Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Back on line

So, Subtext has returned to the online world, with our website hosted on a new server and with some new tricks up our sleeve to come.

Thanks for bearing with me while I tried to figure out what I was doing. I'm still not quite sure, but everything seems to be working ok.

While we are back online, there might be some lingering problems with the email service. If you need to contact us try subtextmagazine@googlemail.com - at least we know that one will work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Where's the website gone?

Oops! The hosting for the Subtext website expired yesterday (2nd November 08) before I had a chance to renew it - my bad.

On the plus side, I was planning to move to a new hosting provider - so now my hand has been forced and I'll have to get on with it!

Looks like I'm not going climbing tonight - emergency website maintenance is required.
Sorry folks,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Manchester Zine Fest

It's the Manchester Zine fest tomorrow at Urbis in the centre of Manchester. We're giving a workshop on printing and distribution at 4pm.

It's free to come along, hope to see you there.

Update 01/09/08
some phtos of the zine fest, which was great. Hello to everyone we met there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Website problems

We've been having some website problems (www.subtextmagazine.co.uk) over the past couple of days - our bandwidth was being sucked away and the website kept shutting down when we reached the top of our quota. Page visits and KBytes were up 1,000% - if only that equated to actual visits and magazine sales!

Hopefully the problem's solved now we've disabled hotlinking (you can still use our images but we can't afford to host them for other sites). We'll keep an eye on it today, please bear with us. I'm only a learner when it comes to being a website manager!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Subtext #6 is out now, just in time for the summer holidays!

Subtext summer newsletter

Subtext issue 6 cover, featuring Bee. Read an interview with Bee in this issue

If you haven’t had a gander at Subtext for a while we recommend you come and give us a second look. We’ve developed so much over the last year and issue 6 is chock bang full of great articles and illustrations and it’s all printed on 100% recycled paper.

Your support means we can continue to produce the UK’s only feminist print magazine – totally DIY and not-for-profit.

We are very happy to announce that these fantastic contributors will be filling up the pages:

· Talking With Teens Josephine Middleton talks to Bee, her 12 year old daughter, about feminism
· The Middle Ground of the Abortion Debate Sally Cosgrove negotiates the grey areas
· Minding the Gap: The Chore War Eden Carter Wood gives us some tips on how to tackle the chore war
· Good Clean Fun Jessica Ramthum has some advice on staying safe while having fun
· No Big Deal, So Give Us All A Feel Alfie Hughes discusses casual sex
· Jo King; Queen of Burlesque Season Butler talks to strip tease superstar Jo King
· Candy Girl: Diablo Cody Collette Teasdale on Cody's memoir and self-created persona
· Branding the Bunny Red Chidgey on reports on the Bin the Bunny campaign
· Maternal Morbidity Charlotte Cooper talks maternal mortality worldwide
· HerStory: suffragettes and third wavers Michelle Wright encourages us to find some of that historical determination
· Your Place or Mine Orlanda Ward on public spaces
· Crisis in Rape Crisis Darlene Corey on the funding crisis faced by Rape Crisis centres
· Cunt: The Last Taboo Sarah Westlake tackles the last taboo
· 'But what if I don't want to do Business Studies?' Laura Way on why Women's Studies is still a worthwhile and relevant degree
· Brilliant Women Virginia Newman reviews the Brilliant Women exhibition
· Feminist Flicks Kate Townshend provides some recommended viewing
Plus, Old and News, keeping you out of date with feminist news you may have missed

We’re also super grateful to our esteemed illustrators Sarah Barnes, Steven Larder, Ian Manicom and Lynda Pool for contributing to this issue.

Thank you!

Subscriptions *NEW!*
As of issue 6 we’re offering annual subscriptions. A subscription will get you 3 issues for £10 UK or £14 worldwide.

You can buy online *subscriptions start on the current issue unless you ask otherwise* or order via post.

Issue 7 Contributions
Because it took such a long time for us to get issue 6 out the deadline for contributions for issue 7 (supposed to be 21st July!) has well and truly passed.

But our crazy schedule hasn’t stopped us so far, so we’re resetting the contributions deadline to one month from today *August 30th* – hopefully that’ll be enough time for you to work on an article.

Articles already in the pipeline for issue 7 include:
Interview with Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs
Biology not destiny: the transfeminist manifesto
Interview with Bonfire Madigan
On of the best things about Subtext is hearing from you when you’ve enjoyed the magazine. We want to continue growing the magazine, making bigger and better – this means building on your suggestions as well as trying to get some money to fund your big ideas.

We’ve created an online survey where you can feedback the best and not-so-best bits of Subtext, your ideas for future issues and where you think you’d like to see Subtext heading. There are also a couple of questions in the survey that gather information that will be really useful for us when we’re selling advertising space, such as age, location and how you buy the magazine.

You can access it here – we really appreciate your input

Manchester Zine Fest 30th August
We’re super happy and excited to be involved in the Manchester Zine Fest happening on August 30th at the Urbis in Manchester.

Back when Subtext was a little tiny idea in my mind I went to the zine fest for ideas and inspiration – it was totally worth it!

This year we’re going to be giving a workshop on working with printers and distribution – we’d love to see you there.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Action Alert: Southall Black Sisters under threat of closure

Southall Black Sisters, an Ealing based support service for black and ethnic minority women formed in 1979, is facing closure since funding has been puled by Ealing DC for their domestic violence support work.

They are currently locked in a struggle with Ealing DC regarding funding, and on 17 and 18 July 2008, the High Court will hear a challenge, brought by SBS users against Ealing Council for its failure to have proper regard to existing equality legislation, especially the Race Relations Act, in reaching its decision on their funding. The Council will seek to justify its decision on the grounds that a generic domestic violence service will be better placed to meet requirements of the equality legislation and the so called ‘cohesion’ agenda.

Southall Black Sisters will be demonstrating outside the High Court on 17th & 18th July, and invite you to join them. Demonstrations run from 9.30am onwards. The nearest tube station is Holborn (Circle & Piccadilly Line) or Temple (District & Circle Line). Your encourage to bring musical instruments, whistles and banners.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Contact your MP - say no to restrictions on the time limit for abortions

There is a crucial debate in the House of Commons next Tuesday 20th May, on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Part of this Bill seeks to reduce the time limit on abortions from 24 to 20 weeks. This is based (in part) on the belief that premature babies born as early as 20 weeks are viable (we know that anti-choice campaigners have many other varied reasons why they don't want women to have autonomy with their bodies).

A study published in the British Medical Journal has proved this not to be the case (Link), and undermines the argument of some anti-choice MPs who seek to reduce the time limit and restrict a women's right to make decisions about her body.

The good news is that in a poll of MPs the majority said they did not support this restriction! Please show your MP you support for a woman's right to choose by sending them an email or letter before the crucial vote on the 20th. You can contact them quickly and easily via "write to them" or get their address details from the website for parliament and send them a letter.

Dear [MP’s name here]

I am contacting you to ask you to vote against the proposals to lower to upper time limit for abortions, as proposed in the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill to be debated on May 20th.

There are three reasons why you should vote against this change:

1) A recent, peer reviewed research study published in the British Medical Journal looking at premature births in the Trent Deanery has shown the age of viability for premature babies has not changed since the 1990s, and that 80% of premature babies do not survive. The argument to lower the time limit for late term abortions is based upon the misguided belief that medicals advances over the last 15-20 years has improved this. It has not.

2) Women seeking late term abortions are among the most vulnerable, and often have many and complex reasons for doing so, ranging from pregnancy as a result of rape to unexpected pregnancy as a result of failures in contraception –a small percentage of women will get pregnant while on the pill despite using this contraception exactly as prescribed, and discovering complications with the birth or the foetus.

3) 77% of the population support a women’s right to choose [Abortion Rights 2007], woman’s right to an abortion, and to make decisions about their own health and their own body. The erosion of these rights through incremental restrictions on time limit for abortions restricts this right and works to erode it away. Women must have the right to make decisions about their bodies – not anti-choice members of parliament of the clergy.

As a constituent I am asking you to vote against the proposals to lower to upper time limit for abortions, as proposed in the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Bill to be debated on May 20th.

Yours sincerely.

[Your name here]

Friday, April 25, 2008

Action Alert: Abortion Rights lobby parliament

Join the national lobby of parliament! - 7th May

Defend abortion rights- no attack on the 24 week time limit- for a woman's right to choose

3-6pm lobby of Parliament

7pm public meeting (venue tbc)

Initial major supporters include:

This will be an important opportunity to make sure MPs feel the strength of pro-choice opinion ahead of key votes on abortion in the House of Commons. Please put the date in your diary, make an appointment with your MP using the model letter, start organising transport and encourage friends, and colleagues to join you!

For more information about what will happen on the day please download the advance briefing for supporters

To identify and contact your MP visit upmystreet or call the House of Commons on 020 7219 3000. Alternatively you can write to your MP at House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
To add your organisation as a supporter of the event, please email Abortion Rights
Please download the lobby flyer to photocopy and distribute widely.
Please email Abortion Rights to let them know if you can attend either the lobby or the rally.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No Border camp

19-24th September 2007, Sussex

On the 19-24th September, over 200 people gathered for the UK's first No Border camp near a small village called Balcombe in Sussex. The camp was organised to protest against the building of a new detention centre near Gatwick which will take the UK's capacity to detain asylum seekers & people with precarious immigration statuses to 3,000. The camp provided an opportunity for groups and individuals working on issues surrounding migration to meet, do actions, network and give workshops on a wide range of topics which are documented on the camp's website (www.noborders.org.uk).

At the camp there was a large feminist and queer presence that both reflected the involvement of feminists and queers in no border politics and the fact that it is often women and queers who suffer most at the hands of an extremely unfair, racist and homophobic system. Notable events included the 'Moving Gender' workshop which took place on the Friday of the camp. The workshop explored a number of issues around gender and migration, including how the control of people's mobility is linked to the control of sexuality and an important contribution to the debates and activism that surround the trafficking of women. This section of the workshop, which was led by the founders of X talk who provide free English classes for sex workers so that they can communicate better with clients (http://www.xtalkproject.net/), presented the opinion that there needs to be a more rigorous 'labour rights' perspective applied to the contemporary feminist perspective on sex work. Sex work should be understood not only as prostitution but as a multiplicity of work choices that sell sex and there should be an awareness of the contradictory position that sex workers hold in relation to capital - that is they illustrate what it means to be marginalised and invisible because of their working practices but are also fundamental to the operations of capital. The workshop conceptualised sex work as affective labour - a theory that can also be applied to other areas of work that are often done by women and queer migrants such as domestic and care work. Affective labour is labour which has a value not only in terms of capital but in terms of its relational value; the feeling it produces for the user of a particular service. This theory can provide a useful tool in measuring the economic value of relation that sex and care work encompasses, when this is valued more highly this will hopefully lead to better pay and working conditions for people working in this sector.

The workshop concluded with a presentation about radical queer politics in Beograd (www.queerbeograd.org) and the everyday confrontation with borders and bordered thinking that queer people rub up against when they visibly deviate from binary sex and normative sexuality. Overall the workshop provided some useful contributions to a variety of debates surrounding sexuality, the home, women's place, sex work, gender and migration that will continue to be acted upon at events such as Feminist Fightback (20th October 2006) and the Feminist Activist Forum www.feministactivistforum.org.uk. The workshop underlined how radical queer politics continue to both inform and transform feminist political praxis in our activist and social communities.

Approaching issues surrounding trafficking & sex work from a no borders perspective potentially offers a great coalition space for feminists who are usually in great conflict over issues surrounding sex. These debates in the 1980s onwards greatly fragmented the WLM and those divisions can still be found in the contemporary feminist political landscape. One example of this was at Ladyfest Leeds where the festival was labelled a 'Porn Fest' by anti-sex direct action group, Object, following an alleged inclusion of a burlesque performance at a fundraising event for the fest. If feminists can however lay down their differences over sex then the No Border banner would be a productive space under which to unite: simply, there would not be any trafficking of women if border laws did not exist. So instead of feminists fighting between each other over debates whether sex work is empowering or degrading for women, it is far better to focus on removing the root cause of the oppression - the border laws - which produce the conditions for exploitative trafficking in the first instance.

Other notable events that occurred at the No Borders camp were hearing the testimonies from women who had been detained in Immigration Removal Prisons such as Yarlswood and Harmondsworth, these were sobering and powerful to hear, reminding us of the brutal, inhumane and racist treatment women receive in detention prisons. It was also inspiring to hear the spirited, defiant resistance to the system by one of the women. Common stories that recurred were of racist assaults, denial of adequate medical treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, rape. Maltreatment often occurs in these immigration prisons because they privately run for profit and are not subject to the same regulative procedures as the UK's prison service, which creates scope for greater abuse and limited accountability. Women from Crossroads women's centre, who have been tirelessly working and supporting women to empower themselves in asylum cases for many years, presented a workshop that shared strategies, frustrations and successes when fighting the UK's detention regime. Crossroad's work, which includes direct support and research, concludes that the system consistently refuses to believe women when they say they are feeling brutal regimes such as Mugabe's in Zimbabwe, while also reporting on the gross malpractice of lawyers working on asylum cases. Women from the All African Women's Group who meet at the centre, also shared the work they do.

Overall the camp provided a relaxed and focussed political space in which to explore strategies in which to further the campaign to end Britain's detention and border regime. Many friendships, ideas and plans for further action were mobilised while the camp also included a number of actions, culminating in a large march from Crawley to Tinseley House, one of the first immigration prisons opened in 1993, to the planned site of the new centre Brooke House, which will have the capacity to hold 436 people. At the march the queer and feminist bloc formed a colourful contingent, including a number of feminist, anti-capitalist queer superheroes devised for the camp. We marched for a world without borders, without racism, homophobia, sexism and class exploitation, a world of unity, diversity and where freedom of movement is a reality for everyone on the planet. We will to continue to act in this way until it is achieved.

Reviewed by deborammmrah.

Making Stuff & Doing Things: A Collection of DIY Guides to Doing just about Everything

edited by Kyle Bravo
(Microcosm Publishing, 2006, 240 pp, RRP £5.86)

The best thing about punk rock kids is that they like to get their hands dirty and figure out how to become more in control of their time and money, whether out of idleness, anti-capitalism, fun or creative expression. This collection of 115 scraggly, hand-written how-to guides gives the low-down on making life as self-sufficient and commodity free as possible. Wanna make soya-milk? Blend beans and water, heat, sieve through a t-shirt, and make soy-burgers with the left-over pulp. Fancy getting crafty? This volume offers a hunk of inspiring tips; from making books, A-line skirts, protest puppets and sex toys to candles, bikinis, rubber-stamps and duct tape wallets. Not just a guide for the eccentric whimsy of amateur culture lovers, Making Stuff also offers solid instruction in the realms of gardening, cooking, building and health – from making solar-box stoves and bike trailers, to beating your cunt’s yeast infection and brewing home-made beer. Edited by How2 Zine writer Kyle Bravo, cover illustration by Greenzine’s art darling Cristy Road, and published by those brilliant can-do activists at Microcosm distro, this enterprise helps spread underground folk knowledge about getting handy with limited tools and resources. An empowering compilation of unprofessional advice aimed at folks who like experiments in living, thriftiness and occasional rants against the system. Don’t expect photographic step-by-step instruction, true to form, this is more bare-bones zine style than glossy, pre-digested DIY manual.

Reviewed by Red Chidgey.

Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts

edited by Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini
(Softskull Press, 2005, 284 pp, RRP £9.99)

Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts is collection of articles written, edited and compiled by mothers in the snatched minutes between bathtimes, demands for Cheerios and trips to the park. As a premise, Mamaphonic is a much needed and long awaited book, an affirmative voice which does not accept ‘the lie that having children kills creativity. In fact, people who are raising kids have to be more creative to find enough time to do their work.’ In practice, however, it lapses too often into badly-written hyperbole and a snobbish lauding of the ‘Artistic Identity.’ The clash of this identity with the demands of motherhood often finds the women of this collection holed up in corners scribbling down a few words. The reports of frustrated attempts to find a room, a table or even a corner of one’s own give the overwhelming impression that these women are enjoying neither their children, nor their own creativity. The best articles, Ayun Halliday’s outstanding reminiscence on how she started her ‘zine East Village Inky or Lisa Peet’s account of her son’s straight-talking encouragement in ‘The Rudest Muse,’ while not ignoring the frustrations of motherhood, focus on what happens when mothers involve their children in the creative process rather than hiding it (and themselves) from them.

Reviewed by Beth Tilston.

Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered

Nikki McClure
(Abrams, 2007, 112 pp, RRP £15.95)

This giant-sized tome collects together a decade of poster art by Nikki McClure, Olympian-based riot grrrl performer and self-taught artist. ‘Every year since1998, I have printed a calendar noting the month-by-month change in orbit’, she writes, producing pictures with ‘detailed, yet sparse instructions on living life where our hands matter.’ The ethic is reflected in McClure’s style: working from a single sheet of black paper, McClure painstakingly cuts out her images with an X-acto knife, leaving lace-like compositions to which colour and text are added. The figures that populate her work are attractive, chunky types – like old soviet images of women workers, brought into the twenty-first century and made punk-rock. Scenes revolve around mini-adventures of contemplation – swimming in lakes with friends, climbing trees, nursing babies, sweeping floors, reading in hammocks, and harvesting crops.

McClure propagates a vision of the ‘good life’. Sharing a Yoko Ono-esque preference for affirmations, each seasonal-based image is accompanied with an urging phrase- viewers are encouraged to ‘seek’, ‘contribute’, ‘make mistakes’, ‘defend civility’ and ‘wake up’, which can become overwhelmingly twee. The ‘chicken soup for the soul’ vibe of McClure’s work is, thankfully, tempered by the beautiful images she creates, and a real sense of wonder at the turning of the year and the potential for deep-rooted, embodied relationships and meaningful industry. Stirring visual propaganda for a creative life led in balance of venture and repose.

Reviewed by Red Chidgey.

Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism

Jennifer Baumgardener and Amy Richards
(FSG, 2005, 306 pp, RRP £6.84)

The girls behind Manifesta- the primer on third-wave lipstick feminism- are back with their guide to becoming an activist in your everyday life. Courting the kind of class privileged, consumer feminism which may make many women shudder- women are given permission to wear Nike trainers while petitioning against sweat-shop labour, for example- Baumgardner and Richards show you how to deal with what you’ve got, including contradictions, and organise for improving women’s lot; from high-school kids who form feminist clubs, to grassroots projects like Haven, where women offer up their houses and time to look after women travelling to have an abortion, to ‘dress for success’ programmes where well-off women donate suits to poor, unemployed women to wear at job interviews. The grand emphasis is on taking action now, not waiting until you are perfect, conflict free, uber-feminist (which ain’t ever gonna happen, we are have our faults and limitations). Countless in-depth profiles of self-made projects in action –at university, the workplace, and in your community- provide simple models for starting up and getting other folks involved, all whilst working within the system. The book is rounded off with a chunky appendix of US organisations and resources, a glossary of activist terms, and a peek into the diaries of the authors (which whilst attempting to show what they do is manageable, paints a portrait of a networked, financial comfortable, American-style philanthropy which is the undertone of the book itself).

Reviewed by Red Chidgey.

How to Become a Famous Writer before you’re dead

Ariel Gore
(Three Rivers Press, 2007, 265 pp, RRP £6.81)

Ever dreamt of being a lit-star? Working at home in your pyjamas, making a living from your imagination and craft, hobnobbing with other writing glitterati and souping up inspiration? Ariel Gore, author of the alternative parenting zine Hip Mamma and several novels, tells you that it’s not only possible, it’s your birthright. Each step of the publishing processes is explained here in homely detail, with plenty of writing assignments for getting started, advice for killer book proposals and tracking down an agent, and even how to organise your own cross-country book tour- firedancers, backing musicians and standing on street corners in a tutu and gorilla mask handing out flyers, all optional, but part of Gore’s extensive resume of guerrilla self-marketing which she offers up as inspiration. Whilst some wanna-be authors might want more of the actual practical tips of writing, this book focuses on how to be an artist and an entrepreneur, getting your name out there so it will be ‘exciting-familiar in your reader’s ears before you’ve even finished your first book’. Drawing on interviews with other lit-stars like Susie Bright, Michelle Tea and Ayun Halliday, Gore’s book offers a cosy, behind-the-scenes prep-talk for non-fiction writers and storytellers alike, with enough nervy ideas to make even the most timid of writers brave. For anyone who fancies themselves as a latterday Anais Nin or Walt Whitman, this guide is a crash-course in attitude and self-belief, with a good mix of practical advice and irreverent humour showing you how to get on the writing ladder, from self-publishing to securing a 5-digit book deal.

Reviewed by Red Chidgey.

The Ethical Slut: A guide to infinite sexual possibilities

Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt
(Greenery Press, 1997, 279 pp, RRP £11.99)

According to therapist and sex author Easton and Liszt, a slut is someone ‘having all the sex and love and friendship they want’. The ethical part is where this book comes in; despite the usual sexist equations of sluts as desperate women looking for fucks instead of relationships, or predatory harlots who’ll steal your honey as soon as look at them, this guidebook to ‘infinite sexual possibilities’ takes loving and learning as its basic ground rules and introduces the beginner to all the pitfalls, permeations and benefits of polyamorory – the art of loving different people at the same time. For folks used to the socially-approved route of monogamy (and its roguish cheats), The Ethical Slut shows how multiple relationships can work out in the open, to increase people’s self-esteem, capacity for expanded relationships, and sense of personal autonomy. Sounds crazy? It’s not. Polyamoury is sure as hell difficult, as the authors demonstrate with plenty of real-life examples, but the benefits can help a lover flourish and break out of that mutual problematic of thinking just one other person ‘completes you’ (you complete yourself, see, all other relationships just add that yummy icing, cherries and chocolate buttons to the proverbial cake). Getting down to the nitty gritty, this guide covers all the ‘slut skills’ you need- communication tips and ‘rules’ to help booster a sense of security and comfort, the importance of boundaries and safer-sex to keep you sane and healthy, and the big almighty crusher of swingers and fidelity couples alike: how to tame that beast of jealously. An important trouble-shooter for the monogamous and the poly equally, this book shows you how to bring in harmony, deep satisfaction and pleasure to any relationship you want.

Reviewed by Red Chidgey

Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters.

Jessica Valenti
(Seal Press, 2007, 256pp, RRP £7.88)

Full Frontal Feminism (FFF) is the first book from Jessica Valenti’s. Best known for founding the online feminist blog ‘feministing.com’, Valenti’s credentials run much deeper including work for organisations such as Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood. FFF has received its fair share of controversy, starting with the choice of front cover. Book covers are designed to grab your attention and this fits the bill, pulling you in with a bare, slim female torso emblazoned across the front. Book covers also tend to suggest something regarding the contents of the book and the question here is why choose an image of a nameless (not to mention headless!) female body for a book tackling feminist issues such as debates surrounding beauty and body size? FFF covers a lot of ground in its 256 pages. Meanings of feminism, sex, popular culture, politics, violence against women, reproductive rights, work and employment, relationships, feminism in history, men and feminism, beauty and (rather too briefly) academic feminism are all covered. There is also a chapter of useful resources at the back of the book which gives it a real action-promoting feel.
Valenti provides a fresh feel to some long debated and challenged ideas and openly also acknowledges oppression can be multiple, multilayered and experienced differently by different women. She has tried to be inclusive throughout, considering women outside of the white, middle-class, heterosexual box (something which a lot of feminist authors I’ve read tend not to consider). The style of the book (conversational and packed full with profanities and American slang) reflects the fact that it is a quick-fire introduction to feminism for young women and, in particular, young women who may have been put off by it previously. This is where the book excels as it tackles some serious issues yet maintains a down-to-earth and often light-hearted approach throughout.

Reviewed by Laura Way

Sisterhood Interrupted: From radical women to grrls gone wild

Deborah Siegel
(Palgrave Macmillian, 2007, 224 pp, RRP £7.99)

A historical tour of the US women’s movement told through the forty- year drama surrounding the feminist slogan and ideology ‘The Personal is Political’. This tale of cat-fights and ego-clashes gives the beef on Betty Friedan and cultural ‘orgasm feminists’, older feminists and younger women, and Gloria Steinem and seemingly everyone else; all mulling over the bug-bear of whether feminism is a culture or a cause, and the best ways to ‘get ahead’ personally and collectively. Divided into two sections – ‘Mothers’ and ‘Daughters’ – Siegel’s exposé on scandals, accusations and ‘zap actions’ (guerrilla protests) doesn’t just savour bitchiness from within the ranks, but aims to show how history too often repeats itself. The old question of whether feminists should focus on empowerment or social change mires today’s activists, with the ‘third-wave’ excelling in the first category and still finding its feet in the second. A focus on the popular face of the movement - its media stars, personalities, magazines and publications- means that contemporary feminist activism is given short-shift; too much oxygen is taken up by the post-feminist feminists who poo-poo the second wave as ‘victim’ feminism, and the ‘mama drama’ of younger women usurping their mentors. Spicy, well-written and impeccably researched, Sisterhood Interrupted is an entertaining, but uneven, primer to the ideological brawls and generational disconnect of the US women’s movement, with an eye to making the lessons of the past well-learnt. Includes foreword by Manifesta’s Jennifer Baumgardner and a comprehensive resource and reading guide.

Reviewed by Red Chidgey

The Feminine Mystique

Bettt Friedan
(Fist pub 1963, currently W. W. Norton & Co. 2002, 512pp, RRP £12.99)

About Betty
Betty Friedan (1921 – 2006) was an American feminist, activist and writer, is often attributed to starting the second wave of feminism through the writing of her book The Feminine Mystique. Fredian co- founded the National Organisation of Women (NOW) and was its first president, serving from 1966 to 1970. Friedan also helped found NARAL (originally National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) in 1969 and always remained a staunch advocate of legal abortion.

The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan explores what Friedan calls ‘the problem with no name’. By this, she is referring to the discontentment and perpetuated unhappiness of American housewives. Beginning with a discussion of an informal survey she conducted on her college classmates fifteen years after their graduation, Friedan states her intention to find out if the condition of ‘housewife’ was having a similar negative affect on her peers, as it was on herself. She found that many other women felt dissatisfied with their situations. Friedan challenges the social assumption that women should be content to define themselves as wives and mothers and not aspire to goals external to the home.

The Feminine Mystique outs Friedan as a liberal feminist concerned with the inequality of the genders and subsequent inferiority of women within society. She exposes the myth that women experience a ‘calling’ to the role of housewife and questions the supposed ensuing happiness and natural ability which has traditionally been intertwined with this vocation. She considers housewifery to be more of a socially constructed limitation than a factor of feminine destiny.

The main points of this book (that women should be able to decide what to do with their lives and should not succumb to what is expected by them by a patriarchal minded society) seem to have been taken out of context by several prominent feminists. In The female Eunuch Germaine Greer dismisses domesticity and motherhood as a viable career choice. It is acts like this that have contributed to the construction of hierarchies within female experience. The assertion that women who choose to identify primarily as wives and mothers are inferior to those who chose to pursue careers has divided the feminist community and instigated a negative image of feminism within society.

The Feminine Mystique could easily be criticised for offering a somewhat limited analysis of the problem of domestic dissatisfaction. For instance, the notion that women could be cured of troubling psychological conditions simply by getting a job appears to underestimate the entirety of the problem. Friedan does not consider that women’s experience as the inferior gender is created and internalised from a young age and can therefore not be eradicated by seeking employment (in which, it can be assumed, similar inequalities occur). However, the book is still a priceless analysis of where culture has prevented optimum achievement for women.

The book is primarily an academic text and is written as such. However, it also manages to convey a vast amount of experience, empathy and understanding that does not rely on its academic style to make valid points and consider important questions.

Reviewed by Michelle Kempson

Ani Difranco - Canon

Righteous Babe 2007

Folk punk super chanteuse and outspoken feminist Ani Difranco released her first, long awaited, retrospective album this autumn. What is there to say? For those of you who already know and love Difranco; this is a hand picked double disc collection of 36 of her favourites from the past 13 years, with 5 new recordings of classics such as Napoleon and Both hands. For those new to Ani this is a great introduction to her music. She possesses the power to uplift you, devastate you and read your mind - putting thoughts you had but couldn’t coherently form, into song. The bonus bootleg series sampler is a nice little extra with 11 live tracks recorded between 2002 and 2006, 4 of which aren’t on Canon.

Reviewed by Gill Court

M.I.A - Kala

XL Recordings 2007

In the opening track Bamboo Banga, M.I.A states ‘I’m a big timer’. Judging by the amount of press & hype the Sri-Lankan born/ London-based MC has been receiving with her second offering, this could be an understatement. “Kala” is named after her mother, and hints of feminist shadows are evident on tracks such as the drum-infused Bird Flu where M.I.A. laments not being a Rocawear model as her legs ‘hit the hurdle’. On the hypnotic $20, her distinct rap claims ‘people judge me so hard cause I don’t floss my titty set’. Boyz asks a series of questions about people-who-are-not-yet men with the last question wanting to know ‘how many start a war’. Politics gets further static commentary with references to Darfur, Rwanda & Congo on Jimmy, a track that sounds like it belongs in a Bollywood blockbuster but is ultimately about the opposite sex.

Hussel featuring Afrikan Boy is probably one of the tracks on the album that the second generation immigrant nation can relate to. It pulsates with messages about the validity of grinding to make extra cash yet touches on identity as Afrikan Boy declares ‘I rep Africa not Miami’. Interestingly, the tiny holes in Kala start to appear when she adds more featuring guests. Mango Pickle Down River features Aboriginal hip-hop group the Wilcannia Mob where the collaborating group drown out the song. Come Around featuring the supreme of hip-hop production Timbaland is actually a good song as it does not fully Americanise her sound but does not lyrically seem to fit into the structure of Kala.

Galang, the memorable track from her debut, Arular starts the song with
‘London calling, speak the slang, boys say wha-gwan, girls say wha-what’. Kala has expanded beyond London & its’ slang with international influences heard from the didgeridoos on Mango Pickle Down River and the drums of Bird Flu & World Town, with clever samples from the Clash on the stand-out track, Paper Planes. Like the pop starlets of today, M.I.A. has the supermodel looks. The difference ends with how she approaches her music: it comes across mashed-up at points but don’t let her slow-burning flow on XR2 fool you - the album is more carefully constructed than you think.

Reviewed by Aulelia Kashoro