FEELing Through the Grapevine: November 2019


This month, we dug up a word from 2005: Testiculate. What does it mean, you say?  “Waving your arms around and talking total bollocks”.  Although it might not have had the feminist connotations it has today, in 2019 it seems that it deserves a spot next to Mansplaining. What do you think?


Witch, please

As grim as the final moments of Pompeii inhabitants were, the exceptionally well conserved remains of the Italian population have been instrumental in understanding their way of life. Archaeological research projects are still underway, and recently we discovered a box from that contained many small items— it is believed to have belonged to a sorceress. This “tool kit” seems to have been used for spells and other spiritual practices. What kind of self-respecting woman lacks a toolbox with magical items for her own intricate rituals, anyway? We all have a bit of magic in us. Come on. Let’s hex the patriarchy.


Fierce, terrible, and grim

November saw the publication of Nina MacLaughlin’s new book, Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung. The Metamorphoses are being reworked with a modern feminist twist, especially the story of Medusa, where anger is explored at its core. Old euphemisms of rape narratives are shaken up and brought to the fore in the light of female fury. These are stories of violence, misogyny and reclaiming power in our femininities, making patriarchal translations of Ovid shake in their boots. Who has a voice and who hasn’t? You can read her interview by Jessica Jernigan here and also read an interesting piece by McKenzie Schwark on Medusa here.




The wave of misogynistic double-standards has, over the last few years, crystallised in a nipple ban on various social media. For example, on Tumblr, a “Female-presenting Nipples” ban was implemented in 2018, which has sparked a lot of memes and internet jokes with a zest of feminist gusto. Facebook has lightened this ban by adding that some images, “including those depicting acts of protest, women actively engaged in breastfeeding, and photos of post-mastectomy scarring”, did not need censorship—as well as clearly medicinal or educational exceptions. Nonetheless, Vicky Martin (tattooist who draws nipples on women who had a mastectomy) has been blocked on Facebook under the pornography ban. While Facebook ensures that the account suspension was a mistake, this did not go unanswered. Vicky and other activists have inflated a giant boob outside of Facebook HQ in London. “It’s not pornographic at all, it’s beautiful”.


The world’s oldest street artist

Threading, weaving, intermingling— guerrilla knitters have swept up the world with their yarn bombing in public spaces. Knitting and crocheting is often seen as an old woman’s craft, but our elders have still so much to pass on. In 2015 the Souter Stormers, a group of guerrilla knitters, has made a stunning apparition in Selkirk, Scotland. And amongst them, Grace Brett, 104 years old at the time. She passed away in 2017, but her legacy of oldest street art activist lives on.



It’s about bloody time

All people who have been made ashamed about themselves or discriminated against due to their vagina, put your hand up. Many of you? Yes, thought so. Well, rejoice because a brand new museum opened in Camden, London, and it was about bloody time: Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How To Fight Them. This museum, with alternating exhibitions, is all about the vagina and its related objects from everyday life. The museum director, Florence Schechter, and Sarah Creed (who curated the exhibition), are LGBT+ and intersex friendly. It can be seen as an answer to the penis museum in Reykjavik (Icelandic Phallological Museum), created in 1997. So, if you fancy some vagina goodies (yes, the museum has a shop) and knowledge without taboos, now you know where to go!


The Women Weavers

If you are near the Women’s Center for Creative Work in LA, go and check out Ahree Lee’s exhibition Pattern: Code. By connecting weaving and computing, she highlights women’s labour in crafting and technology. Often unrecognised work, Ahree Lee explores the impact of women in a deeply patriarchal society. She uses art to communicate and illustrate weaving processes, making thread-based visualisations, including her piece Ada. In it she honours Ada Lovelace by weaving one of her quotes, translated into the punches of a standard IBM punch card: “The Analytical Engine weaves algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves”. The exhibit closes on December 7th.




As for academic news, several conferences that might interest you are in the works. First of all, the Gender and Education Association’s very own conference is having a Call for Papers right now. Happening in Calgary, Canada in June 2020, this is the first time it is located in North America. The thread is Gender Complexity, Collaboration, Connectedness (GC3) and their CfP closes on November 30th. This is a conference born out of love and hard labour, with wonderful academics (our very own Jessica Ringrose is GEA co-chair) paving the way to more intersectional feminism in education. Save the date and get involved!



Another promising conference organised by ATGENDER and Middlesex University will happen in May 2020 in London. Its theme, “Caring in Uncaring Times”, explores the possibilities for and necessity of embedding care in policy and activism. Their Call for Papers is here and closes on December 16th. Get your Pheminist magic going and submit an abstract if you can!



That’s all for November 2019, Pholks! Please do reach out if you have other events or stories that might be of interest. This monthly digest is made possible through the PhEMaterialisms Facebook page, so don’t hesitate to engage with it. Have a wonderFEEL day!


Audrey Jean

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