FEM001 NOVEMBER 2016
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nt Pussy e c o n n I e h in e Tail of t h T r o e h c alking beg t n e la h B t e d t t n a a La Ch ard down u g r u o y t Le s s raising: s e n s u io c mes spark o c n Cons io t ic fr es: From v a w e h t ween Speak bet k with... pin le b u o r t The Fem T
OVEMBER 201 2
FEM001 CONT NEWS
What next for the US? / New
FEMINISM IS A TOOL FOR TRANSFORMATION. The theme for our first issue is a promise. We will nurture transformative self-enquiry and jolt our readers out of the slumber of everyday life. Feminist Times provides a safe space where writers are free to experiment with different identities. We have transformed from a website into an online magazine – we hope you like our new look. The manuscript of our feminist fairy tale was discovered in a box in the cellar. What a find! A retelling of ‘The White Cat’ by Madame d’Aulnoy thumbs its nose at Perrault and stages a dramatic reappropriation of the form. The process of collaborating on this issue has been personally transformative for us. Like the white cat, we are full of enchantment and capable of performing magical feats. Let the spectacle begin.
FEATURES In the name of fun? La Chatte Blanche or The Tail Consciousness-Raising Dear Rosie Meet… Sarah Corbett REGULARS
I’m a feminist but… what is fe
Diary of a fainthearted activis Speak between the waves The Conversations Project The trouble with… pink
A clean break - What’s in a na
Jo’s political slot - One hundre
I’m gonna build myself… deck
Food for my thoughts… spice Kate’s World
Shero of the month… Moms The Patsy Papers
Editor-in-chief: Charlotte Raven Editor:Anna Hill Assistant editor :Alice Wroe Sub-editor: Lynne Densham Art Direction: Ivelina Ivanova & Jemma Cullen Contributors: Rachael Ball, Jo Behari, Sarah Corbett, Brigid Deacon, Philomena Epps, Dr Claire Eustance, Jane Fae, Frankie Green, Madeleine Jennings, Rebecca Lewis, Sarah Lightman, Katrina Majkut, Priscilla Mensah, Jo Phillips, Sasha Richards, Penny Ritson, Kate Smurthwaite, John Stoltenberg, Matilda Munro, Daisy Mojave Holland With thanks to: Jason Fragola,Alexandra Howlett, Nancy Poole
The Naked Eye - Bustin’ make Listings GOOD TO KNOW Matters Parliamentary
Coming next month / We Ne
p10-11 of the Innocent Pussy p12-15 p16-18 p19 p20-23
p26-27 p28-31 p32-35 p36-39
ed days… so what?
es me feel good
p48-49 p50-51 p52-53
WOMANIFESTO Feminist Times is an alternative woman’s magazine with true life tales and analysis. Tethered proudly to the past, we are walking in the footsteps of our foremothers, respectful of their legacy. We face many of the same dilemmas and some unique challenges. We are real-world feminists, challenging gender stereotypes and fighting for equal rights and opportunities. We seek collective solutions for the isolation and anomie of individualism, dreaming of a world where liberal feminism has been surpassed. Aware that oppression still exerts itself in our intimate relationships and on our campuses, we are determined to raise our collective consciousness. The personal is still political and we remain radically empathetic. Working towards a liberated feminist vision of sex and sexuality, we want nothing less than a second sexual revolution. We intend to redefine beauty norms by celebrating our imperfections and ditching the airbrush, with no commercial motivation for doing so. Avengers in charity shop dresses, we are committed to inclusivity and stand against the commodification of feminism. Unbranded, we are free to speak truth to power. Making our voices heard above the hubbub of celebrity-induced narcissism won’t be easy but equipped with insight, we will be the change.
We are your magazine – join us.
a r t f o l l i r e th
y name is Charlotte Raven and my life has become embarrassing. I have Huntington’s disease, a degenerative neurological condition that oppresses me. I don’t look ill, so my weird behaviour just appears... weird. I look forward to my two children, Anna and John, coming home from school. When I had plenty to do, days passed in a blur. Now I watch the clock, wondering what to make for my husband’s tea.
My father was often away on business. While my mother was expected to entertain his clients and attend conferences on his arm, I’ve found myself resenting my self-imposed schedule of menial tasks. And I know why. I had a stay-at-home feminist mother who warned me about ending up like her. I haven’t, but I feel as if I have. My dad was a good guy with a very traditional idea of the division of labour in the home. Susan ironed his shirts, cooked his dinner every night, looked after us when he was away and struggled with the indignity of housekeeping money. They never had a joint account and he complained about her
housework; I picture him running his fingers over the top of the doorframe and tutting. I grew up in the 1970s in a notorious London suburb that was a haven for flashers and other feminist bête noires. The route from school took in Cynthia Payne’s brothel and a ‘common’ where we dodged dog shit and condoms. Curb crawlers propositioned my mother when she was pushing the pram. My church school was run by an eccentric who wouldn’t allow the girls to play football. My feminist consciousness was forged on home turf, but I knew the ill deeds extended far beyond my parochial boundaries. I realised that while oppression is all around us, we only look for it in the most obvious places, like anti-feminist websites and Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. The reality is that oppression is in us; patriarchy has colonised our subjectivity and conditioned our relationships. Despite our best intentions, even my husband and I have fallen into traditional gender roles; I moan about the length of the rugby match on TV and dream of deliverance.
n o i t a m r o f ans Part of the reason I started Feminist Times three years ago was a selfish desire to find and accept my place in this everchanging yet seemingly static world. I was also sick of my own company. I wanted to have colleagues and collaborators. I dreamed of immersive events that would inspire hearts and minds. I thought there was a need for a website that was part of a movement rather than another feminist blog. We formed local groups; we held panel discussions and we had some very memorable parties. It was also a serious attempt to build bridges between feminist communities. It meant getting people round the table and asking them why they were cross with us. Like every online feminist platform, we had plenty of detractors and naysayers. A couple of my closest friends flamed me on Facebook. I always wanted us to be a broad church which necessarily involved publishing different points of view. Unfortunately, we ended up offending everyone.
came before us to get this right so instead of being updated daily, like a blog, we will be producing monthly issues. This will give us plenty of time to reflect on the content and work constructively with our writers rather than hit them with idea-sapping deadlines. I also like the idea of putting an issue to bed and giving it a boozy send-off as I did with the other magazines I was involved in. You will notice that there are no comment boards on the site. I want to encourage a different kind of debate where there is time to reflect rather than fire off responses a mile a minute. If you want to get in touch, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We promise to reply and, who knows, you could even become one of our contributors.
Here’s to the future. It’s good to be back.
Putting the website on ice has given me pause for thought. Our new incarnaton is tethered to the past because we want to revive something from feminism’s golden age. We owe it to those who
e are no r e h t t a h t e c i You will not ds on the site. I want to ar comment bo fferent kind of debate di n encourage a time to reflect rather tha is where there es a mile a minute. ns file off respo Fem T
What next for the United States? The Reverend Cannon Patrick Malloy of New York’s St John the Divine Cathedral told me on the afternoon of Election Day that Evensong at 6pm would be dedicated to the Health of the Nation, he was friendly but nervous. Far from nervous were the local kids in yellow t-shirts racing around Harlem urging their elders to vote with future generations in mind, smiley and energetic, they were making the most of an afternoon off school in the unseasonable sunshine. All of that seems a long time ago now that Donald Trump has done it. “This slob, this bum, this dog” as an elderly New Yorker described the President Elect to me at 9:15pm, when Ohio and Florida started to swing the wrong way, has succeeded in shifting America’s political assumptions far beyond the next election cycle. Unlike the last time a Republican won the White House, in 2000, the year George W Bush snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, the hope of one or two terms before a Democrat would take it back can’t be relied on. This result does not fit into the normal mould. For women, for the queer community, for ethnic minorities the immediate danger is the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, which is in the gift of the President. It’s expected that Donald Trump will use the appointment to reward the socially conservative base that came out for him, spelling trouble for abortion access, women’s rights and any attempt at gun control just for a start. Not so much a Republican win then as the strange death of liberal America. 6
One step backward, one step forward On 3 October, women in Poland took to the streets in one of the biggest mass demonstrations since the days of Solidarność.As part of their #czarnyprotest – literally black protest – women wearing black or with black material pinned to themselves came out on strike and demonstrated in support of this nationwide movement, which united two campaigns. Some were angry over the rejection of proposals that would have liberalised the law from the present bare minimum, which makes all abortion illegal with a few extreme exceptions. Many more women were simply outraged that Poland’s parliament was seeking to criminalise and imprison any woman who had an abortion. https://www.facebook.com/ ThompsonChemists/ The immediate aftermath of these demonstrations was a reversal of these proposals: but with the government determined to bring legislation back to parliament, the struggle, as the official #czarnyprotest tweeted shortly afterwards, is not over it “has just begun”.
“How dare you treat us like... women!” Men really, really don’t like being treated like women.At least not when it comes to paying for stuff.The introduction by New York pharmacy Thompson Chemists of a 7% ‘man tax’, designed to highlight the fact that women, on average, pay more for everyday products than men led to a furious online backlash, with men complaining this was “reverse sexism”. In fact, as the store later clarified, men were not being charged more: women were receiving a discount..
Support the victim There has been speculation about the implications of the Court of Appeal’s acquittal of footballer Ched Evans on a rape charge dating back to May 2011: fears, too, that it will dissuade victims from reporting rape. Alison Boydell of End Online Misogyny (EOM) responded: “Anonymity of rape victims and complainants remains guaranteed by the UK legal system: that applies whether the result is guilty or not guilty, or even where no further action is taken on a case.
“Revealing victims’ personal details is an offence: if you see people doing this online, tell your local police or EOM email@example.com and we will do it for you. “The admission of evidence about past sexual conduct was always permissible under existing guidelines: the danger is that the high-profile nature of this case may lower the bar for other defence strategies and discourage reporting. Remember: just because something is legal, it does not follow that it is ethical.”
Kink Olympixx Outside the House of Commons in October, and protesting government plans to make ID compulsory for ‘adult’ websites was spanking enthusiast Pandora Blake and the Kink Olympixx. Pandora opposes the soon-to-be-voted Digital Economy Bill, because despite government claims to be “thinking of the children”, she believes the outcome will be anything but child-friendly. Pandora told us:“The Bill relies on outdated guidelines that disproportionately discriminate against the sexualities of queer people and women. In the past this sort of censorship has come down hard on films made by feminist producers and banned activities such as female ejaculation.” She added:“My orgasm is not obscene.We should not be preferencing male fantasy over authentic expressions of female sexuality.Worse, by treating all sites the same, the Bill will wipe out all but the largest, most mainstream pornographers, so yet again reinforcing the ‘male gaze’ version of porn.”
News A scheme backed by the Home Office has promised to clamp down on ‘maternity tourism’ by requiring women to show identity documents when turning up at hospital before giving birth. The statement comes in the wake of Amber Rudd’s now-scrapped initiative of requiring primary schools to identify students born outside the UK, and moves to minimise the strain on the NHS caused by medical tourism.
Twenty-one girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April 2014 were released to the Red Cross on 15 October, amid rumours the Nigerian government paid the Islamist terrorist group with a ransom and a prisoner swap. A total of 197 of the girls taken in April 2014 are still missing.
Niger was named the worst country in the Girls’ Opportunity Index, with the highest rate of child marriage in the world. The index, compiled by Save the Women in the north Syrian town Children, showed that 76% of of Manbij are joining the police force to protect women’s freedom, Niger women were married before the age of 18. Across the Gulf, inspired by the female Kurdish Yemen, which scored 123rd out soldiers who fought to liberate of 144 countries, has made its them from ISIS. The newly first submission to the Academy established Asayish police force Awards in the country’s history, has seen over 50 women sign up with a drama film about child since the town of 100,000 was marriage, called I Am Nojoom: liberated after fighting that was Age 10 And Divorced. Every year, carried out in August. 15 million girls are married before Thousands of women from across the age of 18 globally. the African continent converged at the base of Mt Kilimanjaro for The Indian government is taking a step towards ending the exploitathree days of action demanding tion of married Muslim women land rights, coinciding with Inin India by challenging the validity ternational Day of Rural Women on 15 October. The convergence, of the ‘triple talaq’ in the Supreme Court. A practice which allows organised under the social media Muslim men to divorce their wives campaign #women2kilimanjaro, without needing to give reason by drafted a charter to be taken to the UN regarding issues relating to saying “I divorce you” three times, whether in person, on the phone, land rights including inheritance, or via text, the ‘triple talaq’ is marriage, and the need for greatillegal in neighbouring Muslimer awareness of the relationship majority Pakistan and Bangladesh. between gender and land rights. The ‘triple talaq’ forms part of According to TakePart, African women do 80% of the agricultural Sharia Law, which is totally open to interpretation, as there is no work on the continent, but own uniform legislation around only 1% of land. 8
marriage and divorce in India. Women in Argentina walked off their jobs nationwide on 29 October in the first women’s national strike in the country, inspired by Poland’s #blackprotest strikes against the proposed total ban on abortion. Argentinian women wore black to protest against femicide and violence against women in the wake the gang rape of a 16-yearold girl that has shaken the country. The protest was led by the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) Collective, and has inspired planned women’s strikes against femicide in other countries across South America. Despite a decade without progress on equal pay, over 50% of companies – over 4,000 with more than 250 employees – have not yet begun working on gender pay in readiness for next April’s deadline. That was the stark message of Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), to the Fawcett Society’s conference in London. At entry level women usually outnumbered men and the pay gap was minimal. However, representation reversed and the gap widened as individuals were promoted. Too many organisations believe that robust recruitment and promotion arrangements will cover them against equal pay cases. However, from April 2017, they will need to provide a more comprehensive reporting regime, setting out where they are now on gender pay, their targets and their plans to achieve them.
Italian police are investigating a case in Catania, Sicily where a woman has died from a miscarriage after a doctor refused her a life-saving abortion on the grounds of ‘conscientious objection’. Abortion is legal in Italy but government figures indicate that up to 70% of doctors are ‘conscientious objectors’ and refuse to carry out the procedure.
round of hacked emails published by Wikileaks in 2011 found that the Clinton Foundation paid men an average of $8,000 more a year than women.
A conference hosted by feminist global economy and development network WIDE+, heard last month how the rise of authoritarian and nationalistic governments, right-wing populist, xenophobic rhetoric and austerity programmes that disproportionately targeted women, risked unpicking achievements currently taken for granted (https://wideplus.org/ conference-2016/). The moral: women’s rights remain to be won, not just in the developing world, but in the West too – and their enemies are many. Hillary Clinton pays women 72 cents for every dollar male employees earned, according to emails hacked and published by Wikileaks. In the emails, Karuna Seshasai of the Clinton campaign pointed out that there was a $112,000 difference between the salaries of the highest paid men and women working for the Clinton Foundation, equating to women being paid 72 cents to each dollar men are paid. This is lower than the average pay discrepancy for non-profits in the US – 75 cents to the dollar. Another Fem T
In the name of fun?
Clowns have long been a source of controversy: one of those great adult ideas invented for the entertainment of children that scare the living daylights out of their intended audience, even when they are playing nice. This year, though, clowns have become nastier, creepier: lurking in dark corners; leaping out on their victims brandishing large, mostly fake, knives; stalking women; following children. If you weren’t too happy with the hideous greasepaint to begin with, these latest incarnations have likely persuaded you that “something must be done”. A ban. Or, as has occurred in several jurisdictions, arrests for a variety of public order offences. On the other side of the argument there is the usual chorus of boys-just-wanna-havefun jokers and pranksters. ‘Pranking’ is just innocent fun. A jolly jape that victim and perpetrator alike can chortle about after the event. Those who don’t laugh don’t get it: they are sourpuss spoilsports, too serious by half. Because no harm was intended. It’s not a great leap from here to something much darker. A sort of resentful victimblaming, along with a deeply suspicious take on consent: if someone consents after the event then all is well. Here, perhaps, I should declare a vested interest. My son, aged 11, is a fan of pranks, particularly the current trend for very public exhibitionist pranking. His favourite television viewing includes programmes such as Impractical Jokers, an American hidden camera series, featuring four hilarious ‘lads’ – the term is almost inevitable when discussing this topic – carrying out practical jokes on unsuspecting members of the public.
I say favourite viewing. In fact, television is one space where I exercise a fairly draconian control over what he gets to see. After watching – or should that be squirming – my way through one half-hour segment of unsuspecting victims being publicly humiliated by these self-appointed cool dudes, I put my foot down. Not banned, exactly. But definitely not permitted when I’m in the room. The final straw was a set-up in a launderette. As forfeit for losing a previous challenge, the prankster was required to approach a stranger, remove an item of underwear from her laundry basket and wear it on his face for 10 seconds. Bear in mind this was utterly without consent. Add that numerous cultural boundaries were crossed: a young white guy lifts the intimate property of a middle-aged black woman, and then carries out an act with clear sexual overtones. Contrary to the usual narrative of such pranks, the woman does not merrily collude in the lark: rather, she dismisses it, leaving the rest of us to guess how much is left unsaid in her weary reaction to this none-too-subtle bullying. YouTube, as my son is now only too aware, has become ground zero for a style of clip now raised to the dizzy heights of ‘prank video genre’. Analytics firm Tubular Labs estimates that prank videos accounted for 17.7 billion views
in 2015. At the same time, the content has grown more extreme; from fake murder and assault to infidelity and the eating of dog excrement. If you can imagine it, the chances are that someone, somewhere has pranked it. In 2015, Roman Atwood, who celebrates being described as “YouTube’s most appalling prankster” tricked his girlfriend into believing that their three-year-old son was involved in a fatal car accident. This was the second time he had played with this theme: in August of the same year, a video in which he apparently threw his son off a balcony had close to 50 million views. This is a long way from Candid Camera, a US show first aired in 1948, and with its TV heyday in the mid-1960s. While the principle, involving elaborate set-ups and the filming of unsuspecting members of the public, was much the same, Candid Camera was a faint forerunner of what was to come. For instance, one prank involved a desk drawer that would not close, and forcing it closed resulted in a drawer on the other side of the desk popping out. As someone old enough to remember Candid Camera when it was broadcast in the UK, I recall always feeling vaguely uneasy at the dishonesty involved in prank shows. I squirmed with embarrassment on the victim’s behalf and quickly learned to absent myself from the room as soon as the show’s theme music came up. Nowadays, I fear that pranking represents a far nastier aspect of the public psyche. It emerges from privilege: individuals with time on their hands, access to recording equipment; and while some noted pranksters are women, the vast majority of those involved are young and male. The philosophy implicit in pranking is equally toxic. Consent is something that happens after the event, rather than before and so long as she – the victim is often a woman of lower social class than the prankster – smiles and declares herself happy afterwards, all is well. I am not even going to start to unpick
the complex weave of power relations at play here: the implied bullying behind “laugh or you’re not a good sport”. I merely note – and this has become a focal point for many a conversation with my son – that this is not a version of consent we should be happy for our young men to be adopting. Ideas osmose: if you learn, in one part of your life, that intent is magical when it comes to dealing with other people, do not be surprised if that lesson permeates to other areas, including sexual activity. If all of this assumes that the motives of pranksters are ultimately good, if somewhat misguided, what about the numerous real life pranks that have had serious repercussions? Prank phone calls have led to buildings being evacuated; smearing of superglue on toilet seats has caused real injury.Yet, so long as the perpetrator claims it’s just a prank, the reaction by authorities is demonstrably watered down. This is an interesting contrast to the sixties, which saw the brief flowering of the Situationist International (SI), a revolutionary political movement made up of avant-garde artists and intellectuals who believed that one way to expose the inconsistencies in capitalism was through a series of elaborate direct action pranks. For some reason, the authorities did not see the funny side, and their response, where pranksters were caught, was anything but understanding. Perhaps that, in the end, says it all. Where the perpetrators of pranks, with or without the clown mask, are young men of privilege, blowing off excess energy before settling down to a life of establishment rectitude, society is remarkably forgiving. Anything else, from the SI to Pussy Riot is deeply suspect, and will of course feel the full weight of the law. Jane Fae is a feminist and writer on issues of political and sexual liberty. She has written widely on subjects including climate change, medical ethics and online censorship. Fem T 11
L a Chatte Blanche OR
The Tail of the Innocent Pussy
“ Pull quote here and a bit more here “
By Rebecca Lewis
ot once upon a time, not even twice. These things I tell you happened far away and long ago and maybe never. So Madames, Mademoiselles draw up your chairs and I shall begin. Madame Raven shall attend to you and your seating arrangements – call loud and thrice mind – she is up to her eyeballs in ideas and prone to mi placement of her spectacles. Alas, I doubt you’ll be familiar with my name, as others that came later usurped me. Charles Perrault, a man obsessed with order, arranged the fountains in the hedge maze at the palace of Versailles. And when he had tired of that he set about revising fairy tales to make them safe and spare for polite society. Whatever that may be. Then came the dullard Brothers – Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm filling their tales with blameless princes, husbands, fathers… These are collectors of the tales and not the tellers of them. I am no Mother Goose mark you, spinning yarn by the fireside. My hands have never seen an honest day of toil, and so of course I am a writer, Madame d’Aulnoy, known for my contes de fées: BelleBelle, Babiole and The Imp Prince and the one that I am bound to tell you now, the story of la Chatte Blanche, a cunning cat, a clever moggy, an innocent yet wily pussy. So park your own chatte* down a while and listen fast. Beware though, for no story of mine was ever told straight. My stories are Chinese boxes, matryoshka dolls, mise en abyme, for one thing hides inside another. You stand between two gilded mirrors but how shall you tell your true self from your glad reflection? New wine in old bottles, old wine in
new. Sip and set down for Madame Raven has said I must be brief. A story should have a royal fortune held within it and so there was a king, a mean old goat reluctant to die and anxious to keep his riches to himself and loathe to share it with his three sons. I will tell you now though that there was a long lost daughter, traded to the fairies by a mother queen who tired of her daughter’s insatiable demands for equal treatment with her brothers. Fancy that! The king devised a series of tasks for his sons to complete, that he might decide who would inherit the crown. In truth, he was playing for time. The princes were sent off in search of a dear and faithful little dog and given a year to bring the best one home and to the winner the spoils of the kingdom! It is the youngest of the three that we shall closely follow, but yes this is the story of a cat. Watch how I claw it back, anon. The youngest prince travelled hither and thither, until at last he became hopelessly lost. He found himself in the middle of a forest one stormy night, drawn by a curious light to the luminous golden door of an enchanted castle. He pulled at the deer’s hoof dangling from the end of a glittering chain of shimmering diamonds. By and by the door was answered by a pair of hands that bid him enter and spirited him through labyrinthine corridors hung with intricate butterfly wing tapestries into a room lined with porcelain tiles depicting tales of various cats – Pussy in Boots and all her feline chums.
* chatte (f ) noun, French: 1. cat 2. pussy, cunt 3. luck Fem T
An orchestra serenaded the prince, wild cats playing violins, drums and trumpets. He found it a fearful caterwaul. At last a cohort of grander cats arrived, and of these one approached and dropped her lace veil to show herself as Blanchette, Queen of Pussycats. The finest cat you ever did see. The days melted one into another with hunting, feasting and much merriment. Such was the company of this white cat that the prince quite forgot himself and his strange quest. It was she who reminded the prince he had but three days remaining to find a dog. He panicked then, but Blanchette reassured him. She handed him an acorn and put him on a wooden horse to return to his father’s kingdom. The other brothers had brought the most delightful dogs and poured scorn on the acorn the young prince produced, but out popped the prettiest and daintiest dog that danced on its hind legs and could fit through a ring. Bow-wow! The king was not yet satisfied, silly fool. The second task was harder still, to scour the lands and sea for a piece of muslin cloth so fine it could be drawn through the eye of a needle. The prince returned to his pretty pussy and stroked her until she miaowed in great delight. He told her of his new challenge and when the time came she handed him a walnut and sent him back. First he produced a walnut and within that a hazelnut, a cherry stone, a grain of wheat, a millet seed and when this was broken open he produced the finest piece of delicate miniature muslin cloth that anyone had ever seen.
Did I not tell you the king, that paterfamilias, was in fact a fearful rogue? The final task was to bring back and marry a beautiful princess. Again the prince returned to the enchanted castle. When the time came to return he picked up Blanchette and whisked her back with him. Now the others had brought the fairest princesses and sniggered as the youngest pulled the cat right out of the bag and set her down before them. Suspecting Blanchette was under an enchantment, he raised his sword to chop her head clean off and restore her to the radiant princess that she must be. But as the blade fell the cat frisked around and instead her tail was cut clean off. The cat purred with delight at this, but the prince and all the court besides began to promptly shrink. When Blanchette was a princess the fairies had locked her away in a tower and all who tried to rescue her failed, apart from one fair prince that she had loved, but he was killed and she was transmogrified. “I am your long lost sister come for my revenge,” said Blanchette. “Why do you seek to rid me of my glossy coat of fur, my sleek furkini? It is my choice to stay a cat. In feline form I find my liberation. By cutting off my tail, your story now is ended and your lesson this: to listen to your daughters as you listen to your sons.” By now the court were miniatures, their voices lost in the sighs of Blanchette, who consoled herself with all the kingdoms she could lay her paws on and placed the court inside a walnut and hung it high upon a branch where she might gaze upon it. For a cat may look at a king, they say. And in a nutshell, fine chattes, therein lies the tale.
The cat purred with delight at this, but the prince and all the court besides began to promptly shrink.
WHEN IT COMES TO PERSONAL AND POLITICAL TRANSFORMATION, THERE IS MUCH WE CAN LEARN FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF OTHERS, BUT HOW TO LET THEM IN? CHARLOTTE RAVEN ADVOCATES LETTING YOUR GUARD DOWN SO WE CAN ALL DO THE TALKING.
onsciousness raising (CR) began in the late 1960s in New York. Janet L Freedman, author of Reclaiming the Feminist Vision: ConsciousnessRaising and Small Group Practice, remembers: “At a meeting of ‘New York Radical Women’ in 1968, Anne Forer said that women need to ‘raise our consciousness about common behaviours that grew from trying to be attractive to men such as playing dumb, wearing uncomfortable shoes and dieting.’” Her remark led to Kathie Sarachild’s ‘A Program for Feminist Consciousness Raising’, which was presented to the First National
Women’s Liberation Conference that autumn. When it comes to defining the concept of CR, it’s easier to say what it isn’t than what it is. It isn’t networking. Or naval gazing, undoubtedly my first thought if you’d have asked me about it when I was a Marxist. It isn’t selfhelp, although by default, it does help selves. It isn’t therapy. I’ve been in lots of therapy groups where I talked about my feelings but never attributed my discontent, let alone thought to act on it. Networking is all about selfadvancement and is subtly exploitative. Therapy helps you adjust to ‘reality’. CR is a tool for personal and political
transformation. It enables individual hang-ups to be reframed as social issues so, for the first time, women see their personal problems as part of a collective oppression of the female sex. A CR group isn’t like a book group, or a ‘lean in’ circle. It “deprivatises personal life by opening your life to a group of women who care about what you are doing”. Over time, in the safety of a space you have created with other like-minded women, you explore your feelings, discuss your relationships, scrutinise your sex lives, your pro-male bias and your perception of yourself and, in the
process, experience sisterhood. The groups meet once a week in people’s houses. I can picture all the sisters sitting around in a circle at their first meeting, feeling anxious and possibly embarrassed about the demand for self-disclosure. Some people would love it but the women who would benefit most from being listened to probably wouldn’t. You take it in turns, going round the circle. Each woman is allowed to speak for as long as she likes without being interrupted. Each week a different topic is explored, beginning with less threatening themes such as childhood expectations. By the time they get to Fem T
sex in the fourth session, there would be a level of trust but I’m sure there would be some nervous laughter at the start of these sessions. As well as being challenging, CR sounds like a laugh. The format is always the same. You go round the circle and ask each woman to speak personally from her own experience without theorising. You aren’t allowed to criticise or praise one another’s testimony. I’m sure I would struggle with the prohibition on giving advice. I love to give advice, but that’s not the point. CR can lay claim to so many achievements, it’s hard to list them all. It was partly responsible for the movement of women from the home into the workforce and liberated sexuality. Were it not for CR we might still believe in the vaginal orgasm and the happy housewife. So why revive it now? I’ve read many different accounts of CR, from the 1970s to the present day, and the main thing I’ve taken away from all of them is that I really want to try it. Like me, it is a relic from the pre-internet age. Like many commentators, I sense social media is making us more lonely and disconnected from each other but there isn’t a viable alternative. I started Feminist Times because I wanted more face-to-face encounters. We called
it 3D feminism and it worked. People tended to be much nicer in person than online. Some of our harshest critics became collaborators – and a couple of collaborators became critics, but that’s another story. Aggressive individualism means we are out of step with each other, pursuing our personal goals with ruthless determination. And the pursuit of happiness means winning the battle against the visible signs of ageing; we have botox on our bucket lists. The stage has been set for CR. Just as a new generation is acquainting/ reacquainting itself with vinyl and vintage clothes, so people will find that CR chimes with a desire for authenticity. CR demands complete honesty and a CR group is a much better place to explore the dark side of the internet, online dating culture, our ‘pornified’ sexuality and the personae we construct to win the social media war. As Claudia Dreifus says in Woman’s Fate: Raps from a Feminist Consciousness-raising Group, “While male-led movements for social change have used bullets, pamphlets and the ballot box as their primary tools, women’s liberation employs the most revolutionary weapon of all. Self-understanding.” We will be launching a series of Fem T consciousness-raising workshops next year.
Dear Rosie, I’m a strong feminist woman but I have a real problem calling people out when they say or do things that I class as misogynistic. Every time I let something go, like a sexist comment or a belittling gesture, a little piece of me dies. How can I demonstrate my displeasure without risking injury or online abuse?
Dear Frontline Feminist, I’m drinking coffee in the gym café a few weeks ago. A group of male fitness trainers sit down and start up a conversation so loud it’s impossible to concentrate on my book. One sexist comment follows another, and before long it’s a toxic conversation. I’m annoyed but I do nothing, nada, zilch. Reader, I go home. I tell myself it was a one-off. We won the battle for the vote last century, but in a month when we’ve had to listen to a certain presidential hopeful’s outlandish sexist pronouncements, it’s obvious that the war against misogyny rages on. You want to participate, but leaving yourself open to physical threat or a barrage of sexist online trolling isn’t an option. I get it. Misogyny comes in many forms, from the objectifying looks and intrusive comments of everyday interactions, to advertising and other mass media manifestations of the patriarchal hegemony. The grim sad fact is this: all of us encounter it in some form or another, probably daily. Like background radiation, it’s out there and you can’t avoid it. Standing up for what you believe in isn’t always easy, but there are more ways to call people out than shouting ‘Sexist w*****’ across the office, throwing a copy of The Second Sex at a would-be groper’s head (although I do keep a copy handy) or tweeting rational responses back to anonymous cowards spewing invective in 140 characters or less. These are all, of course, options. So I go back to the gym the following week and the fitness frat pack start back up, but this time it’s worse, as if they’re trying to outdo each other with tales of ‘Why fat girls are more desperate for it’, or ‘How unattractive girls need better personalities than fit ones’. I consider staging an intervention, but these men are big and muscle-bound and what, in any case is my desired outcome? They apologise and disperse with a newfound respect for women? The sixth century Chinese warrior Sun Tzu said this: “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” I stay put. I write it all down. Every comment, every gesture, every look. Then I go home and email the manager of the gym, copying in head office, describing the ugly café situation. The apology comes swift, so too the acknowledgement that the behaviour isn’t going to be tolerated. Two of the trainers never come back, the rest stay quiet, resistance broken.I read my book in peace once again, because all of us have the right to be left in peace without this depressing bullshit. Take action? Hell, yes! Action doesn’t always have to be immediate or direct. It just has to be supremely excellent. So resurrect yourself, frontline feminist. We need you. Yours, Rosie
Send your problems to Rosie: firstname.lastname@example.org Fem T T Fem
Sarah Corbett 20
Sarah Corbett grew up in Liverpool in an activist family. In response to aggressive or ‘flash in the pan’ forms of activism, she started doing craftivism (craft + activism) and set up the global Craftivist Collective. Sarah runs workshops, creates DIY ethical kits and champions the art of ‘gentle protest’ central to her movement. She regularly exhibits her work and teaches the craftivist methodology internationally, as well as works with art institutions, charities and other organisations as consultant and collaborator. She is currently working on her new book How To Be A Craftivist: the art of gentle protest, which will be published in October 2017.
www.craftivist-collective.com Twitter and Instagram: @Craftivists
Q What is your preferred pronoun? A I don’t mind, either her/she or them/they. Q What does being a feminist mean to you? A Two things: treating everyone with love and respect regardless of who they are and what they have done. Being in solidarity with people to help us all fulfil our potential and contribute positively to our world. Q Who is your ultimate shero? A So many and I love finding more all of the time. Eleanor Roosevelt will always be on my list of sheros; an introvert who overcame her shyness to became one of the most outspoken First Ladies in the White House, but not through aggressive shouting. She was known for her graciousness and sincerity of purpose. She was a newspaper columnist and a lecturer on women’s rights, poverty and racism. She drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor overcame her fear of public speaking but also quietly worked with her husband to create change with humility. Q What is the first thing you do in the morning? A In the morning I run through my realistic goals for that day. I’m trying to get better and come up with a list of at least three things/people/experiences I’m grateful for and saying thank you out loud. Q What is one thing you couldn’t live without? A The thing would be my mobile phone, but the reason is that I love that it keeps me in touch with family, friends and the craftivist community, to offer mutual support, encouragement and love. Q What is your greatest ambition? A To fulfil my potential, and use the talents and opportunities I have to contribute positively to our world and
stand up against injustices and harm to others. One of the ways I do this is by helping people learn how to do beautiful, kind and just activism through delicate, slow handicraft.
Q Who or what makes you angry? A The banality of evil, people not thinking about the impact they have as consumers, creators, voters, colleagues, neighbors, etc and how they can be part of the change they wish to see in the world, or how they are part of the problems. Knowing why injustices happen but as a society continuing to make the same mistakes. Too many things. Q If you could elect an all-woman Cabinet, who would you include? A My Cabinet would include a diverse group of women from different backgrounds, skills, experience and perspectives. Helena Kennedy QC, Shami Chakrabarti, Jo Cox MP (RIP), Catherine Howarth (CEO of Share Action), Margaret Heffernan (author), Doreen Lawrence, Livia Firth, Lauren Laverne and Gillian Tett (journalist). Q When did you realise you were a feminist? A I can’t pinpoint one time. I grew up in a low-income area with some incredibly strong women who quietly held our community together through adversity. The wider society didn’t praise them for their hard work, intelligence and social impact – they were like our grandmothers. My parents have always challenged gender discrimination, shared stories of inspiring people across the world and taught us that everyone has something to offer and should be valued equally.
Q What does female solidarity look like? A Intentionally looking at where there is gender inequality and addressing it. Whether that’s addressing mansplaining at a party or purposefully repeating in a meeting, “I agree with Jane and her great point/idea,” if it looks like her point is being overlooked. It’s pulling up a friend who might have made a sweeping statement about women and asking them not to encourage harmful stereotyping. It’s protesting against all- male panels at events and publicly celebrating achievements made by women in many areas of life. Q If you could live in another time when would it be and why? A The future, when the glass ceiling has been removed, please. Q What message would you give to your younger self ? A Don’t think that you have to act like one of the boys to be heard or respected. Surround yourself with wonderful allies of all genders who are also aware of and want to abolish the harmful patriarchal system. Q What would be your feminist superpower? A To understand why people allow sexism so that I can protest against it with more empathy and emotional intelligence and work with people to strive for a more equal society not fight against them. Q Which other women in your field should we know about? A Margaret Heffernan (author of many brilliant books), the list of the Cabinet as above.
Photos by Robin Prime
I’m a feminist but… what is feminism?
feminism noun the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. synonyms: the women’s movement, the feminist movement, women’s liberation, female emancipation, women’s rights
hile the values and aims of feminism have been around for centuries, the term itself is a relative newcomer. It is generally accepted to have originated in France and was adopted into the English language in the 1890s, cropping up with increasing regularity in writing and speech thereafter.1
Is the history of the term feminism significant? Well yes, I think it is. Consider those conversations you’ve had with your friends, colleagues, relatives (gulp!) where the talk moves onto a scenario where some extraordinary/unfair/peculiar treatment of a woman (or sometimes a man) has occurred. You all agree it is ludicrous/awful/outrageous, and then, you mention the “f” word. Suddenly, you are in the middle of a fierce debate and often forced to defend the very same principles which only a minute ago had been part of an amicable, shared narrative. Feminism! What is it about the word that makes people either inspired, uncomfortable or threatened, and has it always been like this? 24
Speaking out in Britain in 1910 – when demands for women’s suffrage were widespread, intense and substantial – suffrage activist and self-declared feminist Bettina Borman Wells commented:
I sometimes think that we do not lay sufficient stress on the great and wonderful feminist movement of which suffrage is but a phase. What fascinates me is the gradual evolution of womanhood… Partly the chains are dropping off, partly we cast them off. I have not a particle of sex prejudice, and yet I feel that this freeing of womanhood of the race is more important than anything else in the world today.2 In the same article, published in the women’s suffrage weekly newspaper Vote, its editor Mary Kennedy felt it necessary to explain to readers that Borman Wells, ‘besides being a strong feminist, above everything else is a very feminine woman’.3 Apparently, even at the heart of ‘first wave feminism’ to be a feminist in Britain at this time risked transgressing boundaries of acceptable femininity. Kennedy’s
ambivalence is not altogether surprising considering the negativity that regularly surfaced in the mainstream press. A spate of articles appeared in 1909 on the subject “The Failure of Feminism”,4 with the Daily Sketch asking “Do Women Matter? Are they any force or help: Or are they really a hindrance to the world?”5 Borman Wells’s identification as a feminist, along with Kennedy’s (achingly familiar) wariness, is testimony not only to the dexterity of language but also to a deeper struggle over the meanings and significance of gender identity, conformity and resistance. Clearly, the meaning of feminism in the early 20th century was already deeply contested. The writer and (self-defined) feminist Rebecca West – gorgeously scathing and often quoted – summed this up beautifully a few years later in 1913 when she wrote:
I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute...6 I accept that as a white British woman my identification with the term feminism and feminist is one grounded in privilege. These terms and their usage are inseparable from other oppressions that go beyond those informed and
reinforced by gender inequality. Its use – and misuse – over the last one hundred or so years is fascinating, revealing and significant. 1 For further details on the origins of the term feminism, see Nancy F Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1987) 2 Vote, 3 September 1910 3 Ibid. 4 Hull Daily Mail, 6 July 1925 5 Daily Sketch, September 1909 6 The Clarion, 14 November 1913
Dr Claire Eustance, BA Hons, PhD, is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Greenwich. Claire has worked in further and higher education in London since 1994. After completing her PhD at the University of York in 1993, Claire completed a three-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Greenwich where she contributed to a research project on masculinity and male support for women’s suffrage and served as a joint editor of the journal ‘Gender & History’. Fem T
Diary of a fainthearted activist Charlotte Raven explores whether the pen can ever be mightier than the sit-down.
Now that I’m middle aged, I’m inclined to think activism is a young woman’s game. I was in awe of Sisters Uncut with their brilliantly conceived, headline-grabbing ‘die-in’ on the red carpet at the premiere of Suffragette. They used the occasion to highlight the effects of cuts in domestic violence services. “Dead women can’t vote!” I pictured them standing in the crowd with their hearts in their throats, waiting for the sign from one of their colleagues. When the klaxon sounded, they went for it. When I was a teenager, I was too distracted by boys to act on my professed desire to change the world. I took up with a miner in 1984, joined Militant Tendency and spent the year following R around doing ‘lead-offs’ on Trotsky’s Transitional Programme. Since then, I have regarded myself as the theoretical wing of the movement. After university, my critical theory years were spent contemplating the Fontana Modern Masters series of books about philosophers and theorists. With Adorno and Horkheimer in my back pocket, I felt well equipped to pronounce on everyone’s praxis at a comfortable distance. In the last incarnation of Fem T, we kept meaning to do Pussy Riot-style actions but couldn’t agree on a target. When we did, my ideas were too elaborate. On Derby Day, on the anniversary of Emily Davison’s death, we planned an action at the racecourse. I can’t remember the details. I like poetic interventions in the tradition of Shulamith Firestone’s Redstockings. Many of her actions, which focused on the prison of femininity, were performance art as protest. Are Sisters Uncut the inheritors of this noble feminist tradition?
I’m proud to say I have been on a couple of actions. I took my kids to a UK Uncut protest outside Starbucks on Regent Street in 2012. I met up with my friend Kat Banyard from UK Feminista and there were plenty of fun activities for the kids. Predictably, my nineyear-old daughter was bolder than me. “Pay your taxes or we will shut you down,” she sang and drew some pictures on the pavement of a world without austerity.
I was a campaigner early on in life, but my faint heart was perceptible. One great injustice that exercised me back then was the ban on girls playing football at my primary school. I planned a variety of suffragette-inspired actions with my co-conspirators but we failed to carry them out. My letters and petitions were more successful, winning an important concession and a partial victory. The headmaster said we could play cricket, but nobody wanted to.
A week into her sentence, she wrote to my dad and asked him to come and get her. She felt guilty about this for the rest of her life. My mother was a duffle-coated Marxist in the 1960s and I have a precious picture of her on an Aldermaston march looking scary. I look like this when I’m nervous. Susan’s demeanour frightened everyone but she was ultimately insecure and fearful that she wouldn’t be up to manning the barricades when the time came. Maybe that’s where I get it from? On one demonstration, she lay down in the street in Trafalgar Square and got arrested. She refused to pay the fine and was sent to Holloway Prison. A week into her sentence she wrote to my dad and asked him to come and get her. She felt guilty about this for the rest of her life. Her best friend, a flamboyant anarchist, was arrested countless times. Richard spent large tranches of his life in prison, which he seemed to enjoy. He won many converts to the anti-nuclear cause and was clearly suited to civil disobedience, which made Susan feel even worse. In later life, she wrote letters to the powers that be protesting about miscarriages of justice and always received replies. I can go on demos as long as they proceed along the prescribed route and nothing spontaneous occurs. Now I have Huntington’s disease I need a demo buddy and I’m interviewing for the post. Next year, my plan is to link up with other activists to see if I can be transformed into a lionhearted participant in the coming feminist revolution. Watch this space. Fem T
‘Speak between the waves’ is a regular feature for women to come togeth them. One email will be exchanged each month, so a dialogue plays out a this email thread. Through the sharing of Frankie Green and Priscilla Men friction and create sparks. – Alice Wroe
Frankie Green 28
her, a direct conversation between two feminists with 30 years between across the year. An intergenerational conversation will be forged through nsah, feminists of different ages can learn from each other, understand
en the Waves P.T.O
Priscilla Mensah Fem T
Dear Prisiclla, hello This is such an interesting idea - I’m looking forward to our conversation and sharing ideas between generations. A bit to introduce myself. I feel lucky to have been in the right place at the right time to take part in the Women’s Liberation Movement, returning to England in 1970 (I was born in west London in 1949 and grew up in Aotearoa/ New Zealand.) I’d always felt out of place, alienated by sexist, heterosexist, racist society; it wasn’t until I got involved with feminists that I could understand my individual experience, as a young woman living in a colonised country, in context. Life in the Women’s Liberation Movement was full of meetings, marches, protests, conferences, direct action, heated debates. Exciting, buzzy, complicated times. Through consciousness-raising we named our experience and developed analyses of the personal as political, seeing how lives were shaped by forces of patriarchal gender systems and capitalist economics. For me radical feminism meant prioritising struggles against patriarchy and, in the literal sense of the word, going to the roots of women’s oppression in both theory and action; also a way of examining how various forms of oppression based on class, ethnicity, gender, etc, overlap to reinforce or contradict one another. It meant expanding socialist ideas, developing new ones and challenging not only misogyny but cooption by liberal feminism’s notion of equality within an unequal society. Women were fighting injustice on so many fronts – industrial action (strikes at Grunwicks, Trico, nightcleaners), setting up refuges and women’s centres, campaigning to stop sexual violence and abuse. I became involved in squatting communities, the London Women’s Liberation Workshop and feminist bands. I’m interested in the role of creative political culture - literature, film, theatre, art, music and work on archiving that at The Women’s Liberation Music Archive. I was also briefly in the Gay Liberation Front, which was a vital stage in survival, coming from a background where lesbians were not only stigmatised but pathologised. I 30
valued the carnivalesque radicalism expressed there: the insistence on revolutionary rather than assimilationist politics (I wrote this letter relating to that last year) Seeing the situation of lesbians as part of women’s oppression generally - the struggle to control our own lives, sexuality and reproductive rights - meant some of us left GLF, feeling we belonged in WL. I saw the work not against ‘homophobia’ but heterosexism, the ideology that posits the dualism of gender roles as natural and complementary, rather than socially constructed and oppressive. I’d love to hear about how you became a feminist and what you are involved in. I Wonder what you think of the concept of ‘waves’? I find it too Anglo-centric, myself; internationally, feminists have operated with multiple time-frames. Also, focusing on more organised, visible activism risks losing sight of the campaigning work that’s never stopped in between. Forty-five years on, I’m inspired by longterm and new activism - e.g. Focus E15, Sisters Uncut, Southall Black Sisters, Black Lives Matter, campaigns against violence, militarism, FGM, fundamentalism - and continuity, e.g., linking the 70s/80s squatting movement to today’s fight for the right to housing. I’ve always felt real change comes through grassroots movements outside the system, outside parliamentary so-called democracy, though I also think we need to act wherever we can against right-wing power structures that cause so much suffering. Looking forward to hearing what you think of these and other issues. It’s inspiring meeting women from diverse places and my hope is that feminists can deal with differences between us in constructive, respectful ways. And I’d love to know how you see the situation facing feminism now; any ideas for the way forward?
Solidarity, Frankie x
Hey Frankie, You’re right, this is a completely awesome idea so I feel so privileged to be part of this! I’m 22, an intersectional feminist born and raised in South London to migrant parents who came to England in the 80s. Some time around the age of 15 I realised that life as a working class migrant wasn’t all that easy; I figured that my parents must have moved here for a reason, because they wanted me to have choices and more prospects than they had back in West Africa, so I pushed myself to realise those choices. I found myself at Cambridge University studying Politics, Psychology and Sociology in 2012 and in that first year I put a label to my feminism. Turns out I’d always been a feminist really. All the time I had spent being teased by my brothers, being told that I would end up an old women alone with cats because I didn’t act “like a girl should” had a triggered a burning sense that something about the gender balance in my society - the overlapping cultural norms of Ghana and England that had informed my upbringing - weren’t always quite right. At Cambridge, class, gender and race confronted me in ways I could never have imagined beforehand. My feminism evolved intersectionally because of how the different parts of my existence were “nontraditional” in this space. This is the wave I believe we are in: the “fourth wave” must be characterised by intersectionality in my opinion. It must be characterised by simultaneously intersecting and interconnecting voices from across the globe online, on the street, in the class room, board room, playground or nursing home. It is a wave of feminism not characterised by what it means “to be a woman” in any strict sense. We know that historically this concept fell to a lazy reliance on the experience of middle class white women alone. Fourth wave feminism is about carving out visibility for all women. This is the movement I strive to be part of; incredible feminists like you, fighting for things I now take for granted, keep me going. At Cambridge I co-founded the first Black Minority Ethnic women’s forum, ‘Fly,’ which sought to be a space in which women of colour could have their experiences rendered valid, complex and visible (as opposed to “novel” polarised, or “exotic”). At a university where there
are so few people of colour, I felt my new-found feminism pushing me to carve out space, to take up space as radical act. Four years on, having stepped down as President of the Cambridge University Students’ Union (being the first Black woman to hold the post) I am proud that Fly is a legacy I’ll leave for women of colour who study at my ancient alma mater. Now I’m “out in the world” so to speak, working for a start-up political Party trying to work out how to be feminist, political, radical and switched on when there seems like just so much to deal with in our world. I watch people who look like me shot and killed for daring to act human; I am truly humbled by what the Black Lives Matter Movement is fighting to achieve. Sometimes the pain feels really close to home; sometimes it feels so abstract. Across the pond, my friends and I think about whether we’ll ever pay off our student debts (how we fund further study because everyone “has” to do a Masters now), whether we’ll ever get a mortgage, or if we can afford to live at the sharp edge of capitalism, nationalism and austerity which is tearing us away from the rest of the world and pulling us further away from a prosperous, globalist future. Just to say, when Brexit happened, I cried for roughly three days. People say people in my generation are angry. Perhaps that’s true. Beyond that, I think we’re scared. I think many of us feel let down by the masculinist, sovereignty-politics we are now seeing fall to pieces. That’s why we need feminism, an intersectional feminism which incorporates the multifaceted experiences of women from all walks of life, a feminism which is uncompromising in seeking to undercut and replace all the facets of a racist patriarchy which seeks to oppress my Black, Britishborn nephews as much as it seeks to oppress each and every women in society. I’m really excited to get to know you better; I have a feeling that a lot about what I think I’m going to do with my life might change in the next year and I’m excited to share that with you— I haven’t got many answers to the problems in our society yet (maybe in due time!), but right now I’m happy to share my thoughts.
All the very best wishes, Priscilla x Fem T
By John Stoltenberg
Biological Sex Essentialism: Radical Feminism’s Most Diversionary and Counterrevolutionary Idea 32
Most upsetting to me, the anti-trans feminism had become a corruption and humane vision that underlay An ndrea Dworkin was my life partner for 31 years. We began living together on 1 August 1974, in New York City, and she died in our home in Washington, DC, on 9 April 2005. From long before I met her, Andrea held strong radical views, as people who have read her or heard her speak know well. One of them was that she repudiated the sex binary and the biological essentialism upon which belief in it is based. As she wrote in her 1974 book Woman Hating: “The discovery is, of course, that ‛man’ and ‛woman’ are fictions, caricatures, cultural constructs. As models they are reductive, totalitarian, inappropriate to human becoming. As roles they are static, demeaning to the female, dead-ended for male and female both. “The discovery is inescapable: “We are, clearly, a multisexed species which has its sexuality spread along a vast continuum where the elements called male and female are not discrete.” Andrea was very clear that the system of male supremacy is enforced over and against a political class called “women” in order to reify and boundary a sex class called “men” – and she was eloquent in her analysis of how cultural practices such as rape, battery, prostitution and pornography institutionalise that class-based oppression. But she was also very clear that the sex binary we infer from and impute to those two classes does not itself exist: the sex binary is a cultural illusion, not a biological either/or in human nature. For Andrea there was no contradiction between her insights into the sadistically constructed sex-class hierarchy (and her impassioned exhortations to end it) and her
s faction of radical of the egalitarian ethic ndrea’s life and work.
view of our species as not being divisible into two so-called sexes. The one is about social reality imposed by male supremacy; the other is about what’s intrinsic to us and true. Her mind was big enough to grasp both. I learned many things from Andrea that found expression in my own work, and among the most influential was that distinction between reality and truth (which she first articulated in a 1975 speech published as “The Root Cause” in her book Our Blood). It became the philosophical foundation upon which I argued against biological sex essentialism in what became my ongoing critique of “manhood”. Back in 1985, for instance (in a speech published as “How Men Have (a) Sex” in my book Refusing to Be a Man), I wrote: “The idea of the male sex is like the idea of an Aryan race. The Nazis believed in the idea of an Aryan race – they believed that the Aryan race really exists, physically, in nature – and they put a great deal of effort into making it real. The Nazis believed that from the blond hair and blue eyes occurring naturally in the human species, they could construe the existence of a separate race – a distinct category of human beings that was unambiguously rooted in the natural order of things. But traits do not a race make; traits only make traits. For the idea to be real that these physical traits comprised a race, the race had to be socially constructed. The Nazis inferiorised and exterminated those they defined as ‛non-Aryan”. With that, the notion of an Aryan race began to seem to come true. That’s how there could be a political entity known as an Aryan race, and that’s how there could be for some people a personal, subjective sense that they belonged
to it. This happened through hate and force, through violence and victimisation, through treating millions of people as things, then exterminating them. The belief system shared by people who believed they were all Aryan could not exist apart from that force and violence. The force and violence created a racial class system, and it created those people’s membership in the race considered ‛superior’. The force and violence served their class interests in large part because it created and maintained the class itself. But the idea of an Aryan race could never become metaphysically true, despite all the violence unleashed to create it, because there simply is no Aryan race. There is only the idea of it – and the consequences of trying to make it seem real. The male sex is very like that.” uring the time Andrea and I lived together, she read everything I published, including that passage, which was influenced by something else I learned from her. For Andrea, the way women are hated and the way Jews are hated were closely related. That theme runs through her work and is central to her 2,000 magnum opus, Scapegoat: Women, The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation. Though I never knew her to be observant about Judaism, and though by the time I met her she had eschewed cultural signifiers associated with femininity, what it meant to Andrea morally to be both a woman and a Jew was ever present. After Andrea’s death in 2005, I became increasingly concerned that she and the radical politics I learned from her were being misappropriated by some to argue – in the name of radical feminism – for a biologically essentialist notion of “real womanhood”. To my mind, this was a betrayal of a fundamental insight I learned from Andrea, and referenced throughout my work, that
The idea of an Aryan race could never become m despite all the violence unleashed to create it, bec is no Aryan race. There is only the idea of it - and of trying to make it seem real. The male sex is ve
John Stoltenberg, a long-time activist against sexual violence and a radical-feminist philosopher of gender. He lives in Washington, DC, and tweets at @JohnStoltenberg
male supremacy is premised on the biologically essentialist fiction of “real manhood.” Back in 1974, Andrea wrote of transsexualism (as it was called then) in a prescient and empathetic section of Woman Hating: “There is no doubt that in the culture of male-female discreteness, transsexuality is a disaster for the individual transsexual. Every transsexual, white, black, man, woman, rich, poor, is in a state of primary emergency... as a transsexual. There are three crucial points here. One, every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means that every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions. This is an emergency measure for an emergency condition. Two, by changing our premises about men and women, role-playing, and polarity, the social situation of transsexuals will be transformed, and transsexuals will be integrated into community, no longer persecuted and despised. Three, community built on androgynous identity [what today would be called nonbinary, gender fluid, gender nonconforming, and such] will mean the end of transsexuality as we know it. Either the transsexual will be able to expand his/ her sexuality into a fluid androgyny, or, as roles disappear, the phenomenon of transsexuality will disappear and that energy will be transformed into new modes of sexual identity and behaviour.” The topic of transgender identity and experience came up in our conversations, and there were people in her life who were trans. She was troubled (as I was) about reports of surgeons and psychiatrists who experimented on the bodies of socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals in order to invent sex-change operations to advance their careers, in what were then the early days of
metaphysically true, cause there simply d the consequences ery like that.
such medical interventions. But I never knew her to express a disparaging opinion of any individuals’ trans identity and experience. The acceptance she wrote from in Woman Hating never wavered. I’ve thought back to Andrea’s work and our conversations as I’ve pondered how she would respond to the current controversies and conflicts among those radical feminists who call themselves trans critical and those trans activists who call the same radical feminists trans exclusionary (TERF) or transphobic. I was aware that Andrea’s name was being invoked by trans-critical radical feminists who assumed that if she were alive she would be one of them. I knew she wouldn’t. My opportunity to set the record straight came in 2014, when the original Feminist Times invited me to contribute an article on the subject for its #GenderWeek series. I turned in a personal memoir I titled “Andrea Dworkin on Living Beyond Gender”. Fem T published it as “Andrea Was Not Transphobic”. Immediately, it prompted cyber blowback from those who believed that I had betrayed Andrea and sold out radical feminism. Some of the response was civil, but most of it was ad hominem invective, as if an unwanted message could be refuted by shaming its messenger into silence. Thereafter, I became even more concerned about the future of the radical feminism that had been my political home for nearly four decades. Its anti-trans obsession, I was beginning to see, was consuming political energy that was urgently needed on countless actual fronts in the battle against male supremacy. Its invidious ideology of
biological essentialism was endorsing and inflaming a bigotry that would have appalled Andrea. Its insistence on a biological boundary around the category “real woman” was playing right into the agenda of a rightwing men’s rights movement that wanted more than anything to secure the borders of its own biologically essentialist notion of the category “real man”. Most upsetting to me, the anti-trans faction of radical feminism had become a corruption of the egalitarian ethic and humane vision that underlay Andrea’s life and work. I thought back to the time in 1977 when Andrea stood up before a room full of lesbian-separatist radical feminists and delivered a scorching critique of their biological determinism. The speech was published as “Biological Superiority: The World’s Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea” in her book Letters From a War Zone. If Andrea were alive today, I have no doubt she would be excoriating the anti-trans faction of radical feminists in a speech with a title such as the one I have given this essay. There’s an upside to this story. Something wonderful and extraordinary followed publication of my piece in Feminist Times. It prompted Cristan Williams, Managing Editor of The TransAdvocate and herself a radical trans-feminist, to contact me. We began an email exchange that became an in-depth conversation about “the radical inclusivity of radical feminism”. Now past 42,000 words, it has been appearing in instalments at The Conversation Project, and I am delighted that the relaunched Feminist Times will be publishing monthly excerpts.
By Anna Hill
Anna Hill is editor of Feminist Times
ink. It’s a colour that courts celebration and controversy in almost equal measure. In a world saturated with meanings and metaphors, it’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t have an opinion on pink – even if it’s simply a failure to grasp what all the fuss is about. It all started in the 14th century when the name pink was given to the predominant hue of the flowers, pinks. Their moniker, having derived from the frilled edge of their blooms, gave rise to the verb to pink meaning ‛to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern’, hence to pink with pinking shears. When it comes to derivative associations, pink has them aplenty. Love, beauty, politeness, sensitivity, tenderness, childhood, femininity and the romantic all spring to mind when you mention pink to Europeans and Americans. It is rarely cited as a favourite colour by either men or women and generally tends to be more popular with the older generation. In the 18th century, pastel colours were fashionable in all the courts of Europe, leading to a golden age of pink during the Rococo period (1720–77). It was particular favourite of Madame de Pompadour (1721–64), the mistress of King Louis XV of France, who frequently wore combinations of pale blue and pink. She even commissioned her own shade
from the Sèvres porcelain factory, created by adding nuances of blue, black and yellow. As far as men were concerned, in the 18th century, it was perfectly masculine for a man to wear a pink silk suit with floral embroidery and, by the turn of the 19th century, pink was most definitely a boy’s colour. Given that they were viewed by the rest of society as ‘small men’ it’s not surprising that while officers in England were wearing red warlike uniforms, boys were attired in a softer version of the same colour. As Freud and other psychologists’ theories of childhood development gained momentum, so parents began to differentiate their offspring’s sex at an earlier age. This coincided with some identifying a preference for pink for girls and blue for boys. In Louisa May Alcott’s 1880 classic, Little Women, Amy distinguishes her sister’s newborn twins by giving the baby girl a pink ribbon and the baby boy blue, gender coding that is widely credited as being the result of French influence. F Scott Fitzgerald uses pink as an archetypal signifier of its time towards the end of his 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby. Arriving for lunch with his mistress and her husband wearing a pink suit, there is no suggestion that Jay lacks masculinity or virility. It is only when he is described as an Oxford man that the cuckolded husband, Tom Buchanan, launches an attack on his intellectual credentials, retorting: “Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.” Fem T
As Freud and other psychologists’ theories of childhood development gained momentum, so parents began to differentiate their offspring’s sex at an earlier age.
Rose Quartz 13-1520, Pantone of the year, 2016
Pink adopted an altogether brasher attitude in the 20th century thanks to further innovation in the field of textile dying. Shocking pink was the brainchild of Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, a contemporary of Jean Cocteau and other artists who collectively made up the Surrealism movement. By mixing magenta with a small amount of white, she created a new variety of colour, which immediately attracted attention for its boldness and vibrancy. A perfume called ‘Shocking’, sold in a bottle in the shape of a woman’s torso, further embedded pink as a chameleon colour, offering something for everyone. By the 1940s and 1950s, consumer preferences were superseding previous assertions that pink was a masculine colour. Blue was the usual colour of school uniforms for both boys and girls and therefore associated with seriousness and study. In contrast, pink had become strongly associated with femininity, with toys aimed at girls often displaying pink prominently on packaging and the toys themselves. In its 1957 catalogue, Lionel Trains featured a pink model freight train for girls. Understandably, this was something of marketing disaster as any right-thinking girl would want a realistically coloured train while boys simply didn’t do pink. In her 1985 book, Fashion and Eroticism, Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New
York, comments that: “The decade of the 1950s was characterised by an ideological emphasis on conformity, and by fashion images that were sharply age and gender specific.” The gains and relative freedom that women had achieved in the previous two decades were now viewed in stark contrast to the setbacks, both personal and professional, they were experiencing in the 1950s. If this kind of feminist critique of midcentury gender roles helped solidify the feminisation of pink for girls and women, the 1960s mixed it all back up again. As baby boomers began to question traditional gender roles, women embraced more masculine fashions complete with short haircuts and sturdy boots. Men in turn relished the Peacock Revolution, which saw them wearing more colourful clothing and longer hair. By the 1970s, pink was being actively rejected, particularly when it came to children’s clothes. From 1976 to 1978, the Sears clothing catalogues carried no pink clothing for toddlers and only a few pink items for babies – an indicator that pink was being bypassed primarily for its associations with childishness rather than feminine connotations. By the 1980s, a new generation of career women had consciously moved away from unisex fashions and into the masculine-inspired world of power suits. There was little pink in evidence, apart from in children’s clothing, whose resurgence coincided with the first Generation X adults becoming parents.
This change in demand gave designers permission to incorporate pink in their collections once again. Around the same time, gender-specific nappies started appearing on the shelves, their popularity cited as a direct backlash against the unisex fashions these adults had experienced during their own childhoods. But it wasn’t just little girls who were embracing pink. In 1991, the Susan G Komen Foundation gave pink ribbons to runners in its New York survivor race. The following year, the pink ribbon became the official, and now ubiquitous, symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Fierce, powerful and embodying the spirit of a fighter, in this context, pink was anything but soft and sensitive. Throw CodePink into the equation and pink has come full-circle by recasting war and protest as feminine pursuits. So where do we go from here? The answer, I’m afraid and pleased to acknowledge, is who knows? Pink will continue to be appropriated, fought over, admonished and sidelined. Apart from black and white, no other colour engenders such strong feelings of contention and jubilation. For the time being, women have ownership of the pink crown, but if recent history is anything to go by, it won’t be long before it’s up for grabs again.
The resurrection, or birth, of Sasha produced a new set of eyes. Eyes that were clamped open with the help and support of people and organisations who were more than willing and able to help her become her better self.
What's in a name? 40
onnette’s life ended at 23 – six years after it had started. From the age of 17 to 23, Donnette was in and out of prison intermittently. Prison was never one of her goals in life – a jail cell was for actors on ‘Bad Girls’ or hardened career criminals. Months before her first arrest, she was in college studying business. If she had paid to see a psychic or a medium or anything of that ilk and they had told her she would be incarcerated weeks shy of her 18th birthday, her response would have been “refund please”. If they had taken it a step further and disclosed the charges – Possession with Intent to Supply (PWITS) – she would have asked them to pay her for wasting her time. That was not the type of business she was attending college to pursue. After her last bid, Donnette became a martyr for the better version of herself and Sasha was born. Yes, you’ve figured it out, Sasha was Donnette. You can call it a case of alter ego, the natural act of growth or split personality. Either way, Sasha is the one in charge; she is the first example of selflove. Donnette was a kid trying to be accepted among her peers – she was dead set on acts of rebellion, even if it meant a sour consequence later. Sasha, however, is the grown-up version of that, a focused and driven individual who has learnt to accept herself and let her peers and society do their own thing. The resurrection, or birth, of Sasha produced a new set of eyes. Eyes that were clamped open with the help and support of people and organisations who were more than willing and able to help her become her better self. Organisations such as Synergy Theatre Project and Clean Break were the driving force in helping Sasha (that’s me) to see that a prison sentence – or two or three – does not define you. It might affect you, but it isn’t you. Like a headache, it happens. Take a a tablet (Clean Break) and rest (supportive people) and before you know it you are ready for your next obstacle. The difference between Donnette and Sasha is that Sasha accepts herself, and her flaws, and focuses on her strengths. She takes responsibility for her actions and welcomes change and challenge.You are not growing unless you are changing and facing challenges.
today, right now, is far more important than what we did years before. Clean Break works strictly with women who have been involved in the criminal justice system. In doing so, women are able to focus on themselves and not worry how the opposite sex might view their growth or their issues. They are in a zone with women who can relate to them on so many different levels – not just the physical influences but societal ones too. Clean Break provides its students with a place they can call home. Clean Break is my second home. After going away for the summer holiday and returning in midSeptember, I was greeted with the scent of triumph, the sound of opportunities and warm embraces from my cohort and staff alike. Nothing is forced at Clean Break. We are given the tools to change for the better and strengthen our character. They offer a wide range of courses from writing to performing and also the opportunity to take part in placements; voluntary schemes and opportunities to go on to further education. Everything is at the individual’s pace, with a hint of motivation, through respect and patience. Had it not been for places like Clean Break, I would have continued to go nowhere fast and really, who wants that? Starting and stopping at the same spot with the same tedious view and feeling of nausea. Not Sasha. Being part of the right organisation or group can open doors that were thought to be too stiff to push. I love performing arts and writing and got this post as a columnist for Feminist Times because Clean Break put me up for the opportunity. I look forward to getting to know you. Sasha writes short stories, reviews, plays and more recently performance poems. Writing a column for a magazine is a first for Sasha. She gets ideas and writes but seldom schedules time to create. Instead, she is always armed with her bestie aka her smartphone. Clean Break works through theatre with women with experience of the criminal justice system and is celebrated for the plays it commissions and produces about issues affecting this group. For more information visit www.cleanbreak.org.uk
Being with Clean Break has given Sasha that mentality, that mindset – a clean break. That doesn’t mean the past didn’t happen. It just means that there are more things ahead and what we do Fem T
Jo’s political slot
One hundred days… So what ? There’s a certain irony in the fact that Theresa May spent her 100th day as Prime Minister in Brussels, given it is the UK’s relationship with all that city represents that propelled her into Downing Street... According to which reports one believes, the PM was warmly welcomed or cold-shouldered and a flurry of profiles and analysis of her first 100 days in office proved equally contradictory. While it’s a handy peg for news and picture editors, is the first 100 days an indicator of anything more than the last 100 seconds or the next 100 hours? It was Napoleon, in 1815, who started the 100-day thing by escaping from exile, rallying the French army and returning to rule until meeting his actual Waterloo. But it was when Franklin D Roosevelt became US President in 1933 that the ‘100 days’ set the bar for judging a new leader. It wasn’t so much what he did, bringing in 15 major laws, setting up new federal bodies and introducing the first bank holiday, as the speed with which he did it. That flurry of activity created a sense of urgency that effectively stifled any serious opposition.
Fast forward 70-odd years and the insatiable appetite of the media – not just mainstream 24/7 news but the blogs and tweets – means politicians feel under even greater pressure to be seen to be doing something even if that something is a waste of time. Add to that the 100-day deadline and it’s a seductive cocktail to announce, proclaim and be seen to be ‘on it’ regardless of what ‘it’ might be. Most of us know it takes about three months to get a handle on a new job – even if you’ve been No 2 for years (ask Gordon Brown) or the longest serving Home Secretary in generations. It’s a time of transition when public opinion begins to crystallise beyond gut instinct. It’s when relationships with colleagues and opponents start to knit or unravel, but crucially it’s about how a new leader deals with the unexpected, the missteps and mistakes that establishes their credibility.
Jo Phillips is an award-winning journalist, co-author of Why Vote? and Why Join a Trade Union? Former press and policy advisor to Paddy Ashdown, she’s a regular political commentator on TV and radio. While 100 days is probably about right to form a view of someone – a new boss, a new colleague or a new adversary, it’s a false marker for judging someone’s political leadership because transition is not the same as transformation. And that’s the key to assessing Theresa May because her premiership will be judged on how she manages the UK’s transition from Europe and sets Britain’s course for life outside the EU. It may transform our nation but it’s the transition that’s in her hands. The danger for politicians in being seen to be busy means there is little time for thinking, listening and assessing the landscape for the long term. They’re invariably surrounded by enthusiastic, eager people who thrive on action but the special advisor who counsels do nothing is a rare beast. Instead, it’ll be get a celebrity endorsement, create a Twitterstorm, use the massed ranks of public relations, ad agencies, behaviour change experts and focus groups. Whatever you do, maintain the illusion of being busy because that makes everything important.
The flaw in this approach is that of course not everything is of equal importance. The old adage says keeping busy takes your mind off things, but personally, I prefer my political leaders to have their mind focused very much on things that matter, rather than have a ready sound bite about Bake Off. The instant opinion, the easy outrage and the clickbait of petitions and online campaigns have replaced thoughtful, discursive and inclusive information gathering and sharing inside and outside politics. Far more damaging is that public expectations about the political process are unrealistic. New laws that seem like a quick win in response to public opinion often prove to be bad laws, rushed through without proper scrutiny – look at the Dangerous Dogs Act. Rather like good food, good politics benefits from being slower – considered, measured and easily digestible. There’s some truth in what Enoch Powell said in that all political lives end in failure, but I think we should give it more than 100 days. Fem T
I'M GONNA BUILD MYSELF...
DECKING With Jo Behari
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE...
In theory laying decking isn’t a difficult job, but you have to be fairly confident with power tools and cutting wood. A circular saw is the best tool to make this job efficient and easy. These can be hired from most tool hire companies but they might be daunting to use. Make sure you read the instruction manual and wear safety equipment when using a circular saw. Also practice on a couple of rough cuts before you start, so you can build your confidence. STEP 1 BUILDING A BASE
STEP 3 FIDDLY BITS
First, you need to build a base for the decking to sit on. This is normally done using 2x4m boards, although some hardware stores sell specific decking joists. These all come in lengths of 2.4m, so you need to cut them to the right size and screw them together using galvanised screws to make a frame.
Unfortunately, there will always be awkward bits that you need to work around – for example, guttering and drains. Save these cuts for the end so you know exactly how they need to work and then create a template using card so you can cut a board accurately to fit these areas. You may have to use more than one board to create a seamless fit; this is where your offcuts come in handy, too. This may also be where you need to use other tools such as a jigsaw or coping saw to ensure you can make little cuts or even curved cuts.
This frame sits on the ground, providing a level surface for the decking to fix to and preventing it from coming into contact with the ground and becoming wet. STEP 2 MAKING THE DECK Once the frame is built, you can start cutting decking boards. These also come in 2.4m lengths and should be fixed perpendicular to the frame. Think carefully about where to start and how to lay the deck before you start cutting. At this stage, it might be a good idea to sketch a plan so you know exactly what boards to cut and how long they need to be. You’ll be able to see from the frame what you need as you must ensure you can screw the deck to the frame. You may prefer to cut all your boards at once, in which case a sketch and a labelling system for each deck board is invaluable. Remember to write the board number or code on the underside of the board so it doesn’t show when the board is fixed in place. 44
STEP 4 FIXING THE DECK BOARDS Lay out the boards before fixing them down, so you can ensure they all fit and make any adjustments before you screw them down. When fixing them in place, you need to make sure you are screwing them into the frame. You’ll need a countersinking tool on your drill as the screws should sit just under the surface of the wood so they aren’t a tripping hazard. Countersinking tools either come with the drill bit attached or are a separate bit altogether, which you use after making the initial hole. Use galvanised screws again to fix each board and place two screws at each end of the plank. Use an electric screwdriver or the screwdriver bit on your drill, as your hands will not thank you if you use a manual.
STEP 5 FINISHING UP To give the deck a finished look, you need to fix a board or two (depending on the height of your decking) to the front of the frame. Cut these boards to the right size and screw them to the front of the frame. So thatâ€™s a quick step-by-step guide on how to lay decking. The size and shape of your deck will determine how easy or difficult this job is. But this can be back-breaking work, so no matter what size I would recommend working with someone else to make the job slightly easier.
If you feel confident, you can make the deck really special by putting lights in it. This is actually really simple. You need to lay the cables for the lights before you screw the decking boards down and then drill a hole for the lights to poke through the decking boards. Ensure you do all this before screwing the decking boards into place.
Do you know your wall plug from your socket plate? Our monthly DIY column will help you find your way through a toolbox through a series of projects aimed at helping you improve your home and learn new skills. The practical skills covered in this column will give you the confidence and ideas to tackle home improvement projects. Jo Behari will guide you through each project step-by-step and leave you some trade secrets to make your projects run like a pro. Fem T
by Penny Ritson
Food for my thoughts
In 2016, it is still women who do most of the cooking in partnerships and families. The exact proportion varies according to which survey you read but what is clear – and I think our everyday life experience bears this out – is that women manage the main domestic tasks. This, in spite of the fact that more women are in full-time employment than ever before. So when there are new food trends to follow, and increased pressure to use the latest superfood, it is women who source the ingredients and cook the recipes. Everyday cooking should not be complicated or competitive. Most of us just want something delicious and nutritious without it taking hours to prepare. Professional and celebrity cooks have time to indulge in cooking 46
more as an art than an everyday necessity. Plus they have people to prepare and wash-up! Their idea of a quick and easy recipe is often more complicated than I want to tackle. The plethora of cookery books and programmes has done little to instil confidence in everyday cooks. It may be that the complexity is subliminally encouraging us to reach for the ready meal or shop-bought cake. So although women now have some freedoms our mothers and grandmothers couldn’t have dreamt of, I’m not sure we are always better off when it comes to cookery. Our grannies knew about simple cooking – they didn’t need a posh or shouty man to tell them how to do it. They swapped recipes between themselves, not to create the latest several layered and iced cupcake but to produce practical recipes to feed
their families. After all, they knew about multitasking and genuinely needed to keep cooking simple and economical. When I discovered my grandmother’s handwritten notebook full of recipes, I was delighted to find they were truly easy. They are short with simple ingredients and no long or complicated instructions. Here is her recipe for spice loaf – I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. When it comes to cooking, let’s not put pressure on ourselves or each other. We don’t need the latest fancy ingredient or complicated recipe. We don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to produce meals worthy of our family. We just need to take a leaf out of our grandmother’s recipe book!
SPICE LOAF RECIPE The recipe in the book was in imperial measurements and was enough to make two loaves. I have halved the quantities to make one loaf and converted the quantities to metric measurements. 225g plain flour 100g butter 100g caster sugar 125g currants 125g sultanas Nutmeg if liked (I used ½ teaspoon) 1 tablespoonful of golden syrup ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate soda ¼ pint (140ml) lukewarm milk METHOD 1. Preheat the oven to 155°C. 2. Grease a 2lb loaf tin. 3. Rub together all the dry ingredients. 4. Add the treacle and milk. 5. Place in the loaf tin and bake in a slow oven for about one hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Fem T
hen I was in my early twenties (while the pterodactyls circled overhead and we all listened to Oasis), I attended a women's group meeting, at which a successful businesswoman was invited to speak. One of the questions she was asked* was how she managed her home as well as her business life. She replied that she just did it all. It was easier to do the jobs than to have the argument. She quoted a rather beautiful Japanese saying that explained her position: “When you’re fed up of chewing – swallow.”
Fast forward to the present day (Oasis is cool again in a retro way, right?) and now I’m considered important enough to be asked to speak to bright-eyed women in their twenties. In a green room on the South Bank I sit with other assembled female dignitaries, an MP, a QC, a GP and some other things you’re not allowed to use in Scrabble. Humble brag alert: one of them recognises me, she’s been following my work for a while. “I get your mailouts,” she gushes. “I don’t know how you manage to do so much.”
“Well for starters, I don’t send out my own mailouts,” I explain. “My partner James does that. And he books my travel and accommodation when I’m on the road. And he techs my shows. And he does almost all the cooking, the cleaning and the laundry too.”
The woman next to me smiles. “Yes, I’m very lucky. Martin gave up his job when we had kids and he does all that stuff for me too. I couldn’t possibly have gotten as far as I have with my career otherwise.” Ten minutes later we had established that every woman in the room, about 10 of us**, credited at least a part of her success to her partner’s willingness to take on responsibility for jobs at home.
The headlines of the women’s rights movement have always been grabbed by women breaking into challenging fields. Business, politics, medicine, television. It’s all there for the taking if we just ‛lean in’. What no one dares to say is that giving women all this new responsibility is a bit of a poisoned chalice if we don’t take away some of their other responsibilities at the same time. Of course, once you are hugely successful you can pay people to do your housework. 48
But who? Paying women from less privileged backgrounds to clean the poop stains out of your toilet doesn’t strike much of a blow for gender equality. Of course, it’s okay to hire people to help as long as you pay a good rate and treat them fairly, but it’s actually quite a lot of work to find people and hire them and explain what needs doing and so on. Work that all too often still falls to women. Meanwhile, men constantly tell me they are passionate about feminism but they don’t know how best to help. They know they’re supposed to be allies and they’re not supposed to take over but they’ve got all these great ideas. Well great news men. I’ve found something useful you can do for feminism. It’s called THE HOUSEWORK. Because here is the big unspeakable secret feminism needs to say out loud: dishes don’t clean themselves. Clothes don’t throw themselves into the washing machine with merry abandon. Vacuum cleaners don’t wake up in the middle of the night and decide to have a quick run round the stairs.
Some men get it. When I was first asked to host the Feminism in London Conference (at this point Oasis was just a watery drink) a group called the London Pro-Feminist Men’s Network was contacted and asked if they’d like to contribute something to the event. They had a rather serious meeting discussing the options and came back with the beautiful suggestion: we’d like to run the creche.
Ideally, of course, men will understand the importance of this and choose willingly to change their habits and take on these vital roles. Failing that, I’d advise women to stop swallowing and chew harder. Or better still, when you see that great big pile of dirty dishes – lean OUT. *Not by me, I asked where her shoes were from. Obviously.
**All of us were in relationships with men. Arguably, the people who book inspiring female speakers should have a think about diversity.
By Kate Smurthwaite
What no one dares to say is that giving women all this new responsibility is a bit of a poisoned chalice if we don’t take away some of their other responsibilities at the same time.
Photo: Charlotte Barnes
Kate’s world Kate Smurthwaite is a comedian and feminist activist. Mailing list and tour dates: www.katesmurthwaite.co.uk
of the month
Alice and Moms Mabley...
Practising women’s history is a political act. In a society that systematically leaves women’s stories out, championing them is a powerful feminist strategy. It feels feminist to imbue the histories we learn about with our own experience – to fill in the gaps. For each issue of Feminist Times, I will share a moment from my life alongside the life of a remarkable woman from Herstory. Do let me know women I should research and include by tweeting your suggestions @herstory_uk.
On my birthday this year, my friend Olivia wrote me a card that started, “Dear Alice, one of the sweetest, kindest, funniest friends I have.” I was totally elated – funniest – the word stood out on the page and glowed. It was a quality of mine that I had felt (for some time now) went wildly underappreciated by those closest to me. Funniness was never a quality explicitly attributed to me. Obviously, I have always harboured a firm personal belief that I am quite funny, but never before had anyone else identified it in me; a wonderful birthday revelation.
Moms Mabley is the mother of stand-up comedy, a giant in its history. She said: “In 35 minutes on stage I can keep laughter in a certain range, building higher and higher ’til, when I tell the last joke, they’re all laughing like mad.” At a time when acclaimed comedians weren’t women, and they weren’t women of colour, and they definitely weren’t gay women of colour, Moms packed out theatres, pioneering social satire, expertly centring race and gender in her routines.
I thought about a conversation I’d had years before, where someone I know had argued that men were naturally funnier than women. “Alice,” he said, leaning forward, perturbed by my fury, “it’s not sexist; it’s just an innate thing.” In some ways, this is the sort of sexism that unnerves me the most. I thought of the funny women I know and about the vital quotas the BBC has brought in: after all, if you can’t see it, how can you be it?
In 1894 Loretta Mary Aiken was born. She got the nickname Moms from her peers in the comedy circuit who adored her and relied on her caring and empathy. She kept the name Mabley from her ex-husband saying: “He took a lot off me, the least I could was take his name.”
I love to laugh and make other people laugh. I love when you know someone who taps into that place in you where you can howl from a piece of eye contact, or a well-placed word. I have a few friends who induce in me a particular laugh reserved only for them. They conjure it up somewhere from the bottom of my stomach, and let it soar. After Olivia told me I was funny, I held onto it and wore it like a coat when I went out for the evening, sashaying my way through social occasions, with added charisma.
Moms’ stage persona was much older than she was when she started out in her twenties. She styled her act on her beloved grandmother, taking to the stage in a knit hat and an oversized house dress. In ageing herself like this, Moms capitalised on the way older women were placed outside of the political, enabling her routines to be socially charged. She criticised, and slipped under the radar of, those in power.
My Dad is a very funny person – he often spills cups of tea in your lap, invoking a mighty shriek which subsides only when you realise the mug, of course, was entirely empty. This was the humour he brought me up on, his wheezy laugh the soundtrack of my childhood. I must have got it from him, I thought, basking in the glory of my birthday card.
Moms had exceptional comic timing, and was queen of the ad lib. Her onstage persona was predicated on a disdain for older men. “That man so old… he’s older than his birthday.” Another of her lines was: “They say you shouldn’t say nothin’ about the dead unless it’s good. He’s dead. Good!” Working in the 1920s, Moms was around decades before the comedians who now get heralded as pioneers. Her comedy cut through the patriarchal, racist society she lived in, with a lightness and sparkle that captivated the mainstream.
A few weeks ago, months after my birthday, I told Olivia how special her card was to me, how much confidence that small bit of sentence gave me. “Funny?” She goes… “Are you sure I wrote that? It doesn’t seem like something I’d say about you!”
Words by Alice Wroe. Alice runs and created Herstory, a project that uses feminist art to engage people of all genders with women’s history. Follow here on Instagram and Twitter @herstory_uk.
Illustrations by Daisy Mojave Holland. Daisy is a North London-based illustrator currently studying Illustration with Animation in Manchester. See more of her work here, and follow her on Instagram @daisymojaveholland and Twitter @Daisy_Mojave. Fem T
The Naked Eye
BUSTIN’ MAKES ME FEEL GOOD by Katrina Majkut
Growing up, I’d have sacrificed all my Disney Princesses á la Henry VIII’s wives for just one wild movie with a strong woman lead. Instead, I had to adopt adventure, fantasy movies aimed at boys – Indiana Jones, The Goonies, Hook. If I wanted to see a lead role like me, a girl, my own imagination would need to carve it out. When I heard the new Ghostbusters film would feature an all-women cast, my childhood self rejoiced even if Hollywood was 32 years late. Not everyone was as excited. Some called the movie sexist for excluding men from the original four Ghostbusters. Director Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold seemed to foresee the misogynistic resistance when the movie poked fun at chauvinist internet trolls who criticised, “Ain’t no bitches gonna catch no ghosts.” My feminist instincts say the Ghost-Bro response is just ambivalent sexism. Previously, women’s parts were limited to the secretary like Janine (Annie Potts) and the love interest/mom like Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver). Today, the
women forego these traditional roles daring to be more than a benevolent side character. Taking their turn carrying the proton packs is a well overdue undertaking – and they’re damn good at it. The role reversal of this stereotypical one-dimensionality appears deliberate, for example, by casting Chris Hemsworth as the super-sexy but bird-brained secretary, Kevin. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) swoons over Kevin (much like the charming Peter Venkman did over Dana Barrett), but the new film stops this objectification by incorporating conscious feminism dialogue of appropriate sexual behaviour. The villain, Rowan North (Neil Casey), whose vague goal is to “cleanse” the world by exacting revenge on those who bullied him, seems to reflect the Ghost-Bros’ male entitlement, too. To be fair, this is not the movie’s expressed stance. However, it’s hard not to view this antagonist without a current day lens where it’s becoming all too familiar to see an outsider white guy use a dangerous weapon upon unsuspecting innocents because he feels oppressed or ostracised by society. What’s powerful about the all-women cast is that it didn’t rely on stereotypical feminine tropes to appeal to audiences. The Ghostbusters were merely scientists exploring the paranormal; they just happen to be women (an incredibly important distinction). Other 1990s adventure movies such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (or any Marvel/DC woman
comic) used sexy femininity to sell their woman leads. Caroline Heldman calls this the “fighting fuck toy” (Miss Representation, 2011). It’s the idea that if a woman were to enter the male-dominated space of adventure/fantasy entertainment, she must be sexual above all else to appeal to audiences. Ghostbusters offers so much more depth – body positivity, brains over beauty, teamwork and complex personalities. And it still has intense Matrixlike fighting scenes compared to the static, phallic proton shooting of the first two. The women are brave and strong during battle without the assistance of a man (plus it passed the Bechdel test). It’s a theme more commonly portrayed on screen such as with Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). That said, the Ghostbuster franchise still suffers from racial tokenism. The ghosts are not the only dominantly pale ones in the movie. Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) is a more developed character than Winston Zeddmore (Ernie Hudson) ever was, but retains some urban stereotypes commonly given to black characters. The next non-Caucasian characters included an incompetent food deliveryman and a homeland security agent. While the movie focused heavily on women P.T.O in scientific and engineering roles, which is Fem T
The Naked Eye
critically important, criticism came early from intersectional feminists that only white actors filled those roles. Patty, a black woman, is merely a subway worker. The movie also fell short by overjustifying itself, which delayed plot and jokes. Given the pre-release misogyny and diehard fans’ high expectations, my only explanation is that women who break the glass ceiling must try twice as hard to validate their presence. It’s a good reminder why dynamic movies with women leads need to be the norm and not the exception. Regardless of the film’s haunting issues, this origin story reboot is filled with the original magic of neon slime and hilarious otherworldly nonsense. It’s loaded with comedic geniuses from SNL to UCB, callbacks and cameos delivering a very fun movie. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, believe in the power of a women-led cast to make you fall in love all over again with a childhood favourite. My childhood self, and now my adult self, are completely inspired and satisfied. Ghostbusters: Answer The Call is out in the UK on 21 November on DVD and Blu-ray.
Katrina Majkut is a visual artist, writer and founder of TheFeministBride.com. She writes regularly on wedding culture, womenâ€™s issues and entertainment/comedy. Mic Media identified her as one of four international artists starting a new chapter in feminist art. She lives in New York City.
TINGS BEXHILL Fiona Banner: Buoys Boys De La Warr Pavilion, until 8 January 2017 BIRMINGHAM
Sara Barker Ikon Gallery, until 27 November 2016 CAMBRIDGE
Joey Holder: Ophiux Wysing Art Centre, until 20 November 2016 LONDON
Guerrilla Girls: Is it even worse in Europe? The Whitechapel Gallery, until 5 March 2017 Joan Ellis: A Woman’s Wit, Wisdom and Pratfalls 13 November, 2:30pm-3:30pm Manchester
Special screening of ‘The House That Jack Built’ written by Shelagh Delaney Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade 26 November, 12.30pm-4.30pm PENZANCE
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: A Scottish Artist in St Ives Penlee House Gallery and Museum, until 19 November 2016 Fem T
MATTERS PARLIAMENTARY In such fast-paced times, when it’s hard to know what to focus on, who to follow and what matters, I would suggest ignoring the headlines and taking a look at some of the less bombastic everyday work of our parliamentarians... Political careers speed up suddenly, leap stages, slide backwards, swap focus and end dramatically with a frequency almost unheard of in other fields. In the past two years, we’ve seen politicians’ careers made, smashed and radically change direction at such a rate that parties now hesitate to print definitive lists of their spokespeople. In such fast-paced times, when it’s hard to know what to focus on, who to follow and what matters, I would suggest ignoring the headlines and taking a look at some of the less bombastic everyday work of our parliamentarians. This work largely consists of turning the government’s ideas into law; or opposing them. But sometimes others get the chance to air their own ideas; ideas that are good, bad and downright mad all get a look in. Private Members’ Bills, Ten Minute Rule Bills and Backbench Business Debates are some of the ways that MPs of all parties can get their passion projects heard and maybe even turned into laws. A perfectly surreal example of this took place last autumn when Oliver Colvile MP managed to secure a debate on his case for 60
making the hedgehog our new national animal. Then DEFRA Minister Rory Stewart MP had to respond, and the fantastically silly yet beautifully delivered results are available on YouTube. At around the same time, Rehman Chishti MP was braving the stacked odds of the Ten Minute Rule system for a much more serious cause. By speaking for 10 minutes on the subject of perinatal mental illness, he was able to secure enough votes from fellow members to create a Bill. In December 2016, this Bill will receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons, giving MPs a chance to debate the issue. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, perinatal mental health problems are thought to affect up to 20% of pregnant women and women with children under one year old. Mothers are 33 times more likely to be admitted to a psychiatric ward in the year after giving birth than at any other time in their lives. The Bill would require the NHS to guarantee an appropriate level of provision,
Madeleine Jennings is both a political anorak and activist. Moonlighting as a pundit, her day job is in parliamentary affairs and her free time is spent arguing about everything with everyone.
ensuring that 95% of patients would not have to travel more than 75 miles to access proper care. A minimum of 60 to 80 new beds would be required across England to meet the current shortfall. Rather than the Men’s Rights Activists – who may or may not stick their oar in care of Phillip Davies MP – the real challenge to this Bill is if it does make it into legislation. The gap in NHS funding is so colossal that, in the words of the Health Select Committee, commissioners responsible for acting on the duty to provide perinatal care, but also for cutting costs, will likely be forced into purchasing the cheapest services. Experience tells us these services would be bare bones at best, as is already the case for mental health provision in many areas. But back to Parliament; is there really much point in engaging with a system where the symbolic power of hedgehogs and maternal mental health get equal billing? Not to mention one which allows Nadine Dorries to propose a Bill promoting lessons in abstinence for teenage girls? My answer, dear reader, will always be yes. Backbench business can be of very real benefit to those it seeks to help: firstly by providing a national platform for the issue in question and an opportunity for us all to annoy our MPs into getting involved. Secondly, it provides the Government and the Opposition with a gauge of public interest – if we make enough noise, it might result in a manifesto commitment or a change in policy. Finally, unfunded Bills that do
become legislation can come into their own when empowered by future governments. Admittedly the work of Parliament does sometimes seem arcane and absurd, but there is more to it than negotiating over sub-clauses – and even those negotiations aren’t as dry as they may seem. The legislative process creates space for ideas to grow and develop – to inspire the public and legislators into action. Legislation is a transformative process in a very real sense because it alters how we approach our world and the framework by which we understand it. So, why not email your MP and ask them to support the Perinatal Mental Illness Bill on 2 December. Unless Julian Lewis is your MP (he only accepts letters), it won’t cost you anything. Read more about the Perinatal Mental Illness (NHS Family Services) Bill here: http://services. parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/perinatalmentalillnessnhsfamilyservices.html Find out the name of your MP here: www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/ For help with perinatal mental health start here: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/ types-of-mental-health-problems/postnataldepression-and-perinatal-mental-health/#. WAOZafR4XCQ Fem T
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