Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Posts tagged ‘radfem’

“My body is not my own” – a poem

This is a translation of a poem I originally wrote in Spanish (which you can find here). If the phrasing here seems a little bit clumsy, it’s because Spanish sentence structure is different. For example, “it isn’t important to me” becomes “no me importa” (= it doesn’t to me have any importance) – tricky!


My body is not my own.

I am not the owner of my own house,

Nor of the kitchen of my stomach

Nor of the bedroom of my heart

Nor of the rafters of my bones.

My body is not my own.

The visitors say that I should shave.

And why?

Why don’t I have the right to grow

flowers in my own garden?

Roses grow down my legs,

Violets across my stomach

And there is secret ivy inbetween.

Years ago I decided that I would not be bothered by

The comments of the guests,

Nor those of passers-by,

Nor those of the estate agents

That want to improve me and sell me.

My abode is beautiful just as it is.

My body will always be mine

And I am my own home.

Dolly Dastardly (c) 2017

“Mi cuerpo no es mío” – un poema

Traducción inglesa aquí

Mi cuerpo no es mío.

No soy dueña de mi propia casa,

Ni de la cocina de mi estómago

Ni del dormitorio de mi corazón

Ni de las vigas de mis oseos.

Mi cuerpo no es mío.

Los visitantes dicen que debe rasurar.

¿Y por qué?

¿Por qué no tengo la derecha cultivar

Los flores en mi propio jardín?

Las rosas crecen por mis piernas,

Las violetas a través de mi panza

Y hay hiedra secreta entremedio.

Hace años decidí que no me importarían

Los comentarios de los invitados

Ni de los transeúntes

Ni de los agentes inmobiliarios

Que quieren mejorarme y venderme.

Mi morada es hermosa como así es.

Mi cuerpo siempre será mío

Y soy mi propio hogar.

Dolly Dastardly (c) 2017

The Curse: Womanhood and Horror

While I wasted my obligatory horror film post back in May, I realised that I hadn’t really gone into depth about the underlying theme that links most (if not all) of the films on that list together – the way the horror genre exoticises and demonises puberty, sex and womanhood. Slasher films are particularly guilty of this. In many slasher films, especially in early examples, the “final girl” survives to the end of the film and defeats the killer. Usually, she survives because she is a virgin and the other female characters – normally sexually active women – are punished by the narrative for their promiscuity.

It’s true that women are often the victims in horror films that treat puberty as a cause for alarm, as a step into a world of violence and fear. However, there’s certainly no shortage of women who commit violence within the genre and, equally often, such violence is presented as a coming-of-age ritual for the female protagonist. Either as a victim or as a perpetrator, her experiences with fear and with conflict are integral to her “growing up”.

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“It’s corn syrup, Daddy. Want some?”

Themes that crop up a lot are menarche and menstruation; it’s easy to see why. It’s cyclical, linking it to curses and prophecies within horror – you know the one, “Every 20 years, the great god Cthulhu demands a virgin sacrifice.” It also appears predominantly in films that explore lycanthropy (werewolfism!), which in most myths is dependent on the lunar cycle. Furthermore, menstruation is the only entirely natural process in which blood is excreted from the body. Despite being an absolutely normal and non-threatening experience, it lends itself to narratives that treat menstrual bleeding as equivalent to violent injury like stabbing or mutilation. The point of the horror genre is to unsettle and unnerve us. What better way to scare us than to convince us (at least for roughly 90 minutes) that our own body might turn against us?

A good example is the film Ginger Snaps (2000). In the film, Ginger Fitzgerald, a 16-year-old girl, starts her period. On the same day that she receives “the curse”, as she refers to it, she is attacked and bitten by a werewolf. Her younger sister Brigitte must find a way to cure her before Ginger is completely transformed into a monstrous creature. There’s very much a conflict between the girls’ mother’s romanticised idea of menarche, the school nurse’s calm explanations and Ginger’s own experiences. Her transformation is marked by exaggerated indications of puberty – we see her struggling to shave off thick hair, her period seems to go on for weeks and her sexual awakening results in a near-death experience for her boyfriend, who contracts lycanthropy like an STD and has a period of his own. Of course, the film is hyperbolic, but when you go through menarche as a teenager, these new and often painful experiences can feel very much like a nightmare.

At its heart, Ginger Snaps is a film about sisterhood. It explores the complex bond between young women, related by blood or not, by candidly depicting internalised misogyny. The Fitzgerald sisters frequently denounce their arch-enemy Trina Sinclair as a “slut” and she responds in kind, but all the teenage girls in the film are a united front when it comes to boys and their tenuous, uncertain interactions with them. In fact, Trina’s death scene and her conversation with Brigitte prior to her death is particularly fascinating. In reference to seeing Brigitte hanging out with Trina’s ex-boyfriend, Sam (who helps Brigitte find the cure), Trina says to her: “If you’re so f*cking smart, you won’t give him the satisfaction. Somebody, just once, shouldn’t give that f*cker the satisfaction!” That doesn’t strike me as something a nemesis would say. To me, that sounds like Trina trying – if haphazardly – to protect Brigitte from earning a reputation like hers. The girls show awareness of the sexual double standard earlier in the film. Lamenting her bad experience with her boyfriend, Ginger remarks to Brigitte that “A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease or the virgin next door.”

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Along those same lines, menarche is undoubtedly linked with the onset of fertility and sex. It’s fairly archaic symbolism and bears less relevance in the modern era, as obviously not all women want to or are able to have children. In addition, not everyone who experiences the menstrual cycle identifies as a woman and trans women may not experience it either.

However, I still find it interesting. Take the film  The Company of Wolves (1984), for example, based on the short story of the same name from the anthology The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. All the stories in the anthology deal with womanhood in some way – whether it’s through menarche, marriage or sex. The film is no different. While it is admittedly not an easy film to understand, due to heavy use of surrealism, ambiguous symbolism and a blurred boundary between the real world and the “dream” world, it is essentially a coming-of-age story. It’s a beautiful film, but it does take a few repeat viewings to take in everything. There’s so much symbolism in every frame and it can be a bit perplexing initially. The Company of Wolves also features werewolves, although they are portrayed differently to the lycanthropes of Ginger Snaps. Here, although the film makes it clear that anyone can become a wolf, the werewolves serve primarily as an allegory for men. This stems from the morals of early fairy tales, which Carter extrapolates in The Bloody Chamber. The original tale Red Riding Hood, which inspired several stories in the anthology and also the film, can be interpreted as a treatise on virginity. The wolf is a predator, out to steal away Red Riding Hood’s innocence and “devour” her, but she must be vigilant and stick to the path. Carter’s retelling is far more feminist. At the culmination of the short story and the film, the Red Riding Hood character – named Rosaleen in the film – chooses to stay with the wolf who has tricked her and eaten her grandmother. Leaving behind her parents, the village and the expectations that they had for her life, she transforms into a wolf herself and they flee into the forest together.

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“They say the Prince of Darkness is gentleman… they’re right, a fine gentleman.”

Perhaps that’s the secret to making a horror film that treats women’s experiences sensitively while still being, well, horrifying. Strip the protagonist of her autonomy, stop her from being the focus of her own narrative, and you’re guaranteed to make a shitty, sexist film. Giving agency and a voice to women in horror doesn’t reduce the terror, but it does stop the film from contributing to real life attitudes and stigma.

Please like and share if you enjoyed this article! This is a subject about which I’m passionate, and I’d really appreciate it.

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.

latrice-pow-like-that

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.

rpdr-yaaas-gawd

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.

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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!

“Lefties: Angry Wimmin” – BBC

I just watched the documentary Lefties: Angry Wimmin (BBC, 2006), exploring the world of the revolutionary feminists of the 1970s and 1980s. This episode is from a three-part series about left-wing politics, and it’s a fascinating look at the “boom”, if you like, of radical feminism.

I think it’s important we look back at the work that these women did. Some of it might seem shocking – it certainly shocked me! I knew that some lesbian/separatist feminists advocated for “political lesbianism” and for the excision of men from women’s social circles, but I never realised how many women actually put it into practice. Please consider it in its social and historical context, though; these women were living in a dramatically different society to the one we live in now. Feminists of my generation don’t push for the abolition of heterosexuality because we don’t need to – these ladies paved the way for us and made the statement that desperately needed to be made at the time. At that point in time, we had only just begun describing the unequal social hierarchy as patriarchy, and its looming presence in their lives forced the revolutionary feminists into much more radical activism.

I particularly appreciated the inclusion of Linda Bellos, especially the frank discussion about how mainstream white feminism treated her. That highlighted what third-wave feminists and intersectional feminists have always asserted: that second-wave feminism wasn’t very inclusive. The dismissive attitudes of the white, cis, able-bodied feminists who were interviewed demonstrates just how reluctant they were to address issues of accessibility and discrimination within their own movement. The repercussions of that lack of insight into diversity is something with which we are still dealing today.

I also found it pretty startling that these women – some of whom, like Julie Bindel, are lesbians – seemed to believe that homosexuality is a choice. One could accuse them almost of appropriating and misrepresenting the gay rights movement. I understand why they opted for “political lesbianism”, but really, this kind of rhetoric just played into the hands of homophobes. For years, the LGBTQ+ community has fought to assert that sexualities are not arbitrarily “chosen”.