Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘personal’

Update – 12/12/16

Hello!

Sorry for the inactivity – the last few weeks have been taken up with planning and studying, and obviously the pre-Christmas rush! I’m hoping to have the time to write a couple of articles over Christmas, but I’m relying on my teachers being lenient with me…

Feminist Society has been going well – if you’re setting one up yourself, have a nose at this post and this one – and we’re having a feminist craft session this week. We’re making our own zine. Zines are handmade, DIY magazines that were popular among feminists in the 1980s, as they were cheap and easy to make in a group. We’re going to design a page each and then display them on our board at college (yes, we’ve even got a display board now!). We’re also collecting sanitary towels to donate to a food bank. If that’s something you could do over the festive season, please consider a donation of that kind – no-one should have to decide between looking after their children over Christmas and fulfilling their own basic needs.

This blog isn’t dead! I’m just busy. 😉 But I have got various bits and pieces in the works. I have a few posts to polish before I post them and plenty of ideas to write up.

martha gif 2

“There’s more?!”

Love,

Dolly x

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“What does a Feminist Society even do?”

Short answer: a lot. 

I got this question loads when I first told people that I was going to run a feminist society. I still get asked and I’ve already presented a third of my planned sessions (we finish next March). You might be wondering too – or, potentially, you want to run your own feminist group and don’t know what to talk about!

A point in my previous article about running a feminist society was that you should start by deciding what type of group you want to be. This is true of all good collectives – you should have an ultimate goal. Our group’s goal is simply to broaden our horizons as much as possible and to discover, together, what feminism means in today’s global society. Sometimes, that means we have to look back at the work of our foremothers, examining how they shaped the feminist movement we know and love, as well as acknowledging their failings and faults. Other times, it means that we must consider what our personal activism has to look like in order to create the future we want and need. We are a group rooted in the past, the present and the future.

But that might not be what you want. The feminist society you envision might not have many debates or discussions (like mine does – we do talk a lot!). It might be an action group, in which you organise protests, demonstrations, fundraisers and awareness events. That’s important and valid too, and you might like to incorporate those things even if yours will be a discussion group. For example, in honour of International Women’s Day next year, we’re planning to raise money for a women’s shelter and organise a showing of a feminist film in our college’s lecture theatre.

Another concern I’ve seen in forums and message boards is this: how do I come up with ideas for my sessions? A challenge indeed! I got started early, as soon as I was given the go-ahead to run the club. Sessions started in September, but I had planned all my allotted sessions by the end of June. This is definitely advisable; it gives you ample time to research (and design any PowerPoint presentations you might want!).

For our debates, I tried to stick to a “theme” for each half-term. The first half-term has been all about the history of the women’s movement and its foundations, as well as exploring intersectionality and diversity. We discussed the “waves” system, separatist and cultural strains of feminism (i.e. womanism, chicanisma), TERFs and early radical feminism. That made sense to me – it meant that everyone was on the same level and had the same grounding in feminist history. Our second set of sessions will focus more on politics and human rights, and how feminism supports and intersects with these.

Pro-tip: Google a ton of human rights awareness days and create your discussions based on these! There’s International Women’s Day (8th March), International Men’s Day (19th November), International Day For The Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th November), Menstrual Hygiene Day (28th May), Human Rights Day (10th December) and many, many more! If there’s an existing day of recognition, you’ll usually find it easier to discover resources online. IWD has an official website with downloadable information and activities, as do many of the others in the previous list.

You might also want to shake it up and show documentaries in your sessions (if you have access to a computer, screen and projector). Documentaries can be a fantastic way to engage your group in challenging discussions, especially if they are a little bit quiet to start with! It gives them (and you!) something to respond to, rather than forcing you to come up with an amazing point under pressure! If you want to incorporate this, YouTube is your best friend. I already had a few documentaries that I desperately wanted to show, but it’s quick and easy to type “feminist documentary” into YouTube if you need ideas. I’d recommend watching them first though!!! (There will soon be a “resources” page in the top-right corner of my blog, where I’ll link to documentaries we’ve shown/will show in the group.) You could also play music from feminist artists – we’re going to have a session on the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s. Maybe you could try craft activities, like handmade zines or posters.

Really, the best thing you can do is ask. What issues are your members passionate about? What do they want to talk about? What do they want to learn?

That’s all my advice for today, folks! Best of luck if you’re researching for and planning a feminist group. If not, why not? 😉

Please like and share if you enjoyed this post!

How To Run A Feminist Society

I’m running a feminist society at college this year (we’ve got just over 20 members), and I wanted to share some tips. When I was researching over the summer and planning our sessions, I couldn’t find a lot of information – so I decided to gather together my own advice (plus some Drag Race gifs) for other people!

  1. Plan, plan, plan!

This is a general tip, really, for anyone who wants to start a club or society. It’s worth starting early – if I hadn’t got started in advance, I might not have got into contact with my fab co-leader. Obviously, the nature of feminism is very collaborative and opinion-based, so I knew the direction of our sessions would be dependent on the group, rather than on my plan! But you can never be too prepared and it’s worth keeping your notes and ideas in one place, whether that’s a file on your computer or a physical folder. A particularly important point is to decide what type of group your society will be. Ours is very much a discussion group, but you might want your society to be more action-based (i.e. your meetings will essentially be for planning protests, etc.).

Planning at least some of your meetings will also help with creating posters and promoting your feminist society.

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Then you won’t go blank when people ask what it’s all about!

2. Promote the hell out of your society!

If you’re running your feminist society as an after-school club or as an enrichment activity (like me), then your school or college will usually have open events, booklets/leaflets and display boards to help you advertise your group. Make sure you take advantage of these! My college has an enrichment sign-up at the start of term, and every society has a table in the hall where students come to register with us. I made a sign to stick on the front of our stall, printed off plenty of funky feminist stickers and brought some chocolate along too. You don’t have to go quite that far, but it’s important to think about how best to sell your society.

Social media also played a huge role in the success of the group. As soon as I knew the society was going ahead, I posted on Facebook and invited my peers along. I got a great response. Our group is primarily targeted at Year 12s (students aged 16 – 17, if you’re not from the UK!), but about a third of our members are Year 13s (my year group – 17 – 18). I kept people up to date with proceedings by posting statuses on Facebook throughout the planning process, and it worked out really well.

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And, just like that, you have a gazillion members.

3. Be prepared to learn from your new members!

As the leader/president/mob boss, it’s your job to facilitate discussions, debates and activities. In some cases, you will have to be the expert. But often, you’ll learn a major amount from the people in your group if you ensure they’re heard. Make sure your group is an open platform and give them the chance to be the expert too.

In fact, it’s worth making this clear in your very first session. My co-leader and I used the introductory session to help our members get to grips with how things were going to work, and one of the things we highlighted was that they should feel free to call us out on anything problematic or anything they disagreed with. Our logic was that if they felt confident enough to challenge us, then our debates would be more effective and open.

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It’s actually a good thing if they make this face, okayyy.

4. Change it up!

Do something different in every single session! The way I’ve gone about this is to alternate between watching documentaries or short films and debating. Essentially, we never have two debates in a row. This might sound odd for a feminist society, but, believe me, it’s especially helpful in your first few sessions when everyone is still getting to know one another. This might surprise you, but sometimes even feminists are shy and quiet, and consecutive sessions of awkward silence quickly sets an uncomfortable tone for your group. Watching a video (followed by a discussion) gives them a break and lets them socialise, whilst still engaging them in a challenging theme, and it’s a fantastic way of letting them bond organically.

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5. Do. Not. Let. Anything. Stop. You.

This is the most important point. Starting your own society, on any topic and for any interest, is hugely challenging but so, so, so rewarding. There were lots of times during the planning process when I wanted to give up. People told me I wouldn’t get any members; people told me to prepare for the worst.

I sat at my desk on the day of the sign-up and, to start with, no-one came over. That was terrifying. The club next to me had a huge queue and I felt like all eyes were on me, sat there with no takers. During those few minutes, I wanted to run off and cry in the toilets and give up on the whole thing, like everyone told me I should.

But I sat there, resolutely, with my stickers and a big smile and then, gradually, people started to sign up. To my surprise, whole groups of students walked over and all of them signed up. That made me so happy – the idea that entire groups of friends had seen my little poster and decided to join together.

katya-snap-fingers

Take that, everyone who said I wouldn’t have any members.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful! A lot of this applies to all sorts of clubs and societies, so I’ll be writing a separate article shortly to recommend some useful resources and provide a few ideas for activities. 

Please consider liking and sharing! Start your own FemSoc today!

Let’s Get Critical

This will probably be a bit of a long’un, but Owen Jones’ post was no little’un either. It’s his fault. (It’s not, it’s not. It’s mine for having such long conversations with myself about the state of the left and then wanting to write them down.)

Also, I’ve called him “Owen” a lot in this, which is not very professional. Referring to him as simply “Jones” felt clunky and patronising, like I’m his Maths teacher.

Guardian columnist and political commentator Owen Jones published a blog post last month regarding the current turmoil within the Labour Party (which you can read here). The blog post you’re reading right now (significantly less articulate than his) was supposed to be published some weeks ago. The problem was: I kept changing it. In the end, I thought: “Eh, other people have tweeted him better responses in under 140 characters. Get over yourself, girl.” Yesterday, however, Owen treated us all to a video concerning the same issue, in a nice manageable eight-minute chunk, and I thought: Do it. Write it. Go on. Double donkey dare you.

The post (and the new accompanying video) simply asks Jeremy Corbyn supporters (Corbynites? Corbynions?) to consider nine questions concerning Corbyn’s next move and the next move of the Labour Party generally. These questions concerned policies, strategies to win over particular voting demographics (e.g. Conservative voters, over-44s) and also the party’s “vision” or ultimate goal.

Fair play, I thought. I’ve wondered that myself, and I even have a Corbyn shrine.

As for the fine folk of Twitter? Not so much. Their stance after the blog post’s release was more along the lines of “Blairite careerist sellout”. Which was rude. Funny, undoubtedly, but rude. As a result, my own response started off as a “Leave Owen Jones alone” petition, directed at the aforementioned barrage of irate Twitter users who took offense at the blog post on behalf of Jeremy Corbyn/Labour/Karl Marx’s pet goldfish.

Then this post mutated into a musing on how difficult it is to hold an even slightly controversial opinion in any movement. I’ve considered the whole fiasco (it was a bit of a fiasco) over the past month and came to the conclusion that, actually, I could empathise quite a bit with Owen (just without the powerful political mind, numerous television appearances, bestselling books and gorgeous cat*). The pressure to avoid divisive opinions is far from exclusive to the left, and I think about it a lot within the context of feminism. You might recognise my dilemma too. You see someone speaking out about feminism and you want to support them – you really, really do – but they’re just so problematic. You can’t say “No, you’re representative of neither me nor feminism”, because then that divides the movement and sets us against each other (in the same way that the Labour Party feels – and, to a large extent, is – divided right now). I always feel especially guilty having these thoughts if the public figure in question is a woman.

Furthermore, you can’t be left-wing and live in a bubble, just like I can’t be a feminist and do so. I can protest that I don’t want to dilute feminism and make it palatable to men and anti-feminists, but that’s really not very helpful.  To paraphrase Owen’s point about knocking on doors in the video: the whole point of a movement, political or social, is to persuade. Acknowledging and engaging with the people who don’t agree with you is never very fun, but, within the context of any kind of campaign or cause, it is necessary. There’s no point if all the people already on board are just going to stand around drinking squash and saying: “Well, I think Jezza Corbz is a top lad and I don’t give a rat’s arse if nobody else does.”

He is indeed a top lad, but Tories, the over-65 bracket, most of the (former) Shadow Cabinet and also my stepdad aren’t convinced. (Truthfully, my stepdad just does not like Corbyn. Thankfully, he likes Owen Smith, the alternative, even less.) Owen is totally right (not that he needs my approval); that’s definitely where we’re** going wrong. All his suggestions for how Labour ought to continue were justified and implementing them would meet the needs of the vulnerable people that Labour are meant to protect and would provide what others are seeking.

I’d add – if I were anywhere near qualified enough to comment – that, alongside support for older people, Labour should be encouraging a rethink regarding how the NHS budget (what little there is) is distributed. Mental health is still not given parity with physical health. I know it’s a cliche at this point, which disturbs me deeply. Many of my close friends and my relatives had or have mental health problems. Through their experiences and my own perspective as an ally to them, the lack of appropriate support and education is frankly bewildering. I remember Nick Clegg promising better mental health services when the coalition formed. Look how that one turned out. Don’t be the Lib Dems, Labour.

(As a side-note: it’d be nice if we could stop treating socialism like the plague too. I’d like to say I’m a leftie without getting either the pitying “sit down and shut up, you scrounger” look or the outraged “omg you think Stalin was right” glare. We are entirely too comfortable with the right and with capitalism. Not to be the Trot in the room, Britain, but “bourgeois” just isn’t a good look on you.)

Honestly, I’d love for the Labour Party to reaffirm everything I’ve come to love about it. I’m too young to remember a pre-Blair Labour. I remember writing to Tony Blair, not long before he was succeeded by Gordon Brown, and asking him to save the polar bears. I got a letter back – admittedly it was not personal correspondence from our disgraced former Prime Minister, but it was all very official nonetheless. It’s framed, lost somewhere up in our loft.

It struck me while writing this that a New Labour government, as it was under Blair and Brown, remains the only kind of Labour government I’ve ever known. That makes the flicker of hope in my heart all the more exciting. It started with Corbyn, on that day in September last year. I knew, listening to him and following his work, that this was the politician I’d waited for. The polar bear set-up is quite a good metaphor, actually, for the approach Owen Jones suggested in that fateful blog post. What we’re doing is not enough. We need a new strategy.

The polar ice caps are melting and there’s a good chance they’ll fracture and splinter. We can’t let them split, though, for the sake of the polar bears.

Blair and Brown never saved them. Cameron or May would probably shoot the poor things for sport.

Knock on some doors, Labour, and tell ’em what you’re about. Leave Twitter alone for two seconds. Minimum selfies, please.

And, maybe,  just maybe, you can save those bloody polar bears.


Notes:

* That’s actually a lie; I have two cats and they’re beautiful and flawless. But the rest still stands.

** “We”, she says with utter seriousness, as though she has ever done anything except give a Ukipper a stern and meaningful look in the street.

For more pure unadulterated Owen Jones, from concentrate, you can follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook as @OwenJones84. He has a regular column in the Guardian and a YouTube channel. He is also (surprise, surprise) the author of two bestselling books, Chavs and The Establishment. They will make you angry, but you’ll be happy about the fact that you’re angry. Trust me.

On Feminist Art

Sorry I’ve been so inactive! I’ve been focusing on college work, mostly. However, during the summer holidays, I’ve tried to branch out in terms of the feminist material I’m reading and creating. I’ve followed lots of great feminist artists on Instagram (like Paloma Smith/@octoplum), as well as some zine-makers and writers. I really like the DIY vibe I get from most feminist art, the idea that these are women making incredible things with the most ordinary of tools.

Art has been an integral part of feminism for a long time, starting with the original feminist art movement in the 1960s. For me, it marks how feminism has expanded from the realm of academia. It’s not something contained in statistics and studies and essays; it’s real, tangible and present in the lives and imaginations of women. There’s something inherently radical about the act of expression through creation, the very making of art that has come from your own heart and your own brain.

I’d definitely like to try my hand at producing a zine (there’s a “how-to” from Rookie magazine here), but for now I thought I’d stick to something simple and familiar. I was in a creative writing club at school and since then I haven’t had much chance to do any writing. I thought I’d have a go at something similar to the “found poetry” or the “cut up” techniques. I’m not sure my version strictly fits into either genre, but I enjoyed making them and I’m pleased with the results. It’s very therapeutic and cheap – all you need are scissors, glue and a few unwanted magazines and newspapers – but it can be quite time-consuming, especially as I’m pretty picky and I kept rearranging the lines!

FYI: these are my intellectual property, so please don’t nick them or share them without crediting me!

It’s up to you to interpret these, but the two short ones on the top right were specifically about feminism and how it’s perceived. The top left was inspired by all the writers I love right now who are fighting for social justice with the pen, not the sword. The bottom left was meant to be more evocative of the disconnect between the polished exterior of British society and the colonialism and corruption we like to gloss over. The bottom right is about the area I’m from, the Black Country, which you can learn more about here if you’re not local!

You can read more about feminist zines and self-publishing 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.