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Novelist Marian Keyes to headline Primadonna literary festival

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 09:03

Celebration of female writers will have alternative wedding chapel where women can ‘marry’ themselves

The award-winning novelist Marian Keyes has been announced as one of the headline acts at a feminist literary festival where women are being encouraged to “marry” themselves.

The Primadonna festival, which focuses on female writers to redress the gender inequality in publishing, is to follow the lead of the actor Emma Watson in celebrating self-partnering.

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Novelist Marian Keyes set to 'marry herself' at Primadonna festival

Fri, 02/28/2020 - 09:03

Festival celebrating female writers offers prize draw for winner to celebrate ‘self-partnering’ in style

Award-winning novelist Marian Keyes will be first in line to “marry herself” at a literary festival promoting work by women.

The Primadonna festival, which focuses on female writers to redress the gender inequality in publishing, is to follow the lead of the actor Emma Watson in celebrating self-partnering.

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Yes, yes, yes! Are we on the brink of a revolution in sex toys? | Brigid Delaney

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 06:30

From sex ed games for kids to products for the ageing – I have seen the future of sex toys and been amazed

I have seen a roomful of people recoil – for purely aesthetic reasons – from a marijuana leaf decal on a sex toy. I have met a venture capitalist who tried out 297 sex toys and yet still argued passionately for diamantes on vibrators despite a chorus of “but what if they fall off?”

I’ve heard that a toy designed like a lily is good, but one that is designed like a butterfly is bad – but I still don’t know why that is.

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‘I met women who wanted to discuss non-baby things’ – how 60 years of the National Women's Register changed lives

Thu, 02/27/2020 - 00:00

In 1960, a Guardian article on the isolation of mothers in suburbia sparked a network of women to meet up. There was only one rule: no talking about children or housework

The unofficial rules of the meetings were simple: there was no talking about babies, children or housework. “We didn’t want to know what washing machine somebody used,” says Pat Bowers. She joined her local National Women’s Register group in Hull in 1972 after feeling stifled by a new life in the suburbs with a baby.

“I was quite lonely,” she says. “We moved for my husband’s job and that was true for a lot of women back then – you would follow your husband round.” Joining the group was a way of meeting like-minded women who shared the same frustrations.

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Duffy has made peace. But social media won't let her

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 06:42

The singer’s brave statement about her rape shows how powerfully immediate social media can be – but these platforms can also distort the personal narrative of female stars

Duffy’s statement regarding her horrific sexual assault was striking not only for its bravery, but for being so direct. This was a radically unfiltered statement issued not via a spokesperson or PR company, but made, as is now becoming standard in popular culture, via social media.

The utopian ideal of social media platforms trumpeted by CEOs such as Twitter’s Jack Dorsey is that they allow the silent to have a voice, and theoretically this is true. Accompanied by an image she will have chosen herself, Duffy was able to speak plainly of the journey through trauma to self-definition, without her words being filleted by journalists (though they inevitably were in news reports, including by me in these pages).

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What is 'sexy baby voice'? We spoke to a sociologist to find out more

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 05:44

A contestant’s way of talking to men on Netflix’s dating show Love is Blind has provoked a fierce reaction. But should we be so quick to judge?

The new Netflix show Love is Blind – in which people fall in love and get engaged without seeing each other first – has sparked many questions. These include: shouldn’t these people be in therapy? If looks don’t matter, why are they all so hot? And: what is up with Jessica Batten’s sexy baby voice?

I can’t take credit for that term: it was actually coined on Twitter last week, and written about since. “Sexy baby voice” may sound like an oxymoron, but it is in fact an affectation that a lot of women use. Just look at the clip in which Batten is first shown to be very capable of speaking in a normal adult voice, before just a moment later sounding like she has a tampon in each nostril.

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Rose McGowan: Weinstein 'could be one of the biggest serial rapists in history'

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 02:22

The actor and activist said her own allegations against Weinstein would not go to court as the statute of limitations had passed

Rose McGowan has described Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction as a watershed moment and claimed that he “could be one of the biggest serial rapists in history”.

McGowan, who emerged as one of the most high-profile figures in efforts to expose Weinstein after the New York Times reported in 2017 that she had received $100,000 from Weinstein as a settlement over an alleged rape in 1997. It is one of a string of instances in which women are believed to have received payments.

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A sustainable vagina revolution is under way. But beware homemade tampons | Arwa Mahdawi

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 21:00

I can see why people are drawn to crocheted menstrual products – the mainstream options are far from perfect. But the trend still makes me scream with dismay

There are certain things I am very happy to reuse in order to help the environment. Shopping bags and coffee cups are on that list. Tampons are definitely not. Despite my personal hesitations, however, it appears that a sustainable vagina revolution is under way. If Etsy is anything to go by, there appears to be a growing interest in homemade menstrual products such as “eco-friendly reusable crocheted tampons.” YouTube, meanwhile, is awash with tutorials showing you how to make your own reusable yarn or cloth tampons.

Homemade tampons may be a fringe trend, but they are enough of a phenomenon to have garnered the attention – and sparked the alarm – of a number of health professionals. “Give knitted or crocheted tampons a pass,” the gynaecologist Jen Gunter advises in her book, The Vagina Bible; they are unregulated and there is “no data on how they could irritate vaginal tissues or affect the growth of bacteria”.

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Born on the Guardian letters page: 60 years of the National Women’s Register | Letter

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 21:00
Maureen Nicol on the letter she wrote six decades ago that led to the founding of a social group that is still combating isolation and loneliness by putting women in touch with each other

Sixty years ago this week I sent a letter to the Guardian, my first ever, suggesting that readers like me – with young children, moving frequently and having left interesting jobs, separated from friends and family and uninterested in conventional women’s groups – could meet up to discuss everything and anything in their own homes. I was surprised that it was published – on 26 February 1960 – and even more surprised to receive a mass of letters enthusiastically agreeing.

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The Weinstein verdict is a huge win for #MeToo – but what's next? | Jill Filipovic

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 01:10

The criminal justice system is an imperfect venue for many cases. It’s time to consider what a more just future looks like

I’ll admit it, I’m shocked: Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape.

Yes, Weinstein was acquitted of the two most serious charges leveled against him: predatory sexual assault is a class-A felony. But the crimes he was convicted of are extremely serious, and Weinstein now faces as long as 25 years in prison. He’s also facing additional charges in Los Angeles.

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Harvey Weinstein went from untouchable to behind bars. Thank #MeToo | Moira Donegan

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 08:38

The symbolic significance of his conviction can’t be overstated: for women, this is a very good day

Harvey Weinstein is guilty. A Manhattan jury on Monday found the former Hollywood producer guilty of rape in the third degree and criminal sexual act in the first degree. Weinstein was acquitted, however, on the most serious charges of predatory sexual assault and rape in the first degree.

The conviction is a partial victory for the #MeToo movement, which secured Weinstein’s indictment with tremendous political pressure after the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, had declined to bring charges against Weinstein for years, despite mounting evidence of the producer’s sexual misconduct and a taped confession secured by the New York police with the help of one of his victims.

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From Princess Diana to Caroline Flack: the unhealthy obsession with female pain | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 04:41
The plight of the ‘wounded woman’ is titillation until they die, then they become beautiful again

“Women are born with pain built in”: thus begins a celebrated speech in the BBC comedy Fleabag, spoken by Kristen Scott-Thomas’s character, Belinda. It is predicated on an old, old idea. In Genesis, the pain of childbirth is doled out to Eve from God as a punishment. To tolerate such pain is saintly, the “natural” – or more accurately, unmedicated – birth movements inform us. Tell that to all those women who beg for epidurals and are denied them.

Women experience pain as the everyday result of their biological processes; when that pain is not so everyday, it can find itself dismissed as psychological and/or emotional. It is taken less seriously by doctors. And yet the wounded woman remains a powerful cultural myth: she is beautiful, she is on the verge. She is pale and wan and suffering and gorgeous (and often, as Susan Sontag noted, waif-like and consumptive). She is Anna Karenina and Sylvia Plath and Cathy Earnshaw and La Bohème’s Mimì. She appears in art and cinema and literature and music. She is also a mainstay of tabloid media. She is Peaches Geldof and Amy Winehouse and Princess Diana and Marilyn Monroe and Paula Yates and now, heartbreakingly, Caroline Flack. The beautiful, wounded woman is falling apart before our eyes and it is titillating. She is, to use modern parlance, a “hot mess”.

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‘Rough sex’ as a defence for murder is grotesque victim-blaming | Sian Norris

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 03:05
The murder of Grace Millane in New Zealand and a spate of UK cases show the urgent need for a change in our laws

The killer of British backpacker Grace Millane has been sentenced to life in prison in New Zealand. Millane’s mother, Gillian, told her daughter’s killer: “You have taken my daughter’s future and robbed us of so many memories that we were going to create.”

The horrific murder of Millane, who met her killer (who cannot be named for legal reasons) on a Tinder date, has focused attention on the increasing use of the “sex game gone wrong” defence by men who kill women. It’s a defence that can only be described as victim-blaming taken to its most grotesque extreme. Here we have increasing numbers of men blaming women for the fatal violence committed against them, suggesting women can somehow consent to their own deaths (which is legally impossible) while claiming they themselves cannot be held responsible. It’s time the use of this defence stopped – for good.

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Teen magazines may be extinct, but their pernicious advice still lives online | Rachael Krishna

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 02:00
Social media is giving bad guidance to girls – and there’s still a reluctance to talk about women’s bodies or their pain

If there was anyone in need of clear information about the process of developing into a woman, it was my teenage self – raised by brothers and attending a faith-based school where discussions of sexual health were severely limited. Before social media the places where young people curious about their bodies and puberty could find information were few and far between. For people like me, teen magazines were the logical place to look for answers.

Magazines for teenagers existed long before the 1990s and 2000s, but there was a boom in titles during those two decades. Mizz was first published in 1985; Bliss followed 10 years later, and CosmoGirl arrived in 1999. Young people had more expendable income, and groups like the Spice Girls rose to prominence in an era that prized the idea of female empowerment. Young women had a plethora of titles we could purchase ourselves. Hidden behind covers displaying members of Blue and free samples of Impulse were headlines about periods, body hair and relationships, all promising honest information derived from real-life experience.

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Ne me touche pas… the shift in sex and power sweeping France

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 00:00

Since #MeToo, France’s notoriously liberal attitudes to sex and sexual power are under the microscope as never before

A few years ago I spent the weekend in a château deep in the rural Auvergne region of central France. Even more memorable than the crumbling property with its hectares of forest and decaying outbuildings, were the two elderly men to whom we were introduced when we arrived, who were enjoying an afternoon gin and tonic in the library. One – the father of my friend Guillaume – was Guillaume’s mother’s longtime lover until her recent death. The other was his mother’s husband and the owner of the château where Guillaume grew up. The two men had remained on excellent terms for 40 years.

The setup had all the ingredients of one of those lyrical French films starring Gérard Depardieu, replete with lavish interiors and rhapsodic landscapes looping through the changing seasons. It also ticked every box for lascivious British assumptions about the French, among whom infidelity, at least among the rich, powerful and famous, has long been something of a hallmark of a specifically French insouciance.

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In 1970, driven by chaos and energy, we felt like pioneers in female protest | Sheila Rowbotham

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 21:30

Fifty years since the start of the Women’s Liberation Movement, one of its founders reflects on its progress

On Friday 28 February 1970, around 500 women, many clutching sleeping bags and babies, arrived at Ruskin, the trade union college in Walton Street, Oxford, for the first national gathering of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I was part of a small ad hoc group that had helped organise the conference, though the heaviest weight had been borne by Sally Alexander and Arielle Aberson who were studying at Ruskin.

The mood was excited and chaotic and the introductory session that evening released an extraordinary surge of expressive energy. We didn’t know what would happen. Over the next two days, we had to overflow into the austere Oxford Union building to deliver formal debates. Until fairly recently, it had been a veritable male sanctuary. Indeed, when I became a student at St Hilda’s College in 1961, women weren’t even allowed to be members!

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More female cabinet ministers would benefit all women | Torsten Bell

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 20:03
Female representation makes a huge difference to the decisions taken

There was a lot of cabinet reshuffling recently but moving ministerial deckchairs didn’t have huge repercussions for the representation of women – the number went down from eight to seven, but their share of cabinet jobs went up as some posts got axed.

In fact, we’ve been stuck with at best 30% of the cabinet being women since that threshold was first reached in 2007. Does this matter? Yes, finds recent research into the effects of female representation on policymaking.

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Who said it – Trump or Bloomberg? Take our revealing quiz

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 04:00

Bloomberg is indisputably on the record saying things that make it clear he is simply a richer version of Trump

Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter​ on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday.

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'Diversity is now centre stage': Berlin film festival sets industry precedent

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 06:58

Event achieves gender parity among directors and executives but number of films directed by women falls slightly from 2019

The Berlin film festival has achieved gender parity in some of its most senior positions a year after signing a pledge that commits film festivals to improve representation in relation to diversity.

The Berlin festival, which opened on Thursday, is one of the major events to sign up to 5050x2020, which requires organisations to release information about the gender and race of their directors, members of selection committees and executive boards, and to record similar data about the directors, casts and crews of submitted films.

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Vulva masks and labia serums: the marketing of women’s genital shame

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 21:00

More and more ‘wellness’ companies are selling products that capitalise on women’s insecurities over their bodies. Now they are targeting the vulva

There is little to love about having a cold, damp vulva. Or so I discovered when I applied an “activated charcoal sheet mask” to mine. The product in question, Blackout, is by a “luxury vulva care” brand called Two L(i)ps. The company’s promotional material says it is “ready to disrupt and redefine the vulva space”. Before disrupting my own, however, I had to navigate the packaging. After slipping it from its peach-coloured pouch, you have to pull away a sheet of white “lace” to reveal its dark, sopping glory. “Dim the lights and relax as your skin is detoxified and clarified,” say the instructions on the box, which tell you to leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes, then pat the “remaining serum” on to the skin. Lying on the sofa, mortified by my own company, I last no more than six. Of all the mistakes I’ve made in my intimate life, looking down to see that sprawling blackness, its “lace” film lying sadly by my thigh, is definitely up there, so to speak.

I may be a cynic, but there is a hungry market for these products: Two L(i)ps boasts that 10,000 units of Blackout (£15.50 for a single mask, £66 for a set of five) were sold in the two and a half months after its launch. The brand has developed a range of “luxury vulva care” products including Pout, a “hydrating serum” made of 95% pure hyaluronic acid (£99 for 30ml), and Undercover (£99 for 30ml), an “anti-blemish cream” to “stay spotless”. The cream is made from the skin-whitening agent palmitoyl hexapeptide-36, and comes with the instruction to apply SPF30 sunscreen to the area the following day, no doubt with all that offering-our-naked-labia-to-the-sky sorcery us women get up to in mind.

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