Tag Archives: online

Why do so many progressives always fall short on mental health?

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

So many of us walk the tightrope day by day.

One day soon it might just all go wrong – a friend too many dies, or we lose a job we liked, or the credit card maxxes out on us. Depression – if you have it – is always there a bit, but sometimes it kicks in when bad things happen.

That’s the way it’s been with me. There was a patch a few years ago when I found myself getting off buses in the middle of a journey to go sit on steps in the city and cry, but after a while that stopped.

Or it might just be the weather in our head – today is shiny, but tomorrow who knows?

A lot of people live with varying degrees of clinical depression, and about two thirds of those are women. Many people live with OCD, or are bipolar, or have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. There’s nothing to stop anyone having more than one mental illness. Entirely separate from all of that, there are all the people who are not neurotypical, whose wiring is a bit different; there’s nothing to stop any of them being depressed or whatever as well.

So many of us have bad days, or weeks, or months. And they’re not made better by people being clueless about it who ought to know better. The only reason why I don’t complain more about the failings of the Left, the women’s movement, and the LGBT community on mental health is that mainstream society is amazingly even worse.

Most of us lie about our state of mind all the time because we don’t want people to know. Less than perfect mental health is still a stigma, even if we are less liable to be locked up for it and forced into treatment. It means that anything we say or create will be treated as less valuable, less likely to be true.

We try to pass, we use the language that hurts us, and we try not to let people see us wince when we say someone else is ‘crazy’. It’s very hard not to do it, partly because we are trying to pass and partly because the language we grew up with has so many value judgements implicit in it; sanity is one of the things it assumes to be good, and less than perfect sanity to be bad.

No one has to tell other people that they have a problem and in fact, the way society is constructed, it’s probably sensible only to admit to depression when it gets so bad that you can’t function, or when the drugs you are already taking for it stop working and you have to find something else that works. Still, there’s something quite liberating about owning up to the identity.

Part of being depressed is a sense of never being good enough; it’s like impostor syndrome except that you’re faking it every day about everything, not just having nightmares about exams or making deadlines. At least if you tell other people, if you tell yourself, that that’s just the depression speaking and not the truth, you can start to accept that actually you’re not as bad as all that.

It’s like all the other identities that it’s sensible to hide in a society that quite likes us to lie; to not raise issues that make it harder for the majority to think well of themselves. If we can function, some people say, why can’t we just not mention private issues like mental health? Just like they used to say about sexuality, or like they still say about gender identity issues.

Do we have to flaunt our depression or our OCD, wear it like a badge of honour? They say. And sometimes it’s the sane being irritable and sometimes it’s other people worrying that if they are too sympathetic, the sane people might notice them. Most of the time it is not conscious bullying; it’s just people coasting along with the way things are, and not noticing the privilege that gives them, for the time being.

Most of the time I personally function pretty well – I write books and I write poems and I write articles. I don’t think that ‘coping privilege’ is actually a thing but I can understand how some people think it might be, and even use it as a stick with which to beat people who acknowledge poor mental health but somehow manage to get things done in spite of it.

They’re not inside my head, and they don’t know how hard it is for me, a lot of the time – but then, maybe it is harder for them, and I have no idea just how much harder. Worrying that I have coping privilege is just something else for my anxieties to focus on.

But what is common, and unforgivable, is for people in progressive communities to bully people over their mental health, in a way they never would about race, class, sexuality, gender identity or visible disability (though actually progressives can be pretty shit about that when you point out that their shiny new office has terrible mobility access – even in 2014…) I’ve seen a progressive organisation decide someone was guilty of an expellable offence because he had declared his mental health status and suddenly his guilt could be assumed without motive or opportunity – because his alleged crimes no longer had to make sense.

I’ve also seen it happen online to a number of women who have spoken publicly about their struggles with various mental health conditions. I’ve avoided giving specific examples here because they’d either be uselessly vague or else instantly recognisable to an extent that would be abusively intrusive.

If you know someone has depression, or whatever else, it might not be a good idea to tell them that their ideas are rubbish, that their behaviour is contemptible. Particularly if you are exaggerating, or angry, or just disagreeing with them – because the trouble is, their illness will probably go along with whatever you say.

Telling someone who has depression that they are worthless is an exploitation of the advantage better mental health gives you. It’s an exercise of privilege and it is potentially an act of violence. You are risking precipitating a spiral of self-hatred and self-harm.

Mental health is an area of intersectional oppression, like many others; don’t knowingly harm people. You’re probably doing it anyway but you can at least try not to – it’s just a matter of thinking about it. I used not to but, since my own really bad time, I have at least made the effort.

Roz Kaveney is a member of the Feminist Times Editorial Board. She is a trans woman, novellist, poet, critic and activist. 

For more information and support on depression, or any other mental health condition please visit the Mental Health Foundation or Mind. For advice on staying mentally healthy online, see our article Eight ways to keep yourself sane on Twitter, by psychiatrist Anna Fryer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read all #GenderWeek articles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Public Order Act

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

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

Sending malicious communications

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

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

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


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

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

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

Doxing: outside the criminal law

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Maryland Gov Pics

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You don’t only get photographed when you’re eating

On Monday lunchtime women protested the now infamous blog Women Who Eat on Tubes by topping up their Oysters and having a good old munch on the Circle Line. This just after the founder of WWEOT Tony Burke made a toe curling appearance on the Today Program, when he tried to claim the project is some form of high art, an “observational study”, “something artistic”.

Tony’s day job is in advertising, so it’s really no surprise that he would consider something sexist, creepy and yet also banal as being very artistic and creative. No offense to those making a hard-earned-living in advertising; I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you either.

But while he was promoting himself as one of London’s biggest morons I was genuinely surprised at how much attention his project was getting when his blog is really a pin prick, and I emphasise the word ‘pin’, because a pin is very very small and would be completely lost in the internet haystack that are “creep shots”.

Creep shots are so common on public transport that even I, someone who avoids the tube as much as I can, have seen two men take pictures of women’s cleavages on the underground. The first time I was struck dumb in shock; the second time I saw the man take the picture from an adjoining carriage, and when I knocked on the window to tell him to stop he ran. I’m not quite sure what I’d do if I saw it happen for a third time. Stand up and shout “he’s taking a picture of your breasts”? Tell him he’s gross? Perform a citizen’s arrest?

Just like WWEOT there are creep shot Tumblrs, but google #creepshot and you should get a pretty good idea of how endemic this is – just put it into the search bar in Twitter now. Many of the photos are taken in restaurants, supermarkets, on the beach. Women and girls bending over, sunbathing, photos taken from under tables.

Here’s the rub. It’s technically legal to photograph someone without their consent, and of course it’s in our interest to be able to take photos of strangers in public places. It means taking pictures at the Great Wall of China, Eiffel Tower or other packed places we want to take pictures of, which are full of tourists, is not going to land us in court. It also means reporters can go to war zones and disaster scenes or places of public interest and document; something Burke alluded his project did.

Of course Burke’s project was no more serious documentation than Viz is a serious issue-based magazine, no matter if some photography student somewhere is writing a very convincing dissertation on how Burke is the new Nicholas Nixon, or the 21st Century Corinne Day, or the eating woman’s Terry Richardson.

For all of us in the real world, we just want to go about our lives feeling safe and secure whether sitting on public transport or grabbing a cup of tea in our local cafe. We deserve a legal framework that protects our privacy from the whims of the “Creatives” theoretical justification, the shaming or documenting of us as grotesque subjects or, whats more likely, protect us from a weirdo’s wank bank. No such luck.

Last month a judge in Massachusetts ruled that ‘upskirt’ photos taken without consent are NOT illegal so long as the victim is wearing knickers. And there we have it. Carte. Blanche.

Here in the UK, the law asks whether a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. So readers, do you have an expectation of privacy on the tube, bus or train? Do you not expect to have your bottom photographed when picking up something your toddler has dropped in the supermarket? Do you expect people to photograph up your skirt whether or not you’re wearing knickers? And is that reasonable?

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Becoming Advertising

Like most free to access online entities we have explored the various options for monetisation, some more appealing than others. We’ve narrowed it down to three – sneaky ads, straight forward ads or a pop up feminist cat café.

Straightforward, olden day advertising was the line of least resistance but how would this play with our friends and supporters? I asked an unscientific sample – few were anti-advertising and some, surprisingly, were rabidly pro. One asked: “Why are you against advertising? Do you want to live in a Maoist state?”

Then I remembered, I’ve always loved the ads! They were the incidental music of my seventies childhood. My mum used to turn the telly off when they were on, but my brother and I preferred the ads to the programmes.

This early exposure to gender stereotyping didn’t Sindyise me as my mother feared. I kept telling her – you don’t turn into Charlie Girl or Shake n Vac woman from watching the ads. My brother and I were ad aficionados, not dupes or ironists. We didn’t buy into them or think ourselves superior to the ads or the people who were impelled to spend their hard earned money on Sure for Men or Ultrabrite.

I don’t feel as fondly about eighties advertising. The ads of that period were blunt instruments; “intimately terroristic” like Charles Saatchi and not as good or clever as everyone remembers. They were uber confident but as repetitive and ineffective as a coke addicted city boy.

When I got older I enjoyed ‘decoding’ ads in the manner of structural theorists like Judith Williamson, rather than reinterpreting them. Do people still do this? Are the ads a window on the world anymore? I’m less interested in specific ads these days than the modern malady of marketing which is constantly pushing the boundaries and overstepping the mark. Advertising is not OK when it’s delivered intravenously to children or women postpartum.

I pictured the ads in Fem T in a clearly circumscribed space that couldn’t be confused with editorial. We ruled out sneaky ads and sponsored content because we felt they broke the bond of trust we have built up with our readership. With a clear conscience, we started costing the redesign of the website and finding an ad salesperson to sell, sell sell the Fem T concept to ethical brands. (This wouldn’t take very long – the list was very short.)

The fabulously attired ad salesman on the Modern Review managed to convince a range of high end brands it was going to be a cross between the New Yorker and American Esquire in it’s heyday. They were bitterly disappointed, understandably, when issue one of Marxist Feminist monthly hit the stands.

This time round, if I sold my soul, I wouldn’t get anything for it. We were reliably informed that the revenue from banner ads would be unlikely to cover the cost of redesigning the website; the model that we’d given so much thought to was declared a busted flush by a range of media professionals. Sneaky advertising is the only game in town, unfortunately. Native advertising on Fem T would mean ads and content were seamlessly merged into a single website ‘experience’. If this is the future of publishing, I’d rather put Fem T out by carrier pigeon.

The founder and chief exec of Buzzfeed recently said:

“Nobody comes to Buzzfeed to look at the ads, but they’ll come for the content. When the advertising is content – good content they’re willing to click on and engage with, and share if it’s good – that’s the future for publishers.’

The internet will be colonised and co-opted by advertising in the blink of an eye. I never romanticised the web or thought of it as a ‘free space’; oddly the people who did are now signing it away and saying it will be good for it.

Online advertising is everywhere and nowhere – it’s the uninvited guest on every comment board and web forum that speaks your language and compliments you on your lifestyle choices. Sinister ‘urban communities’ like work.shop.play extract valuable information about our priorities and preferences which allows brands to create perfectly tailored pitches for allegiance. Modern advertising is as individual as you; it flatters and cajoles with perfect knowledge of your taste and aspirations.

I recently reread Dale Carnegie’s book How to win friends and influence people. Belatedly, brands and corporations have learned the best way to win consumers is to be genuinely interested in them, ask them about themselves, listen intently to the answers and make them feel intelligent.

This is also a failsafe strategy for winning commercial partners. The Guardian talked up its recent partnership with Unilever as a meeting minds. The company had absorbed Guardian Media Group’s ‘values’ and repeated them back… with bells on:

‘Our partnership with Guardian Labs presents us with an innovative and unique way of engaging with a greater number of consumers than ever before, in their homes and on the move, on a subject which is core to both Unilever and the Guardian’s values – sustainability.’

In this brave new world, you can’t trust anyone, enthusiasts least of all. Bloggers, hipsters and impoverished newspaper editors are contractually obliged to enthuse about their commercial partners, on pain of commercial death.

No one has asked the Guardian’s readership, or ‘highly engaged community’ as we are now called, whether we want to collaborate with corporations who ‘share our values’. We are extremely valuable; cheap at the million pound price. Unilever is buying access to skeptics like my mother and credibility by association with the former bastion of liberalism .

The last issue of Weekend magazine had several sponsored features, differentiated by a very slightly different font. I still confused one with the other.

My mum used to complain about billboards; they look increasingly retro! So many public spaces have been co-opted or colonised by a new type of advertising.

Great swathes of Angel tube station are given over to Barcardi’s rebrand. No longer a drink for teenage girls who can’t think what to order, it is the choice of renegades, non-conformists (and ruthless dictators.)

The 150 year old brand is understandably proud of its heritage! “Prohibition was a blast”; exiled to Cuba in the fifties, it was partying enthusiastically while Cuba was raped and pillaged by the US mafia and corrupt Batista regime. This “untameable essence” is unavoidably everywhere at Angel; swooping bats emblazoned on every square inch of pedestrian walkway (who knew you could buy the floors and ceilings?) Like the film character in Woody Allen’s Purple Rose of Cairo, brands are stepping off the billboards into real life, but behaving loutishly. They are invading our personal space and pretending it is a ‘blast’.

We recently lost our hearts to an all female new media company with inspirationality to spare. The feeling was mutual; they offered to host one of our events at their fabulously appointed HQ in Shoreditch. Should we do it? Yes we should – the quirkily named company were more credible and tech savvy than Fem T, but we were more serious. Would our brand essences synergise over free cocktails? I hoped so.

Arriving early on the night, it was immediately apparent that the young women were everything we’d expected; articulate, engaged and yes.. inspirational. Synergy wise, they were already spoken for. An exclusive agreement with a technology company had allowed them to go to the next level! We didn’t begrudge them; the deal had paid for the space, snazzy refurb, and wheely tables and stools with tablet computers embedded in every one. But brand ambassadors like them are marketing goldust. I suspect they undersold themselves.

Brand ambassadors are high res normal people, like you and me on a good day. Unlike adverts, they are continually on and excellent value for money. One day, they will replace logos; brands have learned that slapping their logos on everything is naff and counterproductive. They are all masters of the soft sell and have ‘debranded‘ to some extent. The logo will whither when it’s no longer needed and go the way of the jingle.

Experiential marketing, where the public encounters the brand in real life already seems arcane. You don’t need people dressed as Fruit Shoots to convey that brand’s essence; the meet and greet with advertising meme in a shopping centre has been superceded by an immersive, multi-sensory experience staged 24/7 in your ‘urban community’ by hip and alluring brand ambassadors. You can’t turn it off, or tune it out by turning up the volume on your headphones.

When reality does segue seamlessly into advertising, you won’t probably won’t notice. Come to think of it, it may already have.

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Q&A: Dazed & Confused about feminism

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

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

Q&A with Dazed & Confused:

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

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

Q: Why did Dazed tackle the f-word?

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

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

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


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


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

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

Feminist Times’ favourites from Dazed’s feminist issue:


Essential Feminist Manifestos

How To Sell Shit To Women

How to Start an Online Feminist Collective

The dA-Zed Guide To Riot Grrrl

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TV’s got a Fox Problem and I hope it’s zoo TV

A revolution in TV and gender is occurring this evening and you probably don’t even know about it. It’s the launch of the second season of the Fox Problem, an all female-led zoo TV experiment and the first ever Google+ live TV show. Tonight it goes out to the US as well. The majority of our readers won’t have heard about it because it hasn’t garnered mainstream attention, and so the chat show remains the domain of the sycophantic man.

It should be no surprise that a show starring three credible women presenters from Radio 1, T4 and SBTV would have to be pioneering new territories online, because women chat shows just don’t agree with terrestrial TV. The graveyard of forgotten chat shows is female heavy:

The Charlotte Church Show: DEAD
Ruth Jones Chat Show: DEAD
The Girly Show: RIP

And yet Loose Women continues, forever, like Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her. Just like the living dead in that movie, Loose Women is conspicuous by its long life when all else dies.

Anyway, if you’re not ‘loose’ and you’re a woman the internet is your friend, and thats why the Fox Problem has found a good home in a medium with a shorter history of sexism and where no one is king. Hell, any of us plebs can start an online TV show tomorrow if we wanted to.

So it makes sense that the Fox Problem, an in-ya-face, fun and smart, all-female led show is having to pioneer new televisual territory. And to me, it makes sense, that the genre they’ve chosen is zoo TV.

Zoo TV is raucous, imaginative, irreverent, punk. The Word and TFI kept generations entertained and kept their edge by not addressing their viewers as mindless consumers; viewers were part of the game, fame wasn’t revered but challenged.

Ok, it got a bit tired after about ten years of Big Breakfast, but if I ever said I didn’t like it, I pray to the god of TV to forgive me now. TV today is predictable, where the most Twitter-worthy encounters are all Katie Hopkins related. That’s a very bad thing. In the 90s, breakfast TV was massive and colourful, with Lily Savage and Paula Yates sprawled on a bed and Egg on Ya Face – now it’s goody two shoes Aled Jones smiling inanely at us as the day breaks. Ew.

Wossy, Norton, Carr, all the panel show hosts and team captains are men and they are boring. They suck up, regurgitate knob jokes and I hope that Fox Problem’s online success is the first nail in the very large coffin that will entomb the ubiquitous Frankie Boyle, Russell Howard, Jack Whitehall and his Dad. Long live the Fox Problem!

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Porn searches lead to feminist websites

We were distressed to discover that half of the top ten keywords that lead people to Feminist Times were rape porn related.

Most of our traffic comes from readers sharing on Twitter, Facebook and in emails, so this is a tiny percentage of the actual visits our site gets, but the search terms we’ve found further down our list are terrifying.

Keywords lists certainly paint a concerning picture for those worried about porn, violence and even paedophilia – we wonder what other feminist sites have discovered in their SEO analytics?


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Most Read on Feminist Times 2013

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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



4.     Cameron and Rape Porn

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



5.     Femen – the beauty fascist fauminists

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



6.     These Women Are Not Me

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



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

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


8.     Fit is the new thin

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



9.     Top Ten of 2013’s most unlikely feminists

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



10. Comeback: How to be a man – porn

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


Now read the Least Read on Feminist Times 2013.

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Least Read on Feminist Times 2013

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

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

1.     Natalie Bennett marks International Day of the Girl

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

Natalie Bennett


2.     An Editor Muses: Autumn

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



3.     NCA failing victims

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

Cyber Stalking

4.     Forgotten crafts – traditional Dublin biscuit folding

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



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

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



6.     Newcastle firmly on the feminist map

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



7.     Women and the wireless revolution

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

FINAL infographic seager-ricci


8.     Diary of a tomboy – football

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

Football-creditJayel Aheram

Photo: Jayel Aheram


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

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

Women's Aid


10. How Do You Become Lord Chief Justice?

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

Smoke from the vatican

Now read the Most Read on Feminist Times 2013.

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Progress Report: Feminist Times at 8 weeks


We’ve proved there is a need for a precious space where brands don’t influence content, funded by Members who meet.

We need to convert our ten’s of thousands of readers into members to be sustainable.

We won’t survive unless our membership grows. We need more members so please sign up today from £5 a month by clicking HERE.

We made 5 commitments: PR & ad free website with access for all. Monthly events where members can meet. Local Groups. A Print Magazine. Campaigns. We have achieved the first two already. The next three are coming.

We’ve pulled forward the creation of local groups so our members can meet wherever they are. If you want to be in a local Feminist Times Team click HERE.

We’ve pushed back the print incarnation to 2014 while we continue to build membership to a sustainable level.

More info from our full progress report sent to our Members below:

Progress report for Feminist Times members and supporters.

Feminist Times launched on 3 October. In the 8 weeks since launch, we’ve had more than 80,000 page views from nearly 30,000 unique visitors in 163 countries around the world.

We have risen to the top of Google for ‘feminist times’, page 1 for ‘feminism’ and page 2 for ‘feminist’. Our international appeal has resulted in visitors from 6 continents, all except Antartica!

Following Charlotte Raven’s launch day appearance on BBC Woman’s Hour our server crashed under the weight of traffic and, 2 weeks ago, we had to upgrade our server’s data limit to cope with the demand for the site.

On social media, we have exceeded 4,000 Twitter followers and more than 2,000 Facebook likes, and there are more than 3,000 supporters signed up to our email mailing list.

So far we’ve, amongst other groundbreaking content, profiled the work of the following organisations and campaigns to this audience: Rosa, NEFG, Daughters of Eve, EVAW, White Ribbon Campaign, 16 Days, Without Women Where Would We Be, Mother’s at Home Matter, Southall Black Sisters and Bijli.



We had 247 Founder Members kickstart the project with £100+ each back in the Spring, which provided:

  • 2 full-time staff in Editorial.
  • 1 part-time staff in Editorial and Events.
  • 1 part-time designer.
  • PR expertise.
  • Fundraising expertise.
  • Web builder.
  • Naming ceremony.
  • Restitution Ball.
  • Paid contributors for the website.



Monthly membership launched and 386 members have joined from £5 a month. The average is £6 a month with 2% giving over £42 a month and ¼ giving £11.12.

So far, members’ contributions have helped:

  • Pay towards 4 permanent staff, who have commissioned, edited, written and illustrated 147 stories and counting.
  • Fund 2 members’ events. Our Feminist Fireworks resulted in over 100 feminists meeting, 4 stories being commissioned and more stories being told.
  • Pay over £2000 in fees to writers, including emerging talent and marginalised women.
  • Pay for 2 years hosting at a higher data rate.

We actively negotiate best value for money on everything. We take the responsibility we have to our members seriously and that’s the reason why we waited until we had negotiated pro bono workspace before we took an office.

We’ve proved there’s a need and an appetite for what Feminist Times is offering, and we now have nearly 650 paid-up members of our organisation. We now need more of you to put your money where your mouth is. We need more members.

The Guardian today reported that the total UK spend on advertising is forecast to reach a record £14bn this year.Feminist Times made a conscious, anti-consumerist choice not to bombard our readers with advertising and PR. With no ads and no paywall, we’re dependant on you to keep us sustainable. Web experts keep telling us that our popularity would attract plenty of advertisers to help fund the site but if more people join we can have a precious space where big brands don’t influence content.


The Future.

Phase One

We are currently in Phase One.

We’ve taken professional advice and listened to our members feedback and we have taken the decision to put the print magazine on hold until later on in 2014 and instead bring forward our regional activity and campaigns – all while we continue the success of the website and build the membership together. The faster the membership grows, the quicker we can make the print magazine.

We need each member to sign-up 3 more members to help make us sustainable. Please keep encouraging your friends and relatives to join, and get in touch to speak to us about gift memberships for Christmas.

We know that our members want to meet and have the chance to collaborate on events, content and campaigns, so that’s a priority. We know that a network is important. We feel this is the smartest way to use our resources in Phase One.

So we want to offer you all the chance to get involved at the inception of Feminist Times’ local teams.

You need no experience. You just need to be able to be available for a couple of hours each month for a meeting in your area, which one of us will also attend.

We want each team to have a broad range of skills and people:

  • It would be good to have some people who already have great networks in the area – maybe you belong to a choir, PTA, WI, a local women-in-business org or you’re just really chatty on twitter with people who live near you! If it’s easy for you to let a lot of people in your area know about what we’re doing, that’s perfect.
  • We also need some people on each team who love a spreadsheet and taking notes. If you hate networking but love a spreadsheet, we need you too!
  • We need passionate people. Are you neither of the above put have ideas and get frustrated because you don’t have an outlet for them? We want you too!
  • We want a range of ages from 18 – 118, who identify as a feminist.

Click here to put your name forward and tell us a bit about you.

You will get FREE membership in return, and you will help steer the agenda for Feminist Times.

These local Feminist Times Teams will be women-only, including trans-women. Male members are welcome to join in local activity, but we believe these teams should be led by women.

Campaign process will be announced shortly.

Find out and book for Christmas Event is HERE.

Phase Two

We will update you with progress and welcome your input to help us create a Feminist Times network that is truly member-led.

We will continue to build towards publishing the print magazine.


Below is some of the most touching feedback we have received. See our comments sections on the website for more critique and debate.

“I appreciate you publishing it if it isn’t your politics.  There aren’t many feminist websites which would do that.” Anon, via email.

“Thanks so much for the event on Saturday night.  It was great fun to be involved and it felt like a very friendly, inclusive set up.  One of the things I liked the most was getting to talk with so many interesting people – from ex Greenham Common activists from my Mum’s generation, to young campaigners, artists and all sorts of people.  It feels like you’ve caught the spark of something that is going to grow and sparkle, like a firework, while creating a scene where a wide range of people can have a voice.  Congratulations!” Fran O’Leary via email

A huge thank you to Charlotte And all the Feminist Times team for a truly wonderful launch party. I arrived knowing no one and left with a whole new set of friends and comrades. It was nourishment for my soul to spend an evening with such an interesting and diverse group of women (mostly) and men. Thank you, thank you. Congratulations on a brilliant and much needed publication” Kieran Clifford on Facebook

“So glad there is a place to go to that showcases amazing women for their talent and brains vs exploiting their body parts. Kudos to you and I wish you the best of luck.” via email

“The Feminist Times looks good … and I’m glad it has launched. All power to them, as we need as many outspoken and angry voices as we can. Spare Rib was part of its time but the Feminist Times is unlikely to run out of material.” Rosie Boycott, Guardian

“I watched one episode of Loose Women at the beginning of the week … say no more … I am very excited about Feminist Times and members bringing interesting women to the forefront of all men and womens minds. And at last, no celebrities … Feminist Times you are speaking my language.” Sarah-Jane Summer, Comments.


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Ron Burgundy returns? He never went away

Around two-thirds of women journalists have been victims of abuse in the work place, including intimidation, threats and hacking, a new survey has shown.

As Anchorman 2 comes out with its popular brand of ironic sexism at heart, can we really laugh when 70s sexism hasn’t gone away?

Adam and I thought it would be funny to make fun of the ego and sexism of the ’70s. There was so much of it. We thought it would be good to let the ladies know, ‘Hey, see? It could be worse.’” Will Ferrell on the first Anchorman film.

The International News Safety Institute and the International Women’s Media Foundation conducted the survey to coincide with UN’s Global Forum on Media and Gender. It concluded that the majority of abuse female journalists are subjected to is not when they are out on a location, whether that be a war zone or protest. No, women are most likely to be subjected to harassment and intimidation in their own office – the perpetrators being the people they should be able to turn to for support: their boss or colleagues.

From photographers to presenters, from Africa to Europe, and from 18 to over 75, the most common form of abuse was ‘abuse of power’ by a boss. 46 per cent also said they had suffered sexual harassment, with 10 per cent more incidents occurring in the office than out in the ‘field’. 25 per cent of those who had been victims of sexual violence said the perpetrator was their boss. There were also reports of racist and ageist abuse.

This isn’t just happening in traditional, institutional, dinosaur-infested newsrooms either; the survey results include online media organisations and even the uncovered abuse itself had a digital-age element, with 22 per cent of women having been victims of hacking and online surveillance.

A quick look at The Women’s Room Mediawatch proves that women are still woefully under represented across the British media. Three-quarters of the top jobs are taken by men and only 20 per cent of solo radio broadcasters are women. With these levels of abuse and intimidation, is it any wonder?

It’s hard not to be infected by Ron Burgundy and his crew’s ironic sexism, especially when it comes at the expense of the male characters’ dignity too. (No one comes off well in the clip above.) But Ferrell and those who think this is a thing of the past are very misguided if they believe they are documenting a historical sexism blip. The frustrating reality here in 2013 is that Anchorman is going on everyday, in newsrooms around the globe, and the ladies aren’t laughing.

See survey conclusions here.

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. – See more at: http://www.feministtimes.com/london-feminist-film-festival-body-politics/#sthash.0omDXZSd.dpuf

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Meets and Tweets: 3D feminism, online and off

Last Wednesday we published Charlotte Raven’s weekly editorial, “Meets rather than tweets” – an adaptation of the speech she made at our launch party for Feminist Times members the previous Saturday night.

After publishing the article, we had a conversation in the Feminist Times office and I explained why I felt the focus should be on “meets and tweets”, rather than a choice of one or the other. Our editorial meetings have a tendency to feel like consciousness-raising groups and, at the end of our discussion, Charlotte asked me to write a response explaining my perspective.

I agree with much of what Charlotte writes about 3D feminism; about the pleasure of meeting so many members, and about the inspiration and ideas that were flying around at the party – I personally wanted to commission everyone on the spot, and several times throughout the evening, the editorial team excitedly fed back to each other the various ideas from a conversation we’d just had.

But the Feminist Times team – like any group of feminists – differs widely on our views and priorities, and where Charlotte and I differ on 3D feminism is over the significance of the internet. In her editorial she calls for a 3D feminism, where we “meet rather than tweet”. Ironically, I tweeted this phrase from the Feminist Times account during the party and it was one of our most retweeted messages of the night.

She writes: “I felt the same about digital feminism as I did about Comment is Free. It’ll never work – and it hasn’t really. It has changed a lot of small things like bank notes, but can’t change consciousness, the voice inside your head asking ‘am I pretty or ugly?’”

Charlotte grew up surrounded by 3D feminist activity, but as a digital feminist I have experienced firsthand the consciousness-raising power of forums like Twitter. For me, being online provided a gateway to feminism, and to challenging the voice inside my head, long before I knew any feminists in “real life.”

For many women of my generation, digital feminism has been incredibly powerful. First Tumblr, and later Twitter, demonstrated for the first time in my life that there were other women who felt like me, and gave me a platform to write about my own feelings and experiences. I owe a huge amount of my feminist education to the blogs I’ve followed and the women I’ve met online over the last five years.

The Everyday Sexism Project is nothing if not consciousness-raising – for men, as well as women – and while it doesn’t provide a solution, it does challenge our ideas about what is acceptable. Campaigns like No More Page 3, The Women’s Room and the banknote campaign may not yet have brought about earth-shattering change, but they were all started online by ‘ordinary’ women without media experience and they all used the tools of the digital age to build momentum and force the mainstream media to pay attention.

Their campaigns simply could not have hoped for such a broad reach without the power of social media – just as the tools of the digital age have enabled Feminist Times, in a matter of months, to open up a conversation with the thousands of Twitter followers, Facebook “likers”, and supporters on our email mailing list.

Digital feminism is a haven for feminists who feel isolated offline, as I did for a long time, whether because they’re geographically remote or simply struggle to participate in offline activism. Of course, online feminism is limited: there’s the abuse and the arguing for a start, which, while not exclusive to the internet, can be particularly vicious online. It also excludes those without internet access, including many of our older feminist sisters, and a supportive tweet will never quite match up to a real-life hug. For all the sisterhood and solidarity that can be found online, I’ve also felt very isolated without an offline support group, which is probably why so many “digital feminists” don’t keep their activism exclusively online.

Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism, has used the messages posted on her site to work with police, schools, universities and trade unions on challenging sexual harassment. Lucy-Anne Holmes and the No More Page 3 campaigners have taken their protest to the gates of News International, now News UK, and Caroline Criado-Perez used online crowd-funding to raise funds for an offline legal challenge against the Bank of England.

In February this year I started a feminist discussion group with friend and fellow feminist journalist Rachel Hills, with the goal of taking online discussions offline.  I’ve shamefully neglected it for a few months, since Feminist Times took over a large chunk of my life, but at the time it bridged an important gap between my online and offline feminism. You can say a lot more when you’re not restricted by a 140-character limit, but we also recognized that online feminism is increasingly setting the discussions – our first meeting even focused on the topic of “Twitter feminism”, trolling and in-fighting.

When it comes to digital feminism, Twitter in particular is something that’s impossible to understand the true power of without really using it; none of my non-Twitter-using friends see the point. In a similar way, I used to be skeptical about women-only spaces, believing (as I still do) that men have a role in challenging patriarchal structures too, providing they do so on our terms. Despite this, I’ve been a convert of women-only spaces ever since my first experience of one – in fact, the power of women-only organizing is another of the things Charlotte and I agree on – but that firsthand experience was vital to my understanding.

Just as I believe a truly three-dimensional feminism must combine mixed and women-only spaces, I also believe a truly three-dimensional feminism is stronger with the combined power of online and offline voices and forums. A feminism that aims to build strong offline connections between groups of interesting, inspiring women is fantastic, and I can’t wait to start rolling out Feminist Times’ local groups and events. But digital feminism has shown me how much more diverse and exciting feminism can be when you broaden your reach and take your message online. I’ve had ‘tweet-ups’ with women I would never have met without the feminist Twittersphere, so I’m a firm believer in the value of a 3D feminism that both meets and tweets.

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

Image courtesy of Phil Campbell

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Feminist Toolkit: How to grow a thick skin

Have you ever stuck your head above the parapet or thrown a hot potato into Twitter? If so you’ve probably been shot down or burned and, like many of us, wish you had a thicker skin.

In order to help us all feel free to express ourselves we’ve investigated how every one of us can grow a thick skin and feel more confident in our ideas. Feminism is about ideas and therefore feeling confident to share them is an essential feminist life skill.

We called in a world renowned expert in having skin as thick as a rhino, Julie Burchill – love or loathe her, you’ve got to admire her ability to take the kind of criticism that would send most writers crying to their mums.

Julie’s answers to our questions were so far removed from our own instincts we genuinely considered she could be a freak of nature, so we put this to psychotherapist and author of Happy Relationships Lucy Beresford, who explained why a thick skin can be an asset and why it’s not healthy to need people to like you.

Julie Burchill:

How important is it for you to be liked?  

Not a bit important. All my life I have been trying to avoid affection, as it comes so easily to me and can be quite restricting.

Is needing to be liked a weakness?  

Yes, it is practically an illness of the mind, I think. I don’t feel sorry for such half-wits, though, as they bring it on themselves.

What does it feel like to have a “thick skin”? 

I actually get a mild sexual thrill from being verbally abused by strangers. Just a mild one, though – I’m not kinky!

Why aren’t you on Twitter?  It seems the natural home for anyone who likes being controversial AND has a thick skin. It’s the recipe for Twitter success.

Exactly. I would be having a new feud every day – TOO predictable. And I have my novel to write.

Does having a thick skin make it harder to back down, change your mind, apologise? How does this affect the personal life of a thick skinned polemicist?

Because I am so secure in myself and my beliefs, I find it super-easy to apologise.

Did you learn how to be thick skinned to survive?  And how can others learn those skills?  

I was a very pretty, very clever teenager who in many ways was given everything on a plate, despite my extremely working-class background. So it was quite a perverse act to become such a bruiser while still very young. I just really like the way it feels. I enjoy being tough.

Do you read comments under your work? 

Only when in search of said mild sexual thrill!

Have you Googled yourself and was it like “like opening the door to a room where everyone tells you how shit you are” (Peter ManYum, Thick of It)?

All the time. It’s the mental equivalent of jumping into a very cold swimming pool with a hangover – bracing and invigorating and, in my case, I feel very much better afterwards.

Lucy Beresford:

To have “Thick Skin” is being able to really not care, not worry about what other people think. It’s to have self-confidence, being able to move on without being wounded. Thick skin is a support structure, so you don’t collapse psychologically.

Some people have always been thick skinned. Even as children. The rest of us have to acquire it. You develop your own self confidence by having a certain mental attitude: “I believe in it”. Over time it feels less painful.

On the internet you have to train yourself not to pick at the scab. If you’re writing an article or a blog, simply the writing should be enough ideally. Even an excessive addiction to good comments is just as bad as reading the bad ones. Don’t read, don’t reply. It’s hard to do because seeing something in writing burns into the retina more so than hearing someone say something.

Julie gets excited by the conflict, the confrontation and that’s why she’s brilliant at what she does, and at some point in the past she realised she was articulate and sharp and enjoyed the jousting. Other people would rather persuade. It’s like bungee jumping – some of us will do it, some not, but there’s an adrenaline.

The important thing is concentrate on your own self esteem. Ideally it’s about breaking free from the childhood obsession of needing mummy, daddy and everyone in the class to like you, and just doing things for yourself.

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National Crime Agency: a missed opportunity for domestic abuse victims?

This week saw the launch of the much-anticipated National Crime Agency (NCA), a new agency formed to fight organised crime, child protection, border policing and cyber crime. Along with the launch came some very bold words from the agency’s director general, Keith Bristow: “No one will be beyond the reach.

Part of the NCA is the National Cyber Crime Unit. Their remit includes working proactively to target criminal vulnerabilities and prevent criminal opportunities. They also assist the NCA and wider law enforcement to prevent cyber-enabled crime and pursue those who utilise the internet and associated tools for criminal means.

The development of the NCA and the National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) has in my opinion, and in the view of other experts, arguably missed the perfect opportunity to tackle cyber stalking.

This is a crime where currently  too few prosecutions are being processed by standard police forces under amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act 2012 mainly due to the fact that police and CPS staff have failed to receive any training – the new stalking laws led to only 33 convictions between November 2012 and 30 June 2013.  The NCA and NCCU could have taken the development of the NCA as an opportunity to work alongside standard police forces to develop the expertise required to tackle cyber stalking and ultimately save lives.

The NCA is Home Secretary Theresa May’s baby. Remember, Theresa May has finally commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out an inspection into how police forces are responding to domestic abuse – a crime which one in four women will be subjected to at some point in their lives; a crime that kills on average two women each week. That’s 104 women per year killed at the hands of their current or former partner, yet it has taken a number of high profile cases, such as the deaths of Maria Stubbings and Clare Wood, for Theresa May to finally bite the bullet and ask why this is happening.

We know domestic abuse kills women. We also know there are strong links between domestic abuse and stalking. According to the UK Home Office in January 2011, 39 per cent of stalkers are the victim’s partner or ex-partner. Unsurprisingly, survivors of domestic violence are at higher risk of physical harm. The Metropolitan Police, no less, found that 40 per cent of domestic violence murders were also victims of stalking.

Jennifer Perry, an expert in cyber stalking, states in her guide ‘Digital stalking: A guide to technology risks for victims’, published jointly by the Network for Surviving Stalking and Women’s Aid, 2012: “Today, most stalking includes a ‘cyber’ aspect. Those who stalk offline will usually use cyber activities to assist in the harassment and intimidation of their victims.”

Given this evidence linking cyber stalking to stalking and domestic abuse, you’d think Theresa May would have ensured that the NCA allocated some of their £458 million to the crime of cyber stalking wouldn’t you? Amazingly, not a single penny has been earmarked.

“The government has to develop better strategies in dealing with stalking and harassment because technology is increasing the number of victims by making it easy to stalk and more efficient. [The technology available] increases the ability to gather better information on the victim which feeds the obsession,” Jennifer Perry said, when asked whether the NCA should have a role in addressing cyber stalking.

“I think there is an argument for the NCA to develop better tools, protocols and co-operation that could be used by non-specialised forces so crimes against individuals are more effectively investigated and prosecuted,” she added.

“It is as if the police all want to ignore this, probably because they find the idea of dealing with it overwhelming.”

So Keith Bristow, in response to your bold statement on the launch day of the NCA, I say you are setting yourself up to fail. A large number of cyber crime offenders are already beyond your reach.

At the time of publication, the Association of Chief Police Officers had not responded with a comment.


Donna Navarro is a journalist and campaigner with over ten years experience of working with high risk perpetrators of domestic abuse in the public and legal sectors. She blogs about social justice and violence against women and children www.donnanavarro.com. Find out more @lexiconlane

Image courtesy of Victor1558

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