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Today we march

Author:
30858102661_32e7e1c39f_k

By Isla Whateley

Content note: Donald Trump, mentions of sexual assault, rape, incest and abortion

Today, women from all over the world will unite in a march of solidarity, in order to prove just how important women’s rights are and to prove to the new Trump administration that they cannot ignore us. The main march is in Washington DC, but many other cities across the world are hosting their own marches on US embassies and consulates. You can find a march near you here!

The Trump administration looms upon us after his inauguration yesterday as President of the United States of America, also known as the most powerful person on Earth. He is known for his racist, xenophobic, sexist and homophobic views and many have been dreading this day since his election in November, including myself and everyone else I know.

As a young woman living in Scotland, you might ask why I’m so worried about Donald Trump. I don’t live in America and I won’t be directly affected by his Presidency. But the USA is the UK’s closest ally, and with the rise of nationalism in both nations (shout out to Brexit), we are likely to be affected more than we realise. Not to mention that the USA is the most powerful and influential country in the world.

Trump’s record on women’s rights is dire. Like many Republicans he is pro-life – or as I prefer to call it, anti-choice – with regards to abortion. He wants to completely ban abortion, with exceptions only in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life. He hates the idea that Planned Parenthood is government-funded, and basically wants women to lose the majority of our reproductive rights. He has repeatedly objectified women publically and on camera, and has been taken to court for rape and sexual assault before. Many of his cabinet members share these kinds of sexist and outdated views, which is why this march is so important.

The Women’s March this weekend signifies a sort of peaceful solidarity, uniting against fascism and conservative views that hinder women’s lives. It may be the calm before the storm, but maybe we just need to fight harder for our rights in the wake of the storm.

Bi Community

Author:
9868477436_a64c99b8bb_z

By Fee Grabow

It took me a really long time to come into my bisexuality. This will sound strange to anyone who knows me because I love being bisexual. But I didn’t always.

And it wasn’t even the usual qualms about the word, how it evokes an extremely sexualized image and stereotypes about greedy, privileged traitors, but also the fact that I didn’t want to be attracted to more than one gender. It was confusing, scary and felt… deviant. It felt dirty to want so much. I felt wrong to want in the way that I did. I didn’t care so much about being called bisexual, I just didn’t want to be bisexual. Even though I have always very casually and freely expressed my desire for people of all genders, there were times and moments when I hated it. I hated my desire.
When I asked myself what I actually wanted, I always came away with an intense yearning for community. And there was no community for someone like me. There were no bisexual parties or book clubs, no bi positive banners at my small town Pride, no use of the word when I was around other queer people. The way I felt about people meant that I was isolated from a community I needed. So when I first entered queer spaces I told someone I was a lesbian, though I didn’t like that word on my tongue; I quickly exchanged it for queer, hoping no one would ask me about boys.

I don’t remember when I started to call myself bisexual. But I remember realizing fairly quickly that it meant more than I thought it would. People do think I am dirty and greedy and unimaginable. They think I’m the weakest link. They think I don’t belong, that I have it easy, I’m a joke, a problem. They reduce me to how I relate to men. They reduce me to who I sleep with. (In their imagination. Despite what I say and do. As if all bisexuals desire men. As if all bisexuals have binary genders.) They throw queer baseline understandings of sexuality and gender out of the window in the name of protecting this community. When I started learning about queerness, I was ecstatic to find out that we believed gender to be a constructed, fluid, expansive, deeply personal thing that may or may not say something about our desires, bodies or lives. And that we embrace how intricate and complicated desires, bodies and lives are. I was probably even more ecstatic to hear that sexuality, while a root cause of the oppression we experience, was also something to be proud of and excited about. Apparently, that doesn’t seem to apply to bisexual people. But it has changed nothing. I’m still bisexual.

Some days, I hate it. It makes me feel unsafe in the larger queer community. I can’t just assume that people are okay with me. It’s complicated; my mother still doesn’t understand and I had to do this bi thing where you come out 7 times because your parents latch onto the possibility of heterosexuality. It’s painful and I work through it by being loud and obnoxious and so damn bisexual.

And I did find community. Mainly on tumblr but also elsewhere. After I moved to Berlin, I even found community in real life.  I came across small things, like bi-characters, a blog dedicated to bisexual (head)canons. I found The Bi Women Support Network, a survivor-led resource to support bi, pan, and queer women, the organisation Bisexual Woman of Colour and the Bisexual Organizing Project. I learned about BiCon and EuroBiCon. I followed Black non-binary bisexual hero Jacq Applebee on twitter. I started listening to The BiCast, a bisexual podcast. I read Shiri Eisners book “Bi: Notes for a Bisexual revolution”. (Read it. Now.) I realised that there is stuff out there that I can look for, as well as accidentally find when I start somewhere.
And that is what I want everyone else who is struggling with the fact that they like more than one gender to know: you can have community. It’s out there. It’s not as readily available, it’s not as well funded, it’s mostly online, sometimes inaccessible, but it’s there. (How to create bisexual activist spaces off and online might be something to write about later!) And whether you chose the word bisexual or any other one under that umbrella (pan, poly, queer), whether you are attracted to (cis) men or not, whether you are asexual but bi+ romantic, you are really very welcome. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t care about trans people, that we don’t care about ace people, we don’t know what non-binary means (hi, hello, I’m a bisexual non-binary trans person), we prioritise cis men (we don’t; bisexual women, cis and trans, are the leaders of our community), we don’t have a history (we do), we haven’t done anything for this community (we have), we have no actual problems that warrant a bisexual movement (oh, damn, do we) – all of that is bullshit.
We battle the same issues other queer communities face. We deal with transphobia, classism and racism. I refuse to let that be used to discredit us, because those are widespread issues in all queer movements. But we do have a history and a present of facing those issues with dedication and love. Thanks to tumblr and twitter, to young queers, and some fucking resilience.

You have a community. You have a community. You have a community.

You don’t have to dedicate your life to the bisexual revolution; we are here regardless. You don’t have to love anything about yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone. We are here and we are trying really hard to make things as okay as possible for you. It’s all very confusing, loving people and not loving people and figuring out who those people are and what that means about you, but please know that there is a place for your wholeness, for your desire and pain and love. You don’t have to give up anything about yourself. You have so much time and space to fully understand your desire or just leave it be. You are so amazing.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys – A Review of Viv Albertine’s autobiography

Author:
Viv-Albertine

By Amy Callaghan

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. According to Viv Albertine, guitarist of revolutionary all-girl punk band the Slits, this was a phrase expressed frequently to her by her mother during her childhood and adolescence, ‘Clothes, clothes, clothes, music, music, music, boys, boys, boys – that’s all you ever think about!’. On the surface, that’s what her autobiography appears to be about as well – Albertine’s memories and anecdotes are anchored in the clothes, music, and boys influencing her at the time. Yet her book is more than a whirlwind tale of the legendary punk scene, told through aesthetics only – it is an open and thought-provoking appraisal of Albertine’s entire life.

Albertine’s autobiography is, as punk fans would hope, an insight into what it was like on the inside of the punk scene in the 1960s and 70s, as well as what it was like to be a woman in such a world. However, this is not, in my opinion, the main reason why this book stands out as a radical piece of feminist literature. Rather, it is Albertine’s brutally honest assessment of her whole life, pieced together in an occasionally jarring order, which is the most striking and revelatory aspect of this book. From her childhood, raised by a single mother in North London, and her maintaining issues with her father until his death in 2009, to her battle with cancer, her desperation for a baby and her struggle to conceive, her time as a Hastings housewife, and how the deterioration of her marriage coincided with her increasing desperation to make music again, Albertine holds nothing back, and it is this (at times borderline alarming) determination to be completely truthful about her experiences as a woman throughout every stage of her life which makes this such an inspiring work.

Albertine’s completely frank writing is at times almost unnerving. She doesn’t care if the reader is made uncomfortable by what she has to say or how she says it – the entire book is like a declaration of ‘well, these are my experiences, I lived through this, and I’m certainly not going to sugar-coat it’. It doesn’t, however, read as intentionally playing on shock value. Above all, it is honest. It’s refreshing to hear directly from a woman on often taboo subjects such as menstruation, masturbation, crabs – Albertine refuses to fall into the cultural trap of preserving the modesty of a woman’s body, and writes about these experiences in the same reflective and honest way in which she confronts everything else. It is brilliant and defiant in its rationality.

She writes openly about an abortion she had in 1978 and about how she did not regret it until 20 years later, and has not stopped regretting it since. Still, however, she is emphatic in her support for the right for a woman to choose whether or not to have an abortion. This section of the book takes on a new significance when she writes, many chapters later, of her difficulties in conceiving, the babies she lost through miscarriages, the amount of money and effort poured into IVF, and her eventual success and joy in becoming a mother. Albertine’s writing here is emotive and powerful, and the reader cannot help but feel strongly for her life – for someone unfamiliar with Albertine’s personal life, one could almost begin to root for her as one does for a character in a fictional novel, were it not for her occasional italicised retrospective remarks from her current perspective.

Of course, Albertine’s experiences as a woman in the 1970s punk scene is a substantial section of the book, and incredibly revelatory in itself. The Slits were a defining band in post-punk, and a massive step forward for representation of women in punk as well as in the music industry as a whole. When she writes of the complete lack of representation of any women doing what she wanted to do in music – Albertine couldn’t see any female punk guitarists so firmly believed for a long time that her only access to that world was through the men she associated with – it hammers home the lack of representation women still face in the 21st century. The fact that a girl with no musical training was determined enough to pick up a guitar and play, particularly in such a trailblazing band as the Slits, is nothing short of inspiring.

In an interview with Paper magazine 6 months after the book’s UK release, Albertine expressed her surprise that anyone was inspired by the book. ‘I wanted to show the flipside of someone who looks like they’ve got their life together and what is really underneath it all, so I wrote all the downsides, and yet people found it very inspiring.’ she said. Yet it is difficult to see how Albertine’s book couldn’t be inspiring. Albertine’s experiences, while at points completely distinctive to her era and generation, will hold familiarity with women across every generation, and her publication of this honest confrontation and assessment of her life is an incredibly brave decision.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys was recommended to me as a feminist and music lover. But I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of their interest in music. Even if you’ve never heard of the Slits, never been into punk or any kind of subversive culture, there will be something in Albertine’s book that will resonate with you and your own experiences. And even if there isn’t – her life is bloody interesting enough to have you hooked regardless.

Neopronouns and clickbait

Author:
clickbait

By Pip Williams

Content note: transphobia

An article from notoriously poorly-edited and sensationalist student news outlet The Tab somehow wormed its way onto my Facebook timeline yesterday. The article was titled “Oxford University students allegedly told to use ‘ze’, not ‘he or she’ to stop transgender discrimination”, and, unsurprisingly, the comments were a transphobic mess.

In recent weeks, The Tab has taken to sharing content centring around non-binary trans identities. A video by non-binary activist and Newcastle University Student Union Marginalised Genders Officer Saffron Kershaw-Mee garnered comparisons to cancer and paedophilia, prompting them to pen a follow-up article to a similarly unsympathetic response.

The Tab isn’t the only news outlet to capitalise on transgender identities for outrage-inducing clickbait. In July, national newspaper The Telegraph published an article titled “Boarding school teachers told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’ in guidance on gender neutral terminology”. Whilst I was unable to source the official guidance from the Boarding Schools Association, LGBT+ news outlet PinkNews spoke with Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the BSA, to ascertain that the guidance had been provided at the request of teachers.

In conversation with PinkNews, Thompson explains how teachers felt “in the dark” when addressing pupils with gender identities unfamiliar to them. Far from instructing staff to use ‘zie’, the guidance provided the pronouns as an example of a neopronoun likely to be unfamiliar to staff. Neopronouns such as ‘zie’ are modern personal pronouns used in place of gendered pronouns such as ‘she’ or the widely used gender-neutral ‘they’. Many have been developed through discussion in online trans and genderqueer communities. Lists of neopronouns (such as this one) are one of the most widely available resources explaining their use. As such, it’s unlikely that the average cisgender schoolteacher would be aware of their existence. The aim of including ‘zie’ in the BSA guidance was, therefore, to demonstrate its use, ensuring staff would feel comfortable employing it if requested by a student – certainly not to say that everyone should be addressed with neopronouns, ‘zie’ or otherwise!

As with the Oxford University case reported by The Tab, The Telegraph chose to insinuate forced usage of neopronouns for all students. In the age of the internet, we all know how clickbait works. These false insinuations were intended to generate outrage, clicks, and advertising revenue – at the expense of trans people’s dignity and respect, and as we can see, this is an all-too-common theme.

I believe that The Tab’s article has been either amended, or deleted and republished without comment, since the release of Oxford University SU’s statement on the use of gender neutral pronouns proved several points incorrect. The statement outlines how “There is [a] possibility that our work and remit has been confused with the work of the wider University, whose Trans Policy and guidance does include a mention of neopronouns (pronoun sets like ‘ze/hir’, ‘ey/em/eirs’).” Again we see guidance on the usage of neopronouns in the context of trans equality exaggerated to the point of compulsory blanket usage.

The Tab article states – in a convoluted fashion – that “Claims were allegedly made in a leaflet given out by the SU says [sic] that deliberately using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person is an offence under the university’s code of behaviour”. Whilst we have established that the leaflets in question probably did not exist – at least not in any association with the Oxford University SU – this is a pretty standard anti-harassment guideline to promote trans equality in the student body. Sensationalising it in the news doesn’t change that most universities do (and should!) enshrine protection for trans students in their code of conduct.

I would also like to briefly touch on how the Telegraph’s headline stated that staff were “told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’”. Whilst neither the BSA nor Oxford University SU were demanding the blanket use of neopronouns, it’s worth noting why this is a harmful concept in itself, particularly in the case of transgender students. For binary transgender individuals (i.e. trans men or women), using a neopronoun such as ‘zie’ in place of the gendered pronouns (e.g. she or he) they have requested is as much misgendering them as using the incorrect gendered pronoun. Whilst I would encourage people to use neutral pronouns on initially meeting someone (‘they’ is most common), it is important to be open to correction and respect people’s correct pronouns.

Powered By Girl’s Winter Feminist Gift Guide

Author:
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By Anna Hill

As winter fast approaches and various celebrations come about you might be thinking about what you want to ask for, and what you want to get others!! So I made a handy list of suggestions for you to peruse and/or send to a parent/friend/add to that amazon wishlist!

Fiction

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya

This masterpiece of a book is so beautiful! It’s written by a bisexual trans woman of colour and is full of accurate depictions of what being bisexual and experiencing biphobia is like. Its an illustrated novel chronicling the life of one specific boy as he discovers himself and learns to define who he is himself, alongside a really lovely re-imagining/retelling of Hindu mythology.

Carol/ The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Perfect for those wintery-Christmas-cold feels, Carol tells the story of Therese Belivet, a shy but artistic set designer and Carol, an older glamorous women on the brink of divorce. It’s a story set in the 1950s and is full of intricate and deep silences and omissions, portraying the lives of lesbian and queer women at that time. It is a great reminder of survival and love. This is also now a film which you could watch and discuss especially with the context that Patricia Highsmith, a lesbian herself, wrote it originally, but the director of the film was a straight man named Todd Haynes – how might that switch up perspectives?!

New Virginia Woolf Vintage Editions

Vintage has just released some beautiful new versions of Virginia Woolf’s work – my favourites are The Waves and Orlando. The Waves is an experimental modernist novel about five people and the way their lives wind together throughout their lives. The prose and imagery are amazing and inspiring. Orlando is very different – it’s a fun novel detailing the life of Orlando, a character that fluidly switches gender and time span, traveling from Istanbul to London to Russia.

Refugee Tales

This book is a double gift!! Refugee Tales is a collection of testimonies set out in a similar form as The Canterbury Tales and the entire profit of the book goes to Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group and Kent Refugee Help! Which means you get a shiny new book, and someone else gets funds that will help their wellbeing.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

This is a Young Adult Novel about a young Bruja [Latinx witch!]!! Perfect for the aspiring witch in your life; this is a story about mistakes, growth, family and identity. The novel is also part of the #OwnVoices movement, which means that it was written by someone who identifies with the main characters the story is about!

Ragdoll House by Maranda Elizabeth

Maranda Elizabeth is currently my favourite author and I attempt to include their work in every conversation! Ragdoll House is a wonderful novel about queer girl friendship, survival and love. This was described as a “queer punk classic” by one goodreads review and I couldn’t agree more! The prose is great and its always great to support mad disabled self-published authors.

Non-Fiction

Where Am I Now by Mara Wilson

Yes!! This is by The Mara Wilson, of Matilda fame! This is a collection of personal essays Mara has written about what it has been like for her growing up as a young girl and a former child actress. Her twitter account never ceases to entertain me and neither does this. Her honesty and wit is enthralling and her perspective is really interesting.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is a current feminist classic! You might have seen the ted talk this small book is based on, or you might have heard the section that is played in the Beyonce track Flawless. Either way, you probably will have come into contact with this book! With a stunning cover this is the perfect gift to baby feminists to help them on their way to greatness!

The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions Of A Wildly Better Future

This looks like a really interesting and hopeful read – what does a feminist utopia look like? What exactly do we want from liberation? In this collection over 50 authors discuss their feelings!! Including but not limited to Melissa Harris-Perry, Janet Mock and Sheila Bapat, in various different formats including interviews, poetry and short stories.

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

A collection of voices from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic British folks today exploring ideas about why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it feels like to be “othered” – in all its forms, from being an “ambassador” for your race to having to jump through hoops to be seen as a “good” immigrant. Get angry when you read this!! Get challenged by your own prejudices!! Get learning! Perfect feminist work to enjoy and digest over the winter so in 2017 you can reify your perceptions, refocus and really help to destroy inequality and racism wherever you see it.

Comics and Zines

Beyond the Queer Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comic Anthology edited by Sfe R. Monster and Taneka Stotts

A beautiful collection of diverse and exciting comics! Featuring, but not limited to, an agender ghost working at a tea shop, constructed gay robot aliens falling in love, Chinese-russian bi polyamorous astronauts and a monster queen falling in love (with no words!)! In other words, it’s everything you have been missing! More information on it here

Jem and the holograms!

Jem is one of my favourite comics because of how diverse it is, and not just sexual and romantic orientation wise, but also in terms of body type!! This comic tells the story of a band made up of sisters as they try to thrive, using technology that is so advanced it can create a holographic lead singer! Full of vibrancy and excitement, Jem and the holograms is especially good for pop punk fans!! (but I pretty much think everyone should read it because all the band members are so god damn CUTE.).3 volumes are out so far!

Hysterical femme – karina killjoy

This is one of my favourite zines of 2016. It’s about being a femme survivor, taking up space and working to love yourself and other femmes and other survivors too. It’s so affirming to read that there is no right way to heal and that there are others who feel how I feel! Its about still being angry and hysterical and mentally ill and still being treated with kindness and understanding rather than being deriding and frustrating. This zine is beautiful and validating and I hope everyone reads it one day!

Queer Indigenous Girl #2

This is a lovely submission based zine for black, indigenous people of colour who are queer, trans, 2-spirit, mentally/chronically/physically ill and neurodivergent. In prioritizing these folk’s voices it’s really great to support and read their work! It’s a colour PDF zine with art and illustrations. It also talks about what living with ADHD is like, depression and survival.

Poetry

milk and honey by rupi kaur

This is a firecracker of a collection of poetry. It’s split into four sections and each of them meticulously breaks your heart and sews it back together over and over.

the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Another energetic feminist poetry collection, this one focuses on being the main character in your own story, recovering from abuse and inheriting the power that is inside of you! Plus it’s written by an asexual author who is outspoken about books and social justice on tumblr.

Radical Softness

This is the CUTEST feminist poetry pocketbook made by wonderful graphic designer and general cool person Soofiya. Perfect for the person who is SO busy kicking the kyriarchy to the ground that they only have short amounts of time to read poetry. You can read this anywhere and everywhere ingesting all the great vibes from it whenever you need to!

Heartless Girls

This is a poetry zine by Emma T and it has such brilliant poems! My favourite line is probably “I don’t know how to stay tender/ with this much blood in my mouth”. Emma’s poetry is raw and vulnerable and that’s why its so great!

That’s it for my suggestions, I hope you found something fun off this list!

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