Philippa Lowthorpe’s recent film on the 1970 Miss World Pageant, Misbehaviour, has enjoyed the advantage of being released just before the lockdown, giving people no choice but to watch it from the comfort of their homes. But while undoubtedly watchable, the film’s approach to feminism and intersectionality notably erases contemporary feminist movements led by women of colour.
‘Fuck you mean you need it?/ Fuck you mean you RSVPed?/ I don’t need a reason’ Ashnikko fires back at the retort women often get to be ‘asking for’ unwanted sexual advances through their choice of clothes. No holds barred, she spits out ‘his castration would be nice’, and the extremity and radical of her lyrics continues through the rest of her repertoire, creating both a humorous and empowering feel.
The mission to create the Vagina Museum began two years ago, when its founder Florence Schechter stumbled upon the Icelandic Phallological Museum, dedicated to the penis, yet could see no equivalent for the vagina or vulva. It’s thanks to crowdfunding and support from Camden Council that the museum now stands amongst the market, blending in discreetly with its surroundings, its doors wide open and welcoming. There is a fantastic shop to explore alongside the museum itself, where you will find vulva badges, cards, accessories and more.
Since Turkey’s aggressive offensive against Rojava, an area of North Eastern Syria, began early in October 2019, at least 160,000 Syrians have fled their homes. A BBC report from the 17th October states that airstrikes and ground attacks have killed civilians on both sides of the Turkey / Syria border and quotes a UNICEF estimate that 70,000 children have already been displaced. This is a tragedy for the Kurdish citizens of Rojava, as well as the broader Middle East, given what the Rojava political project represented.
It’s been over a week since Turkey launched a fresh military offensive targeting Kurdish forces in northeast Syria. The death toll in Rojava is rising, and an exodus of civilians from the area has already reached a mass scale. Conflict in Syria thus deepens, becoming ever more complex, with the Syrian regime armed forces now reported to have moved into Kurdish controlled Manbij in order to counter the Turkish invasion. But what has sparked this new wave of insurgency? What role does the US have? What are the Kurds fighting for? And what significance does this have for the wider global justice movement?
trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault, mentions of transphobia
My second week at Edinburgh Fringe Festival offered a selection of shows more overtly dealing with Feminist themes. This selection ranged from the role that gender has to play in our experience of the dating world in the digital age, an exploration of the ‘pretty privilege’ set against trans experiences, to an examination of celebrities as female role models.
Edinburgh Fringe festival seems to get bigger and bigger each year; there are hundreds of shows to choose from and the densely-packed programme can be difficult to decipher. Here we have briefly reviewed three distinct shows from the 2019 edition, dealing with the mind, the body, sexuality, relationships and gender.
I was eager to get my hands on a copy of Alison Winch’s debut poetry collection, Darling, It’s Me. With ‘fiercely feminist’ poems on the themes of motherhood and marriage, I was expecting rich, analysable material and I undoubtedly found it. Winch intersperses her narrative of contemporary women’s experiences with a series of extended metaphors rooted in Enlightenment philosophies and the European societies where these were developed, occasionally shifting form to witty sketches involving philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.
Part Three (of Three): An Ideological Ambush and Choosing Utopia. Read Part One here and part Two here.
Here, another sinister aspect of the Trump campaign, now verified by the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, was the invasive, online method through which I proposed that an amoral moneyed elite was not only manipulating, but also forcibly hijacking the public’s trust. I will again emphasise another, so far unacknowledged, caveat: this method of manufacturing investment not only cheats people short-term – including those vacuous nutjobs at the top- but sustains a deceptive, distinctly digital control well into the destructive future. Once removed and shiny, the technological medium of devices and social media is the perfect way to distract from the escalation of political inequality by cunningly feigning advancement.
Part Two (of Three): Bladerunner 2049 and a Tragic Trajectory. Read Part One here and part Three here.
Yet, a year on and the opposite seemed to manifest. Last year’s big, sponsored march was populated by blatant careerists and women who seemed to think the Feminist conclusion lay in just stony vocational power. This was the severe, stifled energy I’d been feeling. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see a placard that read: ‘Good women Go to Work!’ No wonder then, that there was also interpersonal tension and division between the various organisations at the demonstration: women were feeling competitive. Here, I will emphasise: to fixate on external acquirement such as an invincible social status and intensive office hours and treat them as if a modern romance, is to internalise a toxic masculinity that does not oppose but instead reinforces historic gender inequality. Follow this regressive trajectory, and not only do women begin to undermine their previous progress, but too, start to become foot soldiers in a universally dark tyranny.
‘Are we in the right place?’ was a semi-serious question posed by a friend of mine at the 2018 Women’s March, which took place in London on 4th March to commemorate worldwide Women’s Day. Having been to many demonstrations between us, including the historic 2017 Women’s March, which took place the day after President Trump’s inauguration, we had sound reference points between us too. Usually, there’s a friendly, lively atmosphere. You might even enjoy some canned ciders as you watch an animated speaker deliver one motivational speech after the next.
In 2018, however, the big women’s march was sedate, controlled, and most alarmingly of all: conformist. I even got elbowed in the face by a male police officer who told me to ‘stay within the demonstration line’. This was immediately after I’d passed a giant stone pedestal, encircled by a murder of male reporters, gathered creepily at that higher vantage point like gigantic crows. Hitchcockian voyeurism aside, women also seemed to be adopting the strange, disciplinary mood. One female speaker said to keep fighting ‘even if it took another 100 years’. But where was the urgency? Where ‘was the anger’? as feminist performer Sophie Cameron tweeted out.
When I first saw Soltera Codiciada advertised on Netflix, its title was translated into English from Spanish as ‘How to Get Over a Break-Up’. The title drew me in for personal reasons, having had my long-term relationship end last year. The plot revolves around a heartbroken ad copywriter who begins blogging about her life as a single woman, whose writing pastime turns into a huge success. The English title bears little resemblance to the Spanish title, for which it was difficult to find a direct translation. A Peruvian comedy from Bruno Ascenzo and Joanna Lombardi, the original title shares the same name with the protagonist’s blog and when I asked around, the most likely meaning was as a positive description of a single woman. Infused with the spirit of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies, it is a film that allows us to laugh at the tragedy of lost love.
by Tom McGhie
Content warning: sexual harassment, sexual abuse, misogyny
There are few greater feelings than when an artist connects with their audience at a gig, something more than just applause and guitar chords. Most people have, at some point in their lives, attended a gig which has stuck in their memory because of that very exchange between performer and public. This visceral communication is what propels music as one of the most important art forms; it brings people together in an ever-dividing societal sphere.
by Lee-Anne Lawrance
As we approach the (extended) close of the consultation to the reform of the Gender Recognition Act, one group of activists is calling for a calm and rational debate – or in their words, a ‘respectful and evidence-based discussion’.
The current debate has been dominated by a group of so-called ‘feminists’ and supporters who oppose the changes, citing ‘concerns’ for women. The concerns they raise however are based on false information. Nothing short of propaganda is used to disseminate this false information to the wider public.
by Jonathan Lee
It’s a dirty word for many who don’t really understand what it means. People often broadly sweep Socialism into a single ideology, which is much maligned as an unworkable and authoritarian regime, seemingly unsuitable for the modern day, and unpopular amongst the electorate.
I’ll start out being optimistic, and assume that this ignorance of what Socialism is explains why some people discount it out of hand. Because the premise of Socialism is generally one that I have to believe most people should aspire to in some way. “Every human being should be a moderate Socialist,” Thomas Mann said.
Why? Because Socialism is a general set of social, political, and economic views that places people first. And what’s the point of having a democratic society, in which we the people place power in the hands of a select few to manage our lives, if not to make things generally better for people as a whole?
By Laura Potts
This year I was determined to make the most of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, taking place from the beginning of May. Last year I found myself reading about projects and events that had already taken place. However, this year I was aware of a project early on that was just getting underway: ‘Processions’, in association with Artichoke and 14-18 NOW. This idea saw a number of women gather together with local textile artist Fiona Kay Muller to create a banner. This banner, with all its laboured hours very much part of its fibres, would then be part of a nationwide procession in London, also taking place in Belfast, Cardiff, and Edinburgh.
Part 1 of 2
Women of the World (WOW) Festival is always place for stimulating and challenging debate on important issues of the day. It was a privilege to be involved this year with my own segment with She Grrrowls as part of Gem’s Jam on the Sunday, featuring poets Bridget Minamore and Selina Nwulu, with live music from Roxanne Tatae and DJ sets from Born N Bread, Jamz Supernova, and host Gemma Cairney.
I also sat in on three very different panel discussions. I focus on only two panels, as the third, Testimony, included confidential accounts of women’s experiences of rape – an important and powerful space for their stories to be shared. I will dedicate this part one to the first panel I attended:
It is so easy to feel overwhelmed by the state of the world, in which we are mostly powerless to create a dramatic change. Yet music offers us respite, and re-energises us to continue fighting for what we believe in, bringing us together and making us stronger.
So the annual return of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, seemed like an prime opportunity to round up some incredible feminist anthems from the past year, and celebrate some of the best artists around at the moment. All these tracks deserve to be heard on repeat, as they serve to get us pumped up for a month of marches, activism, and empowerment.
Share your favourites in the comments below.
cw: mentions of rape and addiction
For this second part on the Being a Man (BAM) Festival, I’ll be looking at the various panels that addressed men’s body image, different kinds of addiction, and the concept of masculinity – looking beyond gender as something binary, and taking sexuality into account.
cw: mentions suicide, rape, abuse, domestic violence, sexual violence
I left this year’s Being a Man Festival with over fifty pages of notes and a hopeful feeling – inspired by the coming together of people of all genders to take part in a dialogue on gender and its many intersections. Events like this show just how much there is to gain from men addressing gender from a feminist perspective, as opposed to the toxic perspective of the MRA groups. Below are a few highlights from the weekend focusing, in this first part, on mental health and the role of violence in men’s lives.
cw: mentions violence
Genesis Cinema, in London’s Whitechapel, is an independent cinema on the site of a pub-turned-music hall that first opened in 1848, and which housed a number of theatres before turning to the silver screen. As part of its Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest, it screened German film The Misandrists by Bruce LaBruce. Complemented by a moderated discussion about the film, it raised a range of questions on the importance of author intent, the role of sex and violence in film, and the issue of when satire becomes mockery.
CW: contains references to femicide, racism, violence against women, rape, child abuse
Across the weekend of 14-15th October, FiLiA held its annual conference. The organisation formerly known as ‘Feminism in London’, has recently been renamed after gaining charitable status. One of the goals they outlined from the onset was to make feminism for all women, not only certain groups. With this stance in mind, I wanted to see whether the conference would live up to expectations of inclusivity, as previous years had seen panel members shut down audience questions in regard to pornography and sex work. Would there be more open discussion in these areas?
Hollywood seems once again to be trying to prove that it is incapable of coming up with an original idea, while the ideas that they do have are disturbingly off base and fly in the face of prevailing winds. The latest is a forthcoming remake of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies featuring female characters playing the traditionally male roles. Predictably, it got the internet, usually known for its tempered and considered reactions, good and riled up.
Lord of the Flies is a complex and challenging piece of literature. As such, adapting it with such a major fundamental change, threatens the integrity of the original story. Having the story revolve around a group of girls, rather than boys, presents some hurdles but I think it doesn’t necessarily destroy the story’s function.
CW: abuse, DV, violence
Male-on-female abusive relationships are often pictured as shows of overt violence and brutalism. You imagine a fragile feminine frame being thrown against a wall by a heaving, snarling man, as if a piece of precious china. But this is only a surface image, and what I would even go so far as to call a political smoke-screen. Though physical intimidation does despicably feature in many cases of male-on-female violence, the less acknowledged – and thus yet more prevalent– characteristic of abuse of women is deeply emotional, and moreover, disturbingly banal.
Content warning: domestic abuse, gender-based violence. Contains Spoilers for The Red Pill
I’ve been waiting for a decent documentary about Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) for a while now. Because I prefer not flying into fits of rage, I’ve avoided MRAs on the internet like the plague. What I know of them are second-hand accounts and logically baffling retweets. An impenetrable layer of laziness and self-preservation means that I have been waiting for someone else to do the hard work of getting to the core of what MRAs believe, why they believe it, and whether or not I should take it seriously.
The Christmas before last, I was excited to see Reggie Yates tackle the subject in his show Reggie Yates Extreme UK, Men at War. But, like with everything on TV around Christmas, I was pretty disappointed. Yates only touched on what we all already know about MRAs and didn’t really delve much deeper. On top of that, though Yates is personable, his interview style let me down. I felt he didn’t challenge the rape-profiteer and professional sack of shit Roosh V enough, and was then too combative with the teenage YouTuber with toilet roll next to his bed. Not that the kid didn’t need a bollocking, he was after all being quite sexist as well as frequently masturbating and/or crapping the bed, but I felt the journalist’s approach was all over the place.
Enter: The Red Pill.
CW: discussion of domestic violence
An eight episode series, Las Chicas del Cable (The Cable Girls) begins with a woman killing her friend’s husband – part self-defence, part accident – also shooting her friend. It’s a drama full of love stories, as well as crime and mystery, yet domestic violence is a major theme that runs through the series. Set in 1928 in Madrid, it shows the impossibility of leaving an abusive relationship in a patriarchal society, where even the law protects men who are abusers.
CW: mentions misogyny, anti-feminism, neo-nazism
Earlier this month, a writer and an editor from the Radical took part in the Amiel & Melburn Trust’s annual residential seminar. The Trust’s aims are “to advance public education, learning and knowledge in all aspects of the philosophy of Marxism, the history of socialism, and the working-class movement’. This year, the topic of the seminar was ‘Politics & Culture’, and the various intertwinings and intersections thereof. What follows are thoughts and reactions about the seminar from our contributors.
Whether it’s Janet Jackson in a purple latex suit, TLC in a spaceship or Aaliyah in the headlights of a motorbike, it is no secret that visual and artistic concepts among RnB artists were undoubtedly ahead of their time. The late nineties/early noughties saw many artists make use of developments in CGI/Camera Technology, fashion, specially-designed sets, and shooting locations. Directors such as Hype Williams and Dave Meyers, noted for their work with Missy Elliot, have gone onto make iconic if not classic visuals young music lovers still reference to this day.
With the Feminist movement having become more a part of the mainstream, there is a tendency to call it a new wave. But Feminism is something that is always flowing, with plenty of grassroots activists doing work ‘to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression’ (as defined by bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody, 2000). Whilst the movement’s popularity means there are films with stronger female characters, and Feminist comedians can easily be seen on Netflix, it also means that various corporations try to sell us back our politics.
by Chris Jarvis
Culture and politics are inseparable. Culture is more than mere entertainment, more than escapism. Culture is central to how we understand the world, build our value sets and perceive our fellow people. It stirs human emotion in unique ways, pulling different levers in the brain. Sometimes overtly, sometimes with subtlety, the dominant cultural practices, institutions, icons and outputs are used to reinforce the dominant political system and defend the status quo. Establishment weaponise culture as a means of influence.
But this isn’t the sole preserve of the political right.
Looking through history, many of the most important moments of popular revolt have an accompanying soundtrack. The resistance to the Vietnam War had the protest folk singers. Rage Against the Machine were agitators of the US anti-globalisation movement. Riot Grrrl acts built feminist infrastructure, led pro-choice campaigns and brought ‘the personal is political’ sentiments to the fore of a cultural phenomenon. And so on, and so on.
This isn’t coincidental.
A bolshy child running through a busy village, a nanny calls after her. Racing, they pass people conducting business, chatting, carrying linen, selling wares. The responsible guardian calls after the child carrying chaos in their wake; futile exclamations for them to stop and return to their studies. Refusing they rush rambunctiously, weaving in between villagers; who take notice. We take notice.
This scene is composed of women. Upon arrival at their apparent destination the child lashes fists and feet in the air, an indignant display of fighting. Determined to take part, the camera pans to show us the source of the excitement. Women warriors wrangle tacitly dropped shields from atop horses, all spin kicks and slaying swords that clash furiously, deadly blows dealt with gravity defying deft and ridiculous displays of battle prowess in all its slow motion glory. Child Wonder Woman is awash with awe and envy as we, the audience process our thoughts.
This is so fucking cool.
In Córdoba, for two weeks at the end of May and spanning across two weekends, there is a massive fair that is so big you really have to experience it for yourself. We were even given two days off work to enjoy the festivities. I went for a total of five days.
The festival is rooted in honour of Nuestra Señora de la Salud (Our Lady of Health), and started as an old livestock market. In 2017, it included over a hundred casetas, where everyone comes to eat, drink, and dance. It attracts all ages, and also has a fairground with an impressive selection of rides and roller-coasters, plus sticks of candy floss nearly as big as me.
The cover of Better Watch Your Mouth displays a set of lips and teeth pulling the kind of expression you would make after being told such a thing. It suggests an unapologetic rejection of censorship, which is later reflected in the poem ‘Ugh, Men’ with the statement ‘we will not censor ourselves (x3)’.
This is a collection that mixes everyday language with profound metaphor, and beautiful imagery with emotive stories. It begins with the telling of others’ stories and gradually becomes more personal, yet in a way that is also relatable, as time skips back and forth like the mind floating back to memories, some singed with pain and others with nostalgia.
by Zoe Harding
Content warning: article contains strong language and mentions transphobia, rape, death threats, online harassment, homophobia, biphobia and bi erasure.
So this week a friend of mine said something on Twitter about accepting transgender people as people, regardless of genitalia. One of those reasonable discussions that occasionally ensue on the internet ensued, and ended with her getting dog-piled with sufficient angry, hateful messages to nearly crash her ageing iPhone and accusations ranging from homophobia to gaslighting and advocacy of corrective rape. While the barrage of tweets from a dozen accounts was polite by online discourse standards (for ‘polite’, read ‘no swearing but massively condescending, dismissive, pompous and worryingly intense’) the death threats and abuse that followed in private messages was significantly less so.
Once more, my friend had attracted the ire of the TERFs.
It’s becoming a popular thought in public consciousness that women ought to focus on their own autonomy and watch out for co-dependence on their closest female friends. It’s a third/fourth wave feminist philosophy that gained momentum through the hopeful nineties years, evidenced in such films as teenage clique critique ‘The Craft (1996). And surely, the thinker will say, a continued focus on personal freedom for women can only good? To these people I say: please remember we’re living in an unhinged, manipulative age.
With the infamous/illicit (?) inauguration on 20th January, we’ve just had Trumpeted to us social regression by at least 20 or so years so if the good fight for feminism is to keep up we must adapt the strategy accordingly. This means once again pushing for a support-group, grass-roots sort of approach – not unlike the Suffragettes who fought for the women’s right to vote in the early 19th century – whereupon more women not only campaign together, but sincerely support each other in their private relationships.
Recently, I was asked to host a workshop for branch of the Norwich division of the Women’s Institute, ‘The Golden Triangle Girls’. Expecting jam, Jerusalem and jingoism, I was impressed by the diverse array of women that listened intently as I bumbled my way through a workshop about ‘Bee Friendly’ practices.
The group of women who swarmed around tables of craft materials and collected household items were varying in age, occupation and class. But most notably, these women were engaged in the activity. To some extent I had an inkling that the women I would meet at this monthly event would not be the conservative face that over 100 years of country fêtes and the 2003 blockbuster hit that was Calendar Girls had led me to believe. However, I did not realise just how radical a space the WI really was until I attended a meeting for myself.
Sometimes you just stumble upon good things. Last year I went down to Stockwell to see Perma War and as per usual got there very early but on this occasion that was good. I got chatting to Ollie – one of the gig organisers, and the guitarist for Mindframe who were due to play that night.
Due to train times I had to leave early and missed their set but not before an interview was agreed. In the following months I listened to their music on Bandcamp and caught a couple of videos: intelligent, well crafted, danceable old school punk. Check out ‘Slumped and Dumped’ from the EP of the same name and try to keep your head still.
CW: sexual assault, gender violence, abuse
Initially lamenting that I wouldn’t be in London for International Women’s Day, missing the annual WoW festival at the Southbank Centre, I was pleased to find out that Córdoba has a whole month of activities to mark the occasion. Whilst the practicalities of striking weren’t feasible – for example, I cannot afford to take a day unpaid and no unions exist for the work I do. I was informed that there would be a walk-out between 12-12.30pm, and this happened to be when my break between two classes fell. I used it to do some grocery shopping, so not particularly radical.
The past few weeks I have been acquainting myself with the visual art that the city of Córdoba has to offer. These included the Museo de Bellas Artes de Córdoba, the Museo Julio Romero De Torres, and the Centro de Creación Contemporánea. Whilst there is still more to see, my wanderings gave me a varied picture of fine art in this part of Spain.
In October 2015, South Asian trans performer and activist Alok Vaid-Menon called for more visibility of folx that do not fit the man/woman binary. While various media outlets proclaim that we are at a ‘transgender tipping point’, an unprecedented period of visibility for trans-people, Vaid-Menon argues that those non-conforming don’t necessarily reap the benefits of this time. After all, this tipping point revolves around trans-celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and Ian Harvie, who visibly fit into the archetypal aesthetics of either manhood, or womanhood.
by Tara Gulwell
Article mentions pro-life rhetoric, and abortion
The American Catholic college I attend, Loyola University New Orleans, has been experiencing a fierce debate on campus recently. After fierce backlash against the controversial moves of the pro-life group Loyola Students For Life (LSFL), which you can read about here, the group had to concede in a public statement that The Vagina Monologues was “an empowering work of feminist art meant to bring awareness to discrimination, sexual abuse, and other important issues affecting women.”
Not quite the opinion you’d expect from a bunch of religious pro-life students, right?
by Lewis Buxton
Moonrise’s publisher, As Yet Untitled, is an ‘independent press that specialises in limited edition, handmade works that embrace the breadth of possibility in the book’s form’. The book is beautifully made, a fragile thing one worries about reading with a cup of tea too close. Interesting then to consider the fragility of the book’s form with the robustness of the poems. Moonrise, by Ella Chappell, is a book about sex and love and flowers and moons and stones and good nights and bad nights and scientific theories and the gravity that pulls at us all. These aren’t new themes. But that’s what I like about this book; there is at once a familiarity to it but still a newness in the words, a fresh light on the scene.
by The Norwich Radical
2016 was a bleak year for many. Across the world, the forces of liberty, of social progress, and of environmental justice lost time and again in the face of rising fascism, increased alienation, and intensifying conflict. That notwithstanding, there have been moments of light. In the Austrian Presidential election, the electorate confirmed the independently Green candidate Alexander van der Bellen; the #noDAPL water protectors gained a soft victory in early December; in fact, there is a full list of positives from the past year, if you want cheering up.
2016 saw our team expand to more than 25 writers, editors, and artists as well as host our first ever progressive media conference, War of Words. Our readership has grown from 5,000 per month to more than 6,500 per month. In total, nearly 80,000 people have read content on The Norwich Radical website this year.
In 2017, The Norwich Radical will turn three years old, with plans to grow our team and publication more than ever before. We’ll also be returning to Norwich to bring debate and discussion on the future of the media, with War of Words back for a second year.
By Robyn Banks
Jo Swo, UEA Student Union’s Welfare Officer, bit a bouncer at the LCR. Social media went haywire, the anti-SU brigade had a field day and The Tab published no less than five articles on the subject. A motion was put to union council for a vote of no confidence, which, if passed, would have resulted in her being removed from her position, but the motion was then withdrawn and it was a controversy. In a surprising plot twist an online petition was started to create a safe space for bouncers on campus. Then the council voted to censure Jo, a public condemning of her behaviour which doesn’t directly affect her position. Some people were happy, some people were angry, somebody started another petition to reinstate the vote of no confidence in Jo, and there was apparently a lot of excitement on all sides. One tab article even successfully mimicked a crime thriller with its dramatic depiction of the council meeting. However, after a long time watching from the side lines as one of UEA’s female full time officers was subjected to a barrage of seemingly groundless abuse, one comment in particular stood out to me:
Since moving into my own place in the beautiful city of Córdoba, I’ve realised how important the aesthetics of our environment are to our well-being. Both inside and outside of the home, I feel uplifted, and can meditate on the simple pleasures of my surroundings. So for many Spanish people, the news that street names are being changed is a lot bigger than it might seem on the surface.
Franco’s dictatorship is an all-too-present memory, which I learnt more about when speaking to my abuelito, my paternal grandfather, about it. It divided the family, and although a majority of Spain looks back on this time with regret and sadness, there are some who still support his legacy. At such times where we are becoming more divided, and dominant groups increasingly scapegoat, discriminate against, and oppress minorities, perhaps this is an important message from a government which is currently in disorder.
We have an image problem, you and I – yeah, you and I. Us. Lefties. Radicals. The chances are – if you’re reading this site – that you’re fairly left-wing. You’re a general believer in the doctrine of ‘don’t be a dick to other people’ with the sub-clause of avoiding ‘fuck you, got mine’, even if our specific approaches to doing so differ. I’ll be speaking in very general terms in this article, because I have 1000 words to work with.
I’ve known a few women who’ve said, “I would never get married. I wouldn’t be a good feminist if I did.” What does it mean to be a ‘good feminist?’ Do we even want to be feminists, especially when feminists are frequently derided as man-haters? How did it come to this? I always thought feminism was about gender equality. From an uneducated standpoint I understood it to be a movement designed to create equal opportunities for women within work, politics, home and social life, but it seems to have become so much more than this. Feminism means different things to different people. I’m no expert on the subject, but I’d like to think I am a feminist even though I’ve never read a book on the matter. So I decided to try and educate myself – and here is what I understand:
by Nicholl Hardwick
Content warning: this article mentions sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.
Here is a little snippet of the continuous thoughts and actions that are applicable to many women when walking alone as the night begins to descend.
- Multiple checks over her shoulder.
- Trying to cover up and make your self look as undesirable as possible (pulling down top, head down, arms covering torso).
- Weapon ready in hand (Keys slipped between enclosed fist, rape alarm, pepper spray etc.).
- Analysing what the quickest escape route is (Your mind works like a ninja e.g. what is the quickest way to exit the park? THROUGH THE TREES!)
- Being ultra responsive to sound (the snap of a twig = RUN YOU FOOL)
- The old ‘I’m talking on my phone so you can’t attack me’ trick, when in reality your phone died two hours ago.
- The ability to power walk like a trouper — thighs of steel — the quicker you get home the sooner you can stop shitting yourself that you’re not going to make it.
- The avoidance of headphones — If you’ve got Bey on full blast then you ain’t gonna hear the footsteps!
- The ability for women to have extensive knowledge of all ‘well lit’ routes in their area — THERE MUST BE LIGHT OTHERWISE IT’S MY FAULT — our minds work like twisted Satnavs.
- The continuous regret that you didn’t just save money and get a taxi.
A decade and a half into the 21st century, many believe that the metamorphosis of student into consumer is complete. The student activist and the radical student movement are consigned to history. Despite the hiccup of the anti-fees protests in 2010, the modern student is more concerned with getting their money’s worth in education than they are about changing the world.
So some would have you think. Over the two years since the last instalment of this series, the student movement has grown further in depth, diversity and scope. This series of articles seeks to explore the student campaigns that are redefining our time: what they have achieved, what they mean for the student movement, and their impact on the Higher Education sector as a whole.
This piece is from the committee of UEA Migrant Solidarity Campaign
‘later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
Warsan Shire, What They did Yesterday Afternoon
Where would you go if living in your home nation became intolerable? If a treatment you needed was only available or affordable in another country; if the state suddenly declared your religion or sexuality unlawful; if universities became so underfunded that constant lecturers’ strikes made you turn elsewhere for education; if civil order crumbled during a violent regime change – what would you do? Imagine how unlivable life would have to become to force you to leave your home, your job, your friends, your family.
Prerna Bakshi’s debut collection Burnt rotis, with love was published in 2016 by Le Zaporogue via Lulu.com. Poems featured in the collection have appeared in many literary journals, magazines and anthologies across the world. Hailing from India, Bakshi offers a refreshing perspective on feminism and the wider would, enlightening readers with its undeniable South Asian roots.
by Hannah Rose
He is driving, she is hanging on his arm. Behind them a vista depicting a wide road disappears into desert upon a large screen. The cherry red of her lipstick matches her low-slung red dress, punctuated by a pair of cowgirl boots. Her dreamy expression says she’s completely at ease, hanging off her man; pleased as punch, because he is in control. But he has never seen the script before; he will be reading off an autocue. She is the one driving the show.
Performer-playwright, Louise Orwin, is touring the UK with her new theatre piece, A Girl and A Gun which was performed at Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Jean-Luc Godard’s adage “All you need to make a movie is a gun and a girl,” is the springboard from which Orwin’s performance dives headfirst into a chilling reality which is anything but surface deep.
by Asia Patel
by Hannah Rose
“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl,” quipped Jean-Luc Godard. Images of scantily clad women waving weapons around are commonplace in the media. It’s troubling to think how often we consume this image: Charlie’s Angels with their high-heeled kicks and sniper rifles; Bond women emerging from the sea with a pistol stowed away in a pair of knickers, and even pop music’s favourite feminists — Beyoncé and Lady Gaga — wear matching white bodysuits and brandish plastic-looking revolvers whilst singing something about a telephone. Watch out, those gals are gyrating and dangerous.
by Sam Naylor
From the 8 – 24th of August I attended a Generation UK – India programme. The fortnight programme was organised between the British Council and the University of Kerala, which was founded in 1937, to engage 46 British students and graduates with a taste of Contemporary India: Culture and Society. The study placement covered a lot of ground, ranging from a lecture on Indian foreign policy to visiting their ancient manuscript library, to learning the state language of Malayalam and gendering Indian popular cinema. The course’s content was as diverse as the state we were studying in and the people who attended the study trip.
by Katy Derbyshire
If you read fiction, think of a translated writer. Just the first one who pops into your mind. Let me guess: Stieg Larsson? Karl Ove Knausgård? Thomas Mann? Marcel Proust? Haruki Murakami? If you thought of a woman off the top of your head, I salute you.
On a recent trip to Hanoi, in Vietnam, I wandered the streets to see where the day would take me. This included going into lots of little art galleries, all housing incredible oil paintings and photography. In L’Institut Français de Hanoi, there was an experimental installation where a series of life-size photographs leaked onto the floor, and a white sculpture hung down from the ceiling like a cloud. Upstairs there were lots of neat illustrations from a range of artists. There was one smaller gallery that stood out from the rest where the eccentric art dealer with short turquoise-dyed hair spoke about the meaning behind each painting, telling me about Vietnam’s history with lacquer paintings as I admired a large glittering image of space.
“You can’t even use apostrophes.” I may not have always said it, but I’m certainly guilty of thinking it and similar things to do with punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Whether directed at someone during an online debate, or used to make yourself superior because someone else has bigoted views or an unfavourable political standpoint. Even in cases where someone is verbally attacking you and making personal comments, you’re not the better person for commenting on their intellect or education.
The story of Noamh Baumbach’s 2012 film ‘Frances Ha’ focuses on the drifting friendship between two women in their late twenties. There is a particularly poignant scene where Frances (Greta Gerwig) awakes to find that her best friend, Sophie, (Mickey Sumner) has left without saying goodbye after spending the night sleeping over when they haven’t seen each other in a long time. As Sophie’s car pulls away, Frances runs after her screaming her name. This boldly illustrates the highly sentimental nature of many women’s friendships and the pain that inevitably results because, we as a society, do not respect it. Indeed, through all the big life changes Frances explicitly undergoes — moving between different apartments, facing financial troubles, and trying to launch a tentative dancing career —what remains as palpably constant are the unrequited affections for her ever elusive friend.
Unfortunately, this is very much reflective of what happens in ordinary life.
I have seen Emily Harrison share her work countless times at Burn After Reading events, and at my own night, She Grrrowls. She never fails to amaze me in the way she is able to articulate herself, speaking out about mental health issues – amongst other subjects – interwoven with links to gender and class. When I read lines about imaging someone loves you ‘when you simply asked/during a routine blood test, ‘Emily, how are you doing today?’ I sort of imagine she’s what I would be like if I were an extrovert.
The first couple of poems are familiar to me, and it’s hard not to picture Harrison on stage delivering these words, because as much as it’s incredible to be able to read the pieces, seeing them live is an important part of the way the text works, as it tends to be with Burning Eye Books – the go-to publisher for writers who refuse to remain on one side of the page/stage divide.
by Alex Valente
Italy. Land of saints, poets, and sailors, but also of pizza, mafia, and mandolins. Italy. One of the most beautifully perceived countries in the world, but also one of the most corrupt, even according to its own population. Italy. The country that somehow voted for Silvio Berlusconi more than once since 1992. The country that for some reason hosts the Vatican since 1929. My country of birth, and the country I have moved back to after eight years in the UK.
Italy still confuses the *insert passionate hand gesture here* out of me.
by Mike Vinti
It’s been a pretty big couple of weeks in the pop world. Prince died, Beyoncé pulled a well, a Beyoncé, and today (Friday April 29th) Drake has released his new album VIEWS. If ever there was a week to remind us of popular music’s impact on society and culture, this is the one.
While each of these moments are significant in their own right and worthy of articles of their own, of which there have been many, together they’ve demonstrated the power of music to unite people. Be it through, grief, shock or pure unadulterated hype, the three most significant cultural moments of the past eight days have used music to bring people together and for a few days at least, forget about those intent on tearing us apart.
I have a strange memory of Christina Aguilera performing Genie in a Bottle on Top of the Pops and my dad asking if I liked her songs. Strange, because it’s so unremarkable to be kept inside my head. At this stage I her career, she had made her big break, and soon enough I was listening to her album, with hits such as What a Girls Wants and Come On Over (All I Want Is You). Yet, it was three years later, when she released what I will always think of as her best album: Stripped.
I was having a hard time at school, and listening to this album was the very definition of empowering. I had been pushed out of a friendship group during a time where looking back, I honestly believe I was depressed, and this escalated to the extent where I felt I was a target for lots of different groups at school. I did make some new friends, and remember connecting with one of them through a shared love of this album. This was before we had learnt to talk about why it is that Beautiful holds so much resonance with us, but fourteen years later and we are still friends, now sharing a love of bell hooks.
by Hannah Rose
Can women’s voices be heard above the din of war? Silly question, really. It’s not how loud we shout, but what we do with our words that count. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) takes this tenet seriously – they’re feminist wordsmiths with a long history of using international legal and political frameworks to bring female voices into the peace process. And WILPF is coming to Norwich. The new WILPF branch will be the eighth such establishment in the UK, and will be formalised at their AGM on the 16th April 2016.
by Robyn Banks
Once upon a time, there was a period in history when everyone on the left was in agreement. In this time of solidarity many campaigns were fought and won and nobody within the movement felt excluded. The boundaries of race, gender and class were broken down, sectarianism was a distant memory and everybody held hands and formed the party of the glorious left.
From #oscarssowhite to #rhodesmustfall, a spotlight has been shone on the lack of diversity and positive representation for POC across numerous institutions. Although these discussions have been catalysed in online spheres, the implications of these hashtags reference the real experiences of silencing and downplaying the importance of solidarity among BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people — particularly in student environments.
In 2015, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) conducted a study that suggested more BME students as opposed to White British students were enrolling in university — despite statistically ‘underperforming’ in academia. A general consensus made by researchers was that students from minority households have higher aspirations regarding education than their white counterparts, even with the increase made to tuition fees and the potential privatisation of student loans at hand.
NUS’ ‘No-Platform’ policy is the refusal to allow ‘racists or fascists’ to speak at NUS events or alongside NUS representatives. Bearing in mind that this policy is often conflated with attempts by individual Students’ Unions to ban certain speakers from their campuses, it has been dubbed by many as an attack on free speech, and further confirmation that the ‘intolerant student left’ have become more concerned with hiding in their progressive echo-chambers than with serious, healthy debate.
by Jess Howard
Content warning: the article mentions menstruation and physical discomfort.
In 2013, performance artist Casey Jenkins from Melbourne, Australia, caused a storm on the internet by knitting for 28 days in a gallery space using wool she had inserted into her vagina. The piece was titled Casting Off My Womb, but was christened Vaginal Knitting by the press. Almost 3 years later, Jenkins is knitting from her vagina once more, producing a commentary on the abuse she received when her original piece went viral.
I have been going to Women Of the World festival at Southbank’s Royal festival Hall for years on my own. I sometimes feel tentative about talking about women’s rights with friends and family unless I know for sure someone will be on board. This has worked well it seems, as gradually, and through being vocal online instead, more and more friends have become interested in finding out more. This was the first year that I brought a friend along one day, and a family member (Feminist Gran).
I believe I could also do something different to get more friends on board, especially those who have been curious in the past, but remained relatively untouched by my ranting. In this piece, split into two parts to accommodate the weekend events, I will review and discuss some of my personal highlights of the festival, with the intention of raising more awareness and showing what WOW is about.
by Linda Russo
I wrote To Think of her Writing Awash in Light as a way to investigate aspects of literary women’s lives that tend to be overlooked. The questions that interested me – how do lived spaces (domestic, urban, or natural spaces or environments) effect women’s relationships to their materials and ideas and language? How do women navigate these spaces and their various prescriptions for what women should or can do? – suggested a geographic inquiry, one that required leaving my desk and books behind to wander about and write in various environments, literal and imaginary.
This week Bernie Sanders made his full transformation from democratic figleaf for Hillary Clinton’s inevitable candidacy to serious contender, if still the underdog. In a mirroring of Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the Labour leadership, Sanders has swept away the idea of socialism as a dirty word amongst the party faithful and has exposed the lack of ideas and vision from the compromising, centrist party leadership. Much like Corbyn’s rise to power, however, it is notable that millenials have voted in their droves for an old white man to be their saviour.
So far Clinton has refrained from playing the gender card, though many of her supporters have failed to, but this defeat in New Hampshire will open the floodgates. Clinton was always supposed to be the first female President in the minds of the Democratic leadership and they are going to do all they can to remind Bernie’s supporters of the opportunity they will lose over the coming months.
Trigger Warnings: Eating disorders, self-harm
The main appeal of Leslye Headland’s underrated 2012 film ‘Bachelorette’ was how it treated commonly stigmatised women’s disorders such as bulimia, self-harm and nymphomania. Rather than treading delicately, the comedy-drama shows the three main characters, close friends Regan, Katie and Gena (Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fischer and Lizzy Caplan) – each with their respective ailment- in an unapologetic, borderline celebratory way.
by Alex Valente
Repeat after me: comics is a medium, not a genre. Good? Good. Let’s start from there. Comics is (yes, plural noun, singular verb) a medium. As such, it has the power to channel ideologies, reflect society, provoke ripples in current trends, generate new ones, validate certain opinions, undermine others, and most of all — it influences a gigantic audience, it creates a dialogue between readers and authors.
Sometimes that dialogue is out of sync. Sometimes a side shouts louder than others. Sometimes it falls short of everyone’s expectations and hopes. And sometimes, really good things happen, and excellent conversations take place.
Over the past century women have made great strides towards gender equality in the Western world. From the Suffragette movement of the late 19th and early 20th century in Britain to the commonplace election of female MPs today, women’s rights in the West are increasingly becoming the norm. Feminism has even played a role in the world of science fiction, with prominent authors such as Margaret Atwood and Ursula LeGuin imagining hypothetical future societies in which gender barriers, and in some cases gender itself, have been removed completely for the betterment of the human race.
I first came across Richard Yates’ work through Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the screen adaptation of Revolutionary Road. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the book in HMV, for something ridiculous like £1, that I actually read his work. I loved them both equally. Maybe I’m just a sucker for all things retro, but I felt he was extremely talented at capturing the human condition in characters who were entirely believable; both romantic and tragic. His ability to do this seemed to extend to a variety of characters and situations when recently reading his Collected Works.
Content Warning: discussions of sexual violence and victim blaming
By Jo Swo
Just like how a teacher is expected to have a clear understanding of the subject their teaching, police should have a clear understanding of the crimes they are fighting. How else can you identify the crime and help the victim? This is a very simple analogy to a very complicated issue: rape and sexual assault. The factors that protect rape and rapists are the same that perpetuate rape culture; victim blaming, lack of education, and the fallibility of consent. Over the last year I have been troubled with the Norfolk Constabulary’s attitudes towards consent and their continual victim blaming. During Fresher’s week a police officer took a photo of an incapacitated student who was slumped on Price of Wales Road, covered in vomit and unconscious, which was then uploaded onto Twitter with the hashtag ‘KnowYourLimits’ and @ing UEA and the Student’s Union.
by Emmanuel Agu
To be forthcoming; yes- living and working conditions for black people have reached some atrocious lows in Obama’s two terms as president: the worst black unemployment rate in 28 years was recorded at was 16.8 in March 2011; 28 percent of all African Americans were living in poverty in 2013, and two out of five African American children lived in relative poverty – the most harrowing statistic of all: a $131,000 disparity between the average income of the white household and the African American.
Perhaps the biggest paradox of all is a Black President coexisting with the Black Lives Matter movement independent of the government. Statistics like these really do not encourage much faith in Obama and his ability as a ‘black president’- but again to merely look at these statistics without considering the economic climate Obama was thrust into would be a misrepresentative and reductive analysis. The ‘Great Recession’ in 2008-13 is widely understood to be caused by a deregulation of wall street during Bush’s Administration and was characterised by fiscal austerity, collapsing of housing markets due to irresponsible lending from the banking sector which (amongst many other contributory factors), could perhaps be lead us to reason these effects on the black community.
I was moved to go to this exhibit with its promise that it would move beyond the mainstream artists we think of when we think of pop art, such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Richard Hamilton, working in the 1960s and 70s. I enjoy the work of these artists, but having seen them all before, I was intrigued to see more women exhibited, as well as those across the globe.
The literature on the exhibition states it ‘expands the notion of pop art into a far wider geographical context, showing how different cultures and countries contributed to the movement.’ With Warhol’s famous Campbell soup cans we had a critique of consumerism, yet the images shown at The World Goes Pop aim to challenge social imbalances, including the role of women and civil rights. Here, I will discuss some of my highlights from the exhibition.
Hannah Silva’s work can be difficult to penetrate; there is not necessarily a fixed meaning, and in the notes given prior to ‘Schlock!‘ she quotes Kathy Acker by saying to ‘get rid of meaning. Your mind is a nightmare that has been eating you. Now eat your mind.’ This in itself requires interpretation: we place so much emphasis on meaning in our lives, this can destroy our minds, and so perhaps the best way to remove the self-doubt that I’m going to be “wrong” in my view of the work is to eat my mind, take control of the way the dots connect, and the ways they don’t.
For my first article, I thought it would be fitting to explore the relationship between two neglected areas of society that I feel passionately about: the representation of women and mental health issues. Deep down, the thought of a connection existing between emotionality and the female sex might evoke those uncomfortable, backward cultural connotations – women as fragile, women as prone to hysteria, and on the softer side of it, women as the ‘gentler’ sex.
However, bringing Freud into the discussion in general might not be so wrong because the real problem, the ongoing obstacle for both those with depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorder and the whole host of legitimate clinical disorders that I couldn’t possibly all list here, and the limitations that women still face day-to-day, is the wider, ideological practice of repression: namely society’s refusal to acknowledge the significance of psychology itself.
by Chris Jarvis
Faintest Idea are a street punk influenced ska band hailing from the Norfolk coastal town of King’s Lynn known for their energetic live shows, filled with singalongs, skanking and rivalling horns. The lyrical content of their music, as with much of the underground ska-punk scene, is littered with radical and anarcho politics. Through a series of questions, The Norwich Radical tried to tease out the reasons behind their politics, the relationship it has to their music, and how they see their role in a wider political context as part of a new series – Music That Matters.
On 9th and 10th October, the Royal Festival Hall played host to the premier of ‘The Hollow of the Hand’ – a collaboration between musician PJ Harvey and photographer-filmographer Seamus Murphy. It was essentially a book launch, but it will also be a project that includes a film to be released next year. It’s a relatively new breed of art, with politics at its heart, where reportage and art combine to create a particular type of documentary where the genre is combined with artistic photography/videography, poetry, and music.
The project saw Harvey and Murphy travel to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington DC. Murphy stated that they went to these countries without any agenda, without a particular message they wished to convey. It appeared Murphy enjoyed going down the road less travelled, and cited a chicken coop in Kosovo as an example of the kinds of places he liked to visit, and was glad Harvey felt the same way.
by Robyn Banks
Last time I ranted about people in the corporate world who hold everyone to extraordinary levels of time management and efficiency because the God of capital accumulation dictates that it must be so. This week I want to rant about the flip side of that coin, self-care culture. You know what that is. Articles that pop up on your newsfeed such as ’10 ways nobody should make you feel’, ‘tips for looking after yourself’ and ‘How to get negative people out of your life’, right? People involved in this crap might call themselves ‘highly sensitive people’ and talk about other people as ‘energy vampires’ or as ‘toxic’. You know who they are.
This might sound all fine and dandy, if it wasn’t just as dogmatic and unyielding as corporate culture and also just as susceptible to replicating societal inequalities as every other movement. And the people who suffer most when others act on this ideology are the very people the movement claims to be protecting- people with mental health issues. If you struggle with low moods and feel that it’s important to keep negative or toxic people out of your life, think about how it feels to be struggling with low mood and characterised as a negative or toxic person.
by Mike Vinti
Feminism has been in the news a lot recently. Whether it’s Femen’s brand of topless demonstrations, protests at the premier of the film Suffragette or straw-man attacks on the movement in the Spectator, for a movement that’s been active for some decades now, its seems that 2015 was the year the cause really broke into mainstream circles.
Pop music in particular has been significantly influenced by feminism this year. Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj established themselves as sex positive feminists and two of the biggest musicians on the planet, bands like Catfish & the Bottlemen are publicly derided for the kind of indie-lad-band antics that would have been celebrated in the NME five years ago and Whirr pretty much just wrecked their career by slinging misogynistic insults at the trans-fronted, feminist punk band G.L.O.S.S on Twitter. Two years ago we had ‘Blurred Lines’ – now we have clearly defined boundaries of consent.
I went to see ‘Suffragette’ with a lot of mixed expectations. I’d heard the reviews weren’t that great, my mum described it as ‘slow’ and there’d been criticism for the lack of BME women in the film (zero). There were also issues of Carey Mulligan’s accent and the fact the film was advertised as having leading roles by herself, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter. These may seem like minor points, but they reveal deeper issues beneath their surface.
by Robyn Banks
Last year, I dropped out of uni. My life was falling apart around me, I’d run out of new excuses for extension requests on my assignments, I was failing to meet any of my responsibilities. My finances were in chaos, I wasn’t eating and I was totally failing to prioritise by continually allowing my grades and self care to slip in order to meet my obligations to other people, which I was barely doing anyway. I was always late, I couldn’t sleep, I managed to check my emails about once a month and consequently fell further and further out of the loop. I pushed my friends away, clawed them back, worried they all hated me and yapped on and on about just how irrevocably miserable I was. I was afraid of my lecturers, assuming they all had some kind of report card about me in their heads in which they totted up all of the missed classes, late assignments, and failings on my part and were sure to judge me for it. I became so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed, so I asked if I could drop out and try the year again in September.
by Emily Critchley
My situation as both a writer and a feminist involves my trying to think carefully about how interior/private and exterior/public ‘realms’ constantly mutually inform one another.
Though I am sceptical about the explicit social/political power of poetry, I believe the thinking done by and through it, and other art forms, may have implicit and incremental social effects; as Leslie Scalapino put it: ‘poetry is society’s secret interior’.
by Alex Valente
In the beginning, there were giant evil gods. Then we arrived, and started telling stories of things that go bump in the dark, of what lies between the cracks, of what lurks under the bed. Fears began to take shapes, looking more like tales of caution and of danger. They took the shape of bogeymen and chainsaw wielding killers, nightmare creatures and monsters from the deep. Afraid of sexuality? Vampires, werefolk and secluded cabins will tell you not to. Alcohol and drugs also covered. Religious terrors? We have possessions, exorcists, ghosts and devils aplenty. Coulrophobia, arachnophobia, nyctophobia? Here’s a clown-looking spider that waits for you at night.
Whatever new things we discover scare us, we create a monster for them. We try to impose order, and keep it under control. We give it a recognisable, if unsettling and still scary, frame. Then, at some point, we pushed too far.
by Robyn Banks
It all started with a Facebook event. Goldsmiths Student Union Welfare and Diversity officer, Bahar Mustafa, wanted to find out how she could help women and non-binary students of colour at her university. Aware that the voices of these minority groups were often difficult to hear, she decided to organise an event to talk to women and non-binary BME students alone. She created a Facebook event and politely requested that men and white people did not attend the event for people who weren’t men or white people. I don’t pretend to understand the reasons that white men at Goldsmiths were so upset that they weren’t wanted at the BME meeting, but they were, and before long the story had made it in to the right wing press and Bahar was splashed across the pages of the Daily Mail. After being put under harsh scrutiny and being the subject of a campaign of harassment, Bahar tweeted that familiar sentiment which has come to epitomise the frustration of third wave feminists, from Bikini Kill to Jezebel, in the form of a hashtag: “#Killallwhitemen”.
When the Conservatives came to power this year, without even the Liberal Democrats to soften the inevitable multiple blows, many artists buckled up for more difficult years. I’m not one to buy the starving artist cliché, but it’s a reality that in these times, where arts funding is being cut (despite receiving a proportionally meagre amount), that being any kind of artist is going to be a struggle. It also means that it is sold as a less viable career path for young people, and the arts are placed back in the hands of the wealthy elite.
Homework nights used to be a bit of a boys’ club, being a product of the all-male poetry collective Aisle 16. I’d been to an event where they shared that in their youth they had the rule that no girls were allowed. They became somewhat of a poetry boyband, and original members – Luke Wright, Joel Stickley, Chris Hicks, Ross Sutherland, John Osborne, Joe Dunthone and Tim Clare – have gone on to achieve great things. Most of these poets also have a Norwich connection, having attended UEA.
They’re also very much still involved in Homework, with Sutherland hosting this particular one. The premise of this night, based in Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, is that each poet has a month to create a new piece of work and the show itself is a presentation of their homework in the form of a literary cabaret. Each month is themed and features a special guest. It’s very popular, so arriving early for a good seat is a must. Honorary female members, Molly Naylor and Katie Bonna, have been making their mark here for some time, and I thought it would be worthy of a feature to shine the spotlight on them.
by Robyn Banks
A man overhears you saying something he doesn’t like, and yells abuse at you. You leave, but later on he looks up all of your personal information – your work address, home address, your parents’ home address – and sends it to you with a threat to come over to rape and/or kill you. How would you describe this kind of person? A stalker? Possible axe murderer? Would you contact the police? How would you feel if the police told you to just ignore it?
After five days at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I’ve taken a pick of five Feminist pieces to review. Known for the extensive comedy programme, three of these are comedy acts, and then I’ve thrown in some poetry and theatre for good measure.
by Mike Vinti
Between Spotify releasing data showing that hip hop is the most widely listened to genre of music, and the imminent release of Straight Outta Compton: The Movie, rap has been in the news a lot recently. With the spotlight firmly on Dr. Dre & Co., and in light of a fantastic article for Gawker by journalist and MC Dee Barnes, detailing the abuse she faced from the former NWA member and how women were excluded from the movie, questions have begun to be asked about the treatment of women in hip hop.
In many ways these questions are long overdue. As with many other genres, women have been all but erased from the popular narrative of hip hop’s history, and many rappers still use misogynistic language today. The latter of these is the most frequent, and most generalised, complaint levelled against hip hop and rap, and has been since the genre reached mainstream popularity.
I didn’t know what to expect from The Institute of Sexology, exhibited at the Wellcome Collection, but it was probably not the mass of phallic and explicit penis-shaped trinkets, supposedly associated with power. What would have been nice is the inclusion of similar vagina-inspired adornments. Nevertheless, it was bound to be that an exhibition about sex would highlight patriarchal power and women’s submissive role throughout history.
by Robyn Banks
CW: Domestic violence
Like so many other politically engaged people I know, I follow the blog Another Angry Voice. A couple of days ago one of his articles appeared on my timeline, and it seemed to be about feminism. Yay, feminism, my favourite subject! I agree with about 90% of what is written on his blog, frequently share his infographics and articles and generally understand him to be a well meaning, intelligent and rational man who’s work I admire. Naïve, I clicked the article.
Over the next few days the article resurfaced on nearly every feminist group or page I follow, and I wish that was where I had first seen it because most of these groups use trigger warnings which could well have saved me from having to drive to work 20 minutes after reading, late, choking back angry tears and almost killing cyclists. But those tears will be useless if I don’t direct them in to something productive, so here is my open letter to Thomas G Clark, creator of Another Angry Voice.
I have recently come across a lot of backlash against the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, including this article from The Guardian. Whilst I’ve read arguments that Sport England would do well to challenge the massive pay gap between men and women in sports, I reject the notion that it should be in spite of this campaign, claiming that it’s not needed, that it’s patronising, or that it’s actually about sex.
The taglines on the website that sums up the campaign is that ‘fear of judgement is stopping many of us from taking part in exercise. But as thousands of women up and down the country are proving, it really doesn’t have to’; ‘It’s a celebration of active women up and down the country who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets.’
by Robyn Banks
In previous years, you could be excused for not realising the women’s world cup was on. Not this year. We have been one of the few countries to broadcast every game live, albeit that games were only moved from soon to be online only BBC Three to BBC One for the quarter final, and the games have attracted a lot more attention than they have in the past. An unnecessarily sexualised image of a female footballer didn’t even cross my path, and FIFA announced that for the first time women’s football teams will appear in their annual playstation game. Perhaps it’s because we did so well, coming in third place, and everyone loves a winner, or perhaps it signifies greater steps towards the equality of women’s sports in culture.
by Robyn Banks
Caitlyn Jenner’s controversial coming out made headlines this month, and attracted hate and support in equal measure. While transphobia is always difficult to accept, the worst kind of bigotry has to be from those who veil it behind half-arsed logic and think they can justify their hate with a rational argument. It was in this vein that #givebackthegold was born.
This petition to persuade Caitlyn Jenner to give back the gold medal she earned competing in the 1976 Olympic men’s decathlon has garnered over 15,000 signatures on change.org. The accompanying text reads “Ms. Jenner (as talented as she is) claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men’s sports and vice versa. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we must ask whether or not it is proper that Ms. Jenner should retain her olympic records in light of this”.
by Asia Patel
Content Warning: brief mentions of harassment, rape threats, sexual harassment, menstrual blood, some examples of trolling including concern trolling (regarding body weight), mild swearing.
My name is Asia. I’m on the UUEAS Feminist Society committee for next year. I was last year too, and it’s really opened my eyes to how straight-up rude and cruel people like you can be to other people who are striving for equality. I want to get real with you, adult to adult.
I first found out about Holly Hopkins by attending a ARTNAKED Poetry Session at Library Club in London, where she cut into the awkward silence of a tightly packed room with a mixture of chatting and poetry. For some, it would have offered an opportunity to gain an insight into her work, and for those like me, it inspired a purchase of her pamphlet Soon Every House Will Have One (smith | doorstop, 2014).
by Robyn Banks
Last week Nobel Prize winning scientist, Sir Tim Hunt, addressed an audience of senior female scientists at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls”, he said, “Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.” This was reportedly met with stony silence, which is hardly a surprise. He later clarified that, although the comments were intended as a “joke”, he meant what he said and was just trying to be “honest, actually”. Women present at the conference took to twitter to voice their discomfort, sparking a twitter storm of derision, humour and critique. The story made the national press and less than 48 hours later, Sir Tim Hunt had resigned from his faculty position at University College London.
This week, the Daily Mail published a story by Sarah Vine titled ‘March of the feminist bullies!’. In it she referred to the complaining women as humourless “feminazis”, as “stupid, pampered, spoilt” and lamented the fact that “men like [Tim Hunt] can’t be allowed to go around the place making giant scientific breakthroughs of the kind that may one day lead to, oh I don’t know, a cure for cancer, unless and until they have fully submitted to the will of the mob”. And, in true sisterly fashion, wrote that she despaired of her sex.
by Mike Vinti
Earlier this week it was announced that Virgin Money will be putting out a series of credit cards bearing classic Sex Pistols iconography. The reaction to this has been pretty much universally horrified, as well it should — but really, what did everyone expect?
From the start the Sex Pistols were more about the image than integrity, they swapped Glen Matlock, the band’s only songwriter, for Sid Vicious because Matlock wasn’t punk enough; they let Malcolm McLaren run the show so long as they got paid, and last time anyone even thought about Johnny Rotten was when he did those fucking butter adverts. Virgin Records was the home of the ‘Pistols following their split from EMI and released the bands only studio album to date, the only thing shocking about the new credit cards is the fact it took them 30 years to come up with the idea.
Now this isn’t to say that the Sex Pistols are without merit. Or that you shouldn’t be disgusted by the prospect of some yuppie Richard-Branson-wannabe popping into his local branch of ‘Champagne and Fromage’ to buy some brie with his new ‘Anarchy for the UK’ credit card. But can we please let go of the idea that punk begins and ends with Johnny Rotten and co?
Content warning: nudity.
by Asia Patel
Girlhood, or Bande de Filles, is a French film directed by Céline Sciamma, centring on the character of Marieme, played by Karidja Touré. Taking place in a suburb of Paris, Marieme undergoes several transformations throughout the film, shown through her name change to ‘Vic – for Victory’, as well as through her appearance, sexuality, increasing misdemeanour behaviour, and relationships with family and friends. The film was humorous with Marieme’s knowing smile being a feature throughout, yet it also provided important social commentary.
The fact that seeing a French film with young black girls at the centre is so unusual, let alone it being shown in Odeon Cinemas (and not merely restricted to independent screens), plus the women playing the group of girls all being found through theatre classes and high schools as opposed to agencies, shows that there is a need for more film like this.
by Srishti Dutta Chowdhury
Disclaimer: Mentions female foeticide, abortion, and domestic abuse.
As part of the Vogue Empower project, that was initiated in October 2014, to commemorate the seventh year for Vogue in India, Homi Adajania’s video ‘My Choice’ features some prominent faces in the country of India. Besides Deepika Padukone, there’s Adjania’s wife, actress Nimrat Kaur, film critic Anupama Chopra, and Director Zoya Akhtar, among others.
The video went viral on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, in a matter of days — which is great news except it garnered negative criticisms everywhere. The reservation against the video by feminists and gender activists is understandable. According to a large number, while the video seeks to raise questions such as ‘If men can do what they want, why should women be deprived of the same right?’, it falls short of effectively addressing the question of women empowerment.
Hannah Silva, known for her success as a poet both on page and on stage, delivered her research on ‘Repositioning Performance.’ It was filled with quotations, energy, and analysis of a Salena Godden performance. Immediately it linked to the ever-complex discussion about the page/stage divide, connecting to Malika Booker’s paper later, as well as the She Grrrowls Q&A, whereby BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) poetry is positioned as ‘performance’ or ‘spoken word.’
I arrived in time for the first panel session, and I chose to attend ‘Fragment and Process’. This featured three women; the equal representation of gender throughout the conference was something refreshing. In fact, without realising it I solely saw women presenting their papers that day. Susan Watson spoke about translations of Sappho, with Anne Carson at the centre. This was the first talk that inspired me to take note of unfamiliar authors and texts. Watson provoked interest from the onset, when she explained that the original Greek contained feminine endings, indicating the poet was a woman, whilst in the English translation, the gender of the speaker was not prescribed in this way.
Hollie McNish: Versus tour — Open Banking Hall, Norwich. Hollie McNish has been on this particular tour for a long time now, having had it extended from the first set of dates. In the format that one would expect a music gig to be in, this proves — if nothing else — that poetry can work in this setting. As a poet, part of what I loved was McNish’s refusal to write something more theatrical with lots of movement, or to strive for a narrative arc. A poet who likes to keep things simple — this stripped down approach was refreshing and inspiring.
by Robyn Banks
The Focus E15 campaign began suddenly in August 2013 when 29 young or expectant mothers, who had been residing in the Focus E15 hostel for homeless young people, were served eviction notices by East Thames Housing Association after Newham council severed its funding. Appealing to the council for help, the E15 mums were told that due to cuts to housing benefit and a lack of social housing, they would have to be relocated as far away as Manchester or Birmingham and suffer the consequences of being plucked suddenly from their homes, families and support networks.
The move, which many consider to be one of many changes taking place involving the relocation of people on low incomes to outside of London — a form of social cleansing — prompted one of the most fiery and successful grassroots anti-cuts campaigns under the conservative government. The Focus E15 mums got organised, protested and held marches and occupations for ‘social housing, not social cleansing’ to pressure Newham Council. Although the campaign was born from individual need and the right to have a roof over your head, when the E15 mums act women everywhere benefit.
For an exhibition with such an empowering title, I was intrigued to see what was being shown. Displayed at the Design Museum, it presented a timeline of women’s fashion until the present day. That said, the question of power was up for discussion, from the tiny corsets that squish women into an hourglass (arguably, the most dominant shape shown to be desirable throughout history), to the laughable early swimming costumes that showed an aversion to exposed flesh (it was simply a waterproof outfit).
On one hand, I couldn’t help but feel that aspects of fashion should be questioned and critiqued. In the Victorian period, women cinched in their waists with these corsets, and added fabric to their hips to emphasis the same shape that women are now striving to achieve through cosmetic surgery and Gok Wan’s cinch belts (the former sometimes having led to deaths). Surely, our bodies are not simply a fashion statement?