Are you still there..?

You may have noticed that we’ve been quiet – we’ve got fewer new blogposts, we’ve not run events for a while, and we haven’t used our mailing list recently.

We’re still really passionate about keeping HFC going, about feminist campaigning, and about educating in Hampshire and beyond. But it’s not always easy.

We’ve been struggling with finding a meeting venue – we had to leave our previous venue in Winchester as we were no longer able to afford it, and have not yet found a suitable replacement. If you know of a cheap, accessible, quiet venue with transport links, in central Hampshire, please let us know.

Sometimes other life stuff gets in the way. Active members move to another county or country, or have changes in work or family situations. Sometimes people get ill; we have a lot of members with mental and/or physical health problems or disabilities that can fluctuate, meaning they have less time or energy available.  Possibly feminists with an intersectional outlook are likely to be juggling other oppressions.

With this in mind we are aware that community support can make a real difference to people. Community building is essential activism, but is often overlooked or dismissed. HFC tries to provide safe spaces, which can provide respite from everyday micro-aggressions. As a group, we are starting to recognise that our activism does not always have to be traditional campaigning or protest but can also be providing support networks and mutual aid.

We’re going to start organising low-key socials. Once a month, every third Thursday of the month, in Southampton. We’d also like to hold socials elsewhere in Hampshire; we are aware that recently we have been quite Southampton-centric. This is partly because the majority of our active members who were spread throughout Hampshire have either moved out of the county or have moved to Southampton. We still have some members in other parts of Hampshire however, and are keen to hold more events elsewhere.

If you’d like to get more involved, get in touch. Suggestions to improve HFC are welcome, but new people getting involved with the running and organising are even better. However, if you haven’t got the time or energy to get involved with organisation, we’d still love to see you at a meeting or social, or even interacting with us online.

Our first social will be at the Art House on Above Bar Street in Southampton, this Thursday 17th April from 7pm. Some of us will be doing knitting, drawing or other crafts; do bring craft things if you’d like but it’s definitely not essential!  This is the facebook page for the event.

Our next meeting will be on Sunday 4th May, venue to be confirmed.

AudreLordeSelfCare

HAPPY BIRTHDAY HFC!

A year ago this month, the founders of Hampshire Feminist Collective were discussing creating a new trans* inclusive, intersectional feminist group on the south coast. It’s been a hell of a year, we’ve held a body positive workshop, a vigil for Trans* Day of Remembrance and organised a flash mob for One Billion Rising. We’ve also attended Reclaim the Night marches, got involved in anti fascist and anti cuts protests and found time for plenty of socials. Not only that but we’ve reached 300+ likes on facebook and approx 13,750 visits to our website with blog posts going viral.

We’re very proud of everything we’ve done so far and hope next year will be just as fabulously feminist. Keep an eye out for some birthday celebrations this summer.

 

Happy 1st Birthday

Marriage for the 21st Century

[Content note: rape; homophobia; heterocentric and ciscentric culture.]

[Author’s Note: I am by no means an expert in law. The information I have used for this blog post has been acquired through other articles and personal testimonies. If anyone wishes to clarify a particular legal position that would be appreciated. It’s also worth noting that the discussions today and tomorrow in parliament may mean that some things referred to in this blog post will have changed.]

So equal marriage. Gay marriage, same-sex marriage, civil partnerships, etc. is in the news a LOT at the moment. The third reading of the new marriage bill is going through parliament today and tomorrow. It’s brought a lot of homophobes out of the woodwork and caused me to swear at the radio more than once, but it’s also bringing about exciting opportunities to really change the institution of marriage and change it for the better. It’s a positive step forward and it’s good for me (a gay woman) to know that someday I might be able to get married in this country. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that, even if same-sex marriage becomes legal, the changes will be that radical.

Okay, so what are the problems with the same-sex marriage bill? A huge problem is that sex is legally defined as a penis inserted into a vagina (PIV). This effectively means that legally speaking a lot of gay people aren’t or have never had sex. (Not all, as obviously not all women have vaginas nor do all men have penises. There are also many Gender Studies 101 points to be made here: people have had sex with partners of different genders; bisexuality and other people on the spectrum exist — ‘they’re here, they’re queer, get used to it’;  oh and of course many heterosexual couples choose not to have PIV sex.) This means that marriage laws and civil partnerships involving gay people don’t require consummation of a marriage through sexual intercourse. It also means that legally, gay people may not to be able to use adultery as a reason for divorce unless the person playing away had PIV sex. There is actually a line in the proposed bill that says “only conduct between the respondent and a person of the opposite sex may constitute adultery for the purposes of this section”. This is obviously ridiculous and needs to be changed, but we also need to be aware that it’s being used by the anti-equality brigade as a way of arguing against and delaying the same-sex marriage bill. It’s important to realise that many heterosexual couples divorce on grounds of adultery even when there has been no PIV sex.

Basically this shit is complicated. Ideally I think a lot of feminists would like a re-evaluation of how we define sex by law and within our culture. (For example, it’s not legally rape unless it’s PIV [Edit or PIA]. Oh and our old favourite: that sacred mythical concept of virginity and purity.) But it’s also worth considering why marriages have to involve sexual consummation at all. If two people want to declare themselves publically partnered, to make someone their next of kin with all the rights and benefits that involves, why is it the law’s business if they have PIV sex, or indeed any type of sexual intercourse? The requirement by law for consummation to validate a marriage also adds another dimension and expectation to a marriage: that those within it are required to have sex and may feel obligated. Marital rape is now recognised and illegal in this country, but unhealthy attitudes towards consent remain tied to marriage. Furthermore, there are many asexual people in romantic relationships who may wish to get married. Not to mention those people who would like to make close personal friendships into next of kin ties; what right do we or the state have in saying they can’t do that?

Those writing the new law have also spent very little time considering the implications of the same sex marriage bill for trans* people. Currently married trans* people have to get their marriages annulled upon legally transitioning to the “opposite” gender; those marriages that have been annulled will not be reinstated. Furthermore, when trans* people go to get their Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), they will have to get their spouse to consent in writing to the GRC. If, that is, the marriage was originally considered an ‘opposite sex’ marriage. Those who married as a ‘same-sex’ couple will not have to have their spouse along to give legal consent. Presumably, because same-sex couples aren’t as worried about becoming legally in a heterosexual relationship, while heterosexuals need their privileged status protected. Oh, and all this is only in reference to binary-identified trans* people; nonbinary people can still not legally get married if they wish to be recognised as nonbinary, as the definition of marriage does not include people who do not identify as either male or female.

There are other problems connected to old-fashioned, outdated laws and legal requirements with marriage that feminists also need to be aware of and try to change. For example, I was made aware recently that on marriage certificate and legal documents you are required to put your father’s profession but there is no space for your mother’s. This is obviously outdated but actually becomes ridiculous when you learn that you can put a stepfather’s occupation down, even if they were only married to your mother for a brief amount of time during your childhood. There are other issues too: a friend of mine amicably split with her husband yet legally has to prove that they’ve been living separately for two years before they are able to divorce. This seems ridiculous; surely if two consenting adults can enter into a legal contact of marriage, they should be able to get divorced if both happily consent to the split. Even if one spouse wants to leave and is unhappy in the marriage, they should be able to do this without jumping through legal loopholes. Though I understand that a lot of the legalities of divorce were brought in to protect a vulnerable partner, people should be able to divorce simply because the marriage is no longer working. The Netherlands has the right idea in this regard, where simply the irreparable breakdown of a marriage constitutes grounds for divorce.

For many feminists of course, the institution of marriage is a patriarchal institution so tainted that they would much rather have a civil partnership that doesn’t have the same historic baggage. However, the new proposals make no changes to allow heterosexual couples civil partnerships . Same-sex and heterosexual couples will continue to be perceived differently in the eyes of the law.

I don’t want same-sex marriage to be delayed; I want same-sex couples to be closer to equality as soon as possible; however, we do need to keep pushing for a law that is up to date and relevant. Same-sex marriage is a positive step in the right direction, but making same-sex marriage legal should not be seen as the end of the process. What we really need to do is properly overturn and re-evaluate marriage, divorce and definitions of sex for the 21st century.

Love is Love
Text: Love is Love, Regardless of Gender. Support Marriage Equality at www.c4em.org.uk 

*EDIT* A lot of people have been expressing the general thought on this post, why do we need marriage at all? Well mainly what we do need is the ability to define who is our next of kin. Our first point of contact, family visiting rights, inheritance rights, the right to make decisions in regard to health care, the right to live in your partners country. These are all things that people in same sex relationships have lacked for a long time. These are not things to be dismissed. What we call it, I’m not too bothered about. Though I think we should always challenge it when same sex relationships are seen differently in the eyes of the law.

References:
Diva magazine, April 2013. Article: Putting the sex into equal marriage. Kim Renfrew.

Autostraddle, December 2012: Faulty Deflowerings, UK Lawmakers Trying to Define Sex. Gabrielle.

Sarah Brown’s Blog, January 2013: Same-Sex Marriage Bill — Transgender Implications.

Related reading:
Jessica Valenti: The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

One Billion Rising, Southampton event

obr_logo-web

Text in Image: ONE BILLION RISING. STRIKE. DANCE. RISE!

On 14th February 2013, at 7 pm, Hampshire Feminist Collective will join with activists around the world for ONE BILLION RISING, the largest day of action in the history of V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.

ONE BILLION RISING began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. On February 14, 2013, V-Day’s 15th anniversary, Hampshire Feminist Collective will join activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities, and women and men across the world as we express their outrage, demand change, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women.

We will be dancing in Southampton.  Please meet us at 19.00 outside Central Library on Commercial Road, from which we will move into Guildhall Square to get our Dance On!! For the flash mob to work try to get to meeting spot by 19.00, but if you’re running late just look for the group of people dancing in Guildhall Square and join in. To tie in with Valentines Day theme we will be wearing red and it would be great if you could do the same. (Maybe a red hat, scarf, gloves, a bandanna or a umbrella. Anything you can wear while you dance will do!)

Then we’ll be off to a pub/bar/cafe for a social. Probably either: Goblets, The Frog & Parrot (which used to be the Old Fat Cat) or The Art House if they don’t mind us ruining a romantic atmosphere.

Please bring family, partners and friends and join us for a good evening. It should be a nice anti-commercial alternative to Valentine’s Day.  A celebration anyone can join in, regardless of if they’re in a relationship or not!

If you can’t join us in Southampton then don’t let that stop you dancing! We’d love to see photos and videos of people dancing all over the county if you’re willing to share them.

More information about the event and why we’re rising visit the official ONE BILLION RISING website. V-Day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

HFC needs YOU! ‘Who Needs Feminism?’

Who needs feminism

Text in Image: WHO NEEDS FEMINISM

Starting a discussion about feminism can be difficult.

Take a group of people, and you’ll soon find those that don’t believe in feminism being relevant today. People who “believe in equality”, but aren’t “one of those scary, man-hating feminists”. “You’ve got the right to vote and work and own your own home, what else do you want?!?”.

‘Who needs feminism?’  is an international movement of self-identified feminists standing up and telling the world why feminism is still relevant and needed today. Submissions range from the thoughts of women who are tired of being harassed in the streets, to criticisms of rape culture and the concerns of men afraid to explore more ‘feminine’ pursuits.

Over the next few months, we at Hampshire Feminist Collective are hoping to collect photos of you — yes, you! — and your reason(s) for why you still need feminism. To take part, all you need is a camera, a pen and a piece of card (or a whiteboard if you’re feeling fancy). The first words of your statement should be ‘I need feminism because…’, followed by your own comment. We’ll also be trying to take photos at our meetings on the first Sunday of the month, so please feel free to pop along if you can.

All submissions should be emailed to hampshirefeministcollective[at]gmail[dot]com. Please note that they will be posted in an album to the Facebook page!

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls

[content note: violence; rape culture; FGM]

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Around this time of year we tend to hear lots of horrific statistics and stories about VAWG. The scale of the problem can seem huge and overwhelming. Sometimes we can feel useless and disheartened by it. So I thought I’d write a list of things YOU can do to help change the culture of violence and help eliminate violence against women and girls.

  • Believe, listen and support those who confide in you about rape, sexual assault and abuse and provide them with links to support services.  There is a very real problem in our culture of survivors not being believed and this can have devastating consequences. Many survivors never talk about what happened; it is vital that if they have the courage to talk that you support them by listening and believing.
  • Challenge those who perpetuate rape myths. For example, the majority of rapists are not strangers in dark alleys but people known to the victim. For more information on rape myths and the reality of rape please go to the Rape Crisis website.
  • Do not engage in rape jokes and challenge those who do. Rape is a very serious issue that has a long-lasting impact on its survivors and the culture prevalent in society around rape such as jokes and insensitive language work to undermine the seriousness of this crime, as well as to cause survivors unnecessary pain and psychological trauma.
  • Take the White Ribbon Pledge. ‘I pledge not to commit, condone, or remain silent about male violence against women.’ The White Ribbon Campaign encourages men to speak out against domestic abuse and violence, but anyone can take the pledge.
  • Follow the rules of ‘enthusiastic consent’ when engaging in sexual activity or educating others. Enthusiastic consent is the idea that a simple ‘yes’ is not really enough, because a ‘yes’ can be coerced or unwilling. Instead, what should be required is true enthusiasm, and for that good communication between all parties involved is essential.
  • Educate yourself and others about the reality of rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and prostitution. For example, FGM and forced marriage are not simply things that occur outside the UK. FORWARD estimates that as many as 6,500 girls are at risk of FGM within the UK each year.
  • Write to your local MP and/or Police and Crime Commissioner and ask them what they are doing to improve conviction rates, to stop our culture of violence and how they are supporting survivors and services.(writetothem.com)
  • Donate, support and volunteer for local, national and international charities working to end VAWG and support the survivors of violence. This is particularly important at the moment with funding to many charities and support services being cut. Volunteers who donate their time for free are often the lifeblood of charities who couldn’t run without them. (For a list of charities see our pages Hampshire Links and Outside Hampshire)

Transphobia as a feminist issue

[content note: transphobia; homophobia; prostitution; violence; rape]

This Tuesday 20th November, Hampshire Feminist Collective are holding a candlelight vigil for Transgender Day of Rembrance.

It’s so important for us as feminists to stand up against trans* hate crimes and discrimination, particularly as feminism has a bad history of transphobia. I am proud of my part in organising this event and to be part of a feminist group that stands publically against transphobia.

Some people may wonder what a feminist group is doing organising a trans* event. They might suggest that we should be concentrating on ‘women’s issues’.

I would remind them that the majority of those trans* people murdered are women. I would also point out that these murders generally fall into the category of male violence against women. That many of those trans women who are murdered are first subject to rape and sexual assault. Male violence against women is not confined to cis women but is an issue for trans and cis women alike.

By extension male violence as a reinforcement of power and privilege exists beyond male violence against women. It manifests itself in the form of a heteropatriarchy where anyone who falls outside of the heteronormative sphere of masculinity or gender norms is subject to violence and intimidation. The ultimate display of power and masculinity often being through rape, with women, queer cis men, trans men and nonbinary people being subject to attacks as a way of ‘de-masculinising’ them and reinforcing power structures.

I would also point out to those who wonder if trans* issues are feminist ones that sadly a large proportion of trans* people who are murdered are sex workers forced into prostitution because of poverty, discrimination and lack of options. We know as feminists that those in prostitution often experience hideous and dehumanising violence. That the johns often don’t see prostitutes as human at all, but rather as vessels for their own pleasure. Prostitution is one of the most dangerous ‘jobs’ in the world, with high levels of murder, violence and rape, and the people forced into it are usually the most vulnerable people in society. It is also a gendered issue, the majority of johns being cis men; it is a sad truth of society that power, money and the sex industry are horribly interlinked. So the fact is that so many trans* people around the world are in prostitution and that so many of those trans* people who were murdered were sex workers. That is definitely a feminist issue.

It’s also worth noting that a huge part of what causes transphobia is fear when ideas around fixed binary gender and sex roles are challenged: the binary gender roles that we as feminists spend so much time fighting against. We are brought up in a society and culture that places everyone in two neat boxes from birth. When we challenge that binary, either through ideas or our lived existence, we are challenging the foundations that a lot of people base their lives around. When a trans* person is murdered or attacked for being trans* they are being attacked because their very existence challenges the idea of fixed binary gender roles.

There are other complex intersectional feminist layers involved in trans* hate crime as well, however, that I should mention. There are layers of class that I have already alluded to; the fact that so many of those murdered live in poverty or are forced into dangerous situations and work like prostitution; the fact that many of those murdered are people of colour (something that is noted in many of the details of US victims), and their deaths are often tied into issues of racism and economic status.

There is also the interlinking of transphobia and homophobia to be accounted for. Many transphobic attacks being part of homophobic violence with trans* people being singled out as more visibly ‘queer’ and ‘other’. There is the constant fear of being ‘tricked’ into homosexuality: for example, that if a straight cis male discovers a woman he was attracted to is trans then this is a devious trick to ‘make’ him gay. The stereotyping of trans women as ‘predatory’ is linked to the stereotyping of gay cis men as ‘predatory’ via the ignorant belief that trans women are ‘really’ gay men.

Finally, our group isn’t a ‘women’s group’. It is a feminist group made up of women and men, trans* and cis people, binary- and nonbinary-identified people. Hampshire Feminist Collective, was in part formed because of the need for a supportive and safe trans* inclusive feminist space. Part of being a supportive and inclusive space is not dismissing trans* issues as ‘not feminist enough’.

Part of intersectional feminist thought is recognising that all oppressions are interlinked, and to quote Audre Lorde: ‘There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.’

So yes, violence against trans* people is most definitely an important feminist issue and one you should care about.

If you can attend our event this Tuesday, please do.

Transgender Day of Remembrance, candlelight vigil

poster by rose burns

Text in image: Commercial Road, Southampton, SO14 7LW
Transgender Day of Remembrance: candlelight vigil
20 November, 7.30pm, outside Southampton Central Library

Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual international event founded in the wake of the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman of colour, which was the impetus for the Remember Our Dead project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999.

On this day we honour the dead and the survivors and express support and respect for trans* people everywhere.

Hampshire Feminist Collective have organised a candlelight vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance. Please spread the word, invite your friends. Be there to remember with us.

Q. Why is a feminist group organising this event?
A. We see hate crime against trans people as no different than any violence against any minority. As such it is important to make a stand against it as trans* feminists and allies. As feminists, we believe any kind of violence or discrimination against someone because of their gender or gender presentation is unacceptable.

Q. Why do you put a * after trans*?
A. The * in trans* is to signify its status as an umbrella term; it includes all binary- and non-binary identified people

Being ‘out’: the personal is political

[content note: mental health, homophobia, reproductive rights, rape culture]

I’ve recently been struggling with my mental health. This has led me to consider how open I should be about my mental health with others — if I should admit it to other people, if I should post publically on facebook about it. I guess the worry is always that people will judge me and think less of me. It feeds into my own shame and feelings of failure because I am struggling.

Recently, though, I’ve started to take a new approach. To be ‘out’ about my mental health issues, to talk openly and honestly about them. This doesn’t necessarily mean to go into great detail, simply to try not to be ashamed of it. To answer questions honestly, to tell friends if it’s a bad day. To recognise that having poor mental health isn’t something I should brush under the carpet and pretend doesn’t exist for other people’s comfort.

This has got me thinking about how I live my life in general. I am gay so I am ‘out’ in the traditional sense as well. I don’t play the ‘pronouns game’ (where you avoid using gendered pronouns and words when talking about your partner). I talk very openly about being gay and I hold hands with and kiss partners in public as long as it feels safe to do so. Being open about such things prevents a lot of the stress and anxiety that comes from being closeted and allows me to be myself. However, it is more than simply personal: I see being out as a political act. Being visibly gay normalises homosexuality; if people see gay people and know gay people then we are more than simply an invisible minority. Being open provides positive role models and helps young people accept their own sexuality and other people to accept them. I am thankful for those pioneers who came out before me, who said publically that being gay is okay and I’m not ashamed.

I’ve decided, then, to be ‘out’ about my own poor mental health. To talk openly about it and go some small way to erase the stigma. To say, ‘I’m not ashamed of this and you shouldn’t be either,’ to advocate for better mental health services and angrily defend benefits. Being ‘out’ is a political and, I think, deeply feminist act and one that can be transferred to all manner of other issues. I am thinking of the survivors who raise their voice and say, ‘I was raped,’ of the women who say, ‘I had an abortion.’ It challenges taboos and raises consciousness. It opens discussions and allows us to talk and campaign for rights, services and change. Without those who raise their voices and come ‘out’ then we would see no change.

This is not to say that staying closeted is a shameful thing or that people should at all times be out. I recognise that my being out is a personal decision that comes from a position of privilege. I am lucky and privileged to live in a time and a place that I can be out both as gay and as suffering from mental health problems, which in other countries and cultures could cause me to be to be disowned or killed. Speaking about rape is an incredibly brave thing to do and can often be traumatic and triggering for survivors. Not everyone wants to talk about their experiences or should feel they have to. People can lose their jobs when they admit to mental health issues; I know this. We have the right to privacy and to remain silent, to protect ourselves and those we love.

However, I would urge people where possible to come ‘out’. To recognise the political and transformative power of being open and honest about our own experiences.  To say I will not remain silent and I will not be ashamed.