August saw the five-year anniversary of Lauren Kaye’s ‘I’m All In’, a poetry collection described as a ‘seductive collection of romantic and sensual poems that speak on the inevitable episodes of love, sex and relationships’. The occasion was marked on social media – at a time where artists are forced to be more resourceful than ever when the stage is taken away. As Kaye outlines in the introduction, her poetry ‘is written much how I speak’, and it is best to have seen her live or see live videos so you can then hear her voice as you read coming through the pages.
CW: sexual assault, rape
David Wiener’s TV adaptation of Huxley’s classic dystopia launched on Sky One and Peacock on July 15th 2020.
Set in New London – in a society where class is enforced by genetic engineering and hypnopaedic indoctrination, the use of the euphoric drug soma is universal, public orgies are wholesome fun and ‘mother’ is a swear word – Brave New World is a novel with many themes. One of them is misogyny and the mechanisms by which it is expressed and perpetuated. Consequently, the portrayal of the novel’s central female character, Lenina Crowne, and her relationship with John the Savage (the emotional core of the story) are huge contributing factors to the success or failure of any adaptation. Wiener faces the challenge of depicting a society he describes as ‘hugely problematic’ without condoning it, which raises questions about how the problematic aspects of the novel could, or even should be, adapted.
By Lewis Martin
Content warning: discussion of transphobia, genitalia
In June, the news broke that Graham Linehan, former comedy writer turned full time transphobe, was finally removed from twitter for his continued attacks on the trans* community. Whilst it is positive that twitter is finally taking the action that the trans* community have long been asking for, this should have happened years ago, when Linehan started doxing people who dared challenge him.
‘I was still standing. I’m shot, I thought, I’m shot. I reached down and touched my stomach. Blood. There was a small hole, slightly charred, in my white shirt: my Paul Smith shirt, I thought, with a pang of anguish. I’d paid a week’s salary for it in San Francisco.’
A novel preoccupied with appearances and the dark realities they can conceal, it is no wonder that clothes are a recurring theme in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. As protagonist Richard notices the gunshot in his expensive shirt at the climax, his ‘anguish’ stems less from the injury to his physical body than to the painstakingly assembled body of signifiers he has spent the novel maintaining; a ‘small hole’ through which his history, in its imperfect secrecy, is exposed.
by Alex Valente
Content warning: suicide
On the evening of Friday, 18th October 2019, I attended Massy Books launch of Kai Cheng Thom’s latest book I Hope We Choose Love – A Trans Girl’s Notes from the End of the World, a collection of non-fiction and short poetic pieces that together form a net of radical hope-building for a time – and it has been a long time, as rightly noted in the introduction – when all hope seems lost. I follow Kai Cheng’s work online already, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the event. I’m glad to say I’m still not entirely sure what happened.
The existence of the gender spectrum beyond the simple male/female binary is now more visible in mainstream media and popular culture than ever before. And whilst life for non-binary and trans folks is still difficult, even dangerous, there seems to be more cultural awareness (if not sensitivity) about various trans identities within cis circles. In the Hayward Gallery’s Kiss My Genders exhibition, this visibility of the gender spectrum takes centre stage.
A tall hill of turquoise, gendered cooing and guffawing, chainmail crop tops, and dance-fights with mops, performed to the sound of nineties nostalgia: Lizzy Shakespeare and Michelle Madsen, together known as Bait Theatre, effectively wield experimental drama to tear through the fanciful tropes of traditional fairy-tale femininity.
By Lewis Martin
Once again, an array of academics have signed a letter complaining about the increased efforts by universities to recognise and support Trans* and Non-Binary students on their campuses. Their reasons for doing so aren’t worth exploring, as they are based on the same logic, or lack thereof, as many transphobes about the realities of gender, sex and identity. The problem we should focus on is that the academics who have signed this letter, and the ones before it, hide behind the claim of ‘Academic Freedom’ in order to try and justify their views.
By Laura Potts
Take The Weight Off Your Mascara is Norwich’s up-and-coming drag night, run through The House of Daze drag house. I was lucky enough to interview four key members of The House of Daze: Sylvia Daze, Liv, Bishy Barnabee and Devil Child. Consisting of both regular performers and occasional guests, such as Dolores Deepthroat, The House of Daze are following in the footsteps of previous Norwich drag collectives like The Rose Bud Club and such local drag legends as Luna Howl.
by Stu Lucy
Professional sport is possibly one of the most challenging and competitive ways to earn a living these days. With national fame and glory as rewards, many dream of representing their country on the international stage and bringing home a medal, earning their place in their country’s sporting history. Imagine then that you were one of the lucky few that made it to the top, that had that chance to take gold and did so, multiple times, earning a revered reputation in the field as the one to beat, then imagine you were told it could all be taken away because you were too much like the opposite sex. Where would you start?!
by Rob Harding
I stay hidden while Adil opens up again, rates the police on their app, and sends them packing. Once that’s done, Adil’s daughter nods to me. ‘You’re welcome.’ She says. ‘Now, if you don’t mind?’
I stammer my thanks and head out the front again. Adil nods to me and lets me duck under a shutter, and back out onto the street.
There’s no sign of the police, or the hijacked DeepGrey workers, or anything particular. A Community Security bot has rolled into place at the far end of the street, but if I don’t go near it it won’t ID me and do the digital equivalent of the staring-eyed pod person screech. I’ve long since resigned to having to work around the damn things, and these days I only vaguely keep track of the forum posters who fight a constant arms race with their glassy-eyed developers out in San Francisco or Vientiane, or wherever the fuck has the most reliably gullible investors this week.
by Zoe Harding
The woman on the street is making those noises as the shouting starts again, the raw-throat all-out hate that only hysterical men can shriek. I barely recognise what they’re saying.
The woman coughs and sobs again, and I hear a fleshy impact, like the sound of a shoe hitting a stomach.
And then there’s the wail of a siren, right around the corner, and the burglar-alarm scream of an LRAD blots out all other sound. A huge armoured police car with tires as tall as I am comes grinding down the street, a pair of armed officers walking alongside it. The turret on top is swinging to bring a grenade launcher to bear against the fight. Hopefully they won’t fire it. I like this jacket, and the stink of chemical riot dispersant is designed with a half-life of about fifty years.
Inspired by my experience of Being a Man Festival, I attended an evening in appreciation of poet and educator, Jacob Sam-La Rose. The night consisted of speeches and moving poetry in tribute to his teachings. The energy was reminiscent of the Burn After Reading nights, and despite this occasion being a one-off, it captured what I love about live literature events. Often, it can seem that poetry is such a niche medium, that outsiders can struggle to find their place. However, these spaces provide a place where people can share both pain and joy, and connect with others through words. Sam-La Rose is mostly known for the incredible work he does with young people. He has tremendous influence on poetry today, and on the opportunities that many young people have to be exposed to, and enveloped by, this art form. It comes as no surprise then to read on the back cover of Breaking Silence, that his work ‘is grounded in a belief that poetry can be a powerful force within a community’.
It felt right to return to the well-thumbed pages of my copy of Sam-La Rose’s debut book-length collection from Bloodaxe, one of the most reputable poetry publishers in the UK. Breaking Silence was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, but many feel it has not had the recognition it deserves. Linking with themes from Being a Man Festival, the collection explores issues of manhood and masculinity, and how these intersect with race and dual heritage, as well as broader issues of identity.
As the old saying goes, ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’. This week, a coalition of economics students, academics and campaigners gathered to get inside the piper-paying process – the funding of economics research – to create an economics fit for the real world.
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.
by Zoe Harding
This thing that’s now installed on the brains of nearly three billion people, across pretty much all but the top levels of every single first-world government (and even then, one wonders if MPs have always been this weird and robotic – oddly, history would seem to confirm yes). What does it do?
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?
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.
by Laura Jamieson
Last Saturday, July 15th, saw the Eastern Mermaids travel to Upton-Upon-Severn to compete in the second southern fixture for the Quidditch Premiere League. Quidditch – a real, full contact, mixed gendered sport – has rapidly grown over the last ten years, with over 500 teams across 26 countries, competing in national and international tournaments. Played using ‘brooms’ made of PVC pipe, the players aim to score points by throwing the quaffle through three hoops on opposite ends of the pitch, all whilst avoiding beaters, players armed with dodgeballs aiming to briefly knock their opponents out of the game.
After 20 minutes, the seekers and snitch take the pitch, a player from each team aiming to ‘catch’ a tag rugby style ball in a sock attached to the back of a neutral player’s shorts. Quaffle goals are worth 10 points, with a snitch catch worth 30 points and ending the game. Full contact and competitive, the sport has seen many people otherwise disinterested or alienated from mainstream popular sports become engaged and active, some going from stationary nerds to cardio and protein enthusiasts, other players having previously played sport, joining due to the appeal of a unique, inclusive sport unlike any other.
“They’ll never do it,” I said, with total certainty. “I mean I’d love it – if it wasn’t Stephen Moffat writing it, at least – but they’ll never do it.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to be so wrong.
by Laura Potts
The long standing debate regarding gendered school uniform has been raised once more in the news recently, when a number of students at Isca academy in Exeter chose the much cooler option of wearing a school skirt in the recent high temperatures. They were protesting the fact that students are not allowed to wear shorts.
This is not an isolated case, but one of several in recent months. One call centre worker in Buckinghamshire, for example, also chose to question his firm’s anti-shorts rules by wearing a dress, and his tweets about this act of defiance went viral. Protests like these partly reveal the rigidity that gendered uniform creates – but, contrary to what most coverage suggests, the issue goes much deeper than just whether schools allow shorts and skirts in hot weather.
In recent years the discussion of gentrification and globalisation has become almost unavoidable – and for the most part, these terms have now been resigned as popular buzzwords in pseudo-intellectual conversations. As glib as this may sound, I shall do my best to explain.
While many a piece has been written on this subject, this is in fact not my primary focus. My intention is not to deny the lived and consequential reality of western mobilisation, but rather look towards the supporters and benefactors of this growing socio-economic practice. In particular, a generation of young people who are forgoing academic careers in favour of acquired/inherited wealth and personal development. More specifically, I will focus on my experience in post-Brexit Germany.
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.
by Hannah Rose
Virginia Woolf stated in her 1929 seminal essay A Room of One’s Own that, because women remain unequal to men in society, they are less likely to succeed as writers. A writer has two basic requirements in order to write productively: an independent income which provides basic necessities—food and shelter— and uninterrupted writing time. In 1929, the majority of British women were either working to provide the basic necessities for others, and did not have a private space in which to pursue a creative life or an independent income. This, says Wolf, is why the literary canon is dominated by men. “Intellectual freedom,” she writes, “depends upon material things.”
Almost a century later, some women are still having to argue their right to a creative life.
by Rowan Gavin
I was recently excited to hear of a new module being run in the Politics department at UEA next academic year entitled ‘Activist Campaigning’. Module convenor Dr Ben Little was good enough to let me interview him about the course, its history, and his hopes for its future at UEA.
Whilst living in Spain – though I have missed my loved ones – what I have missed most is the abundance of poetry and arts nights you can find in London. It wasn’t long before I arrived in Córdoba that I went in search of events. I saw an old poster for a “Poetry Slam” at the Jazz Café, but it didn’t appear to exist any more. I then stumbled upon Mujeres Poetas Internacional. I contacted founder Jael Uribe, from the Dominican Republic, and she soon responded and contacted the organisers in Córdoba, and even translated four of my own poems into Spanish.
I corresponded with Sergio Perez Rodrigeuz and Maria Pizarro, organisers of the Grito de Mujer at which I was booked to read. I emailed in Spanish, which perhaps led them to believe I could speak Spanish, which is certainly not the case (writing =/=speaking). There were awkward moments, such as me not realising a group photograph included me and having it retaken, and me staring blankly when trying to discuss the proceedings (thankfully an audience member with some English skills stepped in). But for a night of poetry where I could only pick out a few words, it showed that poetry was well and truly alive in 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 Alex Valente
A quick preface to the following, which also serves as a way to convince myself that I am … allowed to write about this, rather than the Bologna protests, or the political mess in Rome, or the current turmoil on the Italian left-of-centre party PD, or the upcoming women’s general strike. Those are things at the front of my mind – but I will take this week to find a little glimmer of beauty in a sea of constantly rising anger, instead.
Enter then, one of the two films I saw this year that made me think about language, and how we use it, and how it is used in the media. The other is Arrival, and so much has been written about it already, I decided to focus on Makoto Shinkai’s gorgeous animated film 君の名は (‘Kimi no na wa’), released in English as Your Name.
Rowena Knight has been making waves both in terms of poetry on the page (including Magma, Cadaverine and The Rialto) and on the stage, being a regular at poetry nights across London, as well as a team member of She Grrrowls. Self-identifying ‘Feminist Killjoy’, the collection deals with becoming a woman and growing up as an immigrant from New Zealand as a teenager.
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 Alex Valente
I moved back to Prato, Italy, last March. I thought I’d left behind the UK poetry scene, so very different in Italy in so many ways. Then, my own hometown organises a whole series of free events, including poetry nights – and invites Inua Ellams to perform his An Evening with an Immigrant show. Did you really think I wouldn’t attend, notebook in hand?
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.
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.
To this day, I am unable to pinpoint what exactly about sport coverage brings out numerous forms of oppression and respectability politics. It should come as no surprise that something as global and consistent as the Olympics should regularly undermine or overstate the achievements of many hard-working sportsman – thus propagating outdated and sexist narratives within competitive sport.
by Emmanuel Agu
Classically, a university education especially one of Russell group or Red-Brick standard universities has been marked as a distinction of class mobility, we know that the those in the upper percentage of wealth in this country are typically high academic achievers. Factually that merit of class distinction has belonged disproportionately to white men; though due to a long legacy of educational reform and positive action to break down these barriers, the goal of societal equality is ever more obtainable.
As Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator states: girls are 30% more likely to go to university than boys, and that BME students remain on the top end of university admission statistics; facts that deserve much celebration as they have been attained largely without positive discrimination quotas. Yet to one who chose to who see facts at only the surface level of the wider situation; this state of affairs only upsets him. He calls on the plight of the ‘white working class men’ espousing rhetoric concerning feminism “becoming detached from equality” and should instead reach to that of bridging the between women and working class men. Similarly in national focus on the BME attainment gap Nelson states, “In spite of all we hear to the contrary, this is a pretty good country in which to be young, gifted and black.”
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 Sam Naylor
Disclaimer: mentions body dysmorphia, body shaming
Type into Google images “attractive men” or “attractive male body” and see what pops up. I’ll just give you a moment to scan over some of those photos. Done? Good. In both searches a grossly disproportionate number of these men are celebrities but more importantly they’re white. Switch tabs to “attractive male body” and you are met with a sea of torsos and chests sculpted by the media gods. Chiselled jaw lines, blue or green eyes and ‘designer’ stubble appear to be just three of the ingredients to get you on your way to being an attractive male.
At first glance (and second and third) you might wonder why this representation of the male form is a problem for anyone. I’ve spoken to male friends before that don’t see anything wrong with wanting to keep their bodies healthy and in shape. I agree, I’m not saying that exercise and a good diet are things to be raged against, quite the opposite. It is an issue though when this idealised version of a muscular physique, which is predominately portrayed as white, is paraded as our default-sexy setting.
It’s not news to know that we live in a hypersexual world, where the adage ‘sex sells’ is used to excuse a lot of the overtly sensual imagery thrown at us in day-to-day life. Sex is everywhere, even in adverts for things as mundane as sandwiches. It’s this steamy atmosphere that asexuals are facing as they finally begin to attain recognition in society, and there’s a distinct sense of what an uphill struggle it is.
Asexuality’s simplest definition is the lack of sexual attraction to any and all genders. Unfortunately, most allosexuals (people who aren’t asexual, and do experience sexual attraction) tend to get all amused and patronising when the words “I’m not interested in sex” are spoken in their vicinity. This is further exacerbated by the fact that this simplest definition is typically for the benefit of allosexuals, and does little to explain just how complex asexuality is.
(Trigger warnings: Transphobia)
by Zoe Harding
You wonder where the hell they find these people sometimes.
Two weeks ago, one of the Tennessee state lawmakers pushing an anti-transgender rights ‘Bathroom Bill’ through their state legislature was exiled from his offices and denied access to several other areas of the legislative building on the grounds that he posed ‘a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature.’ Last year, former presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee told the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters that he wished he’d been able to pretend to be transgender in high school in order to shower with the girls. (Additional trigger warning: What.) Oh, the sexual assaults he could have committed if there was a legal loophole to allow it.
And these are the people pushing laws supposedly aimed at protecting American women and children from sexual assault. Americans are rallying behind real sex offenders to try to stop imaginary transgender sex offenders.
Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson is founder of The Mouthy Poets, based in Nottingham, who are a collective of 50 young poets. A poet herself, with a blurb of incredible achievements, I can’t help but envy her success as someone so near my age (she’s actually younger). Watching from the outside, I can see how much she has grafted to get where she is today, and her enthusiasm for what she does shines through at workshops, performance events, and is inside every well-chosen word on the pages of the Pigeon Party (2014) collection with flipped eye publishing.
Poems are enclosed in two-part poem After The Blackstone Rangers, which sets the scene for the collection. They describe a childhood growing up in cities, where “everyone was learning”, whether rolling cigarettes, or dancing. The words are both familiar and unexpected; a place where love and friendships are based on fun that is “still disposable and warm” — referring to the “can of Scrumpy Jacks”— but also holding a wider resonance, like most of Stevenson’s work.
by Sam Naylor
Disclaimer: Filled to the brim with spoilers and undergraduate level gender studies analysis *gasp*
Just for a moment whilst sitting with phone wrapped in hand, imagine that I am a renowned film critic — tall order I know. Now picture the scene of zero-star ratings being awarded to films. I am that film critic that awards a zero rating to the backwards 50s tripe that is Batman vs Superman. As you can tell I am totally not bitter about wasting my money and time, with 153 minutes of my life being dragged out before my eyes, as I endured a steroid-induced-figurine-smacking-debacle.
Initial rant over: what I’d first like to address is the films portrayal of its female characters. Now with a film title like Batman vs Superman I was aware that the main arc of the story would revolve around these two colossuses, but I’d hoped that in 2016 we’d moved far enough away from female roles as fillers and crutches for their male onscreen co-stars.
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.
The first part of this review, covering some of the events taking place on the Saturday, can be found here.
On Sunday, I attended the Trans Identities panel, featuring, Jane Fae, Munroe Bergdorf and Kate O’Donnell. I often feel that it is difficult to fully understand the trans experience without having lived it, yet put simply, the audience was asked to raise their hands whether they knew their gender at the age of five, alluding to those who transition as desiring the opposite to what they are referred to by others. As the panel highlighted, I’m of the view that to be a Feminist, you need to fight for all women, and that includes trans women. As Crenshaw argued, that is the crux of intersectionality. It’s not really the same if it’s only certain women for whose rights you fight. So, all I can do is listen and search to find out more about what it means to be trans, or gender fluid, or any other non-binary gender identity. It’s a complex topic, and I think most people in the audience could have stayed at least an hour longer. To explore more, you can catch Rebecca Root and O’Donnell in BBC drama Boy Meets Girl, which for some reason, BBC iPlayer don’t have to view.
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 Beth Saward
Bringing in a staggering $132.7million, Deadpool had the biggest opening weekend for an R-rated movie, beating The Matrix Reloaded’s previous 2003 record. It’s safe to say that the Merc with a Mouth has been a success. Tim Miller’s direction combined with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s screenplay manage to stay true to the comic’s sense of humour.
Those fans who were worried about how Deadpool’s infamous fourth-wall smashing would translate to the screen weren’t disappointed (even if a beautiful opportunity was missed during Stan Lee’s obligatory cameo). Reynolds, who’s said in interviews that he’s waited 11 years to make Deadpool, plays Wade Wilson with an infectious glee that you can’t help but enjoy. Despite all of this, the film leaves a somewhat unpleasant aftertaste.
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.
Try as I might, I can’t seem to ignore Milo. I know his type — I see them a lot in my line of work. The spoilt little boy who thinks he’s so clever, desperate to be noticed for all the dirty words he knows or the time he said “or what?” to a teacher. Milo seems to fancy himself an anti-authoritarian, but this is only true in the sense of a child screaming at his parents for only giving him one pack of sweets.
Once again, the perpetual adolescent has entered my inner sanctum with his ‘Privilege Grant’, a university fund only available to white men which Milo probably thinks is a Swiftian satire of social justice rhetoric. You know when people ask you to do something and you answer with no, shortly before doing what they asked? This joke works on about that level. Ah, you actually thought I was doing something to combat male privilege, but I’m arguing that MEN are the oppressed ones. Yeah, that’s the opposite of what you think, isn’t it? That must rile you up.
by Jess Howard
The majority of us will have seen articles featuring ‘Disney princesses redesigned as’. They’ve been tattooed, hungover and turned into pin ups. This time, however, writer and illustrator combo Danielle Sepulveres and Maritza Lugo have teamed up to produce a cartoon featuring Disney princesses visiting the gynaecologist, to promote sexual health awareness and cervical cancer. I have previously discussed why I disagree with cartoons being used to highlight sensitive issues, and this example is no exception.
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.
by Jennifer and Harriet Doveton of Colour Me Wednesday
People often ask us, in broad terms, what it’s like being a ‘political’ band. ‘Music’ and ‘Politics’ are treated as a volatile and unusual combination but to us it always seemed odd to try to talk about ‘political music’ as separate from ‘music’ and ‘politics’. Politics affects every part of our lives, to us, everything is political.
by Chris Jarvis
In one form or another, I have been ‘out’ for about eight or nine years. Obviously the concept of being ‘out’ is far more nuanced than a simple one stage event, act or process. The reality is of course much, much more complicated. Each time you meet a new person, each time you move to a new town, each time you start a new job that process has to start again, from the beginning.
Coming out is never an enjoyable experience for me, no matter how many times I have to do it. Throughout my life, there have been few things that have terrified me more than coming out to new people. I am not yet actively or consciously come out to my parents, despite now being 23. So much of the time it seems much easier to sit in silence and not rock the boat rather being upfront with the truth, even if that truth forms an important, albeit not defining, part of my identity. Why would I choose to risk potential isolation and victimisation when things could sit so much more comfortably in ignorance?
by Eve Lacroix
A report due to be released this month by the Common’s Women and Equalities Committee may prove to be a great step forward in terms of legal rights for the transgender community in the UK. Official existing acts that protect transgender people are the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, in which changing one’s gender became legally recognised, and the 2010 Equality Act which prohibits transphobic discrimination.
These two acts have proven insufficient, and to address current issues, one of the Committee’s tasks is to assess and research improvements that need to be made to achieve greater transgender equality. Conservative MP Maria Miller, who chairs the committee, has stated that “as a society and a government we should be looking at ways of trying to strip back talking about gender… We need to understand that gender stereotyping can be as damaging for men as it can be for women.”
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 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 Blythe Aimson
According to The Tab’s William Lloyd, I am not Cara Delevingne. Damn. I wish someone had told me sooner. No wonder DKNY aren’t returning my calls.
In all seriousness, The Tab recently published Lloyd’s article ‘Saying you’re bisexual is no substitute for being interesting’ (original article found here via donotlink). The central points of his argument are as follows: most people who identify as bisexual are lying; you must have slept with someone of the opposite sex to be ‘legitimately’ bisexual; bisexuality is a largely modern phenomenon caused by the desire to be dramatic and interesting on social media.
The first error in Lloyd’s pretty abysmal article is the assertion ‘So this is it: the gay-straight binary is collapsing’, as though gay and straight are the only two sexualities to have ever existed before social media told us otherwise. It’s true that the media has recently fixated on bisexuality as hip subversive trend, as more celebrities open up on the subject, such as his example Cara Delevingne, but this certainly doesn’t mean that bisexuality never existed before Miley Cyrus said so.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Loredana Magazzeni (1957-), from Transonetti ‘XIV’
I have no one but me, I am no other,
body of mine appealing to reason,
not to the plural echo of this hour,
nor to the promise of processing.
Gender queries the tongue
and level within level it translates it
follows mixed routes in performing
its transhumanation, across the border
by Alex Valente
The year is 2015: Ali Smith’s How to Be Both wins the Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction. Malorie Blackman concludes her extraordinary term as Children’s Laureate. The Nebula Awards feature women in all but one entry. The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded to author/translator team Jenny Erpenbeck and Susan Bernofsky for The End of Days. 40 nominations for the Eisner Awards are women, ranging from writers to editors, colourists to pencillers, inkers and letterers.
And yet, research conducted by author Nicola Griffith proves that despite the multiple recent spotlights on the literary stage for women — both on the page and behind it — there is a significant disparity in their treatment when it comes to recognition. Collating data and results from the past 15 years of a number of prizes for literature, Griffith has found that books featuring women, focusing on women or written by women have a track history of receiving fewer awards than those by, about and from men.*
The Last Word Festival is a annual festival of spoken word events at The Roundhouse. The organisation supports young artists with their work, giving them a platform to showcase their work, as well as featuring well-established names in poetry, such as East Anglia’s own Luke Wright. The programme was full of acts happening in every crevice of the building, spilling out into bar, where Talking Doorsteps videos were available to listen to on headphones in seating booths. Read on to find more about some of what this year had to offer.
by Jess Howard
Disclaimer: mentions sexual assault.
Caitlyn Jenner, who rose to fame as the stepfather of the elder Kardashian sisters, and father to Chris Jenner’s two youngest children Kendall and Kylie, revealed herself to the world this week in a stunning cover photo for Vanity Fair. Shot by world renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, the July cover finalises Jenner’s transformation from former decathlete gold medal winner, to beautiful woman. Dressed in lingerie and posing in a style reminiscent of the late Marilyn Monroe, the shot is respectable yet coy, showing the world that Caitlyn has finally physically become the woman she was born to be.
The cover scored Jenner a new world record, amassing 1 million twitter followers in just 4 hours. She tweeted ‘I’m so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can’t wait for you to get to know her/me’. However, whilst reactions have been predominately positive, supporting Caitlyn in her transition that was revealed in a tell-all interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in April, the cover has caused mixed reactions in the trans community.
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.
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.
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?
Sunday 8th February saw the launch of The Bechdel Test Fest at Genesis Cinema in East London. The test itself emerged after Alison Bechdel published a comic strip, inspired by friend Liz Wallace, where one character has a set of rules for watching a film. The criteria for passing the test are whether the film has two named female characters who talk about something other than a man. It is widely acknowledged as an extremely low bar.
Set up 30 years ago now, it seeks to address the gender bias in works of fiction; it has been found that just around half of films pass this test. With such a low bar set, the figure should be closer to 100%. This festival, led by Corinna Antrobus, puts The Bechdel Test in the spotlight, and aims to provoke discussion on gender in the film industry. In an effect to ‘reclaim the rom-com’, the launch event featured 2014’s Obvious Child and classic The Philadelphia Story — though I couldn’t stay for this part. After the first screening there was a panel discussion, including a video statement from Chloe Angyal about a statement she made that there is “no such thing as a feminist rom-com”, arguing that this is largely because society is still sexist.
I stepped into the New Year by seeing a production at Soho Theatre by a theatre company, Belgian Ontroerend Goed (translated as Real Estate, according to Wikipedia), entitled ‘Sirens’. I knew it was to be experimental and that it would touch on Feminist issues.
It began in darkness. Six women came on stage, making noises that evoked the sound of the sea, alluding to the Greek myth where creatures portrayed as femme fatales would seduce sailors with their voice, leading them to crash against rocks and drown.
by Jack Palmer
Like any well-trained student, I’ll open with a quote. It’s one from the forever-sniffing, forever-scruffy, cultural critic and contemporary theorist Slavoj Žižek: “We need theory more than ever today. We should not feel terrorized by this false sense of moralistic emergence: ‘no time for theory, people are starving’ and so on. My god, it is only through theory that we have at least a hope to learn what to do!”
Žižek’s assertion is a provocative one: it challenges our understanding of that word ‘theory’. In the scientific sphere, ‘theory’ means a comprehensively proven idea – one, crucially, that forms the foundation for knowledge. In the humanities by comparison, ‘theory’ is abstract: it’s speculative, faddish and maybe even a little indulgent. But the claim staked here is that theory in the humanities is not all groundless conjecture; for Žižek it’s vitally grounded, and where the real work of thinking happens.
by Mattie Carter.
The case of Elliot Rodger sent a shiver down the spine of people both inside and out of the feminist movement. This callous slaughter erupted from a mind so confident in its twisted perspective that the perpetrator seemed to view the act as entirely just. It’s not often that we get to see a detailed video of a murderer explaining his motives and the video Rodgers shot before taking innocent lives seemed to confirm the fears feminists have about male entitlement, slut-shaming and the patriarchy in general. In fact, news analysis seemed to, perhaps uniquely, speak with one voice: we live in a misogynistic society and this is what happens when young boys are brought up to believe that they are owed sex.