#ThatsHarassment campaign

This is a guest post by Kate Harveston

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

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

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

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

The Co-worker

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

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

The Actor

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

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

The Boss

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

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

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

The Doctor

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

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

The Politician

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

The Photographer

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

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

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

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

Mother and two children on a sofa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Alexander Dummer, from Unsplash.

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

Weekly round-up and open thread

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know someone who should work at WikiTribune? (Medium)

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

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

7 Unmistakable Signs Your Allyship Is Performative (Liz Brazile)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why we need feminist role models

Charlotte Wylie was July’s monthly blogger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Pan Xiaozhen, from Unsplash.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image by Allef Vinicius, from Unsplash.

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

Weekly round-up and open thread

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Dispossession [Review] (Helen McCookerybook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Image description and credit

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

By Senlay and shared under a Creative Commons license.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy Classic Film on Flickr

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

Weekly round-up and open thread

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not here to make friends (Anne Helen Petersen)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experience: I am a professional mermaid (The Guardian)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In her own words:

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

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

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

You can follow her on Twitter @SupahGinjaNinja

Welcome, Catherine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop supporting & protecting abusive men (The Fader)

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

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

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

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

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

Saggy boobs matter (The Slumflower)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government considers reforming gender identity rules (Channel 4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The F-Word is recruiting!

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

Tags: , ,

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

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

For both roles, your main duties will be:

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

What you will bring:

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

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

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

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

To apply for either of the roles, please email us (recruitment@thefword.org.uk) with a brief message setting out a) which one you would like to apply for and why you want to take it on, b) how you would develop this area of the site and c) any prior relevant experience.

The deadline for applications is 1900 on Sunday 27 August.

Please note that we will shortly be recruiting for a fiction editor and a social media editor. We don’t currently have the capacity to recruit for more than two roles simultaneously, but hope to start work on recruitment in these areas as soon as we can. Watch this space!

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

The image at the top of the page is an aerial shot of a black woman’s arms typing on a computer with a blue keypad on a round, white table. The person is wearing a black, long-sleeved sweater and a gold watch. Picture taken from WOCin Tech Chat and shared under a Creative Commons licence.

In 2013, we began using a rotating editor system. Rather than having one person as constant editor at The F-Word, we decided to share the role within the team, with a new person coming into it every six to twelve months. This has given us a chance to share the admin load (hint: there’s a lot!*) and also gives different people the chance to inject new life into the site.

After the site’s entrepreneurial founder Catherine Redfern and talented journalist Jess McCabe had spent 12 years (over six years each!) laying the groundwork, our first rotating editor was regular blogger and brilliant music writer Helen G. Helen was followed by theatre editor, recruitment ace and now blogger/reviewer Megan Stodel. We then had a stint from our longstanding film specialist and editor Ania Ostrowska.

And, as I’m the one writing this now, you know the rest!

So here we are, another year later, and I am excited to tell you that our super clued-up music editor Joanna Whitehead took over from me last Saturday. I won’t put Jo under pressure by turning this post into a long lecture arguing exactly why I reckon she’ll be great, but I know she will be. (The fact I think she is bang-on about so many feminist issues definitely helps!)

Jo will temporarily hand over care of the music section to punk expert Cazz Blase, who some of you will already know from her work as a music editor from 2011 to 2013. Cazz will be filling in that role for at least six months and then, possibly, the full year. She has carried on occasionally writing for the site since her previous music editing term ended, so I imagine we may well see her again after this one.

There have lots of goodbyes and new additions to the team over the past year. Last August, Harriet Kilikita joined us as fiction editor and very quickly settled in to deliver regular, reliable and high-quality editing. She will sadly be leaving us, after a year of excellent work, next month. Harriet, you will be missed!

Also missed is Shoshana Devora, who left her social media role on the site back in February, after a two-year stint of tireless input. Shoshana also happens be an insightful and switched-on writer, so we hope it’s not goodbye forever.

Harriet’s August 2016 arrival was followed a month later by a total of seven other new recruits: features editors Pooja Kawa and Aisling Twomey, TV editor Yasha Gosrani and guest content editors Monica Karpinski, Dawn Robinson and Amy Grant. Then, in April 2017, we were joined by features editor Sophie Jackson and visual arts editor Erin Aniker.

Each of our new editors has done some great work. For example, Yasha has not only developed the TV section, but also teamed up with Ania in March to amalgamate it with film. Meanwhile, Monica is exactly what I would hope for in a guest content editor: well-organised and good at engaging new writers. Both Yasha and Monica remain in these roles and are assets to the site.

Other examples of memorable work, for me, would be Pooja’s input during a later recruitment drive and Yasha and Aisling’s sharing of legal knowledge when we needed to navigate a difficult story in October. We only had the benefit of having Aisling on the team for a little while but I’m very glad to have met her. More recently, Pooja has also moved on from features but I’m pleased to say she’ll be staying on the team in an editorial capacity. We are also lucky enough to have Sophie Jackson in charge of the section. I’ve been excited to work with Sophie, as she has a strong intersectional approach and is good at dealing with difficult commenters. Oh, and she also does a cool podcast.

Along with the above, we’ve had changes within the guest content section, with a short stint from Dawn and then Amy more recently handing in her notice for the role to concentrate on other areas on the site and her writing. Alongside Monica, Amy has consistently sourced and delivered relevant and interesting content for the busiest section on the site (which is not an easy task), so I look forward to seeing what she does next. I’m also pleased to say I’ve stayed in touch with Dawn (enjoying a few witty quips from her on social media!) so I hope to see some of her writing on the site in the future as well.

Another major development this year has been that we now have a visual arts editor after a long gap in terms of content in that area. Illustrator Erin Aniker is very well-connected and knowledgeable in her field and recently co-curated the ‘We are Here’ exhibition. You can read her F-Word interview with the DIY Cultures 2017 festival founders, Hamja Ahsan, Helena Wee and Sofia Niazi, here.

I’m now over the line on the word count for blog pieces, so I won’t go ‘all in’ on any reflections on my rotating editorship, but I will say the tasks I’ve particularly enjoyed have been media work coordination (with the occasional opportunity to intercept dominant narratives in debates!), sending juicy intersectional round-up links to Lusana Taylor (who does a sterling job with the regular content on the site, as well as running the non-fiction book section) and getting stuck into adding burning items to make Jess’ already very useful internal F-Word style guide even better. (Adding entries on comma splices and the sexist term ‘catfight’ were gratifying moments!)

We’ve also made some great progress with our site re-brand (thanks to our awesome communications editor Lily Kendall and the hugely valuable Andrew Bowden for all their hard work in this area) and the image resource I set up (thanks to the aforementioned Amy Grant and our fantastic blogger D H Kelly for advice). If you’d like to join the group and share or suggest pictures, please click here.

Thank you everyone!

*Special thanks here to our theatre and comedy editor, treasurer and dependable numbers and spreadsheets whizz Lissy Lovett, for recently developing a rather nifty new second edit system for the team.


Image description and credit

A collection of brightly coloured, upright felt tip pens, including variations of red, purple, blue, green, brown, grey, black, yellow, orange and pink. By Nicki Dugan Pogue and shared under a creative commons license.

Have you read the response of Edward Hall, Artistic Director of Hampstead Theatre, to the accusation from a group of creatives that his theatre isn’t programming enough women? Here it is. He seems to be blaming everyone else but the theatre. I’m not going to pick apart his response here, but I will say this: if you’re complaining about the amount of Arts Council funding that you receive, which is essentially other people’s taxes that you get given so that you can do a job you love, then you should really take a long hard look at your sense of entitlement.

Now, on to the shows!

Camden Fringe is happening very soon. There will be lots of great shows, but I am drawn by Dos Mujeres Theatre Company’s description of their show The Second Sex: “Are you, or is a woman you love, a lost feminist? Join our rehabilitation centre! We help all lost feminists recover and return to society as fully functioning and obedient women.” I’d also check out Motherlogues from Forked Theatre which “[covers] all personal aspects of motherhood, whether it [is] being a mum, not being able to be a mum, or losing a mum”.

The Space in east London have announced their summer season which looks great. It includes all-female company VOLTA presenting the sexually liberated Freak and Eclipsed from FilthyCOW theatre company which is set in a Penitent Magdalen Laundry.

The Space is also one of the venues for this years work from the National Youth Theatre, who seem to have so much going on that it’s very hard for me to get my head around it all. Included this year is a new female-led adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde that puts women centre stage where they are completely absent in the novella (Jekyll and Hyde is being performed at the Ambassadors Theatre in London which isn’t the most accessible of West End theatres – those using wheelchairs need to transfer to seats with arms I’m afraid). They’ve also got a production of Blue Stockings which I loved when I saw it a few years back, that one’s at the Yard Theatre which is much more accessible.

Lastly here’s a character sketch from Jenna Bosco combining two things she loves: Game of Thrones and Women’s Health. What if a copper IUD was actually a knight in shining armour?

I don’t have time to write a list of F-Word recommendations for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but take a look at Bechdel Theatre‘s instead. It’s a good list and I think The F-Word will be reviewing a few of them. There’ll be no blog next month as I’ll be focusing on Edinburgh coverage, but see you in September.

The image is a publicity image for The Second Sex at Camden Fringe. It is a photograph of five people standing in a shop between aisles of food. The figures stare straight ahead vacantly and are dressed in what looks like hospital clothing, loose smocks and pyjama trousers.

How travelling alone can help you become a better feminist
Charlotte is July’s guest blogger

Each week in July, Charlotte will discuss a different item in the ‘toolkit’ she uses to navigate the world as a young feminist. This week, Charlotte looks at how solo travel can teach self-sufficiency and confidence

I spend a lot of time alone but wasn’t always comfortable doing so. I believed that spending time by myself in public made me look pathetic or lonely; that I was edging ever closer to all those Bridget Jones stereotypes that I’d been taught to fear emulating.

Now, I relish my alone time, particularly when travelling. Last September, I visited Shanghai and Hong Kong by myself. While I was there to visit friends, they were working during the day and I kept myself entertained by taking in the sights. Each morning, I decided how I would fill my time and what I would see. I could get lost in each city, wandering through the lilongs of Shanghai, escaping the heat in shady side streets or taking the Star Ferry to Kowloon, gazing at the Hong Kong skyline. I spent each of the 12-hour flights completely alone. And it was bliss.

In a world where women are faced with so much pressure to behave and appear certain ways, spending a few days or weeks completely on your own agenda is incredibly freeing. Having internalised the patriarchal narrative that I must be accommodating as a woman, I found that this manifested as me being unable to say no to doing work while away. Two weeks in China where I couldn’t access email because of the Great Firewall gave me some much-needed perspective and I was better at saying no and more likely to delegate when I returned to the office.

When you are completely alone you are forced to confront any gaps or hiccups in your planning and solve them yourself. You have to be the person to book the restaurant, to check the flights, to complain at baggage claim and to make sure you’ve packed everything. There is no one else who will do it for you. This also means that you can cancel any bit of it whenever you feel like it. Don’t fancy going to the gallery today and would rather lounge by the pool? Done. Want to take a day trip specifically to eat in an excellent restaurant à la Master of None? Do it. You don’t need to compromise or negotiate with anyone, which should be treasured in a world where women always seem to have to compromise or negotiate simply to take part.

This brilliant self-reliance can give you strength and resolve to better navigate our patriarchal society on your own terms. The confidence I have gained from travelling alone has translated into my daily life. I am much more comfortable not always being nice and accommodating; to complain and question behaviours that make me feel uncomfortable and, ultimately, take charge of my life.

Travelling alone also massively highlights how ingrained sexist attitudes can be via encounters with service staff. While I spent my two weeks in China, one of my best friends had booked a two-week solo trip to Majorca. We were each travelling alone and were staying in hotels by ourselves. We were asked exactly the same question checking in: “Just you?” And “Who will be paying?” when checking out.

Wait, what?

The booking is under my name, I checked in by myself and now at the end of my stay, you’re going to imply that someone else is going to pay? While this was a very jarring experience and I’m sure it has not happened to my male friends, it did make me appreciate the fact that yes, I was the one paying for it all. To (mis)quote Destiny’s Child, “The room I stayed in? I bought it.”

Image by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash. Used under Creative Commons Zero licence.

Image is a perspective shot of someone looking down the aisle of an aeroplane. Rows of seats line the left and right-hand sides of the shot. A member of airline staff appears as a blurred figure at the end of the aisle.

Weekly round-up and open thread

by Lusana Taylor // 24 July 2017, 5:08 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.

His-and-hers advert ban as TV pulls plug on gender stereotypes (The Telegraph)

Maryam Mirzakhani’s success showed us the challenges women in maths still face (The Conversation)

Black Pride, Non-Black Allies (gal-dem)

This piece was written by Shoshana Devora who was previously social media editor for The F-Word and has also written for the site. You can read more from her HERE.

Sarah Reed’s mother: ‘My daughter was failed by many and I was ignored’ (The Guardian)

The predictable double standards of the tabloids turning on Louise Redknapp (The Pool)

Woman who laughed at Jeff Sessions gets conviction thrown out (Independent)

R. Kelly and America’s record of protecting celebrity sex offenders (Shannon Lee at The Lily)

From the article: “It has been nearly two decades since veteran music journalist Jim DeRogatis first broke the story of R. Kelly’s sexual assault allegations. After spending years investigating the R&B star for the Chicago Sun-Times, he confessed to a Village Voice reporter:

“‘The saddest fact I’ve learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.’”

Theatre company advert asks if millennials understand ‘real world’ (BBC)

From the article: “Theatre company Creative Electric tweeted: ‘Dear Tea House Theatre, it’s never good to advertise that you’re entitled, patronising and abusive. Love Millennials x'”

Why do we find it so hard to ‘play the dating game’? (Louise McCudden at The Queerness)

From the article: “The thought of getting angry over the ‘friendzone’ is amazing to me. If I’m attracted to someone and she wants to be my friend, it makes my day. I’m overjoyed that she likes me and wants to be my friend, even if she doesn’t feel exactly the same thing I do. If anything, I tend to assume she’s being polite by offering friendship; she’d probably much rather tell me to leave her alone, but she’s been taught that she mustn’t, because that would be rude.”

New sex robots have ‘frigid’ setting which allows men to simulate rape (The Independent)

The image is used under a creative commons license with thanks to Tim Evanson on Flickr. It shows two people, shirtless and wearing sunglasses, with rainbow coloured chains around their necks. One of them has their arm raised as if greeting or pointing towards someone or something. Behind them other people can be seen waving rainbow coloured flags, giving the impression of a Pride march.

The Thirteenth Doctor

by Guest Blogger // 22 July 2017, 8:00 am

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Amy Roskilly is a primary school teacher and has moonlighted as a freelance writer for the past 10 years after starting out as a reporter in London. She now lives in Wales teaching, writing novels and keeping a blog following her adventures raising a feisty limb-different daughter

I was disappointed when they announced the new lead actor in the decade-defying cult TV show Doctor Who earlier this week.

I should probably start with the caveat that I am not a fanatical Dr Who fan. As a child, it used to be the heart-pumping highlight of my week, but when the programme was relaunched in 2005 I just didn’t get on the bandwagon. Aside from a bit of passive viewing while my husband had it on, I’ve neither watched it religiously nor had an opinion on the timeless ream of new actors taking on the role.

Until this week, that is, when I did a triumphant air punch in celebration as the BBC announced their 13th Doctor. I surprised even myself at how much I cared. Two things were different this time. Firstly: I have a daughter now. She’s rapidly approaching her first birthday and since her birth I’ve found my inherent feminist principles becoming more and more prominent; they’ve been finding their voice in defence of my daughter’s future. Secondly, of course, the 13th Doctor is a woman.

Of course, the announcement that Jodie Whittaker (of Broadchurch fame) was to become the latest eccentric Time Lord didn’t disappoint me, but the reactions I saw across social media afterwards most certainly did. Mere seconds after the news, anti-female complaints were popping up like weeds all over the place. I get it, I really do – people feel very passionately about Dr Who and who should or should not be able to play The Doctor. But this felt like more than that.

“Filming of the next season of Dr Who is delayed because the new Doctor had difficulty parking the Tardis.”

“What’s the betting the new Doctor will disappear on maternity leave within a year and then come back demanding flexi time!”

Or an image of a crashed Tardis with the caption: “She’s only had it a few hours FFS…”

What year is it? I had to check, but nope, it’s definitely not the 1900s anymore. As far as I was aware, women are able to vote, to work in positions of power and even (gasp!) to drive.

Yet, despite this, many still seem to think that simply by virtue of having a penis you are somehow better at, well, life. Apparently it is without doubt that if you are a man you’re a better driver and needless to say you would never have a day off work to procreate (could be a short reign for the misogynists).

I suspect many would say that it was just light humour, so get over it. But just because it has always been does not make it right, as history has taught us time and time again. Men are not more qualified to vote than women. Men are not more able to drive than women and men certainly don’t hold the monopoly on time travel.

It’s time these archaic ‘jokes’ are considered for what they are: manifestations of deeply discriminatory attitudes against half of the population. Discriminatory against my daughter, and every girl and woman on the planet. Girls should be growing up into a world where they are seen as equal. They shouldn’t feel that they are inferior to their male peers, that they somehow aren’t good enough to take part in certain activities by virtue of their sex.

But now, thanks to the BBC’s latest casting choice, half of the population have been given a new role model to look up to and aspire to, one who was never accessible to them before. They can drive the TARDIS, they can travel time and they can sure as hell change the world.

If you think this somehow emasculates you then I’d invite you to get into your own bloody TARDIS and take a trip back to the 1950s or beyond. Educate yourself on how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go before women are truly equal. Just be careful how you park it.

Image courtesy Mr. Evil Cheese Scientist on Flickr

Image depicts the TARDIS from Doctor Who travelling through space and time

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:

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-1 (Joy Miessi)

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-2 (Kariima Ali)

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-3 (Freya Bramble Carter)

http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/celebrating-what-it-means-be-black-and-british-part-4 (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 (Scroll.in)

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.

Further Reading

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

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