Dispatch 2 Printed LIVE at ‘Feminism & Activism: How can we create change?’ Featuring A Bush (and everything else!) of Our Own: The hypocrisies of female body representation in the media by Ladies of the Press* Live content from ‘Feminism and Activism’, 14 May 2015!
Feminism & Activism
“Hello, hello” comes from the stage. “Can everyone hear me? We are going to start in 5 minutes” (Audience groans, eager bunch!)
Get talking: #LondonisFem Dispatch 2: 14 May 2015 3
A Bush of Oneâ€™s (and everything else!)
The hypocrisies of female body representation in the media
aunched in 2012 by Lucy-Anne Holmes, the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign to remove the topless female glamour model feature on page 3 of The Sun—one of the country’s major national newspapers— finally achieved its aim on a quiet Friday in January 2015. The Sun dropped the topless Page 3 feature which had been running for 44 years with not so much as a statement, let alone an admission that it was and is an outdated and sexist institution as so many have claimed for years: activists, MPs, anti-sexism charities as well as 200,000 of us who have signed the online petition against Page 3. But then on 22 January 2015 it reappeared, for one day, along with some snide comments under ‘clarifications and corrections’ and we wonder: Is their decision a mere appeasement and is there a wider issue to be addressed?
Some, like the teen feminists based at Camden’s own Camden School For Girls—the group of 15 girls and boys who decided to do something about lads’ mags printing overtly sexualised covers featuring near naked women in suggestive poses—will no doubt be glad to see Page 3 will no longer be available at the corner shop. The Sun has indeed removed topless glamour models from their printed newspaper but the Page 3 brand is still available online. The issue is not one of individual choice but of collective message. While being a page 3 model may be empowering for the models themselves, some argue that if their image represents the dominant type of representation of women within the newspaper they are inadvertently sending a damaging message to the rest of society simply by normalising unrealistic portrayal of women’s bodies, and moreover, women’s role in society. The future of the campaign therefore may not be about taking issue with the professional choice page 3 models are making but rather about the editorial content of the newspaper overall. The witty promotional video by ‘No More Page 3’ that collects an assortment of women and men cut out from The Sun over a 6 month period clearly illustrates the disparity in representation of the sexes. (https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=lNlKjUfmaUA&spfreload=1) The plight of angry feminists? Think again: you need not be a female or a feminist to have an opinion. In an interview with presenter Tina Edwards last year, (link- (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldyy-MEJiJ8) the man of the hour and activist du jour, campaigner and journalist Owen Jones, said of The Sun: “The biggest newspaper in the country, obviously very politically influential and dominant... They are as establishment as they get and they often like to think they
call the shots. And it is kind of shocking, it is 2014, 2014 and the main newspaper in this country, on page 3, has women being objectified and degraded: It is ridiculous...” Academic and feminist Germaine Greer on the other hand had this to say on Channel 4’s live broadcast of ‘Page 3: The Big Debate’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFA9MgsUBAM): “It has always struck me as innocent and old fashioned”, and she suggested that in any given newspaper “men are in the news and women are in the advertising”. During the broadcast Greer seemed to be saying that there is a general lack of female role models, and if there were, there would not be an issue with Page 3. In the printed version of the newspaper, Page 3 is all about bikinis now—they’ve thrown on the proverbial beach towel but the gaze is still very much there. The objectification is still there, and the same old message is still there, as Stephen Bayley sneers in the Telegraph: “Chin up, girls!”. Meanwhile, despite the relentless demand for a woman to reveal her body, sometimes revealing one’s own body of one’s own accord is met with a hypocritical backlash. Canadian artist and writer Petra Collins writes in her
Still from No More Page 3 video
October 2013 post on HuffPost Women ‘Why Instagram Censored My Body’, an article she wrote in response to the deletion of her Instagram account because of an image she posted of herself in a bikini showing her natural (unshaven) pubic hair protruding out of the top of her bikini bottoms. Petra Collins does not make a distinction with regard to discrimination between social media and real life. For her, social media and real life are two sides of the same coin in contemporary society. She compares unrealistic media images portrayed online to images of our real bodies, which are increasingly posted online via Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook etc. While she admits that complaining about the deletion of her Instagram account is a privileged position to be in, she nevertheless uses the opportunity to highlight the narrow and discriminating view image-makers have of women’s bodies and by extension, of women. It was never about what a woman wanted to show off, it has been—and still is—what women are told to show off. And Petra Collins isn’t a standalone case: Australian online magazine Sticks and Stones recently had their Instagram account deleted because they published a very natural image of two women in bikinis, with a sliver of pubic hair and a faint shadow of a nipple. Just about. Ainsley Hutchence, director of Sticks and Stones,
believes their Instagram account would have never been censored if the pubic hair had belonged to a man. She says: “The issue is neither about bikini pictures, there are literally millions of uncensored pictures on Instagram showing women in more revealing poses, nor is it about pubic hair in general, but specifically female public hair.” In other words, patriarchy has long since published a glossy lookbook of how women should look, and any deviation from this model would be promptly shot down by the women’s fashion polizei, with a bit less humour than comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s bitchy fashionista character Bruno. The media is funded by the advertising industry selling aspirational lifestyles. As Germaine Greer pointed out, overtly sexualised and unrealistically ‘attractive’ images of women are the main vehicle for communicating advertising messages. Perhaps Germaine Greer is right— the relatively ‘innocent’ times of the printed newspaper are a thing of the past? Misogynistic, harmful, images of women have simply moved online, along with the huge, advertising machinery behind these industries and with them so have new practices of censorship and body image control. As Petra Collins points out: “If the Internet mimics real life, then there is no doubt that real life can mimic it.” In the same Telegraph article, Stephen Bayley cites the bare breasted woman that features in painter Eugène Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ as the pinnacle of the liberated woman. The trouble is, the bare breast here ain’t no liberté. Why? The woman here is more a conception, the epitome of the idea of liberty rather than person. She is a glowing symbol in the midst of a battlefield. A battlefield full of men. It’s an ideal that is constructed to serve man’s idealisms, man’s gaze. Not much to see here. While he comments that “She would have been less convincing with her gabardine mac buttoned-up to the neck”, it would be interesting to experiment with this in a contemporary media boardroom. So long as there is a distorted representation of women in the media and the sexually attractive young women in partial states of undress fill our pages and our screens in place of women engaged in other professions, particularly those traditionally dominated by men (sports, politics, big business, and academia) there will be battles and wars to be won. Page 3 has moved online but it has entered a whole other problematic with regard to sexualised images of women. So, online is where the next battles will take place. In Germaine Greer’s words: “This is a developing story, it’s not over.”
The current top page image of the Page 3 website.
Pavan Amara “I started the project because there was nothing to support me, there were no services that could address my body image. There is a lot of silence around sexual assault. In August this year we are starting the first Survival Clinic in the world. It is also about enjoying your body again and sex after sexual violence.” Sarah Anderson: “I am a part of the successful ‘No More Page 3’ campaign.” Audience: “Whooooo hooooo!” Sarah: “That is how I like to be welcomed, anywhere.” Sarah: “I am the most positive woman in the world thinking I could take down the Murdoch empire... In January, Page 3 died.” Ana: “Wooooo hoooo!” Chardine Taylor-Stone: “The first black feminist punk band playing. Actually, our next gig is Tate Modern, so we will be the first black feminist punk band at Tate Modern.” Chardine is talking about marching unannounced against demolition and gentrification of Brixton. Shania Yang: “Cuntry Living was originally a feminist zine at Oxford University. The Facebook group has over 10000 and a wide reach.
We are ultimately grass roots initiative. It is an interesting look at what non organised group can do. Occasionally we make the papers and that is really exciting! I am involved in other feminists initiatives.” Jo-Ann Hamilton: “Hello hello party people!” “I think the best thing a woman can do is become economically empowered. It is not only about having money but helping other with it.” Kate Hudson: “I have two sides to my activism: peace campaigning and left-wing politics. I went to my first demo 37 years ago and I have been active ever since. Firstly there is a class influence. My grandfather was a coal miner. Seventies feminism has shaped me tremendously. In the 1980s I was very involved in the peace movement and I am particualary interested in how we bring those things together: peace campaigning and left wing politics.”
Kate: “Yes I think politics is the way forward.” Chardine Taylor-Stone: “Could it be politics in the home.” Audience: I am from the 50:50 Parliament Petition. I think we need to have equality in the government so that girls can see inspiring role models. We have an online petition on Change.org—go and sign it. Shania Yang: “I think systems often perpetuate their own oppressions. Community campaigning is also important even if it does not reach parliament. Everything from gender expression and gender equality. Activist campaigns often don’t leave room for complexity.” Jo-Ann (SecretBird): “I think the most powerful thing a woman can do is start her own business.” Pavan Amara: ”The government now is not signing the Istambul Convention that is there to provide services and support to women.” Sarah Anderson: ”Anything that gives women a voice is important.” Kate Hudson: ”When we set up Left Unity two years ago quite a lot of feminists were involved in it. We set up a 50:50 membership for the party but does not mean that 50% of women have come forward. It has to be a cultural change as well as a numbers change.” Why do you think women don’t feel empowered to put themselves forward for powerful positions? Jo-Ann: “Everything starts from the home. If you grew up in a household where you are taught that your mum is ‘da-boss’ then that is the example you will follow. A lot of women are taught to be quiet, submissive and it is almost schizophrenic: when you are in the real world you may hear contradictory voices that you should not put yourself forward. There is confidence coaching, there are communities of women and it is about cultivation a culture of confidence. If your culture at home says you
should not be that way and the culture at school is saying you should: what do you do?” Chardine talks about starting ‘Reclaim Britain’, an all female, working class group of friends and how important it is to support your friends and each other once you come home and you are tired from campaigning and the negative attention of the press. “How do we continue to support each other?” Kate: ”The friendships that we formed, even though we mainly coordinate online. We got a lot of crap, crap, crap, crap. We got used to it, just block, block, block block. Self care for activism is so important. Don’t ever feel like you can’t take a rest.” Shaina: ”The further you are from the heteronormative, middle class model the less likely you are going to be taught to find your voice and more likely you will be the target of oppression. If you don’t have experiences of being oppressed and have a structure behind you that supports you one of the most powerful things you can do for others who don’t is give them space to speak.” Pavan: “When I stared my project I was ashamed. I would not have started it if it was not for the support of the other women.” Audience: “Oppressed people do not have a structure to support them to express themselves.” Jo-Ann: “Any kind of empowerment starts with the self. Ultimately it boils down to the individual. Sometimes it takes time, days, years, sometimes never. But if become empowered you are going to be like a beam! It is self esteem, it is confidence, it is a lot of things.” Kate: “I think it so important to me that we don’t have to be like the politicians at Prime Minister’s Question Time. I had become used to it, I had become thick skinned. I demand the right not to be thick skinned to have my voice heard.”
Women on Women
Audience: “It is often women who are intimidated by other women who are confident. We should be supportive of each other to be how ever we want to be. So many women are so abusive about what is wrong with feminism and challenge it. We should be accepting and kind to each other.” Kate: “Our media do not want women to be supportive of each other.”
Audience claps. Kate: “This is a construct of the media. We need to resist this narrative.” Audience: “I feel frustrated by people who think that feminism starts with unshaven armpits.” Audience: “You should never pretend to understand something that you have not experienced but you can still support what they do.” Chardine: “What you said about standing beside, I think it should be standing behind. It is about putting people at the foreground and not a self congratulatory thing about being someone’s friends.” Audience: “It is about ‘allies’, which are often problematic because we can flaunt our privilege and be listened to more than the person who is experiencing the oppression, just because we are in a more privileged position and express our support for hem. A white male expressing feminist views will be listened to more than a female feminist.”
Australian online magazine Sticks and Stones make a quirky apology(?) to Instagram after their account being deleted.
Pavan: “Every time, every time a white woman speaks it is taken more seriously than a black woman.” Chardine: “The whole armpit thing is really about a white, heteronormative idea of beauty. For us women in colour that is not relevant to us, white beauty standards. That is why I say I am a black feminist, we have other things to deal with.” Sarah: “I am conscious that all of us gathered here are on the same side. I think we need to celebrate and embrace our wins. It is all about all of us in this room getting the message out there.” Audience: “A lot of campaigns that are started by white, middle class women because they have the time and the money to start campaigns. My worry is that we dismiss them too readily. Please join them, even if you are not white middle class. Don’t let them be dismissed.” Sarah: “One of our campaigners works full time and has children and I genuinely don’t know how she found the time to be a campaigner. She was driven by her passion for the campaign, it came from love and passion and a desire to make the world a better place for the family she loves.” Chardine: “Space is really important, where you hold your meetings, when you hold them? Is the space comfortable? That is something people can do. Get out there, start knocking on doors. We can be too insular, activists and feminists, we need to get out there. We also need to look at how we talk about our campaigns, what are we saying: Are we activists, feminists? We have a different language.” Sarah: “Online spaces have moved activism to a different place. It is great.” Pedro: “Hi I am Pedro, I am just the sound guy here. I was wondering how do you deal with people who feel they should be congratulated for treating women the same as men.” Shaina Yang: “The internet as a whole can be a very horrible thing. Anonymity can be empowering but also be abused. As soon as I became an admin of Cuntry Living I got my first death threat. The thing about the internet is that you can chose how you construct your space. The internet is good because it provides another space that can amplify voices. One of the aims of Cuntry Living is to give space to people who don’t have a space elsewhere.” Pavan: There are women who are feminists but don’t identify themselves as feminists. Chardine: “Sometime it’s like ‘I have one black friend and I can’t remember their name?’ (laughter) ‘Well done Bob, you are doing such a good job!’. We are still putting ourselves at the centre of the conversation.” There was a brief disagreement between a man behind the bar and Chardine, he had talked over her as she was making that precise point. She added “I hope I can still get a beer later”.
Audience: Supporting feminism blindly is a form of tokenism. Yes, support the cause but know your shit!
Meanwhile, found on Twitter:
“When I’m Bruce Wayne, I work in Human Resources.”
“I am Frances from 50:50 Parliament and I am pissed off!”
“You can log in at work... don’t tell my boss” (audience laughs)
“Show of hands... democracy!” (Audience laughs)
“There’s no curfew; how amazing is that?” 17
About the organisers…
London is Fem is an activist group and online platform that gathers news and events for feminists in London. Co-founders Hazel Morgan, Amelia Jenkinson and Yetunde Yusuf run London is Fem’s fantastic blog, which is packed full of articles for anyone interested in feminism. Tonight is the first (we hope of many!) events they have organised on this scale and they hope to continue hosting events and providing spaces for feminists to discuss issues in the future. We suspect they have a bright, feminist future ahead! https://londonisfem.wordpress.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/londonisfem Email: email@example.com Tonight’s event is organised in partnership with The International Debate Education Association (IDEA) and CoachBright. IDEA is an international debate and education charity with over ten years of experience in teaching debate to young people. We are dedicated to inspiring informed discussion around worldwide issue. http://idebate.org/ CoachBright is a leadership and coaching charity providing structured coaching programmes to school children to enable them to become independent and confident learners and fulfill their academic potential. http://www.coachbright.org/
Introducing the Panelists
Amanda Lundstedt aka Ayelle is a singer-songwriter and co-founder of ‘Young Feminists London’ (YFL) a group for young people to get together and explore feminism. She writes about feminism in pop culture and is passionate about music, feminism and activism among many other things. She is tonight’s Chair. @ayellemusic https://www.facebook.com/youngfeministslondon Joining her as part of the discussion panel are: Sarah Anderson is facilitator of workshops including ‘Kick Ass Campaigning’, pro bono advisor to women’s charities, organisations and individuals suffering sexual harassment or discrimination at work. Sarah is also a part of the phenomenally successful ‘No More Page 3’ campaign that achieved its goal earlier this year by actually changing the editorial policy of ‘The Sun’ newspaper that had been printing full-page images of topless glamour models on its infamous Page 3 for the past four decades – not anymore! http://nomorepage3.org/ Shaina Yang is a writer, a nude model for feminist art initiatives and a freelance public speaker. She, with a little help from her Facebook friends, is an administrator for the Facebook group Cuntry Living, which is intended to be an intersectional, sex positive online space in which we can challenge patriarchy and share our experiences of oppression. The page has a growing following and is a great example of self organised social media activism aimed at individuals sharing their experience. Also, it is not every day you get bawdy
Shakespearean allusions with your activism but Shaina and her fellows have managed to subvert the explicit sexism of even the bard himself! https://www.facebook.com/ groups/275821449139484/ Kate Hudson is one of one of the key figures that lead to the formation of the radical Left Unity political party (who we Ladies* support!) and its National Secretary. If you look her up on Wikipedia you get Kate Hudson (activist): That should tell you what to expect from the far-left political activist and academic who is General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, an and one time officer of Stop the War Coalition and member of the Communist Party Of Britain. http://leftunity.org/about/ Chardine Taylor-Stone is a writer, DJ and black feminist activist and drummer of Black Feminist Punk band ‘Big Joanie’. She was the program coordinator for ‘Black British Feminism: Past, Present and Futures 2015’ which attempted to trace black feminist legacies into the present and encourage a return to an activist centered movement. She a part of the self organised pressure group ‘Reclaim Brixton’, a Facebook group that aims to bring together “activists, concerned residents and fans of Brixton” to discuss and take action against the divisive changes taking place in Brixton as reported on ‘Brixton Buzz’ and elsewhere. http://chardinetaylorstone.com/ Jo-Ann Hamilton is a writer and speaker, UN Women Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment and founder of ‘SecretBird’, a start-up community of female entrepreneurs providing further opportunities to connect and collaborate in business. http://www.secretbirdslondon.com/ Pavan Amara is founder of ‘My Body Back Project’, which works with women who have experienced sexual violence, supporting them to love and care for their bodies again. She was recently featured in The Independent newspaper’s top activists list—an accolade and a half!
A group shot of today’s panelists!
It is a play on the old no means no campaign, to show times have moved on to educating the world that rather than waiting for a no from a woman who desn’t want to have sex with you, you should simply know that she will say yes if she wants to! Move over NO MEANS NO. Times have changed, there is a new YES in town!
THE ONLY ‘YES’ SHOULD EVER BE A ‘YES’ —#THISDOESNOTMEANYES; www.thisdoesntmeanyes.com
A short list of London based organisations who like feminism! Related links we’ve come across and thought we’d share with you. The Feminist Library The Feminist Library is a large collection of Women’s Liberation Movement literature based in London. Run by a collective of volunteers, we have been supporting research, activist and community projects as well as archiving herstories since 1975. The Feminist Library hosts workshops and has an outreach education programme and generally supports activism in the community. http://feministlibrary.co.uk/ The London Consent Project The London Consent Project is a group that aims to define consent for teenagers and ensure they know the importance of respect in sex. Run by budding barristers Kate Parker and Victoria Shehadeh, the project is aimed at anyone aged 14 and above and is inspired by the mandatory consent workshops Cambridge University holds for incoming undergraduates. http://thelcp.com/ Twitter: LDN Consent Project @ConsentLdn This Doesn’t Mean Yes thisdoesntmeanyes.com is an anti-rape campaign defending a woman’s rights to self expression through her clothes and make up without sexualisation and objectification. The campaign aims to spread awareness of women’s rights to look and behave as they chose through photography and is brought to you by Nathalie Gordon, Lydia Pang, Karlie McCulloch and Abigail Bergstrom in conjunction with Rape Crisis South London. http://www.thisdoesntmeanyes.com/ Instagram: http://www.thisdoesntmeanyes.com/ instagram/ #thisdoesntmeanyes The Fawcett Society The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading charity promoting gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. We want to see a society in which individuals can fulfil their potential regardless of their sex. http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/
Ana’s heroic representation of #DEMOPRESS as Renée compiles the zine from a mysterious location tonight...
A great big thanks...
Firstly to Camden50 curator Charlie Levine, for making this amazing project happen, and letting us into the party! Anna Lowe and Lorna Gott for their support. Hazel Morgan, for letting us jump into this event wholeheartedly!
And...Ana Cavic for representing LOTP* on her own! Way to go sista! ♡, The exiled half of LOTP* x
About the typeface
The typeface used for the logo of Demo Press as well as headings used here is designed by Spike Spondike, font developer at Dalton Maag (daltonmaag.com)...who is here tonight!! ‘Spike connected the diversity of shapes in the Thai script with the design of Blenny. She took on the challenge of creating Thai glyphs whilst maintaining the key features of Blenny’s design. Creative decisions on the Thai in turn led back to refinements to the original Latin.’
Ladies of the Press*
Via pop up events in various sites and interactions with people on the streets of Camden, Ladies of the Press* challenge conceptions of engagement and go straight to the audience with their mobile printing press. Informed by DIY cultures, grass roots activism and inspired by Camdenâ€™s rich history of radical press they are making new works in print for the 50th celebrations. These are printed instantly and promote the hard working and revolutionary women of Camden. #Camden50 #DEMOpress
Published LIVE for Camden50 at 'Feminism & Activism: How can we create change?', May 2015