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

Hedy Lamarr – Military Contractor, Inventor of Wifi, Hollywood Bombshell 1913-2000

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science
Originally published: 27.05.13

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Before the age of 20 Austrian Hedy Lamarr had left school, become a famous actress, married a Nazi arms manufacturer and become the first actress to simulate an orgasm on screen. Ten years later she defected to the side of allies where she invented and sold a communication technology to the US Navy that is still used by the entire US military to this day as well as in Wifi, GPS, Bluetooth and almost every single modern communication device.
Read more Hedy Lamarr – Military Contractor, Inventor of Wifi, Hollywood Bombshell 1913-2000

Angel of Harlem- Kuwana Haulsey

Cross-posted from: Les Reveries de Rowena
Originally published: 12.11.16

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“Sometimes Harlem would just do that, you understand. It would open up and reveal itself in a rigorous display of scents, various and commanding, floating its sounds around and above you, where they swirled generously, like autumn colours. In  a while, you couldn’t tell what was what, really, or where the sensations came from.”- Kuwana Haulsey, Angel of Harlem

This is one of the most beautifully-written books I’ve ever read. Inspired by true events, it’s the story of Dr. May Edward Chinn, the first black woman physician in Harlem (in the 1920s). While reading the story, it’s natural to be amazed by how tenacious people can be, especially marginalized women.  Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about hearing about the first person to do something, to gain some sort of achievement. Even now there are always firsts but it’s not until I read this book that I thought more deeply about what being the first black female doctor in Harlem entailed. Not only is she black, she’s also a woman, so the question that entered my mind was this: How do marginalized people, women in particular, continue on despite society telling them from all angles that they are not supposed to be there?

 


Read more Angel of Harlem- Kuwana Haulsey

Why I Want to #Read & Discover More #Welsh #BME #Writers

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 01.02.16

 

 

 

A while back, I attempted to compile a list of Welsh BME writers to read on Twitter. Since then, I’ve sat on this for months, thinking and then overthinking it; “is this necessary? Are you really going to be that person? How will people respond?” Yet every now and then, I’m reminded of this little project of mine, whether it is through the tense political climate, or the conversations I have with people.

I would firstly like to say that most publications etc. in Wales are very open to diverse and intersectional experiences in literatureParthian Books regularly publish books by diverse authors, while platforms such as Wales Arts Review regularly give voice to, and review books by diverse writers. Both are also platforms I contribute to and work with. Yet while this is the case, the Welsh BME voice in literature remains a quiet one. ‘Difficult’ is a euphemism for what has been my search for BME and intersectional experiences in Welsh books. Whether the problem is simply that Wales isn’t as diversely populated as London or other areas in England, or whether there is a lack of promoting and reaching out to writers from different backgrounds who are Welsh, I can’t say. 
Read more Why I Want to #Read & Discover More #Welsh #BME #Writers

Oromo women protest male violence under banner of goddess Atete

Cross-posted from: Suppressed Histories Archive
Originally published: 16.03.14

I found this article while searching for information about the Oromo goddess Atete on a scholarly database. Here the southern Ethiopian goddess hardly appears in her own right, most of the Oromo having (incompletely) converted to Islam or Christianity. Yet she has survived in women’s domain, especially in a ceremonial period around birth, known as Qanafa, which remains sacrosanct. The women fiercely defend this time sacred to Atete and, although they are abused at other times, militantly confront men who commit abuse during the Qanafa seclusion. Much of the information available about Atete revolves around these ritualized female protests rather than the actual rites of the goddess. 

Jeylan W. Hussein. “A Cultural Representation of Women in the Oromo Society.” African Study Monographs 25 (3), October 2004, pp 103-147 Online:

Oromo scholar Jeylan Hussein outlines the decline in women’s status in recent history, losses that have accelerated since conversions to Christianity (pushed by the dominant Amhara group) and Islam (embraced by many as a means of resisting these traditional enemies of the Oromo). He cites testimony of elders and historical records that indicate that women’s status was better in earlier times and that gender inequality hardened in the colonial era. [108-9]

It’s not that the old laws weren’t patriarchal. Oromo society was already patrilineal, with a harsh sexual double standard that stigmatized females and practiced boy-preference. Men who could afford it married several women, and senior wives ranked far above additional wives and concubines. Hussein analyzes numerous proverbs, showing how they describe women as inferior beings, as weak, fickle, irrational. They overwhelmingly depict women as men’s chattel. Several proverbs advocate beating wives, and compare them to donkeys and horses who could be tamed and beaten at will. As Hussein summarizes, Oromo sayings prescribe male mastery and female subordination. [121-28] 
Read more Oromo women protest male violence under banner of goddess Atete

15 Year Old Girl Invents No Battery Flashlight Powered by Heat from our Hands

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science
Originally published: 29.06.13


15 year old Ann Makosinsk from Victoria Canada has invented a flashlight that doesn’t need batteries and instead is powered by the warmth of our hands. She was researching alternative energy methods when she came across the Peltier tile, a tile which generates electricity when cool on one side and warm on the other. She did some calculations and discovered that the energy generated could be enough to power a flashlight. Ann did months of research on transformers and circuitry before coming up with a working prototype. She is a top 14 finalist at the Google Science Fair and is going onto the finals of the competition later this year. 
Read more 15 Year Old Girl Invents No Battery Flashlight Powered by Heat from our Hands

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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Whose story is it anyway? by @strifejournal

Cross-posted from: Trouble & Strife
Originally published: 09.08.16

The stewardship of feminism’s collective memory raises all kinds of ethical questions. Can our approach be based on trust alone?  Frankie Green shares some thoughts on feminism, archiving and accountability.

 

No need to hear your voice when I can talk about you better than you can speak about yourself. No need to hear your voice. Only tell me about your pain. I want to know your story. And then I will tell it back to you in a new way. Tell it back to you in such a way that it has become mine, my own. Re-writing you, I write myself anew. I am still author, authority. I am still the colonizer, the speaking subject, and you are now at the center of my talk (bell hooksYearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics).

The context in which bell hooks writes is very different from mine. Yet her words resonate strongly with me, illuminating some questions I want to explore here.

Archiving the history of the WLM is well-established, as we who experienced that era believe it crucial to ensure that our movement is not lost to history. The importance of taking this task seriously has been elucidated by Jalna Hanmer, and many have worked tirelessly on collecting and cataloguing information, making it available to new generations of activists, students and historians. Our collections provide insights into the aims, achievements and processes of the movement and show how it was sustained at grassroots level by thousands of women – many of whom did not become well-known, since they never attracted the attention of the mainstream media.
Read more Whose story is it anyway? by @strifejournal

The Women’s March Washington: The Speeches by Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Angela Davis’s Women’s March Speech via @ElleMagazine

“At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans-people, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.

“We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.

“The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.” …

Here’s the Full Transcript Of Gloria Steinem’s Historic Women’s March Speech  via @MarieClaire

“Friends, sisters and brothers, all of you who are before me today and in 370 marches in every state in this country and on six continents and those who will be communing with us in one at 1 [p.m.] in a silent minute for equality in offices, in kitchens, in factories, in prisons, all over the world. I thank each of you, and I especially want to thank the hardworking visionary organizers of this women-led, inclusive march, one of whom managed to give birth while she was organizing this march. Who else can say that?

Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams.

I think that because I and my beloved co-chairs, the Golden oldies right?–Harry Belafonte, Dolores Huerta, LaDonna Harris–all these great people, we may be the oldest marchers here today, so I’ve been thinking about the uses of a long life, and one of them is you remember when things were worse. …

Charlotte Bronte did NOT repair her mourning shoes with her dead sister’s hair!

Cross-posted from: Katharine Edgar
Originally published: 09.12.16

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A lie can travel halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on. Or, in this case, a contemporary artwork shared by a witty but mistaken tweeter can lead to a myth taking root worldwide, with over 16,000 retweets and nearly 30,000 Twitter likes in a few days. That’s a lot of people who now think this is true and that Charlotte Bronte really did go for muddy walks in her black silk mourning slippers and then fix them with Emily’s hair, not forgetting to embroider little sprigs of heather on the insoles.
Read more Charlotte Bronte did NOT repair her mourning shoes with her dead sister’s hair!

A Siege of Herons and a Winter Forest: Carols, Poems and Stories for Christmas by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Books
Originally published: 22.12.15

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When I emptied out my desk in search of Christmas cards, I realised I’d been stockpiling quite a bit. Wrapping paper with yew and ivy and Christmas berries on it; stocks of illuminated manuscripts; multiple versions of deer in winter (I understand you can buy a Primark Christmas jumper with queer deer now, too); lots of birds sitting in amongst the illuminated branches and Christmas greenery. I’ve got birds on the tree, too, and my housemate made a wreath with mistletoe, holly and fir cones from Cambridge Botanic gardens (she works there). And I’ve been cutting back the laurel and ivy hedges in the back garden so I’ve got a mug full of ivy berries.

IMG_3428 It’s all traditional Christmas imagery – the outside brought inside; the reminders of winter forests. But for medieval people, Christmas was not just a mid-winter festival; it was also the culmination of the fasting season of Advent and the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the traditional time for Christmas games and feasting and also for hunting the animals to provide the Christmas food. The religious festival itself had a plangent and brooding undertone, which you can see from carols such as the mournful Coventry Carol, the austere, foreboding and triumphal ‘Out of Your Sleep/Arise and Wake’ and ‘Adam Lay Y-Bounden’, with their glances out from Christ’s nativity to the Harrowing of Hell it foreshadows. These carols shift our attention, from the expected centrality of Christ’s nativity, to focus on the narratives that run alongside, and outside, this one.
Read more A Siege of Herons and a Winter Forest: Carols, Poems and Stories for Christmas by @LucyAllenFWR

Even after death

Cross-posted from: Abigail Rieley
Originally published: 03.11.16

I’ve often written about the case of William Burke Kirwan on this blog. His was the case that caused me to pursue a different path in life. Since 2010 I’ve been researching his murder of his wife and it’s lead me back to university and in directions I never dreamed of and there’s plenty more to do. So at this stage I’m a little bit proprietorial. My friends know this about me and tend to point out interesting nuggets about the case they stumble upon. In Dublin, after all, it’s a very well know case indeed. You can still argue about it if you take the boat out to Ireland’s Eye from Howth.

So when the Irish Times featured the case as part of their series of stories from their archives, quite a few Irish friends sent me the link and asked me what I thought. Now I’ll say again that this is a case that is very special to me so I’m apt to be a touch judgemental but in this case the article in question raised my hackles both as a historical scholar and as a court reporter. 
Read more Even after death

Andrea Dworkin – Behind the Myth by @Finn_Mackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay
Originally published: 01.09.15

Andrea Dworkin was, and remains, a Feminist legend. It is too bad that what most people know about her is nothing more than anti-feminist myth.

I first met Andrea in Brighton in 1996, at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women’s Citizenship. I was then lucky enough to meet her on two other occasions, including several conversations that I will treasure. I will never forget listening to her keynote speech in that hall in Brighton, amongst rows and rows of over one thousand women, all mesmerised by the honesty and strength of Andrea’s testimony. I will never forget the passion with which she spoke and the clear, steely determination behind her low, slow, measured and husky tones. She did not mince those words; a lot of her speeches are visceral, they reference the physical suffering of abused women and children, they reference the legacy that scars the bodies of those in prostitution and pornography. 
Read more Andrea Dworkin – Behind the Myth by @Finn_Mackay

Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years – a review at Americas Studies

Cross-posted from: Americas Studies
Originally published: 14.03.14

I first saw Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years (2012) when it was screened at the FWSA Biennial Conference in June 2013 at the University of Nottingham. The film focuses on the time the African American, feminist, lesbian, warrior, poet, Audre Lorde spent travelling back and forth to Berlin between 1984 and 1992, and her influence on the Afro-German community.


Read more Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years – a review at Americas Studies

Black History Month An Introduction to Welsh Writers by @Durre_Shahwar.

Cross-posted from: Durre Shahwar
Originally published: 16.10.16

To celebrate Black History Month Wales, I compiled a non-exhaustive list of black writers with strong connection to Wales, who should be celebrated and known about for their work and achievements. The article, published on Wales Arts Review, features brief bios and recommendations to the works of the following writers: Leonora Brito, Professor Charlotte Williams OBE, Patience Agbabi, Eric Ngalle Charles, and Bevin Magama.

Seeing as the list was non conclusive, people have been suggesting more writers such as Maggie HarrisTony Wright (playwright), and Catherine Johnson. It’s really good to see that happening, as that was partly the reason for writing the article; to instigate conversation about other BAME writers living in or strongly connected to Wales, which has then has an impact on their writing in some way. 
Read more Black History Month An Introduction to Welsh Writers by @Durre_Shahwar.

Fifty Images at 50 – Day 1.01 by @skybluepink

Cross-posted from: Sky Blog Pink
Originally published: 22.11.16

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Read more Fifty Images at 50 – Day 1.01 by @skybluepink

Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – a review at Mairi Voice

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 21.09.16

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“Most important the figure of the witch…in this volume is placed at the center-stage, as the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy; the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeha woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” (p.1)

 

 

 

 

I have just finished reading this fascinating and excellent work.

I am avid enthusiast of the need for the reclaiming of women’s history and the necessity to document and learn about women’s past roles in our history. So it was with excitement that I came across this important work.

Federici gave me an interesting perspective on women’s history as she claims that it is not just about reclaiming women’s hidden history but understanding how women are often at the centre of historical events but their role has been diminished by historical accounts.
Read more Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – a review at Mairi Voice

APPROACHING WITCHCRAFT AS A RECOVERING ATHEIST

Cross-posted from: Sian Ferguson
Originally published: 03.10.16

A more spiritual person might have believed I picked up the book because of some kind of higher purpose, but at the time, I thought I was merely attracted by the color: a pale lilac that spelt the word ‘Wicca’ in a simple font on the book’s spine.

A year ago, I stood in that bookstore debating whether I should buy the book or not. I didn’t know then that my choice in buying that book — and more importantly, reading it — would lead me to where I am today.

Wicca wasn’t something that usually appealed to me. At the time, I was a hardcore atheist. While I tolerated religious beliefs, I found myself quite incapable of placing faith in a higher power.

I wasn’t always an atheist. I was raised in a family that was partly Christian and partly Muslim. My childhood seldom involved church, but was filled with family members invoking biblical verses and prayer in times of need. Uncomfortable with this contradiction, and influenced by my school friends, I began attending church and Bible study groups regularly at the age of 14. 
Read more APPROACHING WITCHCRAFT AS A RECOVERING ATHEIST

Elizabeth Macarthur’s Quilt at the National Gallery of Victoria

Cross-posted from: Adventures in Biography
Originally published: 30.08.16

The gallery had sold out of the glossy, colour catalogue for Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 by the time I saw the exhibition last week. But I had a terrific chat with the young woman serving at the museum shop while I placed an order to have the catalogue mailed out (at a discounted rate, no less).

“Isn’t it interesting,” she said, “how contemporary some of those quilt designs are. It’s amazing to think they predated modernism by decades.  But not acknowledged, of course.” She gave me a gorgeous, wry smile. “Why would women’s sewing be acknowledged as art?”

Making the Australian Quilt: 1800–1950 is a wonderful and important exhibition now showing at NGV Australia (the gallery at Federation Square, in the heart of Melbourne). Over eighty works are on display – mainly quilts and bedcovers – and they are variously beautiful, historically significant, poignant, charming and fascinating. Intricate quilts stitched by convict women en route to Australia. Depression-era blankets (called waggas) made in desperation from scrounged bits and pieces. Delicate embroidery commemorating the jubilee of Queen Victoria. 
Read more Elizabeth Macarthur’s Quilt at the National Gallery of Victoria