Author Archives: Swansea Feminist Network

Music Fundraiser Review & Pandora Press news!

We held our Music Fundraiser this Friday in The Garage, Swansea, in aid of the  Swansea Women’s Centre (which has recently revamped its website!).  As well as some excellent music, we had delicious vegan cupcakes,  a raffle, a feminist disco, and the newly released SFN zine Pandora Press for sale (if you couldn’t make the event but would still like a copy of Pandora Press, get in touch with Team Zine at pandorapresszineATgmail.com to see if we can post you a copy)!

pic by Ali Morris

Act 1: Catherine Elms (www.catherineelms.co.uk)

Act 4: Sleepy Panda Club (http://www.myspace.com/sleepypandaclub)

An excellent evening was had by all, and our event managed to raise close to £500 for the Women’s Centre!  Pats on the back all round, girls!

Some SFN girls partying! (pic by Ali Morris)

Pandora Press is now looking for submissions for its second issue!  The theme is sex.

Here are some suggestions in which you could go with this theme:
Sex in culture
Sex in the media – literature/music/zines/mainstream press/film
Sex and religion
Gender and/or sexual identity
LGBTQ issues
Sex and love/relationships
Sex-positive feminism
Sex throughout history
Social attitudes to sex
Prejudices surrounding sex
Sexual violence
Sexualisation/raunch culture
Sex for sale: pornography/prostitution
And anything else you can think of!

As well as general articles, we need the following submissions, which will not need to fit into the issue’s theme:
Cover art
Poetry
Cartoons
Interior art/illustrations
Reviews:
– Films
– Music
– Blogs
– Zines
Swansea News/Events

The deadline for submissions is 2nd October 2011.  Please send any ideas, questions or submissions to Cath at:

pandorapresszineATgmailDOTcom

Finally… we’ve added a new page to the blog – upcoming events!  Take a look at what we’ve got coming up this month and come along to whatever takes your fancy! :)

(Written by Cath, media officer of SFN)

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Call for Submissions: SFN’s first zine!

Hello everyone!

Caitlin, Eleri and I are currently in the process of planning Swansea Feminist Network’s first zine (a zine – pronounced ‘zeen’, derived from ‘magazine’ – is a self-published booklet)! The zine aims to be a publication written by and for intelligent creative women, that represents what the Swansea Feminist Network is all about!

The theme of the first issue is OUR FEMINIST HEROES.  Write about a feminist who inspires you – a politician, a relative, a musician, an actor, a philanthropist, a medic, a writer, a goddess, a good friend, anything you like!

As well as general articles, people are encouraged to submit some of the following:
Cover art
Poetry
Fiction
Cartoons
Interior art/illustrations
Reviews:
– Films
– Music
– Blogs
– Zines
Interviews
Musician Profile
Swansea Women’s News/Events

Contributors should be from South Wales, preferably the Swansea area!  Submissions from all genders are welcome.

We’re aiming to publish it in time for our music fundraiser at the end of July (RSVP here), so the deadline for submissions is 17th July 2011.

Please send any ideas, questions or submissions to us at swanseafeministnetworkATgmailDOTcom!  Happy writing! :)

Cath x

p.s. want more info on what a zine is?  Check out Wikipedia’s entry on zines, or zinewiki.

The issue of abortion (part II)

Further to my previous rant, I thought I’d rant a little more. Though maybe slightly more coherently (though maybe not). The reason for this is that I got a few Facebook comments from ‘friends’ the last time, making jokes about feminists, jokes about man-hating, and generally chiding comments about being a bit, you know, over the top. Call me a humourless feminist, but I didn’t find it it funny. And this is why…

The thing that underpins my whole feminism is a belief that patriarchy is underpinned by violence against women – it is this violence that allows patriarchy to function and perpetuates the power of patriarchy, though it plays no small part in also propping up capitalism. And I see violence against women everywhere, everyday, when I just want to go about my business quietly, which has made me into someone who is often sad, often angry, but always determined to be vocal about it. I don’t think this makes me some sort of wierd, incoherent social outcast but it does make lots of people – male and female – uncomfortable and unwilling to admit that they see the same things. It’s like Andrea Dworkin said: ‘People are willing to cluck empathetically over the horror of rape as long as they are not made responsible for punishing the rapist’.

Why does this relate to my post about abortion? Well.

When I was working for various Women’s Aid groups and people asked what I did and I explained, the reaction was generally positive. They thought, oh, those poor battered women, what monster could beat someone like that. People could disagree with that sort of violence against women, as long as they can also ignore the nuances within the whole concept of domestic violence, because it’s so visible and visibly disruptive. Get on to rape and things start to change. Hmmm. ‘Stranger rape’ (the Ken Clarke version) is bad, especially if it’s done to sober women who were dressed properly. The sort of rape that is what the vast majority of women who are raped experience – the sort that is perpetrated by a known man, often in the home – doesn’t really exist in mainstream public consciousness. Is it because it so uncomfortably brings it right into our front rooms? Is it because it is thought that in excess of 50,000 women are raped each year in the UK and there can’t be that many psychotic strangers lurking and someone has to be doing it? We don’t want to think about that.

Which brings me on to abortion. For me, denying a woman the right to choose whether or not she carries and gives birth to a child is violence. Just as rape is a violation of someone’s body, their mind, their humanity, so is taking control of someone’s womb. We could spend all night analysing the research about when a foetus begins to feel pain but we, as a thinking, philosophising, feeling society, have set a time limit for abortion which reflects that rational thinking. I don’t see the anti-abortion lobby jetting off to India to tackle the shocking sharp rise in the practice of aborting female foetuses – but maybe this is because all those non-white people are barbarians who don’t know any better? Or maybe it’s understandable because they’re not good Christans either – wierd idol-worshippers? Or maybe it’s because there, like here, girls and women are not valued, are an underclass, are not worth the effort? Whatever, the anti-abortion lobby concentrates its efforts on flyering university campuses – like they do here in Swansea – or insinuating their beliefs into parliamentary policy making. And it makes people who may think that domestic violence is wrong, that rape isn’t justified, think twice about whether women should have the right to an abortion. Take away that right and you violate someone’s body. You take away her autonomy and you deny her humanity – you privilege a formation of cells over the rights of a thinking human and turn her into nothing more than a vessel. You tell her that she doesn’t matter. Denying a woman’s right to an abortion, it seems to me, is a violent culmination of the messages a woman gets everyday about society’s rights to comment on her body, to consume that body as it sees fit, to sexualise, dehumanise and discard her. And that’s why I’ll be protesting in London in July. I wouldn’t care if I had to go by myself because I will not be complicit in pretending that the government’s appointment of Life to the sexual health forum is anything but a sinister, underhand attack on the rights of woment to live free from violence.

Call me a reactive, humourless feminist if you like…

#prochoicedemo2011 

https://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=175470995844914

This is a post written by SFN founder Adele.  All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the SFN, its committee or its membership. 

The issue of abortion…

…is one issue guaranteed to make me very angry. Furious, in fact. Which is why this post is a rant, not an analysis of the facts and statistics. If you want to see what made me so angry yesterday and today, have a look at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/may/24/abortion-sexual-health-coalition

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/25/labour-challenge-anti-abortion-group

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100089532/outrageous-we-cant-have-people-who-disagree-with-the-liberal-consensus-thats-so-victorian/

and then have a look at:

http://www.lifecharity.org.uk/home/

Why is it that this organisation feels able to hold forth on what is right for women and children? Why is it that women’s bodies are available for public consumption? Why do they not recognise that better sex education in schools from a young age is crucial in bringing down the rate of pregnancies amongst young women? Why are they not looking at the links between hypersexualisation of young girls and the resulting pressure of engaging in sexual activity without proper sex education (which won’t be provided at all when Nadine Dorries gets her way)?

There are a hundred other questions I could list, but it all boils down to just a few basic facts. Our society feels that women should not be allowed to, and indeed, cannot responsibly, make their own choices about what happens to their own wombs. Our culture infantilises women at the same time as sexualising them in order to allow it to perpetuate those ridiculous beliefs.

Whilst the right to an abortion (and I use the term ‘right’ loosely, because begging two doctors and having to be deemed a little bit crazy in order to get an abortion doesn’t really count as ‘having a right’) is under threat in this country, women are under threat. Women are not valued. Women are not seen as citizens who can make their own decisions. This is not about ‘helping’ all those desperate women brainwashed into aborting a screaming, pain wracked foetus by kooky liberals without morals: this is about the right-wing, Christian ideology that is being fed to us by a Government that wasn’t even properly elected.

I respect people’s right to have a faith and to practice a religion, and respect the fact that the Tories and Lib Dems have a right to hash together some sort of half functioning Government (though clearly I don’t repsect the result of that hashing together). Why can’t they respect my right not to have their insidious, outdated ideology worm its way into my body?

If you agree with me, check out this hashtag on Twitter #prochoicedemo2011 and join us in July.

I will come back and attack ‘the facts’ when I’m feeling more analytical…

This is a guest post by founding member Adele. All opinions expressed are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the SFN, its committee or its membership. 

Is fat a feminist issue?

Someone said to me once that I couldn’t be THAT fat, as I have a boyfriend, and obviously, if I was huge, then no-one would want to go out with me. I didn’t realise that no-one would love me if I was REALLY big. How idealistic of me to think that it was my winning personality that sealed the deal at the end of the day.

I never realised how much this had bothered me before but I feel as though the body fascism that seems to have corrupted the nation’s psyche has somehow seeped its way into my life. I’ve never been particularly moved by beauty magazines, celebrity diets or Daily Fail scare-mongering (‘cheese/deodorant/tampons/meat/wine/fresh-air/life-in-general gives you CANCER/makes you (duh duh duuuuh…) OBESE!’), yet I still find myself having to justify the fact that I am perfectly happy just the way I am.

I don’t want to go on a diet, I don’t want to lose weight, I don’t want to become a slave to consumerism, I don’t want hair extensions, fake nails or fake tan, I don’t care if I occasionally treat myself to McDonald’s or I eat a whole bar of chocolate in one sitting…I don’t know how I can make it clearer that despite being slightly overweight and a little wobbly around the edges, I like myself, and my inevitable flaws. I am only human, after all.

It’s a very sad state of affairs when women and girls measure their worth, quite literally, on the scales. Whilst it’s right to lay the blame at the feet of the media and trashy magazines, this extremely pervasive attitude has become part and parcel of our social fabric at large and it self-manifests in the lives of women who are not given an opportunity to become valued members of the community through their achievements alone. You’ve got to have the WHOLE PACKAGE to succeed in this life, ladies. Boobs, bum AND brains.

Ultimately, which of these attributes is going to be more valued in a consumerist society that revels in the insecurities of millions of people, only too willing to part with their hard-earned money for useless beauty products that more often than not, only fuel these crippling feelings of self-loathing?

I certainly believe that my healthy appetite is far less damaging  than this condition that seems to have been placed on our valuable place in society.

I’d rather look like shit than have all my hope, fears and ambitions boil down to that insane moment where all I care about is the way I look and preening in front of the opposite sex.

This is a guest post by SFN founding member Kat. All opinions expressed on our blog are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the SFN, its committee or its membership. 

A small gripe

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself having to unnecessarily justify my personal/political beliefs on a daily basis. It’s an extremely unfortunate state of affairs to be honest.

I mean, being casually racist, in my opinion, for example, is intolerable. What’s even worse is not saying anything about it. Yet, when such a point is made to the offender, all of a sudden you’re guilty of trying to shove your ‘liberal shit’ down other peoples’ throats. Suddenly, your personal politics are the problem, not the issue at hand.

Let’s make a few things clear shall we?

1. Posting racist crap is not cool and it certainly isn’t going to make people like you, regardless of how much it’s dressed up as a ‘laugh’.

2. Reacting aggressively to someone’s criticism of the aforementioned puerile postings and calling them a ‘toffee-nosed twat’ is not only a bit O.T.T but pathetic, and is a poor reflection of the ability to handle yourself. If such appalling social convictions are held, at least have the cojones to back them up.

Or maybe being criticised by a woman, who happens to be a feminist, liberal, plant-lover and all-round kick-ass person is too much for one person to handle. It’s a conundrum alright.

To me, it’s just slightly irritating. Why am I the bad guy? I’m not perpetuating any racial stereotypes.

This is a guest post by SFN founding member Kat. All opinions expressed on our blog are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the SFN, its committee or its membership. 

SlutWalk…

via womensviewsonnews.org

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/Sensible+shoes+grey+cardigan+SlutWalk/4587385/story.html

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/wvon/2011/04/is-slutwalk-an-effective-third-wave-feminist-protest/

http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/swto-in-the-press

Shoot me down in flames if you like, but I don’t like this. And I don’t like the comments in most of the articles about SlutWalk. Of course I agree with the reasons why they’re doing it and I admire them for getting off their arses and challenging terrible police attitudes towards rape and sexual violence experienced by women. But SlutWalk? So many problems.

First off. What’s with the consistent, constant generational divide you so often see in stories like these? “Feminism is the new F-word for many young women, who associate it with dourness, hairy legs and man-hating. Third Wave feminists, like Griffiths, say it’s important to show a sense of humour. If you can approach people with a smile, you can get them to open up more”, says Griffiths”. Yes, I’ve never met a woman over fifty who smiles. Certainly not one with a sense of humour (don’t think the older feminists will get off lightly, I’ll get started on that later). The problem is not that older feminists are ugly, hairy lesbians, but that younger women like Griffiths are unquestioningly perpetuating a (largely) media constructed stereotype. There doesn’t seem to be a questioning of how and why the ‘F-word’ is portrayed as it is. Yes, yes, I know stereotypes have to be based on something, but I bet you wouldn’t believe the myth of the rapacious black man, or the paedophilic gay man, just because some black men rape and some gay men happen to abuse children and the media told you so? Actually, I think that portraying a feminism that has come before as something undesirable, unfashionable and already done with, is part of a more sinister social, cultural and political strategy to undermine an ongoing need for feminism. Oh, look at those hairy old dykes! The Daily Mail cries gleefully, stuck in the Seventies! You pretty young ladies don’t need that sort of thing. Ok, The Daily Fail would be more likely to say ‘unhappy spinsters’, but you get the point. The point is this – we are still fighting for the same things. There is still a gender pay gap. Women are killed on a daily basis by their partners and ex partners. Rape convictions are on the floor. More women live in poverty every day. Women are chronically under-represented in Parliament, in business, in all the male-dominated workplaces they were in the Seventies. Feminism isn’t over and done with – it’s more needed than ever. So yes, we do need exactly that sort of thing, exactly the same as we needed it before. And younger women who dismiss what feminism has been working at for the last forty years play into the hands of those who seek to pretend that it is and always has been irrelevant.

Which leads me on to my second point. Third Wave feminism (as portrayed here) is a fun, ironic, playful, liberated way of doing things. We can protest about rape and rape culture in a happy, fun way, they say. Sure. But where’s the questioning? “Griffiths admits the S-word makes her feel a little squeamish, too. ‘It refers to any sort of female sexuality as dirty and deserving of criticism,’ she says. ‘I don’t think that the word matters too much. It isn’t the word, but the idea behind that word that can be reclaimed”‘. Dude! The problem is precisely the word. Instead of getting onto the streets ‘dressing as sluts’ why aren’t we questioning what it means to dress as a slut? Why is walking around with my arse hanging out and my cleavage on display dressing as slut? It’s because patriarchy is telling us that this is what it means to dress as a slut – we need to unpick all the connotations and start challenging the meanings that have been attached to different types of femininities. We need to refuse labels like ‘slut’ not challenge them within a patriarchal framework that ultimately retains control over what it means to be a woman.

Anyway, as I said, anything that gets women out on the streets to challenge institutionalised sexism can’t ultimately be a bad thing. I just think the notion of SlutWalk is problematic and needs to be questioned…What think you?

This is a guest post by SFN founding member Adele.  All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the SFN, its committee or its membership.