By Sian Irvine
At the beginning of July, Emily and I headed up to London one Wednesday evening to attend an Everyday Sexism talk, with Laura Bates.
The Everyday Sexism Project was born from, as Laura herself describes, “a nightmare week, filled with lots of experiences of sexism and harassment”. Taking to Twitter to vent her experiences, Laura expected to collect maybe 100 stories of sexism- a talking point for family and friends. A year and a half later, The Everyday Sexism project is active in 15 countries, and has collected upwards of 25,000 entries. Laura has created a platform which allows women to speak out about the harassment that is experienced everyday, worldwide- and in doing so, has created a worldwide solidarity for females to stand together and shout back: we will not stand for this.
The event was held at the Feminist Library- an amazing resource which, at this point in today’s piece, it only feels right to give a little shout out to. Just a stones throw away from Waterloo Station, the feminist library is a collection of Women’s Liberation Movement literature, which supports research, activism, events and community projects surrounding feminism. A vital tool, run by amazing volunteers, yet hugely understated- so we at Ultravenus IMPLORE you to go check out this incredible source of activism and solidarity here.
The first remarkable thing about the evening was just how busy the event was. Neither Emily and I, as visitors, or the wonderful volunteers at the Library itself, were prepared for just how packed out the venue was about to get. In itself, this was hugely inspiring- the sheer volume of attendees proved that the ladies involved with this project are real, that each number of entries to the projects counts for an actual human being, and we are all prepared to band together and fight. The second was the spectrum of people represented. Young, old, male, female, and from all races and walks of life- just a quick glance around the room before the talk began was proof enough that no one is safe from sexism- it affects us all.
The talk began with Laura talking us through the history and humble beginnings of her project- how widely it has reached, how many people now contact her on a daily basis (answer: very, very many). She shared some experiences she has had, and some of the worst she has been told of since starting the project. The most illuminating thing? Even the most extreme cases were not unfamiliar. Even the most shocking of reports were not outside any of the attendee’s spectrum- none of it was hard to believe. Yet, oddly perhaps, this only seemed to make the feeling of solidarity all the more strong.
To give an example, here are some quotes from the Everyday Sexism book that Laura wrote:
"There are a lot of myths that exist about street harassment, including that it’s a compliment and that women secretly love it. The thousands of stories shared on #ShoutingBack disprove those myths. I doubt that anyone who reads story after story about men groping, grabbing, flashing, stalking, or making sexually explicit comments at women can see it as anything other than gender violence and the human-rights violation that it is."
“when I see pornographic pictures on newsagent shelves and mainstream media, just accepted like it’s normal and okay. I wondered and still think to this day whether the man who did this to me would have done it if he wasn’t raised in a country where women are advertised as products to be used. That’s what I felt like that night, like an object, like I was just one of the women on the wall and that’s what he wanted so he took it.”
“I’m 21 and being asked at job interviews if I’m getting married, or pregnant. Pretty sure this is illegal. For the record: it’s not illegal to ask this question, but it is illegal to choose not to hire somebody because of the answer – so it’s difficult to justify asking it in the first place, since it should bear no more relevance to the interview than a question about the colour of a candidate’s front door. “
When the talk was opened to discussion from the floor, the examples of sexism and familiarity from all continued to flow. Advice was given between peers- how should I react? What can I do without overly exerting aggression? How do I make these points prevalent whilst working in a school? As a man, how can I do more?
The discussions went on for almost 2 hours. Much, much ground was covered, yet it was obvious to all that the fight is far from over. I left, however, feeling elated. I am part of something. Here is a group of people who are not only familiar with the experiences that I have, but together, we want to change them, stop them.
I implore all readers of Ultravenus to read Laura’s book, Everyday Sexism, which can be bought here. In fact, read it, then tell everyone you know to read it too. Seriously, it is great. It is eye opening. It is empowering. Ultimately, it is really, really important. But, led by Laura, a change is happening, right at this very moment, and it is down to all of us to push things even further forward.
By Emily Hughes
There is no better fitting time to celebrate Courtney Love than on her fabulous 50th birthday. Back in May, I made sure to attend two (and contemplated three) dates of her latest UK solo tour, the first of which Sian joined me on and took all photographs featured.
Courtney’s been in the spotlight now for over 20 years for making music, starring in movies and well, being heavily criticised for just about everything she does: her drug use, dress sense, parenting, plastic surgery and most infamously, her relationship with Kurt Cobain - whether he wrote all the music she passed off as her own and sadly the ongoing “did she/didn’t she have involvement with his death” theory. Yet despite all this and the far from easy life she has led (being a widow, a rocky relationship with her parents, having worked as an escort, drug addiction, ongoing feuds with her daughter to name a few of the obstacles) she carries on with her die hard fan base, dubbed “Clovers”, right behind her. And anyone walking past Shepherds Bush from noon on Sunday 11th May would agree on seeing a long line full of men and women, boys and girls, wearing costumes spanning across Love’s long and colourful career. From the black and white babydoll dress reminiscent of her kinder whore era, to the pretty pink tutu from her first solo video “Mono” and the classic beauty Queen sashes, symbolic of the Hole anthem “Miss World”.
On entry to the venue, we are immediately introduced to the catchy material of support act, Madagascan duo, White Miles. With Medina Rekic on vocals sporting just an unbuttoned sleeveless jean jacket over her bra and describes their sound as “dirty pole dance stoner blues rock” they fit their slot supporting the riot grrl Queen just perfectly.
Following the rumours of a Hole reunion (which were confirmed and then quickly back tracked on by Courtney herself), the line up of her band was yet another cause for controversy. Despite crossing my fingers and toes, there was no sign of Eric, Melissa or Patty but Love has since come back AGAIN reporting they are “crossing dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s” with regards to the Celebrity Skin line up – we’re waiting with bated breath! For now, Courtney’s tour line up includes guitarists Ginger Wildheart and Micko Larkin (formerly of indie band Larrikin Love). Predictably (for me anyway) she opened with Wedding Day one half of her latest EP, a fast fun pop punk song with the lyrics of the bridge shouting “I see this world through reptile eyes, I defy you as I rise” -the Queen is back with a bang.
Throughout the set she covered the majority of the Hole singles, at one point she exclaims to her band “We’re in London, they love all the classics” – correct! I was overjoyed to hear so many songs off “Live Through This” including “Plump” (my personal favourite) which, as the title suggests, addresses the ongoing feminist issue of body image, and the eating disorders this can lead to. “Asking For It” refers to a gig the band played where Courtney stage dived and was subjected to sexual assault by fans and tackles victim blaming/ rape culture, as well as “Miss World” (voted the most popular Courtney song by her fan page on Facebook) whose subject matter is society’s beauty norms and the feeling of not fitting in. “Violet” - allegedly about Love’s relationship with Billy Corgan and how he only wanted her for sex (something many women will unfortunately learn about the hard way whilst growing up), throw in the coverage of domestic violence and abuse via “Jennifer’s Body” (only played on the second London date) and you will see that this 1994 album was way before it’s time and plays a key role in female music and the riot grrl movement. She also played a selection of tracks from 2010 release “Nobody’s Daughter” – “Honey”, “Skinny Little Bitch” and “For Once In Your Life”.
Few fans will be shocked by the absence of songs from “Pretty on the Inside” or “America’s Sweetheart – these are never played as Courtney thinks they suck. She did however throw a curveball by playing 1993 b-side “20 Years In The Dakota”. She closed the set with the other half of her single “You Know My Name.” For the encore she played acoustic versions of first “Northern Star” which was most notable due to the raw emotion and pain that laced through each line, a truly haunting performance and finally, closing the explosive evening with “Doll Parts.” Playing 16 songs in total over an hour and a half set, Courtney squashed (yet more) rumours that she couldn’t sing anymore due to vocal damage caused by smoking. What’s next for Mrs Love - Cobain? Just this week it was announced she has a role in the next series of Sons Of Anarchy and finally, that long awaited book “Girl With The Most Cake” should be released. We can’t wait!
By Sian Irvine
This week on the Ultravenus blog, I was hoping to launch “Women of the World Wednesdays”- inspired by the worldwide festival of talks, debates, music, art and comedy which celebrates women worldwide. I had actually begun writing the first article, when I heard the sad news about the passing of Maya Angelou.
Immediately, everything went on hold. For two days, in fact. It only seemed fitting that the first WOW article was dedicated to her, and her amazing life. Until now, I have felt unable to find words strong enough to capture such an incredible life. I am still unsure if I am capable of the task.
I first came across the work of Maya Angelou whilst at University. Indirectly. I spent a long time studying the photographic work of Maud Sulter- a Blackwoman artist- and, notably, her work “Zabat”, a comment on the underrepresentation of women of colour in the art world- both as artists and as artwork. “Zabat” presented nine notable Blackwomen as the nine Greek Muses- however, Sulter deliberately did not mention the names and achievements of the women featured in her works, presenting them as individuals outside of their achievements, leaving the audience to their own investigation and research into the lives of these women of note.
Works from “Zabat”, by Maud Sulter
I did exactly that. As soon as I dipped my toes into the vast and rich world of art and literature from Blackwomen artists, I discovered the works of Maya Angelou. I read “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. I immersed myself in her poetry. Both push the boundaries of the written word, drive force and power in their own right. The depth of her works is indisputable, powerful, and drives solidarity for women, artists and black people alike.
Angelou lived a remarkable life. She was active in the American Civil Rights Movement, working alongside both Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. Aside from an author, she was an accomplished and celebrated actress, dancer, musician, director and screenwriter.
"Still I Rise", written in 1978, is featured below. It demonstrates beautifully the revolutionary impact of Angelou’s words- a piece of writing that, 35 years later, remains relevant, powerful and inspiring.
“Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?”
Until the end of her life, Angelou continued to write, talk, campaign and inspire people worldwide. She fought for Civil Rights, for the rights of women, and created astounding works that undoubtedly changed the world. I implore you to nourish your life in an exploration of her work, and celebrate the life she lived.
Maya Angelou, Rest in Poetry and Power
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
"Still I Rise"
Do you love art, or are perhaps an artist yourself? Have something to say about feminism, sexism, or equal rights? Maybe you just need a platform to express revolutionary thoughts?
We are looking for 2-3 committed and wonderful individuals to contribute to our blog over at tumblr. You must be able to commit to post once a week on relevant topics. We are really hoping to expand our little team at Ultravenus, and if you think you could be a part of it, please send us an email at:
with your name, age, location, a little about you and a brief outline of the first article you would post for us.
Looking forward to hearing from you
By Emily Hughes
This week for my contribution to the blog I’m going to tell a story of my outrage whilst on my long journey to work. As if trains in the morning weren’t irritating enough, I alighted the underground at Marylebone to be greeted with a poster that read “YOUR PARTNER MAY HAVE PREMATURE EJACULATION”. The said poster featured an image very similar to the one included above – a man soundly sleeping and a woman looking concerned and worried. By now I’ve stopped dead in my tracks, completely ignorant to my fellow commuters, jaw floor bound at this poxy advert. Not only is this one of the last things I want to consider at 7:45am but moreover, yes, maybe one’s partner does finish too quickly…but why is that her/my/your problem? Why is she the one losing sleep over it whilst he’s in a smug deep sleep?!
As women, we have to deal with cystitis, thrush, fanny farts, PMT, bodily hair that society expects us to remove and magazine after magazine telling us how we need to and by what methods to pleasure our men…and then if he enjoys it too much/too quickly, that’s on our list of things to sort out too? Not to mention our uterus walls gorily crumbling away monthly, ensuring we have supplies to deal with the bloodshed, ensuring we have birth control supplies to ensure aforementioned bloodshed occurs, that is, if we don’t want an infant, (might I add this comes in the glamorous options of: having an numb bum giving injection in the buttock, a coil thrust up our foofi’s, a creepy piece of plastic inserted into our arm or a pill laced with mood altering, spot inducing and weight gaining qualities) and you want me to deal with your dick dilemmas?
Don’t get me wrong I’m sympathetic and would be willing to support and help a significant other through this kind of issue, which I’m sure is damaging to one’s confidence and embarrassing. Any decent person would but, the responsibility does not lie with us and this poor piece of marketing just encourages the stereotype that in order to be “masculine” men ignore their bodily malfunctions and avoid going to the doctor which is a train of though that needs to rapidly die out, not bred. I know what you’re thinking “it’s only an advert, there are far more pressing issues” and you’re right but it just bothered me so I had a little light hearted rant. Now I can continue with my day planning to end rape culture and street harassment. Peace! x
By Sian Irvine
even googling images of this mans stupid face irritated me, so I chose the one of him looking the most ridiculous.
Although by no means a football fan and therefore dubious to how much my opinion counts in this instance, I have been finding it very difficult to ignore the Richard Scudamore sexism scandal that I have been hearing about on the news over the past couple of days.
Just in case you haven’t heard, it has come to light that the chief exec of the Premier League made sexist slurs and referred to women in a derogatory way, in emails from a private account that were sent whilst in the workplace.
Whilst the FA have agreed that the comments (which have not been explicitly revealed, although with a little investigation I have found that they included references to women as “gash” and “big-titted broads”) were inappropriate, they have managed to pass blame by stating that private communication offers no grounds for dismissal. Besides, Scudamore is employed by the Premier League, not the FA, it’s not their responsibility!
…So what say you, Premier League? Is this man going to be dismissed, or at the very least reprimanded for his backward actions?
No. Richard Scudamore will be keeping his job, it was revealed yesterday.
Despite the emails, Scudamore has claimed that the emails ”do not reflect my views towards women in football, the workplace or in general”. Hmm. We’re skeptical.
With football being not only a hugely influential, but massively male dominated sport, it is disappointing to see that more action isn’t being taken against someone who has been so outrightly derogatory toward women. It is no accident that male football is the norm, whereas “women’s football” is the official title when the game is played by females, and is also given notably less airtime- not to mention that professional female footballers earn significantly less than their male counterparts.
Unfortunately, this situation is a microcosm of attitudes towards females in wider society. Of course, it is easier to make a feeble claim that it meant nothing, and continue like normal. Because none of these men would have to deal with cat-calling and harassment like this almost daily. For many women- myself included, along with many of my loved ones, derogatory name calling isn’t even upsetting anymore. It’s just marginally annoying, and happens so often that we don’t have the energy to tell every single man who makes a suggestive comment where exactly he can go with that. I spend hours every day fantasising about the perfect response (“Oh, are you talking to me? You like me? Do you want to come home and meet my parents? We can talk about wedding arrangements and the names of our children….oh wait…sorry…..AM I MAKING YOU UNCOMFORTABLE?”) - but when it comes down to it, I just don’t have the time, or the energy, or the patience with the imbeciles it comes from. But to feel that it has become so ingrained within male social norms is…distressing. This guy wasn’t saying anything to get a reaction. This is genuinely what this billionaire professional thinks of us girls.
The Scudamore scandal is yet another backward step in a male dominated industry, who find it far to easy to ignore the issues of sexism, racism, and other minorities who have just as much relevance in the sporting world as all of the white men who run it.