Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

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What’s the point?

I’m sorry I haven’t posted a proper article for a little while, but I’ve been busy revising for my exams (all done now!) and, honestly, I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. Since my exams finished, I’ve posted quite a lot on my other blog which is about the paranormal and things like that. I find that quite easy to write about because it’s generally lighthearted and it’s more reflective of my “sillier” side. Personally, it’s not a silly subject for me, but I’m aware that other people do think it’s a little bit weird and we can have a laugh about it. At the end of the day, my writing about ghosts has no impact on anyone else.

But this blog does have an impact. It deals with a lot of serious subject matter – women’s rights issues are no joke – and I have to be careful about the topics I choose to discuss and the manner in which I discuss them. Loyal readers might remember that, when I first started this blog aeons ago in 2015, I published articles frequently. It was pretty distinctly quantity over quality, and there are lots of posts from the early stages of this blog that I’m not overly fond of. I’m leaving them up for now though – I think you have a right to know what my journey within feminism has been like. I’ve chosen to make that journey public; I have to accept that two years of reading and writing about feminism has changed my perspective on lots of issues.

It has made me wonder if there’s any point to continuing this blog. I’m at a point where my ideas about feminism go a lot deeper than writing an article about my Top 5 Female Artists. Of course posts like that are important and I’m glad I showcased as many interesting women from the world of art, from history and from popular culture as I could, but I’m now dealing with feminism’s place in culture (and in my life) in a way which is much more complex. It’s not really the stuff of a cute rainbow blog with witty GIFs and my special brand of humour. It’s the stuff of proper feminist activists, proper feminist academics and proper feminist authors. And I am none of those things. It’s difficult not to feel a bit inadequate and insignificant.

But whenever I think about giving up this blog for good – never writing a post again, never updating the FAQ again, never adding to the feminist playlist again – something in me pitches a fit. How dare you just give up, it says. You can never carry on with anything, you always give up on your ideas after five minutes! And that’s true: I’m a terminal quitter. (Side note: I used to do creative writing, I had ambitions of being an author. Have I ever finished a novel? No. There’s at least half a dozen separate stories rotting on one of my old USB sticks.)

This blog is perhaps the longest running personal hobby I’ve ever had. Two years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but it’s around 11% of my lifetime so far (11.111111…% to be exact). And despite most of the people in my life telling me it’s pointless and treating it like it’s a stupid quirky thing I do rather than a really important part of my identity, I’ve managed to keep a sense of purpose. Even if that purpose does insist on drifting away from me at present.

I’ll let you in on a secret – I didn’t know how this post would end when I started it. All of what you just read was a blow-by-blow stream of consciousness. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. Maybe I’ll write up a few “Top 5”-style articles – which do make me happy – and post those as often as I can. Maybe I’ll keep this blog as a more cheerful arena for that kind of thing, for the celebratory girl power posts, and save the more serious stuff for when I go to university (the one I’m hoping to go to has a respected feminist society that’s been running for a while). Maybe I’ll start writing an extended essay about feminism after all – a piece of writing that I actually finish this time.

Either way, this blog isn’t dead. It matters a lot to me, which is why I’m now so picky about what gets published here. It was different when it was being run by a 16-year-old girl who had never picked up a book on gender theory. Now it’s being run by an adult with 100 followers and 10,000 blog views who has led a feminist society and developed strong opinions on the great social issues of our time – opinions that go beyond “Maybe we should be kinder to each other”, although that is still a mantra I hold close to my heart.

To answer the question I posited in the title of this post: the point is that this blog is significant to me. It matters. Of course there’s a point. I should never allow there to be a time in my life where I am not filled to the bursting with purpose.

Dolly Dastardly x

(What the hell, have another gif)

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Happy International Women’s Day!

This time last year, I set myself a challenge. From that day onward, I would focus less on the negatives – on my own shortcomings as an activist and on the difficulties we face as a movement – and more on the positives. I challenged myself to spend more time uplifting my fellow women than trying to argue with naysayers.

And (hesitantly), I think I’ve achieved it. I’ve run Feminist Society since last September, which has been a hugely positive experience. My co-leader is wonderful and the members are all amazing, and the whole initiative has been an incredible opportunity to grow in confidence. I feel as though I’ve empowered myself and hopefully empowered others too. I’ve tried to do things that challenge social standards (and that damn patriarchy!) but also make me feel happy too, like making feminist and body-positive stickers, devoting more time to my spiritual wellbeing (something I’ve been tentatively dabbling in since I left school) and trying to be more open and honest about what I believe. Sometimes that’s difficult – people don’t always like it! – but it’s important.

I want to set myself a new task, though. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Be Bold For Change, so my plan is to do just that – to go forth boldly and to be the change I want to see in the world. Obviously I’m pretty open about my politics; I wouldn’t write this blog if I wasn’t! However, I don’t discuss all aspects of my beliefs, especially the relationship between my politics and my faith, due to fear of being ridiculed. So that  insecurity is something I want to well and truly bin.

On a broader level, this has been a pivotal year for women’s activism. After the election of Donald Trump, people have protested on an astonishing scale. The Women’s March on Washington in January – 100 years after the Women’s March on Petrograd and 228 years after the Women’s March on Versailles – demonstrates how integral women are to protest and to revolution. It was incredibly moving to see so many  women, literally in their thousands, on the streets, raising their voices. As Karl Marx once put it, in a letter to Ludwig Kugelmann: “Everyone who knows anything of history also knows that great social revolutions are impossible without the feminine ferment.” Women are the world’s greatest catalyst, and the future is female.

Have a fabulous Women’s Day and Women’s Month!

Love,

Dolly xx

It’s 2017. What now?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

To all my readers and followers, thank you for making 2016 so rewarding (and challenging). A lot happened last year – a lot – and I’ve had to rethink my politics very carefully over the course of the year. I’ve had to come to terms with my failings and my shortcomings. I’ve had to educate myself on issues of which I wouldn’t otherwise have formed an opinion. I’ve had to change.

Of course we had Brexit, followed by the election of Donald Trump. There have been terror attacks, sieges, military coups and political dissent. At times, the left and progressive movements in general seemed to be on the verge of collapse.

However, rather than seeing these events as a defeat, we should see our persistence, our survival, as a triumph. We can and should mourn the people who have lost their lives. We should lament the state of politics and the dissolution of diplomacy, both in the West (with the rise of the far right) and in the Middle East.

Once we have mourned, the next step is to address our flaws, no matter which social justice movement we belong to. We need to consider why people find right-wing populism so appealing. How can the left – both here in the UK and elsewhere – mobilise effectively?  How can feminists engage with the left and what should our role be? How do we solve the issues that matter to ordinary people?

Then we fight. We read and we research; we write and we speak. We protest, loudly and with conviction.

Treat 2016 as less of an inferno and more of a fuse. Let it burn inside your heart.

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.

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“There’s more?!”

Love,

Dolly x

“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.

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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!

The F Word 2: The Second One

“I understand feminism to be a social saviour because it liberates everyone without exclusion.” – Morrissey

After I published my FAQ page, my cousin reminded me that I hadn’t answered his question: why I call myself a feminist, rather than just saying I’m committed to gender equality. (That’s not to say my cousin isn’t in favour of gender equality; he’s a very smart, progressive dude and I admire him very much.) I suppose I roughly addressed this in my article The F Word, although I’ve re-read that particular post and found that it wasn’t as well-structured as I had once thought it was. It wasn’t a strong argument. I was annoyed at the time (I spent a good portion of 2015 being annoyed – last year was an awful year, for many reasons) and it was a very emotive piece. I always think my articles are better when they come from a place of emotion and a place of knowledge.

It came off as bitter, frankly, a child’s tirade at not having their opinion immediately accepted and held as gospel. And that’s the opposite of what I had wanted and planned.

I’m going to build on my original idea but, hopefully, this will turn out to be far superior to that first specimen. Like how Toy Story 2 is way better than Toy Story (harsh but true).

In that original post, I stated in response to the question “Why are you a feminist?”:

The simple answer is: I’m a woman. It would be foolish not to be on my own side. It would be foolish not to participate in a movement that directly seeks to put me on a level playing field with men.

All that is accurate insofar that it’s what I feel to be true. But it’s not what I know to be true.

know that, of the two main players in the Gender Games (although I’m aware that the gender spectrum stretches far beyond male and female), women have always been the worst off. That’s just historical fact. We were the first to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden; for the longest time, womankind has not only been the origin of the population (shoutout to all my uteri-having folks) but the origin of sin. For the last 2000 years (if we consider that the Book of Genesis probably arrived in its original form between 500 BCE and 70 ACE), women have been by turns depicted as morally corrupt, emotionally stunted and biologically flawed. We have been pseudo-men; we have been men lacking something. Born of Adam’s rib, we are lesser.

I’m getting philosophical here, but the implications of this characterisation of women are far-reaching. Christianity is the world’s biggest religion, with 2.2 billion followers, but I can’t lay the blame at the feet of Christians. That would be unfair and unfounded. Throughout history, women have been depicted in practically every culture as stupid and inherently servile, and if we’re not stupid and submissive, then we’re dangerous. I’ve discussed before how the ancient Athenians seemed to consider women childlike and in need of guidance. Without proper control, they would inevitably become liars, adulterers and murderers. It’s this pervasive virgin-whore complex that has invaded our whole ethos. Men get to decide who is pure and who isn’t, even today, and I think that’s vile. Spend ten minutes on social media and witness as women are condemned for being “sluts” and “hoes” by the same men who buy Playboy or watch porn. You can be sexual, is the message, but only on our terms. As my good friend once put it, “you jack off with your left hand and point with your right.” 2000 years on and we’re stillstill seen as morally bankrupt. Take your clothes off – boom, you’ve clearly no self-respect, young lady.

The main issue (after all that waffle) is: why feminist? Why pick something so polarising, something that opens you up to so many misinterpretations and misconceptions? Why not humanist or egalitarian or equalist?

I use feminist – take note of the fem– part – because I  believe, legitimately, that women still have it harder on a social and an economic level. The wage gap is something I lament a lot and I don’t particularly want to reiterate it here, but the sites/articles to which I like to refer people are here, here and here. Better paternity leave and equal caring responsibilities would clear that up nicely (yet another way feminism helps men that MRAs enjoy ignoring). A lot of men’s issues are rooted deeply in our bias against femininity. There’s a high suicide rate among young males and men don’t feel they can access domestic violence services; much of that originates in social pressures surrounding expression of emotion or vulnerability. In a society where being “like a girl” is still an insult – why oh why aren’t we past that yet?! – we keep on enforcing this idea of women being almost a different class of people altogether. And for many men, it’s not a class they want to be associated with.

To explain it briefly:

Feminists: Look, there’s this social theory called the patriarchy and it’s a huge problem which results in all these derivative problems, like the wage gap and FGM and loss of abortion rights! If we solved it, everybody would be better off!

Anti-fems: Ummmm… everybody else has problems too, y’know… look at this stack of problems that men have! Less paternity leave, high suicide rates, no support after intimate partner violence. You don’t care about those, do you?!

Feminists: But if you’d help us solve this problem, we could-

Anti-fems: No.

Feminists: But the patriarchy ultimately contributes to your issues-

Anti-fems: No.

Feminists: You’re benefiting from oppression now, but sooner or later-

Anti-fems: LALALA I’M NOT LISTENING YOU HATE MEN

Feminists:  

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And so forth.

I know that wasn’t very concise, but I hope it clarified the point at least a little bit. Honestly, I think saying you’re committed to gender equality is amazing, but it’s too generalised. That doesn’t say anything about what you’re planning to do. Feminism – of all the “social justice” movements out there – is the most dynamic; it’s the one that gets stuff done. It’s about women, but under that umbrella of womanhood is a whole range of experiences. Women are in every walk of life, which gives feminists room to explore the impact of racism, sexual discrimination (specifically lesbophobia, but also biphobia), transphobia and classism. There are people who might have DFAB/AFAB experiences who still deal with sexism, despite not being female – a double whammy of misgendering and misogyny. Not pleasant.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care if you identify yourself as a feminist or not. For me, it’s part of my life. I love being a feminist. I love the sense of community, I love the sisterhood, I love that I’m never, ever alone – there’s always a woman (or man, or non-binary person!) out there who feels the same way.

I also think there’s a little bit of my soul that really, really enjoys being contrary. Feminism is the internet’s favourite punching bag, so why wouldn’t I – underdog extraordinaire – align myself with that?

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This is the kind of girl I am.

Dolly xxx