FEM ZINE: AN INTERSECTIONAL CREATIVE PLATFORM FOR FEMMES AND ALLIES
We were recently invited to attend “The Art of Consent’, an event hosted Ash Magazine in collaboration with brk/ th/ hbt Press (Break The Habit Press) and He for She U.N. Women. The event celebrated the release of brk / th/ hbt’s new book “100 Women I Know”, inspired by the namesake film by Phoebe Montague.
The night began with the film screening of 100 women I know, which explored several accounts of sexual harassment all from women that Phoebe knew. The film includes data Phoebe collected from polls and questionnaires from women on her Facebook page which highlight the extremity and extent of abuse that 93% of women said they experienced. The film contained four specific cases of rape which were told by the survivors in their own bedrooms-; these women were all friends of Phoebe, but none had shared their experiences prior to the creation of this film. The film was delicate, and respectful whilst being a beautifully crafted motion artwork. After the screening, Phoebe came on stage to answer questions from the audience, and invited all four women featured in the film on stage to join her.
‘We need to broaden our definition and understanding of what we mean by rape’ - Phoebe Montague
100 WOMEN I KNOW TEASER TRAILER - by Phoebe Montague
After the Q & A, Phoebe and the brk/ the/ hbt team did a moving reading from the “100 women I know” book. Each woman involved had their own accounts in the book but they chose to share a series of short extracts from many perspectives. The content is enlightening; upsetting and empowering simultaneously. If you have any doubts, like we did, about whether what you’ve gone through was firstly, assault at all, and secondly, something most women go through then this book will absolutely reconcile this for you. After a break and ten minutes chatting in the smoking area, we realised fully for the first time that we had both been sexually assaulted more than once. Memories that were buried were brought to the surface and we shocked ourselves that really, 100 women I know was about us too.
The panel discussion that followed featured three men and three women coming to the space to talk about issues of consent, toxic masculinity, and potential ways to educate people on these issues. The direction of the content shifted here to focus more on how men are involved in, and impacted by, issues of consent, as well as considering ways we can prevent these things happening in the first place. All speakers said some incredibly insightful things, but we’ve picked out some of our most memorable here. For more information on each speaker please follow the links below.
“We need to teach our sons to treat women like people. Parents and families never think it’s going to be their son who perpetrates these acts, but every rapist is related to someone.” Chidera Eggerue (The Slum Flower)- http://www.theslumflower.com/
“Sexism, rape, misogyny, objectification are all male problems. These are the problems of men. In the same way racism is a white problem, rape is a male problem… A lot of men feel their gender precludes them from getting involved, but this is counter-productive to what we are aiming to achieve.” Anthony Anaxagorou - http://anthonyanaxagorou.com/
“For a lot of men, everyone in their lives perpetuates their negative views of themselves. Imposing toxic masculinity on young boys creates a culture in which sexual assault and rape can happen.” Richie Brave - http://richiebrave.com/
“We need to teach young boys accountability. We have to be careful to not position boys as the victims, because men are the perpetrators of most sexual violence and violence in general. But boys are victims of the patriarchy like everyone else below a certain line.” Ben Hurst - http://www.goodladworkshop.com/media/
“No man ever sexually harasses someone who can fire him.” Sophie Walker - http://www.womensequality.org.uk/sophie_walker
“Women are taught to take up less space, to doubt themselves, to doubt our own experiences.” Dr. Fiona Vera-Gray - https://www.dur.ac.uk/law/staff/display/?id=14890
Please contact any of the above speakers for more information on how to make a difference and join their projects, particularly Ben Hurst who runs the Good Lad initiative; he is currently looking for men and women to join his team to give workshops and lessons to boys in schools.
The conversation ended with a discussion about safe spaces and particularly a need for female-only spaces. Kezia (the moderator and one half of Break the Habit Press) brought up the recent public shaming of a man who came along to the Womens’ March with his girlfriend in Trafalgar square. Both he and his girlfriend were unaware that it was female only, and was an ‘honest mistake’ however the speakers and crowd shamed and booed him. This event was discussed, and to us this event was controversial, but what we felt really hadn’t been said was any mention of trans and non binary people. When the floor was opened up to questions our founder Mia shared her point that if we allow strict binary spaces we create a potentially hostile environment for gender non binary, gender fluid and trans people; after all, it was making an assumption to guess that the man who attended the Womens’ March identified as a cisgendered male. It seems to us that safe spaces are for safety, not exclusivity, and should be available to all people that need them regardless of how they look or how they identify (in the same way that feminism is for all genders, not just cis women).
Following this was a series of inspiring spoken word performances. As well as this, Nasty Women hosted a Virtual Reality experience upstairs that put people in the perspective of a woman in situations of street harassment and other such themed situations. BBZ closed with an amazing DJ set which ended the night on a high of celebration and unity.
Here are some points from the night that we took away:
- Your experiences ARE valid.
- Encourage conversation surrounding themes of toxic masculinity, abuse, rape and assault in educational contexts but also by sharing experiences between friends and loved ones.
- Stop imposing toxic masculinity on boys and men around you.
- If a sexual partner doesn’t look like they’re enjoying themselves and / or are not showing signs of pleasure then stop. Consent doesn’t start and end at yes or no.
- Sex is for pleasure not power.
If you would like to discuss any issues / thoughts about the topics covered above feel free to contact us or any member of the panel / hosting team. We all want conversation around this topic so don’t be shy!
If you think you have or are being abused and would like some support contact
- Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline – run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge 0808 2000 247 Or email email@example.com
- Galop for LGBTQAI+ for advice 02077042040 and for reports of abuse and support 08009995428
By Mia Maxwell and Isobel Cooper edited by Georgia Mitchell
January 19th saw FEM Zine’s first event. FEM Festival was the opportunity to expand beyond the boundaries of our print zine, and showcase film and performance that lifts, questions and enriches our print content. 150 people filled Stour Space at Hackney Wick to watch beautiful women and femmes from the first issue and elsewhere to speak, sing and celebrate the growth of our intersectional platform.
The first viewing of the night was the release of FEM Films Volume I; a series of films produced by our founder, Mia Maxwell, for the festival. Each was filmed by a different femme filmmaker and featured a femme creative. The films became a collaboration between director and subject, as well as between FEM and the filmmaker, and are radically different from one another. The series, which explores how women present as creative people, can be viewed in our ‘films’ section. The night’s first half was linked to the theme of our first zine, ‘Women and Hair’. Alice Edwards and Yasmin Roye read their pieces from the issue, Girls On Film showed two stunning pieces about mixed-race and black hair and personal identity, before this half was closed spectacularly by performance poetry group 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE, who made us laugh, cry, and think.
The rest of the night looked forward to our next issue; ‘Night Life’. The films screened, made by Shem Sylvester, Lo Harley and Fxck Conformity magazine, can be viewed in our ‘films’ section. Artist and activist Liv Wynter then brought the house down with a now rare performance of her poetry which rounded off the performances in the main room.
There was music by rapper/producer Gegge, before a disco dj set from Tony Cupac and Angus Higgins into the night.
Once again, thank you to everyone who came and partied with us; and to all of our performers and filmmakers, your talent and energy was the reason for the festival, and for more events in the future. Endless thanks go to Stour Space for making us feel so welcome and supported, and to Karma Cola for providing their organic, ethically manufactured soft drinks for the night!
Mia Maxwell: http://miamaxwelll.com / @miamaxwelll
Alice Edwards: https://alcedwrds.wordpress.com/
Girls On Film: https://www.girlsonfilmldn.com / @girlsonfilmldn on Instagram
4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE: @sunnahkhanwrites / @4browngirlswhowrite
Shem Sylvester: @shemyyy_ / https://www.shemyyy.com
Lo Harley: @lo_lee_taaa
Fxck Conformity: http://conformitymag.co.uk/ / @fxckconformity
Liv Wynter: @livresearch / @livwynter
Gegge: @sqilorgeggz / https://soundcloud.com/gegge-t-adeyemi
Stour Space: http://www.stourspace.co.uk/
Karma Cola: https://www.karmacola.co.uk