What we’re reading: male entitlement, abortion rights, racism, and women in prison

Short prison sentences punish children too, by Lucy Baldwin & Rona Espstein

… Despite none of the mothers in our study serving no longer than 34 weeks in custody, the majority under six months; the effects on the children described to us were many. Mothers described their children’s relationships as siblings being changed, especially where they had been separated to different locations. Some mothers felt their children were less close to them and had become closer to their temporary carers. One mother felt her child no longer knew her as her mother. Mothers described children having nightmares, bedwetting, becoming clingy, insecure and angry.

The study highlighted the harm caused to the mothers themselves by these short, and often very short sentences; all served for non-violent offences. But also, very clearly to the children of these mothers. The very welcome Scottish decision to implement a progression from their pre-existing   presumption against sentences of under three months, to a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months is a clear message and recognition that short sentences do more harm than good, and wherever possible community alternatives should be sought. We urge England and Wales to urgently follow suit.  …

Catholic Hospital Pressured Women to Bury Their Fetuses—Then Pence Made It Law, by Amy Littlefield

Tethered to an IV, naked under her hospital gown, Kate Marshall felt trapped as the chaplain approached her bed. It was 2015, and Marshall was awaiting surgery at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Indiana after losing a much-wanted pregnancy. She had not asked to speak with a chaplain, but the man had nonetheless entered her room and then pressed her to sign a consent form that would allow the Catholic hospital to bury her 11-week fetus in a cemetery plot.

Marshall, a University of Notre Dame English professor who wanted nothing more than to have a baby, planned to send the fetal remains for testing, hoping to understand what had caused her miscarriage and thus avoid having another. She also did not want her fetus buried in a grave as if it were a full-grown person.

But the chaplain scorned her decision, Marshall told Rewire in an interview.

Gutted by the sudden loss of her pregnancy, and conscious every moment of the dead fetus that was still inside her body, Marshall asked him to leave five times before he finally did, according to a written complaint she filed with regulators the next day. …

 I’m Disabled and I Get Sexually Harassed — Here’s Why That Matters, by Emily Wu  via @TeenVogue

We were 15 years old, just starting high school. A boy from my biology class would hiss my name, just loud enough so his friends standing nearby could also hear. “Psst — hey Wendy,” he said. I turned my head. He stuck out his tongue and wiggled it between two fingers. He laughed. His friends laughed alongside him, elbowing each other as I continued to walk by, cheeks flushed. He did this over and over again for all four years in the hallways where everyone could see, and he did it without ounce of empathy or shame. His laughter rang in my ears every time I read another story about women — including actors, senators, lobbyists, and musicians — experiencing harassment, assault, and other forms of sexual violence.

Before the #metoo movement took over social media in October, I had never written about my experiences with sexual violence before. I couldn’t even write “sexual harassment,” “abuse,” and other related words without feeling deeply ashamed — even though there is nothing for me to be ashamed of. …

Weinstein, White Tears and the Boundaries of Black Women’s Empathy, by Jamilah Lemieux  via @CassiusLife_

Despite the absence of other folks’ compassion when Black people need it most, my immediate reaction to stories of sexual assault and harassment is almost always instinctively, deeply empathetic, race be damned. For that reason, this is one of the more challenging pieces that I’ve ever written.

As I read yet another account of post-Harvey Weinstein trauma from a white woman who apparently matters more to the world than I—or even her fellow accuser Lupita Nyong’o—ever will, I had a thought that made me recoil a bit at myself:

“There is no role that white women can ever play better than that of ‘victim.’”

What a harsh response, right? And, yet, it is as true as anything I’ve ever said in my life.

Be clear, I didn’t feel bad for having this thought; rather, I was disconcerted that it came to mind at this particular moment. After all, these white women aren’t crying because a Black female colleague raised her voice in a meeting or because one of her own had a change of heart about a consensual sexual encounter with a Black man. These women are sharing horrific stories of alleged assault and harassment at the hands of Weinstein, a man who had the power to either catapult or end their careers. ….

#NotYourRescueProject: How a white middle-class academic masqueraded as the women he trafficked and pimped, by @bindelj  via @FeministCurrent

Molli Desi was — until recently — one of several women and girls trafficked from the Indian sub-continent into the UK sex industry and pimped from flats in Kingston and Surbiton. Their names include “Beauty,” “Kama of Kingston,” “Rani Desi,” and of course “Molli Desi.” These women and girls were marketed to sex-buyers under the moniker of “sacred prostitutes”: servicing men wasn’t just “sex work,” it was their spiritual mission and they were highly trained. The men who bought them, however, complained on punter websites that they were unable to speak English and were utterly unenthusiastic. These men did not report the trafficking of these women and girls to the police. …

I have discovered the creator of the hashtag campaign #NotYourRescueProject is Dr. John Davies, masquerading as Desi. This hugely damaging campaign continues to be instrumental in enabling liberals, leftists, and others who should know better, to smear feminist sex trade abolitionists such as myself as Victorian, anti-sex, racist colonialists, driven by class prejudice, hell-bent on controlling the sexuality of “sex workers.” It is also a handy platform from which to abuse and gaslight survivors who give very different accounts of male violence in prostitution. Moreover, it is has become a legitimate “body of peer-reviewed research” to thwart social policy which would otherwise provide prostituted women and girls exit from prostitution and hold the men who profit from their abuse to account. ….

What we’re reading: male violence and racism in the feminism movement

I am not shocked, you are not shocked, no one is shocked, stop pretending to be shocked, by Meghan Murphy via @FeministCurrent

By now, most of us have heard about the ongoing allegations against Harvey Weinstein, one of the biggest movie producers in history and predator of the moment. But as stories of harassment and sexual assault continue to pour in, and as more and more actors speak out, relaying their “disgust” and “horror,” what has shocked me most is not Weinstein’s abusive behaviour, but the shock itself.

I cannot remember the last time I was “shocked” to hear that a man beat his wife, raped a fan, or sexually harassed a co-worker. Grossed out? Sure. Angry? Definitely. But shocked? Nah. Men abuse women every day. “Nice guy” or not (and Weinstein was most certainly not), I am rather sad to admit that it’s almost expected at this point. Oh. A beloved progressive writer/actor/activist/radio host is actually an abusive creep? Natch. A high-powered CEO/producer/government official/president is a rapist? Of course. I mean, we’re talking about men, here. And men do these things. Like, all the fucking time. …

More than 60 children a day calling Childline with suicidal thoughts, by Sally Weale

A children’s helpline conducted more than 60 counselling sessions on suicide every day last year with children as young as 10 reporting suicidal thoughts, according to the NSPCC children’s charity.

The figures from Childline represent a 15% increase on the previous year.

The NSPCC pointed to widespread concern about the lengthy waiting times young people face before accessing mental health services, but said the statistics also suggested a greater willingness on the part of young people to seek help.

One 14-year-old girl told a counsellor: “I want to end it tonight. I’ve written a suicide note and have everything ready.” …

 

 

We need a new, radical vision of feminist sisterhood, by @ClaireShrugged

The feminist movement has a race problem. This is nothing new – in fact, the problem has been there since the movement began. The racism of white women, whether it is overt or covert, actively contributes to oppression experienced by women of colour. That racism also undermines the efforts of feminist struggle by upholding white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy.

For some white women, the benefits of white privilege seem to outweigh the gains to be made through dismantling the hierarchies at the root of widespread social inequalities. And those white feminists who have made no conscious effort to unlearn their own racism will find that it manifests itself within their feminism not randomly, but as an organic product of their beliefs. …

Borderline Personality Disorder – A Diagnosis Of Invalidation, by Dr Jay Watts

Last year, a woman, Helen Millard, died after being found hanging in a psychiatric ward bathroom. An inquest this week reported that when she had first been admitted, she was under constant observation. But on this day, she was able to spend thirty minutes in a bathroom alone, unchecked, despite staff knowing she had been tying ligatures around her neck up to four times per day. Helen was obviously an amazing woman, “very loving and caring“ and “hard-working, determined and very driven” as her husband tells us. Yet she was described as “manipulative”, “argumentative” and “hostile” by nursing staff, not just as an idle aside, but in a formal statement. What in psychiatry makes it seem legitimate to speak that way about a struggling woman?

Helen had a diagnosis of ‘emotionally unstable personality disorder’, also referred to as ‘borderline personality disorder’ (‘BPD’). ‘BPD’ is constructed as a syndrome characterised by things like a fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, extreme emotional turbulence, rage and disconnection. ‘BPD’ has always been a synonym for the ‘difficult patient’ in psychiatric-speak. Patients who are constructed as wilfully pitting staff members against one another – too sexual, too clever, too aware of their actions to deserve care, interest and respect. Angelina Jolie in ‘Girl, Interrupted‘. Glen Close in ‘Fatal Attraction‘. Wasting resources and messing with staff’s heads deliberately. …

What we’re reading: on racism, male violence, motherhood, and Kathy Acker

New book on Canadian racism firmly refutes ‘We’re not as bad as the U.S.’ sentiment, by Shree Paradkar

Self-deception has repeatedly served as a bedrock of cruelty.

It has transformed greed into gallant heroism, where invasion of lands is adventure, displacement of natives is about saving the savages, and theft and self-enrichment is ingenuity.

It has rationalized subjugation as the “natural order” of things. Women — at home; gays — in the closet; natives — in reserves; and Blacks — in farms or in ghettos. …

Settler deception in Canada, however, is unique in the euphemism it employs. …

Let’s stop romanticising the misguided, possibly dangerous actions of spurned men, by Sian Norris @thepooluk

On Saturday, the Bristol Post reported the story of how a 34-year-old man was intending to play one of the city’s public pianos in order to “win” back his ex girlfriend. Calling the woman who he’d been dating for four months “Rapunzel”, the stunt was intended to show off how much he loved her.

As is fairly typical in these kinds of stories, the Post branded the stunt as romantic, calling Luke Howard “heartbroken”, tagging his efforts as “dedication” in their tweet. However, in refusing to accept his ex girlfriend’s “no”, and by making a huge public statement demanding that she recognises his “love” for her, Howard’s behaviour is not romantic. It’s entitled – and it’s symptomatic of a wider problem of men’s harassment of their exes.

This is not the first time that women have been told to accept men not taking no for an answer as a romantic gesture. From John Cusack’s ghetto blaster in Say Anything… to the best man’s creepy filming of his friend’s bride in Love Actually, the ideal of a heartbroken man harassing the object of his affection has been sold to us as true love over and over again.

But there’s nothing romantic about refusing to accept that a woman has a right to leave you. It’s not a love story when a woman tells a man “no” and he demands she change it to a “yes”. ..

After Kathy Acker: the life and death of a taboo-breaking punk writer, by Suzanne Moore

…  At 53, the experimental writer was too young to die and her reaction to her illness had pushed away so many friends who had tried to help her. This was a lonely place, or maybe she had slipped fully into a world of magical thinking – I can’t say. Looking back, though, I think this was how she had always lived. Another way to put it is that Kathy lied. Or that she created her own myth via a series of strategic personas. All her work was an attempt to the dissolve the “I’ , the narrator, the ego. This constant slippage of identity. Who is talking? Who is the author? What is writing but copying down words? What happens when language is lost?

To pin down the real Kathy Acker then is a self-defeating task but Chris Kraus’s biography of her is a brilliant and necessary thing. There is a wonderful ambivalence between subject and object here, which wires up a tension throughout this incredibly well-researched book. Kraus and Acker moved in some of the same circles. The poet Eileen Myles once said that Kraus was “entirely obsessed… wanting to be Kathy”. Sylvère Lotringer – who was Kraus’s husband, and who features in her previous book, I Love Dick– had an affair with Acker for three years before he met Kraus. Inside one of his books, Kraus found an inscription from Acker: “To Sylvère, The Best Fuck in the Word (At Least to My Knowledge ), Love, Kathy.” …

‘Kids are gross’: on feminists and agency, by Caitlin McGregor

… My son, Oscar, is three. He is articulate and perfectly able to understand plain English, but people are constantly talking about him, in his presence, as if he’s not there. Many of my friends are self-described fierce feminists, who can and do rant indefinitely about the indignity women suffer by being silenced, ignored, objectified and dismissed, and yet they consistently do all of these things to Oscar. They ignore his requests not to be touched or embraced, and never make what is to me the very obvious connection between this and their own feminist positions about the non-negotiable need for consent. They override his very clear statements about his emotions; they even laugh when he’s upset and say, in his hearing, that his anger is ‘cute’.

None of these people are purposefully cruel, nor is their approach to interacting with children unusual. What has often perplexed me, though, is how often this kind of behaviour is exhibited by people who are so involved with and driven by feminism, which is so heavily grounded on assertions of dignity, autonomy and respect. What I’ve come to suspect is that many feminists’ failure to recognise the autonomy of children is, at least in part, symptomatic of the way children have for many feminists become symbols of oppression. But when we are unable to separate the systematic discrimination that makes mothering a ridiculously difficult and often oppressive role from the fact that children are sentient, autonomous human beings who deserve dignity and respect, we are in danger of allowing glaring hypocrisies to creep into the way we construct and use feminist principles and ideas. …

Unlearning the myth of American innocence, by Suzy Hansen

… For all their patriotism, Americans rarely think about how their national identities relate to their personal ones. This indifference is particular to the psychology of white Americans and has a history unique to the US. In recent years, however, this national identity has become more difficult to ignore. Americans can no longer travel in foreign countries without noticing the strange weight we carry with us. In these years after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the many wars that followed, it has become more difficult to gallivant across the world absorbing its wisdom and resources for one’s own personal use. Americans abroad now do not have the same swagger, the easy, enormous smiles. You no longer want to speak so loud. There is always the vague risk of breaking something.

Some years after I moved to Istanbul, I bought a notebook, and unlike that confident child, I wrote down not plans but a question: who do we become if we don’t become Americans? If we discover that our identity as we understood it had been a myth? I asked it because my years as an American abroad in the 21st century were not a joyous romp of self-discovery and romance. Mine were more of a shattering and a shame, and even now, I still don’t know myself. …

What we’re reading: on brain sex, education, and American innocence

There’s no such thing as a ‘male brain’ or ‘female brain,’ and scientists have the scans to prove it, by Karen Kaplan

Do you have a male brain or a female brain? The answer, according to science, is no.

If you didn’t expect this to be a yes-or-no question, you’re not alone. Male brains do seem to be built differently than female brains. An analysis of more than 100 studies found that the volume of a man’s brain is 8% to 13% greater than the volume of a woman’s brain, on average. Some of the most noticeable differences were in areas of the brain that control language, memory, emotion and behavior, according to a 2014 report in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

To find out whether these structural differences translated into cognitive differences, scientists examined detailed brain scans of more than 1,400 men and women. No matter which group of people they looked at, what type of scan was used or which part of the brain was examined, the researchers consistently failed to find patterns that set men and women apart.

“Although there are sex/gender differences in brain structure, brains do not fall into two classes, one typical of males and the other typical of females,” the team wrote in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Each brain is a unique mosaic of features, some of which may be more common in females compared with males, others may be more common in males compared with females, and still others may be common in both females and males.” …

‘After sitting 28 GCSE papers in four weeks, I was left thinking, “What was the point of all that?”, by Natalie Brundle

After taking 28 exams in a four-week period, after 12 years of formal education and three years of GCSE preparation, I was left wondering: what was the point of all that?

This year’s English and maths exams are being formatted to the new grading system of levels 9-1 instead of the usual and familiar A-U. This means that our year will have two different sets of grades for their GCSEs.

Never mind the fact that no one knew what exactly the grading system was like until the beginning of Year 11, or had had sight of any specimen papers, or had been told much at all about the new GCSEs, or that because of this we had a year less to get used to how the exam format might work: most of us managed to handle that.

But that wasn’t the end of it. This year we found ourselves with the dubious pleasure of memorising a host of formula sheets for maths and science. …

Unlearning the myth of American innocence, by Suzy Hansen

My mother recently found piles of my notebooks from when I was a small child that were filled with plans for my future. I was very ambitious. I wrote out what I would do at every age: when I would get married and when I would have kids and when I would open a dance studio.

When I left my small hometown for college, this sort of planning stopped. The experience of going to a radically new place, as college was to me, upended my sense of the world and its possibilities. The same thing happened when I moved to New York after college, and a few years later when I moved to Istanbul. All change is dramatic for provincial people. But the last move was the hardest. In Turkey, the upheaval was far more unsettling: after a while, I began to feel that the entire foundation of my consciousness was a lie.

For all their patriotism, Americans rarely think about how their national identities relate to their personal ones. This indifference is particular to the psychology of white Americans and has a history unique to the US. In recent years, however, this national identity has become more difficult to ignore. Americans can no longer travel in foreign countries without noticing the strange weight we carry with us. In these years after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the many wars that followed, it has become more difficult to gallivant across the world absorbing its wisdom and resources for one’s own personal use. Americans abroad now do not have the same swagger, the easy, enormous smiles. You no longer want to speak so loud. There is always the vague risk of breaking something.

Some years after I moved to Istanbul, I bought a notebook, and unlike that confident child, I wrote down not plans but a question: who do we become if we don’t become Americans? If we discover that our identity as we understood it had been a myth? I asked it because my years as an American abroad in the 21st century were not a joyous romp of self-discovery and romance. Mine were more of a shattering and a shame, and even now, I still don’t know myself. …

The Grenfell Fire

Look at Grenfell Tower and see the terrible price of Britain’s inequality, by Lynsey Hanley

The appalling destruction of Grenfell Tower and the lives of so many who lived there has exposed what society, in its heart, already knows: our housing cannot continue to be subject to the market’s desires, needs or fluctuations. If some housing is regarded as being more valuable, more desirable, corners will always be cut in the places where there is less financial return. The same goes for people: the most disadvantaged always suffer most from the mistakes of the powerful.

In an inner-London borough as rich as Kensington and Chelsea, social housing is at once integral – in that it forms a massive proportion of its housing stock, and houses a large number of its working residents and families – and yet invisible. This means tenants could warn, repeatedly and with escalating fear, that the building they lived in was a death trap; it meant they felt harassed and intimidated by the landlord and subcontractors during the recent renovation; and it meant, ultimately, that they would be the victims of possibly criminal levels of neglect. …

What happened at Grenfell tower is political—and the residents knew it, by Maya Goodfellow

Before dawn had broken on the Grenfell Tower block yesterday, the chorus of voices had already begun: don’t politicise what’s happened. But housing is deeply political and Grenfell encapsulates how.

The death toll from yesterday’s tragedy is still rising, people are still searching for the missing relatives and friends and residents who survived lost everything they owned—all because of a fire that could likely have been prevented.

The deadly Grenfell fire broke out in Kensington, one of the richest boroughs in the country. But it wasn’t one of the area’s many million pound luxury properties that was eaten up by flames; nor was it wealthy residents who were forced to throw themselves from burning windows. This was a block of social housing and many of the people living there were on low pay. And they were wise to what could happen in their home.

Time and again they pleaded with the council and with Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), the company that manages social housing in the borough, to deal with their severe safety concerns. Reporting problems over issues from wiring to boilers, they were ignored persistently.

A Very Political Tragedy, by Dawn Foster

In the richest borough of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, people in social housing, many on low incomes, were killed and injured in a fire that could have been prevented or contained. Rather than diverting blame from those responsible, or treating it as an act of nature, our responsibility is to ask why it occurred.

Time and again, residents reported serious concerns about the safety of the building to the management organization, the local council, and the member of parliament (recently unseated in the general election). They were met with silence, and several told me on the scene they were convinced it was because they were poor, living in a rich borough that was determined to socially cleanse the area as part of a gentrifying project.

Today’s fire in Grenfell Tower is not outside of politics — it is a symbol of the United Kingdom’s deep inequality. The block of 120 apartments housed between 400 and 600 people, some in very crowded conditions. Tenants reported problems with elevators, emergency lighting, wiring, and boilers. Even the most minor improvement required constant badgering. People were given the message that they were lucky to have any home at all, let alone in a borough that harbored such wealth.

The classist, racist disorganisation at Grenfell Tower is disgraceful, by HANNA DOKAL

… What is a shocking display from the media to many is unfortunately not a surprise to local community affected by the fire. Many of those lugging bin bags full of important supplies look around at the lack of officials and all come to the same conclusion: “You know why they aren’t here yet? We’re migrants, immigrants, refugees.” Although there has been some coordination from emergency services, the acute absence of local authority delegation and coordination on the ground is difficult for the community to digest.

For residents, it becomes difficult to understand the situation as anything other than classism, even racism, as they stand organising amongst themselves, unaided, in the poorest and most diverse part of one of the richest boroughs in London. Kensington and Chelsea is one of the smallest London boroughs harbouring some of the most expensive houses in the world. Yet, it also has pockets of poverty which are somehow overlooked due to the glamorous reputation perpetuated by shows like Made in Chelsea and Forbes lists detailing the prices of some of its homes. Today though, it is clear that in this tiny borough the wealthy and the working class live side by side in starkly differing conditions. The borough’s façade melts away as quickly as Grenfell Tower did in the early hours of this morning. …

Grenfell shows just how Britain fails migrants, by Nesrine Malik

The police tape that lined streets around Grenfell Tower told a tale of two cities. Multimillion-pound properties with perfectly manicured front gardens stood under the shadow of the still smoking and charred block. Throughout the night before, in church halls, civic centres and mosques all around, residents had gathered to sift through the donations and give comfort to dazed survivors and their friends and relatives.

It was impossible to look at them and not see the obvious: they were, overwhelmingly, Arab, Muslim or African. They were European migrants, black British, refugees from the developing world – some of them second generation – and asylum seekers, sharing the tower with the poor, white working class of London. It was impossible to listen to the languages spoken on the phone to loved ones and not hear that these people were those often filed as “other”. It was impossible to read the names of the dead and the missing and not see that they, or their parents, were displaced from elsewhere. The first victim named was a Syrian refugee, Mohammed al-Haj Ali. The list is now extending into a roll call of the marginalised, the maligned and the disenfranchised. …

When I worked for KCTMO I had nightmares about burning tower blocks, by Seraphima Kennedy

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster, a harsh light now shines on the organisation that managed the block, and others in the area, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).

People have said that this was “a disaster waiting to happen”. I shared their concerns. I saw them from the inside.

I remember the vote that led to the creation of KCTMO in 1996, because my mother was a tenant at the time and we received letters about it. I was born and brought up in the south of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on benefits, in an overcrowded council flat. …

We owe it to the residents of Grenfell Tower to politicise this tragedy, by Frances Ryan

In the hours following the blaze on social media, as people began to feel anger as the news unfolded, a common retort emerged: “Don’t politicise the tragedy.” I understand why it would make some people uncomfortable: as families still search for their loved ones, it can seem “too soon” or in bad taste. But there is something very dangerous about pretending residents dying in social housing should not be seen as a matter for the state. What happened at Grenfell Tower is the definition of political.

Grenfell Tower sits in one of the country’s richest boroughs in a city undergoing a scandal in housing inequality: low-income families housed in dire conditions as the area is “regenerated” for investors. That the cladding thought to have helped cause the death of Grenfell Tower residents was chosen in order to make the tower more attractive for the rich who had to look at it from their luxury apartments is almost too horrific in its symbolism.

Wonder Woman: Feminist Film or same old Patriarchy?

 

Why Wonder Woman is a masterpiece of subversive feminism  by @zoesqwilliams

… Yes, she is sort of naked a lot of the time, but this isn’t objectification so much as a cultural reset: having thighs, actual thighs you can kick things with, not thighs that look like arms, is a feminist act. The whole Diana myth, women safeguarding the world from male violence not with nurture but with better violence, is a feminist act. Casting Robin Wright as Wonder Woman’s aunt, re-imagining the battle-axe as a battler, with an axe, is a feminist act. A female German chemist trying to destroy humans (in the shape of Dr Poison, a proto-Mengele before Nazism existed) might be the most feminist act of all.

Women are repeatedly erased from the history of classical music, art and medicine. It takes a radical mind to pick up that being erased from the history of evil is not great either. Wonder Woman’s casual rebuttal of a sexual advance, her dress-up montage (“it’s itchy”, “I can’t fight in this”, “it’s choking me”) are also feminist acts. Wonder Woman is a bit like a BuzzFeed list: 23 Stupid Sexist Tropes in Cinema and How to Rectify Them. I mean that as a compliment.

I wish Wonder Woman were as feminist as it thinks it is: @c_cauterucci

… To me, whatever chance Wonder Woman had of being some kind of feminist antidote to the overabundance of superhero movies made by and for bros was blown by its prevailing occupation with the titular heroine’s sex appeal. Characters frequently note that Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, who goes by Diana in the film, is “the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen.” Her male companions in the fight against Germany’s WWI forces drool behind her back at the notion that there may somewhere be an island full of women who look like her, with no men in sight. When she walks into a room, even dressed in a plain gray suit and bowler hat instead of her usual sensual armored leotard, men go silent and stare. “I’m both frightened and aroused,” goes one character’s response to Diana’s ass-kicking moves, prompting one of the audience’s loudest, longest laughs at the screening I attended.

“Her femininity is part of the story, for the way it makes even the other heroes in the movie underestimate and discount her. But her gender is never the story’s primary thrust,” wrote a critic at the Verge this week. Disagree. By the time the action got too fast-paced and loud for any more characters to marvel at Diana’s fine bod and bone structure, I was about an hour past being sick of the “sexy lady is also hypercompetent” joke. …

The Original Wonder Woman Had Some Familiar Racist Roots by Sesali Bowen

… However, wherever there is a mainstream feminist victory, there are racial undertones that need to be addressed. Women’s March, is that you? Wonder Woman’s epic tale is no exception, historically and as a Hollywood Blockbuster. Noah Berlatsky at The Establishment did a great job of documenting the intentions of Wonder Woman’s creator William Marston on creating an ideal woman. That woman was white and, Berlatsky noted, based on some casually sexist essentialist ideas about women.

In fact, women of color typically only showed up on Marston’s Paradise Island in heavily stereotyped representations. I would go so far as to argue that the introduction of Phillipus — the Black woman who trained Wonder Woman in combat when she was young and served as an advisor to her mother, Queen Hippolyta — in 1987 had him turning in his grave. Serves him right. By casting Gal Gadot, an Israeli actress to play the title role in this film, Jenkins and the producers are also deviating from the white blueprint made by Marston. …

Hollywood’s ideas about audiences are outdated. Wonder Woman’s record-smashing debut proves it. by@alissamarie

Whether or not Wonder Woman smashed the patriarchy this weekend, it certainly smashed records at the American box office, raking in a whopping $100.5 million in ticket sales.

That huge pile of receipts busted the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film directed by a woman. (The previous record was held by Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, which made $85 million in its 2015 opening weekend.) It also debuted in the top spot in many countries, including China, where it made $38 million. ….

In 2016, just 7 percent of the 250 top domestic grossing films were directed by women. Among high-ranking roles on film productions (like producers, editors, writers, and cinematographers), that number was higher, but not by much: Only 17 percent of those roles were filled by women. …

Princess Buttercup Became the Warrior General Who Trained Wonder Woman, All Dreams Are Now Viable, by Emily Asher-Perrin

Imagine you star in a movie that is widely considered to be one of the greatest fantasy films of all time. The movie has your name in the title. You are the character whom the whole story revolves around, a story told to a sick little boy in need of a distraction as he lays in bed, home from school. You are the two most important things for a fictional woman to be according to societal standards: beautiful and marriageable.

And you’re also a princess, because that’s how these stories always work. …

Those who know the secrets of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride know that he started writing the story for his daughters, one who wanted a story about a bride and the other who wanted a story about a princess. He merged those concepts and wound up with a tale that didn’t focus overmuch on his princess bride, instead bound up in the adventures of a farmboy-turned-pirate, a master swordsman in need of revenge, a giant with a heart of gold, and a war-hungry Prince looking for an excuse to start a terrible conflict. It was turned into a delightful movie directed by Rob Reiner in 1987. …

Is Wonder Woman the feminist superhero film we’ve been waiting for? @thepooluk

…. The film does have flaws. It’s a little too long and there is an effects-smothered, super-powered punch-up towards the end that is familiar from dozens of other superhero films. There are other ways to end a blockbuster – think of Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade’s puzzle-solving or The Poseidon Adventure’s escape scenes. Diana’s such a good character that she doesn’t need so many bells and whistles.

But there is such power to seeing a woman up there, facing down armies and bounding into the air to smash a tank or take out a sniper, that it hardly matters. If you have daughters (older than five or six, say), bring them along – this will make young girls feel like they can fly. There have been 30 superhero films since 2005 and every single one had a male lead. Studios thought women just couldn’t lead superhero films. Wonder Woman proves them wrong. ….

Should every feminist go to see Wonder Woman – and other blockbuster questions by Helen O’ Hara

…. This is the first major superhero movie directed by a woman, Monster’s Patty Jenkins, and a lot rides on it. If Wonder Woman can knock it out of the park, commercially and critically, that success will help women in Hollywood – both behind the camera and in front – and it’s tempting to suggest that it’s every feminist’s duty to go along on the opening weekend just to prove that women can make, and lead, giant action movies. …

What we’re reading: on racism, motherhood, capitalism, and women-only spaces

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

… “At best, white people have been taught not to mention that people of colour are “different” in case it offends us. They truly believe that the experiences of their life as a result of their skin colour can and should be universal. I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences the world in the way that they do.

“They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white, so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact, they interpret it as an affront. Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not to really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong. …

Whole Foods represents the failures of ‘conscious capitalism‘ by Nicole Aschoff

“Mackey has loudly declared unions akin to herpes and state regulation little more than “crony capitalism” – that all we need to solve things like the climate crisis are better, smarter, “conscious” capitalists. The crisis of Whole Foods belies this notion. There’s no way to “fix” corporations’ compulsion to produce ever more, ever more cheaply. It’s written into the DNA of global capitalism. … “

All I Have Are Questions, And the Most Unbelievable Broken Heart”  by Jacqueline Hoy

” … Before my sons passed away, I had absolutely no idea how common stillbirth is. Well, it claims the lives of six babies every day in Australia, more than 2,000 each year. It’s believed one third of these heartbreaking losses can be prevented.

Yet stillbirth remains such a taboo subject. I feel it most when I run into people who I haven’t seen since I lost the twins. Their questions, their judgement, the awkwardness and uncertainty of not knowing what to say. The “do we talk about the elephant in the room?” look on their faces.

But I want to talk about them. I want friends to ask me about them. I want people to know their names and know what it was like carrying them and to be able to talk about the precious time we spent with them after they passed away, before we buried them together so that they could stay by each other’s side forever. …”

Why there’s nothing racist about black-only spaces | Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

” …. Some white people have got so upset about their exclusion from parts of the Nyansapo festival, an intersectional black feminist gathering scheduled for 28-30 July in Paris, that the mayor of the city called for the festival to be banned, until organisers clarify details with her, and anti-racist groups have claimed that Rosa Parks would be “turning in her grave” at the event.

In the same week that some men have kicked up a fuss over not being allowed to attend women-only film screenings of Wonder Woman it seems a discussion is needed as to why spaces that are centred around marginalised groups, whether they be women or people of colour, are not racist or sexist.

Unofficial safe spaces have existed for all denominations for centuries, and self-organising has long been a key part of anti-racist and feminist movements. As one of the editors for gal-dem, a magazine and creative collective written and produced exclusively by women of colour, I think about our position of racial exclusivity a lot. In some ways I appreciate it might be difficult to grasp why such spaces feel so necessary. The simplest way to understand why the Nyansapo festival has elements that aren’t open to white people (the festival is split into three areas, one specifically for black women, another for black people, and a third for everyone) is to acknowledge the racism we suffer in western society. There’s no moving forward unless we accept that racism against people of colour is deeply systemic. …”

Black motherhood and survival: what my mother has taught me by Christine Pungong

My conscience is the sound of my mother’s voice. I hear it echoing in the back of my mind whenever I do something I know she’d disapprove of. Sometimes it’s scrutinizing, sometimes it’s cautionary, but most of the time it’s just concerned. Though I often try and resign myself to just not caring, truthfully I know that my mother’s disappointment, second to her worry, is my biggest fear. I’ve been thinking a lot about my conscience, and specifically about emotional and psychological burdens. Both my mother’s and, in turn, the ones she has laden me with over the years.

I find that it’s sometimes all too easy to forget that our mothers had their own lives before motherhood. That they argued with their parents, laughed at terrible jokes, lamented the loss of close friends, had doubts about their faith, hated their clothes, and spent long melancholic summer evenings contemplating the direction their lives would eventually take. For a lot of women, motherhood snatches away these memories, eclipsing them with the newest priorities in their lives: their children. Despite its often-touted (and false) status as ‘the pinnacle of womanhood’, motherhood is in fact characterized by a series of painful dichotomies and unattainable expectations. …

What we’re reading: The Manchester Bombing and the targeting of women and girls

Does ISIS Hate Little Girls? by Bina Shah

In the aftermath of the horrific Manchester Arena bombing, in which children were targeted at an Ariana Grande concert, an opinion piece by renowned journalist Lauren Wolfe was published, called “ISIS targets ‘dangerous women’ in Manchester Attack.”

In it, Wolfe makes the premise that Salman Abedi targeted “Girls who want to grow up and be beautiful like her, wear makeup and tight clothes when they want to, and talk about who and how they love without consequences, as Grande does in her songs.” The attack was, according to Wolfe, “It was a double-hit for the terror group: The attack told us that they can kill an invaluable part of our society at will, and that they will not stand for women having any kind of freedom.”

On the other hand, Abedi’s sister has said that his motivation was not to make a statement about women’s freedom, but to hurt children in retaliation for US airstrikes in Syria that killed Syrian children. …

ISIS targets ‘dangerous women’ in Manchester attack, by Lauren Wolfe.

With this morning’s news that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing at the UK’s Manchester Arena Monday night, the obviousness of the target begins to make a sick kind of sense.

Ariana Grande, 23, who had just finished her last song when the bomb hit, is the epitome of all ISIS fears in the world. Grande represents a society in which women can choose what they do, wear, and say. The show’s audience was made up mainly of young girls who idolize the singer. Girls who want to grow up and be beautiful like her, wear makeup and tight clothes when they want to, and talk about who and how they love without consequences, as Grande does in her songs.

It is exactly this freedom that ISIS finds most threatening to their ideology, which calls for women to remain severely subdued in order for men to succeed. …

Why Manchester Bomber Targeted Girls by Emily Crockett

We don’t know the exact motivation behind Monday’s horrifying terrorist attack in Manchester, England, which killed 22 people, including an 8-year-old girl. And given that the bomber died in the attack, we’re unlikely to ever find out precisely what was going through his head as he detonated that device. But one thing we do know is the demographic he targeted: young girls and women. As is so often the case with acts of violence, misogyny was deeply woven into this attack.

ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, is of course notorious for its ghastly treatment of women and girls – for mass imprisonments, rapes and acts of torture. It’s not yet known if the suicide bomber, whom police have named as 22-year-old British national Salman Abedi, acted alone, or what his exposure to ISIS might have been. Regardless, the symbolism of his attack is clear and devastating. During Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour, Abedi gave the world a sick reminder of the dangers of being a woman in public in 2017, attacking largely female concertgoers for doing nothing but enjoying themselves while listening to music. …

The horrific bombing on Manchester was very much purposefully an attack against women and girls. by Gretchen Gales

As I watched MSNBC for coverage about the Manchester bombing, which left 22 dead after an attack at an Ariana Grande concert, one correspondent mentioned how ISIS will “turn away recruits” because of their targeted attack on young girls and women. Another reporter expressed confusion over how ISIS could possibly achieve “the heart of their crusade” by attacking at an Ariana Grande concert. It is clear by their statements how little they understand the world’s demonization of young girls and women, and specifically the often-gendered aspects of terrorism.

The Manchester bombing could have easily happened at another venue, another concert, another night. But instead the attackers picked Ariana Grande “Dangerous Woman” show—for the purpose of punishing girls for admiring someone who they view as a strong female role model.

It is not divisive to say so, but necessary to combat societal violence on women.  …

Why I Think The Manchester Attack Was Aimed At Women And Girls, by ELSAMARIE D’SILVA

Early Tuesday morning I awoke to the horrific news of the Manchester terror attack. A suspected suicide bomber killed at least 22 people and injured dozens more at an Ariana Grande concert.

I must admit that I don’t know Ariana Grande or her music, but since then I have learned that she has a large fan base of female teens and tweens. So I now wonder: Was this attack a deliberate attempt to silence those young women and girls enjoying themselves at a concert?

The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls  via @K_IngalaSmith

We now know the names of the 22 people confirmed dead in the attack in Manchester, and we know the 17 of them were women and girls.  Whilst not to deny or denigrate the lives of the 5 men that were also taken, it is essential that we view the attack as an attack on women.

Daesh have claimed responsibility and so the attack is rightly framed in the context of religious extremism.  The patriarchal oppression of women by men is at the heart of this ideology,  and in that respect Daesh is not alone.  Inequality between women and men and men’s violence against women go hand-in-hand the world over.  It is estimated that across the globe  66,000 women and girls are killed violently every year .  Generally those countries with the highest homicide rates are those with the highest rates of fatal violence against women and girls; but other factors are at play too,  countries with higher levels of sex  inequality also have high rates of men’s violence against women and girls. The UK is no exception, this year, even before the attack in Manchester, at least 37 UK women had been killed by men. Links between men who perpetrate violence against women  and terrorism are now being identified; and mass killers, including school shooters, are almost always male. …

The bombing at a Manchester Ariana Grande show was an attack on girls and women, by Christina Cauterucci via @doublexmag

British authorities have identified a suspect in what appears to have been a suicide bombing and an act of terrorism outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on May 22. Details are still emerging, but as of late Monday night, authorities had confirmed 19 people dead and more than 50 injured.

The victims of Monday’s bombing will almost certainly be mostly girls and women. The Grande fan demographic also includes a number of older millennial women, gay men, and general lovers of pop music, of course, but her live concerts are largely populated by tween and teenage girls and their moms. By staging the attack at a Grande show, the perpetrator or perpetrators chose to target children who may or may not have had an adult around to help them through an emergency situation. …

 

In memory,

Angelica Klis, 40

Georgina Callendar, 18

Saffie Roussos, 8

Kelly Brewster , 32

Olivia Campbell, 15

Alison Howe,45

Lisa Lees, 47

Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51

Megan Hurley, 15

Nell Jones, 14

Michelle Kiss, 45

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14

Chloe Rutherford, 17

Eilidh Macleod, 14

Wendy Fawell, 50

Courtney Boyle, 19

Elaine McIver,43

And also,

Martyn Hett, 29

Marcin Klis, 42

John Atkinson, 28

Liam Curry, 19

Philip Tron, 32

What we’re reading: sisterhood, gender, and feminist mothering

The trouble with the sisterhood in academia by anonymous

I’ve wanted to write this for some time, but never found the words. If I’m honest, I’m certain that some fellow women academics will not be pleased to hear what I have to say. Luckily, I’m currently on a flight, 12km above the ground, where I feel safe from the judgments that would confront me were I to exorcise this academic grievance at the coffee station. But we need to start talking about the way women hold back other women’s careers.

At my institute I’ve recently joined a lively discussion on equality in academia that was initiated by the Athena Swan programme. I’ve taken part in several earnest official conversations during lunches, and several unofficial conversations after work in the pub. Much of this has focused on gender inequality, and the problems that male – and predominantly white male – academics create for early career women in particular. …

The Good Daughter by @VictoriaPeckham

In Tate Britain is a painting by the Victorian artist George Elgar Hicks of a woman ministering tenderly to her invalid father. It is called Comfort of Old Age. The work is the final panel of Hicks’s triptych Woman’s Mission. The first part, Guide of Childhood, in which the same figure teaches her little boy to walk, has been lost. But the second panel also hangs at the Tate in London: Companion of Manhood shows our heroine consoling her husband after ghastly news.

Hicks depicted “woman” in her three guises – mother, wife, daughter – and in her ideal state, the selfless provider of guidance, solace and care. Her life has meaning only in so far as it nourishes and facilitates the lives of others, principally men. …

Black British writing: a tribute to Buchi Emecheta by Eashani Chavda

On Wednesday 25th January 2017, Nigerian author Buchi Emecheta passed away at the age of 72. There is so much to be said about Buchi and the impact she had on black British writing. I never had the honour of meeting her, but she is a true heroine of mine and an inspiration to my own writing. Her voice and sheer determination made her one of the first successful black British female authors and paved the way for other black British women. Emecheta’s greatest contribution to black British writing is  the voice she gave to a community and the socio-political issues that marginalised them. 

Whilst black writing had soared overseas in conjunction with the civil rights movement in America, its progress in Britain was much more gradual and largely lead by men. Despite this, Buchi Emecheta is up there with Samuel Selvon, Stuart Hall, Joan Riley (to name just a few) as a great pioneer of black British writing. While male writers covered topics of class and racism in mid-20th Century Britain, Buchi highlighted the plight of black women in Britain and the double-colonisation they faced. While intersectionality has become a buzzword for feminists today, Buchi approached the topic of misogynoir back in the 1970s. The struggle of black migrant women following the Windrush era, and the layers of oppression they faced were fluently articulated in Buchi’s writing. The social realities she depicted in her novels were felt by a large community of women, who being isolated in their own homes, workplaces and on the bleak streets of London, could finally feel some relief in knowing that they were not alone. Not only did she expose the racial, gendered and classist discrimination of 20th Century Britain, Buchi defied patriarchal structures within the Nigerian community, all whilst taking great pride in her culture and her blackness. …

Why I’m raising my kids to know their sex, not their gender by J.J Barnes  via @FeministCurrent

In January 2017, the BBC aired a controversial documentary called, “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” which explored the doctrine that children know best when it comes to their “gender identity,” and that we should accept their beliefs without question. Following the airing of this documentary, the BBC came under fire from trans activists, who claimed the documentary would spark prejudice and lead to the social rejection of “trans kids.”

As the mother of a four-year-old girl and a 10-month-old girl, and step-mother to a four-year-old boy, I find the limited discourse around “trans kids” troubling. As I watch my children growing, learning, changing, and exploring, the idea of allowing them to make such a life-changing choice, so young, without question, is abhorrent. …

What we’re reading: on women’s health, radical feminism, and Wonder Woman

Women in Labor Stop Pushing, See Amazing Results by Kama Lee Jackson

… If you’ve ever seen a woman delivering a baby in a movie or a television show, you have heard the rallying cry: “Push!” If you’ve had a baby yourself, you’ve likely heard it too.

The staff at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent initiated a project to stop telling women to push. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives put out a call for action after seeing a sharp rise in severe perineal tearing affecting nearly 14,000 women in 2013 to 2014.

Over a 12-month period after the program was implemented, the incidence of women with severe tearing went down from 7% to 1%. How have they gotten such amazing results? Largely, simply by not asking women to push when they are in labor. …

Grasping Things at the Root: On Young Women & Radical Feminism  via @ClaireShrugged

Radical feminism isn’t popular. That’s not exactly a secret – Pat Robertson’s infamous Holy Cow! Too Funny!!!!!!claim that the feminist agenda “…encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians” has set the tone for mainstream discussions of radical feminism. While Robertson’s perspective on radical feminism verges upon parody, his misogyny served with a side of blatant lesbophobia, it has also served to frame radical feminism as suspect.

If radical feminism can be written off as something sinister or dismissed as the butt of a joke, none of the difficult questions about the patriarchal structuring of society need to be answered – subsequently, power need not be redistributed, and members of the oppressor classes are saved from any challenging self-reflection. Rendering radical feminism monstrous is a highly effective way of shutting down meaningful political change, of maintaining the status quo. It is, therefore, predictable that the socially conservative right are opposed to radical feminism. …

French translation here. 

Women Are Dying Because Doctors Treat Us Like Men by 

The best day of Starr Mirza’s life was the day she went into cardiac arrest. To understand why a then 23-year-old would be overjoyed at a life-threatening condition, one that would require a device to be implanted permanently in her chest, we have to start at the beginning of her medical history.

As a teenager growing up in Lake Los Angeles, a small town an hour outside of L.A., Mirza loved softball, even though she wasn’t any good. The running joke among her teammates was that she couldn’t make it from first base to second base without falling. “I don’t know why they kept me on the team,” she says. “I think it was more my spirit than my skill.” She didn’t know what was wrong with her body, only that she would frequently see stars, hear a ringing sound, feel tingly, and then pass out. When she was a preteen, she went to see a doctor. “I remember it like it was yesterday—I walked in, and right away, I got the eye-rolling,” Mirza recalls. “They asked me what I had eaten, if I had issues with my weight, if I had a problem with my brother getting better grades in school than I did. They were trying to say, ‘Look, she’s doing this for attention.'” …

You aren’t imagining it, #WonderWoman really isn’t being well promoted by Donna Dickens  via @UPROXX

Did you know Wonder Woman arrives in theaters a little over a month from now? On June 2, 2017, Princess Diana of Themyscira will get her first live action movie. Wonder Woman will be the first superheroine to have her own solo film since DC and Marvel reinvigorated the genre and started their own Cola Wars™ for audience eyeballs and wallets. This is a big deal. Wonder Woman has been around for over three-quarters of a century. Yet, unlike the other two pillars of the DC Trinity (Superman and Batman), she’s been relegated to animated films, television, and a minifig appearance in The LEGO Movie franchise. Even folks who have never picked up a comic book in their life know who Wonder Woman is and that she stands for feminism. Or, if the F-word freaks you out because you bought into a toxic idea of what feminism is, she stands for equality.

But if you didn’t know Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot was coming out in 36 days as of today, no one could blame you. Warner Bros. has been weirdly reticent about the marketing campaign for one of the most iconic superheroes in the world. The hype should be off the charts. But, as Shana O’Neil points out over at SyfyWire, it isn’t. When Suicide Squad came out, you couldn’t escape the world’s worst heroes. They were everywhere, despite the average audience-goer knowing only who Harley Quinn and the Joker were due to pop culture osmosis. Everyone knows who Wonder Woman is. Yet a quick look at the playlist for Suicide Squad vs. Wonder Woman on the official Warner Bros. YouTube page is as different as night and day.

What We’re Reading: Combahee River Collective, Brexit & the Handmaid’s Tale

‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ offers a terrifying warning, but the hijacking of feminism is just as dangerous by Gail Dines

Last week, two new series were released which, at first sight, seem to tell very different stories about women.

Netflix’s Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On (HGWTO), produced by the same team as the 2015 documentary Hot Girls Wanted, was described by many media critics as taking a more nuanced approach to the porn industry than the earlier documentary, by showing how women can be empowered by both making and performing in porn.

Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, on the other hand, is a terrifying “fictional” account of a patriarchal dystopia, where women cannot hold jobs or own property, and serve as either breeders, cleaners and cooks, or trophy wives. Those who resist are exiled to toxic waste dumps or worse. Atwood has asserted many times that her book, on which the series is based, is not really fiction — she drew inspiration from accounts of how women are actually treated around the world.

You can’t just cut and run from Europe, Theresa May – it’s illegal | Helena Kennedy

Leaders of Britain’s 27 EU partner countries have now thrown down the gauntlet: no discussions on a trade deal will take place until there’s progress on the UK’s divorce bill, the Ireland-UK border and the rights of EU citizens.

We are told there is a document on the table relating to UK citizens living in Europe and those of citizens from other EU countries who live in Britain, but the UK is not prepared to sign. No reason has been given as to why.

The problem for our prime minister is that at every turn her head hits the hard wall of law and the role of the European court of justice (ECJ). Theresa May has cornered herself by insisting that the UK withdraw totally from the court and its decisions. Nobody explained to her that if you have cross-border rights and contracts you have to have cross-border law and regulations. And if you have cross-border law you have to have supranational courts to deal with disputes. …

The Overlooked Black Women Who Altered the Course of Feminist Art by Yelena Keller  via @artsy

In 1977, the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist organization, gathered in New Jersey for their second retreat, where they worked together to formulate a collaborative letter.

The Heresies Collective, whose membership consisted predominately of white women, had just published its third feminist art journal, titled “Lesbian Art and Artists,” but had neglected to feature a single woman of color. The Combahee River Collective, which was formed to raise consciousness about race and gender issues, had assembled to craft a response.

“We find it appalling,” they wrote, “that a hundred years from now it will be possible for women to conclude that in 1977 there were no practicing Black and other Third World lesbian artists.”

The critical debate that it provoked was an expression of the complex and often tumultuous relationship between mainstream feminism and the black women who were so often excluded from it—a tension that continues today. The activities undertaken by black women to push back against their erasure, in the late ’60s through the early ’80s, effectively amounted to a desire for a revolution. …

When Motherhood Wasn’t in the Cards  by Stephanie Gates

Every day I look in the mirror and a caramel-colored woman with closely cropped hair stares back at me. I look at a smooth, relatively blemish-free face. I peer at the slightly dark circles under my eyes that I think are hereditary. One of my sisters has them as does my mother. I Iook like a normal middle-aged woman; I am a normal middle-aged woman. I see a neck that doesn’t have another head growing out of it. But sometimes I don’t know. Because as soon as I say I don’t have children, I can almost feel a head pushing up and out of the side of my neck. I know that it’s not really there, but the way people look at me makes me think that there’s another set of eyes looking right back at the person looking at me.

I am an anomaly because I am a woman and I am childless. I am a Black woman and I am childless, so that makes me all the more strange. How can this be? That’s what we do, right? That’s what we’ve been doing—having babies for the masters, having babies to stay on welfare. Having babies to have babies. We are baby making machines, right? So, what does that make me? I am supposed to be somebody’s biological mother and I am not. The fact that I have been instrumental in the rearing of other people’s children doesn’t count. So steeped is the stereotype that every woman is a mother or should be one—especially a Black woman, that when asked about my childbearing status, the question is always How many children do you have? and not Do you have children? …

What we’re reading: The Handmaid’s Tale, Capitalism,Rachel Dolezal, & Women’s Health

MP accuses BAME book prize of discrimination by @sunnysingh_n6  via @WritersofColour

Equalities and Human Rights Commission demands justification from Jhalak Prize, following complaint from Philip Davies MP

March 17, 2017: The date that the very first Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colourwas awarded. It was an evening that all of us involved with the prize had been preparing for with much anticipation and joy. One of the judges had flown out from Berlin. Writers – and not just those shortlisted – had told us how excited they were. Publishers, agents, readers had reached out privately and on social media to share their enthusiasm.

On a personal note, it felt as if I had been waiting for the evening for nearly five years. Yes, that is how long the Jhalak Prize had been gestating since I had realised the structural barriers that writers of colour faced in the UK.  After 2015’s Writing the Future report, funded by the Arts Council, laid out the statistics in stark detail, the idea for the prize took wings.  It had to be set up. And it had to be set up now.

We launched the prize at the Bare Lit Festival in February 2016 and the relief, passion, even possibly belief that we could change things was palpable from the first moment. The Bookseller’s diversity in publishing report in November 2016 further confirmed the sorry state of equality in the publishing industry. The judges, our anonymous benefactor, the prize director, Nikesh Shukla, and I – and beyond us, the wider reading community – believed that we were doing the right thing. That we were going to improve the world – our world – just that little bit. And so no amount of hard work disheartened us. We stole time from work, family, writing commitments and poured ourselves into the inaugural round of the prize.

Margaret Atwood on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump  via New York Times

In the spring of 1984 I began to write a novel that was not initially called “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I wrote in longhand, mostly on yellow legal notepads, then transcribed my almost illegible scrawlings using a huge German-keyboard manual typewriter I’d rented.

The keyboard was German because I was living in West Berlin, which was still encircled by the Berlin Wall: The Soviet empire was still strongly in place, and was not to crumble for another five years. Every Sunday the East German Air Force made sonic booms to remind us of how close they were. During my visits to several countries behind the Iron Curtain — Czechoslovakia, East Germany — I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing. So did the repurposed buildings. “This used to belong to . . . but then they disappeared.” I heard such stories many times.

Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. Change could also be as fast as lightning. “It can’t happen here” could not be depended on: Anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.

Why We Need to Take ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety Seriously by Erica Chau  via @TheMightySite

When you imagine anxiety, what do you see? Shaking, crying, screaming? Panic attacks, hyperventilating, incoherent sentences? For some people, this is what it is like. But it’s not always the case.

What does “high-functioning” anxiety look like?

It looks like you have your life together. You smile, your clothes are freshly pressed, your hair is shiny, your arrive on time. You try your hardest, finish your work on time, help others and have hobbies. High-functioning anxiety makes it look like you’re busy living your life — and you are — to a certain extent.

For me, it’s keeping busy so I don’t lose my mind. The more I do, the more tasks I assign myself and the more things I can keep in control, the more I can control my anxiety.

Pregnant women are being legally pimped out for sex – this is the lowest form of capitalism by Julie Bindel

Whenever news of the Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada pops up on my social media I can rarely resist a read. I spent time in 2012 in this brothel, accompanied by America’s biggest pimp, Dennis Hof. I met women in his brothels who were as sad as they were desperate, and so disappointed that legalisation had made it worse for them, rather than better. One woman, who was heavily pregnant, had asked the brothel manager if she could take off six months to have her baby and come back without having to reapply for her old job. The manager told her that she would be far better off working throughout her pregnancy, “because there are plenty of men who want to squeeze pregnant ladies boobies”.

When I read an article entitled “A Woman’s Right to Choose to be a Pregnant Sex Worker” on the Bunny Ranch Blog, written by a prostituted woman named Summer Sebastian, who is unfortunate enough to work there, I figured that Dennis Hof had simply cashed in on yet another way to make money from women’s bodies.

The last story you will ever need to read about Rachel Dolezal. by Ijeoma Oluo

I‘m sitting across from Rachel Dolezal, and she looks… white. Not a little white, not racially ambiguous. Dolezal looks really, really white. She looks like a white woman with a mild suntan, in box braids—like perhaps she’d just gotten back from a Caribbean vacation and decided to keep the hairstyle for a few days “for fun.”

She is also smaller than I expected, tiny even—even in her wedge heels and jeans. I’m six feet tall and fat. I wonder for a moment what this conversation might look like to bystanders if things were to get heated—a giant black woman interrogating a tiny white woman. Everything about Dolezal is smaller than expected—the tiny house she rents, the limited and very used furniture. Her 1-year-old son toddles in front of cartoons playing on a small television. The only thing of real size in the house seems to be a painting of her adopted brother, and now adopted son, Izaiah, from when he was a young child. The painting looms over Dolezal on the living-room wall as she begins to talk. I try to get my bearings and listen to what she’s trying to say, but for the first few moments, my mind keeps repeating: “How in the hell did I get here?”

EVAW launches Activist Guide for 4 May local elections

On 4 May 2017 there are elections in many parts of the UK. Six large regions in England will elect mayors for the first time, and other parts of England, Wales and Scotland have important local council elections.

Many of those who are elected will have a say in funding decisions and will be well placed to encourage local public services – like the police, health and transport – to prioritise tackling violence against women and girls.

You can find out if you have an election in your area here.

You can use our Activist Guide to help locate candidates and for advice on what to say; you can use our template letters to Local Council candidates and to the new Metro Mayor candidates; and there is a VAWG Factsheet if you want to get try and get hold of local VAWG data for your campaigning.

EVAW is available to help activists locate and write to candidates, and is asking anyone who receives replies to copy them to us for us to share on our website and social media.

What we’re reading: The Handmaid’s Tale, Black feminism, and gender

“reflections on writing ‘self’…while free-falling through words and memories” by @MaraiLarasi

 … I write all the time, but rarely in this way. I write constantly in my work. I write because it’s what I do. I do Black-Feminist ending violence work…and it requires that I write…and my activism, my work, my job…all rest within a space of navigating, challenging and dismantling intersecting oppressive systems. I ‘speak truth to power’ while not wanting to be implicated in those power systems. I walk a tightrope between revolution and reform. I use words to expose inequities and to build bridges. I weigh each moment’s pragmatism against the next moment’s reImagining. It’s a messy space. It’s one where creativity and ‘voice’ are curtailed and managed in the interest of effective advocacy. It’s one where acts of speaking and writing can be powerful in themselves (and in a context of censorship and silencing they are not to be taken for granted or diminished); but they can equally feel like conversations in an echo chamber. I write and speak into a reImagined future, a lifetime of numerous generations, one that allows my ancestors to be as present as those that will be born into my tribe in the years to come. I write and speak words that become lines, paragraphs, references and footnotes in policy papers and briefing notes. My thoughts become sound bites in articles and tweets. I have ‘voice’ yet it is splintered and reconstructed, often in patterns that are not of my own design. This is not a ‘waaaah…poor me’. This is merely a reflection of how ‘di ting set’…

Dystopian dreams: how feminist science fiction predicted the future by Naomi Alderman

Margaret Atwood’s evergreen dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale is about to become a television drama. Published in 1985, it couldn’t feel more fresh or more timely, dealing as it does with reproductive rights, with the sudden accession to power of a theocracy in the United States, with the demonisation of imagined, pantomime villain “Islamic fanatics”. But then, feminist science fiction does tend to feel fresh – its authors have a habit of looking beyond their particular historical moment, analysing the root causes, suggesting how they might be, if not solved, then at least changed.

Where does the story of feminist science fiction begin? There are so many possible starting points: Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 book The Blazing World, about an empress of a utopian kingdom; one could point convincingly to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as an exploration of how men could “give birth” and what might happen if they did; one could recall the 1905 story “Sultana’s Dream” by Begum Rokeya, about a gender-reversed India in which it’s the men who are kept in purdah. …

The Radical Feminist Aesthetic Of “The Handmaid’s Tale” via @annehelen

The television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s iconic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which debuts next week on Hulu, is filled with small, barbed revelations. Even if you’ve read the book, and you know what you’re in for, there’s so much to startle you: there’s Elisabeth Moss’s face, which, through roles in Mad Men and Top of the Lake, has become an emblem of women persevering in the face of sexual violence and abject sexism. There are jarring moments of presentness — the way the characters offhandedly reference Craigslist, or Tinder — that make it impossible to pretend this is a scenario of the distant past or future. There’s the quiet profanity of Offred’s internal monologue — her use of “fuck” and “cum” in particular — which is so dissonant with the sunny, shining world that surrounds her.

And then there’s the way the world is rendered: Gilead, as it’s called, is a startlingly exquisite Eden, with dark, claustrophobic corners — a place where the individual has no power, save the small, essential spaces she carves for herself within her mind. So many dystopic narratives are filmed as fantasy spaces: worlds we can observe briefly and from a careful distance, or in which we are positioned to identify with a bloodied, vanquishing hero. The Handmaid’s Tale quietly forces the audience into the position of the handmaid herself: To watch is to feel the daily realities, the sensations and smells, the invisible constrictions and silent aggressions of living under patriarchy. In this way, The Handmaid’s Tale is both a beauty to behold and a slap in the face, employing a vibrant film language that not only proves itself the equal to, but expands upon its canonical source text. …

If ‘inclusivity’ is a priority, let men make their washrooms ‘gender-neutral’  via @FeministCurrent

In the liberal rush to make anything and everything “gender-inclusive,” who is getting the short end of the stick? I bet you know the answer to this one… We are only too aware, as feminists, that it is always women and girls whose interests seem to be considered non-urgent, unimportant, and irrelevant. It is always girls and women who are politely supposed to step aside for everyone else. With a smile, at that.

When journalist and BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed attended a screening of I Am Not Your Negro at the Barbican Centre in London she found the women’s washroom had disappeared. Now, in place of the “women’s” sign was one that read, “gender-neutral with cubicles,” and in place of the “men’s” was “gender-neutral with urinals.” How convenient for men to have two different washrooms to choose from! How inclusive.

Ahmed wasn’t the only one who complained about this change. When she spoke to staff at the Centre, they told Ahmed they had already argued, internally, that the transformation was a mistake. On Twitter, one woman wrote, “Gender neutral toilets !!! Never seen so many confused and desperate people!! Whose bright idea?!!” Another tweeted: “Barbican now have gender neutral toilets. They just changed the signs, formerly male ones state they have urinals. Guess what happens?” …

Hysteria, Witches, and The Wandering Uterus: A Brief History by Terri Kapsalis via @lithub

I teach “The Yellow Wallpaper” because I believe it can save people. That is one reason. There are more. I have taught Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1891 story for nearly two decades and this past fall was no different. Then again, this past fall was entirely different.

In our undergraduate seminar at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, we discussed “The Yellow Wallpaper” in the context of the nearly 4,000-year history of the medical diagnosis of hysteria. Hysteria, from the Greek hystera or womb. We explored this wastebasket diagnosis that has been a dump-site for all that could be imagined to be wrong with women from around 1900 BCE until the 1950s. The diagnosis was not only prevalent in the West among mainly white women but had its pre-history in Ancient Egypt, and was found in the Far East and Middle East too.

The course is titled “The Wandering Uterus: Journeys through Gender, Race, and Medicine” and gets its name from one of the ancient “causes” of hysteria. The uterus was believed to wander around the body like an animal, hungry for semen. If it wandered the wrong direction and made its way to the throat there would be choking, coughing or loss of voice, if it got stuck in the the rib cage, there would be chest pain or shortness of breath, and so on. Most any symptom that belonged to a female body could be attributed to that wandering uterus. “Treatments,” including vaginal fumigations, bitter potions, balms, and pessaries made of wool, were used to bring that uterus back to its proper place. “Genital massage,” performed by a skilled physician or midwife, was often mentioned in medical writings. The triad of marriage, intercourse, and pregnancy was the ultimate treatment for the semen-hungry womb. The uterus was a troublemaker and was best sated when pregnant. …

What we’re reading: austerity, misogyny, and the ‘rape clause’

The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism by Jeni Harvey

I have been thinking lately about the power of language; in particular how it can be used to silence. I’ve been a feminist all my life, my mother was a second wave activist, and I care hugely for the future of our movement.

Over centuries feminists have been labelled man-haters, family destroyers, ugly; yet still we’ve continued to raise our voices. Recently however, we’ve seen those wishing to shut us up change tack. …

Five benefits cuts are being introduced today: how do they affect you? by Frances Ryan

This week, the government is bringing in a series of new cuts to the benefit system. Here’s a guide to what five of the key changes mean and why they matter.

HOUSING BENEFIT STOPPED FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

From this month, single people aged 18 to 21 will no longer be entitled to housing benefit. It applies to all those on Universal Credit (the government’s new benefit system being rolled out nationally) but there are exceptions, such as for young people with children or who would be at serious risk by continuing to live with their parents.  …

Music education is now only for the white and the wealthy by Charlotte C Gill

Music education is deteriorating around the country. Despite the enormous contribution of the music industry to the UK economy, with the creative industries overall estimated to generate £85bn net a year to GDP, the government remains placid about its importance in schools. The Conservatives are too focused on the English baccalaureate, introduced to boost the number of students studying science and languages, to care.

This is a great shame, as research has shown the huge benefits that music brings to children’s happiness and learning. Interestingly, the government does care about psychological development in schools, and recently announced plans to trial mental health training for pupils, but it has not dawned on politicians that this, and more, can be achieved through the arts.

Music education has become harder and harder to access since 2010, when the baccalaureate was introduced, and since when the number of students taking music at GCSE and A-level has dropped by about 9% as teachers homed in on “academic” subjects. …

Why our charities refuse to do have anything to do with the Rape Clause by Sandy Brindley of Rape Crisis Scotland and Marsha Scott of Scottish Women’s Aid

From today, across the UK, Child Tax Credits will only be available for the first and second child. Third or subsequent children won’t get a look in. That is – of course – unless the child is a result of rape.

The Department of Work and Pensions claim that this rape exemption or “rape clause” will only be applied in the most “compassionate” way, but the question is, can forcing a woman to disclose rape to receive welfare ever really be compassionate? For us – Rape Crisis Scotlandand Scottish Women’s Aid – the answer is a flat-out no.

We should make no mistake: rape is a horrific trauma. Healing from rape is painful and difficult, and a huge part of healing is having control over who and how you tell people about your experience. Despite the myths, rape isn’t usually a stranger jumping from out behind a bush in the dead of night as a woman walks home alone. Often it’s someone you know – a friend, a partner, a spouse. Some people who are raped might never tell anyone what happened to them. Rape and sexual violence are amongst the most underreported, under-convicted crimes there are, and certainly among the most abhorrent. …

 

 

What we’re reading: on feminism activism, poverty, misogyny and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Feminism That Doesn’t Challenge Male Entitlement Isn’t Feminism by Caitlin Roper

Once upon a time, feminism was a social movement. It was a movement by and for women. It had actual objectives – like liberating women from male oppression. It meant something.

Nowadays, with the popularity of third wave liberal feminism, feminism* can be whatever you want it to be. Anybody can be a feminist, including men, and any act can be a ‘feminist’ statement- even if it upholds institutions and structures that oppress and harm women as a whole – it’s all good as long as a woman ‘chooses’ it.

While feminists in decades past fought against the objectification of women, believing it contributed to our second-class status, this same sexualising treatment has been repackaged as female empowerment or women owning their sexuality (which incidentally tends to be indistinguishable from the porn-inspired fantasies of heterosexual men… go figure). Empowerment, it appears, means women being reduced to object status on their own terms. …

The third wave’s tokenization of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is anything but intersectional  by 

“How could she say such a thing?!” Behind every response to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s recent remarks about transwomen was the message that people were not only outraged with the Nigerian novelist and feminist, but disappointed in her as well. In the Los Angeles Times, Michael Schaub wrote that she “angered” the transgender community. Paper Magazineexplained that “People aren’t reacting well” to her comments. Raquel Willis said she “gaslighted” transgender people only to “strip them of their womanhood” at The RootUnapologetic Feminism characterized Adichie’s comments as revealing her “lack of sophistication” as a thinker. (It couldn’t possibly be that she had a valid, albeit different, opinion about womanhood — she had to be confused or stupid.)

Most outlets who decried Adichie’s comments were dishonest in their representation of the conflict, almost exclusively reproducing the opinions of people who disagreed with her. By excluding the notable support and solidarity she received from numerous men and women, Adichie’s opinion was presented as an aberration (therefore more condemnable) and more isolated than it is. …

“The Troubling Trendiness Of Poverty Appropriation” by July Westhale

…  My family lived in Palo Verde Mobile Home Park, on the east side of town. The Colorado River and the border of Arizona were a stone’s throw away. Our corrugated home was surrounded by irrigation canals, where my uncles often fished and caught dinner, and where one uncle, years later, was found bloated and floating, death unknown.

It wasn’t what anyone would call a glamorous experience.

This background, this essential part of who I am, makes it particularly difficult to stomach the latest trend in “simple” living — people moving into tiny homes and trailers. How many folks, I wonder, who have engaged in the Tiny House Movement have ever actually lived in a tiny, mobile place? Because what those who can afford homes call “living light,” poor folks call “gratitude for what we’ve got.”

And it’s not just the Tiny House Movement that incites my discontent. From dumpster diving to trailer-themed bars to haute cuisine in the form of poor-household staples, it’s become trendy for those with money to appropriate the poverty lifestyle — and it troubles me for one simple reason. Choice. …

Trump did to Merkel what men do to women all the time by Jessica Valenti

few years ago, my husband and I ran into a mutual acquaintance at a restaurant. This young man – a person who would surely identify as progressive – spent the entirety our interaction completely ignoring me. He spoke only to my husband; he wouldn’t even look at me when I asked a direct question.

While it would be tempting to write off the exchange as simple rudeness, this brand of slight is familiar to most women. Perhaps it happens when you go to buy a car and the salesperson only speaks to your male partner. Or when you meet someone at a work event and they only introduce themselves to the male colleague beside you.

Or, if you’re Angela Merkel, maybe the notoriously misogynist president of the United States refuses to shake your hand or even deign to look at you during a press conference.

What we’re reading

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: ‘Can people please stop telling me feminism is hot?’ 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was in Lagos last summer, teaching a writing workshop as part of an annual schedule that sees her time divided between Nigeria and the US. For much of the year, Adichie lives in a town 30 minutes west of Baltimore, where her Nigerian-American husband works as a medic and the 39-year-old writes in the quiet of a suburban home. When Adichie is in Nigeria, where her parents and extended family still live, she has a house in the vast city she regards with the complicated love and condescension of the part-time expat.

It’s an ambivalence with which many Nigerians regard her, too; last year, the workshop ended in a question-and-answer session, during which a young man rose to ask the famous novelist a question. “I used to love you,” she recalls him saying. “I’ve read all your books. But since you started this whole feminism thing, and since you started to talk about this gay thing, I’m just not sure about you any more. How do you intend to keep the love of people like me?” …

‘Gestators,’ ‘hosts,’ and ‘pregnant people’: The bipartisan pact to erase women by RAQUEL ROSARIO SANCHEZ

… There are many more similarities between conservative approaches to women’s empowerment and liberal approaches than we often acknowledge. The idea that women’s oppression (rooted in male control over female reproduction/sexuality) should be monetized and reframed as empowerment is not exactly a progressive one. Yet efforts to dehumanize women and turn them into utilitarian objects for the benefit of more privileged people cross political lines.

Oklahoma Representative Justin Humphrey proved that last week when he referred to pregnant women as “hosts,” saying:

“I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

Humphrey’s bill, House Bill 1441, would require a woman seeking an abortion to get written consent from her sexual partner and provide his name to her doctor. This would effectively allow men to block women from having abortions. ….

What we’re reading: On racism, nationalism, PTSD and Milo

Theo and the distinctly sexual flavour of French racism by @KGuilaine  via @WritersofColour

Content warning: contains detailed descriptions of sexual abuse

On 2 February, a 22-year-old black French man named Theo was allegedly violently raped with a police truncheon, gang assaulted and racially abused by four French police officers in the Parisian suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. So severe were the anal injuries sustained by Theo that he needed major surgery after the incident. As I write, Theo remains in a stable condition in hospital after having been visited by president Hollande.  The incident occurred less than a year after the suspicious death of Adama Traore in police custody and, led to renewed accusations of police brutality and racism in France. Old wounds have been re-opened and the city is gripped with protests. …

This is not the way Milo Yiannopoulos should have gone down by Natasha Chart

I doubt very much that a gay man in pearls and lipstick was unanimously seen as an ideal CPAC speaker, yet they were going to allow it. The only redeeming thing about the alt-right’s collection of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and misogynists, is that they hadn’t turned on homosexuals yet.

Looks like that’s likely come to an end.

After some tasteless and hurtful remarks that Milo Yiannopoulos made about child sexual abuse that he was himself a victim of came to light, he has become a pariah on the right.

Now? Not when he went after Leslie Jones or Anita Sarkeesian? Not when he helped amplify fascism, slandered immigrants, suggested that education was entirely wasted on women, or any of the other appalling things he’s said and done? This? Come on. …

Aminatta Forna: ‘We must take back our stories and reverse the gaze’

few years ago I was sent a book by a psychologist called Boris Cyrulnik. Cyrulnik was born in France in 1937, during the war his parents were sent to concentration camps and never returned. At the age of seven he joined the French resistance as a runner, carrying messages back and forth across enemy lines. The book was called Resilience and I’d been sent it because of my own work describing traumatic events and their impact – in a memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water uncovering the circumstances surrounding my father’s political murder in Sierra Leone in 1975, and again in The Memory of Love, a novel set during the subsequent civil war. I read Resilience in a single sitting, and it struck me that every word of it was true.

A world-renowned expert in post-traumatic stress disorder, Cyrulnik accused other psychologists of subscribing to a kind of psychological determinism, of acting “like car mechanics”, in his words, in their ideas of cause and effect. Cyrulnik described how traumatic events are framed by the narrative given to them, in ways that can exacerbate or mitigate the impact of experiences for the sufferer. The context given for suffering is what determines survival, the feeling of selfhood is shaped by the gaze of others, namely the emotional reactions of people and of the culture around them. Cyrulnik found that, among children who survived the Nazi occupation of France, those who had, like him, joined the resistance suffered the lowest levels of postwar depression. “Did these children join the resistance because they were already more resilient?” he writes, “Or did their narrative identity, or the stories they rehearsed in their heads after the war– ‘I am the boy who at the age of eight, stood up to the German army’– give them a feeling of selfhood that had more in common with a hero than a victim?” Cyrulnik was convinced it was the latter, and devoted his career to freeing children who had endured trauma from the narrative of damage. …

The parallels between Scottish nationalism and racism are clear | Claire Heuchan

Sadiq Khan was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance – at least, not entirely. Someone has to say it: the parallels are clear. There is an obvious overlap between nationalism and racism: both mentalities are defined by a politics of us and them. Equating racism with Scottish nationalism is a massive false equivalence, yet both perspectives are reliant on a clear distinction being made between those who belong and those who are rejected on the basis of difference.

In the Daily Record, Khan claimed that nationalism is effectively the same as “trying to divide us on the basis of background, race or religion”. Predictably, SNP politicians and supporters alike were outraged. How dare anyone question their vision of a progressive Scotland? But in their rush to condemn a Londoner – the mayor of all Londoners, no less – for his, in Nicola Sturgeon’s words, “spectacularly ill-judged” comments, nationalists missed an opportunity to recognise a degree of truth in Khan’s comments.

The SNP is fond of talking about “a fairer Scotland”, playing on the popular notion that Scotland is by nature more egalitarian than England. But this raises one unavoidable question: fairer than what? England, of course.

What we’re reading: on the women’s march and Buchi Emecheta

Our cynicism will not build a movement. Collaboration will. by Alicia Garza

… On Saturday, I joined more than a million women in Washington, D.C., to register my opposition to the new regime. Participating in the Women’s March — if you count satellite protests around the country, the largest one-day mobilization in the history of the United States — was both symbolic and challenging.

Like many other black women, I was conflicted about participating. That a group of white women had drawn clear inspiration from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, yet failed to acknowledge the historical precedent, rubbed me the wrong way. Here they go again, I thought, adopting the work of black people while erasing us.

I’d had enough before it even began. 53% of white women who voted in the 2016 presidential election did so for a man who aims to move society backward. Were white women now having buyer’s remorse? Where were all of these white people while our people are being killed in the streets, jobless, homeless, over incarcerated, under educated? Are you committed to freedom for everyone, or just yourselves? …

The Black Woman’s “Women’s March” Problem: It Ain’t Just White Folks by Ree Walker

There are some great perks to living on the West Coast. I never thought, as a die hard New Yorker, that I would ever find myself uttering those words. Most would think it’s the weather but for me, it’s because of the time zone set up. Yes one could argue that you aren’t getting everything on television first, like you do in New York, which does kind of suck. But sometimes that time zone thing works out pretty well. One such instance was during the Women’s March this past Saturday. It was great because I was able to watch the march on television, that was well underway in D.C., before leaving to go to the one here in Cali. It was, overall, an extraordinary showing of solidarity and sorely needed at such a crucial time in our history. In fact, it’s long past due. Speaking as a black woman who has been an organizer around black feminism and black women’s issues for the last couple of decades however, unfortunately what I saw in D.C. was disappointing. As the march unfolded, I began to realize that it had been hijacked by male centered forces from the black patriarchy.

As I watched speaker after speaker emerge, I began to see a pattern unfold. The white women were mainly centered on feminist issues, while the black women were centered on the plight of black males and with, what the Oppressive Black Patriarchy (or what I call the OBP), had deemed as a priority and agenda for black women. I became more and more frustrated as I saw these women who represent the OBP’s agenda in black grassroots circles, gradually take over and push their way, center stage into this march. The vast majority of the black women who spoke didn’t utter a word about the rampant amount of victimization that black women suffer, as a result of black male violence against them, which happens on an hourly basis. They conveniently left out issues of rape, sexual molestation, sexual violence, child molestation, child support, familial neglect, abuse, domestic violence, neighborhood shootings, physical, emotional and psychological harm in relationships, female genital mutilation and rape in war torn areas of Africa as well as the abuse which occurs within male centered political and religious structures, grassroots and otherwise. All of these areas were omitted, along with all of the other oppressive types of situations that black women face as a result of the ongoing patriarchal oppression that exists within black communities around the world and on line. …

Women’s march and the selective memory of mainstream feminism by Paula Akpan

… And therein lies the problem for many people of colour: how does a black woman reconcile getting behind a women’s protest when 94 percent of black women went down to the polling stations and cast their lot with Clinton only to be thrown under the bus by a majority of white voters who could not see beyond their own interests to think, for one second, of the fear that a Trump presidency might invoke in people of colour, queer and LGBTQIA+ people, trans people and immigrants? What do you do when you’re expected to swallow your bitter disappointment and stand shoulder to shoulder with many feminists who only seem to stand up and make noise when they have a vested interest in the matter at hand? Like Mbakwe says, where were all these women when we lost Sandra Bland?

Some of the fundamental problems with the Washington march date back to months before it took place. Brittany T. Oliver, a women’s rights activist from Baltimore, voiced frustration with the Women’s March on Washington co-opting messaging from two prominent events of civil disobedience in black history: One Million Women, led by black women in response to feminists ignoring the experiences of people of colour in 1997, and the well-known March on Washington in 1963. Oliver states “politically co-opting efforts with “ALL WOMEN” and “ALL VOICES” is merely an attempt to erase the specific needs of people of African descent.” …

 

Buchi Emecheta, pioneering Nigerian novelist, dies aged 72

… Born in Lagos in 1944, Emecheta moved to England in 1960 with her husband Sylvester Onwordi, to whom she had been engaged from the age of 11. Her 1974 autobiographical novel Second Class Citizen described their unhappy and sometimes violent marriage, which included his burning manuscripts of her work. At the age of 22, Emecheta left her husband and worked to support herself and five children. During this time, she completed a sociology degree at the University of London and contributed a column to the New Statesman about black British life. The columns formed the basis of her 1972 book Into the Ditch.

Until 1978, she wrote while working as a community worker in Camden, north London, using her experience to inform her fiction. Her third novel, The Bride Price, was the first of many where she focused on the role of women in Nigerian society. Among her most famous works was The Joys of Motherhood, an account of bringing up children in the face of changing values in traditional Igbo communities. In 1976, her first play, A Kind of Marriage, was widely praised when it was screened on BBC TV. Ten years later, she adapted the play into a novel, in the same year in which she published her autobiography Head Above Water. …

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What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

First Class Racism by Jamelia

…On Thursday my daughter and I boarded a Train at London’s Euston station after I took part in a photoshoot. We’d had such a fun day together, and looked forward to our journey home. Tiani, my daughter, wanted the window seat, she scooted in and looked for the book she was currently reading as I readied myself to be seated too. As I took my place, a woman in her early 40’s approached me and in quite an accusatory tone asked me “Do you have a first class ticket?” I was genuinely confused at her question, why would I be sat in the 1st class carriage without one? I look at her, she isn’t dressed as if she works for the company, I glance around and it clicks…My daughter and I are the only black people in the carriage. I feel it’s necessary to give her the benefit of the doubt, and for clarity, I ask “why did you ask me that?” she leans in, and in a hushed tone, as if helping me out says “well i’ve just seen the conductor, and he wont let you travel in this carriage” again, I ask “why?” she replies “you need a 1st class ticket” At this point I feel her assumptions are crystal clear, i’m offended and my daughter’s face shows she has understood the rhetoric too. I feel this is a teachable moment, for both the woman in question and my daughter. …


Read more What We’re Reading: on white supremacy, racism and self-care

What we’re reading: on identity politics, the War on Drugs and Ivanka Trump

All politics is “identity politics” by @MayaGoodfellow
via @WritersofColour

… The idea underlying this link of thinking is that the left have for too long focused on minorities at the expense of the “majority” (read: straight, white people), pushing the latter into the arms of the far-right. This comes from the age-old assumption– that has by no means been expunged from the left – that white, straight men have no identity other than one based in class (if they’re working class).

But all politics is identity politics. Nigel Farage pledged during the referendum campaign to “take back control” – not just from EU bureaucrats but migrants who were repeatedly racialised as a threat to this country. His platform was rooted in the politics of whiteness (and importantly this is a form of politics that doesn’t always exclusively speak to white people). It can be hard for some to see how this is true because whiteness masks itself as natural. As academic Gloria Wekker has said, whiteness is “not seen as an ethnic positioning at all”. It is the default – the identity contains worth and humanity. That’s why the working class is so often treated as a homogenous group that’s exclusively white. …

Princesses Are Terrifying. So Is Ivanka Trump by Sady Doyle via @ElleMagazine

For those of us who overdosed on Disney princess memorabilia growing up, good news: Thanks to Donald Trump and his legion of terrifying yet well-coiffed children, Americans are now closer to living in a monarchy than we have been since 1776. And Ivanka Trump—blond, pretty, well-mannered, given massive amounts of power over the citizenry thanks to nothing but her genetic makeup—is the closest thing we’ll get to a princess. Which is how we’ll all get to find out: Princesses are terrifying.

It’s not clear yet what role Ivanka Trump will play in her father’s administration. What isclear is that she will have one. It was reported Wednesday that she would occupy the White House offices usually reserved for the first lady. (Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks pushed back on this report.) Ivanka was initially tapped to join Trump’s two oldest sons as part of his “blind trust”—assigned the role of keeping the $3 billion conflict of interest that is the Trump Organization alive while her father was off presidenting. And yet, almost immediately after Trump was elected, she began holding meetings with foreign heads of state and hunting for houses in D.C. In subsequent weeks, Ivanka’s name was floated for every position from “climate czar” (although she has no relevant expertise re: climate change) to first lady (although Trump is married) to, most ominously, “women’s rights”and/or child care policy: “If you look at Ivanka—she’s so strongly, as you know, into the women’s issues and childcare…. Nobody could do better than her,” Trump told Fox News last Sunday.

‘Impunity has consequences': the women lost to Mexico’s drug war by Nina Lakhani in Jalapa

Ten years ago this week, Mexico’s then-president Felipe Calderón deployed thousands of troops to fight against organized crime, at the start of what became an all-out war on drug trafficking which has raged ever since.

Since then, more than 100 of the country’s most wanted drug traffickers have been captured or killed. Billions of dollars have been spent, but the campaign has not ended the narcotics trade, or enforced the rule of law.

On the contrary, the decade-long war has had a devastating impact on the country’s social fabric: violent crimes perpetrated organised crime factions – and the security forces themselves – have spread amid almost total impunity.

The human cost has been catastrophic: about 200,000 people have been murdered and at least 28,000 “disappeared” since 2007. Abuses by security forces are widespread.

Most of the victims have been men, but women also have been tortured, trafficked and targeted for particular brutality, with almost total impunity.

Official records indicate almost 7,000 women and girls have disappeared since 2007. But activists say the reality is much worse. The government register of the missing includes 164 women from Veracruz, yet a local monitoring group has documented almost 500 cases of girls and women who have vanished in the past three years alone.  ….

On Optimism and Despair by Zadie Smith  via @nybooks

A talk given in Berlin on November 10 on receiving the 2016 Welt Literature Prize.

First I would like to acknowledge the absurdity of my position. Accepting a literary prize is perhaps always a little absurd, but in times like these not only the recipient but also the giver feels some sheepishness about the enterprise. But here we are. President Trump rises in the west, a united Europe drops below the horizon on the other side of the ocean—but here we still are, giving a literary prize, receiving one. So many more important things were rendered absurd by the events of November 8 that I hesitate to include my own writing in the list, and only mention it now because the most frequent question I’m asked about my work these days seems to me to have some bearing on the situation at hand.

The question is: “In your earlier novels you sounded so optimistic, but now your books are tinged with despair. Is this fair to say?” It is a question usually posed in a tone of sly eagerness—you will recognize this tone if you’ve ever heard a child ask permission to do something she has in fact already done.