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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: http://www.feministtimes.com/manifestly-inadequate-austerity-cuts-punishing-devastating/#sthash.CKLMjRpA.dpuf (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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    Posted by Ania Ostrowska

    hoays-wedding.jpg
    The Baileys Women's Fiction Prize shortlist got unveiled earlier this week and Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's third novel Americanah is one of the candidates for the prize.

    If you have never heard of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, her TEDx Euston talk from April 2013 is a good place to start.

    The author won the prize previously, in 2007 (when it was called Orange Prize for Fiction) for her second novel Half of a Yellow Sun and its screen adaptation opens in UK cinemas on Friday.

    The film, directed by Biyi Bandele, starts Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Our regular contributor Katherine Wootton reviews it for us, especially praising the performances:

    The casting is excellent and the actors often add to the novel's already sharp characterisation. The women are utter stars - in particular, Onyeka Onwenu, as Mama, gives authority and intensity to a rather unsympathetic character in the book. Anika Noni Rose is revelatory as Kainene, adding sultriness to her knowing, wry coolness and Thandie Newton gives Olanna a grit and spikiness. The male performances are also impressive, though less well developed in the script (how gratifying to be noting the gender this way around!)


    Read Katherine's review and comment.

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    Posted by Guest Blogger

    This is a guest post by Sophie Turton on behalf of Doctors of the World, a charitable organisation which works to ensure excluded people overcome barriers to healthcare.

    The image at the head of this post is the logo of Doctors of the World. It comprises a blue circle with a stylised white dove encircled by the organisations name in white.In the majority of developed countries, the issue of abortion is purely moral - people protest for pro-life or pro-choice and they do so because they have the option. In many developing countries, however, this is not the case. Women are denied the right to choose and as such, are forced to seek out dangerous "back street" procedures, making unsafe abortion one of the world's major preventable causes of maternal mortality.

    Almost 25 per cent of the world's women live in countries where abortion is illegal, except when the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest or health complications, yet an estimated 222 million women in the developing world have an unmet need for modern contraception. As a result, around 22 million women worldwide have unsafe abortions every year and 300,000 die from pregnancy-related complications or unsafe procedures. Research has found that almost all abortions in Africa (97%) and Latin America (95%) are unsafe.

    A recent report by IPAS, a global NGO dedicated to ending preventable pregnancy-related mortality, found that deaths and injuries due to unsafe abortion - and prosecution for seeking an illegal abortion - disproportionately affect women who are young, poor, rural and lack education, as well as those who belong to a racial or ethnic minority or indigenous group.

    A report by Doctors of the World has found that almost half of abortions globally take place in 'deplorable conditions'. This is a major human rights issue and it is ever more important for those with a voice to speak out for those who cannot.

    A ten year old girl who is pregnant with twins as a result of rape is being forced to continue with her pregnancy after human rights campaigners lost their fight to secure a legal abortion earlier this month. The Senegalese Napoleonic law bans all abortion apart from to save a woman's life. Official figures show that forty women were held in custody in Senegal on charges linked to illegal abortion or infanticide in the first six months of 2013.

    In El Savador last year, a seriously ill woman was refused an abortion, even though her foetus had almost no chance of survival. Despite a medical committee, the Ministry of Health and human rights groups all supporting her request, the Supreme Court voted four-to-one to reject the woman's appeal.

    It's clear that world governments have not kept their promises with respect to women's rights and health. In 1994, during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, 179 countries committed to guaranteeing all women access to family planning services and to post-abortion care, no matter what legislation is in place. However, more than one in four women in developing countries have no access to modern contraception and the number of illegal abortions has reached alarming levels.

    World leaders are currently working on a global development framework for 2015 and it's crucial that women's rights play a part in these plans. This week leaders are gathering at the UN Commission on Population and Development (CPD), in New York, where many key decisions will be made on how to move forward in this area. Governments will also be gathering at the UN in September as part of the Cairo+20 to debate sexual and reproductive rights and global NGOs such as Doctors of the World and IPAS are calling on the international community to 'renew its commitment to women's rights and health' by joining a worldwide campaign for women's right to decide and for universal access to contraception and abortion.

    We have a long way to go. A recent poll conducted for CNN by ORC International found that 38% of Americans surveyed believe that abortion should only be legal in a few circumstances - the result of rape or incest - and a further 20% say abortion should always be illegal. Essentially, 58% of those surveyed believe abortion should be made predominantly illegal in the United States. America positions itself at the forefront of global progression and human rights. It is therefore essential that we differentiate between morality and basic rights for women or we risk further large-scale mortality and suffering.

    The 'Names not Numbers' campaign is one way to help. By signing the petition, you will speak out against this betrayal of women's rights and go some way towards empowering women to have control over their own sexual and reproductive health.

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    Follow Sophie Turton on Twitter: @turtonsophie.
    Follow Doctors of the World on Twitter: @DOTW_UK

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    The image at the head of this post is the logo of Doctors of the World. It comprises a blue circle with a stylised white dove encircled by the organisations name in white.

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    Posted by fanhackers

    The OTW blog shines a spotlight on the academic fan studies journal TWC. Excerpt:

    What gets you excited about academic studies in fandom?

    “Here’s what I’m excited about,” said Karen Hellekson in 2008: “an academic journal that welcomes, instead of rejects or overtly mocks, fan studies as a topic … that takes as a given the notion that fans provide something valuable to our culture that ought to be analyzed.”

    That journal is Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC): run, peer-reviewed, edited, and supported by OTW members and fans like you.

    TWC is a journal with contributions from fan studies scholars all over the world. Edited by Hellekson and Kristina Busse, TWC has produced 15 issues so far, featuring fascinating contributions in topics ranging fromfanvids to fan labor to Supernatural.

    Here’s another reason to get excited: TWC is completely free to the public, and has been from the beginning. Academic journals are traditionally locked to people with university affiliations. Often you have to pay US$30 to $45 for access to a single article. But ours is an online-only Open Access Gold journal: free for the readers at the point of access. Plus, our Creative Commons copyright lets anyone reprint the essays for free. These are essential principles behind TWC, enabling its goal of connecting academics and fans through community and accessibility. That’s why the journal also has an open space for non-academic fans to chime in, through the Symposium section in every issue.

    Read more

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    Posted by fanhackers

    Fifty Shades complicates the concept of prosumption, however, as (E.L.) James “built a following within a community founded in part on the explicit rejection of monetary gain in favor of fannish love, and then used that community and the work it helped her to produce in order to make a name—and a fair amount of money—in mainstream publishing” (Wanenchak 2012). James thus straddles the line between producer and fan, stealing from commodified culture to create Master of the Universe while stealing from fandom to make a success of Fifty Shades. The question of whether James’s fans would have been so involved in supporting and reviewing her work if they were aware that their efforts would result in her profit—although ultimately unanswerable—is nevertheless a valid one, and I would suggest that these debates suggest a subtle change in the relationship between fan and producer. From being in a position of cultural marginality where they poach from texts, fans are now the ones potentially being poached from (Andrejevic 2008; Milner 2009).

    Bethan Jones, Fifty Shades of fan labor: Exploitation and Fifty Shades of Grey ift.tt/1kEIfyT

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    Posted by Guest Blogger

    This is a guest post by Sarah Rose LaPham. Her background is in political lobbying and women's rights advocacy. She currently works on campaigns and public affairs for Maternity Action, working to end inequalities against pregnant women and new mothers.

    This photo is called 'The line I'm not in' and it shows a queue of people at an airport check-in. The image is from Mark Atwood's Flickr photostream and is used under the terms of The Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license.Like most western countries, the United Kingdom has a long history of blaming immigrants for a whole host of social and economic problems, from job shortages, to levels of crime, to the housing crisis, to benefits fraud. Recent discussions have focused on immigrants' impact on the NHS, so-called 'health tourism', whereby they point a finger squarely at pregnant women intent on accessing maternity services free of charge. Yes that's right: vulnerable pregnant migrant women, including refugees and asylum seekers, women who have been raped and trafficked here, women who are destitute and homeless and are carrying a child. These are among the individuals that the UK government has chosen to focus on and single out as a particular burden to the NHS in the Immigration Bill.

    Reforms set out in the Bill, currently in the House of Lords, are designed to address this health tourism 'epidemic' and are part of a broader programme of changes to migrants' access to NHS services. The legislation proposes to extend charging to more NHS services and to a wider group of migrants. Accident and Emergency services, primary care and pharmaceuticals will be charged for. The Bill also introduces a 'migrant levy' on visa applications, whereby the many thousands of migrants who have a current visa but don't yet have indefinite leave to remain will be asked to pay or will face up-front charges for care.

    However, we already have complex and confusing charging rules for maternity care, which are poorly understood by migrant women, and poorly implemented by trusts and NHS staff. Government research suggests that NHS trusts incorrectly classify as many as 30% of the people assessed and therefore charged people entitled to free care.

    Furthermore, charges at the point of care create additional and unnecessary health risks that women, due to fear of a large health bill, will choose not to see a midwife throughout their pregnancy or may even avoid hospitals altogether and try to have their baby at home. For those that do see a midwife, many only see a midwife very late in pregnancy, or try to see a midwife only to be denied access to care because of their inability to pay. This can prevent midwives from identifying and treating health conditions early in pregnancy such as, HIV, Hepatitis, Rubella and Syphilis - leading to significantly worse health outcomes for vulnerable migrant women and their babies, as well as complex, costly interventions at a later date.

    And these reforms are all in the name of 'health tourism', we keep hearing. Shadow Health Secretary Liam Fox coined the term and posted a warning on the Conservative Party website in January 2003, of 'the impact that the asylum seeker crisis is having on the NHS'. Fox went on to claim asylum seekers shouldn't get preferential treatment ahead of UK taxpayers and that is was not the responsibility of the NHS to act as a 'health tourism destination for economic migrants'. This theme was expanded upon until health tourism quickly became a euphemism for abuse of the NHS, to which all foreigners could be contributing. Yet the government unreservedly admitted that it had not collected data on the numbers of 'health tourists' who actually used the NHS. (Sabates-Wheeler and Feldman, 2011)

    The fact is there is no credible evidence to back up claims that migrant pregnant women are part of an epidemic of 'deliberate maternity health tourism'. However despite the lack of formally collected data or studies, misinformation and propaganda have given momentum and justification to these reforms and have taken a front seat in likes of papers such as the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, who have been all too keen to report pregnant women 'cheating' their way into the country to receive free maternity care. The claims of one doctor at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital who referred to the flow of West African women flying in to give birth as the 'Lagos Shuttle', which the hospital publicly denied, has been reported on countless times as if it were based in fact, instead of one individual's opinion and assumptions about immigration status and country of origin.

    The UK claims to be family-friendly, to be advancing and championing the rights of women, to welcome diversity and ethnicity into its borders, yet actions speak much louder than words. This legislation will infringe upon a woman's human right to maternity care, will send a clear message to migrants and their families that they are not welcome here and thus unworthy to receive our healthcare. It will also ultimately discriminate against one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, pregnant migrant women. We will not stand by while the Government masks discriminatory and anti-immigrant policies as large-scale economic problems that simply do not appear to exist.

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    To find out more about Maternity Action's campaign against these reforms go to: http://www.maternityaction.org.uk/wp/policy-campaigns/campaigns/access-to-nhs-maternity-care-for-vulnerable-migrant-women/

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    Image attribution and description: The photo at the head of this post is called 'The line I'm not in' and it shows a queue of people at an airport check-in. The image is from Mark Atwood's Flickr photostream and has been cropped and resized by Helen. The Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license applies.

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    Posted by Jess McCabe

    9654257258_dc58d33ff6_z.jpeg

    Hello and welcome to our regular weekly round-up of things we have read on the internet. Please share more links, plus your thoughts and comments! This is an open thread, so please feel free to say anything.

    As always, inclusion of a link in this round-up does not imply endorsement, either with the original post, or the publication, or the blog, or the website.

    Rich white man gets no jail time for raping his three-year-old daughter because he "will not fare well" in prison (Feministing)

    Putting an end to indefinite detention on the political agenda (Migrants' Rights Network)

    Virginia Woolf ballet: Royal Opera House to stage piece based on novels Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves (The Independent)

    The feisty feminism of 'Girls just want to have fun,' 30 years later (The Atlantic)

    This is the most misogynistic thing I've seen today (Another Angry Woman)

    University adversity - advertising rape (Purely a figment of your imagination)

    Accidental voicemail catches RCMP mocking assault complainant (CBC News)

    'Why I'm turning Girl Talk magazine feminist' (The Telegraph)

    Community responds to Norrie ruling (Gay News Network)

    To the guy who wrote that Facebook message about 'the fatty running on the track this afternoon (XOJane)

    Margo MacDonald: The life and times of a political 'blonde bombshell' (BBC)

    The Ethical Porn Partnership has just launched (link to Facebook Page)

    #notyourgoodfatty (Shakesville)

    Jimmy Savile sex abuse: 'Islington is still covering up' (The Telegraph)

    Gay conversion therapy should have no place in NHS, says health minister (The Guardian)

    Campaigners demand apology over 'victim blaming' (Channel 4)

    Scottish independence: Scottish government childcare plan questioned (BBC)

    Photo of paper graffiti woman by Seven Resist, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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    Posted by fanhackers

    One major issue in the 2007–8 Writers Guild of America strike was an insistence that Web content was creative work and was thus eligible to be paid at creative rates, rather than promotional work that creators were obligated to participate in for free (Gray 2010; Leaver 2013; Russo 2010). The kinds of paratexts or pieces of ancillary content that were at stake in the WGA strike are quite like what fans produce, and turning to fans rather than paid staff for such work thus looks increasingly good for the bottom line. After all, even against the baseline of declining labor strength in Hollywood, fan work is a bargain for industry.

    Mel Stanfill and Megan Condis, Editorial: Fandom and/as labor ift.tt/PrPe4z

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    Posted by fanhackers

    On a more doctrinal level, respecting creativity as a human force should lead us to think differently about fair use, among other things, by encouraging us to take account of noncommercial motivations even in contexts current doctrine sees as commercial. Joanna Russ, the feminist science fiction writer, suggested that the“what if” of slash fanfiction was “what if I were free?” What would I read, what would I write, what relationships would I have with the external world and with other people? Asking “what if I were free”is very different from the claim-staking of the rhetoric of opensource software, which focuses on the idea that open-source software is “free as in free speech, not as in free beer.” That common phrase has always struck me as hiding within it many unexamined and problematic assumptions about what free is with respect to speech and how it relates to a commercial marketplace. What free is with respect to women’s voices, of course, has been fiercely debated at least since John Stuart Mill (and his wife) wrote The Subjection of Women. Slash and other fanworks come from a background of constraint, where acting as if we were free to write our own versions is a different kind of act than using our already-extant freedom to create open-source software instead of proprietary code. Women as writers have rarely had the luxury of exclusive control to give away.

    One aspect of that unfreedom has been an inability to participate in the money economy on the same terms as men. Fanworks represent an alternative outlet for creative energies.

    Rebecca Tushnet, Economies of Desire: Fair Use and Marketplace Assumptions ift.tt/1dL4BAw

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    Posted by Ania Ostrowska

    BEV_Positive_L.jpgBirds Eye View Festival is back! The 10th Festival edition will run from 8 to 13 April 2014 at venues including BFI Southbank, Barbican, ICA, Curzon Soho and Electric Cinema.

    The 2014 Festival is Birds Eye View's biggest and best outing, with a host of UK premieres and special events featuring some of the world's leading female filmmakers and rising new talents. The programme also includes industry programmes supported by the British Council and Creative Skillset, plus much more in six days of endlessly inspiring women from across the globe.

    For the Opening and Closing Nights the organisers have chosen the hotly anticipated UK premieres of Nana Ekvtimishvili's and Simon Groß's award-winning In Bloom, a coming-of-age tale set in post-Soviet Georgia that's been taking Europe by Storm, and Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar's French-American dramedy Swim Little Fish Swim, a hit at SXSW and already hailed as the French 'Tiny Furniture.'

    There will be 19 features including 10 UK premieres, from edge-of-your-seat thrillers to heart-in-your-mouth personal stories - read the full feature programme.

    Cutting-edge documentaries feature heavily in this year's programme, showcasing some of the most interesting filmmakers today whose bold new approaches push the boundaries of the documentary form. Read the full doc programme.

    Sophie Mayer caught a preview of a selection of festival films and she says:

    The 2014 edition of Birds Eye View is edgier, more political and more adventurous. Alongside UK's first screenings of Kelly Reichardt's dark eco-thriller Night Moves and XXY director Lucia Puenzo's Wakolda about one of Argentina's dirtiest secrets, there are dazzling documentaries on show. From the tideline of Algeria's Mediterranean coast to the sacred Lakota lands known as Pine Ridge, the festival opens a feminist eye for the film lover who wants a strong spine of social justice in her big-screen spectacle

    Read Sophie's reviews of two upcoming BEV documentaries..

    Full programme and information on how to book on BEV website.

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    Posted by Guest Blogger

    Jan Dark on the challenge of overcoming female social conditioning and standing up to abuse from not just men, but other women.

    woman megaphone.jpg

    Since time immemorial, women have been taught that male violence and abuse are inevitable; we are expected to learn to either avoid it or live with it. Male violence against women and girls is so normalised that decades on from the beginning of the second wave, feminists' voices are still not being heard. When our voices are heard, rather than being listened to, we experience a backlash.

    The first 'speak out session' within the anti-rape movement in the USA took place in New York in January 1971. Over 300 women attended and at least 30 courageously spoke of their experiences of male sexual violence in front of a mixed audience. Some were subjected to verbal and physical abuse from the men present (including being urinated on) when they disclosed. Not surprisingly, a consequence was the recognition for the need for women-only spaces. How much has changed? Very little. Fast forward to the digital age and the abuse also happens online. What has changed is that is our women-only spaces and services are constantly under threat from male intrusion.

    Designer and journalist Martin Belham stated:

    I used to run a spoof Twitter account that ran alongside the BBC Question Time programme and I found that I received a lot more online abuse when the account was posing as a woman than when it was posing as a man. It was wearing. And it renewed my admiration for women who take part in public life via Twitter.

    The abuse of women on social media is well documented. One of the most high profile cases of online abuse is that experienced by Caroline Criado-Perez in 2013, following her successful campaign for female representation on a banknote. Reporting her abusers to the police resulted in two prosecutions in January 2014; one was that of a woman. I saw tweets from Caroline's detractors accusing her of being a traitor to feminism because she had availed herself of the law and one of the accused was a woman. Since when does being a feminist preclude abusive women from being held accountable for their actions?

    There is such pressure on feminist activists to not only be infallible and perfect in every possible way, but to be martyrs for the cause. Don't get me wrong, I love and admire Emily Wilding Davison hugely and whether or not she intentionally threw herself under a horse is a much debated issue (personally, I don't think that she did). However, I am not a martyr, I am a feminist, and the two don't have to go hand in hand.

    Some may argue that this burden of martyrdom is self-imposed, but that 'self-imposition' is the result of patriarchal social conditioning. Sugar and spice and all things nice, the rhyme goes. We are taught to placate, to smile and be nice, even in the face of nastiness. What could be a more powerful tool for ensuring that women as a class remain subjugated and oppressed? Bringing us up with the tools to challenge would pose a threat to the status quo.

    Many of us devote our energies to doing all we can to help women, but there comes a point when it cannot be to the detriment of ourselves. Many of us love the sisterhood, we love women-only spaces, we fight to retain women-only services, however... if we challenge abusive behaviour towards us from other women, some accuse us of being unsisterly or even anti-feminist. I have known one or two women (mercifully, only a tiny number) who actually exploit one's feminist values to behave in a most inappropriate manner.

    A few years ago, I had cause to report a woman's actions to the police. I agonised about doing this for some time as it really pricked my feminist conscience, however, her behaviour was unacceptable and caused a great deal of stress, distress and harm to many women. Being a feminist does not mean that we're so inured to abuse that we can ignore it. Nor does challenging such behaviour negate our empathy.

    Prior to this, I had also faced a moral dilemma regarding a friend who was in a very dangerous situation. I tried to support her as best as I could and in the process, allowed myself to get so involved that I endangered my family and myself. Unfortunately, she also misdirected her understandable anger in my direction numerous times. I endured it. I tried to talk to her about it. However, her outbursts increased in frequency. I had to walk away for my own emotional well-being and safety in the end. Guilty? Yes I felt guilty on both counts. Why? Because this is part of the female condition.

    Much has been talked about Desmond Tutu's forgiveness recently. It's time that we, as feminists, learned to forgive ourselves.

    Photo of a Black woman shouting into a megaphone by looking4poetry, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

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    Posted by Carrie Dunn

    FINAL Isak Dinesen - Peter.jpg

    Known most commonly by her pen name Isak Dinesen, but also as Tania Blixen, Pierre Andrézel and Osceola, the Norwegian author and Baroness Karen Blixen was regarded as quite the mystery during her lifetime.

    After the publication of her first book, Seven Gothic Tales, in 1934, speculation about her identity became commonplace amongst literary circles; myths that she was a nun, a recluse, a man, a brother and sister duo, a Parisienne, a Londoner and so on circulated continuously.

    Considering the ongoing ambiguity that surrounded her, it is perhaps unsurprising that her best known and most popular work is Out Of Africa, a memoir of her 17 years of ownership of and stay on a coffee plantation in Kenya: a work that tantalisingly reveals a segment of the life of an author so few fully knew.

    Find out more about the mystery and to comment.

    I'm not scarred

    2 April 2014 13:28
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    Posted by Guest Blogger

    This is a guest post by A. C

    Self esteem attr Jamies Rabbit.jpgThe women I admired growing up were air-brushed dolls with not a hair out of place, smooth as powdered babies with creamy complexions - not a blemish or scar in sight. Scanning the plethora of magazines sitting glossy in their stands, my thirteen-year old self scoured for someone to relate to and recognise. I never did.

    A scar is not just simply physical, it makes me want to claw at the throats of people when they feign concern. Do yourself a favour and spare me and others your voyeurism, it's my life actually, and not emotional porn for you to weep empty tears at. I have never met someone who was resilient by choice, and I won't pretend to understand you, so do one before you hungrily feed at my answers to your endless questions. What is more insulting to anyone who has been through anything considered traumatic, is the horror in people's eyes when they have pushed you to reveal the gory details.

    Before you brazenly ask someone what 'the hell is that' on their body, think about the answer you are going to get. Not everyone lives their life for the consumption of strangers. I have lost count of the times I have reverted to default mode, over compensating, and going through the motions of that 'hilarious' time I felt like petrol had been poured on my body and then set alight as I came round from open -heart surgery.

    It is near on impossible to articulate how I felt jumping on to on the operating table, fresh out of school, knowing that everything probably would be fine but the weight of the last 16 years pressing down on me.

    A guilty conscience is a side effect of being exposed to people a thousand times worse off than you, since you were pushed, nearly lifeless from your excited first-time Mum, unknowingly stealing her fantasy of proudly parading her healthy, milky baby to family and friends.

    Women are taught from day dot to hate their bodies, to endlessly pursue perfection, to ridicule themselves, and compete for who has the least amount of self-esteem. I have ripped myself to shreds since I understood what my scar meant. But forget the scar for a minute, it's just a physical representation of the emotional scars that run through my veins. When I was a kid I used to wish to wake up one day without a health condition. I am sick to the back teeth of MRI scans, injections, blood tests, kicking my heels together in waiting rooms, operation tables, bored doctors scanning my notes and not listening to how I actually feel and mechanically listing potential birthing options, ' if and when it happens'. The list runs and runs and runs.

    My scars have a story of their own - they are proof that I can survive, a trait I no longer shy away from. Without it, I would never have moved to an unknown city knowing no one and set up a life by myself.

    Strip away everything, all you have left are the feet helping you stand tall. It still angers me that women with scars aren't celebrated, but twenty-four years too late I have come to accept that my body is mine, and the wolf no longer knocks at my door telling me I was born broken.

    Hating yourself is redundant. Self-esteem is a choice.

    Image shows a green bowl with the slogan "Big Bowl of Self-Esteem". It was taken by Flickr user Jamiesrabbits and is shared under a creative commons license.

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