Category Archives: Culture

Dolly Parton – “A radical in rhinestones”

When Dolly Parton played at the Glastonbury Festival last month she won rave reviews. However, the media focus was not just on her exquisite singing (or alleged miming) and fabulous costumes, but also turned to feminism.

Lily Allen discussed feminism with Dolly in an interview for The Radio Times, Krissi Murison and myself debated whether Dolly is a feminist with Jenni Murray on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, and articles in The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Times also honed in on the subject. Seeing Dolly Parton as valuable for feminism is, in itself, nothing new; in 1987 she was named one of Ms. magazine’s women of the year, and Gloria Steinem wrote in praise of Parton’s business acumen and philanthropy. But given that it is not something that the star herself explicitly encourages – she tends to deflect questions about feminism by joking “I was the first woman to burn her bra. It took the fire department four days to put out the fire”.

Many of Dolly’s songs are feminist in that they articulate the realities of women’s lives, including the oppression of women. Just Because I’m A Woman criticises sexual double standards, Blackie Kentucky tells the story of an abused woman who commits suicide, and Mommie, Aint’ That Daddy and Daddy’s Moonshine Still witness the damage caused by alcoholism, with women driven to prostitution and despair. She has written of a woman forced into a mental institution because her lover wants her out of the way, and of a pregnant teenager who is rejected by her family and goes on to have a stillborn baby. She wrote these songs in the late sixties and early seventies, during the advance of second wave feminism. Her 1980 hit 9 to 5 remains the anthem for justice for working women.

More recently, the tenor of feminism in her lyrics has changed. It is more in tune with the new age, noughties strand of feminism tells us women that we’d “Better Get To Livin’” even if we are “overweight, underpaid, underappreciated”. Other songs are gently subversive. Travelin’ Thru, from the soundtrack to Transamerica, is about Christianity and transgender experience. Even Jolene, when you think about it, is less about a woman’s jealous insecurity that she might lose her husband to Jolene, than a song of praise to the gorgeous redhead; the focus is all on her, not him.

Dollywood, the amusement park in east Tennessee co-owned by Dolly Parton is the only theme park in the world, to my knowledge, that is themed around a woman (there are plenty themed around men, real and fictional). She is a savvy businesswoman. Not many singers would have turned down Elvis’s request to sing one their songs (I Will Always Love You) because he wanted too big a cut of the royalties. And she has used her money to revitalise an impoverished area of Tennessee, and to encourage literacy through her international Imagination Library reading scheme. All of this with outrageous wigs and wit.

But what about the ‘Backwoods Barbie’ image? Feminisms faced some flack on Twitter for embracing a star who has had so much cosmetic surgery. Ben Macintyre, in a favourable article in The Times, wrote that “the Dolly look is itself a deflation of sexism, a standing joke about male chauvinist expectations. She may look like a male fantasy of female sexual availability (frozen in about 1968), but her image is entirely owned and controlled by her.” Really? Does any artist who looks like a male fantasy of female sexual availability but who “controls” their image, therefore deflate sexism? Does Rihanna? Does Miley Cyrus (who happens to be Dolly Parton’s goddaughter)? To argue this is to tread close to the headline in the satirical newspaper The Onion: ‘Women now empowered by anything a woman does.’

It is doubtful that anyone can control their image, even stars with some say over their self-presentation, like Parton. Her persona, even before the cosmetic surgery, made her the target of sexism in music journalism and beyond. Scientists named Dolly the sheep, the first animal to be cloned from an adult cell (a mammary gland) after Dolly Parton; how crass!

What Parton can and does do is to challenge some of the sexist stereotyping that accompanies her look. A repeated motif in her songs is that you should look beyond a woman’s appearance, and not underestimate her (Dumb Blonde, Backwoods Barbie, and 9 to 5: The Musical: “You only see tits, but get this: there’s a heart under there..well, ol’ Double-D Doralee’s gonna stick it to you”). It is also important to recognise where her look came from. In her autobiography she says that she took on this image because looking “like a hooker” meant that the local men would not harass her; looking feminine commanded respect. In that context, the cosmetic surgery and the emphasis on bust, hair and nails, has a different meaning.

Of course, creating feminist heroines always involves looking at them with a selective eye. In Dolly Parton’s case this may mean choosing to ignore the early songs that promote co-dependence, the idiosyncratic retelling of American history in her Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction (worth seeing for the racing pigs alone!), and her being less pluralist with religion than she is with sexuality.

I think there’s another reason why Dolly Parton has been claimed as a feminist. She fills a vacuum that might once have been filled by Maya Angelou, or Germaine Greer. There are now no active, internationally recognized feminists with the charisma, empathy, and sparkle of Dolly Parton. Perhaps this is why we must turn to popular culture for our icons, to Dolly and to Oprah. Dolly Parton: a radical in rhinestones.

Helen Morales is author of Pilgrimage to Dollywood (Chicago University Press, 2014)

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Suarez got a longer ban for biting than racism

Football is a passionate sport. There’s none quite like it. If religion was the opiate of the masses, football is the methadone. It can elicit the most extreme of reactions from the most conservative of people, tears from the most stoic of men, and scenes of jubilation unrivaled by most sports. Children and adults unite in adoration and appreciation of a club, a player, or an awesome goal.

Sport, perhaps, is one of the few places along with finance, politics and celebrity where indiscretions and flaws can be overlooked and tolerated on the basis of talent – and this is especially true of football, where triumph over adversity is part of the story of many to have played the game – Pele and Maradona, for example. It’s full of romantic tales – local boy done good, rags to riches. All of these only serve to enhance the popularity of this pastime.

When Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield during their boxing match in 1997, taking a chunk of his ear with him, the punishment for this was a $3 million dollar fine and the rescindment of his boxing licence in Nevada, a move that was upheld by subsequent states, effectively banning him from boxing in the USA. Though the ban was later overturned, he would serve over a year out of the sport, returning to the ring in 1999. Overwhelming opinion was that biting was unacceptable, even in a sport where success is determined on your ability to hurt your opponent physically.

So we fast forward to now, and Liverpool & Uruguay player Luis Suarez, who has just been banned for nine international matches and four months of all football-related activity by the world football governing body FIFA, following his bite on Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s game against Italy at the World Cup.

It’s not the first time Suarez had bitten an opponent on the field – in fact, it was his third such transgression. Previous bans of seven and 10 matches respectively had failed to overturn his penchant for using his teeth on the field of play. This time was different; this was on the world stage, in a World Cup which promised to be marred by political unrest in the host nation but, to FIFA’s relief and advantage, had been relatively controversy-free until the Suarez incident. An international ban would not be enough of a statement to make. A strong sentence was necessary. Children bite. Animals bite. Adults should not bite. Professional athletes should not bite.

Football often is a great mirror of society. All the flaws of the latter can be found in the former. From the stands to the pitch to the administrative bodies, football has a sexism problem, a racism problem, and increasingly a class problem, with the working class priced out of a sport that they helped to elevate to such heights.

Opinion has been divided following the ban. There are those, such as the Uruguayan team, the  press and even Maradona, who think the punishment is too severe for the crime. There are also those who think the ban is just, as it is the third time in four years he has done such a thing. Controversial stars are part of the allure of sports. They elicit polarising and extreme opinions from those who hate and love in equal measure. Yet every so often there are controversies we are unable to overlook.

Whilst this was a third bite, and as unacceptable as biting is, Suarez has actually been found guilty previously of a far worse crime – racially abusing an opponent on the pitch.

For that, he served a mere eight-match ban – a ban which was met with indignant howls from fervent Liverpool fans. A ban which – in the press as in the stands – revealed that football, much like society, still had a racism problem and it couldn’t be confined to just the supporters; it was now playing out on the pitch.

In any other profession, were you to be found guilty of racially abusing a colleague in their place of work you would not have a job to come back to. That Suarez was not only able to return to his job a mere two months later, but would go on to be seen, through the eyes of a few high profile journalists, as redeemed is part and parcel of the problem, and why we find ourselves here again with this deeply flawed player.

Significantly, this third bite and subsequent ban has not been enough to impede on Suarez’s career options. The player is rumoured to be in talks to move to Barcelona in an £80 million transfer, the club seemingly unbothered by the non-apology for the incident offered by Suarez, where personal responsibility was absolved in double-speak. “I’m sorry my teeth hit you when we collided” isn’t quite “I’m sorry for biting you” but at least an apology of sorts emerged, despite previous claims at the time that he was a victim, not the perpetrator. Patrice Evra is still awaiting an apology for being racially abused.

In the aftermath of Suarez’s racial ban, many were subjected to some of the worst racial abuse online. Abuse that came from challenging the media and journalists that this, unlike his previous biting or cheating at the World Cup in 2010, would have far more serious repercussions to just excuse as another indiscretion.

And so we return to football mirroring society. When we fail to properly hold people to account for their actions, not merely because they’re high profile or role models, we do a disservice not just to the game, but wider society. We reinforce injustices across wider society, and allow them to play out.

For this reason, we can accept the ban as retrospective justice of sorts and properly examine why we so often overlook that which would not be done so in most professions.

Perhaps, had racism been treated as seriously by the FA as biting has been by FIFA, if fans and journalists had engaged their sense of morality rather than looking for the easier story and resorting to tribalistic tendencies, then Suarez would not have been predisposed to bite a player for a second time, let alone a third.

Jude Wanga is a human rights campaigner, activist & freelance writer. Follow her @JudeInLondon

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Song Sisters: A free songwriting masterclass tour, just for women

Few emerging singer-songwriters can say that they co-wrote a global number 1 hit. Even fewer have been asked to support top acts such as Ed Sheeran on tour, notching up a staggering 51,000 views on just one of her songs, published on respected indie internet video channel, Ont’ Sofa. But judging by statistics it would seem that these singer-songwriters are in a shocking minority.

As a direct result these two extraordinarily talented acts, Fiona Bevan and Kal Lavelle, are embarking on Song Sisters, a groundbreaking double headline tour across the UK during July and August, organised and promoted by Folkstock Arts Foundation’s Helen Meissner, an emerging champion of acoustic music. Kal and Fiona are established and respected female singer songwriters in their own right but were appalled to learn at the recent Women in Music conference held at the Southbank in London that “only 13% of the songwriters registered on PRS for Music are women”, and so the successful soulful-folk-pop friends decided to join forces and do something about it.

The musicians, who met on the gigging circuit, are committed to making a difference and improving the statistics. Rather than sitting back and being smug that they are in the 13%. They want to encourage other female songwriters to get their songs finished and registered. By way of practical support, they are offering FREE ENTRY masterclasses for women only, on the afternoon of every date on the tour. The sessions will run ahead of each ticketed gig and incorporate a song surgery, as well as tips, advice, and a question & answer element with both Fiona and Kal on hand to help.

The exclusively female line-up tour takes them from Exeter to Ipswich, Manchester to Brighton over the summer; in addition, the girls are offering the opening spot on each leg of the tour to local budding female stars.

They are hoping that this tour captures the imagination of singer-songwriters across the country and really inspires them, especially the women, to take their songwriting more seriously.

Not surprisingly, this significant tour has already attracted some top level reactions, interviews and sessions from respected industry names, including Gaby Roslin, Ruth Barnes, The Daily Mirror, The Londonist, London Gig Guide, The Girls Are, M Magazine (for PRS for Music), and BBC 2’s Bob Harris.

Peggy Seeger said: “what a wonderful idea! Women songwriters have been around for a long time – the masterclasses will encourage us to work together and take our rightful place as writers and performers.”

Innovative, unique and accessible, if you are a budding female singer-songwriter, the Song Sisters tour is where it’s at this summer!

The only date in the capital is TONIGHT at Paper Dress Vintage in Shoreditch. Some tickets are still available for the gig and there are five places left on the free masterclass, running from 6.30 – 8.00, after which the gig starts.

To sign up for the masterclasses email and state which of the 15 dates you are applying for. 

Details of the remaining Song Sisters gigs can be found here.

8th July, LONDON: Paper Dress Vintage with Stephanie O’Brien and Kal

27th July, IPSWICH: St Peter’s by the Waterfront

7th August, EXETER: Starz Bar

10th August, RETFORD: The Birches, ReVerb Project

15th August, CHELTENHAM: The Frog and Fiddle

17th August, BRIGHTON: The Marwood

18th August, CHICHESTER: The Chichester Inn

24th August, MANCHESTER: The Castle

27th August, NORWICH: The Bicycle Shop

28th August, SANDBACH: The Cycle Junction

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Feminist Events Listings: July 2014

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in July!

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


19-20 July || 40th Anniversary of the ‘74 Women’s Liberation Conference @ Kinning Park Complex, Glasgow.

Women’s Liberation 2014 conference will be held in Glasgow on Saturday the 19th and Sunday the 20th of July but it will commemorate the 1974 women’s liberation conference held in Edinburgh. 40 years on, women will come together to reminisce, to celebrate their achievements and to look to the future. The organisers envision a return to a politics of women’s liberation – moving from single-issue campaigns drawing on feminist ideas to a women-centred revolutionary movement. There will be workshops, talks, exhibitions and an evening event with an open stage and then disco on one floor, and a quieter space to talk to one another on the other floor.

HOW TO REGISTER:  e-mail for a registration form. There’s a suggested donation of £40 for the weekend for women earning over 25k and women who can claim expenses, £25 for low-waged women and £15 for unwaged women. Asylum-seekers can attend for free.



15th July || London Comedy Forum @ Institute of Education, London.

The LCF is an interdisciplinary forum for comedy and humour research. The July meeting is themed: Feminist Humour, and artist/researcher Hannah Ballou has curated a top notch panel of feminist humour practitioners. Bryony Kimmings, Kate Smurthwaite and Vikki Stone.


16 July || Women in Leadership – What Needs to Change? @ St. Pauls Institute, London.

Creating greater opportunities for female empowerment has been designated as one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. It is clear that the tide is turning and large strides are being made to overcome problems of institutional inequality; many voices have joined together to call for our leaders to represent the diversity of the people they govern, but there is still work to be done to remove impediments that have restricted female advancement. How can we remove the institutional and cultural barriers preventing many women from reaching positions of leadership? What can different sectors learn from one another in the fight for true equality? What actions can we take to create lasting change? Join us at St Paul’s Cathedral for a public discussion led by: Liz Bingham, Managing Partner for Talent at EY, Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, Ceri Goddard, Director of Gender at the Young Foundation, The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Chaired by: The Very Revd David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. 7pm, doors at 6.30pm.


22 July || UNICEF host; Girl Summit @ Venue TBC, London.  

UNICEF and the UK Government co-host an event aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within our generation. Girls and women have the right to live free from violence and discrimination and achieve their potential, but millions are being prevented from doing so by harmful practices such as FGM and CEFM, which are illegal in the UK. The Home Secretary Theresa May and Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening will host the event, alongside heads of state, practitioners, survivors, charities and community groups. This creative, positive and engaging event will bring together women, girls and community leaders from the UK and overseas, alongside governments, international organisations and the private sector to agree on action to end FGM and CEFM within a generation. Registration essential.


Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog site for full feminist event listings for July 2014.

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Kahlo’s work still tells a story we struggle to talk about, even today

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo! A mere 107 she would have been on 6 July; alas she died young at only 47.

60 years later, her 1932 painting Henry Ford Hospital (otherwise known as ‘The Flying Bed’) still pierces us with a painful image of womanhood we barely allow ourselves to talk about, let alone look at. Frida Kahlo dared to paint it. She was one of the first female artists to ever portray the realities of womanhood on canvas: the earth red ground beneath her a symbol of her loneliness. “I don’t paint dreams or nightmares,” she said, “I paint my own reality.” Decades later, her reality still beguiles us.

As Frida Kahlo lies splayed on the blood-splattered bed, hovering above ground, reality and reason, six images surround her, tied down with umbilical cords like six lead balloons against a barren sky: the foetus, Dieguito (“Little Diego”), who will never exist; a snail representing the slow horror of losing a baby; an autoclave, a device for sterilizing surgical instruments, the symbol of infertility, “bad luck and pain”; an orchid, a hospital gift from her husband Diego Rivera – a strange mix of sex and sentimentality; the pelvis and uterus, two anatomical signs of her broken body.

On 4 July 1932, Frida’s pregnancy ended in miscarriage at Henry Ford Hospital. With this loss came the painful realisation that she would never physically be able to carry a baby to term. It was a reality she had already mythologised seven years earlier. On 17 September 1925 Frida and her boyfriend got onto a school bus. Minutes later it was hit by a tram. In addition to suffering a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs and a broken pelvis, a metal handrail pierced her abdomen, exiting through her vagina, permanently damaging her reproductive capacity. While in recovery, Frida was forced to face her reality: she may never be able to walk again, let alone have children. She responded by creating a birth certificate for an imaginary son she called “Leonardo”. It was at this moment of reality-versus-imagination that Frida Kahlo began painting seriously for the first time.

To understand Frida is to understand her pain. That doesn’t make her a victim, or her suffering a perversion. Frida Kahlo’s husband Diego Rivera once talked about Frida’s art as “paintings that exalted the feminine qualities of endurance and truth, reality, cruelty, and suffering.” He would go on to conclude: “Never before has a woman put such agonized poetry on canvas.”

Whether Frida would have ever identified herself as a feminist remains punctuated with a question mark. For many today, her traumatic life and powerful works communicate a strong feminist message which dream weaves the reality they experience in their own lives. In fact, without the feminist art movement of the 1970s and 1980s, Frida Kahlo’s work would have remained an obscure footnote to husband Diego Rivera’s own artistic career. Second wave feminism in America brought Frida to a mass audience and she has captivated us ever since. Her stark presentation of the harsh lives women face has retrospectively made her a striking feminist at a time when a woman’s reality was hardly ever talked about or discussed. Her battle with miscarriage and infertility tells a story we struggle to talk about, even today.

According to her own count, Frida Kahlo would suffer two more miscarriages. Her art reflects a lifelong fascination with procreation, birth and the female body. Lithograph Frida and the Miscarriage is a stark example: Frida’s one dimensional body is divided into light and shade, two tears fall either side of her face as the tears of blood haemorrhage down her darkened leg. A male foetus is attached to her via an umbilical cord as her third arm holds an artist’s palette: artistic productivity her solace in the absence of children. It isn’t easy to look at but, in the words of her husband Diego, it is agony and poetry.

“My painting carries with it the message of pain,” Frida Kahlo once explained. In each and every canvas Frida painted, there is both the message of pain yet also survival. Paintings such as Survivor (1938), Roots (1943) and The Broken Column (1944) communicate strength, even at the point of physical breakdown and despair. It is also worth noting that her paintings display the true reproductive anatomy of women, a shocking and controversial undertaking in the early 20th century. In 1932 painting My Birth Frida gives birth to herself depicting the moment of childbirth in all its glory. My Birth succeeds in blending both imagination and reality, communicating a woman’s inner and external truth. For every person who struggles to look at Frida’s outstretched legs, its power and relevance is affirmed. Her reality is no longer hidden.

In the last year of her life, Frida told a friend: “Painting completed my life. I lost three children…Paintings substituted for all of this.” 60 years later, her work still endures.

Kat Lister is a Contributing Editor at Feminist Times and a freelance writer living in London and can be found tweeting to an empty room @Madame_George. She has contributed to NME, The Telegraph, Grazia, Time Out, Clash magazine and Frankie magazine.

Photo: Chris Weige

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Eclectica: the project demanding equality

The Eclectica Project launch is two days of live music, DJs and guest speakers – and it’s taking place this August. Launching at Manchester’s Kraak, the project aims to inspire leadership by women and minorities in all industries, starting with the music industry. Daniel Ball spoke to two of the project’s founders Lizzie Hudson and Olivia Mayumi Moss to find out more.

Eclectica Project is highly concerned with gender equality and ethics. How have your personal experiences drawn you to creating a project of this nature?

LIZZIE: Over the last few years since leaving school, coming across different work and social environments, I’ve been frustrated by a lot of challenges that I and women around me have to face, whether that’s discrimination in the workplace, slut-shaming or body image issues. There has to be a point where you think, “No, wait… It’s not okay that I am regularly subjected to street harassment on the way home. It’s not okay that I get asked about boyfriends above my career ambitions.” These issues have a ripple effect into every aspect of our culture, and it’s important to find ways to build communities and create opportunities for those facing discrimination to hear each other out and offer support. That is what the Eclectica Project aims to facilitate.

OLIVIA: If something frustrates me, I need to do something about it. To quote Ani DiFranco, “I was blessed with a birth and a death, and I guess I just want some say in between.” I wouldn’t limit myself to the identity of ‘feminist’ or ‘activist’ although I am essentially both – I would rather call myself ‘active.’ Passivity can be a serious illness. I worked in Tokyo for 12 years. Japan is an uber-conformist world, and that experience changed a lot of things for me – It gave me a strong perspective over what is in fact changeable and what is not. So many aspects of our lives are within our power and require hard work to achieve a high standard, but it’s also important to remain philosophical about areas which aren’t controllable and to find alternative routes. Having an international perspective and access to willing professionals is essential to maintaining the diversity and longevity of this project, so I dug out my business contacts.

What are you hoping to change in the music industry through Eclectica Project?

LIZZIE: The music industry, and every industry for that matter, needs to progress towards accepting women and minorities as complex individuals. If we want to achieve any kind of equality within this industry, we have to for instance stop putting these performers in the position where we hyper-analyse as ‘empowering’ or ‘weak’ but instead regard them as people who impact our world culturally and industrially. Women can be artists, light engineers, managers, producers, drummers, business owners, and they can be at the top of their game, while ethnicity, sexuality and gender should never be a determining factor in hiring somebody or offering opportunities. We should be assessing quality based on commitment and competence, not background or gender. The purpose of the August launch and its spinoff shows is to encourage understanding and respect for female and minority people working in various sectors of the music industry.

OLIVIA:  Every industry needs a severe shake, because the patriarchy is everywhere and affects everyone. The UK music industry is no different: too many controls, too much money in the wrong places, too many wrong people in the wrong jobs, too much fear and naivety from the artists, too many people taking advantage, too many false promises… It’s a mess and the whole thing needs revising. Until everyone is treated fairly in all industries, female and minority professionals must never stop calling people out and fighting for their rights. Things will improve if enough people open their eyes, find courage from within and commit. The panels taking place on the August launch weekend will open up many areas of discussion and solidify the already burgeoning network.

What does the future hold for the project?

LIZZIE:  This project is about women and minorities everywhere. It’d be interesting to explore what’s going on in other industries, because sadly there are so many talented people missing out on opportunities because of prejudice or patriarchal structures. The aim is to keep this community and network growing, to let it have its own life, and hopefully inspire people to speak out, learn from each other and keep fighting the good fight.

OLIVIA: Yes, if you want to save your industry and possibly your career, get involved: don’t think that you can’t make a difference, because you can. This project needs to survive – it needs support from funders, professionals, volunteers… There are many ways to become part of this network. Other than that, the post-launch future is sleep!

The Eclectica Project launch & spinoffs will take place in Manchester and Leeds during July and August. You can find out more information on the project’s Facebook page

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Why is the BBC filing Rolf Harris coverage in “Entertainment & Arts”?

Rolf Harris has been found guilty of twelve counts of indecently assaulting four girls and women over three decades. Six other women testified to their experience of sexual assault during the trial, although Harris was not charged with these offences. As I write this, the police are now investigating numerous new allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Harris.

Since the first allegations about Jimmy Savile’s sexual predation arose, a number of men employed by the BBC, including Stuart Hall and Freddie Starr, have been arrested for child sex offences. Not all of these men have been convicted but they all have one other thing in common: the BBC has chosen to publish articles on their cases under “Entertainment & Arts”. To be clear, the BBC categorises these articles as “news” but then also place them in the “Entertainment & Arts” section of BBC Online.

I’ve complained numerous times, as I believe it is utterly dismissive and minimising to place articles of child sexual abuse, rape and exploitation under the category of entertainment. It implies that the investigation and trials themselves are “entertainment”. It does tremendous harm to victims to see their experiences of sexual violence minimised in such a manner by implying that the former employment of the man charged is more important than the crimes committed.

In the most recent letter from the BBC in response to my complaint, the BBC claims that placing such articles under the heading of “Entertainment & Arts” is exactly the same as placing an article on the use of the internet to share images of children being sexually exploited, abused and raped under the heading of “Technology”. The fact that the BBC’s official response so clearly misses the point shows just how little they understand the impact of victim blaming and the minimisation of sexual violence on victims and on the ability to have sexual abusers and rapists convicted.

Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile were allowed to continue perpetrating sexual violence against children and women for decades because of an institutional refusal to recognise the seriousness of their crimes. It is clear that numerous people were aware of what Harris and Savile were doing but either chose to disbelieve the victims or ignore them. This is rape culture.

Yet the BBC still thinks it’s appropriate to place articles about Savile, Harris and other men under investigation or convicted of child sexual offences under the heading of entertainment. This is only a small part of rape culture but it is one that demonstrates an incredible lack of understanding of the consequences of child sexual violence. It is also something that the BBC could easily change.

I’ve started a petition here asking the BBC to stop considering the employment of the perpetrator (or person under investigation) when placing articles on BBC Online. Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile were allowed to commit child sexual violence offences for years because of rape culture and the privilege of celebrity culture. We need to make it clear that their jobs only gave them greater access to vulnerable women and children and the power to continue. The crimes they committed are not entertainment.

Louise Pennington is a radical feminist writer and activist who founded A Room of Our Own: A Feminist/Womanist network. She can be found on twitter as @LeStewpot and @Roomofourown

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Orphan Black: TV’s most woman-centred drama

*Contains spoilers

A woman gets off a train and picks up a phone; in a few sentences we learn that Sarah is a grifter, in town to sell stolen drugs and collect her daughter Kira. At the other end of the platform, we notice a woman stepping out of her shoes, shrugging off her jacket and putting her handbag on the platform. As Sarah walks in her direction, the woman turns round; she has the same face – but then she steps under a train. Sarah looks down and picks up the handbag…

Those were the stunningly economic first few minutes of the Anglo-Canadian techno-thriller series Orphan Black which has managed, in two seasons of ten episodes, to be the most stunningly woman-centred action drama on television.

In the middle of a hokum-filled plot that is mostly about conspiracy, kidnapping and running around dark cities late at night, it manages to make some quite fascinating observations about nature, nurture and free will. Sarah steals, temporarily, the life of dead Beth, only to find that Beth, a cop with morals as sketchy as her own, had problems; a dead civilian, phone calls from mysterious women, and more clones.

The drunken soccer mom Alison says, “we don’t mention the c word”, but the rapidly evolving alliance between Sarah, Alison and lesbian German biologist Cosima rapidly reveals how entirely the same three women can be in some respects and how utterly different in others. And that’s before we meet feral assassin Helena and corporate bully Rachel…

It’s a show that passes most of the tests we now ask of popular media – not just the Bechdel test, because obviously these women find a lot to talk about apart from boys – but also the more recent Trinity test for strong women. All versions of Sarah are strong women – it’s as intrinsic to them as their chancer ruthlessness and sly smile. Strong women who actually do things, albeit in very different ways.

Sarah sleeps with Beth’s fiance, Paul, and realises that he is not to be trusted, even before he works out that she is not who he thought. It turns out, for example, that they all – except for Sarah – have someone in their lives who is spying on them, and reporting back to a company, Triad. In a revealing moment about the different forms that ruthlessness can take, Cosima seduces her colleague Delphine, knowing that Delphine is her monitor.

It’s a show which could easily have drifted into comic book misandry – but Sarah’s gay painter foster brother Felix would clearly die for her, and Beth’s fellow cop Art is almost as loyal. Even Alison’s bumbling husband Donny, and Sarah’s abusive ex-lover Vic, are rich and complex characters who can surprise us.

This is a show which brilliantly alternates excitement, scabrous comedy and moments of still emotion. There are no duds in the cast, but the show rests primarily on a stunning central performance from Tatiana Maslany as Sarah and all the others. It’s not just the well-established and radically different body language and speech of all the clones; it’s the moments of farce when Sarah and Alison impersonate each other, or of tension when Sarah confronts the terrifying, pathetic Helena. For a while, the second season seemed on shakier ground than the first, but latterly it came together, and established stunningly that things which seemed random clips of narrative were nothing of the kind.

Now we have to binge re-watch, noticing extra points of cleverness, while we wait for Season Three…

Roz Kaveney is a Contributing Editor to Feminist Times. She is a trans woman, novellist, poet, critic and activist.

Photo: CrazyTVTalk

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“I call on those who live in the shadows”

All good stories get told over and over again, and every time they are told they get changed. The Brothers Grimm censored some fairy tales and softened others as they collected them; Angela Carter and Anne Sexton subjected them to radical revision in the name of feminism and a love of the new. More recently, Gregory Maguire‘s novels about Oz and the musical version of his Wicked shifted attention from heroine to villainess, asking interesting questions about how victims of injustice become perpetrators of evil.

Maleficent is an inventive subversion of the story we know from Perrault. More specifically, it revisits the Disney studio’s animated version. The new film’s hapless prince shares the name Philip with the rather more active 1959 character and the credit titles’ music is a sinister seductive version of the cartoon’s theme song, itself an adaptation of the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Primarily, of course, it is a vehicle for Angelina Jolie, whose glittering eyes and high cheekbones make her a remarkable double of one of Disney’s most spectacularly beautiful villainesses.

Critical reactions have varied – everyone agrees that Jolie’s performance is spectacularly good – noticeably, some critics were not paying quite as much attention as they should have done. There are some things that revisionism cannot change – the story is in the end about a woman who places a terrible curse on an innocent child – but this particularly thoughtful version manages to combine a radically subversive rethinking with popular entertainment. (The Peckham cinema where I saw it was full of delighted children.) Maleficent trusts both the material and its audience enough to work really remarkably well.

It posits two kingdoms – a human world which is all iron, blood and male tyranny and an adjacent realm of faerie, the Moors, of innocent playfulness and Rackhamesque cute weirdness. Even as a child, Maleficent is its hawk-winged protector; a sequence in which her parents were played by Miranda Richardson and Peter Capaldi was cut, partly for length but also because, in the end, this tough fairy needs no parents. It is no stretch of imagination whatever to describe these two kingdoms as Patriarchy and the Queer world.

As children, Maleficent and the boy Stefan become sweethearts. He goes away and his ambitions make him a lieutenant to the evil King – played by Kenneth Cranham – whose invasion of the Moors Maleficent defeats with giants and dragons made of tree roots. Promised the succession if he succeeds in removing her power, Stefan returns to the Moors, renews his pledge of true love’s kiss to Maleficent, drugs her and severs her wings, leaving her a cripple who has to learn to walk using a staff that becomes the new centre of her power. Not only is this a fairly obvious rape metaphor; it’s more interestingly a way of talking about how we adapt to trauma. She cuts the Moors off from the human world he now rules, with her wall of thorns, and swears vengeance.

The standard good fairies are replaced by a trio of slightly idiotic pixies who think the antagonism between Stefan’s realm and their own can be smoothed over with a few presents; Maleficent’s arrival at the christening and curse that the child will prick her finger on her sixteenth birthday and fall asleep forever is as much a rebuke to their stupidity as revenge. One of the most intelligent features of the writing at this point is the proper respect paid to the idea that words are magic – it’s not just that Maleficent’s sarcastic use of ‘true love’s kiss’ as the thing that will wake Aurora. It is that she reinforces the blessing that all will love her, and hardens the curse by saying that no power can break it.

The neglectful dimness of the pixies – to whom Stefan hands the child – means that Maleficent spends Aurora’s childhood protecting her from walking off cliffs and starving to death. Her constant bitch-faced iteration of how much she hates Stefan’s child by another woman is entirely contradicted by her actions – and of course she has trapped herself; all will love Aurora, includes Maleficent.

When they meet and talk, Aurora tells Maleficent that she recognizes her shadow as the fairy godmother who has always protected her – and she is not wrong. Maleficent comes to want desperately to protect Aurora but the terms of her curse, which no power can break, make it impossible for her to do so. Aurora duly pricks herself on a spindle and falls asleep.

Maleficent fights her way into the castle to deliver the charmingly useless Philip, whose kiss – he hardly knows Aurora – is entirely ineffectual; true love turns out to be Maleficent’s maternal devotion – she promises to protect Aurora in her sleep and pecks her on the forehead. This is the kiss that wakens the sleeping beauty. Stefan is far more interested in destroying Maleficent than saving his daughter; he neglected his dying wife to monologue Macbeth-like at the severed wings. He springs his iron traps – and Aurora saves her adopted mother by retrieving her wings. Stefan falls to his death trying to kill Maleficent even after she has defeated him – Maleficent hands both kingdoms over to Aurora, and both realms come out of the darkness of conflict into a sort of innocence…

To say that what is on offer is a queer feminist reading of the story is not to regard Maleficent’s love for Aurora as specifically sexual; it’s not grooming and there is no sign of desire. What we have though is two women who form a mutually self-sacrificing bond that lets them escape from a traumatic past and smash the patriarchy; if that’s not a queer feminist reading, I don’t know what is, irrespective of Aurora’s future relationship with the ineffectual Philip.

I guarantee that before the month is out, some right-wing American pundit will be even more upset by this Disney film than they were by the far less challenging Frozen. Maleficent is far from perfect – Sharlto Copley is far too hammy as Stefan, and Elle Fanning’s Aurora manages charm with almost no good lines – but it looks gorgeous and manages to be a good deal smarter than most Disney products.

Roz Kaveney is a Contributing Editor to Feminist Times. She is a trans woman, novellist, poet, critic and activist.

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True Detective & the fetisisation of killing women

It was during an episode of HBO’s hit series True Detective that it became clear. When the camera panned on two breasts jiggling up and down on Woody Harrelson like a cheerleader on a bouncy castle, a part of me groaned. I get it: he’s troubled. How does watching a DD chest pogoing on my television screen illustrate this?

As I write this feature the internet is adamant that Jessica Chastain is NOT starring in the next season of HBO hit drama True Detective, despite the rumours. Rumours that hadn’t stopped bloggers from picking up on the debate about sexism in TV drama, pinning their hopes on an HBO-rehabilitation of a female lead detective such as Chastain for season two.

You could say that HBO has experienced a “woman problem” in recent years: shows such as True Detective, The Wire and Game of Thrones have all thrown up clunking questions about how television-makers truly see women. Our TV screens continue to make victims, mistresses, corpses, wives and prostitutes of us all and while I’d like to think that TV doesn’t hold much influence over how women are treated in real life, the events of this weekend have shown that young and impressionable men can be violently and fatally misogynistic. TV cannot be blamed but it is definitely part of the landscape.

Going back to True Detective, the fictionalised Louisiana in which the series is set is devoid of any real women of depth. The female characters who do appear are defined by men and moved around like pieces on a chessboard. A woman’s sexuality is used to illustrate a man’s spiritual disenchantment, every female character exists in a supporting role, often semi-naked, to prove some kind of existential point. Even when detective Marty rallies against the exploitation of a teenage prostitute, by episode 6 the same teenage prostitute is texting him images of herself in her underwear. He’s “damaged”, “misunderstood” and “flawed”, this much is clear – but wait, so is she.

Why does his crisis have to be explained at the expense of her, stripped down to her wonderbra? Stick a pair of antlers on a woman’s corpse (episode 1 opens with the discovery of a ritualistic murder where a prostitute’s dead body is posed wearing a crown of deer antlers) and the issue of violence against women and its sexual fetishism also enters the picture. Let’s face it: most detective dramas are fuelled by it, not just True Detective.

Nothing fascinates dramatists and viewers more than a murdered prostitute or a young schoolgirl missing-presumed-dead. Even when a drama series stars a female lead detective, like Sarah Lund in The Killing, young women are a prime crime-target. And then there’s Game of Thrones.

A rape scene that makers insisted wasn’t a rape scene has communicated a dangerously confused message on sexual consent where clarification is crucial. During recent episode ‘Breaker of Chains’ a woman is very clearly raped by her brother in the tomb of her dead son. Faced with criticisms that this scene glamorised sexual violence, episode director Alex Graves replied, “Well, it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for [Cersei and Jaime] ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” The idea that a rape is “not completely a rape” is an uncomfortable director’s commentary when the apparently “turned-on” woman continually says “stop it” in the script.

So what’s going on and how can we fix it? It’s interesting to note that with only one exception over the course of four decades, HBO has not aired an original one-hour drama series created by a woman. If that wasn’t enough on its own, under 8% of HBO’s original dramas and mini-series came from women. In the UK, the outlook is just as bleak with a study by Directors UK, which represents 5,000 radio and television broadcasters, finding that no women directors have ever worked on many of our most popular dramas. Only 13% of drama episodes were directed by women in 2011-2012 and no sci-fi or fantasy genre dramas were directed by women between 2011 and 2012, yet women make up 27% of the directing force. Director Beryl Richards, who chaired the study added context by suggesting that women are often questioned as to whether they “have the authority to lead a largely male crew, or the technical knowledge”.

When women do take the helm, recent critical-smash Top of the Lake (co-produced by BBC Two in the UK) shows how sexual violence can be depicted to tell a female story from a woman’s perspective. In a strong female lead, abuse still acts as a bumper either side to direct Detective Robin Griffin’s story (played by Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss). What makes Top of the Lake different to the rest is its unsettling exploration of what it means to survive sexual violence, not just endure it. Robin’s traumatic rape isn’t a titillating tale of a good woman wronged by a bad man to further a male narrative.

To fix things, we need to address gender disparity in TV dramas: both on and off the screen. We need to question why our favourite programmes are caricaturing flimsy female roles and we need to ask why women aren’t writing, producing and directing more of the shows we’re watching. Directors UK are now addressing this imbalance, demanding that 30% of all programmes produced in 2017 be directed by women. In their words: ‘Broadcasters and production companies are willing to work with us to make change happen. Small steps have been taken but there is a great deal of work to be done.’ As for HBO and next season’s True Detective: why stop at one female detective? Let’s double it.

Kat Lister is a Contributing Editor at Feminist Times and a freelance writer living in London and can be found tweeting to an empty room @Madame_George. She has contributed to NME, The Telegraph, Grazia, Time Out, Clash magazine and Frankie magazine.

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The Punk Singer – Return of the Riot Grrrls?

Pioneering musician Kathleen Hanna, of punk bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, is the subject of an upcoming documentary, The Punk Singer, released in the UK this week. Directed by Sini Anderson, the film focuses on Hanna’s spearheading of the initial Riot Grrrl movement, offering in-depth commentary on the inception of Bikini Kill, the Olympia music scene and the ups and downs of being an inspirational force in DIY punk-rock history.

In many ways, the film’s release could not have come at a better time, with the incendiary Riot Grrrl subculture and all that it stood for currently seeming more of a distant memory. Initially born from a hardcore punk ethos in the early 90s, bands like Bikini Kill, The Raincoats and many more sought to challenge attitudes of patriarchy, addressing rape, abuse, sexuality and political activism from a feminist perspective. This willingness to openly confront these issues resulted in female empowerment that inspired a generation of women and men.

4 The Punk Singer documenary Dogwoof. Kathleen Hanna Photo courtesy of Pat Smear

Sadly, there has been a cultural shift over the last twenty years in music and politics to distance itself from feminism. Many musicians have made a case for mobilising sexist ‘irony’ into music, while others insist the war for equality is over and that sexism towards women in music has been consigned to history.

But forget that. Switch on any music video channel and you’ll struggle to find a single woman fronting a prominent rock band. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of woman-fronted acts out there – bands like Marmozets, who utilise math-rock and hardcore, fronted by 20 year old Becca Macintyre are starting to gain some ground; as are hard-riff, stoner rockers Deap Vally; and, most surprisingly, the authentic, atmospheric melancholy of Chelsea Wolfe.

However the vast majority of female-fronted bands — Blood Command, Rolo Tomassi, Wolf Alice, Sisters, Honeyblood, Fight Like Apes, The History of Apple Pie — are struggling to find a platform to be seen or heard.

The next generation of female musicians are stylish young waifs sporting ironic band t-shirts, wafting around like Haim or Lorde. Musically, their output is over homogenised, mass-produced, pop landfill. It’s a sad acceptance that in music over the last twenty years, it is sex that sells, not opinion.

Take the most famous women in pop music — Cheryl Cole, Shakira, Nicki Minaj — what it is they stand for? Beyonce is a global superstar who contributed to the Shriver report, slating the myth of gender equality. But even she can be seen pole dancing and writhing around husband Jay-Z in videos like Drunken Love or Partition. Sigh. Let’s face it, the Beyonces of this world are merely mirrors to mass culture. They are not the women to look to for change — and yet they are the ones who dominate our TV screens and airwaves.

These are just some of the challenges faced today by Riot Grrrl bands such as Tacocat, Bleached and Throwing Up, who have received little or no media attention despite their music being loud, refreshing and intelligent. Today, the musical landscape (much like the political) is as unwelcoming to feminist artists as it has ever been.

This attitude towards women in contemporary music is a far cry from the music of my youth in the early and mid nineties. Back then there was a constant horde of rising bands fronted by women: The Breeders, Free Kitten, Pussy Galore, Heavens to Betsey, Bratmobile, Silverfish, Ruby, Veruca Salt, L7, Babes in Toyland, Skunk Anansie, Curve, Garbage, Excuse 17, Bjork, Portishead, Daisy Chainsaw, and countless others.

The Punk Singer Dogwoof Documentary 1

My musical education was shaped by strong front-women constantly seeking to educate, inspire and be heard – even when conflict was commonplace at gigs for bands like Bikini Kill. As these women battled on, both courageous and profane, their message was clear: form your own ideas, question wider problems, do what you want to do and be who you want to be.

But it falls to the insurgent Riot Grrrls of 2014 to reclaim empowerment through DIY. Most famously, it is Pussy Riot (who cite Bikini Kill as an influence) who have been a political, musical and cultural reference point of late. Using their anti-fascist tactics to attract attention to issues of feminism and social structures, both the band and movement have created a public discourse around their concerns. And there are certainly parallels between the resurgence in women aligning themselves with Pussy Riot and the Riot Grrrl community of the 90s.

While the Riot Grrrl name may have diminished in the media over the last two decades, the movement’s values never went away. Riot Grrrl taught crucial lessons about directing anger and frustration about inequality into a public sphere. The issues that existed then are as relevant today.

With the UK release of The Punk Singer showcasing Kathleen Hanna’s political diatribes afresh, it will undoubtedly inspire the next generation of Riot Grrrls to fly the flag for equality, give women agency and make their mark in music and beyond. If ever there was a time to push women in music to the forefront, it is now. And if that means bands will don the Pussy Riot balaclavas to be heard, so be it!

Faye Lewis is a music writer, literature fanatic and George Carlin aficionado. Follow her @FayeLewis85.

The Punk Singer Competition


Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the riot grrrl movement. She became one of the most famously outspoken feminist icons, a cultural lightning rod. Her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. So in 2005, when Hanna stopped shouting, many wondered why. Through 20 years of archival footage and intimate interviews with Hanna, THE PUNK SINGER takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader. 

The Punk Singer is released in the UK this Friday, 23 May, with screenings across the UK until 26 June. Click here to find your nearest screening.

To celebrate, we’ve got a “Girls to the front” T-shirt and set of The Punk Singer badges to give away to one Feminist Times reader. To enter simply tweet us @Feminist_Times with your favourite riot grrrl song lyric, using #ThePunkSinger. The winner will be announced at 5pm on Thursday 22 May.

SO200688 Dogwoof Badges comp

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Eight ways to keep yourself sane on Twitter: online feminism & mental health

This week, to coincide with the national Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re publishing a series of articles looking at feminism and mental health. Some readers may find this content distressing.

A number of recent cases, as highlighted in Kirsty Wark’s recent BBC documentary Blurred Lineshave brought into focus an alarming anti-feminist backlash, where abuse online has emerged as a serious problem in the new culture of misogyny and hate .

Such behaviour can compromise the physical and psychological health of our community, and the strategies below aim to help minimise the stress, and maximise the benefits that a global online community provides.

1) Stay safe 

There is a curious dichotomy in the use of social media. It has the ability to relieve stress with its fulfilment of the human need for social connectedness, but can cause anxiety and infringe on our sense of safety. At the worst extremes, this can result in identity theft, cyber stalking, and cyberbullying.

Keep personal details (e.g. where you live or work) off Twitter. Use the maximum security settings to allow some degree of privacy. Don’t take other users at face value.

Twitter allows its users considerable control of their projected persona, with the opportunity to delete any content that contradicts this perfect self-image. In the real world our assessment of people is far more multidimensional, with information from others, our visual impressions, body language and the nuances of our undervalued gut instinct.

Online, narcissists may appear harmless, but their inflated sense of self-esteem may be fragile and descend into vicious damaging behaviours. In the large groups that form on Twitter, even individuals with a healthy sense of self can lose it. There is a propensity to descend into narcissism, with unwanted aspects of self projected onto an opponent’s avatar. When hateful projects are validated in groups (a cause of concern in the feminist community) the dangers of groupthink and a lack of this reality testing can be apparent.

2) Don’t tolerate abuse of yourselves or others 

There are some behaviours that are automatic red cards, involving immediate blocking and reporting as abuse. If there is a specific threat of harm to yourself or others contact the police in the first instance. Take screen shots as evidence to email to the investigating officer so they can assess the level of risk and proceed appropriately.

Content on Twitter can be inflammatory, with a diverse range of opinions. However, personally insulting or seriously offensive messages can be reported to Twitter. If you are the victim of predatory behaviour, try to resist the temptation to engage in defending yourself or counter-attacking. Such “trolling” is a means of seeking validation via human contact, even horrified or offended responses. Do not “feed the trolls”; show your contempt through silence, blocking and reporting. These “games” of human interaction, as described by Eric Berne, can feel compelling but, when they serve to increase distress and feelings of victimisation, are to be avoided.

3) Use the block function 

Blocking is Twitter’s key safety tool. Be clear on your own boundaries and if somebody violates them, act. Twitter is a virtual space but you are in charge of who you interact with. If you feel interactions lack worth and invite damage to your self-esteem then the online connection can be broken.

4) Don’t get into long, ongoing arguments 

When you believe something passionately it is perfectly appropriate to argue your corner. But engaging in long repetitive discussions with someone whose views are concrete and opposed to yours is draining and futile. While in interpersonal relationships disagreement is inevitable (and healthier than the alternative passive dependant strategy of denial of self), we would be unlikely to develop or continue any relationship based on arguments. The Twitter world is no different: recognising this and withdrawing is likely to be the healthiest option for all involved.

5) Avoid Twitter at work 

The use of Twitter at work (other than as part of your role) is fraught with difficulties. Any employment is a transaction where you receive remuneration for performing tasks. If your Twitter usage is impairing your performance and it is noticed, you risk damage to your hard earned status and position. Venting your frustrations about your boss on the Internet may even directly contravene your employment contract, or your registration if you are a professional.

Recent research by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD) showed that two out of five employers used a candidate’s online presence for screening prospective employees. While it is debatable whether a prospective employer has the right to analyse a private Twitter feed, employing privacy blocks can help separate your work and personal identities.

6) Beware of using Twitter as a means of avoidance 

Twitter and the Web allow you the psychological defence of avoidance by procrastination. While reading every tweet from a person who interests you might seem like a good idea, if it happens to coincide with your dream job interview preparation you may be defending your underlying anxieties about failing by avoidance of the important task. Prioritise effectively and resist the temptation.

7) Keep it in perspective 

Twitter users come and go, and are perhaps the most potentially rejecting of all online communities. While amassing followers may strengthen your ego, these online communities are only a small part of our unique self. An online indiscretion, unless you are a heavily scrutinised celebrity, may actually go unnoticed in the constant stream of information, and tweets and other online posts can be deleted rapidly.

8) Switch off and relax 

The breadth of information that can be accessed via Twitter is of variable quality and can feel limitless. The lines between work and leisure time can become blurred, with a non-stop conveyer belt of articles and tweets. Anxiety can be seen as a button being held down on the fight-or-flight reflex to stress. Trying to keep that button held down so you can devour more information could generate symptoms of stress and tension, leading to symptoms such as insomnia, low mood, free-floating anxiety and panic. If you detect the symptoms of information overload, consider declaring a technology-free zone such as your bedroom, or daily offline time, such as the last two hours before you go to bed.

Using mindfulness approaches to manage these symptoms can be useful, and allow us to remain in the present and stay grounded. If you have any concerns about your mental health, talking to your GP can help you access local counselling, psychology and other appropriate treatments.

Anna Fryer is a Psychiatrist, feminist, mother of one preschooler and fan of the arts. Follow her  @annacfryer

For information and support on mental health issues, visit the Mental Health Foundation or Mind.

Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

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Feminist Events Listings: May 2014

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in May.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


May – June || The Punk Singer, a film about Kathleen Hanna | Screenings across the UK

Kathleen Hanna, will be in London for two very special Q&A screenings of The Punk Singer. If you are not London based, don’t fret- there are lots of events happening up and down the country coinciding with the cinema release- full listings below. The film will be released in cinemas nationwide on May 23rd, we are really excited to hear that Kathleen will be attending a Q&A session following special preview screenings of the film at the Curzon Soho on 13th May at 6.30pm, hosted by Lauren Laverne, or at the ICA cinema on 14th May at 6.45pm. Director- Siri Anderson will be doing a Skype Q&A for the screening at Rich Mix on Thursday 15th of May.

Synopsis:  Through 20 years of archival footage and intimate interviews, The Punk Singer tells the story of Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre. Kathleen Hanna rose to national attention as the reluctant but never shy voice of the Riot Grrrl movement. She became the most famously outspoken feminist icons in music.



National screenings;

Friday 09 May

Derby – Derby Quad – Derby Film Festival

Tuesday 13 May

London – Curzon Soho

Sheffield – Showroom – Preview

Wednesday 14 May

London – ICA

Thursday 15 May

London – Rich Mix – DocHouse Preview

Friday 23 May

London – ICA

Bristol – Cube Cinema

Dublin – Ifi

Glasgow – Glasgow Film Theatre

Nottingham – Broadway Cinema

Saturday 24 May

London – ICA

Dublin – Ifi

Glasgow – Glasgow Film Theatre

Nottingham – Broadway Cinema

Sunday 25 May

London – ICA

Dublin – Ifi

Glasgow – Glasgow Film Theatre

Nottingham – Broadway Cinema

Monday 26 May

Bristol – Cube Cinema

Dublin – Ifi

Glasgow – Glasgow Film Theatre

Nottingham – Broadway Cinema

Tuesday 27 May

Bristol – Cube Cinema

Dublin – Ifi

Glasgow – Glasgow Film Theatre

Nottingham – Broadway Cinema

Wednesday 28 May

Dublin – Ifi

Glasgow – Glasgow Film Theatre

Nottingham – Broadway Cinema

Thursday 29 May

Dublin – Ifi

Glasgow – Glasgow Film Theatre

Nottingham – Broadway Cinema

Friday 30 May

Cardiff – Chapter

Saturday 31 May

London – Rio Cinema

Cardiff – Chapter

Monday 02 June

Cardiff – Chapter

Tuesday 03 June

Cardiff – Chapter

Wednesday 04 June

Cardiff – Chapter

Thursday 05 June

Cardiff – Chapter

Leeds – Hyde Park Picture House

Monday 16 June

London – Riverside Studios

Thursday 26 June

Staffordshire – Stoke Film Theatre

16 May || What the Frock! 2nd Birthday Party @ The Maurentania, Bristol.

Join Bristol’s award-winning all-female comedy night as they celebrate their second birthday, with a night of fabulous comedy. With Cerys Nelmes at the helm all night, the team welcome back the return of the larger than life Jayde Adams to the headline spot, as well as cabaret from Ada Campe and stand-up from Hatty Ashdown. There is also a star prize raffle. Tickets: £12 adv, £15 on door.


22 May || HOMETRUTHS Conference 2014 ‘Womb to Womanhood’ @ The Meadow, Swindon, Wiltshire.

HOMETRUTHS is an independent, community based specialist service for survivors of domestic violence and abuse aged 16+ living in Swindon and Wiltshire, who have experienced domestic violence and abuse including stalking and harassment from partners or ex-partners. This is their 2nd Conference and they are pleased to welcome presentations from local and national speakers, looking at the impact of domestic abuse on women and their children


25 May || Laughing Cows Comedy @ The Frog & Bucket, Manchester.

Laughing Cows hosted by Kerry Leigh with Jo Enright, (Lab Rats / Ideal / The Job Lot) Jenny Ross (The Sunday Show) and Hawkeye & Windy. For more than a decade now the highly acclaimed comedienne Jo Enright has crafted a completely unique style of stand-up comedy. As well as performing it both on television and radio, Jo also thrives on live theatre performances, winning several comedy awards including the 2002 Chortle Award for ‘The Best Female Circuit Comic’ and the 2001 ‘Best Female on the Jongleurs Comedy Circuit’ award.7.00pm.



12 May || Fans of Feminism @ Cass School of Art and Architecture.

Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design Fans of Feminism invite you to discuss: Fighting the art establishment or creating a new one: How can we achieve equality?’ The art establishment in Britain is a hostile environment for under represented artists. Despite encouraging statistics showing a gradual rise in the number of women artists showing in galleries, we are by no means near achieving equality. This panel seeks to tackle some of the issues that women and other under represented artists face, and discuss what we can do to drive change. An interactive discussion With Panelists: Dr Mo Throp, Helena Reckitt, Martina Mullaney, Phoebe Collings-James and Maria Kheirkhah. 17:30 -21:00pm


12-19 May || Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It: A One-Lady Rape About Comedy Starring her Pussy and little else! @ Soho Theatre, Dean Street.

Time Out recommends: In 2013 Adrienne Truscott’s Foster’s Panel Prize-winning political, satirical and experimental solo show got the Fringe set talking. Now she’s taking over Soho Theatre for a 19-date run of her acclaimed part-stand-up, part-performance and part lecture. Rape culture apologists Todd Aiken and Daniel Tosh don’t escape Truscott’s logical and belly achingly funny social commentary on laws surrounding date rape and the controversial ‘what were you wearing’ argument. Truscott is fearless in her commentary on the prevalence of rape joke culture, it’s set to pop music, and oh yeah, she’s starkers from the waist down and ankles up. £10-£17.50


16 May || Women’s Spaces and Feminist Politics- Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow @ Queen Mary University of London.

This one-day conference will explore the role of women’s spaces in feminist politics, focusing on women’s centres and other women’s spaces in the past, present and future. During the past decade a new generation of feminists has started to campaign against the objectification of women in the media, the expansion of pornography, sexism in the workplace and on the street, the lack of representation of women in public life and the sexualisation of young children. This new generation of feminists is largely organized via social media rather than in physical spaces. Admission: £38.00. 9.30am-5.00pm.


Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for May.

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Plenty of problems but no solutions in Kirsty Wark’s ‘Blurred Lines’

Tonight Kirsty Wark promises to examine ‘a new culture’ of misogyny in Blurred Lines: The New Battle Of The Sexes on BBC2. I’m cynical. I can’t help but wonder how much more there is to say on the matter, as someone who spends a lot of time – professionally and socially – being both a woman and a feminist in the online world. Would Wark simply rehash what many of us have known for years, on issues that now even the mainstream media devotes much attention to? Would she offer up solutions, or simply remind us all yet again what we’re up against? Imagine my surprise then when what Wark presents is a far more useful overview and contextualisation of contemporary misogyny than we’ve seen to date in the mainstream media.

While the many examples of cultural misogyny Wark gives will come as no surprise to Feminist Times readers, placed alongside each other they do offer a compelling patchwork of evidence for those sexism skeptics out there; like the Everyday Sexism Project, incidents of 21st century cultural misogyny are harder to dismiss when seen together. From online abuse directed at high profile women, rape jokes by celebrated comedians, and sexism in music videos (featuring, of course, the inevitable clip from the programme’s namesake) to everyday experiences of sexism in school and online gaming, and the impact of lads mags and online pornography, Wark paints a depressing yet necessary picture of women’s position in UK society in 2014.

More helpfully, Wark goes beyond the ‘what’ to explore the ‘why’, placing Twitter abuse and Blurred Lines firmly in the historical context of a new wave in the anti-feminist backlash that has repeatedly shown its face, under ever evolving guises, over the past four decades. Speaking to students at Stirling University about the now notorious YouTube video of male sports stars singing a sexually degrading drinking song on a public bus, Wark reflects on her own time as a student at Stirling during the 70s. Whilst much has moved on for women since then, Wark comments that the sexism on show is now far less insidious than in her day, with obscene humour about rape now being casually passed off as ‘banter’.

Much time is devoted to this notion of ‘banter’, with Wark asking everyone from young people at a comedy show to ex-Loaded editor Martin Daubney where they draw the line between ‘banter’ and sexism. Since the obvious implication is that these lines are blurred, there are frustratingly few conclusions to this question, beyond subjectivity, as we’re shown women laughing at the same rape joke which has appalled their male friend, and (ever-helpful on the subject of women’s rights) Rod Liddle suggests victims of online abuse like Mary Beard should merely ‘man-up’.

On the subject of Liddle and Daubney – neither of whom Wark lets off lightly – Blurred Lines does provide an interesting look at the role the media has to play in both reflecting and perpetuating the misogyny that takes place online, with research showing how views like AA Gill’s on Mary Beard are amplified through social media, before coming full circle, as in Liddle’s Spectator piece “It’s not misogyny, Professor Beard. It’s you.” And, though Daubney remains laughably insistent that the 90s advent of lads mags and ‘laddism’ was about “celebrating women”, rather than a Britpop-era backlash against their increasing power, there’s little arguing with him that much of the pornography now freely available online is far more harmful and upfront in its hatred and degradation of women.

Tellingly, it’s also Daubney who refers to the so-called crisis of masculinity that appears to play such a key role in the increasing levels of public and cultural aggression towards women. Women have never had it so good and the poor men aren’t sure how to react so, like children on the playground, they resort to name calling and hair pulling – in the form of trolling feminists on Twitter and brutally murdering prostitutes on Grand Theft Auto. Meanwhile, on real playgrounds across the country, we’re told that slut-shaming and sexist remarks are an everyday occurrence for adolescent girls, and pornography is standing in for proper sex education, which teenage girls (including those behind the Campaign 4 Consent) tell Wark is hugely inadequate, if not altogether lacking.

While Germaine Greer paints a pretty bleak picture of life for women since the publication of The Female Eunuchand journalist Laurie Penny describes how social media has enabled existing misogyny to evolve a powerful new form, the young women of Campaign 4 Consent form part of Wark’s redemptive conclusion. They, and women like them, are part of the backlash to the backlash; misogyny has got louder, but women (and especially young women) are raising their voices to shout back. It doesn’t offer a solution, as such, but a reassuring reminder to the Thursday night audience of BBC2 that we cannot be so easily silenced.

Blurred Lines: The New Battle Of The Sexes airs tonight, Thursday 8 May, from 9.30pm on BBC 2.

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We launch new Members perks with Blazing World competition

This week we launched our brand new online Members-only area, where Feminist Times Members can access exclusive discounts and offers from a selection of our feminist partners. Current offers include 50% off and free P&P on a selection of Zed Books’ feminist titles, free membership to Letterbox Library, 10% off The War Paint’s solid gold “Feminist” necklace, a free feminist mirror with every purchase from Tea Please, free entry to all our events, and regular members-only competitions from the likes of Verso Books. To benefit from all these offers, and more still to come, join us today from as little as £5 per month and help support our independent feminist media organisation.

To celebrate the launch of these Members-only offers, we’re giving away one pair of tickets to The Blazing World at the London Review Bookshop – a book reading by author Siri Hustvedt and discussion on gender bias with art critic Sarah Thornton, on 29 May from 7pm.

In Siri Hustvedt’s latest novel The Blazing World (Sceptre) artist Harriet Burden, consumed by fury at the lack of recognition she has received from the New York art establishment, embarks on an experiment: she hides her identity behind three male fronts who exhibit her work as their own, to universal acclaim. ‘All intellectual endeavours’ Burden herself remarks pugnaciously at the novel’s opening ‘fare better in the mind of the crowd when the crowd knows that somewhere behind the great work … it can locate a cock and a pair of balls.’ Siri Hustvedt will be reading from her book, and discussing its themes of art, gender bias and subterfuge with the art critic Sarah Thornton, author of Seven Days in the Art World.

This competition is open to all Feminist Times Members. To enter, simply fill in your details below. One winner will be announced at 5pm on Monday 12 May.

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#GenderWeek: “TERF-war”, online bullying & the dark art of doxing

Click here to read all #GenderWeek articles.

Online bullying is, self-evidently, a phenomenon that has only been able to exist since the rise of the publicly available internet. The existence of “doxing” has followed it. Doxing (or Doxxing, Docx), for those who don’t know, is a shortened form of the word ‘documenting’ and is the practice of outing somebody online, usually by linking to the person’s photographs or identity in some way.

It is not always motivated by malice. The net provides a convenient cloak of anonymity for those who seek to dissemble. Few of us could have failed to laugh when Mary Beard received a snivelling apology from a no-longer-brave young man faced with having his tweet shown to his mother, and it will rarely be against the public interest to discover that a brand advocate is actually employed by said brand.

It becomes sinister when it is used as a tool to attack private individuals who have done nothing more offensive than exist.

In what has been dubbed the “TERF-wars”; where trans-exclusionary radical feminists, trans-inclusionary feminists and trans-activists have come to blows on Twitter – often over subjects such as women-only spaces and equalities law – the lines between debate and abuse often become very confused, with both sides accusing the other of abuse. The legal tipping point between the two is discussed below, although the moral high ground is obviously a different matter.

Many feminists find the term “TERF” offensive and the word “cis” – a Latin prefix used as the opposite of “trans” – uncomfortable.  There is no right not to be offended, so a person who dislikes the terms is unlikely to be able to make out a legal case to prevent it. Insisting on calling someone “cis” or “TERF” if they do not like it or identify with the term is rude, probably bullying, but unless it is used deliberately to cause distress, which would be hard to prove, it is unlikely to be illegal. Similarly, deliberate misgendering would in most cases be considered obnoxious rather than unlawful. There is no hard line definition of what is offensive; that is considered on a case by case basis according to what the “reasonable” person would think.

It goes without saying that there is no remedy in criminal or in civil law for someone putting forward a viewpoint with which one disagrees. As with all online debate, holding an opposing position is not in itself abuse or bullying. So, for example, there is no possible legal way to prevent “trans-critical analysis”, which theorises the non-existence of transsexuals, no matter how hurtful it may be to a person reading it. However it is very often within this context that doxing occurs which is often used in the online bullying of trans people.

Doxing is by no stretch of the imagination a simple analysis problem. It has involved deliberate targeting of individuals in a way designed to intimidate them, including vulnerable people (minors) who could in no way be said to have raised their heads above a theoretical parapet.

It is a sad truth that the application of the law cannot force anybody to be right. However, the law does provide some protection to the victims of bullying no matter what views you hold.  Here’s a slimmed-down synopsis of how.

The Public Order Act

The Public Order Act of 1986 makes it a criminal offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, either with intention to cause harassment, alarm or distress or in the presence of someone who might be caused harassment, alarm or distress. Equally, it is an offence to ‘display’ such words or behaviour. In 1986 that meant on a wall, placard or similar, but it could equally apply to Tumblr or Twitter in today’s terms.

It is a defence to show that the conduct was reasonable or that the person doing it had no reason to believe that anybody would actually see it.

Sending malicious communications

The Malicious Communications Act 1988 makes it a criminal offence to send any article which is indecent or grossly offensive, or which conveys a threat, or which is false, provided there is an intent to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient. The offence covers letters, writing of all descriptions, electronic communications, photographs and other images in a material form, tape recordings, films and video recordings.

The offence is one of sending, delivering or transmitting, so there is no requirement for the article to reach the intended recipient.

In 2007 the court considered whether a political or educational motive would be a defence (when applied to a woman who was sending graphic photographs of aborted foetuses as part of an anti-abortion campaign.) It was not held to be a defence and any restriction on freedom of speech was justified by everyone else’s right not to be victimised.


The CPS use the term harassment to cover the ‘causing alarm or distress’ offences under section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA), and ‘putting people in fear of violence’ offences under section 4 of the PHA. Harassment is not specifically defined, but it can include repeated attempts to impose unwanted communications and contacts upon a victim in a manner that could be expected to cause distress or fear in any reasonable person. It would be difficult to prove that doxing someone (without notifying them) constituted harassment of that individual, but the CPS guidance states that:

“Closely connected groups may also be subjected to ‘collective’ harassment. The primary intention of this type of harassment is not generally directed at an individual but rather at members of a group. This could include: members of the same family; residents of a particular neighbourhood; groups of a specific identity including ethnicity or sexuality, for example, the racial harassment of the users of a specific ethnic community centre; harassment of a group of disabled people; harassment of gay clubs; or of those engaged in a specific trade or profession.”

This could undoubtedly be applied to an individual (or small group of individuals) harassing a group by doxing them, if the doxing is targeted at members of a particular group.

Doxing: outside the criminal law

Of course, although the CPS have an impressive policy on hate crime, the system is not always interested in what are perceived to be online spats and although, in my view, the system will increasingly recognise that offences can and do occur in the virtual world, the civil law may also be of more immediate interest.

The Equalities Act 2010 protects people with certain characteristics (race, sex, disability, gender reassignment, religion, pregnancy, marriage, sexual orientation and age) from discrimination, harassment or victimisation.  Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 guarantees a person’s right to privacy (unless there is a very good reason).  A private individual cannot be sued under either the Equalities Act or the HRA, but public bodies can be (and in the case of the Equalities Act, so can private members’ clubs, associations, employers and service providers).

This means that doxing someone out of malice would be unlawful if it is done by a tabloid – but not if it is done by an individual. However, if it is published by an online publication, it is worth looking at whether that publication is an association or service provider. If so, there may be a remedy in civil law for damages.

One final possibility would be to sue the bully in tort. Tort is a legal concept whereby a person who is harmed by another can claim damages. It is self-evident that doxing would foreseeably cause harm, from distress to actual psychiatric injury. As far as I can tell, nobody has ever attempted to use this route as a remedy for outing or doxing, but it appears that if a person were caused harm by another’s actions in doxing them, they may well be entitled to damages.  A precedent for civil damages could prove more of a deterrent than the threat of criminal action.

Julian Norman is a barrister, professional law nerd, feminist and writer. Follow her @londonfeminist

Photo: Maryland Gov Pics

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I didn’t know how to help until Rumble in the Jumble

The reality of the horrors that rule the lives of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are unimaginable to most people like you and I. Following independence in 1960 the citizens of this shattered state have existed with civil strife, then civil war; the tensions ever mounting until 1998, when the people found themselves in the midst of the worst international African conflict on record, with reports of three million dead by 2003. The unrest has continued ever since.

The status quo now for many is a quagmire of displacement, bereavement, torture, starvation, rape, abduction, prostitution and abandonment, with no reliable authority to beseech or even bribe for safe passage into fields which for centuries provided sustenance for the people and their ancestors. From the earliest age girls and women are unable to even fetch water without the omnipresent threat of the most violent rape, that terrible weapon wielded with impunity by soldiers and militia at a frequency so alarming it’s impossible to comprehend. How are we to understand this from within the luxury of ours?

Like everyone else I read the news and try to take in as much of the unquantifiable horror occurring around the world each day as possible, and then give pitiful sums of what money I can, but it’s a minor balm against that nagging helplessness – how can I help ease the raging terror of millions of desperate fellow souls?

This desire to empathise and aid, this want to help, defeated by a lack of resources and a feeling of being overwhelmed by the scale of all the calamitous situations around the globe, was broken in a direct way for me with regard to the Democratic Republic of Congo when an email arrived in my inbox two years ago informing me about the Music Circle and its work.

The Music Circle, a subsidiary of Annie Lennox’s The Circle, which was created to assist women in the empowerment of fellow women, was founded in 2011 by PR whizzes Emily Cooper and Laura Martin. The pair brought together a group of key women working in the music industry to gather ideas as to the best way of raising money for and awareness of the devastating situation faced daily by women in the DRC.

One of these ideas turned out to be joining forces with Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney to expand an event that she hosted in 2012 with TV presenter Dawn Porter, as part of Oxfam’s Get Together campaign – the first Rumble in the Jumble. So in 2013, all resources combined, the second Rumble in the Jumble event took place and was attended by hundreds of fantastic women including Gizzi Erskine, Laura Whitmore and Caroline Flack, with items donated by the likes of Damon Albarn, Alison Mosshart and Annie Mac.

Crucially it raised £16,000 to stream into projects organised by NGOs in the war-shredded Democratic Republic of Congo. These projects strive to find ways to protect, shelter and educate; to give the citizens of the DRC as much of a chance as possible to one day have a normal experience perhaps even the tiniest bit akin to ours. One where the gathering of food, fetching of water, the necessities of life can occur without the threat of grave injury.

So, say you were going to have an indulgent Saturday, swipe away that intellectually bettering reading pile, leave the underused trainers lurking in the hall, what might you then choose to do with your afternoon? Take a mate for tea and cake? A bit of vintage shopping? Treat yourself to a manicure? Buy some records, or have a dance to someone else’s?

Well, being able to do all that under one roof would be pretty appealing then, wouldn’t it? Especially if getting stuck in to all those things turned out to also be a way of supporting these women half way round the world in the DRC who are in the direst need imaginable.

That’s what this weekend’s Rumble in the Jumble #3 at London’s Oval Space is all about. It’s a huge pile of fun put on by Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney and The Music Circle, in conjunction with Oxfam, to raise funds for women in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This Saturday’s event is already promising to top the last in every aspect, from fundraising scope through shopping potential to just all out entertainment. All you need to do is show up with £3 and a bag of your own under loved jumble, and you can peruse stalls hosted by Cherry Healey, Elizabeth Sankey (Summer Camp), Gaggle and Mixmag to name but a few; keeping a sharp eye out for celebrity jumble swag donated by Goldfrapp, Jessie Ware, David Gandy, Arcade Fire, Anna Calvi, Lauren Laverne and many more.

This year a host of fashion, culture and music brands have also donated brand new items including: Whistles, Dr Martens, ASOS, SONOS, VICE, Marshall Amps, Warp Records, L’Oreal, Dazed & Confused and Black Dog Publishing. Once you’ve bagged yourself a new outfit and topped up the record collection, you can spruce yourself up at the Smashbox Cosmetics and Bumble & Bumble Hair stalls before tucking into a tasty stew provided by Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa, or tea and cake from Drink Shop & Do, before a glass of prosecco to get you primed, or a little dance to one of the brilliant DJ sets that will be sound-tracking the day.

And vitally, whilst enjoying all these things that are equally as unimaginable to those you are raising funds to aid as the realities of their lives are to us, you will be part of an event that will go some way to securing the safety of these women who live with the constant threat of forced displacement, sexual violence, abduction and extortion. There really couldn’t be a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon now, could there?

Facebook Event HERE.


Suze Olbrich is a freelance writer, video producer, promoter, manager and member of the Music Circle. Follow her @suzeolbrich

The Music Circle is a group of women from the music industry who are aiming to raise £50,000 for Oxfam’s work with women in Eastern DRC. Follow @themusic_circle

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Sisterhood & After: Listen to Fifty Years of Feminism

Tonight the East London Fawcett Society is holding a debate on the legacy of feminist campaigners from the Second Wave, 50 Years of Feminism. This event, chaired by the Southbank’s Jude Kelly, has been inspired by and is being held in partnership with The British Library’s new feminist oral history project, Sisterhood and After: An Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Panelists include Melissa Benn, Beatrix Campbell, Laura Bates and Lesley Abdela.

To coincide with this event, The British Library has selected three of the more than 150 recordings to share with Feminist Times readers. These recordings and their transcripts, as well as the rest of the archive, are available online on the British Library’s ‘Sisterhood & After’ website. Listen to them below.

Sisterhood & After is a unique oral history archive depicting the stories of the women involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement, launched on 8 March last year by the British Library, in partnership with the University of Sussex and The Women’s Library.

From Spare Rib to Greenham Common, the Southhall Black Sisters to the Northern Ireland Women’s Rights’ movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s transformed the lives of men and women and shaped the world we live in today. This oral history archive brings together the diverse experiences of the women involved in this movement for the first time, including issues ranging from reproductive rights, equality, independence to marriage and sexual rights. Over 350 hours of unedited recordings from the archive are available in the reading rooms of the British Library, and highlights from the archive, including edited clips, video and contextual information are available online.

The project was developed over the last four years in response to a demand from the activists themselves, who felt their stories had never been recorded in full before. Participants include well-known figures such as Susie Orbach and Jenni Murray as well as lesser known stories, such as Una Kroll, a former doctor, nun and campaigner for women’s right to be priests; Rowena Arshad, a trade union activist who co-organised a pioneering black women’s refuge in Scotland; Betty Cook, a miner’s wife who became politicised during the miner strike forming ‘Women Against Pit Closures’; and women involved in campaigns such as the Miss World protest, the Grunwick Strike, Reclaim the Night, the Equal Pay Act and many more.

Pragna Patel describing her involvement in Southall Black Sisters

Pragna Patel is the founder and Director of Southall Black Sisters Centre (SBS). SBS is, a multi-award-winning women’s organisation founded in 1979 to address the needs of black and minority women experiencing gender violence. It successfully campaigned for the release of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a landmark case in which an Asian woman was convicted of the murder of her violent husband. The case reformed homicide law, creating greater awareness within and outside minority communities. Pragna is also a co-founder of Women Against Fundamentalism.

Pragna Patel interviewed by Rachel Cohen, C1420/18 © The British Library and The University of Sussex

Karen McMinn describing violence against women in the context of the Northern Irish conflict

Karen McMinn (born 1956) joined Belfast Women’s Aid in 1977 and was involved in the Free Noreen Winchester Campaign in 1978. As Director of Northern Ireland Women’s Aid 1981-1996, she played a key role within the women’s movement in raising the issue of violence against women and women’s social and political empowerment during a period of intense political violent conflict in Northern Ireland. Karen now works as an independent consultant focusing on issues of gender inequality and marginalisation within post conflict societies.

Karen McMinn interviewed by Rachel Cohen, C1420/26 © The British Library and The University of Sussex

Ursula Owen talking about setting up Virago and the way it was received

Ursula Owen is a publisher and editor. She was a founder director of Virago Press, which published many remarkable women writers, including Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Rebecca West and Mary Chamberlain, and recovered many out-of-print writers, including Willa Cather, Rosamund Lehmann, and Isabella Bird. She worked at Virago for seventeen years from l974 as editorial director and then joint managing director; she was chief executive of Index on Censorship, the magazine for free expression, from l993 – 2006, and founder of the Free Word Centre for literature, literacy and free expression.

Ursula Owen interviewed by Rachel Cohen, C1420/36 © The British Library and The University of Sussex

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The Daily Fail doth protest too much

Yesterday UN Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo raised concerns about the UK’s portrayal of women and girls in the media saying the UK had a “boys’ club sexist culture“. Ms Manjoo also criticised cuts to services and called for more work to be done in schools. The expert in violence against women and girls commented that “negative and over-sexualised portrayals of women” in the UK media led, in some cases, to the “marketisation of their bodies”.

The “marketisation” of women’s bodies eh? Cue the Daily Fail…


In some kind of patriotic tit for tat the Maily Pail took umbrage that a South African should dare to criticise anything about the UK while their “native” country is “the rape capital of the world”. This just two hours after publishing a story about Myleene Klasse enjoying a lovely break in a “sun soaked trip” to the country.

The newspaper showed uncharacteristic concern for not only the women of South Africa but Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Papa New Guinea, and went on to show off that the UK came 18th out of 136 countries in being “most equal”. Would that they were the 18th most read paper in the UK, but I’m sure coming 18th wouldn’t feel that good for a business.

The only woman they could find to comment on the new story was Edwina Currie. “Most of the women I know like living here” she said, convincingly.

But the real stars at the Faily Dail are the readers:


Is “Brigante7” from Edinburgh a disgruntled former academic colleague of Professor Manjoo, we wonder?

What makes Manjoo an expert? Oh, we don’t know! Her impressive CV? The UN? Perhaps the fact she is Professor in the Department of Public Law of the University of Cape Town, former Parliamentary commissioner of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) in South Africa, Visiting Professor at University of Virginia & Webster University in the US and an Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow with the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School?



Then Hobart’s “Henry Porter” lets the side down by saying something fairly sensible, provoking the wrath of 689 angry Naily Bail readers who furiously battered their cursors on the “dislike” button.


Shame on you Waily Tail.

Read the End Violence Against Women Coalition’s response to Manjoo’s comments here.

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Be a girl with a mind, be treated like a dog on its hind legs

Last week, 158 writers were whittled down to six finalists and Donna Tartt was heralded as the bookies’ favourite to win the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize for Fiction).

Bailey’s – a brand of liqueur whose recent advertising slogan encouraged drinkers to “be a girl with a mind, a woman with attitude and a lady with class” – now in association with a prize designed to eradicate such patronising stereotypes.

This latest twist only raises a popular question once more: can gender-segregated prizes for women truly tackle the issue of sexism within publishing?

In 1996 feathers were ruffled. In a column for The Independent philosopher Alain de Botton described the concept of a literary prize purely for women as “patronage of the worst kind”. “What is it,” he asked, “about being a woman that is particularly under threat, in need of attention, or indeed distinctive from being a man, when it comes to picking up a pen?”

In one respect, de Botton was right and still is: a women’s prize for literature is the worst kind of patronage. It assumes that there is an un-level playing field for men and women within publishing. It assumes, it accepts, and then it packs up its things and decamps to a smaller playing field down the road with a handful of Baileys goodie bags and a sign out front marked: Women Only. Two decades later, is this progress?

Last year Lady Antonia Fraser said, in response to an all-woman Costa shortlist – the first in the prize’s history – that: “one thing it proves is that we don’t need a women’s prize. The only reason for having a prize for one sex was that women weren’t getting fair treatment. That was the case when the Orange prize started.”

In so far as both of these quotes go, both Alain and Antonia got it both right and wrong in equal measure. We don’t need a women’s prize. We need a gender-balanced industry that gives equal exposure to both sexes and makes every literary prize a fair one.

Fast forward to 2014 and women still aren’t getting this fair treatment. On the Waterstones bookshelves, yes, but in the literary supplements of the weekend papers they are still struggling to be seen and understood. Lady Fraser is right that women writers aren’t under threat of never being published, but they do struggle to be visible and considered intellectually credible alongside their male counterparts. This, despite the fact that more than 67% of books sold in the UK were bought by women in 2012.

Don’t believe me? Believe the facts. VIDA Count in the USA (founded in August 2009 to address the need for female writers of literature to engage in conversations regarding the critical reception of their writing) tallies the gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews each year. The statistics make for grim reading. In 2013 the London Review of Books reviewed 245 male authors and 72 female ones, with bylines of 144 male and 42 female writers; The New Yorker magazine’s overall gender count was 555 male to 253 female; the Times Literary Supplement reviewed 907 male authors and 313 female, with bylines by 282 male and 88 female writers; and lastly The New York Review of Books reviewed 307 male authors and 80 female, with 117 male bylines to a woeful 32 female.

A recent admittance from Eleanor Catton, author of Man Booker Prize winning The Luminaries, in a Guardian interview from 2013, puts these statistics into context: “I have observed that male writers tend to get asked what they think and women what they feel,” she says. “In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are – about luck and identity and how the idea struck them. The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime.”

AS Byatt took Catton’s words and transformed them into stark poetry in 2010 when she likened a critic’s perception of a woman writing intellectual literature as “like a dog standing on its hind legs“. “The Orange prize is a sexist prize,” she continued. “You couldn’t found a prize for male writers. The Orange prize assumes there is a feminine subject matter – which I don’t believe in.”

Much like AS Byatt, as a writer myself, I don’t believe that books should be gendered like a French noun. I also don’t believe that women writers should only compete with each other to garner acclaim in a world where John le Carré and Angela Carter sit side by side on the bookshelf. Writing isn’t a 100 metre sprint between Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at the Olympics, so why should both be separated? A good book is a good book, regardless of gender. Reading is one of the few freedoms that should sidestep all that. Books are, were, and should always be an opportunity to escape the divisions, not define them. Surely we should be putting pressure on magazine editors to hire more female reviewers and review more female authors, not nurturing talent in a greenhouse.

Has Hilary Mantel’s recent success made us complacent? The twice Booker Prize-winning author is often placed like a plaster over the accusations of sexism in publishing; a simple antidote to Eleanor Catton’s complex observations. Mantel isn’t a one-trophy female-author, she’s amassed two Orange Prizes, two Man Bookers, two Costa Book Prizes and made it look effortless. Yet as far as the media is concerned, she’s a unicorn to be marvelled at.

More worryingly, back in 2013 a lecture by Mantel at the British Museum on the objectification of Royal women led Hilary herself to be objectified as a female writer, her looks cruelly dissected to demean her fierce intellect. In 2013, Orange Prize winning Zadie Smith hit out at the media’s “ridiculous” obsession with her looks, suggesting it implies a beautiful woman can’t be a literary great. Whether we like it or not, women writers are still being judged by their looks not just their words.

Moreover, at a time when female authors are still using initials and male pseudonyms to ‘liberate’ themselves, can we truly celebrate victory with an all-women prize? To quote Doris Lessing rather more eloquently: “With a library you are free, not confined by temporary political climates.”

If the temporary climate is unequal, we must change it, not permanently segregate: where is the freedom in that?

Kat Lister is a Contributing Editor of Feminist Times. She is a freelance writer living in London and can be found tweeting to an empty room @Madame_George. She has contributed to NME, The Telegraph, Grazia, Time Out, Clash magazine and Frankie magazine.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Review: Everyday Sexism

Last Thursday saw the publication of Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism book. You can read our Q&A with Laura here. Today, Feminist Times Founder Member Lee Chalmers shares her review of the book.

I’m sure I was not alone in waiting for Laura’s book to come out, being a massive fan of the project online. In some ways Everyday Sexism is what you would expect – a thorough examination of the themes that have arisen from the project’s entries over the last 2 years, split down into societal areas, fully researched and rich. There have been a rash of informative books recently focusing on themed gender stats, which I’ve started with great hope only to finish with a slightly deflated sense of impotence. Was Laura’s book going to be the same?

In my optimistic feminist youth I believed that once people became aware of the numbers – the horrifying truth of the rape rate, the pay gap, the crushing lack of female representation – things would change as we pulled together to achieve the equality that was so obviously morally required. Now I’m in my 40s and I hold a different story to be true: stats alone will not lead to equality. What seems a self-evident truth to me, from my perspective as a woman suffering from the effects of gender inequality, barely interests someone who does not suffer from it.

These people (most men) frankly don’t care about the pain of gender inequality and really can’t be bothered changing their behaviour in any way. Let’s face it, it’s the same with race equality for (most) white people, or class inequality for wealthy people, and so on. People are broadly motivated by what matters to them and them alone.

What I found in Laura’s book though was something more powerful and ultimately more useful to those of us pushing for a societal shift in how women are treated. Laura calmly and clearly draws the links between the myriad experiences of sexism women have reported to her. She answers the interlocutor’s persistent refrain: “can you show me the link between page 3 and assault?” or “prove to me that porn is linked with rape?” or “but what about the Diet Coke advert?!”

She does this by stepping back, by illuminating the systemic sexism that runs through society, providing us with the ammunition we need – one consistent argument that draws the picture for all to see. You can’t get to the end of this book and not be fully aware of the negative impact a society structured around increasingly narrow gender roles has on women AND men. And that is what I love so much about the Everyday Sexism Project and this book; this is not solely a ‘make the men wrong’ approach (though there needs to be some of that!) It’s an argument that points out the damage to all of us whilst leaving room for people to change and to become allies. That is crucial. Gender is a system that involves men and if we want change for women it means change for men too. I think we are seeing what happens when they start to realise that and fight back.

It’s once Laura gets to Chapter 11 that the power builds and her calm tone starts to give way to a fully justified anger: “Women are being raped, assaulted and murdered every day, but for heavens sake let’s not upset anybody by worrying too much about what might be contributing to it in an ‘indirect’ way…. We don’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable.” Right on sister. More of this please. “Enough is enough”. Yes, it is enough, it really is.

On the recent rise of feminism she says that the storm is just starting, that we haven’t seen the peak of what internet feminism has to offer, that the links drawn between instances of sexism are like the links being drawn between women all around the world through online participation. We are forming a movement here, make no mistake, and we are pissed off. This angry Laura Bates is powerful and inspiring and, though I’m sure she wouldn’t want the role, could lead feminists into the future.

Read this book. Buy this book for your family, your partner, your work mates, your children. Post about it on every social network you belong to. This is an important work and if I had my way would be compulsory school reading across the globe.

Lee Chalmers is a gender campaigner and freelance leadership consultant/trainer. She works on Executive Education faculty at London Business School, is finishing an MSc in Gender at the LSE and is Vice-Chair of The Fawcett Society. She is also a Founder Member of Feminist Times. Follow her @LeeChalmers

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Hollywood still male and pale

In November we published an infographic produced by the New York Film Academy on female representation in Hollywood films. Their latest infographic looks at Black film and finds, to the surprise of no one, that Hollywood is not only still very male, it’s also still very white – despite 2013 and 2014 representing strong years for Black filmmakers.

New York Film Academy takes a look at black inequality in film

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Everyday Sexism Book Launch: Does anything shock Laura Bates anymore?

Laura Bates launched the Everyday Sexism project in April 2012 to offer women a platform to share their experiences. Within 18 months the project had collected 50,000 entries and expanded to 18 countries around the world. Today, almost two years on, sees the publication of the Everyday Sexism book – a collection and analysis of stories and experiences curated by the Project.

We spoke to Laura Bates about how the Everyday Sexism Project became part of the global feminist movement and, to mark the book’s publication, we’re offering three Feminist Times readers the chance to win a signed copy. See below for details.

Why did you decide to put Everyday Sexism into book form as well as online? How do the two formats differ in terms of what they offer?

I wanted to write a book to reach out to a wider audience who might not have come across the Project online. The main aim of the Project has always been raising awareness as widely as possible and that’s very much what I’m trying to do with the book, in a new medium.

The book is very different from the Project website because it isn’t just a collection of stories – it’s much more a commentary and analysis of the stories we have received and it sets out an overview of what those 60,000 voices are telling us about sexism now, in 2014. So, for example, unlike the website, the book divides the problem up thematically, looking at the major strands that have arisen from the Project entries such as sexism in politics, the media, public spaces and the intersection of sexism with other forms of prejudice.

The Project has had a huge amount of coverage – what’s been the effect of retreading the issue of everyday sexism on such a regular basis in the mainstream media?

I really hope it is starting to have an impact by getting these ideas into the public and media consciousness and thereby pushing us to reconsider what previously might have been considered normal. For example, when John Inverdale made inappropriate comments about Marion Bartoli’s looks during the Wimbledon final, the story hit the headlines for days afterwards and resulted in a furious backlash whereas I think, even a few years earlier, that might just have passed without comment.

I also really hope that raising the issue so prominently in the media helps to send a message to people everywhere that if they experience sexism they don’t just have to put up with it because it’s ‘normal’ – that they can fight back, and that we and thousands of others will stand alongside them. We’ve heard a lot of stories from people who have, for example, reported an assault to the police for the first time, after feeling encouraged by the sense of community and solidarity we have created.

Do you ever feel over-saturated and jaded by the stories you’re collecting, like nothing shocks you anymore?

Sadly I never reach a point where nothing shocks me anymore because there are always different stories coming in and there is always something more devastating around the corner. The first stories that really struck me and upset me were the ones we received from really young girls, in their school uniforms.

After that I really struggled with the wave of stories we got from people who had been abused within their own families – a type of testimony we get again and again, almost always with the added detail that they were never able to speak out, or if they did, they weren’t believed. Then there are stories from women who have been raped and have been so affected by victim-blaming within society that they say they believe it was their own fault. Then there are shocking and upsetting stories from trans women who have been made to feel utterly unsafe in public spaces to the extent that it impacts on their entire lives – there is always something else to shock me.

How do you deal with activist fatigue in the face of all those stories?

I find it really important to have two support networks – one of close friends and family and one of women within the feminist community. They each are able to offer a huge amount of strength and help in different ways.

Having a network of amazing and supportive people who really understand what it’s like to be fighting the feminist battle is invaluable, and there are so many women who have been so kind to me and welcomed me with open arms into that community. When I was first going through the experience of reading graphic and explicit threats of how people wanted to rape and kill me, I don’t think I would have got through it without that support – particularly from other women who had been through the same thing.

What’s it like being viewed as a ‘celebrity’ or media feminist?

It’s not something that I think really happens to me to the same extent that it does for some other people because the campaign is very much about Everyday Sexism, not me as an individual, and it’s that idea and that platform that is in the spotlight. I’m very aware that the reason the project has become so successful and well known is because of the incredible strength, bravery, and eloquence of the women who have shared their stories – and making those stories heard is very much my main focus.

I also hope that the idea of everyday sexism is really starting to take off on its own – I’ve seen lots of headlines that mention it as a phrase, without necessarily linking back to me or the project, and I think that’s a brilliant thing – for it to be introduced into the public consciousness as a concept like that.

Besides #ShoutingBack on Twitter, what can women do to challenge Everyday Sexism offline?

Lots of things! I truly believe that what we need now is a collective cultural shift in our normalised attitudes and behaviours towards women, and that can only be achieved if all of us, men and women, take opportunities to challenge sexism in our own everyday lives whenever we see it. Often this is easier and more effective if you take action in situations where you might be a bystander rather than the victim of sexism – it’s all about standing up for each other and reaching a critical mass of people who say “this is unacceptable”. So that could mean: stepping in when you witness street harassment; challenging a rape joke; reporting an incident of groping you witness on the tube; flagging up discrimination and sexism when you see it in the workplace (something that can be particularly hard for the victim themselves to report due to fears of losing their job); challenging your student union or education institution to put in place a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment; lobbying your local MP to back mandatory Sex and Relationships Education; talking to the young people in your life about gender inequality to get those ideas out in the open early, before sexism becomes too ingrained and normalised; buying your niece or daughter a chemistry set even if it’s in the ‘boy’s’ section… the list really does go on and on!

The book’s blurb says “Welcome to the fourth wave of feminism” – what does that mean for you?

I didn’t write the blurb, but I think it comes from the idea that we are seeing a really exciting surge of feminist activism up and down the UK as more and more people become aware of these issues and start fighting for gender equality.

One of the threads running through the book is the experience of what it’s been like to set up the Project and go through this rollercoaster ride – and the hope and excitement of seeing so many people coming to feminism afresh was a big part of that for me. It made it seem like there was a positive sense of change and potential, even in the midst of hearing so many sad and awful testimonies, and it kept me going. I think it’s also there because the Project serves as an easy entry point to feminism – it sets out some of the major inequalities women are facing for people who might not have known about them before, and it provides a simple and clear call to arms that suggests there is a pragmatic solution which we can all be part of.

Other than anecdotal, what evidence have you seen of Everyday Sexism changing attitudes? What will it take to ultimately change society?

Well of course it is something that’s very hard to quantify but I think there are several useful measures. We know that millions of people have visited and read the Project website, and that 133 thousand people receive a constant stream of reminders about sexism every day through our social media accounts.

We know that there have been headlines about sexism in media outlets across the world over the past two years directly because of the project, from the New York Times to the Times of India. A video about the Project which was played at Beyonce’s concert last year was broadcast live to over a billion people worldwide.

I also believe very strongly in the importance of taking these things offline and making sure that we are using them for concrete change in the real-world – that’s why I spend so much time going into schools and universities up and down the country, talking to young people about the project entries we’ve received from their peers and tackling issues like body image pressure, media sexism, healthy relationships and consent. Knowing that thousands of young people have been exposed directly to those issues as a result of the project is another measurable goal I think. We’ve also worked directly with businesses, politicians and police forces, for example using the Project entries to contribute to Project Guardian, a British Transport Police Initiative which we supported with a major social media campaign, which has generated a 26% increase in reporting of sexual offences on public transport over the past year.

Finally our campaigning makes a concrete difference – from persuading iTunes and Google Play to remove a ‘Plastic Surgery for Barbie’ game from sale to nine year old girls, to forcing Facebook to change its policy on rape and domestic violence content through our #FBrape campaign, which sends a strong message about the social unacceptability of violence against women to over a billion users worldwide.

Who do you see as the main target readership for the book? Is it about validating experiences of everyday sexism for young women/new feminists? Preaching to the converted? Convincing men of the reality of everyday sexism? All of the above?

All of the above! Like the main project, it has three goals – awareness raising (the book gives an overview of the problem for those who might not be aware of it) – solidarity (creating a communal sense of support for people who have experienced sexism or sexual violence and showcasing the strength of women who have stood up to it to show others they don’t have to accept it either) – and action – because ultimately the book is a call to arms, to everybody, to stand together in combating gender inequality in our own lives and further afield.


We’re offering three Feminist Times members the chance to win a copy of the Everyday Sexism book, signed by Laura Bates. Enter your details here and we’ll select three winners at random at 5pm today, Thursday 10 April. Please enter the email address you used to sign up as a member; only entries made by current Feminist Times members will be counted. If you are not yet a member, or your membership has expired, click here to join us.

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Feminist Events Listings: April 2014

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in April.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


30 March – 5 April || International Anti-Street Harassment Week @ Worldwide.

Organised by Rape Crisis South London. As part of International Anti-Street Harassment Week (30th March – 5th of April 2014), we are asking anyone who wants to help end street harassment to take a photo of one of London’s many stunning landmarks alongside a message of support for loving London streets but hating street harassment.

You can post your photos on the event on Facebook


11 April || What the Frock! Comedy Awards @ Maurentania, 9 Park Street, Bristol.

The all-female What The Frock! Award returns for a second year. Last year, all the places were filled within 24 hours of the competition being announced, and this year they were filled within 10 hours! This is one of only two all-female comedy awards in the UK, and is free to enter. The compere for the evening will be Cerys Nelmes, and we will have a performance from Annabel O’Connell, who was a finalist in 2013. Tickets £10.00


25-27th April || Pussy Whipped Festival @ The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh.

Pussy Whipped presents a full weekend of queer/LGBTI+ and feminist underground shenanigans in the form of live music, dancing, films, workshops, poetry and performances. For full listings please see the Facebook event. All designed to stick a finger up at queer-phobias and sexism with great big smiles on our faces. People of all genders and sexualities welcome. Funded by Awards for All Scotland.  Weekend tickets are just £6, available from or £8 on the door. Day tickets are also available at £3 advance or £4 on the door.




8-13 April || Birds Eye View Film Festival 2014 @ Various venues including; Barbican, BFI Southbank and ICA.

The Festival will feature UK premieres, cutting edge features, insightful personal documentaries, live music, silent film and special events featuring some of the world’s leading female filmmakers and rising new talents. There will also be industry training opportunities supported by the British Council and Creative Skillset. For full programme information please follow link below.


16 April || The Fawcett Society present; Story Tellers: Why Women’s fiction deserves a price @ Holt International Business School, London.

A special evening event in Central London on 16 April, as part of our Fawcett+ scheme, which you can read about by clicking here. Renowned and inspirational writers will discuss the contribution of women’s fiction to writing and wider social change, and the importance of continuing to celebrate and profile this. To speak and lead the debate will be Kate Mosse OBE (international bestselling author of novels Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel and founder of the Orange Prize, now the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction); and writer and campaigner Lisa Appignanesi OBE (author of several novels and works of non-fiction, including Trials of Passion to be published in April, and editor of 50 Shades of Feminism).  6.15-9.30pm. Tickets: £20


17 April || Feminist Whores? Exploring Feminist Debates Around Violence, Sex Work & Porn @ Middlesex University, London.

The Crime and Conflict Research Centre at Middlesex University is delighted to present this year’s annual conference theme with Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh and Dr Lucy Nevill. Feminism has traditionally had an uncomfortable relationship with pornography and sex work, often positioning women in these industries as hapless victims, and men as perpetrators and criminals. In the face of increasing criminalisation of sex work and censorship of pornography, this conference will aim to look at the ways in which both porn and the sex industry have been construed as violence towards women in the popular imaginary. The conference will have academic speakers, sex worker activists, and third sector practitioners speaking about these issues – we welcome everyone who is interested in exploring these issues in a respectful and engaging setting. 10:00am to 17:00pm. FREE


26 April || Let’s Start a Pussy Riot @ The Feminist Library, London.

Let’s Start a Pussy Riot is a creative response founded by Free Pussy Riot, Girls Get Busy, Not So Popular and Storm In A Teacup. A collective of collectives whose aim was to bring together voices from the arts in support of Pussy Riot. “Let’s Start a Pussy Riot” was published in June 2013 by Rough Trade Records. At the Feminist Library we will be discussing the story of Pussy Riot (their motives, their influence and the future of Pussy Riot), exploring the context – Russian State and the Orthodox Church, the degradation of LGBT rights in Russia and encouraging all to use the idea of “Let’s Start a Pussy Riot” to create their own forms of collective activism.


30 April || Rights for Women training: The Asylum Process and Financial Support for Asylyum-seeking women, EC1, London.

With delivery in partnership with the Asylum Support Appeals Project, this course is a comprehensive examination of asylum support (Home Office financial subsistence and accommodation) options open to women who are seeking asylum and failed asylum seekers. Featuring practical exercises and discussion of actions support workers can take, book this course to compliment your asylum claim knowledge or as an introduction to supporting asylum-seeking women. 10am – 4pm. FREE.


Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for April.

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Preview: Birds Eye View Film Festival

Next Tuesday, 8 April, sees the start of Birds Eye View Film Festival, an annual celebration of women filmmakers at venues across London. We took a look at the jam-packed programme and picked out our top events not to be missed, listed by their festival category.

The Opening & Closing Nights

The festival opens at the BFI Southbank on Tuesday 8 April at 6.15pm with the UK premiere of a dramatic feature film set during the Georgian civil war. In Bloom, directed by Nana Ekvitimishvili and Simon Gross, follows two 14-year-old girls coming of age in the post-Soviet state. This multi-award winning, semi-autobiographical drama was hailed as a “major discovery of the 2013 Berlinale”. The screening is followed by a director Q&A.

Another UK premiere, Swim Little Fish Swim closes the festival on a lighter note on Sunday 13 April, 8.30pm, at the BFI. Described as an “irresistibly charming, bittersweet comedy-drama”, Swim Little Fish Swim looks at the struggle of living as an artist in New York City. Directed by Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar, this screening is also followed by a director Q&A.

Women on the edge

Set in the Casablanca slums, Bastards, a documentary directed by Deborah Perkin, follows a group of Moroccan single mothers fighting to legitimise their children. Followed by a director Q&A, the documentary premieres in the UK on Wednesday 9 April, 6.30pm, at the Hackney Picturehouse.

Norway’s official Foreign Language Oscar entry, I Am Yours, makes its UK debut on Thursday 10 April, 8.30pm, at the BFI Southbank. Described as a “delicate and courageous portrait of a woman trying to reconcile family, culture and desire”, I Am Yours is a feature film about a twentysomething single mother from the Pakistani community in Norway. The screening is followed by a Q&A with director Iram Haq.

How I live now

Showing at the Clapham Picturehouse at 6.30pm on Thursday 10 AprilGone Too Far is a “razor-sharp comedy” feature film on the Nigerian community in Peckham, based on Bola Agbaje’s Olivier Award-winning play. Directed by Destiny Ekaragha, this screening is followed by a Q&A.

Gabrielle is a feature film from Quebec about a woman living with Williams syndrome in a home for adults with learning disabilities. Staring Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who suffers from Williams syndrome herself, the film sees Gabrielle fall in love with a member of her choir and struggle to gain independence. Directed by Louise Archambault, Gabrielle premieres in the UK as part of Birds Eye View on Saturday 12 April, 4.30pm, at the Barbican.


A regular feature of Birds Eye View Film Festival, Fashion Loves Film returns on Friday 11 April, 6.45pm, at the ICA, with a look at how images of fashion reflect culture, heritage and identity for female filmmakers. Highlights include: Lena Dunham’s Best Friends, Kathryn Ferguson’s Mathair, and Maria Schiller (SHOWstudio Head of Fashion Film) exploring Asian Couture, followed by a panel discussion and filmmaker Q&A.


Saturday 12 April sees a special 20th anniversary presentation of 1993 film Bhaji on the Beach, at 8.20pm at the BFI Southbank. Described as a “landmark British comedy”, the feature film tells the story of a Birmingham Asian women’s group on a daytrip to Blackpool, starring a ‘who’s who’ of British Asian acting talent. The screening is followed by a Q&A with multi-award-winning director Gurinder Chadha and special guests.

Girlfriends is described by Time Out as “the missing link between Woody Allen and Lena Dunham”. Directed by Claudia Weill in 1978, decades before Dunham’s Girls, the film is a comedy exploration of young single life in New York. A “woefully neglected gem”, Girlfriends was championed by Stanley Kubrick on its release and recently ‘re-discovered’ by Lena Dunham. Catch it at the BFI Southbank on Sunday 13 April, 6.30pm, and see below for your chance to win a pair of tickets.

Bright & British

Our final pick of the programme is Small Talk, a talk featuring women from the world of film. Producer-director Amy Hardie discusses neurocinematics and how the brain processes creative information, and Melissa Silverstein, author of renowned IndieWire blog ‘Women & Hollywood’, looks at female representation in film. Small Talk is at the BFI Southbank on Saturday 12 April at 6.15pm. One Feminist Times member could win a pair of tickets for the discussion, or film buffs can buy a Saturday Day Pass for £32, giving access to Bhaji on The Beach, Small Talk, a selection of British short films, and Welcome To The Audience, a discussion on the filmmaking process with a panel of British filmmakers.


We’re offering Feminist Times members the chance to win a pair of tickets for the screening of Girlfriends or a pair of tickets to Small Talk. Enter your details here for Girlfriends and here for Small Talk, and we’ll select two winners at random at 5pm on Monday 7 April. Please enter the email address you used to sign up as a member; only entries made by current Feminist Times members will be counted. If you are not yet a member, or your membership has expired, click here to join us.

Find out more about Birds Eye View Film Festival and view the full programme here, or follow @BirdsEyeViewFF.

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#SexIndustryWeek: The Future of Porn

“The Internet is for porn,” sing the inhabitants of Avenue Q, but the extent to which that’s the case is impossible to measure. Whether it accounts for 40% or just 4%, however, porn has had a clear impact on the World Wide Web, and the converse is just as true. Raunchy magazines on actual paper and movies on actual discs may still appeal to some old-school veterans, but to many they’re made redundant by what the Internet can offer for free. The porn industry has had to adapt to the Web, and so too will it evolve with whatever world-changing technological advance comes next.

As those in the business would have you believe, the next big thing could be wearable tech. Google Glass might look goofy even on the typically attractive models in the marketing material, but it could become a useful tool for the porn industry. Footage from the point of view of one of the performers is a particularly intriguing proposition, but if Google finds a way to make the device unobtrusive it could also be possible for a sexual partner to film you without your consent. Glass has a screen too, so any wearer you encounter could be watching porn as you have a meeting/lunch/sex, though Google has added a ban on sexually explicit material to its content policies.

The kind of point-of-view pornography, made easier to produce with tools like Google Glass, seems a natural fit with another interesting piece of technology currently in development. Oculus Rift (yesterday bought by Facebook for $2 billion) is a virtual-reality headset that blocks off all vision except for what’s displayed on its 3D screen, in order to immerse the user in a virtual world. It’s an ideal environment for porn consumption provided you can be sure that you won’t be disturbed, and that Oculus VR manages to reduce the likelihood of Simulator Sickness.

Unfortunately, current examples of erotic content for these devices are designed only for heterosexual men. The VR Tenga demo, which was made for an Oculus Rift game jam in Japan, links the actions of a virtual girl with a contraption meant to hold a penis. Wicked Paradise, which its developers call “the world’s first erotic virtual reality adventure game” is also focused on a heterosexual male audience. The founder has said that future content will cater to other demographics, but presumably that can only happen if the first episode is successful. As porn becomes more entwined with technology, the low numbers of women working in tech and the popular myth that women aren’t interested in things like video games could stymie the rise of ‘feminist porn’.

Immersive pornographic experiences – perhaps with the addition of smells and tastes, which IBM predicted in 2012 that computers would soon be able to understand – will also raise similar concerns to violent video games, which are thought by some to encourage violent behaviour because their consumption is more active than that of violent movies, though research has so far failed to prove a link. Feminists already debate how porn affects men’s behaviour towards women and their expectations of their sexual partners, and more immersive experiences could exacerbate those effects.

This could be particularly problematic for extreme pornography, which will only be easier to create and view as technology improves. As CGI approaches photorealism, we face the grim possibility of realistic computer-generated child pornography, and while that could reduce the number of real children coerced into sexual acts on camera, it could also make the end product more accessible.

Children and others who could/would not give consent could also become victims if photorealistic CGI was used to virtualise their likeness. This future technology could create a thriving business in interactive sexual experiences with virtual versions of consenting celebrities, but it would also provide the means for your creepy work colleague to make their own personal porn flick starring a photorealistic virtual you, or your vindictive ex to enrol your likeness in a humiliating pornographic scenario to distribute to people you know. With this kind of future technology, the bullies who used Photoshop to create sexual images involving critic Anita Sarkeesian and various video-game characters could have done much worse. And if CGI became cheap enough, it could put consenting, paid actors out of work.

As with most advances in technology, those now on the horizon will have effects that range too widely to be categorised as solely positive or negative. Feminists who are already concerned about pornography will have even more to worry about as technology charges forward, but there’s no way to stop the flow, and no real argument for doing so at the expense of the good that comes with the technological advances. For now, the best way to try to counteract some of these potential problems before they arise is to encourage efforts to bring more women into the tech industry, and hope that the next time technology leaps forward we get social change to match.

Jordan Erica Webber is a freelance writer and presenter who specialises in tech (particularly video games), philosophy, and psychology.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Shakespeare’s Dark Aemilia

DarkAemiliaAbout five years ago, I decided to write a historical novel about Lady Macbeth. I began by researching eleventh century Scotland, but I also read about Shakespeare’s London, and the players, theatres and chaotic streets. As the story was inspired by his play Macbeth, this seemed logical. I didn’t know it at the time, but a sixteenth century poet was looking for me, lurking in the internet ether, between the pages of obscure books on seventeenth century writing and in Shakespeare’s sonnets. A female poet, a woman born out of her time. Her name was Aemilia Lanyer.

Born Aemilia Bassano in 1569 , she was  the illegitimate child of a Jewish Venetian musician. Her father died when she was about seven, her mother ten years later, and she became the mistress of the Lord Chamberlain Henry Carey at the age of seventeen. Henry and Aemilia seem to have been happy together, and the relationship lasted until she became pregnant in 1593.

At this point, Aemilia Bassano was married off to her cousin, Alfonso Lanyer, a recorder player at court. He spent her dowry within a year of the marriage and Aemilia was impoverished for the rest of her life. However, rather than disappearing from the pages of history completely, as countless other cast-off mistresses have done, she triumphed over adversity, poverty and the Early Modern patriarchy.

In 1611, against all the odds, Aemilia Lanyer became the first woman to publish a volume of poetry in a professional manner, as a man would have done. Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum told the story of the crucifixion of Christ from a female point of view and included a poem suggesting that Adam should be blamed for the Fall of Man rather than Eve.

I’m fascinated by Aemilia’s life story: she is an amazing inspiration for 21st century women. Although we know so little about it, her courage and determination are demonstrated by what she achieved. To become a published poet was an almost impossible goal for any seventeenth century woman. But not only did Aemilia have her gender to contend with, she was poor, illegitimate and saddled with a useless husband.

Researching my novel, I found that one of her great advantages was that she was unusually knowledgable for a woman of her time. Some historians have concluded that Aemilia was educated at court, that she spoke and wrote Latin and Greek, and was widely read. It has even been suggested that her high level of education, her sophistication and her knowledge of Venetian culture might have enabled her to write all of Shakespeare’s plays, though there is no evidence to support this.

Neither is there any evidence to support the other myth associated with her name: that she was ‘the Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Shakespeare’s collection of sonnets were published in 1609. While the more tender poems in the collection seem to address a handsome young man, ‘the Fair Youth’, the later sonnets are a different story. These are thought to have been inspired by the Dark Lady, and they express ambiguous and jealous feelings. Not so much love poetry as anti-love poetry: an exploration of sexual addiction and despair. I wondered what Aemilia would have made of being the target of such ambivalent and hostile feelings? As a fellow-poet, she might have disliked being the object of poetry, rather than the author of it.

Aemilia Lanyer is one of several candidates for the Dark Lady title. The list includes Jacqueline Field, Lucy Morgan, Penelope Devereux, Mary Fitton, Marie Mountjoy and Jane Davenant. With the exception of Penelope Devereux, an aristrocrat, very little is known about these women.  Other writers have been inspired by other candidates, and their role in Shakespeare’s life is a fascinating area to explore.

My choice was Aemilia because she was an artist herself, which makes her a timeless role model not only for women artists, but for any woman who wants to be treated as the equal of a man. Unfortunately, there is nothing dated about the fact that men dominate the arts, or that we primarily see the world through male eyes. This was the point made recently by Jude Kelly, who set up the Women Of the World festival after becoming artistic director of the Southbank Centre, just a stone’s throw from Shakespeare’s Globe. The festival celebrates the creative achievements of women across the world. Aemilia, a Jewish Venetian of Spanish descent, would be proud to be one of them.

Sally O’Reilly is a former journalist and author of How to be a Writer. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth. Sally’s first historical novel, Dark Aemilia, is published by Myriad Editions on 27 March

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Should we stop asking pop stars about feminism?

This week Katy Perry made the ultimate mistake: she ummed about feminism. “A feminist? Um, yeah, actually,” she answered when questioned about the F word for Australian show I Wake Up With Today. “I used to not really understand what that word meant, and now that I do, it just means that I love myself as a female and I also love men.” A twitterquake soon overshadowed President Putin’s annex draft bill with Crimea and unsure Katy was ceremonially nailed to her um with a fluorescent arrow marked: Jezebel!

“Can you keep your yap shut about feminism?” someone tweeted, “Katy Perry is making progress,” a gossip site patronised. The Telegraph announced that it was finally “cool to be a feminist”. A handy feminism flow diagram was even re-published by Huffington Post who headlined, “Uh, Katy? It’s great that you feel that way, but that’s not what the word feminism means.”

It’s the latest round of 2014’s favourite game: Good feminist, bad feminist! Which one are you? Latest contestant Katy is a bad one. Beyoncé lost some gender empowerment points recently when she sang “bow down bitches” on single ‘Bow Down’, and as for Lily Allen, don’t get us started on her recent comments in Shortlist magazine last month when she suggested: “Feminism. I hate that word because it shouldn’t even be a thing anymore.” Lily immediately tried to claw back some F-points when she asserted she actually is the word she hates: “Of course, I’m a feminist.”

Curiously, Katy Perry has made a similar U-turn, as back in 2012 she told Billboard “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the strength of women.” Not forgetting Beyoncé, who, in a hesitant Vogue interview in 2013 said: “That word [feminism] can be very extreme.” A year later she penned ‘Gender Equality is a Myth!‘ for the Shriver Report, a ground-breaking series of reports chronicling the status of American women, but she is still yet to call herself a feminist. Confused? So are they. Join the confused feminists club.

The reality is that if you’re a female pop star these days you better be a feminist – regardless of whether you fully grasp what that word means. It’s pop music’s new marketing ploy, a Catch 22 that is catching singers like Katy Perry and Beyoncé out. As more and more journalists tag feminism as ‘cool’, more and more female pop stars are being cornered and forced to define their opinions on it, regardless of whether they have any to actually impart. But even if there is such a thing as ‘superficial feminism’, by constantly scrutinising pop music’s notion of gender empowerment aren’t we forgetting the real issues? More worryingly, are we being just as superficial? Would it surprise you to learn that in the UK women account for 22% of MPs and peers, 20% of university professors, 6.1% of FTSE 100 executive positions, and 3% of board chairpersons, yet twitter was dominated yesterday by the thoughts of a 29-year-old pop singer with a Prismatic World Tour to push?

Granted, none of these women are leading academic brains when it comes to feminist theory. They’re pop stars. They give interviews to sell records. But, you know what? They’re also successful women working in an unequal industry – the same unequal industry that still insists on sexualising female pop stars whilst simultaneously shifting units behind the bright lights of a fashionable feminist PR-campaign. So fashionable Marketing magazines are pushing Fourth Wave Feminism as a demographic brands should be selling to.

It’s a worrying state of affairs when the daily casualties of digital feminist debate are women themselves. Twitter often seems to be little more than a hunting ground. The goal of feminism should never be entrapment, and yet, the very ideology that aims to empower women is too often being wielded to belittle them instead. And all because we think they’ve got it wrong. Maybe Katy has, maybe she’s still working things out, but for all those who joked about buying Katy Perry a dictionary today, I’d ask them to buy themselves a copy at the same time. When did feminism become defined by a ridiculing GIF on Buzzfeed?

Kat Lister is Feminist Times’ new Contributing Editor. She is a freelance writer living in London and can be found tweeting to an empty room @Madame_George. She has contributed to NME, The Telegraph, Grazia, Time Out, Clash magazine and Frankie magazine.

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From Trafficking to Fashionistas: WOW tries to encapsulate all feminisms

“I like your shoes,” a shy voice whispers. “Where did you get them from?” Malala Yousafzai is running five minutes late this morning and Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, has encouraged us to use these 300 seconds to speak to someone we don’t know. In the case of the woman in the seat next to me, bravery quickly turns to panic: “This is probably the wrong day to ask that.” My reply? “It’s okay, we can still be feminists and talk about shoes”. I say it because I believe it. I’m only surprised that she doesn’t believe it too.

I’m starting with shoes and I’m risking being labelled alongside Carrie Bradshaw because it explains so succinctly why today matters. It’s International Women’s Day, I’m at Southbank Centre’s WOW (Women of the World) Festival and, along with the full stops we’ve achieved in battling for full equality, there are still question marks surrounding what it now means to be a woman in a moving world.

Feminism is in free flow: it’s expanding and morphing and that’s what makes today feel vital and exciting. Our question marks now have a WOW logo and we’re celebrating them on t-shirts, mugs and Tatty Devine necklaces. What does it mean to be a woman in 2014 and how can we push changes forward? Can I sit and listen to a speech about child trafficking and then tweet about 80-year-old Fabulous Fashionista Bridget Sojourner’s leopard print outfit? We’re all still figuring things out. The conversation is nowhere near finished. As Jude Kelly concludes on stage: “This is not just about women’s rights, it’s about a changing world.”

As I walk around the Southbank Centre a Wah Nails stall sits next to a poster which asks: ‘Who Made Your Pants?’ Over the course of the day both men and women gather to celebrate every aspect of womanhood: their aspirations, bravery, dilemmas and challenges. The Page 3 debate is kicking off in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, women are gathering in The Clore Ballroom to discuss the politics of afro hair, online bullying is being frankly explored, but today is also a celebration. 75-year-old Sue Kreitzman is sat on the Fabulous Fashionistas panel wearing a pair of red clogs when she rallies: “I want you to look at me…there are no rules. I am 75….damn it, I can do what I please.”

The link between young and old here today is an important one. Five hours earlier and we’re reminded that campaigner Malala Yousafzai has made the trip from Birmingham to London despite studying for her GCSEs. When Malala, shot less than two years ago in Pakistan by the Taliban, speaks eloquently about the need for teens to “contribute to society”, it’s easy to forget she is just 16 years old. As Jude Kelly says, rightly, “it’s a baton-passing issue”. Making the link between the UK and gender equality, Malala admits being “quite surprised here. Women are given rights. It was something new to me to see women driving.” Crucially, however, her admiration comes with a warning: “women are free but when we go in depth…in Parliament only 22% or less are women. Here it is kept hidden and we need to highlight it.”

The topic of hidden gender inequality is picked up again later that afternoon at a panel discussion exploring online bullying. The issue of digital anonymity is mentioned. It illustrates just one of the many question marks I referred to earlier. “Is Twitter encouraging people to be more extreme?” TIME magazine’s Editor at Large Catherine Mayer asks. No one seems able to answer the question. What is startling are the new statistics Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, unveils for the first time. Out of 100,000 cases of the use of the word ‘rape’ on Twitter, 12% use it as a threat and 29% in casual use. But more alarming than this, out of 130,000 uses of the word ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ on Twitter, 35% use them casually, with a high proportion of young girls tweeting these words about each other.

Jude Rogers, chair on the Women Make Music panel discussion later that evening, reiterates: “There are no easy answers”. Women represent only 14% of the UK’s registered professional songwriters and composers. Feminist Times’ own Deborah Coughlin admits that “I have come across a lot of sexism”, and when musician Anna Meredith is asked what her music sounds like she adds: “Pretty bombastic. I often get ‘I’m surprised it’s written by a woman.’”

Closing the day, Sandi Toksvig’s Mirth Control takes on all these questions and answers them with a few full stops we’ve literally never heard before. Deftly balancing wicked humour with thought-provoking facts, the lost women of World War I are finally found and it results in a moving evening of comedy and music.

Perhaps the final words should be dedicated to forgotten composer Lilian Elkington who gave up composing when she married, and her daughter Mary Wiliams, who never even knew her mother composed. Mary is sitting in the audience tonight when her mother’s composition ‘Out of the Mist’ (1921) is performed by the all-female WOW orchestra. It may just be a small question mark, but it’s a small question mark finally answered. It’s certainly music to our ears tonight, Lilian.

Kat Lister is Contributing Editor of Feminist Times. She is a freelance writer living in London and can be found tweeting to an empty room @Madame_George. She has contributed to NME, The Telegraph, Grazia, Time Out, Clash magazine and Frankie magazine.

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How the youths’ villain went from Thatcher to Harry Styles

When Orwell created Big Brother and IngSoc in the 40s, 1984 was but a mere teeny tiny dot on the landscape – a far away dystopian future. In 2014 we’ve traveled almost as far past that dot and once again it seems a very long way away, a faded dystopian past. The real 1984 mirrors many of the situations we find ourselves facing in 2014 and some would argue are just as disconcerting as an Orwellian nightmare.

The Tories were in power and the privatisation of public-owned resources was on the agenda. It was the time of Wall Street where, just like in the movie, everyone knew there were bankers who acted like corrupt arseholes but nobody really knew what to do about it. Our current Con-Dem coalition is heavily influenced by beliefs embodied by the 80s.

But there are differences too: 30 years ago the miners went on a year-long strike. This painful, sacrificial action was felt across the country. Entertainers, mainstream “alternative” comedians like Ben Elton, Alexei Sayle and musicians like The Smiths referenced it and made calls to arms; NME wrote a brilliant piece on the music Thatcher inspired. So anyone of thinking age and above was very aware of what was going on and collectively they expressed how they felt about it on the streets and in their magazines and papers.

During the 1980s Margaret Thatcher won the “Creep of the Year” award in every NME Poll from 1980 to 1989, except 1981 when she was toppled by Adam Ant, and in 1989 when the title was changed to “Bastard of the Year” – which she also won. In 1990 her resignation was voted “Highlight of the Year” and Saddam Hussein took over the mantel of number one Bastard. NME readers used the award as a way they could show solidarity with the miners; a way that would get in the papers and stick two fingers up at Thatcher, literally.

The 90s saw NME readers, youngish music fans of this country, take a more lighthearted approach to choosing their Bastard – which would late become, rather pantomine like, their “Villain” – with Robbie Williams and Liam Gallagher taking turns, and John Major popping up every now and again. By now we were of course hurtling into the midst of Cool Britannia, where every pop icon was invited for champers at Tony’s, the good times were rolling and Chumbawumba throwing water on John Prescott is as political as it got.

In the noughties George Dubya Bush got his fair share but since then political figures have been low on the ground, with David Cameron only winning “Villain of the Year” once, in 2011. This year, 2014, Harry Styles won NME’s “Villain of the Year” for the second year running, beating both homophobic tyrant Putin and Cameron. Why have the kids gone for the joke vote? Why not, on paper at least, show Putin you won’t stand for LGBT “hunting”?

Since the crash in 2008, and during this last six years of cuts, you occasionally see a think piece asking where the protest songs, the political music have gone? The grown-ups in the mainstream broadsheets have been concerned that there isn’t the level of action they saw in the 80s. Whether NME, which has seen sales fall, can be considered a dipstick for the “yoof” of the country is highly debatable, but haven’t we got to wonder why the young people of the UK aren’t showing they feel – even in this small almost trivial way – the pain of those suffering from the Bedroom Tax or those being imprisoned and bullied in Russia?

Why aren’t there more visible political statements from the mass of people under 30 in the mainstream media – rather than exceptional individuals, particularly in feminism, like Caroline Criado-Perez, Owen Jones and Laura Bates? Is following an issue on Twitter or reading it online “engaging” with an issue in the same way as protesting was? OR is this depoliticisation?

Being (as one woman said to me on the train the other day) the wrong side of 25, I thought I should find an expert who is on the right side, so I spoke to Sam Wolfson, Exec Editor of Noisey, which is part of the Vice empire:

“One of the worst things about old people saying young people are disengaged from politics is that they only understand engagement in the terms they had when they were young. The miners strike was 30 years ago and that’s a good representation of how meaningless it is to today’s young people.”

“If you want to see engaged youth, look at these people trying to make sure people are allowed to keep their council flats or come to Vice, where almost everyone is under 30 and putting their own lives in danger to report on struggles around the world.”

He’s right. Vice has an international news output to rival the majors and that’s why it’s launching its own TV channel. On my Facebook feed they were the one of the first news sources reporting from the ground in Syria, one of the first in Ukraine, and the only embedded in Venezuela when no one else was talking about Venezuela.

“Lorde’s music says more about the anonymity of global capitalism and the subtle ways in which consumerism creates false perceptions of wealth than any 30-year-old punk song. But people who read Q magazine won’t accept her music as political because when they say ‘politics’ they actually mean campfire songs about miners.”

The people who read Q magazine are people over 30. I’m over 30 but still too young to have been involved in the miners’ strike. My first protest was standing on a roundabout causing cars to crash with a tasteless banner saying: “Open your eyes Blunkett”, on the eve of student fees being implemented, and my second big political protest was the march against the Iraq War, followed by dozens of smaller union marches and reclaim the nights.

What I do know about my generation is that we have been demoralised by our action being so woefully unsuccessful. And while the year-long miners’ strike in 1984 was powerful in its strength of will and the show of courage, it did not achieve everything it set out to and the jobs still went.

I understand why traditional protest seems futile. But this “engagement” Wolfson describes, what happens after watching or reading about something online? If that’s where young people are, what do they do with what they find out on Twitter? Is a retweet enough?

Under 25s are moreishly eating up big issues from the media they love, so I think we can assume they are passionate and have thoughts and ideas about Putin and Cameron. But now is a less innocent time, when those voting for the NME villain think they have more chance upsetting Harry Styles than they ever would the Government; when they live in a country where big marches, while allowed, are not listened too; when the people who fight for the biggest change are very often not even invited to the table, and when our comedians and entertainers call for revolution, but they have no idea how to start one!

 Photos: TheMikeRoberts & Byzantine K

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The end of orchestral sexism?

Classical music has a bad track record on sexism. According to one Russian composer, Yuri Temirkanov, women conductors are “against nature”, and Vasily Petrenko, conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, last year claimed that musicians are distracted by “a cute girl on a podium” and that women conductors are less dedicated when they have families.

That attitude could all be set to change, as Morley College today announced the launch of a pilot course for women conductors, to run this month.

Led by conductor Alice Farnham, the course is open to young women aged 16-19 who are currently studying at one of eight UK music conservatoires and plan to continue their musical education at university level. It will cover topics from conducting technique and body language to leadership and communication.

Sir Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House said: “Morley College is doing something fantastic: a programme for women conductors taught by the very gifted Alice Farnham. A chance to explore the issues, musical and interpersonal, faced by the leader of an orchestra who happens to be a woman!”

Currently, not one British orchestra has a female Music Director; just 4.1 per cent of commissions for new works were awarded to women composers in 2010; and, according to one study, women are 50 per cent more likely to progress when orchestras use blind auditions to select their musicians.

Students on the course will receive masterclasses from Sian Edwards, Head of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music, and a key-note talk on ‘Women and Leadership’ from the Southbank Centre’s Jude Kelly.

They will also be offered the chance to work with Southbank Sinfonia, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Welsh College, who are partnering with Morley for the project.

Andrea Brown, Director of Music at Morley said: “Having been involved in recent round table discussions and conferences on the subject of gender imbalance in the music profession, I felt the best way I could support addressing this issue was through education.

“Morley has a long history of new and experimental music and this is another way in which we can lead the way and develop future musical talent.”

If the pilot is successful, Morley plans to roll out a longer conducting course open to 16-25 year-olds in the next academic year.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Feminist Events Listings: March 2014

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

March is Women’s History Month and it’s always a busy month for feminist events – I found it even harder than usual to pick this month’s highlights!

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in March.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


8 March || International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.


5-16 March || 25th Anniversary of Oxford International Women’s Festival @ Various venues around Oxford.

A very special line-up of activities is taking place during this milestone Festival, ranging from theatre, to poetry and storytelling, plus talks, film screenings, cabaret, a Dinner, and more. The Festival exists to celebrate the achievements of women from Oxford and beyond, and it’s organised by local volunteers. Please visit their website for full programme.


8 March || Suffragette Legacy event @ People’s History Museum, Manchester, M3 3ER.

Suffragette Legacy: How does the History of Feminism Inspire Current Thinking in Manchester? Camilla Mørk Røstvik, PhD candidate at the University of Manchester, and Louise Sutherland, Head of Collections and Engagement at the People’s History Museum, started planning an interdisciplinary conference to celebrate the legacy of the suffragettes in Manchester and beyond. Asking questions like –  is the first wave of feminism is still relevant to our artists, scholars and activists? Can we still learn from the suffragettes? Can we enter a dialogue with them? In our packed one-day conference we hope to show off the people and ideas who keep the spirit of these women (and men) alive.


8 March || International Women’s Day festival Sheffield @ Sheffield Town Hall, S1 2HH.

The Women’s Network IWD planning group has been hard at work putting together a great event for International Women’s Day. Including singing on the front steps of Town Hall, keynote presentation from the Women of Steel, various workshops, an international women’s voices panel and information stalls. 10am – 1pm.

Here are the workshops planned so far:

  • 100 years of change, manufacturing and STEM – WEA/Glass Academy

  • Challenging stereotyping – Women in Engineering

  • Celebrating feminist activism – Sheffield Feminist Network

  • Women inspiring women collage – Sheffield Futures

  • One Billion Rising – Cllr Nikki Bond

  • A history of protest – WILPF

  • Women and domestic violence


9 – 30 March || Translation/Transmission: Women’s Activism Across Space and Time – Film Season @ Watershed, Bristol.

Over Women’s History Month in March 2014, Translation/ Transmission: Women’s Activism Across Time and Space will celebrate the diverse ways women activists have communicated their struggle and resistance through film.  Translation/ Transmission features activist documentaries and women filmmakers from the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain, Jamaica, Palestine, Germany, Vietnam, USA, Iran and France/ Cameroon, highlighting the diversity of different feminisms across geographical locations and historical moments.



16 March || What the Frock! presents Comedy Skills Workshop and Showcase @ Halo, 141 Gloucester Road, Bristol.

What The Frock! Comedy is pleased to be teaming up with award-winning comedian, broadcaster and all-round superstar Kate Smurthwaite.


The workshops are aimed both at those who’ve always wanted to try stand-up and those who have done a few gigs but are keen to develop their skills. Whether you’re looking for a new career or just a speedy confidence boost (or even a truly original gift for a friend!), we guarantee you’ll have a great time. £65.00. 11am-1pm, 2pm-5pm


Following on from the comedy workshop at Halo led by Kate during the day, come and show your support for the workshop graduates by joining the audience for the evening showcase – where they will be trying out their new comedy skills.  £5.00. 7pm -9pm



1-21 March || BP Spotlight: Sylvia Pankhurst @ TATE Britain.

Dont miss this exhibition in its final month. Tate Britain shines a light on Sylvia Pankhurst and her artistic skills in the fight for women’s rights, designing badges, banners and flyers, and recording the lives of working women. Sylvia Pankhurst (1882–1960) made a profound impact on the fight for women’s rights as both an artist and a campaigner. Trained at the Manchester Municipal School of Art and the Royal College of Art, she was a key figure in the work of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) set up with her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel in 1903, using her artistic skills to further the cause. This display has been devised by curator Emma Chambers with The Emily Davison Lodge. FREE.


5 March || Layers of Inequality – the impact of public spending cuts on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women @ House of Commons, Committee Room 16

Discussion on the impact of the public spending cuts on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women. The meeting will consider evidence that BAME women are being disproportionately affected by the cuts based on research carried out in Coventry by the University of Warwick and Coventry Women’s Voices. Whilst this research focuses on Coventry, BAME women across the country are likely to be similarly affected and this is therefore a much wider issue. To confirm your place at the event please email:


5-9 March || Women of the World Festival 2014 @ The Southbank Centre.

A weekend of talks, debates, performance and activism celebrating women and girls. The WOW weekend is for everybody. Talks, debates, comedy, workshops, activism and performance on everything from politics, science and sex to fashion, war and power.  Previous WOW festival speakers have included Julie Walters, Alice Walker, Gordon Brown MP, Naomi Wolf, Shami Chakrabarti, Bridget Christie, Ruby Wax, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala Yousafzai, Ahdaf Soueif, Angélique Kidjo and many more. Book your day or full weekend passes now.


8 March || Million Women Rise March and Rally @ London.

A woman’s right to live free from violence and / or the fear of violence has not been achieved. Women continue to be attacked and violated in many different ways, in our homes, on our streets, on our public transport, at our places of work. The government, the TV and newspapers do very little to address this issue; instead they often blame women for wearing the wrong clothes or being in the wrong place.  If you think this needs to change, then join us on this women only critical mass. We need to be strong together and in large numbers. Unity is strength; the voices of many are louder together than a single voice.


SET OFF: 1:00




8 March || Birds Eye View Presents; “Wonder Women!” @ BFI Southbank.

Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and produced by Kelcey Edwards, Wonder Women! offers an informative and entertaining counterpoint to the male-dominated superhero genre, and is the perfect film to celebrate both International Women’s Day, and the official launch of the 2014 Birds Eye View Film Festival. Wonder Women! traces the fascinating birth, evolution and legacy of the Wonder Woman figure, from the 1940s comic book heroine to the blockbusters of today, and introduces us to a dynamic group of fictional and real life superheroines who are fighting for positive role models for girls – both on screen and off.



Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for March.

Feminist Times is 100% crowdfunded, with no advertising, so we only survive if people join as Members or donate. If you enjoyed this article and want to support this site, become a member by clicking the badge below…


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Debbie Harry to become first woman musician awarded Godlike Genius

When NME announced that Blondie would receive their Godlike Genius award at their annual awards this month, I couldn’t help but wonder what iconic rock journalist Lester Bangs would have made of it all. Why? Debbie Harry will be the first female musician ever to pick up the gong – a shocking statistic in 2014, but one that illuminates the depth of an industry problem women have reluctantly complied with for decades.

If you don’t believe me, allow Lester to set the scene for you. In his 1980 biography Blondie, he quipped about Debbie: “I think if most guys in America could somehow get their fave-rave poster girl in bed and have total license to do whatever they wanted with this legendary body for one afternoon, at least 75 percent of the guys in the country would elect to beat her up. She may be up there all high and mighty on TV, but everybody knows that underneath all that fashion plating she’s just a piece of meat like the rest of them.”

Both Lester, dressed up in his ironic finery, and the ‘guys’ he ridicules, flirt dangerously with misogyny. It’s left to Debbie Harry to question, retrospectively, her precarious footing within this testosterone-fuelled landscape.

In a 2013 interview with Oyster Magazine, she described her position as “at times, very uncomfortable… There were some girls doing music, but not a lot, and the record industry certainly wasn’t geared for it the way they are now.”

For many men in 1979, Debbie Harry was an unknown entity they couldn’t quite fathom, despite Lester’s barbed attempt: Detached and sexy, demure yet streetwise. Debbie was an ice-blonde front-woman the journos couldn’t categorise: exploited victim or liberated artist?

This goes some way to explain the depth of the problem Debbie Harry faced during her career. The sexualisation of women in music has always informed our reception of the music itself. Debbie’s sexual independence certainly ruffled feathers, prompting labels like ‘cold’ and ‘smug’. Take the Blondie lyrics, for example, on 1979 B-side ‘Just Go Away’. In it, Harry coolly croons “O Don’t ya know/Don’t wanna see you any more/Put up or shut up.”

This blonde wasn’t a heartbroken sap, waiting on a man to take the lead. As she explained to Sunday Time Style Magazine in 2013: “I was dead sick and tired of all of these songs by the R&B girls, the trios and stuff. They were all victimised by love. I was sick of it. I didn’t want to portray myself or women as victims.” Lester Bangs had missed the point.

30 years later and Debbie Harry is now set to take to the podium at NME Awards 2014. The first female musician NME has ever deemed ‘Godlike’. Which begs the question: Is this a clear sign that recognition for women in music is really changing after all these years?

Truthfully, when I first heard the news I dented the air with a punch and my first thought was thus: FINALLY. I remember when I attended the NME Awards back in 2007. I was working on the NME news desk at the time, along with probably three other women in the office. That year the only women recognized were Kate Moss for ‘Sexiest Female’ and Lily Allen – not for her music, but for ‘Worst Dressed’. The only woman anyone was talking about that night was Kate Moss, for disappearing into the toilets with ‘bad boyfriend’ Pete Doherty.

Back then, standing in the Hammersmith Palais, I felt underrepresented as a woman. There seemed to be a gaping hole, both for women as serious musical contenders and as music journalists. A voice was lacking, both in song and on the page, from the reviewed and the reviewer. Not only that, the way that voice was perceived when it did hit the mainstream seemed aesthetically skewed.

I remember interviewing Alison Goldfrapp back in 2008 for Clash Magazine, when she complained: “People will talk to Will [Gregory, other half of duo Goldfrapp] about the music, and to me what a ‘pretty feminine frock’ I have on. It’s really fucking annoying.”

She wasn’t the only one who was fucking annoyed. Being one of the few women working in the office at the time, I felt it acutely. Each week as a music journalist I would file away a comment under B for Banter, shrugging it off as simply part of the job.

There was the time I visited Pentonville Prison to review a charity gig and my colleague playfully warned me to “watch out” for myself as the prisoners “couldn’t wank in their cells”, or the time I intercepted an editorial conversation. The premise was to quiz every female act what she was wearing at Glastonbury. Or how about the time I asked a fellow (married) freelancer for help with a feature I was hoping to pitch for? I arrived with a notepad and he, with his wedding ring removed.

Do I know a little about feeling ‘uncomfortable’ as a minority woman in a male-dominated industry? Yes, I guess I do. And I guess I’m only able to write about it now, like Debbie Harry is only talking about it now, because time gives you the gift of hindsight. I now know that it should have been different.

As it turns out, it now does seem different. The NME office is now a gender-balanced space – something I could only have dreamed about six years earlier. The all-female band Haim regularly command magazine covers, and strong female artists like Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Adele dominate the charts, wholly in command of their music, words, image and brand.

The old Britpop philosophy no longer seems to perpetuate the myth that boys obsess over Blur B-sides whereas girls melt over Damon posters. And yet certain sectors in the music industry are still yet to address a very blatant gender imbalance.

Do we still have some ground to cover? You bet. Is one Haim band enough? No. But is Debbie Harry’s recognition at NME Awards a step in the right direction? Absolutely.

The NME Awards take place tomorrow, Wednesday 26 February.

Kat Lister is a freelance writer living in London and can be found tweeting to an empty room @Madame_George. She has contributed to NME, The Telegraph, Grazia, Time Out, Clash magazineand Frankie magazine.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Wowzers Festival: A feminist fringe event for International Women’s Day

Wowzers Festival was set up by a small team of passionate event organisers who were frustrated with the run-of-the-mill women’s conferences and tired of your traditional International Women’s Day gigs. It was borne out of a deep desire to create a space for ALL corners of feminism. To create a place to gather and to advance emerging issues at the intersections of race, class, disability, age and LGBTQ issues. We wanted something more – more intersectional, more diverse, more challenging, more fun!

We wanted to make room for a range of voices, emerging talent, new acts, and were determined not to shy away from difficult or controversial topics. Wowzers Festival is the result of that determination and will kick off on International Women’s Day, 8th-9th March at the LSE Student Union in Central London, running in parallel to the better known ‘Women of the World’ festival at The Southbank Centre.

In the spirit of challenging the status quo, Wowzers Festival is community-led and crowd-funded. Not having a centralised funder means that we’re not tied to ‘The (proverbial) Man’ and have no restrictions on what we can and cannot address at the event. All our sessions are suggested and run by you, our community – a diverse mix of groups and individuals all passionate about gender equality and its intersections. The idea is to put YOU in the driving seat and ensure the event reflects the concerns and interests of the wider community, not just the team behind the event.

To guarantee that anyone who wants to participate can do so, regardless of their financial situation, Wowzers Festival is free to attend. Those who are able to donate are invited to do so towards sessions or activities on a sliding scale basis.

Over the two days, you’ll hear from bands like Actual Crimes, Big Joanie, and Woolf. You’ll laugh with comedian Alice Frank of Laughing Labia fame. You’ll explore topics ranging from abortion to street harassment; Pussy Riot to zine-making; clothes customising to consent; trans issues to body-positive ballet. You’ll party with the likes of The Girls Are, Carousel and Girl Germs, and dance along to DJs from Fanny Pack and Bad Reputation.

It is very much your event: an event by the feminist community, for the feminist community – we just provide the framework. We invite you to join us.

Find out more about Wowzers Festival at or follow @WowzersFest

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“PUSSY RIOT” release new video

You could be forgiven for thinking these are the performance activists formerly known as Pussy Riot, after a statement released by Pussy Riot last week said Nadia and Masha were no longer in the group. Yet here they are, two of the most recognisable released prisoners in the world, protesting at Sochi and releasing this new track and video under what we can only assume is a highly contested moniker.

The real story of course should be the police brutality shown in the video and the message in the song.

More to come tomorrow on who Pussy Riot are, on the second anniversary of their now iconic Punk Prayer.

50 billion and a gay-driven rainbow,
Rodnina and Kabaeva will pass you those flames
In prison they will teach you how to obey
Salut to all bosses, hail, duce!

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

Sochi is blocked – Olympic surveillance
Special forces, weapons, crowds of cops
FSB is an argument, the police is an argument
State tv will run your applause.

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

Spring to Russia comes suddenly
Hello to the messiah as a shot from Avrora
The prosecutor will put you down
Give him some reaction and not those pretty eyes

A cage for the protests, vodka, matrioshka
Prison for May 6, more vodka and caviar
The Constitution is lynched, Vitishko’s in prison
Stability, the prison meal, the fence and the watchtower

For TV Rain they’ve shut down the airwaves
They took gay pride down the washroom
A two-ass toilet – a priority
Sentence to Russia, medium security, 6 years

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

The motherland
The motherland
The motherland

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Q&A: Dazed & Confused about feminism

Every day is a feminist theme day at Feminist Times but as gender politics go pop we are seeing more and more publications taking on the f-word in their own special way.

We spoke with Dazed & Confused Editor in Chief Tim Noakes and Digital Editor Zing Tsjeng about why the style magazine is tackling feminism in its Feb 2014 issue and pick out our favorite content for you.

Q&A with Dazed & Confused:

Q: When can our readers get hold of your feminist issue?

A: It’s the February issue and it launched late January, but the online theme continues until the end of Feb.

Q: Why did Dazed tackle the f-word?

A: With the fourth wave of feminism in full swing, we wanted to shout about all the creative women across fashion and the arts who are setting a radical new cultural agenda – on their own terms.

Q: Give us a run down of the content on offer…

A: We are running Girl Guides, a series of think pieces about the state of modern womanhood and feminism, until the end of the week. Among the other pieces, Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism wrote How To Be A Woman Online and writer Gabby Bess penned How To Be A Female Artist.


We’ve also got head-to-head interviews with prominent female thinkers, artists and musicians: Naomi Wolf talked about feminism and porn with Evie Wylde, Rookie founder Tavi Gevinson spoke to Hunger Games star Amandla Stenberg being young feminists, Lena Dunham spoke to YA author Judy Blume about being female writers.


We also had an exclusive takeover of the site from Stacy Martin, the new star of Lars Von Triers’ Nymphomaniac. Here, she speaks to her costar Sophie Kennedy Clark about female sexuality and onscreen sex.

There’s a lot more themed content, including our favourite digifeminist artists and our favourite female book protagonists.

Feminist Times’ favourites from Dazed’s feminist issue:


Essential Feminist Manifestos

How To Sell Shit To Women

How to Start an Online Feminist Collective

The dA-Zed Guide To Riot Grrrl

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Feminist Events Listings: February 2014

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in February.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


14 February | One Billion Rising for Justice – V-day!

One Billion Rising For Justice is a global call to women survivors of violence and those who love them to gather safely in community outside places where they are entitled to justice – courthouses, police stations, government offices, school administration buildings, workplaces, sites of environmental injustice, military courts, embassies, places of worship, homes, or simply public gathering places where women deserve to feel safe but too often do not. It is a call to survivors to break the silence and release their stories – politically, spiritually, outrageously – through art, dance, marches, ritual, song, spoken word, testimonies and whatever way feels right.

Events happening worldwide and nationwide please follow this link to see events in the UK:


10 February – 3rd March | Women in Philosophy @ Manchester Metropolitan University.

In a series of public talks coordinated by researchers from the Department of Philosophy, issues of gender will be addressed by four women scholars who are by profession eminent philosophers in their respective fields. Women have arrived as practitioners in philosophy relatively recently when compared to the first 2,500 years of the discipline. This series of talks will look at whether the inclusion of women in philosophy has changed the landscape of what is being researched, learnt and taught in this fundamentally important subject. If philosophy is the study of how, what and why we think, what do women have to say about it? Come and join the debate! Women in Philosophy will present the following four talks:

Monday 10th February 2014: Dr Anna Bergqvist (MMU)

Moral particularism: a contribution to feminist thinking

Monday 17th February 2014: Professor Jennifer Saul (Sheffield)

Stop Thinking (So Much) About ‘Sexual Harassment’

Monday 24th February 2014: Professor Tina Chanter (Kingston)

The public, the private and the aesthetic unconscious: Reworking  Jacques Ranciere

Monday 3rd March 2014: Dr Meena Dhanda (Wolverhampton)

Facing Prejudice: Negotiating the Cultural Politics of Identity

All talks take place in Geoffrey Manton Lecture Theatre 4 at 5.30pm (tea and coffee in Geoffrey Manton atrium from 5.00pm)


15- 16 February | Feminist Libraries and Archives Gathering @ Feminist Library and Nottingham Women’s Centre, Nottingham.

A gathering of UK-based women’s libraries and resource centres. The event will give attendees an opportunity to meet and forge relationships between one another, as well as share ideas, knowledge, and resources. There will be discussion groups, talks, and workshops on topics pertaining to women’s libraries and resource centres.



27 February | Reclaim the Night Manchester 2014 @ Owens Park, Manchester.

This year’s theme will be ‘sound and voices‘ – participants will be filling the streets with sound and light our united energy against sexual harassment and sexual violence. The march starts at Owens’ Park, Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield at 7pm and a neon parade will head down Wilmslow Road towards Manchester Students’ Union.  The evening continues with the Reclaim the Night After Party, a festival of the finest women talent, with live comedy and music, arts & crafts, fun activities, community stalls & awesome DJs till late – at Manchester Students’ Union from 9pm.





7-21 February || SOAS Women’s Society event series; Ain’t I A Woman? What’s race got to do with it? @ SOAS University, London.

The Women’s Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) present; ‘Ain’t I A Woman? What’s race got to do with it?’ Exploring the intersectionality of gender and race in a week-long series of events centred around Ntozake Shange’s play ‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf.’

Monday, 17 February 2014, 8pm: Performance

‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf’ + Q&A with director and actresses Directed by Adam Tulloch

Tuesday, 18 February 2014, 7pm: Workshop

Redefining the Strong Black Woman

Wednesday, 19 February 2014, 7pm: Panel Discussion

Black (Mis)Representation

Chaired by Brenna Bhandar, SOAS

Thursday, 20 February 2014, 7pm: Conversations

Black Feminism 101: Claiming spaces in mainstream feminism

Facilitated by Charmaine Elliott, Black Feminists UK

Friday, 21 February 2014, 7pm: Performance

‘For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf’ + reception

Directed by Adam Tulloch



18 February || Gender Institute Series of Conversations to welcome The Women’s Library @ London School of Economics.

With the arrival of The Women’s Library at LSE, the Gender Institute will be running a series of Conversations during Lent Term. These Conversations will be led by Professor Mary Evans and audience participation is warmly invited.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014 Is there a Sexual History?  Speakers include: Professor Jeffrey Weeks and Professor Clare Hemmings

Tuesday, 4 March 2014 Money and Inequality Speakers include: Professor Ruth Lister and Professor Diane Elson


22 February || Women’s Assembly Against Austerity @ Conway Hall, London.

Women remain at the sharp end of the government’s economic and social austerity policies. As women’s unemployment rises, wages fall, the pay gap widens, benefits are cut and household and living costs rise, women face a daily struggle to keep themselves and their families from slipping deeper into poverty. In recognition of the leading role of women in the campaign against austerity and in articulating a new vision for our society The People’s Assembly is pleased to announce the Women’s Assembly conference 2014.



25 February || Rosie Wilby “Nineties Woman” @ Rich Mix, London.

Nineties Woman is a new show from award winning comedian Rosie Wilby using live interactive storytelling interspersed with video interviews, music and photo archive to trace a journey through early 90s feminism, refracted through a very personal lens. There will also be a post-show panel discussion with Jane Czyzselska, CN Lester, Kaite Welsh and Naomi Paxton. Starting with her treasured old copies of Matrix (Greek for ‘womb’), the newspaper that she and a collective of women set up at York University in 1990, Rosie peeks through a kaleidoscope of cultural history and personal activism including poll tax riots, Reclaim The Night rallies, political lesbianism and same sex wedding demos and wonders how on earth we ended up with ‘Girl Power’?



26 February || Men’s discussion group @ The Feminist Library, London.

Starting in February, the Feminist Library in Lambeth will be hosting a monthly Men’s Group meeting to discuss books and articles on feminist themes, with the aim of developing a better understanding of those themes and how they as men respond to them. Part of the East London Fawcett Groups campaign; “Are Men Doing it?”



Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for January.

Feminist Times is 100% crowdfunded, with no advertising, so we only survive if people join as Members or donate. If you enjoyed this article and want to support this site, become a member by clicking the badge below…


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From Beliebers to broadcasters, noisy women are powerful

Today at 11.30am on Radio 4, Ruth Barnes and I will host a documentary we put together, which Eleanor McDowall produced. It’s about teenage female fandom and it’s called Mad About The Boy – a title that has its tongue firmly placed in its cheek. It’s about how young girls are criticised as silly, crazy or hysterical for expressing their feelings for pop stars, and explores the dubious ideas that prop up those criticisms. Society’s dislike of girls expressing themselves above a whisper – check. Society’s fear of girls fantasising about distant figures that parents can’t monitor – check. Above all, society’s fear of nascent female sexuality – check.

Female pop fandom has interested me since 2010, when I was dragged along to a New Kids On The Block concert (wait…come back!) by a good friend. Having been a music journalist for five years at that time, I was wearing the spoils of my cynicism proudly. I knew that the music machine around this boy band was as naff as Old Spice, and they definitely didn’t mean as much to me, snoot snoot, as R.E.M., Kraftwerk, Joy Division and The Smiths.

A verse into the first New Kids song, I realised something strange was happening. My mouth was open wide and singing, and my heart was racing in my chest. No, I didn’t want to leap up onto the stage and twerk against Jordan Knight. Instead, I was looking emotionally at the women around me – us all remembering what it was like to be at that pivotal stage between childhood and adulthood, recognising the power we all had.

Being a young female fan is a fantastic thing. It’s about creating your own world, exploring your imagination, and finding out about your sexual self. It’s also about bonding with other girls, and celebrating being together. You wouldn’t know that from the footage the media focuses on, the sobbing and weeping extremes of the crowd. Every mass mob event has extreme emotions in it – the football crowd for example – but only women’s experiences are pathologised this way.

History is full of this sort of sexism, of course. The ancient Greeks blamed the “wandering womb” (or as Aretaeus called it, “the animal within the animal”) for making women want to shout and scream. Then there were the Salem witch trials, the psychoanalytic machinations of Freud… countless examples of Western society silencing women expressing themselves.

But by the middle of the 20th century, things started to change. It wasn’t a coincidence that female fandom found its voice after the Second World War, after women’s roles in society had been strengthened in wartime, only to be sidelined again. Young girls wanted more room to explore their imaginations and social selves too, so much so that by 1963 they were considered a threat to themselves… and to society’s repressive framework, which is what their (male) critics were really frightened about.

Here were young women fighting against policemen and silencing their favourite bands – The Beatles even stopped touring because they couldn’t hear themselves any more. In our show, I quote Barbara Ehrenreich‘s great work on this topic, which I first read back in 2010. “Young women had plenty to riot against,” she writes in essay, Screams Heard Around The World. “To abandon control – to scream, faint, dash about in mobs – was to protest the sexual repressiveness of culture. [This] was the first and most dramatic uprising of women’s sexual revolution.” I believe this solidly, too. Expressing rebellion in a way that concerns a pretty boy that you desire can be the start of something personally enriching, and ultimately very empowering.

Ruth and I could have made an hour-long documentary about this subject, really. So much was left unsaid: about how Western girls aren’t allowed a celebratory rite of passage (“girls are just given a sanitary towel and left to get on with it”, Ruth once said to me, memorably), and about how men’s obsessions aren’t classed as frivolous and silly, but geeky and intellectual.

What makes me particularly proud, though, is that our show is stuffed with female voices. We interview my mother-in-law, Lillian Adams, about her Beatlemania days (five years after charging against policemen in Liverpool she was protesting the Vietnam War in Grosvenor Square). Columnist and novelist Allison Pearson tells us how fandom liberated her from her dull teenage life (pop music made her interested in lyrics and imaginative worlds, and got her into writing), and we speak to Fiona Bevan about her songwriting for One Direction, in which she builds her own experiences into that dialogue between artist and fan. The only male voice we have is East 17’s Tony Mortimer, who brilliantly confirms that female fans aren’t really mad at all.

Then there’s the thing about which I’m proudest of all: here’s a documentary on the air presented by two women. Last year, Sound Women (a campaigning network of over 1,000 people working in audio) proved how rare this was in a week of pioneering research. Only 4% of radio programmes over those seven days were co-presented by females, their study showed, a statistic I wasn’t surprised about at all. Two-headed shows usually conform to one of two templates, after all: Two Blokes Down The Pub, or Bantz-Spouting Man meets Giggly Girl.

A few months later, Mishal Husain co-presented Radio 4’s Today programme for the first time with Sue McGregor, but this high-profile exception to the norm shouldn’t be seen as a victory in and of itself. Instead, it should be seen as a torchpaper to light up other women’s opportunities, just as I hope our documentary will do the same work. In Mad About The Boy, women are behind the controls and the microphones, giving voice to a subject often silenced in heart, soul and mind. I don’t think there’s anything crazy about that.

Jude Rogers is a writer, broadcaster, journalist, romantic, Welsh woman and geek. Follow her here @juderogers

Mad About The Boy is on Radio 4 at 11.30am on Tuesday 28 January, and will be repeated on Saturday 1st February at 15.30. Listen to a clip from the show here.

Photo: Hendrik Dacquin

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Feminist evangelism: Blurred Lines at The Shed

The first thing that struck me about Blurred Lines, the latest offering from young playwright Nick Payne, was what a joy it was to be sat at the heart of London’s cultural heartland watching a play entirely performed by women.

Directed by Carrie Cracknell, Blurred Lines features a cast of eight brilliant women of different ages and races, who open the performance by reeling off the reductive, gendered stereotypes women face every day – from dumb blonde to gangster, from wife to single mum.

Taking its name from Robin Thicke’s depressingly popular hit Blurred Lines, the play promises a “blistering journey through contemporary gender politics”, and that’s just what it delivers through the series of vignettes – some witty, some dramatic – that make up the play’s short and sweet 70 minutes, interspersed with music from the likes of Lady Gaga, The Beastie Boys and N.E.R.D, and poetry by actor Michaela Coel. Thicke, we are told, refused permission for his song to be performed.

Both Payne and Cracknell were inspired by Kat Banyard’s The Equality Illusion, and her influence is clear in much of the play’s language and message. The scenes skilfully balance sensitivity and humour as they race through sexual assault and rape, discrimination against mothers in the workplace, objectification and the sex industry – though the latter is seen only through the eyes of a married couple, where the husband is a punter attempting to justify his sexual “transactions” to his wife.

Visually, the play is striking; Bunny Christie’s luminous staircase of a set is like something off The X Factor and, by the end of the play, is littered with precariously high heels and blonde hair extensions – trappings of the performance of womanhood that is being played out before us.

Each character is herself an actor playing her part and navigating her way through the complexities of life under patriarchy – mother, employee, wife, girlfriend – singing ‘Don’t Liberate Me (Just Love Me)’ or The Crystals’ ‘He hit me (it felt like a kiss)’ into her microphone. All the while, each character is juggling her career with her family, or coming to terms with being raped by her boyfriend.

Blurred Lines closes with a sketch that slyly nods towards the National Theatre’s own problems with representing women; an arrogant male director, played by Marion Bailey, sits with his legs wide apart in a post-show discussion, arrogantly defending his play’s sexism and objectification while his lead actress sits by in near silence.

The fast pace of these scenes relentlessly drives home the insidious nature of seemingly isolated incidents of sexism, which affect all women in myriad ways. Though nothing shocked me – jaded feminist that I am – it serves as a powerful and accessible piece of evangelism for those who continue to insist that feminism has served its purpose and sexism is a thing of the past.

For all its energy and humour, Blurred Lines felt like a depressing reminder of how much is still to be done, but if it opens the eyes of one sceptic then it’s done its job, and if it results in more (fully-clothed) women dominating theatre stages next season, so much the better.

Blurred Lines is on at The Shed, National Theatre, until 22nd February.

Photo by Simon Kane, courtesy of the National Theatre

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Cate Blanchett, choice and complicity on the red carpet

We all know that the world of showbiz is sexist, hence any woman who involves herself in it will be complicit in whatever objectification she suffers. This seems to be the message of Lynden Barber’s gentlemanly trashing of Cate Blanchett, published in this Wednesday’s Guardian. Rather than celebrate Blanchett’s questioning of double standards (demonstrated by her asking a red carpet photographer whether his camera lens scanned male actors in the same manner), Barber calls out the actress for daring to bite the hand that feeds her:

“I can understand why an actor might be totally over the whole red carpet thing. But Cate, if you don’t want your dress to be photographed so that viewers and readers can admire the whole thing, then perhaps you could try turning up to the next awards nights in jeans and a T-shirt.”

Yeah, Cate. Live by the stylist, die by the stylist. You knew what you were getting into.

To a certain extent, I think Barber has a point. Blanchett – a tall, thin, white woman following the dress codes of an industry that objectifies tall, thin, white women – gains from her own objectification. You can’t get to where she has without a degree of compromise. But is it reasonable to play the system and then claim the moral high ground? For Barber it’s a definite no; I, on the other hand, would ask what else a woman is meant to do. What level of purity must she achieve before she’s entitled to speak out? And by the time she has achieved such purity, won’t she be backed into a corner so that no one can hear her words?

We’re not all Hollywood actresses but every single one of us is complicit in our own oppression and that of others. There are degrees of complicity, but every choice we make – every interaction, every utterance – takes place within a context of gender stereotyping, cultural conditioning and inequality. In order to forge any path of our own we work with the options we’re given. Unlike Blanchett, we may not be “the face of SK-II” but none of our choices take place in a vacuum. Sometimes these choices will benefit us to the detriment of other women. Often we won’t even know it.

Judging other women on the basis of this complicity is, I think, one of the reasons for deep cultural divisions within feminism. While as feminists we are critical of our own culture, our own personal practices will always feel defensible in a way that those of others do not. We know our own balance sheet but not that of anyone else. Hence your dress code demeans women while mine is an everyday compromise. When you choose to do that job you’re selling out, but when I choose to do mine I’m just feeding my family. There’s not a lot of time for empathy when you’re constantly repositioning yourself around double standards.

But when, as Blanchett did, you call out the double standards that you’ve played along with, you will be accused of hypocrisy. Do the same to another woman and it starts to look more like a personal attack. It should be neither of these things. We should be able to accept that in order to survive patriarchy, women have to have dealings with its rules and regulations within different cultural settings. This shouldn’t undermine any challenge. On the contrary, knowing the conditions of oppression should make us more forgiving of ourselves, each other and of those who oppress us.

The man who photographed Blanchett was only playing by the same rules as Blanchett. They’re rules which, to a greater or lesser extent, I play along with when I decide what to wear, how to speak, how best to get what I need. No one has to challenge these rules – and usually it’s easiest not to — but when anyone does, we should see it as a gain. If we aspire to a pure, untainted feminism we will only deny all women the space in which to breathe.

VJD Smith (Glosswitch) is a lifelong feminist and mother of two who edits language books when she’s not tied up with parenting, blogging and ranting.  Find out more @Glosswitch or

Photo: Siebbi

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Two women hosted a massive show and the world did not implode

Naturally we’re looking at the Golden Globes through the kaleidoscopic glasses that are Feminism 2014 and therefore leaving our distant cousins, the Glossies, to plough the fallow field of mediocrity with the lists of Fashion Fails. Instead, we’re focusing on something we think should be a big deal – two women hosted a massive show for the second year in a row last night and the world did not implode.

The US is beating the UK at giving women comedians the top jobs, with Ellen DeGeneres hosting the Oscars again this year while over here it’s a cartel of Wozzy and Fry. So let’s have more funny women please, British TV.

Look at your Radio Times and think for a minute; how often do you see two women being given the reigns to a prime time TV show? As Issy Sampson pointed out in her piece on last month’s Xmas TV Sausage Fest, there are only two prime time entertainment programs that have a female duo taking on the hosting duties: The Great British Bake Off and Strictly, when Bruce Forsyth’s having a week off because he’s the oldest person in telly.

Everywhere else you look it’s white guy after white guy. It’s either just men: TopGear, Celebrity Big Brother’s Bit On The Side, Pointless. Or there’s the classic older man/younger woman combo: most news shows, Countdown, Strictly when Forsyth’s on form. Or lots of men and a token woman: Mock the Week, Have I got News and until recently Newsnight. Plus for some reason women-headed chat shows never get as far as a second series – see Ruth Jones, Charlotte Church, Girly Show – and they wonder why we still need a Woman’s Hour! *Annoying anti-feminist bloke-in-a-pub type question.

Does the success of Smart Girls’ Amy Poehler and Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey’s performance last night mean men’s strangle-hold on prime presenting duties is finally losing it’s grip? That from now on we can expect to find any gender being hilarious and that long songs about Boobs will be a thing of the past? That Stephen Fry will go back to being extremely interesting every now and again as opposed to being some omnipresent, almost god-like presence?

Let’s hope so and encourage more diversity by celebrating, in the carefree model of the Top Three sort-of-feminist jokes, the triumph of Amy and Tina in being hilarious, commanding and, at the same time, women.

(Psst, guess who is presenting the the UK equivalent of the Golden Globes, the Baftas’? Yep, Stephen Fry.)

Amy Poehler & Tina Fey’s Top Three Sort-Of-Feminist Jokes from the Golden Globes 2014.

3rd Place: “For (Matthew McConaughey’s) role in Dallas [Buyers Club], he lost 45 pounds — or what actresses call being in a movie.”

2nd Place: “Meryl Streep is so brilliant in Osage: August County, proving that there are still great parts in Hollywood for Meryl Streep over 60.”

1st Place: “Gravity is nominated for Best Film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die then to spend one more minute with a woman his own age.”

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Feminist Events Listings: January 2014

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in January.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


6th of January || The History of Radical Women in Greater Manchester at Aquinas College, Stockport.

This 10 Week course,  beginning on the 6th of January is an introduction to the history of radical women’s movements in Greater Manchester. This area was at the centre of the social, economic and industrial upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, which gave rise to radical political movements. The course will look at women’s role in movements and events such as Peterloo, the Luddites, Owenite Co-operation, Chartism and Votes for Women and will also include three walks in Manchester city centre.The course is being tutored by Michael Herbert.

For more information please contact Sheila Lahan at Aquinas College, telephone 0161 419 9163, email :


17 January  || Policy & Parliamentary Training, Sheffield.

Does your organisation want to make its voice heard in the policy making process? Does your organisation want to influence decision makers but have no idea how? Are you a community group that wants to lobby your local MP Voice4Change are holding a one day policy and parliamentary training session in partnership with the Parliamentary Outreach Service. The session is aimed at BME voluntary sector organisations who have little or no experience of lobbying or policy activity. This course will cover; Parliament, the policy making process and how to get your voice hear and how to plan your lobbying or policy work.





8 January || 1 Billion Rising for Justice @ Southbank Centre.

Looking at the state of female justice in the UK hosted by Jude Kelly (artistic director of the Southbank) Featuring: Sophie Barton-Hawkins (Poet and former prisoner), Marissa Begonia (Justice for Domestic Workers), Stella Creasy (Labour MP), Helena Kennedy (Baroness, Barrister, House of Lords) Rahela Sidiqi (Women for Refugee Women), Eve Ensler (V-Day Founder).

Free Admission. 7.30pm. This event will be live-streamed.

RSVP: or


14 January || NUS National Summit on Confronting Lad Culture in Higher Education at London South Bank University.

Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, is confirmed as one of the keynote speakers and other participants include Lucy Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign. The agenda will feature workshops and plenaries from a diverse array of organisations dealing with issues related to ‘lad culture’ and will feature an opportunity to shape the direction of a national strategy to respond to ‘lad culture’ in higher education. From 10am -5pm. Students Union Delegate: £25, Sector Delegate: £50.00



16 January – 22 February || Blurred Lines @ The Shed Theatre, London.

A play created and devised by Carrie Cracknell and Nick Payne. A blistering journey through the minefield of contemporary gender politics. With songs. Nick Payne’s plays include Constellations, Wanderlust (Royal Court) and The Same Deep Water As Me (Donmar Warehouse). Carrie Cracknell is Associate Director at the Royal Court Theatre. She was previously Artistic Director of the Gate. Recent work includes A Doll’s House (Young Vic and West End) and Wozzeck (ENO).



25th January || London 70’s sisters, The Feminist Library. 

Feminists who were active in the 60s, 70s & 80s are invited to an afternoon of connecting with other feminists and  joining in discussion around themes of ageing, ageism,  and activism, as well as offering the chance to form new ongoing  groups if you would like to. Women from outside London welcome. 2pm to 5:30pm. Tel: 020 7261 0879



Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for January.

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Most Read on Feminist Times 2013

Need a distraction from Christmas? Want to think about human behavior? Reckon you know what subjects Feminist Times readers are passionate about and what sets Twitter on fire?

We’ve put together the Most Read and Least Read articles published on Feminist Times in 2013.

1.     A feminist in high heels is like Dawkins in a rosary

Charlotte’s most contentious Editorial and our most read page ever. We were shocked when this one blew up on us, spawning the hashtag feministheels, and put a broad selection of responses in a Comeback piece.



2.     For once let’s really talk about slut-shaming

Can you be sex positive and anti-objectification? Glosswitch calls for a more honest discussion of “slut-shaming” and fuels online debate.



3.     No More Page 3: A bit of fence siting

Exclusive to Feminist Times, the No More Page 3 team explain why they’re sitting on the fence about porn and are neither pro nor anti.



4.     Cameron and Rape Porn

Daisy Bata wrote from a feminist BDSM perspective about how she feared new Rape Porn legislation could affect consenting adults. Her personal perspective provoked a big reaction on Twitter and we asked South London Rape Crisis for a Comeback response on why they believe misinformation in the mainstream is polarizing the debate.



5.     Femen – the beauty fascist fauminists

Another one of Charlotte’s Editorials, this time about whether the Feminist Times team would qualify to be in Femen and must be our most commented on piece so far.



6.     These Women Are Not Me

Maternal feminist Mel Tibbs raised a few people’s blood pressure when she argued that women in positions of power can not represent women like herself.



7.     What’s so safe about feminist, women only space?

Academics Ruth Lewis and Elizabeth Sharp on their research into women-only spaces. They caught the imaginations of both those who long for a safe space and those debating the very meaning of “women-only”,


8.     Fit is the new thin

Deborah Coughlin on why she hates the commodification of “fit”. In her mind it’s just the same message, in the hands of branding experts, as “thin”.



9.     Top Ten of 2013’s most unlikely feminists

Feminism has never been so popular, so as the fourth-wave rises there are all kinds of people jumping onto the ship. From Thatcher to Cameron to Miley Cyrus we countdown the most unlikely people to be touted as feminist in 2013.



10. Comeback: How to be a man – porn

The only regular Fem T columnist who is a man started with a launch confessional about how porn has affected his life. Lots of readers had something to say about it and it was Victoria Coleman’s Comeback that made it into 10th place.


Now read the Least Read on Feminist Times 2013.

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Least Read on Feminist Times 2013

Need a distraction from Christmas? Want to think about human behavior? Reckon you know what subjects Feminist Times readers are passionate about and what is more of a Twitter breeze as opposed to a storm?

We’ve put together the Most Read and Least Read articles published on Feminist Times in 2013.

1.     Natalie Bennett marks International Day of the Girl

We were so excited to receive a statement from Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett about International Day of the Girl. Unfortunately no one else was and this is our least read article so far on Feminist Times. Boooooooooo

Natalie Bennett


2.     An Editor Muses: Autumn

When we came up with the idea of reading out Elle’s autumnal editorial in a whimsical manner, highlighting it’s banality over a video of Deborah’s feet – we quite honestly thought we were being hilarious. You did not think so, and that’s us told.



3.     NCA failing victims

An exploration of why the National Crime Agency is not tackling cyber stalking was not shared anywhere near as much as we thought. Take a look now.

Cyber Stalking

4.     Forgotten crafts – traditional Dublin biscuit folding

There’s a thin line between genius and not genius. We took a run and leap over that line and you did not come with us. Not interested in a pretend craft and Daniel Day Lewis? Fair enough.



5.     Video: Afghan Women’s Rights: A Doctor’s Story

The day after #feministheels and the publishing of our most read story ever we put up this video from Amnesty. We mentioned in the #feministheels Comeback how the way we are funded allows us to run important pieces like this that aren’t shared loads. If you want to help fund a site where brands don’t influence content become a Member.



6.     Newcastle firmly on the feminist map

Fem T’s Sarah Graham had a feminist-life affirming trip to the North East Feminist Gathering and previewed it here.  Our review of the event got lots of views (and was for a while in our top ten) so we don’t think Newcastle has anything to worry about. We love you Newcastle.



7.     Women and the wireless revolution

Our first infographic from the amazing women that are ThinkAgainGraphics. The legendary Joni Seager author of Atlas of Women and Lucia Ricci helped us launch with this amazing global breakdown of gender and mobile phones.

FINAL infographic seager-ricci


8.     Diary of a tomboy – football

Children’s Editor Anna moved all of us at the Restitution Ball with this touching speech about why girls in her school football team are forced to tackle each other.

Football-creditJayel Aheram

Photo: Jayel Aheram


9.     #16days: Women’s Aid funding crisis domestic violence

We ran a piece every day for #16days. This one about the funding crisis fell beneath the radar compared to the other 15.

Women's Aid


10. How Do You Become Lord Chief Justice?

Another one of our genius ideas. ‘Don’t all these people in power have a lot in common’ we thought to ourselves. Let’s start a series where we give a run down of how someone has got into a powerful job and over time this will illustrate this point beautifully. The picture is smoke coming out of the Vatican. We still love this idea.

Smoke from the vatican

Now read the Most Read on Feminist Times 2013.

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#IDontBuyIt: Feminism For Sale

It’s official: we have our own place in the history books. 2013 has seen a fourth wave of feminism rising up seemingly from still waters; a glorious surge of intersectionality, gobbiness and web-savviness. And it’s great. We’re great.

No More Page 3’s 130,000 signatories; the Everyday Sexism project; Leyla Hussein and the anti-FGM campaigners. All the successes too: the report abuse button on Twitter, the banning of sexist hate speech on Facebook, the Co-Ops refusal to stock lads mags. It’s all been so ruddy, bloody great.

But all waves, no matter how magnificent, have to break. Fourth wave feminism looks pretty powerful at the moment, but it’s in danger of petering out; a sad slap against some unshiftable rocks. Why? Because of how great we’re being – and because of who’s noticing that, and how.

Become trendy and well-liked and you don’t just attract the dazzling smile of Nigella, but the fanged grin of suited advertising executives. Throughout 2013, for every hard-won feminist success there’s been an easily churned out piece of advertising seeking to co-opt an entire movement for the purpose of selling tat.

Dozens of brands are lining up to align themselves with feminist awesomeness. Old hands Dove surpassed themselves this year with a piece of loft-set sobbing professing to tell us we’re all beautiful but really just blaming women – rather than, I dunno, the multi-billion pound beauty industry – for their own negative self-esteem. Pantene, meanwhile, released an ad only last week which urges us not to be constrained by sexist labels as long as we have shiny hair.

It seems obvious what these adverts are doing. Apart from selling goop, they’re co-opting feminism into the very thing – capitalist patriarchy – which means feminism needs to exist. You cannot market unnecessary standards of beauty for the benefit of a profit margin in a feminist way. Pantene and Dove have no wish for us to feel comfortable in our own skin because if we did we’d stop buying their evil soapy wares.

I say it only seems obvious what they’re doing because apparently it isn’t. Both of those adverts were created on the other side of the globe but have gone viral and reached my newsfeed because of the endorsement of people – fellow feminists – who should bloody well know better.

Like long-geeky teenagers who’ve started being invited to cool parties, us fourth-wavers are so happy to just to be spoken to by mainstream media that we don’t question it. We just beam toothily, share with our entire friends list and go on our merry way. If we get the chance we’re even making the damn things ourselves: Vagenda and this very publication teamed up with ELLE to “rebrand” feminism; an exercise that produced two adverts which didn’t mention the “F-word” at all and sparked a load of Twitter in-fighting which alienated as many possible feminists as the campaigns interested in the first place.

Being this in love with being cool, right down to the cost of commodification, turns feminism into a “thing”. Feminism is not a “thing”. It is not a trend. It is not something that can be owned. It is not something that can be summed up on a T-shirt, in a glossy ad, or in a music video. Play into that and you create a set definition of what it is, and who we are, and you can wave goodbye to intersectionality, diversity of opinion, or even just a nice level playing field where we’re all respectful to one another.

Want to know what happens when people see feminism as a badge? You get Lily Allen bewildered that a song about equality can attract ire for objectifying black women, because she and her director think that the only box she has to tick to fight for equality is to be witty about sexualisation.

You get well-meaning, if oft-aggravating, people like Vagenda and Caitlin Moran being either attacked mercilessly or fawned over like messiahs because we’re so used to having leaders that we create them within our own movement.

You get awful in-fighting because other people’s feminism differs ever so slightly from the set idea we each have of it, and Twitter wars because we’re all so eager for a “platform” in the capitalist media that online activism has become a desperate scramble for status.

In short you get a load of shallow crap that means we concentrate more on fitting into the system oppressing us than on dismantling it. This isn’t a plea for us to campaign mercilessly for an anti-consumerist, anarchist commune society where we replace money with leaves (wooden tokens work much better), or, heaven for-fucking-bid, for us to go nestle back under the told-you-so wings of our second and third wave mothers, but rather for us to be careful.

Feminism does need a change, and to keep changing. We need to be more intersectional, more inclusive, more open to those not in the Waitrose ranks of the middle class. But there’s a difference between being open to change and being rebranded, a difference between being popular and being cool. If we remember that, we can keep this wave going for as long as possible – and when it breaks, it might actually have done some damage.

Rebecca Winson is the News Editor for For Books’ Sake, the feminist webzine dedicated to promoting and celebrating writing by women. Find out more @rebeccawinson

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#IDontBuyIt: Make Your Own Feminist Fairy!


– Double click on the image and choose print.
– Print out the image.
– Stick it on card if you want you Emily Davison to stand proud.
– Then carefully cut around Emily and the strip.
– Stick Emily to the strip.
– Stick the ends of the strip together to make a loop.
– Place you fairy on top of your tree.
– Have a Merry Christmas!

Rebecca Stricksons works as an illustrator and do-er of things based in Peckham. She was selected to appear in the AOI’s Images 36 book in 2012, and was shortlisted twice for the AOI Illustration Awards 2013. Follow @beckystrick

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#IDontBuyIt: TV this Christmas is one big sausage fest

It’s that time of year again: you settle down in front of the TV, stuffed full of turkey and resentment towards your close family, to watch a TV schedule rammed full of repeats – and men.

Seriously – this year’s Christmas TV is all about men, performed by men, written by men and presented by men. Dr Who has regenerated into another white guy (sigh), Sherlock and Dr Watson dominate the schedules, Mrs Browns Boys is still mysteriously popular and over on C4, Bear Grylls is going off on a big old boys adventure with Stephen Fry. There may be women in Downton Abbey but, what with it being set in 1922, they aren’t exactly repping it for fourth-wavers.

So where can we find women on TV this Christmas? Weirdly, over on Strictly Come Dancing at the staid old BBC. It’s an oestrogen filled all-female celebrity final this year so, although model turned WAG turned ballroom dancer Abbey Clancy probably won’t be topping any feminist polls, she’s actually one of the few women your kids will see succeeding on telly in the next couple of weeks.

The show also features the only female presenting duo outside of The Great British Bake Off, in the form of Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman. But that’s only when Bruce Forsyth is having a week off for old age.

Fearne Cotton presents Christmas Top Of The Pops, but despite the fact that pop in 2013 has been dominated by women (Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Lily Allen, Katy Perry) it features performances from John Newman, One Republic, Tom Odell, Chase & Status, Rizzle Kicks, Rudimental, James Blunt, Naughty Boy and way-too-old-for-it-now boyband Boyzone. At least Fearne won’t have to queue for the ladies’ loos.

And here’s an early warning, just in case you fall asleep on the sofa and worry you’ve woken up in 1940: the women who ARE allowed their own shows are cooking. Or crafting. Literally, that’s it. We’re ‘treated toThe Great British Sewing Bee Christmas, The Great British Bake Off, and Kirstie Allsopp continues her remarkably twee campaign to put us all back 50 years in Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas. Can’t we have women heading a show like “The Great British Website Design” or “Kirstie’s Draughty Christmas”, where Kirstie goes round an entire house insulating it to the recommended 270mm of mineral wool?

The TV “classic’s” schedule is a British tradition and a gender crisis. Given that past Christmas Specials – Only Fools And Horses, The Office, Top Gear – are now considered ‘festive classics’, they get repeated year after year after year, so it looks like we’ll be stuck with this male-dominated line-up for a while. A scary thought: will we still be being forced to watch middle-aged men driving expensive cars and making jokes about ‘bloody foreigners’ in 2080?

Repeats from the ‘good old days’, these ghosts of Christmas past, aren’t good for women because women weren’t there. Stats this year show that the schedules of the four main channels (BBC1, 2, ITV1 and C4) will be made up of 49.5% repeats – with three quarters of BBC2’s content being a repeat, 28% of ITV1’s shows having been seen before and C4 will be made up of 59% repeated material. Only BBC1 have thought that maybe, just maybe, it should make new TV shows: it’s 90% new material. Which is a relief until you realise that part of that new content is bringing back dinosaurs like Open All Hours. Oh.

Let’s look at all the amazing female comics and writers around: Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Jennifer Saunders, Jo Brand, Miranda Hart, Bridget Christie, Josie Long. Surely, with laddy comedy Not Going Out making another appearance, there must be a funny woman getting an Xmas special too? Er, no. Miranda will appear in the (David Walliams-written) Gangsta Granny, and everything else is written by men: Downton Abbey, Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education, Lucan… the best the BBC can do is a historical look at Morcambe and Wise’s female sidekicks. Which they’ve patronizingly dubbed ‘Leading Ladies’. Oh, thanks SO much, BBC.

So what on earth is the TV industry thinking? The revolution may well not be televised, but we certainly need a revolution in television. If you can’t be what you can’t see, the majority of what we are seeing is crafts, sidekicks and sequins. Whatever gender you are, if you want to watch a well-balanced, broad range of women on telly this season, fingers crossed you got a boxed set of DVDs under the tree.

Issy Sampson writes for The Guardian Guide, Look, Heat, NME and The Mirror. For more, follow her on Twitter @isssssy

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WIN: Funny Women Weekend Workshop

Two weeks ago we announced our fundraising Christmas raffle. If you haven’t entered yet, you’ve got until midday on Friday, when we’ll be announcing the one lucky winner who will receive our whole bundle of brilliant feminist prizes.

As well as books, T-shirts and other merchandise, the winner will receive our STAR PRIZE: one free place at the Funny Women Weekend Workshop (8-9 February 2014) AND the chance to review it for Feminist Times.

Funny Women was established in 2002 by Lynne Parker to support and promote female comedy talent. Their weekend comedy workshop is worth £250 and provides two full days of expert coaching.

Find out more about the workshop speakers and activities here, and check out the draft schedule for the weekend:

Saturday 8th February:

‘How to write a comedy script’ – Gavin Smith Creative Director of Business and Development for The Comedy Unit

‘Developing comedy characters’ – Alex Mahermost recently seen in her debut solo show, ‘Hope & Gloria’ (Best Show, Funny Women Awards 2013)

10.00am – 10.30am Registration, welcome coffee and introduction
10.30am – 12.30pm workshop session one
12.30pm – 2.00pm lunch break and networking
2.00pm – 2.30pm speakers surgery
2.30pm – 4.30pm workshop session two
4.30pm – 5.00pm panel round up
5.00pm – 6.00pm special guest performance by the Funny Women Players and drinks reception

Sunday 9th February:

‘Stand Up To Stand Out’ (introductory or advanced) – Lucy Frederick, finalist Funny Women Awards 2012

‘How to produce and promote a show’ – Lynne Parker, founder & executive producer of Funny Women

10.00am – 10.30am coffee and recap from day one
10.30am – 12.30pm workshop session three
12.30pm – 2.00pm lunch break and networking
2.00pm – 4.00pm workshop session four
4.00pm – 5.00pm special guest appearance, Twisted Loaf, winners of the 2013 Funny Women Awards and round up Q&A

Enter our raffle now to win a free place on the course and have your review of the weekend published on the Feminist Times website.

Other prizes in the Feminist Times Christmas Raffle bundle include: T-shirts donated by No More Page 3 and Feminism in London, a selection of Abortion Rights merchandise, a Wrecking Bar created by feminist artist Miss Pokeno, and brilliant feminist books by Catherine Redfern & Kristin Aune, Anne Dickson, Lynne Segal and Joni Seager.

We are 100% crowdfunded, with no advertising, so we only survive if people join as Members or donate. If you enjoyed this article and want to support this site, become a member by clicking the badge below…


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More info here.

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Get off that wrecking ball and get yourself a Wrecking Bar

The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance are a unified group of militant feminists who have their headquarters in my studio down a side street in Southwark.

I make them riot slut chairs to celebrate young women activists…twisted and broken in form but colourful strong and defiant.

I make them marching banners that suffice when all poetry has left me but more often I make objects of quiet nuisance.

I read somewhere the suffragist women concealed hammers in their giant fur muffs and bought them out to smash the windows along Piccadilly and Regent Street in their Votes for Women campaign.

I was smitten with that image for some time so I made the Sisters glass hammers, emu eggs filled with gold paint and gilded London bricks in 23 carat gold for joyous throwing and sewed big faux fur muffs with secret pockets for concealment of contraband and tools. The power is in the potential.

I considered the image of a glamorous Hollywood filmstar opening the black velvet lined box at Xmas. Inside she finds not the expected diamond necklace but something so much more useful. A lipstick red wrecking bar.

Woohooo..Wreck the Halls!

Miss Pokeno and The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance have an exhibition at 1 Doyce Street London SE1 until Friday 13th December. After that the resistance continues at

Get your hands on a Wrecking Bar worth £30 as part of the Feminist Times Christmas Raffle!

If you enjoyed this article and want to meet other feminists like, and unlike, yourself, join Feminist Times as a Member. Join us and support the building of an incredible feminist organisation and resources like this website.

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Comeback: #feministheels

Responses to Charlotte Raven’s editorial on high heels.

To date Charlotte’s editorial, posted yesterday, on her personal view of high heels and feminism has received 6193 views.
It’s been shared 4497 times.
With around a half a dozen personal blog responses, one spawning the hashtag feministheels.
So far this hashtag has been used 690 times.

We weren’t expecting a response this high.

To clarify for some Tweeters who assumed we get paid per click, we don’t. We have no PR or advertising on our site. We are funded purely by members. Which is why we can afford to run a piece on Afghan Women’s Rights today, which so far has received 8 views and been shared 14 times.

Putting these clicks or views into perspective.
In the 10 weeks Feminist Times has existed we have published 186 articles. 21 articles have been explicitly about violence against women and girls. The highest amount of views any of the 21 stories received was Nimko Ali’s profile, A Year as the Face of FGM which received 591 views. That’s less than 10% of the views Charlotte’s personal editorial on high heels as a patriarchal and cultural form of violence against women received.

Below is a broad selection of responses we received.









Mihira Sood – gender rights lawyer:

Charlotte starts off by telling us that she finds it irritating when people ask her whether you can be a feminist and wear high heels. I gather she finds this question irrelevant, and offensive in its irrelevance. I agree. What people wear should be completely irrelevant to how they relate to feminism, it’s about what you put in your head, not on your feet (unless of course, your shoes have “Feminism is Stupid” written on them). Yet the rest of her post demonstrates the opposite. Instead of telling us why people’s sartorial choices should not be considered as relevant to anything other than their sartorial choices, she tells us exactly how high heels bear such a close relationship with feminism, and therefore what a relevant question it is.

Let’s leave aside for now, the remarkable display of cognitive dissonance here, and focus then on the merits of her argument. In her post, she identifies two reasons why the feminists-can-wear-high-heels brigade is wrong: one, it is a form of self-harm, akin to domestic violence; and two, their arguments are premised on the political correctness of not offending a high heel wearing minority, a consideration that other political actors aren’t saddled with.

On the first point, I agree that high heels are a form of self-harm, and that we as a society, do discourage certain forms of self-harm. However, since this needs to be balanced with individual liberty and expression, the discouragement is not uniform across the entire spectrum of self-harm. There is tolerating criminal activity like domestic violence at one end (though even there, I would argue that society’s role is to be supportive and provide her with options, rather than telling her what to do) and there are things like unhealthy eating habits, cigarette-smoking, excessive use of hair dryers and the like at one. For some inexplicable reason, Charlotte seems to lump high heel wearing at the higher end of the spectrum, warranting greater interference with individual liberty, an interpretation most reasonable people would find illogical.

Her second point is that feminists should be allowed to be as sanctimonious as politicians. Given that feminism is about removing the shackles of sanctimonious oppression, this is a peculiar position to take.

The explanation may lie in what her definition of feminism is. She says “Feminism emphatically isn’t about making women feel comfortable with bad or harmful decisions or choices. We have the right to do stupid things but feminism is there to try and stop us before we hurt ourselves, physically or psychically.”

And here I thought feminism was a movement to end sexism in all its manifestations, including sexist oppression, exploitation and stereotyping. Instead, Charlotte’s arguments do precisely that, seek to oppress women’s choices, exploit their bodies and appearances for her own cause (which, whatever it is, certainly isn’t feminism), and stereotype women who make choices different from hers (“stripper heels” – need I say more?)

It is frightening how “feminists” like Charlotte fail to see how their extreme arguments don’t, in a linear model, take us away from patriarchy, but rather follow a circular route, bringing us right back to where we started – people telling women what to do. We haven’t struggled against a puritanical paternalistic system all these years so that we can be ruled by a preachy, maternalistic one. One that feeds right into the very notions of patriarchy that feminism needs to combat – that women can be either Madonnas or whores, feminists or strippers, that the only liberation we can imagine from one is its extreme opposite, that women’s bodies and their sexuality are the vehicles through which battles are fought and worldviews imposed.

Kara Woo:

Today’s editorial, “A Feminist in High Heels is Like Dawkins in a Rosary“, is absurd and offensive on several levels. How long have feminists fought to be judged based on more than just what we wear? And how long have we challenged the stereotype that feminists are a monolithic band of braless women in flannel and jeans? Not that there’s anything wrong with flannel and jeans–but is it really that important that we as feminists enforce these stereotypes on each other? Is this the most pressing feminist issue of today?

The most concerning part of the article, however, is not the idea that instead of listening to what the patriarchy tells us to wear we should listen to what you tell us to wear. Rather, it is the deeply disturbing and offensive equation of wearing high heels to staying in an abusive relationship.
Vanessa Pelz-Sharpe (@sarcastathon):

When I think about the feminist things I want to argue with strangers about they are the huge things that ruin women’s lives: the pay gap, violence against women, the intersectional structural oppressions that marginalised people face, not the slight things like chivalry.

There is a sentiment amongst mainstream feminists that the ‘gender war’ has been won and that these things have been dealt with. They focus mainly on consumerist issues like gendered products, female representation in the media and what women wear.

This is not to say those things don’t form a part of feminist cultural criticism. Even the most radical feminist acknowledges that these constant microaggressions hold women back and need to be stopped. However where mainstream and outsider feminists differ is in the level of importance placed upon them.

For us the big issues are ones that are palpably holding us back from living our fullest lives. Who cares what kind of shoes you wear when you live with the constant threat of violence hanging over your head simply because you are a trans woman? What does it matter that Lego have produced gendered play sets when the police are raiding your home due to the fact that you are a migrant sex worker? Who can become enraged by Lady Gaga’s latest gaffe when you are living in a homeless shelter?

Those in power don’t want us to change the world because it would mean relinquishing the privileges they have and acknowledging their implicit involvement in the subjugation of others. Examining your own status and the benefits it gives you is a painful thing for those of us in more comfortable positions, but it is a necessary step in order to help others around us. By focusing on smaller issues, such as shoes and toys, we take up space that needs to be given to those who do not have media platforms.

When the gender war is almost won, I think there will be time to talk about how our clothing impacts the way people people perceive us, and break down those prejudices. However until that point I will let the women who wear high heels because it plays into the conventional idea of attractiveness, because they feel like they ‘should’ for work, or because they simply adore them, slide by. And I will continue to take that seat on the tube, because I want to be well rested and ready to keep fighting the good fight.

Image courtesy of Andrea Rinaldi

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Top Ten of 2013’s Most Unlikely Feminists

Top Ten of 2013’s Most Unlikely Feminists

Feminism is most definitely fashionable. So, we present to you, the Feminist Times reader, without comment, a list of some famous people who declared themselves feminist in 2013.

10. Tamara Mellon: “Am I a feminist? Absolutely”

As the designer behind all those Sex in the City Jimmy Choos comes out as a feminist, does this finally answer the first (and most annoying) question we get asked by every media org: ‘Can you be a feminist and still like shoes?”


Photo Clotee Pridgen Allochuku

9. Selena Gomez: “That’s not feminism. [Lorde is] not supporting other women”

In a Pop-Starlet Feminisn-off – Disney’s Selena was hurt when her fellow chart-mate Lourdes accused her of not being feminist enough.


8. Courtney Stodden: “I’m a true Feminist”

Famous for marrying a much older actor when she was only 16, this year we saw the 19 year old grow up and feel empowered in the Celebrity Big Brother House, oh and put a stock cube in a kettle.


7. Stephenie Meyer: “I think there are many feminists who would say that I am not a feminist.”

She may have written what many regard as an incredibly sexist and misogynistic series of books, but the Twilight author insists she loves women and that makes her a feminist.


Photo Gage Skidmore

6. Jesus: “Jesus thought women were people, too”

Jesus let a woman wash his feet, hung out with women and stuck up for women. In her book Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey argues that Jesus made her a feminist.


Photo rochelle hartman

5. Cosmo: “…deeply feminist”

Editor in Chief Joanna Coles asked Capital: “where are all the left-wing academics?” when it comes to fighting for women’s rights, and described Cosmo as “deeply feminist”.


4. Joan Collins: “I think I probably am”

Like all feminists, Joan Collins gets grumpy when she’s hungry. Nuff said.


3. Margaret Thatcher: “…ultimate feminist icon – whether she liked it or not”

Emma Barrett gave Thatcher the posthumous honor of the title ‘feminist icon’ in the Telegraph, regardless of the fact the Tory Prime Minister said, in her own life time:

“The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.”


Photo Gwydion M. Williams

2. Miley Cyrus: “I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world”

Miley Cyrus believes telling women to do whatever they want to do is feminist. She says she does everything she does because she wants to do it, and that’s as complicated as it gets.

1. David Cameron: “I am a feminist”

Almost Rans.

Nicole Scherzinger: “Instead of a feminist, I’m a feline-ist.”



Photo Radar – Bbspears

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SIATC logo

Feminist Events Listings: December 2013

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in December.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence | 25 November – 10 December

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute conference sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Every year from the 25th of November, UN’s International Day of the Elimination of Violence against Women until the 10th of December, Human Rights Day -thousands of organisations from across the globe organise events and campaigns to raise awareness about gender-based violence as a human rights issue at a local, national, regional and international level. Over 2,000 organizations in approximately 156 countries have participated in the 16 Days Campaign since 1991. This year’s theme is “Let’s challenge militarism and end violence against women”. There are lots of ways to get involved whether you want to go along to a local event or raise awareness within your own networks –Amnesty International have some great resources and activist toolkit available on their website. There are lots of events happening locally across the country.   Please see below a list of events for 16 Days – coming up in December. For a full Calendar of Events please visit Womensgrid






Leeds (Otley)

London (Kensington & Chelsea)






NOT FOR SALE: Fighting Sexism in Advertising and Toys at The Feminist Library || 2 December

Both the advertising and toy industries are powerful tools in the subjugation of women and shaping ideas of femininity. The former spreads the lies that women are inferior objects and commodities to be consumed, while the latter indoctrinates girls to accept roles of passivity and submission. What can be done to resist that? The Feminist Library is hosting an event with members of the French feminist collective CCP (Collectif Contre le Publisexisme – the Collective Against Sexism Through Advertising), which, since 2001, has fought against sexism in advertising and toys using a variety of tactics. The collective prioritises direct action (with sit-ins in department stores and sticker bombing poster ads, among others), and have produced two books of theory and research to back their actions. 6.30pm onwards.


TEDx Whitehall Women at BAFTA, London || 6 December

TEDx Whitehall Women is in its second year and this year explores the theme ‘Invented Here’ where speakers will be invited to explore how women and girls are reshaping the future. TEDx features a programme of talks from women who are innovating in business, social enterprise and government; and women who have reinvented themselves or their organisations. Participants will come away with ideas, inspiration and connections to help them in their personal and professional lives. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. This year speakers include Carla Buzasi, Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post UK, Stella Creasy MP, Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Walthamstow. Elizabeth Linder, Politics & Government Specialist, Facebook and Belinda Palmer, CEO, Lady Geek.


Feminist Review Annual Panel: Women in the Media at The Gender Institute, LSE || 10 December

The Gender Institute at London School of Economics co-hosts the Feminist Review annual panel discussion. This year’s panel will interregate current representations of feminism in the media and share suggestions about avenues of intervention. Speakers include Natalie Hanman, editor of Comment is Free at, Lola Okolosie a writer, teacher and prominent member of Black Feminists and Tracey Reynolds who is a reader in social and policy research at London South Bank University.


The Feminist Review has also announced its call for papers on ‘The Politics of Austerity’: “The financial and economic crises of the last four years, together with an ascendance of conservative politics, have had far-reaching material and discursive consequences in regards to deepening social and economic inequalities. As capitalism seeks to reinvent itself in order to survive a crisis of its own making, austerity politics exacerbate divides of class, gender, race, ethnicity and disability at local, regional and global levels. In this special themed issue, we invite contributions that will provide new feminist analyses of the origins, modalities and effects of this contemporary economic, political and social crisis.”

PDF DOC: Please read the full Call for Papers [PDF,22KB] for details on suggested submission topics.

DEADLINE: 15 December 2013.


Feminist Times Anti-Consumerist Christmas Service at Conway Hall || 13 December

Join us for feminist Christmas carols, an anti-consumerist Santa and guest speakers giving anti-capitalist ‘sermons’. Details available on our Facebook page.

Free to all Feminist Times members and Founder Members but RSVP is essential. Email to confirm your attendance. Tickets are available for non-members to purchase in advance from Eventbrite.

Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for December.

If you enjoyed this article and want to meet other feminists like, and unlike, yourself, join Feminist Times as a Member. Join us and support the building of an incredible feminist organisation and resources like this website.

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Review: Inspirational Women of North-East England

During my recent trip to Newcastle for the North East Feminist Gathering, I also visited the Inspirational Women of North-East England exhibition at the Hatton Gallery. Managed by Roweena Russell, the photography exhibition launched on 3 October and is a stunning example of how extraordinary women can, and should, be celebrated for their achievements. Standing in the exhibition room, I was struck by how unusual it was to see so many women featured, fully-clothed, many of them in their place of work, in one place.

The exhibition showcases 26 women in total, all with links to the north east, using a combination of original photography, by photographer Bryony Bainbridge, and archive images of some of the region’s more historical female figures. Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, historian Gertrude Bell and lighthouse keeper’s daughter Grace Darling appear alongside modern day pioneers, from businesswomen to arctic explorers, and academics to butchers. What is particularly impressive about the women selected is the diversity of ages, races and professions on display.

Simi Ali

Simi Ali, pictured above, specialises in the Immunobiology of organ transplantation for patients with life-threatening diseases. She was born in Northern India and moved to Manchester in 1990 for a Commonwealth Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Molecular Biology. She moved to Newcastle University in 1992 and was made a Professor of Immunobiology in 2011. “I am committed to help tackle the unequal representation of women in science and to improve career progression for female academics,” she says, in the caption next to her photo.


Bryony Balen was the youngest Briton to ski to the South Pole from the coast, at the age of just 21 – despite being told: “It’s too difficult for a girl.” Growing up in Derbyshire, Bryony completed her Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards and climbed Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe, while still at school. She began training for the 56-day South Pole expedition while a Geography undergraduate at Newcastle University.


Katherine Copeland is an Olympic gold-medalist rower, born in Stockton-on-Tees. She won her gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games for the lightweight women’s double scull with Sophie Hosking. Previously, she won gold meals at the Coupe de la Jeunesse (womens quad, 2007; women’s single, 2008), and took home gold and bronze medals from the Australian Youth Olympic festival in 2009. She won the World Rowing U23 Championships in Amsterdam in 2011, and took silver in her first senior event at the World Rowing Cup in Munich, 2012.


Charlotte Harbottle is an award-winning butcher and owner of Charlotte’s Butchery in Gosworth, Newcastle. She began training as a butcher after graduating from York St John University and her blog led to work for O’Shea’s Irish butcher in Knightsbridge. Charlotte won the meat category of The Young British Foodies competition with her Black Pudding, after which she filmed with Jamie Oliver and judged a national sausage competition. She later worked at Lidgate’s in Holland Park, before a government loan enabled her to open Charlotte’s Butchery in January 2013. She is now establishing a guild for female butchers, to support other women in the industry.

Ummee Imam

Ummee Imam is the Executive Director of the Angelou Centre in Newcastle – a centre offering support for women and children facing violence and abuse, as well as a Well Women service, arts programmes and carers’ groups. Born to a politically active Muslim family in Lucknow, India, Ummee defines as a Muslim feminist and a black feminist. After studying at a Catholic school and later gaining a degree in Psychology and an MA in Medieval and Modern Indian History, Ummee lectured for 12 years at Durham University, researching the impact of domestic abuse among South Asian women and children.

Mary Midgley

Mary Midgley has been described as “the most frightening philosopher of the century” and is one of the country’s leading moral philosophers. She worked as a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University and is best known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights. Mary has written 16 books and written extensively about what philosophers can learn from nature. Now aged 94, she continues to write, providing commentary for the BBC and national press.

Chi Onwurah

Chi Onwurah is the Labour MP for Newcastle Central. Born in Wallsend in 1965, Chi studied for a degree in Electrical Engineering at Imperial College, London, and achieved an MBA at Manchester Business School while working for a number of computer software and product management businesses, before becoming Head of Telecoms Technology at OFCOM. She was elected as an MP at the 2010 election and was appointed as shadow minister for Business, Education and Skills.


Penny Remfry was born in Birmingham but moved to the North East in 1973 and was involved in establishing a women’s refuge in North Tyneside and Tyneside Rape Crisis. She campaigned for the Working Women’s Charter – a trade union campaign for equal pay, equal opportunities, maternity leave, and childcare – and worked on producing the Scarlet Women newsletter in North Shields. In the caption next to her photograph, Penny says: “Translate anger into action, preferably with others. Remember: the personal is political. Feminism is deeply revolutionary.”

Alongside the eight women we have highlighted, the exhibition celebrates the achievements of businesswomen Lucy Armstrong, chief executive of The Alchemists, Margaret Emmonds, owner of At Sisters hair salon in Newcastle, and Olivia Grant; community campaigners Carole Bell and Jackie Haq; gynaecologist and fertility researcher Alison Murdoch; public health consultant Caron Walker; Cecilia Eggleston, the lesbian Pastor of MCC Newcastle; and Kathryn Tickell, a composer, performer and recording artist who plays the Northumbrian pipes.

There are also the famous names that you might expect: Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who died 100 years ago after running into the path of the King’s horse at Epsom Derby; Grace Darling, daughter of a Northumbrian lighthouse keeper and famous heroine of the shipwrecked Forfarshire in 1838; Marjorie ‘Mo’ Mowlam, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and MP for Redcar; and novelist Catherine Cookson, from South Shields.

Equally inspiring is the archive photograph of Tynemouth-born Susan Mary Auld, the first woman to be awarded a BSc in Naval Architecture, in 1936, who helped design and construct WW2 warships. After the war she continued to work on commercial and cargo shipbuilding before becoming the Wallsend correspondent for The Shipyard magazine. An archive photograph of Gertrude Bell – the first woman to gain a First in Modern History at Oxford and founder of the Iraqi Archaeological Museum in Baghdad – also features, as well as Maud Burnett, an “indomitable committee woman” and the first woman to serve two terms as mayor of Tynemouth in the early 20th century.

The final two historical women included in the exhibition are Josephine Butler, who promoted higher educated for women and campaigned for the Married Women’s Property Act (1882), and Ellen Wilkinson, Middlesbrough’s first woman MP (1924-31) and later the MP of Jarrow (1935-47). Known as ‘Red Ellen’, she was Minister of Education and implemented ‘secondary education for all’.

I came away from the exhibition feeling moved and inspired, but also thoroughly frustrated by how rare it is to experience something like Inspirational Women of North-East England, where women are celebrated for their brains, their actions and their achievements. Roweena, Bryony and the IWNE team have created something really beautiful which should, but isn’t, be commonplace in every town, museum and gallery. If you’re in the North East, I’d urge you to go and check it out.

Inspirational Women of North-East England is on at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, until 21 December 2013.

All photographs courtesy of Bryony Bainbridge.

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Infographic: The Guardian’s Best Books of 2013

Click below for full size graphic:


With thanks to Joni Seager and Lucia Ricci of ThinkAgainGraphics

Data from The Guardian

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TV (and Oprah) changed my life

Much praise has gone to the handling of the horrifying case of the three Lambeth slaves by Freedom Charity, the organisation the alleged victims reached out to, and the Police. But little praise has been directed towards the powerful catalyst at the heart of their consciousness raising, the spark that made the women feel they would no longer be held captive, that gave them the information to seek help – and that was TV.

ITV’s ‘Forced to Marry’ went out at 10.35pm on Wednesday October 9th, part of the same Exposure series that also outed Savile. This episode followed undercover reporters as they stung Imams in mosques around the UK who were prepared to marry 14 year old girls. It is reportedly this program that the three women watched and that motivated them to escape their situation.

You often hear people on This Morning’s couch say “well, if this helps just one person”, but it blows my mind when I am reminded of the powerful, messiah-like change TV has the capability of catalysing. Live Aid is a perfect example of this; Russell Brand on Newsnight, well, didn’t quite change the world but hey.

We know the change the Savile programme instigated for the hundreds of victims who suddenly felt able to come forward, bolstered by TV legitimising their experience. What the establishment, thousands of individuals and the BBC had kept hidden for years, one programme split open in under an hour.

Looking back at my own life I can see how television has had a powerful revelatory effect. Whether in my home life or as part of my education, it’s given me knowledge and tools that I didn’t get on the streets of Worthing.

In the 80s That’s Life taught me that violence and sexual abuse were bad and that children could call a new number – Childline. For the first time children were told they had rights through the television, and from that moment every mum and dad had to be more conscious of their parenting.

The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince, Simpsons and Roseanne taught me about race, sexism, body politics, sexuality, feminism, gender, politics and class. When Marge served up the Blinky to Mr Burns I learnt how one mum can make a big stand against the most corrupt and powerful. After watching Sandra Bernhard coming out in Roseanne I went to school feeling confident that being gay or lesbian was totally cool and fine by me, even though the education system I was in hadn’t quite cottoned on to that.

The biggest impact by far though was by Oprah. I’m not even sure how I watched her because we didn’t have ‘satellite’ – it was too expensive. Regardless, Oprah remains this dreamlike yoda figure from my childhood, omnipresent, but I never met her.

Oprah’s shows taught me about racism – she interviewed skinheads and neo nazis live on her show, was subjected to abuse, and all the while kept dignified as it got personal.

Oprah’s shows taught me about weight, eating, emotions and female body image – she’s been in full view, fat, thin and embarrassed in public by failing repeatedly.

Oprah taught me about sexual abuse by telling the world she had suffered. Then there’s a million other stories and ideas she’s helped spread in the world; imagine if she had been a monster. Imagine if Jeremy Kyle was that successful?

TV can be a much maligned medium, and no wonder with the likes of Geordie Shore, Ibiza A&E, Celebrity Undertaker clogging up so much time; sometimes it can seem like the whole schedule is taken up with guilty pleasures. (TV commissioners take note: I made up Celebrity Undertaker and have the entire pitch waiting for you if you want it.)

People are jumping ship. They don’t need to glue themselves to the Gogglebox for an evening when they can watch what they choose on Netflix or LoveFilm. But the wonderful thing about old fashioned telly was you were kinda stuck watching whatever Aunty or the others put on for you, and it’s that unwitting viewing that has the power to change. The wealth of ‘choice’ actually may be restricting our growth because don’t we just pick the same thing again and again.

Things I caught by accident the first time around – Louis Theroux, The Thick of It, Father Ted – I’ve been watching again and again. I’ve stopped discovering and am now merely consuming and regurgitating the same fodder because I trust it.

In a wonderful quote from Dr George Gerbner in a 1982 issue of Presbyterian Survey he notes that: “most people watch TV by the clock, not the program. They are more faithful to it than to church.”

Much like with the church, we don’t trust telly anymore. I don’t think we are too sure about how seriously the people behind it are taking the role of mass influencer. If TV seemed more aware of its power to raise consciousness, and this came through in the programming, then maybe people would give themselves over for a whole evening like they used to, and learn something they weren’t looking for.

Image courtesy of Alan Light

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Comeback: Teaching Men To Be Feminist – Anne Dickson

Teachingmentobefeminist-QuartetI write in response to Sarah’s review of my latest bookTeaching Men to be Feminist.

The cover itself is provocative and intended to be ironic: a conscious decision to inject some levity into the often very serious content. Some readers will understand the irony and smile, some won’t.

My overall intention was to broaden the debate: convinced and committed feminists on one side and the vast majority of men (and women) who believe feminism no longer has any relevance on the other. I wanted to go beyond the statistics relating to equal numbers to demonstrate just how deeply this lack of equality – psychologically, socially, culturally – has affected all of us.

I also, as the reviewer stated, wanted to inform men why they should support feminism, to sow a few seeds of awareness rather than provide an action manifesto. It was never intended as a self-help book: sexism is too deeply ingrained to provide a practical how-to list that would match individual circumstances.

Encouraging a stance of ‘pity for womankind’ has never been my ethos: this is why I specifically included a long list of clear examples of how women themselves, knowingly and unknowingly, collude with sexist beliefs. I made it very clear that women must reclaim emotional independence and authentic power themselves, which often entails facing a great deal of personal fear.

I never had any intention of preaching to the ideologically committed feminist. And yes, the reviewer is right that there have been and continue to be many significant protests and invaluable work by women in all walks of life – writers, grass roots activists, hands on work with issues of domestic violence, circumcision, labour exploitation and so on. I acknowledged this and my gratitude to these women.

My point was not to dismiss other women’s efforts – past or present – but to underscore the reality that, despite all these efforts, little changes in institutional and societal attitudes because they always seem to be framed in a ‘minority’ context. I genuinely do believe that, until men come on board, this will not change.

Obviously the topic of the book is controversial so I am not surprised that it should draw criticism, but what took me aback is the vindictiveness of the tone. I wonder why Sarah couldn’t acknowledge that, despite our areas of disagreement, we are on the same side, fighting for the same cause.

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Hollywood still likes its women naked and silent

Well we always knew it, right? A whole one third of female characters, and the actors that play them, are shown partially naked on screen and only a third of speaking characters at the movies will be female. Women it seems are, like children, to be seen and not heard, and yet we make up 50% of the cinema ticket buying public.

New York Film Academy’s audit revelations are stark but not surprising. For an alternative, go see the London Feminist Film Festival, on now.

How many of the five most influential women in film have you heard of?

New York Film Academy takes a look at gender inequality in film

Courtesy of: New York Film Academy

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Feminist Teens: Where are the teen feminist mags?

You’d have to have been walking around blindfolded for the past two years to not see the welcome shift taking place in the content of women’s magazines.

The Vagenda has dissected UK magazines Grazia and Cosmopolitan with sharp wit every month. Elle and others have begun to evolve their content and tone. And Feminist Times has, of course, launched online.

But what is completely bizarre about this shift is how it has left the teen magazine uncriticised and unscathed.

Just glancing at this month’s newsstand gives a taste of what is on offer. Cover lines included: “Clothes that make your body look amazing!”, “Boyband Bantz”, “OMG! Why Justin Loves You”. Shout magazine was giving away nail varnish and emery boards. Bliss even had a pair of false eyelashes tacked to the front as a gift.

These are the magazines that I turned away from as a teen, quickly finding the editorial voice patronising, the content dull and repetitive. They haven’t changed much since. And, worryingly, there still isn’t an alternative on the shelves.

What is obvious is the way these magazines are preparing a young reader for the next logical step: the kind of women’s editorial that we are trying to move away from. Compare them to these women’s magazines and you’ll see that the cover lines and stories are worryingly similar. Even the layout and design mimics their adult women’s counterparts. These are the stepping stones, priming the girls for their transition to women’s mags.

It’s important and logical that the debate surrounding magazines begins to assess these too. Any change in women’s material should be mirrored in material for the younger generation. There is a brilliant opportunity being missed to target future women and open up the possibility for a different type of media.

It is equally important for the magazine industry that this is addressed. It is no surprise that over recent years, with the rise of the internet, the teen mag sector has suffered terribly and a number of titles have folded completely. Of course, much of this is down to being able to access material online. But it is entirely possible that an element of this is the result of a failure to inspire.

It might seem like an ideological proposition to some that current mags could be adapted or new titles created. But it really isn’t. In the States, Tavi Gevinson did it with Rookie.

Within one year of being an online magazine, Rookie got a worldwide online following as a result of its brilliant, witty content for teen girls. Looking through the Yearbook Two, a collection of the online articles released last month, it is evident to see what Rookie is doing right.

The female celebrities interviewed are independent, strong, kind figures such as Lena Denham, Judy Blume and Molly Ringwald. Role models who do something worthy of their star status. The ‘live through this’ section features women of all ages writing to their teen counterparts about problems growing up, issues they faced and how to tackle them. Each topic – anorexia, parents divorcing, the loss of virginity – is approached with warmth, sensitivity and a feminist attitude.

What the UK needs is something like this. Something that isn’t a women’s mag repackaged for a teenage girl. Something that prepares girls for real problems they may face rather than creating ones for them, putting the focus on body image and appearance. Something that will inspire and educate.

Creating an alternative magazine for the news shelves could be the solution to both the struggle of teen mags and the lack of brilliant material for teens. The mammoth task of rejuvenating women’s media needs to be done properly.

Now is the time to open up the debate and criticize what is on offer for the younger generation. Regardless of the consensus, what is clear is that the UK teen mag cannot survive in its current state.

Hannah Ewens is a freelance journalist, currently studying for an MA in Magazine Journalism at City University London. Find out more: @hannahrosewens

Image courtesy of Elise

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#ManWeek: Review – Teaching Men To Be Feminist

Teachingmentobefeminist-QuartetYou shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I know, but I have to confess I struggled when this one arrived at the Feminist Times office. Teaching Men To Be Feminist is the latest book from Anne Dickson, celebrated author of assertiveness manual A Woman in Your Own Right. The cover is clearly designed to be provocative – the title is superimposed over the bare breasts of a faceless slim, white woman, who is pictured from the waist up to the neck – but I was baffled about the feminist implications.

Reading the blurb – “I have come to regard sexism as the most widespread and effective process of brainwashing in the history of mankind” – I first wondered whether maybe the image really was as downright patronising as it appears. Is the author really suggesting men are so brainwashed by sexism that the mere presence of a naked woman will entice them to buy her book and, in the process, learn something about the feminist movement? Surely, I thought, I must be missing something here. “Is it meant to be ironic or something?” my partner asked when I showed him; “must be,” I said, “but it would put me off buying it for anyone in the first place.”

Having read the book, I’m not sure I’m much clearer; the content itself feels just as confused and self-contradictory. The blurb explains that “Teaching Men to be Feminist is for any man who feels excluded by feminism; who finds himself believing there’s some truth in the frequently heard rationalisation that a female rape victim was ‘asking for it’ even though he may not acknowledge this out loud. This book is for men who love their partners and daughters and don’t want to see them hurt or unfairly disadvantaged but can’t find a way to speak out. It is for anyone who believes feminism is just an outdated ‘woman’s thing’ and above all it is a rallying cry for men and women who still believe in a feminism that can lead to genuine and lasting equality.” So far, so confusing.

One thing is clear: this book is for heterosexual men but, beyond that, I’m not quite sure who its audience is. Is it for men with an interest in learning more about feminism, as the title suggests? Or is it for men who think feminism is outdated and that rape victims are ‘asking for it’? From the ‘back-to-basics’ approach, I suspect it’s intended more for the latter; Dickson uses the first eight chapters (56 pages) to prove that we live under a patriarchal system, that sexism exists, and that it has a negative impact on women’s self-esteem. Clearly I am not the intended audience and much of Dickson’s explanation would, I’m sure, be useful to a man or woman who was new to feminism, but after 56 pages of “dominant and muted cultures” and “the female psyche” I found myself wanting to scream: “Yes, we get it!”

At only 99 pages in total, and with an RRP of £8, Teaching Men to be Feminist feels like a lot of money for not very much. It’s quick, easy reading and, as an informative pamphlet, it does contain some useful introductions to feminist concepts like patriarchy, objectification, and the radical idea that rape is a terrible crime and never the victim’s fault. Much emphasis is placed on the psychological effects of sexism on women (Dickson seems to invite the reader to relate this to their mother, their wife, their daughter) and in particular the idea that being treated like sexual objects – and this is where the cover comes in, I suppose – leads to poor body image and internalised sexism. While I don’t object to the idea of men putting themselves in their wives’/daughters’/mothers’ shoes to raise their awareness of the insidious impact of sexism, there were a number of times when I felt I was being led towards a position of pity for womankind.

Dickson here seems to slip into her assertiveness-training mode; there are parts of the book that felt like a self-help guide for women on the ways in which we don’t help ourselves. While much of what she says rings true for some of the women I know, she relies heavily on generalisations (“women feel”, “the majority of women”, “most women think”) based not on research or statistics, hardly any of which are mentioned, but on her anecdotal evidence from the “thousands of women I’ve worked with”. Regardless of how representive her contacts are, some of what Dickson says about women is just downright wrong. In her chapter on ambivalence, which follows her chapter on rape, Dickson writes: “It’s unlikely that women themselves will ever form a protest march against the incidence of rape.” What, like Reclaim The Night? Slutwalk? V Day?

She continues: “If those who had been raped courageously ‘came out’ and formed such a march, it would be surprising to see the sheer numbers. It might show once and for all that all women – not just the young tarty ones who ‘ask for it’ – are at risk of being raped.” In her quest to teach men about feminism, it might have been nice if Dickson had researched and flagged up the feminist activists already working hard to do exactly what she describes women as being “unlikely” to ever do. The book’s greatest weakness, in terms of content, is that it sticks firmly to the domain of the theoretical, ignoring the resurgent feminist movement, and closing with speculation about a utopic world in which equality has been achieved and men are as publically opposed to sexism as they are to racism. What the book teaches men is why they should support feminism, but the concrete action points are more thin on the ground.

Initially I felt that the book’s biggest downfall was the fact I’ve spent more time musing on, discussing and debating the front cover than the content. That is a real weakness but, in actual fact, the cover tells you as much as you need to know. I posted a photo of it on Facebook to garner reactions from an interesting cross-section of friends and relatives, both male and female; the overwhelming response was “patronising” and “off-putting” – my dad asked if the follow-up would be called Teaching Women the Offside Rule. The content felt much the same, which is disappointing for a book that claims such admirable intentions. For men who are genuinely interested in learning to be feminist, the only lesson you need is this: listen to women’s experiences, support women, and stand up to sexist men. I’ve just saved you £8; you’re welcome.

Teaching Men To Be Feminist by Anne Dickson is published on 28 November by Quartet Books.

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#ManWeek: The Bad Boy of Feminism on how to be a good male feminist

I have a confession to make about the birth of my son three months ago. My wife and I had decided that we would not find out the sex of the baby but I had been hoping for a girl because we already have a three year old boy and it’s always nice to have the full set. Especially when you are a proud male feminist, as I am. When the beautiful little boy was delivered and I saw his gender, I was surprised to discover that I felt a huge sense of relief surge through me. I realised that I was, in fact, enormously glad that I was not going to have a girl after all.

Let me be clear. This was not because of the old cliché that with two boys you only have two dicks to worry about but with girls you have every dick to worry about. No, I was relieved because I would not want to bring a woman into a world where she would be oppressed, marginalised and discriminated against from the moment she was born.

Given a pink robe moments after birth, told she would be a certain way as a teenager, knowing that she would be destined to earn less than men, be ogled by men and almost certainly at some point in her life be abused mentally or physically in everyday life by misogynists who roam undetected and unchecked by the patriarchal society we live in.

The lack of concern about women’s issues in society is just staggering. Women make up half the world and every single woman suffers persecution in one way or another every day but it is not considered a ‘fashionable’ cause to support. Why? It’s half the world! Whether it be genital mutilation, smaller salaries or sexual abuse on the tube, every woman is affected but so many otherwise intelligent but grossly misguided people on the street and in the public eye claim feminism is no longer necessary.

Put simply, how fucking dare they.

So what can I do as a male feminist do to help? Well for starters, I can make my two boys grow up to be good feminists. Treat women with the respect they deserve but also encourage others to fight for it. And stand up and speak when they see something they know to be wrong.

And to ensure this, I need to lead by example. And I do try to live my life as a good feminist. I would like to think I treat all women with respect and as equals (or superiors – which they generally are) but while also being a gentleman. The two are not mutually exclusive. Do I always hold doors open for women, let them take my seat on the tube and insist on paying for their drinks? Yes I do but that’s being gentlemanly. You can be a gentleman and a feminist. The two are not mutually exclusive.

But I am not perfect. I have done and do things I am hugely ashamed of that I hope my sons never do. Have I been known to ogle women? Yes I have. Granted, I have never been a brute hanging out of a white van shouting obscenities at a woman presumably on the misguided belief that she is going to turn around and offer herself sexually to these abusive oafs. But I have been known to turn my head to get a better look at a woman as she walks past me. And it’s wrong. Shockingly so. She didn’t dress up nicely that morning to have my disgusting face turning to ogle her and undress her with my eyes. But sometimes I can’t help myself and it’s wrong. I truly believe this to be a violation of all women that while not as affecting as rape, it is in the same ballpark. My natural instinct is to ogle. I wish it wasn’t so I fight it. And I’ve got better lately. It is possible for men to curb this instinct just as it is possible for them not to use pornography. Every time they do so it is a choice to exploit and demean all women. Which is why I have stopped. For now. It’s an every day struggle.

Men (and some women) argue it’s a natural instinct but so is rage but that does not make violence towards women acceptable. It may not be easy but you just need to recondition yourself. For example I have had a small piece of glass embedded in my foot for the past few weeks. I broke a glass and stepped in it. My natural instinct is to walk as I always have done. But I can’t because the glass there in painful so I have learned to walk on the side of my foot to avoid the painful area. And I remember that every time a woman catches my eye. I can avoid turning my head and I must. Because every time I do I am violating her.

And anyway, where does this desire come from. Is it from within? Are men born with it as many claim? Or is it society conditioning us with sexual images and making us believe all women are there to be ogled? I am not smart enough to answer these questions but I suspect it is a bit of both.

But stopping ogling and using pornography is only the beginning. The civil rights movement didn’t succeed because people decided to just ignore racism. No, we have to speak up. The most important thing for male feminists to do is to say when they disapprove of something. It is an unfortunate fact that thirty years ago at a dinner table if someone made a racist comment we may have ignored it if we disapproved. Twenty years ago homophobic comments would go uncorrected. But thankfully now, on the whole, right-minded people will now object when they hear such utterances. What men can do is start doing the same for misogyny. When a friend or colleague is boasting of a sexual conquest and describing the women in misogynistic terms, we need to speak up. Not laugh, or stay silent. But say: ‘This is not ok. I find that offensive.’ Just as we would if we hear someone making a racist or homophobic comment.

That’s the way forward. Make those who speak of women in derogatory ways as outcasted as those who express racist or homophobic views.

It is time to speak up and repeat after me. This is not ok. This is not ok. This is not ok.

And if my sons can do this, then hopefully when they have children in thirty years or so, things will have changed enough that they can rejoice the birth of their daughters into a world where they will be treated with the decency they deserve.

James Mullinger will be performing his stand up show about his life as a male feminist The Bad Boy Of Feminism as part of the Bath Literary Festival 8th March 2014 Follow @jamesmullinger

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Meets and Tweets: 3D feminism, online and off

Last Wednesday we published Charlotte Raven’s weekly editorial, “Meets rather than tweets” – an adaptation of the speech she made at our launch party for Feminist Times members the previous Saturday night.

After publishing the article, we had a conversation in the Feminist Times office and I explained why I felt the focus should be on “meets and tweets”, rather than a choice of one or the other. Our editorial meetings have a tendency to feel like consciousness-raising groups and, at the end of our discussion, Charlotte asked me to write a response explaining my perspective.

I agree with much of what Charlotte writes about 3D feminism; about the pleasure of meeting so many members, and about the inspiration and ideas that were flying around at the party – I personally wanted to commission everyone on the spot, and several times throughout the evening, the editorial team excitedly fed back to each other the various ideas from a conversation we’d just had.

But the Feminist Times team – like any group of feminists – differs widely on our views and priorities, and where Charlotte and I differ on 3D feminism is over the significance of the internet. In her editorial she calls for a 3D feminism, where we “meet rather than tweet”. Ironically, I tweeted this phrase from the Feminist Times account during the party and it was one of our most retweeted messages of the night.

She writes: “I felt the same about digital feminism as I did about Comment is Free. It’ll never work – and it hasn’t really. It has changed a lot of small things like bank notes, but can’t change consciousness, the voice inside your head asking ‘am I pretty or ugly?’”

Charlotte grew up surrounded by 3D feminist activity, but as a digital feminist I have experienced firsthand the consciousness-raising power of forums like Twitter. For me, being online provided a gateway to feminism, and to challenging the voice inside my head, long before I knew any feminists in “real life.”

For many women of my generation, digital feminism has been incredibly powerful. First Tumblr, and later Twitter, demonstrated for the first time in my life that there were other women who felt like me, and gave me a platform to write about my own feelings and experiences. I owe a huge amount of my feminist education to the blogs I’ve followed and the women I’ve met online over the last five years.

The Everyday Sexism Project is nothing if not consciousness-raising – for men, as well as women – and while it doesn’t provide a solution, it does challenge our ideas about what is acceptable. Campaigns like No More Page 3, The Women’s Room and the banknote campaign may not yet have brought about earth-shattering change, but they were all started online by ‘ordinary’ women without media experience and they all used the tools of the digital age to build momentum and force the mainstream media to pay attention.

Their campaigns simply could not have hoped for such a broad reach without the power of social media – just as the tools of the digital age have enabled Feminist Times, in a matter of months, to open up a conversation with the thousands of Twitter followers, Facebook “likers”, and supporters on our email mailing list.

Digital feminism is a haven for feminists who feel isolated offline, as I did for a long time, whether because they’re geographically remote or simply struggle to participate in offline activism. Of course, online feminism is limited: there’s the abuse and the arguing for a start, which, while not exclusive to the internet, can be particularly vicious online. It also excludes those without internet access, including many of our older feminist sisters, and a supportive tweet will never quite match up to a real-life hug. For all the sisterhood and solidarity that can be found online, I’ve also felt very isolated without an offline support group, which is probably why so many “digital feminists” don’t keep their activism exclusively online.

Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism, has used the messages posted on her site to work with police, schools, universities and trade unions on challenging sexual harassment. Lucy-Anne Holmes and the No More Page 3 campaigners have taken their protest to the gates of News International, now News UK, and Caroline Criado-Perez used online crowd-funding to raise funds for an offline legal challenge against the Bank of England.

In February this year I started a feminist discussion group with friend and fellow feminist journalist Rachel Hills, with the goal of taking online discussions offline.  I’ve shamefully neglected it for a few months, since Feminist Times took over a large chunk of my life, but at the time it bridged an important gap between my online and offline feminism. You can say a lot more when you’re not restricted by a 140-character limit, but we also recognized that online feminism is increasingly setting the discussions – our first meeting even focused on the topic of “Twitter feminism”, trolling and in-fighting.

When it comes to digital feminism, Twitter in particular is something that’s impossible to understand the true power of without really using it; none of my non-Twitter-using friends see the point. In a similar way, I used to be skeptical about women-only spaces, believing (as I still do) that men have a role in challenging patriarchal structures too, providing they do so on our terms. Despite this, I’ve been a convert of women-only spaces ever since my first experience of one – in fact, the power of women-only organizing is another of the things Charlotte and I agree on – but that firsthand experience was vital to my understanding.

Just as I believe a truly three-dimensional feminism must combine mixed and women-only spaces, I also believe a truly three-dimensional feminism is stronger with the combined power of online and offline voices and forums. A feminism that aims to build strong offline connections between groups of interesting, inspiring women is fantastic, and I can’t wait to start rolling out Feminist Times’ local groups and events. But digital feminism has shown me how much more diverse and exciting feminism can be when you broaden your reach and take your message online. I’ve had ‘tweet-ups’ with women I would never have met without the feminist Twittersphere, so I’m a firm believer in the value of a 3D feminism that both meets and tweets.

If you enjoyed this article and want to meet other feminists like, and unlike, yourself, join Feminist Times as a Member. Join us and support the building of an incredible feminist organisation and resources like this website.

Image courtesy of Phil Campbell

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For once let’s really talk about slut-shaming

Encountering the term “slut-shaming” was a lightbulb moment. At last, a word I could use to express my unease when fellow feminists fretted over the “sexualisation” of young girls or pointed the finger at so-called female chauvinist pigs. While conscious of the dynamics to which they referred, I’d long resented the implication that individual women could not own their choices. If we live in a culture that objectifies women – and I believe that we do – then defining girls and women as “sexualised” (as opposed to sexual) merely adds to it.

I still feel this to be the case and yet, of late, I’ve started to have some misgivings over the way in which “slut-shaming” and related terms such as “sex positive” are used. I know I’m not the only one. I’ve witnessed feminist friends being called slut-shamers and prudes for challenging the “wrong” cultural targets. I’ve routinely seen debates on Page Three and lad mags descend into sniping over which feminists hate female sexuality the most. I’ve even heard asexual feminists worry that they are being dismissed as “sex negative” by default.

All of this strikes me as unnecessary. It seems we are confusing a critique of the misogynist images that surround us with the very hatred that lies behind them. There’s a fine line to tread between attacking the damaging uniformity of what is presented to the world as “female sexuality” and attacking the woman who may, through choice, represent it. We still need to attempt to get it right. We cannot keep women’s sexual expression under patriarchal guardianship out of fear that to do otherwise might mean losing the few outlets that misogynist culture permits.

Re-reading Joan Smith’s Misogynies, first published in 1989, I was shocked to see how far a virulent hatred of women as sexual beings didn’t just fuel the murders committed by the Yorkshire Ripper, but also helped Peter Sutcliffe evade capture. Obsessed by the idea that Sutcliffe set out to kill because he hated “prostitutes”, one detective, Jim Hobson, went so far as to reassure him that “many people do”, adding: “But the Ripper is now killing innocent girls. […] You have made your point. Give yourself up before another innocent women dies.”

I look at this and I can’t help thinking that this is not so far from the divisive language and beliefs that surround us today. The Wikipedia entry on Sutcliffe still describes him as someone “obsessed with killing streetwalkers”, not women (as though the former constitute a lesser sub-category). Women are still seen as pure or tainted and we need to ask whether protecting misogynist principles of sexual representation – Page Three, lad mags, hyper-unreal porn – is helping or hindering. We need to ask whether the maintenance of public breeding grounds for misogyny increases or tempers prejudice against female sex workers. Above all, we need to ask why, if the mere visibility of female flesh should make female sexual choices more acceptable, this hasn’t ever happened?

I still value the term “slut-shaming” but I can’t help feeling that its worst form manifests itself when knives are sunk into female flesh for no other reason than that it is female flesh. Critiquing the culture in which such hate arises must never become taboo.


VJD Smith (Glosswitch) is a lifelong feminist and mother of two who edits language books when she’s not tied up with parenting, blogging and ranting.  Find out more @Glosswitch or

Image courtesy of: laverrue

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Feminist Fireworks

Feminist Fireworks lived up to what one might imagine when a monster banger called the “Supa Nova” fell over and almost set fire to Charlotte’s shed! But the shed was saved, the effigies were well and truly burned and we were all inspired by Charlotte’s moving speech on 3D feminism and why it was important we had all got together. One particular phrase was ironically tweeted and retweeted: “Start of a time when feminists meet and not tweet!”

During the evening our team met over 100 of our members, commissioned three pieces on the spot and set up meetings for this week to talk about other potential pieces. This is very much a members’ magazine and website and our first members’ event was 3D Feminism in action.

We can’t wait for the Xmas event and to roll out UK wide events later in 2014. Events are free for Feminist Times members. Join us and be at the next one.

Deborah, Deputy Editor Feminist Times

“Dear Charlotte, Sarah, Deborah and team, Thanks so much for the event on Saturday night.  It was great fun to be involved and it felt like a very friendly, inclusive set up.  One of the things I liked the most was getting to talk with so many interesting people – from ex Greenham Common activists from my Mum’s generation, to young campaigners, artists and all sorts of people.  It feels like you’ve caught the spark of something that is going to grow and sparkle, like a firework, while creating a scene where a wide range of people can have a voice.  Congratulations!” – Fran O’Leary via email

“A huge thank you to Charlotte And all the Feminist Times team for a truly wonderful launch party. I arrived knowing no one and left with a whole new set of friends and comrades. It was nourishment for my soul to spend an evening with such an interesting and diverse group of women (mostly) and men. Thank you, thank you. Perhaps I could convince the FT team to travel to Dublin for another launch party? Congratulations on a brilliant and much needed publication” – Kieran Clifford on Facebook

“Thank you for such an explosive evening! Loved it x” – Car Lita on Facebook

“Had a fantastic time @Feminist_Times Fireworks on the weekend. A room full of what @NimkoAli calls “Fanny Forward” people. #Funtimes” – @dana_jade on Twitter

“Thanks to everyone at @Feminist_Times for a great party, and one of the most thrilling fireworks displays I have ever attended…” – @HannahWilkinso9 on Twitter

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Savile case ignites feminism in music

When I was 9-years-old I wrote to Jim’ll Fix It. My letter never got answered but it horrifies me thinking back that if I’d achieved my goal to be on that show I would have been in the lair of that man.

Almost 30 years later I think it is no coincidence that the outing of Savile as a sexual predator has come at the same time as a massive feminist renaissance, particularly within the music and entertainment industries. In fact, I think the Savile revelations have been an important cultural catalyst for a generation of women who just won’t stay silent anymore.

Like many people of my age who have cherished childhood memories of shows such as Jim’ll Fix It, It’s a Knockout, Rolf Harris’ Cartoon Time, etc. these sordid revelations shocked me to my very core. It makes us question society’s complicit behaviour, our inner child cries out in protest and as adults we feel guilt at such unchecked and accepted behaviour, which was passed off as “what the culture of celebrity was like in the 70’s/80s.”

Why was this behaviour accepted and ignored? Turned a blind eye to? Whichever way you want to look at it everyone was complicit and so the memory of Top Of The Pops is reduced to that of a sexual breeding ground for perverse males, with young girls being treated as no more than objects for the celebrity entourage. Another childhood memory wiped out and tainted.

Reports of sex abuse have soared since these revelations came to light and there have now been 15 people arrested for sex offences as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation. Would these crimes have gone unnoticed if the floodgates hadn’t been opened by the Jimmy Savile case?

In recent months I have witnessed women both in front and behind the scenes of the prehistoric beast that is the music industry speaking out about inequality and sexism. Women are beginning to speak out publicly about the injustice they have suffered throughout their lives and careers. I have never witnessed so many women speaking out in my 15 years in the music industry. Something is afoot, the plates are shifting. It occurred to me that surely this is no coincidence.

Sometimes it takes something so huge and terrible to jolt society from its sleeping state. Women are speaking out about the unchecked misogyny that happens ritually in their day-to-day lives. We have had enough.

The culture of celebrity is in the docks post Jimmy Savile but, perhaps ironically due to the strength of celebrity and the media, we need people to use that power to voice their experience of inequality and sexism.

We need to turn this overwhelming negative into a positive to use to our advantage, not only to prevent anything like this ever happening again, in any way shape or form, but also that we don’t accept any form of misogyny, abuse or victimisation of girls or women. We must speak out, now!

Claire Southwick is a Producer & Artist Manager and spokesperson for women in music with 15 years experience in the Music Industry. Claire is a regular panelist at music conferences around the globe. Follow Claire here @clairesouthwick

Photo: Bad Greeb Records

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Feminist Events Listings: November 2013

Verity Flecknell

Welcome to my feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy/get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in November.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup


Film Spotlight

London Feminist Film Festival || 24 November – 2 December

The London Feminist Film Festival was set up as a response to the underrepresentation of women in the film industry, as well as to the lack of films addressing feminist issues. In its second year, the festival will take place at Hackney Picturehouse over seven days and will screen 10 feature length films and 21 short films, from 18 different countries, including eight UK Premieres, eight European Premieres, and six World Premieres. Some of the films on show include; En la Casa, la Cama y la Calle about activism in Nicaragua, Still Fighting about abortion clinic escorts in the US, and Foot for Love about a South African football team’s campaign against lesbophobia. And UK-based films such as To Hear Her Voice about suffragette theatre. Each screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring feminist directors, activists, academics, and arts critics. Festival Director, Anna Read says: “We want to celebrate women creatives whilst ensuring that this feminist ethos also extends to the films we show. The festival is a celebration of feminist films past and present. Our aim is to inspire discussion about feminism and film, to support women directors, and to get feminist films seen by a wider audience. Following the success of last year’s festival, we hope to make the 2nd festival even bigger and better, with even more inspiring feminist films and discussion”.




Underwire Short-Film Festival || 19-23 November

Underwire, the UK’s only short film festival dedicated to showcasing the raw cinematic talents of women return for their 4th annual festival, running 19-23 November at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, London. Featuring an eclectic mix of genres, themes and aesthetic styles across 10 competition screenings. These ten craft awards aim to recognize outstanding female film practitioners working in the UK today. This year’s festival also includes 23 dynamic events, bringing industry icons and familiar faces to our audience.  Underwire Festival 2013 is focusing on feminist issues more so than ever before, bringing women in film and feminist discussion back to the heart of Hackney. With an exciting programme of industry events, this year’s festival questions what it means to be a woman, as a filmmaker and with our society. Teaming up with Little White Lies Underwire presents ‘Girls On Film’ a day of panel discussions focusing on the representation of women in film. The day splits into 4 events; ‘The Bechdel Test: The Ugly Truth?’ featuring guest speaker Muriel d’Ansembourg (BAFTA nominated Good Night); ‘Act Your Age: Is there Space on Screen for Older Women?’ with Kate Hardie (Shoot Me); ‘Honest Lies: The Representation of Prostitution in Cinema’ looking at mainstream films from “Breakfast at Tiffanys” to ‘Monster” and ‘Is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl dead?’ with Laurie Penny (The Independent, The New Statesman, The New Inquiry) and Catherine Balavage (Writer/Actor, Proses & Cons). Tickets are £7 per session or £20 for an all day pass.


Theatre Spotlight

This November we thought it was important to highlight some of the groundbreaking feminist theatre that is currently storming the stage in London.

Clean Break present; “Billy the Girl” at Soho Theatre | Until 24 November

Celebrated theatre company Clean Break return to Soho Theatre with Katie Hims’ ‘Billy the Girl’ which runs from 29 October to 24 November. Clean Break is a women’s theatre company using theatre for personal and political change and working with women whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system. On 12 November, a post-show panel conversation features past and present Clean Break commissioned writers discussing the Clean Break commission and its impact on their writing lives. On 13 November, post-show panelists from various disciplines discuss concepts of chaos and women in the criminal justice system.



Camden People’s Theatre present; “Calm Down Dear” | Until 10 November

The Camden People’s Theatre present a festival of feminist theatre “Calm Down Dear” a gathering of artists and companies presenting a three-week season of innovative theatre, performance, comedy, cabaret and discussion about feminism. Programme runs from 23rd October until Sunday 10th of November. CPT co-directors Jenny Paton and Brian Logan say: “we were struck earlier this year by the number of feminist-themed applications to our annual Sprint festival. That didn’t come out of nowhere: the boom in feminist thought and action – from No More Page 3 to Caitlin Moran, from Jane Austen on banknotes to Everyday Sexism on Twitter – has been one of the most heartening features of public life in the last couple of years. Our Calm Down, Dear festival celebrates and channels that. We’re really proud to be hosting some of the most exciting and urgent art to be found at the crest of this feminist new wave.”



Politics Spotlight

Why Gender Should be on Europe’s Agenda || 7 November

Organised by National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO)and taking place at the Amnesty International building in East London. This panel and discussion brings together academics, NGOs, political bodies and youth voices to explore how and why young women can and should get involved in the European agenda. Speakers include: Mary Honeyball MEP, Dr Roberta Guerrina, Rebecca Taylor MEP, Catherine Bearder MEP, Serap Altinisik – Member of EWL Free event.



Zero Tolerance: Eradication Female Genital Mutilation || 13 November

Organised by Public Policy Exchange, this day long conference includes speakers from the Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and the Metropolitan police.  It has been estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK each year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM. This timely symposium provides an invaluable opportunity to; Understand the current legal framework for eradicating female genital mutilation. Explore how to overcome sensitive cultural barriers and improve protection, support and the services available. Discuss ways in which to engage with schools and the wider public to raise awareness of FGM. Examine new strategies that encourage communities to challenge FGM and develop a stronger response at a local level.



Women in Politics: Yes We Can! Bradford || 15 November

An event that will discuss how women can get involved in politics, Parliament and campaigning. Find out how you can raise important issues and hear from three experts with unrivalled experience of campaigning on behalf of women inside and out of Parliament: Speakers include; The Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (Paralympian, Crossbench Member of the House of Lords), Ann Cryer (former MP for Keighley) The event runs from 10am to 12pm, taking place at City Training Services, 39-41 Chapel Street, Bradford BD1 5BY.


This event has been arranged by the Houses of Parliament’s Outreach Service. Further information on their work can be found at

Reclaim the Night: Leeds || 16th November

A group of women in Leeds are planning a Reclaim the Night March for Saturday 16th November 2013.  A Reclaim the Night March is direct action by women to reclaim the streets and assert our right to feel free from fear of rape and sexual violence. The march will take women on a route around the city centre to reclaim places where women feel vulnerable from attack; the last stage of the march will be open to all. There will be a rally, which will be open to all  supporters. Reclaim the Night Leeds will be setting off from Victoria Gardens (outside the Art Gallery) at 6.30pm and arriving at Leeds Met Student Union Bar for approx. 7.30pm for speakers and stalls.




Women’s History Conference, Manchester || 23rd November

The North West Labour History Society is celebrating 40 years of activity promoting labour history with a conference on women’s history on 23 November in Manchester. A day long conference with sessions on “Women, Politics and Music” and “Women as Political Activists” covering topics including trade unionism, socialism, Votes for Women, socialism and feminism. Also a panel discussion on Socialism and Feminism. The speakers will include Lindsey German, Claire Mooney, Alice Nutter, Louise Raw, Rae Street and Sonja Tiernan. The fee for the day will be £10 waged/£5 unwaged.



LaDIYfest Sheffield || 30th November

Sheffield’s grassroots feminist festival, LaDIYfest, returns for its third year with a whole day and night of practical activities, discussion workshops and live music raising money for local women’s charities.  Celebrating women in the arts, Ladyfest is a community based not-for profit movement that started in Olympia, Washington in 2000, Riot grrrl identifying bands like; Sleater-Kinney, The Gossip and Bratmobile all performed at the first ever Ladyfest. Since then Ladyfests have been organised by individuals and grassroots organisations all over the world.

During the day, festivalgoers will have the chance to participate in lively workshops and discussions run by local groups and visiting speakers. Workshops will be a mixture of serious and fun, teaching practical skills such as sound engineering, organising your own grassroots events, and t-shirt printing, alongside discussions on men and feminism, women and anti-fascism and the Lose the Lads Mags campaign. Workshops take place from 11am-5.30pm at the Quaker Meeting House, Sheffield. Saturday evening will see the city play host to an exciting line-up of bands including London based band; The Ethical Debating Society, Halo Halo, Weird Menace, and Not Right with DJ sets from local collective INVERT until late. LaDIYfest seeks out the best new women-led bands from the local scene.




26 November || Bristol Women’s Lit Fest presents: The glory of Pride and Prejudice @ Watershed, Bristol, BS1 5TX. The Bristol Women’s Literature Festival invites you to join us at Watershed on Tuesday 26 November for an evening of conversation, discussion and enthusiasm to find out. Chaired by Professor Helen Taylor, this panel discussion will explore Austen’s lasting appeal and the misconceptions that have dogged her public persona. Professor Taylor will be joined by Jean Burnett, author of Who Needs Mr Darcy, and Professor Jane Spencer. 6.15pm – Tickets £8.00 full (£6.50 concs)

BUY TICKETS:  online


Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog for full feminist event listings for November.

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GALLERY: Founder Members’ Restitution Ball

On Thursday 3 October we celebrated our launch with the Restitution Ball, an immersive experience to thank our Founder Members for their support, complete with aerobics for the men, penitent waiters and feminist performance art.

Read The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein’s speech The Complete History of Feminism created specially for the occasion.

Thanks to all who came along. Below is a gallery of our favourite photos from the night.

With thanks to Mother London, Miss High Leg Kick, Bobby Baker, The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, ClubMotherf*cker, Rebecca Strickson and all our amazing volunteers.

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It’s not Gloria de Piero’s boobs that are controversial. It’s her brains

Last Thursday Labour MP Gloria de Piero made the news. Not because of her policies but because of her boobs. It seems a national newspaper offered thousands of pounds to unearth topless pictures taken when she was 15. Days earlier, her appointment as shadow minister for women and equalities was announced. That’ll teach a working class woman to have notions above her station.

On the Tuesday, representatives from Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign, including actress Ramola Garai, had spoken at a sold out event in Parliament. They argued that having lads’ mags on sale in family spaces, such as Tesco, was contributing to a culture wherein the sexualisation of women and young girls, is considered normal.

Glamour models are ubiquitous. Women, like de Piero, who dare to make a bid for power using their brains rather than their bodies, however, are either invisible or pilloried by the press. The two stories are inextricably linked.

Initially, the press wasn’t that interested in the Lose the Lads’ Mags story. Then Dominic Smith, grandiloquent editor of Nuts, entered the fray. There’s nothing like a bit of aggro to prick the malestream media’s interest.

In an interview with Green MP Caroline Lucas, on Radio 5 Live, Smith seemed flummoxed by Lucas’ use of “big” words, like “culture” and “objectification”. I can see how such vocabulary, coming from a woman, can be discombobulating (gratuitous big word alert) to a man who surrounds himself with compliant teenagers whose brains are sadly often surplus to other anatomical requirements. Smith then used Lucas’ linguistic dexterity to accuse her, and the entire campaign, of being middle class, therefore irrelevant.

I’m a feminist, from a working class background, with a penchant for big words myself (I collected them as a child). I grew up on the “wrong” side of the Liffey and, whilst there were many things we couldn’t afford (hence collecting words as opposed to dolls), education wasn’t one of them. That was free.

It’s because of my education that I can intellectually deconstruct the propaganda peddled by Smith and other purveyors of porn. It’s not just patronising to imply that the only choice open to girls from working class backgrounds is to get their kit off for male titillation, it’s also cods wallop.

By refusing to engage with the intellectual discourse on the grounds that it’s “middle class”, lads’ mags’ apologists are copping out. When surveys produce data indicating that 63% of teenagers aspire to be glamour models as opposed to doctors, teachers or, God forbid (I use this term as an Irish Atheist), politicians like de Piero, alarm bells should be ringing.

Supporters of lads’ mags say they’re not pornographic (and Tetley isn’t tea) and that they’re no worse than women’s magazines. I loathe most women’s magazines. Many are guilty of multitudinous crimes against women, but they’re not porn. Lads’ mags offer free videos of women dressed like schoolgirls, stripping, they contain adverts that lead into hardcore porn and the back pages are awash with numbers for sex chat lines.

Also worth noting, women’s magazines tend to put other women on the front cover. If they serially featured teenage boys in thongs (or naked), leaving nothing to the imagination, with splayed legs and fondling his bits, there would be a public outcry. Sexualised images of women and girls are so pervasive now that we’ve become desensitised to them.

It’s reported that half of school girls are considering plastic surgery to make themselves thinner and prettier, 90% of eating disorders are amongst females, teenage gang rape is on the increase and 1 in 3 girls have reported unwelcome sexual touching at school. Camden School For Girls made similar points in a documentary, which persuaded their local Tesco to remove lads’ mags.

Portraying women as sex objects perpetuates gender inequalities. Objectification is dehumanising. That’s the point. It’s much easier to abuse (or discriminate against) a non-person reduced to mere body parts. Tits and ass usually. The sex industry, which includes lads’ rags, has a vested interest in normalising the objectification of women. To them, women and girls are just commodities. To be bought and sold – in your local Tesco.


Tess Finch-Lees is a journalist, ethical blogger and human rights campaigner. Find out more at:

Image courtesy of Gloria de Piero’s office.

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Why feel sorry for people on The X Factor?

Feminist Times is building a dedicated Children’s section for phase two of the website. At the moment Anna is writing to bring a child’s perspective to an adult audience, but this website is not aimed at children.

When I occasionally watch The X Factor at my friend’s house I always feel very sorry people who try so hard and persevere and then the judges can just say that was horrible.

I think people have forgotten to feel sorry for the contestants and just watch it for the pleasure of people being sent off by rich people. They forget that all these people try so hard and persevere and just get sent off.

If I had my way I would say contests witch include people leaving with nothing should be banned because as I said people try as hard as they can. Also I don’t know why they get so worked up about a record deal from Simon Cowell I know this could start someone’s career but they could get it a fairer way.

This could damage the participants because they entered and some people hated them. Thats why people should tell white lies and not take sides. This could also damage society because in real life people may forget to feel sorry for the less fortunate.

So to sum it up I don’t really like The X Factor.


Image courtesy of Rocor

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The complete history of feminism, according to the famous Lauren Barri Holstein

The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein is a feminist performance artist who recently performed at our Founder Members’ Restitution Ball. Below is her speech on the history of feminism. 

Ok so obviously the first thing that ever happened in the history of the world is that Eve, the ‘Spare Rib’, really wanted to do it with Adam, so she convinced him to eat the pregnant seedy pomegranate juicy vagina fruit, so that he’d realize that what he really wanted to eat was Eve’s luscious seedy, juicy vag. It worked! Good job, Eve. You get yours!

Then some amount of time later, after women were shunned for bleeding all over the place – I mean, really, how fucking disgusting – Jesus was all like, wait… even though my mom is a lying slut, whores, just like sick people, poor people, and Jews, can be good people too. Thanks Jesus! Being a sick, Jewish whore, I really appreciate it.

In 1901 something really cool happened. Walt Disney was born! In 1937 he made his first feature-length film, Snow White and the 7 Dwarves. This was super-feminist because (in high-pitched squeaky voice) she talked like this and she was nice to short people exiled to the woods and then she slept in a glass coffin like Tilda Swinton at MoMA and then some handsome rich guy shows up and breaks the glass and kisses her better but he didn’t realize that he actually stabbed her to death when he broke the coffin so she died. And then he made a bunch more movies with princesses like Beauty and the Beast which is totally the best one cuz Belle knows how to read and reading is cool. (I can read too.)

In 1928 Georges Bataille published Story of the Eye. In this book, men and women, girls and boys, fuck and kill and spit and piss and bleed and remove eyeballs in a way that completely fucks up the gender binary of active/passive and writes disgust, abjection, humiliation, and all sorts of scary things, into human sexuality. It’s fucking delicious. (Don’t I sound smart??)

Then in the 60s we arrive at Carolee Schneemann’s studio in NY where she’s pulling manifestos out of her vagina, rubbing raw fish on her genitals while dancing around with a bunch of other people, and fucking her boyfriend in front of the camera. For 2 years straight. This is really the birth of everything that matters in the world. Next door we’ve got Hannah Wilke posing for her own camera with her shirt off, making cunt-shaped sculptures, both large and small, sticking cunt-shaped chewing gum all over the place and all over everybody. Then next door to that we’ve got Andy Warhol showing us how boring sex is, how boring celebrities are, and how boring the tragic deaths of female celebrities are, all while casually eating a burger.

In the 1970s, Valie Export may or may not have pointed a machine gun at porno-cinema spectators wearing crotchless pants, asking the watchers to touch the real thing. Also, Angela Carter wrote some seriously awesome stuff. She’s so smart. In 1975, my mother Debra Holstein interned for attorney Sarah Weddington, two years after she and Linda Coffee won Roe vs. Wade, legalising abortion in the U. S. Go mommy! Too bad it’s been back and forth since then. But whatevs. Also, ‘Spare Rib’ was launched, apparently with the aim of “presenting alternatives to the traditional gender roles for women of virgin, wife or mother,” according to the ultimate source of feminist knowledge, Wikipedia. Unfortunately, 40 years later, I’m still trying to do just that, which makes me feel like a bit of a failure. But at least I’m Famous, and haven’t died tragically yet and have a really sexy C-U-N-T.

In the 80s, the history of the world would change forever. On January 22nd, 1985, the most important feminist to ever walk the earth was born. ME.

Also in the 80s, some other stuff happened. For example, Andrea Dworkin and Catherine McKinnon tried to get pornography banned in the US of A. Dworkin also wrote a couple books that said things like, 1) women are victims; 2) men are perpetrators; and 3) any form of penetration is violent against women. She said some other stuff too, but unfortunately nobody remembers that. So instead of leaving behind a legacy that prevented women from being violently objectified, they left behind them a burning trail of phallic-shaped objects. Since then, the word ‘feminism’ has been the most terrorizing, man-hating, angry, bitter, fat, old, wrinkled, bra-less, sex-less, word that the world has ever known. What a fucking shame.

In the 90s, I broke an 8 year old boy’s teeth with my Barbie lunchbox for teasing me everyday after school. He got stitches. I got in trouble. Judith Butler wrote two of the best books every written. Women decided it was ‘ok to be women again’, as long as they ‘made their own choices’ based on what Cosmo magazine told them were good ‘feminist’ choices. Like wearing power heels to the office, taking control in the bedroom, and becoming ‘empowered’ after being raped. Thanks Cosmo. Elle, Red- I know you’re here. Fortunately, Bobby Baker taught us How to Shop the right way, (no thanks to Cosmo, Elle, or Red). Also, Karen Finley and Ron Athey were both persecuted and shunned by the crackpot Jesse Helms for being disgusting human beings and showing their vaginas and anuses all over the place and yelling about it. They’re the coolest. Annie Sprinkle is also super cool for educating people about vaginas and good sex.

In the ‘new millenium’, everyone decided feminism wasn’t really necessary anymore, seeing that women weren’t being raped anymore; they were being paid something, even if not equally; they could have real jobs until they had babies and then had to quit because their company didn’t have a system that aided with childcare or allowed the fathers to stay home and be daddies; and were being represented in the media, not as boobilicious incentives to buy things, but as well-rounded sex objects who’ve chosen sex object as career. Go women! Also, Vaginal Davis moved to Berlin, which means Europe has had the opportunity to experience hers brilliance. Also, Marina Abramovic became a celebrity, which means some people have actually heard of feminism and/or performance art, despite other artists being jealous of the fact that she’s figured out how to make money as an artist and calling her a sellout.

Then in 2009 I moved to London. BOOM.

Where I met Hrafnhildur Benediktsdóttir, the most amazing woman/artist in the whole world.

Then I made a lot of art that has seriously changed the world. Seriously. I’m the best.

In 2010, I pissed on Laban Theatre’s stage.

In 2011, I pissed on the National Theatre’s stage.

In 2012, I pissed on Arnolfini Auditorium’s stage.

In 2013, I pissed on the Barbican’s stage.

In 2014… the world is my oyster’s oyster.

Image courtesy of Tim Fluck

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Reclaiming the F word book cover

Review: Reclaiming the F Word

Reclaiming The F Word was one of the first feminist books I ever read as a fledgling undergraduate feminist, so when co-author Catherine Redfern offered Feminist Times a review copy, I jumped at the chance.

Reading it the first time around, Reclaiming The F Word came as a huge surprise and relief – at age 20, I suddenly realised there were thousands of feminists across the country who felt the same way I did and were doing something about it.

The book draws on Redfern and Aune’s extensive research into the 21st century feminist movement, quoting articles, books, and most interestingly the responses of the more than a thousand feminists they surveyed, covering all the hot topics of contemporary feminist debate: liberated bodies, sexual freedom and choice, violence against women, equality at work and home, politics and religion, and popular culture.

The tone of the book is, in Redfern and Aune’s own words, “unapologetically positive”, providing a clear – if slightly rose-tinted – window into the best and most diverse of the feminist movement’s work and achievements between 2000 and 2009.

The authors are evangelical about offering newcomers an easy way in via the action points that conclude each chapter. For me, it served exactly that purpose – providing a stepping-stone for discovering feminism and activism for myself.

Having started my feminist journey with Reclaiming The F Word, I’ve seen a huge number of changes – good and bad – since the first edition was released back in 2009. Four years on, and we’ve seen a renaissance in feminism online, in the media, and in popular culture. We’ve seen austerity measures put in place that have disproportionately affected women, we’ve seen a number of attacks on abortion rights across the UK, and we’ve seen the far-reaching shockwaves of Operation Yewtree in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against Jimmy Savile and others.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg and, in their preface to the new edition, Redfern and Aune explore the changes of the last four years – and its impact on national and global activism – thoroughly but concisely. A whole new book could probably have been written to take in those changes, but Redfern and Aune’s new edition brings Reclaiming The F Word up to date and shows why feminism is just as, if not more, relevant today than it was in 2009.

Reclaiming The F Word is a must-read for tentative new feminists, and an encouraging breath of fresh air for jaded older ones. It’s an energising call to arms, and a reminder that feminism is ripe for reclaiming.

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Trinidad carnival image

Twerking? Dat is jus’ winin’

I must confess having to look up this “new” dance craze now universally known as Twerking. Imagine my surprise to find this American choreographer on YouTube explaining exactly what to do when I thought to myself “but at home dat is jus’ winin’”.

Yes winin’. Please don’t ever call it “winding”, you will be laughed out of town by the Caribbean diaspora. I admit it is more than just winin’, but even so it only employs other moves we have already been familiar with for years in the West Indies. It’s more of a winin’ down, drop, drop, drop it, booty clap, booty clap. Boom ting. Get it? No? Me Neither.

Even growing up in the Caribbean doesn’t mean you can automatically pull off advanced dancehall queen moves such as these. One must practice and I chose to spend my time perfecting barre chords and not winin’ on my head (look out for that one, it’s coming) but to each their own. As far back as I can remember it has been utilised in every dancehall video I have ever seen. Go YouTube badass Patra videos from the 90s.

So why is everyone suddenly so interested in what they call “twerking”? Well, we have Miley Cyrus to thank for the newfound interest the dance which hails from West African Mapouka, it’s as old as the hills.

I watched that performance and I was more surprised by the fact Robin Thicke can’t sing that song live at all. Seriously, like at all. What else was surprising is that there was a general consensus that this ridiculous performance was shocking. I barely raised an eyebrow.

But is twerking anti feminist because Miley got it all wrong? I’d hate to think that someone would think of me as anti feminist because of my culture.

As a Trinidadian living in London I’ve learned the hard way that some things don’t cross over, culturally speaking. I had to make a personal rule of “not dancing like a Trinidadian in clubs around London”. Whenever I demonstrate, all my friends agree it is akin to “dry humping”.

I argue that that is just how we dance, even with strangers, it means absolutely nothing! Have you seen any Carnival footage ever? But it’s gotten me into trouble more than once – a girl ended up crying at Leeds Festival because of my moves, hence the rule. One culture’s status quo is another’s scandal.

When it comes to appropriating culture that is not your own, I think it helps to ask: is this helpful or hurtful? Am I merely bringing an already existing art form to the masses with love and respect or am I shamelessly exploiting it for YouTube hits?

Take Madonna. Madonna is obviously not a South Asian woman but during her blissed out yoga phase she started sporting saris, bindis and henna. As a woman of East Indian descent I feel included and normalised when a superstar like her brings it to the mainstream.

If it’s about celebrating culture and honestly tipping your hat, how can that be a bad thing? I for one want to live in a world where we are constantly learning, sharing and enriching each other’s lives. That includes the twerk, the bad and the ugly.


Dana Jade is a musician, activist and founder of ClitRock which raises money and awareness to combat FGM.  Find out more @Dana_Jade

Photo courtesy of


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Women in comedy

Women in Comedy: ones to watch

Women’s comedy is huge right now. In the last twelve months I’ve noticed a flurry of new women’s comedy nights, including the launch of Stand Up For Women – an organisation dedicated to putting on comedy fundraisers for women’s charities including Refuge, Women’s Aid and No More Page 3. Bristol-based women’s comedy show What The Frock! celebrated its first birthday earlier this year with a performance at Southbank’s Women Of the World Festival and, most notably, this summer’s Edinburgh Foster’s Comedy Award was won by feminist comic Bridget Christie, for her show ‘A Bic For Her’.

2013 also sees the UK’s first ever Women In Comedy Festival in Manchester throughout October, organised by women’s comedy veterans Laughing Cows, who have been promoting funny women since 1998. The month-long festival boasts over one hundred events across 16 venues, with familiar faces including Ava Vidal, Zoe Lyons and Gina Yashere.

In case this autumn just wasn’t funny enough, last week we were invited to the Funny Women Awards final in Leicester Square. Another veteran of the women’s comedy scene, the Funny Women Awards is now in its eleventh year and its impressive array of past finalists include Sarah Millican (runner up, 2005), Bridget Christie (finalist, 2004), Andi Osho (winner, 2007), Sara Pascoe (runner up, 2008), Zoe Lyons (winner, 2004), Rosie Wilby (finalist, 2006) and Viv Groskop (finalist, 2012).

We went along for a bit of comic relief, and to scout out the up-and-coming women comedians to watch out for. The main Funny Women Award on the night went to clowning sketch duo Twisted Loaf, with the Variety Award given to sketch pair Revan & Fennell – my personal favourites of the two sketch acts.

Twisted Loaf

Twisted Loaf

When it came to stand-up – which I must confess is more my thing – there were some truly fantastic performances, and some less so. Here are my top picks of the night.

Elf Lyons

Bristol university graduate and founder of The Secret Comedians collective, Elf has previously appeared in the Chortle Student Comedy Awards and What The Frock! Comedy, where she supported Kate Smurthwaite’s News At Kate show in July.  Her debut solo show Elf Lyons Is a Pervert received a host of four and five star reviews at The Bristol Fringe in May and was repeated, in collaboration with What The Frock!, at the Women In Comedy Festival on 3rd October. The Funny Women judges awarded Elf one of two runner up prizes, but her witty take on the heartbreak of being dumped was the real highlight of the night for me.

Women in comedyKatie Lane

Also awarded a Funny Women runner up prize alongside Elf Lyons was my second choice of the evening, Katie Lane. An unlikely-looking fan of both heavy metal and 80s sitcoms, Katie has performed stand-up in pubs across London since April 2012. Her set on hideous wedding dresses and being a middle-class white woman living in Brixton was well-deserving of its prize.





Bethan RobertsIMG_4745

Originally from South Wales, my third pick of the evening Bethan had only performed a dozen comedy gigs when she was chosen as the winner of the 2013 What The Frock! Open Mic Awards. She has also appeared in the Funny’s Funny competition, the Welsh Unsigned Stand-Up Awards, the Golden Jester Awards, and was a finalist in Comedy Knight’s Fresh Comedians award 2013. Her Funny Women final set explored the delights of growing up in a small Welsh village, where you can dress your bearded grandmother up as Santa to bring in a little extra Christmas cash.

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Forgotten Crafts: Traditional Dublin Biscuit Folding

This angel is believed to be holding a  tray with two biscuits on it.

This angel is believed to be holding a
tray with two biscuits on it.

Legend has it was Mary Magdalene who first made these hard, biscuit-like sweets for the table at the Last Supper. The craft was first officially documented when it was brought to Ireland by monks travelling from Greece in the 8th century, who illustrated the ancient craft in the Book of Kells.

In the 14th century the craft had spread to the rest of Britain where Chaucer wrote in the Wife of Baths tale:

“ye fealdan disc fare beon god”

Modern English Translation:  “Your folded disc food is very good.

First photograph of an early 20th century Dublin Folded Biscuit

First photograph of an early 20th century
Dublin Folded Biscuit.

By the 19th century it was common place in Ireland for a virgin to bake the folded biscuits for her father-in-law on the eve of her wedding. The dough became lighter in colour, it’s folds representing the folds of the white sheets on the virginal matrimonial bed.  The biscuits were now often more decorative in style, with seeds and fruit often used to create symbols of love.

Often mistaken for Belfast Biscuit Bending, whilst the two crafts are derived from the same ancient tradition, the modern Dublin’s Biscuit Fold is distinctive for the crispness of fold as opposed to a bend.

Daniel Day Lewis unveils  the plaque, 2004.

Daniel Day Lewis unveils
the plaque, 2002.

Belfast Bend dough is much softer in touch.  In fact the dough was of such a gloopy consistancy it was often used to plug cracks in homes during the Blitz in East End Irish settlements.

The Dublin Folded Biscuit made it all the way across the atlantic with the famous New York DBF Pantry being launched in 1952, of course the DBF Pantry is now a well known coffee and biscuit chain with 22 hundred units across the US.A plaque commemorates the first Pantry, now a block of luxury apartments,which was unveiled by the Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis shortly after the Gangs of New York premier in 2002.




Make your own Dublin Folded Biscuits.

1)  Mix 250g softened butter and 140g caster sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then add 1 egg yolk and 2 tsp vanilla extract and briefly beat to combine. Sift over 300g plain flour and stir until the mixture is well combined – you might need to get your hands in at the end to give everything a really good mix and press the dough together.

2)  Roll out until half an inch thick and fold once.

3)  Bake.

NEXT MONTH:  Traditional Icelandic Clog Blowing

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Nuts magazine spread

In defence of lads mags

For a few months in 2010 I went out with a writer on top-selling lads mag Nuts. For the leader of the country’s foremost feminist choir, this seemed like an unlikely, some might say ill-fated, pairing, which it was. “Is this some kind of performance art statement?” asked a good friend after realising that just introducing ourselves to randoms in a pub could cause a perfectly healthy person’s brain to rupture: “But you’re… but he… but you’re… but she….” BOOM.

So when hashtag #LoseTheLadsMags starting being regurgitated down my threads and feeds – referring to the campaign that has resulted in getting some lads mags sealed in modesty bags to protect the women who stock the shelves from sexual harassment – I thought back to that heady summer of experimentation and remembered that I’d learnt something very important back then: Nuts meant more to its readers than just tits.

We were driving back from Bristol late at night, this boyfriend and me, when, along with some mates, we popped into a service station to pick up crisps, fags and petrol. We waited in a long queue, me in full makeup from the gig I’d just performed in. Being full of adrenaline, and full of myself, I started talking to the two young men in front of us. They were about 18, 19, their really sweet, stubble-free faces all curious as to why I had my mug painted like a Carebear.

I asked them what they did and, when they said that in a few days they would be going on their first tour of duty in Iraq, my heart sank. By 2010 we were all familiar with the daily loss of life and limb, and the lies that put us there had been proven.

Since 2004, Nuts has been supporting soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It supplies magazines and merchandise, which as a promotional ploy is a smart move. The army is well known for having a lot of young men in it, away from home and the women they love, and lonely sex-starved men are, of course, the sitting ducks of the lads mag audience.

But that’s not where Nuts stopped; it also sent food, toiletries and other care packages. Then, at Christmas 2007, members of the editorial team actually flew into a war zone on Christmas Day, dressed as Santa and the elves, to hand out gifts.

Now, I’m anti-war, but I’m not anti-soldiers. The reasons why young people become soldiers are complex. David Gee’s 2008 report Informed Choice concluded that “Non-Officer recruitment draws mostly on young people from 16 years of age living in disadvantaged communities, with many recruits joining as a last resort”. The UK is now the only country in Europe to still allow “children” of 16 and 17 to sign up to fight. The men we are talking about here are not at the top of the patriarchal tree.

When I told those boys in the Esso garage which magazine the chap with me worked for, they went mental. Could he arrange a shout-out to their patrol in the magazine? Could they get limited edition military Nuts tees and a goody bag? They left for their car with big smiles on their faces, texting their mates, the promises of free packs of food and fun stuff delivered to some hellhole ringing away in their ears like the last school bell for the summer.

Nuts not only engaged directly with soldiers like the ones we met that night but took on the Ministry Of Defence (MOD), lobbying for better equipment, having seen the shortages first-hand. It also printed soldiers’ letters and stories in their pages, and reported on veterans recovering from their experiences, joining them in the Arctic in 2011 to cover Walking with the Wounded’s Polar Challenge.

What have our members said to us so far about the lads mags campaign? It’s pretty evenly split into two. There are those who passionately believe we’re on the brink of a great feat for feminist-kind. Then there are the others, who think it’s a distraction from more pressing campaigns against more damaging regimes.

I’m split between the two, and find myself with a whole other issue on my mind. The era of lad culture may well be nearing its end, and not having the freedom to show their front covers in supermarket stands will certainly nail that coffin shut, but lads mags, like the “lads” that read them, are not one-dimensional. Before we kill them dead, shouldn’t we consider these magazines in the round and think carefully about what we may be taking away from the men who read them?

Take Nuts’ latest campaign with CALM Zone, Campaign Against Living Miserably, an organisation that offers support to young men who are at crisis point and aims to stop them committing suicide. Young men make up 77% of all suicide statistics – some 4,639 ended their own life in 2012 alone.

It’s obvious why CALM would work with Nuts, as Jane Powell their CEO says: “This partnership is a great opportunity to reach an audience of young men… A key objective for us is to approach these serious issues with a positive, upbeat and humorous approach and the partnership with Nuts allows us to achieve this perfectly.” Of course it does, how else would they reach them? Advertise on Pornhub?

Do we, the collective feminist, understand these men, the men who read Nuts, Loaded, Zoo? And I say “we” because I understand the instinct to restrict these publications as a feminist. But do we get why men read them? Could these magazines be an essential space, not only for the expression of young men’s sexuality, but their interests and their difficulties; if modesty bags close them down what are we offering as the alternative? They won’t be picking up a Guardian, Grazia or Feminist Times instead. What are we assuming will be substituted if the genre goes under?

So here I am again, somehow finding myself in unlikely cahoots with the lads mag camp, and perhaps for some of the same reasons I ended up with that chap, that summer. I found when I met him that we had loads in common: we read the same papers, watched the same telly, drank the same wine.

When I look at lads mags as the Deputy Editor of a new magazine, which fulfills a need I know exists, I immediately empathise. I have felt misrepresented, misunderstood and flung in a metaphorical box to be criticised as a woman who calls herself a feminist. Knowing a little about the readers, the lads, of Nuts made me wonder if I was just as capable of tarring their whole readership with one dirty laddy brush, without having a plan for picking up the pieces afterwards.

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Feminist Events Listings: October 2013

Verity FlecknellWelcome to my first feminist event highlight blog for Feminist Times. Storm in a Teacup are thrilled to be highlighting all the best feminist events from London and beyond.

Whether you are an armchair activist or a full time activist, into your international politics, or personal politics, feminist artist, or radical feminist – there are just so many events happening up and down the country – there is bound to be something to tickle your fancy or get your teeth into.

Arguably there are more feminist events popping up more than ever and so many opportunities for you to get involved, meet like minded people, share skills and be a part of the movement.

We will be bringing you highlights of some of the feminist events not to be missed in October.

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

Women in Comedy Festival | 1st – 27th October

The UK’s first ever ‘Women in Comedy Festival’  takes places from 1st – 27th of October with over 100 events across Greater Manchester and surrounding areas including  acts such as Gina Yashere, Lucy Porter, Shazia Mirza, Jo Neary, Zoe Lyons and Ava Vidal. Spearheaded by Hazel O’Keefe of Laughing Cows Comedy, this festival is a collaborative venture, with shows produced by What the Frock, Funny Women, Laughing Labia, plus many more. Celebrating all things funny and female across a variety of platforms including live comedy performances, comedy theatre, spoken word, book readings, film, visual art, installations, improvisation, photography, workshops and debates.  Women in Comedy Arts Festival will be an opportunity for female comics across the UK to meet, perform, debate, discuss and get feedback from industry, insiders and professionals. Aiming to put an end to circular conversations and blow certain myths out of the water whilst showcasing, promoting and nurturing female comedy across a variety of platforms. Performances will be taking place all the way through October at venues across Manchester. For the full programme and info on how to buy tickets please click here.






History of Feminism Conference | 12th October

History of Feminism Network present their 2013 conference at the British Library on October 12th. Originally set up in 2007 by a collective of postgraduate students passionate about the history of feminism,  their aim was to create a meeting and debating space for everyone interested in celebrating, exploring and debating the history of feminism. This year the conference is based around the title ‘In Conversation with the Women’s Liberation Movement: Intergenerational Histories of Second Wave Feminism’ and is supported by the Sisterhood and After: an Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement project at the British Library, the University of Sussex, the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and the History of Feminism Network. It is set to be a day of intergenerational dialogues between Women’s Liberation activists and younger feminists, hailing the today’s resurgence of feminist activity and asking what is the relationship between this new feminism and the Women’s Liberation movement of a generation ago. Sessions cover – race, sexualities, reproductive choice, the rise of women’s history, and class and work, we will both celebrate and critically examine British feminism and its legacies.

Already tickets have sold out but join their mailing list and keep an eye out for more ticket allocation releases. History of Feminism Network also organise a regular seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research, please click here for more info.



NE Feminist Gathering | 12th & 13th October

In only its second year North East Feminist Gathering is back on October 12th & 13th with a packed programme of workshops, panel discussions and even a feminist open mic event. The gathering is designed to raise awareness of discrimination and injustice and to provide a space to develop a network of feminists in the North East, where according to the NE Women’s Network report; austerity measures are cutting particularly viciously. Their aim is to combine opportunities for discussion, learning and planning with creative and artistic elements. Offering a broad choice of workshop sessions across three strands; activism, creativity and skill sharing. Workshops include; “Accessing our rights to Justice”, “What is Feminist Activism?”, “Using Social Media in Feminism”, “Welfare Rights for Women and the Austerity Measures” and “Finding our Voices; Public Speaking for Feminists”. As well as the evening social event “Open Mary” an opportunity for anyone to get up and speak or perform; open mic feminist style. The North East Feminist Gathering is taking place at Westend Women and Girls Centre, Newcastle.




Ladyfest Leeds | 19th October

Ladyfest Leeds is back on Saturday 19th of October for the first time since 2007. Celebrating women in the arts, Ladyfest is a community based not-for profit movement that started in Olympia, Washington in 2000, Riot grrrl identifying bands like; Sleater-Kinney, The Gossip and Bratmobile all performed at the first ever Ladyfest. Since then Ladyfests have been organised by individuals and grassroots organisations all over the world. Ladyfest Leeds includes a range of workshops, talks during the day and later in the evening performances by local musicians; Etai Keshiki, Nervous Twitch, Esper Scout and The Three Amigos.  Panel speakers include members of Object! who will be talking about their current campaigns and how to get involved locally in Leeds. Kristin Aune co-author of the groundbreaking “Reclaiming the F-Word: Feminism Today” will be signing copies of the new edition, as well as the Leeds Roller Dolls talking about how to get involved in the exciting female dominated sport; roller derby. All proceeds from the event will go to charities; SARSVL, Women’s Aid and Women’s Health Matters.





Clit Rock III | 23rd October

Clit Rock returns on Wednesday 23rd of October at Rattlesnake of Angel, Islington. Clit Rock is an annual music event raising awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and raising funds for FGM charity Daughters of Eve, who are committed to preventing and ultimately eradicating FGM. With Live bands; Deux Furieuses, post punk band who have worked with Rob Ellis (producer of PJ Harvey Fame), The Pearl Harts and Dana Jade, founder of Clitrock as well as DJs; Beck Rosman from Clubmotherfucker. More to be announced and only £5.00 entry (tickets available on the door)




Feminism in London Conference  | 26th October

The London Feminist Network (LFN) set up the first Feminism in London Conference in 2008 and since then have organised conferences in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and this year they are back with an impressive programme of speakers, panels and workshops for Feminism London Conference 2013 on 26th of October taking place at the Institute of Education. The conference programme includes workshops for children and teens as well as a pro-feminist workshops open to men.  Morning panel keynote speakers include; Caroline Lucas speaking about ‘Sexism in the Media’, Natalya Dell “Inclusive Feminism” and Shabina Begum “Acid Violence”. In the afternoon join team No More Page 3 for “Kick-Ass Activism” workshop to find out how to start your own feminist campaign. Members of Object! who made submissions to the Leveson enquiry about the portrayal of women in the media, discuss “Women and the Media, A Post-Leveson World”. This year the Feminism in London conference has integrated two other special events into the evening programme including; the inaugural Stop Porn Culture UK meeting (5.30pm – 6.30pm) and the annual Reclaim the Night march, gathering outside the Institute of Education and marching through central London.

Stop Porn Culture UK inaugural meeting, 5.30 – 6.30pm

Reclaim the Night – meet 6.30pm for a 7pm start





Verity Flecknell is founder of Storm in a Teacup, a London based feminist arts collective set up in 2009 with the aim of promoting women in the arts. In 2010 Storm in a Teacup helped organise Ladyfest Ten festival, in 2011 were part of the first ever Women of the World festival at the Southbank and in 2012 joined forces with Girls Get Busy zine and Not So Popular to form Lets Start a Pussy Riot collective. In June this year, Rough Trade Records published “Lets Start a Pussy Riot” book, a collection of artistic responses created in collaboration with Pussy Riot. Storm in a Teacup also publishes monthly feminist event listings happening around London.

Please visit Storm in a Teacup’s blog site for full feminist event listings for October.

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