Tag Archives: film

Video: “Expected victimhood” – do you know how to escape a zip tie?

(Trigger Warning: contains references to sexual violence.)

Claire Kurylowski’s latest film IN REAL LIFE in which she makes a feminist inquiry into the perpetuation of sexual harassment culture.

“The point of departure for IN REAL LIFE was a YouTube video I watched titled How to Break Out of Zip Ties. It went viral with over 3.5 million hits to date.

For me the video reinstated the idea that women should be accountable for their ‘expected victimhood’ and, inversely, the lack of accountability/deterrent strategies existing in the same forms and scope, if at all, for anti-abuse and anti-sexual harassment.”

Claire Kurylowski is a London based film director, writer & editor. Richly atmospheric moods paired with intimate portraits characterise her body of work. . @kurylowski

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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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Hollywood still male and pale

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

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

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Preview: Birds Eye View Film Festival

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

The Opening & Closing Nights

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

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

Women on the edge

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

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

How I live now

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

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

Fashion

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

Classics

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

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

Bright & British

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

Competition

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

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

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“PUSSY RIOT” release new video

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

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

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

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

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

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

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

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

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

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

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

The motherland
The motherland
The motherland

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Cate Blanchett, choice and complicity on the red carpet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Siebbi

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A year in Black Feminism

It’s been an interesting year for black feminism, with a very current spotlight shone on black feminism as a political identity, and eagerness to openly discuss what this means. The sudden popularity of intersectionality has resulted in very public discussions of day to day manifestations of white supremacy, and honesty about structural racism and exclusion.

However, we have not come to this point without a great personal cost to the black women who have stuck their necks on the line to challenge the status quo. As the year draws to a close, I’d like to pay homage to some pivotal moments for black feminism in 2013.

Featured Image: Leyla Hussein on the Cruel Cut.

1. FGM hit the headlines

Daughters of Eve (Leyla Hussein, Nimko Ali and Sainab Abdi) is dedicated to end the practice of female genital mutilation, a practice that disproportionality affects women and girls from the African, Asian and Middle Eastern diaspora. In June of this year, Daughters of Eve teamed up with the NSPCC to launch a helpline to protect girls at risk from the abuse. In November, Leyla Hussein broadcast a powerful documentary about the abuse with Channel 4, entitled The Cruel Cut, taking FGM to the front of public consciousness. A Daughters of Eve’s petition, aimed at decision makers in the Home Office, is rapidly nearing the 100,000 signatures required to see the topic discussed in parliament.

2. Intersectionality went mainstream

Just a year ago, you’d be hard pressed to find an article discussing the personal impact of structural racism in the mainstream media. Now, an increasing number of women are redefining themselves as intersectional, as the broad church of feminism recognises a need to embrace a critical analysis that includes, but is not limited to, gendered oppression. 2013 saw high profile cases involving white female pop stars such as Lily Allen preaching feminism but using black women’s bodies to make a political point.

Earlier in the year, Mikki Kendall’s #solidarityisforwhitewomen trended on twitter, inadvertently serving as a tool for black women to air out some of the issues from years of putting up with racism and whiteness in feminist spaces. There is still a long way to go and much self-reflection to be had before all our feminisms are truly inclusive, but this year saw a tidal wave of change.

3. Muslim women said no to FEMEN

Topless Ukrainian group FEMEN bared their breasts in a number of protests this year, but their activism has been consistently marred by Islamophobic themes in their messaging. In May, FEMEN organised International Topless Jihad Day- a protest against what they called Islam’s mistreatment of women. But Muslim women swiftly bit back, culminating in a popular Facebook page called ‘Muslim Women Against FEMEN’. On the page, they said ‘We have had enough of western feminists imposing their values on us. We are taking a stand to make our voices heard and reclaim our agency.’ Then, in August, Tunisian FEMEN activist Amina Sbou left the group, telling the Huffington Post: “I do not want my name to be associated with an Islamophobic organisation.”

Muslim Women Against Femen

Image courtesy of Muslim Women Against Femen

4. Southall Black Sisters took on the UK Border Agency

For decades, Southall Black Sisters have worked with immigrant women escaping for abusive relationships, and their work recognises the impact political attitudes to immigration have on the lives of these women. This year state approved racial profiling resulted in document checks at tube stations. White men in uniforms yielded their power to stop and search anyone who looked vaguely ‘illegal’ – a physical act of othering that stoked racial tensions in a context where the likes of the EDL’s Tommy Robinson and UKIP’s Nigel Farage already get disproportionate airtime on our television screens. When a UKBA van parked up outside their office this year, Southall Black Sisters fought back with direct action, and when the Home Office launched its anti-immigrant ‘Go Home’ campaign, SBS organised a mass protest.

Feminist Times visits Southall Balck Sisters protest against current immigration policy. from Feminist Times on Vimeo.

5. Dark Girls premiered in the UK

Dark Girls, a US-based film about the impact of white supremacist beauty ideals on black and brown women and girls across the globe, was released. In September, Dr Jude Smith Rachele, CEO of Abundant Sun brought the film to the UK. The film’s premiere ignited conversations about the consequences of beauty ideals, even bringing a short discussion of the topic to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. For black women, Dark Girls stirred memories of shadeism in our own communities and the importance of principled resistance to toxic beauty ideals that were never meant for us in the first place.

Reni Eddo-Lodge is a black feminist writer and campaigner based in London. She blogs at http://renieddolodge.co.uk/ and tweets @renireni

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London Feminist Film Festival: Representations of Lesbianism

Alisha Rouse attended last week’s London Feminist Film Festival at the Hackney Picturehouse for us. In the second of three short blog posts, she reports back on the session on Representations of Lesbianism.

Blue is the Warmest Colour, the latest beautiful but painfully long film to rock out of Cannes, was described by its original feminist writer Julie Maroh as: “a straight person’s fantasy of gay love.”

The women involved are young, beautiful and rife with passion, drama, intensity and lust. They’re vulnerable, impressionable, and will presumably one day change their minds. It’s just the kind of lesbianism we’re all comfortable with; particularly the kind of lesbianism that male directors are comfortable with.

Take Black Swan as another case in point. A ridiculous revenge fantasy with incredibly loose lesbian subtext, where lesbianism – as Linda Fingleton, director and star of Waiting for You, told me at the London Feminist Film Festival – is shown as something dramatic and sinful. It’s always an affair, or suicide, or a death.

In fact, Linda told me she didn’t remember one on-screen gay relationship that didn’t end in one or both dying, or realising the error of their ways and running back to their heterosexual partner.

Her documentary, shot entirely with her video camera and starring just her and her partner Rena, is the antithesis of every ‘lesbians are subversive and kinky as hell and will inevitably turn back to cock’ film you’ve ever seen.

Filmed while they went through IVF – originally to show their future child – it is touching not just for its frank, emotional depiction of a couple who desperately want a child, but also that it shows a regular lesbian couple. A normal, real-life, living and fucking breathing until long after the credits roll, lesbian couple. They sit in bed, in pyjamas, with a cup of tea and chat.

This is the kind of lesbianism that makes people uncomfortable. Real, frank, and just the same as every hetero relationship going. That’s why there are no blockbusters about it; this level of acceptance of sexuality makes society very uneasy – it scares them, and it’s not sexy. And lesbians must, flaws and drama aside, always be sexy.

Lesbian representation in cinema seems to have one particular group crusading against the sexualised and hetero-friendly world of lesbianism in modern cinema – the London Lesbian Film Festival. It’s the only one in the world and it’s in Canada. Not this London, but the much smaller London in Ontario. Bending the Lens, a documentary celebrating the lesbian film festival’s 20th birthday, was also shown in Hackney for the London Feminist Film Festival.

A large group of volunteers, all of whom had no idea there were any other lesbians in London (no, again, not this one) get together every year and put on an awesome festival, where films are ‘by and for lesbians’. It’s the only of its kind in the world and aims to show lesbians that it, “doesn’t have to be dirty or smutty; you can talk about this stuff.”

As one keen Canadian put it, “I like women, I like popcorn, I like movies.” Depressingly enough, outside of this valley of sisterhood, it’s rare she’ll see a film that shows lesbian relationships in the way she knows: serious, stable, and where no one dies at the end.

Alisha Rouse is a Newspaper Journalism MA student at City University, desperately missing the north and praying for a job. Find out more @alisharouse.

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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London Feminist Film Festival: Body Politics

Alisha Rouse attended last week’s London Feminist Film Festival at the Hackney Picturehouse for us. In the first of three short blog posts, she reports back on the opening session, Body Politics.

It’s been 40 years since Our Bodies, Ourselves came out and caused a right raucous by suggesting that body image, transgender issues and abortion were things women could claim ownership of.

Down here in the 21st century, and the Sunday before last, in fact, ‘Body Politics’ was the premiere session at the second ever London Feminist Film Festival.

A great, week-long film fest based at the Hackney Picturehouse, the opening session featured three feminist documentaries dealing with women’s ownership and power over their bodies.

The Cut was a deeply upsetting film documenting FGM in east Africa, where girls are circumcised from as young as six. FGM is an extreme but very real example of body politics for women living in these communities, and for many women in our own.

The politics of body ownership are still hugely up for debate. More women, like Texan senator Wendy Davis, are standing up (albeit not for as long as Wendy did, bless her) and trying to gain the most basic rights to self-determine the life of their torso and its inners.

I’ve asked some of my friends about this, and as expected, the responses were pleasing and generic.

“So, who owns a woman’s body?”

“The woman, obviously!”

“Do you think a woman has a right to choose what happens with her body?”

“Of course!”

“Good! Well done, right thinking individual.”

“No problem, Alisha!”

But when push comes to sexist shove, the packaging of body politics may have changed, but the product is just the same. While the majority of right-thinking men, women and politicians (a breed of their own) consistently state that a woman has the right to govern her own body, it’s rare that insinuations of male or societal ownership don’t come creeping through.

Still Fighting: The Story of Clinic Escorts showed women and men abusing people on their way into abortion clinics in America – and in liberal-thinking New York state, no less.

In the style of Shirley Phelps and the far-holier-than-thou Westboro Baptist Church, there were placards and Hail Marys, as pretty amazing volunteers escorted women into the clinic, surrounded by vile and unfaltering hatred.

Being in a north-eastern state, the documentary was even more frightening. With Davis filibustering for what felt like days to make sure abortions in Texas weren’t restricted, while still refusing to mention the A word in her political leaflets, the US seem to have no visible heroes for the self-determination of women’s bodies, except these amazing ladies in hi-visibility jackets.

Back in the UK, Blank Canvas, a short but sweet documentary, gave us all hope. A woman suffering from cancer and going through chemotherapy, opted to henna her bald head rather than getting a wig, using the canvas as self-expression: expression that she needn’t pretend all is fine; needn’t look a way that makes non-sufferers feel more comfortable; and needn’t suffer from the lack of control cancer gives you over your body.

She took control, and we all need to learn something from that.

Alisha Rouse is a Newspaper Journalism MA student at City University, desperately missing the north and praying for a job. Find out more @alisharouse.

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: 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)

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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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India’s Forgotten Children

Last Thursday saw the launch of India’s Forgotten Children, a powerful documentary film exposing the trafficking and oppression of some of India’s poorest children, from the 250 million strong Dalit community.

Feminist Times was invited to the premiere, at Leicester Square’s Vue cinema, by Dalit Freedom Network, one of three charities that partnered on the making of the film.

The Dalit people, formerly known as Untouchables, are victims of India’s ancient caste system: outcast, destitute and oppressed. The one-hour film made by Pipe Village Trust, a human rights filmmaking charity, examines the scale of trafficking and exploitation that Dalit children face daily.

What the film lacks in production values, it makes up for in harrowing, rarely told stories from some incredibly marginalised people. Filmed in villages around Bengaluru, Lucknow and Hyderabad, filmmaker Michael Lawson interviews boys in bonded labour, working gruelling jobs to pay off their parents’ debts, and a 13-year-old runaway who was abused by her father and uncle.

Later we see a young woman manual scavenging – cleaning out human excrement by hand. The footage shows human waste, teeming with maggots, being mixed with ash, as the woman takes a pill to “numb my brain, so I don’t vomit.”

Pipe Village Trust presents the modern-day slavery of Dalit children as threefold: trafficking into bonded labour, organ harvesting, and the sex trade – an industry that exploits millions of young girls, and increasingly boys.

Much is made of India’s status as a rising global power; to those campaigning on behalf of the Dalit community, this oppression is part of India’s dark secret.

There are laws in place to protect Dalits from discrimination but, according to Lawson’s interviewees, the Indian government largely turns a blind eye to the reality, and the Dalits’ plight is all but unheard of in the West.

The film has a broader scope than I expected and, as well as focusing on children, much time is dedicated to the double oppression experienced by Dalit women and girls – exploited and outcast not just because of discrimination against Dalits, but also affected by deeply entrenched gender discrimination.

One interview is with an older woman – a ‘Jogini’ or ‘Devadasi’ prostitute, sold into ritualised sex slavery at the age of nine – explaining the lifelong impact of being trafficked as a child. Her story begins with superstitious parents dedicating their young daughter to a goddess, a tradition that leads to forced prostitution and a devastating lifetime of abuse and exploitation.

The statistics set alongside these stories are equally shocking: every day four Dalit women are raped and eight children under the age of fourteen commit suicide.

Following these poignant encounters the film ends, somewhat inevitably, on a note of optimism and redemption, highlighting what is already being done by NGOs to change the future for India’s Dalits.

Indian women’s activists Cynthian Stephen and Jeevaline Kumar explain how services like the Tarika Women’s Training Centre empower Dalit women by giving them a trade to escape from exploitation.

Similarly, the film suggests English-language schools set up by NGOs across the country offer India’s forgotten children a future – a way out of child labour, an education leading to a career, and the confidence that so many would otherwise lack.

The Dalit children we see at the end of the film are smiley and confident, well fed on their school dinner, smartly dressed in school uniform, and describing their ambitions to be a doctor, a cricketer, and a police officer. They are a far cry from Mariam – a 16-year-old girl interviewed earlier in the film who, following a failed suicide attempt, has faced persistent threats of death and violence from family members and is too scared for her life to be shown on film.

Kumar Swamy, the South India Director of Dalit Freedom Network, features heavily in the documentary and spoke in the post-film discussion about his experiences growing up as a Dalit child. He is evangelical about the transformative power of English-medium education, but is clear that much more remains to be done at all levels of Indian society.

To find out more or get involved in campaigning on behalf of Dalit women and children, visit Pipe Village Trust, Dalit Freedom Network, Free a Dalit Child or Red International.

Image copyright Michael Lawson.

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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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