Cambridge Reclaim the Night 2012 – this Friday 11 May

Hello FAC people! This friday is reclaim the night cambridge and we are
hoping to have a large party of awesome FAC peeps to represent cambridge
town feminists and march up a storm- remember this isnt just a march for
students! we already have quite a few FAC people going so far [judging by
the facebook group] and this would be a great opportunity to meet others in
FAC who you dont yet know! Bring any noise makers flags or banners you can make/lay your hands on.
To connect with other FAC members and arrange to march together keep track
of the facebook, or if you arent into facebook email me back [i will defo be
going] and we can arrange to meet at the start of the march.

here are the details…

Date: Friday 11 May
Time: 8.15pm
Where: Parker’s Piece

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A feminist reading of the French presidential election

On Sunday, May 6th Francois Hollande, the candidate of the French Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party), was elected President of the French Republic. An article by Alexandra Topping entitled “Vive la Femme?” published on the 8th of May in the Guardian asks whether Hollande is “the first feminist president of France?” If I agree on the necessity of a feminist reading of the election, I think this article is problematic in many aspects, for a large part because of a lack of information on French politics (especially feminismwise). It is partly understandable (the journalist mainly repeats what mainstream media says) and partly problematic (the journalist mainly repeats what mainstream media says). Here are my 4 critical points on the article and the election, as a French feminist woman. All the translations are mine; all the italics are French. I apologise for the fact that most of my links are in French.

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Why Don’t Women Identify as Oppressed? @ PinkVox

Whatever we do, it’s wrong – so let’s do it right

When I told a friend that I was going to write an article about the fact that “whatever we do, it’s wrong”, we realized after a few minutes of slightly chaotic dialogue that we didn’t mean the same thing. I meant that whatever a woman does with her sexuality, she is judged and criticized for it. And my friend thought that I meant that whatever, as feminists, we do, it’s never completely right and satisfactory, because it’s never truly intersectional.

I first thought it was a misunderstanding, and we moved on. Then I thought that it was a meaningful misunderstanding, and that I had to take it into account as such: as a sign from the god that doesn’t exist (or from my friend) that my politics are not intersectional enough. And now I think that even though I didn’t think so when it happened, my friend and I were talking about the same thing. Or rather, I should have considered that we were talking about the same thing even though I didn’t. Because we were both talking about how to fight domination – any domination, including the one we exercise on other people, on other women whom we call sisters and who could legitimately call us enemies. I should have considered that we were talking about the same thing because MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT. I cannot separate the two; writing about one means writing about the other, otherwise, yes, it is bullshit.

In this article, I first address various inventive patriarchal criticisms of my sexual and affective behaviour, and then try to make a link between the fact that all these criticisms are very hurtful whoever utters them, and the necessity for my feminism to be truly radical and intersectional.

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Musings on safer spaces and free speech

Trigger warning for homophobic and racist violence and bullying.

I remember being told as a kid that I should be grateful that I lived in a country where there was freedom of speech. No-one would be arrested for writing a book or newspaper article, and no-one had to fear being arrested for criticizing the government. We were free to say anything we wanted.

Even as a kid, I knew it wasn’t really true that you could say whatever you wanted. I had already learned that if I mentioned the not believing in god thing to anyone other than my parents, the person would likely get extremely angry and upset. (And it was best not to tell my parents that I sometimes went to church with my friend’s family on Sunday after a Saturday night sleep-over, because it would lead to a half-hour grilling to determine whether or not I was being indoctrinated into Christianity).

There were so many secrets that hiding things was second nature. If I’d told my school friends that I secretly wasn’t that attracted to Corey Haim*, but thought Micheal Jackson was cool, I would have been punished with social exclusion. Micheal Jackson was considered to be ‘gay’ among my friends (who I suspect had only the haziest idea of what the word ‘gay’ meant, and mostly used it as a synonym for ‘bad’). And then there was the fact that I spent large amounts of time making up elaborate stories in my head, completely ignoring the world around me – I always knew that there would be trouble if I revealed that to anybody.

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7:03am Feminist Work Begins

I woke this morning at 7:03 am. I was supposed to be having the lie-in I haven’t had for about 3 weeks. And I couldn’t sleep last night for thoughts replaying and rattling my brain.

I had made the choice to go to a different event instead of going to the DSK protest on the same night. I wasn’t sure I’d know anyone at the protest and I wasnt sure I’d be able to ‘keep it together’ in a crowd full of strangers if there was discussion of sexual violence, and then possibly have to deal with police and aggression. I am so glad there were many brave people there, and so glad that important written documents and accounts are being made of what happened and what was experienced. And that these come from the inside of a movement, out, and from inside of one person, out.

The event I attended instead was called ‘Why atheism needs feminism, and feminism needs atheism’ which was a talk given by comedian Kate Smurthwaite. It was held in Sidney Sussex College, at the same time as the protest. I literally stopped on Hobson Street, wondering which way to go. I had planned to go to the talk and not the protest beforehand, I had prepared mentally for the talk and not the protest. It felt strangely against my instincts, but I went to the talk. I had never found an event which was going to refer to atheism and feminism together- it might be a long time before another one pops up- I must take the opportunity I told myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Million Women Rise!

A group of us from FAC went down to London on Saturday to Million Women Rise 2012 – an annual women only march ‘against male violence in all it’s forms’. The great thing about the march is it’s positive, carnival-like atmosphere – a celebration of International Women’s Day, of sisterhood, of feminism and of women and girls around the world.

There was a huge diversity of organisations represented there – with some amazing and artistic banners from London Feminist Network, Object, Hebden Bridge Feminists, Rape Crisis England and Wales, Forward, LGBT Labour, East London Women’s Institute, NUS Black Students’ Campaign….

After marching, chanting, singing and dancing right down the middle of Oxford Street, we gathered in Trafalgar Square for powerful speeches a teenage survivor of domestic violence, a group of Congolese women speaking out about rape and war, and many others.

Following on from Murenne’s post on safety and women-only spaces – an important part of the march is that it is organised by women for women and girls. As the organisers say:

“On this particular day, we want women to come and feel the strength, the exhilaration and power of being with other women, to celebrate ourselves, to sing, shout and chant at the top of our voices, in all our diversity, to demonstrate however we want because we’re women in the company of other women.”

As women, our experience of street harassment means we are often made to feel that we are on display for the male gaze whenever we go out in public – it only takes one out of every 50 men who walks or drives past us to leer, sneer, stare, whistle or yell ‘dyke’ out of their car window to make us feel that we’re under siege every time we try to pop out to the co-op for a loaf of bread. Luckily for the sexist patriarchy, there were plenty of men keen to make sure that just because we were a group of thousands of women, on a women-only march, on International Women’s Day, we shouldn’t for a minute forget our womanly purpose as display objects – by lining the entire route with great big cameras, getting up in our faces and taking hundreds of pictures for who-knows-what-purpose without our consent. I personally must have been photographed well over a hundred times by random men. This was completely unwanted on my part and I genuinely have no idea who these men were – journalists, anti-feminist activists, random passers-by who just happened to have fancy cameras in their bags, or misguided male allies?

Anyway, I got a bit fed up and decided to turn the lens on them – so please everyone enjoy this little gallery of shame:

Please bear in mind that these photos represent just a handful of the scores of men photographing us at every turn.

Not that we were going to let them spoil our mood  – I will certainly be going back for more next year and I look forward to marching with my sister Cambridge feminists under our brand new Feminist Action Cambridge banner. Join us in 2013 – and don’t forget your camera. Smile!

Ladybird and Fox vs. Anarchism

If you prefer to read text rather than squinting at an image, there’s a transcript at the bottom.

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Discussion group: radical feminism

This picture shows the start of our discussion group on radical feminism.  With 14 attendees, including two magnificent facilitators, we started off by brainstorming what radical feminism is, does and is concerned with.

Soon we had listed: direct action, being loud, rape and sexual violence, revolutionary feminism, separatist feminism, women-only spaces and sisterhood, gender, human trafficking, prostitution, being rooted in women’s experience, the quality of radical feminism as a self-theorising movement, a movement embracing all women (we asked: is this universalising/essentialising?), being uncompromising, not being self-apologetic or necessarily providing answers, a specific women’s struggle ([i.e. not subsuming feminism to other oppressions), pornography, anti-capitalist feminism, a critical movement, pro-choice issues and bodily autonomy, radical lesbian feminism, equality, being heard, economic freedom.

The words circled in red were the topics we decided to split off into smaller groups to discuss, with which we combined some of the other topics. Our five small groups were on:

  • Direct action and being loud, uncompromising and non-apologetic
  • Rape, sexual violence and consent
  • Revolutionary and anti-capitalist feminism
  • Separatist feminism, women-only spaces, sisterhood, a basis in women’s experience and lesbian feminism
  • Gender

I joined the discussions on direct action and then for the second round, on separatist feminism and women-only spaces.  For both of these topics, it felt like we needed a whole separate discussion group session on them; and both felt really exciting to talk about.

In the direction action group we talked about what feminist direct action is: using your body to disrupt space in some way (see our recent action in H&M).  Another example is the Million Women Rise march on Saturday 3rd March which some of us are going to.  We agreed that for those of us who aren’t comfortable or don’t feel safe using our bodies in space to do actions, that support for those of us who were doing this was equally, integrally important – doing media or photography work, organisation, emotional and practical support etc; so it’s important not to see those taking ‘action’ roles as taking more risk or working harder.  In fact, we acknowledged that those of us who feel able to engage in direct action can do so because of the privileged position that we’re already in, whether thanks to education, class, race, gender identity, or other forms of privilege.

We then moved on to talk about separatist feminism and women-only space.  One of the discussants in this group had us all riveted by describing her experience of women-only communities on women-owned land in the UK.  We were also really excited to hear about Women in Tune, a women-only music festival in Wales.  (This event currently doesn’t have a policy on trans women, although it sounds like there is a chance this might change in the foreseeable future).  As we went round the group, the theme that kept coming up in regards to women-only space was safety.  Not only objective physical safety, but the feeling of safety that came from being in women-only spaces, and how this felt like a revelation to some women when they experienced this for the first time, because we hadn’t realised we hadn’t felt safe before.  Allied to this was a sense that in women-only spaces, we could finally have the head-space to try and find our sense of ourselves as women outside of patriarchy; a difficult if not impossible task, but one that can only be begun in a women-only space, I think – allowing ourselves to be able to explore what we would be like if we could say, feel, think and do what we wanted to without having to be aware of offending or provoking our male friends, allies, or enemies.  While we didn’t idealise women-only space as being necessarily always safe or welcoming to these discussions, the consensus seemed to be that this space was helpful in these explorations. Read the rest of this entry »

Ladybird and fox

I’m trying out a new blogging format :-)

A comic showing a conversation between a cute ladybird and a cute fox. Panel 1. Ladybird: The 'Fighting for safer places' blog post really got me thinking... Fox: Me too. My friends sometimes do things that make me unsafe. Panel 2. Ladybird: Like what? Fox: Like laughing when I talk about feminism... Panel 3. Ladybird: Hmmm. Fox: Or saying I should take sexual harassment as a compliment... Panel 4. Ladybird: Oh dear. Fox: Or saying I'm a prude when I complain about women being objectified. Panel 5. Ladybird: But if someone laughs at your political beliefs, are they really your friend? Fox: When you put it that way... probably not. END

The comic is licensed Attribution 3.0 Unported. The animal artwork is by Yurike11.


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