WHEN: Monday, December 5th 2011, 7.30pm
WHERE: Sin E Bar, basement, Dublin 1
WHAT: RAG open meeting - all welcome
There will be a RAG open meeting on Monday, 7.30pm, 5th December. This facilitated discussion will look at the issue of sexism in the workplace. This event will take place in Sin É, on Ormond Quay, in the basement room.
RAG, Revolutionary Anarcha-feminist Group, are currently working on The Rag no.6 which will be out in March 2012. If you’d like to learn more about RAG, find out who we are and what we do come along. We are also looking for new members (women and women-identified). If you have any questions or comments you can get in touch ragdublin at gmail dot com. The discussion on Monday will be open to everyone - all genders!
The RAG is a magazine produced by a diverse group of anarcha-feminist women in Dublin. We are all feminists, united in our recognition that women’s subordination exists. We are all anarchists, united in our belief for the need to create alternatives to this capitalistic, patriarchal society wherein all are dominated and exploited.
RAG were sorry to hear of the recent death of Kate Swift, American feminist and activist. We were fortunate to interview this impressive woman in The Rag #3. We hope to post up the content of that interview very soon. Until then here is a link to two related articles:
Kate Swift - Tribute from The Womens Media Center
Dublin in Lockdown this lunch time:
Contrary to much reports of “normalisation” and “business as usual” Dublin city center has all the hallmarks of a mailitarised zone, with the level of policing and the restrictions of freedom of movement and personal integrity normally associated with Summit mobilisations and proper police state.
People are being forced to submit to bag and personal body searches, as well as stopped for being walking freely across the city with most police officers unable to give minimal information never mind stand under what legislation people are being stopped.
Along Abbey street and most of its fedders streets people are being coralled through metal cages and having their personal possession searched, asked where they are going and all without the slightest reference to the law
Its a situation that has seen many people unable to get back to work after lunch
For more by soundmigration check out: http://soundmigration.wordpress.com
Alex Brew was invited to discuss one of her photography projects -Asking For It- at a panel discussion set up by the founder of Filament magazine - a magazine aimed at women who want to look at men erotically. Below is a transcript of her talk which was given at the Feminist Library in south London. Since working on this project she has been involved in activism, putting on a show of work by artists dealing with masculinity at an artist-led space called Arts in Camberwell and at Kings College London, putting on screenings of feminist art films in RampARTs and Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club and most recently giving a non-academic viewpoint on the sexualisation of culture at the academic seminar series ‘Pornified?’.
When Suraya Sidhu Singh, the founder and editor of Filament, asked me to be on this panel for women who photograph men – one of the questions she asked is what led you to photograph men as erotic subjects? Another question was why don’t more women photograph men erotically? This talk attempts to address those questions.
I think it’s up for debate whether these subjects are erotic! My photos have never been published in Filament and I think that says a lot. I think that might be because I’m not splitting off the erotic from the context we’re living in and the context just isn’t that sexy. The project is an exploration of consent and female sexual agency in a context of sexual violence and skewed power dynamics between the sexes. This project was about exploring why it’s difficult to eroticise men.
If I’m eroticising men and I’m not taking into account women’s anger, resentment or the sexual context we live in then what I’m saying would seem vacant and removed from reality. Like someone living in LaLaLand. Let’s not forget that we’re living in a culture where 1 in 10 women is raped according to home office stats and much higher rates according to rape charities. 1 in 4 experience sexual violence with an intimate partner worldwide according to World Health Organisation and 1 in 4 women is a victim of domestic violence in this country (according to Refuge and women’s aid). 40% of young people know girls whose boyfriend have coerced or pressurised them into sex (charity: EVAW)
I need to take into account that most women aren’t in the queer scene where gender is picked apart and more chosen and whether you’re top, bottom or versatile isn’t based on your gender or butch/femmeness. Most women aren’t in the kink scenes where consent is made a bit more explicit and power is openly admitted and negotiated – in theory at least. Those are relatively privileged scenes when it comes to female, trans and other desire being explored. I also need to recognise that the dominant culture shapes us and there needs to be enormous effort in order to move away from that.
I approached men in public spaces often in London’s square mile (a cite of financial and sexual power – there are lots of banks and strip clubs) and occasionally in Liverpool – near where my family lives and where I grew up. I approached them outside gentlemen’s venues, pubs, offices and cafes. I approached them confrontationally with my camera – in that I didn’t initially ask permission and I was trying not to be appeasing. I then negotiated with them into a more private space – back at mine, his or a car park or alleyway.
This was a way of negotiating his own objectification with him. I was mostly choosing white men in their 30s and 40s – when power dynamics are most heavily skewed in their favour in a sexist, racist, ageist society.
I took notes and sound recordings. Here are a few: “I follow my fear into situations of potential male violence and disapproval, situations where passivity, acquiescence and submission feel more appealing than taking control.” And “He follows me into a nearby alley. I pop the question: take your shirt off for me? I’m kneeling his crotch too close for focus as he approaches and says no.” “I’m interested in these men noticing me, taking and interest. Then possibly scorning, sneering, attacking, hating me. Because of the challenge. Because I’m not playing ball. Sometimes they respect me or like me for it.”
In 1984 in her book Feminist Theory from Margin to Center, bell hooks wrote: “though labelled heterosexual many women in this society feel little sexual desire for men because the politics of sexual oppression and male domination destroys and perverts that desire.”
In an article in the Guardian a couple of years ago Germaine Greer suggests why women don’t objectify men. She gives only one reason why female artists don’t put other people’s flesh in their work: “That the use of the nude is necessarily exploitative, and therefore the female artist who need to use a body has no option but to use her own.” Noble indeed but our collective female conscience fails to kick in when we ‘exploit’ other women, children and male adolescents.
Think of Vanessa Beecroft’s rows of nubile naked young women with closely cropped pubic hair wearing only heels and red wigs. Tierney Gearon who was willing to come under criticism for photographing her pre-pubescent children naked, wearing masks or spread out on the floor in poses we associate with the female sexualised body. When women want to sexualise, objectify and explore their own sexuality – of late – they’re more comfortable with adolescents or children. The occasions when grown men are photographed we tend to see it done in adoration. Collier Schorr’s wrestlers bring to mind the girlfriend watching adoringly as her boyfriend shows off his physical prowess. It’s doing little to change the power dynamics. Rineke Dikestra’s bull fighters have a similar feel. So basically what I’m saying is women aren’t objectifying grown men because of the skewed power dynamics in our culture. Not because of some moral superiority.
So what happens if I leave the realm of object as these women have but this time focus on grown men and leave the relative safety of the studio and am neither deferential nor performing a service. This was the experiment with myself.
I wanted to explore desire in a context of oppression. I wanted to do something close to the sticky relationships between men and women. My project is like documentary photography except I’m intervening. But unlike most studio photography eroticising men, there’s no paid model, no money exchanged, no studio. I’m using an amateur-looking camera, there are no big lights, zooms or flashes and I’m not an established artist or professional. I hoped that would take me out of the realm of professional (with its different male/female dynamics) and into the realm of a personal interaction (with the kink of the camera). After all our negotiations for sexual agency with men are not so easy as with a paid model. And so I didn’t give myself the safety net of someone keeping watch around the corner. When I was in an alleyway with a man or two men I only had myself to rely on. My body was on the line.
So what did I discover through the project? I didn’t feel I was able to successfully objectify men in this context. Partly due to their attitudes and partly my expectations of their invulnerability and my vulnerability and partly due to my fear. I’ve lived my fair share of risky behaviours with no violent repercussions but this was something else. And it was not only my fear it was family and friends.
I integrated this exploration of fear and power into the project. It became less about eroticising men and more about the dynamics that made it nearly impossible. I moved away from approaching acquaintances and moved towards approaching men directly on the street. I’d often walk the street for days without taking a picture.
The other discovery was that this was a transforming process. But what was I becoming? (And I wonder whether this transformation is something that curbs women’s interest in photographing men erotically.) There was a shifting power dynamic. I was becoming the user, the aggressor, the pornographer, the voyeur. Since giving talks about this project I’ve been told I talk about the process ‘like a man’. I’ve been seen to be confrontational (and I viewed myself as such). Artist Alexis Hunter in the International Journal of Feminist Politics writes: “Laid bare in Brew’s project are layers of aggression and vulnerability, posturing and honesty – exposing further layers of power and fragility.” Was she talking about him or me? I was becoming him. He was becoming me.
Some of the men I photographed asked me if their bodies were ok. They were conscious of their weight, of their body hair. They asked for my approval. I was seen as crazy. Sometimes I was seen as a conquest (men asked if I wanted ‘anything else’). I was a private detective or a sex worker. At one point in the project I was standing around one area – close to where I lived - for weeks, approaching men then going back to mine with them for half an hour before returning to my position.
So just to sum up I think there are various reasons why women aren’t wanting to photograph men. Partly it’s accepting a shift in power dynamics, partly it’s the context of sexual violence and skewed power dynamics that the vast majority of people live with. Partly it’s ambivalence about stepping over into his territory – you become him, he becomes you. Other reasons: The commodification of bodies. Making them saleable. Photographing them is the ultimate in making the body ie some other human being - into a commodity. Then the resulting image is just a 2-D representation. You’re distant from it. You can fantasise over it and it conjures something up – it conjures up the fantasy of a person – but not to such an extent that the person impacts on your own getting off.
Then if you’re like me and pretty into feminism there’s the question of the anti-porn or sex-positive debates which are so polaried (even though if you read it neither side is actually saying that the mainstream context of sex wer’re in is positive!)
The sex-positive feminist Carol Queen for example writes in her book ‘Real Live Nude Girl’: “Hearing the words ‘sex-positive’ made me realize I’d grown up in a fundamentally sex-negative world. Even the so-called sexual revolution hadn’t knocked out the old guns: religious morality, legal sanctions, threadbare sex education or none at all, the ‘war between the sexes’. Erotophobia fed on itself, generation after generation, continually reproducing conditions of fear, shame and danger. This has not truly changed.”
And then I think there’s a general resistance to sex. Maybe we want men to be turned off for a bit. Really collectively turned off and to just see what life’s like. Men’s desire is so well-fed, over-fed. As women most of us have experienced being on the wrong side of unwanted desire: body-scanned, approached, threatened when we say no thanks. Everything is sexual – the grotesque, the angry, the undesirous, the non-consensual.
It can feel relentless so that almost any invitation, flirtation or look by a man is perceived as invasive, even sexist. Which is a shame for men and for bi, hetero, and other queer women who sleep with or might want to sleep with men. But that’s the nature of power imbalance. It IS a shame.
Sarah Jones in a rap mixed by DJ Vadim says: “The revolution will not happen between these thighs” which is a nod to Gil Scott-Heron’s album ‘The revolution will not be televised’. Saying yes to sex in this culture, it’s the place of least resistance. We’re expected to have sex. We’re expected to want it. It’s not the 50s anymore where the sexually adventurous really were adventurers: breaking society’s taboos. Nowadays you have to at least look like you’re always on for it sexy wanted. Nowadays being tame and following society’s rules IS being sexual and sexy. If you don’t do IT (and it is heterosexual sex) you’re looked down on. You’re abject. You’re not fully grown up. You have issues. You’re a lesbian. You’re a mummy’s girl. You’re uptight - as we saw in the film Black Swan earlier this year. I say yes embrace all those things they’re slyly telling you not to be. That IS adventuring.
Porn, the sex industry, sex shops and the wider society, adverts etc set sex up as being edgy, only for bad girls, for non-conformists. But the dominant model for hetero sex in porn is about the woman being looked at, and then fucked by a guy. It’s about the woman being up for doing everything in his fantasy. He’s in control. So how come taking part in some guy’s fantasy is what we deem to be ‘adventurous’ or ‘rebellious’. Isn’t that just obedience? I reckon the place of resistance and rebellion is wondering about that, intervening in it and well and truly messing with it. Not because fantasies in themselves are a bad thing or because submitting to someone else’s fantasy isn’t a turn on – of course it is - but because his fantasy is a broken record and it’s just blaring way too loud.
So if you insist on doing IT then at least mess with his worldview. Then I’ll believe you really are a bad girl.
She still has 20 copies of her zine At Sea With Sexists left if you want to buy any
you can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
The GDDD were an organization of women in Italy from 1943-45. They were the largest group of active anti fascist women at the time. At their height they had around 70,000 members and comprised of women from every walk of life, from previously unpoliticised housewives to lifelong radical activists. Some of the work they did included organizing strikes, armed resistance, setting up after school hot meals for children, providing clothing and shoes to low income families, stealing coal and bread and handing it out to those in need, Robinhood style :)
Unlike some anti fascists at the time, the GDDD did not long for the Italy before fascism, as these women had lived in that world and experienced a culture based on patriarchy and women’s subjugation. Instead, the women of the GDDD longed for a new world which at it’s core practiced real equality for everyone.
Unfortunately these women, of which 35,000 died in defence of their beliefs, were written out of history by the very patriarchal systems which they opposed. Many of the GDDD male colleagues held, and exercised, the power to minimise women’s voices in the political realm.
Ada Gobetti, a former member of the GDDD, on the 8th March 1951, International Women’s Day:
"War is not inevitable. If women knew how to unite, as they knew how to unite in the battle for liberation, rising above any social, religious or political difference, to fight together against destruction and massacre and to work together in an industrious harmony, the face of the earth could well be changed. This is the call of the 8March: above any differences all unite to save the peace. May the gentle twig of mimosa the colour of the sun that will adorn the streets and the houses of Italy in these days remind women - and not only women - of this fundamental responsibility."
“It is not only by shooting bullets in the battlefields that tyranny
is overthrown, but also by hurling ideas of redemption, words
of freedom and terrible anathemas against the hangmen that
people bring down dictators and empires …”
– Emiliano Zapata, Mexican revolutionary, 1914
On this day in …
… 1912, hours after colliding with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, the brand-new luxury cruise ship Titanic sank in the waters off Newfoundland.
(credit for photo of iceberg believed involved)
Soon after the collision the Titanic crew “were putting the women off in boats” in order that they might be rescued by other ships. In the end, 1,517 of the 2,223 persons aboard perished.
*taken from http://intlawgrrls.blogspot.com/
-Could you briefly outline the work Lashback does?
Lash Back is a community-based grassroots activist group who focus on feminist and social justice issues. We do this through producing a magazine (the next issue will be published in early summer) and facilitating discussion groups and public events. I’m responding in a personal capacity here as I can’t reflect the views of all of the collective, but hopefully they wouldn’t disagree too much with me!
-How does the Lashback Respond the events on Thursday 31st
May, when a Guardi laughed about using rape as a weapon to gain
information about protesters, and were subsequently recorded by the
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any real sense of surprise on my behalf that this kind of banter could go on in a car full of male Gardai but it was very shocking and confronting to hear it first hand. What is frightening is that these people and their colleagues are the first response point within the criminal justice system for those who want to report sexual and domestic violence. This incident and others like it could further deter people from prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence. It serves as a frightening reminder of the incompetence of the Gardai and our criminal justice system to respond to gender based violence in general. To add a caveat though, I know from my own work that there are a number of Gardaí who are supportive, caring and take the issue of sexual violence very seriously. This being anything but the majority of Gardaí is not good enough though.
-What sort of repercussions, do you feel, would be just in response to
The nature of their comments and what it indicates about their belief systems raises questions about their capacity to execute their duties in a fair manner, or to be effective in supporting victims of sexual violence when that is part of their job. Making those jokes in the line of duty will have repercussions I’m sure but I can’t really predict what the disciplinary implications will be for the individual Gardaí. It’s dangerous to go down the ‘ah sure it’s just a few bad apples/it was a private joke’ route though. It’s dangerous when you have those views and the power and responsibility that the Gardai have. There’s been considerable work done by the Gardai themselves and various voluntary/ngo’s to raise awareness within the Gardai about gendered violence and things that affect other minority groups. I hope this work continues and that in generations to come, by whatever means work, the Gardaí become more diverse and open force.
-What is your opinion about RTE refusing to air the footage
despite having it for over a day?
The interdependency of mainstream media and the Gardaí means that there often is delays on reporting on things that make Gardaí look bad. It’s a questionable judgment on the part of RTE about their priorities but perhaps it is linked to that dependency they have on the Gardaí for information for their news stories and not wanting to jeopardize those links.
-There is a fear that this event will be isolated and trivialized, how do you feel about this? I hope, if there’s a silver lining for this ugly story, that it will highlight the institutionalized trivialization of sexual and domestic violence within the Gardaí and in society in general. Fewer rape jokes for all!! It would be great if, at a structural level it would influence decisions around deployment of resources, for example the implementation of on-going training for all members of the Gardaí on responding to domestic and sexual violence, that’s a high hope.