Tag Archives: women’s history

‪#‎GenderWeek: Andrea was not transphobic

Click here to read all #GenderWeek articles.

When Andrea and I met in 1974 her first book, Woman Hating, was on press. She wrote all her subsequent work in the home where we lived together until 2005, when I and the world lost her.

One passage in Woman Hating changed my life forever:

“The discovery is, of course, that “man” and “woman” are fictions, caricatures, cultural constructs. As models they are reductive, totalitarian, inappropriate to human becoming. As roles they are static, demeaning to the female, dead-ended for male and female both.”

That radical interrogation of gender became a foundational understanding between us. It formed a basis for how we knew and cared about each other. We recognized that we each came from a gendered culture—she as a woman, I as a man—but our best and deepest times together were when that ceased to matter, when it was as if we were communicating simply self to self. Or soul to soul. Or I to Thou.

To this day I don’t fully know why Andrea risked trusting me. I have no doubt, however, why I began to trust her.

I was attracted to and sexually active with men; Andrea always knew that. We were first introduced by a gay male mutual friend at a gay and lesbian gathering, after all. But what I learned from Andrea—first from reading Woman Hating, then from growing more and more to know her—was a wholly new experience to me: what it means to be soul mates beyond gender.

That belief in the possibility of life beyond gender was a core of both her work and mine. A speech I gave within a few months after our meeting was published as Refusing to Be a Man (the title I gave my first book). In a speech of Andrea’s written about a year later she drew a distinction between reality and truth in order to say that:

“while the system of gender polarity is real, it is not true…. [T]he system based on this polar model of existence is absolutely real; but the model itself is not true. We are living imprisoned inside a pernicious delusion, a delusion on which all reality as we know it is predicated.”

I’ve thought back to such passages in Andrea’s work (there are many) as I’ve pondered how she would sort out the current controversies and conflicts among radical feminists who call themselves trans critical and transactivists who call the same feminists trans exclusionary. Andrea wrote of transsexualism (as it was called then) only in Woman Hating, in a prescient section that can accurately be cited as evidence that Andrea was not “transphobic” and was in fact “empathetic to transpeople” (as would come as no surprise to anyone who knew her).

To my knowledge Andrea never wrote any more on the subject. I cannot say for certain why, but I suspect it’s because she already said what she had to say about it—and she was driven to write next what no one had said yet. The topic came up in our conversations, of course, but prior to her death the divisive controversy/conflict had not yet erupted as it has today. I’ll not rehearse those troubling tensions except to acknowledge that I recently came under sharp criticism online after I posted a tweet about an essay I’d written about U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley), in which I referred to the courageous young whistleblower by the female pronoun she now preferred.

To my philosophically inclined mind (now recalling Andrea’s and my talks), the current controversy/conflict turns on an ethical/metaphysical disagreement about the fundamental meaning of gender in the human species. Obviously I cannot know what Andrea would have to say about it, except that I am certain she would not ally herself with any view that furthers “biological superiority,” which she considered “the world’s most dangerous and deadly idea”:

“It is shamefully easy for us [she means here, I believe, so-called female-assigned-at-birth women] to enjoy our own fantasies of biological omnipotence while despising men for enjoying the reality of theirs. And it is dangerous—because genocide begins, however improbably, in the conviction that classes of biological distinction indisputably sanction social and political discrimination. We, who have been devastated by the concrete consequences of this idea, still want to put our faith in it. Nothing offers more proof—sad, irrefutable proof—that we are more like men than either they or we care to believe.”

This was always Andrea’s ethical framework, which I learned from constantly: Moral agency and accountability are true, foundational to our identity as human, and they do not equate with the reality of gender. I was inspired by that ethical framework when I wrote in my essay about Chelsea Manning of:

“my belief that one’s moral agency is not gendered; it is—as it is for Pfc. Manning—a continuity of conscience irrespective of gender expression. I believe that separate and unequal ethical codes for “men” and “women”—which are ubiquitous in conventional wisdom—are erroneous on their face, because the constant core of one’s conscience is human only.”

I confess I did not learn from Andrea’s ethical framework about living beyond gender only conversationally or conceptually or in the abstract. I learned concretely, and I learned humbly the hard way—because episodically in our relationship I learned what it meant to her and us when I fucked up and broke the trust she had in me. I acted like a man. My impulse to assert/defend my gendered social conditioning trumped my intention to be my best self. I did not act like the person Andrea had grown to love and I did not act like the person I had learned to know it was possible to be with her. Happily we got through those hard times. In the last years of her life, even as her health failed, we became closer and dearer to each other than ever before. But the lesson never leaves me: Who I am is not my gender.

Curious, isn’t it, that in English only third-person pronouns are gendered but first- and second-person are not. Do we remain imprisoned in gender because we persistently “third-personise,” or objectify, ourselves and one another; and do we not sufficiently speak to each other as subjects who say I to Thou? Has our language always been telling us that when we speak as ourselves directly to other selves, and when other selves speak directly to us, gender becomes irrelevant?

I enjoy following the favorite quotes of Andrea’s that people post here and there in cyberspace, and the other day this one caught my eye: “When two individuals come together and leave their gender outside the bedroom door, then they make love.”

Andrea got it. Living beyond gender leads to loving beyond gender. And vice versa.

I miss our communion terribly.

genderwkbody

John Stoltenberg has explored the distinction between gender identity and moral identity in two books—Refusing to Be a Man: Essays on Sex and Justice and The End of Manhood: Parables on Sex and Selfhood. His many essays include “Living With Andrea Dworkin” (1994) and “Imagining Life Without Andrea” (2005). His novel, GONERZ, projects a radical feminist vision into a post-apocalyptic future. John conceived and creative-directed the acclaimed “My strength is not for hurting” sexual-assault-prevention media campaign, and he continues his communications- and cause-consulting work through media2change. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg and @media2change.

Photography by John Goetz. Copyright © 2005 by John Goetz and the Estate of Andrea Dworkin.

This article was amended at 4pm on the 28th April at the author’s request.

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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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Sisterhood & After: Listen to Fifty Years of Feminism

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

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

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

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

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

Pragna Patel describing her involvement in Southall Black Sisters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Shakespeare’s Dark Aemilia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Profile: Sheroes of History

Sheroes of History is a new blog and podcast which aims to shine a spotlight on history’s heroines, telling their stories and inspiring girls and women today.

Women are hugely underrepresented: remarkably, although the female of the species makes for around 51% of the world’s population, this is still the case in film and media, in business and politics, in art and music, the list goes on.

History too is one area which has always been dominated by the stories of men. To a degree this is perhaps easier to understand; in the past women’s access to education, power, property, and anything resembling independent lives was more restricted than it is today. History has largely been written by men, about men, for men. Google recently admitted that of its 445 Google-doodles honouring historical characters, only 17% were women (they have pledged to equalise this henceforth).

I started Sheroes of History to address this imbalance. Despite the fact that we hear about them far less, there are in fact thousands of stories of incredible women doing incredible things throughout history – often even more inspiring when set against the limitations women have faced in the past.

I’m a feminist and I work in museum education; I care passionately about equality – and I love history! Sheroes of History brings these two strands of my life together.

For a long time I have felt that I wanted to do something to give girls more role models; real life heroines who inspire them to be all they can be. I feel desperate every time a new kids film is released, or a new children’s TV show airs – and yet again the main protagonist is male (conversely, I probably get a little too overexcited when strong female characters do emerge: see Katniss Everdeen.)

As young girls grow up, the stories – be they real or fictional – of women who take centre stage are few and far between. More often than not the story belongs to the male character, with female characters rarely having their own narratives.

Working in a museum, I sometimes feel the same way; when I tell stories of the past to the schoolchildren who visit I’m conscious of the sometimes passive roles of women in these stories, and make pains to emphasise the ones where women show agency and attitude.

Sheroes of History will be an ongoing blog and, soon to launch, podcast, which tell the untold stories of women whose lives we may not have heard of and whose actions will inspire girls and women today. In the future I hope that by collecting these stories I will be able to develop them into further resources that can be used with young girls.

I hope that the blog will feel collectively owned; contributions can be submitted by women who have their own ‘Shero of history’ they want to tell the world about. There are three words which encompass my aims for the Sheroes of History project; ever the fan of alliteration, these are: Inspiring, Inclusive & Informative.

Alongside the blog will be a monthly podcast that will feature short profiles of selected Sheroes of History, as well as the opportunity to nominate a Shero of Today – I am keen not to overlook the fact that there are tonnes of awe inspiring women and girls blazing a Shero’s trail in the world today also.

Please check out the blog over at Sheroesofhistory.wordpress.com

You can like on Facebook – www.facebook.com/Sheroesofhistory

And follow on Twitter @SheroesHistory

If you would like to contribute to the blog please send an email to sheroesofhistory@gmail.com

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The unheard voices of World War One

This year sees the centenary of the First World War, which began in July 1914. A hundred years on, when we think of writing from the Great War we think of Flanders Fields and of Anthems for Doomed Youth. We think of trenchfoot and mud; of men in khaki sat pouring their hearts into tattered notebooks by the light of shellfire.

We think of all of that because it happened. Because it’s right to remember, and because it’s right to pay respect. But society’s idea of war literature is not respectful. It ignores a whole bloody swathe of it.

When we read about the war, we don’t read women.

Oh, we know about them alright: how they took up the roles left behind by men and gained the vote as a result. We talk about how wonderful that was for them all the time. What we don’t talk about is how hard it was: how they still came up against sexism, ending up doing twice the work but with half of the respect. How propaganda, when it mentioned them, relied on sexist tropes: girls simpering over soldiers, mothers bravely packing off chivalric sons.

It’s this that’s partly responsible for their exclusion now; perhaps the most remembered women writers of the time were those who fervently took up where the propaganda left off. Daily Mail sweethearts Jessie Pope, Mrs Humphrey Ward and Emma Orczy penned mountains of jingoistic doggerel which so disgusted Wilfred Owen that he wrote the eloquently furious Dulce et Decorum Est and dedicated it to them. Siegfried Sassoon went one step further and tarred an entire gender with one misogynistic brush in The Glory of Women, sneering: “You believe/that chivalry redeems the war’s disgrace”.

This disgust at feminine sentimentality is a large part of the picture we have of WW1 women now. But if we don’t look past it we’re as daft as Sassoon was then: fooled by the false picture built up by a war-mongering elite. Not all women  – if any – were sat dutifully at home, creaming themselves over needless sacrifice.

For a start, being left behind was to play a grievously cruel waiting game, something evident in the poetry of Kathleen Tynan and Margaret Widdemer. Tynan had two sons on the front and her poetry, although patriotic, has little to do with nationalism and everything to do with offering comfort to herself and others. Widdemer, meanwhile, manages to be both a loving mother and to mourn the war (who’da thunk it, Siegfried?) in Homes, which sets up a cosy hearthside idyll and then laments: “Somewhere far off I know/ Are ashes on red snow/ That were a home last night”.

There were also women far from hearthsides themselves. Hundreds volunteered to work in field hospitals amonsgt the wounded and dying, although little of their writing has survived our ignorance. May Sinclair’s Journal of Impressions in Belgium is amongst those scraps which do.

Touchingly human, it draws a vivid picture of the front In one heartbreakingly furious entry, where she flies into a rage when a Commandant speaks delightedly that he and another nurse have come under shellfire. “I promised her mother that Ursula Dearmer would be safe,” she writes, “and then here he was, informing me with glee that a shell had fallen and burst at Ursula Dearmer’s feet.”

Sinclair’s journal and the writings of of Louise Mack – who was the first woman reporter on the front – reveal a uniquely female perspective of the trenches. But women writers dealt too with the one aspect of the war dealt with by men and women together: the aftermath.

In place of a solid class system and set gender roles was a decimated upper class, a female workforce and the previously unthinkable horrors of mechanised war: limbs left stumps by shells, jaws shot away by sniper’s bullets. Perhaps cruellest of all were the mental scars, which would take lifetimes to heal.

Everyone had to re-negotiate their place in this world, whether man or woman. Rebecca West’s novella The Return of the Soldier depicts this beautifully, telling the story of Chris, a brain-damaged upper class veteran and his working class teenage sweetheart Marge, who is the only person he can recognise since being hit by a shell. The poetry of the woefully underrated Charlotte Mew, too, deals uncompromisingly with a world gone mad: “What’s little June to a great broken world with eyes gone dim/From too much looking on the face of grief, the face of dread?”

As Mew wrote, it was the world who looked with horror at the war. The world. Not just men. Not just soldiers, doctors and politicians, but nurses, mothers, reporters and lovers. Tynan, Sinclair, Mack, West, Widdemer and so many others put down their words because they thought others would listen to them, because they knew their experience was as important as any man’s.

And now, whilst we rightly value male trench poetry as a valuable way to pay respect, women writers are dealt a different hand. Only Rebecca West is in print in any large-scale way today, whilst Sinclair’s and Mack’s journals exist only on project Gutenberg, and Mew has been left to rot in obscurity.

Even the one female-authored text which does get attention – Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth – is diminished at the same time as being revered: immensely powerful and deserving of praise, it is at the same time all too often seen as speaking for all women of the war, despite only focusing on a handful of upper-middle class individuals.

The suffering, bravery and talent of the women writers of the Great War have been ignored for too long. Its about time we opened a few more books, and stopped this partial remembrance.

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

A centenary edition of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth will be published by Orion Books on 27 March 2014, with a foreword by Kate Mosse OBE. Rebecca West’s Return of the Solider is published by Virago Modern Classics.

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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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Women Against Pit Closures: memories from the miners’ strike, 30 years on

On this day, 5 March, in 1984 the first of the year-long miners’ strikes began, followed on 12 March by National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) president Arthur Scargill calling for a national strike. Thirty years on, as part of our celebration of Women’s History Month, we celebrate the women who have been credited as the backbone of the miners’ strikes and bringing feminist values to the industrial dispute.

We contacted our members to ask for their memories of the strike and interviewed Anne Scargill, one of the women at the forefront of the women’s movement against pit closures.

Anne Scargill, co-founder of Women Against Pit Closures and ex-wife of Arthur Scargill:

barnsley-women-against-pit-closuresWomen Against Pit Closures had about three or four rallies in London. We went to see Michael Heseltine at the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and he wouldn’t see us, so we made a pit camp outside his office – this was Friday and on the Saturday we were having a big rally in London.

There were thousands of people at that rally, thousands, and all of them supporting the miners. It’s a shame that the trade union leaders didn’t come out and support us like the rank and file were doing – if they had done, we’d have been in a different society today. I don’t know why they didn’t come – because they were after lordships and money and that, that’s my opinion. The rank and file from the fire brigade’s union, all the unions, all really, really helped us.

wapc_logo_body_203x203Very rarely did we get anything like “get back to work” or owt when we were collecting in York and places like that, or London, we didn’t get a lot of hostility – you might have got somebody shouting “get back to work”, but they weren’t many. There was a hell of a lot of support, we couldn’t have managed without em.

The atmosphere was brilliant, it lifted you. There was a lot of solidarity. When we started our soup kitchens we got people coming from all over, bringing us food and coming to see us. We had a lot of crying, but we had a lot of laughing as well.

Read Sarah Graham’s full interview with Anne Scargill here.

Peggy Seeger, folk singer and Feminist Times founder member:

photo_womens_supportgroupsMy story is our story: Ewan MacColl and I were a duo, activist singers and songwriters. Together with our son Calum, then 21 years old, we gave concerts for the miners here and in Europe. We three issued a cassette of five new songs entitled Daddy What Did You Do in the Strike? which raised considerable funds for the striking families.

An unique feature of this project was the interspersed spoken testimonials of the miners and their families, who welcomed us into their homes and their lives, telling it like it was. The title song, Daddy, What Did You Do in the Strike, was subsequently adapted for other strikes worldwide.

Ewan’s 70th birthday concert was held on January 25 1985 at the Royal Festival Hall. The highlight for me was the presence of a huge contingent of miners’ families who sat in the balcony cheering and singing the words of Daddy, What Did You Do in the Strike?

Women played a huge part in this strike, not only women from the mining community but women  all over the country, who collected funds, clothing and food. We lost the strike – but new issues and new methods of resistance came to the fore.

Susan Hemmings – former member of the Spare Rib collective and Feminist Times member:

ms6_zoomMartin Hoyles and I produced a small book 64 pages of writing by Striking Miners’ Children in 1984. It’s called More Valuable Than Gold (after one of the pieces, referring to both love and coal). Many written by girls, many drawings, some about their mothers and also obviously some about their father. They are all about politicisation through struggle and all proceeds went to Women Against Pit Closures and it sold thousands.

At that time I had cancer and was in hospital a lot, and I was also working on A Wealth of Experience actually from my bed there, as well as the miners’ children’s book. I was  just recovering from major surgery when the Tories got blown up in the Brighton hotel and I had to beg to be taken, full of tubes, to see the news on TV – in those days there was just the one in the ward – to watch Norman Tebbitt being brought out in his pjs. What a year.

Susan kindly lent us her copy of ‘More Valuable Than Gold’ for inclusion in this article:

More valuable than gold

Waste a child’s future – Ellie Bence, Kent:
Waste a child’s future
Destroy a grown man’s life
Don’t let him feed his children
Don’t let him love his wife
A world we don’t belong to
A world so cold and dark
It’s a terrible, terrible place
Where the Tories have left their mark
So let’s start it all from scratch
Try and live again
Forget about the Bombs
And ignore the Acid Rain
Let us go on living
Forget about the night
We’ll never be defeated
The workers will unite

The letter – Kerry Adele Evans, 12, Wales:
I’ve written a letter to Maggie
Her address is 10 Downing Street
I’ve written a letter to tell her
That the miners will never be beat.

So get off your backside dear Maggie
Can’t you see we’re winning the FIGHT
Because all the unions are with us
To stand for the just and the right.

You’ve tried to starve us dear Maggie
How cruel can anyone be
But you’ll never succeed dear Maggie
For united we have the key.

To stand and confront you dear Maggie
As we know when this day is through
We’ll win the right to work
And that will be goodbye to you!

More valuable than gold 1

The strike – Nicola Cowan, 8, Northumberland:

While my dad picketed to stop them closing the pits, I helped my mam at our jumble sales to raise money. We had nice times on our trips with the union to the beach and parks, and we made lots of new friends. Uncle Derek used to make us laugh and sing songs. I missed our colour television. We had to watch a black and white set. At Christmas we had a smashing party and we got lovely toys sent from France. I wrote a letter thanking the people who sent us the presents. I am pleased my dad is now back at work after twelve months on strike.

Lynda Walker – Feminist Times supporter:

WAPCBadgeI was not involved in Women Against Pit Closures but as a member of the Belfast Trades Council I did take part in collection, meetings and general support for the miners. We produced leaflets and met delegations, and some of my comrades even smuggled money to the banks in the Republic. 1984/1985 was just one of the “troubled years” here but it did not prevent solidarity actions with the miners.

In 1993, when mine closures began, Anne Scargill and three other women spent five days down a mine pit. Actress Maxine Peake dramatised their story in a play for Radio 4, Queens of the Coal Age.

Event: Saturday 21st June, 12 to 9pm, Women of the 1984 Miners’ Strike, Feminist Library, 5 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7XW

Thirty years on, the Feminist Library will be celebrating the stories of some of the women who played a crucial role in the strike, and the transformative effect it had on their lives. Laura Wilkinson will be reading from her new novel, Public Battles, Private Wars – a story of friendship, rivalry and cakes, which follows one woman’s journey and a community on the cusp of a seismic shift. There will be a screening the short film Not Just Tea and Sandwiches from The Miners Strike Campaign Tapes – an evocative and moving documentary showing the organising and activism of the women in mining communities. The Feminist Library have invited others involved in exhibition and film projects focusing on women’s involvement in the strike to take part in discussions, and they are still open to more participants – if you have relevant involvement or work on the subject please get in touch at bookshop@feministlibrary.co.uk

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Anne Scargill: “There’s no jobs. There’s nothing. In 1984 we knew this would happen”

As part of Women’s History Month, we’re marking the 30th anniversary of the year-long 1984-85 miners’ strike with a collection of memories from our members and supporters. Deputy Editor Sarah Graham interviewed Anne Scargill, co-founder of the Women Against Pit Closures movement, which has been credited as the backbone of the strike.

AnneScargillI got involved in the strike early. Some women started a support group called Women Against Pit Closures because we knew that the strike was going to be a long one. Thatcher started on the steelworkers and then she thought: “right, I’m going to start on the National Union of Mineworkers” because they were a strong union.

I don’t think that she thought the women were going to be as strong as they were – she thought the women would say to the men “get back to work”, but we didn’t. We thought: “a woman, doing that to us? Taking our livelihood away and our communities?” We weren’t striking for money, we were striking for a job for our kids and our grandkids; we were striking for what we believed in, and it was terrible.

The men were getting beat up by the police on the picket line, getting arrested, and they couldn’t go here and there anymore, so we thought “if they can’t go, we might as well go. They can’t sack us – we don’t work for the coal board.”

So we organised and decided to go picketing, and I shall never, ever forget the first picket I went on. We went to a place called Silver Hill in Nottinghamshire and the picket was pretty lively but there was no violence.

As we were coming away when these two vans of policemen came and they started pushing us about and that. They arrested one of our women so I went to the inspector and I said: “Excuse me officer, I don’t want to be rude, but what are you arresting Lynne for? What’s she done?” And he said: “Get her an’ all” – that were me – so I got arrested that morning with Lynne.

They took us to a police station in Nottinghamshire and we were in ages. I started kicking the bottom of the door because Lynne wanted to go to the toilet, so they come, opened the door, took me out and took me into a room with a bath in and this woman police officer. So she said to me: “Come on, get undressed.” I said: “what for?” and she says: “I said get undressed, I’m looking for offensive weapons and drugs.” I said: “You’re joking? I’m old enough to be your mother! I’ve never been in a police station in my life.”

She said: “I’ve said get undressed”. So I got undressed and they strip searched me, and the same with the other four women. I just said to her: “Yes, that’s what they said in Nazi Germany when they were taking the Jews to be slaughtered – they were only doing their job.”

The magistrate threw the case out of court, but I’ll never forgive them for doing that to me. Never, ever, ever. I bet they thought: “they’ll not come no more now”, but I’ll tell you something – it made me ten times worse than I would have been because I thought what more can they do to me? I’ll never ever forgive them for that. And then after that obviously I really, really was a thorn in their side – or tried to be. I think they picked me up about seven or eight times – in fact, I got used to it, I used to know my rights when I got to the police station.

About three weeks before that we’d organised this rally in Barnsley – the first Women Against Pit Closures rally. We didn’t know how many were coming so we said to the police “we’re having this rally in the Civic Hall in Barnsley”, “aye, ok,” they said. We expected about 100-150, my goodness! We were going to march through Barnsley and there were buses coming from all over – from Wales, from Scotland – the police weren’t right happy!

We all started marching and waving our banners, and Arthur spoke there. When we came to the Civic Hall the police were there saying: “you can’t come in with any banners” and we said “who can’t go in with banners? Get out o’t way” and took all our banners into the Civic Hall – there’s a lovely photograph of us all waving our banners in’t Civic Hall! I think that was the first time that we’d turned on the police – it was three weeks after that I was arrested. The police didn’t know what to do, they just moved!

We had about three or four rallies in London. We went to see Michael Heseltine at the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and he wouldn’t see us, so we made a pit camp outside his office. This was Friday and on the Saturday we were having a big rally in London.

There were thousands of people at that rally, thousands, and all of them supporting the miners. It’s a shame that the trade union leaders didn’t come out and support us like the rank and file were doing – if they had done, we’d have been in a different society today. I don’t know why they didn’t come – because they were after lordships and money and that, that’s my opinion. The rank and file from the fire brigade’s union, all the unions, all really, really helped us.

Very rarely did we get anything like “get back to work” or owt when we were collecting in York and places like that, or London, we didn’t get a lot of hostility – you might have got somebody shouting “get back to work”, but they weren’t many. There was a hell of a lot of support, we couldn’t have managed without ’em.

The atmosphere was brilliant, it lifted you. There was a lot of solidarity. When we started our soup kitchens we got people coming from all over, bringing us food and coming to see us. We had a lot of crying, but we had a lot of laughing as well.

We had a community Christmas that year in the welfare and we were all there singing. I mean it were hard, don’t get me wrong, it were hard but we tried and tried to help one another.

The women in my community here, some of them went everywhere with their husbands and that started changing. There were women speaking in York, something they never thought they could do – so there were women with talent and ability that they never knew they had.

Miners are very dominating – they used to have to come home to their dinner on the table, but here the roles were reversed – the women were going out on the picket lines. The men were going picketing where they could locally, and they were having to look after the children, so the roles were changing gradually.

A few of the women went back to the kitchen sink when it was finished but there’s a lot didn’t. A lot went to university, a lot of them are in social services, so they got an education. I didn’t go to university or anything but during that strike and after I got a better education than any university could have taught me because I was living it.

A lot of people’s lives changed through the strike, quite a few marriages broke up. As I say, the women were the most dominant part and if it hadn’t have been for the women I don’t think that strike would have lasted as long.

I think [the feminism] came out of the work that we were doing. Women had never been out of the village without their husbands, yet here they were in York, talking to people and finding out that there was another life besides them four walls in their house.

When the men were going back to work this man said to me: “Anne, I want my wife back” and I said “[the strike’s] over now”. He said: “yeah, but I don’t want her I’ve got now, I want other one I had before” and I said: “that’s your problem, not mine.” Their marriage broke up. It was a very empowering experience for those miners’ wives – they found talent and ability they never knew they’d got.

We were really inspired by the Greenham Common women – we got in touch with them and started going down to Greenham. We’d a lot of sympathy with the Greenham women and they used to come and see us. When they started to close the mines in 1993 the Greenham Common women used to come and we set camps up outside every mine that was profitable – we thought we’ll demonstrate here at this mine and try to keep it open. That was all based on the Greenham women.

We found a community spirit in our village here that, as years have gone on, we an’t got it now. There’s no jobs now, there’s nothing. Some women have to work two jobs to survive, and it’s all low-paid jobs, all for women. There’s nothing for the men.

When I look round my community now I feel well at least I tried to do something to prevent this happening – my conscience is clear. In our community now we’ve got about five food banks and on a Monday we serve breakfast. Five years ago we had 47-48 people coming for their breakfast, and do you know we had 111 yesterday? They’re not only young lads that are coming now, they’re people with children, and we’re getting people probably my age – 65, 70 years old – coming because of the Bedroom Tax.

It’s a long time, 30 years on, but we knew this would happen – they shut our industry down. They’re importing coal and there’s thousands and thousands of tonnes of coal beneath our feet – and here we are going into this dangerous nuclear power.

This is our society in 2014, where we should be going forward, and we knew in 1984 this was going to come – that’s why we fought so hard. And we did fight hard. The women were very, very brave.

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Emmeline Pankhurst turns up in a pancake

A Pancake Day miracle! A feminist believes she has found the image of beloved suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in her Shrove Tuesday pancake.

Abigail Jones, 37, of Totnes in Devon, believes the mysterious pancake image is a message from the past, sent by Mrs Pankhurst to egg on today’s activists in their battle against the patriarchy.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “The image of Emmeline’s face in my pancake has given me the confidence to stand up to crepes who harass me in the street.

“The Pankhursts fought hard to make the world a batter place for women, and it makes me flipping angry that some people still couldn’t give a toss about the way we’re represented.”

Ms Jones has resisted calls from friends and relatives to sell the Pank-cake on eBay, despite the fact a pancake depicting Jesus and Mary almost sold for $338 (£165) in 2007.

Honour Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters yourself, with our exclusive Suffragette-themed Pankhurst Pancake ideas…

Ingredients (serves 8): 

  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Pinch of salt

Toppings:

Savoury – fig, goats cheese, spinach and honey

Sweet – blueberries, cream and crushed pistachios

Method:

  1. Put the flour and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl, add the eggs, oil and about 50ml of the milk
  2. Whisk into a thick paste, adding more milk if necessary
  3. Pour in the rest of the milk, while still whisking
  4. Heat oil in a frying pan over a medium heat
  5. Spoon a thin, even layer of pancake batter in to the pan
  6. Cook for about 30 seconds
  7. Flip, using a spatula to gently lift the pancake
  8. Cook for another 30 seconds on the other side
  9. Turn onto a plate and decorate with your suffragette coloured toppings
  10. Enjoy!

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Yarnstorming manly Manchester

Needlework artist Helen Davies and curator and historian Jenny WhiteCraftivist duo Warp & Weft are needlecraft artists Helen Davies and historian & curator Jenny White.

Their latest project is Stature, a yarnstorming exhibition in Manchester Town Hall, which for two weeks will see eight of the town’s male busts yarnbombed with crocheted masks of some of Greater Manchester’s most inspiring women.

They shared some of their exhibition photos with us and explained what the project is all about:

In 2013, high profile feminist campaigns like No more page Three and women on bank notes inspired us to think about how women are represented in society. We were shocked to learn that of 640 listed statues in the UK, only 15% are of women and most of those are statues of monarchs or mythological characters

We noticed that, barring Queen Victoria’s status through accident of birth, Manchester’s municipal statues still only celebrate the achievement of historical men.

We thought it was about time they honoured some great female role models, and a crochet mask facelift seemed an ideal format. Traditionally dismissed as women’s work, craft has been undergoing a revival in the past few years.

We’ve timed our exhibition so our celebration of Esther Roper can put some ‘L’ into February’s LGBT history month. On 8 March, International Women’s Day, we’ll be speaking about our project at the People’s History Museum’s Suffragette Legacy Conference.

We’ve chosen eight women from Greater Manchester with diverse backgrounds and achievements all of whom deserve recognition:

Sunny Lowry – the channel swimmer who scoffed 40 eggs a week; Sylvia Pankhurst – the suffragette who became an honorary Ethiopian; Esther Roper – the protector of barmaid’s jobs; Dr Kathleen Drew-Baker – the saviour of Japan’s sushi seaweed industry; Elizabeth Gaskell – the novelist whose books were burnt by mill owners; Louise Da-Cocodia – the race relations and community enterprise champ; Kathleen Ollerenshaw – the maths boffin & politician; Annie Horniman – the flamboyant arts patron.

Sunny Lowry MBE

Ethel ‘Sunny’ Lowry, (1911 – 2008) Pioneering long-distance swimmer

1SunnyLowry

In August 1933 Sunny fulfilled her channel swimming dream, crossing over night from France to England in fifteen hours and 41 minutes. Her skin was smeared in wool grease and chilli, and she had to contend with jellyfish stings. From her support boat she was fed coffee, cocoa and beef tea; a bagpiper played to help keep her stroke rhythm regular; and carrier pigeons were released at intervals to send updates on her progress back to dry land.

Sylvia Pankhurst

Sylvia Pankhurst, (1882 – 1960) Suffragette

1Sylvia Pankhurst

Sylvia was an active votes-for-women campaigner: causing disruption; damaging property; anything to draw attention to the cause. She served many jail terms, and was force fed whilst on hunger strike in Holloway.

Whereas her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel just wanted voting rights extended to posh, privileged women, Sylvia believed that working class women and men deserved the vote.

Read more about Sylvia here.

Esther Roper

Esther Roper, (1868 – 1938) LGBT magazine pioneer & campaigner for barmaids’ rights

1EstherRoper

Esther Roper was one of the first women to gain a degree from Manchester Uni (then known as Owens College). In 1886 she was admitted on a trial scheme to test whether females could study without harm to their mental or physical health.

In 1896 she met the love of her life, Eva Gore-Booth.They formed the Barmaids Defence League to campaign against a proposed ban on female bar staff.

In 1916, along with transwoman Irene Clyde, the couple co-founded one of Britain’s first LGBT publications, Urania magazine.

Read more about Esther here.

Dr Kathleen Drew-Baker

Dr Kathleen Drew-Baker, (1901-1957) The scientist who became Japan’s seaweed saviour

1KathleenDrewBaker

Dr Kathleen was co-founder and first president of the British Phycological Society – that’s the algae study society to you and me. Her ground breaking discoveries led her to become the saviour of nori, or sushi seaweed.

Read more about Dr Kathleen Drew-Baker.

Elizabeth Gaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell, (1810 – 1865) Pioneering writer and biographer

1ElizabethGaskell

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Unitarian upbringing instilled in her the importance of taking action against injustice. She used her fiction writing to highlight the plight of the industrial poor. Exploring themes such as class conflict, gender roles, prostitution and drug addiction, her books inspired heated debate and moral outrage but ultimately contributed to social reform.

Read more about Elizabeth Gaskell here.

Louise Da-Cocodia MBE

Louise Da-Cocodia “Mrs D”,  (1934 – 2008) Race relations & community enterprise champ

1LouisedeCocodia

Louise Da-Cocodia believed passionately that everyone has the right to access housing, education and employment where they feel safe, secure and fulfilled. She spoke of how important it was “…to help young Black people understand that this is their home, this is the society they live in, and that they have a part to play in developing it. Young Black people need role models around, not necessarily high profile ones…”

She worked tirelessly to improve people’s quality of life, both on a grassroots community level where she was affectionately known as ‘Mrs D’; and on a more formal level.

Read more about Louise Da-Cocodia here.

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, (born 1912, still going strong) Mathematician & politician

1KathleenOllerenshaw

Dame Kathleen used her maths skills to influence government policy on social issues. She campaigned tirelessly for improving standards in schools, and the importance of education for girls. Published in 1955 her statistical report on the state of Britain’s crumbling school buildings led the government to release funds for capital building programmes.

Read more about Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw.

Annie Horniman

Annie Horniman, (1860 – 1937) Eccentric arts champion

1AnnieHorniman

Annie Horniman challenged society’s expectations of women. She raised many an eyebrow by remaining unmarried and being a heavy smoker; not to mention travelling alone, in trousers, across Europe and North Africa – including cycling across the Alps.

She attended the Slade School of Fine Art, and would pop to see new impressionist exhibitions in Paris.

Read more about Annie Horniman here.

Warp and Weft’s Stature exhibition is on at Manchester Town Hall from 24 February – 9 March. Check out their crocheted masks on the ground floor, and learn about some of Manchester’s amazing women.

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From Beliebers to broadcasters, noisy women are powerful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Hendrik Dacquin

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Feminist Events Listings: January 2014

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

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

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

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

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

NATIONAL

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

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

For more information please contact Sheila Lahan at Aquinas College, telephone 0161 419 9163, email : Sheila@aquinas.ac.uk.

 

17 January  || Policy & Parliamentary Training, Sheffield.

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

MORE INFO: www.voice4change-england.co.uk

 

 

LONDON

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

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

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

RSVP: monique@vday.org or rossana@onebillionrising.org

 

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

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

MORE INFO:http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/ents/event/896/

 

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

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

MORE INFO: http://theshed.nationaltheatre.org.uk/events/blurred-lines#.UsV4cfRdVth

 

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

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

MORE INFO: http://feministlibrary.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.

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

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#IDontBuyIt: Make Your Own Feminist Fairy!

FM_Fairy

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

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

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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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#ManWeek: Son Preference… ‘where girls vanish with no trace’

 

son pref4_ec

Reprinted from The Atlas of Women in the World by Joni Seager. We are delighted to be able to offer Feminist Times subscribers a 20% discount: please order here quoting code MRJ81. This offer is valid until the end of December 2013.

Joni Seager is Professor & Chair of Global Studies at Bentley Uni, a Global Policy Expert & Feminist.

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

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Feminist Events Listings: November 2013

Verity Flecknell

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

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

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

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

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

LONDON

Film Spotlight

London Feminist Film Festival || 24 November – 2 December

The London Feminist Film Festival was set up as a response to the underrepresentation of women in the film industry, as well as to the lack of films addressing feminist issues. In its second year, the festival will take place at Hackney Picturehouse over seven days and will screen 10 feature length films and 21 short films, from 18 different countries, including eight UK Premieres, eight European Premieres, and six World Premieres. Some of the films on show include; En la Casa, la Cama y la Calle about activism in Nicaragua, Still Fighting about abortion clinic escorts in the US, and Foot for Love about a South African football team’s campaign against lesbophobia. And UK-based films such as To Hear Her Voice about suffragette theatre. Each screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring feminist directors, activists, academics, and arts critics. Festival Director, Anna Read says: “We want to celebrate women creatives whilst ensuring that this feminist ethos also extends to the films we show. The festival is a celebration of feminist films past and present. Our aim is to inspire discussion about feminism and film, to support women directors, and to get feminist films seen by a wider audience. Following the success of last year’s festival, we hope to make the 2nd festival even bigger and better, with even more inspiring feminist films and discussion”.

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

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

MORE INFORMATION: www.londonfeministfilmfestival.com

Underwire Short-Film Festival || 19-23 November

Underwire, the UK’s only short film festival dedicated to showcasing the raw cinematic talents of women return for their 4th annual festival, running 19-23 November at The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, London. Featuring an eclectic mix of genres, themes and aesthetic styles across 10 competition screenings. These ten craft awards aim to recognize outstanding female film practitioners working in the UK today. This year’s festival also includes 23 dynamic events, bringing industry icons and familiar faces to our audience.  Underwire Festival 2013 is focusing on feminist issues more so than ever before, bringing women in film and feminist discussion back to the heart of Hackney. With an exciting programme of industry events, this year’s festival questions what it means to be a woman, as a filmmaker and with our society. Teaming up with Little White Lies Underwire presents ‘Girls On Film’ a day of panel discussions focusing on the representation of women in film. The day splits into 4 events; ‘The Bechdel Test: The Ugly Truth?’ featuring guest speaker Muriel d’Ansembourg (BAFTA nominated Good Night); ‘Act Your Age: Is there Space on Screen for Older Women?’ with Kate Hardie (Shoot Me); ‘Honest Lies: The Representation of Prostitution in Cinema’ looking at mainstream films from “Breakfast at Tiffanys” to ‘Monster” and ‘Is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl dead?’ with Laurie Penny (The Independent, The New Statesman, The New Inquiry) and Catherine Balavage (Writer/Actor, Proses & Cons). Tickets are £7 per session or £20 for an all day pass.

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

Theatre Spotlight

This November we thought it was important to highlight some of the groundbreaking feminist theatre that is currently storming the stage in London.

Clean Break present; “Billy the Girl” at Soho Theatre | Until 24 November

Celebrated theatre company Clean Break return to Soho Theatre with Katie Hims’ ‘Billy the Girl’ which runs from 29 October to 24 November. Clean Break is a women’s theatre company using theatre for personal and political change and working with women whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system. On 12 November, a post-show panel conversation features past and present Clean Break commissioned writers discussing the Clean Break commission and its impact on their writing lives. On 13 November, post-show panelists from various disciplines discuss concepts of chaos and women in the criminal justice system.

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

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

Camden People’s Theatre present; “Calm Down Dear” | Until 10 November

The Camden People’s Theatre present a festival of feminist theatre “Calm Down Dear” a gathering of artists and companies presenting a three-week season of innovative theatre, performance, comedy, cabaret and discussion about feminism. Programme runs from 23rd October until Sunday 10th of November. CPT co-directors Jenny Paton and Brian Logan say: “we were struck earlier this year by the number of feminist-themed applications to our annual Sprint festival. That didn’t come out of nowhere: the boom in feminist thought and action – from No More Page 3 to Caitlin Moran, from Jane Austen on banknotes to Everyday Sexism on Twitter – has been one of the most heartening features of public life in the last couple of years. Our Calm Down, Dear festival celebrates and channels that. We’re really proud to be hosting some of the most exciting and urgent art to be found at the crest of this feminist new wave.”

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

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

Politics Spotlight

Why Gender Should be on Europe’s Agenda || 7 November

Organised by National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO)and taking place at the Amnesty International building in East London. This panel and discussion brings together academics, NGOs, political bodies and youth voices to explore how and why young women can and should get involved in the European agenda. Speakers include: Mary Honeyball MEP, Dr Roberta Guerrina, Rebecca Taylor MEP, Catherine Bearder MEP, Serap Altinisik – Member of EWL Free event.

RSVP: admin@nawo.org.uk.

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

Zero Tolerance: Eradication Female Genital Mutilation || 13 November

Organised by Public Policy Exchange, this day long conference includes speakers from the Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and the Metropolitan police.  It has been estimated that over 20,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of FGM in the UK each year, and that 66,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM. This timely symposium provides an invaluable opportunity to; Understand the current legal framework for eradicating female genital mutilation. Explore how to overcome sensitive cultural barriers and improve protection, support and the services available. Discuss ways in which to engage with schools and the wider public to raise awareness of FGM. Examine new strategies that encourage communities to challenge FGM and develop a stronger response at a local level.

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

NATIONAL

Women in Politics: Yes We Can! Bradford || 15 November

An event that will discuss how women can get involved in politics, Parliament and campaigning. Find out how you can raise important issues and hear from three experts with unrivalled experience of campaigning on behalf of women inside and out of Parliament: Speakers include; The Lord Speaker Baroness D’Souza, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (Paralympian, Crossbench Member of the House of Lords), Ann Cryer (former MP for Keighley) The event runs from 10am to 12pm, taking place at City Training Services, 39-41 Chapel Street, Bradford BD1 5BY.

BOOK TICKETS: contactwinterfloodkl@parliament.uk

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

Reclaim the Night: Leeds || 16th November

A group of women in Leeds are planning a Reclaim the Night March for Saturday 16th November 2013.  A Reclaim the Night March is direct action by women to reclaim the streets and assert our right to feel free from fear of rape and sexual violence. The march will take women on a route around the city centre to reclaim places where women feel vulnerable from attack; the last stage of the march will be open to all. There will be a rally, which will be open to all  supporters. Reclaim the Night Leeds will be setting off from Victoria Gardens (outside the Art Gallery) at 6.30pm and arriving at Leeds Met Student Union Bar for approx. 7.30pm for speakers and stalls.

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

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

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

Women’s History Conference, Manchester || 23rd November

The North West Labour History Society is celebrating 40 years of activity promoting labour history with a conference on women’s history on 23 November in Manchester. A day long conference with sessions on “Women, Politics and Music” and “Women as Political Activists” covering topics including trade unionism, socialism, Votes for Women, socialism and feminism. Also a panel discussion on Socialism and Feminism. The speakers will include Lindsey German, Claire Mooney, Alice Nutter, Louise Raw, Rae Street and Sonja Tiernan. The fee for the day will be £10 waged/£5 unwaged.

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

MORE INFO: redflagwalks@gmail.com

LaDIYfest Sheffield || 30th November

Sheffield’s grassroots feminist festival, LaDIYfest, returns for its third year with a whole day and night of practical activities, discussion workshops and live music raising money for local women’s charities.  Celebrating women in the arts, Ladyfest is a community based not-for profit movement that started in Olympia, Washington in 2000, Riot grrrl identifying bands like; Sleater-Kinney, The Gossip and Bratmobile all performed at the first ever Ladyfest. Since then Ladyfests have been organised by individuals and grassroots organisations all over the world.

During the day, festivalgoers will have the chance to participate in lively workshops and discussions run by local groups and visiting speakers. Workshops will be a mixture of serious and fun, teaching practical skills such as sound engineering, organising your own grassroots events, and t-shirt printing, alongside discussions on men and feminism, women and anti-fascism and the Lose the Lads Mags campaign. Workshops take place from 11am-5.30pm at the Quaker Meeting House, Sheffield. Saturday evening will see the city play host to an exciting line-up of bands including London based band; The Ethical Debating Society, Halo Halo, Weird Menace, and Not Right with DJ sets from local collective INVERT until late. LaDIYfest seeks out the best new women-led bands from the local scene.

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

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

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

26 November || Bristol Women’s Lit Fest presents: The glory of Pride and Prejudice @ Watershed, Bristol, BS1 5TX. The Bristol Women’s Literature Festival invites you to join us at Watershed on Tuesday 26 November for an evening of conversation, discussion and enthusiasm to find out. Chaired by Professor Helen Taylor, this panel discussion will explore Austen’s lasting appeal and the misconceptions that have dogged her public persona. Professor Taylor will be joined by Jean Burnett, author of Who Needs Mr Darcy, and Professor Jane Spencer. 6.15pm – Tickets £8.00 full (£6.50 concs)

BUY TICKETS:  online

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

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

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

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Angel

Forgotten Crafts: Traditional Dublin Biscuit Folding

This angel is believed to be holding a  tray with two biscuits on it.

This angel is believed to be holding a
tray with two biscuits on it.

Legend has it was Mary Magdalene who first made these hard, biscuit-like sweets for the table at the Last Supper. The craft was first officially documented when it was brought to Ireland by monks travelling from Greece in the 8th century, who illustrated the ancient craft in the Book of Kells.

In the 14th century the craft had spread to the rest of Britain where Chaucer wrote in the Wife of Baths tale:

“ye fealdan disc fare beon god”

Modern English Translation:  “Your folded disc food is very good.

First photograph of an early 20th century Dublin Folded Biscuit

First photograph of an early 20th century
Dublin Folded Biscuit.

By the 19th century it was common place in Ireland for a virgin to bake the folded biscuits for her father-in-law on the eve of her wedding. The dough became lighter in colour, it’s folds representing the folds of the white sheets on the virginal matrimonial bed.  The biscuits were now often more decorative in style, with seeds and fruit often used to create symbols of love.

Often mistaken for Belfast Biscuit Bending, whilst the two crafts are derived from the same ancient tradition, the modern Dublin’s Biscuit Fold is distinctive for the crispness of fold as opposed to a bend.

Daniel Day Lewis unveils  the plaque, 2004.

Daniel Day Lewis unveils
the plaque, 2002.

Belfast Bend dough is much softer in touch.  In fact the dough was of such a gloopy consistancy it was often used to plug cracks in homes during the Blitz in East End Irish settlements.

The Dublin Folded Biscuit made it all the way across the atlantic with the famous New York DBF Pantry being launched in 1952, of course the DBF Pantry is now a well known coffee and biscuit chain with 22 hundred units across the US.A plaque commemorates the first Pantry, now a block of luxury apartments,which was unveiled by the Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis shortly after the Gangs of New York premier in 2002.

 

 

 

Make your own Dublin Folded Biscuits.

1)  Mix 250g softened butter and 140g caster sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then add 1 egg yolk and 2 tsp vanilla extract and briefly beat to combine. Sift over 300g plain flour and stir until the mixture is well combined – you might need to get your hands in at the end to give everything a really good mix and press the dough together.

2)  Roll out until half an inch thick and fold once.

3)  Bake.

NEXT MONTH:  Traditional Icelandic Clog Blowing

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Witch and Devil woodcut

The witch report

Are you sick of the term ‘witch-hunt’ being bandied around in tabloid coverage and, most recently, in the Michael Le Vell case? As an historian of witchcraft, there’s nothing more likely to get me ranting. When I spotted a column by Rhiannon and Holly of Vagenda Magazine entitled ‘Why a rape trial should never be called a witch-hunt’, I thought, great. But they too fell into the trap of connecting the term with ‘black hats and broomsticks’, saying ‘people who believe in [witches] are gullible and oversensitive’, and the obligatory reference to the Crucible. Oh dear.

It’s not surprising because, after all, witchcraft is one of the great feminist stories, isn’t it? The tabloid equivalents of the Early Modern period – pamphlets and plays – often talked up a good burning. We have to remember that in an intensely religious society, where you could be executed for adultery, theft, or sodomy, rejecting Christianity was the worst sin imaginable and people genuinely believed in witchcraft. To turn to the Devil, worship him, kiss him under the anus, attend an orgy and then cause harm to one’s neighbours or kill cattle was viewed with all the revulsion reserved for a paedophile ring today.

Since witches were women, it’s surely a feminist issue? Popular knowledge of the ‘Burning Times’ owes a lot to our vision of witches as prototype feminists, as the ultimate martyrs to male domination. It was patriarchy gone mad – a time when women were burnt just for being women.

Adding academic fuel to the pyre was the blossoming of witchcraft studies during the second wave of feminism in the sixties and seventies. As historians broke free of the shackles of monarchy, militarism and diplomacy, feminists in History (or the renamed Herstory) departments liberated the lost voices of women past.

Soon angry cries were raised of nine million women killed – a gynocide! Some held that midwives and healers were executed to promote the emergence of the male medical profession. Most of you, I suspect, imagine witches as female, old, ugly, healers, or herbalists and this is largely a tribute to the strength of the feminist appropriation of the witch as the prototype feminist – those who paid with their lives for being a strong woman.

You may be surprised to discover for a start that witches were not burnt in England and around 25% of those executed (in Europe and North America) were male, a figure rising to 70-80% in areas such as Finland and Russia. Many witches were young – some were mere children (boys and girls), tried with their mothers, since being a witch was regarded as a hereditary trait. Relatively few of the women tried were midwives or healers – they were too valuable to society. Most scholars now agree that around 40,000 men and women lost their lives in a period roughly between 1450-1800.

The judiciary was male, true, but women supported the judicial procedures in their roles as those who pricked the accused, examined them intimately for the so-called Devil’s Mark (a piece of skin that apparently was immune to pain) and who also testified as prosecution witnesses. More horrifically, women dragged other women to their deaths through denunciations, admittedly under torture, but sometimes it was their own relatives or friends. The term ‘Witch-hunt’ deserves much more respect, in memory of the tortured and the dead.

 

Dr Wanda Wyporska has written extensively on witchcraft and is the author of Witchcraft in Poland 1500-1800, published by Palgrave Macmillan on November 6th. She blogs about witchcraft, writing and publishing at www.witchcraftinpoland.com. Find out more @witchcraftwanda.

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Feminist Events Listings: October 2013

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

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

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

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

Verity Flecknell, Storm in a Teacup

Women in Comedy Festival | 1st – 27th October

The UK’s first ever ‘Women in Comedy Festival’  takes places from 1st – 27th of October with over 100 events across Greater Manchester and surrounding areas including  acts such as Gina Yashere, Lucy Porter, Shazia Mirza, Jo Neary, Zoe Lyons and Ava Vidal. Spearheaded by Hazel O’Keefe of Laughing Cows Comedy, this festival is a collaborative venture, with shows produced by What the Frock, Funny Women, Laughing Labia, plus many more. Celebrating all things funny and female across a variety of platforms including live comedy performances, comedy theatre, spoken word, book readings, film, visual art, installations, improvisation, photography, workshops and debates.  Women in Comedy Arts Festival will be an opportunity for female comics across the UK to meet, perform, debate, discuss and get feedback from industry, insiders and professionals. Aiming to put an end to circular conversations and blow certain myths out of the water whilst showcasing, promoting and nurturing female comedy across a variety of platforms. Performances will be taking place all the way through October at venues across Manchester. For the full programme and info on how to buy tickets please click here.

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

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/womenincomedyuk

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

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

History of Feminism Conference | 12th October

History of Feminism Network present their 2013 conference at the British Library on October 12th. Originally set up in 2007 by a collective of postgraduate students passionate about the history of feminism,  their aim was to create a meeting and debating space for everyone interested in celebrating, exploring and debating the history of feminism. This year the conference is based around the title ‘In Conversation with the Women’s Liberation Movement: Intergenerational Histories of Second Wave Feminism’ and is supported by the Sisterhood and After: an Oral History of the Women’s Liberation Movement project at the British Library, the University of Sussex, the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and the History of Feminism Network. It is set to be a day of intergenerational dialogues between Women’s Liberation activists and younger feminists, hailing the today’s resurgence of feminist activity and asking what is the relationship between this new feminism and the Women’s Liberation movement of a generation ago. Sessions cover – race, sexualities, reproductive choice, the rise of women’s history, and class and work, we will both celebrate and critically examine British feminism and its legacies.

Already tickets have sold out but join their mailing list and keep an eye out for more ticket allocation releases. History of Feminism Network also organise a regular seminar series at the Institute of Historical Research, please click here for more info.

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/HistFemNet

NE Feminist Gathering | 12th & 13th October

In only its second year North East Feminist Gathering is back on October 12th & 13th with a packed programme of workshops, panel discussions and even a feminist open mic event. The gathering is designed to raise awareness of discrimination and injustice and to provide a space to develop a network of feminists in the North East, where according to the NE Women’s Network report; austerity measures are cutting particularly viciously. Their aim is to combine opportunities for discussion, learning and planning with creative and artistic elements. Offering a broad choice of workshop sessions across three strands; activism, creativity and skill sharing. Workshops include; “Accessing our rights to Justice”, “What is Feminist Activism?”, “Using Social Media in Feminism”, “Welfare Rights for Women and the Austerity Measures” and “Finding our Voices; Public Speaking for Feminists”. As well as the evening social event “Open Mary” an opportunity for anyone to get up and speak or perform; open mic feminist style. The North East Feminist Gathering is taking place at Westend Women and Girls Centre, Newcastle.

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

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/NorthEastFG

Ladyfest Leeds | 19th October

Ladyfest Leeds is back on Saturday 19th of October for the first time since 2007. Celebrating women in the arts, Ladyfest is a community based not-for profit movement that started in Olympia, Washington in 2000, Riot grrrl identifying bands like; Sleater-Kinney, The Gossip and Bratmobile all performed at the first ever Ladyfest. Since then Ladyfests have been organised by individuals and grassroots organisations all over the world. Ladyfest Leeds includes a range of workshops, talks during the day and later in the evening performances by local musicians; Etai Keshiki, Nervous Twitch, Esper Scout and The Three Amigos.  Panel speakers include members of Object! who will be talking about their current campaigns and how to get involved locally in Leeds. Kristin Aune co-author of the groundbreaking “Reclaiming the F-Word: Feminism Today” will be signing copies of the new edition, as well as the Leeds Roller Dolls talking about how to get involved in the exciting female dominated sport; roller derby. All proceeds from the event will go to charities; SARSVL, Women’s Aid and Women’s Health Matters.

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

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

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/leedsladyfest

Clit Rock III | 23rd October

Clit Rock returns on Wednesday 23rd of October at Rattlesnake of Angel, Islington. Clit Rock is an annual music event raising awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and raising funds for FGM charity Daughters of Eve, who are committed to preventing and ultimately eradicating FGM. With Live bands; Deux Furieuses, post punk band who have worked with Rob Ellis (producer of PJ Harvey Fame), The Pearl Harts and Dana Jade, founder of Clitrock as well as DJs; Beck Rosman from Clubmotherfucker. More to be announced and only £5.00 entry (tickets available on the door)

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

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/CLIT_ROCK

Feminism in London Conference  | 26th October

The London Feminist Network (LFN) set up the first Feminism in London Conference in 2008 and since then have organised conferences in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and this year they are back with an impressive programme of speakers, panels and workshops for Feminism London Conference 2013 on 26th of October taking place at the Institute of Education. The conference programme includes workshops for children and teens as well as a pro-feminist workshops open to men.  Morning panel keynote speakers include; Caroline Lucas speaking about ‘Sexism in the Media’, Natalya Dell “Inclusive Feminism” and Shabina Begum “Acid Violence”. In the afternoon join team No More Page 3 for “Kick-Ass Activism” workshop to find out how to start your own feminist campaign. Members of Object! who made submissions to the Leveson enquiry about the portrayal of women in the media, discuss “Women and the Media, A Post-Leveson World”. This year the Feminism in London conference has integrated two other special events into the evening programme including; the inaugural Stop Porn Culture UK meeting (5.30pm – 6.30pm) and the annual Reclaim the Night march, gathering outside the Institute of Education and marching through central London.

Stop Porn Culture UK inaugural meeting, 5.30 – 6.30pm

Reclaim the Night – meet 6.30pm for a 7pm start

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

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/FIL2013

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

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

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

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