Feministy Shit

Another article I started writing many moons ago (bus journeys are great for finishing off posts!) about something very close to my heart.
Lancaster Vagina Warriors, BREAK A LEG! I’ll see you on Saturday💙
Fia x

Content Warning: statistics of violence towards women.

Part 13: V-Day

I want to talk about V-Day, all that comes with it, and how it has effected me and my feminism. By ‘V-Day,’ I am taking about February 14th, but I am not talking about the lovey-dovey flowers, cupids, chocolates and secret admirers. I’d probably better explain.

V-Day is the name of a global activist movement, a feminist movement, inspired by The Vagina Monologues and dedicated to ending violence towards women and girls.

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V-Day first entered my life over three years ago when I auditioned for The Vagina Monologues at Lancaster University. I had seen the play a few years before and could not have been more excited to be involved in it, especially given my new found interest in feminism at the time. Whilst the play is not to everyone’s taste, it resonated with me: it was touching and heartfelt, passionate and turbulent, funny and true. That said, it actually wasn’t the play which kept me coming back for more every year, it was V-Day.

What people are not always aware of is that The Vagina Monologues is, first and foremost, a means of raising money for charity. Of the money made from the performances 100% is given to charities dedicated to supporting women and girls who have been victims of violence. And it’s not just the performances, there are bake sales, fun runs, vagina parties, sponsored tattoos, open mic events and one year I may or may not have had my hair shaved off to raise money for this cause.

V-Day has taught me about the global and local atrocities which are committed against women every day.

Globally, 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime

– United Nations

It was from this statistic that ‘One Billion Rising’ arose. A tiny bit of maths (sorry, bad habit): if there are six billion people on this forsaken planet, half of which are women, then that amounts to one billion people (women that is) whom will be subject to violence in their lifetime. One Billion Rising is a part of the V-Day campaign with the aim of encouraging a billion people to rise against this injustice.

V-Day sees gatherings across the globe of people protesting against these statistics through various empowering public stunts, flash mobs and the like and the events are quite something to behold…

A in 2013 I had the pleasure of helping to organise and be a part of Lancaster Rising, a One Billion Rising event set up as a fundraiser for V-Day complete with a flash mob. The cherry on top of this particular cake being that none other than Eve Ensler (author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of the V-Day charity and movement) attended our event. At the event, Eve gave one of the most invigorating, passionate and empowering speeches I have ever heard.

Meeting Eve Ensler in 2013.

Eve discussed in her speech the atrocities she had witnessed both close to home and globally. Atrocities that don’t just happen in far off corners of the globe, but next door to you.

A few close to home, close to the bone UK statistics:

• Every minute, one minute of domestic violence is reported to the police.

• Two women a week, on average, lose their lives subject to domestic violence.

• It is thought that approximately 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year.

Around the globe, but just as close to the bone:

• In America, someone is sexually assaulted every 90 seconds.

• More than 133 million girls and women have experienced some form of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East – FGM still happens elsewhere in the world.

• 1 in 12 transgender individuals are murdered.

If these statistics don’t chill, I don’t know what will. V-Day has opened my eyes to these facts and has made me more fierce and forthcoming about my feminism.

I want to also take a moment to thank all the incredible individuals I have met over the past three years of being involved in V-Day. You have inspired me more than I can say, and the work you achieve every year makes me proud to have even been a tiny cog in this movement.

Lastly, I want to encourage everyone this year that whilst getting cards with slogans such as ‘I love us,’ on the front and teddy bears holding little hearts is lovely, take a moment to consider those who won’t be having such a gooey Valentine’s Day. Wear a White Ribbon Campaign, make a pledge, donate a few pennies to raise awareness. We can only change those statistics if we strive to make a difference.

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Feministy Shit

I’ve been sitting on this article for a while now, and have decided to write it in order to avoid marking and writing my teacher training essays.
Fia x

Part 12: The Feminist Necklace

I’m not a fan of labels, but one label I do regularly stamp on myself is that of a feminist. While I deeply wish to own a Vulva Love Lovely necklace, being a teacher it would probably get me in a serious amount of trouble (and I toe the line between appropriate and inappropriate as it is!), so I went on the search for similarly feminist-inspired jewelry… Just without the presence of vaginas.

My search lead me through the wonderful world of Etsy where I was spoiled for choice. After opening a million tabs (bad habit), I finally found the perfect shop: Modern Girl Blitz, self described as ‘Lady Empowering + Quirky Art + Accessories by Midge Blitz’, where I proceeded to indulge in a pair of Venus symbol earrings and a feminist banner necklace. Whilst I am yet to find a suitable work outfit to combine with my bright pink Venus earrings, the FEMINIST necklace has become my favourite new accessory.

Labelling myself
Labelling myself

Not only does the necklace look super awesome, but it has encouraged all kinds of conversations with both my colleagues and students. Whilst my colleagues have heard me rabbiting on about feminism and equal rights and gender and equality (sorry guys), my students have only had snippets, which is generally when I call them out on misogynistic, homophobic and racist comments. This week, that changed.

The first thing I noticed was that students who identify as women generally complimented the necklace (which I thoroughly enjoyed, my vanity gets the better of me).

I like your necklace,

In reply to most of these comments, I asked the girls what feminism meant to them; it was great hearing about people’s journeys and knowledge of feminism in their life.

I was also really pleasantly surprised by questions I had from students, and their responses when I explained my reasoning…

What does your necklace mean?

I explained what it means to me – equality regardless of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation, with a strong emphasis around choices. Often this definition is met with surprise due to the portrayal of feminism in the media as a troop of man-hating harpies, hellbent on finding ways to procreate without men. Upon being told what feminism means and hearing about different feminist fights ranging from No More Page Three to FGM campaigns, these students actually appeared to think about feminism in a different light. It was a beautiful moment of realisation.

Of course there was the occasional, slightly more frustrating conversation:

So why aren’t you wearing a necklace that says ‘equality’ then?

At this point, I was chanting in my head “Educate, don’t berate.” I set out to explain where the word comes from, how it stemmed from a movement created by women, for women – the suffragettes. Their response was that I should buy a ‘suffragette’ necklace instead. At this point I dropped the conversation as the lesson was about to start (and I may have lost my temper), but I feel that this conversation simply highlights that the main problems which people have with feminism stem from the word as opposed to the movement. It is all about semantics. Feminist really has become ‘the f-word’.

And last, but definitely not least, there was one student who asked me the following:

Which kind of feminism do you most relate to? We studied it in anthropology, there were radicals, liberals, black and one beginning with the letter ‘i’ that I can’t remember…

This was probably my favourite discussion about my necklace. The question came from a man of a similar age to me, and his genuine interest absolutely made my day (cheers!). Firstly, I explained that the ‘i’ word he couldn’t remember was ‘intersectional’ and that would be my particular little pigeon hole – that to me feminism is not just about the inequality between men and women, but about all minorities and striving for equality for all people. He responded that he identifies as a liberal feminist. I nearly HI-5ed him, but thought that might decrease my ‘student cool points’ so decided against it.

And yeah, buy a Feminist necklace. They are cool.

Feministy Shit

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ALL! Hope you’re making the most of the holiday period (we all need an excuse to take some time off work after all).
Fia x

Part 11 – Feminism VS families
CONTENT WARNING: racism, cultural appropriation, misogyny, trans misogyny.

Flicking through my newsfeed on Facebook today, I noticed a recurring theme. Whilst people were – on the whole – having a jolly time, their posts of festive delights were infiltrated with frustration at comments from family members. Whilst spending time with family members is amazing, there always tends to be that one family member you have to avoid for fear of attempting to murder them with a blunt spoon (I have that uncle, what can I say).

I’m not one for holding my tongue, so I’ve come up with a few examples to help you deal with those on the spectrum between misguided, ignorant and politically incorrect during the festive season, whilst hopefully avoiding those pesky family feuds.

1. “Someone put that Band Aid song on!”

Le sigh. Because only pop music will be able to stop the Ebola outbreak. Sure. I’m not saying it’s not a positive notion, but it’s pretty damn problematic. They lyrics are outdated, and perpetuate negative stereotypes, even though the BandAid30 (2014) version has had a lyric change or two, it is still misguided and patronizing, toeing the line of racism.

In terms of avoiding a family feud, this one is pretty easy. Just ignore their song request. You don’t even need to give a reason. Just put on a better song and they’ll soon forget!

Print

2. “Don’t play with that doll, that’s for your sister.”

The age old ‘toys are gendered’ argument. Sorry, but unless you operate them with your genitalia, that’s bull crap. Rather than laughing in Great Uncle Albert’s face and telling him that he’s a bigoted old fool, it may be better just to turn to the child in question and ask them if they are enjoying playing with the toy. Surely Great Uncle Albert will shut up when the child responds with “Yes, they’re an awesome superhero whose super power is abolishing ingrained misogyny in society.”

Gendered toy guide

3. Presents encompassing cultural appropriation, e.g, “I bought you a Native American Indian headdress for Christmas.”

At moments like this it’s paramount to remember  that presents are a privilege and it’s the thought that counts. I guess you could argue that they didn’t put enough thought into it if they didn’t recognise cultural appropriation and realise how problematic it can be but, at the same time, they probably spent a lot of time and effort into finding something they (misguidedly) thought you would like. The solution for this one will make you feel uncomfortable, but is quite simple: explain the problem. Best scenario is that they will accept your feelings and might be able to return the item for a gift voucher. Worst case scenario, they react badly, but at least it won’t be sat on your shelf gathering dust and making you feel guilty for all eternity.

cultural appropriation

4. “Who’s that person on OITNB? Why are they putting someone who isn’t a real woman on TV?”

Time to serve up the difference between gender and sex with a side order of cis privilege. The trick here is not to show quite how livid you are. Educate, don’t berate. Explain the leaps and bounds that Laverne Cox is making for the trans community and also that she’s an incredibly talented actress who deserves recognition as a person and as a woman. Why does gender matter if you’re an excellent person?

Transgender actress speaks at Tulane University

5. “Why is there a black person on TV? It’s bloody Christmas!”

Now we’ve moved on to the racist relative. No fun. Whilst, in this situation, losing your shit is totally understandable your argument will be more effective if you react towards the issue, not the person. By exposing their way of thinking and challenging the racist remark made you have a better chance of showing them the error of their ways and preventing these thoughts/behaviors in the future. At the end of the day, most human behavior (including racism) is learnt, and teaching people about equality is the best way to combat racism.

racism_is_taught

Feministy Shit

Again, I find myself apologising for the lack of activity on the page, but apparently teachers have NO TIME FOR ANYTHING. Seriously. Those who say “Those who can’t do, teach,” need to spend a week in my shoes. Broken up for Christmas now (YIPEE!) so that’s two weeks of me sat at home reading and writing feminist articles!
Hope the festive season treats you well, 
Fia x

Part 10: Getting away with murder
CONTENT WARNING: homophobia, transphobia, murder & violence

I’m warning you right now that if you’re hoping to have stumbled across a delightfully festive feminist article, you will be disappointed. In fact, you’re about to read something which has the potential to make your blood boil to the extent that your eyes will melt and fall out of their sockets (sorry for the gory imagery, I’ve been reading too much Stephen King).

Today was the first time I ever heard of ‘panic’ defense through a post on Facebook by That Transgender Chick. The original post came from hellboundhayden on Tumblr, generating nearly 100,000 notes. Panic defense is (according to 49 states in America) an acceptable excuse to offer up in a court of law  if you murder a trans or a homosexual individual. And it essentially means what it says: ‘Oh, I found out they weren’t straight/cis, I panicked and killed them. Please don’t punish me.’

trans defence

So by now, your blood is probably at about 99 degrees, right? But I haven’t even got to the worst part yet… Not only does this kind of defense exist, but it actually works. In numerous cases where the perpetrator should have been charged with murder (and probably would under any other circumstances), by using the gay or trans ‘panic’ defense, their charges have been significantly reduced, some even reduced to manslaughter as opposed to homicide.

And I don’t mean fifty years ago. I’m talking about Larry King who was murdered by a class mate in 2008 after his supposed ‘flirtation’ resulted in his death, his murderer pleaded the gay panic defense and was charged with a reduced sentence. Gwen Araujo was beaten to death in 2002 by a group of men upon their discovery that she was a trans individual – their sentences were reduced through the trans panic defense after claiming that she deceived them about her identity. The list goes on.

Back to hellboundhayden’s post. Forty nine states? What about number fifty?

California is the fiftieth state, and the only state to have banned gay and trans panic defenses – a move which only happened this year. In essence, the Californian state has officially said you can’t use someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a justification to murder them.

How has this taken so long?

So today I leave you with a thought. 1 in 12 trans individuals will be murdered (a huge proportion compared to the entire population) and 1 in 5 victims of hate crime are based on sexual orientation bias, and yet rather than trying to reduce these numbers, we are actually allowing the perpetrators to get away with murder (quite literally) because they ‘panicked’.  Do I really need to spell this out? There is no justification for violence and murder, let alone the fact that an individual who is not cis and straight panics you.  What kind of equality is that?

A realistic love for your body shape

I am going to get straight to the point. The idea for this article spun from seeing too many women self-inflict poor style on themselves day to day. We aren’t going to look good in every item of clothing; it’s an unfortunate fact of life that you are going to fall in love with clothes that look fabulous on the models and mannequins in store, but will look horrendous on you. And it’s because, frankly, you are too curvaceous or have a flat chest or your shoulders are too broad.

I am probably going to be met with gasps of horror; readers in shock and disbelief at how someone could be so cruel regarding body shape. Love your body; be happy with your body.

But I believe that too. If you want to eat ‘till your heart’s content: do it. If you want to exercise three times a day, every day to burn off that Kit Kat you had at lunch: go for it. This article isn’t about picking on people for being ‘too fat’ or ‘too thin’; it is an attempt to get women to be realistic about their body shape.

I am not a perfectly-shaped woman sat behind the comfort of a keyboard, not at all. I have body issues, just like every other girl (and boy) on the planet. I have my days where I hate my hips for not allowing me to look as rock chick in a t-shirt dress as so many straight-shaped girls do. You can be as happy and comfortable as you like with your figure, but at some point in your life, something about your body will piss you off. This is normal. We are humans; humans who have ‘man shoulders’, cellulite and one boob bigger than the other. There is nothing wrong with having our individual-shaped bodies, it’s not a flaw. But it must be dealt with correctly.

I just revealed my curvy shape. I have boobs and a hell of a butt. I used to hate them. But now, with the right clothing, they are my assets. I used to get so angry (and sometimes still frustrated) that my top size is a 10 not an 8, simply because of my boobs. But I know now, that if I try to squeeze into that size 8, I’m not going to look good. Similarly, just as much as everyone doesn’t want camel toe, it’s not a good look to have your bum seeming as if it can’t breathe, just because you wanted a smaller size of jeans. I can now say that I have no anxieties about picking up a larger size for my trousers, shorts and skirts as I know that it’s going to look better. Forget the number written on the label: cut the label off, because it doesn’t matter what it reads, as long as you look good.

With a larger behind, you have to be careful with trousers and shorts as some of them will make you look like Beyoncé, whilst others will be your worst enemy. Your bum needs to held and accentuated, whereas a lot of cigarette and slouchy trousers end up making your bum look big, flat and saggy. Not what you want.

It’s the same with a flat chest. So God didn’t deal you the hand of a good cleavage. You’ve cried and wallowed and now it’s time to fix the problem. No, the answer isn’t a boob job. Unless you want to, of course. But there are cheaper and less painful options. You need the right tops. Firstly, a push-up bra is your new best friend. Half the girls whose figures you mournfully long for have a lot of help from good lingerie. Secondly, it’s out with baggy tops that will hide the little that you do have in a sea of creases. Ruffled and pussy-bow blouses are definitely for you, creating the illusion of more being there. For a night out, again, a dress that holds your breasts will always be flattering. On the other end of the spectrum, a friend of mine is very gifted in the chest department, but chooses to wear notoriously…trashy dresses; the type that are bandage Hervé Ledger-esque but leave nothing to the imagination. Being so tight, the boobs tend to ‘spill’ out and over. The worst look ever.

So you see: it isn’t about what your body shape is, it’s about how you dress for it. It’s a sad truth that you will never be able to get away with some trends and fashions, but there will be plenty that you will rock with such style and because it will fit your body shape better, it will make you feel better. Feeling more comfortable equals confidence and that is the secret ingredient to every good look. So go to your wardrobes and get rid of those items that you wish you could wear but you know aren’t the best choices for you. Then you can make room for everything that will flatter and enhance your body shape. Love your body; be happy with your body, but also give it a chance to look good by wearing the appropriate cut of clothes.

Amira

Feministy Shit

Lack of Feministy Shit due to new job completely devouring my free time… I would complain, but I’m actually in love with what I do. I will be trying to bulk out Feministy Shit more now I’m settling in.
Have a great day!
Fia x

Part 9: #SafeSexLeggings

I’m part of an discussions community online (what can I say, I’m a sharkie), which I was casually scrolling through on a Sunday morning when a rather bright picture caught my eye… It was of multicoloured condoms. On fabric. The fabric was made into leggings.

So, facts first:

  • These leggings are made by a company called Poprageous. Poprageous print graphics and images onto shiny nylon material in the form of leggings, dresses, swimming costumes, etc.
  • Poprageous have some rather controversial pieces in the collections they release. This article will be treating the ‘condom leggings’ as an individual discussion.
  • Yeah, condom leggings.

So I had a look at Poprageous’ instagram where the photo had been taken from. People had some colourful opinions on the leggings. From an aesthetic point of view they were marmite, I guess, loved or hated. Then another side to the story emerged. Some people were disgusted by the leggings, not because of the colours (which, to be honest, are a little on the bright side for me), but instead because of the condoms.

#safesexleggings

People were of the impression that leggings with condoms on them are somewhat disgusting or, more specifically that they are inappropriate – particularly in environments where children are around. My take on the leggings? THEY ARE AWESOME. Why are they awesome? Let me explain…

1) Normalising.

“What’s that on your leggings?… Is that… Condoms?!”
“Yup.”
“Fair enough.”

Condoms should not be a taboo! For many people sex is a part of everyday life and, by extension, so are condoms. Condoms prevent the transmission of bodily fluids preventing unwanted pregnancies and the transmission of STIs. By making conversations about safe sex and the use of condoms normal we make the act of using condoms normal in itself.

Perhaps, if I were a mother, I’d question wearing these leggings to pick up my kids from school but more for the fear of being judged by other parents as opposed to offending children. At the end of the day, would a child understand what these were? Probably not. They’d probably think they were sweetie wrappers… And when they grow up that would make a rather hilarious anecdote at their wedding.

2) Raising awareness.

“Look at their leggings! They’ve got condoms printed on them!”
“I like that, safe sex is so important – pretty good way of getting a message around.”

And that’s just it. It is a great way of getting the message around. The leggings are colourful, bright, fun (and a little silly) making discussions of safe sex approachable. As opposed to approaching the use of condoms in an intimidating, Mean Girls kind of way (‘You WILL get pregnant and die.’), these leggings are a great icebreaker.

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So there you have it. Sure the leggings are a little kooky, but condom leggings are cool quite simply because condoms themselves are cool. Condoms allow us to have protected sex and sex is great, yes, but protected sex is even better. If you’re still in a dilemma about the leggings, and have mixed feelings about their appropriacy then I have a simple question to put to you: consider which has a more positive influence on society – avoiding conversations about sex, or promoting safer sex?

Is Feminism a Man’s Issue Too?

We all saw Emma Watson’s amazing speech for the UN’s HeForShe campaign a few weeks ago and it caused controversy and support in equal measure. Her powerful and evocative call-to-arms to the male audience got me thinking about the role men have in a primarily female campaign; how much of a place do men have in feminism, and should they get a place at all? It’s a weighty subject matter which steps on many people’s toes, as many men and male celebrities are showing a great interest in being a supportive ally to feminism; but when does their helpful input become too much input? How can men be supportive without stealing the limelight? I think the answer lies in just that, not overriding the female voice. In true irony, men’s support of feminism can sometimes do the opposite of helping; in being the leading voice in a female issue, men are once again proving their dominance in social, political and cultural life.

You’ve probably all heard this word a million times: the patriarchy. Literally, it means “a form of social organization in which a male is the head of the family and descent, kinship, and title are traced through the male line // any society governed by such a system.” i.e. the male force is dominant. In a world where men are the governing force and women are the submissive, gender roles become a binary and, though women arguably do feel more negative consequences of this, men are hurt by this force as well, whilst everyone in-between gets ignored entirely. These strict gender roles that feminism is trying to eradicate affect men too by making them believe that they must be overly masculine and without sensitivity, leading to a high rate of mental health issues amongst men. This binary of masculine vs. feminine not only leaves both groups struggling to attain impossible standards, but also ignores transgender and non-gender-binary individuals. The patriarchy is a destructive force, and men need feminism just as much as women do in order to live a free life of equality; as Emma Watson put in her speech, “if men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. … It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals.” Clearly men are part of the solution to end gender inequality, and in this way I think it’s really important for men to not only support feminism for the benefit it will bring to women everywhere, but also for the benefits it will bring to them.

On the other hand, many people believe that men should remain outside of feminism as they believe that it’s encroaching on our space to express ourselves and our discomforts. The fact is, although men are negatively impacted by the patriarchy, they simply will not be able to understand certain aspects of female life that feminism is trying to eradicate; men for example don’t experience micro-aggressions such as catcalling and street harassment that women experience as part of their daily life. Groups such as Men’s Rights Movement, who campaign for men’s issues such as family law, can sometimes take the limelight away from female issues by focussing gender inequalities on themselves. An example of this would be in the media recently, in a discussion about feminism, the twitter hashtag “#NotAllMen” became the focus of debate rather than the female empowerment campaign that was supposed to be the centre of attention. Many believe that feminism should be a female-specific movement simply because it’s our space to have freedom to talk about our issues, and men’s only role in that should be to listen and understand to the problems affecting us as women.

Despite extremist groups such as Men’s Rights Movement, many men believe that in the fight against gender inequality their voice should be heard, as feminist and gender issues impact them as well, and that is absolutely the case. I believe that in a truly equal world, everyone should feel free to express themselves in any way that suits them, regardless of their gender, and therefore men do have a place in feminism. Everyone should have a place in feminism, as it’s campaigning for equality across the gender spectrum, against a patriarchy that negatively impacts everyone. It is true however, that the patriarchy has hurt women in a way that men simply cannot understand, and part of men’s role in feminism should be to listen and understand to women as a way of enabling change.

I strongly believe that men do have a place in feminism; the strong gender roles imposed on us culturally affects every single one of us, making males, females and non-gender binary individuals feel oppressed in different ways. We all have a place in making equality happen, however feminism should remain a predominantly female issue, and sometimes the role that men have in relation to that is simply to stand back and listen. As Watson says, “fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.” Join the fight men, this is your war too.

Emily C