Afghanistan, a country that has been in and out of the news since the 9/11 terror attack and subsequent U.S.-led coalition invasion, is once again at the forefront of media attention this month, as a result of Trump’s decision to cancel peace talks with the Taliban on 9th September. The relentless violence and bombings conducted by Afghan state forces, U.S.-backed Afghan militias, Taliban, religious extremist groups, career criminals and other groups are no longer considered to be remarkable events; they happen so frequently that the international audience has become desensitized to them.
by Jonathan Lee
“New pension plans to work till you die are no cause for alarm” says arch-Tory overlord Ian Duncan Smith. A recent report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Tory think-tank which brought us Universal Credit, has recommended the government raise the retirement age from 65 to 70 by 2028, and to 75 by 2035.
The Tories are not content to simply make workers’ lives as miserable as possible through underfunding schools, unaffordable housing, food poverty, and the greatest devaluation of wages in modern history. They now seek to steal the last golden years of life from the majority of working class people who cannot afford a private pension in order to retire early.
Piles of colourful patterned fabrics line the stage, and three women dressed in black Lycra leotards select a fabric and wrap it around their head. The fabrics are drawn across the stage as the performers’ bodies undulate in a backwards crawl, before the scene is set as a hair salon with the colours swept away in a swirl around a chair.
As the title The Hair Wrap Diaries suggests, during this Uchenna Dance production written by Bola Agaje in partnership with director and choreographer Vicki Igbokwe, we hear different stories from each performer. Yet the show is also interspersed with dance, giving it a strong sense of poetics as the words are broken up and repeated with the movements. The stories themselves are carefully selected, offering a rainbow of different generations of black women, exploring their relationship with hair.
This week sees the UEA Students Union officer elections 2018 take place at Norwich’s largest educational institution. The Norwich Radical contacted all candidates in the election for comment on why they’re running and what they stand for. This article and the others in the series are intended to offer an insight into the current and future state of the union and of the UEA more broadly.
UEA students can vote in the elections at uea.su/ueavotes until Tuesday March 6th.
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.
Content warning: mentions sexual violence, abuse, sexual harassment, rape, domestic abuse and violence
Last week saw the hashtag #MeToo achieve viral success, following the accusations multiple women made again Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein. The hashtag started when actress Alyssa Milano, tweeted “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.
The next week, social media was bombarded with personal account of sexual harassment, abuse, rape, assault and domestic violence. Famous celebrities talked about their experiences and within 24 hours, Facebook reported that 4.7 million people engaged with the #MeToo hashtag with over 12 million posts and comments. Most of the media’s reaction has been positive – finally we are acknowledging that sexual violence is a pervasive problem rather than a few isolated incidents, they say.
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?
by Lewis Martin
Throughout the summer the debate around vice chancellor pay has continued to play out. Government and media figures have joined students in their long standing expression of outrage at absurd rates of pay, whilst the VCs themselves have come out to defended their salaries, some with a remarkable lack of self-awareness. Oxford VC Louise Richardson recently joined the fray with this startlingly uncaring remark: “My own salary is £350,000. That’s a very high salary compared to our academics who I think are, junior academics especially, very lowly paid.”
“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.
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: graphic imagery, menstruation
Wads of tissue swaddle the gushed gusset of my soon to be late underwear. DIY panty-lining for a DIY punk show. Tissue becomes currency as it is discovered that none of the loos in the entire venue have any – my stash acquired from the Wetherspoons further down the road. No cubicle provides the menstrual cup removing privacy of an old fashioned door. Instead, makeshift curtains swathe the space between yourself and a sorry stranger as the feat of dealing with your period in a space that assumes you do not have one trickles down your hand in all its bloody glory.
Do not have your period at a punk gig.
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.
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.
by Will Durant
There is a particular and widespread attitude to voting that is well meaning but ultimately futile. It goes something like this: “I don’t care how you vote, just vote!” We find a typical example of this attitude from a 2015 Mirror article. What are these reasons? (1) It helps your credit rating, (2) young people vote far less than older people, (3) people fought and died to win for you to vote and (4) non-voters can change the outcome of an election. These reasons do indeed hold true for our election in 2017. In fact, as I write, the YouGov polls giving Labour a vote surge rely heavily on a big turnout from the young.
There is, however, something very strange about this attitude to voting. Although it tells you that it is possible, it gives no reason for why you would want to change the outcome of the election, it is simply something to do. Without advocating any particular outcome, this rationale for voting manages to make it apolitical.
CW: In-depth descriptions of experiences of the menstrual cycle.
Writer’s note: For further reading I highly recommend this article by Allison Crutchfield of ‘Waxahatchee’ and ‘PS Eliot’ fame – reading it helped dispel my fears that being a woman in a band and having different needs are totally legit.
How To Pack For Tour:
Bring knickers for at least every day, have spares just in case of period mishaps. Outfits need to be nice but functional for sweating through on stage. Nothing too girly, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself. Socks – same rule as the knickers, no spares. Have pyjama bottoms, you cannot sleep in pants, it’s too weird for girls to do. De-pot all your toiletries so as to not take up too much space in your bag. Do not take up too much space. Face wash, toner, moisturiser, deodorant bar, tiny shower gel, toothpaste, dry shampoo. Do not be high maintenance. A flannel is needed for the face wash – it cannot be taken off with anything else and face wipes break you out. Flannels will get wet so hang these on a DIY clothes line erected in the van. Bring the pill.
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 Kenny Priestley
Content warning: article mentions abuse and domestic violence
This is an article submitted in response to Flashmob Dancers Demand an End to Violence Against Women.
The term domestic violence, for most of us brings to mind the image of a woman being beaten or in some way abused by a man. Rarely do we stop to think that domestic violence is also a crime committed against men. The unfortunate truth is that both sexes can be abusive and violent and even murderous toward each other.
Despite it being a fact that men also suffer domestic violence at the hands of women, it seems that this is a taboo subject. Even a search of the internet will reveal little, in comparison to a similar search regarding woman as the victims of domestic violence. When stories of the abuse of men by women are found the numbers of men that are subject to domestic violence vary wildly from site to site and report to report. The one thing that does stand out among these figures is that when abuse committed against men by women is found, the numbers of men being abused is often quoted as being lower on the sites that are almost exclusively for women, as opposed to the sites for male sufferers of domestic violence.
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 Lotty Clare
Content warning: mentions violence against women, abuse, rape, self-harm, suicide, racism, harassment, homophobia.
Last Saturday, a group of UEA students and Norwich residents travelled to a protest at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. This protest was the fifth Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) has organised to shut down detention centres. As I approached the building, hidden inside an industrial estate, surrounded by fields, in the middle of nowhere, it was just as intimidating and depressing as 6 months ago when I went to Yarl’s Wood for the first time. It looks like a prison, except that it is ‘worse than prison, because you have no rights’, as former detainee Aisha Shua put it. Some women are in Yarl’s Wood because their visa expired, others because their asylum claim was unsuccessful. They have committed no crime. And yet they can be detained there indefinitely.
Content warning: mentions violence against women, rape.
Britain has the greatest area of land dedicated to the indefinite detention of human beings in Europe. This is legal.
A former inmate looks at the place in which her back was physically, literally, broken and says don’t give up. Women thread flowers through this border within a border within a border. The border is admitted only by the letters IRC. Green paint flecks cling to the toes of your boots. On a hill do not question whether the people with the kite-fluttering hands can see you.
Is it rare to recall dreams. Where can I find this on gov.uk. If the guards are rapists what does that make the walls. How do you resist the lines you were born the right side of. How do you resist. Can love and hatred happen at the same time, and transform you equally. Are there two kinds of hatred. How about three. How about in the same place, at the same time. And built into the container itself – the beige, the smallness of the windows, the low shade of the roof, the two fields away from the road where no one is living. How are you. Do you need water. Can you read the sign from that window. Is this your first time. When will we deport Theresa. Is there a postcode for here. Have they repainted the fence. Is it really violent to kick it so that it thunders. Who is bringing the smoke flares next time, and in what colour. Do you need water. How do you resist. Is it violence when your window looks over an unreachable place, when that unreachable place is so blooming. Is it when everything is glass and unbreakable. What is the consensus on winding yourself at a border with a child’s party toy to say in a way I make noise therefore you are. Are there two kinds of hatred. How about four. How about one for each piece of sand on a beach in southeast Europe. Do you need water. Is this your first time. Is it violent. When this is all over, will people laugh at the theory of lying flowers on a has-been border, as if it were a wrist.
Featured Image credit: Jan McLachan
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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.
By Eve Lacroix
Content warning : Article mentions rape threats, harassment, racism
In The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger argues that technology is a means to an end, and that technology is a human activity. The two are not mutually exclusive. Technology is a means to facilitate our lives, eliminating manual or tedious or repetitive tasks. We use technology for our human need of community, connecting to friends and family through social media, searching for partners on dating apps.
CW: mentions harassment, domestic violence
When I first saw Tony Walsh, aka longfella, it was as a feature act at the Genesis Poetry Slam in Whitechapel. I remember being struck by a line about how growing breasts being something that labels some people ‘women’. This was a revelation to me, and yet something that I could identify with as a cis-gender woman reflecting on adolescence; it felt profound that a man could understand this experience in a way that made me feel understood in a way I hadn’t yet articulated myself.
When I later read what I assumed to be these same lines in Sex & Love & Rock&Roll, they didn’t strike me in quite the same way, as they offered something different. In ‘Start All the Clocks’, Walsh repeats ‘tell me how it feels’, as he asks of the readers
‘…tell me how it feels when you start to grow breasts
When Mother Nature writes ‘woman’ across a girl’s chest.’
It is in these lines that mean that Walsh is not solely a poet to hear on stage, but also one to read on the page, where you have the time to reflect and think.
Content warning: article mentions physical and emotional abuse, abortion, xenophobia, gendered Islamophobia, deportation
Last week, over a hundred women+ students travelled from student unions all over the country to NUS Women’s Conference to elect a new NUS Women’s Officer, and set the direction for the NUS Women’s Campaign for the incoming year. I attended conference as a delegate from UEASU, and sat down with NUS President Malia Bouattia, and NUS Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani after having won her re-election.
This article provides an account of key events at Women’s conference, including motions passed and issues raised at plenaries and workshops throughout conference. I have also published comments given by both Malia and Hareem in response to the questions I asked about NUS, Women’s Conference, and the Women’s Campaign in the context of student deportations and migrants’ rights campaigns.
by Cadi Cliff
CW: menstruation, abuse
I feel my body break open
and bleed for you
when we least expect it.
by Norwich Rising
Content warning: mentions sexual assault and violence against women
The United Nations estimate that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s one billion women. On Sunday 30th April 2017 there will be a flashmob-style dance at 1pm in Chapelfield Gardens to demand an end to violence against women. This is the 5th Norwich Rising, part of the global One Billion Rising campaign. Dancers will be dancing to the “Break the Chain” dance, choreographed by Debbie Allen from Fame. There are a series of free rehearsals where people can learn the dance.
by Alex Valente
the women are laughing in the gym
on smooth backs words run to the music,
thoughts and dreams on sweaty mats.
solitary machines with white towels sing the intimate exhaustion of a quietness
The Norwich Radical contacted all candidates in this year’s UEA Students Union officer elections for comment on why they’re running and what they stand for. These articles are intended to offer an insight into the current and future state of the union and of the UEA more broadly.
UEA Students can vote at uea.su/ueavotes until Tuesday March 21st.
By Ellen Musgrove
‘We call upon the Government to take direct responsibility for what is a violation of human rights. We believe a national strike is not only possible, but an incredible opportunity to show the sheer power of our movement, and to put pressure on the government to call a referendum. In the past 5 years, support for repeal has grown to a level that the government can no longer ignore.’
by Aaron Hood
Article mentions gun violence, death, ableism, and contains strong language.
I’m taking my meme lord hat off for a second for something a bit more serious. Recently my newsfeed has consisted of dank memes, depressing Trump based shenanigans and salacious nonsense about what celebrity has indulged in whatever inanity this week. It’s strange how little chance anything that the algorithm that dictates my social media viewing has of showing me something that holds any real interest to me.
I came across a study via my newsfeed showing that we’re not far off eradicating Autism from children in the womb or whatever witchcraft those science people do now.
In the aftermath of the Women’s March — a worldwide protest in resistance to Donald Trump on Saturday January 21st 2017 that saw an estimated 4.6million people take to the streets in the US alone — The Norwich Radical’s Tara Debra G and Cadi Cliff put a call out. This article is the product of that call out, which asked for thoughts from those who identified as women and who attended one of the many Women’s Marches on why they marched. These are just some voices, but they speak from across the UK and the US in an act of collaboration, solidarity, and resistance.
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 Alex Valente
Original Italian by Alessandra Carnaroli (1979-), ‘le bambine devono’. Part of Sartoria Utopia’s Calendario Utopico 2017.
little girls must be
with long hair
or short if sweaty
they get ready to have children
to earn less than boys
by Zoe Harding
Warning: contains spoilers. Also mentions fascistic, militaristic imperialism, Trump, and ‘Nazi dickheads’.
I know it came out last year, I was on holiday damn it.
The first I properly heard about Rogue One was that some Trump supporters wanted to boycott it because it was rumoured to contain anti-Trump themes. Seemed like a good reason to go and see it. Incidentally, the finished product contains no giant smug orange aliens inexplicably allowed out without supervision groping women – perhaps people were getting confused by Star Wars’ underlying anti-Nazi overtones. I can’t imagine how anti-fascism would seem anti-Trumpist at all. Those ‘Alt right’ (read: Nazi) dickheads really don’t like it, of course. Tough. They can fuck off back to Ender’s Game.
With that decent start in mind, I went to go and see it just before New Year. You know what? It’s pretty decent.
There’s something darkly comical about Michael Sheen’s intention to abandon acting in favour of defeating the far right. An esteemed actor, deeply immersed in the world of theatre and art, jetting off to Port Talbot to tell working class Welsh people, caught up in a wave of revolt against the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’, what to do. It couldn’t be any more counter-productive if the embodiment of this elitism, Tony Blair himself, had made the journey — although I suppose someone who has played him is good enough.
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.
Since the reign of Al-Hakam II, who ruled from 961 to 976, Córdoba has been considered a centre for education after a plethora of libraries and universities were opened. Just recently, a new statue was erected in the city centre, which is full of beautiful statues, making an already picturesque city even more so. This particular one seems another symbol for education – with a woman holding open a newspaper. As a language teacher, it’s also a little-known fact that Córdoba has one of the highest concentrations of language schools.
Córdoba is also the largest urban area declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the main attractions is the Mesquita, the Mosque-Cathedral. I found out about the city’s rich history from a free walking tour, where we stood outside the building. But I was able to go inside for free, deciding to wake up early one morning. Having just come to Spain after travelling in South East Asia, I was reminded of the grandness of such places of worship.
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.
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.
I spent four months in South East Asia; two and a half were spent working in Vietnam, but I also got to go to Thailand, Laos, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Although it has been the longest time I’ve been away from the UK, it would be impossible and presumptuous for me to generalise the arts in the whole of South East Asia, or even just one country. Instead, this will be a reflection on the things I experienced whilst travelling.
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 Chris Jarvis
Last weekend, the Green Party crowned its new leader, at its largest conference to date. The result came as no surprise to anybody – Caroline Lucas and her Co-Leader running mate Jonathan Bartley were elected with an overwhelming mandate, scooping up a phenomenal 86% of the vote. Given that the result was largely a foregone conclusion at the point that candidates were announced, and that the election would naturally get swallowed by the much larger, more adversarial battle in the Labour Party, this was a subdued, uninspiring election.
In spite of that, the Green Party and their leadership are unique, fascinating and impressive in a whole range of ways. Here are five of them.
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.
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 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.
Trigger warnings: Female Genital Mutilation, Islamophobia, Homophobia, Torture
How does Islam actually fare in terms of human rights, and is it really any different from any other religion? The “religion of peace” has been getting a poor reputation in Western media over the issue for decades, with human rights abuses in Muslim countries often stretching from the major to the mundane.
Female genital mutilation, the stoning of homosexuals to death, the subjugation of women – the list goes on and on. Apostasy is frequently met with the death sentence in conservative states such as Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, individual liberties in these countries, such as speaking up against the state, are frequently curtailed on the pretext of actually insulting the religion itself. Just ask Raif Badawi, the Saudi activist and blogger who dared to criticize the Saudi regime and was sentenced up to 1,000 lashes from the theocratic state for his troubles.
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.
by Chris Jarvis
2016 will be the year of the Tut. After a crowdfunding campaign that achieved double its original target, The Tuts are set to release their debut album – Update Your Brain – in September. The all-woman three piece from Hayes have nurtured a loyal and growing fan base in their first few years, with tours alongside UK veterans Kate Nash, The Selecter and Sonic Boom Six helping to build a wide creoss-genre appeal.
I graduated! I actually graduated. Mortarboard thrown, picture taken, congratulatory conversations with parents and friends and then you hear the dreaded, “What are you doing next?”
It’s not that I have never given much thought to what would come post-university — quite the opposite. The last few months prior to dressing in my cap and gown have been filled with endless job applications, copious redrafts of my CV and looking into Masters programmes both in the UK and elsewhere – I cannot be the only one. I am certain the same can be said of other BAME students whose road to graduate employment is a lot more uncertain and suspiciously taxing.
by Hannah Rose
Tribute Acts is a bittersweet piece of autobio-theatre written and performed by Tess Seddon and Cheryl Gallacher from Theatrestate. Set against a space-age backdrop, Tess and Cheryl introduce their fathers via a pre-recorded video link. The dads look uncomfortable in their suits and ties. Their daughters are wearing spacesuits. The gulf between parent and child is obvious, and the unease is palpable.
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.
Content warning: mentions racism, homophobia, suicide, arson, massacre, mental health
On June 12th 2016, a mass shooting happened at Pulse, gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, USA. 49 people were killed and 52 injured, mostly of Latinx descent. Across the world, lgbtQ+ communities and allies have been organising vigils and other events to express support and condolences.
‘Look, you don’t understand this because you’re not gay,’ Owen Jones said, before storming out of a Sky News debate on the massacre, after the two presenters refused to see the incident in a lgbtQ+ context.
by Zoe Harding
TW: Sexual assault, rape, genocide.
Last week, we looked at the UN’s recent history of sexual assault and corruption on peacekeeping operations around the world. Despite the best efforts of two secretary-generals and nearly 20 years of reported crimes, the UN has yet to eliminate the persistent problems of ‘transactional sex’ and straight-up assault from among its peacekeeper forces. The crimes are committed both by members of various national militaries contributed to UN forces and by civilian employees, all of whom are currently essentially immune to prosecution. But what is the United Nations doing about it? What other action could be taken?
The United Nations isn’t ignoring this problem, and after the forced resignation of Babacar Gaye, (commander of the particularly abusive MINUSCA mission in the Central African Republic) in August 2015 the organisation has actively begun implementing new measures to prevent this kind of peacekeeper abuse. Unfortunately, the action that’s been taken so far hasn’t been particularly heartening.
(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 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 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.
by Sahaya James
Harmondsworth detention centre, near Heathrow, is set in an anonymous business park. You can only tell it’s a detention centre because of the barbed wire.
Campsfield detention centre, near Oxford, is accessible by a nondescript turning on a nondescript a-road. The whole site is ringed by a line of trees.
Yarl’s Wood, however, is even more hidden than the rest. It sits hundreds of meters back from the road, behind a double layer of fencing, miles and miles out into the Bedfordshire countryside.
It is, essentially, a prison. Like every detention centre, it doesn’t contain people accused and convicted of crimes — it contains people without UK passports. Specifically, Yarlswood contains women and children.
by Hannah Rose
Who is your political role model? Mandela? Aung San Suu Kyi? I choose Harriet Martineau— one of Norwich’s very own, and the first female sociologist. But in a Year 11 assembly at The Hewett Academy on the 8th March (International Women’s Day), none other than Donald Trump was advocated as a role model for self-belief – and one that students should be taking notes from if they want to pass their exams. Forget Martin Luther King and forget Emmeline Pankhurst, please welcome to the stage the man who called for the complete shutdown of Muslim immigration, and whose political speeches are a gutter-stream of bigotry. Hewett Vice-Principal Antony Little (former Conservative local councillor) might equate Trump’s success to inimitable self-confidence, but others might put it down to simply having more money than sense. The truth – or at least a key part of it – is that Donald Trump does not have magical reserves of self-belief. He has simply been seduced by the skewed fantasy of himself.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Alessandra Racca (1979-), ‘Un giorno qualunque’
In the match
between what we call good
and we despise as evil
today a bomb will make noise
smoke will assault the eyes
scattering shards on screens
a woman’s tears
will stand still
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.
“The army has an assassination list of 18 wanted human rights fighters with my name at the top. I want to live, there are many things I still want to do in this world but I have never once considered giving up fighting for our territory, for a life with dignity because our fight is legitimate. I take lots of care but in the end, in this country where there is total impunity I am vulnerable…when they want to kill me, they will do it.”
Berta Cáceres (2013)
In the early hours of Thursday 3rd March 2016 in La Esperanza, Honduras, an unknown number of assailants broke into the house of environmental and human rights campaigner Berta Cáceres and killed her. The only witness to the crime, Gustavo Castro Soto, a Mexican national, has been denied permission to leave the country with a 30-day immigration alert put in place against him. According to Global Witness, at least 109 people have been killed between 2010 and 2015 in Honduras, all with links to campaigns against a number of projects, including mining, logging and dams.
by Robyn Banks
This International Women’s day was supposed to be devoted to refugee women. Well, it was in name — the EU parliament website published a series of articles highlighting the plight of women refugees, such as the fact that two in five are underage. But as EU leaders hammered out a deal on the long night between Mother’s day and International Women’s day, it seemed that the only thing the EU really planned on doing to help women refugees was to use them as fodder for a Brussels photo exhibit.
For a long time, people in the EU from both left and right have been questioning if what they see is really what they get, and nothing is more exemplary of this dishonesty than the EU’s recent deal with Turkey. On two days when much fanfare was made about Mothers, about the trauma of women refugees, about family reunification, we learned about the EUs most absurd plan to date. The plan involves a one in, one out scheme whereby boats crossing to Greece from Turkey carrying ‘irregular’ or ‘illegal’ migrants — e.g. everybody not using official channels, refugee or otherwise — would be intercepted and forcibly turned back. In return for paying their life savings and risking their lives to make the dangerous crossing to Europe by dinghy, they will be sent to the ‘back of the queue’ for asylum seeking.
The Norwich Radical contacted the candidates for this year’s Student Union elections. Here are the people running for the Liberation Officer positions that responded.
You can vote for your favourite candidates until Tuesday 8th March at midday on ueastudent.com/vote.
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.
Content warning: female genital mutilation
by Lauren Marsh
“Because women and girls are not valued equally as human beings, they are treated as less than such. Female genital mutilation is an example of this that has to be stopped” –Waris Dirie
I have just returned from spending 3 months volunteering in Nigeria with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) as part of the ICS programme. International Citizen Service (ICS) is a once-in-a-lifetime volunteering opportunity open to all 18-25 year olds, backed by the UK government.
There is a strong emphasis on guided learning for the volunteers and to engage with this all volunteers had to take part in something called an ACD (Active Citizenship Day) — the aim of which is to present a global issue to the rest of the team to raise awareness and encourage them to instigate change. My Nigerian host home counterpart Bunmi and I presented ours on the subject of FGM (female genital mutilation.)
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.
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.
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 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.”
In 2013 I was amongst around twenty poets long-listed for the first Young Poet Laureate for London prize. I remember meeting Warsan Shire that day; she seemed quiet, perhaps nervous, yet confident and bold. We performed one piece to a panel of judges, and I was either before or after Shire. Although she prefers writing to performing her work, I remember being blown away by not only the words, but the delivery of her poem Ugly. I remember that I had already heard lines quoted by Kayo Chingonyi from a workshop he was leading for students at the school where I work. It was no surprise when Shire was shortlisted, much less when she won.
To have the power to write poetry that sticks in the mind is certainly a gift that Shire bestows in much of her work. I have since had the pleasure of seeing Shire again at the launch of the first Podium Poets anthology, by Spread the Word, and attended workshops lead by her on an Arvon retreat. As an aspiring poet, she is an inspiration to many as a writer and as a human being.
by Jess Howard
While some may see it as a separate entity altogether, fashion is unquestionably a form of art. From the creative process that designers progress through to create high fashion pieces, to the advertising campaigns used to sell them, fashion design influences the masses. But this is where the industry often encounters conflict: thousands of people are being diagnosed with eating disorders each year, and many are pointing their fingers at the fashion industry, for its insinuation that thinness represents the epitome of beauty.
In an attempt to combat this, France recently passed a bill stating that fashion models must prove they are healthy weight in order to appear on runways and in advertising campaigns. Failure to comply with this new ruling could lead to up to 6 months in prison and a £54,000 fine. Further more, magazines and advertising campaigns will now be required to make it clear to consumers that their images have been retouched. The purpose of this bill is to attempt to dramatically decrease the percentage of people in the country who develop anorexia, but is this going to work?
by Jess Howard
The Kardashian/Jenner family are rarely far from the press. From Caitlyn Jenner’s sensational Vanity Fair cover early this year, to the recent birth of Saint West, they are seldom out of the news. Recently, it has been model and the youngest of the Kardashian sisters, Kylie Jenner, who has been in the limelight.
Causing controversy by taking part in a photoshoot in which she posed passive and sexually in a gold wheelchair, Jenner’s photoshoot, directed by photographer Steven Klein, and accompanying interview, were part of a feature in Interview magazine, and it is explicitly clear why the internet has reacted in such a passionate and infuriated way.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Gilda Musa (1922-1999), ‘Costellazioni’
Coppering of stars, gold
illuminated designs, visible flashing
vanguards of a thousand million invisibiles,
sigils of a space that’s close and signs
of remote spaces
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 Tara Debra G
Among the young students who frequent this magazine it’s a safe bet to assume that most of us aren’t running to the nature writing section when we walk into our nearest bookshop. So let me introduce you to the women aiming to change that. Forget the image of a rambling old man in the woods with a Thoreauian beard, and come meet Cheryl Strayed, Kathleen Jamie and Helen Macdonald.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Antonella Anedda (1955-), from Notti di pace Occidentale.
She was running to shelter, covering her head.
She belonged to a tired image
not dissimilar from any other woman
surprised by sudden rain.
by Sara Helen Binney
It was November, and the school hall was packed with pupils and teachers freed from lessons. In the festive atmosphere people mingled and chattered and joked. A few nervously practiced their Bible readings; I stood, arms crossed, before a school administrator. She shook her collection box.
‘Poppy?’ she said. It wasn’t a question.
I said, ‘no.’ I doubt I was very polite – I was sixteen, angry and definite.
‘You have to wear a poppy, for the service,’ she said.
‘Why?’ I demanded.
‘Everyone has to wear a poppy.’
‘But I don’t agree with it. Can’t I refuse?’
‘You have to take a poppy – just make a donation.’
Neither of my parents had ever worn a poppy. They brought me up listening to the anti-war songs of the folk revival, and took me to CND marches while I still struggled to pronounce ‘disarmament’. But at school, saying no wasn’t an option. I eventually put a penny in the box.
by Jess Howard
Covering the body with tattoos has been a tradition among multiple socio-economic groups for centuries. From identification to decoration, the act of adorning the skin with ink is in no way novel or unique. Day to day it is incredibly common to see tattoos on people of all ages, from the first tattoo immediately after the 18th birthday, to the person in their mid forties with an exquisite and elaborate full sleeve. In short, ink is everywhere.
Yet the stigma attached to visual tattoos in the work place shows minimal chance of disappearing. When I started my first ‘proper’ job, I was told that tattoos were not allowed to be visible, and even today, ten pieces of ink later, I find myself wearing long sleeves to interviews and asking if my potential employer would like me to cover them up. Even I, a woman who has long loved body art in all of its forms, assume that the stigma is still attached.
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 Jess Howard
Earlier on this month, Playboy magazine announced that their publication will no longer be featuring nudity as of March 2016. Citing the rise of easy access to internet pornography, the company has decided to pull their famous images from the publication in a bid to reconcile their disintegrating readership with their increasing online audience, which went nudity free at the end of last year.
Playboy made a name for itself during the 1950s, when sex and nudity where far less mainstream and far more taboo. Having previously worked for Esquire, after leaving due to a financial disagreement (when he was denied a raise of $5) founder Hugh Hefner set up the publication from his home in Chicago, Illinois. Unsure as to whether or not the publication would thrive, the first magazine was undated in case a second issue was not produced. Having purchased a nude image of film star Marilyn Monroe, taken before she had found success in the entertainment industry, Hefner placed it on the cover. As we now know, the magazine was to be a huge success.
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
I did my best to learn the rules.
The world was a nice place,
children shared, we waited our turn,
we helped those in need and said thankyou and please.
The board was black and the chalk was white,
together we learned to read and write,
I tried to learn the rules.
There used to be racism,
there used to be war,
there used to be poverty and workhouses and suffering
but Martin Luther King had a dream and women won the vote
and everyone shared now, and waited their turn
and Tony Blair painted rainbow children on my primary school walls.
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.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Roberta Dapunt (1970-), from ‘Le beatitudini della malattia’.
So I want to be like the rowan among the larch and the firs
covered by infinite snow. Layered by white
embraces, irreparable sluice of cold reason.
by Asia Patel
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.
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.’
Recently, I went on a school visit to see To Kill a Mockingbird at The Barbican, and whilst I think the actors played their parts incredibly well – especially Zackary Momoh, who played the role of the falsely accused Tom Robinson – I’m not writing here to give a glowing review. I read the book around the time I started my job at the school three years ago, yet the play, adapted by Christopher Sergel, had a different impact on me.
Actors slipped in and out of character to read directly from the book, narrating through a multitude of different accents, obviously showing that they were each sentimentally and emotionally affected by the text. This sentimentality, however, was lost on me, and as the production drew on, I came to think of it as unnecessary that it was being heralded to such acclaim in 2015.
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 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.*
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.
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 Alex Valente
Original Italian by Fernanda Romagnoli (1916-1986), ‘Falsa identità’.
Sooner or later someone finds out:
I am already dead
though alive. It is a stranger’s face
offered beneath the hair
suddenly pulled back,
the shadow behind the curtains
wandering at dusk,
the steps towards the door
that won’t open. Hers the song
tricking the neighbours, covering
my buried screams. Someone
sooner or later finds out. But for now…
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Anna Lamberti Bocconi (1961-), ‘L’affanculite’, which features in the collection Bastarde senza Gloria, published by Sartoria Utopia.
The go-fuck-itselfness of a life
of relais-relax, really quite quiet
when it wants to squirrel away
calmly ticking like a Rolex.
The go-fuck-itselfness of an evening
rusting wreck on the beach
crumbling like cocaine
as it bores the cartilage of hulls.
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.
by Romayne Phoenix and John Rees
by Romayne Phoenix, Chair of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity
Saturday June 20th will be the first time that we can all meet together after the general election and the shocking and unexpected result of the Tory Party in power. This looks set to be a massive demonstration. We need to join up and celebrate the strength of our growing numbers and we need to celebrate each and every successful act of resistance.
by John Rees, member of the People’s Assembly Against Austerity National Committee
There has already been an explosion of protest in response to the threat of an ever deepening austerity programme coming from this Tory government. In Newcastle, Cardiff, Sheffield, Peterborough, and many other places there have been thousands taking to the streets already. In Bristol seven young women, all A-level students, called a protest on a weekday evening and 3,500 people turned up to march through the city centre. But people want a national focus to demonstrate their anger.
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.’
The end of the first panel I’d attended discussed the importance of white space and the ole of images as part of the process, and linked nicely to the next panel about the relationship between visual art and poetry, which I was interested in due to my own project Poetry&Paint. Sophie Collins spoke of Mary Richardson’s defacement of Venus to highlight the hypocrisy of such an outcry, and she also touched on the Guerrilla Girls, leading to new kinds of art by women largely disregarded within ekphrastic poetry, and highlighting a collection entitled ‘In the Frame: Women’s Ekphrastic Poetry’, published in 2009.
The focus was a discussion of Rachael Allen’s 4chan poems. I hadn’t heard of the website ‘4chan’ before, but it seemed a unique concept to create poems from the basis of an image-based bulletin board, which — being the internet — provided useful commentary on the role of gender, acting as a platform for feminist art work.
by Alex Valente
Original Italian by Amalia Guglielminetti (1881-1941), ‘Un’amarezza’.
A bitterness without word:
but absinthe and bile and venom
every bitter thing, from my bosom
gurgling to my throat stirred.
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.