New review: Some Girls

17 December 2014 13:39
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Posted by Holly Combe

Kate Bonynge looks at the third series of BBC3's Some Girls, a comedy about three 18 year olds that marks a change from the male dominated programmes we've come to expect.

Now about to come to the end of its third series, Some Girls, written by sitcom stalwart Bernadette Davis, is a hidden gem among the current plethora of male-dominated comedies. For those used to the familiar toxic entertainment formula, where female characters are pigeon-holed into the role of doting wife, 'slutty' mistress, ditzy 'airhead', romantic interest for the male leads or all of the above, this BBC3 show is a well-timed antidote.

Bernadette Davis herself has said of the show:

As far as I know, there aren't any other comedies about girls of this age. Inbetweeners has shown what a rich area for comedy this age group is - but girls are very different and I thought they should have their own show.

Set in the fictional Greenshoots Academy in South London, the series is advertised as "a comedy about the kind of girls more usually seen in worrying documentaries about inner city teens". Just like by Davis above, the series is often compared to E4's The Inbetweeners due to the similarities in format -- four friends trying to navigate school while dealing with their burgeoning sexuality -- and the use of visual humour, snappy one-liners and witty dialogue. However, there is one main difference between the two: while The Inbetweeners perpetuates lad culture and portrays women as little more than sex objects and vehicles to further the protagonists' storylines, Some Girls not only features a female-led cast but also champions female sexuality in a naturalistic, realistic manner...

Click here to read the rest of Kate's review and comment

Image description:

The central characters from Some Girls (left - right): Amber (Alice Felgate) with her arms folded and mouth wide in a ghoulish pose, Saz (Mandeep Dhillon) with her eyes crossed and poking out her tongue, Viva looking upwards to her right with her tongue out (Adelayo Adedayo) and Holli looking disgruntled, with her right arm on Viva's left shoulder (Natasha Jonas). Image via BBC and shared via fair dealing.

Christmas Shipping Deadline

17 December 2014 05:00
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The US Christmas shipping deadline for the xkcd store is December 19th! If you want to get anyone xkcd Christmas presents, you should order by then.

The xkcd store features body slipcovers, secret passageway concealers, picture tape, and more!

Weekly round-up and open thread

15 December 2014 11:16
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Posted by Holly Combe

Lots of important feminist-related and intersectional news/commentary this week, including Disabled People Against the Cuts' open Letter after the 8 December High Court ruling against their challenge to the closure of the Independent Living Fund, plus discussion of the how the new legislation prohibiting a range of sexual acts in online media impacts on women...

Disclaimer: As with all other content on this site, this material does not reflect an "official view from The F Word". All links are simply an indication of what the F-Word editing/writing team and/or poster have been reading over the past week.

Content warning: We add content notes when sensitive content is not adequately indicated in the title of an article but you are advised to approach the links with caution, as they go to external websites and comment threads we have no control over.

If you have something to say about any of the pieces or a link you would like to share, please feel free to comment through the form below this post!

Police Kill Black Women All The Time, Too -- We Just Don't Hear About It (Bustle)

Emily Brothers hits back at Rod Liddle column asking how blind transgender Labour candidate knew she was 'the wrong sex' (Independent)

How to Uphold White Supremacy by Focusing on Diversity and Inclusion (Model View Culture)

European Union releases analysis of the situation of Trans people in Europe (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia)

Remembering Comedian and Disability Rights Activist Stella Young (Bitch magazine)

Giving choice a voice: the story behind an internet heroine (Independent)

Somalia sexual offences bill hailed as vital step towards lasting change (Guardian)
Legislation addressing rape and other sexual violence - often committed by armed forces - will be presented to cabinet by year end.

Human Trafficking Bill: Paying for sex to become a crime in Northern Ireland (BBC)
On Frances Fitzgerald's bill to criminalise clients (Feminist Ire)

It doesn't really matter what the bill includes because, to Frances Fitzgerald, it doesn't really matter what the law does - whether or not it "works", whether or not it harms sex workers. Sex workers themselves do not matter. This is why their views have been so readily ignored throughout this process: because as far as Irish policy-makers are concerned, the law is not really about them anyway.

The rights of sex workers (Aljazeera)

#saveilf: Open Letter to Ed Miliband, Rachel Reeves and Kate Green (Disabled People Against the Cuts)

We ask you to imagine what it will be like, for people who have been enabled to live a full life, be with friends and family, go out, work, study and enjoy recreation, to have all that taken away, and find themselves trapped inside, all day, every day, with choices over what they do, when and how, removed.

Changes in Pornography - Discussion (EQ View)

The goal [of the legislation] is to censor freedom of information and access to knowledge. These regulations will not affect the big media conglomerates who peddle mainstream porn; it seems to be targeting and censoring forms of female sexuality that are not normative... The legislation threatens perfectly lawful domestic trade, the livelihoods of many self-employed people, many of them women... It is crushing independent, creative views of sexuality in favour of a one-size-fits-all mainstream heteronormative porn. - Itziar Bilbao Urrutia

Porn protest: I organised today's mass face-sitting outside Parliament because I'm not willing to give up my sexual liberties (Independent)
Porn Censorship Protest Outside Parliament (Sky News) [after the event]

An ode to those who love themselves too much (That Pesky Feminist)

How Would The Media Cover Leonardo DiCaprio's Partying If He Were A Woman? (ThinkProgress)

It's official -- benefits and high taxes make us all richer, while inequality takes a hammer to a country's growth (Independent)

New EU VAT regulations could threaten micro-businesses (Guardian)

Zoella Isn't Bad for Young Girls, But Branding Her Vacuous for Liking Make Up Is (Huffington Post)

5 Things Straight Women Should Stop Saying to Queer Women (everyday feminism)

Russell Brand tells Question Time debate Nigel Farage is a 'pound shop Enoch Powell' (London Evening Standard)

Irish cereal cafe owner posts online rant about Channel 4 reporter (Irish Independent)

New Film Opens Debate on Sizeism and the Gay Community (Favor Phoenix)

Teaching Nigel Farage the fine art of breastfeeding (Guardian)

Video shows John Crawford's girlfriend aggressively questioned after Ohio police shot him dead in Walmart (Guardian)

Channel4's latest collaboration with world's first bionic pop artist (viktoriamodesta.com/)

Call for articles!


Most of the coverage I've seen of the last item in this round-up has concentrated on the piece's 'invasion' of the X-Factor's ad break and Channel 4's framing of the video as "an alternative to painfully dull manufactured pop". Do add a link to the comments here if you know of any articles offering a more detailed analysis, particularly by disabled writers, or give us a shout at music@thefword.org.uk or TV@thefword.org.uk if you'd like to write one for us.

Image description:

Disabled women's protest march in 1967, when over 200 members of the Disablement Income Group gathered in Trafalgar Square to hand a petition to Prime Minister Harold Wilson. This is a sepia shot showing a mixed gender group of wheelchair users and walkers holding signs with the messages 'BRITISH DISABLED HOUSEWIVES DENIED EVEN NATIONAL ASSISTANCE' and 'DISABILITY + POVERTY = DESPAIR'. A number 59 bus is visible at the back.

By Andrew MacLear and shared on Flickr by Tony Baldwinson, under a Creative Commons License. Accessed 16 February 2003 at the Bradford National Media Museum.

More information can be found in 4.1 of Tony Baldwinson's report 'Unacknowledged Traces: Exploring through photographic records the self-organisation of disabled people in England from the 1920s to the 1970s'.

Exceptions won't change the rules

12 December 2014 10:57
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Posted by Guest Blogger

Amelia Handy muses on the aspirational formula behind The Apprentice and argues that quotas recommending the 'add-woman-and-stir' recipe to companies are not good enough when we have an economic system that values profit over people.

 After watching a recent episode of The Apprentice, it became apparent to me that we, the British public, are living in an Apprentice society where every successful person (read: business person) has supposedly "started from nothing"/"worked their way up". The familiar implication is that there is no excuse; if you don't have a job, you are simply not competitive enough ("it's dog-eat-dog!") and you only have yourself to blame. This pervasive attitude is symptomatic of the rampant capitalist system behind the myth that you unquestionably deserve your place in the social order. Heck, the show's Karren Brady was even the managing director of Birmingham City FC at the age of 23: apparent proof that women can do whatever they want now and just need to catch up with the boys! But as much as Brady is an ambassador for women in business, the entire corporate system is male-dominated for a reason.

Our socio-economic structure in Britain serves an elite few. Globally speaking, it has been seen that, despite some improvement in the last decade, men still easily overwhelm the best paid positions in the FTSE 100 companies, with women constituting barely 7% of senior executive positions within these. This imbalance has been called the "patriarchal dividend" by renowned gender scholar, Raewyn Connell, who has theorised how men as a whole economically benefit from the oppression of women. It is obvious enough then that unequal distribution of wealth also creates hierarchies among men, with poor men occupying the lower economic rungs of the masculine order. What is the solution then? Is gender equality in the work place, as my professor once rhetorically asked, a simple case of add-woman-and-stir?

I think not. Surely then, it is necessary to turn our socio-economic structures inside out and upside down. Quotas that recommend the add-woman/POC/LGBTQ-and-stir recipe to companies are not going to be good enough when the companies themselves are supported by an economic system that values profit over people. On top of this, simply adding a woman of colour or a gay man to an executive board is hardly going to mean anything for women of colour or gay men in general. It is a structural issue. To state that having women on a team makes good business sense comes with its own set of problematic assumptions that are founded on the idea that women are fundamentally different from men, "because femininity". Or something like that.

As I write this, The Apprentice has seven candidates left, three of which are women. I admire their hard work and intelligence. In my fantasies, I secretly hope one of these women is a revolutionary who will bring down the City from within but, when I consider reality, I think of the migrant women caring for my grandmother and the often unacknowledged impact of their work. Both the racialisation and feminisation of poverty need to be addressed and a surge of women in the boardroom is not going to change that any time soon.

Amelia Handy majored in gender in her MA in Middle Eastern studies. She is particularly interested in masculinity studies and intersectional feminisms. She cooks a mean vegetarian tagine (always add almonds!) and enjoys time with her family and Chihuahua in the south of England.

Image description:

Karren Brady, in black, sitting at a table, leaning slightly onto her right elbow on the table, with her left hand raised on the arm of the chair. Blue background. Shared by Taylor Herring PR, under a Creative Commons Licence.

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Posted by Guest Blogger

8414587316_f104a44020_m.jpg

Guest blogger Jan Nadarajah writes about activists arrested for staging a protest against women driving in Saudi Arabia.

Two prominent female Saudi women's rights activists were arbitrarily detained for staging a protest against the country's female driving ban.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 25, attempted to drive a car across the border into Saudi Arabia from the UAE on Sunday, November 30, after posting a YouTube video on Saturday announcing her intentions.

"Let's see what's going to happen," she said in the video. She did not get very far; Saudi officials confiscated her passport then subsequently held her at the border for 24 hours. Al-Hathloul tweeted on Monday that she was still being detained. "They aren't giving me my passport back, nor are they letting me cross the borders (sic) and the Ministry of Interior remains silent. Complete silence from all officials."

Her friend and fellow activist Maysaa al-`Amoudi, 33, traveled to the border the next day to provide her with supplies for the unexpected lengthy wait but was also detained on arrival, though she had not intended to drive into Saudi Arabia, an activist who declined to be named said. Both women had previously been outspoken critics of the ban, and have also been heavily involved in the movement "Women2drive" which has gathered considerable support in the past few years. The movement launched several campaigns encouraging women to drive and publicize themselves doing so. On October 26 last year many women took to the roads posting videos and pictures of themselves driving, in some videos male drivers are shown to be giving the thumbs up sign in support.

Al-Hathloul has also posted numerous videos of herself behind the wheel while encouraging other Saudi women to defy the ban.

The activists have since been taken to Al-Batha-a port Police station where they were interrogated and arrested by the authorities, activists told Human Rights Watch. They are now currently being held in separate prisons, al-Hathloul is being held in a juvenile center for girls and al-`Amoudi is being held in the al-Ahsa central prison, according to the activists.

"To imprison them is illegal and is a breach of human rights," says one well-known Saudi activist who declined to be named. "Loujain had only asked to enter Saudi Arabia, and therefore had not yet broken any religious law. As for Maysaa, she had only been driving to the border to provide al-Hathloul with a toothbrush."

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to restrict women from driving and imposes strict penalties for women who flout this fatwa (Islamic legal rulings). One Saudi Sheikh has even gone so far as to say that women who drive will suffer physiological problems as the ovaries are damaged and the pelvis is pushed upwards resulting in children with clinical disorders. (1) It is also feared by the Grand Mufti, the country's most senior religious authority that it will result in social chaos, encouraging contact and exposure between the sexes. (2)

The Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) believes that the targeting of activist Maysaa Al-Amoudi and Loujain Al-Hathloul forms part of an ongoing systematic policy of harassment by the Saudi authorities against activists who demand the women's right to drive a car in Saudi Arabia. Many activists have already been detained and have had their cars seized.(3)

Many womens rights activists have rallied against this highly restrictive ban which forces women to rely on paid drivers or male relatives for any mobility outside the home, even to go to the doctor.

News of Al-Hathlouls' detainment has caused widespread dissent, with many women again this week taking to the streets in a car and posting videos up on YouTube.

At present, Saudi officials have yet to comment on the charges laid against the three activists in custody. It is unknown what their punishment will be.

The photo above illustrates a vintage photo of a woman sitting in a car. Thanks to the Library of Congress for the photo which was used under the creative commons license.


(1) Driving "could have a reverse physiological impact. Physiological science and functional medicine studied this side [and found] that it automatically affects ovaries and rolls up the pelvis. This is why we find for women who continuously drive cars their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees," Sheikh al-Luhaydan. Quoted on Saudi news website sabq.org.

(2) 1991 fatwa issued by the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Sheik Abdulaziz bin Baz. The Grand Mufti claimed that allowing women to drive would result in public "mixing" of men and women, put women into dangerous situations because they could be alone in cars, and therefore result in social chaos. Wikileaks cable 09RIYADH357_a

(3)Gulf Centre for Human Rights Website

Weekly round-up and open thread

8 December 2014 23:31
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Posted by Josephine Tsui

2714036936_f64a12ca2b_z.jpg

Hi everyone!

We're counting down to the end of the year. Here's this week's round-up and open thread. Here we include links that we found interesting. Linking does not mean endorsement. Please tread carefully if there are topics that may cause trigger.


If there are any links we've missed, feel free to post them in the comments below.



  • What Girls Are Good For: 20-Year-Old Nellie Bly's 1885 Response to a Patronizing Chauvinist (Brainpickings)

  • The length of my skirt is none of your business (The Independent)

  • I read 50 books by people of color this year (Bitch Media)

  • Monica Jones: from transgender social worker to national threat (Guardian)

  • Nigel Farage says breastfeeding women should sit in a corner (Guardian)

  • NEW MUSIC: 'Public Unrest' - the new AFROPUNK mixtape (Afropunk) [F-Word blogger, Stephanie Phillips' band Big Joanie is featured on this new Afro Punk mixtape alongside Neneh Cherry and Mykki Blanco!]

  • This Pregnant Woman Just Delivered The Most Epic Smackdown To Anti-Abortion Protesters (Huffington Post)

  • [Filmed by former F-Word guest Sunny Hundal]

  • It Wasn't Just the Chokehold: Eric Garner, Daniel Pantaleo and Lethal Police Tactics (NY Times)

  • The new online porn regulations and how they disproportionately affect women (Another Angry Woman)

  • No spanking or bondage: why the government's new porn laws are arbitrary and sexist (New Statesman)

  • Jian Ghomeshi harassed me on the job. Why did our radio station look the other way? (Guardian)

  • An Open Letter to Kate Pierson, From a Trans Woman and Fan, About Your New 'Trans Anthem' Attempt (Huffington Post)



The illustration is of grafitti on a wall picturing a small girl sitting on her feet, blowing a red flower which turns into hearts blown in the wind. Thanks bixentro for the photo! The photo was used under the creative commons license.

New review: Vessel by Liz Smith

6 December 2014 10:42
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Posted by Ania Ostrowska

Director/producer Diana Whitten and her team introduce their documentary Vessel thus: Vessel poster.jpg

"Vessel begins with a young doctor who lived by the sea, and an unlikely idea. Rebecca Gomperts, horrified by the realities created by anti-abortion law around the world, felt compelled to challenge this. Her method: to provide abortions on a ship in offshore waters.

Her project, Women on Waves, begins as flawed spectacle, a media frenzy, faced with governmental, religious, and military blockades. But with each setback comes a more refined mission, until Rebecca has the revelation that she can use new technologies to bypass law - and train women to give themselves safe abortions using WHO-sanctioned protocols with pills.

We witness the creation of an underground network of emboldened, informed activists, working at the cutting edge of global reproductive rights, who trust women to handle abortion themselves. Vessel is Rebecca's story: one of a woman who heard and answered a calling, and transformed a wildly improbable idea into a global movement."

After its UK premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest, the film screened at Leeds International Film Festival in November, from where our contributor Liz Smith reports.

Read Liz's review and comment.

The picture is Vessel poster.

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Posted by D H Kelly

Chess_piece_-_White_bishop.JPG
Content Warning: This post refers to a variety of sexual acts.

In July 2013, David Cameron outlined various steps his government were going to take in order to protect children on-line. These included amending the 2003 Communications Act to bring on-line pornography, produced in the UK, in line with the British Board of Film Classification's R-18 certificate. Cameron said;

"There are examples of extreme pornography that are so bad you can't even buy this material in a licensed sex shop, and today I can announce we'll be legislating so that videos streamed online in the UK are subject to the same rules as those sold in shops."

This legislation came into effect this week.

The BBFC and their classifications have undergone a slow and inconsistent evolution since the early days of cinema. The sexuality of men and women has always been treated quite differently; female nudity was relatively commonplace long before cinema-goers ever saw the front of a naked man. In the 1990s, no erect penis could be shown on general release unless it passed the Mull of Kintyre test (which is nothing to do with whether arousal can be sustained throughout the song).

Currently, the BBFC bans video featuring female ejaculation. It seems ludicrous that in 2014, we could be criminalising people who record and distribute video of a healthy anatomical event, describing it extreme pornography. Fisting and face-sitting - an act so depraved, it was celebrated by a a Monty Python song - are also banned. Most of the other rules are around kink, such as urinating on another person, spanking and whipping, which could be very disturbing for a child to see, but not necessarily as disturbing as penetrative sex to someone who never knew people did that. After all, it is still quite legal to spank a child.

Some of the BBFC's rules are firmly about consent, the only aspect of content the law needs to worry about. For example, the BBFC has long forbidden video where anyone is gagged, because this removes the possibility of their withdrawing verbal consent. There are arguments about whether non-verbal consent can be adequately demonstrated, given the ability of lovers who are deaf, mute or don't share a language to navigate consent successfully. However, these matters are everything that's important about the contents of porn; does everyone involved want to be there? Is everyone involved happy with what's happening?

If porn is to exist at all, there can be no child protection argument around the content. Children simply shouldn't be able see the stuff. If we believe it is inevitable that children will access pornography, it would be difficult to argue that any one adult fantasy is more or less corrupting than another. Is an S&M dungeon scene complete with strange and spiky costumes more damaging than the coach having sex with all the cheerleaders, or films which pretend to spy on girls masturbating in the shower? Are any of these things more damaging than often two-dimensional and highly sexualised portrayals of women in mainstream cinema, television and advertising? And what about sexual violence or the commonplace use of murdered women to romance and titillate us on prime time TV?

Which brings us to the second most important point about porn, after consent. Context is how we look after everyone else.

Feminists are often portrayed as censorious, but freedom of expression lies at the heart of all egalitarian movements. As Oliver Burkeman recently wrote about so-called "political correctness",

"Mainly, it's not that there are things you can't say. It's that there are things you can't say without the risk that people who previously lacked a voice might use their own freedom of speech to object."

For example, the No More Page 3 campaign doesn't seek to ban breasts from British Newspapers or anywhere else, but to demonstrate that there might be good social and commercial reasons for the Sun to drop its tradition. Feminists approach their various (and often differing) concerns about porn, not by seeking to ban things, but with attempts to address our culture, advocating for better education, seeking to have sexual imagery placed in appropriate contexts and even making our own porn - including some material now threatened by this legislation.

Our culture remains fairly screwed up about sex. On the one hand, sexual imagery (especially sexualised imagery of women and their bodies) is ubiquitous, sex is in every other news headline and there's a tremendous pressure on adults to be both sexually attractive and sexually active. On the other hand, our culture continues to portray sex as something very narrow and heteronormative, something men demand and women acquiesce to, the preserve of young, slim, able-bodied beauties.

Further restrictions on what consenting adults can get up, record or view, to doesn't strike me as a step forward.


[The image is a photograph of a white resin bishop chess piece, in the Staunton style, standing on a wooden chess board. It was taken by Michael Maggs, shared on Wikimedia under a Creative Commons license.]

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