New review: Handbagged

24 April 2014 20:25
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Posted by Megan Stodel

Lucy Robinson (Liz), Marion Bailey (Q), Stella Gonet (T), Fenella Woolgar (Mags). by Tristram Kenton.jpgIf I search for the phrase "Was Margaret", Google's first suggestion to complete the sentence is "...Thatcher a feminist". It surprises me that there remains much debate about this, considering her own disavowal of the movement. Personally, I think she was pretty clear when she said, "I hate feminism. It is poison."

Meanwhile, the Queen doesn't get much scrutiny over her personal views on gender equality. (If anybody's interested, the top four results when Googling "Is the queen a" are "Is the Queen above the law", "Is the Queen a lizard", "Is the Queen allowed to vote" and "Is the Queen a Christian".) From a feminist perspective, far more thought goes into the monarchical structure rather than the individual beneath the crown.

However, as new play Handbagged explores, these two women are historically significant and the 1980s were a unique time in the UK, with both Prime Minister and monarch being women. The play causes reviewer Lissy Lovett to reflect on the importance of having women on the world stage, even if their actions and identities aren't feminist (explicitly or otherwise):

Handbagged doesn't pull any punches but shows both Thatcher and Queen as fully-rounded individuals with strengths and weaknesses and seems to be a fair assessment of a ground-breaking time in UK and world history. Thatcher was the first (and to date only) female Prime Minister of the UK and presided over huge changes in how we live and work. Although I would never describe Thatcher or the Queen as feminists, I have no doubt that for me the fact that the two most powerful people in the country were women during my childhood directly influenced my self-esteem and what I felt I could expect from life.

Click here to read the rest of the review.

Photo by Tristram Kenton. The younger versions of the Queen and Thatcher sit in white chairs engaged in conversation. The older versions stand behind them, looking amused.

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Posted by fanhackers

Hi there! I was wondering if you could direct me to any information you might have about graduate programs in which one could formally pursue fan studies (especially a PhD track). I’ve looked around at length and found a wealth of related (though broader) programs situated in cultural studies or media theory, but I wanted to make sure I haven’t overlooked any institutions with an academic culture particularly interested in this field. If you have any answers or suggestions for me, I’d be very appreciative! Thanks.

-Danielle Frankel

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Posted by fanhackers

Hello all! I’m requesting information on the (in)visibility of slash as a way of generating angst in fanfic pre-2008. Specifically, I want to know what causes or prevents the queering of canoncially straight characters from being used as the primary source of conflict in slashfic. I’m primarily investigating the Kingdom Hearts and Naruto fandoms right now, but information on any fandom based on a global media commodity (preferable originating in Japan, just for the sake of keeping my claims tenable) would be most welcome. If you were actively reading slash fiction in the early 2000s (or know someone who was) and would like to share you perceptions with me, I’d be most grateful!


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New review: Looking for Light

23 April 2014 07:52
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Posted by Ania Ostrowska


Looking for Light: Jane Bown, a documentary celebrating life and career of Jane Bown, the Observer's veteran photographer, opens on Friday 25 April, released by Soda Pictures.

Bown, who turned 89 recently, started her career in the 1950s and, as our reviewer Hayley Ellis Jones remarks, it was Bown's "quiet tenacity and her unusual perspective that led to her success in an industry more comfortable with women appearing in front of the lens". Hayley says:

Bown does not fit the old stereotype of a flamboyant photographer. A quiet Home Counties type, she carried her photographic equipment around in a picnic basket (favouring the same type of camera, an Olympus OM-1, for decades). She eschewed fancy gadgets, reusing particular settings to capture her images instead and gauged the light by looking at how it fell on the back of her hand. One former colleague comments that Bown was "good at being a nobody". Yet her black and white portraits of the famous and infamous, such as Samuel Beckett, Jayne Mansfield and Paul McCartney, have become iconic, even if the creator herself remains a shadowy figure.

Read Hayley's review and comment.

The picture is black and white portrait of Björk (1995) by Jane Bown.

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Posted by fanhackers

[P]arafanfiction…refers to a particular subset of parafictional art that claims to be fanfiction of, or some other record of, an external media object that does not actually exist. The most notable examples of this are the Homestuck Anime and Squiddles, both of which are spinoffs of the actual Homestuck hypercomic. The idea with those projects is to fabricate an entire alternate reality where Homestuck is an anime and the in-comic show Squiddles actually exists. The fans participating in these projects create objects ostensibly taken directly from the shows in question—screencaps, pictures of old VHS tapes, GameBoy Advance cartridges, gif edits, and so on and so forth—in order to sell the idea that these shows actually exist.

Parafanfiction and Oppositional Fandom by

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Posted by fanhackers

Generally speaking, media fandom operates on a labor theory of value—not necessarily in the Marxist sense of the phrase, but in the sense that value derives from work. Fandom’s gift economy assigns special worth to “gifts of time and skill” (Hellekson 2009, 115), gifts made by fans for fans. The worth of these gifts lies not simply in the content of the gift, nor in the social gesture of giving, but in the labor that went into their creation. Commercially purchased gifts, such as the virtual cupcakes and balloons that can be purchased in the LiveJournal shop, may be given and appreciated, but will generally be worth less, in the context of fandom, than gifts made by the giver (note 2). This labor theory of value is often invisible or unarticulated until something goes wrong: a site skin doesn’t work as anticipated, a vid is plagiarized, a story in progress—or an entire archive—is abandoned. These events remind us that our experience of fandom depends on the labor of others: “A gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us” (Hyde 1979, xi).

Tisha Turk, Fan work: Labor, worth, and participation in fandom’s gift economy

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Posted by Josephine Tsui


Happy long weekend!
Here is a list of links we found interesting over the past week. Linking does not necessarily mean endorsement. If you're sensitive to triggers please tread carefully.

1. Malta: Douze Points! First Constitution in Europe to Name Gender Identity (TGEU Statement)
2. CN: Abuse of asylum seekers (Open Democracy)
3. The defiant life of Valerie Solanas (After Ellen)
4. Anonymity for rape defendants - bad idea in 1975, 2010 and now (Ending Victimisation and Blame)
5. UN denounces UK's 'boys' club sexist culture' (ITV)
6. Lawsuit reveals teen was groomed as personal sex slave in the Duggar family's movement (The Raw Story)
7. Dispatches: Kyrgyzstan Picks Homophobic Bill Over Europe Ties (Human Rights Watch)
8. The Quest for Brown Foundation (Bad Housekeeping)
9. Britain's hunger crisis: One million food parcels handed out despite UK having sixth richest economy (Mirror)
10. Running (My tights won't stay up)

11. 'Coming Out' Doesn't Begin to Describe It: Message from a Trans Survivor (The American Prospect)
12. The Ched Evans case shows that the "ruined life" narrative is just another way to blame the victim (The New Statesman)
13. Iran rape victim bound for gallows unless she changes story (The Telegraph)
14. Court-Martial Upheld Against Chelsea Manning (Courthouse News Service)
15. That Mail On Sunday Article Attacking Food Banks Just Made The Charity's Donations Rise 500% (Buzzfeed)

Content note: The following contains verbatim reporting of transphobic slurs.
Jayne County, Transgender Icon, Allegedly Banned From Facebook For 'Transphobic Slurs' (Huffington Post)

The image attached to this post depicts graffiti on a wall. The graffiti illustrates a woman "shedding" her outside persona. Thanks Certo Xornal for the image!

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Posted by Jolene Tan

Nudibranch.jpgNew week, new links! As ever, linking isn't endorsement, and some links may contain disturbing content. If we've left anything out, pop it in the comments!

  • Peaches Geldof: Writer and TV Presenter Dies Aged 25 (BBC)
  • 'Manifestly Inadequate': austerity and cuts are punishing and devastating - See more at: (Feminist Times) - by our very own Philippa Willitts
  • Peacebuilding: The factor that makes a difference (Open Democracy)
  • Men: show us the female characters you admire (Guardian)
  • Women who eat on the Tube (Ellie Mae O'Hagan) (Consider, on the other hand, this)
  • An open letter to Brogrammers (Franklin's livejournal)
  • Flirtation or sexual harassment? Here's how to tell the difference (Guardian)
  • Sue Townsend obituary, plus other writers' reflections on Townsend and a 1989 article she wrote about the welfare state (Guardian)
  • Doctors implant lab-grown vagina (BBC)
  • Iraq poised to legalise marriage for girls as young as 9 (Washington Post)
  • Dated Feminists (feministkilljoys)
  • Parenting the non-girlie girl (New York Times)
  • Creator of For Brown Girls Blog Reportedly Commits Suicide at Age 22 (The Root)
  • Stop telling survivors they must report to the police (Feministing)
  • Monica Jones Guilty Of Walking While Black Trans In Arizona (TransGriot)
  • Army 'must consider' female combat roles (BBC)
  • Oscar Pistorius' trigger
    (New Yorker)
  • Trans inmate on hunger strike: "I don't want to die" (LGBTI News Turkey)
  • Sarah Wollaston: Why am I being blamed for Nigel Evans sex case? (The Telegraph)
  • Supermarket staff could win millions in equal pay cases (Guardian)
  • FB trans safe spaces list
  • "Not ALL men" is the feminist in-joke so popular it's now got its own Tumblr (Us vs Th3m)
  • Lastly, if I may, rather cheekily: here's an interview I did with the Singapore Sunday Times, about my newly published novel A Certain Exposure, which, I like to think, has a few feminist themes. Unfortunately it's not physically distributed in the UK but you can sample a few pages and order a copy of the book here.
  • To end off, here's a video from Singapore's We Can! campaign against violence against women, drawing on the insight that the way we talk about HIV, sex and marriage may put women's health at risk:

    Image shows a colourful nudibranch. Used under a Creative Commons licence thanks to Dolkar2012.


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