That's What She Said #11

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That’s What She Said

editors Departing senior editor Clara Vlessing will sorely miss TWSS and everything it stands for. Also a departing editor, Lucy Stewart spends most of her time doing this mag and wishes she could do it forever. Joy Molan likes watching old Louis Theroux documentaries and laughing at her own jokes. Maya Jones likes watching Louis Theroux documentaries with Joy. Sarah Fenton has a passion for conspiracy theories, orginal hula hoops and mint chocolate ice cream. Elle May enjoys footnoting and being patronised.

Miriam cocker

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contributors Leyla Reynolds is a final year Politics student, a daily exercise in ethnic ambiguity and an unerringly active participant of the Danny Dyer fan club (cover, p.16, p.29). Miriam Cocker enjoys knitting, cooking and dismantling patriarchal ideals of domestic femininity (p.1). Willa Bennett is two parts Female, one part honey (p.2-1, p.8-9, p.18-19). Rosie Okumbe and Rachel May created a feminist crossword (p.4). Imogen Thomas’s ambition in life is to become that persons with all the cats. So far she’s on five (p.6-7). First year English student Naomi Adedokun is deeply in love with girl power and still confused as to where to put a semi-colon (p.10-11, p.20-21). Victoria C. Roskams spends an unreasonable amount of time eating cereal and envisioning the Romantic poets as a modern-day boyband (p.12). Lille Allen is working on taking over her very famous name. Making funky doodles is probably not the best way to do so, but she’ll keep trying (p.13). Bristol’s very own Women’s Officer Chloë Maughan can often be found updating her dog spotting diary on Brandon Hill (p.14-16). Maddie Burton is currently Campaigns Offiicer for FemSoc and incoming President. Despite spending most of her time designing posters about vaginas, her LinkedIn profile is now rated ‘expert’ (p.17). On her Tinder profile, Amy Finch pretends to be the founder of That’s What She Said magazine. Read her account of protesting at Yarl’s Wood (p.22-25). Kate Dickinson can be commonly found under a blanket, where she is at her most comfortable doodling and/or watching David Attenborough (p.22-25). Jess Baxter is very similar to a raspberry: sweet, tasty and slightly hairy (p.26-28).


That’s What She Said


Issue 11 - Summer 2016


a friend from home says i look skinnier these days from pictures on the internet. i wonder if that is all she sees.

i guess you could say i am taller now.

i only feel lonely when i am followed home in Greece, asked to pull my shirt down for free entry, told to be softer.

it is kind of like living stuck in that feeling right when you are about to cry, but you are in a public place so you take a deep breath and swallow it

so instead, i double knot my shoes and walk home in the cold. My intoxication is not an invitation for you to touch my precious limbs.

i am constantly reminding myself to not take the moon’s smirk too personally, I guess you should call me all grown up now.


That’s What She Said

DOWN: 1.‘Henry Ford Hospital’, 1932, Frida

Rachel & Rosie’s crossword

2.She’s Redefining Realness 3.Disney star, featured in Beyoncé’s latest visual album, Lemonade 4.Bristol alum, check out her Bloody Chamber 5.Kaur, Milk & Honey: “i was music / but you had your ears cut off” (2014) 6.Who is sexing the cherry now, Jeanette? 7.She Can’t and she Won’t, Davis 8.Popularised the term ‘intersectionality’ 9.2014’s Citizen 10.Lovelace known for work on the Analytical Engine 11.Whose gaze? Male gaze! Mulvey who popularised theory


IV.Chandra Mohanty, 1984, Under [these] Eyes V.Brand of combined oral contraceptive seen in Emin’s ‘My Bed’ VI.bell hooks asks us to have The Will To… VII.Toni Morrison, 1970, The Bluest…

I.Bad Feminist, Hunger

VIII.She loves Dick: Semiotext(e) author

II.We Can All Be Feminists: “we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller”

IX.Plath under the Bell Jar: “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because

III.The God of Small Things, Arundhati


couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.” X.Late great architect, Pritzker Prize winner Hadid XI.So Long A Letter, Mariama XII.Why Are There No Great Women Artists, Linda? XIII.The best kind of Simz; rapper behind “Why don’t they like seeing women in charge? / Shit I’ve seen left me mentally scarred”

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that’s what she said’s alternative sex education In March we hosted our Alternative Sex Ed Week focusing on sex education we weren’t taught in schools, such as non-heteronormative sex and abusive relationships. Here are some of the responses we received on Twitter.


That’s What She Said

What Feminists Can Learn From Queer Theory

Both feminist theory and queer theory focus on meeting the dominant culture and systems of oppression with defiance. Both challenge patriarchal and heteronormative forces. These similarities are unsurprising: queer theory owes a lot to feminist theory. But since it sprang out of queer studies and feminism in the 1970s, queer theory has developed our understanding of gender and sexuality and it now has much to give back to feminism. So here are three things which feminists can learn from the field.

Don’t assimilate, agitate The Queer Nation Manifesto says that being queer is: ‘not about the mainstream, profit-margins, patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It’s not about executive directors, privilege or elitism. It’s about being on the margins, defining ourselves.’ Queer theory challenges assimilationist attitudes which suggest that, if LGBTQIA+ people are able to be integrated into the systems which currently oppress them, they will be equal. For example, while acknowledging that same-sex marriage is a good


starting point, queer theorists would call into question the power dynamics of the whole institution of marriage, not just the position of LGBTQIA+ individuals within it. Though LGBTQIA+ individuals may well wish to marry, and this right should be fought for, effort should also be put into challenging the historical and present-day misogyny and heteronormativity of marriage. Emphasis should be on criticising the heteronormative model, not simply emulating it. Women need to be more represented in most political and social structures, but we shouldn’t just focus on assimilation without also interrogating the system as a whole, which is rigged not just against women, but against LGBTQIA+ people, people of colour, disabled people and other marginalised individuals. Why strive to make women equal to men when not all men are equal? Focusing merely on integrating into existing patriarchal structures runs the risk of giving more attention to fighting for the rights of ablebodied, white, cis, heterosexual women. Queer and feminist attitudes both demand an intersectional, not just assimilationist, approach.

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Reassess, redefine, reinvent Queer theory does not sit still. It is constantly developing and it is not fixed. Feminist theory has come a long way from its gender-essentialist starting points, but there is always further to go. As Barbara Johnson says, ‘any discourse that is based on the questioning of boundary lines must never stop questioning its own.’ As feminists, we must learn from, but also transcend the ideas of, those who came before us. For example, whatever may be said for Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, feminists must make a firm stand against her transphobia. As José Esteban Muñoz says, ‘the future is queerness’s domain,’ and feminism, too, has more to gain from looking forward than harking back.

We don’t need to rebrand This one’s more something I’ve learnt form queer urban culture than queer theory. It’s often much better to embrace standing out than to struggle to fit in. Gregory Woods puts it perfectly in his ‘Notes on Queer’: ‘queer culture wastes no time in projecting ‘positive’ images; it reclaims and takes pride in negative images.’ We could dance around forever redefining ourselves whenever the dominant culture condemns us, but we’re always going to be subversive and a threat to that culture, so we’re never going

to win on its terms. It’s ‘smash the patriarchy,’ not pander to it. Outreach to misogynist men does have its place on the feminist agenda, but the women’s movement as a whole does not need to change to be palatable to its oppressors. Conceding to misogynists isn’t going to get you very far. Of course the patriarchy is hostile to feminism. We are hostile to it. Homophobia is the fault of the homophobe, not a problem with the image of the LGBTQIA+ movement. Similarly, sexists failing to change their ways is not down to the word ‘feminism’ needing replacing. It’s down to an entrenched system of oppression and a lack of education on women’s issues. As feminists, we need to be aware of issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community. Not only are they key to intersectional feminism (for example, the UN found that 23 per cent of non-heterosexual women in 2014 experienced physical or sexual violence by non-partner perpetrators as opposed to five per cent of heterosexual women), but the fundamental principles feminism is founded on apply to marginalised sexualities too. Both LGBTQIA+ activists and feminists aim to save lives and avoid violence towards vulnerable groups, working towards socio-political, personal and economic rights for all. With so many common aims, much can be gained from learning from each other’s theory.


imogen thomas

That’s What She Said


Issue 11 - Summer 2016

goose eggs

I. The womb was never warm enough for me. That’s why I like alcohol. II. as a child, i was always mesmerized by families who sat around the table during supper. the children were told how to eat properly with cutlery, and how to hold the knife so they would cut their food without making any noise against their plates. i knew how to use cutlery too. i sat across from another one of my mother’s boyfriends imagining what i would do if i was just a bit older. III. it is 4:05 am and i think intimacy can be reduced to a series of moments when you feel like an unborn child not yet touched by human hands. but since you’re held in the first moments of being born, the rest of your life is spent trying to not feel so alone. IV. i think there are goose eggs in my belly. i’m sorry if this makes you think of me any differently. I am just far away from home.


That’s What She Said

lady writers for the soul

Do you love poetry, but hate John Donne and his stupid, smug face? This list is right up your alley: a collection, in no particular order, of some of the lovely lady writers that have captured my heart. Perfect for any occasion, especially when you’re tired of the literary canon being too white and male.

1. Maya Angelou

2. Warsan Shire

Let’s start off easy. Chances are that Maya Angelou’s one of the only black female poets that your curriculum would allow you to study back in school. At the very least, her name is recognisable. After her sad passing in 2014, I binged heavily on Angelou, and found that I’d been taking her for granted this entire time.

If you’ve been exploring Beyoncé’s Lemonade recently (and who hasn’t?!), you’ll probably have come across Warsan’s name by now. Not to sound too hipster, guys, but I definitely knew her before she was ‘cool.’ So imagine my surprise when I find out that it’s her poetry that’s featured heavily in the film! She’s all about making girls feel good about being girls. The message is constantly to realise your worth and embrace it. Warsan loves her ladies, and it shows.

She’s chicken soup for the soul. And I don’t mean that in a fluffy sense, no, rather that she’s the healing after the hurt. The part of you that forgives. Comforting.

‘Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.’

‘I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish-speaking, Native American and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you.’

- Telling My Mother How to Give Birth READ: Well, watch Lemonade to hear Warsan’s work narrated by Beyoncé (wow what a time to be alive). And read ‘For Women Who Are Difficult to Love’ for those times when you feel like you are too much (spoiler alert: you’re not).

- Preface of Letter to My Daughter READ: ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ if you want the best life advice ever. Letter to My Daughter if you want to cry about mums and mother figures and motherdaughter relationships.


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3. Clementine von Radics Acceptance is the last stage of grief. To reach this, you should read Clementine von Radics. She’s brutally candid in her approach, but you appreciate it. You accept that you are enough.

5. Salma Deera Salma is a teacher, but completely different to Maya. If Angelou is a lecture you can comfortably sit in and enjoy, no worries, Deera is your tutorial. Except there’s only you and her in the room, and every time she asks you a question, she expects you to answer. What my Dad would call ‘an angry feminist.’

‘Sit there in your ugly and revel in it. Be the ugliest thing in the room so what. You are still in the room.’ - ‘A Manifesto’ READ: As Often As Miracles for when you want to be punched in the gut and then kissed on the lips.

4. Lidia Yuknavitch This is not your mother’s poet. She traces young women’s developing sexuality, and the discovery of bisexuality. ‘That image of Joan of Arc burning up in a fire burned inside me like a new religion. Her face skyward. Her faith muscled up like a holy war. And always the voice of a father in her head. Like me. Jesus. What is a thin man pinned to wood next to the image of a burning woman warrior ablaze? I took the image of a burning woman into my heart and left belief to the house of father forever.’ - The Chronology of Water READ: The Chronology of Water is a memoir for the ages. Dora: A Headcase giving the voiceless a voice.


‘see, you will rise. and are you less of a woman for this? no what is woman? woman is this–enduring. listen girl, you will survive this–you will. but what fool said you had to do it silently? here is a tip–scream’ — Medea gives advice to a young girl with a broken heart, Letters from Medea READ: Letters from Medea if you love mythology allusions and images of girls clawing their way through the earth.


That’s What She Said

I Won’t Not for a jot: I won’t do it. I won’t be a soundbite in the dark For him to tell over coasters, table-tops, Over the counter, over the bar, Over the wall I’ll look. I will Find my pound of flesh in the end. Something I can fashion with my hands, Artless I know, but into features of men By which I mean us too, “why, Our language is always thinking of you Our greetings-cards say it, our magazines say it,” It’s a shame none of your policies do. If I dress to the nines like her will I stop Looking at myself through your eyes? Looking at myself through sore eyes, I tell you, It’s more tiring than you realise. I have nothing to throw my love-darts against May I use you as a sounding board? Just for simple advice, you understand. I’d never hurt you, my centre, my lord, My north on the compass, all I’m worth, But – cities built on dust can crumble to that. If I say I’m his my body will crumble And all I’ll be is it, what, A word he says in fits of illness, In the chorus of a catchy song. Well forgive me for not giving cause for contagion Forgive me for not singing along. To sing my own name, wave my own flag, Even for him I’ll not do: When all the reward is reduction I know a hundred things I’d rather do.



Issue 11 - Summer 2016

Lille allen 13

That’s What She Said

reclaiming my body CW: Graphic detailing of assault, sexual harassment Indeed, my own body issues started at home, with a mother who fed my desire to SlimFast™ from an early age, and who didn’t question, but embraced, the cereal diet her 10-year-old daughter embarked upon. I suspect an insecurity of her own, that grew into mine, as she filled our house with advice on how to think yourself thin, and low fat, low carb everything. In this respect I sadly grew into my mother’s daughter.

All too often women’s bodies become weapons to be wielded against them, whether from internalised narratives of not being ‘enough,’ to media depictions and street harassment. It’s an assault that starts young. Indeed, research by the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Body Image has found that body image worries are prevalent in girls as young as five, with one in four girls aged seven attempting weight loss. These are issues that are pervasive, echoed in magazines and billboard designs, in ill-fitting clothes in restricted, dowdy ‘plus size’ sections of stores, on the number that always strikes wrong on the scale, and in the words of strangers, and worse our loved ones.


It never dawned on me, however, how much these issues were internalised, and how negative and complex my relationship with my body had grown. In primary school my mother’s critiques were cast into the background by bullying. My weight was banded around for public comment and used often to refute the worth of my opinions and feelings. Sometimes the content wasn’t so poorly intentioned. I’m sure the boy who told me ‘I’d be pretty if I was thinner,’ thought he was giving me some sense of hope. Though all it fed was an over preoccupation with my weight, that for far too long led to comfort and happiness being conflated with the life I’d lead ‘when I was thinner,’ but that I didn’t believe could ever be attained in my current frame.

Issue 11 - Summer 2016 new ‘better’ body were shattered – for it was not my weapon to wield, but instead an object for others’ approval, commentary and use.

I never learnt to just be in the body that caged me, but I did learn to resent it, to skip lunch, and punish the frame in the mirror. I taught myself that I would never be happy, because I would always be ‘too big’ to be loved. To a big extent this shaped my early experiences of harassment.

Encounters that once felt complimentary were replaced by threat. For every well-intended comment about my looks, there were 10 car horns that only ever made me jump. There were the guys who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and who followed as I walked through town. There were the men who felt entitled to grab my arse as I stood on the pavement handing out flyers for work. And there were the men who grabbed me and assaulted me in an empty road.

At some point, almost overnight, my body changed. My breasts developed, my limbs grew long and slim, and while I always hated the way my tummy stuck out further than the rest of my frame, it became more subtle. My insecurities were for a while replaced with the compliments of strangers. Men yelled at me in the street to tell me I was beautiful, and for a brief spell that fed me flattery - enough to dispel the insults I’d doled out too many mornings on the scales. I can understand in this regard, why some women appreciate the glances of strangers, and the passers-by who tell them they’re beautiful. I know I did. But these are not simply compliments. There are first those issues that reek, not of flattery, not of admiration, but of danger. My first taste of this was when a much older man cornered me in an otherwise empty alleyway, as I walked the path to college one morning. He encouraged me to accept an invitation to dinner, and for the first time a firm ‘no thank you’ didn’t feel enough. In that first moment the benefits of my

In the onset of my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - an illness triggered from a culmination of significant and serious assaults - I punished my body. I wanted to feel once again ‘undesirable,’ to feel like I might take back control. While these feelings are imbued with my own internalised insecurities, as I allowed my body to grow, and stepped further and further from the ‘ideal’ frame, I began to grow more confident. The harassment didn’t stop completely, but I noticed it lessened significantly, as I became this invisible woman. It came with its own violence and territory, however. This bigger body, in its own way became a tool to be used against me. Indeed, while working as the Women’s Officer at my university, I found my body used as the basis for critique in the


That’s What She Said comments of articles. Comments about my arse - ‘the size of a greyhound bus’ - and suggestions I should change my diet plan. Once again I felt like my body wasn’t my own. I found myself left in an odd sort of catch 22. Rightly or wrongly, my experiences meant that the thought of shrinking down had become entangled with the threat of sexual harassment. And staying broad had become synonymous with online harassment of another kind. But this body has also saved me. Indeed, when I was eighteen and grabbed by a gang of men and assaulted, it was my tummy that made my tormentors flee. It was only when their ringleader slid his hand up my skirt, and discovered my protruding stomach, that he backed off, fearing I was pregnant. This body that I’d felt ashamed of for so long, had set me free. So while my body may often feel like a weapon too often wielded against me, it is also strength. It is the bodyguard that stepped out of the shadows in shakey situations, and brought intuition to the fore. It is the tension I feel in my thighs, when I am unsure about the hand that rests on my leg. It is the tummy I’ve resented for far too long, that once made a tormentor flee. And it is the case that once let to grow, gave me the confidence to walk a bit taller.


chloë maughan Image: Leyla Reynolds

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femsoc’s FGM and Honour Abuse Awareness Campaigns This term’s campaigning has been focussed around violence against women and, more specifically, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour violence.

treatment of women across the world hinges upon ideas about virginity – that girls should remain ‘pure,’ and their virginity must be preserved in order for them to maintain their worth in society. With this in mind FemSoc headed out onto campus with a whiteboard to ask Bristol students what virginity meant to them.

This February we hosted FGM Awareness Week in line with International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. TWSS hosted an online week, with article topics ranging from ‘FGM: The Facts’ to how Bridget Christie uses comedy to tackle FGM. The highlight of the week was our FGM workshop, with guest speakers Amina and Aroosa from fantastic local charity, Integrate Bristol, as well as DCI Leanne Pook from Avon and Somerset Police. This was primarily a chance to teach future medics, lawyers, teachers and social workers about safeguarding, and the evening highlighted the incredible work that people like Integrate Bristol and Leanne do. Research into speakers for the FGM workshop led us to the wonderful charity, Karma Nirvana, and its CEO, Jasvinder Sanghera CBE. Karma Nirvana works on cases of honour abuse such as honour violence, forced marriage and FGM. We consequently also hosted an Honour Abuse Awareness Week. Research into the ideas behind travesties like honour abuse emphasised just how much

In further efforts to aid Karma Nirvana’s cause, we hosted the panel event ‘Violence against Women: How Government Policy Can End It.’ This featured Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, Lisa Benjamin from Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support, Jessica Read, head of Women’s Equality Bristol and Charlotte Gage from Bristol Women’s Voice. Discussion was enlightening to say the least, with panellists all agreeing that compulsory PSHE is certainly one of the most vital tools for ending violence against women. There was discussion about better reporting processes, both at university and generally to the police, where many felt that their experiences had not been taken seriously. This year has been a year of action for FemSoc and we can’t wait for more next year!



That’s What She Said


Issue 11 - Summer 2016

some vegetables

I am trying not to think about you in the vegetable section of Waitrose. They are out of broccoli.

i am not America. i’m barely 10mg of adderall, the second amendment, carefully plucked eyebrows. but i do think about that country often, in hyde park, stepping through puddles, walking through the Louvre amongst marble breasts attached to limbs towering over me.

I do not remember what a diner smells like. No one tells you this happens when you move abroad.

i could stay here, watch me wear a windbreaker, read philip larkin, inhale nitrous oxide.

i am tired of moving my belongings, letting go of people, and mourning old photographs.

i just hope one day all of me is in one place.

willa bennett 19

That’s What She Said

all this, and love too, will ruin us TW: Domestic abuse The realisation comes to me whilst I’m sat in his room. It’s slow, creeping, a dread that slithers down my spine and pools in my stomach. This is the moment I realise what I am and what I’m here for. It’s like being a princess awakened from her enchanted slumber by a slap in the face or an unwanted grope. Unexpected and jarring. We were two months into our fledgling relationship, and I was infatuated. I use that word because that’s the only way 16 year olds who have never had a boyfriend can react to boys with curly hair, and brown eyes, and confidence, and opinions. (It takes me a while to figure out that he’s talking at me, not to me.) Love may be blind, but infatuation is the thick smog on a stormy night. You can never be sure of what you’re seeing. I fumbled my way through our brief affair, desperate and grabbing, like a child. I wanted to be Meg Ryan, the romcom heroine who was beautiful and funny and loved all along. I wanted to be the girl that men gushed about to bartenders at 2am in the morning. I wanted to be the muse, the Madonna, the ‘cool girl.’ So here I am. Running my hands along the spines of the books he keeps in his room, his large jumper draping over my smaller frame, at once swallowing me and also drowning me in his scent. Marked. I pick one out of the line-up, and settle on the carpet, content to quietly skim it. My perusing is interrupted by his deep voice. He begins to wax lyrical on the novel I have at hand. Turning my head to smile at him, I decide not to reveal that I had already read the book.


Issue 11 - Summmer 2016

As he looks at me, I feel transparent. Suddenly, I can see myself through his eyes. Me, in his shirt, on his bedroom floor, reading his books, smiling at him. I was beautiful. Beautiful and … nameless. I frown at that thought. Eventually he concludes his lecture, and I’m free to return to the book. Yet, out of the periphery of my eye, I catch him regarding me closely before reaching for his camera. My throat seizes up. This is it. This is my realisation. You’re trying to make me into something I’m not, I want to scream. I can’t save you, not with my lips or my body or my hands or my heart. They’re supposed to be for me, not you. Please don’t make me save you. Open womb or not, I can’t carry that. The camera switches on. A light flickers. I know, in this moment, that I have a decision to make. I can either stay, and be immortalised in one shot, and maybe even parade it to his friends that I’m his, only his. Or I could move; escape the trap he was setting for me, deny him the satisfaction of my surrender. Return to myself. A click. The camera shutters. I move.

NAOMI ADEDOKUN Image: Rachel May


That’s What She Said

The Women of Yarl’s Wood: Abused for Prof it and Political Point-Scoring TW: Rape,sexual violence Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre is set back from the small village of Milton Ernest in the heart of the Bedfordshire countryside, next to an industrial estate only notable for the huge guard tower looming above it. On the 12th March, I stood alongside 2000 protesters, kicking the 25 foot walls of the centre, firing flares and chanting messages of hope and anger to those within. From inside, women waved to us, streamed rolls of toilet paper to the floor and suspended banners from barely opened windows. One of these makeshift banners, made from t-shirts strung together, read: ‘guards are having relationships with vulnerable women.’

According to Movement for Justice (MfJ), an anti-racist movement, guards resort to underhand tactics in order to suppress such resistance, and MfJ must communicate cautiously with detainees as the phones and computers supplied are constantly monitored. At another protest, a party was held for the destitute women. Meanwhile, guards systematically removed pens, pencils, and anything they thought the women might use to communicate with those protesting on their behalf. In July 2015, the number of asylum seekers entering Europe reached a record high. David Cameron warned that this ‘swarm… coming across the Mediterranean’ would not find a ‘safe haven’ here in Britain. The UK’s extensive immigration detention estate – the largest in Europe – certainly reflects this message: that refugees and immigrants alike are not welcome. We are also the only EU member state that detains noncitizens indefinitely without charge. These asylum seekers are fleeing their own countries for reasons including political affiliation, religion and sexual orientation; they are often the victims of traumatic incarceration or even torture.


Issue 11 - Summer 2016 Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire has a particularly disturbing timeline. Opened in 2001, the centre mainly houses women and until 2011, children. When in February 2002, detainees burned the centre to the ground, guards reportedly complied with orders to lock detainees inside the burning buildings. At least half of the incarcerated women are asylum seekers and many will have faced sexual violence in the countries they are fleeing from – one charity alone has records of 500 rape survivors held there. Seeking asylum is a basic human right, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and can under no circumstances be considered a crime. A Legal Action for Women Report in 2006 investigated several claims of sexual and racial abuse by the guards in Yarl’s Wood: over 70 per cent of women surveyed reported that they had been raped. It would appear that our valuation of basic human rights does not extend to those who threaten our borders, even on UK soil. Detention is incredibly expensive, with annual costs per person reaching £44,000 by some estimates. In the case of Yarl’s Wood, the government is using vast sums of taxpayer money to fund systems where women are routinely abused. In the face of this evidence, the government’s aims can only be ideological. As the dehumanising terminology Cameron uses routinely

makes clear, these people are not seen as individuals. MfJ believes that this system plays its part in a cycle of exploiting racist attitudes to present a ‘tough stance’ on immigration. If these people do not gain citizenship and thus remain part of the immigration system, insidious racist hierarchies remain. Asylum seekers can be detained at any point on suspicion rather than charge – even those who have lived here for 20 years. Of those held in custody for over 12 months only 38 per cent are actually deported from the country – the purported aim of these ‘removal centres’. This imprisonment of innocent, yet undesirable people violates their basic human liberties on racist grounds for coercion or mere administrative convenience.


That’s What She Said the context of a culture of oppression and control maintained by the centre’s privately contracted owners, it is hardly surprising that sexual abuse by guards is both pervasive and repeatedly overlooked, furthering the systematic coercion of prisoners. The main tenet of MfJ is to show solidarity with these women, whilst supporting their liberation. Despite initial language and cultural barriers, as well as naivety to their rights in our legal systems, these women are undoubtedly resilient.

Survivors report that women who are seen to be forming friendships with each other are placed at opposite ends of the detention centre. On release, accepted asylum seekers are often granted accommodation in distant corners of the UK to limit any development of community. Depression rates on leaving the system are high. These exploitative tactics fall disproportionately on the traumatised and mentally ill, with no consideration for their health or welfare. The charity Women for Refugee Women reported that half of the women they interviewed had been placed on ‘suicide watch’ during their time, with many watched by men, even in intimate situations. This is representative of the complete control over the women that the guards maintain. In

One story of resistance by a woman named Alice was particularly moving. When she wrote ‘freedom’ on her centre-regulation uniform, inciting excitement in the other detainees, the guards restrained her and removed her top in the corridors of the centre. A second time, the same happened, but this time she had also written the message on her body. In enduring persecution in their own countries and still finding the strength to make incredible journeys to the UK, these women have already demonstrated their incredible optimism. Their vision for a fair and integrated society, free of division and persecution, is surely far greater than the one we are consenting to in allowing this injustice to continue.


Issue 11 - Summer 2016 MfJ are hopeful for the future. They believe that the expansion of the unjust systems and extreme tactics which aim to oppress and vilify immigrants and asylum seekers will in fact be its downfall, concentrating on resistance rather than submission. These passionate women are forming a community within and beyond removal centres, despite the greatest effort to isolate them. After the last election, the Conservatives planned to expand immigration detention centres. Instead, two have been closed down by direct action and inmate defiance. There is evidence that anti-racist movements may be compelling enough to counter the hateful rhetoric that we have grown accustomed to. Protests in Italy have forced complete reform of their own immigration systems, whilst the fast track process has been eliminated here. Ending unlimited detention must be the first step to ending this systematic violation of human rights happening in our country. If we are to create a fair and unprejudiced society, the internment of the most vulnerable on suspicion alone must end completely. However David Cameron may frame the movement of refugees and migrants into Europe,

the rights of the individual cannot be breached in order to vilify immigrants and further policy. As the protesters filed out on the 12th March, we left behind placards, banners, paper cranes and other emblems of solidarity tied to the fences of the centre. But despite the calls of thousands of angry campaigners and several reports at the highest level, Yarl’s Wood remains open and unreformed. The government must be held accountable for Yarl’s Wood and end the institutional violence there. As long as a racist and ideological immigration system persists here, these vulnerable women will not be protected from abuse.


amy f inch

Illustrations: Kate Dickinson

That’s What She Said

a lecture By Every Woman Who Has ever Been Objectifi ed By The Male Gaze In Art ‘A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself. Whilst she is walking across the room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually.’ – John Berger ‘Like a virtuous monument she lies, To be admired of lewd unhallowed eyes.’ – William Shakespeare

What does the term ‘the male gaze’ suggest to the educated mind? Yes? You, Sir, at the back? Correct! The male gaze refers to, of course, the heterosexual, masculine lens which someone, anyone, is obliged to look through when viewing a work of art. And what is in this art, we hear you ask? Why – the female form, of course, both real and imaginary. Real and the ideal. Naked women, nude women, startled

women, dying women, sleeping women from all walks of life, and all by male artists, naturally. There is only one common thread holding together all western art here: the image of Woman is designed to flatter the spectator of Man. Men act and women appear. A male painter paints, the male viewer views, the male critic claims: ‘Ah yes, this is a work of art! This is ideal


Issue 11 - Summer 2016

perfection!’ Women appear in art, women view themselves being viewed, women split themselves in two as both the watched and the watcher. And today, dear academics, we guest speakers are that very art of which we speak! We are the Muse that precious Pygmalion hails, we are the courtesan-model for Manet’s Olympia, we are the whore, the bitch, the witch, pornstar, pious virgin of the Madonna all in one. You may well ask – how can this be possible? Could it be that there is only one, single, solemn, objectified woman in all female portraiture in the canon of western art history? Yes, our dear fellows, of course! The female in art is merely the same submissive face painted by the same patriarchal hand, over and over. This image of us as one universal feminine being is everywhere! Why, take a look at your Titians, your Praxiteles of Athens, your ‘Are you beach body ready?’ advertisements sweeping the walls of London Underground, your arsenal of pornographic magazines lining the shelves in your local Tesco that your son picks up and asks, ‘Daddy, what is this?’ We are there! We exist! So. What is it us art-women all have in common, then? Please, take a look at your hand-outs. Do we look comfortable and cosy, to you? Or do we lie in awkward positions, propped up on carefully placed pillows, stiff necks and arched

backs, eyes saying ‘fuck me’ or ‘save me’, body language speaking the words our mouths can’t? Even if our eyes are unreadable, look to our hands instead: they are passive, gentle, writhing above our head in orgiastic ecstasy, no doubt easy to grasp and position at will. Take, for instance, Venus de Milo – she doesn’t even have arms! How easy it would be, then, to clasp this woman and do whatever your desires bid you to! What else does society relish, as well as sex? Anyone? Yes, thank you. Society also prizes modesty: that is to say, coquettishness and shyness. A paradox, you understand. How can sculptors of antiquity, the Old Masters, music video directors make us women sexy and modest? What was that, Sir? By the implication of hesitation, correct. Playing hard to get, if you will. Let us think more about hands. They are very good parts of the female body. They are good for both pointing to and covering up the one thing you desire and forbid yourselves. Hopelessly counterproductive attempts of covering our sacred lady parts actually do the opposite of their intention: the straying hand of Venus, the useless olive branch over Eve, the carefully placed star ‘censoring’ page 3 nipples – all failing to cover our female genitalia and, instead, points to it, saying ‘it’s here! Right


That’s What She Said

here! What you are craving! Come and get it if you are man enough!’ We have spoken of what, who, how. Let us think of why. Look at whom she is looking. Not the men that exist in her own painterly or Youtuberly realm, no – she looks into our world, and more specifically, at you, our phallicfringed friends! She ignores even the most handsome of men to look at you, Sir, to reassure you that we live in an artistic world where men rule and women obey! So when you have moments of faltering power in the gender politics of everyday life, a moment of self-doubt, a moment of ‘that wasn’t very alpha-male or lad-like of me’: just gaze at the television, gaze at a Renaissance portrait, gaze at where art exists to be reminded that You Are Man! But we gaze back. Oh, how we gaze back. Don’t women have eyes to see? Don’t we have organs, sexualities, senses, affections, passions? Do we not exist beyond the painting, as real women, models, workers, mothers – if you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you prick us, do we not bleed? But not too much blood, we hasten to add – no, no! Painted women dare not be associated with that sort of ugliness. Blood and violence and things of that ilk belong only to the masculine world, of course!

Even in death we do not bleed. Upon stabbing herself, Dido, Queen of Carthage, is painted with a mere scarlet droplet on her bosom; Ophelia, poor little Ophelia, succumbing to suicide like snow melts to fire, could only be sleeping in her watery grave. Pretty deaths for pretty little girls. Pretty little deaths for pretty girls. Le petit mort, if you will. Another reason why art-women cannot be shown with blood. It is a touchy subject, the two functions of the queynte – a place of both man’s sexual pleasure and female menstruation. Since we exist for your pleasure only, one does not like to be reminded of the grotesquery of that bodily fluid our pure, hairless, labia-less vaginas emit once every full moon. So we pose with eyes open and mouths shut and legs ready to be opened like the pages of a book. We could go on. Would you like to see some Palaeolithic statuettes of the fertility goddess, some 50’s pin ups? Some sexy back-up dancers in a music video? No? Never mind. You don’t have to think of us as real women, really. Thinking of art contributing to a collective anxiety of body image, rape culture, misogyny, unattainable idealism is too uncomfortable for some people. It’s easier to just ignore. Instead, consider us pure allegory.


jess baxter

Issue 11 - Summer 2016


Leyla Reynolds 29 Facebook: Twitter: @TWSSmagazine Instagram: twssmagazine Email: