Bodies and entitlement

CW- non-sexual nudity in photos, body fascism, misogyny, sexual harassment, sexual assault. Don’t even think about leaving a creepy comment.

I’ve been thinking a fair amount lately about bodies and entitlement to them. Mostly fuelled by a combination of being cat-called on the street a lot lately, and meaning to start going to life drawing class again but not being able to afford it/getting round to it.

I started going to life drawing classes as a teenage art student, and I think it did me the world of good even outside of the art training. Spending an evening every week staring intently at some naked middle aged hippies gave me a far more realistic idea of what bodies should or could look like than the media ever could, and a lack of concern about taking my own clothes off (aided by a lot of medical appointments over the years that have involved getting naked, and sometimes being watched by a load of medical students). The weird squeamishness about nudity is always something that has annoyed me about the culture of the UK.

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Hiding in plain sight

(image from a 1960s ad for Smirnoff Vodka- with added text)

CW- sexual abuse, sexual assault, harassment, misogyny, racism, silencing- nothing described in graphic terms, only in outlines

I’ve wanted to write about some happier things for the last few days, but my mind has been very much consumed with the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal. I have never worked in the film industry or had much to do with powerful millionaires but the constant stream of new testimonies of abuse by Weinstein and other powerful media figures that are now coming out are a daily reminder that there are a hell of a lot of men out there in all kinds of settings who absolutely get off on humiliating you and feeling like they have power over you, no matter how small, safe in the knowledge that society always lets them off the hook in the end. It reminds you of the times these things happened to you. I’m not alone, it’s stirring a lot things up in a lot of people.

There’s a lot of pressure to keep silent about these things. As Stassa Edward’s  Don’t Make A Scene article states:

“‘Don’t embarrass me in the hotel,’ Harvey Weinstein commanded model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez … ‘You’re making a scene,’ is a phrase that nearly every woman is familiar with. It’s invoked to command a kind of moral authority over women’s behavior, quickly coding it as irrational and veering towards crazy. To ‘make a scene’ is a series of ever-changing images, flexible enough to be used to describe a range of behaviors.”

Rose McGowan was vocal for years about her abuse, and mostly was just dismissed as crazy and hysterical, a washed up star bitter she wasn’t more famous. Terry Crews, a man with a super-masculine public image, revealed this week that he was groped in public at an awards show by a Hollywood executive, but knew that if he reacted or caused a fuss he would probably be the one to get in trouble and labelled with the stereotype of the aggressive or hyper-sensitive black man.

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Craft as radical?


I’ve split the article up into four sections- my criticisms of radical spaces and scenes I’ve known, of the fashion industry, and of the current commercial craft revival, and then at the end explaining the ways I think doing textile crafts can be radical. In writing the article, I was specifically thinking of crafts such as sewing and knitting, both because they are things I do, and also because they are stereotypically done by women and often dismissed as silly and frivolous, but a lot of the points can apply to any handicraft. As well as dealing with the topic of crafts, it’s really more of a kind of wander round my thoughts about “radical”. The section on crafts is actually the shortest, but I’ve used it as the overall framing device. I’ll probably manage to piss off both the cliquey punx and the craft blogger people with this, but never mind.

To make myself clearer, I’m specifically defining “radical” here as freeing people from the oppressions and inequalities of mainstream capitalist society. It’s no good claiming a place, group, behaviour or people are “radical” if they just continue the racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist or classist (and every other bad -ist) structures of the rest of society. It’s also no good calling something “anarchist” or “non-hierarchical” if there’s just a different unspoken hierarchy at play (that no-one is allowed to talk about).

The incredibly depressing political climate of the last few years, with its lurch to the extreme right and increased support for oppression and exploitation makes genuine radical spaces more important than ever, but also means that it’s important to not treat the whole thing as a silly status or fashion game.

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Pinup Payback- Anti sexual harassment campaign

Pinup Payback Poster


(if you click on the poster, there’s a larger version on flickr)

I recently made this poster for Pinup Payback, a feminist/anti-sexism organisation in Medway run by a friend. I was given the theme of  “girls just want to have fun” without creeps, so here are some gooey, sticky creeps. My hometown has a really disproportionate rate of sexual assault for the population, and a lot of people whose attitudes are stuck far, far in the past. Growing up there, and also going back to visit, I have had men say the most appalling and disgusting things to me and my friends, far more than any other place I know. This poster (along with training for staff) will be going up in the pubs and bars in town that sign up to the campaign to show customers that if someone if harassing you, the venue promises to take it seriously, a campaign also being run in London by Hollaback.

To find out more about the campaigns, phone app and to donate, visit the website.

(and yes, girls in this instance does include anyone who feels they fall into that category)

Don’t Put Out

The other week I was in Brighton to see Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains, a forgotten film from the 80s about a fictional all-girl punk band with Diane Lane, Ray Winstone (yes, really), Paul Simonon and half of the Sex Pistols. They’ve started doing a cinema club at the West Hill Hall showing cult films with bands playing afterwards. This time the bands were Trash Kit and Woolf. I found out about it when I was at the copiers and the guy in front of me was copying flyers and we got chatting and swapped zines and flyers. I wish that kind of thing happened to me more often. A good evening filled with friends and good feelings. Bands and film recommended. I want to be back in Brighton. ( I decided to go not via London to see if the cheaper ticket was worth the bother- it wasn’t, it took me 4 hours and between 4-7 trains each way)

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I don’t wanna join yr club, I don’t want yr kind of love (Typical Grrls v2)

So we had the second Typical Girls last week. It was more successful than the first, we had 20-25 people there. They were all people we didn’t know as well, which was surprising. I made 50 lurid pink cakes covered in edible glitter, and played some Patti Smith and Comet Gain this time. Tukru brought a table full of zines and fundraising stuff for her roller derby team and played some Nicki Minaj and slipped in a bit of Lady Gaga, which made me pull a face. All the cakes got eaten, and even the old men who lurk down the end of the bar had a good time. Hopefully more people and more dancing next time.

Here’s Tukru. All the cool kids dj in aprons.

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Typical Grrls- grrrl / genderqueer friendly club night in chatham

So I’m back in Medway. I need to keep busy, and there’s not a great deal of stuff happens here (I mean there are fun things that go on, but they tend to be spaced out a bit). Me & Tukru decided to start some things up ourselves. The devil makes work for idle hands.

Here’s one thing we’re doing. It turned out to be surprisingly easy to set up. A monthly club night with an all-female playlist. Riot grrl, motown, electronica and pop. Free zine and cake on entry. Free entry. Oh we’re good to you, and you know it. Here’s the crudely risographed flyer I knocked up on the train yesterday. If you’re in Medway come and abuse our hospitality.

Thursday 3rd of Feb 8-1 at Poco Loco. Drinks from £2. Check out the Facebook event. And the tumblr for the clubnight.