either side of her. Someone’s head is sticking out of the half of the box on her right as if, indeed, that person had been lying in the box before Carnesky cut them in half. Behind and to the left is a figure wearing glittery knickers and a bra top as a showgirl might but looking very bored.

This is a guest blog by Jackie Thomas. She is a feminist, a Francophile and lectures at university. She loves the analysis of painting and film, and has never been a supporter of referendums

Whatever the newspaper you have been reading this week, they have almost all run the same headlines: ‘Britain makes history! A record number of female MPs win seats in 2017 General Election’.

Let’s be clear on the figures – believe me they are nothing to boast about. Of the MPs elected into Parliament last week, only 208 were women. While this is a very welcome 6% increase on 196 in 2015, it represents a mere 32% of our MPs overall. An increase the Fawcett Society claims is totally inadequate and actually indicates that progress has stalled compared with previous years.

According to the London School of Economics and Political Science, the UK would now rank 39th in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s global league table of parliamentary representation. This puts us behind many of our European neighbours, African and Latin American states. And this despite having jumped after the 2015 election from 58th place into 36th.

With women representing 61% of its MPs (lower or single house), Rwanda heads the list of the top 10 countries that have used gender quotas to achieve a more balanced Parliament. And more recently in France, President Emmanuel Macron submitted his gender equal list of candidates for the parliamentary elections before announcing his 50/50 senior cabinet, and is poised to seek equal representation in the French government. Bulgaria, Nicaragua, Canada and Sweden have also broken through the 50% threshold of women MPs.

However, the stagnation in numbers of female MPs has not been reserved to the UK. This is a worldwide trend which puts us in danger of failing to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals set out in 2015 by world leaders.

Given the need to pick up the pace, should the UK be rethinking its position in the debate on gender quotas?

Countries with more balanced parliamentary representatives are distinguished from the UK by their use of legislated quotas for women. While there has been a lot of discussion in this country focusing on meritocracy and party politics, the decision to implement quotas has never been adopted across parties. Some parties are much more in need of women than others. The recent election saw 45% of Labour seats being won by women and the SNP, despite losing seats, increased their proportion of female MPs by one percentage point to 34%. The Conservatives were at a standstill at 21%.

The Women and Equalities Committee strongly recommended in January that penalties should be imposed on parties who fail to guarantee that at least 45% of their candidates are women as of 2020. Despite this, the UK government has not only failed to come up with any legislative change in time for this month’s election, but has also showed a serious lack of commitment to do so anytime soon. And sadly the momentum gained in 2015 to crack the political glass ceiling has fallen foul once again of our propensity to exaggerate our achievements.

In this unstable political climate we are sure to see gender equality pushed even further to bottom of the agenda in favour of what our political parties consider to be more pressing issues. Yet days before the Brexit negotiations are due to begin is not a time to be complacent about the remarkable contribution of the EU to gender equality and what this has meant for British women in terms of equal pay, employment rights and protection against discrimination.

All of this should also be examined in the context of the shameful treatment suffered by female MPs throughout the election period. The defeat last week of the candidates representing the Women’s Equality Party after weeks of abuse and death threats, and the vicious and prolonged attacks on MP Diane Abbott, speak volumes.

We desperately need to acknowledge the many barriers women face to entering political office, including the media scrutiny of MPs and their families, the masculine culture of Parliament, the lack of flexibility and support for those with primary caring responsibilities, the cost and time demands of being a candidate, potentially biased selection processes, and not enough encouragement of women into politics.

Many of these factors also come into play for ethnic minorities and disabled people who, although elected into Parliament in record numbers this year, remain woefully underrepresented given the diversity of the UK.

The combination of these challenges result in a wholly unequal playing field, which means that talent and hard work are not guarantees of success. Introducing gender quotas is the only way to get us where we need to be – to a place where Parliament is representative of the country it serves.

Image courtesy UK Parliament on Flickr

Image depicts the House of Commons Chamber

Editor’s note (17/06/2017): Some details in this post have been corrected in line with Megan’s comments below it

Affording abortion

by Megan Stodel // 16 June 2017, 7:31 am

Tags: , , , ,

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that people from Northern Ireland cannot get abortions on the NHS. That’s right: people from the UK cannot get abortions using our health service, even if they are in a place where they are legal.

This makes absolutely zero sense to me. One of the things that makes the NHS so great is being able to get care at the point of need. If I was taken ill in the UK, I would generally assume that I would be able to go to A&E in Aberystwyth, a GP in Glasgow or a minor injuries unit in Manchester.

In fact, it is possible for people from England, Scotland and Wales to receive abortions if they are in a different part of the UK; for example, as it is difficult to obtain an abortion after 18 weeks or surgical abortions in Scotland, 180 people travelled to England last year for the procedure, with costs reclaimable from the NHS. While this clearly raises other issues of accessibility, it underlines the incongruity of the decision made yesterday.

Even before taking into account the cost of the procedure, there can be substantial costs to people travelling from Northern Ireland, including travel and accommodation, as well as possibly needing to take a few days off work or paying for childcare.

Yet the cost of the procedure itself can add hundreds of pounds more. In the case that was being examined by the Supreme Court, the procedure cost around £900. While abortion providers in England offer discounts to people coming from Northern Ireland, even an early procedure costs at least £280, while an abortion between 19 and 24 weeks comes in around £1,325.

Most people have abortions early in their pregnancy, but according to the figures for 2016, while 80% procedures performed in England, Scotland and Wales were in the first nine weeks of gestation, this was only true for 72% of procedures accessed by people from Northern Ireland accessing them in Great Britain. This skew is understandable, given the greater barriers to access, not least the logistical issues of arranging to travel, but as the process gets more expensive with time, people from Northern Ireland are more likely to have their financial difficulties exacerbated even further.

These costs are therefore incredibly likely to stop people accessing abortions. The nature of abortions is that they result from unplanned pregnancy; this isn’t something most people will save up for. According to the Money Advice Service, 40% of adults in the UK have less than £500 in savings, so it’s clear that when it comes to spending several hundred pounds unexpectedly, it would be absolutely impossible for many of us. In the case of abortion, it might also be harder to ask for money from family, therefore making it more likely that people will either need to use expensive credit or payday loan services, or forgo the procedure altogether.

I think we can intuit this is the case, but there is further evidence for this when looking at the ages of people accessing abortions in the UK. People coming from Northern Ireland are more likely to be older, with 43% aged 30 or above, compared with 35% of people across Great Britain. I’m sure there are several reasons for that, but at least one will be financial stability – people later in their careers who are more financially independent will be in a better position to access costly services.

This decision by the Supreme Court is ugly and unfair. This means people from Northern Ireland will continue to have to make their reproductive choices based on their ability to pay substantial sums for the services they need. Decisions that should be made by each individual depending on how they feel about giving birth and having a child are instead dictated by short term practicalities. While ultimately people from Northern Ireland should be able to access abortion where they live if that is what they want, in the meantime the rest of Great Britain should be supporting them, not narrowing their chances.

Here are some resources if you are in Northern Ireland and thinking about your pregnancy options:

  • Abortion Support Network: provides financial assistance and accommodation to people travelling from Northern Ireland, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
  • Family Planning Association: provides information and post-abortion counselling services.
  • Information from NUPAS (up to 17 weeks and 6 days) and Marie Stopes (which both free transfers from airports and ports), and BPAS.

  • The image is used under a creative commons licence and is by SalFalko. A woman sits at a kitchn table using a calculator, with paper strewn over the table. She is deep in concentration, with one hand touching her head.

    B. Ruby Rich is the High Priestess of feminist and queer film criticism. Her pieces for magazines such as the Village Voice, the Chicago Reader, Sight & Sound and The Guardian are collected in her two books: Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement (1998) and Queer Cinema: The Director’s Cut (2013). She was part of the collective that programmed Chicago’s Women in Film Festival from 1974, and has since championed feminist, LGBTQI, Latin American and documentary cinema as an exhibitor, funder, critic and professor.

    She has shared that history on screen in documentaries such as !Women Art Revolution (Lynn Hershman-Leeson, 2010) and Feelings are Facts: The Life of Yvonne Rainer (Jack Walsh, 2015) and she’ll be sharing it in person in London between 21 and 26 June for Being Ruby Rich, a programme curated by Club des Femmes to celebrate her vision.

    Here’s a quick taster Q&A with B. Ruby Rich to inspire you to join in the celebration:

    What first drew you to film – and to feminism? And were those attractions entwined from the start?
    Ah, they were certainly not intertwined! Not at first, anyway. I got into film by the back door: selling popcorn at my college film society to make my rent money. Then I started a summer film society in the days of 16mm with my pals, building a screen, hand-coloring the posters, booking the films and writing the publicity, dressing up in costumes to go with the films and giving out free popcorn (hmmm, a sort of progression there). It wasn’t until I began working at the Film Center—today the Gene Siskel Film Center, but not back then—in Chicago that I got a proper apprenticeship, reading film journals, meeting film directors, writing program notes. Film for me was a zone of sociality, a place as much as an idea, a way to constitute community. When the women’s movement began to flourish and I was swept up into the planning of a women’s film festival, cinema in a way became my gateway drug into feminism. And there was no turning back: from then on, those worlds definitely began to blur and merge and influence each other so much they became inseparable.

    You’ve witnessed and participated in the emergence of three film movements (at least): feminist film in the 1970s; New Queer Cinema (NQC) in the 1990s; and now social documentary. What galvanises a film movement/moment – and how do you spot the trend?
    Ah, but do I? Perhaps I just dream them up. I think I’ve been extraordinarily lucky with the times in which I live – but in truth, I think that more people could be writing from the center of quite different circles and movements. I am drawn to the fire, I suppose, of those historic synchronicities that I’ve been privileged to document.

    “New Queer Cinema” has entered general parlance: what’s it like to coin a phrase that takes off (I guess now we’d say “memes”)? And what does that phrase mean to you 25 years on – including its international transmutations?
    Ha! You have to stumble onto something that turns into a marketing hook, I suppose. Back in the 1980s when I wrote my first theoretical essay, ‘In The Name of Feminist Film Criticism’, I invented all kinds of names and terms that never took off and were rarely ever cited again. But flash forward nearly 20 years and I hit on something that had immediate use value for film distributors and exhibitors: the NQC was used as a brand to market these movies. So it’s a bit of a bittersweet achievement, really: memorable but misunderstood, in terms of that film movement, as its mainstream acceptance was painted in the same colors as its outside-the-market rebellion. Not the first time that’s happened, of course, but awfully fast.

    2016/17 has been an incredible year for African-American and African diaspora documentary makers and documentaries (as well as feature films): has there been a turning point? Why these stories now?
    I think that the Black Lives Matter movement has created a broader audience for films that were made but attracted less attention in the past. These films of 2016-17 did not come from nowhere: there’s been a movement and cycles of attention as long as I can remember. It’s the audience that’s changed: it’s become so much bigger. And it’s the demand for “content” by the new online film platforms.

    You’ve talked about a “cinema of urgency” – what do we need most urgently to make that happen?
    New times demand new visions. We need new film languages and rhetorics. I think film is really lagging behind, actually: it needs to be addressing the issues in people’s lives, the changing oppressions as well as the changing dreams and ambitions. And there needs to be a shift of style and way of engaging audiences. People are in need and audiences are ready for change. Can’t all happen at the polling places!

    Being Ruby Rich programme: more info and tickets.

    As this Q&A took place via email, we retained original American spelling in B. Ruby Rich’s answers.

    Picture by Mary Peelen.
    Image description:
    A white woman with dark short curly hair is sitting on a wide window sill, resting her elbow on the window. She’s wearing black trousers and a white shirt and has black rimmed glasses and earrings. It’s film critic B. Ruby Rich.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 14 June 2017, 6:53 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. This week’s round-up covers the UK General Election, including articles on MP Diane Abbott and also new Labour representative Eleanor Smith who made history last Thursday by becoming the first black MP in the Midlands (and, even better, taking Enoch Powell’s old seat!)

    We have also included a selection of links about the recent Wonder Woman film as a follow-up to the review published last week on the F-Word. It was brought to our attention that, whilst the film certainly ticks a lot of feminist boxes on the surface, when it comes to intersectional issues it is still pretty lacking. We are aware that the F-Word review perhaps did not fully reflect this and want to highlight some alternative viewpoints. We’d be really interested to hear other opinions as well so please comment on the blog below or on Twitter/Facebook if you have any thoughts.

    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.

    We Need To Talk About Diane Abbott (Jack Monroe)

    From the article: “Diane was the first black woman to have a seat in the House of Commons. She MADE HISTORY. Her father was welder, her mother a nurse. How many working class kids do we have in politics these days? Fuck all, really. Diane went to Cambridge University to study history. IN THE SEVENTIES. In 2017 only 15 black kids went to Cambridge. Sit down and listen. Diane worked for the Home Office in 1976. She was so smart they put her on a course to fast-track her career. (I’m just getting started.) Diane was Race Relations Officer at the National Council for Civil Liberties from 1978 to 1980. (Big fucking job. Bet you couldn’t do it.) Diane was a TV researcher and reporter from 1978 to 1985. I know a lot of those. They’re fast thinkers, avid fact hounds, brilliant minds.

    “Diane’s political career began in 1982, on Westminster City Council. Then in 1987, I’ll say it again, she became the first black female MP.

    “In 2008, her speech on civil liberties in the counterterrorism debate won Parliamentary Speech Of The Year in the Spectator awards.

    “That speech is here. Watch it, and then come back.

    “She founded the Black Child initiative, to raise educational achievements among black kids. She shared her damn platform.”

    *Misogynoir vs. The New Politics (Media Diversified)

    From the article: “Ultimately the treatment of Diane Abbott – of which this is a mere snapshot – tells us what we need to know about race, gender and radical politics in the UK. A black woman who challenges the status quo and won’t apologise for doing so will always be judged unfairly. Because too many subconsciously feel it’s not up to people “like her” to be the voice of opposition.”

    Sisters are doing it for themselves: the retired women who built their own community (Telegraph)

    From the article: “It is made up of 26 women aged between those in their 50s up to 87, all of whom have found themselves alone but want to retain dignity and independence in old age.”

    ‘It feels like the right time’: Paralympic swimmer Theresa Goh opens up about her sexuality (The Straits Times)
    [CN: This piece contains some outdated language, such as a tragedy-model term for wheelchair users.]

    From the article: “When I looked in the papers, television or movies, I never saw anyone on a wheelchair, let alone someone on a wheelchair who is gay.”

    Jo Brand (live at Soho Theatre) (The Comedian’s Comedian) [Podcast][We haven’t been able to find a transcript of this, so do please share in the comments if you know of one!]

    LGBT vs GSRD (Beyond the binary)

    From the article: “During the last 18 months or so, through my research and clinical work, I have been introduced to term Gender, Sexual and Relationship Diversities (GSRD). Which, yes at first glance, could be viewed as just another acronym which will simply lead to different problems, yet I believe that it addresses the fundamental issue of power that is present in the LGBT acronym. It opens up a space of self-determined inclusion, a space that invites the individual to decide if they wish to opt in, rather than placing power in others to decline their membership.”

    Changing Dominant Narratives on Sex Work (Open Society Foundations)

    From the article: “The Open Society Public Health Program calls for letters of intent from organizations, informal groups, and networks in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to apply for funding to change dominant narratives about sex workers.

    “Over the past several years, the problematic conflation of consensual sex work with human trafficking has led a number of European states and institutions to adopt, consider, or endorse legal and policy approaches that worsen the situation of sex workers by policing migration and mobility, and by promoting the “end demand” model, also known as the Swedish or Nordic model, of criminalization.

    “Criminalization of buying sex and of activities related to sex work, including soliciting in a public space or renting an apartment with another sex worker, exposes sex workers to police violence and human rights violations and leaves them without adequate recourse to justice. Sex work is often misrepresented in the media and popular culture, and this further perpetuates the marginalization and stigmatization of sex workers. Everyday experiences of sex workers have been traditionally absent from mainstream debates. Depictions of sex work tend to be sensational and lacking in nuance: They stereotype sex workers and perpetuate the myth of “white slavery” in order to delegitimize sex workers’ perspectives and demands.”

    Enoch Powell’s old seat filled by Midlands’ first black MP (The Voice)

    Ruth Davidson planning Scottish Tory breakaway as she challenges Theresa May’s Brexit plan (Telegraph)

    A Labour-led government may yet emerge. We progressives must work together (Caroline Lucas at The Guardian)

    From the article: “But we face serious challenges too. This desperate Conservative government will reach out to the hardline DUP – a party that denies climate change, opposes abortion and is openly homophobic. Theresa May was right to warn about a “coalition of chaos” – her party is about to try to create one. And it’s a stark reminder of the inequity of our electoral system that the DUP will take 10 MPs to parliament with fewer than 300,000 votes, while my own party returns just one MP with over half a million.”

    It’s Grime Wot (nearly) Won It (Media Diversified)

    From the article: “I’m 47 years old and this was the first time I have had the opportunity to campaign and vote for a Labour party with genuine socialist credentials. Too often in the past, Labour has simply been the ‘best of a bad bunch’. This time, the party was offering a genuine alternative and people lapped it up.

    “One of the earliest signs that something different might be happening was Grime4Corbyn. This grassroots campaign group was launched to encourage young people to engage with the electoral process after a number of Grime artists including, LowkeyBristol5Novelist, Stormzy, AJ Tracey and JME, all came out in support of the Labour leader.”

    The following links offer some important intersectional views on the recent Wonder Woman film reviewed on the F-Word last week (thanks to the reader who brought some of these to our attention on our Facebook page):

    Wonder Woman is your Zionist, White Feminist Hero (Wear Your Views)

    From the article: “This movie wasn’t made with all women in mind, it’s for the women who can ignore certain atrocities which don’t directly affect them. Your children are safe, their bodies aren’t being policed by soldiers, their schools haven’t been bombed, the hospitals they lay in don’t have bullet holes in the walls, their water supplies haven’t been cut, their electricity isn’t regularly shut off by another government.

    “So go and enjoy your new feminist film, did you hear it was directed by a woman? How swell.”

    OPINION: Why Supporting ‘Wonder Woman’ Is Dangerous For My Black Feminism And Liberation (Essence)

    The success of Wonder Woman proves liberals are OK with imperialism as long as its led by a (white) woman (Afropunk)

    Wonder Woman’s Feminism Is Strong As Hell, But It’s Not Intersectional (Bustle)

    From the article: “As both a woman and a longtime fan of superhero movies, the success of Wonder Woman at the box office has made me happier than I can express. But as a black woman and a longtime fan of superhero movies, the actual content of Wonder Woman depressed me. Racking up $200 million worldwide on its first weekend, Wonder Woman’s status as a superhero film starring a woman and directed by a woman has made it a feminist victory in ways having nothing to do with the all-female island of Themyscira and the inclusion of lines like “Be careful in the world of men, Diana. They do not deserve you.” But I’m sorry to say that Wonder Woman is just a white feminist victory — barely. For black feminists, it’s exactly like every other superhero movie, just with a white female lead.”

    Doctor Poison and Disability in Wonder Woman (Geeky Gimp)

    From the article: “In Wonder Woman, the portrayal of disability is negative. Once again, a movie marks disability as the Other, as a tragic result of humankind, or a valid reason for wrongdoings. At the same time, disabled characters are written as helpless, innocent, and in need of saving by people more physically or mentally able than us.”

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to JCDecaux Creative Solutions. It is a motion shot of cars going past on a main road. It appears to be evening so the cars have their headlights on. There are a number of buildings lining the road and, in the foreground, a Wonder Woman billboard poster.

    Heidy Rehman is the founder and CEO of feminist womenswear label, Rose & Willard. Prior to this she was a top-ranked equity analyst in the City. Heidy has degrees in Mathematics and Applied Accounting and is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. She was born in Newcastle and is proud of her working class background

    I left a long, corporate career to set up my own careerwear label. Aside from the fact that I believed there was a gap in the market, I also wanted to do the right thing from an ethical, environmental and equality standpoint.

    One of my first decisions was to always show honest and varied images of women. No caricatures, no sexing up and nothing demure. ‘Feminine and bold’ is our mantra.

    There is a plethora of evidence that women want to see more diverse representations of women in advertising. However, to my surprise, I found that they prefer not to shop from this imagery.

    When I first set out, I decided to be very particular in how I chose models. At first, I decided that I would feature women who weren’t professional models, or ‘non-model models’ as we called them. These were women from various walks of life who we believed female customers could relate to more readily.

    Some of the feedback we received was positive but most people didn’t welcome the idea. The most common response was ‘they don’t look like models’. I was rather baffled by this because that had been the objective. However, I did think that this could be less about their physicality and more about how they presented. The main benefit of working with professional models is that they are very comfortable in front of a camera – much more so than our non-model models.

    My next decision was to work with professional models but stay true to our ethos. I resolved to feature a broader spectrum of women – women of colour, older women, disabled women, model health advocates and gender non-conforming models.

    I also decided to present these women in stances that projected only positive body language. Aside from offering up unattainable beauty standards, advertising photography mostly shows women looking either sexually available or passive. I believe this is one of the key drivers of ‘imposter syndrome’ at work. Women identify with images of other women. If we were to more regularly see images of women who look like us in powerful poses then this should have an empowering effect.

    At least that was my thinking.

    I was aware that this was something out of the ordinary and might take some time for shoppers to adjust to. But I did not expect women to reject these photos outright.

    Female customers refrained from clicking on images of diverse models. To test the results we undertook a number of experiments. One involved sending out a newsletter containing images of two models – one more ‘conventional’ looking (by typical advertising standards) and the other a size 16 model of colour. Both wore the same top and skirt, with the only variation being the colour of the blouse.

    Over 90% of the clicks for that newsletter were on the first model. Other similar tests yielded the same results.

    Data is a very valuable commodity. All companies analyse customer behaviour patterns closely and will look to invest where they see the best return. The data was telling us to not to use diverse models.

    An ex-colleague, who was once a booker for a world-renowned modelling agency, told us that models of colour were much less likely to be booked by fashion brands because customers didn’t buy from their images. I hadn’t believed him before but I now had the evidence.

    The way we shop no doubt reflects a certain subconscious conditioning that makes us react more positively to images with which we are more familiar.

    There is also aspiration. Brands don’t just sell products, they sell lifestyles. Marketing experts have told us that ‘conventional’ models reflect widely-acknowledged beauty ideals and that this is why they are the most commercial.

    I found this so disheartening. I didn’t want to give in and I won’t. Because despite this, 80% of women say images of women in the media make them feel insecure. I certainly don’t want to be responsible for compounding this worrying trend.

    There is a desire for change. If women and girls can be encouraged to click on and purchase from pictures that show the multiplicity of womanhood then companies will realise the value to their bottom line. They all know that where there is demand, supply must follow.

    Ultimately I want women and girls to understand that by changing the way they shop, they could revolutionise an industry and drive businesses to use more realistic and truthful images of women.

    As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

    On Thursday night and Friday morning, many of us with left wing, progressive values went on a rollercoaster of emotions. The stunned disbelief I felt upon hearing the exit polls was followed by something close to jubilation as I realised that the country had not given Theresa May the clear mandate she had demanded. Suddenly, having felt resigned to years of unstoppable Tory governance, I realised the media’s analysis had seriously misunderstood how many people felt. I’m all too aware that I exist in a social media bubble so I assumed my experiences would lead me to miscalculate left wing support. After a year of feeling increasingly isolated by national and global political events, it is genuinely heartening seeing the shift of votes and high turnout after just two years of Tory majority rule.

    But we’re in 2017 now, so no good news comes without a sting in its tail. Like many others, I found myself scrabbling around for more information about the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who it was rumoured might go into coalition with the Tories, thereby just about tipping them into a weak majority.

    I was aware of the DUP’s involvement in the Cash for Ash scandal, which ultimately led to the recent snap election in Northern Ireland, leaving the nation without a government for several months. There are, of course, numerous reasons why a coalition with one of the Northern Irish parties is likely to be problematic and concerningly might have implications for the Good Friday Agreement.

    However, I was not fully cognisant of the extent of the DUP’s regressive positions and the offensive views often touted by party members, relating to areas including women’s rights, LGBT+ rights and freedom of religion.

    We have to worry about what May (or whoever the next Tory leader will be) will be willing to put on the table. They must be hungry for support.

    On Saturday, in an interview on the Today programme on Radio 4, Conservative MP Owen Paterson raised the possibility of a parliamentary debate on abortion time limits. To be very clear, he was not saying this was part of a deal with the DUP or saying that such a debate would definitely happen, but he was mentioning it as a possible area that might come up.

    Although the Abortion Act of 1967 made abortions legal in most of the UK, there were still numerous restrictions, including the need for approval from two doctors, and abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland. Writers for The F-Word have frequently called attention to restrictive abortion laws in Northern Ireland, as well as highlighting where there is lack of access to abortions throughout the UK.

    Although the original law was passed 50 years ago, there have been several votes relating to abortion rights, and it is vital that we are aware that guaranteeing these rights is not a foregone conclusion. Theresa May has previously voted for a reduction in the legal limit on abortion from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, and when there was a vote in 2008 to reduce the time limit to 22 weeks, there were 233 MPs for this (defeated by 304 against). It’s not only a Tory pastime – current leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, voted to reduce the time limit to 21 weeks and introduce compulsory counselling for women seeking abortions as well as a “cooling off period”. This was in 2006, but Tim hasn’t been present for any other votes relating to abortion since then, so I think it’s fair to imagine he won’t be a firm advocate for people who need abortions.

    It has not been made explicit that abortion rights will be up for negotiation, but even the suggestion that this could be an issue that might be impacted by a Conservative-DUP alliance is outrageous. The UK should be seeking to ensure that all people who need abortions can access them safely, not considering regressing on rights that were hard won.

    At this point, I have very little trust that my rights will be robustly defended by the new government. We must make it clear that our bodies are not mere pieces in a game, but defend our rights as non-negotiable. The situation is constantly developing – I’m sure that for many readers, things in this post will already be outdated – but the insecurity of the government is all the more reason for vigilance.

    The photo is by openDemocracy and is used under a creative commons licence. It is black and white and the focal point is a circular sign reading “KEEP ABORTION SAFE AND LEGAL”, held by someone in a crowd.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 6 June 2017, 8:58 am


    Welcome to another weekly round-up, where we share (what we see as) the most interesting and important articles from the previous seven days. It was International Sex Worker Day last week so articles picked reflect this. We have also taken into account the UK General Election coming up this Thursday (remember to vote!) so there are a few articles about this, including a handy guide on tactical voting (see last link). 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.

    Linda Robson says producers tried to re-cast Birds Of A Feather (British Comedy Guide)

    Luisa Omielan to present Politics For Bitches on BBC Three (British Comedy Guide)

    If you’re interested in reading more about Luisa Omielan, you can read Megan Stodel’s review of her stand-up show HERE.

    Spalding shooting: Sons denounce killer father as terrorist (BBC News)

    CN: Reference to domestic abuse/violence and murder

    From the article: “Ryan said: ‘Many tried to justify it as an act of love. I’ve since seen it’s not unique to our situation. Love is one word which would not fit. It detracts from the seriousness of domestic abuse and almost sympathises with the abuser.

    ‘When emotional abuse is talked about the onus is on the victims to escape or put up with it. There is no other form of murder where victims are blamed.'”

    How to raise a feminist son (The New York Times)

    From the article: “If we want to create an equitable society, one in which everyone can thrive, we need to also give boys more choices. As Gloria Steinem says, ‘I’m glad we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters.'”

    How to win every sexist argument: an 11-point guide (Stylist)

    8 reasons decent people might mistakenly vote Conservative (Diary of a Goldfish)

    The above is written by the fantastic D H Kelly who also writes for the F-Word. You can read some of her other writing HERE.

    From the article: “As it is, there’s a possibility we can still win this one, or at least minimise the damage. So I thought of everyone I’ve ever known who admitted to considering a vote for the Conservatives and (having eliminated the ones who fancied John Major or wanted revenge on their socialist father) I compiled the following reasons a decent person might mistakenly vote Conservative.”

    Rising violence against women shows why UK voters should get rid of this government (Dawn Foster at The Guardian)

    Elisabeth Moss: “People need to educate themselves as to what feminism means” (Ellie Harrison at Radio Times)

    We at Sisters Uncut have occupied Holloway prison. Why? Domestic violence (Nandini Archer at The Guardian)

    Jane Austen more more likely to have had sex with a woman than a man, says historian (Maya Oppenheim at the Independent)

    The Mayor Of Paris Decries Black Feminist Festival For Excluding Whites (Blavity)

    From the article: “Because God forbid that in former imperialistic superpower France, there be some space where the descendants of those they colonized be allowed to gather alone.”

    International Sex Worker Day (NSWP)
    [“In 1975, on 2nd June, about 100 sex workers occupied Saint-Nizier Church in Lyon, France, to express their anger about their criminalised and exploitative living conditions. On 10th June at 5 o’clock the Church was brutally raided and cleared by police forces. This action sparked a national movement, and the day is now celebrated in Europe and around the world.”]

    For Black Sex Workers, The Deck is Already Stacked Against Us (Wear Your Voice: Intersectional Feminist Media)

    From the article: “The majority of my clients are white men– some are chill, many of them are broken. Many spend inordinate amounts of time trying to validate themselves to me, show me how important they are, how needed, how knowledgeable – they aren’t.

    “They are nearing 50 or 60, realizing the special rewards life promised them at the end of hard work, ‘supposed to do’s and emulating societal standards aren’t going to be there for them. So, what happens to a culture of people who are trained to believe they hold power over others but reality proves they don’t even have power over themselves? That’s right, cognitive dissonance!

    “Racists need marginalized groups to compare themselves to so that they know where they stand and Blackness keeps being defined by white folks and we keep catering to it for survival. Misogynists do the same with cis and trans women. They define themselves by using us as markers, it is the definition of self by other.”

    ‘I feel unsafe now I work alone’: Inside the world of Ireland’s sex workers (

    [“ON 27 MARCH it became illegal to buy sex in Ireland – a law which legislators and campaigners said would change the industry for the better.”]

    International Whores Day to be marked in Sydney (

    From the article: “’I’m proud to be a sex worker,’” Ms Bates says. ‘Every year sex workers stand tall under the scarlet umbrellas where we take pride in who we are, our lives and work.

    ‘But unfortunately, stigma is rife and very few sex workers can stand tall as we’re still treated as second class citizens.’”

    No, Nurse, My Health Issues Aren’t All Rooted in My Sex Work (The Development Set)

    The myths about money that British voters should reject (Ha-Joon Chang at The Guardian)

    From the article: “The reality is the UK welfare state is not large at all. As of 2016, the British welfare state (measured by public social spending) was, at 21.5% of GDP, barely three-quarters of welfare spending in comparably rich countries in Europe – France’s is 31.5% and Denmark’s is 28.7%, for example. The UK welfare state is barely larger than the OECD average (21%), which includes a dozen or so countries such as Mexico, Chile, Turkey and Estonia, which are much poorer and/or have less need for public welfare provision. They have younger populations and stronger extended family networks.”
    [Via Josephine Tsui.]

    General Election 2017: Non-binary rights (Beyond the Binary)

    Theresa May to nurse who says she hasn’t had a pay rise in eight years: ‘There’s no magic money tree’ (Independent)

    Off The Record: How Studios Subliminally Silence Women (The Quietus)

    From the article: “Until its representation of women improves, the recording environment will nudge male creativity forwards while whispering in the ears of females that they are not good enough.”

    The Handmaid’s Tale reflects our child-obsessed society all too accurately – and I should know (The Telegraph)

    From the article: “… when will we, as a society, value more a woman’s capacity to conceive not only babies but also ideas? And assert that even without a child life can be pregnant with possibilities?”

    How to vote the Tories out: a newbies’ guide to tactical voting (Another Angry Woman)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to waldopepper on Flickr. It shows a medium-sized brown dog with a slightly squashed face standing in front of a sign that says ‘Polling Station’.

    Weekly round-up and open thread

    by Lusana Taylor // 30 May 2017, 11:44 am


    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.

    Why Saudi Women Are Literally Living ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (The New York Times)

    Manchester was an attack on girls (Salon)

    Dear Scientist, My Lesbianism Has Nothing To Do With Men (Diva)

    From the article: “What gets on my gay goat the most is this persistent desire that some straight men have to insert themselves into our same-sex sexuality. Menelaos reminds me of one of those creeps whose eyes light up like a slot machine when he twigs that your gal pal is actually your other half. Did I say other half? Sorry, obviously I meant other third because until a big, sweaty man comes swaggering into our lives we’re incomplete. We mostly just sit around braiding each other’s hair, longing for the day when a knight in shining misogyny selflessly suggests a threesome.”

    You should’ve asked (Emma)

    Why self-imposed political silence is a misguided reaction to terrorism (Another Angry Voice)

    I Love Manchester, But Please Stop Celebrating My Hometown (FP)

    Kaya Scodelario: ‘Nine times out of 10, my character is with a guy twice my age’ (Guardian)

    After The Manchester Attack, The Right Wing’s Draconian Measures Are Both Ignorant And Misogynist (The Establishment)

    Building a better female orgasm (The Walrus)

    From the article: “After a freeze on sexuality studies in the US, Canada is leading the way in the science of sexuality.”

    #Cannes2017 Excludes #WomeninFilm Who Bring Their Children (Wellywood Woman)

    The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Andy on Flickr. It is a photograph of street art which depicts the top half of somebody’s face with their forehead, eyes, eyebrows and hairline visible. A single blue tear is rolling down from one of their eyes.

    Speak to us!

    by Lissy Lovett // 29 May 2017, 3:05 pm

    Tags: ,

    The F-Word is running a short survey to find out who reads the site, when, where and how. This is so we can find out a bit more about our readership and improve what we offer. We’d love to know what you think, so please click on the link below and tell us. We want to make your reading experience even better.

    It’s a very short survey and completely anonymous. Click here to take the survey.

    The F-Word exists to share women’s voices and we want to hear yours! Speak up and let us know what you love, or hate, about The F-Word.

    The image is a photograph of a small child with their hair in bunches. They are looking to the right and look as if they are shouting. They are in focus with the background of the shot out of focus.

    Silvia Carrus is an Italian illustrator and comic artist living in London. She loves to make comics about feminism and animals, and is the author of ‘Feminist Cat’ and ‘The Feminist Superheroes’. Check out her work on Tumblr and tweet her @silviargh.

    This month’s comic depicts a woman going into a shop to request a heterosexual relationship, only to be offered lots of unappealing options such as one based on jealousy and another on traditional gender roles. She is then given the choice of a lucky dip on feminist relationships where her prospective partner may only claim to be feminist to get laid, or talk about feminism without valuing her perspective as a woman

    Further Reading

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