Reclaim the Night Southampton!

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[Text: Southampton Reclaim the Night, A march to end gender-based violence and sexual harassment. November 29th, 2014. Meet Guildhall Square 7pm. Rally, march, sing, shout, chant and dance through city centre. Finishing at Friend’s Meeting House, 1 Ordnance Road SO15 2AZ. Welcome to ALL gender identities and sexualities.]

We’ve been busy working with other local groups organising a Reclaim the Night March in Southampton. Marching against gender-based violence and sexual harassment the event will be in Southampton this Saturday the 29th November. All genders welcome. Visit our facebook event here for more details or email the event organisers at  reclaimthenightsoton [at] gmail [dot] com

Please share far and wide. We hope to see you there.

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Southampton Transgender Day of Remembrance Candelight Vigil

TDOR banner

7.30 p.m., Thursday 20th November
The Edge, Southampton SO14 0BH
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual international event to remember all those around the world who were victims of, and lost their lives to, transphobic violence.
We are gathering for a candlelit vigil where the names of trans people (or people perceived as trans) who have been killed throughout the world in the past year will be read out. This will be followed by readings and a collection of donations for two local trans charities, Breakout and Chrysalis.This year’s vigil is being held at The Edge in Southampton. Staff will let you in via the main entrance if you explain you are there for the vigil. There is disabled access via ramp through the side entrance.

The Facebook event is here. Please share widely with anyone who might be interested.

People of all genders, races, colours and abilities are warmly invited to this remembrance event. Please email hampshirefeministcollective (at) gmail.com or comment in the Facebook event if you have any questions or would like to share a lift/meet up with others in advance so you don’t have to travel to the event by yourself.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, RECLAIM THE NIGHT: A ZINE ABOUT GENDER-BASED OPPRESSION & SEXUAL VIOLENCE

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[Image description: A black and white photograph by Francesca Woodman. Image shows a woman from the waist down sitting on a wooden chair, naked expect for a pair of Mary Jane shoes. The chair is set on bare floor boards where a black imprint/ shadow of a body can be seen lying at her feet.]

[Text in image: Hampshire Feminist Collective: Call for Submissions: Reclaim the Night. A zine about gender based oppression, sexual violence, & fighting back in a hostile world. Send poetry, visual art, essays, stories, letters & ephemera to hfczine@gmail.com by 30/09/14]

Possible topics include:
– ‘talking back’ to street harassment
– personal accounts of survival
– rape culture & the media
– the meaning/role of self-care in ending gender-based oppression
– intersections of sexual violence, race, & prisons
– sexual violence in ‘radical’ spaces
– the role of capitalism in perpetuating gender-based oppressions
– intersections of illness and violence
– past reclaim the night memories
– compulsive (hetero/)sexuality
– feminist parenting
– white-washing of anti-rape campaigns
– healing as a male survivor
– histories of trans women’s resistance to sexual violence

SEND POETRY, VISUAL ART, ESSAYS, STORIES, LETTERS & OTHER EPHEMERA TO HFCZINE@GMAIL.COM BY 30/9/14

HFC’s stance on Reclaim the Night Portsmouth

Hampshire Feminist Collective will not be attending or promoting Reclaim the Night Portsmouth and here is why:

We are an intersectional feminist group that was set up to specifically provide trans* positive feminism in Hampshire. A few of our trans* members used to be involved in Solent Feminist Network, but were frequently made to feel unsafe by transphobic comments and feminism displayed by a few members. Whilst we acknowledge that these members do not represent the whole group, we openly challenged SFN regarding their stance on transphobia and were disappointed with their response. They denied that there was any problem within the group, claimed that transphobic comments were not making the space unsafe, deleted our public debate, banned the person who had raised the issue and refused to take a clear stance on transphobia. I feel we need to reiterate the last point: They do not feel that transphobia and cissexism are so vile that they need to declare themselves as, at least, trans* allies. Solent Feminist Network are one of this year’s organisers of Reclaim the Night Portsmouth and until they make it clear that they are a trans* positive group we will not be taking part or recommending that our members attend. It is not enough for them to say trans* members are welcome to fight for women’s liberation, we are still waiting for them to publicly state that they are against transphobia and cissexism.

Disclaimer:

We are aware that an organisation is comprised of individuals and that the event in question happened a year ago. As we do not interact with Solent Feminist Network we do not know if their stance on trans* people has changed and we are aware that not every member will have the same view. It may be the case that a change of members has taken place and they have consequently taken a more intersectional stance. We agree with the principles of Reclaim the Night Portsmouth and are sad that SFN’s involvement means that we cannot endorse the march.

Trans* feminist symbol

Trans* feminist symbol

Celebrating Bisexuality Day 2013! [Or: float on your fluid sexuality magic carpet wherever you darn well please]

Living in this age is not particularly easy for those whose attractions and desires fall outside of what I’m going to call the sexuality-binary. People are freely accepted as straight*with no question. In fact, as a society, we’re conditioned to believe that everybody is straight until told otherwise. Recently, there has also been a huge move for gay rights, and being gay is also accepted in society, with gay marriage having recently become legal**. What isn’t so widely accepted, however, is bisexuality. This is when a person can fancy people of ‘either’**** gender. From both the straight and gay communities’ perspectives, being bisexual can have a big backlash, with many assuming that bisexual people are “greedy” or “sex crazed”. Not only that, but women get a huge amount of  the “she’s only bisexual so that men think she’s sexy for kissing women when she’s drunk” mentality, especially from (you guessed it) men.  And when it doesn’t come from men, it comes from women’s internalised misogyny, which in turn comes from (again) men.

So the sexuality-binary is about as real as the gender-binary, in that yes, there are those that are strictly straight or gay, but there are those who float between those two ends of the spectrum somewhere on their fluid sexuality/gender magic carpets fancying whoever they darn well please because, let’s face it, you’re allowed to fancy whoever you darn well please. Many people follow the Kinsey scale of sexuality, which allows for more fluidity of sexuality but really breaks things down into percentages [i.e. a wee bit heterosexual / mostly homosexual]. Whilst this allows for a bigger range of sexual orientations, it’s still a little bit trans*phobic, because, well, where are the other genders on this scale? The point of the matter is, most of these scales work in such a way as to focus the attentions of how straight vs how gay someone is, which is really not okay considering some people might want to work on a scale that considers how bisexual they are [the only real option on this scale is “Totally!”]. Within this society, so much focus is on the binaries, which really isn’t fair on those who operate outside of said binaries.

One of the huge issues faced by those who are bisexual is that they are often less likely to come out of the closet because of stereotypes pushed upon them by the aforementioned gay and straight communities. A study in the LA Times showed that  “Only 28% of bisexuals have come out because of stereotypes […] that they’re sex-crazed or incapable of monogamy”. This is obviously entirely unfair, because just like every other person ever, bisexual people are great. The real unfortunate thing is that there is so much stigma around bisexuality. So much, in fact, that bisexual people don’t even have their own word for what they are, that doesn’t actively insult them. Heterosexual people can refer to themselves as straight, and homosexual people can refer to themselves as gay. They have their own words! Bisexual people only get a shortening of the original word: bi, which people in the other groups have too.

Really, what is trying to be said throughout is that bisexual people are much more amazing than society gives them credit for, and we should love them just as much as we love everyone else. We should be celebrating them just as we celebrate everyone else of different sexualities/identities/everything else ever that makes people as super and diverse as they are.

* The fact of the matter is that we live in a heteronormative society, unfortunately

** Yes, this is progressive, but when it comes to trans* people the legislation is lacking. Or rather, appalling.

*** Note: not especially trans* inclusive, the term for being attracted to all people of all genders is pansexuality.

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

An open letter to American feminists on the death of Margaret Thatcher

So yesterday was a Big Thing for Brits on the Internet. And then this happened, a statement that needed saying:

A couple of HFC members have become dismayed at some American feminist pages’ lauding of Thatcher as a feminist icon. This is not the case. She described feminism as poison. But in lauding her they are often at pains to make clear that they ‘don’t agree with the politics but as a woman in power she deserves celebrating’. This is reducing her to her gender, and ignoring the harmful effect she had on women, on the LGBTQ community, and her supporting of racist, classist and genocidal regimes. One cannot laud someone’s office whilst ignoring the crimes they do whilst there, and to reduce anyone to their gender is being sexist.

For those not in the UK, it’s easy to see her as an abstract landmark event. For the people living in the UK we have her legacy, it isn’t historic. It’s going on NOW. It’s a pretty fucked up legacy, that is hurting women, people with disabilities, and is making the UK a more and more unequal society. This is not an abstract to us. We are living this.

When a couple of us took the page in question to task on these very issues, they ignored the testimony of a 33 year old woman who was raised in poverty in Thatcher’s Britain. But in a bizarre possible form of sexism reserved all their replies for the male member of HFC.

We find the idea of forced solidarity with Thatcher based upon her gender highly patronising, and would rather celebrate the women of Greenham Common, the miner’s wives and all other women who opposed Thatcher, not because of their gender, but because of what they stood for.

(SC + PIX + IZZI) [from our Facebook page]

When we as feminists call out Caitlin Moran for racism, when we call out transphobic radical feminists — we hope to make some points about how a feminism without intersectionality isn’t a feminism we want any part of, and why bigotry isn’t feminist.

When we call FEMEN out for racism, we hope to do the same. Izzi is a Muslim and a feminist; no one is asking her to stand in solidarity with FEMEN just because they are women.

One of these pages on FB has a massive focus on intersectionality normally; we were BEYOND pissed off. Pix is the member raised in poverty by a single mum and DV survivor. Pix’s mum used to go without food to feed her and her siblings. And Pix’s mum and women like her were vilified by the government of the time. (See study here)

Pix is 33 and joked, ‘I feel like aping the bad Vietnam movie trope of “YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN.”’

When you laud Thatcher as a feminist icon, you erase that experience. You uphold a racist, homophobic, classist woman who was probably one of the best examples of internalised misogyny to ever hit the halls of power in the UK, or as one of our members put it, ‘Holding Thatcher up as a feminist icon is like kicking intersectionality in the stomach.’

Thatcherism is alive and well in the UK today. We dare American feminists to say that she is a feminist icon to feminists with disabilities in the UK, when they fail to consider her legacy, in the demonization of the working class and people on benefits, disability hate crimes as result of Tory rhetoric, and the ATOS medical tests that have deemed people fit for work who later died, or committed suicide in 2012. We dare them to say that to women like Pix, and her mum, who lived in social housing whilst it was being sold off, and communities in these less affluent areas crumbled. (An excerpt from Owen Jones’s Chavs: The Demonisation Of The Working Class)

Another member found this today, from Tumblr. And it says what we were attempting to say so, so well.

My feminism doesn’t support women who go to immense lengths to cut services that directly help and benefit other women.

My feminism doesn’t support all women simply because they’re women.

My feminism doesn’t support women who use their power to plunder, steal and exacerbate class gaps.

My feminism doesn’t support warmongering and bigoted propaganda wielding.

My feminism doesn’t support anyone who upholds an apartheid state as the beacon of civilization while referring to resistance organizations as “terrorism”.

My feminism doesn’t support white supremacy, exploitation of the proletariat, imperialism and misogyny (wow, shocker, women can perpetuate misogyny!!!!) all of which thatcher was disgustingly guilty of.

My feminism doesn’t support women who reinforce the idea of a heteronormative nuclear family structure, while publicly referring to feminism as poison.

My feminism doesn’t support systematic oppression, full stop.

maarnayeri

So, American feminists, please THINK before you get all misty eyed about ‘The Iron Lady’. Please, don’t patronise British people in marginalised sections of our society. Please don’t erase our experiences, and don’t forget your intersectionality when it comes to Lady T.

With thanks,

Hampshire Feminist Collective

Further things you may want to read as to the political landscape of the 1980s in the UK: