Hi all! We hope you enjoy the 4th Issue of That’s What She Said. We’ve been overwhelmed by the quality of responses we’ve received this term, so sorry to anyone who hasn’t got to see their work in print, but hopefully we’ll be able to display all your work on our (currently under construction) website. One thing Feminists today need is a voice; a forum for sharing ideas, perspectives and passions. We are really proud to be part of such a vibrant and intelligent community in Bristol, and to have the opportunity to present your ideas in such an exciting medium. We hope you find this magazine a catalyst for discussion and thought. Please get in touch with any thoughts, Sophie and Cat (Editors at Large)
So you know where to go
A little note from your editors
Doing It For Themselves Bristol One25 Angry Feminists Women of India University of Bristol and Women
3 7 10 15 17
Comment The Big Debate: Pole Dancing ‘Where Them Girls At?’ Dangerous Silence
5 6 8
Art & Culture All That Glitters Is Not Gold Sian Norris’ Lightbulb Moment
And a note from our Presidents Laura and Shannon
That’s What He Said What’s In A Name? Male Feminism and Stigma: So Where Do I Stand?
Bristol Uni FemSoc exists to promote critical thinking regarding gender relations and to provide a place for like-minded or inquisitive people to discuss (still very relevant) feminist issues. We want to engage as many people as possible around the debates involved with gender equality, and are proud to present That’s What She Said as a platform for doing this. Enjoy!
Letters Sorcha: Your New Women’s Officer Ask Ms Mabel
Get Involved Get Involved
Your new Women’s Officer Voted in on the 1st of November in Bristol University’s Part-Time Officer Elections, Sorcha Berry-Varley tells That’s What She Said about her new role
up being male-dominated would be interesting. I am pretty new to getting involved with student politics and feminist events, so bear with me a little. I’m hoping this will make me more relatable to, and approachable, for other fresh faces, and will not be considered a lack of authority on my part. I of course do consider myself a feminist, in that I believe both genders should have equal rights - something which has definitely not yet been achieved. In my campaign, I would like to try to dispel the stigma that still remains around the term feminist amongst students, as well as to generally help promote, defend and extend the rights of self-defining women students at Bristol (which my role entails). If you are not familiar with the role, I will also be working with Alessandra Berti (VP Welfare and Equality), and with her support be running the women’s forum, as well as helping to organize the Union’s celebration of International Women’s Week. Most of all, I would just like to hear what women of the university (and the men too, if they have an opinion on the topic) think needs changing with regards to our rights and issues affecting us on campus. If you, or anyone, have any thoughts, please do not hesitate to let me know. I am all ears to hear what ‘she says’.
he results of November’s elections weren’t exactly a surprise, considering that I ended up being the only candidate in the running. Indeed one of the reasons I nominated myself in a panic was that there was suggestion that no one had done so, and I thought it would be a real shame if there wasn’t a women’s officer. Apparently a few others also had this thought, but, by the time of the results, I was the only candidate remaining. Despite this I was still nervous enough about hearing them that, for a moment , when I heard mention of ‘RON’, I thought to myself: who’s this Ron who’s nominated himself for women’s officer?! Luckily, ‘he’ did not beat me. I stayed around long enough to hear the official results, before rushing from Bar 100 back up to the Anson Rooms where I was in the middle of reviewing a gig, coincidentally by fantastic female artist Natasha Khan, known better by her stage name ‘Bat for Lashes’. She was supported by Charlotte Hatherley (formerly of rock band Ash) with her new act ‘Sylvertongue’, making me feel slightly more justified in not hanging around longer. This is the sort of thing I would like to promote, if possible, as women’s officer. Certainly there are bigger issues than the lack of female music journalists in Epigram, but perhaps a look at why some societies do end
Want to get in contact? Email Sorcha at womens.officer@uni. org.uk or Alessandra Berti at email@example.com 2
Doing it for themselves 3rd year mechanical engineering student Sarah Livingstone interviews “Robogals” and “Engineers Without Borders” (EWB) members; Anna Cuanalo and Sophie McPhillips.
to be losing out on so many of the potential problem solvers ofthe future? What do you think is the main reason for girls not being attracted to or applying to study engineering? AC: In my case I feel it was lack of exposure; especially in single sex schools where boys still study more electronics, technical drawing, D&T. From the beginning of secondary school girls are already encouraged down a different path, and even in mixed-sex schools there’s still a lot of prejudice about “boys’ subjects” and “girls’ subjects”. I also think that it might link into what we’re told is our nature; when girls are more drawn towards subjects which engage their creativity or emotions, engineering isn’t represented to them from that angle, or even made visible. SM: I went to an all girls school where all senior staff and all career support was arts based; if you wanted to do engineering, you were on your own. I regularly go back to my school to speak about engineering to students who are about to apply for university. Out of over 100 girls not one could tell me what an engineer was; more than one asked “do you fix cars?”. Why would these young women seek engineering, if they aren’t aware of it? Men study engineering because they get encouraged to do so, for a woman to do the same she has to figure it out on her own; it’s an active choice. I’ve never heard a woman say “I didn’t know what else to do”. What were your motivations for studying
n a field devoid of leading women, I find the female students around me are my role models. I spoke to two whom I find most inspiring; both are active in encouraging female youth uptake, have extensive industry experience, and devote their spare time to addressing the injustices around them. Anna Cuanalo is a 2nd year Engineering Design student, committee member of Robogals Bristol as well as EWB. Robogals is a studentrun organisation that aims to increase female participation in engineering, science and technology, through engaging educational initiatives in primary and secondary school. Sophie McPhillips is a 4th year Civil Engineering student and president of EWB Bristol. EWB is an international development organization which aims to remove the barriers to development through engineering. Gender equality isn’t an explicit aim of the society, but is inevitably implicit; as Kofi Annan said in 2000, “Women’s equality is a prerequisite for development”. Interestingly EWB has a 60% female committee, a figure stark in a faculty where women are constantly unrepresented. Firstly, why do you both think the underrepresentation of women in engineering matters? AC: I think an imbalance of gender in a sector which has so much influence on our society and future has to be a bad thing. SM: I’m concerned that it has a deterrent effect on women considering a career in engineering because it gives the false impression that men are better suited to it. Can we afford 3
the form of Professor Sally Heslop. It’s something which I hugely value and feel it’s a shame few people have. In industry, I’ve met a number of inspiring female graduates (one of my colleagues has been short-listed as NCE graduate of the year), but no one at all in senior roles Anna, what were your motivations for getting involved in Robogals? AC: I think it was the emphasis of what they do; getting involved and providing female role models to children, but especially girls. For young girls to see someone they can look up to, and talk to them about a real future in engineering I think can make so much difference. While the lessons can show them a certain side of engineering, I think it’s the people who’ll make the lasting impression, and having an environment where they can honestly voice their opinions, get advice and consider their options will hopefully get more girls, and more children overall exposed to the real potential of an engineering career. I also enjoy the chance to spend time with other girls within the sector, from different areas; which is sadly rare. There are a disproportionately high number of women in engineering societies. Why do you think this is? SM: Due to barriers faced by women who do become engineers, I think inevitably it filters out the most driven. This translates into more, particularly societal, involvement.
engineering? Did you have a significant external influence? AC: I was lucky in that my family really encouraged me into physics and maths, as well as my teachers. But I still really loved practical and design work, so engineering almost felt like the perfect compromise. In the end, I chose engineering because I really wanted to be able to make a difference in the world, while still having a career I’d enjoy. SM: I thought I would be good at it as I liked maths, physics and anything hands-on. And I wanted to have a part in tackling the problems affecting the world today. Although I was one of the first in my extended family to go to university, I think I had external influences without realising it. I actually had a lot of female maths and physics teachers at school. I also consider myself lucky in that my parents avoided gender-specific toys and activities for me from a very early age, which made me realise that I could do all the things that might typically be considered ‘for boys’. I think the fact I remember playing with tool kits when I was about 8 shows how important that was in influencing my future. Do you have any female role models in Engineering? And do you think they (or lack thereof) are important? AC: Unfortunately not; I think the lack of female role models is important, from a young age but especially at university. Even at the university level the retention rate of women into industry is poor and the low percentage of really successful, high ranking women in industry in part, could be what makes young women now think they can’t do it. Talks from female role models could help. That being said; I’ve met a lot of motivated and driven young female engineers so I hope that it’s just a matter of time before we see change. SM: I consider myself lucky to have had a very strong female academic role model in
I really hope that in 30 years time, they will both be exactly where they aim to be. I hope they beat the statistics and continue to be role models, both for their peers and younger generations. Inspiring young women aren’t the whole solution, but they are, at least for me, enough to provide some hope for the future of the profession. 4
The Big Debate: Pole Dancing Yay or Nay ?
Alicia Quiero t’s a generally accepted feminist belief that women dancing provocatively for men, in various stages of undress, on a pole, is much too far into the murky area of sex-ascurrency. But what about pole dancing for fun? Pole dancing for sport, removed from a dingy nightclub and lecherous semi-aroused men leering stuffing notes into someone’s bra? First of all, I’m not entirely convinced pole dancing has been fully de-sexualised. Apparently when you pay the £15 membership fee for Bristol’s pole dancing society you get a free pair of hotpants. I know that fitted clothes and bare legs are helpful in athletic sports – especially one that involves gripping a pole with your thighs – but have you ever heard a runner say ‘I’ll meet you at the track, I just have to put on my hotpants’? The ‘empowerment’ argument is a familiar one. Though pole dancing as a sport isn’t necessarily degrading, the patriarchal undertones aren’t removed just because women may be supposedly taking control of the activity oriented around men’s pleasure. Practising an activity popularly used for the arousal of men implies a lack of shame at its origin; an acceptance of the system that has exploited thousands of women. It’s the same reason that golliwogs are no longer socially acceptable – to have one in your house would be to demonstrate a tolerance of their racist heritage. The heritage of pole dancing is sexist. There’s a reason that you rarely, if ever, see men pole dancing. It’s a sport practised by women. Does that sound like equality to you?
o the task has fallen upon me to extoll to virtues of pole dancing, never an easy task. But stick with me here. I’m not denying the negative aspects of pole dancing, far from it. But it is important to consider both sides of the argument, no? The most obvious positive aspect of pole dancing is its reincarnation as a fitness activity, which renders it beneficial only for those partaking in it. There isn’t much that could be said against this kind of pole dancing, which takes place in a friendly, non-exploitative environment, free from paying onlookers, except that perhaps it rehabilitates pole dancing’s image. But many women enjoy this as a challenging, fun workout, and perhaps it is best to take it light-heartedly. On to the less favoured form of pole dancing, the kind that takes place at night in seedy clubs, where women are paid to dance for the enjoyment of the punters. The thing to remember here is that feminism is about choice. The choice to vote, the choice when or whether to have children, the choice to pick our job, and ultimately, the choice to do what we want with our own bodies. If that means using it to make money, in whatever way, I feel that it is important to defend our right to choose to do so. Many see taking capitalizing on your body in this way as empowering. Pole dancing can only be a good thing when women are able to make a free choice about it, to feel empowered and in control of their own body. As soon as this choice is taken away, and pole dancing occurs in a coercive environment, the positives disappear with it. 5
‘Where Them Girls At?’ Do we lose our feminist principles as soon as we get on the dance floor? Ella Hopkins and Joanna Davies discuss.
s we all know, dancing in nightclubs is Perhaps we feel silly making a fuss because an integral part of student life. To many, bop- no-one else is. So, in this day and age, should ping along to songs like ‘Whistle’ and ‘Little we just accept this as part of modern culBad Girl’ is second nature. But, as intelligent ture and ‘chill out’, or should we take a stand? women, should we question our own subcon- It could be said that such questions are impossible to answer because it entirely scious actions? It is no surdepends on the individual prise that many of the lyrics Feminist anthems and their personal intenof popular music sexualise and objectify women, and Hey, pop can be empowering. We’ve tions. If you dance along yet we still dance and sing complied some tunes to get you in the to music, not because you along without batting an mood to spend the evening explaining agree with the messages of eyelid. To make matters the importance of paternity pay (James songs or are deliberately tryworse, these songs encour- in Lakota, I’m sorry, you were just so ing to degrade yourself, but just for fun, does it matter? age provocative dancing wrong): Well, perhaps this oblivi- grinding, skanking, and 1. Respect – Aretha Franklin ousness is the problem itself. the extreme thigh workout that is “getting low”, to 2. Dancing on my own – Robyn If we don’t think about what we are doing we could per3. Been a Son – Nirvana name but a few. Can we really call ourselves feminists 4. Can’t hold us down – Christina Agu- petuate a damaging culture without even realising it. if this is what we choose ilera ft. Lil’ Kim Now, we’re not suggesting to do in our spare time? 5. Survivor – Destiny’s Child that you shun clubs altogethThere are many club situations that we could describe, 6. Single Ladies – Beyoncé (because B er. All that we would ask of but this one springs to mind. can do no wrong- apart from Run This you is to be aware of what When you’re getting your World (Girls) – let’s not talk about that you are doing (we realise this is easier said than done freak on, it is not uncomlittle blip…) after a jägerbomb or two). mon for fellow clubbers to 7. Tupac- Keep Ya Head Up Considering what dancdecide that it would be appropriate to feel you up. Perhaps you are in- ing means to you is the best way to avoid moral sulted for a second, but then you simply carry dilemma on the dance floor. If you feel uncomon with your night. Sound familiar? It seems as fortable then don’t just accept it– question the though such behaviour has become the norm, situation. As for us, we certainly don’t need to so we simply grin and bear it. Why do we sup- sing along to ‘Rack City’ to have a good night! press our inner feminist, and for what? It ap- Agree? Disagree? Join the debate on the pears as though we do because this behaviour Bristol Uni Feminist Society Facebook page! is ‘light-hearted’ or ‘dosen’t mean anything.’
Bristol One25 Anna Godfrey meets the women involved in one of Bristol’s finest, yet relatively unknown charities
here is an underbelly of Bristol that is rarely seen by the Bristol student, whose blinkers tend to limit their concerns to Virgin’s unreliable internet service, or disagreements concerning the washing-up. However, the thoughts which dominate a student’s mind tend to overshadow their awareness of Bristol as not just a university, but as a city. A deep and intricate city which pulses with life left unnoticed by the parochial student. Prostitution is one of these silent sides. Bristol One25 is a Bristol-based charity working to help women ‘step away from the streets’.
vulnerable a position, and need a place in which they can completely comfortable. Most of the women, she says, are in far too vulnerable a position, and need a place in which they can completely relax, and talk unreservedly about anything- whether that be issues of sexual health, or simply to grumble about an ex-boyfriend. She believed the main idea is to be accepting, nonjudgemental, that it’s not a matter of trying to “rescue” the women who come in, but simply to be a loving, listening presence. The main problem regarding the women One25 helps- stated
“it’s not a matter of trying to “rescue” the women who come in, but simply to be a loving, listening presence.” Although the circumstances of the women helped through Bristol One25 vary, most women are homeless, often suffering from drug addiction, and involved in prostitution. The aim of One25 is to reach out to women who are trapped in or are vulnerable to street sex work, supporting them to break free and build new lives away from violence, poverty and addiction. The charity currently employs 19 full and part time staff and is supported by around 130 volunteers. One25 operates through a drop-in, van outreach and foot outreach services, as well as casework and Naomi House. Naomi House is a residential family unit providing intensive, therapeutic and practical 24 hour support for up to 5 pregnant women or mothers with babies, where maternal substance misuse and risk from sex-work has been a problem. Although one worker I spoke to denied One25 had a feminist momentum behind it, the charity maintains an unusual women-only work force. This was a key point spoken about by a student volunteer, who believed the women-only presence in the building (“except for the odd electrician”), was because the women who came to the dropin centre needed to feel completely comfortable. Most of the women, she says, are in far too
by both the worker and the volunteer I interviewed- was low self-esteem. The worker stated such low self-esteem is the result of childhood/ adult trauma, broken families, or being brought up in ‘care’. However, the volunteer (though not disagreeing with this), also spoke of the impossible ideal imposed upon women as a cause of low self-esteem. She could not deny the feeling of acute inadequacy which affected most of the women she encountered, a feeling which arose from an ideal, and ultimately unreachable, image of the “perfect woman”. It is therefore crucial, she argues, for the women who come to One25 to see women who lead stable and successful lives. The workers of One25 thus act as realistic role models, instilling their clients with the tangible belief that they too can live happily. In this sense, One25 could be said to have feminist undertones, though not explicitly aiming or driven by them. Such undertones are of thoughts on gender equality, helping women who are in their situations not necessarily because of gender oppression, but because women are more vulnerable to exploitation than men. “Gender equality”, the volunteer stated, “is definitely still there”.
If you’d like more information on Bristol One25 follow them on facebook or twitter, or have a look at their website- http://www.one25.org.uk/index.php
Dangerous Silence Harassment in its many forms is a little talked of taboo that affects more students than you might think. Bristol student Amelia Siddal gives her advice
elationships, albeit platonic or romantic are necessary for everyone. They encourage love, trust and an understanding of both yourself and the other. In a nutshell they help you to become more ‘human’. It is important however, not to be over ruled by your emotions and to keep an objective perspective, particularly when concerning sexual relationships. Love can make people act in the most weird and wonderful of ways but equally, if love turns sour, it can cause some people to act in not only a bizarre but a most unpleasant manner. Not too long ago, I naively considered the word harassment to haunt the work place and scenes from police dramas such as, ‘The Bill’ or ‘Silent Witness’. I had never considered that I would ever come into contact with it myself but unfortunately, I did. However, I would like to point out that this article is not a personal lament but an example that situations such as these can happen to anyone, including students of Bristol University and it is not acceptable. Harassment is a form of bullying and can take shape in all manner of
ways. To put it simply, harassment is any behaviour (often repetitive) which makes you feel uncomfortable, humiliated or in any way victimised. It can range from verbal abuse to stalking or even excessive phone calling. If you have ever felt any of the above, I encourage you to talk to someone about it. No one should be treated in such a manner and the only way to be rid of it, is to be active. If you just want to talk to someone with an older perspective, go and see your personal tutor or someone you trust. You don’t have to report the behaviour if you don’t want to but it is a good idea to have what you feel or what has happened written down somewhere as you never know when you might need it. The best advice I can offer you is to be vocal about it, because nothing changes without words.
Need help? Bristol University has a policy on Bullying and Harassment which can be found on the University website.
All That Glitters Is Not Gold They formed part of many children’s formative years, but what did the idolized Disney princesses really embody? Sarah Miulange and Sarah Redrup get the words straight from the horses’ mouths
now White As the first Disney princess I’m a bit of a trend setter. Like all good girls I love doing housework (and playing with bunny rabbits). I’m both pure and sexualised (check out the snow white skin and blood red lips combo), meaning that at the age of just fourteen I’ve managed to embody the classic Madonna-whore complex – overachiever or what? Cinderella I’m a model woman; obedient, quiet, nurturing, blonde and beautiful. My polite submission to doing all the chores for my stepmother and step sisters without complaint eventually nabs me my man and in true SATC style I have a penchant for impractical footwear. Why wear flats if you’ve got a man to support you? Sleeping Beauty My main dream is to fall in love, which I do at just sixteen with the first guy I meet. Well, now you mention it, I guess we don’t really meet as such. Guys, if she’s not awake she can’t give consent. Belle Unlike most of my sister princesses, I actually have hobbies - reading and adventuring. I also got the opportunity to spurn that lout Gaston, whereas my predecessors normally fell for the first guy they meet... However, falling in love with my captor displays alarming signs of Stockholm syndrome.
Artwork Sarah Redrup & Aedryan Chaklar
Mulan A classic case of a woman feeling she can only be powerful by out-manning the men. Jasmine I’m a rebel; running away from home and fighting for my right to chose my own husband. However, I’m punished for this, being forced to become a concubine. I thought the second-wave feminists would congratulate me for using my sexuality to distract Jafar while Aladdin rescues me, but apparently I missed the point... Rapunzel My “kick-ass” personality has awarded me a great big ‘feminist’ badge by some, but despite my frying-pan wielding ways, it takes a man to outwit my cruel captor set me free. As with many of the Disney princesses I get out of tough spots by connecting with the bad guys on an emotional level, sending the message that every bad man can be changed by a young attractive girl. The Princess and the Frog I’m the first black princess and the first with a job; setting up my own restaurant. Unlike my predecessors I take my own future by the reigns and save my prince, instead of vice versa. I’m not allowed to be a career woman however, as my career ambitions are shown to be “wants” whereas marriage is a “need”.
Angry Feminists On the 24th October feminists from around the country descended on Parliament to help get ‘gender on the agenda’ as part of the UK Feminista Lobby. Bristol Feminists joined in the action, and Anya Millington now gives us the low down on her day of activism.
bortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland, Page 3 is accessible at eye level to children and there’s a gender pay gap of 17%. But apparently we live in an equal society? Feminists young and old, including a few male participants, met in the morning for an introductory lobby session. MPs from the three major parties opened the day and there was a general sense of determined enthusiasm. Amber Rudd, the Conservative MP, had a less than warm reception. With benefit cuts damaging women and families and harsher migration laws mainly affecting female refugees, this came as no surprise. Representatives from different feminist organisations were there to share information on the main points of discussion. They were to ensure that all branches of feminism plays its part in preventing violence against women, taking action to prevent the perpetuation of female stereotypes in the media, ensuring continued investment in childcare, protecting abortion rights and acting in aid of women seeking asylum. Following this morning’s session there was a march on Parliament lead by Suffragettes and some dubious ‘Olympic’ drummers (who seemed Artwork Alex Norris
to lack a basic sense of rhythm!). It was here that a brave passer-by accosted a grey haired ‘Boudica’ of a woman, and asked ‘is this a joke?’ A beginner’s mistake, and within a minute, this was all too clear. We rushed off to begin the arduous process of entering the Houses of Parliament to meet our MP. Our entry was delayed by the presence of some anti-badger culling protesters - dressed as badgers (obviously). This did very little for the sober image Parliament wishes to project. Our MP, Stephen Williams, was available for discussion and talked to us about how he has already taken decisive action to improve the lives of women in his constituency. He disappointed us with his ‘it doesn’t affect me so I don’t care’ attitude to abortion rights in Northern Island and this remained unresolved. Considering a recent Netmums poll heralded the alleged death of feminism with only one in seven women saying they d consider themselves feminists, we can be proud to say that although we may not have had a lasting impact on global gender inequality, the day did confirm that feminism is still alive and kicking.
Sian Norris’ Lightbulb Moment
ian Norris lives and works in Bristol, running the Bristol Feminist Network. In addition to her activism, Sian writes, having written for The F Word and The Guardian. Her latest work The Light-bulb Moment-The Story of Why We are Feminists was published by her own company, Crooked Rib. The book is an anthology of stories from British women and men documenting their “light-bulb” moment – the moment when they collided with feminism. Drawing on a vast range of experiences the book has something for all sorts of readers with stories ranging from light-hearted anecdotes of a young girl’s disappointment in receiving pink presents for her birthday, to a more hard-hitting account of sexual assault and Norris’ own painful experience with depression. Sian was inspired by ‘Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists’ - an anthology published by Seal Press. The collection contains a “wide range of inspiring, moving, funny and political memories from US feminists”, male and female, and it was when writing a review for the F Word When writing a review for that she was inspired to create the British sister to Click. Sian’s own chapter in the book is particularly chilling. She explains the period in her life from the ages of 1620 in which she suffered depression and frequently selfharmed. Her chapter describes an incident of sexual assault she experienced on a bus home which led her to write a short story at the time which she re-prints here. Emanating from her words is an intense sense of a lack of self-worth. In particular regarding her feelings about how freely available her body was to the world. It was while writing this narrative that Sian experienced her “light-bulb” moment. Having studied feminist thinkers and advocated female writers over male novelists during her English Literature degree, Sian admits to preaching feminism way before acting upon it Now, she allows herself to treat her body with respect and has stopped self-harming and “sleeping with people [she] didn’t want to”. She celebrates the sisterhood that liberated her from her mental illness and helped her to treat herself with respect. What is so striking about Sian’s account is that an intensely personal experience, such as depression, lead
her to actively embrace the collective sisterhood of feminism. So, why are we feminists? Is it the case that we all experience these ‘light-bulb’ moments? Or is it more often a slow progression of experiences that inevitably lead us to acknowledge feminism? I would suppose for the majority of us, it is the latter. The one thing the stories seem to have in common is each person’s decision to take those niggling feelings of gender inequalities seriously. Sian herself remembers a time a man she was involved with told her a story of a one-night stand he had had. He woke up the next morning and ran out of the house because the girl was “ugly”. Sian remembers feeling horrified but not actually confronting the issue. The story in itself is not exceptional, I’m sure it’s possible that everyone has experienced an uncomfertable surfacing of inequality and the “light-bulb” moment is ultimately the decision to stop letting these things go.
What She Said’s Ask Ms Mabel That’s very own agony aunt T
he world is a troublesome and complex place for all of us, not least for young women and growing chaps. Let us introduce you to our resident agony aunt, Ms. Mabel! (Formerly Auntie Mabel, before she read some Simone de Beauvoir and decided she’d rather be identified as an individual than as a mere relative to someone implicitly considered more important. She still makes a great Victoria Sponge though.) Dear Ms. Mabel,
I’m a male student and a couple of weeks ago I met a gorgeous girl at a party. It turns out we have some mutual friends and I’d really like to meet up with her again and get to know her, but my friends say she’s really into feminism. I really like her but I’m worried that she’ll want to talk about it and she’ll realise I don’t really know anything about feminist theory. I’m also worried I’ll make mistakes, like that I’ll compliment her dress and she’ll get offended that I’m objectifying her or something. Can you give me some tips on dating ardent feminists? Confused of Clifton
First of all, kebabs are no substitute for a homecooked meal. The fact that a) the meat is grey and b) it is sold specifically to drunks should give you a clue as to its status as a non-food. More importantly, this stripper business. Your friend is capable of weighing up her options and making choices for herself. You should tell her your feelings on the matter and explain why you don’t feel it’s a good option for her, but ultimately if she’s actively choosing stripping over other available work you should have faith in her ability to make her own decisions. You can be supportive of her whilst still making sure she’s safe: help her check out the clubs she’s applying to, talk to other girls working there to see what they think and encourage her to stand up for herself if she ever feels harassed or uncomfortable. And remind her to chalk her hands before she touches the pole or she might get burns.
Dear Confused, Feminists don’t bite. Unless you give your consent in the context of a mutually loving relationship, of course. You seem like you have good intentions, and I understand you’re worried about making a good impression, but just remember that women are still the same species as you, and feminists are just women who are very consciously aware of their sociological position as women. So as long as you’re respectful and nice, chatting to her shouldn’t be any different to chatting to anyone else. Don’t punch her in the face, don’t start the night by looking at all the other women in the room and loudly rating their breasts, and don’t use the word ‘banter’. In fact, that last one applies to any conversation, with anyone, ever. Find out if she’s a pro-sex feminist before you start talking about your favourite hardcore porn sites. Yours sincerely, Mabel. Dear Ms. Mabel,
Yours sincerely, Mabel. Dear Ms. Mabel, I’m reading The Female Eunuch and Germaine Greer says in it that women should taste their own period blood. I don’t really have to do this, do I? Nauseous of Bedminster Dear Nauseous,
imes goes by Mabel somet itzroy and e Ciara F Yours disgustedly, Mabel. the nam w, not counselling. studies la hen h caution w Proceed wit ce vi taking her ad
My best friend and I don’t have a lot of money and are finding it increasingly difficult to find the cash for our student expenditures (i.e. overpriced textbooks and questionable night-kebabs). We both decided to look for part-time jobs – but while I’m applying for jobs in retail, she’s thinking about working as a stripper. I feel uneasy about this, but she says the job pays a lot better than waiting tables and seems less depressing too. What should I do? Vacillating of Redland
Artwork Grace Mullally
It’s not only
What’s In a Name? Edward Orlik asks an age old question, with a very modern significance
The OED traces the word ‘feminism’ back as far as 1895, when it was printed in the London literary journal, Athenaeum. In the magazine, the name appears in inverted commas, not because of any recent coinage (it had been in use for over half a century already) but rather because of its fresh connotations. ‘Feminism’ had previously referred to traditional or biological female characteristics. Athenaeum’s use of the term, however, is the first known reference specifically to the set of ideologies we know today, and that this magazine focuses on. The ‘scare-quotes’ around Athenaeum’s first ‘feminism’ suggest a sense of suspicion around the word, and as such they are a neat reminder of the importance of pushing the movement’s vocabulary and ideas into the vernacular, where they should not be regarded as avant-garde but simply as reasonable, right and normal. Having said that, I believe that marching under the banner of Feminism and its logos is outdated and absolutely counterproductive. For any realistic and conscientious person nowadays, belief in feminism entails the promotion of absolute gender equality. Why, then, do we most frequently use a word that is so explicitly unbalanced, and a logo (I’m speaking of Google’s most frequent image response to a search for
‘feminism logo’, which is a clenched fist within the Venus sign) that suggests female conquest? There are reasons for these symbols, and they come most convincingly under what Judith Butler calls ‘strategic essentialism’, the self-essentialisation of minority groups in order to promote unity. In countries and times where women lack political power and a sense of unity (pre-suffragette Britain and many developing nations, for instance), this is an indispensable tool, but it no longer has any place in the UK. I mean by no means to suggest that Feminism’s work here is done. What is true, though, is that what needs to be done must be achieved in a different way. Feminism is past rallying its members: it has a significant following and a foothold, but until it can appeal to the masses in such a way that it is willingly absorbed, it will fail to succeed. Ultimately, Feminism is about its values and not its vocabulary, but as a brand it can be alienating. To work, the movement has to be palatable to everyone, equally, and while its name tends so explicitly towards females it is unlikely to do that. What’s in a name after all? If you really care about equality you’ll call it whatever you have to make people like it. In a way the aim of feminism is to lose its name altogether - we don’t need isms to refer to the status quo.
the ladies with something to say...
Male Feminism and Stigma: So, where do I fit in?
Raphael Fischer evaluates young men’s grevieances with the dreaded F word
massive social divide or use the old ‘feminazi’ depiction as typical of all feminists. The most worrying parts come when they flat out depict feminism as being detached from gender equality in a way which just reinforces male stereotypes – if we’re expected to pay for dates, it must be because women are forcing us to do so! If cases of domestic abuse against men are under-reported or not believed, it must be because women are trying to demean us! None of these arguments offer solutions as to how to deal with gender inequality – in fact, they frequently just reinforce casual sexism. Ultimately, most of the men I’ve met who don’t identify as feminists are either fairly apathetic or see feminism as some sort of monolithic, aggressive movement which tries to bring men down, and this mentality really needs to change if feminism is to remain relevant in the future. Indeed, we don’t all have the same opinions regarding professional sport, boardroom quotas or even gender identities, but trying to even highlight these differences feels like it’s just going to complicate the issue – instead I feel that the best way to go about changing this mentality is to tackle the stigma of male feminism, whether it’s reaching out to the apathetic or using photos of Bill Bailey wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “This is what a feminist looks like” on it. Offer a relatively depoliticised way of getting involved, and make sure there’s something for us to bring to the table.
’ve joined 21 societies this year, ranging from Anime/Sci-fi and Bristol Real Ale to Pancakes and RAG, but it’s always the Feminist Society which gets me raised eyebrows. So many people seem surprised by the thought of guys identifying as feminists, and it’s worrying that there’s such a level of discomfort around the topic (especially when causes like the Civil Rights movement were able to attract a much wider demographic). So why aren’t there more selfidentified male feminists? On one level, it partly boils down to a sense of not feeling accepted. Groups like RadFem restrict any meaningful level of inclusion to people who were ‘born female’ (which has in turn caused problems with transgender and cissexual people), and I’ve seen descriptions of feminism as literally “Do you have a vagina, and do you want to be in charge of it?” (which would pretty much rule me out). I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the overwhelming majority of actual feminists I’ve met and I’ve had the enormous privilege of having grown up in a family where feminist values were already very strongly endorsed. This upbringing let me encounter feminism in a normalised way, but I doubt that most other guys have really had that experience, so they haven’t had the chance to build up an awareness of feminist issues. Another issue which derives from this is the association of feminism with misandry, a topic which comes up with depressing frequency online. Men’s-Rights groups either ignore the
Women of India
Lydia Greenaway reflects on her experiences in India this summer
country with a history rife in child marriage, bride burning and the disturbing phenomenon that is sati, India was named as one of the most dangerous places for women in the world by the G20 only this year. Yet India elected the female Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1966, 13 years before Margaret Thatcher broke the mold in Europe. So where has India gone wrong? Education plays a huge role in development. Educating women not only improves confidence and health, but the elevated status that women take on helps them to take responsibility for their choices in life, be self-reliant and independent if they wish, and be respected by the male community. The more equal men and women are in education, marriage and employment, the more likely they are to be treated
ever female teacher. In 1896 Dhondo Keshav Karve established an ashram for widows near Pune, and through his endeavors realized the imperative need for education for women. In 1916 he opened India’s first women’s university, SNDT, in Bombay. Today SNDT has two campuses in Bombay and one in Pune, with more than 70,000 women enrolled. Though still lower than the figure for males, the female literacy rate has risen by more than 40% since 1971. Whilst this is encouraging, worrying numbers of girls are still dropping out of school at a young age because parents see their help around the home, or marriage, as a priority, and do not understand the importance and benefits of education for girls. With up-bringing often enforcing the idea that it is the male who receives education, embedded so-
“It will take a new generation of women to alter deep-seated mindsets” and respected as equals. In 1848 Savitribai Phule and her husband set up India’s first school for girls in Pune, a city in Maharashtra now renowned for its education. Savitribai Phule taught at the school as India’s first
cietal norms are difficult to overcome. However, many schools and charities are joining the effort towards equality in education. In 1975 medical practitioner, Dr Neela Onawale, and her husband, Rev Bhaskar Onawale, opened a medical clinic in
Pune with the intention to help the women and children of Pune’s marginalized communities. The clinic rapidly grew and became Deep Griha Society (DGS), a now hugely influential charity. Dr Onawale saw that lack of education was one the most harmful, and easily solvable, causes of medical problems. She started to give people medical education as well as support. Now DGS not only provides medical education, but provides children and adults with schooling and vocational programs. Their drop-in education scheme and female empowerment program have given women in slum areas opportunities to gain training, set up their own businessesand become fully self sufficient. Breaking women’s’ dependency on their husbands is enormously empowering; increasing their confidence, and status in the family and community. Whilst working with DGS this summer, I met many women who gained education and support from the charity, and went on to work for them. Lalita has been with DGS for five years, getting the education she never had as a child. As the eldest child, her parents took her out of school at an early age so that she could help at home. She says that her education has helped her to manage money so that she can pay for her own daughter’s education, which she now
sees as a priority before marriage. Lalita is confident and respected by her husband and neighbors. At DGS’s rural school, Vidyanagari (City of Knowledge), not only are children in rural communities provided with good education that promotes gender equality, but a number of women have been provided with work as teachers. Those I met were strong-minded, inspiring women, very much respected by the men in their lives. Headmistress of the school, Ashlesha, daughter of Dr Onawale, aims to ensure that the girls stay in education and are treated equally to boys, so that they are prepared for and able to make future decisions, regarding issues such as going to university and family planning. Just as Lalita has said, the more women are educated adequately and equally, the more they will prioritise their own children’s education. It is no mean feat to accomplish, however, and will take a new generation of women to alter deep-seated mindsets. But there is promise, as has been shown in Kerala. Indeed, Kerala is not only the state with the greatest gender-equality in terms of education and employment, but also India’s most developed state. Well would you look at that… the two go hand in hand.
Bristol University & Women
A celebration, and closer inspection, of the equality movement at Bristol University.
oday, women make up the majority of university attendees. However, this state of affairs has taken more than a hundred years to achieve. In 1870, education in the UK was universalised, meaning that the vast majority of children received elementary education. For the few that went on to further education the next step was attending college. Some of these colleges, upon receiving a charter, became universities. Women were permitted onto a limited number of courses, often overseen and organised by Ladies’ Educational Associations (LEA’s). These LEA’s organised women’s higher education, examinations and provided a support network for women teachers amidst a largely unsympathetic public. London Ladies’ Educational Association began to organise ‘lectures for ladies’ which were eventually incorporated into the main college. Edinburgh’s LEA secured similar teaching facilities, and certificates for women were introduced in 1872, proving that their recipient had been educated to a high standard in literature or the arts. St. Andrews notably offered the rather delightful sounding “Lady Literate in Arts”. The University of Bristol gained its charter in 1909, merging two pre-existing colleges in the city, with the support of John Percival, an ex-head of Clifton College. Percival believed that education should be for everyone, men and women, rich and poor alike. To this end, he set up his own Association for the Promotion of the Higher Education for Women in Grphic: Grace Mullally
1868. As a result of his vision, Bristol’s University College was the first higher education institute to admit women and men on equal grounds in the country. Bristol’s University College was the first higher education institute to admit women and men on equal grounds in the country. A rare success story in feminism’s history, it seems! However, today’s university demographics tell a slightly different story. It is not a simple move from exclusion to equality. Although women make up the majority of undergraduates each year, and their participation is increasing in so-called “male subjects”, such as natural sciences, the legacy of women’s exclusion from higher education still lingers today. While women might be attending the universities, men are predominantly running them. Only one of Bristol’s six deans is a woman, and female Heads of Schools and Senior Lecturers are few and far between. And these women that are storming the Bastille of higher education are (in the vast majority) white and middle class; there is only one black and minority ethnic professor in the whole of Bristol Uni. Universities are not ivory towers detached from reality. As long as the world we live is patriarchal, our higher education establishments will be to. All we can hope is that enough graduates, male and female, use their educations to effect real change, both in and outside of university.
Don’t be shy! There are lots of ways for you to be involved in all things gender equality; in the University, in Bristol and in the wider world. Annou ncing t Goda n he Wha n A Q y b u d e i v z o N m t th u i ght on the in Were yo in Jo Tuesda e Frock! ? a 5 2 r e y n o 2 n o 0 e 1 y1 3. frey’s piec up someWomen Raising mon 5th Janupaign: give m a c p e U y & it e 125 Giv tol City Poverty Ev for the 125 days or r e h it e e n r C lt fo thing r an exce Women ouncil on Int at Brisise money fo er ’s Day hours and ra www.one25blog. 8th Ma national it is V r ch 201 lent cause. 3. information re o m r fo com d’s recent Follow ith the Syno w d e in tl n ru g f o t Dis n e tm tragic d g Savita Hala ppoin a e th st in e pp a a , g P vote a being d th in a Galwa anavar’s t our local M e L s? p o h e y is female b our voice. that m nied an abort hospital afte liams hear y ion r ore il W n e h p te S has a variety Repub pressure is b it is crucial m o .c m e th lic ro www.writeto elp you draft a tion. Si of Ireland to ught on the h to l g s e e n rc u of reso org or t a petition on galise aborhe e letter. your lo petitionsite.c ither change. om, or cal MP write to . Rhino’s t Spearmint Angry abou stol? Our ening in Bri Look out for Fe p o d se o p ro m Soc’s “Vagin p eorge Fergu G r o y a as m d A cross the World newly electe gainst strip clubs ” event in Januar a n y e 2013. We will be son has spok ake sure he lives raising funds an m d aw so , ar st en ess to try and he in the pa n easily lp curtail the ges. You ca d ho le rr p if ic is h practices of fem t@ to c ta up n o c g in ale genital by email mutilation. get in touch m bristol1st.co
As always, you can get in contact with us on firstname.lastname@example.org or via our facebook page; Bristol University Feminist Society. Let us know what you think about the magazine, or any other Feminist issues! 18
The Autumn 2012 Edition of Bristol University's Feminist Society magazine 'That's What She Said' with features, comment, art and culture and...