DISSENT REVOLUTION POETRY

DISSENT REVOLUTION POETRY

Poet, performer and game-maker, Harry Josephine Giles, is lead singer of Fit to Work – a quasi-autonomous, non-governmental punk act. They talk to REEK about equality, dissent and the importance of words.

Who are you, Harry Josephine Giles?

I’m a writer and performer. I’m from Orkney and I live in Leith. I do poetry, theatre, games and now punk. I love it all. I never saw an art form I didn’t want to try.

What makes you a feminist?

Um… I desire the complete destruction of an oppressive global system of gender hierarchy? I think the practice is more important than the identity. People claim the identities they need, and that’s grand, but it’s what you do with it that’s most important. I’m always trying to do feminism better.

What equality campaign is most important to you? Why is dissent important?

You know, I don’t really like the word equality. There’s a site, againstequality.org, that I highly recommend. ”Equality” implies some authority certifying it, or legislating it, but I want something we can take. And I’m not interested in equality between groups of people within a system of oppression. I’m interested in the destruction of that oppression. I want the end of a gendered system of being.

As for dissent: well, freedom comes first through learning to say no and being able to say no to things. No, I don’t want that; no, you can’t have me. And once you’re good at that can you find freedom through saying Yes. Yes, please. Yes, do that. Yes means nothing if you don’t get to say No.

What does all that look like to you?

I wish I knew. It’s probably revolution. Let’s be revolutionaries. I guess it looks like mutual support and community and organising in a way that doesn’t rely on hierarchies of power. Trying to overturn power, and trying distribute resources equitably (not necessarily equally). And justice, justice is a more exciting word than equality. Justice, equity, transformation. It also looks like being accountable to our peers, lovers, communities – and them being accountable to us. Mutual accountability is revolutionary.

What has been your personal experience of gender equality?

I’m still figuring out what feels possible there, or even liveable within the system of gender we’re currently stuck with. I’m still in that process. I’m friends with a lot of trans people who find some kind of stable gender identity and others who welcome the instability. The trans umbrella encompasses a lot of different ways of living. It’s an adventure and it’s also hard – terrifying actually. I am quite public about that journey, but it’s fraught with risk and pain. All that means I’ve had different experiences. I’ve spent a chunk of life being seen as male and trying to live up to that, and then a chunk of life trying to understand the psychological wound of masculinity, what bell hooks calls “the first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males, psychic self-mutilation”, trying to critique and recover from that. Now I’m spending a chunk of life as something Other, and that’s different again.In practical terms, that means that, while my wardrobe all comes off the “Women’s” rack, some days I pass as male, if a little queer, and some days I’m clearly something else. If I’m in a dress and leggings, or have done my full hair and make-up, I get a lot of sir-ma'ams (or, in Scotland, hen-pals), because people don't know where to place you. And then, if you go out with any obvious masculine features and, say, you’re wearing a dress, you will be harassed. I get that at least 50% of the time, just as all women face daily risks of harassment. So my current experience of the lack of gender equality is of being indeterminate and that being a source of both pleasure and danger. Sometimes I enjoy it, and other times the daily violence of that is impossible. And that’s just clothes and self and street harassment. We haven't even started on economics, social exclusion, mental health, border control, the carceral state…

What inspired you to create Fit for Work?

I didn’t! A couple of friends of mine who are professional musicians and who I went to school with asked me to do vocals for their punk side-project. I said yes immediately, obviously, cos it sounded fun. Thinking through what I wanted to do with that, I decided I wanted to put an aggressive femininity into that very masculine space of punk. I strut around in my thigh-high boots and my knee- high dress and bring to the stage a feminine energy into that the refuses to be boxed in. That is inspired by the long history of Riot Grrl – women’s punk music. Femininity can be furious, violent and resistant too.

Do you feel there are big changes happening right now? What words are important in that?

There are always big changes. In one way history moves really fast and it can be astonishing how quickly some things change and at the same time how slowly other things change. For example, I grew up and went to school under Section 28 (the most destructive imaginable law – the law that banned even discussion of anything LGBT in schools) and not only has that now gone, when I do workshops in school I see posters for trans youth groups – meeting at lunchtime. That took only 20 years. It’s an enormous change. But, on the other hand, it we had hundreds of years of feudalism, and now we’re only a 150 years or so into capitalism, and even though some of the dynamics have changed it’s still the same destructive and immiserating system it ever was.

What people do you most identify with from history?

Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, Catullus and Sappho.

Is smell important to you? Which smells and why?

You’re in the best place to fight if you’re centred. So my favourite smell is the smell you get when you are halfway up a mountain and the wind is blowing and you get the freshness off the top of the trees and the freshness coming down off the snow. You can’t smell the city at all. That’s when I feel most calm.

Then there’s rotting seaweed and silage and manure – the overpowering smells of living on anisland. They take me right home.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch?

I’m damned – I’m definitely going to hell and I’d be disappointed if I weren’t. I grew up with hellfire sermons, so though I don’t actually believe in hell my gut is still convinced that’s where I’m headed. I’m a rebel cos it’s in my bones. I have never got past the stage when a two-year- old kid first learns to say No. I’m still there. And I don’t know if I’m a bitch yet – but I aspire to be.

Tell us what kind of bitch you’d be, then?

A problematic bitch.

Find out more about Harry’s work: www.harrygiles.org and more about Fit to Work: fittowork.band

All images by Void Works Photography.


BODY SHAMING

BODY SHAMING

Lauren Turton is writing a dissertation on Body-Shaming in Contemporary Media and the Effects it has on Young Women.  She needs your help:

I am currently in my final year at the University of Portsmouth studying Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies. When I was in my second year and thinking about what I wanted to do for my dissertation research I struggled. Everybody else was interested in the police side of criminology, prisons, and rehabilitation, however I looked more to the social harm side of criminology. During one of my units, Crime, Media, and Culture (CMC), I was interested in stereotypes and why people make judgments about individuals and groups.This is what started me looking into bullying and stereotypes within social media though I thought this was too generic. I wanted to take these ideas further and body shaming came to mind after looking at some research I was doing for the CMC unit. I knew it was a big issue in modern society, especially for young women. I started looking into the subject more and I didn’t realise how much of an effect body shaming had on young women, specifically the media’s involvement in it. Young women have to deal with the picture of the ‘ideal’ women everyday, from adverts on TV and in magazines to billboards at the side of the road to sponsors on their social media feed. After doing some research on body shaming, I started to notice it more and more from people around me, body shaming other people unintentionally and even body shaming themselves. I wanted to find out for myself how much of an impact body shaming had on young women. This led me to be doing the research I am today. I decided to make life hard for myself (well worth it though) and do two different types of research to gain as much data as I could to make an accurate judgment on how body shaming effects young women. The first part of the research is an online survey. This looks at how young women use different types of media including social media, other online media and print media. The survey asks if they have personally been body shamed, how this happened, how old they were and the effects it had/has on them. As well as looking at if they, themselves, have ever body shamed, how they did this and the reasons behind it. The second part of the research is looking at social media comments, specifically Twitter. This is to gain an idea of what people are saying to body shame young women and to see what young women have to view on a day to day basis on their social media feeds. As well as finding out how prevalent it is on one of the faster growing social media sites. Having both of these angles to analyze gives a full picture of body shaming and the effect it has on young women. It also gives us an understanding of how we as a society can make changes to reduce any impact that does have on young women. If you would like to help out with my research and you are female, living permanently in the UK and between the ages of 18-25 feel free to fill out my survey on the link below:

https://portsmouth.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/body-shaming-contemporary-media-and-the-effects-on-young

When I started my dissertation research on body shaming, I knew it was a big issue, but the response I am getting from it is mental and I am genuinely shocked. Makes me so proud to know it is so relevant in today’s society and that people really do want it to improve. I’d like to thank my dissertation supervisor Lisa Sugiura for helping me through this, as well as pushing me to go further with my ideas and research.


LET THEM EAT CAKE

LET THEM EAT CAKE

Writer and feminist, Naomi Frisby talks to REEK about cake as a patriarchal weapon.

Eating cake has become a national occupation. We talk about it, tweet about it, Instagram pictures of it, watch it being baked on TV. It is buttery, sugary goodness guaranteed to make us feel better about life. It is the British Dream: a whiff of nostalgia, green fields, a country fair, your nan’s kitchen. Life was good and you could still lick the spoon without fear of salmonella.

In America, when white supremacists protested the removal of a confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, comedian Tina Fey spent her SNL slot trying to comment on it while shovelling chunks into her mouth. ‘Most of the women I know have been [eating cake] once a week since the election,’ she said. In doing so, she lampooned those of us who’ve bought into the idea that filling our mouths with sponge and cream is a valid response to the state of the world. You can’t protest while you have a mouthful and once you’re full you’ll be too tired to be angry. Or you’ll turn that anger on yourself because you shouldn’t have eaten the cake, it’s too many calories/points/syns. Now you’ll have to spend time and energy getting rid of it, you wouldn’t want anyone thinking you don’t have control over your own impulses, your own body, would you? If you can’t have control over yourself, how can you be rational enough to participate in national politics?

Cake is a feminist issue. How many times have you seen a man turn to cake to supress his emotions? We’re in a double bind: eat enough cake and your body will be unattractive; don’t eat any cake and the anger you’re failing to suppress will render you hideous. Here are some tips to help you get it right: You can allow yourself some cake if you’ve been good. Have you organised the household? Sorted the kids? Taken care of your partner’s emotional and physical needs? Been to work and ensured that everything ran smoothly for everyone else? Allowed the men to interrupt you? Steal your ideas? Did you do the school run? Supervise homework? Make dinner? Listen to your partner talk about their day? Then you can allow yourself some cake, if you can find the time to eat it.

You can allow yourself some cake if your body’s a size 10, streamlined, bikini ready. Mention repeatedly that this is a treat and don’t eat too much of it, you couldn’t possibly manage a whole slice to yourself. Share with a friend, with your kids, with someone you love. You don’t want to get to a point where you’re taking up space in the world; where would we fit all the men?

You can allow yourself some cake if you’re a comedian, a fat (size 12 or above) female comedian. In this instance, you’re allowed to shovel in the cake, to smear it across your face and body in an act of self-depreciation. You’re allowed to announce to the world that you know your size isn’t socially acceptable and you can laugh about it too. If you’re going to take up more space in the world, insert yourself into a male profession, have the audacity to insist that women can be funny, then you need to turn that laughter on yourself and your failings.

Now you’ve exerted some control, let’s talk politics. You can’t? You’re too busy? Your brain is filled with calorie counts and thoughts of food? Something must be done.

I propose a manifesto:

Let cake be just cake and equality a reality.

Naomi writes for The Writes of Women brilliant blog. Go find her work there.


ANARCHY, WITCHCRAFT AND ART

ANARCHY, WITCHCRAFT AND ART

Artist Karen Strang talks to REEK about her latest paintings,
The Scottish Witch Trials Testament Series and what
inspired her work.

Who are you, Karen Strang?

I’m a visual artist / painter / anarchist working from Alloa in the Forth Valley of Scotland. It isn’t always easy being a flaneuse in the Central Belt! I take obsession with my subject matter to heart. Previously it was Rimbaud in the latter half of 1874 that rocked my boat. Currently I’m obsessing with the local Witchcraft trials of Glendevon and the Forth Valley. I see feminism as a transitional position, I’d be heading for an agendered non-speciest world, if that could exist.

What makes you a feminist?

Experience. Simple as.

What equality campaign is most important to you and why?

Too often it seems being born with a cunt automatically puts you into a livestock category. I am continually horrified by the treatment of women around the world. One has to start somewhere in addressing these issues. I do it with my paintings in the hope that what I express physically provokes a change in thinking. A starting point is the female gaze on another female. It seems a gentle enough approach until one realises the strength of reaction. Self-possession and recovering ownership of one’s sexuality in one’s own terms.

What inspired you to create the Scottish Witch trials paintings?

Over decades I have been fascinated by aspects of female knowledge of nature, which has been seen through history as a threat to order. The outcome of this fear, envy and misogyny is the epidemic of witch-hunts and in Scotland this was a particularly aggressive and brutal period, known as the Killing Times. I seek to redress the balance between the forgotten victim and the torture and murder which until recently has been swept into indifference or quaint superstition. More and more facts and numbers of victims are being unearthed. We may never get to know how many people were murdered under the excuse of religion and superstition for what was ultimately a culling under the socio-economic needs of a patriarchal system.

Do you have a favourite painting from this series? Why?

I am in constant dialogue with each of them as they develop. I work with a number of pieces that seek out their own conversations, creating an energy force. For example, the series of five paintings, “Tides”, rely on each other to create a dynamic narrative. So possibly, just for this moment, I would select “Jetsam”. Tomorrow it might be another.

What has been your personal experience of gender equality?

I was the first female school pupil at my comprehensive school to be allowed to sit in a technical drawing class. I spent five years attempting this. Finally I got to sit in the class but not to take the O-Grade. A small early victory for me against the State! But I still couldn’t wear trousers to school.

How do you feel about the way images of women are represented in the media?

I am not convinced that the abundance of staged selfies expresses self-ownership. A lifetime of gazing into the eyes of others as an artist makes these “portraits” appear to meld into an algorithm which caricatures sexual commodification, objectifying rather than opening a genuine dialogue with the viewer.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

Witch never bitch.

So what makes you a DAMN REBEL WITCH?

Society doesn’t fit me, I don’t fit society. (Maybe it’s ‘cos I’m a left-handed sinister sorceress!)

Several of Karen Strang’s witchcraft paintings are currently exhibiting as part of a collaborative show called “Seasons of the Witch” at Front Room Galleryin Alloa. A large solo exhibition of her witchcraft works, called “The Burn and the Tide”, will follow at the Lillie Gallery in Milngavie in February 2018, exploring the psychological as well as the factual effects of women accused of witchcraft.


WOMEN IN THE MEDIA

WOMEN IN THE MEDIA

Tori West, Editor of Bricks magazine, spoke to the bitches about women in the media and her vision of how to do things differently ie better

Tell us a bit about what you do?

I always find this question difficult because it always turns into a long-winded answer, but I’ve recently settled for the terms publisher, writer or editor. I started BRICKS magazine three years ago and I just launched the platform Neighbourhood.tv for Village, a fashion communications agency in London. Both of them, although different, support emerging talent. I want to share the voices of people, regardless of their social following, those who I think deserve to be heard. I make content that I think needs to be made. I hate this entire ‘journalism needs to be click-bait’ attitude, screw the stats, I want a more honest media. I’ve also started organising day events outside of London, where I bring editors/writers from titles like Vogue and Dazed to network with creatives outside of London. I want to make the publishing/magazine industry less exclusive – there’s an entire world of artists and creators out there, outside this bubble and I’m determined to find them all!

How was it shooting with the REEK team and knowing the images have no retouching? You work a lot with the curation of editorials, was it strange being on the other side?

Yeah, it is actually, I get asked to model for things quite a bit but I’ll only do it if it’s a brand I truly relate to or if I love the photographer. I appreciate REEK because I know you won’t manipulate my body in any way. It must feel awful being a model and receiving the images back and you’re looking at an unrealistic version of yourself in the photograph.

Do you think it’s important for more campaigns and editorials to step away from retouching?

Yes, definitely! At the end of the day, if there was no retouching, we’d have a much healthier vision of our own bodies. What’s the point in marketing society’s – well I may as well just say it – man’s ideals and unrealistic expectations of how a woman should look? I don’t understand it. I relate much more to companies like yourself, you’re working with real people to promote your product, you’re not trying to represent them in your way – you give it back to them and allow them to choose how they’d like to be portrayed. That’s my idea of empowerment.

Tell us about what gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

At the moment, what’s bothers me most is the gender segregation of sex education in schools. People are still confused on the differences between the terms gender and sex. I was taught issues and the logistics of hetero-sex only, but I grew up so confused about my sexuality because of it. I’m 24 now and I’m still not sure how I identify, but it wasn’t until a few years ago I realised that was ok, I didn’t need to be placed in a box, I still don’t need to answer yes or no to whether I’m straight or not. I think if kids were being taught same-sex education and the emotional relationship we have to our own bodies rather than labelling us ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and sex is for straight people to make a baby, we’d be a lot less confused and more open to having conversations about it growing up. And also, same-sex marriage being legal in every single country, it’s still shocking that only around 25 have legalised it.

Do you feel women are represented well in your industry? Is there more work to be done?

No, not at all. We’re still valued on our outward appearances way more than our inward qualities.

What women have inspired you both in your personal life, career and style?

I’m so grateful that I’ve been surrounded by such inspirational, phenomenal women throughout my life. Every single one of them has motivated me in some way and made me feel more human.

What are your favourite smells and why?

The smell of a new book or a printed page, because it means new content.

Are you a bitch, a witch or a bit of both?

WITCHES UNITE!


WITCHES BREW, BITCHES BREW BY RACHEL VETTE

WITCHES BREW, BITCHES BREW BY RACHEL VETTE

Historian and writer, Rachel Vette, talks to REEK about witches and bitches brew…

Beer is now considered the quintessential masculine drink, with some men even eschewing wine or cocktails for fear of their feminine connotations. So, it may come as a surprise to know that beer and brewing were once considered the sole domain of women.

Due to its low alcohol content and high concentration of nutrients (such as carbohydrates and proteins), which could be readily-absorbed in liquid form, beer was the drink of choice for centuries when clean water and nutrient-dense foods were scarce. Relished by parents and children alike, it was a staple of most meals and  since the home and everything associated with it were considered the responsibility of women—it was also their duty to brew beer for the family. As historian Marianne Hester notes, ‘women did the brewing of ale needed for immediate consumption by the household, and prior to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, women also brewed ale for sale’ (Hester, 303). Women who needed additional income commonly sold any excess at local markets and the occupation of ‘brewer’ was, consequently, considered as an exclusively female one.

The formation of the guilds in Middle Ages Europe, however, saw the swift decline of female crafts and trades: removing women’s role in production and inserting men in their place. It was the dawn of a new economic system—capitalism—which created a struggle between men and women for the ability to make a living. Men were concerned with retaining dominance in the developing society, and excluding women from production was a good way of ensuring their economic dependence on men. Foremost amongst the trades taken from women was brewing, removing it from the household and placing it in the hands of male factory owners.

In order to ensure the complete transition of brewing from the hands of women to those of men, it was paramount to depict women as incapable of brewing; or worse, as doing so with malicious intent.

Enter, the witch-hunts. Witch-hunting was already well underway in Europe, and it became an easy way to denounce women who dared to subvert emerging gender roles. Soon, it was popular to depict the alewife negatively, and this theme occurs in a variety of literature, music and art of the period, showing her as a grotesque old crone of dubious virtue. These representations ‘undermined the position of the alewife by questioning her general trustworthiness, while at the same time allowing men to be seen in a much more popular light’ (Hester, 304). Fermentation had previously been thought of as a kind of magic, and now this association took on a much more sinister tone.

Interestingly, much of our current imagery concerning witches comes from these unsavoury depictions of alewives. Black cats, broomsticks, bubbling cauldrons and pointy hats: all were traditional tools of brewing that were turned against women to denounce them as witches and discredit their trade. Cats had long been used as pest-control, preventing mice and other rodents from spoiling the wheat, but now they became ‘familiars’: animals the woman could use to converse with the Devil and carry out her sadistic work. Broomsticks, used both to clean and to denote the location of an alehouse (a bundle of wheat tied around a stick on a building was a sign used since Roman Britain to display that beer was for sale inside—especially important in a society where only the aristocracy could read), now became marks of debauchery and women’s supposedly insatiable sexual urges. The image of a bubbling cauldron, used to boil the malt and hops for ale, was turned into a vessel where all manner of grotesque ingredients were combined to create potions of evil intent—notably included in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: ‘double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble’ (Act 4, Scene 1). The pointy hat, too, was co-opted. Previously used by alewives in the market as a practical way of making themselves seen in a crowd, its reputation soured, becoming something reputedly worn by women during their Satanic rituals.

Indeed, nearly every symbol we now associate with the ‘wicked old witch’ comes from this era and men’s frenzied attempt to discredit women and their economic independence. Gradually, women’s involvement in ale-making dwindled, and, by the beginning of the 19th century, brewing was almost exclusively done by men in large-scale factories for widespread consumption by a predominantly male workforce. Women’s contributions to the art of beer-making were forgotten but their image as sinful crones endured, relegating them to the pages of spooky children’s stories rather than history books, and beer drinking became synonymous with masculinity and the disavowal of all things feminine.

This modern conception, however, could not be further from the truth, and a crucial change is needed to reassert women’s their involvement in brewing to its rightful place. So, this Halloween, as you pass storefronts and houses riddled with cartoons of witches with broomsticks, cats and cauldrons, remember where they came from, and lift a pint with your sisters to commemorate the long-lost and much maligned alewives who gave us this eminent drink.

Rachel also contributes to The Fly Trap – check out their instagram feed.


REPEAL THE 8TH MARCHES

REPEAL THE 8TH MARCHES

REEK perfume speaks to people across the UK and Ireland who marched in solidarity with their sisters to repeal the 8th amendment abortion law. From toddlers to grannies everyone was out with one message, repeal the 8th.

“My body! My choice,” was chanted by thousands of pro-choice protestors as they marched from the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square to Dáil Éireann on Saturday, September 30th. The streets of Dublin were filled with music, cheers, and an overwhelming atmosphere as members of the community came together to recognise the long years Irish citizens have lived under the Eighth Amendment, which criminalizes abortion.

“It was extraordinary,” said Charlotte Lee, a student studying in Dublin. “It was amazing to see so many people across all genders, ages, and nationalities turn out.”

Under the 8th amendment, women and their doctors are barred from ending a pregnancy by choice. Those who choose to have abortions must instead go to another country, taking on the cost of the procedure, travel, and lodging themselves.

Students from many countries came to support the effort spearheaded by Irish citizens, who have fought for over three decades to repeal a law, which they say causes much more harm than good and unfairly targets poor communities. A group of hundreds of students started in front of the Campanile in Trinity College campus in Dublin and marched across the city to meet the other protestors in Parnell Square.

The atmosphere was friendly, and excited. The theme of this 6th Annual March for Choice was Time to Act, and that’s exactly what was called for. The chants of, “Pro-life is a lie! You don’t care if women die,” were impassioned and yet hopeful. Calls for a separation of church and state called into question the legality and ethics of preventing women from choosing abortion.

The thousands who turned out to participate, in their matching shirts and colorful signs with clever slogans, believe the end of barricading women from reproductive rights is near. If today’s march showed anything, it is that the community support for legalizing abortion is strong in Dublin, and it truly is time to act. – Jennifer Seifried, Dublin

Dublin was not alone – the brilliant bitches below share why they were marching to repeal the 8th today. Thank you all for your wise words, pictures and superb sign making.

DUBLIN

 

“Once again, the people of Ireland marched to repeal the 8th amendment.

If the government thought that by announcing that there will be a referendum next May or June would appease the pro choice movement, the thousands who marched today told them that the many want true repeal, not another watery wording that will block safe and legal abortions from happening.

The loudest group were the Union Of Students in Ireland. With the youth on board, another fudge will be defeated.” Ultan Monaghan

“Today was the 6th annual March for Choice in Dublin and hopefully the last. Taoiseach Leo Vradkars announcement that a referendum might finally take place next year should mean that 30,000 won’t have to take to the streets ever again to march for women’s rights to abortion in Ireland. The sun was out and the mood was hopeful. People talked about last year and how the rain echoed the mood at the time, but this year it was more joyful, progress is being made, the citizens assembly have spoken.” – Sorcha Nic Aodha

“It’s incredible. Absolutely huge turn out. Amazing atmosphere so great to see so many men turn out.”Heather Finn

“One step. We stop. Another step. We stop. A few more steps and finally we’re on our way marching through Dublin city. People. People with handmade signs. People with bicycles. People with prams. People with walkers. Young, old, in-between, students, teachers, single people, families.

We rally through Dublin. There’s singing, drumming, stamping, singing, and optimistic conversation. People are seeing each other after long periods, catching up, discussing local work to repeal the 8th.

Finally we reach Merrion Square. There’s speeches, stories and singing. People laugh. People cry.

“Remember this feeling of kinship and comfort”. People smile, happy but knowing we haven’t won yet.

“Remember this moment”. Happy but knowing there’s work to do yet.

“Turn to the person beside you, shake their hand and say ‘I support you’. This is your congregation”.Gas Blue Hanley

BELFAST

As an American living in Dublin, I came to the march on my own, but as is always the case with Irish people, I was befriended almost immediately by two lovely women. The march was peaceful, with only a few religious counter protesters on O’Connell. Equality towards women (particularly women of color and immigrants) is in a shameful state in Ireland, but the massive turnout clearly shows that this is not how people really think, but is simply a holdover from a time when the church had a stranglehold on the country. Being able to witness, as a guest in this country, people rising up to demand these changes to bring Ireland forward was an honor.” –  Holly Smith

GLASGOW

“Glasgow is over 200 miles from Ireland’s capital but that distance doesn’t cause complacency amongst those who know there’s a fight to be fought. Irish, Scottish and many other nationalities stood side by side today to protest in solidarity with the women in Ireland. Who are forced to relinquish control of their own bodies to an oppressive state.

Every person has the ability to make a difference to the injustices they see others face. Today we saw this take shape outside Buchanan Galleries in the form of banners, flags and poetry with everyone in attendance doing what they could to tell the Irish government that words are not enough and that we demand action.

Chants of “Not Church, Not State, Women Must Decide Their Fate”  carried out across The Dear Green Place in reminder that People really do Make Glasgow.” Ellen Patterson

LONDON

“The atmosphere was beyond great, with people of all ages proud to be there. With chants, speeches and spoken word. One of the pieces brought me to tears, and I could see people all around me were emotional at the terrible realities facing women who have to travel for abortion, both physically and psychologically. To see so many people come out to support the women in Ireland to repeal the 8th was overwhelming. There was such a strong feeling of sisterhood and solidarity.” – Fleur Moriarty

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED 

https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/repealthe8th/

http://www.repeal.ie/

https://www.facebook.com/repeal8/

#repealthe8th

STICKERS


We want to get sticky with you. Click here to order our repeal the 8th stickers for free!


DAREfest

DAREfest

Ashley Stein and Lou Mclean set up feminist, one-day event, DAREFest to encourage women into the music industry. It kicks off on 23 rd September 17 in Edinburgh. We interviewed them about their brilliant idea, the smells they love and of course, what makes them damn rebel bitches.

Tell us about DAREFest?

LOU: DAREFest is a one day event co-founded by Ashley and myself. During the day we will be running workshops aimed at helping all women break into the music industry and build self confidence and skills for music performance and feminist activism. In the morning we will have a feminist pin badge making workshop run by the Women’s Aid project Speaking Out- In the afternoon Ashley will run DIY tour management, then I will present ‘how to be a bad-ass’. The title is a bit tongue in cheek but what I want the workshop to demonstrate is that we can all be the bad ass versions of ourselves. Women are taught to be quiet and apologetic all the time, but you don’t have to be. It’s about finding that confidence, and I’ll be sharing techniques I’ve learned through experience to address sexism and handle confrontation.

ASHLEY: We are trans and non binary inclusive. Girls Rock School Edinburgh (where we met) enabled us to become empowered through music and from there we embraced the principles of making noise and taking up space to become more confident, capable and bad-ass; a skill set that we are eager to pass on to other women. Organising a tour can be really stressful the first time round because you don’t have a clue what you’re doing and it’s easy to get ripped of when it comes to fees. I used to be a freelance booking agent so know how difficult it is to organise gigs in other cities and what goes in to planning a full UK tour.

What inspired you to start up this project?

LOU: I was really inspired by the sense of community. I ran songwriting workshops for women and found that the all-female creative environment was productive and inspiring. So many of the songs the girls were writing were about feminism, or activism-related experiences: a lot about emotional abuse, about being sexually harassed, or underestimated because of our gender. I started thinking about the possibility of making an event for women in relation to music, but not about learning how to play instruments. But something so that women who weren’t necessarily musical could take the lessons we learned and use them in whatever way they felt they wanted to. When Ashley and I met, it was obvious we had really similar interests and plans. Our skillsets matched up and we decided to make it happen! It’s been such a ride and I can’t believe it’s happening this month!

ASHLEY: I have a degree in Music Business so my background is in events. I used to run a monthly band night for female identifying, gender queer and non-binary performers called Revolution Girl Style Now. In uni I organised a few panel-based events where I had women from the music industry talk to an audience about their experiences. Since then I had wanted to do that on a larger scale but had never found anyone else who I felt I could pull it of with. After chatting with Lou a few times we decided to go for it! We have both realised recently that the best way to get stuff done is to do it yourself. You have to create your own opportunities. Participants can expect to learn a lot and have fun. Hopefully the music industry can expect to have a lot of angry  women banging on their door ready to fuck things up and tear down their archaic tendencies.

How can people get involved?

LOU: COME TO THE EVENT! I can’t stress enough how important it is to show up. I think in these days of social media activism we all think that clicking ‘like’ and sharing will make a difference (and by all means please share and like our event and pages, cos this is important!) but activism is about showing up! We can change the world but the revolution will not be televised! We want to create a network of real live women to create art with, to write with, to make noise with and to change our communities for the better. If you can’t afford a ticket, or are anxious about accessibility or turning up to a room full of radge punks, drop us an email! I guarantee we will be able to help you out with discounted tickets or buddy you up with someone who will understand your fears.

ASHLEY: Aside from coming along on the day or to the gig: Right now we are trying our best to spread the word as far as possible so social media shout outs and retweets are great. Know the best place to put up posters? Let us know! Want to hand out some flyers – come get some! We are also open to ideas for collaboration with other feminist events or organisations so are happy to hear from people if they have an idea. Anything that sees us assisting other women, we are down.

What gender equality issues matter to you most, personally, and why?

LOU: I think violence against women in all it’s forms needs to end now. Sexual assault is hugely important to me in particular, and the perception of victims is so deeply rooted in our culture. We blame women and it is so disgusting to me to hear anyone, including other women, criticising or disbelieving women because they don’t fit society’s profile of a ‘good victim’. This is something I strongly believe needs to end. There has been research on society’s false perceptions of sexual assault since the 1980’s, really there is no excuse for the media to still perpetuate these falsehoods to the detriment of survivors everywhere. Let’s focus on the perpetrators, not thevictims.

ASHLEY: For me its gender-based violence too, specifically emotional abuse. I was in a horrendous relationship some time ago now but have only recently been in a place where I can deal with it. Before I was able to get counseling, music was the only way for me to express my pent up rage, if I wasn’t in a band I don’t know how I’d be coping. Also, having a community that I could go to and talk these things through with was so empowering for me. Sharing those experiences in a truly safe and inclusive space helped me build my confidence. I don’t know what I would do with out the support I get from Lou, the other women on the GRS committee or the girls in my band. They lift me up and make me feel powerful and supported. I hope that’s what women will walk away from Darefest with; a feeling of belonging and sisterhood.

What women do you identify with from the past and the present day?

LOU: Amy Winehouse. I relate to Amy so much, because she was a guitar-obsessed, singing, funny weirdo, who was very introspective and shy but had an overwhelming need to make music and get attention! She was brash, and not ladylike, and didn’t give a shit about what other people thought her writing should be like. Her lyrics are beyond anything and she spent hours creating them, which is my favourite part of making music. I love finding funny rhymes. Her style influences mine a lot too. I just love everything about her and I am still devastated that she passed away. I have a sign on my front door that says ‘Do it for Winehouse’ so every day when I go out, I’m reminded that life is fleeting, and it inspires me to keep writing and make good choices.

ASHLEY: Oooooh that’s tough! I’m gunna cheat and say Patti Smith past and present! I’m re-reading her and one defining moment in her life “The swan became one with the sky. I struggled to find words to describe my own sense of it. Swan, I repeated, not entirely satisfied, and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passerby, my mother, the trees or the clouds.” Not shitting you, that exact same thing happened to me when I was about 12. I was on the bus to school and as we passed a field I could see through the battered hedge a swan run through the dirt and then take flight into the morning sun. It was fucking beautiful and I was overcome by my inability to describe it and I’ve been trying ever since.

What are your favourite smells and why?

LOU: The salty smell of the sea reminds me of my hometown of Kirkcudbright. I love the smell of muddy riverbeds in the summer, and the forest for the same reason. It reminds me of being a wild little kid! Walking past the chippy in winter is a great one. In fact, all of Edinburgh in autumn/winter smells fantastic. Really sharp, frosty air, decomposing leaves, smoky fires, and candyfloss from the Xmas market. Love it. ‘Chance’ by Chanel, as it reminds me of my mum. My nana’s house smells great, like cooking, flowers and cosyness! I also love the smell of petrol!

ASHLEY: I love lavender, I have some in a little bag with some smoky quartz under my pillow to help me sleep. Also that musty ass smell that you get in charity shops, the stronger the better! Reminds me of my gran. Sun moon and stars perfume, such a childhood smell. I think my mum had it and I loved it. And that smell when someone comes in from the cold? When my cat smells like that, it’s very familiar and nostalgic and reminds me of all my cats, past and present.

Are you a witch, a bitch or a bit of both?

LOU: When I was in highschool I had a keyring on my backpack which said: BITCH: Babe In Total Control of Herself. I’d forgotten about it until I read this question and I now realise how important that mantra has been for me! I am very opinionated and quite frankly, that’s because I know quite a lot about different things. I’m also very sure of what I want, how I’m going to achieve it and how I am perceived (though sometimes I need my friends to prod me into relaxing for 2 mins!) So yeah, I’m a bitch! I do believe in the power of stating intention to make things happen… I’ve had some pretty spooky coincidences throughout my life so maybe I am a bit witchy. Hopefully Ashley can help me re-discover my witchy side, post DAREFest.

ASHLEY: Right now I am working on being both! Iv always been interested in witchcraft and have bought a lot of books on it recently. I’m teaching myself how to read tarot cards, which I love. On the bitch front, I have always been so scared to confront people on their shit for fear of not being liked. Recently however I have learned to deal with that and now that I know I can handle it I feel empowered and awesome. Witch bitch for life! That’s me and Lou’s next project; start a coven.

What advice would you give your past self about DAREFEST?

LOU: Ask other people for help earlier, you’ll be amazed how many people want to lift DAREFest up! Keep your head up grrrl!

ASHLEY: It’s going to be hard work but it will be worth it because you will be making a difference to the lives of other women. Slay my qween, slay.

What makes you a damn rebel bitch?

LOU: I’m confident and uncompromising about the need to empower women. I don’t care what you think I should be doing, or how I fit into your worldview. I want to be who I am, and use that to help other women. Confidence in yourself is the most liberating and rebellious thing you can do!

ASHLEY: I’m organised, driven, ambitious as fuck and ready to change the world.

Website – https://darefestedinburgh.wixsite.com/darefest

Eventbrite pagehttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/darefest-edinburgh- tickets-35303290091utm_campaign=new_event_email&utm_medium=email&utm_source=eb_email&utm_term=viewmyevent_button

Facebook pagehttps://m.facebook.com/DAREFestedinburgh

Twitter – https://mobile.twitter.com/DAREFestEd

Portrait of Lou by Sarah Donley


PERIOD POVERTY

SELMA RAHMAN: PERIOD POVERTY

Selma Rahman, Board member of Women for Independence, Scottish Independence Convention and grandmother talks to REEK about the cost of the curse.

It has been estimated that over a woman’s menstruating years, the cost of period products (PPs) comes to around £5,000, on which we pay VAT.  VAT is supposed to be levied on non-essential, ‘luxury items’: cars are luxury items. So when money is tight, period poverty strikes. The Scottish Government is spearheading a health and well-being initiative through Community Food initiative North East http://www.cfine.org/ (which covers low income Aberdeen homes over seven regeneration areas) to provide free period products for women.

Heat or eat; pay bills or cut back on food.

Can’t afford PPs?-stay at home-don’t go to school.

Can’t afford food? Stint on PPs.

Stint on PPs? Worry at work that your clothes are stained; stress-miss work-school.

Some women know the score! It seems obvious, so why has it taken so long for period poverty to be highlighted? Is the curse still so cursed that wider society continues to ignore it? It has to be ‘wider society’ that ignores it since women don’t! We live with it. For many months, years, and millennia – so many women, so much menstruation and so little knowledge of our herstory coming from our lived experiences.

Well, if are you sitting comfortably, let me tell you.

Long, long ago before anyone wrote anything, or drew anything on cave walls, the female of the bipedal upright species bled bright red blood, for no apparent reason and they didn’t die! There is a hypothesis that women in those early times were considered strong, miraculous beings while men were seen to bleed from wounds and then, surprise, they died. Even more miraculously women would grow big, bigger, even bigger and then, out came a wee being, along with more of that bright red blood. Sometimes the women died, but if they and the wean survived they then produced milk that fed the wee souls.

That was nothing short of powerful, miraculous: life bearing, life giving, birth, blood and milk all in the one being!

Think about it: no Google, no instant health info-look it up-self-diagnosis in those cave days. Equally, early nomadic life, on the move, didn’t leave much time for analytical thinking. So, the link between menstrual cycle, male penetration, subsequent pregnancy and birth took a long time to be established. It took millennia before a man wrote it down, so no one ever charted the thought–action–confirmation process or the real experience of the women.

When you’re written out of history, the chances are, you’re not the historians! You’re demoted or worse, ignored. Reduced to the menial, insignificant, and your very life-giving-life-signifying cycle is reduced to ‘untouchable’. This resulted in women frequently being removed to the very edge of society: literally, into separated areas of the ‘unclean’. But who truly knows if ‘menstrual huts’ to which women are still exiled in various regions world-wide, didn’t start out as warm, safe refuges that we created and chose to go to, to bond, to meet, to share our knowledge and experience. Our time, our space. So that degeneration and contamination, pollution associated with menstruation, must have influenced the development (or lack) of hygiene, pads and tampons over the millennia.

Let’s face it, if men had bled regularly, there would have been product improvement long before now! And it would have been free for centuries.

Much has been written, but in all probability, more has been forgotten in the evolution of PPs but one of my own favourites is http://www.mum.org : An early History Menstruation, Menstrual Hygiene & Women’s Health in Ancient Egypt by Petra Habiger that includes the hieroglyphic translation of text that gives some examples of “negative” careers such as a laundry worker, who has to wash the loincloth of a menstruating women: possibly a pad or rag? Even then, there is the implication that menstrual blood was impure!

It’s now mostly forgotten in the annals of WW1 that nurses couldn’t help but notice that the cellulose bandages being used on the wounded did a good job of absorbing blood compared to plain cotton. And the result? Nurses started to use the bandages during their periods. Needless to say, post war, this was taken up commercially by Kotex. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that we saw the advent of pads with sticky-back adhesive, meaning an end to belts and pins to keep the pads in place. (http://menstrualcup.co/who-invented-the-menstrual-cup/) Tampons probably go back to those ancient Egyptians.

But here and now, and the scandal of austerity, food poverty and period poverty…

Let’s applaud the Scottish Government’s initiative. If it proves an informed base for rolling this out across Scotland, and if the idea of an S-Card comes about (sanitary cards to be shown at participating outlets, chemists, supermarkets to receive free PPs, similar to the C-Card enabling access to free condoms), then well done womens’ groups across Scotland (www.womenforindependence.org/) that campaigned for this, raised funds to ensure PPs are part of food bank collection-distribution; lobbied MPs, MSPs, and well done to the elected officials themselves who have listened to the groundswell of public opinion.

In fact, well done Scotland! Not too wee and not too poor to understand period poverty and be prepared to do something about it.


RECLAIMING OUR STREETS

MAJA JANOWSKA: RECLAIMING OUR STREETS

Maja Janowska, photographer, journalist and model, talks about the simple day to day tasks that can leave females feeling scared. 

Walking to the bus stop at 10pm on a Saturday night. Earphones in, but music isn’t playing, just in case I won’t be able to hear someone creeping up behind me. Turning my head every five minutes and speeding up as soon as I sense a silhouette coming up behind, just in case. The constant fear continues as I arrive at the bus stop, exactly two minutes before my bus is due. I don’t want to wait there longer than necessary. It’s not lit very well and all the shops are already closed. I sit down and hold a phone in my hand, with my recent call page up so I can call someone quickly, just in case.

This is my journey to the bus stop, every weekend to work. Exactly the same, it’s a routine I have developed to keep myself safe on the streets at night.

I thought this routine was perfect, but a man put it to test a couple of weeks ago. It was my first day back at work after two months off due to ill mental health, so as an extra pick me up I wore my “Bitches Unite” t-shirt. I was feeling extra powerful.

As I stood at the bus stop a man from across the street started shouting at me. I thought he was harmless because he looked pretty drunk, so I just ignored it and pretended I couldn’t hear him, you know, my earphones trick!

“Don’t pretend you can’t hear me! I know you want some of that” I wish I hadn’t turned my head at that point. I still regret it. There he was, with his trousers down, still shouting at me. Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking; the man across the street, previously deemed harmless was a flasher.

I was terrified and now sure of his intentions. I tried calling my boyfriend a hundred times but the signal was terrible and I didn’t get through.

My routine was failing.

I started to panic, thinking of another plan of action. Should I run away like I had done the last time a man followed me, or look for a police officer as I had before – I’ve been followed around more than once. Or, it occurred to me, maybe I should just ignore him and pretend I couldn’t see him. I’m used to ignoring men who shout at me but this was a little more scary than usual. I even considered shouting at the guy – I did that once before when a passing man spanked my butt as he passed me with a group of friends. They found it very amusing that their friend had touched me – I didn’t.

In this whole situation I almost didn’t notice the bus arriving. Shaken up, I thanked the bus driver for arriving on time. He just looked at me funny, obviously he didn’t have a clue that he had saved me from whatever this man was about to do next.

This is not an isolated event. This is happening now, to women around the world. Going back from work, to work, from a party, shopping trip, late lecture. All the time. It’s not the first and not the last time it’s going to happen to me, but we can unite and work against it together.

I continue to walk to the bus stop every weekend, following the same routine. I walk to a taxi rank five minutes away from work when I come home much later and spend £8 on a taxi home to avoid potentially getting raped. I live in a constant fear of someone taking advantage of me just because I am female.

I am writing about it because I’m sick of having to look behind me with every step I take at night, I’m sick of being casually, sexually assaulted in the streets. I am fed up of having to pay for taxis because it is not safe for me to walk home from work. We need to be Damn Rebel Bitches, and we need to unite against it and speak up! There is no place in the modern world for this oppression and if we speak about it now, optimistically, maybe things will change and our daughters will be safe to walk the streets of our cities at night.