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.

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.


Feministy Shit

Casually finished a maths degree last week (well, excluding possible resits). I’ve also been applying for jobs. And my twenty-first birthday is next week. That’s too grown-up sounding for my liking. Someone want to take me to play on the swings later?
My favourite form of procrastination, as ever, is clicking on billions of links to feminist articles. While there have been many worthy of a ranty article from myself I have, for the sake of my own happiness/sanity, decided to go with something much more positive.
Fia x

Part 5: Monokini 2.0

‘Monokini 2.0 is a social art project that re-examines popular culture’s narrow view of a woman’s ideal appearance.’ I was already sold. Pretentious, art-loving Fia thought this was a great idea and wanted to read more about this fantastic overlap between her passions of feminism and ART.  I continued reading…

‘The artistic director of Monokini 2.0 is the [Finnish] art duo Nutty Tarts.’ Now they’re just teasing me. The artists behind this rather obvious ingenuity are called Nutty Tarts, could this get any better? Well yes, and it does.

‘We strive to expand what is accepted and considered beautiful by designing a swimwear collection for women who have gone through breast cancer. Swimwear is conventionally designed for women who haven’t suffered a mastectomy. The fact is that many women who have had one breast removed due to breast cancer don’t wish to have breast reconstruction surgery, they wish to continue their lives with one or no breasts at all.’ Now you appreciate the awesomeness.

The website features the images of breast cancer survivors  all of whom have undergone mastectomies whilst forgoing breast reconstruction surgery, all modelling various swimming costumes designed for said survivors.

The project was inspired by Elina Halttunen a survivor and passionate swimmer, Elina found herself struggling to find a swimming costume that was stylish and practical. Swimming costumes with prosthesis proved uncomfortable for Elina, and why should she have hide her scars? Elina then designed her own swimming costume to suit her and the inspiration continued.

Elina Halttunen: the muse.

Obviously one of their main aims was to give these women something super awesome to wear on the beach, but they also have another, feminist and all-kinds-of-awesome aim:  ‘Seeing an exposed breast is considered nakedness, but why is exposing no breast also considered nakedness?… It had to do with more than what to wear on the beach. It was about a changing culture throughout all society, about freedom and emancipation.’

At this point I’m going to include some pretty pictures (yay, pictures!) and a link to the website, because it really does speak for itself. All I have left to say is that I hope to see more projects like this in the future: after all, who says you need two?




Reading Between Blurred Lines

I’m currently doing work for a company that will launch as an online collective of ethical fashion and various home goods. As a part of this team, I keep an eye on human rights issues and on fashion. I read a lot of articles every day about sex trafficking, human labor trafficking, domestic violence, refugees, internally displaced persons, HIV/AIDS, ethical fashion, and fashion trends. It doesn’t exactly seem like two worlds that really cross over into each other, but lately I’ve been seeing it do so more and more – but not in a good way.

Many girls who find themselves coerced into the sex trafficking industry are lured in by professional pimps and traffickers with promises of becoming such things as models, actresses, or dancers; but find themselves face to face with much more sinister forces. They become not just models, but nude models, not just actresses, but actresses in pornography, and not dancers, but strippers. While I have no qualms that there are people who freely choose to work in the sex industry, I am very much heartbroken that there are women and girls out there forced to perform sexual acts without pay and against their will.

Lately there has been a surge of accusations against fashion photographer Terry Richardson, and, in actuality, this is nothing new. For years now women he has photographed have been sporadically coming forward and speaking out about their uncomfortable experiences that left them feeling defiled and unstable. Within the past few weeks, several women have found their voices, stepping forward and giving explicit detail about the impropriety of Richardson’s shoots. While he claims that his shoots are fun and the models do nothing against their own will (signing consent forms before shooting starts), the girls coming forward clearly felt differently about their experiences. He argues that they are aware of the nature of his work; therefore know what they are getting into. However, many of the girls who have undergone these photo shoots that seem to cross the line (i.e. giving hand jobs, blow jobs, him jacking off into a model’s eye, asking for a model’s bloody tampon for the purpose of making a cup of tea. Just to name a few.), were only 19 when these took place. It’s not difficult to imagine your 19 year old self in the same situation being terrified to say no to someone whose work is printed in all of the major fashion magazines all over the world – because, hey, this could be your big break. This could be the exposure you need to make it.

Yet nothing happens. Nothing happens for their career and nothing happens to him. To me, this is terrifyingly close to the issue of sex trafficking that just breaks my heart, turns my stomach, and motivates me to want to lead a thousand crusades against the twisted, disgusting industry. Many of the traumatic effects that victims of forced prostitution feel after they’ve been compromised are the feelings these models shot by Richardson have experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely, in no way implying that Richardson is trafficking these women. What I am saying is that the lines in these issues are uncomfortably blurred. At what point does artistic and sexual liberty become violation and pornographic? Would Richardson treat the males he photographs with the same sexually charged interactions? Art is beautiful. Sexuality is beautiful. Violation and pressure to become objectified to the point that your actions feel pornographic is not beautiful. It is not empowering, not liberating, and not art.

When I see these things that make my heart ache for the victims, I dream of being able to make a change. I don’t know how, though – and that makes me even sadder. But I’ve realized that nothing makes me happier than knowing that I’ve empowered someone. Maybe that’s all I can do right now, attempt to help women (and men!) feel empowered. Let me clarify that, I don’t mean to trivialize the impact that I (or you) can have. Empowering even one person means you’ve given them the courage to change their life. We all have voices, you, me, the women who’ve survived large scale sex trafficking, the rewomen humiliated by unethical fashion photographers. Let’s use our voices. Let’s change the world.

Mary P. (Thanks for the submission, and we miss you now you’re back in the US!)