Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

Kathryn Ferguson Pushes Back At Sexist Pop Promos With Rear Guard

I was really excited to be asked to work with Kathryn Ferguson on her new film, Rear Guard, which just went live on ShowStudio last week. It is a response to the most recent crop of depressingly predictable ‘sexy’ (hollow laugh) music videos which have come out this year. In her film, which sits within ShowStudio’s ‘Punk’ section, Kathryn takes the tired old tropes that we’ve become so used to seeing – scantily clad women dancing in slow motion – and subverts the scene to make her point.

I love working with Kathryn because she has opinions and isn’t afraid to voice them in an industry where often it’s just so much easier to keep quiet – for fear of losing out on work, or being ridiculed and bullied on social media – you can be attacked for being ‘a prude’ or for ‘getting feminism wrong’. The people I really respect are the ones who have the courage to speak up and actually create work that tries to change the status quo, rather than just whining about it on Twitter.

I also worked with Kathryn on her last film, Four-tell, which was made to celebrate International Women’s Day and featured Zaha Hadid, Bella Freud, Sharmadean Reid and Caryn Franklin and you can read all about that here.

Tell us what you think of Rear Guard and my accompanying essay on Twitter @Kath_Ferguson and @PhoebeFrangoul

Keep Elizabeth Fry On Our Fivers

Today we are handing over proceedings to Caroline Criado-Perez of The Women’s Room who is running the campaign to keep Elizabeth Fry on our £5 notes. There are 3 days left to raise funds to mount a legal challenge to the Bank of England’s decision to replace Fry with Sir Winston Churchill so they desperately need you to donate HERE and sign the petition HERE.

“I think people’s sense of fairness has been caught by this campaign, because it really is a David and Goliath story and the Bank is really, very sadly, throwing their considerable might against having a woman on the banknotes.

They take this decision unilaterally, and seemingly according to the whims of the governor, who has the final say – before we put them on the spot, they intimated that Churchill was Mervyn King’s favourite politician, and that this decision was something of a parting gift to/from King. I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough.


Banknotes have enormous cultural sway: they are present in every household, every person uses them – no-one can boycott banknotes or use a different product – we are stuck with them and the message they send. And the message they are to send come 2016 is that only white men have ever achieved anything worthy enough to be deserving of a position on our notes.

In a country where women still don’t have equal pay, where two women a week die from intimate partner violence, and where women are being all but scrubbed out of the national history curriculum, this matters. It reflects and perpetuates a culture where women have been routinely undermined and undervalued. It may be a small thing, but as amazing projects like Everyday Sexism prove, small things add up to a toxic culture where women are abused, undermined and made to feel unsafe on a regular basis.

My favourite contender for our banknotes would be Rosalind Franklin, simply because as well as being an incredible role model for women, who have too few women in science to look up to (mainly because they’ve all been forgotten), she is extraordinarily apt considering the conversation we’re having about women’s achievements being overlooked.

She was instrumental in discovering the DNA double helix, but instead she died pretty much unrecognised, with Watson and Crick taking all the glory and a Nobel Prize between them. It is a travesty that Franklin never achieved the recognition she deserved, and it is a travesty that this kind of female erasure is still going on in the 21st century.

As for what I need from the Bank, it’s really very simple. I don’t want to take them to court; it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. All I want is for them to acknowledge that they did things wrong and to promise to put them right and use the Equality Act in future.

And there’s a very simple way out of this for them, because Darwin is an older note than Fry, so they could without much extra cost adapt the Churchill design to the £10, King still gets his last wish, and women don’t get deal yet another cultural slap in the face about how much their contributions matter.

Unfortunately, the Bank’s attitude is incredibly belligerent, even childish, so I doubt that they will take the dignified and adult route out of this. That being the case, I need to raise £13000 in order to be able to take them to court, where hopefully a judge will force them to abide by the law of the land.”

It should also be noted that if they don’t raise enough money to mount the legal challenge, or if they raise more than they need, that cash will go to charities including The Fawcett Society and Refuge which I think is fantastic.

Follow the campaign on Twitter @TheWomensRoomUK and at

The last thing I will write about feminism on the Internet for a long time (probably)

picI’m sick of virtual feminists. The chatter, ugh, the chatter. On blogs, on Twitter, talking and ranting and squabbling – it’s exhausting. What do you think of Lean In? What do you think of the demise of More!? I need to turn the noise down.

I have much more time for do-ers – women who actually put their money where their mouth is and invest time in action. And yeah, you know what, that includes me. I volunteer each week at my local Brownie unit – oh who am I kidding, I’m the freaking BROWN OWL! And that matters – I’m proud of what I do because it’s tangible, and tons of other women are doing similar things.

Actually investing their time, emotion and imagination in helping young girls and women grow in confidence and realise their potential. Not lamenting the plight of girls in our over-sexualised culture on Twitter, but, y’know, spending time with them, talking to them, doing activities that build their self belief and skills.

Not moaning about how evil glossy mags are, but actually offering an alternative through their own creative, intelligent, witty zines and blogs. Not getting caught up in an endless, pointless analysis of another columnist’s latest ‘controversial’ pronouncement, but going into schools and talking to girls about the realities of their potential future careers – giving them ideas and hope.

Not stating the bleeding obvious about sexism in the music industry, but setting up after school rock clubs for girls so they can take control and be heard.

Those are the women I admire. Take your finger off that retweet button and in the wise words of Why Don’t You…?, go and do something less boring instead.

Review: Fifty Shades of Feminism

50shadesLast year, when Virago announced their Fifty Shades of Feminism project to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, I was intrigued to see how the book would turn out. Pitched as ‘the antidote to the idea that being a woman is all about submitting to desire. There are many more shades than that and here are fifty women to explore them’, the editors also launched a competition inviting young (aged 25 and under) feminists to contribute their ‘shade’ to the story and the winner Alice Stride’s piece ‘Saving the Bush’ (yup, that) rounds off the collection.

With Lisa Appignanesi, Susie Orbach and Rachel Holmes at the helm of this ambitious project we really are in safe hands though – it’s like spending the afternoon listening to lots of clever women talk about all the amazing things they’ve done and the incredible places they’ve been. Well-known writers make up most of the fifty voices, but activists such as Lydia Cacho and Camilla Batmanghelidjh are also included. As a whole it’s not explicitly campaigning and is much more memoir-as-politics/ideas which makes sense because apparently friends Lisa, Susie and Rachel came up with the idea during a setting-the-world-to-rights catch-up.

I only wish I could have been at the Southbank Centre WOW event they did to launch it earlier this month, partly so I could have heard Laurie Penny‘s contribution ‘Saudade‘ performed on stage. It’s the one of the fifty that really will stay with me. Taking Ginsberg’s beat-hymn ‘Howl‘ as its template, Laurie rips it up and rewrites it with a riotious, 20-something-grrrl anger that sent shivers down my spine and made me cry a bit when I read it on the bus (yes, seriously). I think a few of my lucky friends will be getting copies of this very different, still grey Fifty Shades for birthdays to come.

Fifty Shades of Feminism (Virago, £12.99 hardback/ebook) is out now.

Pamf-LIT: Cate Sevilla

cate sevillaThe subject of this week’s Pamf-LIT is Cate Sevilla, a writer, editor, digital whizz and all-round badass woman….

Do you read paperbacks or kindle?

I read both! I have a Kindle and the Kindle app on my iPad, and I love being able to carry around so many different books with me at once, especially when I’m travelling. That being said, I really love and treasure the paper books that I do own. So many of my books have sentimental value. I just wish that technology would allow you to automatically download the eBook version of a paperback book you’ve purchased.

cate-booksHow do you organise your books?

I organise my books based on how they fit on the shelf! I’ve tried fitting them together based on subject, but it’s impossible.

The book you reread more than any other?

I’m always going back and referencing psychology books. I tend to pick-up and reread sections of Malcom Gladwell’s books quite often, as well as Leil Lowndes’ books. That’s the nice thing about books, they’re always there when you need them!

The book you own but have never read?

So many! A lot of the review samples I get sent go unread, simply because I don’t have time to read them all. (And sometimes they just sound rubbish.) The one book sitting on the shelf that I keep meaning to read is The Night Circus, I have heard it’s fantastic.

What’s on your nightstand?

#Digital Vertigo by Andrew Keen.

Which book is in your handbag?

Again, #Digital Vertigo, as well as How to Thrive in an Digital Age by Tom Chatfield.

The book you foist on people?

Psychology books of all kinds, but I’ve mostly been telling people about Tom Chatfield’s book at the moment. I also keep recommending Oliver James’ book Office Politics to people, despite not even owning it. I should work for his PR company.

cate-books2Four books that mean the world to you?

Little House on the Prairie,
Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up reading this series and was obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder. My Great Uncle owned a farm in Oregon, and whenever he’d take me to go feed his horses and cows he’d say, “Come on Half Pint” and we’d pretend he was Pa and I was Laura. Bless him for always humouring me!
The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger. Reading this really helped me deal with my junior year of High School, which was particularly tough. I had already read The Catcher in the Rye when I was 14, but had to re-read it for English class the following year. Our teacher had us create a soundtrack for our own film adaptation of Catcher, as well as deciding  who we would cast in our pretend film. I have such a soft spot for Holden.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë. I only read this about year ago, and I fell in love with it straight away. I read it obsessively every moment I had spare – on the train, while eating lunch, and late at night while trying not to disturb my husband. It is such a captivating story that I know I will re-read it again and again throughout my life.
Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy. This is the book that really got me into Feminism. I bought it randomly when I was 20 at a Waterstones and it made me realise that, holy shit, I am totally a feminist. It changed my way of thinking and introduced me to the modern world of feminism, which then helped shape my writing career. It, essentially, changed my life.Read Cate’s writing at and follow her on Twitter @catesevilla


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