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 Saturdayđź’™
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

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!

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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.

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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.’

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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?

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.

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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?

Feministy Shit.

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of domestic abuse – in particular, financial abuse.

At the start of the summer I completed my university course (Ciao for now, Lancaster!) and came home to find myself jobless. I decided that while I was trying to find a job I didn’t want to be sitting at home watching the endless bore that is daytime television, so I started to volunteer at Your Sanctuary – a charity based near me in Surrey which offers emotional and practical support to those who are experiencing or have previously experienced domestic abuse.I’ve learnt a lot from the training I’ve had so far, and I thought I’d share some of it with you.

I am aware that men are also victims of domestic violence – 1 in 6 men will be victims of it in their lifetime – and my blog is titled ‘Feministy Shit’, but the battles within feminism are not exclusive to women and nor is domestic violence.

Fia x

Part 8: Financial Abuse

When people say ‘domestic abuse’, often, the first image conjured is of a physically abusive relationship. As one starts to develop the picture further, the concept of psychological and emotional abuse is probably the next thing to come to mind. Unsurprisingly, domestic abuse comes in many different shapes and sizes which can usually be categorised into five main types: physical; sexual; emotional; psychological; financial.

Financial? Yes, financial. Financial abuse.

You’re not the only one – I hadn’t heard of it either. I’d considered that in intimate relationships money could be manipulated by a perpetrator, but I hadn’t considered it as a type of domestic abuse in its own right. In fact, in a survey, 75% of Americans failed to recognise financial abuse in connection to domestic violence.

To consider financial abuse as a type of domestic abuse, we must first remind ourselves of the definition of domestic abuse itself:

‘Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Stripped down to its core, domestic abuse is about power and control of one person over another, as opposed to a loss of control, and financial abuse is a means of control – a very powerful means of control.

Examples of financial abuse include a perpetrator preventing their partner from getting or keeping a job, to ensure their dependence upon their perpetrator; at the opposite end of the spectrum a perpetrator may force their partner to work and pay for everything or demand their partners salary, their savings. A perpetrator may force their victim having to account for any money they spend or deny them access to any finances. Perpetrators of financial abuse may put all bills and accounts in their partners name so that any debt they incur falls upon their partner. Other possibilities include the abuser may withhold information about benefits from their partner, hide the money from them, or prevent them from having access to their own benefits. Financial abuse also extends to situations where perpetrators provide money for sexual activity, use of physical force r the threat if violence to obtain money. A final example of financial abuse is when the perpetrator forces their partner to commit crimes for money.

Each of the above examples describes a means of forcing dependence on a perpetrator – a precise mechanism of control, causing the abused party to remain in the relationship and the abuser to remain in control. Due to the personal nature of financial affairs, people rarely discuss their financial situation in normal relationships, let alone in relationships dictated by control and abuse.

Unfortunately financial abuse is rarely recognised within its own right, in fact research by the charity Platform 51 has shown that those in financially abusive relationships rarely recognise it from within either. Platform 51 have also said that they’ve found the average age for those in the clutches of financial abuse is 20 – an age at which few individuals are entirely aware of financial situations and possibly are more easily manipulated by a financially abusive relationship.

While financial abuse usually occurs alongside other forms of domestic abuse (it has been reported up to 98% of abusive relationships have involved some form of financial abuse) it can, and does, occur singly and is equally as destructive in both short term and long term effects as other types of abuse.

 

 

If you, or someone you know, are affected by discussions within this article, local and national helplines are available. In the UK Women’s Aid and Refuge jointly run a 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247 is free to call and won’t show up on BT bills.

Feministy Shit.

Some people watch Made In Chelsea, others TOWIE, I watch The Jeremy Kyle Show. It’s a habit, and probably not a good one, but shit happens.
Fia x

Part 7: Dear Jeremy Kyle

I have a bone to pick with you. It’s been bugging me for a while now and I’ve decided I can’t ignore it anymore. I’m hoping that by addressing this issue, you may consider treating such situations differently – especially since you are a figure in the public eye amongst such discussions.

Let me set the scene. We’re dealing with a couple struggling to trust each other, or perhaps it’s an ‘exes at war’ type scenario. One of the pair comes out on the stage; they’re nervous:
‘Don’t worry about this lot, they should be at work.’
The situation is discussed, an abusive relationship (be it physical, psychological, emotional etc) is described.
‘She headbutted me.’
‘I’m scared of them.’
‘He gave me a black eye.’
‘They control me – I can’t leave the house or see my family.’
And here is where you make your error: ‘If they’re abusive, then why don’t you leave them?’

The problem is not necessarily the question itself, but the implication of the question: ‘You should leave them.’ Obviously no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship, but to leave them? It’s never quite that simple…

So some people would say I’m making a fuss over nothing here. You’re the host of a talk show based on discussion, surely it’s a perfectly valid question – if someone is treating you badly, why would you continue to be around that person? Ignoring the fact that such a question can make you appear to be judging the victim for their decisions, there are other issues to take into account here.

Now, I hate to laden this discussion with statistics, but I’m a mathematician at heart and old habits die hard: research has shown that victims of domestic violence are actually at a higher risk when they leave their partners. Their leaving may cause the perpetrator to lash out or track them down (we all remember the horrific story of …, the hairdresser who was murdered by her abusive ex-partner after she’d left them). Oftentimes victims of domestic violence are actually safer staying with their partners, biding their time until they can leave safely with enough resources to seek the help and possible refuge they may require. Furthermore, on average, victims of domestic abuse will leave their abusive partner, and then take them back seven times. It can take SEVEN attempts at leaving before the cycle of abuse is finally broken… And this is only the start of the survivor’s journey. It can take years for the psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse to be broken: years of belittling, of being judged by the person who claims to love them most, of never being good enough cannot be washed away overnight. This leaving process is a ceremony, if you will, it requires preparation and time.

So it may seem like I’m being rather harsh – in fact it’s quite a common mistake to suggest that a victim of domestic abuse should ‘get out of that relationship’ – but there’s a reason I’m not giving you an inch here.

Weekdays at 9:25 on ITV, smack in between Lorraine and This Morning. Double (or is it triple these days?) bills on ITV2 in the afternoons – and I’m not including The Jeremy Kyle Show USA. If I should so wish, then in one week off on holiday, I could easily watch 15 hours of relationship drama, people storming off the stage, families at war, lectures on contraception. the importance of a biological father’s name being put on the birth certificate… And you asking victims of domestic abuse why they choose not to leave their partner.

You, a figure in the public’s eye, with millions of viewers on this side of the Atlantic alone implying, (albeit probably unintentionally) with your choice of words, that victims of domestic abuse should leave their partners without truly discussing possible repercussions is not okay – not with the power of your influence, not with your number of viewers.

If your viewers are under the impression that abusive relationships are simple enough to just ‘leave’, then you are the only one with the power to educate them.

One in six men are victims of domestic abuse. As a women in the United Kingdom you are more likely to die at the hands of an abusive partner than you are to die from heart disease. In England and Wales alone, on average two women are murdered every week as a result of domestic violence. Thirty men a year are murdered as a result of domestic violence. This is the truth. Domestic abuse is everywhere, and to fight it, we need to educate the public about it. It’s not a pleasant discussion, but it’s one we need to have and it’s one you have the power to address more so than most. So next time a victim of domestic abuse sits on your stage, please don’t ask them why they haven’t left their abuser, but perhaps instead ask them if they do want to leave them, and if so why they have a right to feel that way, discuss with them the struggles of leaving the perpetrator, and impress the importance of getting out of the relationship as safely as possible, even if it takes some time.

Jeremy, if you read this, I would love a response. Please help change the way that the public perceives domestic violence.

Thank you

Feministy Shit.

CONGRATZ TO THE CLASS OF 2014 =D . I hope you all had fabulous days, regardless of the weather, and had millions of photos taken with family and friends fit to burst with pride.
Fia x

Part 6: A Patriarchal Graduation

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my graduation. My parents wandered around looking super proud, my dad actually wore a suit (he only wears them when forced), my mum looked like a news reader – smart and fashionable – and my brother was on his best behaviour, smiling perfectly in all the photos. Adding to this the free wine and a nice, sunny day, it was truly lovely… But I did have a few complaints.

‘How the fuck am I meant to fit my hair under this hat?!’ When you have a short, curly bob which rarely obeys you on the best of days, there is nothing more panic-worthy than being given a mortar board on a day which you want to look smart, and preferably ‘nice’. This, I noticed, was a generic complaint. No matter who I talked to, we were all looking for the earliest opportunity to be rid of our ridiculous headpiece…

Except women couldn’t remove theirs during the ceremony. That’s right, at the start of the ceremony graduands were informed that only men were allowed to remove their mortar boards once they were in the ceremony hall and, in fact, women could be removed from the hall if they took theirs off. I’ve attempted to research into why this is, but have struggled to find an historical, factual root(if you know why, please fill in this part of the mystery in the comments). The only reason I’ve heard, I sincerely hope is just urban myth – women aren’t allowed to remove their caps since it represents a ‘cap’ on their learning. The fact that this little scrap of information exists, be it true or otherwise, is deeply disturbing itself.

Complaints about the robes came in torrents too ‘IhatethisIhatethisIhatethis… My hood keeps riding up!’ After going to military school and spending 7 years attempting not to look stupid wearing my blues (photograph attached for your hilarity), I am no stranger to slightly ridiculous, incredibly uncomfortable uniforms – the kind of uniforms that your parents insist upon proudly photographing you in. So when it came to my graduation, a day dedicated to wearing robes that made you look like Professor Snape, and a hat which inevitably makes you look like a pineapple, I was prepared for the inevitable battle with the required outfit of the day.

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What I failed to take into account, however, is that the graduation robes were initially designed for men. Women going to university and respectively graduating was not commonplace looking back 100 years ago, let alone before that (women have only been graduating since 1878…), and subsequently robes were designed to be worn by men. The structure is designed for broader shoulders, so even upon taking into account chest size, the robes do not sit properly upon the shoulders of most female wearers and again are awkwardly shaped around their breasts (I felt very lucky to be part of the itty bitty titty committee on this day). The hoods, too we’re initially designed for the male physique and broader shoulders, so often, do not sit properly on women’s shoulders – even when pinned in place.

My final feministy comment on the subject of graduation is more of a sad observation than an angry rant. As a Mathematics student, I was graduating with a majority of students completing both Bachelor and Masters courses in fields of science and technology… But there was a lacking of self identifying women students. Given that, at Lancaster University, there are actually more women students in the population than male students, the fact that there is still a noticeable imbalance in the number of women enrolling in scientific subjects is a sad one.

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