School’s In For Summer!

With the summer finally making itself apparent, the thoughts of many are turning to sun, sea and sand… but for others it’s the perfect opportunity to geek out about all things feminist! UK Feminista’s Summer School is a free, two day London event incorporating discussions and workshops that will invigorate and inspire all those striving for a more gender equal world.

With speakers including Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters, Jess McCabe of the F Word and journalists Kira Cochrane and Hannah Pool, the line-up looks top-notch and the workshops and seminars are in much needed areas, such as ‘Why climate change is a feminist issue’, ‘Men and masculinity’ and ‘Promoting diversity within feminist groups’.

So, whilst you are planning your summer get-aways, make sure you devote the weekend of July 31st – August 1st to re-educating and re-connecting with your feminism.

Full event details here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 28.06.2010 | Comments (0)
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Ladyfest Ten Festival Dates Confirmed

Exciting news today as Ladyfest Ten confirm the dates for the festival! Get out your diaries now and mark down the 12th, 13th and 14th of November 2010, because something tells me this is going to be a fantastic event…

Ladyfest Ten will be celebrating 10 whole years of Ladyfests – the global, grassroots festival that celebrates and promotes female creativity. The three day event will be taking place around various North London venues, including The Relentless Garage.

Confirmed acts and ticketing details will not be broadcast until next month, but the organisers are promising an exciting and diverse programme of female-fronted music, arts, film, literature, comedy, craft, workshops and even sport! If you want to keep up to date with all the details as they unfold, then make sure you follow the Ladyfesters on their Facebook andTwitter pages.

Oh, and if you want to get involved, don’t worry – it’s not too late! The next Ladyfest Ten meeting will be at 7.30pm on Wednesday 30th June 2010 at the Southbank Centre. See the website for more details.

By: Sarah Barnes, 23.06.2010 | Comments (0)
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Swallows & Amazons: Life Drawing Tonight!

Life drawing. For some reason, no matter how mature you thought you were at the time, it was the one class at school that was sure to raise a titter (ahem). But, now that I’m older and wiser, I miss the smell of charcoal, the thrill of pencil on paper and, yes, the opportunity to draw a naked model. Student giggles aside, I used to absolutely adore life-drawing classes – nothing beats it for developing your aesthetic ‘eye’ – but, now that I’m all grown up, I haven’t the first idea about where to go to partake in a some sketching of the nude form. Wow, I sound like a pervert…

It seems my search is over, though, as the lovely people at Storm In A Tea Cup have brought their Swallows & Amazons salon style classes to the capital – all to raise funds for Ladyfest Ten! I’m a little late to jump on the bandwagon (tonight is their penultimate class of the season) but better late than never, eh?  Especially when tonight’s class promises tattooed pin-up model Rayna Terror and dread-locked and body-painted Skye disrobing for drawing challenges set by The Great Cake Escape’s Cherry Bakewell.

The class tonight will take place from 8-10pm (email art@ladyfestten.com to reserve a space) at The Victoria pub, Mile End, E3 5TH. It’s only £6 in (with every penny going to Ladyfest Ten) but, thanks to Cass Art, drawing materials will be provided. There’s even a chance that your original art work might be featured in an exhibition as part of Ladyfest Ten festival in November! Just no sniggering at the back, okay?

(Image taken from Storm In A Tea Cup’s photo gallery)

By: Sarah Barnes, 22.06.2010 | Comments (0)
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Fashion Maketh Woman: The IQ2 Debate

Donning my glad-rags to celebrate the Reclaiming The F-Word book launch, I couldn’t help but have second (and third, and fourth) thoughts; Is a  satin, sapphire-blue pencil skirt and a customised Kylie tee shirt really what I should be wearing to a feminist book launch? Luckily, I know that feminists are a friendly, fun and understanding lot… which is why I went along in exactly my original choice of clothing and no-one gave two hoots about my appearance!

Still, the fact that I even raised the question with myself says a lot about feminism’s difficult relationship with fashion. Personally, as a feminist who writes about fashion, it’s a battle that rages constantly in my consciousness. I was immensely glad to hear, then,  about Intelligence Squared’s upcoming debate Fashion Maketh Woman, featuring an incredible speaker panel that will include Fat Is A Feminist Issue author Susie Orbach, artist Grayson Perry and Grazia’s Style Director Paula Reed.

With such diverse and passionate speakers, it looks set to be a really lively and intelligent debate! As the blurb says on the IQ2 website;

Woman is born free, but everywhere is fashion’s slave. Her choices are an illusion: the fashion companies and magazines dictate her purchases to her. She feels compelled to own the latest must-have handbag, believes the key to happiness is the new bondage boot; they’ve told her she’s worth it and without her fashion fix she feels worthless. This, at least, is the story told by those who scoff at fashion. But isn’t that just sour drapes? Isn’t it rather the case that the world of fashion defines the spirit and mood of the age? That the brilliant designers in the fashion houses bring vim and vigour to an otherwise pedestrian world? And that those who somehow think they’re above it all just end up looking drab and dull?

As per usual, I’m firmly perched on the fence! Still, I’m really looking forward to being forcibly swung this way and that by the evening’s speakers. There’s only one thing on my mind until then… what outfit should I wear?

Fashion Maketh Woman takes place on Thursday, the 17th of June at the Methodist Central Hall Westminster. Doors open at 6pm and the debate is scheduled to finish at 8.30. Tickets are £25 (or half price for students) and can be bought here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 11.06.2010 | Comments (2)
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Who’s The Man?

If ever you needed proof that language is a hugely powerful tool in defining gender, you would only have to look as far as the title of Feministing founder Jessica Valenti’s book, He’s A Stud, She’s A Slut. But, whilst you may think men get off easily by being labelled Studs, Big Shots and Supermen, such grammatical expectations of men can weigh just as heavily as any negative names women are burdened with.

Don’t believe me? Then take a trip along to Who’s The Man, an installation at London’s Future Gallery of more than a 1000 hand painted enamel panels, each depicting a word or a phrase used to describe a ‘man’. Opening today, the exhibition of painstakingly produced typography is the work of Rudy de Belgeonne – who hopes the hundreds of screaming painted names will ’help the bewildered male plot his way through the gender landscape…’

And isn’t that all any of us are trying to do? Regardless of what gender we are, regardless of whether we’ve been described as a slut, a beast, a queer or a geezer, we are all surrounded by language that solidifies society’s expectations of us. We can all relate to those pressures; the put-downs and the put-upons, the stereotypes and the requests to conform to certain genders. That’s what makes Who’s The Man an exhibition that speaks to everyone… even if, quite simply, it just calls them names!

Who’s The Man runs until the 8th of June at The Future Gallery.

By: Sarah Barnes, 03.06.2010 | Comments (0)
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Childcare discussed in London this Wednesday at Feminist Fightback

The discussion of childcare takes centre stage at the next Feminist Fightback meeting, taking place this Wednesday the 12th. Open to all self-defining women, the meeting will focus around a political discussion of childcare and will include an update on the cuts to Hackney nurseries.

Feminist Fightback recommend that those intent on diving into the discussion take a little look at ‘The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community’ by Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James (1972), which you can read here. Hell, it’s worth a read even if you can’t make it to the meeting… always interesting to pick up old theory books! (or is that just me being a tad geeky?)

The meeting will take place from 7-9pm Wednesday 12th May at Oxford House (5 minutes walk from Bethnal Green tube) and all attendees are welcome to bring their children – although, you would like FF to organise a creche, you will need to email them in advance.

More details here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 10.05.2010 | Comments (0)
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Women, Power and Politics

As our minds are still firmly engaged with political matters (I am red eyed, in front of the election results on the telly at 2am, as I type this!) the timing is perfect to hear of an upcoming drama season at London’s Tricycle theatre entitled Women, Power and Politics.  The season, which looks at women in politics (from Elizabeth I, through the Suffragettes, the Thatcher years, Greenham Common, and up to women in politics today), is created by twelve playwrights and designed to ‘challenge, create debate and help to bring about change’.

The Women, Power and Politics season is scheduled to start on June the 4th but, in the mean-time, Tricycle are hoping to raise £25,000 for this very ambitious season. You can lend your support by donating online here. All donors will be acknowledged in the WPP programme and will receive invitations to special WPP events.

Find out more about Women, Power and Politics here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 07.05.2010 | Comments (0)
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Feeling Empowered Yet?

So, today was the day that lingerie brand Triumph woke women up to a ’shape debate’ that was itself shaped by their aim to get as much publicity as possible. After thinking far too much about the whole spectacle in my last post, I thought it best to just follow up simply with some press images from the event, and some of Triumph’s ‘findings’, and let you decide for yourselves.

GERMANY – 81% of German women are satisfied with their overall appearance

FRANCE – 93% of French women feel that having a beautiful bust is the most important part of their body

CHINA – 77% of Chinese women wear a bra out of courtesy*

“Triumph’s findings cement the fact that breast and bodies are in the forefront of women’s minds and gives an insight into how women perceive their own body image and how our attitudes towards underwear can be shaped by culture, habit and social norm.”

So, what do you think? Are you feeling empowered yet?

* Research in Usage and Attitude Study by COIN for Triumph international

By: Sarah Barnes, 19.04.2010 | Comments (3)
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A Body Image Triumph?

A press release from bra-brand Triumph came my way the other day that got me thinking, once again, about the issue of body image. It seems that Triumph are aligning themselves with the ‘How To Look Good Naked’ school of self-confidence building; They are sending a troupe of six women to parade in their undercrackers around Leicester Square this coming Monday, all to spark a ’shape debate’. As the team at Triumph themselves say;

On Monday 19th April Triumph International – one of the world’s largest underwear brands–  ‘reveals’ new findings on women and their bras from around the globe, and what better way to show off their findings than to parade six Triumphant ladies that represent the UK, Japan, Germany, Italy, China and France in London’s internationally renowned hot spot – Leicester Square.

Dressed in Triumph lingerie, the ladies expose an incredible insight into women and their underwear and officially launch the ‘shape debate’!

I can’t help but notice the wording; Reveals, Show Off, Parade, Hot Spot, Expose.

Titillating, huh?

We don’t yet know what their findings are, but I reckon there could be better ways to show them off… whatever happened to the humble pie chart? But I guess that, with the particular sexy strategy that they’re going with, Triumph will be fighting off the press!

One other interesting thing; The choice to represent women from different countries rather than different body types. This seems like something new for one of these body-image campaigns, and I wonder about the message they mean to send out with this? It must link with their ‘findings’, so are they ‘revealing’ that body sizes vary with ethnicity? Why have they stuck with mostly European countries and then thrown Japan and China into the mix? Does this represent where their findings have come from? Will the groups be racially diverse? Will the woman from the UK be Black or Asian British, maybe? Only time will tell, but from the promo pic (above) it looks like we can expect a white majority.

As I’m sure regular readers of this blog are only too aware, I am all for campaigns that inspire women to feel good about themselves and their bodies. But there’s just something about commercial companies jumping on the body-beautiful bandwagon that just feels off to me. Throw money into the mix and you have to question a company’s motives – Are they really presenting half naked bodies for empowerment’s sake, or is it simply because such a campaign will be lapped up by the tabloids?

I’m also getting really tired of this whole nakedness=empowerment line of thinking. I was watching a re-run of How To Look Good Naked the other night (so it’s my own fault, really!) and Gok Wan came out with the line “The moment you can start sharing your body with everyone else is when you can start accepting it” and I just couldn’t believe it. Really, Gok? Is that the best solution? Are you sure? I mean, I’m lucky and privileged enough that I can accept my body without having to show my birthday suit to all and sundry… but I really don’t see this as the answer for those with low body confidence.

But then this brings me back  to a conversation I had recently regarding feminist responses to Eryca Badu’s new video. Some feel that the piece can’t help but be exploitative due to her nakedness. I guess that sometimes we are so used to kicking back against the misogynist male gaze that sometimes we unwittingly slip into seeing with it ourselves. I hope I am not guilty of that in this case.

If you are feeling so inclined, you can go see the Triumph women reveal their findings from 9.30am – 11am on Monday the 19th at Leicester Square, London. As Triumph say; “Come on down and give us your view – which boob and body are you?”

Vintage Triumph adverts found here.

By: Sarah Barnes, 17.04.2010 | Comments (0)
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Quilty Pleasures and 60’s Sex Ed

I’m really rather excited about the Quilts: 1700-2010 exhibition at the V&A. I could act all cool and say that I’m dying to catch another glimpse of Tracey Emin’s subversive stitching (partly true) but, in reality, I’m actually starting to get that feeling that making a quilt myself would be a pretty nifty little craft project and I’d like to get some inspiration! Perhaps I’m turning into my mother faster than I thought…?

Whilst I try to figure out when to make  my visit, the Quilty Pleasures window display at Liberty is tiding me over until I get to see the real thing. Created by the likes of  Karen NicolLou Gardiner and Amanda Fatherazi, these sheets are more than a little bit saucy; depicting sexual poses and acts.

What really caught my eye, though, was this one mannequin forcing a sheet of paper up against the window. The words are apparently taken from a sex education textbook for school girls printed in the UK in the early 1960’s. It’s wonderful stuff, so I just had to share it!

Call me a deviant, if you will, but I thought sex education was supposed to educate you about sex, not bedtime etiquette!

All I can say is; Thank goodness we’ve moved on to an age where I can shock my partner with a face full of beauty cream before bed, hog the bathroom  so that he can be reminded of his busy work commute (since only he works, natch!), AND not have to submit (Obey! FFS!) to his advances if I’m not in the mood. The things we take for granted, eh!?

Quilts:1700-2010 is open at the V&A until the 4th of July.

First image from the Liberty Blog (via Fashion156 blog), other photos by Sarah Barnes.

By: Sarah Barnes, 07.04.2010 | Comments (2)
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