The Feminist Book Club gets discussed in the Book Club Review podcast

Founder Michelle and member Claire discuss the origins and growth of the Book Club with the Book Club Review podcast. You can listen at 19.45 mins here:


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The feminist book club joins national debate on burlesque

The book club was contacted by final year film student Michaela Roy to discuss burlesque and feminism. Michelle agreed to take part in the documentary, discussing her view of middle class validation of burlesque as an empowering performance for women. The original article is here

The documentary is an interesting look at burlesque as experienced by performers, though both Michaela and Michelle lamented the lack of diversity in performers in the UK.

Thank you to everyone that took part and we’d love to know what you think.
Watch the documentary here

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Reading List- reblogged from KCL fem soc blog

Absolutely wonderful Reading List. Includes introductory articles on feminism and has books on difference themes including sex work, intersectionality, trans and so on. Read it!


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What feminism is and what feminism isn’t?



Please read this article for the discussion on feminism between Wolf and Wyld.


by | January 26, 2014 · 11:24 am

I need feminism because

We started the ‘I need feminism because’ campaign at my school with 23 budding feminists. It was a really great atmosphere and I am really proud of the students that took part. I can’t post their pics up here but thought i’d start with my own and hopefully it will inspire some of you.

Michelle M

The Cherry Tree

I need feminism because

…. it makes me feel less rubbish about not being a size ten.
… makes me question the world more.
… frees me from the bullshit of having to look, act and talk a certain way because i have ovaries.
…..i believe all women should be valued by their contribution to the world, not because of their looks.
…..not all men are aggressive, loud and macho, nor are all women delicate, talkative and weak.
…..i want to live in a society where women are not afraid to walk home alone late at night.
….. all women need to have equal and safe access to contraception and abortion.
…..i want there to be more female scientists, mathematicians and bricklayers.
…..i want to be paid the same amount as a man.

…..i believe we are all part of the solution.

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Should FGM be classified as ‘sexual abuse’?

Michelle Mangal

This morning I was listening to radio 4 and heard that there are recommendations that female genital mutilation should be classified as sexual abuse and that medical staff would have to report it as such. This announcement filled me with frustration for several reasons:

a) It is currently very fashionable to campaign against FGM, especially in certain ‘women’s rights’ circles and here was further evidence of this fashion.
b) Does our government think that prosecuting individuals that may have been forced to make their daughters to have this procedure help with this issue?
Let us be clear, I do not agree with FGM. I do not agree with parents taking their daughters abroad to have this procedure done and am aware of the terrible physical complications that can arise from having this procedure done. However, I feel that the men and women who enable FGM to happen to their daughters are pinioned by a culture that says a woman’s virtue is defined by what is between her legs. There are much bigger issues here, and ones I feel that the criminalisation of FGM will ignore. The main issue being of being a woman living within a sexist society with little power and control. 
We already know that making something illegal, does not make it go away. I believe criminalising FGM will not help to eradicate the practice, but potentially send it further underground. As the procedure happens to girls of Middle eastern, African, Arabic and Islamic descent, we will be disproportionately punishing those parents for ‘sexual abuse’ or potentially depriving children of their parents;and also add to the myths of those cultures and their ‘barbaric practices’.
The report recommends that health workers identify girls at risk and treat them as if they were at risk of child abuse. 
Girls at risk are defined as girls born to a woman who has undergone FGM or a child who lives closely with someone who has.
This statement is very judgmental, do we judge the children of alcoholics or drug addicts that have been sober for 15 years as at risk? Should we? I disagree with the infatuation that certain individuals have with this particular issue whilst ignoring the sexual abuse, rape and violence to women and children that happens within their own communities.
FGM happens within a cultural context, just as cosmetic vaginal reshaping does. We cannot ignore the cultural context and so I believe that if the government choses to criminalise and reclassify FGM as sexual abuse then they also have a further duty to commit to education and training for representatives that work in sexual health,  and in particular with immigrant communities.
The comments below from the Guardian comments section, sum up my thoughts:
 “Just because FGM affects mostly black or minority ethnic women does not make it the responsibility of white people to eradicate it. The fact that FGM affects mostly black or minority ethnic females is a reflection of their lack of access to education and the power of local beliefs, religion and superstitions”.
“I believe that the solution needs to be led by women within their communities, with the support of the authorities”.
I have deliberately left out arguments on human rights because I believe this is just one aspect of the issue. Yes it is a European/ American human right to prevent harm to children but to what degree can we enforce this abroad? Also this piece is about a British response to FGM within the UK or happening to British children.
What do you think?


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10 Radical Art Projects That Celebrate Women’s Bodies

MM- after years of being brain-washed about how we should look, this is a refreshing take on women, beauty and the female body. We like.


We’ve known for a while that Barbie’s body is impossibly petite. Her slender figure and absurdly small waist don’t leave enough room for her internal organs, and her tiny ankles and feet would actually force her to move around on all fours. Still, the Mattel icon remains a standard of beauty for many young girls — sometimes with damaging results. When we spotted an art project inspired by Barbie’s cruel measurements, which we feature past the break, we felt compelled to round up other artworks that challenge the status quo surrounding female body image. Some of these works confront and criticize the twisted ideologies, while others show solidarity in the struggle for more body-positive representations of women.

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The Handmaid’s Tale

Michelle Mangal

Tonight we discussed a book by one of my favourite authors, Margaret Atwood. The book was The Handmaid’s Tale, and re-reading it thirteen years later has not changed my opinion that this is a fantastic read.

This is a story about women, about their roles in society both now, in the past and in the future. Offred is the protangonist and she tells her story slowly, and in snatches as if painfully remembering her past, whilst attempting to reconcile her existence in the ultimate patriarchal society.

We learn women in Gildean society are split into several groups-the-handmaids-tale

Wives, the wives of powerful army leaders
Handmaids, the women who bear children for the Wives
Econowives, women who have been allocated to be the wives of poor men
Marthas, housekeepers for the Wives
Aunts, moral trainers and indoctrinators of the handmaid’s
Unwomen, women who cannot conceive or have been deported to the colonies.

There is also an underground set of women that work in a black market club, Jezebels.

Women are used to police and control each other in a society created by men, and the women in it have little agency or autonomy.

Atwood draws you in with Offred’s remembrances of her life in the state of Gilead before becoming a handmaid; a life that is remarkably similar to our lives now. She went to university, she had a child and partner, she was able to walk down the street and leave her state. In comparison, her life as  a handmaid allocated to a Commander and his wife, is restrictive to say the least. Her whole  function is to reproduce, without serving this function she will die in the toxic colonies. As the reader, I  really wanted to know how this possibly could have happened in a society so similar to our own. So you keep reading Offred’s account, which is full of rich detail about her mundane, daily life and slowly, it is revealed how women’s right’s disappeared virtually over night. Atwood paints Offred as a sensualist, she enjoys the feel of air and water on her skin; the scent and sight of flowers and freshly baked bread or of Nick sweating as he cleans the Commanders car. Or maybe she enjoys these things because all other pleasure’s have been denied to her.

Women’s reproductive function is of utmost importance in Atwood’s Giledean world, yet this it is controlled with a set of rules and regulations for who can procreate and how. This is explained because of low population levels, however, more tellingly, there is religious justification for the reproductive control of women and religious language and imagery permeates the book throughout. The references to Angels; the justification for the different sexual appetites of men and women ‘ God made them that way but He did not make you that way…Its up to you to set the boundaries. Later you will be thanked’ ; and the white and blue uniforms of the Wives, in comparison to the red of the Handmaids. This is a new form of conservative Christianity where priests are hung, along with those accused of ‘gender treachery’.
In one chapter, there is a description of the fate of doctors that perform abortions; drawing a link with contemporary America and the Christian right’s attack on abortion clinics and those that work in these places. It is these links with our present that makes this tale so chilling and yet so realistic.

We recognise the methods of control and the justifications given for them.

The Handmaid’s Tale was written in 1985 whilst Atwood was living in Berlin, before the fall of the wall. Both America and the UK had elected conservative governments and there was an increase in Christian fundamentalism in the US. There were fears that the gains won by 1970s feminism could be undone. The Handmaid’s Tale was  not intended as critique of women in Islamic states, however to what degree are there contemporary parallels with the religious justification of the removal of women’s rights in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries?

This is an essential feminist read but also an excellent read for those who wonder why we need feminism today. Atwood in her own words:

‘I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist. The group-activated hangings, the tearing apart of human beings, the clothing specific to castes and classes, the forced childbearing and the appropriation of the results, the children stolen by regimes and placed for upbringing with high-ranking officials, the forbidding of literacy, the denial of property rights: all had precedents, and many were to be found not in other cultures and religions, but within western society, and within the “Christian” tradition, itself.’

Some may read The Handmaid’s Tale as a story of the resilience of women. Offred mentally attempts to keep her own identity even though her name, child, family, money and education have all been stripped of her.  There is a secret society of women that pass information to each other. Throughout all her harrowing experiences and uncertain end, she remains in my mind as a whole, sensual woman.

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by | July 6, 2013 · 10:18 am

How I Became A Feminist

Claire Butler

When friends visit my family home on the set of TOWIE they can’t help but marvel at the strange orange inhabitants; stick-thin women teetering along in skyscraper heels, all coiffed hair and jiggling boobs, and groomed men proudly displaying the contours of their honed muscles in tight £2,000 shirts. More uneasy than amused, I watch these Kens and Barbies and remember my confusing adolescence spent in this anti-intellectual, sexualised culture, where living up to a 1950s stereotype was a cause for celebration.

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New Star Trek movie trailer shows a dark future for women

Star Trek: where are all the women?

Did Star Trek just destroy its tradition of featuring brainy women who do stuff?

I’m massively excited about the new Star Trek film! I’ve just watched the trailer! It’s called Star Trek: Into Darkness. Ooooo. There’s spaceships and exploding buildings and loads of TENSION!

But oh crap: the new trailer hardly features any women. There’s Kirk and Spock looking TENSE and dropping a lot of rhetorical statements and DOING STUFF. There’s a mini-UN boardroom table surrounded by blokes. There’s a baddie with a big collar and he’s charged with ANGER. And there’s one female character who speaks (three words) and another who’s silent and in her pants.

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