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Articles from the Peace News log: Feminism

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

Esme Needham reviews Tessa Boase's new book Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather

ImageTessa Boase
Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather: Fashion, Fury and Feminism – Women's Fight for Change

Aurum Press, 2018; 336pp; £20

If you asked someone who had never read or heard anything about the origins of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who they thought might have founded it, the chances are they would guess something along the lines of ‘some well-meaning elderly man who was opposed to the shooting of rare birds for sport’, or something like that. But it seems very unlikely that they would come anywhere near the real founders of the RSPB: a group of women who were passionately opposed to the shooting of rare birds for feathers.

They were led by a woman named Etta Lemon who was vocal in her opposition to the feather trade – a trade which caused the deaths of many birds from rare and beautiful species so that rich women could adorn their hats. She called it ‘murderous millinery’.

Lemon was a deeply Evangelistic woman and a talented public speaker, who had become passionate about animal rights after sharing a cross-Channel boat with a herd of terrified cattle. However, despite the rare compassion she harboured in that quarter, she was also greatly opposed to women's suffrage. This book casts her against a rather more famous figure, one whose views were exactly contrary to her own: the notable suffrage campaigner and devoted feather-wearer Emmeline Pankhurst.

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Esme Needham reflects on her experiences at FiLiA 2017

ImageThe conference formerly known as Feminism in London is scheduled to start at nine thirty, and to make sure they get everyone there on time, the organisers have booked Cordelia Fine as their keynote speaker. We are told that she has come all the way from Australia specially to tell us about her new book, Testosterone Rex.

But it's not Feminism in London any more- the world is changing, and the UK's biggest feminism conference now bears the name FiLiA, a word meaning 'sister'. Ticket prices are changing, too, which probably accounts for the four hundred attendees who don't quite fill the thousand-seat auditorium to the brim. Not, however, to cast blame on FiLiA- because apart from anything else, it's amazing to share such a huge space with so many like-minded people. It could be a meeting of stick insect collectors, for all that it matters: it's that feeling of unity.

And yet, it does matter. After all, there are almost four hundred women here, and about twenty men. It's a size disparity that feels almost strange; after all, in many situations, it would be the other way around. What the conference does, among other things, is grant all these women the liberty to look how they want to look and say what they want to say without being judged. That's because there's a simple thing everyone here has in common: we all believe in basic gender equality (or at least, I assume this is the case, because not many people who aren't sure where they stand on a subject are willing to pay fifty pounds to go to a conference about it. Just saying.)

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Ian Sinclair interviews activist and author Robert Jensen about his latest book The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men (Spinifex Press, 2017)

Ian Sinclair: How does radical feminism differ from other forms of feminism?

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Older feminists gather in London at the end of November.


WERE YOU ACTIVE IN THE 1970s, 1960s, 1980s?

Join the 70s-sisters’ network, and start the Feminist Forum to express our vision in politics.

For the past five years the 70s-sisters have been meeting in small consciousness raising groups to address the issues that face us in our own lives, in our generation and at this moment in history.

Now we are also launching the Feminist Forum, a new political think-and-do-tank.

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Sometimes something like a public therapy session, a feminist performance about the female body that got stronger and more daring as it went on

Imagehoo:ha bills itself as 'comic performance art that cleverly pits funniness against sexiness in a knock-down, drag-out fight for control of the female body'. It was definitely funny, and it was often funny about sexiness, but there wasn't much of a battle between funniness and sexiness, and if control of the female body was explored, that was never explicit beyond the promotional material.

In terms of the cleverness of the show, some of the jokes definitely were clever; my personal favourite was the sung monologue between the show's lead, Hannah Balou, and her glove puppet, conveying the message that 'nobody wins in a feminist fist fight'. However, a lot of the show's laughs hinged on a child's definition of clever: the ability to shock.

I certainly was shocked to see a dog eat Hannah's mother's ashes, for example (it would take a lot of explaining to account for how the show ended up going there). I was also shocked, and amused, the first time Hannah got naked, but it would have been a lot cleverer had there actually been a reason for the costume change which provided the conceit for the nudity.

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A disturbing play about guns, male violence against women and sex

ImageThis was one of the most powerful pieces of theatre I've seen in a long time. The audience was promised gun-twirlin', play-actin', and Nancy-Sinatra-dancin'. We got all those things, and we didn't get any strong swear words, explicit sexual references, nudity, or actual bloodshed. Technically, it was a show you could have taken your children to, but it was also much more sexual, and certainly more violent and disturbing, than the show I went on to watch later that evening, which actually featured two naked women, some whipped cream, and a dog.

A Girl and a Gun is a dark and deeply uncomfortable exploration of the continuum between what's sexy and what's violent, more specifically the continuum between male violence against women and what's considered inherently sexual. You don't need to read between the lines to know that a woman on her knees with a man holding a gun in her mouth is 'a scene of a sexual nature', but that particular scene is just spelling out what's been happening throughout the show.

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A funny, slightly confusing, semi-Brechtian contribution to Camden People's Theatre's feminist season, Calm Down, Dear

ImageThis was one of those plays which makes you feel you must have missed something when you finish watching it.

I'm reasonably confident I didn't miss something though, as the friend I watched it with had exactly the same response. It was as if the team behind 'Superfunadventuretimes' had come up with a concept (which was, very vaguely: the fantasy genre à la Brecht), been carried away with the concept during the creative process, forgotten that the audience weren't there for the creative process, and ended up performing something which was a bit inexplicable. Nonetheless, parts of it were beautifully written (like Jada's origin vignette) and there were also plenty of laughs (especially courtesy of Twig).

To summarise the play, four adventurers named Tennet, Twig, Angry and Jada, (who seem meant to embody four fantasy genre tropes, although I'm not sure which tropes exactly) have some adventures over the course of an unexplained quest they end up undertaking together (I presume not explaining what the quest is, is in turn meant to be a send up of the quest trope).

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Claire Poyner reports from this year's huge feminist gathering in London

UK Feminsta was founded in 2010 and Fem11, the national conference held on 12 November at Friends House, London was a gathering of over 1000 feminists. Mostly women with a smattering of men, and for the most part, women who don’t appear to meet the stereotype which may be responsible for some, particularly younger women, to proclaim: “I’m not a feminist”.

The keynote speaker was a very popular Sandy Toksvig who bemoaned the lack of suitable role model in children’s literature – “If Rapunzel had hair long enough for a prince to climb up, couldn’t she have fashioned a rope out of her hair to escape?” Also criticised: the way female role models were re-fashioned to make them more ‘respectable’. Did you know that Florence Nightingale was known amongst the injured soldiers as the “Lady with the hammer” (NOT the lamp) because she smashed open a cupboard containing drugs meant for the senior military only?

Other speakers included Roxanne Halsey of UK Uncut – cuts is a feminist issue after all – Bjorn Sttka from the Anti-Porn Men Project, Isabella Woolford Diaz from Camden School for Girls Feminist Group (“my school made me a feminist”!) who told of getting Tesco to put the “men’s mags” out of sight, and Cllr Rania Khan, a science teacher and independent councillor in Tower Hamlets who campaigns against lap dancing clubs in her area, especially after she was sexually harassed by a group of men leaving such a club.

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Jill Gibbon reports from Britain's biggest arms fair.

Appropriate clothing for selling weapons

A sign at the entrance to the Defense and Security Equipment International arms fair warns that visitors must wear business dress. The pinstriped suits, school ties and polished shoes shroud the event in sham respectability. However, the dress code does not extend to sales staff. Here, the main aim is to entice.

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