Is Big Society Working?

April 4, 2011

isbigsocwork

Just a quick post today to let you know about an exciting new project I’m involved with – ‘Is Big Society Working?’ will visualise a year under the ConDem government.

It’s free to join in so I’d recommend you all take a look at the website and express your hatred of them through the medium of embroidery.

You can find the website here: http://www.isbigsocietyworking.co.uk

IWD Post #2 : Shackles in Silk?

March 8, 2011

So, at the Carnival Conference, I presented a talk and a stitch workshop. The talk was based in how Mary Wollstonecraft described embroidery as “the silken fetters that keep women in chains” and how I disagreed with this point of view. I wanted to illustrate the power that could be found in sewing circles or in quilting bees, so I laid out a large woollen blanket and thick woollen threads and got the participants to sit around it and stitch whatever they fancied on the blanket. The point was to get them all to talk to one another, share experiences and the like, that sewing was to become secondary: a reason why we’re all together but then make bonds of our own.

stitchworkshops1

It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, and I think it went really well. I got positive feedback and I definitely want to do it again. It was a really nice space to have in the conference, away from the academia and just a focus on us.

stitchworkshop2

The varying things that people did were really interesting. From words, to simple pictures, cobwebs, french knots, one participant even stitched the outline of her hand.

stitchworkshop3

The blanket was later exhibited at a party that night. The fantastic ‘Lashings of Ginger Beer‘, a radical feminist queer burlesque troupe, used the blanket as a makeshift changing room throughout their set. Pretty proud of myself!

IWD Post #1 : Can feminist art change the world?

March 8, 2011

Here are a few things I saw whilst at York University’s Centre for Women’s Studies’ ‘Carnival of feminist cultural activism‘ :

knickerbunting

Julia Triston‘s Knicker Bunting

potentiamagazine

The Potentia Magazine team

fwordfeministlibrary

Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune, authors of Reclaiming the F Word: The New Feminist Movement and Gail from The Feminist Library

billsavage

Bill Savage and the backdrop for the karaoke video of Le Tigre’s Keep on Livin’

paperwomen

Paper Women

dolly

Dolly, the festival Pinata

chubster

Charlotte ‘The Beefer’ Cooper, head of The Chubster gang, teaching wannabe chubsters how to spit at the BMI chart.

I had a brilliant, brilliant time. I will blog later about how my own workshop went. Happy International Women’s Day!

Oh and yes, I do believe that feminist art can indeed change the world.

DR: 01-01-11

January 3, 2011

The first of January marked more of an occasion for me this year than normal. I wasn’t excited by champagne corks flying or New Years resolutions, instead I was excited by a new feeling: optimism about politics. Not Britain, of course, but the wider world.

The first of Janury 2011 was the day that Dilma Rousseff became the most powerful woman in the world. Rousseff is now the president of Brazil. The first was her inauguration day, I’ve been awaiting this day for some months now. She’s not just any old politician. I’m not simply excited on account of her being a woman: it’s because of her history.

When Dilma was much younger, in the 60s, she was a guerilla fighter. She fought against the military dictatorship. She was captured, declared the ‘Joan of Arc of The Guerilla Movement’, tortured, and held in a cell for three years. And now, fifty years later, she is the president of that very country that she fought to save. If any proof is needed that standing up for what you believe in is the right thing to do, Dilma is it.

And so to celebrate, I made a rosette:

dilma1

We’ve been doing whitework at school recently so I thought I’d take the opportunity to do my school work and honour a great woman.

dilma2

The centre image is a venetian cutwork portrait of her doing her peace signs which she loves to do so much. I’d definitely vote for a politician who frequently gave a peace sign at press conferences. The middle ring uses broderie anglaise and pulled thread work.

dilma3

The outer ring is a scalloped edge of buttonhole stitching so as to be able to cut it away and have no frayed edges. Sort of. Kind of worked?

dilma4

The ribbons were made with a thin muslin which I double back stitched on, in the font Corbusier Stencil, the words “Fight The Good Fight”.

I am going to wear her with pride, and a little bit of fear of getting her dirty. Wahhh, white :-(

*the background image of these photos has no political meaning: I was taking photographs on the bus home and all I had in the way of a background was a painting of an American boy my boyfriend bought me for Christmas

I’m a free bitch, baby.

November 28, 2010

I uh, decided to embroider a stumpwork portrait of Lady Gaga.

I found an unfinished mirror frame in the V&A, it was started by Martha Eldin in the mid to late 17th Century, she did a lot of it but she hadn’t quite finished it. On the frame, was a drawing that was yet to be filled in of Hagar. I can’t find a photograph of her to show you, I’ll sort it out soon. She was standing all strong and proud, so I decided to base my Lady Gaga around her.

gaga1

Obviously, she had to have exploding tits.

gaga2

gaga3

Her weird monster shoes, and her bodice too (although that’s now mostly covered with the flag) are needlewoven. The shoes were hell, tiny weeny stitches with a tiny weeny thread.

gaga4

I made her a little microphone out of fimo and a thread wrapped wire hand to hold it in.

gaga5

That is my hair there – I cut it off in a hungover state about a year ago and kept it all this time, waiting for it to become useful. And now it has! I covered it in glue and wrapped it around thick needles to get the curls, then I couched it down.

I am way too tired to explain anymore. Le sigh! Royal School of Needlework, you wear me out.

Privilege

November 19, 2010

privilege denying dude

Right, so ‘white male privilege’ is a bit of a buzzword at the moment, as highlighted in ‘Top 10 ways to be feminist’. I’ve been thinking about it a lot; thinking about the ways I’m privileged (I am white and relatively middle class) and thinking about how I should deal with this privilege I’ve been dealt: make the most of my opportunities, work hard and work hard to help those who weren’t born as lucky as I was.

But last night I thought about it in a different light, and I realised it wasn’t so simple:

A friend was telling me about a group of people from his university who were applying for funding for a group that took robotics into schools and gave the girls a chance to ‘play’ with the robots for a while, away from the boys. He didn’t seem to approve of this; he was labelling it ‘positive discrimination’ and telling me that by offering the girls an advantage, you were taking it away from the boys. He then started talking about privilege denying, saying “but if you point that out you just become a meme and suddenly a ‘privilege denier’.”

When I get into conversations like this, I appear totally unable to process my thoughts at the time. I think I worry about getting too fired up and saying things I don’t really mean and wouldn’t mean in the cold light of day; so I decided to ignore the bit about the privilege and instead point out why I believed it was a good idea: I told him that as I had been in a mixed secondary school, and at times separated from boys, I underst oodthat it is easier to thrive, as a girl, without the seeming ‘threat’ of the boys around you. Not that I was ever particularly quiet, but boys were loud and often came across as aggressive and at that age, you’d naturally step back and let them take charge. Being in a girl only environment, such as the odd PE class (I remember one lesson we played basketball without the boys- easily my favourite lesson of PE ever.) we came out of ourselves, we found our confidence, we explored situations and we could try out being leaders. After I’d explained this, he perhaps afforded me a victory on that one – but overall he still felt that not having an alternative class for boys was a disadvantage for boys.

On the bus home I thought about the privilege denying thing some more, and now I’ve slept on it I’m ready to respond:

Denying privilege doesn’t mean you’re a total douche bag like the guy in the picture: in this instance at least, I think it’s a display of how actually he’s a nice guy. Friend views all human beings as equal, totally and properly, and has always done, so he can’t really see why any division of sexes is necessary. That is completely beautiful, but unfortunately a little naive. So yeah, we are all born equal- and that’s right, but we’re not treated equally and problems begin to develop, that need fixing.

Some of the earliest life lessons we’re taught are the most destructive:

Males are taught from the word ‘go’, that they are always right. To follow their gut instinct, to be strong, have courage in their convictions, be MANLY, GRRRRR!

Females are taught the exact opposite: question everything, look into all available options before jumping for the first thing, and doubt every single aspect of yourself. Be meek and feminine! *eyelash flutter*

And that is male privilege.

It takes a long time to shake these off, or begin to start trying to fight them. I think I was 19 before I woke up to the realisation that actually I wasn’t totally shit. And I found that realisation through feminism, through talking to lots of women, through a relative separation of the sexes.

So, to put it into a simple metaphor:

Men are thriving, confident, healthy creatures.
Women have been broken by the system.

And that is why every so often, you separate the sexes and afford one of them more of your time: because you need to mend this broken viewpoint. It is not because you are being sexist, because you believe boys shouldn’t be allowed to play with robots or because they don’t deserve the same encouragement, it is because in order to offer the same encouragement to all sexes, quite simply, more time needs to be spent ‘fixing’ the girls’ self esteem.

And now I’ve thought about this properly I can see where my white privilege comes into play: I wonder a lot why there needs to be so many ‘equalities and diversities’ things going about, when surely that’s just pointing out a difference between people? Creating an Us v Them world? No. It’s offering them the same chances in life I have been lucky enough to have, and that every human being deserves.

Equality is on the horizon, but it’s going to take a lot of steps to get us there. We can’t just switch the whole system on and off again to fix it up, we have to go bit by bit. And the first step is this, encouragement through separation and giving women, and all other ‘minorities’ some extra time to find that confidence that has been stolen from them.

Filigree Work

November 15, 2010

We’re being taught Whitework at the moment, last lesson on wednesday, sob sob sob. Jenny Adin-Christie is teaching us Whitework and she’s amazing. Super good teacher, lovely person too.

One of the lessons covered filigree work, embroidery on a surface so transparent that the thread that creates the aesthetic is the thread on the back of the work.

whitework1

You can also apply fabrics and pictures to the fabric from beneath-

whitework2

The text on the brown paper (stitched on with feather and thorn stitch) reads “Now you have touched the woman, you have struck a rock; you have dismantled a boulder; you will be crushed.”

This year is proving tricky.

Retraction

November 14, 2010

Before I go on to post anything else, I would just like to state that Vince Cable is a backstabbing worm and the piece of embroidery you see below is now viewed ironically (but no less treasured). Turns out that no Lib Dems up top* have principles.

Just for more info:
Here is what their website says about education and tuition fees:
“Liberal Democrats believe university education should be free and everyone who has the ability should be able to go to university and not be put off by the cost.” – http://www.libdems.org.uk/education.aspx
And this is what they do in power: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11677862

Yep.

*some of the ones with less power still do. yay!

St Vince

September 30, 2010

You know that awkward situation when you start a relationship with someone and then like a month later it’s their birthday? And you don’t know what to get them, do you get them something big- would that look OTT? Would something too small look like you didn’t actually like them? And what if it doesn’t last long enough for them to get you something for your birthday? Everyone knows birthday presents are a two way street. Well I get this quandary worse than normal people, I’m sure. Cos I like makin’ shit. I can’t give presents what I bought because it doesn’t seem right.

And so, when I found myself in this very situation in July, what’s a girl gonna do? I could make him something quick but a bit rubbish? He wouldn’t really know. But you know me. Once I get an idea in my head that aint gonna shift.

And so I give you, St Vince:

vincey

For those of you wondering “Who the fuck is that?” it is Vince Cable. And for those of you still wondering “Who the fuck is that?”, Vince is a good Liberal Democrat. Remember them?

Boyfriend loves Vince. Boyfriend loves Vince so much Boyfriend has a mug with Vince’s face on. Boyfriend loves Vince and loved his Lib Dem gang so much he ran for Lib Dem Councillor in his local area in May. He didn’t succeed, but that’s because he lives in an extreme conservative area and not because he’s shit. Because he’s not shit. He’s awesome.

And so it came to me: Make him a goldwork portrait of Vince Cable as a saint. And it wouldn’t go away. And so I went into school in the summer time and set up myself a little Vince making workshop.

Turns out it was all worth it anyway because overtime I fell for him in a big way. Both Vince and Boyfriend.

————–
This post can also read as: “Oh hey I’m back! I broke my camera and then my replacement broke on its own but I lost the receipt and then I had to earn money to buy a third but now I’ve got a new camera so should be able to blog more now.”

PS I linked to Boyfriend’s tumblr in here somewhere. If you click on the link you can see: His bikes, his special bike sandals and shoes (I wish I was joking) Vince next to one of his bikes, his home brewed beer AND the best bit of his WHOLE tumblr, an original poem from me. BELIEVE IT.

Feminism is for everyone

September 4, 2010

candyfloss

“My idea of feminism is self-determination, and it’s very open-ended: every woman has the right to become herself, and do whatever she needs to do.” – Ani DiFranco

Twice in my life I have been looked down upon by other female feminists for something I have done. Once, it was a medical condition I had (which apparently was my body’s way of telling me I was a lesbian- and that I should embrace that, and not doing so meant I was a bad feminist) and another it was for liking a song that was supposedly drenched in misogyny (My argument? It wasn’t.)

Both times this has happened it has left me in tears. It makes you doubt yourself, makes you even doubt if you want to be part of a cause if people from inside the movement will make you feel that small. If you’re being attacked from the inside, how the hell are you going to survive on the outside?

This happens rarely. I have experienced it only twice and yet I loudly proclaim a lot that I’m sure many a feminist would think negatively of. And it happens in all political movements too. There is always someone getting angry at others for not being as passionate/angry/consumed by the cause.

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem

I understand why it happens- when you first start reading into feminism, you can’t help yourself. Every corner you turn you see misogyny, everytime you turn on the TV you’re horrified at this new world that you had previously been blinded to. I spent about six months on the brink of tears from frustration at the world all the time. But, that’s no way to live. I didn’t enjoy it, and I’m sure I wasn’t a fun person to be around. I didn’t counciously stop being that way. I just simply couldn’t do it. The constant anger and the tears exhausted me.

It’s not like I no longer see it. I do. Oh, I do. And it’s not like I laugh at it and brush it off, or think “Well, there’s nothing to be done!” It’s just there’s no point in getting angry. You see any argument, anywhere, and the angry one always loses out to the calm, collected argument. If you make yourself approachable, you aren’t judgemental, and you listen to others – you can convince them round to your way of thinking, you can get them to walk away from the conversation and go “Oh, maybe I’m a feminist then!” I’ve had this breakthrough multiple times since I calmed down. And in my anger? Not a sausage.

There’s a thing called Sisterhood. It’s about sticking up for your fellow women, it’s about picking up the coin that that woman infront of you dropped, it’s about seeing a woman on the street crying and stopping to ask if she’s ok, it’s about helping that woman with her buggy down the steps, it’s about being supportive. It’s being human. And not in any circumstance is it attacking another woman for not being the kind of woman you think she ought to be. Some women are “girly”, some women like wearing make-up, some women like listening to hip-hop, some women like being submissive in sexual relationships, some women just want to get married and have children. Women are women. Women are people. People are diverse, and there is nothing wrong with that.

“Feminism has to be for all women. Even women you think are stupid, naive, or “tragically unfamiliar with the content of Playboy.” Even women who walk into the wrong room. Even women with bad publicists. Even women with no publicists. Even women who expect professional photographers and stylists to honor professional contracts without question. Even women who have lied. Even women who have bashed other women. Even women who you think have capitalized on their “female sexuality.” Even women who “flaunt [their] junk for money and fame.” Even women with cleavage on the cover of books. Even women who sometimes wear bikinis. Even women who don’t perform all of these feats of “female sexuality” naturally, even women from whom it’s all “an act.” Even women you think are bitches. Even women who talk about it.” From Feminism for Bitches – The Washington City Post

So yeah, even if you think they’re wrong, don’t jump to it and tell them that ‘they should know better’. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t be a brick wall. Talk to them calmy, maybe you’ll learn from them.


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