Tag Archives: music

Dolly Parton – “A radical in rhinestones”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7th August, EXETER: Starz Bar

10th August, RETFORD: The Birches, ReVerb Project

15th August, CHELTENHAM: The Frog and Fiddle

17th August, BRIGHTON: The Marwood

18th August, CHICHESTER: The Chichester Inn

24th August, MANCHESTER: The Castle

27th August, NORWICH: The Bicycle Shop

28th August, SANDBACH: The Cycle Junction

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The Punk Singer – Return of the Riot Grrrls?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Punk Singer Dogwoof Documentary 1

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

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

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

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

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

The Punk Singer Competition

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

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

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

SO200688 Dogwoof Badges comp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook Event HERE.

rumble5

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

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

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The forgotten women of Kalamazoo

In 1942 Glenn Miller’s I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo swung its way to the top of the Hit Parade charts for eight weeks. One year earlier, a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy at Pearl Harbour had dragged America into war, stealing its men overnight like a hypnagogic hallucination. At the same time an extraordinary group of women walked quietly through the doors of 225 Parsons Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Their mission: to build wartime Gibson guitars.

Glenn Miller wasn’t the only one who had a gal in Kalamazoo. During the years 1942-45, Gibson Guitar Corporation had several. As is the case with many a clandestine affair, their existence has long since been deleted and rewritten from the Gibson history books, their fingerprints and handiwork polished away with a J-cloth. As quietly as they entered the Gibson factory in January 1942, they disappeared again.

John Thomas’ personal quest to find the lost Kalamazoo gals is endearingly told in Kalamazoo Gals: A story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s “Banner” Guitars of WWII. This is not just one story but many; finally giving these women their voice, to talk about the guitars they made for a manufacturer that denied they ever existed.

Why the cover-up? We never quite find out. The Kalamazoo women produced nearly 25,000 guitars during World War II yet Gibson denied ever building instruments over this period. Their ads in 1945 even welcomed a ‘new world’ where guitars would be ‘available again’. Gibson folklore eradicated their gals from history, claiming only “seasoned craftsmen” too old for war were carrying out repairs. In reality, women such as Jenny Snow, Velura Wood, Mary Jane Dowels and Ruth Stap populated the work benches, creating refined Banner Gibsons from rationed materials. No mean feat.

As the women vanished in 1945, returning to their children, kitchens and marriages, the Banner Gibsons vanished too. These guitars are unequivocally strapped to the women who made them, with the slogan “Only a Gibson is Good Enough” on the golden banners of the guitar headstocks. “There it would reside for four short years, to disappear sometime in 1945, not again to be seen until the Gibson Company produced reissues in the 1990s of the guitars that many players and collectors contend represent Gibson’s zenith.” And this is what makes John Thomas’ book all the more vital; the Kalamazoo Girls created some of the best guitars in Gibson’s history.

This book is their story, their lives, in their modest words. None consider their work extraordinary. Most shrug themselves off the page that frames them, undermining their contribution as unskilled. 84-year-old Jenny Snow who can uncoil and recoil Gibson mona-steel string in a blink of an eye; Velura Wood who inspected every single Banner flattop guitar during the years 1943-46; frail Mary Jane Dowels, now 80, who back in 1944 “did those fancy ones, you know. The L-5s and Super 400s. I could bind 26 or 27 headstocks in a day.” And then there’s Ruth Stap, who inlaid the Gibsons with mother of pearl. Around her neck is a wooden heart she made in the Gibson factory with five mother of pearl stars. Each star represents one of her brothers: “One for each of my brothers who was in the war. I wore it every day of the war and, you know what? All of my brothers made it back.”

What makes each tale bittersweet is their brevity. As one Gibson gal, Delores, sums up for the group: “My husband got out of the service in 1946 and I became a homemaker”. They loved to work. Like most of us, they loved getting paid even more, but when the time came the same modesty that underpinned their talent, underpinned their willingness to leave as quickly as they arrived without complaint or protestation.

All we’re left with is this one sincere testament to their story, told 70 years after both the Banners and their Kalamazoo gals disappeared, just like Glenn Miller, whose aircraft vanished without trace only a few months earlier in 1944 somewhere over the English Channel. Miller himself once declared: “America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music”. How true that was, and will always be, for the extraordinary Banner women of Kalamazoo.

Competition

We’re offering Feminist Times members the chance to win a copy of Kalamazoo Gals: A story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson’s “Banner” Guitars of WWII, signed by author John Thomas.

Enter your details here and we’ll select one winner at random at 5pm tomorrow, Thursday 24 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.

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

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Feminist Events Listings: April 2014

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

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

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

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

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

NATIONAL

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

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

You can post your photos on the event on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/1405046029753784/

MORE INFO: http://www.meetusonthestreet.org/

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

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

MORE INFO: http://www.wegottickets.com/whatthefrockcomedy

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

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

TICKETS: http://www.wegottickets.com/f/7129

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/502028353250998/

LONDON

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

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

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

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

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

TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fawcett-story-tellers-tickets-7311772709

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

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

TICKETS: http://goo.gl/SE1Lp3

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

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

MORE INFO: https://www.facebook.com/FeministLibrary

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

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

MORE INFO: http://www.rightsofwomen.org.uk/training.php

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

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

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Should we stop asking pop stars about feminism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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From Trafficking to Fashionistas: WOW tries to encapsulate all feminisms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How the youths’ villain went from Thatcher to Harry Styles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Photos: TheMikeRoberts & Byzantine K

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The end of orchestral sexism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Feminist Events Listings: March 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

NATIONAL

8 March || International Women’s Day

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

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

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

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

MORE INFO: http://www.oxfordinternationalwomensfestival.co.uk/2014-festival/

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

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

MORE INFO: http://wonderwomenmcr.blogspot.co.uk/

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

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

Here are the workshops planned so far:

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

  • Challenging stereotyping – Women in Engineering

  • Celebrating feminist activism – Sheffield Feminist Network

  • Women inspiring women collage – Sheffield Futures

  • One Billion Rising – Cllr Nikki Bond

  • A history of protest – WILPF

  • Women and domestic violence

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

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

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

FULL LISTINGS & MORE INFO: http://translationtransmission.wordpress.com/

FACEBOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/761938503821442/

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

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

WORKSHOP: http://www.whatthefrockcomedy.co.uk/#!march-16/c1tb3

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

SHOWCASE: http://www.whatthefrockcomedy.co.uk/#!march-16—showcase/c1243

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

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

LONDON

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

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

MORE INFO: http://goo.gl/7zSvG8

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

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

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/611875185549676/

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

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

MORE INFO: http://goo.gl/bkvkB6

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

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

MEET: 12:00 NOON, OXFORD STREET, LONDON

SET OFF: 1:00

RALLY : 3:00 @ TRAFALGAR SQUARE

AFTER PARTY: 5:00 @ THE 52 CLUB, 52 GOWER STREET

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/246935428810959/

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

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

BUY TICKETS: http://goo.gl/qrxmmo

MORE INFO: http://goo.gl/lJZb5b

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

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

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Debbie Harry to become first woman musician awarded Godlike Genius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NME Awards take place tomorrow, Wednesday 26 February.

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

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about Wowzers Festival at wowzersfest.org or follow @WowzersFest

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“PUSSY RIOT” release new video

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

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

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

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

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

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

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

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

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

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

Putin will teach you how to love the motherland

The motherland
The motherland
The motherland

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Feminist Events Listings: February 2014

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

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

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

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

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

NATIONAL

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

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

Events happening worldwide and nationwide please follow this link to see events in the UK: http://www.onebillionrising.org/events/

MORE INFO: http://www.onebillionrising.org/

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

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

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

Moral particularism: a contribution to feminist thinking

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

Stop Thinking (So Much) About ‘Sexual Harassment’

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

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

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

Facing Prejudice: Negotiating the Cultural Politics of Identity

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

MORE INFO:http://www.eventbrite.com/o/ihssr-4168900447?s=16853075

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

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

EMAIL: zaimal@nottinghamwomenscentre.com

WEBSITE: www.nottinghamwomenscentre.com

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

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

EMAIL: tabz.obrien-butcher@manchester.ac.uk

FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/ReclaimTheNightManchesterUk

FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/439068732888265/?ref=22

LONDON

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

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

Monday, 17 February 2014, 8pm: Performance

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

Tuesday, 18 February 2014, 7pm: Workshop

Redefining the Strong Black Woman

Wednesday, 19 February 2014, 7pm: Panel Discussion

Black (Mis)Representation

Chaired by Brenna Bhandar, SOAS

Thursday, 20 February 2014, 7pm: Conversations

Black Feminism 101: Claiming spaces in mainstream feminism

Facilitated by Charmaine Elliott, Black Feminists UK

Friday, 21 February 2014, 7pm: Performance

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

Directed by Adam Tulloch

MORE INFO: http://aint-i-a-woman.tumblr.com/

FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/aintiawomansoas

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

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

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

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

MORE INFO: http://www.lse.ac.uk/genderInstitute/events/Upcoming.aspx

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

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

MORE INFO: http://thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/women/

TICKETS: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/womens-assembly-against-austerity-tickets-9613437049

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

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

BOOK TICKETS: http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/rosie-wilby-nineties-woman/

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

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

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

MORE INFO: http://eastlondonfawcett.org.uk/are-men-doing-it.html

JOIN MAILING-LIST & ATTEND: : mendiscussfeminism@yahoo.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 for full feminist event listings for January.

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From Beliebers to broadcasters, noisy women are powerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Hendrik Dacquin

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Profile: Clit Rock

I created Clit Rock out of sheer rage.

For me, female genital mutilation (FGM) culminates all the misogyny in the world into a single act. It speaks volumes about the fear of women and female sexuality in patriarchal societies. It is oppression on steroids.

Like so many things these days, Clit Rock was started online by a post on Facebook. I remember sharing yet another story on FGM and most people either chose to ignore it or confessed they were not even aware of this practice. I said, “why doesn’t someone do something to raise awareness about this, like a music event? They could call it Clit Rock!” One of my friends said, “You should do it”, and behold Clit Rock was born.

I am constantly amazed by the people who choose to ignore though. What is this response about? What exactly does it mean? My social media feed is constantly inundated with posts highlighting the plight of animals and that’s great but what about your fellow humans? Why do so many people skip over issues that affect literally millions of women and girls and go straight to saving the chickens? Honest question. If you have any idea please let a sister know?

I digress. I didn’t know exactly where Clit Rock would lead me, I just knew I wanted to help raise awareness and funds for anyone already fighting on the front lines of this cause. I found Daughters Of Eve online and I have learned a lot from its inspiring founders Nimko Ali and Leyla Hussein. I never try to speak for survivors of FGM; I aim only to support in any way I can.

Clit Rock is a celebration of women who rock! We put on bands, artists, DJs with fire in their belly. We dance until they turn the lights on and kick us out (if you came to the last one you can attest to that). It is about being made aware of the work that needs to be done and reveling in how far we’ve come.

I cannot tell you how many people have said to me that they are hesitant about coming to a Clit Rock event because of the seriousness of the cause or because they might be uncomfortable. Sigh… Let me take this opportunity to assure you that we do not get together every few months to sit around and cry for five hours! Leyla, for example, refuses to be called a victim. She instead demands that she be referred to as a survivor and she not only survives but thrives!

We seek to educate and uplift because we know this is a fight that can be won. If you do not feel great after a Clit Rock event, we’ll give you your money back! Well, not really, (it’s for charity man) but you know what I mean.

To quote Daughters Of Eve: “If you save one girl, you save a generation.” If you want to help us save countless generations of women and girls, join us!

The next Clit Rock event will take place on Friday April 4th 2014
Bands, DJs, Artists, Speakers, Visionaries.
Underbelly, Hoxton, London
£5 Entry

Don’t forget your dancing shoes, oh yes there will be dancing at this revolution! See you there… #EndFGM

If you would like more information about the reality of FGM in the UK please see Leyla’s Channel 4 documentary The Cruel Cut.

Dana Jade is a musician, writer and founder of Clit Rock. Follow Clit Rock @CLIT_ROCK

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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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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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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.

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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Savile case ignites feminism in music

When I was 9-years-old I wrote to Jim’ll Fix It. My letter never got answered but it horrifies me thinking back that if I’d achieved my goal to be on that show I would have been in the lair of that man.

Almost 30 years later I think it is no coincidence that the outing of Savile as a sexual predator has come at the same time as a massive feminist renaissance, particularly within the music and entertainment industries. In fact, I think the Savile revelations have been an important cultural catalyst for a generation of women who just won’t stay silent anymore.

Like many people of my age who have cherished childhood memories of shows such as Jim’ll Fix It, It’s a Knockout, Rolf Harris’ Cartoon Time, etc. these sordid revelations shocked me to my very core. It makes us question society’s complicit behaviour, our inner child cries out in protest and as adults we feel guilt at such unchecked and accepted behaviour, which was passed off as “what the culture of celebrity was like in the 70’s/80s.”

Why was this behaviour accepted and ignored? Turned a blind eye to? Whichever way you want to look at it everyone was complicit and so the memory of Top Of The Pops is reduced to that of a sexual breeding ground for perverse males, with young girls being treated as no more than objects for the celebrity entourage. Another childhood memory wiped out and tainted.

Reports of sex abuse have soared since these revelations came to light and there have now been 15 people arrested for sex offences as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation. Would these crimes have gone unnoticed if the floodgates hadn’t been opened by the Jimmy Savile case?

In recent months I have witnessed women both in front and behind the scenes of the prehistoric beast that is the music industry speaking out about inequality and sexism. Women are beginning to speak out publicly about the injustice they have suffered throughout their lives and careers. I have never witnessed so many women speaking out in my 15 years in the music industry. Something is afoot, the plates are shifting. It occurred to me that surely this is no coincidence.

Sometimes it takes something so huge and terrible to jolt society from its sleeping state. Women are speaking out about the unchecked misogyny that happens ritually in their day-to-day lives. We have had enough.

The culture of celebrity is in the docks post Jimmy Savile but, perhaps ironically due to the strength of celebrity and the media, we need people to use that power to voice their experience of inequality and sexism.

We need to turn this overwhelming negative into a positive to use to our advantage, not only to prevent anything like this ever happening again, in any way shape or form, but also that we don’t accept any form of misogyny, abuse or victimisation of girls or women. We must speak out, now!

Claire Southwick is a Producer & Artist Manager and spokesperson for women in music with 15 years experience in the Music Industry. Claire is a regular panelist at music conferences around the globe. Follow Claire here @clairesouthwick

Photo: Bad Greeb Records

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Feminist Events Listings: November 2013

Verity Flecknell

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

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

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

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

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

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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GALLERY: Founder Members’ Restitution Ball

On Thursday 3 October we celebrated our launch with the Restitution Ball, an immersive experience to thank our Founder Members for their support, complete with aerobics for the men, penitent waiters and feminist performance art.

Read The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein’s speech The Complete History of Feminism created specially for the occasion.

Thanks to all who came along. Below is a gallery of our favourite photos from the night.

With thanks to Mother London, Miss High Leg Kick, Bobby Baker, The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein, ClubMotherf*cker, Rebecca Strickson and all our amazing volunteers.

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Why feel sorry for people on The X Factor?

Feminist Times is building a dedicated Children’s section for phase two of the website. At the moment Anna is writing to bring a child’s perspective to an adult audience, but this website is not aimed at children.

When I occasionally watch The X Factor at my friend’s house I always feel very sorry people who try so hard and persevere and then the judges can just say that was horrible.

I think people have forgotten to feel sorry for the contestants and just watch it for the pleasure of people being sent off by rich people. They forget that all these people try so hard and persevere and just get sent off.

If I had my way I would say contests witch include people leaving with nothing should be banned because as I said people try as hard as they can. Also I don’t know why they get so worked up about a record deal from Simon Cowell I know this could start someone’s career but they could get it a fairer way.

This could damage the participants because they entered and some people hated them. Thats why people should tell white lies and not take sides. This could also damage society because in real life people may forget to feel sorry for the less fortunate.

So to sum it up I don’t really like The X Factor.

 

Image courtesy of Rocor

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Paris trip

My punk feminist tantrum

Never meet your heroes and don’t get drunk if you do. My track record of what happens when I meet feminists I admire is much more miss than hit, so I thought I should tell my story as a form of feminist parable – a warning to the young and impressionable.

There’s the time a well-loved pundit gave me the look Simon Cowell would give an overweight, middle-aged woman with rosacea and I almost cried. Then the time when I was so tongue-tied upon being introduced to an actress I adore that the only thing that came out of my mouth was a stuttery, whispered, “can I have a hug?”  Oh my, did she think I was weird.

But the time that beats all times, hands down, was when my old band 586 was supporting The Slits in Paris, 2007, as part of Les Femmes S’en Mêlent festival.

As the “feminist” in the band I was very excited to be supporting my heroes. Hell, the boys in the band were excited; we all regarded the Slits as being punk royalty with some amazing tunes, Typical Girls being my favourite.

On the journey there I fantasised about how our meeting would go. Ari Up would sense the brilliant punk feminist in me from our time together in the dressing room and invite me to hang out with them for dinner pre-show. They’d call me up on stage to jam out Heard it Through the Grapevine, having seen me be amazing in soundcheck, and I’d play some awesome solo as everyone claps. Then we’d all take on Paris’s nightlife and be best friends forever.

I didn’t yet know it but as I tasted my first small French beer, upon arriving at the venue, I was actually setting myself up for a lawsuit rather than my perfect, utopian, punk feminist fantasy.

I hung around the stage for their soundcheck, smiling a little too much, looking eager and clapping a lot when the stage manager came over to me and explained that the Slits didn’t want to share a dressing room as it was too small. Instead, we were being put up in a room upstairs with a view over Paris.

We waited up in this room for hours, taking photos that made it look like we were holding the Eiffel Tower in between our forefinger and thumb. Drinking small French beer after small French beer as the other band on that night soundchecked. By the time we soundchecked I looked around for my heroes and they were nowhere to be seen. They had gone for dinner.

More small French beers and we were on. My heroes had not returned and we played a good gig to a fair audience – in fact, the French loved us, my adrenaline rocketed. We watched the other support band and by the time the Slits were on were all pretty toasted, screaming and jumping up and down.

I tried to get to Ari Up after their show but she was busy – and being older and wiser now I can perfectly well imagine how she would want to avoid hanging out with a very drunk 20-something. But back then I figured I had to prove myself, so I decided to do something a little mental and very drunk.

I went back up to our dressing room, three floors up, and along with a “fan” started throwing glasses and bottles out of the window onto a roof below. More people joined in because it looked fun, and I could see the faces of the Slits as they looked up from the garden, several metres to the left of the roof we were hitting. Were they impressed?

No. It took only three minutes for security to come up to say the Slits had asked if we could be escorted from the premises. I went off into the night, had my own Paris adventure and awoke with a stinking hangover and these words being shouted down a mobile phone:

“Deborah, why am I having to avoid a lawsuit from the Slits?!”

Our manager was angry.  My band were kinda pretending they weren’t angry. And, by the time we arrived at the following day’s show in Camden, I ran off crying down the street. Oh the drama.

The lawsuit was avoided, as no one had been hurt in my punk feminist tantrum, but my pride was forever dented. All I had been trying to do was fit in, trying to fit in so badly I really stood out.

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Trinidad carnival image

Twerking? Dat is jus’ winin’

I must confess having to look up this “new” dance craze now universally known as Twerking. Imagine my surprise to find this American choreographer on YouTube explaining exactly what to do when I thought to myself “but at home dat is jus’ winin’”.

Yes winin’. Please don’t ever call it “winding”, you will be laughed out of town by the Caribbean diaspora. I admit it is more than just winin’, but even so it only employs other moves we have already been familiar with for years in the West Indies. It’s more of a winin’ down, drop, drop, drop it, booty clap, booty clap. Boom ting. Get it? No? Me Neither.

Even growing up in the Caribbean doesn’t mean you can automatically pull off advanced dancehall queen moves such as these. One must practice and I chose to spend my time perfecting barre chords and not winin’ on my head (look out for that one, it’s coming) but to each their own. As far back as I can remember it has been utilised in every dancehall video I have ever seen. Go YouTube badass Patra videos from the 90s.

So why is everyone suddenly so interested in what they call “twerking”? Well, we have Miley Cyrus to thank for the newfound interest the dance which hails from West African Mapouka, it’s as old as the hills.

I watched that performance and I was more surprised by the fact Robin Thicke can’t sing that song live at all. Seriously, like at all. What else was surprising is that there was a general consensus that this ridiculous performance was shocking. I barely raised an eyebrow.

But is twerking anti feminist because Miley got it all wrong? I’d hate to think that someone would think of me as anti feminist because of my culture.

As a Trinidadian living in London I’ve learned the hard way that some things don’t cross over, culturally speaking. I had to make a personal rule of “not dancing like a Trinidadian in clubs around London”. Whenever I demonstrate, all my friends agree it is akin to “dry humping”.

I argue that that is just how we dance, even with strangers, it means absolutely nothing! Have you seen any Carnival footage ever? But it’s gotten me into trouble more than once – a girl ended up crying at Leeds Festival because of my moves, hence the rule. One culture’s status quo is another’s scandal.

When it comes to appropriating culture that is not your own, I think it helps to ask: is this helpful or hurtful? Am I merely bringing an already existing art form to the masses with love and respect or am I shamelessly exploiting it for YouTube hits?

Take Madonna. Madonna is obviously not a South Asian woman but during her blissed out yoga phase she started sporting saris, bindis and henna. As a woman of East Indian descent I feel included and normalised when a superstar like her brings it to the mainstream.

If it’s about celebrating culture and honestly tipping your hat, how can that be a bad thing? I for one want to live in a world where we are constantly learning, sharing and enriching each other’s lives. That includes the twerk, the bad and the ugly.

 

Dana Jade is a musician, activist and founder of ClitRock which raises money and awareness to combat FGM.  Find out more @Dana_Jade

Photo courtesy of sfmission.com

 

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SIATC logo

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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