A popular show on the Edinburgh Fringe programme has been the African musical Mercy Madonna of Malawi which tells the story of The Material Girl’s adoption of Mercy and David, featuring a tall black man in drag with a blond wig and a shopping trolley. Madonna’s behaviour can be seen as a microcosm, reflecting the macrocosm of the West’s general rule-bending arrogance and acquisitiveness in its dealings with Africa. This suspect paternalism  does nothing to address real problems or bring about radical change.

One of the songs in the show explains that the large number of orphans in Malawi is due to “the abuse of young women” – a problem endemic across Africa. Eve Ensler, creator of the Vagina Monologues and the V-Day charity, has used her visit to central Africa  this summer (in contrast to sister American Madonna) to promote awareness in the West about this huge problem of violence against women. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ensler recorded testimony from a number of women’s rights activists, among them Jeanine Gabrielle Ngungu  who talks about the “planned vulnerability of women” in Congolese society, a vulnerability which has been exacerbated by the 10-year long conflict. Jeanine also refers to “the ambivalent solidarity of the international community” as regards providing any viable solution to these problems.  For example, rape attack has escalated under a US-backed military operation employing 1000s of poorly trained Congolese soldiers.

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton listens to a representative of displaced civilians at a UNHCR camp near Goma in eastern Congo.    

With Hillary Clinton also touring the region, Eve Ensler says “for maybe the first time in history a U.S. Secretary of State has made the systematic raping of women the reason to visit a country.” Clinton has also promised  $17 million as a starter to address violence against women in the Congo, to which Ensler responds: 

I would suggest increasing that with $100 million, the equivalent of one months spending for MONUC, the UN Peacekeeping force in the DRC which has failed so miserably to protect women and girls. Give the $100 million dollars directly to grassroots women on the ground… With this kind of support, I bet they would figure out how to end the war in a few months.

 

In Kenya the V-Day charity has funded safe houses for girls in danger of abuse, protecting them from female genital mutilation or from being forced into early marriage. It also provides the women working in the project with the opportunity to develop management and leadership skills, raising women’s profile nationally. This begins to tackle some of the root causes of gender-based violence. It’s a far cry from Madonna putting money into Malawian orphanages.

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I’ve been watching the reports about Beth Ditto’s collection for Evans for quite some time. It launches this week. I have no strong opinion on Beth herself – I don’t like her music but I do like that she’s unapologetically fat, queer, unafraid to say what she means, unafraid to rock the boat, etc etc. It’s nice to see a fat woman in the pages of fashion magazines, it’s nice to see her rocking out with Kate Moss, it’s even nice to see her naked on the front of the NME. (The NME is usually an Old Boys Club of the highest order. My friend Rhian wrote an amusing diatribe here about this.)

I do like her, but I don’t always like what she wears. Clearly, I support her wearing whatever the fuck she wants, and I’m definitely all for fat fashion that says “fuck you I refuse to hide myself and my body”, but most of what I’ve seen her in I wouldn’t wear myself. So I was looking forward to the collection with some trepidation.

I saw a press release in Grazia last week. I’ve ended up with a subscription to Grazia since another magazine folded and Grazia offered their magazine as a fill in for the remainder of my subscription. I don’t mind Grazia, and never have. It’s a fashion magazine yes, but there is also srs bsns journalism in there, and it’s less gossipy than a lot of women’s magazines. It’s a cheap enough and easy enough read, and I do like that they’re even covering Beth’s stuff.

The clothes… weren’t awful. Maybe not exactly what I’d choose but nice enough. My main problem was the price. I really liked the purple sequin top but at £65 there’s no way I could justify buying it. (Is it a top or a dress? Grazia says one and Look says another…)

I guess that’s where my fear lies – that the collection is aimed at women aged say 18-30 and I’m smack bang in the middle of that (I’m 25), and I do not have the disposable income* to drop that, and that if I don’t others don’t either, and therefore the collection will fail and Evans will say “There’s no point us doing anything like this because women don’t want it”. When in fact we DO want it, we ust can’t afford the bloody things.

*I’m unemployed right now but even employed I couldn’t spend that on ONE ITEM of clothing.

Having said all this, I love the two-tone shoes, although I’m unlikely to buy them because I have “straight-sized” feet and rarely buy shoes in Evans, and I really like the domino print leggings and am considering an outfit consisting of them, a knee length black pouffy skirt and a white top. I could rock that.

Deena at Fat Girls Like Nice Clothes Too (a blog I love and I adore how Deena dresses – she’s so stylish) wrote about the collection here. Charlotte at Obesity Timebomb attended the launch and wrote about it here. Beth looks amazing in the photos. I only hope that her collection can sell.

I like My Chemical Romance. Oooh, it’s shameful, but  I do. I have a very bad love of third-generation emo music, although NOT Fall Out Boy, definitely not Fall Out Boy. I don’t LOVE My Chem’s music but I do have a lot of time for the members themselves. They have a documentary call Life On The Murder Scene and it’s full of funny and touching moments where they love on each other and explain the origins of the band, etc etc. 

(For instance, when talking about their [second] drummer Bob Bryar, Frank Iero says “If there is a God, I thank him every day for bringing us Bob Bryar”.)

The whole band is very into gay rights and stuff like that, and Gerard at least would describe himself as a feminist, I think. His wife Lyn-Z is the bassist in Mindless Self Indulgence, who I really like. MSI have TWO women! They both kick ass. I’m a fan of women in music.

I would have said that Frank Iero counted himself as a feminist too, but then he’s posted this on his Twitter and I’m now just getting vibes of over-privileged straight white guy who’s old enough and educated enough to know better but who probably thinks he’s made a hilarious joke. 

To the two screaming prick faced toddlers who ruined my viewing of transformers last night, your mother should have sat on a coat hanger. Xo

Oh, abortion jokes are so funny! Especially ones referencing coathangers! I can’t see any problems at ALL with that, can you?

Sadly for Frank, I am a humourless feminist. 

Go love on your drummer a bit more, Frank, you’ve got some making up to do

(And yes, I have Tweeted back at him telling him he’s old enough to know better. I’ll let you know if he responds. You might think he’s too famous for that, but My Chem all reply to people fairly often. We’ll see)

Hey.

I’ve just been trawling through pictures on my computer and found a bunch of pics of Sheffield Fems out and about to share.

WARNING- FEMINIST PICTURE SPAM FOLLOWS!

So here is a selection (plenty more to come). These a mostly from a while back.


Reclaim the night Manchester

(more…)

I was shopping around last week for car insurance for me and JD. Now, I have the same surname as him, because I liked his name and I chose to take it, etc etc. He didn’t care either way – his family is a sprawling mess of steps and halves, so name isn’t a big part of his identity. I didn’t like my surname too much so I chose to change it.

To begin with, I was always Mrs. Recently, especially while I’ve been looking for a job, I’ve taken to using Ms. I feel like prospective employers take in my married status and my age (25) and assume that I’m going to immediately get pregnant and need maternity leave, and leave them trying to cover that leave. Maybe I’m overreacting – and it would be highly illegal for them to even imply such a thing – but anyway, I’ve taken my rings off for interviews and taken to calling myself Ms. I like Ms. It says “I don’t consider you close enough an acquaintance for you to know the exact details of my marital status”.

Anyway, car insurance. My renewal came through and I wasn’t happy with the quote, especially given that I turned 25 this year – shouldn’t it have gone down considerably? JD’s did, when he turned 25. So I shopped around, found a deal, phoned up (because I couldn’t get the website to work), and was offered a ‘multi-car deal’, for both of us/both our cars. It was much cheaper than any of the quotes we’d each found separately, so I went for it.

She started taking details, and I told her I was Ms Married Name. She asked for my date of birth, the length of time I’ve held my license, and so on. Now I dunno about you but I got my licence “a long time ago”. Thinking back to exactly when that was is hard, so when  the same questions came about JD and his car, I REALLY had to think. (And I’d wager he couldn’t answer those questions about me. He’s lovely, but a bit vague.)

Anyway, my point to all this is, when the (very helpful) woman asked me fos JD’s name, she then hesitantly said, “Male or female?”. You see, JD has a name that can be used as a girl’s name or a boy’s name, although I’d say it was more male than female, but maybe that’s just me. But he and I have the same surname. I’m actually impressed that the woman asked.

Did my use of Ms. confuse her? Was she forward thinking enough to realise that just because two people have the same surname it doesn’t mean they’re a) married or b) of opposite genders? Does she have to ask the question? I don’t know, but I am impressed. Kudos, insurance lady.

I can’t find a clip right now, but I just saw an advert for Vagisil Cream, to ease ‘feminine’ itching caused by pads, thrush, life, etc…

Well, firstly, ‘feminine’ itching? In my ‘feminine area’? Methinks someone is making the ole ‘feminine = female’ mistake again! (Cue polemic about how the very notion of scratching oneself would be contrary to feminine ideals, yadda yadda, I’ve been there already).

But secondly… it was followed by an advert for cream cheese.

There was MUCH lol’ing, to the utter bewilderment of my little brother.

Happy days.