Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Feminism in London 09

Saturday 10th October saw Feminism in London 2009 take place at Conway Hall. Though I cannot speak for the range of panels and workshops on the day, I just wanted to discuss my own experience of the day and welcome discussion/further insights.

Opening speakers this year were Beatrice Campbell and Susie Orbach ('Fat is a Feminist Issue'). This was my first encounter of Beatrice Campbell but I thought she was absolutely marvelous. A real character and what she spoke about really hit home with me. Beatrice spoke of 'neo-patriarchy' and the suggestion that whilst in society we now have knowledge (even acknowledgement) of gender issues, we have seen no change (for instance the gender pay gap still exists though we have increased awareness of this issue). Another example was of the working mother; the fact we can now be included in full-time employment but this is coupled with childcare. Beatrice spoke of the narrative of the 'work-life balance' in society which assigns this problem to us rather than tackling the problem. Beatrice talked also about the link between masculinity and violence which is never tackled as society masks the link under the disguise of youth violence and so forth. I found her talk really interesting and refreshing. It was intriguing that on my way out after, however, I overheard two women commenting that they disliked its complexity and academic nature so it didn't appear to be to everyone's taste.

When Susie Orbach spoke I really felt wanting more. It was a shame that it seemed time ran out, it would have been good to have heard more from her. But again, the issue of violence emerged and she linked the interalisation of women's oppression though body insecurities. I definitly want to read her latest book now to find out more.

During the day I went to a slide show/talk, a workshop and one panel. The slide-show was on anti-porn and namely the pornification of culture and the 'grooming' of young children by such culture. A lot of concepts were covered like the idea of the pseudo-child in pornography, the sexualisation of father-daughter incest, the model of normalization, sexualisation of disney and compliant victimization. It pretty much confirmed feelings I had already regarding the sexualisation of culture and how it targets children but I think it really made clear my thoughts on pornography as a whole. The workshop I attended after followed a similar theme "Raising Children in the Age of Porn". I hoped to come away from this with an idea of maybe strategies for dealing with such an issue but I don't think I got as much from it that I would have liked. One idea positioned by a fellow attendee did really get me thinking though and that was the stress now, it seems, in society on childrens' physical safety (worrying about kidnapping, pregnancy, perhaps even obesity) whilst other areas they aren't as protected (exposure to tv, internet and such).

The panel was 'Motherhood and Poverty' which was good and covered quite a bit of ground. After this was the closing speakers: Mawete vo Teka Sala, Hannana Siddiqui and Finn Mackay. I must admit that by this time my eyes were getting quite droppy (I had had to get up at 4am that morning for my train to London afterall!) so though I enjoyed the first two speakers I did not make any notes nor do I have any further comements. Finn Mackay's closing speech truly perked me back up again with the sheer emotion and enthuasiasm involved, it was such a shame it had to be cut short. But it was an excellent note to close on, especially the comments on the recession and women's part in this state in response to which I ranted to my friend later that evening - "No, we didn't make the decisions that got us where we are! But look at what cost we're paying for someone else's choices!" Food for thought indeed.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Subtext Blog has Moved

Please update your rss feeds, or take your regular eyes away from here and back to www.subtextmagazine.co.uk where the blog is now based in a beautiful redesigned, remodeled, rediculously good website.

Alright. See you there.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Media Backlash: Keeping things the way they used to be

My awareness of the backlash against feminism has become acute, particularly when in the mainstream media, particularly in misrepresentation of facts, figures and even words. As newspapers are my preferred medium, let me use headlines to make my point.

Today's Observer carries the headline

Up to 64,000 women in UK 'are child-sex offenders'
After Plymouth case shocked the nation, police say number of women abusing children is rising

The ilk of the story is that women are growing in numbers as abusers. But, I would suggest awareness of women being abusers is increasing - that there has been no change in the behaviour of women, that we are not becoming this evil out of control gender but it's just impossible to continue to tie us down to wishy washy delicate lady stereotypes.

Added to this, the coverage of working mums supposedly failing their kids - I griped about that previously, but this time rather than the evil sexual deviant, women who work are simply tutted at for deserting their proper place in the home.

Both stories in their own way begin to paint a picture of women out of control, that their behaviour, now masculine and undesirable, is the cause of all social ills.

Coupled with the fact the real winning articles in women's interest are arts and crafts, it's ok to wear make-up, bat your eyes, femininity is feminism and we can see a clear remodelling of women's place in society.

There is room to remind the mainstream audience that feminism isn't at odds with femininity but to do so often comes at the cost of reinforcing the idea of old, hairy, women's libbers, the "undesirables". And to do so, creates a bigger crevice between all women and feminists, and calls for a pat on the back to the reclaimation of something which remains a want of the patriarchy. And every day I see a little more how damaging this is to us all.

We should leave open the ability to criticize, to discuss certain parts of life - but the work/life balance is the problem, not women's behaviour if working mothers have no choice but to sacrafice time at home. Mainstream medias inability to see men in the picture of the family and childcare is another block in the road of progression. And as long as we allow ourselves to feed and condone a media system which thrives on supporting trad and damaging stereotypes, we continue to hold back the change we're fighting for.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Working Mums, what of Dad's?

Allow me to doubt this reporting in the Times, Working mums have the unhealthiest children, research finds

How can you talk about 'a possible link between parental working habits and child health' without mentioning fathers?

I couldn't find the original study, but I think this may be the Times' emphasis as quotes lifted from the study mention the existence of more than one parent. (obviously, assuming that this is a sample of heterosexual parents, but again, no info)

I think that without really addressing the socioeconomic backgrounds of the mothers this article mentions we get the creation of a real get back in the kitchen feel to something which may actually address the pressures exerted on women to go into badly paid, awkward part time work to meet policy needs.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Feminism in London Conference Filling Out

Excuse the lazy reposting but...

Feminism in London, October 10, 2009

Pornification, the pay gap, eating disorders...
Where do we go from here?
If you are a woman or a pro-feminist man, come along to join the discussion.


Susie Orbach, Beatrix Campbell, Gunilla S. Ekberg, Sabrina Qureshi, Marai Larasi, Claudia da Silva, Denise Marshall, Rebecca Mott, Mawete vo Teka Sala, Abi Moore, Pragna Patel.


- Racism and sexism
- What's wrong with prostitution?
- Poverty and motherhood: how society undervalues women's work
- It's easy out here for a pimp (anti-porn slide show)
- Raising children in the age of porn (practical strategies)
- Feminist self defence and assertiveness training
- Media training with camera
- Activism training
- Rape and sexual violence
- No recourse to public funds
- Power in bed (How to live an anti-oppressive life and still be sexy and have fun)
- What are the issues for pro-feminist men?




Website: http://www.fil.btik.com/home.ikml
Email: feminismlondon@yahoo.co.uk


Line-up includes

Eve Webster: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.evewebster.com/index.html
Chambers and Nettleton: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.chambersandnettleton.com/
Abi Roberts: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.abiroberts.com/
Kate Smurthwaite (compere): http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.comedycv.co.uk/katesmurthwaite/

Find out more and buy tickets: http://www.facebook.com/l/56110;www.fil.btik.com/p_cabaret09.ikml

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tackling Violence Against Women in the Welsh Assembly Government

H/T Million Women Rise – from Hannah Austin

“We are campaigning for the Welsh Assembly Government to improve their policies to tackle violence against women in Wales. 2 women a week are still dying of domestic abuse alone in Wales, and the rape conviction rate remains a shocking 8% in Wales.

Please visit our Facebook group – lots more info there: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=162717965118&ref=mf

Most importantly – PLEASE email the following letter to the Social Justice Minister, Brian Gibbons AM.

Spread the word! Thanks so much!”

SEND LETTER TO: brian.gibbons@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Dear Minister


The level of violence against women in Wales still remains very high, with one in four women suffering some from violence during their lifetime.

Though the Welsh Assembly Government has made good progress on tackling some elements of violence against women, there is no integrated, cross-governmental strategy to protect women from violence.

I am calling on you to redouble your efforts to tackle violence against women in all its forms, and ensure that the women in Wales are not less protected than women in other parts of the UK.

Only a strategy and action plan led by the Welsh Assembly Government will be able to bring together the disparate strands of public services and investment will tackle violence against women and fulfil the UN CEDAW obligations.

Violence against women blights thousands of lives in Wales each year, and its time for a whole-government approach to protect women.

Yours sincerely


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Read All About It: Sensationalism Sucks

Someone thought it appropriate to send this link to one of my feminist associates email addresses

The number of women guilty of domestic violence has risen sharply and has been blamed on the agression fuelled “ladette” culture.

I'm reading a book called Women who kill by Ann Jones, it points to increases in female participation in DV or intimate violence when they have the least options, that is when we are most abandoned by the system, when male violence against women increases, when we have no option.

I would also add that by choosing to hook the story with females being violent, despite the fact that males still commit the most violent crimes distasteful and by far the reason women's issues are maligned, why we're told we're asking for it and so on and so on.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

I am Emma Humphreys

Understanding the systems, legal and cultural, which lead to the lack of safety for women in society is the first step to changing them. H/T Julie Bindel's facebook page.

I Am Emma Humphreys
Friday 25 September
9.00-10.00pm BBC RADIO 4

Emma Humphreys was a pretty, upbeat, endearing young woman who had a tragically short life. She had been in 11 children's homes, was beaten, abused, went on the run and self-harmed. At 16 years old, she moved in with Trevor Armitage and, by the time she was 17, she had killed him. She was charged with murder, said nothing in her defence and was sentenced to life.

This play is a true story and presents the raw account of Emma's life and how her case changed the law and may contribute to further controversial changes in the defence laws for murder, currently going through Parliament.

While working at East Sutton Park Open Prison, writer Shelley Silas met Harriet Wistrich, now one of the UK's leading human rights lawyers and part of the team currently representing the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. She also met journalist Julie Bindel who handled Emma's press campaign. Together in 1991 they set up Justice For Women. They inspired Shelley to write a play about Emma Humphreys.

Joanne Froggatt plays Emma, Stephen Critchlow plays Trevor Armitage, Delroy Brown plays Stuart, Susan Jameson plays Vera Baird, Lynne Verrall plays Harriet Wistrich, Stephen Hogan plays the Judge in Nottingham and David Hargreaves is Lord Justice Hirst.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

QUick Book Stop: Sexism in America: Alive, Well and Ruining Our Future

Barbara Berg's new book, Sexism in America, is an exciting and engaging fast paced look at the feminist movement in recent years, based solidly within the context of the political and social sphere of America. Berg, a historian by trade, compiles this memoir of the movement beautifully through oral histories, personal experiences and well researched facts and figures.

As a woman of twenty-five, the nuanced look at the second wave movement and it's reception by the USA's shock jock news system, branding the burgeoning sisterhood as "satanism" -something literally so ridiculous we need older women to tell these stories to us so we believe them.

Equitable rights and treatment for women - what we asked for seemed so simple, so just, so right, we approached the next decade eager to see our hard-won gains extended and amplified.

The book moves quickly on to more times not long gone, through the Bush's, Clinton and into present day Obama - a country measured by the men at it's helm. And each presidential era marked by it's social or moral crusade, burnt into the fabric of society - through TV, film and the mainstream media. Moral crusades which have, at times of the social conservatives been so anti progression, anti equality it breaks the hearts.

Not always carrying an entirely positive message, this book stirs questions page by page, and more importantly erases the line that has been erected between generations of feminists. You will, I think, read your own thoughts in these pages and be pushed to take them further with the help of the voice and education of a woman who has been there, and done that and spoke to others of her generation - as well as women of ours, who helped drive her need to share this information.

"We're so obsessed with appearance' a twenty-six ear old from North Carolina suggested, "because while we're told we can be anything we want, what a lot of us are realizing is that it translates into: we can look any way we want to look. So we're focusing on that, instead of what in our hearts and minds we want to become."

It offers a great platform to begin your critical thinking on relationships, sex, biology as destiny, work place politics, political parity, sexism's effect on children and youths, pressures of plastic surgery, reproductive rights, motherhood, films, tv, music, body image - with a fantastic bibliography attached, and for women based in the US a mini yellow-pages of contacts.

The only negative I could come up with is the fact that we don't yet have this book in England, that our shared histories in the UK have still not found a hard form to exist in - and that if we are to continue erasing the lines that society has fought to erect between generations of women - as competitors instead of allies - it's something I think we need. For women unsure of their most recent histories, for women unsure of where their dissatisfaction with life comes from, for young women unaware that we are still fighting the good fight set by the second wave.

We're not there yet, but we're much further along than we were before the 1970's, back in those dark ages when a girl's future was mapped out at birth, when you couldn't wear slacks without being excommunicated by your church, when you were expected to stop your education after high school so your brother could go to college, when you could be refused service at a restaurant because you were dining alone, and refused a credit card or mortgage if you were single, when you couldn't refuse to have sex with a diseased husband, an abusive husband, any husband


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Of course we're to blame!

This week's issue of Grazia magazine features an article entitled "So, is it our fault we get paid less than men?" in response to a report detailing gender pay gaps in 'the City'. In the 'YES' corner is writer and broadcaster Lowri Turner who asks "What is it about us that we accept this sort of discrimination?" (my emphasis). Turner claims that:

...like the battered wife who goes back to her abusive husband, so City women meekly trot back for more. Many even excuse the system that discriminates against them.

And that:

City women should be thumping their fists on the boardroom tables. Instead, they buy into a system that treats them shabbily. For that, they have themselves to blame.

Personally I'm confused. Am I meant to salute Turner for not falling fault to such behavior and for trying to remove the blinkers from these poor women's eyes? Or am I meant to boo in her direction for merely shifting the blame?


Because sports ruin your hair...

Hair straightener bid to boost PE

Taken from the piece over at The Guardian:

A council spokeswoman said: "West Dunbartonshire Council has installed nine sets of hair straighteners within the changing facilities at each of the council's three new flagship schools...The falling rate of female participation in sport was a key issue discussed by pupils and improvements to changing and showering facilities, including the installation of hair straighteners, was considered important in reversing this trend. The installation amounts to a total expenditure of less than £1,000 to encourage more girls to participate in PE and support positive self-image."

So to support positive self-image in girls we are providing them with hair and beauty facilities to encourage them to participate in PE...surely this is merely reinforcing the message that it's all about how we look? How about promoting positive self-image through demonstrating that physical appearance isn't the be all and end all?


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Video Roam: Fatal Promises, Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Labor and Emma Thompson

I know it's awful to be all gushy, but gush I must! I was extremely excited to meet Emma Thompson, a frankly fantastic actor but more importantly a committed activist working to stop human trafficking at the preview of new documentary, Fatal Promises.

Fatal Promises looks at part of the enormous human trafficking trade that takes women and men from the Ukraine under false pretenses and lands them in dangerous labor practices on illegal boats without food, or trapped in forms of sex work controlled by violent "caretakers"

For many, it is a story heard before, but until it ends it is worth hearing over and over again. Though not form the school of slick documentary making that in vogue issues like climate change and fair trade seem to come packaged in, Fatal Promises is as raw and blunt aesthetically as it is in content. But the blunt presentation helps the films core message's, the brisk and broad education, shine clearly as communicated by personal testimony, facts from NGO's and clips from activists and conferences.

Emma Thompson and director, Kat Rohrer gave context and further learning to a small and eager crowd at the Cinema Village in New York on Saturday 12th September.

Six more clips here


Friday, September 4, 2009

Female Firefighters and the Union in New York

I just wanted to share some video I made at a talk by author of Sisters in the Brotherhoods, Jane LaTour at the Women's eNews office in New York.

JoAnn Jacobs also spoke at the event, she was one of the first black female firefighters in NY and had a great deal of her life to share with us - I captured three Q&A's which shone a little light on being a woman in "a man's world"

I left the event with a greater feeling of the importance of oral histories, especially amongst women because our histories - the stories of women who have come before us, those that would act as superb role models and inspirations - get lost and ignored by those who have the power to record and keep these words, much to our detriment.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's hard not to hate American Apparel

You know some bandwagons are all to easy to get on, and hating American Apparel and their increasingly skin crawling, porn lite, prepostorous adverts is one of those.

We all know Don Charney's reputation for exploiting and sexually harassing his female staff, firing the aesthetically unpleasing as noted by his taste. (See the heavy link loaded recent article over at Jezebel)

I do love the UK, I love that we have the Advertising Standards Agency, even if they don't always come through for us, they have this time stepped up to stick the pen of reasonable imagery in advertising into the American Apparel empire's eye.

The challenge was put forward on a recent hoody add

The complainant challenged whether:

1. the depiction of nudity in the ad was offensive and unsuitable to appear on the back of a free magazine that could be seen by anyone, including children;

2. the ad was offensive and inappropriate, because the model seemed young and vulnerable and could be seen to sexualise a child.

AA defend their recent kiddie porn esque ads by saying

They said the ad focused on the hoody rather than the model and did not portray her as a sex object or in a negative or derogatory light.

They reiterated that the ad did not portray the model as a sex object, nor did it portray her in a manner that was negative or exploitative. There was no suggestion that she had been coerced into appearing in the photographs or that she was doing so against her will. AA strongly refuted the complainant's belief that the ad could be seen to sexualise a child.

They said the ad promoted a unisex product and therefore it sought to demonstrate the versatility of the fleece by showing the same model achieving six different looks. In that context, Vice believed that showing the fleece unzipped was justified to demonstrate how a man would wear it.


Where to start, AA's idea that the advert focused on the hoody and not the model literally made me wet my pants laughing - AA are not famed for a face but for the faceless contorted young female bodies they fetishize under the guise of focusing on the clothes.

That having the female model wearing the hoody unzipped would make guys think - "hey, this is a unisex item of clothing, I will buy it" is trash.

I'd respect their balls for showing so much front in supporting their brand if their slew of adverts didn't make me so disgusted I can't even go into their shops without needing to wash off the bad.

Images are everywhere, they bleed into life almost unnoticed and they frame our perception of the world, of other people and that is why we have to be careful with them. Images do not ask anything of us, they don't always raise a questioned response like text can and so we can absorb them, repeat, support and believe them.

Images which replicate pornography in advertising, something which creeps in as edgy ideas for those with no others, moves that imagery - often the submission of women to men - into the mainstream and I'm not OK with that. Women in submissive roles to men is not the norm, women to adorn and decorate proliferates but it is not my perfect world.

Now if only the ASA could have a broader knowledge of gender issues and the social implications of the sexualisation of all sectors of life, not just childhood...

2. Upheld
We noted the model was 23 years old and had been styled without make-up to give a natural look. We nevertheless considered that she appeared young, and in some of the pictures, looked under 16. We did not however consider that she appeared especially vulnerable.

While the ad depicted only partial nudity, we considered that the images were provocative with the model exposing progressively more skin in each photo in the series. We considered that the photographs suggested that she was stripping off for an amateur-style photo shoot.

Because the ad could be seen to sexualise a model who appeared to be a child, under the age of 16 years, we concluded that it was inappropriate and could cause serious offence to some readers.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 2.2 (Social responsibility) and 5.1 (Taste and decency).

The ad must not appear again in its current form.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Flex Your Muscles

What!!! The Krypton Factor!!

Since the show began in the 1977, there has been only one female winner out of a possible twenty. We had seven female contestants in the last series, none of which got through to the final. This series we would like an equal mix of men and women and it would be fantastic to have a woman in the final, or even better a woman to bear the title of Krypton Factor Champion 2010.

Last year The Krypton Factor returned in style for the 21st Century. Now
it’s your turn to prove you have the mental and physical abilities needed to become…

Krypton Factor Champion 2010!

If you have super-quick mental prowess, outstanding general knowledge and the physical strength and speed to surpass all others - this is the challenge for you.

We are looking for smart, athletic individuals to compete in the next series of The Krypton Factor,
presented by Ben Shephard.

Auditions will be held in September across the UK.

If you can prove you can apply the skills needed to win please visit: www.itv.com/thekryptonfactor.com

Applicants must be 18 or over and a current legal resident of the United Kingdom. Terms and conditions apply.

Deadline for applications is 17:00 on 16th September 2009

Off you go then, you powerful athletic bunch you!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

And the winner is...

As reported here boys this year overtook girls in maths GCSE. Why? Because of the eradication of the coursework and it being purely assessed now by exams; which, we are told, boys do better at. We are told "Coursework will be scrapped from nearly all GCSEs next year". I'm sorry but should we be rejoicing at this removal of coursework in future GCSEs because it means boys can statistically get ahead?

In The Guardian write-up, Mary Bousted (general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers) is quoted as saying:

The problem has been that in the 1960s and 1970s boys were getting 12-13% more O-level passes than girls and no one really talked about it. When girls started to do better there were Panorama programmes and inquiries and a national debate. There's a national panic if girls and women start to be successful. Girls have been more successful at GCSE and A-levels but that hasn't closed the gender pay gap. Even if they do better they don't get paid as much.

This is exactly the points I have stressed again and again in any writing on the gender gap in education - firstly this completely unjustified panic over girls 'doing better' than the boys and secondly the fact that despite what the qualification statistics show, better attainment at GCSE/A-Level does not equate with the better pay. Why can't female students be seen as 'doing better'? And why this stress on the "gender gap"? What about differences according to ethnicity or socio-economic background? Because I'm sure as hell that it's not every girl 'doing better' - what about those who aren't?

Teacher training courses emphasis the importance of differentiation and using a variety of techniques for learning and assessment in our lessons because no-one learns the same. We are told that coursework is becoming a problem because of plagiarism but then is that really a reason to remove what is potentially an effective assessment method for a large number of female students (if indeed we take the slightly deterministic argument that coursework benefits girls, exams boys)? Isn't reliance of assessment through exams not differentiating?

A side thought (not properly investigated or backed): I think it's telling that coursework is being removed at the educational stages where firstly girls are 'doing better' and secondly where girls and boys are present in proportional figures to the population when, for instance, no-one would dare suggest the removal of essays (or even dissertations!) at undergraduate level. It would be interesting to see whether such gendered patterns are present at this educational stage and the ratio of female to male undergraduates.


Monday, August 24, 2009

The Personal vs The Political

...feminism should be focused on real change and helping women. I've seen so much written this year about the dilemma of being a feminist who wants to get married that I don't think I can take it any more From We Mixed Our Drinks

Blog post prompted by the above over at femmedium


100 years of Girl Guides


This year is the centenary of the Girl Guides. I was a Brownie but never made it as far as the Girl Guides (the association seemed at odds with my increasing desire to become a rock star). I did love being a Brownie though and I think part of this was because it challenged preconceptions of what it meant to be a 'little girl'. At times yes, we indulged in activities and chores deemed female but there was a balance as we also were encouraged to take part in things that perhaps in our homes, or at school, would be seen as boyish (such as orienteering, camping, climbing trees). Brownies went well with my Enid Blyton world I guess, my nostalgic side sighs at the moves to modernise the association.

Where you a Brownie or Girl Guide? What are your thoughts?


For more on the Girls Guides Centenary see here.

Recent newspaper coverage at:
The Daily Express
The Guardian
The Independent
The Telegraph

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Round-up !

Some bits and pieces that have been going on..

Despite the right to vote, how much say in their future will the women of Afghanistan actually get? Women's eNews

Things to know about the history of UK immigration laws The F Word

Let's join the rest of the femisphere in saying, What the Fuck Germaine? Regarding the unfair and offensive gender testing of Gold Medal Winning athlete, Caster Semenya The Guardian

Pink Stinks goes live, sign up for their newsletter.

It's all about women, the gender agenda, Hilary's quest and much much more at The NYTimes magazine this week.

Research from the University of Exeter revealed that firms with female board members are negatively viewed by shareholders. Women in Technology


Harvest Festival, the Queer Chub way.

My favourite namesake, Charlotte Cooper - queer fat researcher, writer, thinker, doer etc, has set up a new blog and twitter account to provide up to date information on the queer chub harvest festival, Fat of the Land.

The Fat of the Land is a secular DIY fat queerifying of a traditional harvest gathering. These are a familiar part of the calendar for those of us who grew up in Britain, but we acknowledge that many cultures have their own harvest festival equivalent and we welcome multicultural interpretations of the theme.

The Fat of the Land is a DIY food festival, synthesizing interest in slow food, recession-busting, local food, 'make-and-do' etc with a fat queer sensibility.

The Fat of the Land will take place, Saturday 3 October 2009 at St Anne's, 55 Dean Street, Soho, London. Keep up to date, informed and get ready to celebrate.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Croatia Condemned by European Social Rights Body for Homophobic School Text Books

I couldn't pass this over when it dropped in my email box this week.

the European Committee of Social Rights, which monitors state compliance with the European Social Charter, has found that Croatia’s limited curriculum covering sex education discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

I know! It stings.

The complaint alleged that one of the country’s state-sponsored sex education programs TeenStar violated young people’s basic rights to health and non-discrimination. TeenStar’s abstinence-based curriculum teaches that condoms do not prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, that gay relationships are “deviant,” and that stay-at-home mothers make for better families. The complaint also addressed the lack of a comprehensive mandatory sexuality education curriculum, as required by Article 11 of the European Social Charter.

But, in good news.

In its decision, the Committee stated that governments that have signed the European Social Charter are obliged to provide scientifically-based and non-discriminatory sex education to youth that does not involve censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting information such as on contraception. The Committee recommended that such education be provided throughout the entire period of schooling. It stated that sexual and reproductive health education should be aimed at developing the capacity of children and young people to understand their sexuality in its biological and cultural dimensions with the aim of enabling them to make responsible decisions with regard to sexual and reproductive health behavior.

And that, is the day today.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How gender stereotypes hurt men

It's only a minor irk, but an irk none-the-less.

While traipsing through the Times website I came across two stories about men, one was featured in the women's section and the other firmly placed in the mens.

The first article, Same sex adoption: our new life as Dad and Daddy, is just a really wonderful article written by one of said Dad's. The article follows their adapting to life with a new, it bursts with love and pride and all these good things. But it's in the women's section. A story about two men, about fatherhood, is deemed of no interest to men? Or is it simply that a story about families is of better interest to a female readership? It just seems like a missed trick to show the diversity of men, that it's not all cars, sport, fashion...

The second article, We Can't Help Staring!, is not only total gender stereotyped drivel that hopes to firmly place men in their place as misogynist, idiot sex droids, but is illustrated with the ill-famed image of Obama supposedly checking out a young ladies arse... which, you know, he wasn't

It would seem the Times are pretty sure how they want their men, and that is entirely tied up in tired old stereotypes that forge the tired old idea of women, the occasional nags who should know how to please all men or suffer lonliness and ridicule.


Lets talk about sex Lon-don

The London Assembly have released a draft report looking at the sexual health of London's young people. Despite their efforts, changes in services and the way they work, London's teens still appear to have the worst access to effective sexual health information and education.

The paper was drafted by a committee of 6 politicians, including the BNP (balk) and only featuring one woman. It is an update from a paper in 2005, and unfortunately there haven't been any great sweeping changes.

The report early on points to "negative gender stereotypes, insufficient sex and
relationship education in schools, a lack of local prioritisation
and a lack of regional leadership on the issue of young people’s
sexual health.
" as barriers in improvement of teenage sexual health in London. And goes on to recommend sexual health media campaigns and social marketing to combat these.

They also champion some kind of city wide leadership with "a senior London health professional should be appointed as a champion on sexual health and teenage pregnancy.
They should highlight good practice and encourage its implementation across London;

Ever more interesting though, amongst the stats for rising and falling rates of infection, pregnancy and what not, is the look to the media for their need to take a more responsible stance on sexuality and sexual images.

Public health experts told us they are concerned about the way the media use sex and sexual relations for commercial purposes without consideration of how young people can be supported to make what can be life-changing choices.

We heard that negative attitudes towards women, such as those represented in some music video clips and the media, influence the way young people interact in relationships including their sexual ones.37 These gender inequalities impact on young
people’s ability to negotiate safe sex and respect within relationships.

At the same time, the NHS could use the media more effectively when conducting sexual health campaigns, as the wide range of messages being sent out can be confusing.

The report winds up with specific recommendations-

The Committee makes specific recommendations to address the barriers to improving young people's sexual health in London:

* Sex and relationship education should be a core component of the soon-to-be
mandatory personal, social and health education curriculum
* Pan-London branding and improved sharing of good practice and joint working for
the chlamydia screening programme and sexual health media campaigns.
* The Mayor's forthcoming Health Inequalities Strategy should include measures to
improve young Londoners' sexual health and reduce rates of teenage pregnancy.
* A sexual health champion should be appointed to encourage the implementation of
good practice across the capital.

Read More Here


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Harriet Harm Done

Ain't linguistics a bitch?

Had the Daily Mail not carved up one statement from Harriet Harman this week I feel that many peoples shackles would not be up. They'd be on team, we'd all be on team calling out the bullshit misogyny and derailing of her work that is happening so crazy blatantly.

Yes by forcibly making your readers/listeners/watchers believes a handful of words meant Harriet hated men, didn't trust them, thought them two dimensional sexist stereotypes, you can entirely overlook the fact that men can't be left to run everything alone, not because they're inept, though I'm sure some are, but because looking passed gender privilege does not come naturally.

In one week Harriet has shown what could be done if parliament thought it important, if men felt more ready to champion causes that don't directly effect their everyday thoughts and so on and so forth.

This has been covered fabulously and not all over the interweb and news things, roll around in it, have some fun.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Less Airbrushing, more reality

A short one...

Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrat's proposals for improving the media's portrayl of women at Comment is Free.


Lessons on Forming Nonviolent Relationships Really As Easy As ABC?

Today’s The Daily Mail reported on Harriet Harman’s initiative to tackle domestic violence through compulsory lessons on forming healthy relationships for children five and upwards. Before I explain my views on Harman’s proposals, I just want to comment briefly on the presentation of this news by The Daily Mail. The author of this piece seems to me intent on criticizing, and rallying criticism for, the initiative from the word go – the headline line alone begins Lessons about wife-beating at five which to me would suggest the article is going to be about something advocating wife-beating to children, immediately conjuring your distaste, instead of action to combat domestic violence. Secondly, again featured in the headline before even getting to the report, is the use of the expression yet another feminist initiative. ‘Yet another’ suggests disdain at the proposals from Harman and indeed any action in initiated by feminist beliefs. To actually label an initiative as ‘feminist’ suggests to me that people straight away are going to look disapprovingly on the idea because of the negative connotations of feminist/feminism. And the majority of the comments on the web-site with regards to this piece follow suit. So congratulations TDM firstly on the sensitive presentation of such a piece…

Onto Harman’s initiative and the body of the article itself…I can immediately see benefits and problems to this. When TDM reports that

Pupils as young as five will be taught about the evils of 'wife beating' and the need to form healthy relationships. The lessons are part of a controversial drive, unveiled today, to reduce violence against women and young girls. They will include teaching boys that they must not beat their partners or any other female.

I think hey! This doesn’t sound so bad! What is there not to like about a) teaching children about forming healthy relationships and b) reducing violence against women and young girls. Slightly off-putting the way it is deemed a controversial drive (because the notion of combating violence against women/young girls is way out there with, I don’t know, outlawing McDonald’s…) but so far looking good.

Last night, critics warned that ministers are cramming the already over-stuffed National Curriculum with lessons that should be taught in the home or in the community.

This has been an ongoing battle with PSHE. A colleague of mine, when speaking of the subject, would call it “PSHE…or things your parents should be teaching you”. In all honesty, yes it is things you should be taught at home/in the community as an important part of your growing-up but the argument is that this isn’t always being done. PSHE evolved from the early notions that education should be producing ‘good’ citizens socialized into the shared norms and values of our society (so New Right) and so of course when it was deemed that the family was not doing their part (government would cite rising statistics of single mothers/offenders as their proof for this) then the education system should pick up where the parents left off (or even out). I acknowledge that, yes, PSHE is largely what you should be taught at home/in the community (and which a number of us still are taught there) but that until we can ensure this is being done, the education system does appear the only means of attempting to ensure such teaching.

Putting it into practice further, the idea becomes less appealing:

The lessons will be part of the National Curriculum and are likely to be taught in Personal, Social and Health Education classes, which are attended by children from the age of five. Teachers will also be given new guidance on tackling 'gender bullying'.

Now I am not particularly convinced that firstly this would work in practice and secondly that it would have the desired effect. My first concern comes from my experience of teaching PSHE in Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14 approximately) which has demonstrated that the learners, on the whole, dislike the subject. It is not deemed academic; it is not an option which they pick for GCSE; it is not formally assessed as such – all these things contribute to learners not seeing any potential value to the subject (again, on the whole, as there are always a handful who put in the effort/work regardless). So my concern is that this may work in practice for a small minority, but not for the larger majority. Factor into this the impact the introduction of such lessons/curriculum has on teachers, and the education establishment as a whole. An added concern here is how such a sensitive issue would be approached. A year or so ago OCR removed the topic of Child Abuse from their AS-level Sociology course because of the implications of teaching such a sensitive topic and possible impact on learners. Wouldn't this warrant similar concerns?

The most eye-catching proposal in the document is the one to force schools to introduce statutory lessons in 'educating children and young people about healthy, nonviolent relationships'.

I love the idea of children and young people learning about healthy, nonviolent relationships but here we come to how I don’t think such lessons would have the desired effect. Making children and young people aware of violence against women may have positive aspects but as these lessons will not cover violence against men then I believe such lessons will run the risk of further instilling gender differences in young girls and boys. By acknowledging only violence against women and valuing this above violence against men, I believe we would only be purporting that violence against women is justified. If as young children we are brought into a discourse of violence against women I think this could potentially be internalized and acknowledged as we grow older that such violence happens against women, and not men, because of something fundamentally different in them. And though I am not saying this will mean the next generation committing violence against women as a result, I think this will result in further justification of women’s inferior position and treatment.

They pointed out the new classes will not cover violence against men, who are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime. This is despite evidence showing that boys and young men are more than twice as likely to fall victim to violence, and that young women are becoming increasingly aggressive.

I do agree with the criticism of the initiative not covering violence against men. Not because they are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime but firstly because of the argument I have expressed above and secondly because I think the commonly held assumption of, say, domestic violence as violence against women by men needs to be addressed. This is not going to be addressed by navigating away from discussion of violence against men in lessons focusing on healthy, nonviolent relationships. This then suggests that such violence is not important. Not only is domestic violence underreported by women, it is underreported by men who have been victims. Surely keeping the discussion of violence against men behind closed doors is not helping to correct such misrepresentation?


End Note: I am aware that I have focused my line of thought predominantly on domestic violence and it is slightly presumptuous (and hypocritical) of myself to have done so when talking about an initiative combating ‘violence against women’ (which was not expressed as merely domestic violence) and criticizing others for their assumptions on the same issue.

Live debate: when did feminism lose the plot?

Point A. When you posit a question like 'when did feminism lose the plot?' what you're saying it 'feminism has lost the plot' but you should be saying is 'when did the mainstream media co-opt feminism as a buzz word for anything with tits?"

The Alpha Mummy blog are holding a live chat to debate "When did Feminism lose the plot" If you can remove your head from the desk for just one second I hope you'll head over there to represent the good feminist word. We don't just congregate with Object. We're everywhere, thinking feminist thoughts, changing our lives and the lives of others in lovely good ways.

Considering at least one of the comments on the companion piece by Janice Turner there could be some of the patriarchy crying about how equality for women will ruin their shiny world.

Wednesday (today!) 1pm at the Times Website.

Off you go then...


Tuesday, August 4, 2009


So. I'm not in the country at the moment (sorry, should have asked you to sit down first!) but I have sparked a little interest in something on the BBC and I was wondering if anyone had seen it, or who might watch on the iPlayer and let us all know if it's any whack.

The Trouble With Girls

Britain's young women are committing nearly 40 per cent more crimes than six years ago, and they're beginning to catch up with boys in the violence and theft rates. Filmed over six months, this observational documentary tells the stories of two of the young women behind these statistics, whose lives are stuck in the criminal justice system.

20-year-old Shona from Doncaster and 17-year-old Abbie from York have both been arrested dozens of times and imprisoned three times each. We meet them as Shona is coming to the end of her probation period, and when Abbie is released from a Young Offenders' Institute and moves into a hostel. Both girls want to go straight and sort their lives out, but it's not as easy as either hope. Abbie's drinking and partying lifestyle means that within days of her release she's breaching her electronic tag order and missing appointments with her Youth Offending Team. Shona, briefly free of the criminal justice system, is soon shoplifting again with her best friend Jodie.

Over the months, it becomes clear that binge-drinking and drug-taking, trips to court, and packing for prison have become a normal way of life for Shona and Abbie. Both are given second chances to turn their lives around and seem happier for it, but good intentions quickly unravel and the prospect of prison looms large again for these girls.

While Shona and Abbie may seem tough on the surface, between them they struggle to cope with difficult relationships with their parents, self-esteem, homelessness and the reality of job-hunting with a criminal past. Sometimes they wonder whether life in prison is a preferable option to life on the outside


Breast of Both Worlds?

When the first story based around the bare breasted backlash in France I grimaced at the fact the once again feminist thought and action are being only reported if they’re based entirely around our female forms - do we want to wear high heels? is it ok to get plastic surgery? is it feminist to sunbathe topless? Of course, the Guardian subsequently published stories, for and against the next day and launched an online flip book of iconic sunbathing images and an audio file.

By the end of that long week I had shrugged off my concerns with this topic when a story appeared on the BBC, and then not far behind it was covered on Women's Hour.

So, seeing as the breast story monster is chasing me I just want to mention some problematic factors with discussing baring breasts as ownership of your sexuality when breasts are sold as sexuality by every media outlet, every advertiser, every film pornographic or not. And when you start talking about tits being political where do we put breast feeding into the equation? The bare breast in the infants mouth for some reason sends the nut jobs all the more nuttier and they express repulsion and feel intent on shaming women who are doing something natural.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Moral Lesson from the Daily Mail : You whores will probably get what's coming to you

The Daily Mail is a newspaper that can only be described as offensive to the feminist sensibilities, it is an odious rag that peddles dirty gender stereotypes, xenaphobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogony. But, it is a dirty rag that a lot of people read and in the process of doing so subconsciously learn to parrot and defend the confusing and conflicting beliefs that come from the vile pens of people who write and edit it - and so we have to engage with it to some extent, to deconstruct the copy, riddled as it is with contradictions, so we can disarm it, or bring light to its problematic form.

I drift on and off the Daily Mail in my daily scour for news and occasionally I manage to get passed glimpsing the images and headlines and read one of the articles, today I read a story about a young woman called Amy Barnes who was murdered by a violent boyfriend she had tried to leave. The story is of course heartbreaking and a stark reminder that domestic violence, and violence against women is endemic in our world, but it is written in an insulting way.

The Headline : Killed by a tawdry dream: How the obsession to become a WAG led this beautiful girl into the arms of a violent psychopath

And so, the problems begin.

The DM roll out a list of Amy’s achievements they approve of, good grades, good school and then sneak in a disapproving look at her lifestyle of hanging around footballers, posing provocatively in hot outfits under the guise of backstory. It reads like the Daily Mail perhaps believe that if Amy had worked harder at being a voiceless woman, without sexuality, who stayed on at school and worked hard to reach their standards of normal and good she would still be alive.

killed by a man who - had she not been sucked into the tawdry world of nightclubs and footballers - she would probably have never met.

The Daily Mail is one of many media outlets which champions the subservient women, and where possible - the naked sexually subservient women. It uses women, consuming and dominating and embodies the insanity of the madonna | whore complex; asking first for women to guard and conceal their sexuality but to offer it up on demand, oiled and slicked, when wanted or deemed necessary by men. They may be happy to snipe at WAG culture and ‘the tawdry world of nightclubs and footballers’ but these are the things the DM feels are worthy of coverage, these are the people interesting, cool, sexy people that they choose to feature and champion. It’s schizophrenic to say the very least.

We’re made extremely aware, by the opening picture and statements that despite what it may seem from the saucy images and opinions of Amy and her friends, that they feel are necessary to frame a story about domestic violence and murder, she is really a good girl so it's alright to feel sorry for her.

'Apart from anything else, she had a big heart. From an early age, she did voluntary work: helping at pensioners' tea parties at Christmas, teaching disadvantaged youngsters performing arts (Amy inherited her mother's artistic genes) and working at a disabled riding school.'

Safe in the assumption this white beautiful woman's life was worth savign, the Mail chooses to run Amy’s life through the ringers, posting pictures of her and her friends in sometimes revealing outfits posed in provocative positions, that no doubt have been learned from mainstream media outlets like the Daily Mail with their porn culture imagery. The turning point of the tone for me comes at the statement ‘Morrison, who we now know had a history of violence against women, had only one real selling point for a certain type of girl

A certain type of girl’ is not a phrase that readily offers a friendly reading, it is often coached with the sort of statements that confer slut shaming, and could easily be a set up to saying only certain girls are stupid enough to go out with violent boys... perhaps they’re getting what they deserve... but they don’t write that, just imply it.

They imply when they post then and now pictures of a innocent, desexualised young girl and a bottle blonde, glassy eyed sexy woman - where did it all go wrong, one would imagine they were thinking.

The article turns into a shame parade, a long passage of text describes in detail the poses and outfits these young women are wearing in group pictures, it is out of this world.

'A friend has posted a snap of Amy in a pink negligee, stockings and suspenders and 'bunny' ears.'

'Another shows Amy in a top with the word 'Sex' emblazoned across it'

'The 'picture' shows the friends baring their cleavage at a promotion by lads' magazine Nuts.'

'Heather Stretch, wears black bra and panties and stilettos.'

I suppose the editors can’t decide if the readership should be furious or just furiously wanking. The nature of the beast; raunch culture as peddled by those pretending to live some higher moral code of old fashioned proper behaviour.

You can dress it up however you want, the Daily Mail is standing in judgement of all women, along with Amy Barnes, they're not reporting about domestic violence and the loss of women's lives this is a moral lesson for the readers: this is what will happen if you don’t do what we think is proper personal conduct. And while they punish women in print for what they praise in pictures they continue to uphold stringent, suffocating parodies for women to exist in.

The Daily Mail need to get a clue, fuck them for victim blaming, for undermining the lives of women lost to domestic violence, for judging women on lifestyles they've peddled on their pages.

So what is it that turns bright, respectable young girls into women who like to be photographed in a few scraps of clothing, and for whom some half-witted footballer is the ultimate prize?

Fuck me, it’s not the mainstream media is it?


V is for Voicebox

Voicebox is a new (to me, at least) site collating data on youth and young peoples opinions.

Each month, we’ll have new themes, and you’ll be able to play with the results by age, gender, location and ethnicity. And remember, this isn’t our data, this is your data. So we are inviting people to use our data and do fancy things like cross-tabbing, create their own visualisations, pick out random statistics for the community or get campaigning.

It's a great place to get a peak at what people are thinking, there's some telling stuff about opinions on teenage mums already, and it would be nice to see the data used as a starting point for debate and conversations with the age group the site is targeting. Their sample is great, around 2000 so far, and growing and the data is presented in quite beautiful ways.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Lady Rantalot : This is what a feminist looks like and therefore her only definition

Ellie Levenson’s article in today’s Gaurdian heralded another blocking and defense of her recently published book the Noughtie’s Girl Guide to Feminism, which the feminist blogosphere has pretty much rejected and Guardian columnist Libby Brooks gave the shakedown in the same publication.

My belief is that women, and pro-feminist men, come to feminism because they feel something isn’t quite right with the world. They might not know what’s wrong, they might not have had that crystal moment when they suddenly think “I’m being treated differently because I’m a woman” but they commit to finding out what that thing is and feminism is a mighty handy tool.

When Ellie Levenson says in her article today that “feminism should not be scary” she’s right, but feminism is kind of scary. That long sticky process of looking at your life, and the lives of those around you and systematically picking apart the tiny intertwined fibres of modern times is hard, and it can be upsetting, especially when you realise that the inequalities you begin see are dismissed off hand by your nearest and dearest. This process of looking at those things in life considered ‘the done thing’ or, dare I say it, ‘normal’ - including shaving, make up wearing etc - is an important part of coming to understand the construction of social interactions and expectations and how they impact on both genders by oppressing and limiting their experience of life without equality.

However, in her book and recent journalistic exploits, Levenson’s constant reliance on looking at feminism from the outside in, bodies, clothes, make up and the like, rather than on intent, action and change is thin and listless. It fails to take in the entire scope of feminism as a political movement and stops at pick n’ mixing almost harmless points, creating a route where those who do choose to conform to gender norms (prescribed levels of make up, shaving etc) can give themselves a hearty pat on the back and call it feminist.

This obsession with the appearance of feminists - that is so endlessly touted by the mainstream media in their re-imagining of a feminist now deviating from their original construct of the hairy pitted, man-hater, to their fresh “noughties” construct of girls gone wild, fragrant and fashion friendly - is a distraction from the movement, and a distraction from the real point of being a feminist.

It disables feminist activists by reducing them once again to eye candy, to hot or not, for their worth to be counted on their looks in relation to their willingness to conform to social norms of beauty. After all, if anyone can call themselves a feminist, without challenging societal norms and hierarchical structures which mean that a persons gender, race and sexual preference will lead to specific pre-determined outcomes, then there is nothing to fear from those who are happy with their status quo (say, in our patriarchal, white society)

I do agree with Ellie that two great tenants of feminism are ‘equality and choice’ however that does not make a every choice, enacted and accessed freely, a feminist choice - it is just a choice feminism has helped you access. I personally think to tout feminism as the freedom to do whatever the fuck you want is a symptom of (often white) middle class privilege, because those choices are unlikely to be as easy to reach for someone of a different class, or race. It also blindsides the fact that people do not exist in individual bubbles, every action we take reflects and refracts through society and as a feminist you have to be prepared to realise some of these choices lead to the oppression and exploitation of women you can’t see of hear. Or they uphold stringent gender binaries in society that blocks men and women from experiencing their lives outside a concrete set of gender requirements.

Whether or not it is her belief, through her book and her ensuing articles defending and advertising it, she has painted herself as a cheerleader for the patriarchy dressed up in a fluffy form of feminism. I do think it was a feminism I would have adhered to as a 18 year old girl, uncomfortable with distancing myself from the positive reinforcement of conforming to societies needs for me, but as I’ve grown and realised you can’t have your cake and eat it, I can only recognise it as a divisive and confused message to women.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mired in the Gap

A new report out from the Women and Work commission points to utterly depressing figures showing that the pay gap between men and women is beginning to widen again after a decade of closing.

Anne Perkins has a great commentary about why it continues to exist - that is occupational segregation, women being more prevalent in the severely underpaid in the 5 c's caring, catering, cashiering, cleaning and clerical

I think there's a point to be made that we should have better pay rate in these jobs that are severely socially undermined but oh so important, better cash - no doubt - would lead to more males choosing it as a possible career, more opportunities to remove gender profiling for work. If we continue to undervalue them, saying that they are jobs not worth holding then who picks up the slack and remains exploited by our work system?

A lot of the negative commentary around this issue is that women choose to leave work when they have children, they choose to go into lower paid, part time work full stop. Well to me that doesn't ring true. As always choice is the important part of these accusations, how much choice exists in this world free of pressure from family/friends/society/the bills stacking up at the door etc etc

This isn't a problem we're going to fix today, or tomorrow but we need to keep it forefront, stem the growth of the pay gap, get talking, get active, get fixing.


Pregnancy is just another kind of fatness...

While trawling the Daily Mail website for articles that make my teeth grate (I know, I have no idea why I do it) I came across one of those oh so joyous weight loss adds, only.. isn't the before image a thin pregnant woman?

I don't even know where to begin.

I'm not linking you to the site, because I don't know how to do that clever thing where they don't get more hits from us visiting in disgust. But if you do want to know what's on there, DM try to shame Kirstie Allsop for possibly having some facial hair, DM feel it necessary to add that new mother Kate Garraway is 42, Gemma Atkinson dissapoints by wearing clothes in public and the DM desperately strain to get a picture of Rhianna's pretty pasties under her top.

Go team.


Little Miss Are You Really Doing This To Your Child?

Hot on the heels of Pink Stinks revulsion at child beauty pageants The Illusionists, film in progress and brilliant blog, linked me to these terrifying pictures of teeny youth beauty contestants. Cue crying.

Images by Susan Anderson


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Drowning in the Shallow End: Third Wave Feminism

I was linked to this great article in Conducive Magazine by a fellow twitterer @ShelbyKnox

Drowning in the Shallow End: Third Wave Feminism
looks at the creation of the third wave, the problems, the possibilities and the future.

In the 1990s a new generation of women heralded the dawn of a new feminist era. But does declaring a “new wave” - particularly one that equates individual lifestyle choices with activism, consumer power with feminism, and diversity with racial equality - make for a feminist social movement?

Heather Tirado Gilligan explores this issue through interviews with feminist scholar Jane Elliott, Colorlines managing editor Daisy Hernandez, lesbian filmmaker Aishah Simmons, and Chicana feminist Cherrie Moraga. Gilligan proposes feminists drop the wave metaphor and organize around the less socially palatable but more pressing goal of addressing inequities.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oh sister, I haven't misjudged beauty pageants or Why I don't agree with India Knight

Excuse the long rant, but...

I have a knee jerk reaction to columnists. Commenting on things is relatively easy, especially when you can frame everything by your own thoughts rather than research, rather than journalism. But before I get into my usual whinge about newspapers being more about individual comment than reporting and researched opinion, lets have a little peak at India Knight’s column for The Sunday Times about finally learning to love beauty pageants. A post where I will counter her opinion, with my opinion.

India’s revulsion of the beauty pageant has been recently replaced with one of the myriad of entrapments of modern raunch culture, a ‘realisation’ that objectification can’t hurt us if we say we want to be objectified. The idea always brings me back to Audre Lorde’s idea that the masters tools will not bring down the masters house, in this situation, to me, that is freedom from the many oppressions and problems that come from being treated as objects will not come from siding with the actions and ideas that make us such. I can understand wanting to revel in attention of others but when all your other achievements are listed under a title of beauty and male relation (as Miss England’s Rachel Christie’s are by India) I feel it somehow negates those achievements without that beauty, that beauty is what makes this woman a real successful sports woman.

India says she doesn’t ‘feel sorry’ for Rachel and she doesn’t ‘think [Rachel] humiliated herself’ so one would assume that these were her previous judgements on women who chose to take part in the blanket of beauty competitions around the world. I’m not a fan of beauty pageants but I’ve never felt so above them as to condescend that they’re “poor, pretty simpletons [who] are just too thick to think for themselves” We all make our choices - feminist or not - we make them because we know they’re the right choices for us. To get forward, to excel and succeed.

The power of beauty in our society is a strong one, we are constantly reminded by the press that beauty, as dictated by societal values, is central to our success (India runs a quick list of these). So why would you choose to refuse that instant reward, that shortcut to having your hard work and achievements given air to the world without having to work twice as hard just to get a look in? It’s a route, often the route, paved out for many women to take, and it takes a whole lot of effort to deny the rewards that come from showing a bit of leg, slapping on the prescribed amount of make-up, showing the correct amount of interest and knowing your place.

Being against beauty pageants for many women is not a cry of the gnarled feminist movement trying to constrict the existence of women we think aren’t trying hard enough. It is a cry of the feminist movement in all it’s continuing growth and freshness, backed by the knowledge of our older sisters who have been fighting this shit for too long, and the backlash of younger women still being forced to perform for their acceptance in what is invariably a mans world.

India’s conclusion that our feminist voices “fail to take into account how fantastically good women have become at objectifying themselves over the past 30 years - not because they’re stupid or misguided when it comes to sexual politics, but because they like it.” is the embodiment of the biggest fraud of our society. That women do not need to be relieved of their oppressions, of the objectification that undermines us at work, on the street in the structure of complex relationships with friends, lovers and strangers because they enjoy these oppressions. Don’t balk if I point you towards Dworkin’s four elements of subordination for structural notes, element three.

India Knight is right, Rachel Christie is an inspiration, she’s an accomplished athlete who specialised in the heptathalon, she trains six days a week, she has passion and talent and is everything the young women of our society need to know about to know they too can be great women. They need to know women do make damn fine participators in sport and not just bit players and cheerleaders. Rachel is also the first black woman to win the pageant title, which does something to subvert the winning ideals of the all white tendencies of Western beauty standards, that's a whole other post. The travesty is that women in sport are so undervalued that Rachel had to fund her athletics training through beauty pageants, and some journalists feel the need to qualify her achievements by highlighting a famous sportsman uncle. Nobody valued this amazing sportswoman until she has proved herself to be beautiful, and now she has society will reward her, with cash prizes, with sponsorship deals. She deserves this money, and as a talented black British woman she deserves our support and attention as she heads towards competitions of her talents, and her passion, and her training.

But she shouldn’t have to spend her time playing the beauty game to get ahead in her arena of excellence, she trains six days a week, she shouldn’t have to tout her body to be recognised for her hurdling, sprinting, jumping, javalining and shotputting. I can’t help but think if women were valued for their actions, their achievements that were made beyond the suffocation of our appearances we would be in a very different position, and that Rachel would have got the money and attention she deserves as an athlete before having to fall back on her beauty.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Issue 7 Review

Pamflet Magazine give some love to issue 7 of Subtext Magazine over at their online blog. Always appreciated.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Looking at another blog...

Over at Obesity Timebomb

Britain's Next Fat Dyke Top Model
...could be you. DIVA, the UK-based lesbian magazine, are publishing a Fat-themed issue this autumn and are looking for folks to model for them.


Call for Papers: The Somatechnics of Size: Queer Interventions

At the F Word

Why rape jokes aren’t harmless fun.

Pam Spaulding
via Feministing

Faux News: new Surgeon General nom 'too fat' to serve

Women and Hollywood hit epic proportions

Milestone Reached at Women & Hollywood: 1,000 Posts

Pink Stinks
get a newsletter, sign up.

So, what do you know?


Access to abortion services in the USA

In an informative and highly disturbing segment, Rachel Maddow goes through all the ways different states block access to abortion. Many states require a 24 hour waiting period, ensuring women have to make two seperate trips; several states have only one abortion provider; others heavily restrict insurers from covering the procedure, etc. etc.

Head over to Alternet to check out the video segment.

[copy taken from Alternet page]


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feminst Book Group (Lincoln)

We're starting a feminist book group in Lincoln so come join us! Monthly meetings, one book per month to read and discuss (chosen by members). Venue and first meeting date TBC once we rally some more interest. It would be wonderful to get this going - we need some communication between feminists in Lincoln!

Join the facebook group or email lauraannway@googlemail.com to express interest.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lars von Trier's Antichrist

I stumbled across this piece on The Guardian site earlier today. It concerns Lars von Trier's Antichrist which premiered at this year's Cannes and has generated quite some talk, particularly concerning the act of female genital mutilation involved in the film. Scroll down for a range of comments, including opinion from Julie Bindel.


Monday, July 13, 2009

The Fat of the Land

My delightful namesake Charlotte Cooper over at the Obesity Timebomb blog linked to the NOLOSE grant winners now on the NOLOSE site. For those not in the now, NOLOSE is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to ending the oppression of fat people and creating vibrant fat queer culture.

This years lucky winners include a London Performance, The Fat of The Land - a Queer Chub Harvest Festival on Saturday October 3rd 2009.

I don't know much about it yet but a quick search brings up Jason Elvis, this years programmer of the LGBT film festival at the BFI London, as being involved which can only be good news.

More as we know it.


Thursday, July 9, 2009


I went to see Offside at the Amnesty building in London last night a part of the Iranian Women's Film festival that has been running since the end of June.

Offside was a fantastic film about a group of young women thrown together when they were caught trying to sneak into the 2006 World Cup Qualifier between Iran and Bahrain. It was really interestingly put together in that the woman who kick started the narrative took a back seat throughout most of the film as the lives of others filtered through the film, only to move up to the centre and front of the narrative again at the end, bringing the film to a close.

The final film of the series, The Day I Became a Woman, is screened on 21st July. Book tickets to avoid dissapointment!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Noughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism - Ellie Levenson


I was eagerly anticipating the release of this book, so much so that I pre-ordered my copy off Amazon (though is it just me or is it a bit strange that under 'Customers who bought this item also bought...' there is only the Godfather trilogy listed? Anyway...) The book arrived in all its 'chick-lit style' glory (chosen to do so by Levenson) and the first thing I noticed was the straightforward nature of its layout with chapters divided up into: the sisterhood, language, sex, work, play, the body beautiful, how not to be a domestic goddess, love and marriage, children and forward feminism. And, alongside the witty comments that I welcomed also in Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti, this was the book's finest moment. Because past the giggles and the accessible layout I felt that Levenson really did live up to how she characterises a noughtie feminist: full of contradictions.

The book ends on the the chapter entitled 'Forward Feminism' which looks at what steps could be taken to further improve women's position in society. Suggestions include 'Women's History Month' or a 'feminist curriculum' in which it is ensured that history classes talk about women's role in history - Levenson stresses this as important yet at the beginning of the book these were things stated that she herself would not be covering in her writing. Surely if this is a guide then this is excluding readers who perhaps do not have any prior knowledge of the women's movement, and is indeed suggesting that this is in the past and not of such an importance? Aha! The first contradiction...

The chapter on Sex was a particularly difficult one for me to get my head around. Firstly Levenson focuses here, as she does in other capacities, on heterosexual relationships which I felt completely ignores the diversity of feminism today and misses a very important point. Whether or not you yourself are heterosexual or homosexual, it does not, in my eyes, mean you cannot discuss alternative sexualities or the importance of sexuality freedom. Secondly I want to raise what I felt was the distasteful handling of rape in her book. Levenson claims:

But is it (rape) as bad as being violently attacked by a stranger down a dark alley and not knowing whether you will live or die? No - page 65

Well, in some cases that is what exactly what rape involves and even when it does not, one's experience of being raped is completely subjective in that feelings regarding the experience can differ from one victim to another. To some rape indeed is as bad as the example above, if not worse, because of the felt violation of your own body. Something perhaps being attacked physically does not even compare to.

An additional comment on the layout then. Whilst the book itself, as I mentioned previously, is really accessible with clear themed chapters, these chapters are further subdivided. These snippets often felt under-developed and inconclusive as arguments in their own right, or indeed as contributions to a bigger ongoing debate. I was often left wanting more. Ellie Levenson talks about choice and contradictions characterising Noughtie Girl Feminism and she's certainly got the contradiction criteria fulfilled. And whilst I am all for this notion of choice it at times feels stretched too thin. Yes, we as women do have choices (and so we should) but we do need some common thread running through the feminist movement for it indeed to be a feminist movement. Being known as those without a coherent message or those full of contradictions, is not going to help our cause.

Amazon Item Description


Far Out Women

Look, I'm just going to block quote a whole tonne of words from the Far Out website, and leave you to get all excited about some real not for cock lesbian storylines.

Far Out is a tell-it-how-it-is window on the lives of a group of friends living in London. Already being hailed as the lesbian Queer As Folk, and drawing comparisons with This Life, Far Out is the creation of new talent Faye Hughes.

The project is the realisation of more than four years’ hard work and determination for Hughes. After touting her script – unsuccessfully – to a number of broadcasters including the BBC’s Writers Room, she has raised backing to launch the show online.

She says: “The media is so out of touch in the way it portrays gay women. Lesbians are either unattractive dykes, ball-breaking shrews or lentil-eating hippies with hairy armpits – and we’re all gagging to ‘convert’ straight women. Thankfully you can no longer portray gay men in this way – but lesbians still seem to be fair game”.

“With Far Out, I wanted to show what life for gay women is really like. That we have real and valid relationships, that we can be butch dykes or girly girls or anything in between, that we have kids, responsible jobs, families, ambitions and aspirations. We can honestly say that we are telling our story from experience, this isn’t a group of men sat in a board room making a series for money”

So, put it in the diary, watch it online, and wait for a TV comission. Oh and check the site and follow them on twitter @FAROUTTV


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Catch Up

OK. Things have been a little fast and loose this week and we've had nothing up on the blog, so let me point you in the direction of some interesting reading.

Over at Obesity Timebomb Charlotte Cooper (that would be, the other Charlotte Cooper) writes some great fat politics stuff and things quite as outrageous and fun as her review of the launch of Beth Ditto's new line: Beth Ditto for Evans Launch aka I taught Kate Moss how to do Donut Hands

In the weeks of eye watering boredom they call Wimbledon Louise France takes the time to point out that the camera men are more interested in the bouncing of buxom anatomies than of tennis balls: Boys, let's focus on the balls, not the belles

Feminist Webs, who featured on the back pages of Issue 7 Subtext, have announced the next stages in their work funded by a Rosa grant. They will be looking for contribution Tuesday 6th July in Manchester: Contribute: Feminist Webs Launch Meeting and Upcoming Events

Continuing the effects of Ada Lovelace Day, women and men are being invited to take some time out for tech and the roles women and have played in it at Bletchley Park, the seriously interesting and underfunded jewel in the computing crown of Great Britain. More over at The F-Word: Women of Bletchley Park

Kira Cochrane, women's editor at the Guardian questions those Tampax ad's: Can more men be persuaded to buy Tampax?


A new book, Fat Studies in the UK, edited by Corinna Tomrley and Ann Kaloski Naylor is released this month at a reasonable £15. The book, a series of essays inspired by the British UK Fat Studies seminar held in York in May 2008, will be helping to bring the importance of fat politics back to feminism and the wide world: Advance Notice
of our exciting new book Fat Studies in the UK


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Once More With Feeling

I made the best of my Saturday by popping over to the Tate Modern in London to see some of the performances for Once More With Feeling. Unfortunately we couldn't get tickets to the evening events (if anyone did, do let us know!) but we did catch two of the daytime events, the 7000 year old woman performed by Lucy Thane and Tea for Thought, Davina Drummond and Nadine Jarvis's participatory rosettes of feminist meaning.

The rosettes were a great opportunity to get down a few words which define your relationship with feminism, what it means to you and what not. There were a huge range of answers 30 minutes into a 2 hour affair so I can only imagine the scope of the project! There's a lot of back and forth about what feminism is, who owns it, what's "real" and what's not allowed and on and on, and to a certain extent finding the words to describe it is important. However I'm intensely interested in what it is to people, how they define their needs and how that plays into feminism, this seems like a project that will start to pry into that (probably not as deeply as Catherine and Kristin though)

The full set will be available online some time, do look out for them on Davina and Nadine's websites.