issue 1. Spring 2013
editorial 04 Louisa Service
wow women 06 open up
homeless35 Denise Felkin
spotlight 50 The rights of WOW to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted by their accordance with the copyright, designs and patents act 1998. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted or stored in a retrieval system, in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the authors. Printed in Great Britain by Book Empire 2013 www.wowmagazine2013.blogspot.co.uk email@example.com Front Cover by Sofia Krokida
WOW is a quarterly published magazine.
05 this is beauty 12 contributors
faces lost, faces found 27 Louisa Service
being a mum 44 Giorgia Tobiolo
if you could see 51 Denise Felkin
made in china 58 Claire Cheng
women in the arts 68 Denise Felkin
extract 66 thank you note 70 5
editorial Women have been the subject, or object, of representation for thousands of years. To begin at the end of a history so laden with expectation, debate and contradiction is undoubtedly a challenge. But to claim to be bringing something new to this history, to suggest we understand more clearly ‘what women want,’ is we recognize, a substantial claim and a daunting task. Instead this magazine has taken, as it’s starting point a problem, a puzzle. Who are women? What are women? But in this task we have been needfully cautious. As Nietzsche stated, ‘The labyrinthine man never seeks the truth, only his Ariadne.’ As we began this issue we wanted to avoid this predetermined search. What is it to be a women was the question we started with, but not in-fact the problem we hoped to solve. Wow instead hopes to explore what women can be rather than dictate what women should be. These pages are not trying, therefore, to solve or define these questions but to explore and expand our understanding of woman, with the hope of presenting a diverse, open-ended and unairbrushed account of the issues and realities facing women today. Female representation is undergoing an era of positive change thanks to a new generation of women who are again talking unrestrainedly about what it is to be a woman today, often in 140 characters or less. But Wow aims to fill a gap in this changing sphere, to become a magazine the provides a space for reflection, for discussion and most of all for female voices to reach a wider audience without reducing the female voice or vision to a universal or simple essence. Using innovative writing and photography, we hope you will be inspired by the look, content and intention of Wow. Today, more than ever before, we are surrounded by a world of instant connections and therefore it matters which connections are made and which are left unmade. With the subject of female representation, therefore, we place ourselves within a long history, but it is with the choices we have made that we claim to bring something new. Yes, this is a considerable claim and yes, it is a daunting task, but it is a claim which I hope you will feel has been treated with consideration and a task that has been fulfilled with care. w
Louisa Service - Editor Denise Felkin - Production Editor Claire Cheng - Features Editor
Giorgia Tobiolo - Picture Editor Sofia Krokida - Designer
Louisa Service Editor
wow women is a platform to celebrate the exceptional and the ordinary.
In every issue, women share with us an insight into their everyday life of doing something different.
Nun Lama Zangmao
photo by Claire Cheng
Until I was twenty-five I lived a very normal life. I went to school, then college and travelled like many other young western people of my age. But while I was travelling I got caught up in that 1960â€™s feeling of East meets West, becoming a Buddhist nun in my thirties. This was an individual choice I made, a choice not to have relationships or a family, to relinquish my concern for outer beauty. I worry about the choices girls are given today. For centuries the need to stay young and beautiful has always been placed on women, but I feel this pressure is only increasing. How do I believe women can deal with this pressure? As a Buddhist I try to find happiness in myself, my inner peace. I try to arm myself with information and the confidence that empowers me to make my own choices.
photo by Claire Cheng
Carrie Ferry Skipper
Claire Front Woman
photo by Louisa Service
If you ever visit Bristol, you should go on the ferries around the harbour. Bristol grow up around the harbour so it is a good way to see the history of the city.
Since meeting my songwriting partner Phil Jones in 2008 I’ve sung in our band Cooper Jones, while also fronting the band Goldfish Don’t Bounce. I remember
If you go on the ferry, you might find me driving it. I’ve been a ferry skipper for nearly 18 years now.
wanting to sing from an early age. I had a hand full of cassette tapes, which must have received a battering in my tape player on loop. I used to borrow them
Before I begun driving the ferry I had been doing a very demanding job for eleven years.Trying to work long hours with two children, I felt burnt out, I thought
from my dad’s great collection, bands and singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Fleetwood Mac, Guns & Roses and Led Zeppelin, the list goes on. I think I was when twenty
I wasn’t doing either job properly. I felt like a failure. But then my friend, who worked at the ferry company, suggested I work for them. I worked as a crew on
two when I realized that time was flying, it was time to start working on my ambition. I booked singing lessons, which were soon followed by open mic sessions.
the boat to start with, but after two years the manager suggested to me that I train as a skipper.
In the end it was probably luck that I started in a rock band, but it gave me the stamina I needed to build my voice.
Initially there was a lot of resistance, one man even asked me “it is a man’s job, what are you doing?” As a result I felt judged and I thought I had to be twice
I remember both good and bad experiences of being front woman, the bad mainly involving rowdy crowds who have had too much to drink, but I’ve found
as good. For a long time, even after I got my license, I was very unconfident. I’ve noticed with men and women, women are always prepared to admit if they
that every gig has had its own story to tell. The boys in the band have always had great feedback for being female fronted, a line up which is still rare for rock
don’t know something and while men usually pretend what they know what their doing. So it’s a sign of weakness if you admit that you don’t know how to
music. But I suppose, also, we live in a world where “sex sells” so perhaps having a female fronting the band draws in a larger audience? Whatever it is I’m just
grateful for being able to do what I do and douse myself in the medicine that is rock n roll!
But over time, I got a lot more confident. Really the resistance only made me more determined to do it. I just kept on. I really enjoy the work, I love being on the water, and I like the variety of jobs that each day. I even love it on the cold and rainy days.
The Kickerbocker Glories
We are the Kickerbocker Glories, Brightons’ homegrown smokin’ hot gypsy cancan troop, who perform at gigs, parties, cabaret nights and festivals. We are a very mixed group of usually eight women. Outside dancing we have varied careers: two of our girls own a restaurant, we also have stand up comedian, a lotus masseur, a leather crafter, an artist and a sound engineer. Half of the girls started off as the Floozies seven years ago and the Kickerbocker Glories formed from them four years ago. Its great to have a creative space within a strong female vibe.There is a lot of camaraderie between us girls, you get that going to festivals with a caravan full of cancan dancers, it is an escape from everyday life, good fun and that’s why we do this because it is such a laugh!
photo by Denise Felkin
this is Beauty
by Sofia Krokida
this is Beauty
this is Beauty
s we grow culture tells us that beauty is life. And as this life goes by, we learn to search for the beauty within, and to
recognize it.To recognize that life is beautiful. Whatâ€™s more we learn too of the subjectivity of this hunt for beauty. Some adore the beauty of a calm sea, while others love waves fighting on a rainy day. Some prefer blondes and others brunettes. Some see the beauty in a sad look, while others might be charmed by a happy smile. We realize this because beauty is not what you see, but what you feel and what you make others feel. It is internal, and it speaks to each of us in many languages. So, in a world where everyone has the right to speak, when a man decides to explore his feminine side, to feel more himself in a skirt and heels, should anyone tell him he is not beautiful? w
In each issue Wow hopes to open its doors to new projects and ideas from artists from all over the world. The idea is to give artists of all kinds a space to use drawing, photography, painting or design to conceptually illustrate their take on what it is to be a woman today, what it has been and perhaps will be. This is aimed at being an open mind and heart feature where a passion for arts and a freedom of expression can take shape. w
â€œBirds born in a cage think flying is an illnessâ€? Alejandro Yodorowsky
by Giorgia Tobiolo
faces lost, faces found.
by Louisa Service
Photographs have become the most common instruments of remembrance. But they are very particular and difficult instruments, perched between the present and the past, between lost and found, memory and forgetting. How have the images we see come shaped our memories? And have they in turn come to obscure them?
faces lost, faces found
faces lost, faces found
hotographs have become the most common instruments of remembrance. But they are very particular and difficult instruments, suspended between the present and the past, between lost and found, memory and forgetting. How have the images we see come to shape our memories? And have they in turn come to obscure them? In his seminal work on photography, Camera Lucida, the theorist Roland Barthes searches for his mother in the photographs she has left behind. In every picture he searches for the woman he knew. He can see her in fragments – her eyes, the way she stands- but nothing more, she is not there. These flat images stretch away from him in time into a history he can’t recognise. But then, suddenly, in a moment of touching humanity he sees her. From the eyes of a child he feels his gaze returned, and he recognises her, her kindness and her charm. It is a moment not just of recognition but of discovery, a discovery of self-in-relation. A son, grown and adult, finds himself and something he has lost in look of the child who is to become his mother. This moment appears to perfectly illustrate what is central to our encounters with history: something lost and something found. But what of our own histories, what role has photography played in these? When the camera entered the family home it brought with it new conventions, conventions that have come to define family life and our relationship to it. Foremost among these conventions lies the family album. Bound between its pages we construct our lives and, as part of this physical act of recording, construct the histories that we leave behind. As a child I spent hours leafing through the books meticulously kept by my mother and grandmothers, unaware that in doing so I was shaping my understanding of my own family, of its identity and of its unity. It was through this unity that I made connections between these artifacts of the past and myself, between the internal and external, claiming these women as part of the narrative through which I construct myself. Here it seemed to me was my own history laid before me, a story played out long before my birth but somehow my story too. But as I begin to construct my own narrative, to live my own future history, I have begun to question what has so touched me about the women in these pictures, causing me to claim them as my own. Victor Burgin’s struggles with photography are apt for this question, when he suggests that ‘to look at a photograph beyond a certain period of time is to court a frustration; the image which on first look gave pleasure has by degrees become a veil behind which
faces lost, faces found
we now desire to see.’ It is true that my eye has always been drawn by a feeling of connection to the portrait of my Grandmother that begins this article, but I realise now it is not because I recognise the woman I know today within it. The passage of time has created a distance through which recognition cannot travel. Like Burgin, I am charmed by the sense of era and of style, but this too has become a pastness that shrouds recognition, a veil which I cannot seem to draw back. It is with this understanding that I have begun to realise that single photographs are merely fragments of the identity they claim to faithfully relay, they are never the whole story. And with this realisation it is to the family album that I turn. This physical act, the construction of memory over many pages often spanning many years, helps us to recognise the density of identity formation, of the many layers we ingest over time. And it is, therefore, the temporal nature of photography that allows for this dialogue with the self, the visualisation of a personal narrative. In seeing my paternal grandmother standing, sun soaked, next to her solemn and uniformed younger self this suddenly becomes evident. Seeing her two selves separated by time and circumstance but uniquely the same enables a distance to be crossed. I begin to understand the way in which the past remains with our present selves, not disappearing but rather adding another layer to who we are. The stories of our livings are not single chapters, to be recorded or lost in a single photograph, but rather are constructed across the pages of time from moments so simple and yet so personal that they seem to beg to be told and heard. What is beyond doubt is these pictures that have been left to me, exist because these women were there; they existed. Thus the loss of these women who have so shaped my understanding of myself can always be followed by an act of retrieval– however mediated.Through this density of memory these women, my family, are given the life not just to be looked back at, but to reach forward. Barthes wrote, more beautifully than I ever could, that in the form of photographs our past can unexpectedly reach out to ‘prick’ us, touching us like the delayed light of a star. Time irrevocably separates us from the ‘that has been’ that forms the myths of our past but, as Barthes found, a path through this distance can, in a single look, be illuminated by a moment of light. w
homeless by Denise Felkin
ow did this bride end up sleeping on the streets?
During the recent cold spell notices appeared across the internet, ‘If you see a homeless person sleeping out in this weather please call 0808 1680141.’ In reality what this means is that if the temperature is predicted to drop to zero for two consecutive nights or more then the government are obliged to provide tempo-rary shelter. This, however, usually comes in the form of sleeping on a floor in a large crowded hall or community centre. Lack of affordable housing has become a real issue in Britain today. Private landlords charge impossible rates, letting agents expect guarantors, bank accounts are checked, references are needed. Housing Benefit cuts and caps have made securing private rented accommodation even more challenging. For a single woman it is a long wait on any housing lists, unless she has a mental health problem, a child, or other priority need. Housing cooperatives are an option, but they are hard to get into and squatting in residential properties is now a criminal offence. It is inevitable that in these social circumstances there are so many homeless and hidden homeless. Brighton Housing Trust run Phase 1, a homeless hostel for men and women, with 52 rooms and provides supportive housing for people who have been referred by a doctor, social services or the council. The residents are provided with a small room and meals and are supported by a key-worker. If appropriate the ‘clients’ can take part in a life skills programme, to prepare them for independent living, and there is the opportunity to move into a pre-tenancy flat. Here four ex-Phase 1 female residents, who have experienced homelessness first hand share their success stories.
photo by Jeniffer Wallis Richmond
“I have been homeless for most of my life, from the age of thirteen. I was running from something that happened at home. At fourteen I was stuck in London. There was not any help for younger women, some of the day centres were “If you are not over this age, you can not come in.” It was unrealistic, it was really horrible, but survival techniques kick in and you’ve got to do your best. I strayed from town to city, bumping into some terrible men. They would say come and stay the night; that would lead to something really bad. In the end I did not trust anyone. If anyone that took me back to their house, I automatically thought that they were going to do something, so I’d do something to them first. That was how it was becoming, I had to fight back. “I have slept everywhere; car-parks, empty buildings, anything, sometimes I’d sleep in peoples doorways, out of desperation to get out of the cold. I slept in the park, in the bushes. I used to sleep in Preston Park, in a little tent and I’d take it down in the day. Sometimes I could stay there all day. People came by gave me flasks and food. I am not quite sure how I got a place today, I went through the Dan Leaver project. He remembered me from when I was sixteen at the council, un-houseable because no one would have me, I was a complete mess. I started doing gardening voluntary work at a spiritualist centre. One day I told them my story and that I could not cope living in the hostel anymore, it was time for me to leave. They put me in a training flat in Whitehawk, it was lonely. The pre-tenency flat is where they put you for an eight week period to see if you can live independently. During this time I had to do a life skills programme, to make a positive contribution to society. I moved in here on July 15th last year. When I first came here, to visit the building I did not think I would be able to move in. It had a wicked garden outside, and I thought that’s perfect, it’s really nice, it’s home really. When I first moved in I did not think I would cope, because I had no furniture or nothing. I did not believe that I would get it because I thought it was too good for me and they are just going to throw me into a hostel. Now I have a home out of the positive things I have been doing. Life skills, gardening. I am so happy I have got a door,I can open to the back garden. I have found it hard to cope a few times, living in a flat is really hard because I am not used to having my own property, it has become my home. Sometimes I switch off and put on the TV or a movie and I never used to be able to do that. The first thing I bought was a bed. I had nothing.”
I’m so happy I’ve got a door…
Maggie, talking to Ray Gosling, ‘Moving On,’ BBC 2006 “I lived on the beach in a fisherman’s hut for a year and a half, some mornings I would wake up in puddles. I used to sleep in this area because it’s open. I did not have a phone or nothing. I knew I would be alright because I was sleeping in my clothes and I know the police patrol this place. The longer I was on the streets the more people I met, eventually there were about six of us that used to sleep rough together. I felt safe, but it was hard, it was really hard trying to go to sleep. Once I was asleep, I just did not wake up. It doesn’t matter how wet or cold or damp you are. If I was on the street now I’d sleep on that [pointing at cardboard] damp or no damp. I used to drink myself into an oblivion, to wear myself out to go to sleep. I did not care, once I was on that cardboard it’d be freezing, really freezing some nights, but all we could do was go to sleep and see if you wake up in the morning. After 18 months of sleeping rough, I collapsed. I was in hospital for three weeks, with pneumonia and in a coma for a week, nearly dead. When I was discharged from hospital, I went back to sleep on the beach, where rough sleepers rescued me and put me in a hostel. ‘Rough sleepers’ are caring people from the council that come around during the night and bring homeless people a flask of tea, sleeping bags and try and sort them out hostels. I was grateful to be put in a hostel, because whilst I was on a street I did not know what to do. I don’t fancy spending my life in a hostel. I aint got a dream, I don’t sleep enough to dream. Now my ideal thing is to get a flat. Just somewhere I can be quiet, somewhere there is peace, tranquillity. I want my independence, to pay my own bills. I want my own front door, I want a nice next door neighbour, who I can chat to and shut my door at the end of the day. I want to quieten down and just want my own sofa, I want a front room, my own kitchen and I want my own bathroom and toilet then I’d be happy. It’s not a lot to ask for.” Maggie, talking to Denise Felkin 2013 “I was at Phase 1 for two years, they moved me on into a temporary flat, they sorted my money and furniture out. I am against homelessness, because in Brighton you need a local connection. I had to be nearly dead and that was my local connection, my health. Now I have a permanent home. I recently moved into a council flat, I am happy now, just want to stay here forever. The first thing I bought was paint. .”
I don’t sleep enough to dream.
Sara “Homelessness is really really bad, just walking down the street it can be seen everywhere. I get hardly any money, but if I’ve got a fiver I will give it to a homeless person. I don’t care what they do with it, at the end of the day it’s survival on the streets. Being homeless, you have got twenty four hours a day with nothing to do, nothing; what would you do? There is just too much time and then you’ll get moved on. This could happen to anybody. I’ve been through, school, college, work a few jobs and one day things went tits up. I did not intentionally make myself homeless. It’s so expensive in Brighton, before I lived in private rentals. I had a partner, we would help each other out, I was with him for eight years, we split up. I was okay, but he was trying to get back in my life and totally screwed me up. I got this little bedsit from a guy that I thought was the landlord, one day I came back and all my stuff was on the street. I had no rights, nothing and that’s how I became homeless. I used to sleep in a car-park. Sometimes it was warm if there were enough bodies and you could be all tucked in together. I feel I was quite lucky because I did not rough sleep for that long. I met a man who let me stay, everyday I did not know what was going on, then some other guy took me in and he was very charming to begin with, he sucked me in, got me drugged up and was doing sexual things to me. I tried to kill myself before a friend came and rescued me. It was really hard hitting coming out of hospital and into an emergency hostel, still in the orange pyjamas. I could not sleep on the mattress in the hostel, it was horrible, I slept on the floor. That night somebody got robbed a knifepoint and they tried my door. I was then put into supportive housing, I so did not want to go there. I thought the worst. I look back now and I looked at myself from the ground up and realise it’s really helped me.. I had never been homeless before, when I moved in here, I wasn’t the person I am now. I was taking too many drugs to try not think about what had happened; in a hostel that is top heavy with men. I have been employed in sales, customer service, modelled, worked in web design. I did a course in Art & Design when I left school. I’ve applied for a web design course. I want to be a freelance web designer, learn Java, PHP and to do a business course. If it wasn’t for Phase 1, I do not know where I would be now. I want to move out of here, I want my life back. I want normality, whatever that is; most importantly my independence back. The first thing I bought was a kettle.”
One day I came back and all my stuff was on the street. I had no rights, nothing….
photo by Jeniffer Wallis Richmond
“I was 26 and working at American Express as a commis chef, 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. They nicknamed me the omelette queen my record was 191 in 2 ¾ hours. A friend told me about a sous chef job in a small Italian restaurant. For six months I worked both jobs 6am-3pm and 5pm-12pm. The head chef asked me out for a drink. I swore I would never marry, we married within a year. I don’t know if it was me or the pair of us but suddenly everything got taken for granted, fabulous flat, great job, a good income, each other. I’ve always had a problem with alcohol and after 11 years of married life I was an alcoholic. I lost 6 stone. My husband could not get through to me. I had closed down. I started staying with someone I met at pre-detox meetings, he practically battered me to death, I was in hospital for 10 days. My husband got me out and took me to the council. I could not go back to our flat by this time as it was up for sale and I was put into emergency accommodation. After a month or so they moved me into Phase 1 – it saved my life! I did not want to go there, having been a chef around the corner for 13 years. I knew of its reputation, alcoholics, drug users and the undesirables from the street. Yes I was a snob, I could not place myself there from what and where I had come from. I had no choice, private rentals would not let me rent their properties as despite having the deposit I had no guarantor. My life was now so different, I was confused, unhappy, nervous, mostly drunk, poorly, scared stiff of the other residents never having being in such a situation before. Whilst at the hostel I changed, the staff were friendly, non-judgemental and supportive and as time went by so were the other residents. Amongst the hatred and bitterness there was love and warmth in that building. Never judge a book by its cover. Phase 1 and its residents myself included had some deep problems and I know if was not for those good days I would not have survived that period of my life. I was moved into a pre-tenancy flat in the basement, we had to budget our finances and cook our own food. I had that room for three months and was at the hostel for a total of 18 months. I now live in a little flat that I have made my own. I’m divorced but we are still friends. I am in constant contact with two friends I made at Phase 1 and say hi to many others walking by as it changed their lives too. I only have a year left on my contract here, my health is wstill not good, but I know for sure that I am one of the lucky ones. I really was a cats whisker from the streets. The first thing I bought was nothing. I just got all of my things out of storage.” w
Yes I was a snob, I could not place myself there from what and where I had come from.
Being a Mum â€œLike all parents, teenage mothers and young fathers want the very best for their children and some manage very well. But the demands of caring for a baby at a time when young people themselves are making the transition from
by Giorgia Tobiolo
adolescence to adulthood are significant and can contribute to the poor outcomes that many of them experience. For example, they experience 60 per cent higher rates of infant mortality, have three times the rate of post-natal depression compared to older mothers, and there is a greater risk for them and their children of living in poverty in later life.What is clear is that these poor outcomes are not inevitable if early and sustained support is put in place.â€?
being a mum
We believe that young parents should be supported to make informed and considered life choices and decisions about parenthood. We understand that young parents often experience stigma and negative press and that this can undermine their parenting skills, decision-making and self-worth. We are committed to working with young parents in a respectful, supportive way and to helping them to achieve the best outcomes for themselves and their children. We trust that by creative arts interventions can provide young parents with an important and often neglected outlet for their emotions. We employ a range of art and music interventions and projects with our young parents that are designed to aid their self-expression, their confidence and strengthen their sense of self. Our work assumes from research and experience that there is a window of opportunity from pregnancy to year two that is crucial in the development of a secure attachment. This window is crucial too for the brain development on the child and the young parent. A secure attachment in infancy predicts future mental health for the child and guarantees a better quality life for parents. In our experience young parents are at risk of developing insecure attachment with their children if they lack a supportive network around them. The importance of groups like Coram has been further highlighted by Julie Bentley, chief executive of FPA, who suggests that â€œThe fact that weâ€™re seeing the lowest teenage pregnancy figures in England and Wales for over 40 years is because of the dedicated work of professionals in relationship and sex education, contraception and local services. We must do all we can to keep the momentum going.â€? w
ecent Government statics have revealed that children born to teenage mothers are at increased risk of poverty, low educational attainment and poor health in adult life, often becoming trapped a cycle of intergenerational teenage parenthood. But the statistics also show that these poor outcomes are not inevitable if early and sustained support is put in place. These findings have led to the birth of a number of young parents projects which recognize the demands of caring for a baby at a time when young people themselves are making the transition from adolescence. Here Laura Gould of The Coram Trust explains the value of learning how to be a mum. Whilst working with young parents it is necessary to keep in mind the complexity of being a parent while still developing as an individual adolescent. At the Coram Trust we know that adolescents are themselves at a particular stage in their development and can at times struggle with the additional responsibilities of becoming a parent. Experts suggest the way in which we parent is driven by economic trends. Better off parents are spending more than ever before on child rearing, while a generation of young women in their early 20s, may delay having a family due to financial concerns caused by the recession. However we often work with young people who have not had the stability or advantages that many older parents may have had, recognising that there is limited support services available for this particular group. The weekly Young Parents Group is a friendly environment where parents can benefit from peer support, meet other young parents, reducing isolation and enhancing overall wellbeing for both mother and child. Our work with young parents is based on the understanding that that all parents should be supported on the basis of their strengths, their style of learning and level of development. In the young parents group we keep in mind the parents vulnerabilities as well as their strengths. We try and create an environment for both parent and child to enjoy and to absorb what is on offer to the best of their capacity. The challenge is to engage with young parents in an active way but also one that avoids prompting defensive responses. Often young parents will react quite defensively to advice, so it needs to be given in carefully considered ways. We have seen through building strong relationships with young parents, which occurs over a period of time, we are able to achieve positive outcomes for both parent and child.
being a mum
Depression is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign you have been strong for too long. Elizabeth Gilbert
MILLION WOMEN RISE
photo by Giorgia Tobiolo text by Donna Carty
he 9th March this year saw the 6th Million Women Rise march through Central London. The march is for women and children to make a stand against all forms
of violence being perpetrated against women and girls in the UK and around the globe. Sabrina Qureshi, founder of Million Women Rise, and named as one of the feminist pioneers of the 21st Century by the Independent newspaper, said in a statement last week: “Male violence against women and girls is systematic and organised and we are still facing a pandemic of male violence in the UK and across the globe.” Among women aged 15-44 years, gender-based violence accounts for more death and disability than the combined effects of cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war.
if you could see...
“Every woman or child who dies or is injured as a consequence of male violence is a stark reminder of the reason why we march and why we cannot just sit back and do nothing. To do nothing is to accept this violation of our human rights and to say that those lives are valueless or less important than others.” The marches began after Sabrina recognised that many women in the UK who experience violence have no support of any kind and that many forms of violence against women and girls were not recognised as violence at all. Million Women Rise recognises all forms of male violence against women, from the often dreaded experiences of women and girls walking along the street, pornography and trafficking, as well as the more often recognised forms of violence including rape, mental and physical abuse in and out of the home and date violence.
Three letters written by women who share their personal experiences of surviving depression and prejudice while fighting for their mental wellbeing.
The idea of the Million Women Rise march began aiming for a critical mass of women in central London who would highlight the ongoing and often unrecognised violence against women and girls around the world.
photos by Denise Felkin
Million Women Rise are planning their next march on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2014. w
I am a 36 year old female, educated, with good qualifications. I have worked in areas including banking, pensions and insurance. I take great pride in my appearance and would never dream of going out smelly or dirty. My home is small so chaotic but always clean and tidy and I have outfits ranging from workout gear and smart suits to evening dresses, never going anywhere unless I am comfortable with the way I look. I can cook anything from wheat free baked goods to a roast dinner for as many as happen to turn up. I am naturally thin, actually really enjoy exercise and have never starved or purged myself my whole life. Why? Because that’s who I am, I just also happen to have severe clinical depression with anxiety and a borderline emotional personality disorder.
Since my breakdown aged 24, I have had people I know have a go at me for exaggerating my illness, when there is ‘obviously nothing wrong,’ all because I had the audacity to try to smile at a friend’s birthday party. Another believed I shouldn’t have depression because ‘only unintelligent people get that, don’t they?’ (Tell that to Stephen Fry.) An A&E doctor, when taken by a worried friend, told me I ‘can’t be that bad, (I) dress well’, while a psychiatric nurse offered to enrol me on a course to teach me how to look after myself, to cook and clean. My (ex) GP told me he was ‘getting bored of (me)’ and evidently all I needed to do was ‘grow up.’ while many others seem to think I am ‘lucky not having to work.’ Add to all this the usual prejudices, because I am an unmarried female who has chosen not to have children, and it seems society has already decided who I should be. Lucky them; I haven’t a clue anymore.
For people with poor mental health there is a lot of stigma attached, with the general population remaining ignorant as to what it really means to be depressed. Everyone is so busy calling us sufferers, telling us about our mental ‘illness,’ no one considers we are survivors. Our mental ‘wellbeing’ is what is important and this is what we should be talking about. Ellen Rose
if you could see
Dear Ma, I wish you could see this picture. More than anything, you’d see me now, maybe not through the mists of the confusion constantly weighing on you, but now, with your post life eyes. I think you would be fairer. You’d see my clothes, I’d tell you I made them and you’d tell me stories of your sister who made your wedding dress, who made my high school formal dress, and seemingly all the dresses that came in between. You’d see my tattoo and we wouldn’t talk about that but I would see you pull a face. You’d tell me that you don’t like cats, because of the time one took a swipe at your face when you were a kid. But we’d talk about Stumpy, the cat you said used to swing through the trees like a monkey and I’d remind you that my cat likes to drink tea, and then you’d be alright. You’d ask me what her name is and I would say ‘Cynthia’ instead of ‘Madame Sin’ because I don’t need to be reminded about being a catholic. And I don’t think you know who Cynthia Payne is, anyway. What we might say, in a conversation we might have without life weighing on you so hard, is how I deal with what you gave me. I could tell you that I make clothes to try and work with my mania, instead of running up bills on a credit card. We could joke about how little harm there is in cutting out a plethora of patterns at four in the morning, provided that’s all I was cutting. And maybe you’d take a pot shot at me and my tats, and I would tell you that they mark significant times of my life, that my skin holds my truth. That when the world turns black around me, I have a map of pictures to affirm my existence. Then we might begin to talk of our common experience that never made sense to you, and that I have spent so much of my life trying to figure out. You only spoke of your anxiety once to me in all my days, and maybe now you might see that my mood swings weren’t a by product of extreme drug taking. I was too busy trying to get you to approve of me; I would fulfil that perception of myself later. You’d look philosophical while we talked about the times when I would come home from school and find the curtains drawn and you still in your pyjamas looking into nowhere with fear in your eyes. It was years later, when I was an adult and carrying depression like a thick wet blanket wrapped tight around me, that I knew what that look meant. Because the thing is, that all my efforts, understandings, strategies and teachings weren’t worth a damn when you died. What you taught me to be, what you always held up – that I would always land on my feet – just didn’t happen. Because I learnt from you how to be sick, and I never learnt from you how to get better. And that is not your fault, nor is it mine. Madame Sin had surgery two weeks after you died, that’s when she had her eye out. My wife made a stairway of cushions onto the sofa so she wouldn’t jump, because the vet said not to.Then my cat would curl up to me, looking like she was in a cat Austen novel, her bucket on her head looking like a little bonnet. I was watching Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in Hitchcock movies; we loved those, didn’t we? To this day, my cat purrs when she hears Cary Grant. So Ma, I try to live like my cat. I choose to think that every time I get out of bed and I get on with my day so that it is meaningful, and I connect with the world around me, I overcome for both of us. I try to listen for the soothing thing that comes to me in distress, from the world or from me, and I try to set my soul to purr. My hope is the best tribute I can pay to the person who gave me life, no matter how you made that life difficult. If I close my eyes just now, I can see you having a wry smile.
if you could see
Four years ago, I asked my partner what day it was and where were we. My partner thought I was messing about, especially when I re-asked these questions shortly after she had answered me. I then stated that I wasn’t feeling right. I kept asking the same questions again and again, like a goldfish, I was unable to retain new information. I was also unable to remember events that had occurred over the past 18 months. I was taken to A&E, where fortunately, the doctor on duty, knew at once what the problem was: I had Transient Global Amnesia or TGA. My partner was told that this particular form of amnesia typically occurred in those aged 50 and over. (I was 56 at the time). Memory gradually recovers 2-10 hours after the precipitating event, leaving only a gap for the events that occurred during the episode and often for events that occurred just prior to it. This was so in my case. I have no knowledge of the episode except for brief snatches, as if I had captured moments of a dream, which made little sense and had little grasp of reality. The Doctor was unable to say with certainty what caused the onset of TGA. One of the probable causes could be as a result of previously experiencing overwhelming emotional stress. Considering my personal history, spanning the 18 months I was unable to recall at the time, I believe this is what happened in my case. However, my GP back home was reluctant to take this into consideration and directed his energies in exploring whether or not I had a stroke. My personal history for those eighteen months if he cared to enquire would have shown: a) My 25 year old daughter had had a liver transplant. She had been born with a severe liver disease and although she underwent a lifesaving operation aged 6 weeks, her liver could no longer adequately function. The few years prior to her operation included numerous emergency admittances to hospital. b) I had been employed within the public sector. Working harder and harder within decreasingly limited resources, with increasing emphasis on meeting targets, following management models with people that did not fit into inconveniently shaped boxes, I eventually experienced “burn out”. Without proper understanding and support I became severely depressed and agoraphobic. Finally c) this eventually led to the loss of my job and home. Stigma against people with mental illness has long been recognised. What enrages me is that I was working in an environment which promoted anti discriminatory behaviour; however, management demonstrated little knowledge of or wanting to develop understanding of depression.The Health & Sickness Absence Policy was used punitively, as opposed to promote a positive and preventative approach. I experienced a culture of blame. They grasped at a “get out clause”. I was obviously depressed because of my daughter’s illness. My contract was terminated. I was in no state to argue or fight their decision or attitudes. I experienced their annoyance, anger and irritation. I was made to feel my depression was my fault, that I had control over how I felt. I should hurry up and pull myself together and get back to work as they were short of staff. Looking back, I realise that signs indicating I hadn’t been coping were not noticed or ignored. It wasn’t until I experienced TGA, that I began to appreciate that I had been strong for far more years then I had realised. That my pools of inner strength were exhausted and it would take time to recover. More time than even I had thought. It is only now that I have periods when I can feel that inner strength once more but there is still a sense of fragility. Still I know I have much to contribute to society. I just require the appropriate support!
if you could see
Made In China L
ovingly packed within the suitcases of many Chinese girls moving abroad is a dress of a traditional style, usually reserved for special occasions at home. Over time these dresses travel to far-flung cities, are carefully hung in new wardrobes in strange bedrooms. They hang, a familiar form, while new lives are started. They hang while their wearers are slowly getting used to the new food, new weather, new ways to live. And gradually, as the new cities and strange bedrooms become less strange and more like home, they are joined by new companions, new ways to dress. As time goes by they are pushed further back into wardrobes, making room for the practicalities of a new life and a new culture. They were there as a memento but have rapidly become a memory, the curious ghost of an old identity hanging amongst the trappings of the new. When they are worn, outwardly their beauty remains but they somehow no longer seem to fit. These layers which once bound in an identity seem too tight and the tradition lies heavily, demurely on the new identities they clothe. These women, whether they have chosen to or not, have shed their skin to make room for the new. For some women this is a liberating process while for others the strain of separation is more difficult to adjust to. But, painful or joyful as it may be, the transition from garment to relic finally gives the owner a sense of belonging in their new life and a new social identity. They look beautiful as they strain to re-clothe their present in their heritage but as the dress is put back into the wardrobe, to be taken out less and less, we know that lives need to move on â€“ chuan liĂş dĂ hai - like the water must flow out to the sea. w
Photos by Claire Cheng Text by Louisa Service with Claire Cheng
Model: Fangzhou Liu Price: Invaluable Made in: WuhanCity, China
made in China
Model: Jingsi Wang Price: Invaluable Made in: Lijiang City, China
made in China
Model: Hui Wang Price: Invaluable Made in: Shanghai City, China
made in China
I started thieving keys not long after Grandmam came to live with us, for she’d told me she liked thieving bits of broken plates. She had a locked-up box under her bed, and she kept her growing collection in there. My hands had wanted metal, so the first thing I stole were the key to her box. She thought it were a good game, but made me give that one back to her. When I did, she told me about thieving. This is what she said: When you’re a thief and you believe what you’re doing is right, you can get away with it, without anything bad happening by way of consequence. If all you ever thieve is keys, and you believe that keys are belonging things for you and you alone; no trouble will come your way.You remember what I’ve told you about believing you are right in whatever you do.Watch out for the call of the Thrashing House. Others seek out guilt like spiders darting after a tangled-up fly. So watch you never let yourself feel guilt about what you’re thieving. Guilt gets tangled, and that will be that.You’ll get blamed for sure, and the tangles will tie you in knots - you’ll believe you’re guilty, so you’ll be punished. And all you needed to do from the start were – to believe you were not. So, if you’re a thief of keys, believe that the keys belong to you and only you. You’re only taking back what’s already yours. And if it’s already yours, you’re not doing wrong and have no room for guilt. Keys unlock things, so if that’s the thing you’ve chosen to thieve, know there’s something in you what calls out to be unlocked. Whatever folk choose to thieve, it is something to do with what is missing in them. So if you meet a thief who steals everything them comes across, and them are indiscriminate with thems thieving, it means them believe them have nothing of worth in themselves. If you meet a thief who only steals tokens of love – rings and posies and jewels- it is because them needs to be loved, and has either not enough, or too much, love to bear.Think careful about what it is you thieve, because that will tell you what is important to you, and that is the truth of all thievery. We live on an island of thieves, Mary. No one else will tell you that, but that is the truth of this place. So, watch what is precious to you, keep it close by and thieve only what belongs to you.
The extract is taken from Jess Richard’s debut novel Snake Ropes. The novel depicts life on an island of “broken lost things,’’ on whose perilous shores ropes writhe like snakes. This haunting story will show you crows who become statues and sisters who get tangled in each other’s hair, keys that talk and ghosts who demand to be buried. Jess Richards combines a page-turning narrative and a startlingly original female voice with the creation and subversion of myths.
Me and Grandmam talked, then I rested my head on her shoulder and picked at the threads in her shawl. ‘Keys unlock things.’ ‘Them do that, Mary.’ ‘I want to keep them so I can unlock things with them.’ ‘What kind of things, pet?’ ‘Doors. Hidden things.’ ‘What’s to be unlocked in you? Think on that, pet. Might make sense when you’re older. But you got to believe in what you thieve. If keys are what you want, mind you think loud an’ clear them all belong to you.’ ‘No guilt, Grandmam?’ ‘No guilt, pet.’ She showed me all her bits of broken plates. We spread them out all over the floor, some were painted with flowers and some were blue, green or white. Mam got back from her walk and looked at them all as well. We decided Grandmam liked thieving broken bits because she’d spent so many of her years fixing and mending things. Mam made the three of us valerian tea and told Grandmam not to break her cup. I asked Mam what she liked to thieve. She said she dun ever remember thieving anything, apart from the last spoonful of honey in each jar. Grandmam said that meant that Mam wanted some sweetness just for herself, but it had to be a sweetness what dun last too long, so it’d be special each time. Mam said she thought Grandmam might be right.
Women in the arts Anne Magill - Painter by Denise Felkin
Q: Where were you born? A: I am a farmers daughter and was born in Millisle Northern Ireland, in 1964. Q: Where are you based? A: I am represented by the Heartbreak Gallery in London. I live and paint in Brighton. Q: Who are your influences? A: Artists: Peter Doig, Edward Hopper, Monet.
Photographers: Sally Mann. Edward Steichen. Don Mc Cullen. Henri Cartier Bresson.
Recently Alex Katz, I enjoyed both his Tate St Ives exhibition and the show there which he curated. I very much enjoyed what he had to say about both his and other’s work and I liked how he came across in the Tate films. I learnt from it and it has inspired me.
Q: What inspires you? A: I’m fascinated by the idea of physically leaving a place but consistently being drawn to returning to it in your mind’s eye. Q: How do you feel it is be a female painter today? A: Proud. It’s exciting, a great time. With the advent of technology there are so many opportunities to get the work out there and be judged on it’s own merits. As it should be.
Q: Is there any advise you would give to aspiring artists? A: Be focused. Work bloody hard. Be bold, do not inhibit yourself or compromise your work. Play to your strengths. Get the work out there, make sure it gets seen. w
WOW has been produced as part of a MA Photojournalism module at Westminster University. It is unique limited edition publication with a print run of 100 magazines. wow was made under the guidance of top industry professionals and brought together a team from across the globe (UK, Greece, Italy and China.) We raised over ÂŁ600 using Crowd-funding, (Sponsume.com.) This added support has helped us present a wider audience with a unique and representative illustration of the issues and realities faced by women today. Each woman featured in the magazine, has received a copy of the magazine as a thank you from us. wow would also like to give an extra big thank you to the following people for their generous support. w
thank you note
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