by Megan Stodel // 3 March 2014, 19:48
Fluff Productions, formed ten years ago, only produces shows of original material with all-female casts, in an attempt to redress the dreadful imbalance between the number of female characters in plays and the number of, well, women. Some of you might remember Max Smiles' recent feature on this topic!
They recently produced a series of shorts that were all inspired by the No More Page 3 campaign, which is trying to convince the editor of The Sun to stop displaying topless women as a feature.
Shoshana Davidson went along and was amused and impressed by the selection, particularly The Tea Party:
Despite the fast-moving exchange - we never settle for too long on any one topic - the combination of characters that playwright Katie Wimpenny chooses to include somehow manages to convey multiple perspectives on every subject. Nothing feels like it receives light or simplistic treatment. I would have loved to see more, which is praise, not criticism of the piece. In the short time it had, it managed to get to grips with the complexity of a multitude of issues without appearing to lecture, so I'm sure Wimpenny could do amazing things with a little more time.
The photo is a headshot of Rebecca Dunn playing Marilyn Monroe and wearing a No More Page 3 t-shirt.
Readers of The F-Word can get £10 tickets for Fluff Productions' next show World Enough and Time during the first week (19-23 March) with the code MARVELL; click here for tickets and availability.
by Megan Stodel // 3 March 2014, 08:35
Catherine Bennett is the new superstar in town. The brainchild of Bryony Kimmings and her young niece Taylor, CB is a palaeontologist and pop star, aiming to entertain and inspire young children, particularly young girls. Her new play, That Catherine Bennett Show, attempts to push the limits of what we're used to from children's shows; Kimmings says it needs to combat existing shows and so-called role models that only offer "the very limited version of what your life could be like".
Talking of children, she says:
"They're open" she exclaims, "They're bloody amazing. They're like sponges. And all we're doing is... limiting every possible thing that they can do." This isn't just true of the way women are presented in pop. "All of their TV programmes - nearly all of them - have very, very gendered roles." Toys too, and even education, teach: "'You're a girl so you can be this. You're a boy so you can be that.' I mean, they don't need that. They totally don't need that. They need the opposite of that."
Is she successful? Charlotte Rowland thinks so. In her review of That Catherine Bennett Show, she writes about the exciting topics the play engages with:
Among the general lesson that anything is possible is a gently political and progressively feminist current. At one stage, the pace slows and the lights dim for a bedtime story. It is about Emmeline Pankhurst. Later, CB sings Apathy (a song which has been playing in my head ever since). The lyrics ask: "What you wa-wa, what you waiting for?" Then there is the new addition to CB's repertoire, 'Hear Me', for which the audience are required to chant: "We're loud, we're proud, we're stronger as a crowd." "Human rights" is a phrase heard more than once.
In the photo, Catherine Bennett, a young white woman with blonde curly hair and black-rimmed glasses, squats next to two young girls. She is holding a conch shell.
by Jess McCabe // 3 March 2014, 07:58
Welcome to your weekly round up of interesting stories from the last seven days, as selected by members of The F-Word's editorial collective. Please feel free to share anything we might have missed in comments...
A link does not imply endorsement.
Please use reasonable caution when clicking, some stories may be triggering.
New record lows in teen pregnancy rate (The Guardian)
Benefit cuts explicitly linked to mental health problems (The Guardian)
Congo Stigmata: The day Ensler crucified herself (Feminist Times)
Activists cry foul as Ugandan women are stripped in streets (Voice of America)
Despite opposition, Parliament takes stock of LGBT equality in new report (European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights - press release)
How foreign governments hurt not help LGBTQI rights (New Left Project)
Why Health At Every Size doesn't work for me (s.e. smith)
Female masturbation comes into its own in pop music (The Guardian)
Page 3 on a train (Not The News In Briefs)
100 LGBTQ black women you should know (Autostraddle)
The dash is the best (Intelligent Life)
Ugandan Women's Network (Facebook)
Pistorius and Paddy Power - making a killing at the betting shop (Everyday Victim Blaming)
And finally... a calm song to get you through the first day of the week:
Photo of grapefruit halves with various smiley faces by illuminaut, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license
by Megan Stodel // 3 March 2014, 00:16
This month we have two guest bloggers, Charlie Hale and Maria Phelan. Please give them a warm welcome!
Here's a bit about them in their own words:
Charlie Hale is a Computer Science student and blogger by night and asleep by day. They're a genderqueer, kinky, polyamorous pan/bisexual who can't keep their mouth shut.
Maria is a Senior Health Advocate at Harm Reduction International. Maria holds an MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University if London. Prior to working at Harm Reduction International, she worked for the National Children's Bureau coordinating the Children and Young People's HIV Network and the Terrence Higgins Trust. At Harm Reduction International she coordinates the European Harm Reduction Network and works to raise the profile of harm reduction through lobbying and advocacy activities.
The photo shows a view of the interior of the balloon of a hot air balloon. The flame that lifts the balloon can be seen in the corner of the photo, as can metal hooks and wires. The photo is by Megan Stodel.
by Ania Ostrowska // 2 March 2014, 14:00
The Birds Eye View Film Festival (8-13 April) is delighted to announce details of its annual International Women's Day Gala (8 March) and the festival's opening and closing night films, continuing the organization's mission to celebrate and support the best international female filmmaking talent.
To celebrate International Women's Day, BEV is hosting a screening at BFI Southbank of the powerful documentary Wonder Woman! The Untold Story of American Superheroines, a film which traces the fascinating birth, evolution and legacy of the Wonder Woman figure and introduces audiences to a dynamic group of fictional and real-life superheroines fighting for positive role models for girls, both on screen and off. Directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and produced by Kelcey Edwards, this super-doc offers a vital and entertaining counterpoint to the male-dominated superhero genre. You can join the festival crew from 4pm for a special pre-screening Future Shorts event.
Full details and booking.
Nana Ekvtimishvili's and Simon Groß's award-winning Georgian feature In Bloom will open the Festival on Tuesday 8th April where it will receive its UK Premiere. Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar's touching French-American family drama Swim Little Fish Swim, which will also receive its UK premiere, will close the festival on Sunday 13th April.
The 2014 Festival promises to be Birds Eye View's biggest and best outing, with a host of UK premieres and special events featuring some of the world's leading female filmmakers and rising new talents. The programme also includes industry programmes supported by the British Council and Creative Skillset, plus much more in six days of endlessly inspiring women from across the globe.
Events and screening will take place at BFI Southbank, Barbican, Curzon Soho, ICA, Electric Cinema and several more venues. The full programme will be announced shortly, keep your eye on BEV website.
COMPETITION!For your chance to win a pair of tickets for Birds Eye View IWD Gala on Saturday 8 March, answer the following question:
Which edition of Birds Eye View Film Festival is taking place this year?
I'm waiting for your answers until 5pm on Wednesday 5 March: ania.ostrowska[at]thefword.org.uk
See you at the festival!
Photos are stills from Wonder Women! documentary, courtesy of Birds Eye View Film Festival. Photo 1 is a collage of marching feminist activists and cartoon Superwoman and clenched fists. Photo 2 is of a woman superhero impersonator, standing in her costume against red background peppered with stars.
by Editor // 27 February 2014, 13:25
Regular readers may remember our call for applicants last year to take on the roles of Comics Editor, Games Editor and Music Editor. We received a wealth of replies; so many, and of a uniformly high standard, that it's taken us until now to process them all - but I'm delighted to share the news that TFW has now been joined by three new Section Editors. Here's a little bit about each of them:
Comics Editor: Kate Townshend
Kate Townshend is a freelance journalist, teacher, English Literature graduate and very definitely, a feminist too!
In an effort to keep things eclectic, she is interested in everything from educational issues to geek culture, as well as anything and everything to with women and their participation and status in public life.
Kate has been published in the Guardian, the Times Educational Supplement and Britain magazine amongst others.
You can find her Reluctant Geek blog at The Lion's Share where she waxes lyrical about comics, games and movies. Sometimes (often) she sneaks some feminism in there too!
Games Editor: Laura Buttrick
Laura Buttrick is a final year video games production student at the University of Lincoln, and a founding member and President of the university's Feminism Society. She has previously worked as a video games reviewer for the California Literary Review, as well as hosting her own blog and contributing to other blogs such as Quite Irregular and The F-Word. She also contributes papers to the human-computer interaction academic community, presenting them at conferences internationally. As well as tackling feminist issues in video games, as a queer woman Laura is a passionate supporter of LGBTQ* rights.
In her spare time, Laura has an eclectic variety of hobbies. As well as playing video games she loves needlework and embroidery, and is a collector of both dolls house miniatures and bird ornaments. Laura also loves aviary birds, and has a particularly soft spot for cockatiels.
Music Editor: Jo Whitehead
Jo has been aware of and interested in social and gender inequality for as long as she can remember. A native Yorkshire-woman, Jo finds inspiration and sanctuary in music and dreams of taking a year off to intensively study - and master - a musical instrument. This week, the trumpet is favourite. She is anti-musical snobbery and has no guilt about any of her musical pleasures.
Jo escapes the "challenges" of her 9-5 through running, reading, discovering new tunes and surfing Pinterest (heavy feminist presence, people). She feels privileged to be part of The F-Word team.
I'm very happy that Jo, Kate and Laura have joined us and am looking forward to reading their contributions. Welcome, all!
Image attribution: The image at the head of this post is called 'Typewriter Keys' and was found at Kristin Nador's Flickr photostream. It is used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
by Guest Blogger // 27 February 2014, 10:50
Nandini Archer completed an MA in International Human Rights Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, specialising in women's rights. She works part-time with International Women's Initiative as a Research and Media Officer and at Acid Survivors Trust International as a PR Assistant.
Earlier this month, the opposition leader challenged the UK Prime Minister for the Coalition's all-male front bench in parliament. Indeed, Britain ranks 53rd in the world for its parliamentary representation of women. There is only one woman for every four men in UK parliament. The lack of women's representation in politics is of course a global phenomenon: despite constituting 51% of the world's population, women are under-represented in almost all major decision-making bodies. As of July 2013, only 20.9% of national parliamentarians were female, 8 women were Head of State and 13 were Head of Government. Democracies have historically excluded women from being able to vote and whilst (owing to decades of struggle) this is now rare, women's exclusion from the higher echelons of politics evidently persists.
But why is it so crucial to have women in positions of power? Certainly, we should reject arguments based on gender stereotyping, for example, suggesting that women are inherently peaceful. And it would be wrong to claim that women legislators will necessarily always champion women's rights. Yet, the reality is that the existing male monopoly of power cannot possess a genuine understanding of women's issues. This may be one explanation for the perpetuation of inequalities, for instance, the constant threats to reproductive rights, the persisting gender pay gap and the unequal policies regarding parental leave.
There are some positive examples that we can take from around the world. After an increase in female lawmakers in Rwanda and South Africa, new legislation was passed on equal land inheritance and reproductive rights. In West Bengal, villages with greater female representation are twice more likely to have drinking water facilities than villages with low-levels of female representation - since this lessens the burden on women and girls having to walk long distances to collect water. An Inter-Parliamentary Survey concluded that, generally, women policy-makers pursue social issues, physical concerns and development matters - including childcare, equal pay, parental leave, pensions, reproductive rights, physical safety, gender-based violence, poverty alleviation and service delivery. Whilst there will always be exceptions, women can bring forward a different range of matters to represent the diverse concerns of society.
An increase in female political participation would be especially beneficial in the current climate of austerity and public service cuts. Economic decisions made by men at the highest levels are having particularly negative effects on women. Since the end of the recession, women's unemployment has risen by 12% whilst men's unemployment has reduced by 7% - and women constitute 65% of the public sector workforce (which is being brutally cut by the UK government). A more gender-equal UK parliament could mean that socioeconomic issues which affect women's lives are better represented.
One way of redressing this imbalance of power would be to reform parliamentary working culture and hours - since existing norms are premised on politicians being men, without any family responsibilities or life outside politics. Women MPs may be more likely to stand down after one term, owing to the challenges of the patriarchal working environment that has been moulded over generations. However, this argument does present problems by stereotyping women as carers in the private sphere.
The most common policy called for to promote female representation involves some form of quota system. These policies are often condemned as discriminatory against men and there are problems that can arise, for example, when a woman attains a high-ranking role, they may be assumed to have been chosen over a more capable man. The Human Rights Committee noted that these attitudes are entirely mistaken, since quotas seek to redress historic discrimination against women. Rather than viewing women as unworthy of high-powered positions, it would be more reasonable to conceptualise the individuals on Prime Minister Cameron's front bench as undeserving. Indeed, these men may not have been the most competent, but have been provided with a combination of unfair advantages and connections, owing to their sex, race, class and education.
A more pressing concern regarding women-only quotas is their treatment of women as a homogenous group. It would be of no help to our cause if these quotas were simply filled by more female politicians like Margaret Thatcher or Theresa May - who are unlikely to understand or represent the experiences of a black, working class, single mother, for instance. We need to embrace a more intersectional form of women's rights - one that recognises the differences between women, including race, class, religion, sexuality, disability and so on. Ultimately, the present monocultural political arena needs to be challenged on all fronts - and quotas can encourage a wider range of people to bring new issues onto the political agenda. We cannot claim to live in a genuine democracy whilst our decision-makers do not represent broader society and we continue to be ruled by an elite group of men.
The image at the head of this post shows the debating chamber of the British House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster, London, looking north-east. The image is from UK Parliament's Flickr photostream and has been cropped and resized by Helen. The Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license applies.
by Guest Blogger // 25 February 2014, 13:28
This is a guest post by Natalie Collins for the Christian Feminist Network about holding both a faith and a feminist view of the world. Founded in 2012, Christian Feminist Network is a UK-based network of people interested in exploring and connecting faith and feminism. They exist to advance the understanding that Christian feminism is not an oxymoron but that Christian patriarchy and misogyny is.
Lent begins next Wednesday and for some, either through tradition or religious conviction they will give up something, maybe chocolate or some other such tasty treat. For many however, the eating of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday will be the beginning and end of their thinking about Lent. Probably more because the supermarkets provide enormous displays of plastic lemon and pancake mix than because of any religious conviction about the occasion; the commercialisation of religion rolls on.
"Why are you writing about Lent?" I hear you wonder, "This is a feminist website!"
Well, thoughtful reader, my Lent activity will be rooted around referring to God in the feminine for the entirety of Lent, something I did last year also. It will be an interesting experience, one which will perhaps raise issues about my own indoctrination in the church and having to overcome my own internal barriers about offending people with such a radical statement that God is female as well as male.
For many feminists, talk of religion and feminism as compatible is both anachronistic and oxymoronic. The experience of many women across the world finds religion to have been an oppressive force in their life. The American religious right suggests feminism is at the root of all societal ills and many would argue that religion is a patriarchal construct that has been used for thousands of years to control women and minority groups.
I was raised in a committed Christian home and received various problematic messages about gender and relationships through both implicit and explicit messaging in church. At 17 I met a man who abused me horrifically for four years, culminating in the premature birth of my second child. Feminist thought formed part of my journey to healing. Learning that male violence is rooted in beliefs of ownership and entitlement gave me the knowledge to move forward. Understanding about the global torture and genocide of women and the systems which oppress and devalue women, the industries making money from stealing women's self-esteem from them and selling it back in the form of beauty products and cosmetic surgery, enabled me to position my story within the story of all of my sisters. Yet it was my Christian faith which sustained me in the darkest moments and enabled me to make it through and find freedom.
I will not look away from the ways in which religion is used to oppress, but neither will I ignore the ways women in science experience misogyny and harrassment or how the UK political system and media denigrates women. Patriarchy uses religion as a weapon just as it uses the media and the sisterhood and women's own perception of themselves to keep women oppressed.
At times it is hard to hold in tension my deeply held feminist convictions with my deeply held faith. Over the last couple of years it has been wonderful to connect with others who have felt similarly. I have had the honour of meeting with some of the foremothers and the crones who have been fighting the battle while holding onto their faith for many years longer than I have even been on the earth and I have had the wonderful experience of working with some likeminded women in setting up the Christian Feminist Network. We hope to create a space where those who identify as both Christian and feminist can share their passion and feel slightly less out of place.
If you are one of those people, you are really welcome to join us this Saturday (1st March) in Manchester as we run an event called "Reclaiming the F Word" with Dr Kristin Aune and many other speakers. We will be exploring the arts, intersectionality, masculinities, the experiences of trans* feminists and the inclusion of older women in the sisterhood. People of all genders are welcome. You can find out more about the event here: www.fword.eventbrite.co.uk
If Manchester is a bit too far north for you, we will also be running an event in Southwark Cathedral on 8th March, before joining with many other women in the Million Women Rise March across London. We will provide the tea and coffee, come along and be part of the conversation and a time to pray for our sisters across the globe. You can find out more about the event here: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pre-mwr-gathering-tickets-10630318569
As the Christian Feminist Network grows and as feminist thought makes its way throughout society, hopefully more and more people of faith will begin to explore how they can hold both a faith and a feminist view of the world. We would love to hear from those with or without faith about their experiences and stories, do get in touch and we can walk this path together.
Image attribution: Both images accompanying this post were provided by, and are used by permission of, the Christian Feminist Network.
by Holly Combe // 25 February 2014, 11:14
Sophie Mayer follows up on her 2011 review of Carla Bozulich's Evangelista project with an appraisal of Bozulich's forthcoming album, Boy.
Pop music, historically the music of choice for teenage girls, is often boy-fixated. However, Carla Bozulich's Boy (released 4 March) is definitely not The Shirelles' 'Soldier Boy' or Avril Lavigne's 'Sk8tr Boy'. The singer has described the release as her "pop" album but this is pop by the way of Throbbing Gristle, not the Beatles. 'One Hard Man' may have a middle eight that runs "No, no, no" but it's delivered staccato rather than in a Dawn Penn swoon. Songs like 'Drowned to the Light' plunge into PJ Harvey territory; Harvey fans will find these twisted ballads delectable, as will fans of Diamanda Galas' pop covers album Guilty Guilty Guilty. It's a similarly tangential take, like a classic Disney villainess playing the princess. Perhaps, in an ideal world, Boy would be the soundtrack to the forthcoming Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie.
With artists such as Janelle Monae pushing pop in epic directions, musically and lyrically, the time seems right for Bozulich to do the same. While Monae, Lady Gaga and others have drawn on the performance art/sound installation universe to inform their genre-bending sound, Bozulich actually comes from that scene, making a series of site-specific large-scale performances under the umbrella name of 'Eyes For Ears'. Boy could be heard as a follow-up to 2000's event 'Fake Party' - "new music dressed up like a party, meets a social event disguised as art," in the artist's words - at which Bozulich lip-synched to old pop songs for the assembled guests...
Carla Bozulich onstage at the Constellation fifteenth anniversary event, 24 November 2012. She looks down at her guitar with a slight smile and a look of concentration. Her right hand is raised and the microphone is level with the top of her head. She wears a dark orange shirt with a short dark brown tie with yellow dots. By UT Connewitz, shared under a Creative Commons License.
by zohra moosa // 24 February 2014, 20:16
Weekly round-up and open thread is here. Below you'll find links to content we came across but didn't have a chance to blog about. We don't agree with everything we link to, and some of it might be triggering so do take care. As always, feel free to add more links to interesting content you have been reading or start a conversation about anything feminist-y on your mind, via the comments.
How Cissexist Partiarchy Works (Alien She)
Homeless mothers to protest at City Hall (Inside Housing)
It's the cumulative impact of benefit cuts that is shocking (Guardian, CiF)
The Cult of Pornography - A Black Feminist Perspective (Black Feminists)
Women should try cheerleading and ballet, says sports minister (Guardian, Life and style)
Rise in children on adult mental health wards 'absolutely abhorrent' (politics.co.uk)
Duplicitous or £9 notes...? (UnCommon Sense)
Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race (Reni Eddo Lodge)
You've got lesbian mums! (My Motherfull Family)
"Why Won't You Educate Me About Feminism?" (The Belle Jar)
Cambridge academics call for more women professors (BBC)
The blatant sexual harassment scarring our university students (Guardian)
Cash-strapped older women are forced back to work (Guardian, Life and style)
Enough talk about intersectionality. Let's get on with it (openDemocracy)
Women in academia: what does it take to reach the top? (Guardian professional)
Why progress in women's rights has been compromised (Guardian)
If Europe votes for the 'Swedish model' on prostitution, women will be at risk (Guardian, CiF)
Image of a red microphone, by sparetomato, shared under a Creative Commons license