G E N D E R & S E X U A L I T Y
EDITOR’S LETTER From within the politics of gender and sexuality have emerged some of the most interesting and deeply contested debates of recent times. The simple binaries of the past — male/female, heterosexual/homosexual — are being replaced by more fluid and complex notions of personal identity. Facebook, which hundreds of millions of us use to present a carefully curated image of ourselves to friends and strangers, oﬀers some 70 diﬀerent gender options, from ‘agender’ and ‘androgyne’ to ‘transexual’ and ‘two-spirit’. This special A+ issue of Artefact magazine examines some of the current issues and debates around gender and sexuality. They include the ‘repeal the eighth’ campaign in Ireland that successfully brought about a liberalization in the law on abortion, the struggles for equality for LGBT people in Britain, Spain, north Africa Italy and the Balkans. It also looks at art that has emerged from these debates. There are interviews with Sukran Moral, a Turkish performance artist, whose challenging feminist work has led to death threats in her home country, a feature on the pioneering and influential Womanhouse show that took place in Los Angeles in the 1970s and paved the way for a generation of female artists and a photoshoot with K-HOLE ANKKH who use painting and performance to promote a world free of binaries and gender expectations, and a look at the drag scene in Barcelona that is evolving into a form of performance art. We have been fortunate to have the co-operation of University of the Arts London’s Feminist Internet project who produced a manifesto and a series of Instagram interviews with artists and activists and of the UAL Students Union for a piece on the rising generation of trans artists. This magazine was produced in the Journalism and Publishing department of London College of Communication (part of UAL). Our aim was to produce something that was collaborative and international in outlook. So there is work by LCC students — journalists, photojournalists, designers and illustrators — and articles and images produced by students at Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona, our partners in the project. It is the third international A+ collaboration, following last year’s Truth and Terror issue and 2016’s on migration. We hope that you enjoy it: let us know what you think by email or social media — details on opposite page.
CONTENTS Editors and contributors Albert Malla, Aleix Pujadas, Aliaa El Sherbini, Antigoni Pitta, Brittany O’Neill, César Álvarez, Defne Saricetin, Ella Fegitz, Eulàlia Maspons, Edena Klimenti, Eleni Parousi, Fiona Berbatovci, Georgia Panagi, Gerardine Dempsey, Holly Campbell, Hazel Tang, Isabella Cutill, Jennifer Freitas de Castro, Harriet Ssetongo, Jordi Plans, Josephine Schulte, Jordi Jon Pardo, Laura Sodano Ballestero, Laura Palacín, Laura Pérez, Madeleine Magin Betelu, Natàlia Requena, Nina Saló, Paula Mori, Udit Giralt, Valentina Curci, Vilma Paasivaara Tutors Simon Hinde (LCC), Miguel Santos Silva (Ramon Llull)
04 Gender in the city Ella Fegitz
44 Gender-neutral toilets Gerardine Dempsey
10 Repealing the eighth Gerardine Dempsey
46 Bringing art to life Madeleine Magin Betelu and Laura Sodano Ballestero
12 Pride Barcelona César Álvarez, Albert Malla and Jordi Plans 14 Female refugees Eulàlia Maspons, Natàlia Requena and Nina Saló 16 Trans artists and their visual journeys Edena Klimenti 22 Selling an illusion Holly Campbell 24 Inside the womanhouse Josephine Schulte 28 Nobody dreams of being a prostitute Jordi Jon Pardo, Aleix Pujadas 32 Subtle protest Aliaa El Sherbini 36 Q&A with posh club creator: Simon Casson Aliaa El Sherbini
Website artefactmagazine.com Facebook artefactmagazine Twitter @artefactlcc Instagram @artefactmag Feedback email@example.com
Art Direction & Design Oswin Tickler, Smallfury
38 Expressions of androgyny Eleni Parousi
52 Towards a feminist internet Feminist Internet 58 Italy’s long fight for equality Valentina Curci 64 The battle for the balkans Fiona Berbatovci 70 Sukran Moral: A story of violence, sex and success Defne Saricetin 741 Cutting through Hazel Tang 76 Cheer up, Luv Antigoni Pitta 78 Transgender kids Udit Giralt, Paula Mori, Laura Palacín and Laura Pérez 80 Remembering the suﬀragettes Harriet Ssetongo 82 Genderquake Brittany O’Neill
“The bathroom in your home is gender-neutral. The seemingly simple question we ask: why isn’t every bathroom gender-neutral?”
Published by London College of Communication, London SE1 6SB 3
IN THE CITY On the politics of sexuality, identity and urban space
Words: Ella Fegitz
Living in London, one might think that the majority of people grasp the idea that one’s gender identity does not always match one’s biological sex. But as I sat down to write this, the realisation of how privileged I am in terms of my knowledge and experience of this issue dawned on me: how lucky I am to be living in London, one of the most multicultural and diverse cities in the world; how great it is to be working in an arts institution, a field more open to ‘other’ genders and sexualities than most; and how incredibly grateful I am to be surrounded by people who are acutely aware of diversity and have an interest in challenging inequality. Had I been living in my small town in the north of Italy, a discussion about transsexuality among friends would, if not raise some eyebrows, definitely entice a few un-PC jokes. However, this is not to say that London is perfect, there is still much to be done. Recently, there has been discussion about the ladies’ ponds in Hampstead Heath, because of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association’s concerns after the decision to explicitly allow trans-women access to the women-only pond. This is only one instance in which women-only organisations and institutions have been subject of attention and debate in the past year or so, being challenged for excluding non-biological women from these spaces. The motivation often justifying such exclusion is to protect the sense of safety and support that these spaces provide women with, especially women who have suﬀered violence at the hand of men. The recent events about trans-exclusion in female spaces show that the gender/sex dichotomy is not as simple as it appears. The issues and debates that are occurring between feminists who want female-only spaces (by which they mean biologically female individuals), and the community of trans-women who want to be included in those spaces, is very much radicated in diﬀerent understandings of what being ‘female’ is. These can be summarised in two central concepts for feminist theory: ‘experience’ and ‘embodiment’. These two terms are very important for the understanding of this special issue’s theme, and something I will return to in order to understand, in Stuart Hall’s terms, the present historical ‘conjuncture’. In terms of academic theory, it is generally understood that Judith Butler pioneered the study of gender with her book ‘Gender Trouble’ in 1990. In the monograph, Butler makes the important distinction between sex and gender, arguing that while sex is related to genetics and biology, gender is ‘performative’ in that it follows gender scripts that circulate in society. The term ‘performativity’ is taken from Speech Act theory,
which understands language to be able to perform an action, such as in the case of a wedding ceremony, whereby the words ‘I now pronounce you man and wife (or husband and wife; or husband and husband; or wife and wife)’ have the power to create the union. Similarly, Butler argues that the moment the doctor (or nurse; or midwife) exclaims ‘It’s a girl!’, it begins the process through which gender is constructed, such as painting the baby’s room pink, buy pink and girly clothing, buy dolls rather than dinosaurs, and so on. It is important to stress the diﬀerence between performance and performativity. Performance, or a gender performance, entails the conscious choice of the actor to take on gendered characteristics, such as in the practice and art of drag. In those cases, femininity or masculinity are often taken to the extreme, such that gendered characteristics are emphasised and accentuated for entertainment. Performativity is, instead, a partially non-voluntary act, such as the way one moves, talks and sits, and is what constitutes a coherent sense of gendered self. For Butler (1990, p. 34) 'there is no gender identity behind the expression of gender: that identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said to be its results'. Thus, gender is not an inherent characteristic of the individual, but something which we come to embody and do, as we learn to abide by the gender rules that exist and regulate social living. The other important element explored by Butler is the ‘heterosexual matrix’, which is what, as a matter of fact, creates and sustains the gender binary (man/woman; male/female). Gender and sexuality are systematically intertwined, as the possession of a ‘coherent’ gender identity is perceived to be the result of coherence between sex (female or male), gender (feminine or masculine), and desire (heterosexual). Therefore, a body results intelligible only when anatomical sex, gender identity and desire for the other sex/gender align: a woman is ‘natural’ when she is anatomically female, looks like a woman and desires men, and vice versa. Thus, the gender binary and the continuity between the categories of sex, gender and desire result and concur in the heterosexual matrix of Western societies, which instates normative heterosexuality as the only intelligible option. 5
However, this is not to imply a deterministic understanding of gender and subject formation (i.e. a person can only be male or female). On the contrary, Butler believes that a transgression of the coherence between sex, gender and desire, may challenge the gender binary and the heterosexual matrix in a way that exposes their artificiality and constructedness. For instance, transsexuality and transgenderism may have the capacity to challenge existing notions of gender, showing how gender identity and gender embodiment are not necessarily attached to genetics, biology and/or genitalia. However, as I will develop further in the last part of this article, they may also be complicit in reinstating the gender binary, by endorsing the idea of ‘authenticity’, such as in the common sentence ‘born in the wrong body’. However, Butler was not the first to make a distinction between anatomy and gender, and she herself refers to the work of Simone de Beauvoir, who famously claimed that ‘one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’. Similarly to de Beauvoir, other feminists in the 1970s and 1980s have understood gender to be a social structure, rather than an innate characteristic of a human being. However, what distinguishes Butler’s work is the acknowledgement that there is not one characteristic that all women share, not one experience that connects them all. Furthermore, she does not underestimate the importance of the material conditions in which one is born to the construction of identity, always considering diﬀerences such as gender, race, geographical location, sexuality, class and (dis) ability. Indeed, the gendered experience of a working-class black woman living in the Bronx will vastly diﬀer from that of a middle-class white woman living in Yorkshire. But again, this and similar positions are not so radical. As early as 1851, Sojourner Truth pointed out the exclusions of the feminist movement and demanded that her experience be acknowledged in her speech ‘Ain’t I a Woman’, at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. In her intervention she remarked the fundamental diﬀerence between the experiences of white women and the ones of black female slaves, and how the demands of the suﬀragettes’ movement did not respond to the needs of black women. In relation to this issue, it is important to remember that ‘universal’ suﬀrage in the UK, the centenary of which we celebrate this year, was limited to women above the age of 30 who owned property, in fact excluding most working-class and black women. Critiques of the exclusions (and racism) of the feminist movement continued during the women’s movement 6
in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, Friedan’s Feminine Mystique (1963), one of the fundamental texts of the feminist movement in the 1960s, was critiqued for ignoring the lived experiences of ‘other’ women. Indeed, the aﬃrmation that women’s domestic role and their exclusion from employment was the basis of their oppression, ignored the way black women had little choice in regard to employment and domesticity, almost always having to carry both. The result was that native women, black women and women of other ethnicities separated and created their own groups, such as the Combahee River Collective (CRC) in the USA, and the National Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent (OWAAD) in the UK. Similarly, the heteronormativity of feminist spaces and debates was criticised by the lesbian community, who rightfully accused the movement of failing to account for their experience of discrimination and violence, both outside and inside of the feminist movement. Lesbianism was not just ignored, but often subjected to hostile attitudes within the movement, at least in the USA. Friedan went as far as describing it as the ‘lavender menace’, claiming that incorporating lesbian demands within the feminist agenda would have undermined the movement as a whole. Others perceived lesbians as ‘masculinised women’, complicit in patriarchy and out to sexually exploit other women. While radical lesbian groups emerged as a consequence, eventually lesbianism managed to reintegrate in the movement, with radical feminists conceptualising lesbianism as a political choice to reject participation in patriarchal heterosexuality, or in Johnston’s words: ‘feminism is the complaint, lesbianism is the solution’. While the fractures described above contributed in destabilising the alleged commonalities between women, it was Judith Butler’s work that went as far as challenging the very existence of a thing
called ‘womanhood’. Indeed, what diﬀers radically between the work of the authors above and Butler is a diﬀerent focus on what characterises gender: for the firsts it is a matter of experience, for the latter, it is a matter of embodiment. This is where trans-exclusive feminist groups and trans-women activism are at odds: the former group prioritises the female experience, while the latter prioritises the embodiment of femininity. Radical feminists demand female-only spaces and deny access to trans-women on the grounds that they share a commonality of experience, having faced harassment, sexism and misogyny from an early age. Trans-women are perceived as not sharing that experience and as benefitting from elements of male privilege, at least during the time prior to transitioning. Furthermore, as some women-only spaces include rape and domestic violence centres, some women want to protect survivors from potential ‘triggers’, believing that some women might not feel safe around people who identify as female, but are biologically male. The discussion about rape and domestic violence centres is a particularly thorny one, and one that I have no space to discuss here, as trans-women are also subjected to violence, and need support and safety just as much as biological women. So, I will only discuss the demands to inclusion in women-only feminist groups. Diﬀerently from radical feminists, trans-women’s claims to femininity are related to embodiment, rather than experience. As Butler says, to embody femininity is not the same as a gender performance, as gender performativity constitutes the very thing it is supposed to describe. Thus, trans-women have the same right to claim femininity as biological women. However, access to these spaces are also linked to claims to authenticity, whereby, by being allowed entrance, one’s true gender identity is publicly legitimised. Communication between radical feminists and trans-women activist is curtailed the moment in which their claim to femininity rely on diﬀerent understandings of what gender is: experience or embodiment. However, ultimately, both groups are complicit in reproducing ideas about the ‘authenticity’ of womanhood and the gender binary: while radical feminists perceive ‘true’ womanhood
“Communication between radical feminists and trans-women activist is curtailed the moment in which their claim to femininity rely on different understandings of what gender is: experience or embodiment.”
to be the result of gendered experience, trans-women imply that gender identification and embodiment does. Furthermore, by implying that there exists such a thing as a ‘true’ woman, the gender binary is re-established, with little possibility to be neither (or both) man and woman. This makes it virtually impossible to find and harbour connections across diﬀerence, while this would be very much needed. A more interesting way to approach the topic would be through ‘intersectionality’, a concept that has increasingly grown in popularity to describe the way diﬀerent axes of identity, such as gender, race, sexuality and class, intersect in the creation of specific patterns of inequality and disadvantage. Collins and Bilge describe intersectionality in these terms: When it comes to social inequality, people’s lives and the organisation of power in a given society are better understood as being shaped not by a single axis of social division, be it race or gender or class, but by many axes that work together and influence each other. Intersectionality as an analytic tool gives people better access to the complexities of the world and of themselves (p. 2) Hence, intersectional approaches attempt to tackle social inequality by looking at how diﬀerences intersect in the production of bodies and experience, but also at how alliances might be created despite diﬀerence. The concept of ‘relationality’ is central to intersectional analyses and describes the way entities that have been traditionally treated as separate might actually be connected, such as class and race, gender and race, and so on. Thus, intersectional projects look at the relationship between seemingly diﬀerent phenomena; in short, they are relational. Understanding the relationship between sexism and transphobia, one based on similarity as well as diﬀerence, would be a useful starting point to begin working through the antagonism between radical feminists and transwomen. The experience of violence and the resulting trauma might be the very point of connection, as the violence experienced by women and by trans-women is embodied and gendered: while violence against biological women is consequence of a gender system that conceives them as the less valued side of the binary, violence against trans-women is a reaction to their transgression of the same binary. But, ultimately, both are the direct result of power relations inherent in the heterosexual matrix. As feminists, we need to continue challenging fixed categories of femininity and masculinity, in order to acknowledge and respect our diﬀerences, while at the same time creating connections on the basis of our shared vulnerability. 8
GENDER AND FEMINISM Raewyn Connell — Gender: A detailed and thorough introduction to the study of gender in a global perspective. It presents an integrated approach that links the micro to the macro: from the body and sexual preferences to the global economy and world peace. Simone De Beauvoir — The Second Sex: One of the pivotal books in feminist theory and philosophy. Written in 1949, it importantly claims that throughout history men have been understood as the norm, while women as the ‘Other’ to the norm: man is the subject, while woman is the object. According to de Beauvoir, man’s alleged superiority is not a fact, but the result of centuries of prejudice, preconceptions and myths. Ultimately, she questions the existence of the ‘feminine’ as fixed and immutable, but conceives it as the result of socialisation. Susan Bordo — Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body: Stemming from a similar critique of Western culture’s understanding of women as the ‘Other’ as de Beauvoir, Bordo untangles the close connection between femininity and the body. Via an analysis of cultural texts, pathologies and myths, Bordo documents the ways in which women have consistently been reduced to their bodies and the results this has on women’s lives, and mental and physical health. Naomi Wolf — The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women: This famous book was written by a journalist in 1990 and has since become one of the most referenced books when discussing beauty canons in the media. According to Wolf, the gains made in terms of female power and emancipation — as a result of the feminist movement — have been accompanied by increasingly stricter beauty standards. Thus, she argues, the fashion and beauty industries are complicit in undermining women’s self-confidence, leading to important social, political and economic repercussions in women’s lives.
Angela McRobbie — The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change: In this collection of essays, Angela McRobbie assesses changes in society which — on the surface — appear to show women as equal to men and feminism as antiquated and passé. She argues that the social and political context of the 2000s, which she calls ‘post-feminism’, is a new organisation of gender relations that exploits some of the claims and vocabulary of the feminist movement for the creation of a new ‘sexual contract’. Indeed, women are promised a notional form of equality in the form of entrance to previously male-dominated spheres, but on the condition that they abandon any collective feminist organising. Shelley Budgeon — Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Gender in late modernity: Somewhat a continuation of Angela McRobbie’s work (among other works on post-feminism), Shelley Budgeon compares the recent surge in feminist identification (third wave feminism) with some of the ideas and narratives of post-feminism. While there are important diﬀerences between the two, she also identifies problematic overlaps, that need to be addressed in order for feminism to respond to the challenges to collective mobilisation engendered by late-modernity. GENDER AND SEXUALITY Jeﬀrey Weeks — Sexuality: Historian and sociologist of sexuality, Weeks has published several monographies on the history of sexuality (and homosexuality) in Western countries. This book is an introduction to the sociology of sexuality, discussing its social and historical construction, and the State’s involvement in its regulation and control. Weeks challenges the idea that our understanding of sexuality is radicated in nature, arguing instead that the act of sex is socially constructed, highlighting the role of institutions such as the Church, the State and even science in regulating it.
Judith Butler — Gender Trouble: Queer theory is said to have ‘begun’ the year Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble and Eve Kosofsky Sedwick’s Epistemology of the Closet (see below) were published. Similarly to de Bouvioir, Butler questions the existence of ‘womanhood’, claiming that gender is a cultural construct that creates that which it says to be representing. Diﬀerently from de Bouviour, however, she argues that there is no subject prior to the taking up of gendered characteristics, but that one becomes gendered via the process of subjectivation. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick — Epistemology of the Closet: Sedwick is considered one of the main theorists of Queer Theory, alongside Judith Butler. In her book Epistemology of the Closet, she questions gay/lesbian activism’s reliance on the categories of normal/deviant sexuality and proposes to ‘liberate’ sexuality from such binaries. She suggests looking at all sexual practices, rather than just sexual orientation (desire for the same or opposite sex), and ‘come out’ to acknowledge diﬀerence in sexuality: not only heterosexual and homosexual desire, but also S&M, fetishes, cross-dressing, and so on. Jack Halberstam — Female Masculinity: Halberstam’s book is an exploration of masculinity in order to detach it from the male body and its association with domination and privilege. Through a reading of ‘alternative masculinities’ (in particular female and queer masculinities), Halberstam shows not only the way masculinity is socially and culturally constructed, but also its fragility. POST-COLONIAL FEMINISM(S) Bell Hooks — Ain’t I a Woman: Black women and feminism: In this book bell hooks analyses the history of black women’s oppression by white and black men, and white women alike. Drawing on historical facts, as well as personal accounts, hooks points out the failures of the feminist movement (composed mainly of white middle-class women) to acknowledge and challenge racism within the movement. Her work challenges the ‘normalisation’ of white female experience as the experience of all women, calling the feminist movement to fight all structures that marginalise and discriminate: not only male power, but also racism and classism.
Audre Lorde — Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches: Considered one of the main voices of black feminist theory and intersectional approaches, Lorde’s work stems from her social positioning as a black woman, lesbian and feminist (among other things). It is from her experience that she tackles issues related to intersecting axes of identity, such as class, race, sexuality, gender and age, making — at all eﬀects — the personal, political. The famous essay ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’ is part of this collection. Chandra Talpade Mohanty — Under Western Eyes: In this famous essay, Mohanty criticises Western feminism for producing a homogenised picture of the ‘Other’, in particular ‘third world women’. By doing so, she argues, it reproduces colonialist worldviews, whereby the experience of Western women is normalised as the experience of all women, projecting the same patriarchal structures onto countries of the Global South. Through this perspective, the ‘average third world woman’ is constructed as ignorant, poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, domestic, family oriented, victimised, in opposition to her Western counterpart, who is educated, modern, having control over her body and sexuality, and free to make her own decisions. Kimberlé Crenshaw — Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics: This essay introduces for the first time the term ‘intersectionality’ within a feminist critique in 1989. While other black theorists in the USA and abroad had engaged in similar work, this date is generally perceived to be the start of intersectional approaches to theory and research. In the essay, Crenshaw discusses how some members of society, namely black women, are multiply-burdened, having an intersectional experience that is greater than the sum of racism and sexism. 9
Repealing the Eighth How Irish campaigners succeeded in changing the country’s law on abortion
Words and image: Gerardine Dempsey
In 1983 the Eighth amendment was placed into the Irish constitution, which gave an embryo an equal right to life as the woman carrying it, eﬀectively making abortions illegal. The ramifications of this were never considered and aﬀected the lives of Irish women for decades. Picture an Ireland then: homosexuality, divorce and condoms were illegal. It was a time when Catholic morality was prioritised above individual liberty and equality. Almost 3,500 women made the journey to Britain every year to seek healthcare their country fails to provide for them. Others who couldn’t afford to travel were forced into breaking the law by taking abortion pills, effectively becoming criminals as they seek to take basic control of their own bodies. For those who supported the Eight amendment, it seemed simple, abortion under any circumstances is wrong. For the growing numbers who opposed it, the amendment was cruel and unjust. The vast outpouring of personal stories across the media showed that its roots run far deeper than we thought. In cases of rape and incest a teenager could not receive a termination without travelling abroad; if you were undergoing cancer treatment and found yourself pregnant you would be forced to cease treatment and prioritise the baby, with no choice in the matter. While it sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel, it was the reality that prevailed in Ireland until this May. In 2018 Ireland, homosexuality, divorce and condoms are part of every day life, and the world hasn’t ended. Thirty-five years after the Eighth Amendment was placed into the constitution, with no one under the age of 53 having voted for it, after a long and hard campaign, the Irish people voted to repeal it. The final results showed that the Yes side had triumphed with 66% in favour of repeal. Yes won by a majority of more than 700,000 out of a total of 2,153,613 votes, securing 1,429,981 of the votes. In some parts of Dublin, the Yes vote exceeded 75%, while only one county, the more rural region of Donegal, voted No, by a margin of 52-48. However, with the Donegal result so close we certainly cannot argue for a rural-urban divide as all three of the remote Arran Islands voted in favour of repeal by 67-33. Many remarked that this result symbolises the next natural chapter in
for 18 months you relinquish your voting rights. So on the eve of a day that will go down in history, I made the trip that 12 women make every week, in the opposite direction. Maybe it will be a question in ten years time: where were you when you found out the Eighth had been repealed? I was on a canal bank in disbelief refusing to trust the exit polls. I received a text from a friend in America an hour after the polling stations had closed congratulating me, even though the official counting wouldn’t begin until 10am the next day. I was amazed that CNN could already be running headlines of “Ireland votes yes in landslide victory.” It seemed too premature to be calling it. We saw how recent US and UK exit polls panned out, hasty celebration would make the wound sting far worse if we got it wrong. As we sat drinking along the canal embracing the rare humidity, a friend astutely noted that with the good weather it didn’t feel like Ireland. I am happy to say it hasn’t felt like Ireland since. Walking around in the aftermath, the posters that had caused discomfort were now a welcome reminder of the new Ireland that had triumphed. As I watched them slowly torn down, the sense of achievement felt by passers by was palpable. As a nation we pride ourselves on being increasingly progressive yet our church dominated institutions have certainly not kept up. Though I would be the first to tell you that being religious and being pro-life are not mutually exclusive, it would be foolish and naïve to think that the issue of abortion in Ireland can be discussed without mentioning the church. The grip of power the Catholic church still holds is not simply confined to healthcare, but also to education, with 96% of primary schools in Ireland run by the church. Religion was woven so tightly into our governmental policies and constitution since our nations inception that it would take an army to unravel it. It is fortunate however that we have assembled a strong one. In the past I may have found it difficult to write such an exhaustive list highlighting our many failures, as I would have defended Ireland to the bone against stereotypes. In reality I was insecure about my homeland. Sure, if it were a person it would be a hypocritical mess, but it was my hypocritical mess. I held
our history, after voting to allow same-sex marriage in 2015. A flaw in our constitution that requires changes of that kind to be made by referendum meant that we were the first country in the world to allow same-sex marriage by popular vote. Though many have lauded this, is not necessarily something to be proud of. Most countries simply followed UN guidelines and added it to their constitution as they saw fit. Same-sex marriage was predicted to be adopted by a landslide, but only passed with 63%.
“While it sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel, it was the reality that prevailed in Ireland until this May.”
As campaigning by both sides on repealing the Eighth intensified in the final weeks, and the streets were lined with graphic posters of embryos the collective mood of the country sank into tension and uncertainty. All too aware that we were functioning within an echo chamber, and even when the bookies backed a win, we reminded each other repeatedly not to get carried away. My social media feeds were plastered with like-minded allies, but it was still anyone’s game. By the 24th of May the hashtag #HomeToVote was trending for the second time in four years, beating its 2015 beginning and featuring in over 175,000 social media posts. Since the debate began I’ve been an active member of the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, a group of ex-pats almost all of whom have lost the right to vote in our own country. To add to our myriad flaws, Ireland is one of the only countries that does not allow its citizens to vote by post from abroad: once you have lived out of Ireland
on to this view for so long until I slowly realised that it wasn’t just my mess, and it was a bubbling over. I subconsciously refused to acknowledge the hold the Catholic church has over us. By now we have won several battles, but are still well and truly at war. Outsourcing our problems, sending our women away on boats. It was coined throughout the campaign as “an English solution to Irish problem”. I faced many learning opportunities throughout the campaign, where I came face to to face with my own prejudices. Awaiting the final tallies, I expected a low rural vote, signifying the outskirts still intrinsically linked with the Church and a low turn out from men as many refused to vote on what wasn’t “their issue.” It became evident to me, that as a desperate fighter against stereotypes I was just as responsible for perpetuating them. The men turned out in their numbers and the rural towns surprised us all. The urban vote, a trend mirrored so often in other
counties rendered itself useless, as almost every constituency voted yes overwhelmingly. It’s disconcerting that for a long time I could not fathom how so many men could care so much, and campaign so furiously for a cause that only indirectly affects them. I suppose that shows more about me than it does about them. The raw emotion I saw from my friends and even strangers on the day of the result did wonders in reminding me how far we have come. I am indebted to the men of Ireland, more than they will ever know, but it is not the time to get complacent or gloss over how we won this referendum. “Now the battle of the narratives begins” writes Una Mullally, the established Irish Times Journalist and avid Yes campaigner: “Last Monday on Seán O’Rourke’s programme three men talked over me as I questioned why the conservative Iona Institute was given such a large platform throughout the campaign. My main thought was “not
again”. Mullally, was the host of the podcast “Don’t Stop Repealin” that aired weekly and kept morale high by using humour to keep people informed, and interviewing a selection of influential guests, including Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar. “A blinkered analysis also persists. One that side-lines or does not place at its centre the feminist, women-led movement which fought for, ran, and won this referendum. Any analysis that does not place that movement in the foreground is bereft.” She wrote. I am overcome with pride for the women and men who fought for my right to choose. A time when women were fallen, not equal, is gone. When we hid them rather than help them. It’s easy to blindly follow an institution that’s promises you eternal freedom and glory in the next life, but what about this one? The people of Ireland have spoken, and we are saying that this life is just as important. 11
Fighting for refugees This year’s Pride Barcelona will assert the rights of LGBT migrants
Words: César Álvarez, Albert Malla and Jordi Plans Images: Pride Barcelona via Flickr
During the years of the Franco dictatorship in Spain, there were many people who were victims of the infamously harsh vagrancy laws, known as “la ley de vagos y maleantes”, or “la gandula”. This law was actually brought into force in 1933 a few years before Franco ascended to power. It crininalised those considered outside the norms of society: beggars, drunkards, pimps and any other element considered antisocial. In 1954, it was modified to also include homosexuals, many of whom were imprisoned in the so-called “Agricultural Colonies” forced labor camps. The Franco regime considered that the superiority and virility of men were the exemplary and supreme virtues and that women were at their service. Both male and female homosexuality and bisexuality were considered a crime or an illness. All the institutions of the system were put at the service of this sexist ideology. It was very different from the vision we have today, where homosexuality has more or less equality in the eyes of the law and society is much more plural and tolerant, to the point that some years ago there were mass demonstrations to claim the rights of the LGTBI community, such as Pride Barcelona. Pride Barcelona continues to grow. This year the festival’s director, Eloi Morte, is expecting more than 350,000 participants, 100,000 more than last year, with an economic impact of 40 million
Tourists generate almost a third of Pride’s revenue. According to organizational data, the average revenue per visitor is 260 euros. The objective is to increase the economic impact of the event in the city to 64 million euros, 60 per cent more than the previous year. The challenge is ambitious in a year in which the tourist sector of Barcelona is feeling the effects of political instability. The city received a million LGBTI visitors, according to Acegalan organisation which includes 100 companies specializing in the LGTBI community In addition, according to Morte, every day, more volunteers, from Barcelona and beyond, become involved in Pride, offering their time and enthusiasm to make the event a success. The aim of the festival for this year is to give visibility to LGBT refugees. The festival posters show the testimonies of people who have experienced torture, persecution, imprisonment and even murder attempts: the intention is to raise awareness among the citizens about the ways in which they can help refugees start a new life in a city as diverse and open as Barcelona. “Last year we talked about LGBT-phobia in the world of sport, this year Pride will be dedicated to LGBT refugees. It is already a very serious and delicate problem, but if we point out that there are refugees who belong to the community, the problem is further aggravated. It is a topic that nowadays has no visibility,” acknowledges one of the people in charge of communication, Daniel Hernández. Hernandez says that of the 350,000 visitors expected at Barcelona Pride this year, many will come from abroad, particularly the United Kingdom. Barcelona has an image of a very tolerant LGTBI city and this further multiplies the interest among foreign visitors to visit the city during the Pride celebration.” Among previous participants in Pride Barcelona for many years now is Laura (formerly David), who says she is excited by the atmosphere of the festivity. On the other hand, Joan is more militant and says that “our group is sometimes despised by homophobic people and doing this type of events makes it clear what our position is, that we will not give in to torment, and we will continue fighting for our rights until we get to normalise the situation”.
euros. It will take place on June 29 and 30 at Avenida Maria Cristina, with several related activities during the course of June. Pride aims to give a new impetus to Barcelona as an outstanding destination for LGTBI tourists. During the week of events, key buildings of the city will be lit with the colors of the rainbow flag, such as Casa Batlló, Hotel W, Torre Agbar and the shopping center Les Arenas. For the first time the organizers will install the main stage on this wide avenue in the heart of the city because it is a space with greater capacity that already hosts other popular activities such as La Mercè’s Piromusical or New Year’s Eve shows. This change of location is a boost to the Barcelona application to host the 2022 Europride. This is the Pride at European level, which in 2007 was celebrated by 2.5 million people. Year after year, Pride Barcelona draws many people who identify with the cause, as well as others who support the principles of the event. Organiser Eloi Morte says: “Maybe at the beginning it was more political because maybe it had to be more engaged, and today we are more in a phase of normalization, but in any case it maintains this spirit of vindication, and at the same time, over the years has also acquired a festive side. It’s Pride, and the best way to demonstrate this Pride is to do it in a festive way, showing that we are proud and that’s the way we do it.”
A whole series of Pride-related activities takes place in the city of Barcelona, and, says Morte, the organisers have to ensure that it doesn’t interfere too much with the daily life of the rest of the city. “When you use certain resources, you have to coordinate with other entities, you have to coordinate with the public institutions ... after all it must be compatible in the daily activity of the same city, which is quite frantic and that has a quite tight agenda, but it is not an impediment to celebrate the festival”.
Despite the work involved in the preparation of such a great event, the results are more than satisfactory, especially for the growth and acceptance of Pride Barcelona in recent years. “What we feel is satisfaction because we have had an upwards trajectory, but at the time quite are secure and consolidated in this growth. Proof of this is that during these 10 years we have grown exponentially and gradually, and nowadays we are very satisfied because we are one of the main Prides of Europe “explains Morte.
But the key question for those involved is when will the situation for LGBTI people be fully normalised, so that it is no longer necessary to protest? The organisers say they will stop “when there is no discrimination and there is no need to normalise any of these problems in any sector. We believe that there is much to be done. There are many sectors in which we have to evolve and continue working on, but we are sure that it will not be solved either in one, not in two, in three or in five years. It is a long journey”. 13
The plight of female refugees Women are often hit the hardest by being forced to flee one’s home. What happens once they reach refugee camps?
Words: Eulàlia Maspons, Natàlia Requena i Nina Saló Images: Ignacio Marin Fernandez
Every day thousands of people are forced to leave their countries because of war. According to the UNHCR there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced people around the world, out of whom 22.5 are refugees. Women and girls are estimated to make up half of any displaced population, with many of them putting their lives and those of their children at risk in search of a better life. Since a large number of women are widows or away from their husbands, they are constantly under threat of being sexually assaulted or physically abused throughout their journey to Europe or refugee camps. In 2015, 77 operations were carried out in Congo alone for the attention of victims of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), with 39.604 women requiring psychological assistance and 7.300 in need of medical assistance. A UNHCR investigation showed that the possibility of verbal and sexual violence is an issue that concerns female refugees worldwide. The Ritsona refugee camp in Greece mainly houses refugees from Syria, with a smaller percentage of individu-
a “Female Friendly Space” where women can participate in recreational activities and workshops. Grassroots organizations oﬀer social and community-building activities such as art therapy, English lessons and preschool services to all residents but female-specific activities and spaces are particularly important as it’s not common to see women outside their ISO boxes or around the camp alone. Without these spaces it’s fairly challenging for a woman arriving at the camp to make friends with other female residents. If women do feel unsafe or are experiencing any concerns over SGBV, these social centers provide a space for them to report and seek help. Some refugee camps in Congo and Jordan have even launched self-defense classes that teach women martial arts in order to help them protect themselves while empowering them and raising their self-esteem. The initiative, called SheFighter, was developed in 2012 by Lina Khalifeh, a Jordanian businesswoman. In Skaramagas, another Greek refugee camp located on the Bay of Eleusis, women and girls are not shut out of group activities,
als from Iraq, Somalia, Palestine and French-speaking African nations. Residents of the camp are assigned ISO boxes equipped with toilets, running water, and air conditioning/heating facilities, each assigned to kitchen units, and there are weekly buses to and from the camp. Most women are there with their husbands and children but there are also single mothers, and despite being far from home and in less-than-ideal living conditions, many are still having children. A handful of women there are university-educated and others have previously worked as teachers, hairdressers and engineers, but there they continue in their previous roles, mostly spending their days cooking, cleaning and focusing on childcare. The women of Ritsona have access to a number of services: a GP, a psychologist, and a management team for victims of sexual or gender-based violence. There is a parents’ group for those with children and a clothing and non-food items distribution center that provides milk, formula and sanitary pads The camp also oﬀers
encouraged to participate. 12-year-old Narmin would look at the boys playing football every day, thinking “Why the boys yes and the girls not? I also can and want [to play]!” She approached one of the volunteer coaches with this concern, and after a few days a female football team was formed. At first the boys ignored them until the girls proposed to play a game. The boys won, but that day nobody lost. “The most beautiful thing was to see how the boys helped the girls and taught them [how to play] instead of saying that they don’t know or they can’t” commented one of the coaches. Of course, despite the fact that eﬀorts are being made through inclusive activities to make life in refugee camps more bearable, this is not always the case. In some camps in Kurdistan, the most requested items are adult diapers as women would rather use them than have to go to the bathroom at night. Olga Gonzalez volunteered at the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos in 2016. “The conditions of the camp are disastrous,” she explains. “There was a serious lack of hygiene in the area of toilets and showers.” She also remarks
that there were not enough beds, and as a result families with very young children were forced to sleep on the floor. Pat Rubio is a Communications Oﬃcer for Lighthouse Relief, an NGO dedicated to helping refugees. They previously launched the Female Friendly Space at the Ritsona camp and deal with similar projects nationwide. She mentions refugee camps in places like Lebanon, where Syrian refugees find themselves every day. It’s diﬃcult to talk about refugee camps in Lebanon because as she says, “there is a lot of stigma” and prejudice against refugees, and it’s even more dangerous for women as they are often alone in a quite conservative environment. Siham lives in Majdal Anjar, a village located on the Lebanese border with Syria where a lot of refugees find themselves after fleeing the country. She had to leave with her two young boys because of the war, and her husband is missing, having disappeared in Homs with no news. They live in precarious conditions and are being discriminated against simply for being Syrian. They’re waiting for the war to end so they can reunite with their family.
Women having to go through this experience alone with their children is not new. We can see the same patterns in previous wars. Aleksandra Krtolica was born in Sarajevo, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1980. After her parents divorced, her mother was left to raise her and her brother alone. When conflicts began in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, they hoped the war would not reach Sarajevo but in 1992 they were forced to leave. “When you are young you believe that your parents are almighty and suddenly you realize that they are not. Now, when I look back I think that my mother was so strong.” she says. The UNHCR’s five commitments to refugee women covers everything from basic hygiene and food to representation and correct documentation, ensuring that refugee aid operations adequately meet the needs of everyone aﬀected. With the help of grassroots groups and NGOs like Lighthouse Relief, the UNHCR is able to work towards preserving the human rights of refugee women, making refugee camps safer, more equal spaces for everyone. 15
TRANS ARTISTS AND THEIR VISUAL JOURNEYS
Students at University of the Arts London discuss their work and how this reflects their personal growth
Words: Edena Klimenti Images: Harriet Ssetongo
Trans communities across the world face extreme scrutiny and discrimination on a daily basis- within workplaces, schools, universities and even social settings. Unfortunately, these struggles are a result of ignorance, and a clear lack of education. Despite this, universities across the UK are continuously attempting to produce safe environments for trans students, informing staﬀ of personal pronouns, and reporting any hateful behaviour towards this community. According to a report published by Trans Equality in Schools and Colleges, ‘‘Sex’ and ‘gender’ have distinct meanings. By the World Health Organization (WHO) definition, sex refers to ‘biological and physiological characteristics’, and can denote male or female. Gender is a broader term that has been used in this context only since the 1970s. The WHO defines it as ‘the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women’, and states that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are gender categories. In doing so, it identifies gender role and gender expression as gender norms constructed by society.’’ Therefore, the notion of gender should not be simplified. It is an intricate topic, not ‘black and white’, but rather one that can be interpreted in many diﬀerent ways. Artefact spoke to trans students about their diﬀerent creative outlets, and how their personal experiences shine through every piece of work they produce. It is often through the art and expression of trans students that we can understand the complexities and even commonalities that exist within ‘gender.’ Art comes in virtually every form that you can think of- evoking an array of emotions, distinctive to every individual who prays their eyes on any piece of work. To some, art is the act of expressing emotion, creating beauty to be enjoyed by the lovers of all things decadent, or simply making a statement. Sometimes these statements may hold political, personal, or social, and perhaps comical meaning. Other times, a piece of art
may contain all of the above. It may be to some a way of understanding their personal growth, and coming to terms with the many obstacles we face in life -in eﬀect, a coping method. Natalie Wearden studied BA Print and Time Based Media at Wimbledon College of Arts, graduating last year. Wearden is a performance and visual artist based in London, ‘interested in queer intimacies and ways of being okay alone.’ They have performed all over London with ‘Selkie Skin’, ‘Queer Poems from Scotland’ and many more. Wearden expressed that their art is a way of controlling a personal narrative, understanding personal growth and human experiences that are too often over-simplified and misunderstood, ‘as a queer person it is so important to be seen and visible in a way that you want to be understood’ they said. Wearden’s art is a way of coping with life’s experiences, be this the distant friendships within their life, the transitional period of graduation, or understanding gender and identity. Significantly, Wearden’s degree show ‘The Best Thing I Ever Made’ encapsulated the journey of their own identify and state of mind after graduation. In a ‘ritual’ performance, Wearden printed on to tracing paper 3000 of their own Instagram photos and ate them one by one, deleting them as each photo was consumed and the caption of the photo was read out. It was for Wearden a cleansing of the soul, a way of removing the past and transitioning into a new being. Wearden believes that this show captured the personal feelings of graduating, letting go of the past, and using the physical body to create a blank space, ready to move on to the next period of life, ‘I wanted to make myself blank, I wanted to remove everything,’ they said. By borrowing from Roman Catholic motifs, and re-owning a tradition they grew up with, Wearden used this rite of passage to celebrate a new stage in their life and reclaim traditions, new and old. Wearden then washed oﬀ their makeup and a fresh new canvas 17
was born. Later, their friend physically beat them during the show, which subsequently turned into a ‘queer baptism’ with glitter being poured over Wearden’s head. Finally, the ritual ended with a party, as often within transitional periods in life there is a big celebration, to mark the end of a chapter and celebrate the new and great unknown. Wearden’s work is visually captivating, with a strong sense of familiarity and a sense of wanting to reclaim memories, destroy an old self, and rebirth a new and perhaps not fully comprehensible version of yourself, a version that will take you through a
new journey in life. Currently, Wearden is using their art as a way of coping with long-distant friendships, through the ‘feminist, queer and trans metaphors’ that emerge from folklore. ‘I am collaborating with another Wimbledon Print and Time-based Media graduate, Indigo Branscombe. She is my best friend, my partner in art and activism and my soul mate. After graduation last year, she moved to the Orkney Islands. She grew up there; on a tiny island called Papa Westray, with around 90 residents. I moved to Helsinki, and we began to think about ways of continuing our intimate collaboration and queer friendship in defiance of the
geographical separation.’ The inspiration for this performance comes from Selkie stories, ‘Selkie is a mythical creature, a seal in the sea, that sheds its skin on land to become a human. The stories are heard traditionally in the Northern Isles, but also in the Nordic countries where I was based at the time’, they said. Wearden hoped to simply understand and represent the beauty of the stories, rather than re-telling and re-creating the already magical meaning behind these tales. The stories present many diﬀerent themes and ideas about gender, feminism and personal identify, alongside our inner
desires. ‘Feminist, queer and trans metaphors emerged out of the folklore. For example, often a Selkie leaves her husband and children to return to the waters, we believe this is an inherently feminist act, and mirrors the way in which despite imprisonment in heterosexual marriages and cultures, queer women have come together across history. A trans metaphor lies in the skin, another truer form, unseen by the land-folk, reflected in the water.’ These metaphors can resonate with many of our own personal lives also, the feeling of expressing diﬀerent identities and fulfilling our hidden desires. The performance attempts to capture a life
“The performances are a way of understanding the many different ways one can explore identity, and coping with society’s pressures.” where we wish to seek our truest forms and escape into a world where these forms are accepted. ‘Through the tales, we are working towards a queer understanding of the ecologies of the north. We work with wet felting — a technique also found in the Northern Isles and the Nordic Countries and have felted our own Selkie skins, and called across the sea, dreaming of ways to be together again. There’s also a lot of experimental writing we have developed together, I have used this in performances in Helsinki, Stockholm and London and Indigo is producing an intricate lino print with our text and illustrated Selkie imagery. Together we had an exhibition and performance at Syn Festival’s Odysseys Exhibition at Summer hall in Edinburgh in February’ they tell Artefact. Wearden’s performances are a way of understanding the many diﬀerent ways one can explore their identity, and coping with the pressures that are placed upon us by society. Tom Coates studied Fine Art at Central St. Martins. They are currently working on a number of diﬀerent art shows, sets, props, and club nights in the ‘queer scene, drag scene and sometimes cabaret scene.’ They are using their art to illustrate and promote a new understanding of weirdness, noting that there is always a familiarity within their work, linking this to gender, sexuality and their own identity alike. They use their work to encourage growth, through art that is inspired by science fiction and absurdism. ‘I make these weird
creatures of diﬀerent kinds, one based on a Henry hoover, a huge egg, one giant purple thing, all of which are slightly based on domestic familiar things.’ These familiar things attempt to promote an understanding of our view of the unknown. There is always a familiar ‘home like’ element within the objects, concepts, theories and identities. By looking deeper, we accept and understand that these ‘diﬀerent’ things are not so different at all. Tom’s degree show is influenced by body horror and 80’s science-fiction, ‘a 1980’s golden girl style bathroom which had come to life and slithered oﬀ’. This show turned into something very personal, ‘it was my tutor who made me realise this, ultimately what I want is for my art to be endearing and for people to be slightly unnerved by the familiar, you know, they see something they recognise, the uncanny eﬀect, and thrown by how strange diﬀerent ‘other’ it is, and then surprised by the live element,’ they said. Tom’s art is loud and colourful, often with humorous elements also. ‘Through art school I was really serious, now I’ve learned to value humour. I think humour is also such an important part of the queer scene, and to gender. My expression of gender is very playful, its that playfulness that allows me to experiment with it, and it’s the same with art,’ they said. These creatures and out-there art shows reflect Tom’s personal identify also, ‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I consider myself a colourful, slightly diﬀerent thing, and I want to form a connection with people. I’m not interested in retiring to my garret and working on a masterpiece and coming down and being applauded. As a person, I want to make connections and share experiences with people, and I’d like my art to do the same.’ Tom’s show ‘ART-O-RAMA’ created with Sophie Popper for Tate Exchange in 2017 tackles the financial challenges that face artists around the world. The show is a ‘comical’ way of understanding the hardship of artists while using a ‘colourful and camp’ set up. It is a game show; the wheel of fortune will decide how much money you have to create a project of your choice. Certainly, something creatives can often relate to. Tom’s art attempts to build connections, and stim-
ulate an understanding of the experiences we all share in some way. Tom’s art is a way of understanding their own identify while trying to illustrate the complexities that exist within gender and identify. ‘We might all have these diﬀerences, and growing up people do try and homogenise us, making us believe there is a certain way to be, but we all know that lurking under the surface there is a big human mess, because humans are not all the same, we are all diﬀerent and unique. Things are much stranger than people want to believe. And that’s fun.’ Tom attempts to create an understanding of people through their art. If people looked at a familiar aspect within each other, and understood that human identify is far more complex than we wish to accept, it will create a more welcoming and understanding environment for every one. Rubie Green is studying Fine Art at Central St. Martins, and is currently working on music, song-writing, sculptures and writing. Rubie uses their work as a way of understanding their own personal experience of gender, which is ‘an on-going navigation’ for them. Using this work Rubie wants to change the way of thinking in regards to gender, ‘I am interested in disrupting binary thinking and resisting simplification of ideas, including pointing it out when it happens on the queer side of things- I think the trans/cis binary is just as important to question as the male/female binary,’ they said. Using their art, it is a means to understand a transitional period, a coping mechanism for a personal journey. ‘My current research is about ways I might be able to use a performance as a way of better understanding my own gender identity. ‘Transness’ is often described in terms of “identification”, which is a confusing concept for me as someone who struggles to “look inside themselves” or whatever. So I’m researching the model of Bodily Intelligence which is being used by a lot of contemporary dance artists I like, including Siobhan Davies and Matthias Sperling, as a way I might be able to better understand the connection between my body and mind through movement.’ The work produced by students can reflect a personal timeline of understanding, the beginning stages suggesting a curiosity and attempt to understand initial feelings surrounding gender, while working through a journey that illustrates freeness and desires. The process of creating art can be a journey to understanding our desires, and pushing the boundaries and restrictions that are too often placed upon us. ‘The work provides an outlet for me to set an example for how I want the world to be, a space where I’m more confident to say who I am and the journey I’m on when I’m often unable to in my daily life. It can feel cheap or unintellectual or whatever to make such directly personal work, but I really do think I have something important to share as someone who is unresolved and on a journey. I really hope other people who, like me, don’t always feel like they’re “enough” can see what I do and feel able to be themselves. Whether that’s in terms of gender and queer stuﬀ, or more broadly extracting ourselves from our limited, binary defaults, deprogramming ourselves,’ they said. Rubie is currently playing gigs, ‘minimal jazz-wavy music with lots of theatrical songs about my sloppy in-between transition.’ Creating such personal work can feel risky, as it is a reflection of our deepest truths, or perhaps the truths that we cannot understand completely, are attempting to understand, and illustrate to the world. An important message is being presented through these
personal journeys, and the work should be celebrated. University of the Arts London attempts to make a safe environment for this art to come to life and for trans students to feel safe, respected and understood. Katayoun Jalilipour is an elected welfare oﬃcer at the Arts Student Union, representing the student body. ‘As sabbatical oﬃcers we’re in regular conversations with the university and aim to improve the student experience at UAL. Being a welfare oﬃcer means that I prioritise campaigning for student health, wellbeing and safety. Throughout the year I have been working a lot on a wider access to consent workshops for students, working closely with the LGBTQ society and ArtsFems on events. I’m also really passionate about sexual health and have been working on making sure that the students union are providing information on sexual health.’ Through this work, Katayoun aims to make sure that students across the universities are aware of where to go if they need help or information, or if they simply need support. ‘I really believe the union needs to be a safe space where students can reach out when they are facing non-academic issues, and that’s what I’ve been aiming for in the past year,’ they said. Katayoun specifically works closely with trans students also, hoping to raise awareness and representation within the university. ‘As a non-binary person my self, it’s extremely important for me to improve the experiences of students of trans experience. I’ve known people who stopped going to class because they were often miss-gendered, that’s absolutely outrageous. I’m bringing up these issues with the university constantly and providing advice on what can be done to educate tutors and students better on gender issues.’ Students can also look out for upcoming events, where support is provided for LGBTQ students. On 6th July Arts SU and the Bishopsgate Institution are doing a collaborative Pride event at Bishopsgate in Liverpool Street. The event is free and open to all UAL students and the public, it is a day of art, archive tours and discussions around LGBTQ and pride. Everybody is welcome. 21
Selling an illusion Why women’s magazine feminism is a tool of neoliberalism
Words: Holly Campbell
“ACTION! HOW YOU CAN TAKE DOWN HOLLYWOOD’S ABUSERS… 100% Made By Women… 336 BADASS FEMALES… FOLLOW TRENDS? I MAKE MY OWN” Scanning the covers of recent issues of Glamour and Grazia, there is an overarching rhetoric of female empowerment. Hollywood actresses, self-declared feminists and women-of-colour Zendaya and Lupita Nyong’o appear as cover stars on the texts alongside messages of independence and empowerment. In the context of the frame, this visual discourse is an advancement from headlines centred on beauty, self-improvement and passive portrait of only-white women that have adorned the pages of women’s fashion magazines for decades. On the surface, the feminist tropes of activism, social change and independence appear as cause for celebration. These sentiments fill the covers of the popular cultural media that have long been critiqued by feminists for their detrimental ideals of femininity. Now, here they are, reaching the same demographic that feminism targets whilst encouraging feminist themes. Surely this is progressive? Through the medium people are engaging in feminist conversations on a mass scale whilst more diverse representations of women are being made. So, why is it then, that as a feminist, I only feel let down, disaﬀected and angry at the empowerment-fuelled messages spanning the pages? There’s no denying that feminism has resurfaced in mainstream media. Mediated representations of feminism, including explicit representations of the political movement, have flooded popular culture and mass media. This current sociocultural climate of heightened empowerment-centric discourse has given rise to speculation of a fourth feminist wave as a new generation of grass-root and online movements take action toward gender equality. We’ve seen global women’s marches and high-profile cases of sexual harassment gain mainstream news coverage and widespread viral social media support. There’s no doubt that we’re amidst a huge shift that is threatening long-standing patriarchal structures. There is real change happening. Inevitably, celebrities, brands and advertisers are making explicit aﬃliations
cally conformed to a patriarchal regime that oppresses and restricts women, this sudden mainstreaming of feminism is baﬄing. Mass media functions to shape collective Western consciousness. Western culture is hegemonically controlled and founded on the interests of a neoliberal consumer society. Moving from a linear, Fordist regime where mass consumption
with feminism and the notion of female empowerment. Named Merriam Webster’s word of the year in 2017, feminism is trending. From Topshop and H&M to Chanel and Dior, there is no shortage of brands riding the feminism bandwagon and profiting from it. Through social media, instances of blatant appropriation and commodification of feminism by brands are well
criticised. They are often challenged by questioning along the lines of “how does this feminist-themed product truly benefit women?” To which the answer is usually “it doesn’t.” The empowerment sentiment of mass produced ‘feminist’ emblazoned t-shirts, sweaters and mugs purchased on the high-street tends to reach no further than the Western consumer’s fashion wardrobe or social media post. No matter how well-intended the purchase is, these superficial expressions of a popular trend sustain abusive supply chains that oppress women from the Global South. Yet, there is a less widely considered critique of the type of feminism that abounds in popular culture. Given that popular and visual culture has histori-
was constructed as homogenous and consumers desired a small range of tangible products, mass audiences are now treated as heterogeneous with a plethora of choices for consumption. Yet, this does not signify emancipation from capitalism — capitalist dominance has merely become flexible and taken on a neoliberal form. Mainstream feminism pacifies the potential for critiquing dominant economic structures by a new generation of women — a generation that is becoming increasingly economically mobile and aﬄuent. In this context, feminism is mediated through a particular field of accepted representations wherein it performs a double-edged function. On the one hand,
it brings the movement to the fore of collective consciousness — satisfying mass calls for change and diﬀerence. On the other, it disables the full potential of collective structural action by constructing consumption as a means for action and by fragmenting and individualising women. Examining the type of feminism on oﬀer to women and girls through contemporary popular culture oﬀers insight into this double-edged nature, revealing it to be an insidious accomplice of neoliberalism. Across the genre of contemporary women’s fashion magazines, the standardised format loosely encompasses the categories of beauty, fashion and lifestyle. As the notion of feminism has become intertwined with almost all facets of popular culture, these categories act as vehicles for the themes that publishers deem relevant to young women. However, this is in tension with the images that advertisers aim to construct to incentivise the purchasing of their products. Representations of women, femininity and feminism reveal an ideal image of contemporary feminism — one that is inherently constructed as beneficial to the aims of advertisers and the advertising revenue of the publication. Women’s magazines are embedded within a political economy in which their appeal to advertisers determines the parameters for the representations in their content. These magazines constructs an ideal reader — the young, beauty and fashion savvy, upwardly mobile woman with a disposable income to spend on herself. As a result, the advertising space in the magazines becomes highly valuable to marketers. It enables them to reach women who have been conditioned over centuries to believe the patriarchal dogma that consumption is the means for achieving socially constructed beauty ideals. As commodities in themselves, women’s magazines are fundamentally revenue-driven. Every editorially chosen representation relies on the publication’s relationship with its advertisers — an industry that has historically relied on patriarchal capitalist conventions that perpetuate and reinforce women’s oppression for economic gain. No matter how well-intending or feminist-informed an editor may be, the medium cannot escape
this commercial influence on its content. A women’s magazine editor may want to run an article on the beauty industry’s systemic privileging of white women. However, when the following pages are filled with adverts for a makeup brand that predominantly uses images of young white women to sell its products, the potential for radical critique becomes considerably diluted. Hence. radical critique becomes virtually impossible, as it would spark too much critical or collective inquiry to the detriment of the brand. By their very nature, mainstream women’s magazines can only be as radical as their market permits. So, if popular feminism sells, then so does Glamour. But the feminism being sold in these magazines is of a particular kind and its negotiation of the tensions between complementing brand adverts and satisfying the interests of its readers is obvious. The type of feminism evident in mainstream women’s magazines is one of individualism. It champions women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurialism. It encourages women to be independent, climb the career ladder and earn money. Economic and editorial restrictions limit the potential for mainstream women’s magazines to publish content that challenges dominant power structures. Instead, and conveniently to neoliberalism, the apparently radical representations of women only reflect and accommodate free-market conditioning. The Glamour issue mentioned above takes aim at closing the wage gap and cover star Zendaya talks of becoming empowered through her entrepreneurial success. Grazia advises readers on how they can individually ‘take down’ sexism in Hollywood and in an interview Lupita Nyong’o claims: “my success has brought me freedom;” her success being a making it in Hollywood as a woman of colour. Not only are the measures of success shaped in economic terms, but the magazines construct a new role model. The feminine entrepreneur; the wealthy woman who is admirable for breaking social boundaries despite the discrimination that she faces. Of course, the resilience and determination to become one of the few women of colour to make it in Hollywood is astounding. It contributes to visibility and diversity in historically white- and
male-dominated spaces, allowing young women to be inspired. However, the idea that freedom can be gained through being extraordinarily talented and successful and rising to the top of an industry contributes to the mediation of a very clear, consistent and unrealistic message: success is an individual’s feat. This message replaces the unattainable pursuit of beauty with an unattainable pursuit of single-handedly changing long-standing social structures and burdens women with the responsibility of an entire political movement. This version of feminism becomes neoliberalism’s closest ally as women are separated and individualised. Free-market, entrepreneurial and business-minded notions of success are operating under the name of women’s empowerment and equality. When an advert featuring a young, thin entrepreneurial supermodel is placed next to 10 top tips to be more assertive with your boss the discourse serves an illusion of empowerment — the long-lasting double-edged formula that tells women to empower themselves whilst ensuring that they continue to contribute to capitalist consumerism. This new ideal is embedded in the restrictive performance of femininity that has long characterised women’s fashion magazines. Images of slender, white, clear-skinned and perfectly primed young women continue to dominate the pages. The features continue to encourage women to shave, pluck and tighten. The new role models, whilst they traverse the tradition of cover pages dominated by white women, still conform to the patriarchal construction of the feminine beauty ideal. The detrimental impact of these images is well-researched and critiqued and contribute to eating disorders, low self-esteem and body image issues for women. Through adopting messages of popular feminism, women’s fashion magazines combine a disempowering narrative of bodily self-improvement and unattainable perfection with a neoliberal rhetoric that encourages the entrepreneur role model ideal. The texts serve to bombard women with the responsibility of attaining bodily perfection, as well as single-handedly fighting structures of inequality — all in the name of feminism. 23
Words: Josephine Schulte Images: Archives on Women Artists, Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries Photography of artwork courtesy of Michael Karibian
INSIDE THE WOMANHOUSE A pioneering exhibition of female art in Los Angeles is recalled by its participants four decades on 24
A collection of lipsticks, carefully arranged on a wall shelf and bright pink, lace and satin undergarments, are the only objects not drenched in red lacquer in the lipstick bathroom, a room inside the ‘Womanhouse’. In 1972, Judy Chicago, Miriam Schapiro, their students and three other Los Angeles artists turned an old Hollywood mansion into the Western world’s first female-focused art installation, and put on a one-month event that in the light of ongoing gender inequality debates bears significance ‘till today. This they called ‘Womanhouse’. “We started in the fall of 1971, it must have been September that we were looking for a place, we had diﬀerent teams going around the city, and a couple of students found what looked like an abandoned mansion in Hollywood”, remembers Nancy Youdelman who was then one of the students and in her 20s. Over the course of two and a half months the 23 women manually transformed the rundown house into a collaborative art installation that would be open to the public for one month. Every space was created by a diﬀerent artist or group of artists, all related to the topic of women and domesticity. There was for instance the Menstruation Bathroom by Judy Chicago herself. The Linen Closet by Sandy Orgel, featured a mannequin built into a linen closet,
stepping out with one foot towards the viewer. Every aspect of the house was curated, portraying the “the daydreams women have as they wash, bake, cook, sew, clean and iron their lives away.” In the original exhibition essay, written by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro, they explain how the approach of female art students to art making was often conditioned by the boxes women were put into and grew up with, such as unfamiliarity with art making processes or the resistance against pushing themselves beyond their limits. Nancy Youdelman is now approaching 70 and is standing in her Fresno studio, surrounded by her artworks, hung up on the walls and spread over the floor and tables. Her voice gives away her excitement when she speaks about the year she took part in what some praise as one of the most important art installations ever curated. It all started with Judy Chicago. In 1970 the artist founded the feminist art program, a class that was only for women, and the only one of its kind at the time, taught by her at California Arts. At the time the new California Arts University still lacked a proper space, forcing the class to meet in diﬀerent homes, until in 1971 art historian Paula Harper came up with the idea of finding a house for the girls to work and show in. Connecting women, domesticity and
homes seemed natural after that. Renovations on the 17-room house at 533 N. Mariposa street in LA, started on the 8th of November. “It was really a mess, all the windows were broken, there was no plumbing, no electricity”, says Youdelman. Before the fun could start, the house needed to be fixed up, and so the young women rolled up their sleeves to scrub floors and replace windows, and so they started breaking the stereotypes they were planning to investigate and expose. Creating art continues not to be a woman’s prerogative. She is, instead, the domestic goddness, her sole ‘arts’ being the domestic activities associated with womanhood. The curation of ‘Womanhouse’ ironically started out on a kitchen floor. “I remember all of us in the kitchen, sitting on the floor. Talking about kitchens and what kitchens meant, and nurturing and then the dangers of kitchens, cause there were knives and boiling water.” During this discussion, another student, Vicky Hotchin got the idea of turning sunny-side-up eggs into breasts. Because the kitchen held the food, which was nurturing, Nancy Youdelman speaks of the creative process with fascination. It is almost like she cannot quite believe that she was a part of it. Lea’s room was created by Nancy Youdelman and Kieran Mcocke. Lea is a character from a novel by Colette, an old courte-
Roller Skate, 2016 Mixed media sculpture with encaustic 9.5 x 10 x 6.5 inches
Zippers & Pins, 2009 Mixed media with encaustic 54 x 37 x 4 inches
san who lives in a beautiful room, which the two young artists strived to recreate. “I got the wallpaper, it was old, old wallpaper, like rose wallpaper, but I got it really cheap”; Youdelman remembers going down to Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles with Kieran, convincing antique dealers to lend them furniture. “We had this beautiful bed with a partial canapé and an antique vanity [dressing table], and then I had an antique rug and a Victorian fainting couch”. The plush room got its finishing touch from a performance specially created for it. Kieran would merely sit at the makeup table in front of a Victorian mirror and by applying layer after layer of makeup on her face, she was ageing in front of the audience. Women have always been integral to the institution of art, as artists, curators, critics etc. still, only a small number have found their way to great success over the last centuries, and many of the ones who did were forgot about over time. The fact is that women have always been painters, writers, sculptors until reasonably recently, they just were not credited for it. The art world, as it is known, has long been a men’s one. Virginia Treanor the Associate Curator of the National Museum of Women in the Arts says that “women are by far the majority of MFA [Master of Fine Arts] students today, yet their male peers are more than twice as likely to get gallery representation upon graduation”. For every dollar made by male visual artists, women make 81cents, according to the American Community Survey 2005-2009, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages 2010. However, enormous progress has been made: the list of the 100 most influential people in the contemporary art world, published by ArtReview, saw Hito Steyerl, a female artist and filmmaker, at the top in 2017. Judy Chicago was on a mission to change the status quo. In an interview, she once exclaimed: “it was like taking the lid oﬀ a boiling pot”. Teaching women art meant giving women freedom. “Judy really gave us the permission to do what we wanted to do”, Youdelman remembers. Her artwork developed out of this time, she says, it deals with women, clothing, women lives, memorabilia, death and all
Self-Portrait As Ophelia, 1977 — 2017 1977: Mount Saint Mary’s College Art Gallery, Los Angeles, California 2017: Fresno Art Museum Mixed media installation 3 x 8 x 6 feet
the things women leave behind. “We were away from the school, there were no men around, it was a 5,000 square feet space, we rented for hardly any money at all, and so yeah, it was provocative.” When Youdelman first went to college in 1966, she remembers that when there were boys in the class, the girls would be quiet and let the boys speak. She mentions a then prominent saying, ‘women go to get MRes degrees’, meaning that women go to college to find a husband. In the 1970s many men kept away from projects such as the ‘Womanhouse’. In the documentary about the installation, one can see mostly women. One part of it shows the male visitors commenting on what they are witnessing: “Oh, that woman must have had a horrible problem, cause there was so much blood”, says one about Judy’s menstruation bathroom decorated with red paint. Those who came did not always appear sympathetic. One weekend, before ‘Womanhouse’ was created, Judy Chicago invited a variety of artists from Los Angeles to come and see what her students were doing. That weekend conceptual artist John Baldessari showed up. “A woman in the class had made this figure, it was a sculpture,
it was the figure of a woman with her legs spread, and he had a cowboy boot and a few of the women saw him do it, he stuck his cowboy boot between the legs of the sculpture, which is really disgusting”, remembers Youdelman. Inspired by the Womanhouse show of 1972, the National Museum of Women in the Arts ran the exhibition ‘Women House’ in 2018. The National Museum of Women was funded in 1981 by Wilhelmina Holladay and her husband Wallace in Washington D.C.; to this day the institution is the only significant museum dedicated solely to showcasing women’s work. The museum “advocates for better representation of women artists’ and ‘addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today”. ‘Women House’ ran until 28th May and explored traditional ideas about gender and domesticity through the work of 36 global female artists and challenging conventional ideas about gender and the domestic space. “In this watershed era when influential men are losing their jobs due to sexual abuse and harassment, and women are speaking out with powerful #MeToo stories,
discussions about gender inequity have renewed significance,” stated the museum’s director Susan Fisher Sterling in the light of the museum’s social media campaign #5WomenArtists. “There is no better time than now to raise awareness that the art world also disadvantages women’s opportunities and advancement, with women artists of colour experiencing a double disadvantage in an already challenging field.” Today, Virginia Treanor says that the steps to be taken to create a more equal art world are: working against stereotypes; equal pay; recognising and valuing the labour of traditionally feminine roles; building an infrastructure that supports working parents; and empowering girls and boys to champion one another. What Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro realised in 1972 makes them pioneers in this fight for equality in the art world. In the ‘Womanhouse’ catalogue essay they write: “We know that society fails women by not demanding excellence from them. We hung in there. We assured them that they could do it, that the House would be a success, that they were angry because they were being forced to work harder than they ever had before... that it was worth it.”
“NOBODY DREAMS OF BEING A PROSTITUTE” A group of Spanish sex workers fight for their rights
Words: Jordi Jon Pardo, Aleix Pujadas Images: Dongri Ji 28
In Barcelona, there are around 2,735 prostitutes according to oﬃcial figures and, as Paula Ezkerra said in a conference this April, “[they] want to have their own voice”. The Spanish sex workers collective is determined to take a step forward. Ezkerra and her colleagues are trying to improve their rights and public opinion with the creation of a trade union for prostitutes in the capital city of Catalonia. Prostitution in the United Kingdom is not illegal, when it comes to the simple act of exchanging sexual activities for money. People are allowed to both sell and pay for sex (with the exception of Northern Ireland). However, many of the things associated with it are illegal, such as soliciting, running a brothel or pimping. Other European countries, like Germany and Holland, have regulated prostitution. In those states, it is considered a legitimate job and prostitutes are allowed to work for themselves or for another person. Therefore, clients pay an amount of money to prostitutes for the services they provide. Prostitutes and are, thus, allowed to defray social security costs and pay contributions like the rest of the workers. In Spain, the exercise of prostitution is unregulated but not illegal. If a person decides to work as a prostitute, he or she is not punished by Spanish law. Nevertheless, prostution is banned “in areas of public transit, near places frequented by minors (schools, parks ...) or in areas that may create a risk for road safety”, according to the Spanish Citizen Security Law, which imposes fines for this ‘serious oﬀence’. Also, there are some kinds of sex work that are banned in Spain, such as prostitution of minors, forced prostitution or profiting from the sex
work of others. The secretary for equality at the trade union Spanish General Union of Workers (UGT), Eva Gajardo, explains that people who exercise prostitution “can’t be considered employees”, for the simple reason that prostitution is not registered as a job under Spanish law. The question to be discussed, for Gajardo, is whether society or the state should consider prostitution a job like any other. In 2016 a study by Pontificia Comillas University (Madrid) found that 20% of Spanish men had paid for some type of sexual service the year before. The same research also claims that 10% of these users had seen minors exercising prostitution, but they did nothing about it. The latest oﬃcial data on sex work in Barcelona is found in the “Report on prostitution in Barcelona” published in 2014 and made by the council of the city. Of the 2,735 female sex workers in the city, 355 are on the street, 1,000 in private properties or hotels and 1,380 in brothels. Nearly half of them are victims of human traﬃcking. The exploiters do not always exercise violence or intimidation against sex workers; rather, the coercion is linked to situations of precariousness that prostitutes are subjected to. These pressures lead them to practice sex work as the only way out. El Raval is the gateway to Barcelona’s prostitution, the neighbourhood next to Las Ramblas, also known as the heart of the city’s edgy art hub, attitude, and street life. “Nobody dreams of being a prostitute,” says Paula Ezkerra, one of the prostitutes and figureheads of ‘Prostitutas Indignadas’, a platform that calls for spaces where prostitution can be used to improve working conditions and neighbourhood coexistence in El Raval. Another spokeswoman of the ‘Prostitutas Indignadas’ platform, a 54-yearold woman called Janet who has been a sex worker for more than thirty years, complains about precariousness and harassment on the streets of Barcelona. The Civic Ordinance of the city approved in 2012 fines of 3000 euros for those who exercised street prostitution. It was approved by Barcelona conservative mayor Xavier Trias (CiU) with the support of the also conservative party PP. However, the current mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau (Barcelona en Comú), has reduced the pressure on sex workers by avoiding punishing them. Janet points to a 2017 case in which a client killed a sex worker. Though the killer turned himself in to the police and is now in prison, ‘Prostitutas Indignada’ demonstrated for hours in Raval because it was
not treated as murder by many politicians and the press. Janet complains that the mass media focussed on the work of the murdered woman, and not simply that she died as a consequence of gender violence. “We are helpless in many ways that extend far beyond labour rights”, she says. The idea of coming up with the first trade union to claim the “labour and vital” rights of sex workers emerged in 2015 in Barcelona. Various associations of prostitutes have already created the Catalan Assembly of Pro-Rights Activists on Sex Work and announced that the CUP, a left political party of the Catalan pro-independence movement, has given them political support to pull the project forward. In September 2017, the CUP helped them occupy a house in El Raval so the sex workers of ‘Prostitutas Indignadas’ had a place to meet and help each other. Janet admits that one of the problems of the Spanish labour unions is the lack of a feminist perspective. “The trade union is a project that we have been trying to put together for years, but sex work has never been recognized by popular unions like UGT or the CNT (National Confederation of Labour) because they are mostly made up of men.” One of the reasons, according to Eva Gajardo (UGT), is that, for these institutions, prostitution does not contribute positively to society; this is why prostitutes are not able to come up with an union that defends their rights. However, both Janet and Ezkerra remain predisposed to unify and defend the oldest profession in the world, and it seems likely that sex work might either disappear or could be formally regulated in many modern states in the years to come. Spain, specifically Barcelona, is part of a revolution and counter-revolution that has been taking place for decades and seems that we are witnessing the end of unregulated prostitution as an activity that is both legal and illegal at the same time. 29
Words: Jorge Bernal, Joan Bonavila, Ricard Julià, Pep Ribera, Pablo Vilasanjuan
INSIDE BARCELONA’S BROTHELS It is six in the evening; we enter the Basinger club, a typical Barcelona brothel. We introduce ourselves to girl ‘Y’. She is from Bolivia, and from the first day that she arrived in Spain, she has been in a precarious situation, without the papers needed to work legally. When she arrived, she started to work in diﬀerent kinds of jobs, first as cleaning lady, then as babysitter and then as waitress, but the poor economic conditions in which she was living in pushed her into the world of prostitution: “I don’t have papers, I have lived here for 15 years and still have not got them. And without them, I cannot work in what I really want, so there isn’t another solution for me. I searched over the Internet and by chance, I was introduced to this world.” The women who work in the Basinger Club get half of what the punters spend on drinks there. “This is one of the best things. I don’t have to take my customers to bed every time, as I already earn money from the drinks they have, so ever since I arrived here, my conditions have improved. Customers are not always looking for sex. Many times they just want to disconnect for a while and talk with us” claims ‘Y’. Angel, the owner of the Basinger, explains that his role in the process is simply as an intermediary: he makes rooms available, supplies condoms and charges the women rent — it is up to them what they charge for their services. “Women who directly work in the business set their prices and when a customer comes and asks me, I tell them to ask them directly.” What each woman earns in total depends on the number of clients they have per night. If, for example, we are talking about five customers per night, that means a minimum revenue of €200 and maximum of €1,300. ‘Y’ says that, above all, she “would like people to see me as a woman who works in something normal, like any other normal job.” Moreover she considers that regulation of this practice would help in both her work and personal life in the long term: “I would pay taxes, I would already have my papers. I would benefit in many aspects, but above all I would have been paying taxes for a long time and would not have to hide from the Ministry of Finance.” 30
Angel says that brothel owners do their best to establish fair rates and to maintain discretion for their customers. He argues that the regulation of prostitution would not only be a breakthrough for women but for society as well: “they are taking a long time to legalise prostitution. I’ve always been a supporter of regulation. We are talking about the oldest profession in the world and it should be regulated. They are not just prostitutes. Some believe that they live for drugs, that they don’t want to work. That is not so. They come from different countries. Their situation is not good and sometimes they are forced to enter this world. But they must have the right to be registered, to have a contract of employment, to pay taxes...” Other European countries take different approaches. In Sweden, it is illegal to buy sexual services, but not to sell the use of one’s own body for such services. Running a brothel is legal, too. In the Netherlands, the practice of prostitution is permitted and women have their job regulated with schedules, unions, and contracts of employment, in addition to good working conditions and protected areas to carry out their work. Their philosophy is that customers are paying for a service, and that women must be free to do what they wish with their bodies, and always in the best possible conditions. Across the continent there is a debate about whether prostitution should be legal. There are some who, knowing the dangers that women are exposed to, want to regulate the job to improve their conditions, but there are others who wish to fully abolish it. What is clear is that prostitution should not be a stain on such a dazzling city as Barcelona. Should it be allowed provided that it is regulated? Should we turn a blind eye because it is an activity that will always be present? Should we eradicate it because it is an affront to women’s dignity? Having spoken with the protagonists of this business, what is clear is that regulation would help create employment contracts with the same conditions of other professions: the same duties and benefits as any other worker
Words: Marc Alsius, Jorge Enriquez, Clara Pi
LIFE ON THE STREETS OF BARCELONA One of the worst human rights violations that sex workers face involves extortion and coercion by ‘mafias’. This is what Irina (not her real name), from Nigeria, says. As she set to leave Nigeria, she contacted people who cheated and extorted her. The National Police say that around 90% of sex workers in Spain are victims of exploitation by traﬃcking networks. The restrictions on migration to developed countries are the main cause of the increase in traﬃcking networks. The need for paid work, subsistence and the search for a better quality of life are the general causes that motivate the displacement. This is what Irina reaﬃrms when she is asked about why she decided to come to Spain, knowing the risks that the trip could entail: “I was looking for freedom, Spain is a free world with a lot of work and good life, they told me.” To start the process of migrating, economic resources are necessary (€40.000 approx), so all the women build up debts they will probably never be able to repay. These mafias provide the women with false documentation and promise them work in bars as waitresses, as social workers for the elderly or, in the domestic sphere. But once they arrive in the country, they find a very diﬀerent reality. To guarantee the payment of the debt, they are coerced with threats to their family back home or with voodoo rituals. Irina came to Spain via Morocco and was about to lose her life countless
of times in the attempt to reach Europe. The intermediary who arranged the trip cheated her, assuring her a job in a factory on the outskirts of Barcelona, when in reality, she was taken to a brothel where she was forced into prostitution. In Barcelona women like Irina work in the streets, squares or parking lots, where they oﬀer their services. In most of the cases, it is the clients who, through eye contact or direct approach, come to inquire about the price and the services. Irina assures that she doesn’t pursue her clients: “I sit in a bank with my phone. If any man comes near me and he looks at me I tell him how much I charge and that’s it.” However, some women follow men and oﬀer their services much more directly, a response to the pressures and debts they face from their “superiors.” The current government is trying to achieve guaranteed minimum human rights for sex workers: health care, training, employment. For example, through the SAS (Socioeducational Care Service) they have organized street teams that work at night in the diﬀerent neighborhoods of Barcelona to promote access to these rights. “There are a lot of women working on the street and they don’t know what is health care. We take time to explain to them how it works and what are the methods to get it, we accompany them during all the process,” explains the social educator Mar Creixell. They are also provided with a space to have a decent room or indicated social services even though they don’t have a passport.
SUBTLE PROTEST Have you heard of pussy pipes? Nipple Pins? Vagina ashtrays?
Words: Aliaa El Sherbini Images: Hani, Izzi, Caitlyn Rose Sweet
Have you heard of pussy pipes? Nipple Pins? Vagina ashtrays? Have you ever smoked out of one? Have you ever wore or bought one? Not even ashed in the gash? Do these objects make you feel uncomfortable? Are you embarrassed? Might even think they’re a little silly? Well, the creators of these functional art objects have created them, handmade just for you. There is no proven evidence on when and who is the original inventor of the ceramic pipes in the shape of the female pleasurable and reproductive body part, however the internet gave Caitlin Rose Sweet and Nico Mazza status of leading pussy pipe creators. Pussy pipes, named like how they look, are in the shapes of vaginas in all their pride, a little messy, diﬀering in colours and shapes. Each artist puts their twist, identity and vision in the molding of their version of the pussy pipe. Pussy pipes came in with a bang, because of their innovative aesthetic, but more so due to the meanings behind their creation. Artist Nico Mazza told me, “we are in a social climate where women are scrutinized for their bodies, shamed for their sexuality and oppressed by patriarchal institutions. I created these objects in response to that.” Mazza, no stranger to women-empowering art projects, created a series of pussy vessels using several
colours and several shapes to try and represent women in diﬀerent curves and forms, not just a mold that fits all. Following Sweet and Mazza’s footsteps, senior graphic designer at Kingston University Hani was creating innovative ceramic work of her own: Gashtrays. Gashtrays are handmade ashtrays in the form of the female reproductive system. What originated as a joke “ashing into a gash”, as a present to one of Hani’s friends during their foundation year at Leeds University, sprung into a real project. After posting the first Gashtray on Instagram, Hani received commissions for ceramic work from followers and so began to develop the designs and concept. Although aware of the provocativeness of the project, Hani does not want to be “all in your face” with her designs. “I think Gashtray’s provocativeness works within an eco-chamber. It works around people that are already feminists and find it funny and like that type of things. But for me, it doesn’t work as a persuasive form of activist design in that way.” With a subtle activist design, the pink ashtrays are prone to criticism—as Pussy Pipes are—like the ones received from her professors, who do not seem too fond of her extra-curricular project. They think of it as a “brash” and “intense” object, which are descriptions that Hani accepts lightheartedly. “Maybe their characters
are modest enough that they don’t find it funny or comfortable enough, or they rather avoid the subject,” she says. “We don’t need to make a big deal out of this, it’s just normal, it’s our bodies, it’s beautiful and it’s just fun.” Mazza is also aware and respectful of the fact that some people will be oﬀended by her creations, however, she does not mind being provocative, “I like making people confront themselves through art,” said the artist. “I want the pipes to be engaging- to be talked about, to provoke conversations about sexuality, about body autonomy, about empowerment.” Hani has been working with second-year product designer at Kingston University Izzi on the gash stash which is the packaging of Gashtrays, and who will be soon collaborating on new production combining Gashtays and Izzi’s TastyNips. TastyNips is an imagine archive of everything nipple that Izzi finds while wandering around life, which includes Hani’s handmade nipple pins. “I do intend for TastyNips to be provocative but I don’t want to oﬀend, just to get people questioning the status quo,” Izzi says. “I think though approaching it as something light hearted it becomes a more powerful tool to get people thinking those important feminist thoughts about equality.” After Instagram had taken down one of her images for having a shadow of a nipple visible in it—yes only a shadow— Izzi created TastyNips. It’s basically both a fun game of spot and appreciate the nipples, and a way to bring normalcy to female bodies because “our society tells us a lot of weird stuﬀ about our bodies as girls growing into women and we often have warped senses of what normal can be,” says Izzi. The project will soon be transformed into a line of nipple tassels and edible themed goodies. “It is a bit silly, but I think that feminism has been given the bad stigma of being so serious and a ‘kill joy’ by so many young men and women,” Izzi explains about the reason behind her project. Undoubtedly, you’d think that a topic containing pink, breasts and vaginas will include the notion of feminism for the simple reason that they are all things related to women. And this form of art does touch upon female rights, but not just those. Caitlin Rose and Mazza both expressed how feminism takes many forms, with no form-fits-all, except the premise of fighting for equality; these creations are one of the forms of feminist art. However, “by visually associating, nipples, breasts and pussies to feminism, we are isolating entire groups of women identifying individuals and creating a visual catalog that needs to be revised and expanded,” expressed Mazza. Not every person who 33
has a vagina identifies as female and not every person who identifies as a woman has a vagina or breasts, therefore “this design is not representative of all women,” said Mazza, something which Hani agrees about her work as well. This is why it is not only women who are fighting for equality, but also transgender and non-binary people, something which these artists are well aware of and try to highlight in their ideas. They serve as a reminder of how special and diﬀerent our bodies are. “The end goal is about putting “this thing [the vagina]” that has been so stigmatized for everybody to see on a daily basis,” Hani told me. “It’s like taking the weight all the way behind it and basically normalising it.” The need to re-normalise certain bodies is because we haven’t really ever felt the normalcy of our bodies to begin with as females, Mazza explained, “Our bodies throughout history have been consumed, objectified and oppressed by patriarchal institutions of government, religion, family ideals, gender roles sexuality and the list goes on.” By designing and creating such vessels, the artists hope to give alternatives to traditional art forms that might have at times favored heteronormative and masculine based ways of doing. What all of these functional art objects have in common—besides most of them representing the vagina—is that they all want to normalize the human body, give power to women’s bodies and sexuality in a funny, endearing, innovative and a little provocative way. As Izzy says, “My theory is get in there with the laughs and then slowly but surely the ideologies sneak on in there.” Gashtrays, nipple pins, pussy pipes all protest something, give freedom to a certain part of a body even if just in a small scale, and they have an edge to them that not everyone will understand or appreciate, but they are all conversation starters and that is their biggest power. “I think it takes away the fear of bringing up the topic. I see these objects as conversation starters. The more people have them the more conversations are started and the more people will hopefully become curious and confident to do more,” says Izzy.” “I think they serve as a reminder that our bodies and the pleasure they experience are not to be shamed or censored,” commented Mazza. They sure are provocative; however, “you can feel how you want to fell about them. I don’t want it to be one of those things that I am ramming down someone’s throat, I just want it to be discreetly in the corner laughing at you. It’s like subtle protest,” expressed Hani. 34
Caitlin Rose Sweet and her creations celebrate radical queerness and feminism. Caitlin Rose Sweet, artist and creator based in Brooklyn New York City is Queer and proud. She plays around with craft, space and shapes to express her desires in the form of functional and expressive art. When did you start creating functional art objects? I have been working with ceramics on and oﬀ for 20 years, ceramics have been my main material/process for the last 5 years and for the last 3 years ceramics have been my 24/7 and I have been making functional ware for a living. When I first started working with clay I was really resistant to making functional objects, I found it too traditional and limiting. Now I am really invested in unpacking what it means to be functional and exploring how to make functional art objects to support and celebrate queer bodies. How would you describe your work? The work is focused on creating fun feminist body/sex positive space and objects that reflect and celebrate radical queerness. This could be an immersive installation with ceramics, textiles, performers and video, surreal feminine sculptures, and functional domestic objects. I spend most of my time making body positive high femme smoking vessels aka pussy pipes. Do you consider yourself the first pussy pipe creator? When did you start creating them? I am not the first or only pussy pipe maker, I feel proud to be a part of a community of feminist makers who are using their craft to reclaim, redefine and celebrate pussy. Ceramics is one of human’s earliest
technology and folks have been smoking cannabis/medicinal plants forever. I am just a part of that long tradition. I know that the idea of pussy pipes sprung from a funny idea and a present to a friend, then how did it develop to what it is now? It wasn’t so much as a joke but a moment of love and appreciation for our friend and her amazing labia. I mean it was funny and she loved it. In fact she still has her original pussy pipe. I never meant to become a brand on social media, but I feel really lucky that my work has been shared and supported online. Somehow I never saw it coming, but there is a need for pussy pipes in the world!! Do you think us, as females need such objects to claim back the normalcy of our bodies? To be clear not all women have pussies and not everyone with a pussy is a woman. I am interested the idea of being cunty as a place of radical feminine resistance and bad attitude that isn’t about being female. But there is no denying we are still living in the patriarchy and the patriarchy hates women, femininity, pussies of all forms and genders so yes we still need to protect ourselves and make art that values are bodies and sexuality.
Do you perceive your work as empowering to the LGBTQ community? If so, then in what ways? I do see my work as empowering to queer folks, but the LGBTQ community is so diverse and multidimensional that it’s impossible to make something that speaks to and uplifts everyone. Clearly as a white cis queer woman I have my own mixture of privilege and oppression, and my work speaks strongest to certain parts of the queer community. But the more queer artists are creating work that speaks about and to queerness the better. Do you have a specific project that you’ve created that reflects your identity as a queer women the most? Last fall I presented a series of vessels called Uncontainable, these forms were informed by the cultural and historical representation of feminine bodies as empty vessels to be filled by masculinity. So I made these hyper feminine complicated vessels that were designed to leak, squirt, and receive fluids in unexpected ways. A group of performers activated
the vessels by sharing water back and forth as a metaphor of feminine labor and how sexual pleasure creates a network of bonds between bodies. It was messy, wet, and beautiful. What is the next step in Caitlin Rose’s world of creations? The next step is bridging the gap between my more conceptual installations and the smoking vessels, I am in the beginning stages of conceiving an installation that has performers using the smoking vessels and create an psychedelic video highlighting the importance of body autonomy, pleasure, chilling out, and restorative times with your babes. I am working on a line of more trans inclusive vessels; I collaborated with my friend Emma to design the Hard Femme bubbler to celebrate femme cock. Emma recently passed and I am donating her half of the profit to the www.translifeline.org/microgrants/ she was studying to be a nurse and this micro grant helps transsexual folk attend educational programs in medical field.
What inspires your work? I pull inspiration from a diverse amount of sources, craft history, cartoons, feminist art, and mostly my lived experiences within the glistening queer worlds that I exist in. I am always moved by the way queer folks survive, thrive, and shine in a world that is so hostile and bleak. And how we form networks of support, care, comfort, and intimacy to navigate heteronormativity is truly inspirational and healing. Some people might find your work too provocative or too “out there”, what would you say about that? The artist role is to provoke, to fuck with the boundaries and to pull back the curtains on the bullshit. I live in the “out there” because what is the “in there” is a culture of homophobia, racism, ableism, toxic masculinity, and oppression. Do you intend to be provocative? Is being provocative in art considered a bad thing? Pussy isn’t provocative to me, it doesn’t shock me, it is just a part of my body. A complex part of my body. I am not looking for a shock value; I am challenging the crushing divide between public and private. Folks who really love the pussy pipes tell me how soothing and exciting it is to them. 35
Q&A with the Posh Club creator Simon Casson Artefact sits down with Simon Casson, discussing the extravagant shows at Posh Club
Words: Aliaa El Sherbini Images: Georgia Panagi
The Posh Club is a weekly social club for older people styled as a 1940s glamour afternoon tea party. The social club started out in Hackney by the arts enterprise, homo-social honky-tonk and performance club Duckie. Following the success of the events, it expanded to five locations all glammed up and full with performers from all ends of the sexuality spectrum, keeping the LGBTQ community in the spotlight and bringing communities together all while putting a smile on 100 elder attendees each week. Here is our chat with Simon Casson, creator and founder of Duckie.
How do you choose the performers for each week? I have a very full little black book with the names and numbers of hundreds of performers — from burlesque artistes to ballerinas to opera singers, to hula hoopers to drag queens.
When and why did you start the Posh Club? What sentimental value does it represent to you? Me and my sister Annie started in about 5 years ago for my Mum who was 84 and had moved from Hackney in London to Crawley, where there was a lack of social activities for older people. We wanted
to give her and her new Crawley mates something glamorous to do. My Mum passed away a year or so later but The Posh Club lives on in her honour. It turned from a one-time event for your mom to an expansion to five clubs, why do you think such an event worked so well in diﬀerent places? Each new Posh Club takes on the identity of the local community that it is set in as it is a collaboration between us, Duckie and the local people who come. For instance, in Hackney, it’s very urban mix of old Hackney — Caribbean, African, Asian — and in Brighton we are hoping it will be quite LGBT. How does creating the Posh Club diﬀerentiate and resembles your creations at Duckie? The Posh Club is much more respectable than Duckie. Duckie is wilder and the people who come are not as fancily dressed.
What are your plans for the future of the Posh Club? We want to roll it out over the country and have a Posh Club in every town, funded by the NHS. How do you keep the LGBT essence of Duckie in each Posh Club created? Without making a big deal about it our queerness infiltrates the centre of all of Duckie’s projects. Benders 4EVA innit? You mentioned that you were hoping that in the venue at Brighton it would be quite LGBT, how would that be? Hmm. It didn’t work out like that in the
end. The LGBTQ peeps we approached wanted the event to be LGBTQ exclusive, which is not our style. So the Brighton Posh Club is only about 20% LGBTQ in terms of punters, but the volunteers are probably 80% LGBTQ — that’s Brighton babes. Is there something that you can change in the organization or set-up of the Posh Club in Brighton that would make it a more reflective club on Duckie and what it is all about? The venue Ralli Hall is in a middle class area in Hove actually, but we bus all our people in from other more working class areas — the enclaves of Hangleton, Whitehawk and Mouslecomb. Do your choice of performers change from one Posh Club venue to the other? Yes. It’s ‘Progressive Working Class Entertainment’ — music, comedy and dance — but some of the five venues are more open minded to experimentation than others. Some just want a knees-up — no questions asked — and some want a bit of artistic examination. Have you ever had any complaints or concerns from the attendees about the identity or sexuality of the performers? The Hackney Black Afro-Caribbean Christian people that come to the club in Hackney are SO surprisingly open minded and queer friendly. It’s all very post modern, like how Jacques Derrida explained. The opposite of all we were taught is true. Or maybe Hackney is just so left wing that this message of acceptance has been embedded in the older black community. Have the performances at the Posh Club always been a little risqué? In Hackney or Elephant & Castle yes, in Crawley No. The working class audience are either very liberal (Hackney, Elephant) or very conservative (Crawley), depending on the area. Do you perceive that the attendees of the Posh Club are pro LGBT rights? In London, yes. In the sticks, slowly. What is your main message to the people attending the Posh Club? Keep glamorous! 37
EXPRESSIONS OF ANDROGYNY Artists and performers K-HOLE ANKKH use painting and performance to create and promote a world free of binaries and gender expectations
Words and images: Eleni Parousi
K-HOLE ANKKH is an artistic duo from Italy. The twin soul artists use painting and performance to create and promote a world free of binaries and gender expectations. Based in Rome, the pair often visits London to spread their mission of r-evolution. If you get lucky, you can catch them in queer dance nights like Papa Loko, Kaos and Coven or the legendary and long standing underground arts night of Italy, Decadence. I first saw them at the regular techno night KAOS in Electrowerks. Washed by a blue light, they were locked in a cage, painting a mural all night. Dressed in carefully hand-constructed garments, they moved graciously, in perfect harmony with each other. Curious about their art practice and relationship to one another, I asked if I could visit to photograph them and find out what were they all about. Ektor and Kristofer share a passion for art and fashion outside the traditional constrains of the gallery and the catwalk. They perform in club nights, abandoned buildings, diy venues and queer nights. They are young, in-love and utterly utopian. They believe in a world of no gender and pure freedom. A new kind of anarchy, colourful and sexy. I went to photograph K-HOLE ANKKH on a rainy October day. I had previously asked if I can observe them while they paint, to try to capture something of their artistic and romantic relationship. I arrived at their house in Stoke Newington and was welcomed by the half naked cou-
ple and a hot cup of Italian coﬀee. “We’re running late”, they said, “can you wait in the kitchen?”. My curiosity grew even bigger, what had they planned for me? 20 minutes later I stepped into their room, which had been arranged for the day. The couple’s recent paintings rested on the walls all around, a white cloth covered the floor, tubes of paint scattered all over it. The pair stood in the middle, dressed in nothing but jockstraps and white tulles, like two cupids in-love, waiting, paintbrushes in hand. ‘We are ready when you are’ they declared; not asking any questions, I started shooting. What followed was a strange dance between three people: the performing pair and me. Climbing on the furniture around the room, I observed them painting each other’s bodies, expressing their androgyny with their brushes and paint. As I moved, so they moved with me, following the camera with their bodies. The more they painted each another, the more they became absorbed by one another, until they forgot I was there. Their bodies now perfectly painted and intertwined, they started pouring paint over themselves and smudging it across their chess, until they became one — one painting, one entity, one body. The performance lasted about an hour. “Is this how you normally work?”, I asked. “There’s no formula”, they proclaimed, “we do what feels right”. “Is there anything you had in mind?”, they asked. I took a minute to think. 39
The performance had swept me away. Their ability to communicate their message through their movement and through their interaction with each other was more than I had envisioned. They live and breath art, but I had the feeling that the force behind it all is their
deep personal connection, their passionate young love. “How are you planning on cleaning all this paint?”, I asked. “We normally have baths together”, they said, “the tub is small, but we love washing one another”. I smiled, “perfect”. 43
Why gender-neutral toilets matter It’s about respect for the identity of everyone
Words: Gerardine Dempsey Images: Oswin Tickler
“Some of you may feel campaigning for gender-neutral toilets is petty, but making small changes like this will eventually soften society’s rigid attitudes toward gender. Whether it’s the language we use, fighting for gender neutral toilets, engaging in organised debate, attending protests or even just calling out and standing up to transphobic hate on social media — we can all support and show solidarity with one another in our own way. Once attitudes change, we will all have a better understanding of one another, move forward as a society and hopefully more lives will be saved.” the closing words of Anisa Easterbrook in an article for Artefact in 2015. Three years later and we’re ready to benchmark our progress. When Anisa sat down with activist Charlie Craggs in 2015, there was a campaign running by the students’ union at UAL to get gender-neutral toilets in learning spaces put in place. Discussing transphobia in universities and a campaign Charlie had just launched called Nail Transphobia — an organisation that exists to educate people on trans issues and make new allies, while also delivering glamorous manicures — they touched on the importance of gender-neutral toilets. Today UAL has 56 gender neutral bathrooms across eight campuses, with seven of these doubling as accessible bathrooms: “UAL is committed to being a place where gender diversity is expected and respected, and where trans people are free from discrimination. Providing gender neutral toilets is a small step towards realising this goal.” It is, however, a hugely positive step not only in terms of toilets but also in terms of tone. With the same breath UAL reminds staff and students “not to challenge a person’s choice of facilities on the basis of their gender presentation.” This is a refreshing but sadly infrequent occurrence by larger institutions. The bathroom in your home is, by default, gender neutral. The seemingly simple question we ask, is why isn’t every bathroom gender neutral? Would it be as obvious as painting over the male and female icons, and replacing them with “toilet”? On reflection there are some flaws to the argument. Simply opening the floodgates and making all bathrooms in existing buildings gender neutral ignores the simple tangible difference between the two: urinals. As well as all the feelings,
comments or conduct from staff in the last year and one in seven trans university students (14%) have considered dropping out or have dropped out of a higher education course because of experiencing harassment or discrimination from students and staff in the last year. 23-yearold Taylor was quoted in their report: “I have recently started at a new university. I was laughed at, ridiculed, and became the butt of jokes that normally gender me as a woman. This has been constant since day one.” In January of this year Charlie Craggs told The Independent: “People think that just because Caitlyn Jenner’s been on the front cover of Vanity Fair everything’s cool now, but though the public’s understanding has improved and there’s more positive representation and general acceptance of trans people, things have gotten worse in the way that matters most. The number of trans murders is rising consistently every year globally, and here in the UK hate crime is increasing rapidly too. We don’t want magazine covers; we want to feel safe.” Reluctantly playing devils advocate I gave a quick google search of “attack on trans person”. I was faced with reams of search results recounting the brutal attacks and murders of innocent trans people across the world. My scrolling ceased quickly as I counted ten, then twenty, then fifty who had been injured or killed this year alone, and its only June. As I searched for even a semblance of misconduct all I got was the indisputable truths confirmed to me on a dim screen. With Charlie and others campaigning furiously and the crisis facing the trans community mounting, it is easy to slip into “what-about-ery”. Defined as “Protesting at hypocrisy; responding to criticism by accusing one’s opponent of similar or worse faults.”, and no doubt a product of the internet age. Responding with retorts as banal as “yeah but what about all the murders, why are we bothering with bathrooms?” It has and always will be about more than bathrooms. It is about receiving the most basic level of respect for your gender and existence from other human beings, but starting with an ostensibly insignificant act that makes someone’s every day a little bit better will keep our resolve intact as we push towards the llarger issues.
emotions and performative masculinity that comes with them. New York based architect Alex Schweder who coined the term “Performance Architecture” wrote for independent magazine Dirty Furniture: “Conventional restrooms are theatres in which binary gender identities are performed, witnessed and reinforced. By passing through gendered doors we choose which role we play.” The fact is that the act of sitting or standing while urinating is not engrained in us, it is learned. From the moment we are trained as children to adopt certain poses while peeing the gender segregation begins. The addition of urinals of course requires a specific posture that has become such an inherent part of “being a man” while we regard remaining seated during the act as somehow “feminine”. Schweder notes that “public toilets are among the last openly sex-segregated spaces that remain in our society, and, crucially, among the last places that people expect to be sex segregated.” Coming from an architectural perspective he posits that perhaps the key to a truly gender-neutral toilet — and to its widespread acceptance — will involve a thorough reconsideration of how we all use the toilet. By becoming more aware of the complexity of design in relation to the performance of certain gender roles and social norms, and considering how urinals and toilets are really just props that assist us in this performance he questions “how could design make space for or entertain the possibility of other performances?” Though Schweder’s musings are more contemplative than they are active, they can and should be applied to all of us. Questions of bathrooms might seem unrelated to cisgendered people but questioning how we each perform our gender day to day is a worthwhile activity. It is hard to imagine within a UAL echo chamber how rampant transphobia is within other universities across the UK, but the statistics don’t lie. Stonewall, the LGBT+ charity released “LGBT in Britain: The Trans Report” in January which surveyed 5,375 lesbian, gay, bi and trans people across England, Scotland and Wales and revealed some worrying statistics. Almost half of trans people (48%) don’t feel comfortable using public toilets. More than a third of trans university students (36%) have experienced negative
Words and images: Madeleine Magin Betelu and Laura Sodano Ballestero
BRINGING ART TO LIFE How drag queens in Barcelona use make-up and costume to express their creativity All factors count. Every detail is curated to the millimeter. Each way of acting, every way of being. Each wig, hair by hair and covered by a thick layer of lacquer. The eyeliner, eyebrows, corset or vinyl clothing. It does not matter how late it is, neither does the heat, pain or discomfort matter as long as perfection is reached. There are many drag queens who walk, do their shows and ask their audience for acclaim in the streets of the Left Eixample in Barcelona and its night clubs, also known as Gayxample. In a shared apartment, between 46
metro stops Urgell and Sant Antoni, every weekend Ă cido and David, who plays Elektra, both go by the stage name Gorgona. It is an apartment shared by people in their thirties or less who gather in front of the TV to watch music videos, Eurovision rehearsals or shows about finding the perfect wedding dress, all while chatting about anything. As the evening progresses more people cross the entrance door to the point of not knowing who is invited and who lives there. What is certain is that David drags from his house an extra large suitcase to the apartment where
the meetings are held, which contains his Gorgona outfit. Gorgós is an ancient Greek term that means “terrifying”. However it would certainly sound more common if it is explained as the name referring to three female figures who are considered monsters in Greek mythology. It is about three sisters who have snakes for hair, golden wings and bronze hands, and a glare able to turn anyone who made eye contact with them into stone. Their names were Esteno, Euryale and Medusa. Today, in the skin of these supernatural women, hated by their power, you have Elekrta, Ácido and a third name that remains unknown due to the departure of the third member of the group. The costumes and wigs are completely customized. From David’s suitcase pops out a large and voluptuous custom made electric blue tulle skirt, and a top of the same color that combines transparency and vinyl. Proud of the result, he shows to each person passing by the living room the great artwork that some professionals have made with his platinum blonde wig. It is a hairstyle with such spectacular waves going from side to side of his head. You could say it is inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s aesthetic but in a more exaggerated way. Just as expensive and equally unconscionable is Ácido’s wig, all black with a platinum blonde wick that gives a vampiric touch, and which is exposed on the dining table for anyone that passes by to see. The evening starts at 21:42. There are about two hours of makeup assured. Skin colored stocking socks are placed on their head and while David uses a glue stick to create a flat surface near the eyebrows, he decides which will be their makeup for the night. The glue stick is the same as the one any child may carry in his backpack to go to school, and the same one that almost any drag queen chooses to have in her vanity case, perhaps because of its eﬀectiveness. While waiting for all the layers of glue on his face dry, he begins to shave his beard in the sink. It is vital to have a waxing session before each transformation to achieve the desired style. In Ácido’s room at least four large suitcases filled with makeup products are laying on the bed. Gorgona uses brands used by the most famous YouTubers like Nikkie Tutorials, Manny Mua, favours
and of course Jeﬀree Star, from Nars, Too Faced, Yves Saint Lauren, to Huda Beauty, L’Oreal and NYX. He chooses the black eyeliner to draw a line that goes from the eye to the hair growth, Lady Gaga style. The defender, revolutionary and feisty singer by LGTBQ rights is one of Gorgona’s biggest sources of inspiration and not only for her ideas, but for her aesthetics. It is customary for many drag queens to use this appearance as they find it to be the closest step to a change of gender. There are several reasons for it. Taking a step like this is not easy, almost nothing that makes the “definitive” alarm go oﬀ is presented as a crystalline choice. It is in no way judgeable the fact of feeling part of another body, the feeling of being born in the wrong body and for that reason wanting to change it. But the transition is never easy as long as it is given importance to basic minds that qualify it as unnatural or abnormal. This and other reasons that reside inside each person mean the only step that can be taken for the time being is dressing up to create a new personality. The alter ego is another reason to create a character that diﬀers completely from the person who usually is shown. A name, a personal aesthetic and a new behaviour are adopted and are worked on day after day. In no case is it a forced decision, but a way of being that dwells within each individual and sometimes manifests itself through aesthetics. Being a drag queen does not mean going in search of femininity, it is an option that is taken as any other and the reasons are endless depending on each person. Being Lady Gaga and not Beyoncé, being expressive through exaggeration and not for femininity is the definition and reason of being for Ácido, a drag queen who never would define himself as a woman, who believes faithfully in his way as a man. A 28 year old man who, after chasing the dream of being a professional makeup artist, realised that modern art in today’s society is fashion, cosmetics, hairdressing and everything that a person can wear. He realises that transformation is not always the desire for a gender change, but another way of expressing feelings and emotions. Exactly two hours later, after a mask made of eye shadow, fake eyelashes and pronounced contouring, only twenty minutes is left to reach the hotel where they
“Transformation is not always the desire for a gender change, but another way of expressing feelings.”
work. Axel Hotels is a chain that has been recognised for its full commitment to the LGBTQ community and seeking their full integration into society. It organises evenings dedicated to these people, parties like any other that you can attend without feeling judged alongside drag queens like Ácido and Elektra, or other well-known Barcelona names like Michelle Divine, Bushido or Moon Diva. They work at these events to enliven the atmosphere and the attendees, to whom they suggest other clubs, usually gay ones, to go on to. PK2 (pronounced ‘pecados’, which is Spanish for ‘sins’) is a new space in the Tango room that opened this week and the idea was to convince as many people as possible in Hotel Axel and other bars nearby to go and enjoy the company of the drag queens who appeared on the lineup. Twenty minutes turned into forty between clothing and hair styling. Elektra surrounds her waist and abdomen with Scotch tape to stick her underwear to her body before putting the majestic tulle skirt and vinyl crop top. The skirt cannot be put on before leaving the room because she would not fit through the door, or through the dining room to get to the front door. Ácido wears a vinyl black body, with puﬀed sleeves and leopard stockings. When he puts on the corset he loses all mobility and needs a third hand to put on the black boots that make him two heads taller than normal. All clothing is designed exclusively for them, they pick ideas from what they see on the street, in magazines, at concerts and red carpets and fuse everything they like into a unique and spectacular design. Placing the wig on their heads is the final touch that turns them into Gorgonas, completing a spectacular transformation. Liquid glue is used to stick the net of the wig on the head and attach overnight. More lacquer is used, all necessary to finish the evening looking the same as the beginning, and keep the glue in the bag for contingencies that may arise. They hail a taxi with five seats that barely fits Elektra’s skirt to get to the hotel as quickly as possible. At the door the others, their bosses and other drag queens from the club’s lineup are already waiting for them. Pink paper bracelets are distributed to customers of the bars so that they can come to the opening party at the Tango Hall. It is a large group, at 48
least six drag queens walking around the streets of Barcelona with spectacular dresses, wigs of all colors, violet, pink, blonde, scandalous makeup and shoes with vertiginous platforms. In small local bars they already know them and expect them to arrive every Saturday; some oﬀer them shots and others observe them from a distance, not surprised, but with admiration. Some ask them for pictures and they are always ready to pose or outshine the others. Wherever they go they build a scandal, their screams are heard from the distance when they are talking, because if the wardrobe is not enough, everyone should notice they’re there. They criticize one another, laughing and joking. They are almost like the top models of Gianni Versace acclaimed every time they walk the runway, and they know it. When it is two AM they must head quickly to the club before the performances start. Some decide to walk there, while others take a taxi, and meet directly at the Tango Hall backstage. A living room with a sofa, a wardrobe and a mirror is the space they have to rest and prepare before leaving for the podium. They get drinks and consume them standing up while talking. The backstage area is behind a door guarded by bodyguards next to a sort of abandoned warehouse with storng white lights, empty boxes, badly painted walls, nothing to do with the club room. At the entrance photos of the looks of the night are taken to post on Instagram the next day. The work they do has evolved over the years. In the 90s, according to one of the most famous drag queens at that time and who is now a transsexual woman, dressing up this way was claiming a body that did not correspond to the one you had. It meant to show the world that you could choose to be a diﬀerent gender. Karla today accompanies them during their work throughout several clubs in Barcelona but does not think the purpose of being a drag queen is the same today than what it was two decades ago. She explains that today they don’t dress up in a certain way because they feel it in them, but simply dressing up for the heck of it. It is clear that times have changed, and this community is growing but still has trouble expressing itself as it would like to. Ácido does not distinguish between himself dressed as a man or as a woman. When Elektra puts on the wig
and make up and dresses as a woman she feels more powerful. She never stops doing what she wants and how she wants it whether she is Elektra or David, but as a drag queen she feels a diﬀerent energy, perhaps because it is not recognised or perhaps because it oﬀers an incalculable confidence. When something is done it is done for oneself, but often to transfer a certain feeling to others. For most this work is defined as scarce and poorly paid. Jobs are few and limited, and drag queens in Barcelona are countless. It is not possible to maintain a normal and stable life while doing this: not even the whole expenses of the clothing, makeup and hairdressing are covered. “For the love of the art” would be the best definition for doing what they do, because they continue doing this even if they do not provide anything economically. It can be complicated to understand, but that’s the life of an artist, which is what these young people are. At first the preparation of these characters was not as intense and elaborate, and it gradually has been
growing and becoming more serious until it became a job. On a normal night at Arena or Ultrapop, gay nightclubs in Barcelona, they do not go out to drink and dance dressed as drag queens, because they would be giving away something that really should be paid for. The room is slowly getting crowded and people are spread across the pop and EDM zones. The drag queens wait their turn to go on stage to dance by walking through the club or meeting backstage. Wigs are retouched and more glue is added around their face to make it last a few hours longer. Their makeup must stay perfect until dawn, with brush strokes they remove illuminations in the face created by sweat and that may highlight a recently shaven beard. Everyone goes down to the dance room to take a walk, to be seen, to show oďŹ&#x20AC; their very elaborate costumes, their wigs, their hours of work, which is what they are paid for. One of them remains backstage: she seems new to dressing up as a woman, or at least doing it to give a show. She secretly poses in front of the
mirror and likes what she sees. When the experienced drag queens talk about the rookies they do it in two ways, the first is to criticise them negatively. If a new drag queen wanders around the clubs without being paid, it gives the owners an excuse not to pay any of them. On the other hand, there are those who defend them, because we must never forget where everyone came from. Everyone must start from scratch and has to sell themselves however they can. Some reach the target and others do not, but either way they should not stop doing what they like and what fulfills them. On the contrary, we must fight for this kind of artistic expression to be as valued as any other job. The new ones, who crazily seek to be seen, even convey tenderness because they are people who are slowly growing up and forming themselves in this world, free of prejudice. Some start going on stage, everyone wants to be the first to do so, and everyone wants to spend as much time as possible on it. But here it is the boss who
decides the rules and these end up not being the same for everyone. This is one of the roots of the fights that may arise overnight. Anyone who takes the stage without being asked is dragged away, and if the environment is very heated, perhaps end up with a drink thrown in their face. Fights may arise from diďŹ&#x20AC;erent factors, but the objective is always the same: grab attention and be unique. A fight can start over something as simple as copying someone elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s wig. Each one has her own style that completely reflects their character, but perhaps copying is an exaggeration. If there is to do a survey to find out which color of wig would one buy it would probably come out platinum blond. It is one of the most used hair colours, especially by the famous, when one wants to create impact by making a radical change of appearance. But in the world of drag queens if one creates her character based on her hair color and the next week someone else uses it, it may be reason for conflict. Seeing the atmosphere up close and speaking with the representatives of this
movement can make it seem as if there is no point to being a drag queen. They all talk about being a drag queen as something that is not profitable at all. Simply taking a wig to get brushed can cost 70 euros, not to mention all the makeup (the best brands, of course) and costumes that are custom-made or purchased in specialist stores. True, this depends on how one wants to be, they say, you can manage with much cheaper materials but this means less quality while some nights repeating outfits. It is not a well paid job and all these expenses come directly out of their pockets. Anyone who wants to live as an artist must take into account these factors and look for another job to cover rent and food, because living like RuPaul today is almost impossible. What is clear is that since the 90s the condition of the drag queen has undergone visible changes, going beyond a sexual condition and evolving to another level and type of expression. It is a way to talk to others, to create sensations through fashion. Being a drag queen is an art. 51
Words: Feminist Internet Images: Isabella Cuttill
A FEMINIST INTERNET Students, staﬀ and industry come together to think about an internet that is fair and equal for everyone The internet is a sprawling force that holds the potential for liberation, creativity and political transformation. However, many of society’s inequalities are encoded in its structures, processes and communities. Whether it’s the predominance of women suﬀering from online trolling, the relentless commodification of people’s bodies, the dominance of males in the tech sector, unequal pay, the marginalisation of women from black and ethnic minorities, or prejudices against members of LGBTQ+ communities, there are still 52
many problems to respond to. The Feminist Internet movement is here to build an equal and just internet for all. It all starts with the Feminist Internet Manifesto. We are artists and designers who believe in the power of creativity and criticality to transform how the world unfolds, and how it is understood. We believe there is a need to go beyond current definitions and images of gender, race and class. We are using our imaginations and our collective solidarity to intervene in the development of the web.
THE FEMINIST INTERNET ERASES FEMINISM
If the Feminist Internet is successful, we will have erased the need for feminism. It creates a world where nobody is oppressed, silenced, exposed or confined based on sex, gender, race or disability. It is a space that causes no harm, and where all people are equal.
THE FEMINIST INTERNET INTEGRATES THE PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL
The Feminist Internet moves fluidly between the online and oﬄine, understanding that both make up the everyday experiences of those with access to the internet. We use the online to aﬀect change oﬄine, and the oﬄine to aﬀect change online.
THE FEMINIST INTERNET REDEFINES VALUE
The Feminist Internet redefines value by exploring alternatives to consumer culture. We question the relentless commodification of bodies, and recognise value as something that should be defined by more than capitalist profit motives.
THE FEMINIST INTERNET CONFRONTS UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS
The Feminist Internet looks itself in the mirror and is aware of its own privileges and powers. It acknowledges the negative experiences of marginalised groups, and supports their online movements towards greater equality. It does not swamp its users with distractions from the needs and concerns of their global peers.
THE FEMINIST INTERNET COOPERATES NOT COMPETES
THE FEMINIST INTERNET RE-CODES GENDER
THE FEMINIST INTERNET ERADICATES VIOLENCE
THE FEMINIST INTERNET EDUCATES
The Feminist Internet is against the competitive individualism of today’s world. It believes in collectively building an internet where information and opportunities can be accessed by all. It is not driven by a profit motive, but by a belief in the power of solidarity.
The Feminist Internet enables the systematic dismantling of all forms of online violence including rape culture, hate speech, and trolling. It abolishes unlawful rape porn sites/pornography and any other material contributing to rape culture.
The Feminist Internet challenges preconceptions of gender to bring a variety of experiences to the surface. It does not guide or police experiences according to perceived gender and allows all experiences to be broadcast, erasing the limiting myth of the universal ‘type’ of person.
The Feminist Internet believes that education is the key to eradicating ignorance and prejudice. Through listening to and learning from its multitude of voices and their stories, it asserts that there is no one universal experience or learning style. It enables access to all information, but particularly promotes education around sexual health and identity politics. 53
DOWN IN THE DM’S WHO WE ARE: Feminist Internet is a University of the Arts London project, supported by Careers and Employability, the Teaching and Learning Exchange and UAL Futures, bringing UAL students, staﬀ and industry together across disciplines to invent better futures. DITDM’S: Down in the DMs is an online interview between Feminist Internet and a selected online individual through the medium of instagram direct messages.
Ely Taylor: Ely Taylor is a black agender femme artist based in Pennsylvania. They are the co-director of the non profit Arts of PA (@artsofpa). They enjoy using their art to explore the intersectionality of their gender and race.
Charlie Craggs: Nail Transphobia tackles transphobia through nail art, it’s fabulous activism. Founder Charlie Craggs travels travels around the UK with her pop up nail salon to museums, galleries, universities and festivals and oﬀers the public free manicures. Giving people the chance to sit down and chat with a trans person, as most people haven’t met one before, yet often have a lot of misconceptions about them from poor and exploitative media representation. Charlie explains, “This gives us the chance to sit down and have a chat, they can ask me questions about being trans and I can teach them how to be an ally, but the most important part of the interaction for me is just having a laugh and a chat because what I’m really trying to do with my campaign, as well as educate, is humanise the issue and show that trans people are just normal (actually pretty nice) people, I want people to go away with more than just a manicure, I want them to go away an ally. I’m trying to change the hearts and minds a nail at a time.”
Marina Dragzilla: Marina Dragzilla is the fruit of the artistic work of Felipe Petik Pasqualotto. Designer by training, performer by nature and specialist in Sexuality and Gender by the University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Felipe focuses his investigations on the contemporary constructions of sex, gender and sexuality.
Words: Valentina Curci Images: Tatogra via Flickr
ITALYâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S LONG FIGHT FOR EQUALITY The battle for gay rights began in the 1970s with a brave, cross-dressing intellectual 58
In 1977, a 25-year-old Mario Mieli sits on a chair in the middle of the stuﬀy studio of Come Mai, obscure programme from the last century’s Italian television about which it appears impossible to find more information, even in the scrupulous archives of Rai, the national public broadcaster, which is not foreign to acts of self-censorship regarding uncomfortable characters who, in hindsight, it would have been preferable to leave oﬀ screen. A blurry excerpt of the programme, and probably Mario Mieli’s only preserved video interview, can be found online. It starts with a shot of Elements of a Gay Critique, Mieli’s university thesis turned into a paper and published that year, and with the host of the programme introducing it with a deep and deliberate voice. A voice, helped by the gritty filter of the speakers, belonging to a time when smallscreen personalities spoke almost as if they were personally in the houses of the audiences, seemingly kind but also certain and authoritative, warm yet detached. A voice that must convey the feeling you are listening to the undisputed truth. Elements of a Gay Critique was, in 1977, a pioneering work on moral philosophy in which Mieli had crafted his theory on gender and sexuality. It is a pioneering work today, elaborated and furthered by Judith Butler and Michel Foucault, shared and studied across the world. With it, Mieli, a young university student, becomes the first Italian homosexual ideologist and undisputable reference point of the movement of gay liberation in 70s Italy. It is a pioneering work, and it is also incredibly hard to find in Italy. Mieli’s was a story of escapes and participation that unfolded in the need to overturn every concept of belonging, borrowing from the ancient absence of necessity to define oneself and from ideas from his period in the British Gay Liberation Front. The United Kingdom had decriminalised homosexual acts in 1967, but claiming the freedom of Eros for the idea that everyone is pansexual and defiantly pushing concepts of ‘campness’ in Christian Democratic Italy was—to put it short—a whole new kettle of fish. Proving it, is the composed embarrassment of the mellow voice that introduces Mieli to the audience, defining him ‘a character’ and then taking a pause long enough for you to wonder whether you accidentally turned oﬀ the sound. But you did not, as evident in a following snort, almost imperceptible and yet pointedly there. A character who is ‘rather known,’ the mellow voice continues, with a sigh this time unmistakeable. The reason for the sighs becomes clear as the camera shifts to an unimpressed Mieli, who the voice explains to be a ‘predominant exponent of the homosexual movement in
Italy’ and who, the voice announces more gloomily, “is here in the newsroom today”. When the camera pans to him, Mieli appears thin, his face gaunt but seraphic. He wears a top and a scarf knotted in some sort of pussy-bow, skirt and thighs, eyebrows neat and pronounced and delicate touches of make-up. He would have probably done a far better job at describing his looks himself, as he did only months after that television appearance in the pages of Lambda, a publication akin to a Pravda of the Italian gay movement, recounting the experience of being booed during a rally against repression. He wrote then: “I was dressed as a defenceless peasant girl, the boos were the bleating aﬃrming the rightfulness of my words: that yellow skirt, that green jumper, that red flower on my chest, those turquoise espadrilles, that ageless make-up were my pretty outfit”. It becomes clear, if even parts of the gay movement itself did not share his view on transvestism, the meaning and impact of appearing on Italian television in canonically female clothes. His deadpan expression dissolves for a moment when the mellow voice, with a ridiculing smirk, comments on how he is ‘dressed to the nines’, leaving space for an arched eyebrow and pursed lips, immediately schooled into seriousness when the first question is asked. “Why cross-dressing?” It is a peculiar year, 1977. The civic growth left by the 1968 movements did not change the fact that loving people of the same gender, not to mention cross-dressing, would result in punishment. In 1977 the Italian Communist party had started backing the governing Christian Democracy, leaving its own supporters bereft of the historic Left, while the younger generations were witnessing the fading of that dream that had prompted the standing up of a population, left at a loss in front of an uncertain future, accused of ennui but instead looking for eﬀective action. Amid drugs, progressive rock, protests against the political parties and armed struggle forms a new wave of rebellion in which the gay movement finds its active place. In 1977, Mieli, the expression of a generation that was lost and finding itself, dared to talk on national television about pansexuality, to appropriate terms like camp and queer with pride and start a process of self-determination that would be joined by a whole movement, while screaming that by refusing these theories ‘we risk the catastrophe of this society’. 1977 was the peak for a movement that had started from zero, that was loud but not as numerous as some would think, despite the noise it generated. Beppe Ramina, one of the most prominent exponents of the Italian gay movement
and one of the founders of Arcigay— one of the biggest LGBT organisations in the world — recollects the first tentative meet-ups and the small numbers involved, when even national protests would consist of no more than 200 people. “In the 70s there were two big movements, feminism, which Italy was just discovering, and the political protests, especially in Bologna, where a movement of expression of many creative forces, including the expression of the body and of the sexual identity was born,” says Beppe. “In those years Elements of Homosexual Critique was published and we were also learning from feminist theory. In Bologna, there was a gay union called ‘Collettivo Frocialista’ made up of no more than fifteen people, mostly students, guided by Samuel Pinto, called Lola Puňales, exile from Pinochet’s Chile”. The Collettivo remains in history for one of the biggest victories of the time, when the movement was more established: the obtaining of oﬃcial headquarters for a LGBT association, il Cassero, the first of its kind, for which the Bologna section fought intensely. “It was during the first Pride, which was held in Bologna [in 1980], that we met with the major and asked for a self-managed place for gay, lesbians and transsexual, a place for shared expression and cultural activities,” recollects Beppe. “I think [obtaining it] meant a lot for us and for the city.” It marked the first time the public administration acknowledged and supported a LGBT association. It still exists to this day, and has thousands of members, making it one of the biggest cultural initiatives in Bologna. The gay movement arises in an empty vacuum of human rights for homosexuals in Italy, who were destined to prison, insane asylums, or, at best, false lives. It is in this situation that Fuori! The Italian Unitary Homosexual Revolutionary Front was born, in 1971, moulded on those movements already active in France and the UK and representing the first Italian association for both gays and lesbians in the frame of the gay liberation movement. Fuori! was the mainstream section, moderate and ‘traditional’ and publishing its newspaper of counter-culture: from that experience would stem a history of associations, internal political secessions and birth of autonomous local collectives that characterised the Italian movement and that ultimately brought to its dissolution and to the creation of Arcigay. “The reactions to the movement were diﬀerent. It was the first time that our kind of subjectivities were expressing themselves, looking for confrontation. I would say there was mostly a lot of curiosity,” says Beppe. However, harsher reactions weren’t lacking. “In Bologna we 59
managed to gather 10000 signatures in favour of the Cassero, but a part of the neighbourhood sided with the curia. The influence of the Church was heavy, but I think those fears that were developed toward us dimmed with the years.” At the time the concept of pathology as a subheading for homosexuality dominated, a neurosis clogging the expression of the Eros that can be cured with psychoanalysis. “But people were talking about it,” reminds Beppe. And if people were talking about it, it meant that a discourse existed, and it was easier to add to an existing discourse to change it.” Even the law had to informally adjust to these sudden, brazen and more numerous displays of homosexuality, agreeing that ‘abnormal’ tendencies were not punishable unless carried out in public. However, it did not mean much, as transvestism was still subject to police intervention, as were other forms of public same-sex aﬀection displays. It was a country of juxtapositions, Italy in the 70s, constricted by Catholic morality but starting to get familiar with new concepts— extraconjugal relationships and divorce, bikinis, cinematographic nudity and abortion— reading translated copies of Cooper’s Death of the Family, posing vicious heterosexuality as a remedy to the gay vogue coercing the Italian youth, while the first gay bars were opened, and at times even left so. It is probably why Mieli found place on television at all, melding Marxism and psychoanalysis, Freud’s polymorphism to Marcuse, to explain that sexuality can take any direction, that we are all potentially pansexual but put by society in men and women’s ‘uniforms, derived from what he called ‘educastration’ of the individual, led to believe heterosexuality is the norm and everything else a deviant perversion, expressing shock for doctors who push the ‘aversion therapy’ meant to cure homosexuality. In 1972, it was indeed the organisation of an International Convention on Sexual Deviances by the Italian Centre of Sexology— of Catholic imprint and pushing for conversion therapies— to mark the first opposition and protest by the Italian movement, in what is remembered as the Italian Stonewall. Forty people, mostly members of the Fuori!, welcome doctors and psychologists participating to the convention screaming ‘Doctors, we’re here to heal you!’, aware that they are making history. It was the first time LGBT people took action, subverting their status as victims. The Fuori! newspaper wrote: “To all homosexual comrades who hold doubts, fears, we say: ‘come out!’ the risk is often an illusion, but even if it were real, it doesn’t matter. Life is one step away”. 60
Even though that date marked the legitimacy of the movement, it needs to be reminded that not everyone had a penchant for that kind of militancy, despite it being the time of political contestation and extra-parliamentary organisations. Many clubs where homosexuals found escape were disrupted by the wave of subversion of the movement that wanted to transform those from places of shame to places of liberation, when maybe not everyone was ready to take that step. Beppe recounts: “Not everyone was ready to fight. Fuori! found the support of the Radical Party, which created a schism and made it even more diﬃcult to organise action. In those years there weren’t many of us,” he says. “It’s also true that today we think ‘how hard must have been then!’, and I believe that it was hard to come out, to put yourself out there, but fighting was easier compared to today because there was a sense of protest and fight.” Ramina’s experience mirrors a tendency more concerned with the widespread militancy of that political moment than with the need for parliamentary representation. “For example, I was already the secretary of Lotta Continua [extra-parliamentary organisation] and I was very politically involved, so when I came out and I joined the collettivo I maintained that political activity. It wasn’t as if I was heterosexual and leading a certain life one moment and then starting another life after coming out,” says Beppe. After coming back from London, even Mieli wrote: “I found out I have done political activity to aﬃrm myself within a bourgeois ideology I disavow. Today I am part of the revolution movement”. He had introjected revolutionary ideology and the political movement, and applied them to the sexual revolution. This position was shared by many, and was what caused the fragmentation of the Italian movement in diﬀerent fringes. Fuori! was aiming to isolate the movement from the social situation, while trying join the debate on civil rights, concerned at the time with abortion and divorce, and looking for the support of the Left, which however didn’t seem interested in the LGBT battle. It obtained the support of the Radical Party, which led to a schism of the movement into a radical section and a Marxist-anti-capitalist one, using Mieli’s Freud-Marxism as a bulwark, ideologically correlated to the students’, workers’ and women’s movement of ’77, fighting for the crash of a system founded on a heterosexual and chauvinist structure that perpetrates alienation and capitalism. Or, as Mieli put it: “proletariat and women are two faces of the communist-community party, and the gay movement is the butt.” Common ground were the objectives
“The gay movement arises in an empty vacuum of human rights for homosexuals in Italy, who were destined to prison, insane asylums, or, at best, false lives.”
to obtain, using sexuality to unlock the existing scheme of things. This fragmentation spurred the birth of local movements, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;collettiviâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, like the one in Bologna, small communities born in several cities, fundamental for the aďŹ&#x192;rmation of single identities and sharing of experiences and guided to action through the publication Lambda. The movement was multi-faceted by the end of the 70s, political, moderated, violent, diplomatic. In Rome the Homosexual Political Movement preached detachment from the proletarian battle, other groups criticised the joining the battle for abortion, maintaining it would bring unnecessary hate on a group that was fundamentally unconcerned with it, while the Homosexual Collectives of Milan, under the guidance of Mieli and the feminist movement, attracted disapproval for promoting femininity as a positive polarity and perpetuating the sterotypical image of homosexuality. . Fighting to destroy the superstructures canonical in the Italian society and to be allowed to live their true existence, the Milan collective was criticised by
the public opinion and by parts of the movement itself that claimed there was need for ‘seriousness’. The division was demonstration of a failure in manoeuvring the movement into a common direction to organise a unified thought, but also of a certain reluctance and incoherence coming from certain parts of the movement to understand other ways of expressing the freedom of Eros. During his television appearance, Mieli answered the mellow voice’s ‘why transvestism?’ with a simple ‘because I like it’, while the camera zoomed out to show his skirt. It was simple, but it was also polemic, because why can women dress as men and men cannot dress as women? We should really question why, he said, with the maturity of a 25-year-old confronted with a giggling interviewer. Transvestism was incredibly important during those years of LGBT fights, subverting the roles of men and women. It did so in a moment when gender norms were broken only by famous personalities with the privilege to appear diﬀerent. It wasn’t the likes of songwriter Alfredo Cohen, who wore make-up and sang Valery, dedicated to one of the biggest trans-activists of the time, who were questioned. It wasn’t the long and unruly hair of the prog groups, from Demetrio Stratos’ diplophonies to Le Orme, who in the 70s sung ‘The Angels’ Manufacturer’ against clandestine abortion, who were questioned. It was the common man, who was not an artist, showing up on television and making everyone uncomfortable while trying to make everyone understand. In his song, Cohen imagined the vexations and oﬀences Valery was constantly subjected to, in a sorrowful hymn of compassion and comfort: “those who sting you bear the acrid and cold thorn of envy/ have no smiles, have no thoughts/ have no winters, have no seasons”. 1977 seems so close to current times, wrapped in the legacy of libertarian
tendencies, rebellion and the blossom of punk, that acquiring cognition of the dire state of civil rights, especially for minorities, comes as a disillusioned crash. But 1977 was just as close to the years of Nazi persecution of gay men, pink triangles in concentration camps. 1945 in Italy marked liberation, with the illusion that the country was free from the constraints of fascist censorship,. In Italy, in the 40s, gay men were taken from their towns and confined on a small island, to build Mussolini’s Italy in a perfect masculine model. In the 50s, Gino Olivari, who fought for homosexuals by asking for ‘healing’ was made out to be a sympathiser. And in the 70s, newspapers still talked about the ‘fetid flower of homosexuality’ and either carried out investigations on those ‘sickening perversions’ or treated it as a taboo, as was the case with everything concerning sex. It is why the 77 ventures were so important and revolutionary. They brought to the first Day of Homosexual Pride in Bologna, in 1980, where, beyond the political diﬀerences and views, the movement gathered in expression of the importance of staying true to one’s self. It was a historic occasion, and it was then that with a peaceful rally among the streets of the town, a delegation was received by the mayor: an occasion that represents a mark in the history of the Italian movement, from which on it became more socially involved but also more entwined with the reality of political parties. Unfortunately, it also represented one of the last expressions of the character of ‘movement’ itself and of community, later on caught in the AIDS crisis, which put into question everything the movement had fought for. “I am always sceptical about speaking of an Italian community. In those years the people who travelled around the country for conventions and protests were always the same. We were a
nomadic community, and when we meet up today we still feel that bond,” explains Beppe. “But I am sceptical about the feasibility of building a community, especially because of what happened during the AIDS crisis. I, together with some other people, tried to create an association for people who were dealing with AIDS, but it appeared impossible to build a gay community that would face that crisis. And if you aren’t able to build a community around that, it’s hard to build around anything else.” It is from this necessity that the Arcigay was born, in a moment when political belonging had devoured the realities built in the community. For the meaning Arcigay has in the history of the Italian movement, it is striking how the route and the fights that led to its creation are often forgotten. “The prevailing discourse now focuses only on couples’ rights,” says Beppe. “I think that we could push forward theories much more radical and deep regarding our place in society, on mechanisms of exploitation, on inequalities. I think reducing all of this to a lobbyist issue of aﬃrmation of certain rights is taking away from the possibility to reason on other things.” Porpora Marcasciano, president of the Transgender Identity Movement, commented in Antologaia on the current bat-
tles of the LGBT movement, reprimanding contemporary transgender people for letting the radicality of the past get lost. “I don’t think we stopped fighting,” says Beppe. “There are diﬀerent expressions of it today. Maybe the protagonists of the 70s contest the fact that today there is a tendency of relying on the reality of associations and there isn’t any more discourse on the roots of identity and oppression. But I believe there is still some of that. There was a democratisation of homosexuality, which is now mirror of the Italian society. I am happy with they way things are today, it was one of our objectives [to allow everyone to manifest their sexuality].” Mario Mieli, amid controversies and provocation, psychoanalysis and Marxism, ultimately traced back his thought to a poem by Sappho, and within his theoretical approach agreed that “some say an army of horsemen/ some of footsoldiers/ some of ships/ is the fairest thing on the black earth/but I say it is what one loves”, that it is love and freedom of love the aim of the gay liberation movement, a battle that in Italy still needs fighting to these days. In the early 90s, Pier Vittorio Tondelli, the author of Separate Chambers, still had to answer to accusations of making of homosexuality a ‘predictable theme’ in his novels, and saddened, explain he only wanted to write only about love, that
nobody asks anybody why they only narrate heterosexual love, and if there was an intent, it was merely that of subverting the canons of maudit homosexuality as double life, sorrow, discrimination, to paint it in normality. That ‘in front of love and death, we are all the same’. Which is what the movement unified ultimately fought for. “It isn’t the institutional victory to define the importance of our power and our successes,” says finally Beppe Ramina. “In the moment we are protagonists of our life and of our history we already got what we needed: serenity and freedom, even if it is the freedom of still fighting”. Romans used to say: si vis pacem, para bellum, which means if you want peace you should prepare for war. Mieli maintained that the love within us is a mean to express life, and win against the death intrinsic in the system in which we live. But Mieli wasn’t always right, and fights are necessary sometimes, as were those of the small Italian collectives united in 1977. A battle that shall be remembered, to remember it fought the roots of ignorance and intolerance, oppression and discrimination, nihilism and the alienation of those who were just trying to be, because it was their right, because, as sung by Cohen in his comforting and bittersweet melody to Valery, ‘life is good in winter just as in spring’. 63
Words: Fiona Berbatovci
THE ATTLE B FOR THE S N A K BAL LGBT p of the eople in coun Europe an Uni tries in, and on, on t and di face deep-ro he fringes scrimin oted h ostility ation
On paper, most of the countries in the Balkans might appear to be modern and inclusive, they have progressive constitutions written with the knowledge that respect for LGBT rights is one of the criteria for being a part of the European Union — something many of the countries are desperate to achieve. While Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia have been accepted into the EU, the rest of the Balkans are yet to enter the EU. In 2010 the Albanian Parliament unanimously adopted a non-discrimination law which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law specifically supports equal access to employment, education, and services. In a survey carried out in 2011 on perceptions of Albanian youth it was found that the Albanian youth, while generally tolerant and more open to diﬀerent social groups, have a strong prejudice against homosexuals. Just over half of respondents, 50.6%, said that they would not like to live near a homosexual. It shows the majority of Albanian youths as being homophobic. In 2012, The European Social Survey asked respondents, “Should gays and lesbians be free to live as they wish?” Of those asked, 23% disagreed and 30% strongly disagreed. Again, over half of respondents This was the highest level of antipathy of any country in the survey. But it is only fair to point out it was one of only three countries in the Balkans that was included, the other two being Kosovo and Slovenia.
In an opinion poll carried out by the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), it was revealed that 65% of LGBT people surveyed in Albania hsay they ave been personally discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A shocking 76% of LGBT people surveyed said they had experienced verbal harassment or abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The poll also found that 32% of the LGBT people surveyed in Albania had suﬀered physical violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Homosexuality is seen as an illness in the country, 42% of the general public claimed would try to help find a cure if they found out their son or daughter were homosexual. They believe homosexuality is something to be fixed. Over half of respondents, 58% said they would not vote for a political party that championed the rights of LGBT people. These findings show the true extent of the hostilities faced by the LGBT community living in Albania. Life can be particularly diﬃcult for the trans community, Albania’s health system does not cover medical operations for transgender people and hospitals are ill-equipped to handle any trans related operations. This forces trans individuals to go abroad to receive treatment. Bosnia only decriminalised homosexuality 20 years ago in 1998. Although the government now bans discrimination on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, discrimination still exists. Tarik* is transgender and bisexual, he explained how the many diﬃculties LGBT people face in Bosnia, “negative public attitudes towards our sexuality and gender identity, the lack of accessible specialized healthcare”, are magnified by “the usual pressures and downsides of living in a corrupt and declining post war country such as poverty and a failing economy.”
He doesn’t feel that society is accepting of the LGBT community, “The attitudes aren’t changing significantly even among younger people, and it is apparent in all social contexts and especially comments on social media — just take a look at any LGBT positive article and you’ll see anything ranging from generalized negativity to outright death threats and calls for extermination of LGBT people.” Research conducted in 2015 by the NDI revealed that 51% of LGBT people living in Bosnia have experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The poll also asked people what they would do if they found out their child was homosexual. The majority of respondents, 44%, said that they would try to help “cure” them. The next most popular answer, at 11%, was to stop communicating with their child. Bisexual people face the erasure of their sexuality, Tarik says that “people leave you alone if you settle down in a heterosexual relationship and never mention your sexuality, eﬀectively forcing you into the closet.” Being trans he faces additional discrimination and barriers, “Transgender people are often made mockery of, and treated as some mentally ill “other”. The legal and medical situation isn’t any better, transgender people from Bosnia have to travel to Croatia to receive medical treatment such as HRT.”
The lack of medical and financial support oﬀered by the government makes it diﬃcult for transgender people to transition. Not only do the endocrine therapy and surgical procedures have to be done abroad, the costs are not covered by the state-funded health insurance. Even worse still, transgender persons can only change the sex marker in their oﬃcial documents once they have completed full medical transition. Making the road to being recognised an expensive one for trans people living in Bosnia. Tarik doesn’t feel the LGBT community is being supported by the Bosnian government, “Saying anything about us is still considered an inappropriate topic, and one that mainstream politicians are extremely reluctant to touch unless it’s to judge us and pander to their religious voter base.” Bosnia has been considered a potential candidate country to join the European Union since 2003. While the EU has welcomed the progress made by the country in the past it has recommended that substantial improvements on human rights still need to be made. The European Parliament expressed concern in their 2016 resolution that Bosnia is the only territory in the Western Balkans where the sanctioning of hate crime is not regulated by criminal law.
Bulgaria is one of the few countries in the Balkans that is part of the EU, it entered the EU in 2007. Despite this, LGBT people living in Bulgaria still face many obstacles in their daily lives. In a European Union poll carried out in 2006, only 15% of Bulgarians said they supported same-sex marriage, with 65% opposed to it. In 2015, those numbers remained almost the same with 17% supporting same-sex marriage while 68% being against it. Even now little has changed, a study by The Pew Research Center, published in May 2017, suggested that 18% of Bulgarians were in favour of same-sex marriage, while 79% opposed it. If anything these figures suggest that the country has become even less accepting of the LGBT community. Faun* believes there is a lot of hostility directed towards the LGBT community, “socially I would say invisibility and micro aggressions, especially from teachers and professors (who would speak of LGBT people to the class as if there are no chances one of them identifying as such; or propagate their own bigoted opinions, encourage students who agree and mock LGBT people). In legal terms; anything to do with adoption or being recognized as a couple (gay marriage is not legalized in Bulgaria), and the endless hurdles trans people have to endure to change their gender markers, update their diplomas with their chosen names or go on hormones.”
Many people in Bulgaria believe that it pushes for the allowing of a third gender. “This was provoked by the use of the word “social gender” to explain gender roles and how they work against women. But people threw in biological vs social gender, trans people, intersex people, the third gender nonsense and it all boils down to a very transphobic and anti-nonbinary rhetoric ... It very clearly shows that Bulgaria is wholly opposed to the idea of nonbinary individuals.” Faun feels that LGBT people are not receiving enough support from the government. “I think that the denial to ratify the (totally unrelated) Convention because of ‘public unrest’ and the PM and mayor’s refusal to attend Sofia Pride every year is quite indicative. No significant legislation has been constructed in our favour; the law includes only discrimination based on religion, ethnicity and sex, but refuses to recognize homo- and transphobia as hate crimes. I think big strides can be done in easing the process of transitioning medically and legally; as well as marriage and parental rights, adoption. Same with education-the Ministry could include information about and for LGBT people in Sex Ed classes or just classes in general.”
While things are slowly changing, there is still major opposition, “the older generations, like my parents and grandparents, who have had zero contact with LGBT people in person (in their words) simply don’t know what to expect or how to behave. Things had started to settle down in the past few years, but with the rise in nationalistic ideologies, more and more people feel like it’s a slight to the very core of Bulgaria to give queer people any room to breathe. Queerness is seen as a European/ Western fad that is being pushed down “true Bulgarians”’ throats by the EU and it is seen as patriotic to oppose it.” Recently, Bulgarian PM, Boyko Borissov, withdrew from parliament a motion to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating gender-based violence. News that understandably angered Faun who saw it as a sign of hostility towards nonbinary individuals living in Bulgaria, “The Istanbul Convention, entirely centred around protecting women from domestic violence, got turned on its head and manipulated into fake news”.
Mila* watched the reaction of the public towards the attempted ratification of the Istanbul Convention spurred on by the belief that it is linked to giving rights to a third gender, “the people were ready to go on strikes against it. We are just not ready yet for such openness towards these kinds of things, since it’s fairly new to us.” She is trying not to lose faith, hoping things will improve for LGBT people in Bulgaria, “I like to think that we are slowly getting better at being open to LGBT people, however sometimes I see the things that people do and hear what they say and lose hope and makes me think that we will never accept LGBT people. The problem is that we kind of have this “traditional homophobia” ingrained into our lives.” 67
LGBT rights in Croatia have improved in recent years but LGBT people still face some legal challenges due to their identity. Same-sex marriage is not legal in Croatia. As a result of a referendum carried out in 2013, Croatia’s Constitution defines marriage solely as a union between a woman and man. However, Croatia does recognize life partnerships for same-sex couples through the Life Partnership Act, the law makes same-sex couples equal to married couples in everything except adoption. In a poll conducted by Pew Research Center between 2015 and 2016 found that only 31% of Croatians support same-sex marriage, with 64% opposed. The findings show that same-sex marriage is unlikely to happen anytime soon in Croatia. Many Croation LGBT people feel that they are still the victims of discrimination. Anamaria* says that despite the laws, society itself is not supporting of the LGBT community, “when we entered the EU the LGBT community was accepted, but by force. People in Croatia still hate it in many ways and refuse to accept it.” Pina* agrees, saying that being “LGBT is seen as something disgusting” in Croatia. By contrast. Miki believes that the majority of the youth in Macedonia are accepting of members of the LGBT “I think most people my age are. Or they say they don’t care.” However she sees society as less accepting of bisexuality in particular, “I wouldn’t say they support bisexual people. I’ve heard comment about how we’re “special snowflakes” and that bisexuality doesn’t exist, or that we’re faking for attention, or how it’s just a phase. The usual biphobia, you know?” In Romania there is more of a generational divide according to Rita who says “most teenagers I know are either accepting or indiﬀerent, but older people are pretty intolerant.” However others report greater problems with Maja saying that LGBT people are victims of regular discrimination. “Daily we have to put up with bullying, and by that I mean being made fun of, being ridiculed, criticized, attributed with traits that do not represent you and that are based on stereotypes, prejudices. We also deal with exclusion from diﬀerent social environments, men thinking that lesbians exist to entertain them and feed their fantasies, gay men associated with people suﬀering from mental diseases, always being lectured via biblical quotes, bisexuals coming out as greedy, and in some cases verbal, even physical violence”
She doesn’t think the Romanian government are adequately supporting the LGBT community, “I really don’t think they’re doing enough, they’re acting like we don’t exist. As for what should be done, the legalization of same sex marriage would be my answer. I dream big, I know.” LGBT people can face discrimination and harassment in Serbia. Large numbers of the population continue to have strong negative attitudes against homosexuality and trans identities. There have been numerous instances of violent gay-bashing, the most extreme during the first Belgrade Pride in 2001. Several planned Pride events have had to be cancelled in the years since, mainly due to lack of support from public authorities. The main excuse cited for the cancelations was inability to guarantee the security of participants. The second Belgrade Pride Parade was in 2010, nine years after the first. Again it was met with violence and rioting, having been attended by 6,000 anti-gay protesters and nationalist groups. Brenda, a Serbian LGBT woman says “as I grew up I realised that people here are VERY anti-queer so I kinda hid that part of myself. Even the people that say are supportive say stuﬀ like “I support you but I want you to do your thing behind closed doors” or something ignorant along those lines. A couple of years ago when there were floods all around the country, Serbian Orthodox church blamed the Pride Parade that happened earlier in the year on the whole thing.” Political will to adequately address LGBT rights has remained low over the years despite progress made in legislation in some policy. For example, in 2010, despite the fact that opinion polls demonstrate a high degree of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights drafted a human rights report which failed to mention LGBT Serbians as a group that experiences discrimination.
“As I grew up I realised that people here are VERY antiqueer so I hid that part of myself”
In May 2014, Amnesty International identified Serbia as one of the several countries where there is a marked lack of will to tackle homophobia and transphobia, noting in particular that since 2011 authorities have banned Pride marches on grounds of violent threats from homophobic groups. In neighbouring Slovenia, discrimination remains a problem despite government eﬀorts to eradicate it. According to Edo “The Slovenian government has passed anti-discrimination laws in most fields (you cannot get fired for being gay and you cannot be refused service for being gay, etc.) An attempt was also made to legalize gay marriage and it did pass, but it soon got overruled. Adoption of non-stepchildren is (I believe) not possible however adoptions made abroad are recognized.” Edo believes that the biggest obstacle facing the LGBT community in Slovenia is “the narrowmindedness of the older generation and even some peers who judge you as you walk by.” 69
A STORY OF VIOLENCE, SEX AND SUCCESS Sukran Moral, possibly the most controversial performance artist in Turkey, tells her story from a violent childhood to the V&A
“Tell me what it was like? To be hung up on a cross mostly nude?” She says she never came down from that cross for the rest of her life. Even though the artist in front of me was not actually nailed to a wooden cross, she is used to being crucified for those who come after her. Sukran Moral and I are sitting in some flashy, hip café in downtown Istanbul at the arty and bohemian neighbourhood of Galata — home to artists, and those who wish to be artists. Everyone in the café is buried in Sartre books, only looking up to fix their rounded hipster glasses and subtlety whisper about my companion. Moral is performance art royalty, the living and breathing depiction of the word quirky; a feminist and feminine creature of the 90s. Her journey from a small town near the Black Sea coast of Turkey, through domestic abuse, to Rome’s art circle and international acclaim has every trait of the great biographies she grew up reading. Death threats, feminism, violence, perseverance, and sex. An heiress of Yoko Ono and Marina Abramovic in the non-Western side of the globe, the first of her kind in Turkey. Also, the first female artist to pose as the crucified Jesus in the history of art. “Do you want to share a pizza?” She asks me nonchalantly, lighting up a long, slim cigarette, The wild waves of dark brown curls that used to brush her spine have been replaced by a short, modern bob. Yet, she maintains the same tulle gloves, red lipstick, and playful aura which jumps between the spirit of a curious nine-yearold and a mature woman, who is fully 70
aware of her charisma. Moral fixes her leather skirt, getting as comfy as one can get on a wooden stool placed on a narrow pavement. She crosses her legs, covered in black tights despite the sweltering afternoon. “I’m not someone who expects to be validated by other people,” she tells me, “I don’t expect people to like me.” Moral has done countless performances, videos, and installations which often depict violence against women or other underrepresented groups. You can find her works in collections ranging from The British Museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum and The Istanbul Modern Art Museum. You might also run into her works if you walk into a brothel, the men’s section of a Turkish bath or a mental hospital. She might decide to turn any place into a museum, disrupting their usual function by choosing to exhibit there. Whether it is violence, repression or the hypocrisy of society, she will find a way to bring you face-to-face with whatever it is that she thinks you should be facing. Moral is a controversial, taken-for-granted rock star in the Turkish art scene. But a rock star nonetheless — and sometimes it is diﬃcult to remember she is also a flesh-and-bone human, who is sitting across me. “I’ve been reading this great book,” she exclaims, shaking her Italian copy of Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists by Linda Nochlin.. “Because women have been seen as second-class citizens for centuries,” Moral replies out loud to Nochlin, “and the patriarchy only wants to see the man as a genius.”
Words: Defne Saricetin Images: Sukran Moral 71
“I mean, you have to be a bit of a genius to do art, right? You have to step out the norms a bit to be able to create art; you have to be a little mad. That ‘mad genius’ status, however, is not easily attainable to women. The kind of eccentric behavior that comes with being an artist. When men do it, it is superiority; it is quirky, he is a genius. But when female artists act the same way, people say what the fuck is she doing?” She was recently in Germany, getting her photograph taken for a catalogue. Moral sat straight in front of the camera and did the unthinkable — smiled. The curator told her to pose without grinning. She talks about tragic things in her work, the curator argued, she has to be serious. If you are playful, flirty, smiley, can you not talk about serious things in your work? “If you are a woman, you can’t,” she declares, “men can be playful and grin and be taken seriously. But a woman can’t.” She told the curator this was her character, that she always smiles, taking it out on all the years when she was not able to. “Then don’t take me seriously,” she shrugs, fiddling with the corners of the menu, “I don’t want to live in a twofaced society. I don’t have to be like them, and I don’t want to be.” “In the 90s, all over the world, it was suddenly out of fashion to say you are a feminist,” she reminisces. “But the world started going backward socioeconomically. Women did not see the equalities they were hoping for in their lives, and the rise of the right and racism caused fear. And fear, now, made people take action,” she says of feminism being on the rise again. . Moral was not always a rebellious avant-garde artist. When she was born in the small Turkish town of Temre in 1962, she was merely one of the five Moral children. Little Sukran would gather the other kids at a place where the family stored the wood and coal, and she would perform plays and stories which were made up spontaneously. 72
“I was doing theatre in my head. Those plays are perhaps the most pleasant memories of my childhood, to be able to play freely. I suppose that was what saved me.” Moral understood the diﬀerence between women and men as a little girl. There was something strange, her and her sister were not equal to their brothers. When her brother would eat a dolma, a dish of vegetables or meat stuﬀed in vine leaves, her father would give him money. “Boys should eat more,” her father would say, “boys should eat meat.” The Morals were conservative, with her father not wanting his daughters to continue education once primary school was completed. And that is when the burden of being a girl started. Once she hit puberty, something weird happened. It was as if, suddenly, she had become pretty. That is when they told her she could no longer play on the streets. “Something like an earthquake happened in me. And at that moment, I hated that I had bled. I hated being a woman.” She realized her big brother could still go out because he is a boy. So, she started wearing his clothes, and disguised as a boy, sneaking out, she could go anywhere and do anything. “That is when I understood how much a transformation could change my life. The idea of becoming a transformation performance artist began in my mind there.” Why has she experienced such things? She believes it was so that she could talk about these experiences, that she now must do so. Telling these stories gives her, and others, strength. To her, the only way to be strong is to tell. “Telling, as you know, is the purpose of art.” Even though her father did not want his daughter to go to middle school, Moral went secretly. Despite the domestic abuse, she graduated from high school and went oﬀ to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, to study fine arts. She subsequently moved to Rome in 1989 to eventually graduate from
“In Turkey we are still debating things that are almost medieval, like ripped jeans and mini-skirts” the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma. Moral made her name in Rome and in 1994, she produced The Artist, a self-portrait of her crucified like Jesus. “When I think of Sukran Moral, the first thing that comes to my mind is a textbook photo of her work The Artist, where she is posing as if crucified, nude, with her eyes piercing directly into mine,” Dea Dzankovic, an artist who also interviewed Moral, tells me. “I will never forget the first time I saw that image,” Dzankovic recalls, “the first thing it conveyed to me was a kind of pure defiance, a female rebellion.” It was taboo-shattering work and Moral claims that the initial shock of the art world was followed by silence. That year, they did not even talk about it. She could only exhibit it once or twice and then they chose to ignore it. Since then, Moral had many solo exhibitions around the world, doing work around identity, immigration, anything and everything that she felt needed to be talked about. She did Il Matrimonio con tre (Married, with Three Men) which depicted her marrying three young men. “Well, that one, they talked about,” she tells me as she takes a drag from her cigarette with a half-smile, “because apparently, some journalists thought I actually married three people. The art circle, again, ignored it though.” What Moral wanted to portray was the idea of one bride and many grooms as opposed to one groom and many brides. To draw attention to the very young girls who are being forced to marry old men and being swapped between a family’s husbands in the south of Turkey. In 1997, she did Museum & Morgue where she transformed The Museum of Contemporary Art Workshop at Sapienza University of Rome into a morgue. She performed at a women’s asylum and in the men’s section of a Turkish bath, both in Istanbul. The video of Hamam which was shot secretly was and still is one of the most influential works on the contem-
porary artists of the world. “I’ve transformed a museum in Rome into a morgue, did performances on a gynecology table in Speculum, and the art circle ignored such potent works and were disturbed by it.” Moral’s art is indeed, intended to disturb you at times, which some Turkish people on forums described as how “she beats you up with her art.” The same year, Moral did Bordello in which she turned a brothel in Istanbul into a modern art museum, to attract attention to the society’s hypocrisy and false morality, When asked whether she would do a performance such as Bordello again in the Turkey of today, she replies she has never regretted the things she has done. Moral went on to do other controversial works, exhibiting around the world; Apocalypse, Despair, Jesus&Muhammad, Love&Violence. For the 51st Venice Biennial in 2007, Moral did The Adulteress. Covered by a pure, white veil, you could see her being buried in dirt, a fate many young girls have faced in her hometown. She recalls being faced with horribly racist comments. Who the hell was she to do this? They have told her that they don’t bury women and that she should go and do that kind of thing in her own country. However, the backlash Moral was getting accustomed to provoking, went to another level in 2010. In the gallery Casa dell’Arte in Istanbul, in front of 147 viewers, mostly from the art world. Moral performed Amemus (Lovemaking) which was her and a female actress just making love for about twenty minutes. Amemus became such a controversy that Moral announced she was leaving Turkey due to the number of death threats she was receiving. She found herself isolated; institutions were not giving her support, and even her friends were scared to give her a call. She told them that this was not about her doing something which was deemed “forbidden,” the issue was about freedom. “That is what democratic rights mean,” she says, “you defend me, not because you stand by my particular choices, but because you stand with democracy. What they don’t understand is that if you had spoken up when this had happened to me, it would not be happening to you today.” In today’s Turkey, Moral views conformism and populism as very dominant defence mechanisms. Her current problem is not being able to exhibit her projects in her hometown. “All the oﬃcial institutions are politely closing their doors on me. I can see it, I can feel it. I suppose that is the fate of artists from Turkey; we’re still debating some things that are almost medieval; miniskirts and ripped jeans.” Whenever she speaks about Turkey, Moral is baﬄed by being
criticised for representing her country in a bad light. “How are things supposed to go for the better if we don’t criticise our negatives?” . Regardless of acceptance in her own country, Moral exhibits her works around the world in solo and group projects. In which language shall I tell my story… in The Stedelijk Museum, in Amsterdam. Bodies of Silence at the Royal College of Arts, in London. Light From The Middle East at Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. She relentlessly pursues the themes of gender inequality and violence against women because she believes there is still a lot of work to be done. Moral thinks we have talked a lot about Turkey because it is where we are from. However, she stresses, violence against women is an international issue. When she did an exhibition in Norway, one of the most modern countries in the world, the women there were able to identify with her work as well. They too have been subjected to violence. And the same applies to Italy where she spent most of her adult life; they are a macho country, she claims. Whether it is the US, the UK, or anywhere else in the world, to Moral, it does not matter, because there is still no gender equality in the world. Change happens slowly, she says putting out her cigarette, but she would like to believe that she has, or the sum of her life’s work has contributed to it. The sum of her life is one tumultuous tale of art and repression. And I would like to think, a triumph. An artist who cannot be dismayed or discouraged. How was she not discouraged, I ask. Has she never felt in despair? “There have been so, so many times when I felt in despair,” she says with a disheartened laugh. Moral admits she would be lying if she said she never questioned what she was doing. Somehow, she overcomes them. Maybe because she has confidence in herself, she oﬀers. She has to depend on herself. And biographies. “I love biographies you know, they really help. Whatever feeling you go through has happened to other people in history. There are such few books, such few films about female artists. And I think women really need that.” Despite it all, Moral knows she can overcome things because she is someone who can be happy with very few things. She is the type of person who will walk out the house to get flowers, et voila, she will be happy. “When I say very few things, I mean fewer than fewer,” she tells me. “I was a child who would talk to the patterns on the curtains; I guess because I had no toys or because I was so lonely. I can console myself for anything that might happen. Because thankfully, today I have a lot more than those patterns on the curtains.” 73
Cutting through How women are making their way in the traditionally male world of bespoke tailoring
Words: Hazel Tang Images: H. Huntsman & Sons
Savile Row is a street in London’s West End, world famous for its bespoke tailors, who are exceptionally skilled in making military uniforms and suits. Before Henry Poole became the first tailor to set up shop in Savile Row in 1846, the surrounding Burlington estate, especially Cork Street, was already synonymous with haute couture. . Derived from the idea of “speaking for something”; bespoke tailoring is clothing commissioned specifically to the tastes and measurements of the wearer. While most of know our basic clothes sizes, we have no idea of the specific measurements between shoulders; shoulder to wrist, and from waist to ankle. The role of a cutter is to ensure these figures are accurately transfered from the clients to paper patterns and ultimately the fabrics and leaving ample room for tailors to sew the garments. A fractional inaccuracy, will change the final impact of the suit, affecting its overall elegance and comfort. In bespoke tailoring, as in a surgical theatre, everyone has a title — from the “waistcoat maker”, “trousers maker”, to the “coat maker” — all of whom bear different responsibilities. At the end of the day, the surprise is not only in the craftsmanship and details but the time required by so many people with vast backgrounds and training, to assemble an outfit. Bespoke is traditionally masculine — it is men who make the suits and men who wear them. Search “Savile Row” and “bespoke” on Google and you will only see images of men (mostly white) in suits, you need a bit of patience before a female figure emerges. The suit has never traditionally been considered women’s-wear. However, stage actress Sarah Bernhardt broke the barrier by putting on men’s suits for her male roles and informally became the pioneer of androgyny. Katherine Hepburn challenged the entire Hollywood wardrobe with her “daring pants”. In the late 1960s, “the concept of a woman in a tuxedo suit” was realised by Yves Saint Laurent’s Le Smoking. Then, there was Bianca Jagger and her wedding tuxedo which shook the fashion scene. Giorgio Armani added a looser fit to make suits more gender neutral in the 80s and at the same time, turning it into a symbol of power. On Savile Row, part of its feminine legend was made by Kathryn Sargent — the former head cutter of prestigious
cutters at Huntsman & Sons are female. “We are making prominent steps on Savile Row and this is good”, Merrion said. Nevertheless, perception remains an hurdle. As Sargent told The New Statesman, a lady who came into the store to order a suit, said to her, when she was about to take her measurements, “no, I want a man. You are a woman — women should be beauty therapists, not a tailor”. The Savile Row Bespoke Association has trained 55 apprentices since 2004 and more than 65% of them are women. However Merrion said that the idea of being attended by a female cutter may still be foreign for a man asking for a suit. Generally, male clients are paired with male tailors not because of the client’s wishes but because female tailors do not necessarily specialise in male tailoring. There are massive differences between male and female suits, in terms of their shapes, vent, pocket, shoulder, waists, sizes and lengths, so “clients want someone who can pay attention to these differences but no one had ever specifically asked for a male or female tailor,” Merrion said.
men’s tailoring brand Gieves & Hawkes, who became the first female master tailor to open a shop on the street in 2016. It is not easy to change a near two-century tradition, as Sargent told Bloomberg, “the expectation of a client when they walk through the door is a man with gray hair. I’ve had that all my life, really. I’ve tried to prove that I could do it.” Anette Akselberg, the former head of female bespoke at Huntsman & Sons, said when she started out on Savile Row in the late 1980s, women were “restricted to sewing button holes and other behindthe-scenes tasks”. That’s why Sargent wanted to have her name above the door on the street; After all, Savile Row is becoming more diversified and perhaps it’s about time to end the era of “men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story”. Daisy Merrion of Huntsman & Sons confirms that Savile Row is changing. Huntsman was a pioneer in launching a female bespoke department in 2010 and its marketing director, Daisy Knatchbull was the first to wear a morning suit for Royal Ascot. Presently, five out of the 11
Fighting for equality in North Africa In conservative countries activists are battling for their rights
Words: Omima Elmattawaa
LGBTIQ+ communities have been achieving great victories and gaining equality everywhere around the world. However, in the middle east and North Africa (MENA) they still have a long way to go. LGBTIQ+ persons in MENA are just beginning to get recognized and even then only in very few countries. Being gay, lesbian or transgender is still considered a crime in most Arab countries. For example, in Saudi Arabia being anything other than straight is punishable by death, and in Egypt LGBTIQ+ people can be sentenced to prison for terms of three years or more. Despite the fear of the law, most homosexual people actually face more pressure from their families and local communities. Just as elsewhere, minority communities in these regions have had to fight for their rights, whether this involves a struggle against racial discrimination or gender inequality. The MENA region is undergoing its own social, political and economic battles. For instance, Saudi Arabia has just allowed women to drive, while Tunisia has just legalized women’s rights of marriage to foreigners. Tunisia is one of the most liberal countries in MENA in many respects, including that it is the only country in the region that has declared polygamy as illegal. Also, it is one of the most accepting of LGBTIQ+ To understand more about the legal rights of LGBTIQ+ persons in Tunisia, Artefact spoke to Abir Boukornine, the co-founder of Mawjoudin, a Tunisian nongovernmental organization, hat supports the civil rights of LGBTIQ+ people.
tional concepts about the gender roles.
What is the aim of Mawjoudin? Mawjoudin in Arabic means We Exist, the purpose Mawjoudin is equality. Mawjoudin is fighting against discrimination based on, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and/or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) In Tunisia. We have partners across the Middle East and Africa. We think that SOGIESC activism is very important for the region as it brings out the voices of highly marginalised groups and aims to make their situation better. What is the social acceptance of LGBTIQ+ in Tunisia and MENA? We noticed through our experience, that the number of hate crimes and the societal rejection of LGBTIQ+ individuals has
increased. Especially the last years. This is practiced both in public and private spaces. LGBTIQ+ often experience rejection and exclusion from their families, causing them to be subjected to homelessness. In some cases, this also affects daily lives, for example, they are often refused from renting a place from the landlord. The same occurs when they try to apply for jobs. In schools, high schools and universities they experience bullying and Sicilly
physical violence. These forms of violence translate to some extent the spread of homophobia within the Tunisian society. What are the challenges you face being an LGBTIQ+ person in a majority Muslim population? The media has been mainstreaming an image of Islam as a homo-trans-phobic religion. This image can hurt LGBTIQ+ individuals with Muslim beliefs. These same interpretations cause a high level of Islamophobia that leads to discrimination of Muslim communities across the world. We are lucky in Tunisia to have scholars of Islam who have been writing about alternative interpretations of the religion that are LGBTIQ+ inclusive. The Tunisian penal code has article number 230, and it criminalises homosexuality. It is a law inherited from the French colonial period. The article 230 is used to persecute gay men essentially. After long work of lobbying by the LGBTIQ+ activists, during the 2017 UPR, the Tunisian government has promised to abolish this practice. In your opinion why do you think LGBTIQ+ are still not accepted? Diverse sexualities and gender identities are threats to patriarchy and the tradi-
How does Mawjoudin create safe spaces mostly for LGBTIQ+ individuals? Safe spaces are spaces where people can be who they are, and feel confident about it, without being subjected to criticism, discrimination, harassment, bullying or any emotional or physical harm. They can be spaces for social gatherings, mutual learnings or a space for self-care. Mawjoudin has been providing such spaces in Tunisia. Even though our main target is the LGBTIQ+ community, our doors are open towards all marginalised groups. We actively try to support refugees and asylum seekers especially. our means are limited and we denounce organisations such as the UNHCR which are not fulfilling their responsibility towards this group as well as the long bureaucratic procedures that this group face before finding safety. What progress have you achieved in Changing public opinion about sexual rights and gender equality? In the last years the LGBTIQ+ activists in Tunisia have been accomplishing a surprisingly big step, the main achievements are: Reaching out to civil society organisations and engaging them to support LGBTIQ+ rights. Now more than 30 registered organisations in Tunisia openly support LGBTIQ+ organisations. Through the last years, under the pressure of LGBTIQ+ activists, the media have, to a large extent, stopped using pejorative terms to discuss LGBTIQ+ issues and started using the terms suggested by the community itself. Reaching out to artists, that can influence the public opinion, to carry messages that are LGBTIQ+ supportive. What are your future hopes for LGBTIQ+ persons in Tunisia and MENA? Our hopes for the LGBTIQ+ individuals in Tunisia, the MENA are the same as for all the discriminated groups across our region (Women, refugees, asylum seekers, people with disabilities, domestic workers…). To reach one day, the justice that we fight for”. To find out more about Mawjoudin: Instagram: mawjoudin_we_exist Facebook: Mawjoudin We Exist 75
Cheer up, Luv A photography project documents and supports victims of street harassment
Words: Antigoni Pitta Images: Eliza Hatch
“Cheer up!” “Give us a smile!” “I was paying you a compliment!” “You’re overreacting.” “Bitch.” If all this sounds familiar, you are probably someone who has experienced sexual harassment — and you’re not alone. In a 2016 study 85% of female participants between the ages of 18 and 24 reported having received unwanted sexual attention from male strangers in public. Cheer Up Luv is a project that gives women a platform to share their own experiences of sexual harassment, aiming to expose society’s tendency to skirt the issue, and ultimately to raise awareness on the topic. Launched in 2017 by 23-year-old photographer Eliza Hatch, Cheer Up Luv is a project that documents diﬀerent women’s personal stories through the medium of photography. The stark, powerful portraits have the subjects looking directly into the camera, coming in direct contrast with the stories of vulnerability and discomfort they share. A London native, Eliza cites the project as “the culmination of [her] lifelong experiences” of street harassment and was inspired to start it after a specific incident where a man on the street told her to cheer up. “I just felt this huge array of emotions at the same time. I felt guilty for not looking happy, self-conscious about my appearance, angry that this man just told me what to do and say and feel and look…” “I went to my friends’ house and I told them this and we ended up sexual harassment story-swapping for hours, talking about it like it was the most normal thing in the world.” This is where she noticed that while she and her female friends experienced harassment regularly and had come to normalize it, men they knew seemed unable to sympathise, shocked at the extent to which this had become a part of their friends’ lives. “From that conversation I just realized it wasn’t just the fact that sexual harassment was happening itself, it was just this complete lack of awareness surrounding the issue.” In a wider sense this reflects the general public’s responses to sexual harassment; whether it’s called “human nature” or “oﬃce banter”, women have been conditioned to accept (and expect) harassment as something normal and unavoidable.
I’ve ever told this story’ or ‘You’re the first person I’ve ever told about this’. I was shocked because this is something that I talk about all the time with my friends so I assumed this is what happens.” Most of the subjects featured in the project are strangers, but Eliza agrees when I suggest that women tend to find common ground in these experiences even if they don’t know each other. “It’s a shared solidarity in something unfortunate and it brings people together in a really bizarre way.” She mentions that
Eliza started Cheer Up Luv on Instagram in early 2017, initially only taking pictures of her immediate circle. Soon she started asking more and more people to share their experiences and was surprised to discover how common sexual harassment actually is. “I didn’t know it was something that was widely experienced by women, but the more I started asking this question the more and more responses I got. Once I realized I had only scratched the surface, the project just sort of snowballed from there.” She was soon flooded with messages from strangers wanting to get involved with the project. Just as women from all over the world started reaching out to share their stories, the world was shaken by the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The #MeToo movement followed soon after, exposing how prevalent the issue actually is, and, with it, Cheer Up Luv picked up momentum. “It seemed people had just been stifled up until now. So many of the women who I spoke to would say ‘This is the first time
“Women have been conditioned to accept harassment as something normal”
sometimes the process of photographing someone involves much more than just the photographing. “You’re not just having a casual conversation… you’re trying to make her feel safe… and you’re trying to really make sure that her story is going to be handled with care and she’s going to be respected whilst her photo is being taken in a public place and you have to make sure that she’s comfortable. It’s a bit of a process.” As well-received as the project has been, there’s been a bit of backlash, with some people accusing Eliza of sexism because she only photographs women. At the same time, conversations about sexual harassment made her see how utterly unaware heterosexual men are of the extent of the problem. “The most common response is ‘I get harassed by girls all the time at clubs and in bars, it’s so annoying!’ So I’m like, ‘All right, fair enough, did you ever feel like a situation could have escalated? Did you ever feel like you could have been
powerless or out of control of a situation? Did you ever feel like you were not the main one in control? Did you ever think that you might get raped?’ And they always say ‘No, no…’ And then in all these conversations I’ve had with men I’ve had to say, ‘Do you ever walk home with your keys in your hand? Have you ever had to plan your journey home? Have you ever had to not take a certain road home?’ And the answer’s always ‘No, I’ve never had to do that.’ For me, that’s where the fundamental diﬀerence is — it comes down to the small diﬀerences that make up your everyday routine and the way that you have to live your life — and that’s diﬀerent from a girl harassing you in a club. Danger is always looming and you can’t say the same thing for straight men.” Being harassed can make someone feel ashamed, and that they have no autonomy over their looks. The generally nonchalant attitude surrounding the issue is no help to those who were unlucky enough to find themselves in situations
that escalated to assault, forced to silently bear the burden of their experiences. Cheer Up Luv is doing far more than simply raising awareness; it subverts this vulnerability, turning the male gaze on itself and oﬀering a safe space where women are believed, empowered and supported. “It became this therapeutic, cathartic experience where women can feel empowered by one another, and feel solidarity with one another, and actually feel courage from listening to other women’s stories and just saying ‘I’m not alone, that happened to me too and I shouldn’t feel ashamed about it and I shouldn’t feel like I’m the only one’.” Since starting Cheer Up Luv, Eliza estimates that she has photographed close to 100 people. Apart from London, where she started, she has photographed women in New York and Tokyo, and is hoping to travel more so that she can collect more stories. She is currently planning a book to commemorate the project’s maiden year. 77
Growing up trans Life can be tough for children who don’t conform to traditional gender expectations
Words and images: Judit Giralt, Paula Mori, Laura Palacín and Laura Pérez
“Three months after I told my family that I was a girl, not a boy, I stopped talking. I didn’t talk anyone, it was like living but without doing it. My body was there but not the soul. One night I took 60 pills because I didn’t want to live anymore”. The conclusion reached by a study conducted by The Williams Institute of the United States is that the rate of suicide attempts of Trans or Gender Non-Conforming people it’s 41% higher than others. The person who tried to commit suicide is Raquel Barrios, a transgender girl born sixteen years ago in Gran Canaria (Canary Islands). She was bullied at school since she was a child. The constant harassment made it impossible for her to bear her daily life. At such a young age she has gone through depression, anorexia, bullying, sexual abuse and suicide attempts. “When a baby is born, society gives him one gender only according to their genitals, but the sexual identity is on the brain, not in the body” says David Tello, one of the founders of Chrysallis Catalunya. Chrysallis is an association of families with transsexual kids.who help families that are going through the same situation. Tello says that the objective of the association is to “make visible their reality, promote and share the rights of the infancy and adolescence trans in all fields: sanitary, education, legal, social, cultural and in sports”. In recent years, the Spanish autonomous communities have introduced new laws to guarantee a better quality of life, especially in schools, for the LGTBI community. . However, there are organizations like ‘HazteOír’ who show their opposition to this legislation. This association took a bus through the streets of Spain with ideological messages against transgender people. They claim that these laws are imposing in the society gender ideology in a way that favors homosexual people. What these laws do, according to the organization is “violate some fundamental rights of the citizens, besides establishing new rights on demand for certain groups, breaking the principle of legal equality of people”. The organization criticises pro-LGTBI groups that reject biological sex as a basic diﬀerence and that argue for the free choice of genderFor ‘HazteOír’, to teach the child the ideology of gender and
Raquel’s family recognized who she was and the moment arrived when she was to say to her classmates that from that time she wouldn’t be a boy anymore. She was Raquel Barrios and she was a girl. “I thought they would understand me, it’s not that diﬃcult to understand, but no. I started to suﬀer psychological and physical bullying. Also sexual harassment. One day some boys cornered me and started to touch my body, they wanted to know what I had (female or male reproductive system). This matter is now in the tribunals. I thought that when I told everyone who I really was I would feel better of my depression, but then I relapsed”. After that, Raquel and her mother decided to leave their hometown, Gran Canaria, in order to go to Manresa in Catalonia, to build a new live where nobody knew Raquel’s past. Changing home meant also changing school. Before moving to Manresa, the catalan public television (TV3) decided to make a ‘30 minutes’ documentary about transgender kids. The documentary was premiered on television days before Raquel’s arrival and when someone in the school recognized her, everybody started talking about her life. “At school there were some amazing teachers but others who treated me badly for being transgender. For example, there was one teacher that decided that I wasn’t going to the end of course trip to Bilbao because I was sad about what was happening in my life, and also because I’m transgender. That teacher couldn’t say it publicly because his job was at stake, but he told me several times that I wasn’t going to the trip because I was transgender and he didn’t want to take care of me”. Because of that, Raquel left school because she didn’t feel comfortable. At that moment she fell into a deepdepression with several suicide attempts and anorexia, as a result of which she was hospitalised. “The hospital was in Manresa and I had to go there from Monday to Friday, every day. The initial diagnosis was self-injury, depression and suicide attempts. In summer time the hospital in Manresa closed, I was feeling bad and I didn’t have any follow-up. I got worse. I spent three months without eating anything but then I started eating 50 calories
sexual diversity is to indoctrinate them in a lie. “This new dogma has no scientific basis and does not enjoy the support of the majority,” says Hazte Oír arguing that it “prioritises sexual indoctrination with public money and hand over the education of children to LGTBI organizations.” Since Raquel was a little kid she felt strange while playing with the other kids “why did I always have to play with cars when I wanted to play with other girls at ‘fathers and mothers?’ I felt like a girl, I didn’t want to play typical “boys games”. “In every boy and girl, the awareness of being boy or girl starts at the first year of life” says David. Around the first and the second year of life, the kids start to be conscious of the diﬀerences between genders and before their third birthday they can identify themselves as a girl or a boy. When the kid identifies itself, starts to have the behaviors associated with boys or girls, depending on the gender which the child is identified with. “Some behaviors that were observed very frequently before the child reaches school age sometimes become less frequent once the child relates more with their peers in the school environment” explains David. “This decrease in observed behaviors usually indicates that as a child matures and experiences the criticism of his peers, it suppresses or disguises some behaviors in order to go unnoticed”. Raquel imitated the boys in her childhood, until she told her family how she felt. At one time, she tried to commit suicide: “I was lucky because my family found me and in the doctors saved me. This was a turning point; my family realized that I was not joking about who I am and they began to understand me”. David explains that some parents search for a therapist in order to try to change the child’s mind and make them act according to their biological gender. But this only makes things worse. The external pressure of parents, teachers and therapists is not able to modify the essential characteristics of personality. Causing shame to the child damages his self-confidence and a self-esteem. The American Psychological Association advises that it is wrong to force children to act according their biological gender because this usually causes depression, behaviour problems and suicidal thoughts. That’s what Chrysallis is fighting against.
per day. I then had to go to a hospital in Barcelona where they treated me well. After that, they moved me to a hospital in Sant Boi that it was managed by nuns. I spent there the worse four month of my life, it was like a punishment. I don’t have any problems with religion if they respect me, and that’s what they didn’t do. I had many problems during that months”. It’s important that everybody knows that the variant gender behaviors are not caused by the way parents treat their kids or for childhood events, such as divorce, sexual abuse or other traumatic experiences. David says: “It’s only something innate in every child, they are not caused by a mental disorder or psychological conflict; However, due to social prejudices, these children experience rejection, criticism and mistreatment, that can pre-
dispose to psychological diﬃculties”. Once out of the hospital Raquel tried to recover from everything that has happened to her. She decided to continue with her studies, but from home, without school. Now she gives talks around Catalonia and Spain explaining her experience and the importance of diﬀerentiating between sex and gender. In Chrysallis they consider transexuality as a form of human diversity, not as pathology. That’s why they started this road where more and more families are joining everyday in order to give support to their sons and daughters. The organization also gives talks to families and supports children: they try to normalize this situation, encourage trans kids and promote the rights of every child but above all, focus on helping parents
to deal with this situation. “Without the support of parents, the child may believe that he deserves to be stigmatized” says David, and he adds “To counteract the negative eﬀects of social stigma, parents must show an aﬃrmative attitude. They must inform the child that they accept it and respect it as it is”. “What you have between your legs is your sex, but the gender is who you are and what defines you about the person you are inside the society. Your body isn’t related about who you are”. We wantd to talk with some families about their transgender kids. However, this was impossible, because parents didn’t want to talk about their kids. With this experience we’ve come to the conclusion that being transgender is still a taboo and the society must keep fighting. 79
Remembering the suﬀragettes Artists and school students tell stories of Britain’s feminist pioneers
Words: Harriet Ssetongo Images: Jonathan Knightley
To coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 , which for the first time extended the vote to women over 30, Rich Mix arts space will be exhibiting work produced by Parliament Girls School in collaboration with Scarabeus Aerial Theatre, The Women’s Library at the LSE and the Education Department at the Houses of Parliament. The exhibition, curated by Sharna Jackson will explore women’s activism over the last 100 years, and is the final piece in a series of workshops, debates, interactive masterclasses and performance involving 40 young women from Year 9 at the school. 100 years marks an important time to question what has happened and what has changed. Daniela Essart, Art Director of
but also presents an opportunity for art to play a role in the understanding and participation in activism and historical discussions. ‘We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn’ is the name given to the collaboration with Scarabeus Ariel Theatre, which emphasises bringing live performance to unique places. This promenade performance at Parliament Hill School included, amongst other elements, a suffragette Jiu Jitsu training session, a women’s prison scene and historical and contemporary suffragettes in Parliament demanding equal rights. The exhibition includes photography of women’s activism and these performances. At school I don’t recall being taught about feminism, but rather it received a
Scarabeus, spearheaded this collaboration having previously worked with the Parliament Hill School and The Woman’s Library on the Dark side of the Moon project about the hidden history of women astronauts. Daniela’s focus on astronauts was inspired by the lack of awareness of women who have been part of space programmes, as well as their under representation in the programmes. When I learned of this prior partnership it reminded me of Theodore Melfi’s 2016 film ‘Hidden Figures’ which told the unknown story of three African American mathematicians in the Nasa space programme, Katherine Globa, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan. Not only do such initiatives reveal the gap in the populous knowledge about women’s achievements,
“We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn” minor mention in the context of the 60s & 70s revolutionary movements. These feminist movements were poetically sprinkled between with the wider context of Vietnam, the sexual revolution and flower power. The issue here, was feminism was never explored in and of itself, but rather a side point to a wider narrative. This lack of context and framing in history can have wider consequences as to how we, read and understand history, and its relevance to our own lives. It was Franz Fanons ‘Algeria Unveiled’ during my studies in politics that first opened my eyes to a complex and ignored history of women’s activism and the key role of woman in the independence movement against French occupation. I was astounded at the forgotten histories of women in resistance, and how women’s resistance took on valid and creative forms which were key to developments in the 20th century, though are often overlooked in the historical context. This wasn’t women fighting for women’s rights only, but for the wider political movements of the day. From cacerolazos protests of Latin America, which have moved further afield, women have and continue to protest against economic and political injustices in ways which have often fallen outside of the main agenda. With the growing awareness of intersectionality within feminism, there is a need to better understand the range of histories and experiences of different types of women. This more complete and democratic understanding of race, class, gender and other protected characteristics can relate to the figures of the past who have been forgotten in the narrative of the woman’s movements. This collaboration, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, allows a space to explore a range of narratives by highlight-
ing not only the names of those wellknown suffragettes such as Emmeline Pankurst but others who have carried the torch for the movement. The creative thinking of art practitioners such as Daniela Essart who are finding ways in which young people can engage with complex issues through art could present a shift in how schools engage with art, activism and forgotten histories. Photography has played an important role in documenting civil unrest and the operations of the state throughout history. The treatment of the suffragettes for example, was documented in newspapers in Britain, and some of the tactics used by police provided a greater sympathy of the cause, or at least, with such photographic documentation of brutality, a critical eye was levelled at the state. It is no surprise therefore that photography takes centre stage at this exhibition, historical and contemporary photography of historical and contemporary activism is included. In addition to this, images taken by Jonathan Knightley and the video documentary from Chloe Plumb of
the performance and the initiatives that were core to this collaboration, will be displayed. The question remains, what next ? potentially more collaborations? and a space for artists to engage with young people in this manner and help create thoughtful discussions, around complex issues. You can catch the exhibition, ‘We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn’ at the Rich Mix Theatre from Wednesday 6th June — 28th June. For more information on the exhibition please visit: www.richmix.org.uk/events/ exhibitions/we-are-granddaughterswitches-you-could-not-burn The fight for women’s equality, now and then documentary video: vimeo.com/263330391 Scarabeus Aerial Theatre: www.scarabeus.co.uk/ Sharna Jackson: www.weareseahorse.com 81
Five Things We Learned from Genderquake Was the Channel 4 series a worthy attempt to explore new territory or a shabby way of stirring up controversy?
Channel 4’s Genderquake series, described as a ‘non-binary answer to Big Brother’ placed eleven people of a range of sexualities and gender identities, who variously identify as cisgender, non-binary, genderqueer, intersex, and trans, in a house in Sussex to live together for a week. As the series progressed, the housemates shared their life stories. Although the idea for the programme was greeted with suspicion by some, by the end, most were won over, with even the Daily Mail describing it as casting ‘fascinating new light on the sex and gender debate’. However, a live Genderquake debate, broadcast by Channel 4 and featuring Munroe Bergdorf, Caitlyn Jenner and Germaine Greer among others, was less successful, descending into transphobic heckling from the live audience. WHAT LESSONS CAN WE TAKE AWAY FROM GENDERQUAKE? 1. Some people don’t choose to change gender - yes, it can happen to your body naturally. Housemate Brooke, aged 24, was born a boy but began developing female characteristics in her early secondary school years. At the age of 13, whilst attending an all boys’ school, she began to grow boobs - sadly, she was also targeted as a victim of bullying. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Klinefelter Syndrome, which meant that she was born with an extra X chromosome, aﬀecting the early stages of her puberty. 2. People’s views often change once they educate themselves on the LGBT community. 21-year-old Tom expressed his views confidently; “There’s male and there’s female, you’ve got a penis or you’ve got a vagina”. Although Tom had never encountered a transsexual before, he was quick to make judgments. After spending many hours in a detached Sussex household, exchanging life stories with numerous diﬀerent genders, he later admitted, “I have learnt more in the last six or seven hours than I have in my whole life. It’s f***ing crazy!” 3. Gender non-binary people DO exist! For those of you that aren’t aware (there seems to be a lot), people that identify themselves as non-binary do not consider themselves as exclusively feminine or masculine. One may feel just as much 82
male as they do female (yes, you can be both). Genderquake housemates enjoy a pint in the local pub, when a man told Saﬀron that being trans has “all become quite fashionable, it’s nothing more than that.” Saﬀron later fearlessly bites back in frustration, “Those people who says that we don’t exist, I’m right f***ing here”. 4. Some transsexuals simply want to exist as their current gender after they have been through surgical change, instead of continuously feeling pressured to inform lovers and acquaintances of their biological sex at birth. The ‘Big Brother’ style, two-part documentary leaves the ending of episode one on a cliﬀ-hanger, as Romario was confronted by his housemate Markus, who questioned his gender identity. The scene felt uncomfortable when housemates noticed Romario’s surgical scars, when he arose from the sea after a quick swim. 5. Reality TV still has a long way to go after Channel 4 used cheap, shock tactics such as a Jacuzzi evening shared by housemates, alcohol consumption and what seemed like a deliberate trip to the beach; the camera zooming in to emphasise the participants’ trans bodies. GENDERQUAKE: THE HOUSEMATES Brooke, 24, who has Klinefelter syndrome, which means she has an extra X chromosome, was born a boy, but she began growing breasts and developing female characteristics when she was 13.
Words: Brittany O’Neill Images: Channel 4
Cambell, a 22-year-old trans woman who has undergone hormone treatment since she was 16 and has recently completed gender reassignment surgery. Marcus, 32, a gay man from Milton Keynes, who likes to wear make-up Phoenix, a “freaky alien child” who identifies as 70% female Tom, a straight man from Barnsley with uncompromisingly traditional views. Saﬀron, 21, identifies as non-binary, and prefers the pronoun “they” over “he” or “she”. Charlie, 19, was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman. However, she only started transitioning after her stint in the “Genderquake” house. Dan, 21, is a cisgender heterosexual guy from Barnsley — meaning he’s straight, and defines himself by the gender he was assigned at birth. Phoenix, 22, who was born a boy but says he’s “70% female” Romario, a 30-year-old from Birmingham with conservative views on gender, confused his housemates on a seaside day out in Brighton after they saw he had top surgery scars. Filomena, 27, a single straight woman from Dublin
G E N D E R & S E X U A L I T Y