My Feminist Hero: Angela Carter

I first read an Angela Carter novel in 2010, an amazing book called ‘The Passion of New Eve’: it was a set text on one of my elective modules.

I read Carter and I fell for her. Her words stream like a song, I swear, and I didn’t let go of the book for two days. ‘The Passion of New Eve’ details the life of a misogynist man living in dystopian New York, who ends up being kidnapped and is given a sex change by a tribe of militant and malicious women. It’s fascinating to read a novel of this genre – magical realism, through the lens of a post-operation trans woman who never wanted it in the first place. It’s gross, it’s good, it’s genius.

Angela Carter writes of boisterous, fiery women, more akin to mythical sirens than modern day post-feminist figures. She has no sympathy for timid or unassuming women – Angela Carter writes bitches, and I love that. Before her death in 1992, she was a feminist-literature icon. I am now the proud owner of all but 3 of her books, and cannot help myself when I see one of her books on ebay, even if it’s just a different cover. Her books are long-train ride gems – the kind of books you read with a broken-heart, when you’re feeling inspired – when you’re truly enjoying a night in. They’re beautiful and they’re grotesque – they’re sublime. The one thing about Carter is that she was fiercely unique: she was incredibly well-read and yet grounded. She wrote to ignite the minds of bookish types. Thanks Angela Carter, for knocking my favourite books down a place each on my top ten, and for making me read everything differently.

This is a guest post by SFN founding member Eleri, originally published in the SFN zine Pandora Press #1: Our Feminist Heroes. 

All The Single Ladies: A Comparison of Take Me Out and The Year of Making Love

As someone who has spent bar far the larger portion of my adult life responding to questions about whether I’ve managed to find another human to put up with me yet with a cynical ‘ha!’ or a quip about how I’m keeping myself free in case Bellatrix Lestrange decides that she is no longer fictional or a psychopath, it’s fair to say that I have a vested interest in the representation of single women in the media.

The aforementioned lack of a relationship means that the time I am not required to spend on having sex, being a bit smug and arguing in public can be used on more intellectually stimulating and emotionally fulfilling pursuits such as eating chocolate, wearing pyjamas and watching trashy TV. And what better way is there to meet other single women from the comfort of my own living room than by watching dating shows?

Take Me Out has been a guilty pleasure of mine for some time. For those of you not familiar with the premise: 30 single women get to know one single man by hearing him talk about himself, and then either hearing someone who knows him say a bit more about him or watching him show off some kind of talent. It generally goes along the lines of a man coming out who is loved all the way through until the second round, when his sister reveals that he sometimes wears her dresses. Anyway, the women all have a light in front of them, which they switch off if they hear or see something which means that they don’t want to go on a date with the man any more. If there are any lights still on at the end of the two rounds, the man gets to pick which woman he goes on a date with.

The Year of Making Love is a series which has recently started on BBC3, and it’s a different kind of dating show. It’s essentially a social experiment in which a few hundred single people were brought together in January 2012 and matched using ‘science’ (I haven’t seen an explanation of what that science is… it seems to be some sort of personality profiling) with someone who is theoretically a compatible partner. Each programme then follows the stories of a few of the couples for a year, to see if any of them stayed together.

The main problem with Take Me Out is the way women are reduced to being virtually identical, with the representation stripping them of both their intellectual and physical individuality. The men know very little about from their looks. There is often a sense that women are being ‘dumbed down’ in order to provide entertainment. Their physical appearances are also generally very similar, or made to be so. With a few exceptions, they are young, slim, white women, wearing short dresses and heels and fake nails. The older and black and minority ethnic women they do have on the show are still presented the same in terms of their make-up, clothing and accessories. The women who fall outside of this standard appearance are generally the ones that don’t get dates.

This is not to say, however, that the women on Take Me Out are actually as generic as they are made out to be. There are instances when real personality shines through, most notably at the stage when the man is about to pick he who is going to take on a date out of the two remaining women, and the presenter reveals an interesting fact about one of the two women, but doesn’t say who it is about. Sure, sometimes the facts are things like ‘one of these girls once kissed her boyfriend’s twin brother because she couldn’t tell them apart’, which further perpetuate the idea that the women are stupid. Often, though, they’re quite funny things, like that a woman won a competition for how many grapes she could get into her mouth at one time, or that she named her cat after a character in Fireman Sam – things that make the woman they are about stand out, make her more than her appearance, basically identical to the woman standing next to her.

In contrast, The Year of Making Love has a bit more emphasis on variety, and concentrates more on personality than Take Me Out does. There is not the same presentation of women as stupid or so desperate for a date that who they are doesn’t matter. The more flexible format means that it is much less heterosexist, with gay couples being included in the same way as heterosexual couples, and not being sidelined to their own show, as is the case with Take Me Out.
It still has its fair share of horrific, with one guy on the show using the chat up line “if you were a car door, I’d slam you,” when talking to the girl he’d been matched with, but generally watching it is far less alienating than watching Take Me Out. There have been women I can identify with, which I guess is what I was unconsciously looking for in representations of single women.

I wouldn’t say that the women on The Year of Making Love are necessarily really any more or less articulate and interesting than the women on Take Me Out, but what’s refreshing about it is the way it shows that it is not necessary to represent single women as stupid.

I appreciate that a lot of these differences stem from the different remits and audiences of the two shows. Take Me Out is pure entertainment where it’s all about the ‘game’ of the selection process, whereas The Year of Making Love presents itself as an experiment, and, at least on the face of it, aspires to create long-term relationships.

However, despite the differences in their representations of single women, what both shows do, deliberately or not, is reveal that single women can be intelligent, interesting and attractive. Single women are not ‘defective’ (as I think is so often a cultural assumption) – they are just single. And with that in mind; populated with all kinds of women (some of whom can name all 52 original Pokémon characters), the ‘shelf’ feels like a much less shameful place to be.

This is a guest post by SFN committee member Kirsty, originally published in the SFN zine Pandora Press #5.  

Pandora Press #5 out now!

The fifth issue of our zine, Pandora Press, is out now!

front cover issue 5

This issue is themed ‘media’, and features diverse writings by Swansea women on topics including body hair, page 3, relationships, chick flicks, and activism.

Copies of all our zines can be purchased at any SFN event.

You can buy a copy online at Marching Stars Zine Distro, or via paypal – contact the editor Cath at pandorapresszine @ for more info.

We are now looking for submissions for our 6th issue, the BODY issue!  Details can be found at our Pandora Press page.

A Timeless Pursuit? Feminism and ‘traditional’ Crafts

‘How can you enjoy baking and knitting so much if you’re a feminist?’ this, sadly, is something I hear far too often. And for me, the answer is very simple; it has everything and sometimes, nothing to do with feminism. I just really enjoy it.

It would be foolish to negate the latent symbolism behind such
activities: the 1950’s housewife diligently baking and knitting
clothes for the kids whilst her husband, the breadwinner and man of the house, is out earning money…but times have changed.

I would be reticent to claim that feminism has ‘reclaimed’ knitting
and baking from such eras in time when women were expected to do little else. However, whether women actually want to do these things or not is the key to the whole debate. It is about choice. That’s the key issue at the heart of the feminist movement in my opinion. Like to knit? Carry on knitting! Like to bake cakes? Keep on baking, girl! You’re not hurting anyone and you’re developing transferable skills in the process (and in this current economic climate, a diverse range of transferable skills is a must-have).

Women should not be made to feel guilty about enjoying ‘traditional’ crafts such as sewing, embroidery, knitting and baking. Like most social pastimes, these crafts have changed beyond their initial remit. Knitting isn’t about making booties for the kids anymore (though, if you wanted to do that, I’d say good for you; it’s cheaper to knit them for a start…), it’s about creative expression and exploring the boundaries of a craft that had been used to keep women in their place; in the home. And that, my friends, is what women have been denied for so long; a chance to express themselves.

Women are constant innovators in this respect. After WW2 due the lack of wool, women used to unpick garments they’d already made and redesign them to follow whatever style was en vogue. Women were called upon throughout the war to capitalise upon their knowledge of basic crafts to provide garments for soldiers fighting on the front, such as balaclavas, gloves, socks, etc.

Crafts such as knitting and embroidery offer so much in the way of
variety in these modern times. You don’t need any real technical
knowledge of either of these activities to sit down and have a go. The internet has revolutionised crafting in this respect; I learnt to knit from videos posted on YouTube. Yet I believe knitting is as relevant as it ever was; it has merely become more accessible to the masses. Apparently, knitting clubs in schools have really taken off, according to The Guardian. Good, I say! I want to hear those needles clacking together!

Knitting, like feminism, is about making a statement about the things you believe in. Or not as the case may be; it really is such a lovely way to pass the time. Yarn-bombing, guerrilla knitting, creating pieces of subversive art, knitting nonsensical things to decorate your home with or knitting a pair of socks for your mum; it certainly isn’t limiting and it certainly isn’t boring. Just like feminism, I would venture to say. You make it your own and in my opinion, it is a timeless pursuit that is constantly changing.

Some interesting websites:

Written by Kat Williams. Kat is a knitter, feminist, bookworm, lover of tea and horror novels. Co-founder of SFN, she can also be found blogging here:

Review: International Women’s Day 2013

Thursday 7th March saw SFN hold our second International Women’s Day event, co-hosted by the Swansea Women’s Centre and Swansea University Students’ Union.

Local women’s organisations had information available on stalls at the event, including City of SanctuarySwansea Women’s Centre, Abortion Rights UK, and Healing the Wounds.

City of Sanctuary stall

SWC stall

The stalls fully set up at the beginning of the day, ready to begin!

Labour councillor Erika Kirchner came down to open the event, with a speech on empowering young women and girls.  After a relaxed morning chatting with the guests over refreshments, we had some acoustic music sets during lunch, and then an afternoon of workshops.  Highlights included the workshop on girl zines and feminism, where we all made our own feminist minizines, and a knitting workshop, which was open to women of all ability levels.

guests knitting together at a table

Although a little quieter than we had hoped, all guests had a lovely time, and we got some great feedback on our event!  We hope that future IWD events will be even bigger and better.

That evening we held a screening of ‘Grrrl Love Revolution: Riot Grrrl NYC‘, a short documentary on the riot grrrl movement in New York City in the early 1990s.  We had an excellent turnout for the film screening, and had some lively discussion afterwards on the themes raised in the film.

Finally, on Saturday we marched through London on the Million Women Rise protest march.  It was an exciting and lively event, with lots of singing, cheering, and chanting!  Check out the photos we took on our Facebook page.  Here’s one of our banner:

photo by Nat Wlock

by Cath Elms, SFN Media Officer