Month: September 2012 (Page 2 of 3)

Feminism and Facts

Content note – contains discussion of sexual violence and low rape conviction rape.
Trigger Warning for rape.

What is the legal definition of rape in the UK? In all the conversations I’ve had about rape, responsibility and consent, I’d never thought about what is actually being contested when an allegation of rape makes it to court. I don’t think I’m alone in that. Under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003, this is the definition of rape:

Continue reading

Lessons from my Mothers.

In memory of Adrienne Rich.

Touch it.
Put your hand flat
onto the varnished table,
onto the grass,
onto your lover
or onto the world.

Pick up your feet.
Understand their motion
as being always towards,
and enjoy it
when it is also
Go with purpose.

Keep asking questions
that must be asked
for many reasons.
Sometimes ask the questions
just to listen

being here is for other people
but you cannot touch them all.
Hold every hand you can,
and pay attention to the eyes
that really are on you.
Have faith in that.

When you can,
remember you are small.
When you have to,
walk like a giant
and be present.

Be kind.
Have love in anger.
Be safe alone.
Learn, and teach,
and never think the two are different;
think of me when you get lost,
and ask me if I thought there was a route.

An open letter to the indirectly affected (or, how to be a feminist man)

Trigger warning: mentions a rape and mentions rape jokes.

Before I begin, let me be clear about where I am coming from; I am a heterosexual, white, cisgender man from a lower middle class background, who is also a feminist, a pro-gay activist, and a socialist. I am also a disabled man. In other words, in the grand and complex landscape of liberation politics, I can define into one group of protected characteristics, meaning that I can stand at the front of the disability rights movement. But I am not, automatically, a good feminist or pro-gay rights activist.

The question I want to answer is simple. Can I, as a man, be a good feminist? Some would answer that I cannot. I am not female. I have never faced discrimination because of being a woman. Whilst my long hair doesn’t conform to normative models of masculinity, I have never been objectified, groped, or been paid less than my colleagues like women are on a day to day basis. Whilst I have been raped, it wasn’t because of my gender, but because I was a vulnerable child placed in the environment of a predatory and sick man.

Despite not facing the discrimination that women face, I continue, of course, to support feminism. I wish to see an end to patriarchy and gender discrimination because I believe it will better our society. I believe that as a heterosexual man, I am affected by feminist issues, but I recognise that it is in a VERY different manner to the way my female friends are. They are on the front line, as it were, and I am several miles back, still chocking on the stink of gunsmoke, but not in immediate fear of losing my life. The same would go for my gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* friends. That is all reversed when I am with my non-disabled, but pro-disability rights friends. I am in the trenches there; my non-disabled girlfriend is back at HQ.

What I am trying to say is that if you are one of a group I am going to call the “indirectly affected” that is, a feminist man, an anti-racist white person, a pro-gay heterosexual, a pro-trans* cis-sexual, or a pro-disability rights able person (…the list goes on…), you can be a valuable friend and ally, but you need to be clear on where the boundaries are. I have tried to put these into three golden rules of being “indirectly affected”: Continue reading

A fresh look at art – Women and their understated part in history

Whilst over the centuries it’s a horrible, abhorrent fact that women have had to struggle to be seen and heard in virtually all professional arenas, we are very, very lucky that art can endure. We are lucky that many women (though not as many as might have) dared to push against societal pressures by training in and executing their gifts in various times and places – when it undoubtedly may have been easier (albeit unhappier) to quietly run the home and children, and little else. Likewise it seems to me a further product of patriarchal systems that many female-dominated ‘applied arts’ such as weaving, embroidery, etc. are viewed with considerably less social significance compared to the historically male dominated ‘fine arts’. Embarrassingly, many fans of fine art may find themselves unable to name more than a handful of female artists. In contemporary terms Tracy Emin and Yoko Ono spring to mind though are often callously dismissed as ‘mad’ or ‘talentless’. To go back further chronologically, could I even confidently declare Frieda Kahlo and Barbara Hepworth as household names with the same confidence as Van Gogh or Michaelangelo? I sadly doubt it. The following list of artists was selected to represent a cross-section across different times, cultures, and styles – I really hope you’ll Google these women, as the effort it will have taken to produce their works only heightens their deservedness of an audience.

Claricia (13th Century)

One of the few positions in life which provided the freedom for artistic expression in the middle ages was in monasteries and nunneries. Claricia was thought to be a lay student at an Abbey in Augsberg in Germany where she illustrated herself into a psalter – her body swinging as the tail to an ornate capital Q. Continue reading

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