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Andrea Dworkin’s Last Rape

Soon after Andrea and I met in 1974 she began to let me know about her history of battery and rape. I had never spoken with anyone to whom such things had happened. Or maybe I had, but no one before had trusted me to hear. This new knowledge learned from Andrea shook me to the core. I realised my life had to change. I had to take responsibility for what I now knew.

The public and political form of that responsibility included a dramatic shift in what I wrote and why. Since college I wanted to be a playwright. When Andrea first got to know me, I was working in an experimental theatre company. She and I were introduced by its artistic director, a mutual friend. Impelled by my new knowledge—about men’s rapacious capacity to enact their misogyny through violence against women—I stopped writing plays and started writing non-fiction, to figure out who I was, who I had to become, and what I had to do now that I knew what men as men do to women.

The personal form of that responsibility included Andrea’s and my private life together. A priority was safety and security, at home and wherever she or we went. She was vulnerable as a recognisable public figure who encountered haters because of what she stood for. She was also vulnerable to insults and assaults simply because she was a woman. One day she came home distraught and told me she had just fought off some young men who accosted her as she was walking on a nearby street and tried to force her into a van. A friend at a local rape crisis centre told her later that women had come in reporting having been raped inside such vans, their rapes videotaped. This was not the only near-miss during our life together. I always knew that her terrible history of male-pattern sexual violence—the lived knowledge that she wrote from to help other women—could at any moment resume.

One day it did.

In May 1999 Andrea went to Paris. She had just completed her monumental book Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation. Researching and writing it had consumed her for nine years. The work included immersion in Holocaust literature and had been so draining it caused her health to suffer. She needed a break badly. She wanted to take a vacation in Paris, a city she loved. She wanted to fly first-class and stay in a five-star hotel. I objected because we couldn’t afford it, but she persuaded me: this was what she most wanted to do; this was what she needed to be safe; her life mattered more than money. When I saw her off, I wanted more than anything for her to be okay.

She was. She was happy there; we spoke daily by phone and she told me. She took long walks. She saw art. She began writing a new book. She was resting and replenishing what she had sacrificed for Scapegoat.

Then one day she called in a state of alarm and agitation. She told me she thought she had been raped. In the hotel. While she was blacked out from a drugged drink. She sounded beside herself with confusion and distress. I tried to think fast and calm her. I said she should call her gynaecologist, whose phone number I would get her. She didn’t want to deal with authorities because she didn’t speak French, so I told her she should fly back home immediately on the first flight she could get.

The experience had shattered her. She struggled to recover. She had terrifying nightmares. She consulted two therapists. She went on anti-anxiety meds. Her health declined further.

For Andrea, writing was always a way to understand what she otherwise could not, so I was relieved when soon after the Paris ordeal she told me she had begun to write about it. Months later she showed me a first-person essay she was going to submit to the New Statesman titled “The day I was drugged and raped.” When I read it I was troubled. I recognised the veracity of everything in it, but I was fearful that this pubic disclosure would hurt her. I was uneasy that it said “John looked for any other explanation than rape” (which was true) but did not mention why (because I desperately did not want her to have been raped again), so it seemed to say I did not believe her. But I also recognized this was an instance when the last thing I should do was suggest editorial amendments or be a filter. If only for the sake of her healing process, Andrea needed to speak aloud what she wanted to say, on her own terms. So on June 5, 2000, about a year and one month after she was drug-raped, the piece as she wrote it was published.

Neither Andrea nor I anticipated the disbelieving, dismissive, and derisive attacks that followed—a contemptuous cacophony that accused her of, among other things, concocting the story to get attention. As I knew her to be tormented daily by ongoing and worsening physic and physical symptoms resulting from the trauma, I was shocked and angered by this ridiculing reaction. Not only did it bear no relationship to her reality, it also exacerbated her pain. I thought the attackers – all women – should be ashamed.

In the last years of Andrea’s life, the dark cloud that had hovered since Paris slowly lifted and let in light. Her fighting spirit was reclaimed, our troubled times were behind us, we were closer than ever, and she was working again. She wrote and published Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant. Though she could no longer accept speaking engagements, because she was unable to travel (due to bone disease, as she describes in “Through the pain barrier”), at the time of her death in April 2005 she was deep into researching and writing what would have been her fourteenth book.

It was many months after Andrea died before I felt emotionally ready to look through her computer. There were no surprises, nothing I would not have expected to find, except a manuscript I did not know existed. The text file had last been last closed and date-stamped August 30, 1999—about three months after her drug rape in Paris. I took a look, realised quickly it was about that anguish, saw it was dedicated to J.S. (me) and E.M. (Elaine Markson, her dear friend and agent)—and promptly put it aside. I could not bring myself to read it. I could not bear to revisit that painful time.

As months then years went by and my grief became not so constant, I realised that whatever emotional reaction I was avoiding, I really had a responsibility to read that piece. When I braced myself and finally did, I was overwhelmed and awed. Because what I discovered was a 24,000-word autobiographical essay, composed in twelve impassioned sections, as powerful and beautifully written as anything she ever wrote. It was searingly personal, fierce and irreverent, mordantly witty, emotionally raw. It was also clearly not a draft; it was finished, polished as if for publication. And I understood why she did not show it to me or Elaine. She had to have known it would devastate us. Because she had written it in the form of a suicide note.

Obviously it wasn’t an actual suicide note, or at least didn’t turn out to be. She lived on after completing it, kept to an intense writing schedule, and died in her sleep of what an autopsy determined was heart inflammation. But in choosing to write in that form, she found and released language with which to speak in her emotional extremity that gave utterance to the experience of being a drug-rape survivor as no other major writer has ever done.

Andrea designated me to be her literary executor, a responsibility that now included deciding whether she intended that manuscript to be published. Clearly she wrote it for her own sake, to excavate and exorcise her pain by shaping it into language through the agency of her art. But I honestly did not know whether she meant it to be in the world.

One day when I was rereading it, my theatre background kicked in and something about the writing struck me. I noticed that the text read like an extended dramatic monologue or monodrama, like the script of an indelible solo theatre piece. And I began imagining that a live performance of the work could be a way for Andrea’s words to be heard. By a live audience, aloud on stage. In a way that would fully honor and honestly express the passion from which she wrote.

The process took several years. Finally in early May 2014 the piece, now titled Aftermath, was performed six times in New York City in the Willa Cather Room of the Jefferson Market Library. The text was entirely by Andrea (the original manuscript cut by half to run 90 minutes). The director and dramaturg was Adam Thorburn, a longtime friend and collaborator. The performer was a phenomenally gifted actor, Maria Silverman.

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Maria Silverman in Aftermath by Andrea Dworkin.

Audiences were intensely engaged. Night after night in post-show talkbacks there was overwhelming sentiment that the piece should go on. From those talkbacks it was clear that the performance spoke both to people who knew Andrea (and/or her work) and to people who had never heard of her. A post-performance online survey asked audience members to say what the piece was for them and meant to them. Here are some responses:

“The writing was painful, poetic, incisive. The actress was superb.”

“It was intense, painful, occasionally funny, and incredibly worthwhile.”

“Moving, touching, gut wrenching in the best way, brilliant writing, superlative performance, beautifully directed…wanting more!”

“It blew me away. So full of deep truths, so beautifully written, so powerfully performed. I thought it was fantastic.”

“This was incredibly moving. As honest and powerful as anything I had heard in a long time.”

Aftermath has since been accepted into the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City, where it will be performed in fall 2014. I am seeking other circumstances in which audiences in the U.S., and someday around the world, can have the powerful experience of Aftermath.

At each step in putting this theater project together, I have wished I could talk with Andrea about it. I would want to tell her how the words she showed no one are now reaching and affecting audiences in live performance.

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After a performance of Aftermath by Andrea Dworkin (from left): John Stoltenberg, Adam Thorburn, Maria Silverman, Gloria Steinem. Photograph by Jackie Rudin.

As an author Andrea was always an artist, and Aftermath as literature is no exception. The writing is stirring throughout and ranges dramatically over many themes—her aspirations when she was young, her erotic and romantic relationships, the marriage in which she was battered, her understanding of the connection between Jews and women, her take on President Clinton’s behavior, her deep commitment to helping women, her critique of women who betray women. The fact that Aftermath is acted means audiences get to hear an emotional dimensionality in Andrea’s voice that in life she shared only with me and her closest friends—trenchant and oracular as the public knew her but also tender, sardonic, sorrowful, vulnerable, funny.

Andrea also always wanted her art to be of use. To matter, to make a difference. So I would want to let her know that through Aftermath her fearless, unfiltered articulation of her solitary anguish in the aftermath of being drug-raped is now touching other survivors of sexual abuse, female and male—helping them come to terms with what is incomprehensible and unspeakable about their own experience, helping them not feel so alone in it.

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To receive updates about Aftermath: The Andrea Dworkin Theater Project, like its Facebook page. For tickets to the United Solo run in New York City, click here. For production inquiries, email media2change@gmail.com.

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John Stoltenberg’s essays include “Living With Andrea Dworkin” (1994) and “Imagining Life Without Andrea” (2005). For Feminist Times’ #GenderWeek, he recently wrote “Andrea Was Not Transphobic.” He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg.

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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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SHE-form: Art and feminism beyond borders

We heard about She-form and asked one of it’s members, Anna Olsson, to tell us more about why women artists need such an organisation.

She-form is a global platform by and for women* in design. Through interviews and our collaborative visual identity, She-form highlights the work of women* designers. It was launched in 2013 as a collaboration between designers Ee-Rang Park and Linnéa Teljas-Puranen, out of a wish for a network of women* designers beyond national boundaries.

*We define woman as anyone who is female-identified

I’m Anna Olsson, a soon to be freelance illustrator, graphic designer, pattern maker, animator and member of She-Form. I met Linnéa Teljas-Puranen at HDK – School of Design and Crafts in Gothenburg, Sweden – three years ago. Both Linnéa and I found it very strange that there are more male than female-identified teachers in our school, because the majority of students here are not men.

I see feminism not only as a question of women’s rights, but the rights of everyone to get the same space and chances in their education. When I speak of feminism, it includes the rights of people of different class, gender, ethnicity, LGBT-persons, and people with different physical capabilities. I think it’s very important for all universities to have a wide diversity of students that are accepted – and art and design schools are no exception.

We need a greater diversity because the ones who are educated are the ones to represent  society. I was truly honored when Linnéa and Ee-Rang asked me to participate in She-form, because it’s just the kind of movement that we need now to tackle this problem. Design is very influenced by the western part of the world, and I think it’s very important that we start to talk about feminism as something that is not only white and upper middle class. Through She-form I have got in touch with several designers in different parts of the world. Networking beyond the borders feels like a very important thing for me as a creator, and nowadays it’s easy to make connections without a physical meeting.

This fall I am traveling to Russia, South Korea, Mongolia and China with a friend to record a documentary film series about different designers and artists. We both realised that in our education we got a lot of inspiration given to us by western world creators, and not so much from other parts of the world. We think it’s very important to point out that the western world is not the centre of the world; there is no centre of the world.

We believe that design and art is invested more in the bigger cities, and we want to show that it’s not all about the area, it’s about the creator and the creators, the art itself.

During this trip we will hopefully meet up with some of the designers involved in She-form and find out more about their perspective on design and art.

Anna’s website: www.annaols.com
She-form’s website: www.she-form.org

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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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W*NK: We need to talk about women & pleasure

May is International Masturbation Month, and time to remind ourselves how important it is to keep talking about self pleasure, and pleasure in general. For a long time masturbation has been a taboo subject, and female masturbation even more so.

My first wanking experiences were filled with shame and confusion. Although the clitoris had been labelled in our school sex ed classes and textbooks, no one had told me what it was for and it took me months to realise that my pleasure was mostly coming from there and reliably locate the thing. I am 31: I didn’t grow up in Victorian times – we were close on the millennium when I started wanking but still I had been kept thoroughly in the dark about my own body.

International Masturbation Month was set up by Good Vibrations after the U.S Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders was fired for saying that masturbation should be discussed as part of young people’s sex education. This enlightened idea was proposed by her in 1995 and, looking around today, it doesn’t seem that the sex education we give young people has improved since.

The subtext of the prevalent physiological/safe-sex-only approach to sex ed seems to be that by mentioning to young people that their genitals can give them pleasure it will prompt them to go out and have tons of promiscuous un-safe sex. In my opinion this is sensationalist and short sighted. Giving young people the information they need to understand how to start exploring their sexuality solo will equip them with the self knowledge and confidence to move on to healthy and safe sexual relationships as adults.

Sex education that puts sexuality in context, that tackles respect and self respect, consent, safe sex, pleasure, emotional wellbeing, and healthy relationships can only reduce under age sex, pregnancy and STIs. Knowledge empowers and is a hell of a lot better than letting young people work things out through making mistakes that could effect the rest of their lives.

More widely, we need to talk about pleasure. We need to continue to transform our culture by  empowering women, and all people, to explore their bodies and get to know the way they work by giving them a road map: sex education that talks about masturbation through encompassing the idea that genitals give us pleasure as well as babies; words and images that represent the real and various ways people masturbate; open discussion that does not shame wankers but recognises that knowing your own sexual responses makes you a great sex partner.

My small contribution towards this ideal are a series of twelve drawings taken from real women’s masturbation techniques, mostly using household objects. The work shows real masturbation in a way that was not pornographic, not orchestrated for the viewer but frank and natural and, because of that, erotic. The project started as something private; an excercise in visualising these delightful intimate scenes without making them lurid. But it grew into a book because I wanted to share my joy in these stories and their honesty. To be invited by Sh! to exhibit with them as part of International Masturbation Month was a real honour and I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the work. Hopefully it will help to get people talking, sharing their own stories and celebrating themselves as wankers.

WANK - Interior Door by Sophie Crow 2012 WANK - Right index finger by Sophie Crow 2012 WANK - Teddy by Sophie Crow 2012 WANK - TV Remote by Sophie Crow 2012

Click here to find out more about International Masturbation MonthTo find out more about Sophie Crow, visit www.theoysterknife.co.uk or follow @oysterknife

Sophie’s W*NK exhibition continues until 31st May at Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, 57 Hoxton Square, N1 6PB London, open every day 12pm-8pm. It is Sh! policy that men must be accompanied by a woman, except on Tuesday evenings.

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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

NATIONAL

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.

BOOK TICKETS: Dogwoof.com/thepunksinger

MORE INFO:  Dogwoof.com/thepunksinger

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.

TICKETS:http://goo.gl/iZAgqq

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

MORE INFO: http://goo.gl/HpfBLx

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.

FACEBOOK EVENT: http://goo.gl/gxGkNK

LONDON

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

MORE INFO: http://goo.gl/30gzEg

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

MORE INFO: http://goo.gl/hDJDCU

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.

MORE INFO: http://goo.gl/dWeHpg

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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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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The most badass women in history: Sister Like You

Sister Like You is a new book from Belly Kids in which Jade Coles looks back at the most fierce females in Ancient History, through poster-worthy illustrations next to each woman’s story, broken down to its most “digestible, radical level”. As a friend of Feminist Times (Jade reported from a Southhall Black Sisters protest for us), she agreed to give our readers a sneak preview and an insight into why she chose the women she did.

One of the reasons I was interested in doing this book is that I don’t remember learning anything about women rulers at school. I don’t want to go all out and blame the corrupt schooling system – maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention; that seems unlikely though, as history was my second favourite subject.

Cleopatra probably popped up, maybe Elizabeth I in the context of being King Henry VIII’s daughter, but nothing major or concentrated. It was all NHS reform and the Holocaust.

Sister Like You by Ellie Andrewsfinale

Image: Sister Like You by Ellie Andrews

When writing the stories it soon became clear that it was going to be hard to have a fave. Every ruler had their own particular style, they came from a very individual background and were ‘endearing’ in their own way. You know, dressing up as a man your whole life, murdering slaves at will, gifting rich European women cute dogs. I was so caught up in each one!

sisterlikefeat

Image: Empress Dowager Cixi by Molly Goldbury.

Saying that, if I had to choose, it would be Empress Dowager Cixi – an ex-prostitute who was sold to the street by her drug addict father before rising to be a brutal Empress. She was gossiped about relentlessly and was never really in power, so she had to flex her muscles in the background, but she did that her whole life.

When researching for the book the word that kept popping up in my head was “PUSH”. Each Sister was pushing against something without a break or hope. Each ruler wanted to claim power and desperately hold onto it for a long period of time. I’ve taken, in my business and personal life, to being focused and push hard. I’m not about to take concubines and kill anyone, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all take a bit of power.

Queen Zenobia by Kaye Blegvadfinale

Image: Queen Zenobia by Kaye Blegvad

The other thing I learnt was that if you’re a strong woman ruler, you get bitched at hard. Rumours flew around about them. They were all seen as sex-crazed, violent psychopaths by their peers, both at the time and also by history. Has stuff really changed as dramatically as we like to think? Do we still get characterised as a weirdo for being strong? Are we still happy to alter our appearances to fit in? Do we go into meetings and have weird power games played on us? It’s like, yeah, tick tick tick tick all those boxes.

COMPETITION: Jade & Belly Kids have given us a signed copy of Sister Like You for one Feminist Times reader to win! To be in with a chance, tweet us (@Feminist_Times) with the name of your own most badass woman and a reason why yours is the best. Make sure you include the hastag #sisterlikeyou. We’ll announce the winner at 5pm on Monday 7 April.

Jade Coles is a lot of things including opinionated, loud, and into a lot of stuff. A curator of culture Jade writes stuff with @bellykids, performs/sometimes tweets for @gaggle, and programmes talks, workshops, music, bands and everything in between for a very popular location in East London. You can follow her adventures on @perpetualcrush.

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Wowzers: “Controversial themes are overlooked in bigger events”

Feminist events can have a number of effects on me: feeling angry and frustrated at abuse and ignorance, at times isolated within a niche community, mostly empowered by the words and actions of inspirational models, sometimes puzzled by the complexity of positions within the front, but the one thing I took home from Wowzers festival is the hope for a future of mutual understanding, acceptance and openness.

Taking over LSE Students’ Union on the International Women’s Day weekend, the first edition of the non-profit festival Wowzers delivered a courageous, crowd-led event addressing gender diversity and social pluralism. It ran parallel to the more established WOW Women of the World Festival on the Southbank.

“We wanted people to represent their own type of feminism”, said Amanda Leon-Joice, co-founder of the event. “We hired the venue, we did the publicity, we bankrolled the event, but the community came in with their own sessions” – including open discussions on trans-inclusion and sex workers’ rights, some controversial themes often overlooked in bigger events.

One of Wowzers’ successes is the effort the organisers have gone to to create a physical and emotional safe space for everyone: fully accessible venue, inclusive of gender neutral toilets and ‘Breathing Room’ – available at any overwhelming moment – as well as an explicit zero tolerance policy towards hateful language and behaviour. And yes, it was free!

Commitment to change always involves understanding and identifying issues first, but Wowzers was no place for getting on high horses. Within the structure of planned activities, workshop leaders constantly encouraged active participation, drawing all the audience to personal analysis, as powerful evidence of proactive thinking and constructive criticism.

“I didn’t know how bad it was!” said participant Lori Smith, after the ‘Irreverent Dance’ session. “Children learn from a very young age how everything is very binary, especially in terms of gender.” ‘Irreverent Dance’ kicked off Saturday’s activities, targeting – and subverting – gender segregation as perpetrated in ballet schools, where traditional roles reinforce restrictive stereotypes, especially for girls.

Next up was the highly awaited ‘Trans* Not Traitors’ open discussion, addressing the controversial issue of trans-inclusivity within the divergent feminist front. The notion of ‘gender traitor’ itself, as often unfortunately applied to trans men, stands on the ground of prejudicial assumptions that somehow there is an ‘original’ (and therefore right?) gender, following a discriminatory logic not very far from patriarchal ideology.

“I believe passionately in working within feminism. I felt very upset to be excluded from all aspects of being a feminist, given I was 15 years a lesbian and still being very proud of having lived as a woman,” said Leng Montgomery, one of the trans men on the panel. Questioning the responsibilities of feminists towards trans people, it was inevitable to reflect on the very meaning and relevance of feminism as a whole: as a stance on reproductive rights, but especially as a revolutionary force protecting groups who have been historically underrepresented or misrepresented by larger communities. “If feminism has built itself to stand up against patriarchy, it means including trans within the movement”, added Leng.

By 5pm it was a full house, with people sitting on the floor for an open meeting with two sex workers from the Sex Worker Open University. “Sex work” is always a controversial feminist issue, with prostitution being very much a grey area that various sections of feminism find it hard to agree on. “Some feminists are hurting and actively damaging sex workers,” explained one of the young women speaking at the table. Ideologies aside, putting other women at risk, great risk, is something that has to stop.

As the session came to a close, it was a wrap for the first day’s activities programme. People headed to the bar downstairs, waiting for some grrrl noise from live bands and DJs. While tidying my notes I took a look at the crowd around the stairs, it felt inspiring and motivating to see how Wowzers had gathered together generations of women and men willing to educate themselves, to continue the journey into becoming better (intersectional) feminists or even just better human beings. It was a call for consciousness to which the community responded.

“If you can talk to some people, have some thoughts you haven’t had before, be introduced to something you haven’t been introduced to yet, maybe you’ll walk away with a clearer idea of what you want your feminism or gender equality to be and that might help you go about implementing it in a more structured, organic way,” Amanda had said to me. From my perspective, it was mission accomplished.

Cristiana Bedei is a freelance journalist based in London, specialising in content for digital media. Her main areas of expertise are contemporary art, feminism and gender issues. Find her on Twitter at: @critalks

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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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Happy Valentine’s from Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle

Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

There’s no better day to celebrate the Earth.

Here are 25 Ways to Make Love with the Earth and our Ecosex Manifesto to inspire your amorous devotion. As we are all part of, not separate from nature, all sex is ecosex! So make love to the Earth today, and every day!

Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle

(Click on images to enlarge)

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AnnieBethposter_HiRes

Elizabeth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle are two ecosexual artists-in-love who have been collaborating with each other, and with various international communities, for 11 years. They created a new field of research, “Sexecology,” exploring the places where sexology and ecology intersect in our culture– in art, theory, practice and activism. Their ecosex performance art weddings have involved thousands of collaborators and participants in eight countries. They also do Sexecological Walking Tours, visual art installations, and are finishing a film about mountain top removal coal mining destruction in Appalachia, called Goodbye Gauley Mountain—An Ecosexual Love Story. Stephens is a professor of art at UCSC and a Ph.D. candidate in performance studies at UC Davis. Sprinkle is a popular visiting artist who holds a Ph.D. in human sexuality. They love to collaborate! Find out more here.

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‘Girls’: Lesbians in Russia

As part of LGBT History Month, and ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympic games which begin tomorrow, Russian artist Anastasia Korosteleva presents her photography series looking at the state of Russia for lesbian women:

The photo series ‘Girls’ was made in response to the Russian federal law banning ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’. Since the legislative ban on gay propaganda, the attitude of Russian society has worsened towards lesbians. An assertion that lesbianism is dangerous to children, anti-Russian, and a Western influence is imposed widely. It leads to an increase of violence against lesbians and penalties for ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’. This is the reason why the the identity of the women in the photographs is hidden. Moreover, their identity is protected by literally burning their faces. The burned-out faces both literally and metaphorically reveal the imprints of homophobia in Russia.

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Anastasia Korosteleva is a photographer and graphic designer based in Moscow. Find out more at akorosteleva.com

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How to make the unhappiest town happy

Standing at the bar of Bedford’s West Indian Social & Cultural Society, I’ve been talking to the Windrush generation about the boxes of records they’ve all got stashed in the loft or the garage. They have original Blue Beat singles, old Trojan tunes, things with the red Island Records logo. Next door, their grandchildren play MP3s on a big, bass-heavy sound-system.

I’m in Bedford because the Office for National Statistics decided last year that it was the unhappiest place in the country. Bedford Creative Arts have commissioned me to look at what makes Bedford unhappy, and see if – in three short months – I can change it. The project is called, simply, Bedford Happy.

Bedford was built by the Saxon chief Beda, around a crossing on the River Ouse. It’s always been a place of crossing, of coming together of the tribes, and as such is incredibly open to different cultures – just a few doors down from the West Indian club is the Polish Club, and opposite that, the Italian Club which serves a wicked short, black coffee.

Bedford has the third largest Italian community in Britain, behind London and Manchester. That’s because the Bedford-based London Brick Company found a skilled workforce in southern Italy in the 1950s, when they needed enough bricks to rebuild bomb-damaged London. The brickworks followed it up with a recruitment campaign in India, and in 1960 the Indian Workers’ Welfare & Cultural Association was set up in the town.

And that ever-changing mix is what makes Bedford really interesting. It’s a town of contrast and change. There’s the area around the bus station, which feels like an unloved corner of North London, populated by fast food, cheap supermarkets and cab firms. And a few minutes’ walk away are the clean, elegant streets leading down to the river’s Embankment, where the water is often alive with rowers from Bedford’s four private schools. The parents of the pupils there live in big villas around the grand, Victorian-landscaped Bedford Park where every Saturday morning 250 or more people turn on their smartphones and log on to the Parkrun app.

Every group – ‘West Indian’ or ‘Italian’ or ‘Rowing Club’ or ‘Parkrun’ – changes the town. For generations, people have arrived and felt they have the power to do things for themselves. People have started offbeat arts organisations and oddball religions (the Panacea Society who saved an end-of-terrace house for Christ’s return deserve an article all of their own). They’ve founded their own schools and social clubs – to get a few people together, talk about your shared interest and make something happen is the Bedford way.

That approach is perfectly illustrated by what made me notice Bedford in the first place. Two strangers, Kayte Judge and Erica Roffe, started a conversation about the town’s empty shops on Facebook, created a project called We Are Bedford and spent a year activating empty spaces. Their approach is one I see across the entire country. People are tackling local problems for themselves.

Collaborate, create the smallest structure you need to make things happen, try and test your ideas where people can see them, and use that experience to decide what to do next. It’s a refreshing alternative to the way councils or charities work – endless meetings, everything in place to blunt the sharp edges of any risk, and nobody responsible for their own actions.

It’s exactly what Clay Shirky wrote about in 2008; people are organising without organisations. The tools we have literally at our fingertips, a smart phone that lets us access social media, mean we can be the change we want to see. We can form loose, agile collaborations and tackle problems. I recently listed 100 such projects on my company’s blog.

The actor Peter Coyote, looking back to the 1960s, said, ‘If we had any belief, it was that a man’s vision is his responsibility. If you had an idea, make it happen; find the brothers and sisters; find the resources and do it. Your personal autonomy and power exposed the shallowness of endless theorizing and debate. Visions became real by being acted out, and once real could serve as inspiration and free food for the public imagination.’

It’s no coincidence that the internet lets us do that so quickly, when the people that built it were Coyote’s contemporaries. The 60s generation have given us the tools to make change endlessly, easily possible – to make revolution an everyday thing.

Dan is a social artist and writer living in Margate. His work is about people and places. He is interested in the creation of social capital, in abandoned or underused spaces, and in DIY approaches to art, culture and social action. . In 2012, he was included in the Time Out and Hospital Club’s Culture 100, a list of the most inspiring and influential people in the UK’s creative industries. Find out more at www.danthompson.co.uk

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#IDontBuyIt: Make Your Own Feminist Fairy!

FM_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

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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Or give a one off donation…

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 www.misspokeno.com

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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Inspire: ‘Let’s Start a Pussy Riot!’

I sat down with some of the team behind Let’s Start A Pussy Riot, published by Rough Trade earlier this year. The book is a collection of artistic responses to the phenomenal Pussy Riot, created to raise money and awareness for the women facing imprisonment.

Before I was involved with Feminist Times, Verity, Jade, Beth and Emy – the women behind this project – asked my choir Gaggle to contribute to the book, alongside some incredible artists including: Judy Chicago, Antony Hegarty, Bianca Casady, Sarah Lucas, Kim Gordon, Lucky Dragons, Billy Childish, Jeffrey Lewis. They launched the book at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown, with members of Pussy Riot secretly flown in to speak at the Southbank Centre.

When I joined Feminist Times I wanted to come back to them to discuss the passions that inspired the project, the challenges they faced and how others can follow their lead. This is the first in a series where we interview groups of women who have come together and realised ambitious feminist projects. All in their own words.

If you would like us to interview your group let us know on editorial@feministtimes.com

Feminist Times: HOW DID YOU GUYS COME TOGETHER?

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Emy (25): In Spring 2012, shortly after the women [Pussy Riot] got arrested, I approached three London-based feminist collectives to organise a fundraiser. Within 1½ weeks we organised a mini festival in London, including performances by 11 bands.

 

 

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Jade (22): It was in March last year: Storm in a Tea Cup, Girls get Busy and Not So Popular. Bands, performance art…. we took over a pub…

 

 

 

Verity Flecknell

 

Verity (30): We ran a balaclava workshop, Viv Albertine from The Slits was headlining.

 

 

 

 

 

Jade: Who was the performance artists who used fish? We had to rejig Viv, our headliner, because the artist before rubbed herself all over in fish and the stage was covered.

Verity: I had to go round with air freshener for ages before we could put Viv on.

Jade: Me and Emy were involved in Not So Popular, which we started as more of a socialist group where we want people to get involved in the arts who might not normally get a chance too, especially due to these cuts.

Verity: SIATC has been around since 2009; we helped organise Ladyfest 2010 and have taken part in WOW. We all had different skills, networks and contacts. Bringing us all together gave quite a wide range of different scenes – that’s why it worked so well.

Jade: We wanted to continue raising money. I think we raised £400 and we wanted a more regular way of giving money.

Emy: We started Let’s Start A Pussy Riot as a call to action, to respond creatively to the case and its surrounding topics around the time when the trials began. We wanted to engage the public in a creative dialogue, away from the mere consuming of news.

Jade: So every month we were going to do a different feminist zine. We started contacting artists and suddenly we had people like Judy Chicago, Billy Childish and Yoko Ono so we thought maybe we should just make a book. Seemed quite logical. We approached Rough Trade who loved the idea and had a lot of faith in us and gave us a lot of freedom to make the book we wanted to. And yeah, suddenly we had a book! I say suddenly but it was actually a lot of work. Don’t really know how we got here.

Verity: We’d never published a book before and we all come from a grassroots perspective so there were a lot of challenges. But people were very receptive because no one else was getting up and doing stuff like this in London.

Jade: It gave people a chance to respond in their own way. It’s not prescriptively Pussy Riot, it’s about the themes they embody. It asks people who are already on the scene to look at Pussy Riot, and how they exploded on to it, and respond to it.

Verity: Everyone wanted to have their say and support them; lots of artists wanted to show their support.

Feminist Times: HOW DID YOU PICK THEM?

Verity: We all had a knowledge of different scenes – for me it was the LGBT perspective and also I’ve got a lot of experience working in the folk world so I brought in people like Peggy Seagar. I’m really proud of the project because it’s intergenerational – we have all different ages, and movements and perspectives.

Jade: We tried to be as inclusive as possible. For me intersectionality exists and it’s important for feminism. We wanted to create a dialogue so each piece is almost in correspondence with each other.

Feminist Times: HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOU ARE INCLUSIVE?

Jade: One reason we’re doing university talks and going out there ourselves is because you can make one standalone piece that won’t include everybody but once you’re outside of that you can think, ‘ok who didn’t we get in touch with?’ and address those issues.

Verity: There’s a lot of action in universities and to keep this momentum we want to get in there.

Jade: That’s why its called Let’s Start a Pussy Riot. We want people to be inspired to make their own actions.

Feminist Times: WHAT KIND OF CRITICISM HAVE YOU FACED?

Jade: One of the things we’ve found is that people don’t know it’s a grassroots production. I think sometimes they might expect it to be much more polished, so the NME kept comparing it to high-class art and coffee table books. In one way we took from that aesthetic.

Verity: Rough Trade marketed it as ‘look at all these amazing people’ but there wasn’t much about the background.

Jade: Which is that it’s grassroots. I’ve never edited a book before. To be honest, I think I’m heavily critical of it – it could always be better. Maybe we should have put it at the top of the press release – three grassroots people did this!

Verity: Also I think some of the high profile artists work was critiqued as being rushed and that people hadn’t spent enough time on it, but we wanted it to be reactionary. It didn’t matter to us if it only took ten minutes, it’s about the message.

Jade: We also had pieces of work donated to us – Sarah Lucas, Yoko Ono – work that’s re-contextualised in this book, so Yoko’s lyrics take on another meaning.

Feminist Times: WHAT MADE U FEEL CONFIDENT TO LEAD PROJECTS LIKE THIS?

Jade: I’m precocious. From the age of 16 I’ve been involved in different things. In Manchester I used to run something called Same Teens, putting on gigs for young kids. I get bored so easily. I don’t like spare time.

Verity: I want there to be more female role models in the alternative scene. I’m a musician but I’ve put that aside because I care about inspiring change and being a role model. It’s all good sitting there and moaning about stuff but I think it’s way more difficult to go out and do something about it. It’s hard taking that first step and that’s what I find empowering about DIY activism. That’s how I got my foot in the door, putting on this Ladyfest, and I realised that I can put on these events. It’s having that confidence, and in order to have that confidence you need to have people around you to support your work.

Feminist Times: IS THAT EASIER IN LONDON?

Jade: One of the things that annoys me is that things are quite London-centric – coming from Manchester, which is a big city but still there’s parts that are pretty disenfranchised. Elsewhere up north, Newcastle had 100% of its arts funding cut. The current government’s focus is on bringing an international eye on the biggest city we have. But that’s where you get more artists coming out of the framework; though I don’t agree struggling makes you a better artist, it does make you pissed off and want to do something about it.

Verity: I think a lot of people when they first start out expect someone to magically give you funding, but you need to get out there and find all this funding. I want to inspire people to find other ways to make the culture that’s missing in their lives. It’s not easy, but sometimes it is just as simple as getting up and doing it yourself. It’s easier with the internet. I built up my audience on Facebook. You can find your people on the internet. Doesn’t matter where you are.

Feminist Times: WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU TO MAKE YOU WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD?

Jade: Manchester. Grey. The Smiths! Joke. I don’t know what it is, but I just get so annoyed and internalise it and then go, ‘right then let’s put on an event.’ Pussy Riot made me a lot more politically engaged. Things I thought of peripherally have become a lot more important to me – seeing people like that make a stand. That’s why the internet’s good because you can see people like that making a stand and it inspires people.

Feminist Times: WHY PUSSY RIOT AND WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS?

Verity: I don’t think there was one particular role model. I think it was more my peers, finding that support group. I felt so alone as an artist floating into nothing because I didn’t quite fit into any particular scene so that’s where me and my friend Elizabeth started SIATC. I didn’t call it a feminist collective until two years in. I called it a ‘female arts collective’ and then it was obvious that it was feminist, and Pussy Riot made me more hardcore in my feminist activism.

Emy: Their bravery is truly inspiring. Their performance marks a very important generational moment, kickstarting the dialogue about feminism, freedom of speech, LGBTQ rights, power of collaboration again. When I was younger I listened a lot to Sleater Kinney and bands like that but was too young and detached to understand the Riot grrrl movement.

Feminist Times: ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO WANT TO TAKE THE FIRST STEPS ON A PROJECT LIKE THIS?

Jade: Well, you can. For one don’t be daunted. Don’t be daunted by failure because failure only makes the next thing better. If you haven’t got money obviously it’s a tough one but all the stuff I’ve done has been begging for a free venue, charge a quid on the door, which covers a few costs, and ask people to do some stuff for free. Most people oblige because people are great.

Verity: Start with baby steps. You don’t have to have any capital to start, and use the skills of your friends, pull your skills together. You don’t realise the networks you have until you start reaching out. Lot of people don’t have the confidence to ask or take that step but reaching out is the first step.

Feminist Times: HOW WELL DID YOU WORK TOGETHER?

Jade: With everything there’s highs and lows. It was very stressful doing the project.

Verity: We all had other things we were doing. I’ve got a full time job, Jade was on her third year of her degree, Emy was doing her masters.

Emy: The balance between my one year full-time masters and the project was very challenging, for sure. But to be honest, to see how many incredible people stand behind this has helped me forget about the difficulties. The beautiful bunch who has been involved in this project, who have donated labour and put their heart into it, have really made it much easier. It was very moving to realise that there are people who still make projects like this possible, who stand up for what they believe in.

Jade: The fact we’re sitting in this room now is testament that you bicker and it’s over. You’ll be like, “why you using that font? That’s a shit font”, and then you realise maybe that wasn’t the right choice and those things that seem big at the time aren’t.

Verity: We always kept our focus on the bigger picture and that’s the most important thing – don’t get stressed about the small stuff. You’re always going to have to work through these things, you’re not going to always agree in a collective.

Jade: You’ve got to have a thick skin. If you’re going to become really upset because someone doesn’t like your idea for the front cover it’s not going to work.

Verity: There is a lot of passion so of course there’s fire.

Jade: I’m just so proud of everyone involved.

Feminist Times: FAINTHEARTED ACTIVISM HAS BEEN ONE OF OUR MOST POPULAR ARTICLES. WHAT CAN A FAINTHEARTED ACTIVIST DO?

Jade: Well, Pussy Riot took that action and we made a book instead. We didn’t go and stand outside Westminster.

Verity: You have to find your strengths. I have to tell myself every day that I can’t bloody save the world, I can’t solve everyone’s problems. You’ve got to honor yourself and do what you can within your means.

Jade: Anything you do in the day can be an action. If you didn’t shave your legs today – I really do believe that is an action. Or if you’ve never publicly spoken and you’re really terrified, if you take the step and publicly speak then you’re empowering yourself and there’s a lot to say for small actions everyday. And they’re not acknowledged and you won’t be on the front page of the news, but if you feel a bit better about being a woman then there’s no harm. Don’t compare yourself to Pussy Riot. They chose that action because it almost chose them. Also in this country we have a very bad response to public protest. Why would you go and protest when the Iraq war happened, when the student fees were raised, when the cuts were made? Why would you take to the streets because people don’t seem to listen. We made a book and that’s how we chose to enter the conversation.

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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

NATIONAL

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

Dundee

Edinburgh

Fife

Ireland

Liverpool

Leeds (Otley)

London (Kensington & Chelsea)

Manchester

Norfolk

Perth

Wales

LONDON

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.

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/596284507093456/

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.

MORE INFO: http://www.tedxwhitehallwomen.com

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 theguardian.com, 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.

MORE INFO: http://www.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/events/2013/12/20131210t1830vSZT.aspx

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.

MORE INFO: http://www.feminist-review.com/

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 events@feministtimes.com 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.

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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.

kat-wp

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.

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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.

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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.

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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Charlotte Raven

The Face of Pussy Riot

‘Selfie’ has become this year’s word. I’m not surprised although I’ve never taken one, apart from when I was having my foot stitched in A&E recently. I felt moved to parody the sun lounger selfie – a sub genre where female holiday makers photograph their tanned legs with the sea in the backgrounds. The picture of my white hairy legs and frankenstin foot doesn‘t feature in the Google images if you search for sun lounger selfies, suprisingly.

Selfie journalism is all the rage too. My most successful (in terms of money and exposure) recent pieces were selfies – one about Huntington’s Disease and the other about stress. I have already written about my depresson, my cats and my children. How did this happen?! In my youth I wanted to be liked and never thought that I’d reveal so much biographical detail – it happened slowly, so I never realised what was happening until it was too late.

The media has changed dramatically in the past few years. When I started out in journalism commissioning editors seldom demanded a personal angle. I was a cultural critic when it was still fashionable and penned stern third person pieces about New Labour’s narcissism, usually managing to work something in about the on-screen lives of Big Brother contestants but very little about mine. It didn’t seem relevant.

It’s easy to write selfies – but hard to live with the lurking suspicion that you are becoming Liz Jones.

It’s impossible to make a living in journalism these days unless you’re prepared to tell all about your personal life, especially for a woman. I recently pitched a cultural piece about the journalistic cult of personality with no personal angle to a number of different editors and never heard back.

It isn’t just journalism; we seem to need a face behind everything. Political and charitable campaigns don’t work unless there’s an identifiable person to relate to. But the cult of personality has reduced cultural life to tittle tattle. Journalism is now all about the who, not the what, where or why.

In this climate, the anonymous female punk band Pussy Riot were a powerful challenge. One hard to spell philosopher said: “The message of their balaclavas is that it doesn’t matter which of them are arrested — they’re not individuals, they’re an Idea. And this is why they are such a threat: it is easy to imprison individuals, but try to imprison an Idea!’

Unlike One Direction, we knew nothing about Pussy Riot’s back story – how their mothers or old school friends felt about their performances, or what they wanted to be when they grew up. They gave 110 per cent in their performance in Red Square, but didn’t use their global prominence to enhance their personal brand. Their individual quirks were subsumed in the idea of Pussy Riot – there was no ‘sporty’ one or ‘leary’ one.

Like many others, I was obsessed with the idea of Pussy Riot, while secretly hoping that they would be as gorgeous as it. I kept reminding myself that Pussy Riot were part of a movement that included Occupy and the Anonymous Collective of internet hackers who were choosing to obscure their identity – a radical decision in the age of the selfie .

The anonymity afforded by cyberspace has always been portrayed as a bad thing. But it’s not just the bad guys who need to hide behind false names. As well providing a cloak for ‘trolls’, anonymity has also allowed internet hacktivists to campaign with a unique new power against a variety of social ills.

The targets of the Anonymous Collective were surprisingly diverse. I thought they’d be fighting efforts to ban internet piracy, not campaigning against the Church of Scientology and child pornography. Their slogan is: “We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

According to an article in the Baltimore City paper, “Anonymous (used as a mass noun) is the first internet based super-consciousness. A group in the sense that a flock of birds is a group.” In other words, they act anonymously in a co-ordinated manner towards an agreed goal. It also presents itself as the collective conscience of the internet. One picture relating to the anti-child pornography campaign shows Guy Fawkes holding up a picture of a teddy bear with the slogan: “Don’t fear, the internet is here.”

Anonymous are against notions of creative ownership and in favour of piracy. They argue that copyrights should expire after five years, which would effectively mean the internet was a massive digital library. This demand strikes us as unnatural. We have everything invested in the myth of individual artistry, rather than a collective creative consciousness.

Some artists have responded enthusiastically to Anonymous’ call to freely share their output instead of making money for themselves. You can download all Pussy Riot’s recordings for nothing, if you want to.

Then something strange happened. During the trail, the members of Pussy Riot were humanised. It looks as if it happened naturally – as if our natural desire to find out everything about them was met by a surge of information in every media platform. Soon, I knew Nadya and Masha better than my school friends. Their childhood ambitions were filled in and Nadya’s child was held aloft outside the courtroom. Their parents were featured in the Pussy Riot documentary. There was a leary one and a posh one. I blamed media for personalising the Pussy Riot story, until I read this piece by Maria Chehonadskih in Radical Philosophy:

“The Pussy Riot balaclavas are not the Guy Fawkes masks of people crowded in the square in V for Vendetta. The thousands of protesters do not fit the narrative of lonely heroes, but the old Soviet dissident logic recognises only ‘personality’ in the revolt against the authorities. As a result, the faces and personal stories of the members of Pussy Riot have become of central importance. A humanization of the victims on trial passed through a self-promoted [my italics] media campaign, which made public their way of life (ascetic, selfless devotion), personal life (parents, babies, husbands) and other biographical details.”

In one interview Nadya reveals that she wanted to go into advertising. I wasn’t surprised. She has constructed a wonderful, PR narrative about herioc individuals battling against authority. And she is stunningly beautiful, fortunately,

A personality cult is growing around Nadya. She is now referred to as the [open quotes] leader [close quotes] of Pussy Riot. I wonder how the other members feel about this. Her open letter in the Guardian about the terrifying reality of penal servitude is compeling. We are hanging on her every word. Is that healthy? We are all in love with her – she is more heard than any female public figures.

The dark side of the Pussy Riot multitude is an extreme individualism, manifest in the gesture of the removed balaclavas, behind which a unique ‘Russianness’ appears: first, the face of the leader, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova; second, dissident moralism, spirituality and asceticism – the brand identity of Russian revolutionaries since the populist movement of the nineteenth century.

What about the sixteen non-media-savvy anti-Putin protestors who are languishing in jail as I write? Anonmyity is being thrust upon them. With no brand identity, they have no leverage. How many letters are they getting? How many namechecks by globally famous pop stars, how many offers of flirty email dialogues with noteable philosphers?

The unmasking of Pussy Riot was part of the performance. By contrast, Anonymous kept their cover when I encountered him/her in real life at the Occupy protest at St Paul’s. I had foolishly imagined the protesters would only put on their ‘V for Vendetta’ masks when the TV news cameras were watching, so I was surprised to see so many of them got up as Guy Fawkes while preparing their tea on a quiet Tuesday night. The political point – that they represent a massive constituency of normal second and third persons, the potato-peeling majority – was powerfully conveyed, so I was extremely embarrassed by my childish urge to pull their masks off. The culturally instilled mania for personal identification runs very deep, as we will see.

The big political battles of the future won’t be between left and right, but between the selifie and an anonymous other. Anonymity does pose a significant threat to individualism – it’s terrifying to contemplate what would remain of our identities if we allowed our egos to be subsumed in the idea of Anonymous. Writing with my Guy Fawkes mask on would be frightening but liberating. I wouldn’t make a bean, but the lack of a byline would definitely free me to experiment, like Pussy Riot did.

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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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What is Feminism? banner

Arthur McDonald: Feminism is…

Name: Arthur McDonald 

Age: 63 

Location: Newcastle upon Tyne   

Bio: Artist/co-founder Gothic Moon Records

Feminism is at its most historically uncompromised, self-expressive, political and vivid in 21st century culture in the double-edged cultural sword that is Pussy Riot art and Femen art. The strongest and most aesthetically engaging philosophical propositions continue to be made by them and their allies. Events, internet sites, books, films, cajones, exhibitions, humour, paintings, posters, music… the lot. Join in 24/7. A self-defining, fledgling, self-educating culture, enriching and challenging the broader movement and the world.

Email your response to the question “what is feminism?” (in no more than 200 words) to editorial@feministtimes.com, with your name, age, location, a one-sentence bio and a photo of yourself.

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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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

LONDON

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”.

FACEBOOK EVENTS: https://www.facebook.com/events/424690467597346/

PROGRAMME: http://londonfeministfilmfestival.com/lfff-2013-programme/lfff2013/

MORE INFORMATION: www.londonfeministfilmfestival.com

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.

MORE INFO: http://www.underwirefestival.com

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.

SOHO THEATRE: http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/billy-the-girl

MORE INFO: http://www.cleanbreak.org.uk/

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.”

TICKETS: http://www.cptheatre.co.uk/event_details.php?sectionid=theatre&eventid=732

MORE INFO: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/sep/19/bridget-christie-festival-feminist-london

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.

RSVP: admin@nawo.org.uk.

MORE INFO: http://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/why-gender-should-be-on-europes-agenda-london/#more-%27

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.

MORE INFO: http://www.publicpolicyexchange.co.uk/events/DK13-PPE

NATIONAL

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.

BOOK TICKETS: contactwinterfloodkl@parliament.uk

This event has been arranged by the Houses of Parliament’s Outreach Service. Further information on their work can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/outreach

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.

MORE INFO: http://reclaimthenightleeds.wordpress.com/

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/224837194347698/

RECLAIM THE NIGHT: http://www.reclaimthenight.co.uk/

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.

WEBSITE: http://workershistory.wordpress.com/nwlhs-events/

MORE INFO: redflagwalks@gmail.com

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.

FACEBOOK EVENT / DAY: https://www.facebook.com/events/687874341242421/

FACEBOOK EVENT / EVENING: https://www.facebook.com/events/220472771448725/

WEBSITE: http://ladiyfestsheffield.wordpress.com/

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

MORE INFO:  http://womensliteraturefestival.wordpress.com/

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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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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Charlotte Raven burns shapwear

War on Spanx

What’s a modern feminist to do to update the bra-burning stereotypes of the second wave? In the spirit of 1970, we decided to burn our Spanx instead.

Sadly, burning shapewear proved too toxic and dangerous, and we don’t recommend trying it at home.

Our more creative plan B was to recruit a team of brilliant artists, charged with creating 101 original reinventions for our decommissioned shapewear and to ‘take it out of service’.

Our artists created masterpieces from a Faberge egg and a string of sausages to a trophy handbag and a pair of hanging plant pots. Appropriating something that’s bad for women and transforming it is the embodiment of our whole Feminist Times ethos.

Submit your own creative uses for decommissioned shapewear to our Facebook page. Thanks to our shapewear artists: Cecilie Telle, Jackie Parsons, Jessica Mallock, Sadie Murdoch, Suky Best, Giuliana Molinari, Ingrid Berthon-Moine, Hilary Barry, Abbie Norris, Victoria Harwood, Bek Cameron, Tim Copsey and Vanda Battye.

Giuliana Molinari / 'Lick Me' /

Giuliana Molinari / ‘Lick Me’ / Sugared shapewear pants, liquorice, royal icing and crystalized flowers / June 2013 / from the series ‘Do Not Eat Me’ / http://bit.ly/1c3FCpC

Suky Best / Good to go / B&W inkjet print / 2013 / sukybest.com

Suky Best / Good to go / B&W inkjet print / 2013 / sukybest.com

Bek Cameron / Trophy Bag / Shapewear, hair / 2013

Bek Cameron / Trophy Bag / Shapewear, hair / 2013

Sadie Murdoch / Riff on a Black Purl (series) / C-type print / 2013 / www.ersatzgallery.com

Sadie Murdoch / Riff on a Black Purl (series) / C-type print / 2013 / www.ersatzgallery.com

Sadie Murdoch / Riff on a Black Purl (series) / C-type print / 2013

Sadie Murdoch / Riff on a Black Purl (series) / C-type print / 2013

Sadie Murdoch / Riff on a Black Purl (series) / ink on paper / 2013

Sadie Murdoch / Riff on a Black Purl (series) / ink on paper / 2013

Sadie Murdoch / Riff on a Black Purl / 2013

Riff on a Black Purl

Bek Cameron / Punk / photograph / 2013

Bek Cameron / Punk / photograph / 2013

Hilary Barry / paint on shapewear / 2013 / www.hilarybarry.net

Hilary Barry / paint on shapewear / 2013 / www.hilarybarry.net

Hilary Barry / paint on shapewear / 2013 /  www.hilarybarry.net

Hilary Barry / paint, canvas, shapewear / 2013 / www.hilarybarry.net

Apple and Pear

Abbie Norris / Apple and Pear / shapewear filled with tights / 2013 / dropframe.co.uk

Spandex slugs

Victoria Harwood / spandex slugs / 2013

Jackie Parsons

Jackie Parsons wears inverted shapewear / 2013 / http://bit.ly/1hkiGR0

Ingrid Berthon Moine / Anti-shame wear / 2013 / www.ingridberthonmoine.com

Ingrid Berthon Moine / Anti-shame wear / 2013 / www.ingridberthonmoine.com

Ingrid Berthon Moine / Anti-shame wear / 2013

Ingrid Berthon Moine / Anti-shame wear / 2013

Cecilie Telle / crochet plant holders / 2013

Cecilie Telle / crochet plant holders / 2013

Vanda Battye and Tim Copsey / Buoy Meets Girl / 2013 / empty.co.uk/

Vanda Battye and Tim Copsey / Buoy Meets Girl / 2013 / empty.co.uk/

Jessica Mallock / Frozen shapewear, back and front views / 2013

Jessica Mallock / Frozen shapewear, back and front views / 2013

Lucy Newman / Sausages! / Shapewear, quilt padding / 2013 / luce.co.uk

Lucy Newman / Sausages! / Shapewear, quilt padding / 2013 / luce.co.uk

Charlotte Raven burns shapewear / Don't try this at home! / 2013

Charlotte Raven burns shapewear / Don’t try this at home! / 2013

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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.

MORE INFO: http://www.womenincomedy.co.uk/2013/home.html

FACEBOOK:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Women-in-Comedy-UK-Festival/133974683463983

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/womenincomedyuk

TICKETS: http://www.skiddle.com/whats-on/Manchester/Frog-And-Bucket/The-launch-of-the-UK-Women-in-Comedy-Festival/11937054/#eventticketsbox

FULL PROGRAMME: http://www.womenincomedy.co.uk/2013/home_files/Women%20in%20comedy%20festival%20guide.pdf

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.

MORE INFO: http://historyfeminism.wordpress.com/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/HistFemNet

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.

TICKETS: http://www.skiddle.com/events/11918748?skcampaign=fbe

MORE INFO: http://www.nefeministgathering.com/the-programme.php

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/NorthEastFG

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.

MORE INFO: http://leedsladyfest.wordpress.com/

TICKETS: http://www.leedsladyfest.bigcartel.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/events/505109659581311/?fref=ts

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/leedsladyfest

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)

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CLIT-ROCK/220135141374485

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1106342036172633/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/CLIT_ROCK

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

MORE INFO: http://www.feminisminlondon.co.uk/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Feminism-in-London-conference/161906123876922

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/FIL2013

TICKETS: http://fil.clientsite.co.uk/

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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