Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘inspiring’

“Time to make a difference” – Jack Monroe

“Austerity is necessary; we need to tighten our belts. What about when those belts are tightened around the necks of the most desperate who hang themselves from the rafters because their benefits have been cut? Because that was a friend of mine.

A powerful talk by Jack Monroe, writer and activist, on their experience of poverty. In order to help other families who were struggling to raise children on less than £10 a week, Monroe began sharing cheap recipes on their blog Cooking on a Bootstrap. You can find them as @MxJackMonroe on Twitter.

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“Women Transform Into Their Idols” – BuzzFeed

I just watched this super cute video from Ladylike, a series by BuzzFeed. In this episode, the team get to dress up as their female role-models. It’s amazing. I loved all their reasons for choosing these women as their role-models, and their choices said a lot about what each Ladylike member finds important in their own identity.

 

5 Spectacular Sportswomen

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, kicked off today. In honour of this massive international sporting event, I decided that this article should feature 5 incredible feats of athleticism and endurance… by women. Women were first able to compete in the Summer Olympics in 1900, but, even as recently as 1992, 35 countries were still entering exclusively male competitors. The first time that at least one woman competed for every country was in 2010, a whopping 114 years after the first Olympic Games in 1896.

Lena Jordan

Lena Jordan was a Latvian trapeze artist and aerial performer. In 1897, she became the first person to successfully perform a triple somersault on the flying trapeze. No man beat the record she set until 1909. An article from the Chicago Tribune in 1982 states that “… fewer than 20 trapeze flyers have ever succeeded…” and also that two of the men to ever complete the move died trying to replicate their success, which gives you an idea of how scarily dangerous this move is! Hats off to you, Ms Jordan – you were a braver woman than I!

Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle

In 1926, Gertrude Ederle – born in Manhattan to German immigrant parents – became the first woman to swim the English channel. She was a champion swimmer, Olympic gold medallist and a world record holder in five events. Only five men had successfully swum the English Channel before her attempt. The former record had been 16 hours, 33 minutes (set by Enrique Tiraboschi). She crossed the Channel in 14 hours and 39 minutes. From Trudy herself: “People said women couldn’t swim the Channel, but I proved they could.”

Bonita Norris

Bonita Norris was the youngest British woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, at the age of just 22 (until 2012, when 19-year-old Leanna Shuttleworth broke her record). Bonita also successfully climbed to the summit of Mt. Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world. She’s a television presenter and a charity fundraiser too (seriously, what can’t this woman do?!). I was lucky enough to listen to her speak about her experiences at my school, as part of our International Women’s Day celebration (she’s lovely and you should Google her!).

Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner

“Flo-Jo” was an American track-and-field athlete. In 1988, she set the world record for the 100m sprint at the U.S. Olympic Trials, astounding everyone watching. She completed the race in just 10.49 seconds, and it’s this achievement that has led to her being considered “the fastest woman of all time”. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, she set another world record in the 200m sprint. Well, actually, she set two – she completed it in 21.56 seconds in the semi-final and then beat her own record in the final, finishing in 21.34 seconds. In 1998, she sadly passed away at the age of 38, after an epileptic seizure.

Cheryl Haworth

Ever wanted to meet a woman who can lift the equivalent of two fridges over her head? Well, let me introduce you to Cheryl Haworth, the American weightlifter. During the Summer Olympics in Sydney, in 2000, women’s weightlifting was introduced. It was Cheryl’s time to shine, and she brought home a bronze medal at the age of just 17. She competed in the heaviest class. Her weight made her the subject of media scrutiny, and in an interview with Stumptuous, she stated: “It’s frustrating, because it’s like instead of “Oh, you’re the strongest woman in the history of the US”, it’s like “You’re big but you don’t sit on the couch and do nothing. How does that work?” They just don’t understand that bigger people can be elite athletes.”

 

So there you have it: five fantastic women, of all different shapes and sizes, who set incredible records and achieved amazing things!

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#WhatIReallyReallyWant

Global Goals have produced this AMAZING video, championing activism around the world for the rights of women and girls. Featuring the iconic “girl power” anthem Wannabe by the Spice Girls, it is promoting a campaign to show the United Nations what we really, really want – equality for women. Using the hashtag #whatireallyreallywant, you can help to provide Global Goals with material to present to the UN. You can find out more here.

Corbyn and the Coup: A Socialist Fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a far-away kingdom, alone on an island.

The kingdom’s rulers did not care much for their people and theirs was a world of bloodshed and betrayal, so the people relied upon a court of mages for guidance, led by an old wizard chosen by the people. He and the king sought to restore balance between them. (This is a magical democracy, children. Now shut tf up and listen.)

Of late, the kingdom had isolated itself further still. Their former king had abdicated. He was not the best king, but the alternative was much worse… and now it had come to pass. The king’s courtiers bickered and quarreled over who would take the throne, and the people looked to their royal wizards for comfort.

However, it seemed that the wizards had forgotten their code of magical honour. All of them, except for that wise old wizard. Although he was the people’s choice (Which? Magazine winner), the courtiers and other wizards had long mocked him for his unkempt beard and tattered robes. The truth was, the wise old wizard found no pleasure in expensive wands and fine garments. What he loved was good magic, done for the benefit of his people. He wanted to protect them and to ensure everyone got their share.

But their mockery was deeper and darker than that. The other wizards feared the new and different magic that the wise old wizard had, and they had only one solution: to overthrow him.

You’ve probably guessed by now, but I’m not actually talking about an old sorcerer, an absentee king and a wizardly code of honour.

I’m talking, of course, about the EU referendum and its consequences, namely the underhand, unfair campaign against the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. I won’t pretend this “coup” – if you can call it that – is anything new. Ever since he became leader, there have been detractors and naysayers within the party itself. It’s been brewing in the cauldrons of the centre left (and if you think Corbyn is too far left, you probably shouldn’t be in the Labour Party) for quite some time; it’s just that the country is in convenient turmoil at present. Our prime minister has resigned, our government are battling it out for the top job, and nobody knows where to look for leadership or guidance. Those in the Labour Party who want Corbyn out have made their opinions known – opinions which have been ad hominem at best, downright character assassination at worst. This was an opportune moment to do so.

That’s what politics is about in this country at the moment: opportunity. That’s what we are to most politicians – us peasants, the serfs on their land – we are opportunities. They’re vultures, picking at the carcass of this country and squabbling over the last scraps of meat that remain. Jeremy Corbyn’s only crime was to see us for what we are. We are people who have already been taken advantage of. We are people who do not need any more cuts, any more austerity, any more lies.

Jeremy Corbyn is not, to the best of my knowledge, a liar. That’s the key difference between him and many other politicians I’ve seen. He does not mince his words, he does not avoid the question. He does not hide behind flashy cars and sharp suits and an Etonian education. He cycles, appeared on television in 1984 in a jumper knitted by his mother, and is the son of a maths teacher and an engineer. He has fought all his life to make the world a better place, often at great personal cost regarding his career. This is a man who has won awards for his human rights activism and he has openly opposed the Labour whip on several occasions. Precisely when kindness and compassion became radical qualities, I don’t know, but these are the things that have made him so popular among young people. He sticks it to the man, sure, but he does it in a way that is fair and just.

We should be ashamed of the bullying that has been perpetrated against Corbyn. He has been subjected to the most inane, the most insulting media depiction of recent times. He’s been a victim of biased media. We have all been victims of that same biased media. It’s unfair for people to label him uncharismatic or unelectable, when they’re the same people who would never give him a chance and gave him so little room to manouevre. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

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Even his side-eye does not discriminate. It sees all.

He is honourable. He is decent. He is principled.

Of course I’m a little predisposed to like him. His politics align very closely with my own, and he is the kind of person for whom I have always had the utmost respect. Regardless, I have been proud to call him our Leader of the Opposition, and I hope I can continue to refer to him as such.

Thank you, Jez. Whatever may happen in the coming months, thank you.

And to the wise old wizard on the lonely island: your good magic is strong enough. Keep the faith.

Writing – Artemisia

The third (very belated) part of my historical women series. You can read Cleopatra and Olympias first, if you like, but they’re not interconnected. This is not 100% historically accurate, but I wasn’t really aiming for that. Artemisia’s life has become part of mine, and I simply enjoyed taking the time to explore how I feel about her work. Trigger warning for non-explicit references to rape and sexual assault, as well as some moderate violence.

For Artemisia, and for the sister she never had.

Rome, 1612

Artemisia approaches the canvas. She hesitates briefly, as though asking permission from a lover, before placing a hand upon its textured surface. She touches every bump, every ridge, every pore, until she knows each one intimately. She feels a strange sort of camaraderie with it, like an old friend.

Her wounded hands are glaringly obvious against the white and her thumbs throb with remembered pain, caught in a tightening vice that has not touched her flesh for months. She remembers how she shrieked until her throat was dry and burning and she could shout no longer – even now, she swallows slowly, at a thankful, reverent pace – and she remembers the metal inside her. How cold, how clinical. They never drew blood, not there, but still she felt dissected, split asunder. For months, she could not quite believe that anything below her waist belonged to her. It had become public property. It had become evidence.

She had become evidence. She had been victim, witness, judge and jury.

Her body may have healed from that indignity, but her soul had not.

 

She wants her next work to be powerful. She wants to give her weeping heart manifest form. Looking up at the canvas, she knows the space would allow for it. Empty as it is, it already physically dominates, but she wants it to be emotionally overwhelming too.

She wants something epic, something towering and forceful.

“Something of Biblical proportions,” her father had said when she told him; she had agreed.

She wants rage and she wants revenge and she wants blood, yet she craves companionship and sisterhood and triumph.

Judith, she thinks, it can only be Judith. I must paint Judith, here and now, for when she slays her Holofernes, I will have slain mine too.

She gathers her materials. Slowly but firmly, she starts to sketch. For now, it is bare bones. One day, it will have a heartbeat of its very own.

 

Over the months following the trial, she gets to know Judith very well. She could have told the tale with ease prior to this, but she could not have attested to the slick darkness of Judith’s hair, like the Tiber on a stormy day. She could not have described the flex of the tendons in Judith’s forearm, nor the grip of her fist in Holofernes’ hair, nor the thrust and the drive of the blade in her hand. Judith is fluidity and Judith is motion, so Artemisia lets herself be taken with the ebb and flow of her tide.

She even acquaints herself with Holofernes. She had no desire to know him before she began. It was Judith who mattered most, and that remains gospel in her heart. That doesn’t stop her from feeling a surge of ragehatepity at the sight of his frightened eyes, his grasping hands, his gaping mouth. Perhaps this is because she is familiar with this expression. It is the same look she has seen in the eyes of dying fish, asphyxiating in fishermen’s nets, and it is the same look she saw on the face of Agostino Tassi that day in court.

She paints Holofernes differently, violently. Judith is born of tender recognition, but Holofernes is born of painful otherness. Holofernes is dissonance, he is an untuned string in the symphony of Artemisia’s… Judith’s life. Sometimes, she has to stop herself for fear that she will stab him, right through the heart and right through the canvas. She has to pause occasionally, for she is breathless, she is spent. She leaves a trail of blood in her wake. It spatters, adorning his throat and chest, a garland of roses, a chain of rubies. She is caught in their crossfire as Judith plunges downwards with her dagger and Holofernes fights upwards and, often, she wonders: when did she stop being an onlooker and become a participant? When did she join the brawl?

Artemisia is not the only one dragged in from the sidelines. Behind them both is Judith’s maidservant, pinning the general down while Judith beheads him. Despite Holofernes’ punishing grasp on the front of her gown, the maid stands firm, determined. She is more a sister than a servant. Artemisia wishes desperately that she had a sister, so she is gentle, coaxing the maid out from the shadows as she paints. Perhaps there is a secret part of her that is jealous, that craves what Judith has.

She remembers how she had screamed for Tuzia all those months ago. It was hard with his hand over her mouth, dragging stale stinging air into her lungs as she inhaled, but still she had screamed and screamed. She had begged. Tuzia never came.

In court, Tuzia had denied all knowledge. I heard nothing, she said, I saw nothing.  I’ve never followed Artemisia into her workshop. I heard nothing.

She kept saying it, over and over, I heard nothing. Artemisia is sure she burst into tears at one point and had to be consoled, for she would have made herself ill with the sobbing. You heard everything, she had wanted to bellow, I yelled and I begged and you heard but you never came, you traitor. But she hadn’t screamed. She only had to look Tuzia in the eye for a second and the woman knew it all. Remember me, she demanded with those precious moments of eye-contact, Don’t you ever forget me, don’t you dare.

Artemisia used to hope – and she hated herself for hoping – that whenever Tuzia broke bread, she’d think of her former friend’s broken body and whenever she sipped wine, she’d think of the dried blood on the bedsheets. She doesn’t wish for that now. She might not have forgiven Tuzia, but she wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. It is not in her nature.

 

Rome, 1613

When she steps away from the canvas, for what she knows is the very last time, Artemisia is not shocked by what she sees.

Not Judith, Holofernes and the maid.

Rather, Artemisia, Agostino, and Tuzia.

Her instinct is to rush to change it, to scrub away its significance. With a darker shadow here, a more pronounced cheekbone there, there would be no sign, no suspicion, that the three of them ever shared a canvas.

But she can’t do it. She won’t do it.

 

For weeks, people come to see the painting.  News travels fast on the streets of Rome, and they soon flock to her father’s exhibitions to see the works of both father and daughter. Some of them marvel. Some of them are aghast. One lady faints at the thought that a woman could paint such a thing as this. How improper to depict a Biblical widow engaging in wilful decapitation.

This is her testament. This is her monument.

It makes her laugh to think that – on a wall, rather than the gallows – Agostino Tassi will hang.

 

Florence, 1614

When Cosimo de Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, asks her to recreate the work, she paints with such vigour that it scares her. It takes her six years to complete. The finished work, far more refined and yet far more animal than the original, certainly scares the Dowager Grand Duchess Cristina, but, unsurprisingly, Cosimo loves it. So she paints another, and another, and another.

The scandal dies down, the gossip withers, but she is still an oddity in the Florentine court. An artist’s daughter from Rome, a victim of rape, a sociological phenomenon.

This is fine by her. She is content to be an oddity, on her own terms.

Everything is on her own terms now.

Why OCG is the real OG

If you haven’t witnessed the spectacular work of Orange Coat Girl, you really should. There isn’t a copy of the video on YouTube, aside from one published on Milo Yiannopoulos’ channel which you can find here. The clip of her starts at 00:09 and ends at 00:39. I hate to give him any more views than he has (because his politics are gross), so you can also access the video on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.

In the video, Orange Coat Girl, a student of UCLA, has taken down posters which read “Feminism is cancer”, followed by an image of Milo Yiannopoulos’ face. She is carrying the posters, presumably to dispose of them. She is pursued by an aggressive anti-feminist – another student who had previously put these posters up – who yells at her and films the encounter. To her credit, OCG remains totally calm and dignified throughout, despite the other student calling her “cancerous to society”. Honestly, the student filming sounds completely desperate, demanding to know why OCG removed the posters and insisting that OCG nearly assaulted her when she reached past her to take down a poster.

I don’t know the full story; perhaps OCG was more hostile when she initially removed the images. But she was well within her rights to do so, as has been pointed out – material of that nature is against the university’s regulations. OCG herself called the posters “hateful” and “illegally posted”.

As of 3rd June, a clip posted by @itsfeminism on Instagram has been viewed 13, 565 times. Another I saw on Facebook, posted by BRUHH, has been seen 8, 545 times. Orange Coat Girl herself (who you can find on Twitter as @orangecoatgirl) has 9, 393 followers, and it’s still trending. Little gestures of rebellion like this are great. They foster a much better, safer, fairer environment and they clear the path for more activism.

From Orange Coat Girl:

Just goes to show that you have a voice, no matter how small you believe it to be!

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