Friday, April 23, 2010

Trip Anthem + New Skillz = we're new dorks...

F*cking While Feminst

FEMALE - biz card project for MA

So, as you may have gathered from previous post, still in US. Luckily, we have met so many interesting people there's always lots to keep us amused should we find ourselves bored in NY?!

Last night we went to an event at Barnard College, this is a part of Columbia University, the campus is wow, so grand all the neo-classical erections and wot not, but that said, size and grandeur isn't everything and I like Virginia Woolf's ideas about universities in 'A Room of One's Own' that they need not be so grand and imposing and full of themselves and that the learning is more important than however many slabs of granite and however many years of secret handshakes and society traditions *cough-Oxbridge-cough* so, moving on. The event was a workshop called 'F*cking While Feminist' by a most inspirational young feminist called Shelby Knox whom we'd been lucky enough to meet twice before on this trip.

This was a real eye opener for me, everyone that participated in sharing their observations about sex in general and also their own personal experiences were eloquent, open and respectful of one another. Ideas of feminist sex positivity, which I've always considered to mean that as a feminist you can be a woman with a pulse and desires and not just the stereotype of a craggy old spinster in dungarees yelling that all sex is subjugation and by extension rape, although it's an option taken up by some who spoil the term for the rest of us subservient lot with libidos; I suppose a good analogy is the stereotype of a religious fundamentalist who spoils the image of any religion for those who just have faith and get on with it. [Disclaimer: for the record it's an analogy, I am NOT espousing feminism as a religion.] But from this came other definitions of sex-positive; being open/respectful to all notions of gender and sexual experience; consensual, enjoyable sex where all parties are concerned about each other's fulfillment etc.

The way we express ourselves and the ways in which female sexuality is described and subsequently understood, came under fire quite a bit and it became even more apparent to me than previously that what we understand about sex, our bodies and our (shock horror sexual desires) as women are often abandoned by language, and yet it is communication that would make all of the difference. For women the other major problem, as one girl put it, is that sex is presented to women as about appearing sexy rather than feeling sexy. If all we ever do is contort ourselves so that we look slim and alluring and only our best 'side' is on display then no-one's ever going to get off. Sex is quite silly at times and yet it is used over and over in all manner of media as dead serious and mystical and blah blah blah.

To hear so many down to earth takes on the subject was interesting but there were also troubling things. One girl said that her sex education at school was thus: each girl was given one fresh glass of water and one glass of water with an oreo cookie crumbled into it. They were asked which one they would want to drink from and which one they thought would be appropriate to give to their husband. End of class! Outrageous. In the next room the boys we being told what sex was and how it worked. So, one might wonder, who were the girls these boys were supposed to be having sex with after acquiring this new found knowledge.

There were lots of stories about shame and feeling like they were wrong because they'd had sex young and then Shelby asked me to mention whether my experience with pressures and education was any different from a European perspective and I said that our sex education was fairly adequate but that at my secondary school the pressure was to have sex young, to want to hang onto your virginity was social suicide, to ditch it was a talking point and a trophy. This is as sad as treasuring it beyond all reason. It is not the most valuable or significant thing about anyone. There are lots of first times for all sorts of things sexual and otherwise.

This innovative approach where women have the freedom to discuss their experiences and concerns is real education, younger girls should be privy to panels such as this and be able to voice their confusion or ideas around sex. Sex education isn't just about mechanics and fear, it should be about pleasure too and about how to feel entitled to it without feeling like some hormonally charged slapper! Also very importantly the freedom not to have sex in our sex-saturated (sorry bad image) culture, opting out is as much of an option as opting in, it's about choice y'all after all.

Act of God - sorry, what?

Smoke Landscape HDR, originally uploaded by hugeknot.

Well, where to start? Had a very eventful few days and in hindsight it will all be very amusing...

So, a volcano erupts in Iceland and some flights are disrupted, we didn't think it would last long enough to effect our eagerly anticipated journey home (it's been amazing in the US these last months, but we both got cats we miss!) we were mega-wrong with bells on.

Then, in the early hours of Sunday morning we were still up working and the water tank above our bedrooms bursts and water gushed into Sarah's room and the kitchen, the guy who put us up in a converted garage in JC was un-contactable, not sure what we expected really, but that's another story, which will also be funny one day (well actually it's funny now but that's another story even)... So we called the Fire Dept which was quite exciting, by the time they arrived we were actually flooded and the kitchen and Sarah's room were under 2" of water and it was spreading throughout pretty quick. To stop it all we needed to do was shut off the stop-cock but we'd never been told where it was and in our defense it can't have been in an obvious place since the FD guys couldn't find it for ages either! God knows what they made of our space with some of our paraphernalia, Sarah had been doing a project with some rubber breasts which were hanging on the wall, and we have two cat a New Jersey...

The next day our flight got canceled, we had no hot water, no kitchen and only one bedroom - the guy next door was really nice, he made us cappucinos and he had four cats (four!) so that cheered us up. Cue the next couple of days on and off on hold to Virgin Atlantic (seriously we were cut off so often being on hold for two hours at a time was something to celebrate) and the British Consulate in New York trying to make sure we didn't end up being detained for being illegal in the US, deportation would have been fine had it been possible! We were told initially that our earliest flight home would be the 1st of May!!! We persevered on hold the next day and brought it forward to the 26th. Luckily we were flying with Virgin so we have somewhere to stay that only has water in appropriate places like the sink, in Manhattan, which is lucky as even if we'd been welcome to stay where we were, it would have been as bleak and dank as a skanky flooded garage in New Jersey...

The staff at Virgin were a delight, maybe it had something to do with being so happy to speak to a human after listening to their automated toff going on about how great flying with Virgin is for soooo long, but considering they were probably dealing all day with people like the unhinged harpy I turned into when speaking to my travel insurance company, that makes them even nicer. The galling thing was that Virgin Holidays office is right near where I live, these people were literally a four minute walk from my cats...the audacity... I'm ashamed to say, my dealing with the travel insurance company was not so pleasant. I called the shareholders something not nice and rather loudly enquired of the poor woman on the other end of my Skype connection, why anyone ever bloody well bothers to buy any insurance at all. I'd searched the policy for the phrase 'Act of God' and it wasn't there so thought it would be ok, my mum wonders what Richard Dwarkins would have made of that in the same circumstances 'well, I'm an atheist and that won't wash with me, so cough up you despicable bunch of rip-off merchants' (that's how I imagine he'd phrase it). But in clause A.1.49.5 there was some toss about any delay as the direct or indirect(?) result of an order from any government about anything. At all. !@£$%^&*(?

Anyway, got a bit of holiday time at the end of this trip and are free from the bizarre damp studio set-up and it's affiliates, so all being well, home on Monday. Being an atheist like the aforementioned Professor Dwarkins all I can do is cross my fingers to aid this eventuality!! But maybe being such an infidel is a contributing factor since apparently it is immodest women and the godless that cause natural disasters, I do have a couple of low cut tops (lawks!) and I'm utterly faithless, whoops...check this out naughty women = earthquakes ...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Last NYC Zine Unless Icelandic Volcano keeps us here forever!!

Click images to see detail

Read the original here on Google books (begins page 101 of The Yellow Wallpaper & Other Stories)

NY ZIne FYI #3 Feminist Sweepstakes

Click on images to see detail.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I am very much enamoured with the work of Canadian artist/designer Marian Bantjes, I first saw her work in Varoom the illustration journal about a year ago and have been hooked ever since. I love her work, partly because it's often very pattern based which is something which is very important in my own work, also I fall down the gap between designer and artist myself and it was heartening to see someone who so successfully weaves the two so beautifully together and has no trouble with being difficult to pigeon-hole.

I was totally excited to see that she's written and designed a book which can only be described as a luxury feast for the eyes (and I've only seen excerpts on her website I scooted straight to Amazon to pre-order my I have to wait till October for it but it'll be worth it I'm sure.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Identity Politics, John Ruskin & ladies in their (very) smalls.

I was doing some notemaking and writing for my feminist zinework and stumbled upon a thought, it's probably not highly original, but it's a good analogy. Anyway, I was thinking about identity politics and how the term is used disparagingly to describe the 'frivolous' concerns of feminists who choose to consider representation as an important issue as opposed to activism in other areas. And I was thinking that, in a visual culture, where much of what we perceive of our roles in the world and of things other than our own direct experience is through the media, digital and all manner of coma inducing flickering screens and magazines that are as so far from smart they're, well, far away, the representation of adult women to young women is a very important issue. The iconic/ubiquitous/replicated images of women in the public domain have potency. Especially when these images are disseminating very narrow visions of what women might be, and also very importantly where women might be. To overtly sexualize representations of women, even out in broad daylight (for an immediate example Victoria's Secret ads above the store on Broadway or almost any magazine stand er anywhere), is to relegate them to the private sphere, the bedroom, to continue to propagate the Victorian notion that male=public & female=the home, albeit in a slightly different way to the likes of John Ruskin and his ilk, too much ankle for his lot I think, although he'd probably have given the practice of Brazilian waxing the thumbs up.

Anyway, the analogy I mentioned above: Have you ever been told, that to lessen the feelings of fear when giving a presentation one might try imagining the audience in their underwear as this serves to make them seem less intimidating, more comical, more vulnerable to you invulnerable clothedness? Let’s think about that for a moment…How often do we see images, in public, on the internet etc. of women in their underwear (or less)? That’s right all the time. Is this a coincidence? Probably not so much. So, as I said it's not the most ground-breaking thing, but sometimes I think it helps to be able to succinctly express why things are troubling, it stops one sounding like the Le Tigre track '
They want to make a symphony out of the sound of women swallowing their own tongues' when asked the question what's the problem? Why are you a feminist? err and um, and there's.... and um, and there's.... (can't disabled blinking italics).