A Brief History of the Speculum, at Femme Vision

Cross-posted from: Femme Vision
Originally published: 23.03.17

L0035255 Speculum auris, made by John Weiss, 1831

The above image, dating from 1831, is a diagram of a vaginal speculum designed and manufactured by John Weiss, a well-known maker of surgical instruments in London in the 18th and 19th centuries. The company in fact still operates to this day. Intended for direct vision of the cervix via the vagina, the first vaginal specula were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans.[1] However, the invention of the ‘modern’ speculum that is familiar to us today is largely credited to the American James Marion Sims, a well-known gynaecologist in the 19th century.


Read more A Brief History of the Speculum, at Femme Vision

‘A Petrol Scented Spring’

Cross-posted from: J-Mo Writes
Originally published: 02.02.18

A Petrol Scented Spring by Ajay Close

https://madamjmo.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/a-petrol-scented-spring.html

 

Wow! This book has been sitting on my To Be Read pile for well over a year. Thankfully, something made me finally pick it up to take on a succession of long train journeys at the weekend and I am now a) kicking myself for not having read it sooner and b) praising myself for picking such an absorbing and compelling and wonderful book to accompany me on my travels.

A Petrol Scented Spring by the Scottish author Ajay Close came to my attention via nothing more exotic than my periodic online search for novels about the suffrage movement. But this is far from your bog-standard suffrage novel; this is something quite, quite different.

Set in Perth, Scotland, we are offered a rare glimpse of suffrage life north of the border, which is a welcome change from the majority of novels that are London-centric. As such, the real-life characters who Ajay has used as the basis for many of her characters in the meticulously well-researched A Petrol Scented Spring are not ones I had previously known of, but have now becomes ones I want to know more about.
Read more ‘A Petrol Scented Spring’

Chroicles of Iris Bean-The Convent

Cross-posted from: The Daly Woolf
Originally published: 30.07.17

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After three professional careers, two advanced degrees,one ex-husband, four carefully chosen lovers, participation in eleven national and international astrological anarchological workshops, a random audit by the IRS which gifted Iris the  freedom from burdensome possession of furniture and property, and three lengthy stays at a dude ranch, a cloistered convent, and remote yoga ashram, Iris Bean was now, finally, calling herself a writer.

Iris always knew in her bones that she was a writer, an artist, a true misfit; but it wasn’t an easy identity to embrace coming from Iowa; from a tenacious family of railroaders, stenographers, cooks, bankers, seamstresses, boozers, and stock car drivers.  Encouraged to be a mail carrier or a dental hygienist or a cook or nothing at all, Iris took refuge from the family legacy when she turned 18 and went to live at a convent with Benedictine nuns in Mission, Kansas. 
Read more Chroicles of Iris Bean-The Convent

THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING IS MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER, by @histoftech

Cross-posted from: White Heat
Originally published: 11.08.17

I recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post using history to debunk the infamous “Google Memo” and its contention that women are somehow less innately suited to technical pursuits. Truth is, for a long time women were predominant in the field of computing because technical work wasn’t seen as important. Their disappearance has everything to do with structural discrimination and little to do with “innate” differences.

I was also very glad to get a few mentions in The Guardian. See this (delightfully acerbic) article about memogate in general, and this one that’s specifically about the history of computing’s role in helping us better understand power and (the lack of) diversity in our technological landscape in the present.


Read more THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING IS MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER, by @histoftech

The stories that get left out

Cross-posted from: Adventures in Biography
Originally published: 04.12.17

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 10.02.34What should biographers do with all the wonderful stories – or snippets – they discover along the way but can’t include in their books?

Many biographers do, of course, include them. But readers often don’t like it – for example wonderful reviewer Whispering Gums recently discussed a biography she enjoyed, but felt contained too much extraneous detail. And, I’ll confess, as a reader I feel the same way. I just want to read about the biographical subject, please.

But as a writer? Of course I want to include all the details! Because I’m assuming the reader is every bit as obsessed by the subject as I am – which is, tragically but patently, untrue. All those extra details, every little meandering away from the main subject, are crucial to the writer’s understanding but frankly unnecessary to the reader’s.


Read more The stories that get left out

Top Ten Most Read Articles of 2017

How do they know who to kill?, by @marstrina  

“However. Here’s what I think anyone pushing the “sex is a social construct and therefore it is up to me to decide if my reproductive organs are male or female” has an absolute moral duty to account for: if sex is not a “real” and meaningful political or economic category, on what basis did the parents of the hundreds of millions of women and girls lost to femicide know who to kill? This is not state mandated, low-resolution social engineering: each individual family, each individual father, and sometimes mother, has made a decision to abort this baby, but not that baby. Each individual village midwife or grandmother or mother in law in a village somewhere has decided to take this child and leave them by the side of the road to die, but not that child. These people are not scientists and they are certainly not feminists. They didn’t get their decisions out of a Janice Raymond book, so give me a fucking break, use your educated-beyond-its-capability brain for a second and think about it: if sex doesn’t really exist, how do they know who to kill?”

 

The Thing about Toilets, at Not the News in Brief 

“The thing about toilets is that it’s not just about toilets. It’s about ALL the public spaces which could present a risk to women and/or children because of factors such as confined space, being locked in, restricted escape routes and being either explicitly or potentially in a state of partial/complete undress. These spaces include public toilets (no, not your private one at home, stupid), changing rooms in shops, gymns, leisure centres etc, prisons, rape crisis centres, dormitories, shelters and more.”

 

The Problem That Has No Name because “Woman” is too Essentialist.  by @ClaireShrugged

Screenshot_20170315-144208“…what’s a shorter non-essentialist way to refer to ‘people who have a uterus and all that stuff’?” In many ways, Laurie Penny’s quest to find a term describing biologically female people without ever actually using the word woman typifies the greatest challenge within ongoing feminist discourse. The tension between women acknowledging and erasing the role of biology in structural analysis of our oppression has developed into a fault line (MacKay, 2015) within the feminist movement. Contradictions arise when feminists simultaneously attempt to address how women’s biology shapes our oppression under patriarchal society whilst denying that our oppression is material in basis. At points, rigorous structural analysis and inclusivity make uneasy bedfellows.”

 

‘Men, shut up for your rights!’, by @wordspinster

“If you haven’t spent the last decade living on another planet, I’m sure you will recognise the following sequence of events:

A powerful man says something egregiously sexist, either in a public forum or in a private conversation which is subsequently leaked.

There is an outpouring of indignation on social media.

The mainstream media take up the story and the criticism gets amplified.

The powerful man announces that he is stepping down.

His critics claim this as a victory and the media move on—until another powerful man says another egregiously sexist thing, at which point the cycle begins again.

The most recent high-profile target for this ritual shaming was David Bonderman, a billionaire venture capitalist and member of Uber’s board of directors. It’s no secret that Uber has a serious sexism problem. Following a number of discrimination and harassment claims from former employees, the company commissioned what turned out to be a damning report on its corporate culture. At a meeting called to discuss the report, Arianna Huffington (who at the time was Uber’s only female director) cited research which suggested that putting one woman on a board increased the likelihood that more women would join. At which point Bonderman interjected: ‘actually what it shows is that it’s likely to be more talking’.

 

Include me out. How ‘inclusion’ is killing feminism, by Sister Hex 

“The problem with this modern obsession for ‘inclusion’, especially for university societies, is that it’s not only killing the soul of feminism or lesbian/gay rights but it’s basically devoid of any common sense.

The reason we’ve always had separation in activism has never been particularly about exclusion specifically, but for reasons of focus, empowerment, allowing an oppressed voice space to speak and sharing experience. This, in turn, lead to clear analysis and particular campaigning. Separation in activism is both common and successful and has been used in anything from civil to gay rights.”

The Misogyny Of Modern Feminism, by @GappyTales ‏ 

… At the root of women’s oppression lies an unassailable biological reality. Women are denied reproductive rights, paid less than men for doing the same job, and carry out the vast bulk of unpaid labour in the home, for no other reason than we are biologically female. As a woman I don’t get to opt out of this reality. I don’t, for instance, get to say to my employer that today I’m identifying as male so will be expecting a pay rise commensurate with that fact. Gender on the other hand is imposed and performative, so I can present as feminine in make up and heels, or I can choose to shave my head and wear masculine clothing. Either way my biology and the discrimination I suffer as a result of it remains a fact, not a privilege. …”

The Sex Delusion by @GappyTales 

“We live in an age of alternative facts.

And so this article will begin with the premise that there are knowable truths, separate from our personal perspectives and belief systems. Water is wet, for example. Whether on the left or right of the political spectrum, water is never dry. With this in mind, here are some long agreed upon and universally recognised word definitions: 

1. Woman: An adult human female.

2. Female: Of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilised by male gametes.

3. Gender: The state of being male or female, especially as differentiated by social and cultural roles and behaviour.

So a knowable truth gleaned from these definitions would be that sex is a biological reality, and gender a more malleable social construct. Let’s consider then, the medical condition of gender dysphoria, experienced by individuals as a distressing mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. Let’s imagine it on a spectrum. How many people do we know with no mismatch at all between their biological sex and the stereotypically gendered traits and behaviours associated with it? The truth is very few humans fit perfectly into pink and blue boxes meaning, surely, that we can dispense with any ideas of an existing gender binary. ”

 

Dress Rules for Women over 40 by @JumpMag   

“Another summer, another list of rules for women on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From the ‘how to get a bikini body’ articles (top tip – buy a bikini, put it on your body, done!) to this incredibly stupid list of rules for women over 40 years.

Here are my dress rules for women over 40.”

Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice 

Maria Mies:   Patriarchy and the Accumulation on a World Scale

This book provides a most important analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Maria Mies’ thesis is that patriarchy is at the core of capitalism, and in fact, capitalism would not have had its success in its accumulation of capital without patriarchal ideals and practices.

She builds on Federici’s analysis of the witch hunts, which were instrumental in the early developments of capitalism and argues, convincingly and in-depth, that the exploitation and oppression of women allowed for its successful domination of the world.  …

A brief history of ‘gender’ by @wordspinster 

Screen Shot 2017-01-22 at 11.48.11

In New York City in 1999, I heard a talk in which Riki Anne Wilchins (self-styled ‘transexual menace’, and described in the Gender Variance Who’s Who as ‘one of the iconic transgender persons of the 1990s’) declared that feminists had no theory of gender. I thought: ‘what is she talking about? Surely feminists invented the concept of gender!’

Fast forward ten years to 2009, when I went to a bookfair in Edinburgh to speak about The Trouble & Strife Reader, a collection of writing from a feminist magazine I’d been involved with since the 1980s. Afterwards, two young women came up to chat. Interesting book, they said, but why is there nothing in it about gender? …

 

A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging- Dionne Brand

Cross-posted from: Les Reveries de Rowena
Originally published: 23.10.16

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I have not visited the Door of No Return, but by relying on random shards of history and unwritten memoir of descendants of those who passed through it, including me, I am constructing a map of the region, paying attention to faces, to the unknowable, to unintended acts of returning, to impressions of doorways. Any act of recollection is important, even looks of dismay and discomfort. Any wisp of a dream is evidence.- Dionne Brand, A Journey to the Door of No Return

There’s a short list of books that I’d say have recently changed my worldview and how I view things. This is one of them. From my research into the black diaspora through literature, art, and stories, etc, I always marvel at is what was saved and what was lost. This book goes a lot into what was lost and I read it from a personal place, identifying strongly with many of its themes.

The main premise of this book is the Door of No Return in the Black diaspora. The door in the book’s title is defined as “a place, real, imaginary and imagined…The door out of which Africans were captured, loaded onto ships heading for the New World. It was the door of a million exits multiplied. It is a door many of us wish never existed.”  I think I’m fortunate to know where my “door” is; but for others in the diaspora this relationship is much more fraught with confusion. Because The Door is not an imagining for me,  I initially felt that the book was more suited to North American and Caribbean Black people who might not know their origins, but the more I read the more I saw that oppression was universal and the Diaspora has a strong connection: 
Read more A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging- Dionne Brand

MichFest: One Year Ago, by @smashesthep

Cross-posted from: Smash the P: Women's Liberationist
Originally published: 02.08.16

One year ago, I arrived at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for the first time after hearing about it for years. It was an amazing experience and it changed me forever.

At the time, I wrote about my experiences, but since they were so personal I shared them in bite sized pieces on tumblr, feeling that I wasn’t ready for them to be exposed to a wider audience and all together.

On this important anniversary, and the first year without a MichFest, I have decided to share them here. Many women are grieving this loss for what it is. But there is hope. Womyn are creative, innovative, and powerful. Amazons get shit done. This is not the last time we will gather.

Here are my words from last year, interspersed with some photos for you all.

Arriving at MichFest: Challenges and Gratitude

outside michfest

 


Read more MichFest: One Year Ago, by @smashesthep

Academia and Class Politics, by @RevoltingWoman

Cross-posted from: Opinionated Planet
Originally published: 07.08.17

I’ve not felt this working class in a long time. For working class, read inferior/not up to standard/not our sort – delete as applicable.
Applying for a funded PhD is a fairly painful process at the best of times. Even applying for one that you self-fund is a trial. But without your own secret stash of cash, it can be a valuable lesson in class politics.

Class politics. You know, the social class system that doesn’t exist anymore because the Tories got rid of it and made us all equal? Or maybe it was New Labour. I forget now. I was probably cleaning toilets or doing some woman’s ironing for a shilling or something working class like that at the time. Busy making myself equal.

Anyway, why should applying for a PhD have anything to do with class politics I hear you ask.

Mek a brew, duck, an ah’ll tell ya..
Read more Academia and Class Politics, by @RevoltingWoman

Awesome Women Who Disguised Themselves as Men to Follow their Dreams, by @MogPlus at @JumpMag

Cross-posted from: Jump Mag

Throughout history girls and women have been told, ‘You can’t do that! You are a girl!’ Luckily, this attitude is becoming less common in many countries and cultures, but what did women do in the past? If they wanted to be a doctor, a musician, a sportsperson or even a soldier?

Most women put aside their dreams or practised other activities that were deemed appropriate for women. Some women protested, like the suffragettes who demanded to be allowed to vote. And a small number of women went much further. Today we are taking a look at the women who disguised themselves as men in order to follow their dreams.


Read more Awesome Women Who Disguised Themselves as Men to Follow their Dreams, by @MogPlus at @JumpMag

Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 19.03.17

Maria Mies:   Patriarchy and the Accumulation on a World Scale

This book provides a most important analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Maria Mies’ thesis is that patriarchy is at the core of capitalism, and in fact, capitalism would not have had its success in its accumulation of capital without patriarchal ideals and practices.

She builds on Federici’s analysis of the witch hunts, which were instrumental in the early developments of capitalism and argues, convincingly and in-depth, that the exploitation and oppression of women allowed for its successful domination of the world.  
Read more Colonialism and Housewifization – Patriarchy and Capitalism at Mairi Voice

The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery by Les Reveries de Rowena

Cross-posted from: The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery by Les Reveries de Rowena
Originally published: 22.11.16

9780770422349-us-300“Valancy had lived spiritually in the Blue Castle ever since she could remember. She had been a very tiny child when she found herself possessed of it. Always, when she shut her eyes, she could see it plainly, with its turrets and banners on the pine-clad mountain height, wrapped in its faint, blue loveliness, against the sunset skies of a fair and unknown land. Everything wonderful and beautiful was in that castle. Jewels that queens might have worn; robes of moonlight and fire; couches of roses and gold; long flights of shallow marble steps, with great, white urns, and with slender, mist-clad maidens going up and down them; courts, marble-pillared, where shimmering fountains fell and nightingales sang among the myrtles; halls of mirrors that reflected only handsome knights and lovely women–herself the loveliest of all, for whose glance men died. All that supported her through the boredom of her days was the hope of going on a dream spree at night. Most, if not all, of the Stirlings would have died of horror if they had known half the things Valancy did in her Blue Castle.”- Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Blue Castle

This is the sort of book that makes me so glad to be a reader. Montgomery is an EXTREMELY talented and beautiful writer. Recently I’ve been finding myself wanting to read more of her work because it’s honestly like a balm. There’s  a feeling I would get very often as a child when I was discovering the world of literature and everything was fresh and new; it’s a feeling  that as an adult I rarely get close to reliving, but in this book I did see some glimmers of it.
Read more The Blue Castle- L. M. Montgomery by Les Reveries de Rowena

Neutral Buoyancy at erringness in perfection class

Cross-posted from: erringness in perfection class
Originally published: 09.04.17

At fifteen, I started taking courses at the local community college full-time through Running Start—Washington state’s dual enrollment program. Except for my penultimate quarter, when only a 6:30 am Composition II had space, I would usually arrive on campus hours early because I would come straight after swim team practice or else get a ride with my dad who would catch his bus into the city from the park and ride next door. I spent those mornings in the library, building my first website on GeoCities and reading through the back issues of literary journals. I can still smell their cardboard file boxes.
Read more Neutral Buoyancy at erringness in perfection class

Forensic Feminist at The Daly Woolf

Cross-posted from: The Daly Woolf
Originally published: 23.11.15

100_6648I’m all about seeing and feeling deep into things and people, including myself. I’m wired for hardcore truth seeking and truth speaking.  I’ve finally, after a few decades of peregrination and beating around the bush, settled on an identity; that thing or things I tell people about what I do, but most importantly, who “I Am.”

It took longer than the usual amount of time considered acceptable (in the testosteronic value system) to find the verbs because I had to go in search of them, and it was through the doing and the feelings that accompanied the doing that I was finally able to settle on my Verbs of Being. You see, for me, I just couldn’t take on the prescription identity of the dispensers of the shrink wrap: teacher, nurse, mail carrier, therapist, dog groomer, dental hygienist, doctor, lawyer, etc.  Those are fine nouns of  identity if that is who you are and what are here to do, but, try as I might, I couldn’t recoil my outrage and suck in my girth to fit into the pencil skirt or the scrubs. With all due respect to that dying system of misplaced value, I was in search of the Verbs that served the Nouns.  And I came to realize that I don’t think we really fully know what our Verbs are until much later in life, in spite of what the motivational speakers and career coaches will have you believe. It’s the journey that reveals the secrets.
Read more Forensic Feminist at The Daly Woolf

Broken Window by @carregonnen

Cross-posted from: Carregonnen
Originally published: 23.04.16

High up on the landing

there’s a little window

for no reason at all

It’s too small to let light into the hall

and I rarely notice it

 

But today I did because it was broken

I allowed a few reasons

through my head

But none of them led to a plausible answer

so I gave up

 

I might never know whether

it was a misguided bird

one of the boys who play out there on skateboards

throwing a stone or other missile

or an air pistol aimed at the bird

But it’s broken

 

There are problems

fixing it will be expensive

and I have no money

so it stays broken

letting in sound

letting heat escape

What if it falls out or in and

I lie in bed and worry about storms and high winds

at three o’clock in the morning

the broken window metamorphoses

into the Whole of Life

A small broken window is now

Money problems

Heating and noise problems

Small cracks may become bigger and shatter completely

My life will be broken

An insignificant useless window sums up my life

and I cry at the smallness and futility of it all

 

It is now five in the morning

and I pull myself together

I am in awe of the power of three o’clock in the morning anxiety and

step-by-step apocalyptic imaginings

 

CarregonnenI do life writing in poetry and prose about child abuse and mental health – politically I am a radical feminist.

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. …

Elizabeth Macarthur died today at Adventures in Biography

Cross-posted from: Adventures in Biography
Originally published: 29.01.17

Elizabeth Macarthur in old age. Source: http://blogs.hht.net.au/cook/happy-birthday-elizabeth-macarthur/

Not actually today, obviously.

Elizabeth Macarthur the woman died almost 167 years ago, on 9 February 1850. She was eighty-three years old.

But today I wrote the paragraph in which Elizabeth dies, the final paragraph of the book really, and I felt strangely sad.

It’s been my job to make her come to life on the page and I’ve been working to do so for more years than I care to admit. Yet there she was, having a stroke and quietly dying at Watson’s Bay in the company of Emmeline, her youngest daughter and Dr Anderson, a long-time family friend. It was sad and I hope I can make my readers feel that same soft pang.

The other part of my sadness, though, was less easy to articulate.

For months I’ve been looking forward to reaching this point: to be able to write “and then she died. The End.” Which is not what I actually wrote, of course, but you see my point. It is The End. The end of the research (almost), the end of the first draft, the end of laying down the facts of Elizabeth’s long and interesting life.  Did you know that Ludwig Leichhardt called in to Elizabeth Farm for a visit? That Charles Darwin, when he visited Sydney as a young man, dined with Elizabeth’s nephew and his family? That Matthew Flinders was a personal friend?

It’s not as if the book is anywhere near finished. I still want to write an afterword that provides a brief overview of what happened to each of Elizabeth’s surviving children, and their descendants. I still need to work back through all the comments I’ve inserted along the way, little notes to myself saying [check this fact] or [insert some words here about X and Y] or [needs a chapter break here – revise]. I still definitely need to revise and rewrite and revise some more to ensure the whole thing flows with vigour and verve. And the footnotes – OMG the footnotes – have to be checked and consolidated and made consistent and turned into endnotes and a bibliography. What else? Oh yes, then I have to source the relevant maps and images of Elizabeth and her family and their homes (and obtaining the copyright permissions is entirely my responsibility).

Then, after all that, it goes to my editor at Text who will no doubt tell me it’s unpublishable, to try harder and to rewrite the whole thing.

So writing the paragraph where Elizabeth dies was going to be, I thought, a positive milestone. An important hurdle after which I’d find myself sort of in the home stretch. And it was – is – both positive and important.

But also sad.

Up until today I was sure I would feel relieved to finish this book.  But, even though I’m not finished yet, I’m no longer quite so sure.

 

Adventures in Biography : I have a young family and a demanding day job but in my spare time (!) I’m working on a biography of one of Australia’s first white colonists: Elizabeth MacArthur. So far in the course of working on the manuscript I’ve met some wonderful people and travelled to some amazing places. I thought it was about time to share the wonder and my amazement.

Owen Jones, Privilege, Revisionism and Contemporary Bandwagons.

Cross-posted from: Shack Diaries
Originally published: 19.02.15

This week, online, has all been about a letter against no-platforming and in support of free speech. Though the letter did not state any particular viewpoint other than this, of those who signed (men, women, transwomen), many were then subjected to a barrage of harassment, abuse and even death threats. Some who signed stated they had been reduced to tears and their thoughts turned to permanently keeping quiet…..

So welcome to the reality of speaking out. This sort of wrath and punishment is all too familiar to gender critical feminists. In fact silencing has been a weapon used against all women including feminists for centuries – but now silencing is becoming real. It can touch anyone…… 
Read more Owen Jones, Privilege, Revisionism and Contemporary Bandwagons.

Dykes, old maids and the summer of 66

Cross-posted from: Language - A Feminist Guide
Originally published: 14.08.16

This summer, British television has been reliving the glory days of 1966, when London was swinging and England’s footballers won the World Cup. My own memories of the year are rather less glorious. 1966 was the year when I turned eight; it was also the year when I first heard the word ‘dyke’.

It happened when I was eavesdropping on a conversation between my parents (a bad habit I developed at an early age). My father used the phrase ‘those dykes’ in a passing reference to two women who lived in the posher part of the village. I knew who he meant: they weren’t part of my parents’ social circle, but the village was the sort of place where everyone knew everyone by sight. But I had no idea why he called them ‘dykes’. When I asked my mother later, she said: ‘he just meant they’re old maids: they live together because they never got married’. 
Read more Dykes, old maids and the summer of 66

Why I love Philippa Gregory by @sianushka

Originally published: 08.02.11
Philippa Gregory and her strong, doomed women

I have a secret which is about to be revealed. Despite my bookshelf being crammed with Blake, Woolf, Eliot and Dostoyevsky, I absolutely love romantic historical fiction. The fatter the book and the glossier the cover the better. And most of all I love my recently discovered Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels.

Gregory is first and foremost a really good writer. She has a deft use of language and a density of description that means she fully recreates the world of the Tudor courts she writes about, the smells, the colours, the landscapes, the houses and the costumes. Reading her novels, she puts you right there, timid behind the throne, absorbing the action. Secondly, she has a brilliant way with characterisation, particularly in my mind of her female characters. They leap out of the page, alive and strong and passionate, often angry and often sensual. They are full characters who invite your love, hate, distaste and admiration. And thirdly, her books are well researched, from the details of the colour of the gown Mary Boleyn wore at a gala, to the complex hatreds and schemings of Jane Boleyn and Thomas Howard.


Read more Why I love Philippa Gregory by @sianushka