Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

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‘ :


Julia Triston‘s Knicker Bunting


The Potentia Magazine team


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


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


Paper Women


Dolly, the festival Pinata


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:


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.


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.


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?


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


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.


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


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.

Feminism is for everyone

September 4, 2010


“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.

Being a woman and being successful

June 8, 2010

“Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.” – Lady Gaga

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’ They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.’ – Clare Booth Luce

Not sure why I chose a picture of Whoopi Goldberg for an illustration- but it’s pretty good, right? By Annie Liebovitz.

Scarlet Work

June 3, 2010

Thankyou to everyone for your stories! I was inundated but that was absolutely wonderful- every single one of them added to the strength of my sketchbook, and every single one was a joy to read and a fascinating insight. I recommend reading them all, and furthermore- asking your friends for their own stories. It gives way to a brilliant conversation, that whilst at the beginning some may be reserved about- after a few minutes people are fighting to have their voices heard. Everyone loves it.

So on Rabia’s story, I hinted at the stitch outcome. However I didn’t say that the point of dissolving it was to dissolve it onto my thigh, like a huge trickling blood spill that supported all the stories of the women whose histories I gathered. I videoed this process, so it was a multimedia Embroidery project- which I am going to claim as being the first one ever at The Royal School of Needlework. Record breaking embroidery.

I don’t think i can show you the video- there’s probably too much nudity for youtube and my knowledge of uploading videos to the internet is essentially nonexistent. Photographs however- doable.



It means you’re normal


Don’t tell Dad


Trickling down my leg

And with that- I have finished my first year at Embroidery School.