Review: Cyst-er act at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Words: Monica Martins
Pictures: Kat Dlugosz
Wombs. Gynaecology. Female bodies. Perimenopause. Polycystic fibrosis.
How much do we know about this? How much do we speak about it? How much do we share? And how uncomfortable does this make us feel when someone speaks about all we have and all that happens down there, inside us?
Catherine Hoffmann and the ‘Poly-cisters’ present us with a raw, powerful, visually impressive and stimulating show, based on Hoffmann’s own experience of having her ovary and fallopian tube cut off. She kept a diary where she wrote her thoughts around illness, sexuality and ageing. And she interviewed other women who had this same experience.
I am about to hit my 40’s. I already notice the effects of ageing. The changes in my body. My hormones screaming out for babies and getting upset because of it. The effect all this has in my mental health. So much of the show is relatable, and I can see so much of it coming on for me.
How does it feel to give birth to a 10lb cyst baby? How much do we hear about the effect of these experiences in women’s lives? How much do we speak about the complexity involving female reproductive organs and mental health?
The show is also about sharing, recovering and healing, and focuses on topics that we need to speak about openly, shout about it, and make more visible. We shouldn’t be ashamed of talking about it. Hoffmann articulates her ideas in an intelligent, colourful and even provocative way. Hoffmann is punk, loud, fierce, honest, and she’s not afraid of expressing how she felt about this experience. Her performance captures the audience’s attention and helps them reflect on body policing issues women face every single day.
You won’t be indifferent to this show. For me, personally, it is one of the treasures of this year’s Fringe.
“This is an attempt at healing – allowing women’s health, our bodies and our knowledge both internally and externally, more visibility.” – Catherine Hoffmann
You have only from the 20th to the 25th to see the show. It’s on at 12:05 at the Summerhall.
Go and see it. Listen. Absorb. Speak out, without fear, like Catherine.
Trailer (MATURE): https://vimeo.com/325430792
For press enquiries, contact Catherine Hoffmann on 07720 758152 or email@example.com
Presents at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
A messy, Live Art musical – Madame Ovary meets The Devils – probing into reproductive mishaps and monstrosities. Cyst-er Actis an attempt at healing – allowing women’s health and bodies more visibility… through ovary blues, punk, death metal and some gospel numbers thrown in. This will be the first time Catherine is bringing work to the Festival as a solo creator; expect songs, slime and speculums.
Cyst-er Act asks what is it like to have your fallopian tube hacked off or to birth a 10lb cyst baby? The realm of the womb can be complex and bloody awesome…This new show is about Cath’s experience of having her ovary and fallopian tube cut off in 2017 after the discovery of a 10lb cyst that took over her entire stomach. She kept a diary throughout this and used her writing to create a show reflecting on illness, (re) production, sexuality and ageing. During the creative process, she spoke to other women about their health experiences, diving into the world of gynaecology and uncovering lost knowledge about women’s bodies. She will be joined by her two poly-cyst-ers.
“By offering my personal journey with my ovaries I hope to empower and to shine a light on the mysterious realm of women’s bodies. Not just for women but for men too. Every woman I spoke to said they knew very little about their own female health. None of us knew much about our own reproductive bodies and how easy it is for them to go off balance. I wanted to know why. I want us to be the experts of our own bodies again.” Catherine Hoffmann
Catherine Hoffmann’s work addresses issues relating to who we are and the constraints in our contemporary lives. She uses personal history, absurd humour and song to create poignant work. In 2016-17 she toured the UK with Free Lunch with the StenchWench,a personal account of poverty and shame. Her work has featured in the Guardian, Exeunt, The Big Issue, The Stage, LADA’sbook Love letters for a post Europeand for Hypatia– Feminist philosophy journal. Recent projects are for The Stephen Lawrence gallery, GISWIL Int. Performance Fest in Switzerland,The Nat. Portrait Gallery, Festival of Love, Latitude, Buzzcut and SPILL. She was in Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Musicat The Barbican, June 2018. She performs internationally with Lundahl and Seitland collaborates with Florence Peake.
Cyst-er Act made a small tour in Spring 2019 to a fabulous reception and was accompanied by a series of Gynie Hubs – a space for women to talk and to share knowledge about their bodies and health. She will be offering these at Fringe Centralthis year. The first showing was at The Quarterhouse, for Int. Women’s day and was shown at the Space in Betweenpart of Unlimited festivalat The Southbank.
Cyst-er Act is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and originally commissioned by Metal and Ovalhouse.
Catherine will also be running ‘Gynie Hubs’ at Fringe Central on Sat 17th and 24th from 4-6pm – a space for women in the creative industries to meet and share experiences of gynae health and how this impacts ‘productivity’ within a demanding industry; to swap tips and advice…https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/gynie-hub.
‘Catherine Hoffmann, is such a commanding presence…Her voice is full and gorgeous and the more bestial and primal her performance becomes, the more thrillingly alive the work feels’(Glory Days)
This is Cabaret
‘‘A cross between performance art, stand-up, a gig and a call to arms. A humorous and truly compelling performance.’(Free Lunch with the StenchWench)
‘A brilliantly inventive force’
SUMMERHALL, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL (Venue 26)
Dates: 14th-18thAugust, 20th-25thAugust
12.05pm (Running time: 55 minutes)
Box office: 0131 560 1581
Images by Holly Revell
Trailer (MATURE): https://vimeo.com/325430792
For press enquiries, contact Catherine Hoffmann on 07720 758152 or firstname.lastname@example.org
My name is Musenge. I am a Zambian woman, aged 38. I am the founder and executive director of Liberated Hearts Foundation. And I am also a survivor of incest, child sexual abuse and gender based violence.
During the early years of my childhood, I viewed our home as a safe environment. I believed I would grow up to be whatever and whoever I wanted to be. My parents were educated with decent jobs; I too had great dreams.
But when I was 7 years old, everything changed in our home. I suffered silently at the hands of my brother who had begun to sexually abuse me. I withdrew into my world of pain and isolation.
After the age of 10, one brother stopped abusing me, another one began. I was afraid to tell anyone because my brothers told me that it would bring shame and embarrassment upon the family. I simply accepted the abuse as my fate.
After my parents passed away, I was sent to boarding school and was able to finally escape the sexual abuse. However, during the holidays, I abused alcohol, marijuana, and engaged in risky sexual behaviours. No one intervened because they thought I was a rebellious demon possessed girl.
As I grew older, I became more and more self-destructive, it was a dark path. I explain more about my journey as a survivor of childhood sexual in my book titled ‘Glow after Pain’. It is available on Amazon (Kindle & Paper back); I encourage you to get a copy.
At 24, after years of pain and frustration, a Catholic organisation called Our Lady’s Hospice intervened. They offered me counselling, care and support. From that moment my life took a whole different turn, and I began to counsel and render emotional support to people from similar backgrounds.
From 2004 to date, I worked for several non-profit organisations in the area of health, human rights advocacy, gender and economic development. And in 2017, I founded Liberated Hearts Foundation whose mission is to advocate for rights of women and children, support and empower survivors of incest, sexual abuse and gender based violence. And facilitate survivors healing processes and breaking the silence on incest, which is still considered as a taboo in different cultural settings in Zambia.
Early this year, LIHEF launched the child protection campaign which is addressing the alarming increase of child defilement cases in Zambia. This campaign is ongoing and will be a massive campaign conducted in pilot sites in Lusaka District.
Lusaka District recorded the highest number of child defilement cases with 320 translating to 48.2% of the child defilement cases reported countrywide.
In the third quarter of 2017, 416 defilement cases were reported. In comparison 664 where reported in the third quarter of 2018, translating to an increase of 248 cases or 37.3%.
It is clear from the statistics that urgent measures need to be put into place to eliminate violence against children in Lusaka District and the entire country of Zambia.
Liberated Hearts is committed to elimination of violence against women and children and to achieve its objectives, there is need for individuals and various stakeholders to join this noble cause and render any support that will advance this work. The security and peace of women and children in a world that has recorded high statistics of violence against women and children is everyone’s business. To join the fight email us email@example.com
Links to my publications
Raising awareness for the queer community and the diversity of the various communities out there is one of WomenBeing’s goals as an inclusive international feminist organisation from Edinburgh. We do believe feminism is for everyone who wants to be part of the progress towards more integration, acceptance, inclusion and equality.
Discussions around gender are becoming increasingly more important and the search for a more gender inclusive world is growing stronger and stronger nowadays. One aspect of the gender debate that we want to explore more is gender expression and its role in individual liberation. WomenBeing’s team decided to review one of the biggest anti-heteronormative protest in our society: a Drag Queen Show.
Just in time for LGBT History Month, WomenBeing went out to collect a true testimony from the incredible and fascinating Alice Rabbit, host of The Rabbit Hole Drag Show at CC Blooms every Tuesday. Get to know Alice Rabbit a little more with this exclusive interview on prejudice, acceptance and new projects.
Tell us a little about yourself
As a performer or myself: My real name is John, I’m from Scotland, Edinburgh. I go by the stage as Alice Rabbit. I run a drag show called The Rabbit Hole which is every Tuesday night at CC Blooms and we’ve been doing it for two years. Basically, I’m someone who dropped out of high school, didn’t go to college, didn’t go to university, worked in a lot of food chains thinking I would never be good at anything, and I found drag and it made me feel like I could do something serious and make a profession out of it. We are still working towards that goal, and yes that is pretty much my story at the moment. More to come…
How did you first got into performing drag?
It wasn’t by choice. I didn’t walk in drag wanting to be a drag queen. I was really influenced by the new romantics, androgynous fashion and that’s how I got my first step into the make-up and hair, wearing man and woman’s clothes. Eventually, a friend showed me RuPaul’s Drag Race and I thought it was cool to watch but I didn’t think it was for me. And then a competition came around and I needed the money so I made it to the top 2: didn’t win but to me that was enough reassurance to say that I’ve got something.
“Drag queens are the knight in shining armours to the gay community”
What would you say your biggest influences are in term of creating looks and performances?
When it comes to influences, I would say I’ve been really influenced by the new romantics, inspired by the 80’s fashion boom. I’ve had phases in fashion, everyone has a phase. I’ve done the glamour, the rock and roll, I’ve done a mixture. I have played a lot of things, but I’m still kind of searching. I think you should never settle in regards of fashion and looks. If I have to say people in terms of influence, I would say Beth Ditto and Adele were a big influence in fashion, for me, since they made it available for someone who is bigger to feel that they can wear whatever they want and still look chic.
What has drag meant to you over the years?
I’ve been doing drag for 5 years now and what’s good about Scotland is how it is resurgent in drag. Drag wasn’t very popular here for a long time, and I think I was at the right place, at the right time, and I have accomplished a lot in a very short amount of time. Basically, it’s the first thing that makes me feel I’m good at something, and that’s the most important part for me.
How is your drag different from your daily self?
A lot more makeup, a wig and a heel. I wear the same fashion then and now, sometimes I wear boy clothes, sometimes I wear mixed, I don’t know if I’m embracing it more by getting a big coat and this is very interesting to people. But I think confidence is key, I wouldn’t say that Alice and John are not that different though. If anything, I am just louder as Alice. Same attitude, same thoughts, louder!
What are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges facing drag today?
I would say, especially in the UK, the biggest challenge is to compete with the show of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The good thing about that show is that it opened this door for a lot of people like myself: to find that influence and see something and say ‘I can do that’, and make something out of it has given a lot of people, not only in gay society, queer or straight society, the opportunity to find something to connect with through something that isn’t necessary the norm.
And I think that’s a really good thing, not only for television, but for pop culture. What I would say is the struggle with that is not like the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where there is only one Golden Ticket in order for you to be a star. I disagree with that because I don’t need a TV show to say I am a star. But club promoters would say it’s much easier to pay a lot of money to get someone who is a drag queen from television and you’ve seen what they can do, and know that’s going to bring hundreds of people into the club. When I started there were comments like: “We’ve never seen you before, we don’t know who you are, you are not known, you are not going to fill the seats”. So that was a big harsh part of what Drag is like for us.
I’ve been very persistent ever since I’ve started doing it. In my show you pay a performer, even if it’s the lowest amount of money, that money matters because it’s a catalyst to something greater, hopefully in the long run. That’s the biggest struggle for drag today – competing with what’s popular. In London or Manchester, where drag culture is known and appreciated, it might be a little easier. But I think a place like Edinburgh where Drag is kind of new to people, and it’s not even known all over the city; it’s a lot harder for you to put yourself out there to work.
How do you think drag can help to doing a political change?
I’m kind of weird when it comes to the art of politics. I am one of those people who thinks I should save my opinion for the voting booth really. It’s quite uncomfortable for me when it’s a debate constantly. You are having a good day and all of the sudden you have a disagreement or a debate, can become quite intense. That is why I choose not to speak too much about politics. But seeing the Drag involvement in politics would be “if any politicians could learn something from a Drag Queen: be fearless, stand by your opinion – they do that anyway –”. But the edge in our community is there are these people fighting us, and even when you are caught doing something wrong, they still keep going and when people try to claim they are villains, but they keep going.
I think politicians kind of gave up on that, and someone who is really interested in politics is kind of ashamed to see the new generation fade away from the fight.
Do you think there is still a lot of prejudice against drag queens and kings in Scotland?
Definitely yes. There’s a lot of people that praise it, there’s a lot of people that find it entertaining but at the same time there is a lot of people that still see it as a joke, and some make fun of (it). And I’m not going to say that it isn’t funny, that it isn’t comedy, but there is a certain amount of respect, as someone to spend their time to entertain you. It’s not like I’m going to show up at your job and treat you badly, so don’t come to my job and say that I’m not like that girl from that TV show, or that I am not this or that. If you don’t like it you don’t need to stay, you can leave.
And when it comes to people on the street, I would say yes: it’s quite intense. I used to get the bus all the time, in Drag, from my house here. I’ve been jumped at a few times. Some really shady stuff happened to me to the point I get a taxi just because it feels a little safer: just get in the car, you don’t have to deal with anybody, and I really wish it wasn’t like that, but it’s something I’m going through at the moment.
I would say it’s slowly been praised, especially when Courtney Act went to Big Brother, that was a step stone for Drag Queens and Kings in the UK, but at a mainstream level because you have someone out there who was really smart, and it wasn’t like other shows that showcase Drag Queens and it’s usually when they are drunk fallen out of a car, or trying to strip a man. I think Courtney Act was a good example, I think there is definitely some people that have a problem with that, but you have to stick to your guns. I had to fight so many people because I’d rather go down swinging than go down scared.
“It is really important for drag queens to remain political”
Do you think drag is still a form of subversion and protest of heteronormative society?
To a degree yes. I think there are aspects in Drag that are really political, it just being integrated – what is intimidating and what is political. That’s the hard part when you try to put politics in Drags: a lot of performances are being watched and in some forms, they are messages and sometimes they’re not because it is a show.
I think it’s really important for drag queens to remain political, in a lot of ways. I think drag queens are still the knights in shining armours for the gay community. We are the people who go out there. Marsha P. Johnson was a Drag Queen and a trans woman and started this liberation. I think it’s really important that we keep that up. So, when you are seeing someone who is gay, or even not gay, and they are getting bad comments, you know for a fact that you got the nerve to say something about it. And I think that’s really important on being a Drag, and that’s sort of what matters.
Do you think people are becoming more open minded towards expressing gender?
Yes, I mean I’ve done it. I think that expressing gender is like being an adolescent again: you get to have that trial and error in fashion and not only with your clothes but also with how you feel as a person. I’ve had a point in my life when I felt like I was a woman and I was trying to get some hormones. I was looking into transition, and I got to a point when I was “well, no”. If you are going to play with gender, you should be very careful and sure on your decision and really think hard about it cause I kind of just felt “ok this is who I am”.
And when I got to a certain point when I started to think about surgery I realised I didn’t want any of that. I would say that inside, and in my heart, I feel like I’m everything. I’m not man, I’m not a woman, I was born male, and that’s cool. And I like the male aspects of life, and I like the female aspects of life. To me, I think that is a really good balance. It is exciting, it’s just you have to take that step. Once you get passed that step it’s all clean slate, and then you can decide what you want to do form there – nothing can stop you.
We know the Rabbit Hole is going to be the open act for Sasha Velour. Congratulations! Are you excited?
I mean I’m not going to say we deserve it (laughing). Yeah of course I am excited. It is an amazing opportunity to be seen by a lot of people, like in a space for 150 people, it’s a bigger stage of more opportunity to go on bigger production in your number and really set an impression to people. In order to do better in this business, you’ve got to put yourself out there and for RuPaul’s girls who go to each city, it’s a little easier to go to the local queens, and include them, because it’s very important.
What’s good about this opportunity is again more people, I get to meet someone who is a very talented artist and is quite good to rub shoulders with the Elite. It’s weird because I kind of hate the hierarchy in drag because I think we are all equals: we all faced the same hard problems doing the same thing, but they are famous for a reason, and that’s great. So yes, I’m excited.
It’s LGTB History Month. Do you have any message for kids and people who would like to drag?
Because there is still many of us I’m going to tell you to quit (laughs). But jokes aside, if you feel that’s something you want to do and you feel like you can bring something to the table, I support you: if you are of age, you can come to our club. You can get me at firstname.lastname@example.org and pitch your performance and meet me. If you are good, I will include you in our show and I think it’s really important to do your thing. Yeah, do your thing, kid!
It’s quite interesting, I went to schools in Drag to talk to the LGBT groups and we never got that when I was in high school, and it’s so good that you put these things here, and have that platform. So yes, definitely I think these kids that are growing up know what’s going on, what’s happening, so: do your thing, kid!
Check out the Rabbit Hole’s facebook page for more information: https://www.facebook.com/TheRabbitHoleDragShow/
The Womenbeing’s Team would like to thank Alice Rabbit for this incredible interview and the Rabbit Hole’s team for the amazing show.
Migration in Central America is a major issue. Adding to the drug war and the violence, the social problem expands and the solution is nowhere near to be found.
Immigrants leave home for several reasons: work, violence in their own countries, or to get together with other family members. This migration process goes along with the increase in violence in Mexico, the Central American giant country which has been battling a drug war for decades.
With Felipe Calderon, the Mexican former president (2006-2012), the strategy was violence against violence: to fight the drug cartels, he brought the military forces out on the streets. This only brought more violence, death, insecurity and social inequalities, especially against women and children.
The drug war implies an upsurge of the most violent patriarchy phase. This is why a group of mothers have developed their own way of resistance: they decided to disobey the law, the international borders and the authorities, and went to look for their daughters and sons, who had disappeared, kidnapped by the drug cartels and mafias, or even the same administration.
It is worth remembering that the border between Mexico and the United States is considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world. But Mexico itself has become a vertical border that discriminates between “good” and “bad” migrants, with a model that criminalises the citizens that cross the borders, and generates this kind of violence and insecurity.
In this context, and like their kids had done before, the Central American mothers decided to go beyond borders looking for their missing children: boys and girls who left home, and lost contact with their families. The main suspicion is, of course, the drug war.
“Caravanas de madres centroamericanas” is their name. It could be explained as a group of women from Central America going all together following the same path, looking for their kids and justice, and defying the status quo.
The role these mothers play in this conflict is essential in order to understand that neither the state authorities nor the police are interested in finding these sons and daughters, nor even clarify what may have happened to them.
“Daughter, if you are listening, please contact me”
Radio Progreso station, in Honduras, was the beginning step for these mothers. What first appeared to be just a radio broadcast which connected Central American migrants, suddenly became a searching mechanism.
The name of the radio broadcast was “Sin fronteras” (Without borders) and it turned out to be the meeting point for all these mothers. In 1993, the first one to go to the radio and broadcast her suffering and her quest was Doña Emérita Martínez, she told her story and found out that a lot of people had seen her daughter, but they even didn’t know that she was looking for her. In fact, they didn’t even consider her daughter as a missing person. It actually took 17 years for Martínez to finally find her beloved child .
The week after Martínez told her story to the entire continent, a lot of women showed up in the same Radio Station to tell the exact same tragedy: they all lost their kids to the drug war and violence and they were desperate to have some news. Suddenly, the radio station became their tool, their support, the hope they needed to keep up with the search. When nobody was listening to them, giving them any answers, they unexpectedly found the strength to go on.
As painful as it may have been, they organised and started looking for their kids all over the continent, looking for them in mass graves, hospitals, morgues, prisons, shelters, brothels – every place they considered they could be – either on their own will or under threat.
This group of mothers became a very important part of the regional politics, they became crucial members in the search for their missing ones. They also started to perform motherhood as a community – they were looking not only for their own kids, they were looking for everyone else’s children too. They redefined the concept and the role of motherhood and womanhood.
And their case is not isolated: Latin America has a long standing tradition of mothers and grandmothers looking for their missing kids: women and mothers who refuse to maintain their social roles that imply domestic care, and take it to the streets and the public places instead, in search of answers.
Some examples could be the human rights organisation Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, in Argentina, which was formed to reunite biological parents with hundreds of children born in prisons and torture centres; or all the women that are telling their stories of rape and torture in the many military dictatorship regimes around the continent in the 1970s and the 1980s; or even the National Committee of Guatemala Widows which put the dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on the bench years after the genocide against indigenous peoples. Today, twenty or thirty years later, their voices are going beyond any borders, just like the Central American mothers.
Neither the hostile environment in the region and the violence perpetuated by an ineffective administration, nor the machismo that characterises the latin culture could stop these women from seeking out their children. Doña Emérita Martínez found her girl and kept looking for the rest of them and helping other people/women in this search. She died in 2013, and hopefully she is resting in peace.
This essay was originally written and submitted in Spanish, as a college paper. The authors are Liliana Aragón, Ivonne Millán and Belén González.
González was in charge of the summarizing and translation for WomenBeing Project.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I studied Information Science with a major in Journalism at the Complutense University of Madrid. I don’t really know why I chose this area of study and not another since women around me and the same age as me were all choosing Nursing or Teaching and, to be honest I didn’t really know what this was about. Many years later, I started a second cycle of studies in Comparative Literature at the University of Extremadura and ended up not finishing it. I was disappointed at the university system at the time as it was more based on class attendance and memory retention than on shared learning. My first job was at HOY whose director at the time assured he did not want women in his team.
After that I wrote for the Cope, Hoja del Lunes and El País, in Badajoz where we used to live.
Then I became part of the Spanish National Radio. Once the territorial center of TVE in Extremadura opened I requested a transfer and went to the Information Unit of Cáceres where I have worked for 24 years until I left with an early retirement.
My job has allowed me to be in all kinds of environment without the need to fit in. And I’ve also been lucky that I’ve found myself in the right place and at the right time. One great example of that was when I was on holidays in Washington D.C. as the attack in the Twin Towers in New York happened: as the air communications closed I stayed there longer than expected and the company sent me to Pennsylvania first and then to New York to support the local team who were not very aware of the magnitude of the event. A few days letter, Letizia Ortiz, a RTVE reporter arrived. After some time it became known she was going to marry the prince of Spain and we laughed a lot about the situation as a friend commented: “If she is going to be the queen, Elisa, you are an Empress because you were here before”.
I was the first female president (in the area I live) for the Association of Journalists of Cáceres, I co-authored a book with Marce Solís, for the Official School of the Ministry of Industry. It is titled ‘Cultural Management: Opportunities and Employment Opportunities’ and is mainly for the Master students of this school. The preparation of this study, took me throughout the country for one year in order to interview 15 entrepreneurs who had created created a culture around their way of living.
Nowadays, after the early retirement, I dedicate my time to causes I consider fair. I actively collaborate with Cáceres’ Refugees Platform and I am always available to help in topics related to Gender Equality.
I am also part of the group of Artists and Workers of the World. Under that name we have made performances and installations in the Contemporary Art Fair of Foro Sur and in many other places in the area. One of the exhibitions we created, entitled “Señales para nuevos tiempos” has been used, and toured throughout Spain, as a way to create and demand visibility to the LGBT movement. We have been left with the idea that life is funnier if you fill it with performances and since then I have turned my birthday into a peculiar celebration. I have done “la primera communion” (the first communion), a “wedding” with myself (before it was trendy) and the “perfect body funeral”, where all my friends spoke fondly of me so I could enjoy their words while alive.
These performances gained a more serious note on the to the Platform for Refugees and we have made two demonstrations with suitcases, a symbol of loneliness and the tragic exodus of so many people who flee with their belongings reduced to that small container. We also set up a refugee camp with tents, cardboards and thermal blankets in the Plaza Mayor de Cáceres, bringing attention to the harsh living conditions suffered by displaced people in the refugee camps.
For some time, I was in charge of the café-theater Parrápolis. There were theatre performances, monologues, charity galas, drag queen contests, zombie parties, literary talks, poetry recitals, musical concerts, storytelling events and even the national presentation of the Mongolia Magazine.
I am also interested in photography and I participated in the Expo-Pop exhibition. I took a picture of the ex-president of Extremadura Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, that went around Spain and received an horde of both criticism and enthusiasm. Ibarra himself, who is in the photo with a tattoo of a perfume advertisement, asked me for the picture as he wanted to keep it. I am sure he received it since it came out in his memoir book without mentioning me as the author or thanking me back for the picture.
A couple of years later we created as a character of the Duchess of Alba, who came to the inauguration and took off my painting with the intention of buying it, along with a puppy created by my partner from Artists and Workers Marce Solís. Neither of us wanted to sell it, and we gave it to her, on the condition that she would allow us to visit her palace, to which she delightedly agreed. She extended the invitation, which in the beginning was only for the two of us, to all of the participants of the exhibition, and together we went to the Palace of Liria, in Madrid, where we had a private guide on closed areas to the public.
Then we had an aperitif with her, in her fantastic library, where she has documents of great literary and historical value. I laid on a couch, among photos of the Duchess’s with her children or Felipe González. I’ve tuned that image and hung a Republican flag behind me. It’s the photo I usually congratulate my friends on networks every April 14th.
Strangely, since that exhibition, which was a resounding success thanks to the whim of Cayetana for my work and Marce’s, we were excluded by the organisation of the Expo-Pop from participating in the new editions. We don’t know why.
The preretirement has also given me the idea to write a novel “La mujer que se casó consigo misma” -The woman who married herself – It is the story of a woman who gets divorced in her fifties and discovers that her life as a “Neosoltera” – single again – is much better than she expected. In a cheerful mood, I tell the story of her immersion in the world of Internet flirting and her adventures, which she shares with a group of friends called “Las San Viernes”. It is, in my opinion, a hymn to freedom and joy at any time in life. This book was recently published and had way more success than I anticipated.
How was it like to be a female journalist? Did you ever felt left aside or discredited?
It is funny that I never felt discriminated against, until with some perspective, I reflected on many events of my life and thought about them. I will have to say yes. For example, I started collaborating with the newspaper Diario Hoy, back in the early 80’s. We were three women pioneers in the field, three good professionals, however, they wouldn’t sign us a contract, but would sing contracts with other people (men). After that I came to know the director. At that time, Antonio González Conejero, said publicly and clearly that he did not want women in his newspaper. It was his own loss.
What kind of projects are you interested in? Can you tell us about some of the projects you already developed?
I am learning a little bit of everything and I am a master of nothing, I am interested in almost any issue that speople bring my way, as long as it has a social nuance or that it is amusing to me.
From my career as a journalist I remember that my passion was the articles about people, the interviews with simple people full of wisdom.
Regarding photography and street art, my membership of Artists and Workers of the World has allowed me to contribute to several projects. Among other “interventions”, we surrounded a bullring with red to symbolise the blood that bullfighters spill. We have covered a bridge with flowers, to commemorate the the Mental Health Awareness day. We filled it with phrases of love, expressed by the neighbours themselves, the balconies of a depressed neighborhood in Cáceres. We made a curtain with 25.000 condoms in an Event Against AIDS. We spent three days behind a showcase doing normal chores… All of this with the help of my friends and family, with minimum resources and great results.
Another activity I enjoy is to travelling and telling my adventures on social media. I give a very different overview of the cities I visit, whether I go sightseeing, or develop a series of projects to help Mozambique.
How did the idea of making a photographic exhibition of “El encanto de la mujer madura” arise?
It was very simple. When I ordered the cover of my novel “La mujer que se casó consigo misma”, the person who designed it, Javier Remedios, after reading it, thought of Emmanuelle and so was the final result.
When I saw the film, I thought of my friends, all of them mature and beautiful, each one with their own style. I immediately thought that they, who are the real protagonists of the novel, with our jokes, our memories and our experiences, were the perfect models. In a world that raises altars to youth, we wanted to vindicate the beauty of maturity. The photos have no retouching, they were taken on the terrace of my house, at different times, when each one could spend half an hour of their daily tasks. They are also made with a phone, there is no first-class equipment, no lights, no make-up artists, no post production. Just them, ordinary women. In half an hour, they would take a coffee with me and pose without shame, because at this age we are aware of our power and our joy of living.
The story is also a tribute to one of our friends, who was hurt by cancer. She was the first to pose and the one who wanted to do it on bare chest, showing her scar. Serenely, with the conviction that life gives you, you shouldn’t have to hide it, but accept it and move forward.
It is not the first time I have my friends doing photographic performances. Last 8th of March we photographed us all as the model from the poster “we can do it”, we used some yellow cards and wore a denim shirt, then we posted the pictures on our Facebook profiles.
How have people reacted to this project? What kind of feedback have you received?
We’ve had all sorts of reactions: people to whom it seems wonderful that we are able to portray ourselves without shame and be sexy; and others who consider the photos tacky or of bad taste and who only see the morbid.
Same as with that “we can do it” photo, which received many friendly comments but also some very aggressive one.
In these cases, I answer with one of my favorite phrases: “Well, so what?”
Do you expect to do this project with more women?
This particular one is over, but there will be more, of course, as soon as I have another idea.
What is the message you want to convey with “El encanto de la mujer madura“?
The message is very simple, any woman at any age is precious. We do not have to hide wrinkles, sagging, or fat rolls or illnesses, because beauty standards say so.
What about plans for the future? Can we expect more initiatives of this kind or do you plan to engage in other areas?
No idea so far. But whatever life brings my way.
Do you have some a message that you want to transmit to women who have an interest in doing the same type of projects?
I do not like giving advice, but if there is a message is that I can transmit is that I firmly believe that the time has come for women to act as we want, without molds or corsets to trap us under the politically correct, and the role we have always been expected to perform.
And to young women, stop body shaming yourselves, and, work for real equality, and a world where female values are as important as the male ones, a world where we do not have to apply male tactics to reach positions of power, because the patriarchy does not work. Society continues to have the same problems it has had over the centuries: wars, conflicts, and power struggles and I am convinced that the values traditionally attributed to women can be the remedy for so much pain.
See some more of Elisa’s work here:
Under our Radar: Feminist Explorations of Contemporary South Asia: Possibilities and Challenges by Krishna Menon
Venue: Symposium Hall // King Khalid Lecture Theatre
Date: 20th of February
Time: 6 pm.
Organized by: School of Social and Political Sciences and University of Edinburgh
To all our lovely Womebeings in Edinburgh. Today Under our Radar brings you a new and exciting event for all feminists in Edinburgh. Feminist Explorations of Contemporary South Asia: Possibilities and Challenges by Krishna Menon is a lecture organized by the University of Edinburgh and where topics like gender equality and sisterhood will be talked about. The lecture will be held in Symposium Hall // King Khalid Lecture Theatre, located in Hill Square and it starts at 6pm on the 20th of February.
This lecture will focus on feminist politics in South Asia. The nation-state has been a very important and transformative player in the politics here. And yet, nationalist ideologies sometimes inhibit the possibilities of feminists working across national boundaries. The intractable linkage between nationalism, state and gender in this region is easily one of the most vital themes of feminist inquiry. South Asia has, on the one hand, produced important women politicians and heads of states, while also being witness to some very brutal and harsh attacks on women based on caste, ethnicity, language and religion. Resistance to such assault and attack by women is slowly but surely changing the way women see themselves, no longer as hapless victims but as agents of change and empowerment. Further, the increasing role of religion in political mobilizations in South Asia cannot be ignored. A simple binary of religion versus secular seems to be unproductive in unravelling the complexity of the issues on hand. The differing impact of globalization and changes in the economy has created new opportunities and challenges to feminist politics in South Asia. These changes have also resulted in new ways of mobilizing and organizing feminist solidarities. The current context is characterized by globalization, patriarchy and militarism. The ‘war on terror’ has led to governments and international bodies working in tandem, even at the cost of limiting and violating democratic traditions and conventions. This constitutes one of the most serious challenges to the building of South Asian feminist politics and at the same time makes it necessary to create feminist networks across borders. Violence, especially political violence against dissenting citizens and against women continues to be a matter of grave concern that requires South Asian feminist politics to attend to.
Krishna Menon is Professor and Dean at the School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD). Prior to joining AUD she taught at the Department of Political Science at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi for over two decades where she was the Director of the Aung San Suu Kyi Centre for Peace. She received the Teacher of Distinction award from the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi in 2009. She has published books, papers and articles on debates within political theory, issues in Indian politics, and feminist theory and politics. Her publications include Resisting violence-Annotated Bibliography and Documents on Initiatives to Challenge Violence Against Women (2017) contributions to Sentiment, Politics, Censorship- The State of Hurt (2016), Women and Empowerment in Contemporary India (2016), Women and Political Process(2015), and Women’s Studies in India (2014), Applied Ethics and Human Rights (2010), Human Rights, Gender and Environment(2009), Political Theory: An Introduction (2008) and a co- authored research monograph titled Gender and Identity: A Case Study of Nurses from Kerala in Delhi (2008), among many others. She is currently Associate Editor, International Feminist Journal of Politics. She has been nominated as a member of a Study-Group constituted by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi to study and analyze issues relating to violence against women in public places of Delhi. She has a long record of performing Bharata Natyam in addition to having been trained in classical music. She was the classical dance critic of The Indian Express (1993-1996).
Today, Womenbeing Project brings you extreme good news for feminists based in Edinburgh. Looking at amazing organizations like The Empower Project, today we would like to invite you to be part on their event: Chat Tech Abuse! Since the #metoo movement and time’s up being brought to our lives more and more and giving awareness to the world about what happens to women in their everyday lives, is everyday more necessary to create and be present in talks like this one.
The Empower Project is a feminist charity based in Scotland, working hard to support communities to end violence against women. They work with individuals, with institutions and campaign on social ideas. They offer training- looking at everything from new technologies to confidence, from bystander approaches, to sex ed. They offer strategic support to help communities think about what steps they need to take to tackle violence. We are positive, progressive and proactive.
Their vision is a world in which every member of every community works to support survivors and hold perpetrators of violence against women and girls to account; a world in which every member of every community understands that violence against women and girls isn’t inevitable; a world in which every member of every community understands that violence against women and girls is rooted in inequality. The Empower Project wants to invite you to talk about tech abuse and what we can do about it: Revenge Porn, Harassment, Coercion Online Sex, Abuse and the Digital age. Come along, chat, learn, connect and help The Empower Project to tell those in power what they should be doing about it.
So, if you are interested in any of this topics, please meet us and let’s empower women in Scotland even more. This event will take place on the 5th of February at Teviot’s Balcony Room from 5-7 pm.
Womenbeing is proud to have been invited by Shutter Hub, for a symposium included in their Artificial Things exhibition at Cambridge University. The exhibition examines the question of reality within the photographic image, bringing together photographic artists who are exploring and merging the boundaries of the fake, the real, and the in-between.
In this event, which will take place at the Alison Richard Building on Saturday 9th December, 2-4pm, four inspirational speakers will tell us about the impact that embracing themselves fully had in their professional and personal lives, and how self-acceptance is the only route that can lead to real contentment and fulfilment.
Each talk will last 20 minutes, and will be followed by a Q&A session/panel discussion and networking.
Founder and Director of Shutter Hub, the photography organisation supporting and promoting creative photographers internationally through exhibitions, networking and opportunities. With a wide range of experience working as a photographer and writer, creative consultant, mentor and curator, (as well as self proclaimed cat whisperer and chicken wrangler) Karen has spoken about developing a career in the photographic industry on many occasions, most notably at Foam Museum Amsterdam, the National Photography Symposium, London Art Fair, London Photomonth, the Festival of Creative Industries, and across the UK at universities and colleges.
Also known as Tina Charisma, Tina Antwi is a finalist of Miss Universe Great Britain 2017 as well as a model, speaker, writer and a youth development worker based in London. She campaigns, writes and speaks on issues related to women, diversity, culture, beauty, media and education. In addition, Tina is currently writing her book “Black Skin Carved Mask” which focuses on sense of belonging and identity of second generation West African immigrants in the UK.
Sonali is a Chancellors PhD Fellow in Theoretical Physics at the University of Sussex at Brighton. Having graduated as the valedictorian of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, her research deals with Black holes and Quantum Gravity. She is also a blogger, poet, spoken word performer and author. She uses her blog, poetry and Facebook to spread awareness regarding gender struggles both in and out of academia, drawing on her own experience and stories shared by others. She is the PhD representative for the Athena Swan Chapter for diversity at Sussex, is the founder of a feminist/identity related magazine Carved Voices and will soon found a collaborative blog titled “The Hysterical Lady” to focus exclusively on gender issues. She has been interviewed widely in the media, and has recently been featured as one of the twelve women scientist speakers at SOAPBOX Science, Brighton. She likes to use these media to inspire future women scientists and dispel certain gender related myths floating around academia.
Catarina is a London-based journalist working as a reporter across two Trinity Mirror publications, Get Surrey and Get West London. She has reported for other publications, including Scotland’s Press & Journal and Gay Star News. In addition, she has worked as Managing Editor at the International Press Foundation. Catarina’s journalistic work is varied but her focus is on telling untold stories. She has interviewed refugees, victims of female genital mutilation, rape survivors, among others. Alongside her job, Catarina is one of the founders of Little Portugal, an online platform giving a voice to London’s Portuguese-speaking community. Catarina has recently completed her MSc in Global Conflict and Peace Processes, and has also worked with several other organisations, including disability charity Back Up, Refugee Action Kingston, LSE SU and Index on Censorship.
This is a free event open to everyone, but booking is essential – please let us know you’re coming by RSVPing to the Facebook event, here.
The Importance of Being and Accepting Yourself
Saturday 9th December 2017, 2-4pm
Art at the ARB, University of Cambridge, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DT
Source: Shutter Hub Blog
Are you excited for the weekend? With the colder weather coming to our doorstep is just relaxing to find a good book to read at home or in a quiet place. Womenbeing recommends today The Pimping of Prostitution by Julie Bindel.
The Pimping of Prostitution is built around 250 interviews, conducted in 40 countries, cities, and states. Bindel has spoken to sex workers’ rights organizations that oppose the Nordic model; to politicians, police, and public health experts who determine policy on the sex trade; to punters, pimps, and madams who prey on prostituted women and girls. Most of all, she has listened to survivors. Not the white, well-educated, middle-class “sex workers” with PhDs who dominate media coverage of prostitution, but to the women who know what it is truly like. This is a book filled to the brim with women’s voices.
Bindel meticulously sets out the abolitionist case in a series of chapters focused on the sex worker’s rights movement, human rights NGOs, HIV/AIDS charities, “queer” campaigners, and, above all, academics. She shows how all of these groups have helped pimp prostitution — to sanitize and conceal the reality of the sex trade. Bindel is remarkably fair in her summary of their arguments, often quoting them at length. This is not a courtesy normally extended to abolitionists, who are frequently dismissed as prudish man-haters in league with religious conservatives.
Bindel ends, just as she begins, with the testimony of survivors fighting the world’s oldest oppression: women who are “held together by the politics of feminism and the strength of hope.” Yes, we have a long way to go, but there are reasons to be hopeful.