A day of emPOWerment for women.
I don’t really like many people
I hate doing anything pointless that uses up my time and energy. (I seriously do not have enough hours in the day as it is)
So, when I do go anywhere, I make sure that it counts, and I can honestly tell you that my day out yesterday was nothing short of epic. I was supposed to go for a weekend of team building and love with my FiLiA family but turned this down to take part in a POW! Thanet event called A safe place – A response to Virgin territory (we will come back to that) I was contacted and asked if I would be part of a panel that will speak about what is happening in the local community to keep girls and women safe. As a feminist (yep, I am one now …. but I still shave my armpits) I decided that this was something I had to be part of.
So, what Is POW? POW! Thanet is a festival of Arts and Culture celebrating and exploring issues around Feminism, Women and Girls POW! Thanet was founded by local freelance arts manager, Christina Clark-McQuaid in November 2015. POW! is held annually over a 7-9-day period to co-incide with International Women’s Day. Their mission statement is simply this:
The promotion of equality and diversity for the public benefit by: –
Promoting and staging an annual arts festival to commemorate International Women’s Day.
Cultivating a sentiment in favour of equality and diversity of women and girls.
Advancing education and raising general awareness among the public about the issues and challenges facing the lives of women and girls.
That sounds like a bit of me to be fair.
I rocked up to the Turner Contemporary Gallery (you can follow them on Twitter and everything Here) in Margate where the event was taking place and people started introducing themselves and explain how the afternoon would unfold. We were going to start with a film around exploitation of women and then each organisation would have a table and people would move to each table and speak about what work we are doing for girls and women. Imagine speed dating but you spend 10 minutes talking about a of abolition of prostitution and how females are used within gangs…and you get the picture. When the 10 minutes is up…you move on.
I’m gonna be honest…. I felt out of my depth. There were some amazing organisations there and I was not sure what I was brining to the table. Plus, the lady who had made the film, Charlotte Vincent, I was sure she was going to be posh and upset when I started playing grime on my table to show an example of how sexualisation of women is becoming normalised and glamorised for our young people.
How wrong was I.
Deborah Cartwright, the CEO of Oasis, who do lots of work in the community around domestic violence opened the event and introduced Charlotte Vincent. You can follow Charlotte on Twitter here. Charlotte explained about Virgin territory and why it was made. I wont even try and explain it in the way she did… Here is a link to the Film…have a look for yourself…But TRIGGER WARNING…it can make for some uncomfortable viewing. We were shown a clip of a women being pushed around by two men. It is shown with 4 screens and each screen played a different screen. The second clip we were shown made me feel…. I don’t know the word I am looking for… overwhelmed maybe. I won’t tell you about it but when you see it you will know why. It is of a man dressed in a girl’s dress and he has a mask on of a girl’s twisted and distorted face.
The clip finished and Charlotte started speaking. So first…she is not posh…second…she likes to swear and call people out for failing women and girls. As you can guess…I was in love. She spoke about how cat calling is almost normalised and how if blokes in the street shout sexualised comments at a women they are likely to put their heads down and walk faster rather than turn around and say “Actually, Fuck of mate, How about that” (These were Charlottes actual words). She explained that some of the talking in the film were extracts from girls aged as young as 15 and their daily experiences of men treating them like a piece of meat.
It was then time for speed dating! Charlotte asked us to fed back from each table at the end about what we spoke about in our groups an what was raised. So that how I will it here. I am going to take you from table to table and you the reader gets to be part of the experience (Honesty…I shock myself sometimes about how creative I am in these blogs) Click on each name to go straight to organisations website.
1st Table: Oasis
The 2 ladies from Oasis explained that they offer a domestic abuse services that offers support in many different ways including 1:1 support for children and refuges for women fleeing domestic abuse. The 2 ladies that were representing spoke about what is available in the area and what needs to be done in terms of further support. I spent a long time talking with Oasis and it looks like we will be doing some work together in the future so watch this space. If you are reading this and domestic abuse is something that is affecting your life, then please click on their name above and seek support. You can follow Oasis on twitter Here.
2nd Table: Out of the Shadows.
So, get this…Charlotte Vincent only comes and joins my table!! I didn’t know what to say for a minute! So, my table started with a Grime video that showed how women are sexualised and dismissed within he media and how this is becoming normalised for out young people. The video shows a woman with a rabbit head on, dressed in almost nothing, dancing on her knees whilst a man sings about making girls into “Skets”. Both the male and the female simulate oral sex with their dance moves. We spoke about how one girl I work with said she is not going to bother with her GCSEs this year as she “Wants to dance like that in videos and get paid bare Ps”. Anne Lamb, who does a lot of work for Out of the Shadows highlighted the point of how long it will be until these videos take it a step further and instead of simulating the sexual act, they just do it. And we spoke about the work we do all over the UK in regard to educating and training. I also had to explain the word “Sket” to an elderly gentleman…which was nice. You can follow us on Twitter Here
3rd Table: SOROPTIMIST INTERNATIONAL
They spoke about FGM. Soroptimist International is a worldwide volunteer organisation with over 75,000 members working to transform the lives of women & girls. They raised the point that we must not be hoodwinked into thinking that FGM only effects certain races or cultures which I found very empowering. I had not heard of them before, so I came home and done some research and was blow away. Please click on their name to find out more on how you can become involved.
4th Table: Not Buying It.
It was Rachel Bell, who was there with one other to represent Not Buying It, that asked me to come to the event. We had spent some time together at the Filia conference it was nice she had thought of me for this event. If you are not aware, Not Buying It challenges sexual exploitation – porn, prostitution, and strip clubs. All hugely exploitative for the women in them and for attitudes towards all women. Part of the discussion they had at their table was about the porn that is being accessed, such as torture porn, and the implications this has on both male and females. They spoke about men not wanting to think about how the women in these porn films ended up doing this for a “Job” and caring even less. They raised the point of porn induced erectile dysfunction. I wish I had made it to their table! You can follow them on twitter Here
5th Table: Nordic Model Now
The Nordic Model Now campaign for the abolition of prostitution and for the Nordic Model (aka Sex Buyer Law) and an end to demand for sexual exploitation. (It still pains me that we even must campaign for this). They spoke about how, when a survey was done, many men believed that once they had paid a woman for sex she no longer had any rights and they were free to do what they wanted to do with her within the time they had paid for and she did not have the right to contest this. The picture that accompanies this blog is of me and Anna who came to represent Nordic Model Now. Everything she and the lady with her said hit home with me. How men put ownership over females once money has exchanged hands. How poverty leads women into prostitution. They spoke about that due to the befits cuts, they are finding women who had never been involved in prostitution before, suddenly making the “Choice” tell sell their bodies to support their families. They also raised that if this poverty has been inflicted on the women (as with benefits cuts) …how could the prostitution out of desperation that followed really be a “Choice”. And that was it. I had found my people. And you will be seeing a lot more from me and The Nordic model now in the future. In fact, Anna has just messaged me to arrange coffee (Anna…I only drink Coke and milkshakes…. Just a heads up seeing as we are going to be friends for life). You can follow them on Twitter Here
The JAM Network is a collective of artists, academics, businesses, and NGOs working to end modern slavery and human trafficking. They spoke to me about creating a peaceful retreat for survivors of trafficking. They create a safe space where survivors and spend time and heal. The lady who came to represent them was so lovely and she had a guitar! I was like…Ello…. Let’s get this party started. But she didn’t play it!
I didn’t know about the Medaille Trust, but this is who they are and what they do. They are Combating Modern Slavery by offering safe housing, providing support for victims, raising awareness in communities, and partnering with law enforcement agencies. They are a significant provider of support and safe house provision for the victims of human trafficking. The primary mission of The Medaille Trust is the empowerment of women, men, and children, who have been freed from the human-trafficking and the modern-day slavery industry in the UK, enabling them to regain their dignity and self-worth. We do this by providing safe housing and offering opportunities for physical and psychological healing, rehabilitation, and protection to the victims in our care. You can follow them on Twitter Here
Then that was it…speed dating done.
Then it was back to the Epic Charlotte. She gave a summery of the afternoon that was inspiring and from the heart. She made it clear that more work needs to be done with children and that we must remember that word when talking about sexualisation…. Children. I can’t remember all that she said but it was something about hope, something about us all being together for a reason, something about stopping the sexualisation of girls and women once and for all.
Then we all spent some time getting to know each other.
This is me and Jan Ryan Programme Director for POW
Jan Ryan is an established arts manager, practitioner, and producer, who has worked in theatres for nearly 40 years. Through UK Arts, she has represented most of the UK’s foremost theatre and dance companies and presented and produced international and intercultural performing arts productions in the UK and around the world in venues of all scales – from village halls to the West End. Between 2010 and 2016 she produced Afrovibes, a biennial festival touring UK venue, which introduced a wide range of audiences to the cultural wealth of contemporary South African visual and performing arts.
I stole that from the POW website….just putting it out there.
What I can tell you about Jan is that she puts her heat and soul into these events. She has very cool hair and she took the time out to come over and thank me for coming. I like her a lot.
So, I missed out on my Filia weekend…that’s a shame of course. But…I found me some other sisters to join the cause. I have found people that want exactly what I want…to stop girls and women being used as sex objects.
I mean…the whole reason I am doing all I am is so that my own daughter can walk down the road in a few years without thinking…” I can’t wear them trousers, they are too tight, someone might cat call me” ….or … “If I don’t wear makeup then men won’t find me attractive and that’s bad”. I am doing all this so that my daughter can walk down the road without having to worry about all this.
But if that does not happen in time and I have not changed the world with my sisterhood then I will teach her to be the women that says…
“Actually, Fuck of mate, How about that”
“Here’s to strong women may we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”