That’s What She Said
Editors Lucy Stewart is a third year English student and a senior editor at TWSS. She finds happiness in grammar (p.16-17). Clara Vlessing is also a senior editor. A font enthusiast, her passion for Courier New 11pt may affect your enjoyment of this magazine. Joy Molan is a second year English student who likes imitating Kate Bush à la Wuthering Heights while walking on the Downs (p.20-22). Maya Jones is also a second year English student and believes cheese should be fundamental to every meal, even breakfast (p.4-5). Sarah Fenton is a second year English student who can ice skate backwards and aims to own an alpaca one day. Elle May - not to be confused with Elle Woods - is a second year law student with a penchant for Katherine Mansfield and the rain.
Contributors Leyla Reynolds is a third year Politics student and a proactive campaigner against bylines (cover, p.7, p.31). Miriam Cocker somehow turns all her academic essays into feminist discourse and cooks the best sweet potato curry (p.1, p.20). Rachel May likes post-modern techno and is on Twitter @rachellilymay (p.2). Someone recently said she looks like she’s stuck in the year 1910. Others have dubbed her the glam rock Keats. Anachronisms abound: it’s Victoria C. Roskams (p.3). Amy Heley is a first year Modern Languages student who takes her dance inspiration from Drake’s ‘hotline bling’ and hates the tampon tax (p.6-7). All the way from America, Willa Bennett is mostly made up of crunchy peanut butter, California sunshine, and Drake lyrics (p.8-9, p.18-19, p.26-27). Alice Boyd is a third year Classical Studies student who follows the go hard or go home rule. By always staying at home (p.10-11). April Bates is a self-identifying neo-modern aerodynamic illuminati post-indie feminist (p.12-13).
Issue 10 - Winter 2015 Jodi Chiang has the grave responsibility of being the only third-year Singaporean psychologist here. Friends think she likes owls but sheâ€™s actually a turtle person (p.23-25). Jess Baxter is a second-year English student who enjoys long walks on the beach, gender equality and Masterchef (p.14-15). Billie Gavurin is a third year English and classical studies student. In her spare time, she enjoys dismantling the patriarchy and writing sonnets for her cat (p.23). Rowena Salmon is one of the campaigns officers for Bristol FemSoc and is in a relationship with pizza (p.30).
18 Celebrities Who Are Feminists Who Might Be Feminists Who Gives A Shit If They’re Feminist Who Give A Shit About Feminism 17 Of Whom Are Matt Damon Feminism Needs Celebrities Celebrities Need Feminism 62 Reasons Fame Makes You A Better Feminist 42 Reasons Fame Makes You A Worse Feminist Am I Famous How To Be A Celebrated Feminist A Celebrated Feminist Prioritises The Democracy Of The Email Newsletter Have You Heard My Feminist Podcast Yet Netflix Netflix Netflix Feminism My Mum On Facebook Feminism Like Empowering Millennials On Demand At Demand In Your Hand Feminism 18 Celebrities Who Are Feminists Who Might Be Feminists Who Gives A Shit If They’re Feminist Who Give A Shit About Feminism 17 Of Whom Are Matt Damon Feminism Needs Celebrities Celebrities Need Feminism 62 Reasons
Fame Makes You A Better Feminist 42 Reasons Fame Makes You A Worse Feminist Am I Famous How To Be
A Celebrated Feminist A Celebrated Feminist Prioritises The Democracy Of The Email Newsletter Have You Heard My Feminist Podcast Yet Netflix Netflix Netflix Feminism My Mum On Facebook Feminism Like Empowering Millennials On Demand At Demand In Your Hand Feminism 18 Celebrities Who Are Feminists Who Might Be Feminists Who Gives A Shit If They’re Feminist Who Give A Shit About Feminism 17 Of Whom Are Matt Damon Feminism Needs Celebrities Celebrities Need Feminism 62 Reasons Fame Makes You A Better Feminist 42 Reasons Fame Makes You A Worse Feminist Am I Famous How To Be A Celebrated Feminist A Celebrated Feminist Prioritises The Democracy Of The Email Newsletter Have You Heard My Feminist Podcast Yet Netflix Netflix Netflix Feminism My Mum On Facebook Like
Feminism Empowering Millennials On Demand At Demand In Your
Hand Feminism 18 Celebrities Who Are Feminists Who Might Be Feminists Who Gives A Shit If They’re Feminist Who Give A Shit About Feminism 17 Of Whom Are Matt Damon Feminism Needs Celebrities Celebrities Need Feminism 62 Reasons Fame
Makes You A Better Feminist 42 Reasons Fame Makes You A Worse Feminist Am I Famous How To Be A Celebrated Feminist A Celebrated Feminist Prioritises The Democracy Of The Email Newsletter Have You Heard My Feminist Podcast Yet Netflix Netflix Netflix Feminism My Mum On Facebook Feminism Like Empowering Millennials On Demand At Demand In Your Hand Feminism 18 Celebrities Who Are Feminists Who Might Be Feminists Who Gives A Shit If They’re Feminist Who Give A Shit About Feminism 17 Of Whom Are Matt Damon Feminism Needs Celebrities Celebrities Need Feminism 62 Reasons Fame Makes You A Better Feminist 42 Reasons Fame Makes You A Worse Feminist Am I Famous How To Be A Celebrated Feminist A Celebrated Feminist Prioritises The Democracy Of The Email Newsletter Have You Heard My Feminist Podcast Yet Netflix Netflix Netflix Feminism My Mum On Facebook Feminism Like Empowering Millennials On Demand At Demand In Your Hand Feminism 18 Celebrities Who Are Feminists Who Might Be Feminists Who Gives A Shit If They’re Feminist Who Give A Shit About
s 7 s 2 e e t n t s o m
e e t k n t e m e A t l x
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
DIFFERENT STROKES, NOT BY BLOKES Not tired of pop music? But tired of the same old guys with guitars? Here’s a handy list of heavy tunes with female vocalists, even some all-female bands, proving that girls can rock as hard as guys, if not harder.
X-Ray Spex - Oh Bondage Up Yours!
Siouxsie & the Banshees - Monitor
The Slits - Heard It Through The Grapevine
Hole - Celebrity Skin
Veruca Salt - Number One Blind
Garbage - Queer
PJ Harvey - Long Snake Moan
o m e A t
St. Vincent - Your Lips Are Red
Anna Calvi - Love Of My Life
Lush - Ladykillers
Elastica - Vaseline
Patti Smith - Kimberly
Grace Jones - Demolition Man
t A s u m t e m
Sonic Youth - The Ineffable Me
Grimes - Flesh Without Blood
Noun - Loveblood
Savages - She Will
e r o
s A t
Victoria roskams 3
That’s What She Said
discovering Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Until recently, I had never heard of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah had been sitting in the same spot on my bookshelf for over a year gathering dust and I had completely forgotten about its existence. Then three of my housemates began to relentlessly discuss her brilliance. I don’t like to be left out, so I picked it up. In a Guardian review, Elizabeth Day claimed that: ‘There are some novels that tell a great story and others that make you change the way you look at the world. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is a book that manages to do both.’ Indeed, the narrative is faultless. A beautiful love story that follows Ifemelu and Obinze as they attempt to reconcile with each other and their home Nigeria, it moves from country to country, character to character and yet never feels disjointed. Most importantly however, Americanah is a novel about race. It is because of this exploration that Day suggests Adichie’s book has the potential to change the way we look at the world. Through a series of blog posts entitled ‘Understanding America for the Non-American Black,’ Adichie directly challenges different modern and global attitudes to race. Much of these are central to feminism being intersectional, such as Adichie’s exploration of privilege and the myth of a ‘united league of the oppressed.’ Arguably, these blog posts sit too bluntly within the otherwise smooth narrative. Whilst the majority of the novel subtly explores modern attitudes to race, it is only within these blog posts that Adichie’s voice comes through Ifemelu to openly and unrestrainedly condemn and challenge such
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
attitudes. Yet through these posts, Adichie is forcing the reader to confront serious issues that are often brushed over; any discomfort from the reader only arises because of a truth resounding throughout these direct posts. As I am one of those obsessive readers, I finished Americanah quicker than I would have liked and she became, if possible after reading only one book, a literary favourite. A quick Google and I found that at 38, she is the author of three novels: Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and, of course, Americanah. Her poetry collection, Decisions, was published in 1997 when she was just 21 years old. Half of a Yellow Sun was recently named the ‘best of the best’ for the Bailey’s prize for women’s fiction. Then I watched her TED talk. I am always inspired by anyone who can stand in front of a room of people – and the internet – and deliver a speech that is so personal with confidence. For feminism is always personal, Adichie tells us this. She starts with an anecdote about the first time she was called a feminist in disgust by her friend and pretended she knew what that word meant; she finishes with a reference
to her great-grandmother, who ‘did not know the word feminist but it doesn’t mean that she wasn’t one.’ It is undeniably refreshing to watch somebody you admire adopt the label feminist. It would be a lie to say that my 11-year-old, Hermioneobsessed self did not jump for glee when Emma Watson did the same. So when Adichie stood in front of the Internet and declared herself a ‘Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men And Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men,’ I loved it. Adichie’s TED talk has now been condensed into a concise and interesting essay ‘We Should All Be Feminists,’ which explores what it means to her to be a woman and a feminist, in Nigeria. The essay now has a special place on our living room table and next time somebody labels me an ‘angry feminist’ I am going to quote Adichie:
‘I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry.’
That’s What She Said
Women in politics ELLE Magazine recently photoshopped all men out of political photographs, highlighting more than ever the sobering realisation that men dominate the political world. The fact that women are underrepresented in politics is not news to anyone, but the shocking extent of this absence of female participation is still widely avoided. We need to ask ourselves, how can we catalyse the push for equality in government in a political world so hostile to women? As of August 2015, there are only 13 women serving as heads of government and still 6 government chambers that have no women serving in them at all. And in all this, the UK is ranked 57th globally for gender equality in government, which frankly makes me question our country’s status as one of the most advanced in the world. The EHRC claims that it will take another 14 general elections to see gender parity in parliament, which is a claim we must not accept. The absence of women is hardly surprising when you consider that powerful figures such as Hillary Clinton get screamed at to ‘iron my shirt’ during speeches and Julia Gillard’s choice to not have children leaves her labeled as ‘barren.’ Or the fact that David Cameron told Angela Eagle to ‘calm down, dear’ when debating in the House of Commons and in the US,
Republican Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina faced abuse from Donald Trump who asked, ‘Look at that face, would anyone vote for that?’ Well, would any sane person vote for that attitude? I certainly hope not. It is hardly surprising therefore that so few women want a career in which they are so susceptible to such gross sexism on an everyday basis. But what is the country that has overcome all this and achieved the best gender parity in government? According to UN Women, it is not one of those ‘more developed’ countries you may be thinking of, but in fact the Rwandan government. When most people think of Rwanda, images of poverty and horrific genocide come to mind, yet in the area of female political representation, the country has excelled. Their impressive statistic of 64 per cent of parliamentary seats being held by women didn’t happen by itself however, and is in fact due to positive discrimination: by law, one third of parliamentary seats in Rwanda must be held by women. It’s had a dramatic effect and is perhaps the answer for everyone. Now in Rwanda, as many girls as boys get a primary and secondary education, maternal mortality has dramatically reduced and women have more rights to land and equality in marriage.
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
Illustration: Leyla Reynolds
world. Rousseff of Brazil, Bachelet of Chile and Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina are all proving that the patriarchal dictatorships of past centuries have no space in the 21st. Now, the new Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has set an example in naming the country’s first equal parliament. With 15 men and 15 women in the new Cabinet, the only justification he needed to give for this level of equality was: ‘it’s 2015.’ It’s as simple as that.
However controversial, positive discrimination in other countries will make sure a 50/50 quota is put in place and as a result, women’s issues are more likely to be acted upon. Most importantly, an equal representation in government will also inspire women, proving to them that there is space for them in the world of politics. Yet what’s interesting is that Rwanda is not the only part of the world considered underdeveloped, but with a high female participation in politics; in Latin America we can see a similar theme. Despite the cultural idea of ‘machismo,’ the region boasts the most women leaders of any continent in the
Perhaps, it’s time to implement positive discrimination around the world, as it seems the only way to ensure a balanced representation. One day, the hairstyle or outfit choice of a female politician will be deemed as simply not worth writing articles about. Instead, society will be engaged and interested in manifestos and debate from all politicians. I look forward to the day when the United Nations elect a female Secretary General, when every continent of the world has female heads of government and when all cabinets have an accurate gender representation. Most of all, I cannot wait for the day when young girls and women are not scared of politics and for the beginning of an all inclusive political world in which no one is told to ‘calm down,’ but is instead told to speak up.
Thatâ€™s What She Said
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
I always find it silly how most ballerinasâ€™ nervously bitten fingernails are just sharp enough to cut through their nylon tights ripping the light pink fabric vertically down their long boney legs, but I have always secretly loved the feeling of ripping my tights right before ballet class pretending it was an accident.
Then again, I am made of granola, my ballet teacherâ€™s correction for me to pull in my lower abdomen, blueberries eaten with a spoon, a mark on my knee from giving you my body last night, the other mark on my neck you left this morning even though you do not have the permission, my long hair I am still scared to cut because it grew to be so long with you, tears in my best friendâ€™s bed about you, and looks in the mirror where all I see are flaws and sadness and daydreams and visions of having less of me, but i am still here.
I do not know what it means to be in love but I know what it feels like to have my deepest thoughts completely inundated by you.
It is 10:45pm and I am thinking about the world from your eyes because your eyes think I am beautiful.
That’s What She Said
having bipolar and being a strong Woman is like Speaking Two Different Languages Have you ever been in a situation where you go to explain something, or remember that name of that song and you just can’t? And you click your fingers and grit your teeth and you stamp your foot. But you can’t remember and you have to just let go of that feeling until you figure out the answer? Have you ever had that experience every single time someone asks you about your mental disorder? I have. And it’s both soulcrushing and an encouragement of passionate and driven conversation at the same time. There are some phrases in other languages that just don’t translate well into English. They usually describe certain feelings you have over events that happen. They describe moods that make you throw your fist in the air with relief or kick yourself with frustration. That is how I feel when describing mental illness but trying to exude myself as a strong, confident, very Feminist woman.
Especially when in conversation with someone who has never had a tangible experience with it. There is a stigma around mental illness that suffocates people to the point that their illness becomes part of their identification. If I complete something because I spent 48 hours sat surrounded by caffeine, because I am obsessed with the idea of finishing it, it is seen as an accomplishment by some. By others an abnormal thing. If I disappear for a few days and retreat to my humble abode (dressed in several layers under a duvet, even when it is 20 degrees outside,) I am seen as someone who is automatically on a low period. It is not seen as a symptom of a behavioural trait that I may have. No matter how loudly I speak, my specific symptoms and ways I do things will always overshadow why I do things. They always overshadow what I create and what I feel, because how I do things irrelevantly, for whatever reason,
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
actually matters more to people. The point is, that no matter what actions I take, no matter why I choose to do something, it is always seen by those who are aware of my disorder as a symptom of an illness that is my ’identity.’ Because of this, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify as a strong, confident woman. Or even Feminist. How can I be a strong and confident woman who makes my own rational decisions, who without fail agrees with herself and her beliefs, who offers consistency to those who desire it? How can I accomplish that whilst being held back by a rollercoaster of emotions. At times I sit uneasy on my slingshot and I close my eyes as I feel the person behind me about to let go. And I wonder if it is two languages I speak or two people I become: the self-identified female and the hideaway girl. Sometimes the way I speak and act translates very differently to what I believe to my core. My relationships
with people tend to be difficult, ending turbulently, impulsively and hastily. Yet I am loyal and goodhearted and I wish to support others. I can be professional and reliable, but I can also be an unorganised, delusional mess of a communicator. I write because it is easier to edit what I say. That is one thing no one has ever taught me how to accomplish. How to be a strong, confident woman that does not have to identify with a disorder. It is both conflicting and comforting. Both frustrating and free. Both turbulent and tangible. This is a very romanticising article, which is ironic as it has been so emotionally detaching and frustrating to compose and publish. Thus, to be truly theatrical, I end this article as I dance around my room at 3am to ‘My Type’ by Saint Motel. Oh how sometimes the higher periods in my life give me a little bit of faith.
Alice Boyd 11
That’s What She Said
The forgotten women EMILY HOBHOUSE Who: Emily Hobhouse was a welfare campaigner who revealed the terrible conditions in British concentration camps in South Africa during the Second Boer War. Bio: Hobhouse was home educated and lived with her parents, caring for her sick father until she was 35. In 1900 she formed the Relief Fund for South African Women and Children. Appalled by what she had heard about the treatment of women and children in war-torn South Africa, Hobhouse was inspired to go and report on the conditions in the British concentration camps which were housing South African civilians. Her report on the disease, lack of food and unsanitary conditions in the camps lead to disquiet in Britain. In 1901, the government created the Fawcett Commission to independently investigate the claims of abuses. Its confirmation of Emily’s reports lead to control of the camps being handed to a civil authority, ultimately leading to a dramatic decrease of deaths in the camps and potentially thousands of lives being saved. In 1921, a group of South African activists raised £2,300 and sent it to Hobhouse as a pension, in recognition of the work that she had done for them during the Boer War.
LISE MEITNER Who: Meitner was a Jewish physicist who battled gender prejudice, managed to escape Nazi persecution and conducted pioneering work that lead to the development of nuclear fission. Bio: Upon graduation, Meitner was the second woman in Vienna to ever achieve a physics doctorate. She arranged to assist her contemporary, Otto Hahn, in his experiments on radiation but, as a woman, was not allowed to work in the Chemical Institute in his laboratory. Instead, she was forced to equip a carpenter’s workshop for her research. She was then the first woman to be permitted to watch the lectures of famous physicist Max Planck, before serving as his assistant for three
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
years. When Hitler came to power, Meitner was working as the head of physics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. She chose to ignore what was happening around her and was partially protected by her Austrian nationality. However, when Germany invaded Austria in 1938, her passport and German visa both became meaningless. She was forced to flee to Sweden, with only an hour and a half to pack her belongings. She continued to do pioneering research on radiation and was arguably passed over for the Nobel Prize for that work in 1944. She retired in 1960 and moved to the UK, where most of her relatives had been displaced.
NOOR INAYAT KHAN Who: During World War II, Khan was the first woman radio operator to be sent to Nazi occupied France to aid the French Resistance. Bio: Noor Inayat Khan was born in Moscow, in Russia. After the outbreak of the First World War, her family moved away from Russia and settled between London and Paris, with Khan studying Child Psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris. When France was invaded by Germany in 1940, her family fled to Britain and settled in Cornwall. Despite being influenced by the pacifist ideas of her father, she was inspired to join the WAAF (Womenâ€™s Auxiliary Air Force) in part to prove what women of colour could achieve in wartime. By 1942, Khan had been recruited to Special Operations as a radio operator, but her senior officers were sceptical about her deployment in the secret service and her training was never fully completed. However, her fluency in French and skill as a radio operator meant she was sent to occupied Paris in 1934 to transmit back intelligence from undercover agents in the city. In the following month there was a huge round up of British service personnel in Paris and she was left the only radio operator working there, labouring to keep the intelligence network in Paris intact. She was forced to keep moving constantly to avoid capture, with wireless detection vans searching the streets for her and armed officers looking for women of her appearance. In 1943, Khan was betrayed and captured. She was tortured by the Gestapo, but never revealed information and consistently lied to her jailers. Unfortunately, the Germans retrieved information from her notebooks. In September 1944, she was taken to Dachau concentration camp and was executed. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross five years later.
That’s What She Said
Four Feminist Indie Bands that will Rock Your Socks If you found yourself reeling in shock from the tragic gender imbalance of Reading Festival’s 2015 line-up: do not despair. Even though the indie scene is teeming with a plethora of skinny, longhaired boys with bad postures, there are some amazing woman artists amongst the all-too-common indie boy bands. So buckle up and tighten your seatbelts ladies, here are some all-feminist, alllovely indie bands that can be sprinkled on your Spotify playlist.
Girlpool sing about crying in the rain, punching boys who don’t shut up and not crossing their legs like ladies should. The drummerless duo of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad came into being when the girls felt that the oppression of the male-dominated music scene pushed them aside and undervalued their artistic creativity. Released last year, their fantastic self-titled album is beautiful and melodic and addresses issues like slut-shaming, cheating ex-boyfriends and the struggle of asking for oral sex while watching American Beauty. Amazing.
They’re here, they’re queer and they are music to your ears. Bianca and Sierra are two sisters who craft spectral, magical, sparkling music about witches, werewolves and Shaman women. A must-listen is ‘Childbride’, a harrowing story about a five-year-old girl married off to an adult man, inspired by the many real-life events happening all the time in so many cultures.
What they sound like: Shrill, raw, energetic and sunny tunes enveloped in sing-song nursery rhyme harmonies that can be and should be played full-volume in your car.
Concert-wise, Bianca identifies as queer and often performs in drag, pencilling in a moustache or dressing like the progeny of a Pre-Raphaelite goddess and a pirate. Overall: 10/10. What they sound like: You’re on horseback. It’s midnight. The desert winds are blowing wildflower-scented veils from your strong, sunburnt body. It smells like incense for some reason and panflutes and drums are playing softly in the distance.
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
3) Chastity Belt They have a song called ‘Pussy Weed Beer’. What more could you possibly want from a band? Nothing. What they sound like: For fans of soft, crashy, hazy songs about girl power and empathy of feeling lame at parties.
4) Tacocat Is catcalling a harmless and effective way to compliment a woman on the street? Are you worried by the rise of misandry in today’s society? Do you think vaginas are gross? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you probably won’t like Tacocat. You probably shouldn’t be perusing a feminist society magazine, either. Anyway, Tacocat are a real treat for your ears. Their song ‘Crimson Wave’ is a period-positive, surfergirl hit that is perfect for blasting out on a cool, sunny day. What they sound like: Being in a fluorescently lit ice-cream shop in LA that sells icecream in flavours like Skittles, cherry cola and hyperrealism.
5) Little Comets Admittedly, there are no girls in this music group. Little Comets is made up of three white males (in the indie music scene? Shocking! Completely unheard of!), but their lyrics are consistently tinged with feminism: a positive, male-based feminism that doesn’t obstruct the voice of women. Their song called ‘The Blur, the Line and the Thickest of Onions’ satirises the poetic pop hit we all know and love by Robin Thicke. The Comets dig at the patriarchal state: ‘You write about a non-existent blurred line/ But not about abortion rights.’ What they sound like: Upbeat yet nostalgic, it feels like you can take down the patriarchy and dance at the same time. There you have it. The next time someone tells you there can’t possibly be more girl bands on festival line-ups because there aren’t any, hit them with these 4 gold nuggets of delicious indie tunes.
That’s What She Said
A talk from Nawal El Saadawi at school as the reason: if their son wasn’t going to be successful, maybe their daughter would.
‘I wrote one of my best books in prison on toilet paper, smuggled by a prostitute and written with her eyebrow pencil.’
Eventually, her parents, simultaneously both traditional and progressive, decided she would go to medical school and, although she continued to write, keeping a diary all her life, El Saadawi’s career path turned medical as she became first a chest surgeon and then a psychiatrist. It is this career path that has undoubtedly influenced many of El Saadawi’s beliefs.
Nawal el Saadawi is fierce, in the best possible way. When she walks into the auditorium at the Bristol Festival of Ideas it is clear she is not someone to be messed with; her unalterable, unashamed, unflinching nature comes from years of standing up for herself. ‘I was a very angry child,’ is one of the first things she says. ‘Sometimes I had to beat boys in the street… so they were afraid of me.’ Her use of the words ‘had to’ is telling; El Saadawi sees standing up for herself, and for other women, not as an option, but as a necessity. Refusing to be intimidated, El Saadawi has spent a lifetime battling against the injustice she faces for ‘being born a girl.’ Growing up in rural Egypt, El Saadawi’s parents wanted her to marry at the age of 10. El Saadawi changed their minds. She cites her brother’s failure
Most notably, it was her exploration of the psychological problems linked to oppressive cultural practices that led to her decision to never perform a circumcision, either female or male, during her years as a doctor. What makes El Saadawi’s brand of feminism so important is this intersectional focus, this determination to address not just sexism, but what she considers all debilitating aspects of society, primarily religion and capitalism. It would be easy to reel off El Saadawi’s career: she is the founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, worked for the Ministry of Health in Egypt, is the founder of the Health Education Association and the Egyptian Women Writer’s Association, is the author of many books and the winner of many prizes. But the only way
Issue 10 - Winter 2015 to truly understand her, to get a glimpse of the woman behind these titles, is to hear her speak.
30 per cent of girls don’t bleed on their wedding night because of their hymens, but are killed regardless as they are assumed unvirginal.
Only through hearing her speak can one truly understand her message that ‘women’s issues are not separable from global issues.’ For example, she refuses to accept the practice of circumsision regardless of gender. This is on the grounds that both practices stem from religious beliefs and go ‘against common sense’; it is not ‘common sense’ to cut a child, who, can die of bleeding and infection as a result.
In 1981, El Saadawi helped publish a feminist magazine called Confrontation. She was consequently imprisoned for talking about ‘taboos’: sexual, political and religious taboos, the taboos she is still having to address. El Saadawi points out that she’s been censored by Channel 4, by CNN, by New York Times: she is censored even now. She explains that because all governments are the same, all governments are against what she says.
As someone who was a victim of FGM herself and a doctor who witnessed it first hand, El Saadawi provides a voice of reason on this subject. FGM also proves her main belief: that women’s oppression cannot be separated from that of capitalism and religion. El Saadawi uses circumcision, a primarily religious tradition, to prove that there is no morality in religion. After all, she expands, morality can only occur alongside equality and this is impossible considering the double standards for men and women in every religion.
If her words do anything, it is reminding the audience, watching her in undeniable awe, that the progress we have made is minimal. Misogyny, whether merely internalised or open, exists in all and any societies, and breaking free from this is more than just abolishing sexism.
‘Women are oppressed in all countries, because we live in one world.’ That is, El Saadawi confirms, one capitalist and patriarchal world. El Saadawi’s words have not always been met with support. They still aren’t. Her 1972 book about sex lost her a job at the Ministry of Health in Egypt. It explained that
For years a campaigner against FGM and the voice of Egyptian feminism, at 84 years old El Saadawi shows no sign of losing her formidable self. In a recent Guardian she affirms this point: ‘I have noticed that writers, when they are old, become milder. But for me it is the opposite. Age makes me more angry.’ It looks, then, like we can expect a lot still to come from El Saadawi.
Thatâ€™s What She Said
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
my uncut Something
In my dream last night, all my hair fell out. I woke up to a blade of grass in my shoe. I think she may have left it there on purpose.
She whispered to me, â€œlove is sick,â€? then asked me if I thought if I was straight while licking my belly button. I said, yes. She fell in love again the day we broke up.
I have been starting to think that if someone calls you pretty enough times while looking you straight in the eye, you will start to think it is Something. It will feel expansive in your chest getting larger and larger until even your darkest daydreams will be bombarded by their eyelashes and the tone of her voice as she says it to you softly pulling you into her collarbone.
I swore I felt Something that night. The next morning we pretended to sleep in uncut grass. she asked me to be her girlfriend, grabbed my long hair and offered to chop it all off for me. I wonder if she knows how much she took from me.
That’s What She Said
Illustration: Miriam Cocker
How do I respond when I see sexual assault in public?
Earlier this year a member of the TWSS team was the victim of sexual assault. With one in five women in the UK experiencing sexual violence during their life, it was sadly only a matter of time. “I was on my way for a night out in London with my sister. We were on a busy carriage of a well-lit train. As we pulled into a station a male stranger got on, stroking my thigh as he sat down next to me. I didn’t notice at first
as I was facing the other way and talking to my sister, but she had seen it and told me what he had done. Confused, I ignored it at first, thinking it might have been a mistake. Maybe he had accidentally brushed against me. But then he carried on reaching over, stroking up my thigh towards my crotch in a suggestive way. He didn’t stop when I confronted him. Luckily the guard entered the carriage at that point and I managed to get his attention. He then called the police.”
Issue 10 - Winter 2015 “I feel lucky. Lucky that I was not alone, that the guard had been there at that time and that there was CCTV evidence to support my claim. I was even luckier that someone who witnessed the assault was willing to give a statement to the police, as their support gave weight to my voice and led to a conviction. I know that most victims aren’t so lucky and if no one had been there to support me I would have felt completely powerless.”
believed or indeed not realising that the incident legally constituted assault,” explains Chloë Maughan, the University of Bristol Women’s Officer. The Metropolitan Police’s legal definition of sexual assault is as follows: ‘A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent.’ By this definition, unwanted groping in clubs, inappropriate, unwanted touching on a train and any other form of unconsented sexual touching anywhere legally constitutes sexual assault.
Bystanders’ voices are essential to tackling sexual assault on public transport, in our nightclubs and on our streets. Here is our advice on ways of intervening safely if you witness a sexual assault in public.
A clearer understanding of this definition is crucial to helping victims, and in turn bystanders, identify and challenge inappropriate behaviour.
Although each case of assault is different and appropriate responses will vary, we hope our suggestions can empower you to lend your voice and support to victims of an all too common and deeply distressing crime.
2. Say Something
1. Take It Seriously The statistics are astounding: one in five women have experienced sexual assault, with this statistic escalating in the case of transgender and bisexual women, of whom around half experience sexual violence in their lifetimes. And if you want to narrow your focus to just students, statistics show that one in three UK women students are sexually assaulted or abused on campus. “Frequently incidents like this go unreported, often because of people fearing they won’t be
Turning a blind eye can exacerbate a victim’s sense of isolation and vulnerability and sends the message that sexual assault should just be tolerated. Speaking up against assault challenges this normalisation of sexual violence and shows victims that they are not alone. Julia Gray from anti-harassment group Hollaback London explains that, ‘providing affirmation that it’s not okay and you’re on the victim’s side is a powerful way to support them and help them to recover.’
If, for example, you witness someone being groped in a
That’s What She Said club, Julia suggests approaching the victim: ‘Maybe pretend like you know them to deter the other person. Offer them help, ask them if there’s anything you can do and if they’re okay. Maybe tell them you saw the incident and you’re sorry it happened, it shouldn’t have happened. Offer to go to the bar manager, or wait with them until they get a cab, or until the person who groped them has left’.
A final note from TWSS Ultimately, any steps bystanders take should be respectful and supportive of the victim’s wishes, with the victim’s safety given the greatest consideration. While we hope that our advice gives you the confidence and awareness to intervene next time you see someone molested in a club or groped on a train, we ask you to remember that public incidents of assault are only the tip of the iceberg. With most attacks happening behind closed doors and with 90 per cent of victims knowing the perpetrator, we must not fall into the trap of viewing attackers purely strangers in dark alleyways.
3. (Maybe) Report It If you do witness a physically violent sexual assault you should report it immediately to the police: bystanders can support victims’ decisions to go to the police by providing a witness statement, adding weight to their claim and ensuring there are repercussions for attackers. However, it is important to remember that not all victims of assault will want to contact the police and some may not feel ready to go to the police for days or weeks after the incident, perhaps longer. No matter how much you may want to persuade a victim to report the incident to the police, it is important to recognise that each experience of assault is personal and, as such, there isn’t really a true narrative of what a victim should do. If a victim doesn’t immediately want to contact the police, you can offer them your contact details as they will need your witness account if they later decide to go to the police.
Sexual assault can happen to anyone of any age, gender, race and background at any time and in any place. And the most important thing is that we support victims in dealing with their assault on their own terms. Most importantly, TWSS would like to open our arms to anyone who has experienced sexual assault. We offer everyone a platform for their voice to be heard, but we can also be used as a point of confidential guidance for anyone struggling, pointing you in the direction of help in your time of need.
This is a condensed version of this article. To see our full advice, please visit twssmagazine.com.
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
Gender in Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), as two of the five highest-earning films in Japan to date, have unique cultural resonance and impact. It is often suggested that they, like most of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, are empowering and progressive as far as gender portrayals are concerned. While both films feature a strong female protagonist (Chihiro in Spirited Away and Sophie in Howl’s Moving Castle), such a claim bears further analysis. First, Chihiro and Sophie are significantly less powerful than their male coutnerparts. While Haku and Howl can fly and metamorphosise (into a dragon and a bird-like creature respectively), Chihiro and Sophie are human. The males are in positions of authority: the workers at the bathhouse refer to Haku with a respectful honorific (sama as opposed to san); Howl is master of the castle and known as one of the best sorcerers alive. On the other hand, Chihiro and Sophie are in positions of servitude, working as an odd-jobber in the bathhouse and as Howl’s cleaner. The dominance of the male characters over the female is
symbolised by scenes of rescue. Early in the film, Haku appears out of the blue and warns Chihiro to leave the amusement park. Later, he finds her in the shadow of a house with her head in her arms, a fading figure juxtaposed against the bustle and lights of the town, his arrival like a beacon of light. Ostensibly, Chihiro only lived because Haku found, fed, and instructed her. This balance of power might however be attributed to context rather than weakness on Chihiro’s part — it is surely normal to feel a degree of panic after the discovery that your previously-human parents have transformed into pigs. Similarly, the audience first meets Howl when he literally swoops in to whisk Sophie away from soldiers who were harassing her. The second time he rescues Sophie, she is meeting Madame Suliman, the King’s Head Sorceress, on his behalf. When Madame Suliman tries to trap him and Sophie in a parallel universe, Howl flies them through the roof and onto a flying machine that carries them away. Interestingly, these rescues are deliberate changes to the novel of the same name
That’s What She Said That’s What She Said by Dianna Wynne Jones. In the novel, Howl himself harasses Sophie rather than anonymous soldiers, and Sophie has magical powers that may enable her to save herself. These changes suggest that the film’s narrative had been designed to establish the power relations between the two and further entrench Howl’s role as the archetypical Prince Charming. Although the apparent balance of power between the protagonists aligns with traditional gender roles in Japan, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle suggest that such power can be circumscribed and is hence weaker than the unlimited capacity of the human heart. On their own, Haku and Howl are unable to obtain what they most
desire: Haku wants to remember his true name, be free of Yubaba, and reclaim his identity, whilst Howl wants to end the war, protect the people he cares about, and regain his heart. Eventually, human and arguably feminine forms of power save the day. Chihiro and Sophie get what they need with kindness and ingenuity; they delve inward into the realms of memory and selfhood, releasing Haku and Howl from the forces that had shackled them. For example, Chihiro’s kindness leads No-Face to aid her in obtaining soap tokens, which she uses to clean a stink spirit who was shunned by others. Out of gratitude, the stink spirit gifts her a dumpling. Chihiro feeds part of it to Haku, purging
Illustration: Billie Gavurin
Issue 10 - Winter 2015 Issue 10 - Winter 2015 the slug that Yubaba was using to control him, and part of it to NoFace, who regurgitates members of the bathhouse and ends his wanton destruction. Later, Chihiro intuits Haku’s real name from a memory she shares with him, entirely releasing him from Yubaba, and her love for Haku also set the scene for the negotiation with Yubaba to return Chihiro and her family to the human world. In Howl’s Moving Castle, Sophie delves into Howl’s memory to learn what she needs to do. Her pleading wins over the Witch of the Waste, who was holding on to Howl’s heart, and she brings Howl back to life. Sophie inadvertently ends the ongoing war by kissing Turniphead after he sacrifices his pole to save the group. Playing on the trope of true love’s kiss, this returns Turniphead to his original form: the Crown Prince whose disappearance started the war. Interestingly, both Haku and Howl are subject to more powerful females who serve as antagonists in the narrative. Haku is bound to Yubaba as her apprentice because he forgot his name, and effectively has to do her bidding. Howl, once-apprenticed to Madame Suliman, has yet to completely leave her grasp — “That woman terrifies me,” he says, “I can’t face her on my own!” The Witch of the Waste is also a menacing figure, although she is eventually defanged by Madame Suliman, dangerous only in her childishly obsessive pursuit of Howl’s heart. The fact that
powerful women are portrayed as antagonists may reflect increasing anxieties about the changing role of women as they gain power in the working world. Such women are often seen as strange and dangerous intrusions into masculinity; independent women with power have historically been portrayed as evil witches in folk and fairy tales. Grotesque representations of such women, as embodied in Yubaba and the Witch of the Waste, might serve as a continuing mechanism of social control to discourage aspirations to power and seemingly-masculine behaviour. A final comment: the burdens that fall on Chihiro and Sophie, who are effectively adolescent girls (shōjo), are so heavy that they seem to imply a woman can accomplish positively everything. She can and ought to save the world (stop No Face’s wanton destruction of the bathhouse in Spirited Away and end the war in Howl’s Moving Castle), rescue her male partner, accomplish personal growth, and keep the house clean all at the same time — the last two points are not discussed in detail here, but are integral to both films. It is unclear if this portrayal of success is most reasonably viewed as a form of empowerment or as the imposition of further unrealistic standards, and may be differ depending on the viewer.
Thatâ€™s What She Said
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
The American Dream
I am one meal away from telling you how I feel about you. This is probably why I have not eaten in two days.
When I was in the hospital this summer the nurse looked me in the eye, removed my clothing, and asked me why I would do this to myself because “[I] am beautiful.”
Now you take off my shirt and ask me about America. We talk about red cup parties. We do not converse about how hard it is to be a girl in a country that talks about ovaries on national television. We do not speak about guns, catcalling, or beauty standards. I forget to mention how it feels to be living in a body that often feels like a politician’s battleground.
You whisper that you think I am beautiful. I challenge you.
I am eating peanut butter on both sides of my toast trying to figure out how you feel about me back, but I still do not know what being beautiful has to do with any of this.
That’s What She Said
FemSoc Refugee Campaign The refugee crisis that has swamped newsstands and social media alike since this summer was on the minds of many students as they returned to university life this September. Yet while we are certainly the privileged few, catastrophes like these can help us to recognise and utilise our privilege; the crisis has engaged people from all backgrounds and forced them to rethink their stance on the UK’s immigration policy. Now, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, many people retain the view that the solution here is to close our borders to refugees. But this view is based on an impressive level of bullshit. Although the ultimate solutions to crises such as these may lie in the hands of politicians who daren’t act on them, there are plenty of people who are focusing on providing some kind of support for the refugees our government refuses to help. So how can we use our privilege? As campaigns officer for Bristol FemSoc, I thought I must be able to do something; we must be able to do something. Engaging with grass roots refugee aid movements on Facebook, I was inspired by all the wonderful people collecting in their communities, organising convoys of donations, offering skills for actions in the UK and helping
out in camps across Europe. However, amongst a plethora of requests for necessities, one essential item was frustratingly lacking: sanitary products. Periods seem to be quite on trend in this country: the tampon tax, free-bleeding marathon runners and a growing awareness of the needs of menstruating homeless people in the UK – so why aren’t we thinking about the menstrual needs of women refugees? Under the campaign Pads for Refugees, Bristol FemSoc are going to be collecting sanitary towels to send to camps in southern Europe for menstruating asylum seekers. We are in conversation with members of a grassroots group Refugee Aid and will be distributing our donations with local groups in Lesvos, Greece and/or Slavonski Brod, Croatia. And we want you to help. There will be bins around campus for collecting sanitary products. We ask for pads rather than tampons as there can be cultural issues and we don’t want to endanger any women to TSS. We will be hosting a wonderful Period Party, fundraising for this campaign and a women’s group a society member is linked with in Bangladesh. We can’t wait to see you there.
Issue 10 - Winter 2015
Leyla Reynolds 29
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Winter 2015 - The Official Journal of the Bristol University Feminist Society