Tuesday 29 January 2013

Links round-up

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

GLAAD reports: Boy Scouts of America are now ‘actively considering’ lifting the ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders. Hooray! Meanwhile, the Girl Scouts of America (who provide comprehensive sex ed, teach girls about LGBTQ+ history and accept trans* girls) continue to be awesome.

Copyright vs. Shakespeare: Barry Deutsch presents a snarky look at what might have happened if writers in the early modern period had received the same treatment from the legal system as those creating responsive works today.

[NSFW] Garfunkel and Oates: ‘The Loophole’ (aka ‘F--- Me In The Ass ‘Cause I Love Jesus’) (warning: link is to video). Very silly and extremely rude song parodying abstinence-only education and ‘purity’ campaigns. TW for (parodies of) slut-shaming and discussion of religious misogyny.

Brighton and Hove City Council (who have recently been hitting the news for their formal acceptance of gender-neutral title ‘Mx’) publish the final report from their investigation into how better to support trans residents of Brighton.

Womanist Musings discusses the implications of vile American pundit Ann Coulter’s claim that people of colour are primarily to blame for gun violence.

Following the much reported-on gang rape in Delhi, a gathering in Bangalore sees men wearing skirts and raising awareness about violence against women. From their statement:
Why does wearing a skirt make a difference? It's a satirical take on the issue to draw attention to the absurd idea that what a woman wears invites sexual assault. Wear that skirt as a symbol of your support to a woman’s right to wear what she wants, be who she is, exercise her rights, and be safe in her city. Nothing shows more solidarity with women than breaking barriers and boundaries of 'his and hers.

For anyone who missed the media storm over Suzanne Moore, Julie Burchill, and trans issues, there is now a timeline at Trans Media Action which is still being updated. We also recommend this piece by Marko Attila Hoare on the straw men used when arguing for ‘the right to offend’.

January’s edition of The Academic Feminist features an interview with Dr. Elizabeth R. Johnson, who discusses how feminism has influenced her research into biomimicry.

BBC News’ William Kremer offers a really interesting brief sociocultural history of the high heel - from its original purpose as a practical shoe for mounted soldiers to its current status as a fetishised signifier of femininity.

Laurie Penny at the New Statesman takes on the internet’s culture of misogynist abuse.

Finally, this Monday sees a global day of action organised by Idle No More, a grassroots Canadian movement for environmental sustainability and restoring land rights to First Nations people.

Thursday 24 January 2013

The pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness

kaberettPosted by kaberett

If you've seen me perform with Lashings, you've almost certainly seen me take prescription medication while on stage. You've likely seen me on codeine. And here's what I can tell you for certain: you have never, ever seen me unmedicated.

Of course, I'm not the only one of us who takes meds on the regular: when my timer goes off in LashSpace I'm not the only one who reaches for tablets. But, well - it was noticeable that for the three-week Edinburgh run, the largest category by volume in my packing at the beginning of the trip was enough medication for three weeks. It's noticeable that in Lashings, as well as in my professional life, people tend to ask me for painkillers first - and that is 100% and entirely the reason that I carry ibuprofen with me at all times. (I'm continually maxing out on a different NSAID, so I can't take ibuprofen without serious health risks - but I like to be able to offer people something slightly weaker than neat opiates!)

Here's another anecdote for you: two weeks ago, I went to a GP at my surgery (never seen her before), and asked - among other things - about the possibility of sleeping pills to help with my insomnia. I was very, very careful to not request temazepam by name. She looked at the list of other things I'm taking - for the record, my daily meds are mefenamic acid, paracetamol, amitriptyline 25mg, citalopram 40mg, Buscopan, omeprazole, Fostair - sucked her teeth, and said that she didn't particularly want to prescribe it, because it can be awfully addictive, you know, and with everything else I'm on...

... and that, ladies & gents & everyone else, is when I had A Realisation.

Well, that's not quite true: it had been fermenting for a long time. But here it is: my approach to medication is not terribly common.

I'm reminded of this every time someone mentions that something is hurting, I offer them painkillers, and they demur: "Oh, no, it's not that bad," or "I'd rather wait to see if it clears up by itself," or any one of a number of other responses. It's not that I think there's anything wrong with that attitude - I used to be very, very good at it myself - but these days... well, I find it baffling (not least because ibuprofen has a rather milder side-effect profile than e.g. alcohol!).

I mean, of course, obviously - it's taught to us by the cultural expectations of a stiff upper lip, and of "musn't grumble"; by "the cure is worse than the disease"; by an ideal of self-sufficiency; and by a media that encourages us to mistrust medicine and medics, quite aside from all the people with good personal reasons to be mistrustful.

I know, intellectually, that I used to understand this at a deep and visceral level. I used to be so invested in the idea that I wasn't really in pain - that I was making it all up - that I'd skip my meds and put taking them off until I was on the floor and immobile with agony, and even then I wasn't sure I wasn't just an attention-seeker.

I know better than that these days.

These days, I know it's a lot easier to keep pain under control from the word go than it is to try to get a grip on it once it's unbearable. I know that for me, once I've started being in enough pain to notice, the vast majority of the time it's only going to get worse. And, importantly, I'm intimately familiar with drug side-effect profiles and the interaction of anything I'm asking for with everything I'm already on, and by the time I'm asking a doctor to prescribe me something I've definitely already made the cost-benefit analysis and I've probably already experimented with the drug in question. (Pro tip: people with chronic pain are often pretty relaxed about sharing meds with others they trust to act responsibly, in the general spirit of "try before you buy" and of "pay it forward".)

So I've put in all this work: on getting past my inhibitions about "making a fuss"; on researching my condition; on investigating plausible management regimes; on working out what might improve my situation.

Off I trot to the GP, and I say... "um, I'm having this problem, er, is there anything at all you might be able to do for that?" And if the GP sounds encouraging, I bimble on to "um, um, um, I've done some reading, um, it sounds like drug X might be useful? Maybe?"

Because here's the problem: I can't afford to be seen as "drug-seeking". I cannot afford the risk of doctors deciding that I don't actually need pain relief as pain relief, but what I do need is weaning off my addiction to the drugs that make my day-to-day life liveable. I can't be an effective self-advocate in medical settings in case gate-keepers decide that I'm a pushy patient - in case I seem too high-functioning, too well, to really need all those drugs.

And it was earlier this week that I worked out why this problem keeps arising.

(Before we go any further, I want to point out that my experiences as wheelchair-using crip are also my experiences as somebody who is thin, and white, and upper-middle class, and has access to medical journals and the education to make sense of the jargon, and covered by mummy's health insurance up to the age of 25. Most of the chronically ill people I interact with are either at (a) my university's Disabled Students' Campaign or (b) Diary of a Benefit Scrounger, i.e. heavily skewed towards activists; both have significant overlap with my areas of privilege. I can't - and don't - speak for all people living with chronic illnesses.)

People with chronic pain - with chronic illness - seem to me to be more likely to be very, very good at judging whether the side-effects and interactions of a new medication are worth the benefit we'll get from it. I've got so many things I need to discuss at every doctor's appointment that by the time an issue makes it to the top of the queue, I've probably been dealing with it for months. I often know what we want - but I don't have an awful lot of time to discuss it in, because I need to talk about three other things this appointment too.

But if you're well? Mmm. If you're healthy, and you're used to uncertain patients who aren't keen on taking pills... well, I can see why I'd come across as worryingly desperate. Mostly, it's because I am.

Just another thing, I suppose, to chalk up to coming from different sides of the cultural divide that is pain.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Links round-up

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Blabbeando reports on J-FLAG’s newest campaign, ‘We Are Jamaicans’ - a video campaign against homophobia by Jamaicans, for Jamaicans.

Philippa Willitts at The F-Word on how the newly-announced changes by the DWP are making an already-dire situation worse:
The latest changes which have been announced by the DWP are taking what was already ridiculous to an obscene level. The system that found a man in a coma fit for work, and seemingly contributed to many suicides is now going to use imaginary objects and limbs to make their decisions. If your assessor judges that you could benefit from using a power chair (~£2,500), then they will judge your ability to carry out tasks as if you had one. If they think that if you had a prosthetic limb (~£3,000 - £30,000) you could work at a supermarket, they will assess your ability to work as if you had one. If they think that a specialist computer keyboard (~£150) would help you to work, then they will consider you able to work, whether or not you, or a potential employer, could buy or use one.
Pioneering feminist literary scholars Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, the co-authors of The Madwoman in the Attic, are to be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the (American) National Book Critics Circle - Maureen Corrigan reflects on the book.

Greta Christina opens up a conversation on how someone might write kinky porn without feeding into rape culture - content warnings apply, especially given that it’s a long and growing comment thread, but it looks like a valuable discussion.

Spectra at ‘Spectra Speaks’ on the exploitation that can come from white saviourism in Africa:

But, one day, a young white American couple (that had been backpacking through the region) arrived at her doorstep, and offered to help Lindiwe raise money from abroad. The plan was to set up a non-profit in the U.S. to serve as a fiscal sponsor (i.e. serve as an umbrella organization) to the orphanage, which would enable them to collect tax-deductible donations from their network back in the states. Lindiwe couldn’t believe her luck. And, perhaps she shouldn’t have.

… This past year alone, the U.S. organization has raised over $30,000. But, since their launch there years ago, only $3000 has made it to Lindiwe’s orphanage, and this is after Lindiwe has had to keep calling, emailing, and begging to receive the funds owed to the local orphanage to cover basic necessities: food, medicine, school uniforms.

Jameson Fitzpatrick at Lambda Literary on the queerness of My Best Friend’s Wedding (contains spoilers).

The media storm continues around trans issues, Suzanne Moore, and Julie Burchill continues and once again there’s an awful lot being said - Hel Gurney has written a number of round-ups, so check out the latest one and follow all the links!

Across the pond, Rush Limbaugh proves he hates trans men as much as he hates women as he reacts to the media-hyped rumour of a trans student in all-female Salem College. Salem alumna Fervid Feminist analyses the story, and here at Lashings, we’re hoping that trans students in the USA will find the TONI Project a useful resource.

The Secret Histories Project: Why do we need Secret Histories anyway?
It’s a hard thing to feel that you don’t have a past, or that everyone in history who was ever like you has been shut down, vanished and so lost that you can’t even read about them any more. Not surprisingly, you tend to end up with the impression that one day soon, you’ll be shut down, silenced and lost to history too... Here is the thing though: no matter who you are — female, LGBTQ+, person with disabilities, PoC, neurodiverse, working class — you have a history too.
Finally, the trans people who shared their stories on #TransDocFail are being invited to share them on this survey too (anonymously if desired), as the basis for a complaint to the GMC. Please share this as widely as you can!

Friday 18 January 2013

2013: Reflections and Resolutions

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Last week we gave you a retrospective of what we’ve been up to in the previous year - this week, we’d like you to join us in some more personal reflection on the year behind and the year ahead. What was amazing? What was dreadful? What do we most want out of 2013 - as artists, as activists, as Lashers and Lash-friends? What will we let go of with a sigh of a relief, and what will we pursue with all the tenacity of a terrier hanging on to its favourite chew-toy?

A motley crew of Lashers respond below to a number of questions sent round - we’d love to hear your thoughts on our answers, or your own responses to the questions.

The high point of 2012?

George Osbourne being booed at the Paralympic medal presentation for for Men’s T38 400m. This communicates a lot of things to me, but the thing it showed to me was a pretty good demonstration of the lack of confidence in the current government. That crowd spoke for a lot of people not in the stadium that day (Teddy Bishop).

I was ecstatic when they announced the Democrat victory in the USA - the alternative was almost too horrible to contemplate. While Obama certainly isn’t perfect, the prospect of a Romney-headed America was genuinely chilling. Also, there were actual real-live queer women, disabled women, and women of colour elected to positions of power - amazing! My personal favourite was Mary Gonzalez, who identifies as pansexual and has spoken publicly about genderqueer identities. -Orlando

I’d say the high-point of 2012 for me was doing my first Lashings show. It was incredibly last minute and I had to learn the words during the preceding acts but it was a lot of fun and I’ve loved performing with Lashings since then. -Sasha Rocket

The low point of 2012?

The proposal to re-form Disability Living Allowance to the new Personal Independence Payment, effectively making yet another difficult and often unreasonable application process as a front to effectively reducing social welfare provisions and effectively make life unlivable for many disabled persons. (Bishop)

For me, the failure of the Church of England to agree on how to bring in women bishops was an unexpected low point for feminism - Isadora (Jenni agrees here!)

It’s hard for to pick a low point from a year that has been, in many ways, a constant drip-drip-drip of awfulness. Two constant sources of distress and dismay were the Tory attacks on the disabled and/or jobless, and the seemingly never-ending stream of disgusting comments about rape to emerge from the Republican party. -Orlando

Your favourite bit of activism from 2012?

Feminists coming together to denounce the transphobic entry police of RadFem2012 made me smile and squee. And had the conference not been cancelled, there was going to have been an amazing teach-in going on outside... -Orlando

Not as world-changing as some, perhaps, but the WorldPride 2012 Asexual Conference was a pretty big deal - it’s the first time something so major has happened, and it’s exciting that we’re now at that stage. - Jenni

The best ( or most impressively non-oppressive) bit of pop-culture you engaged with this year?

The game Mass Effect 3. Not just a story I find amazing (disappointing ending notwithstanding). I had a chance for my male protagonist Commander Shepherd to start a relationship with a man (Steve Cortez), after ending things with the genderless blue telepathic alien from my Mass Effect 2 game save. I don’t know how many games can say that and still be blockbusters. Nothing personal Liara T’Soni. Also a neat highlight of the game was the relationship between the artificial intelligence EDI and the mobility-impaired human pilot Joker. Sci-fi sextastic (Bishop).

The scene in Skyfall where James Bond can be seen to have said he’s bisexual. - Isadora

Strangely enough, Brave - I was very happy to have a film with the focus on a mother/daughter relationship, with both of them being genuinely strong characters (not the strong-flawless type) and to lack a romance subplot too! - Jenni

I don’t think there’s any one particular piece of mainstream pop-culture that I can think of from this year that I’d describe as ‘impressively non-oppressive’ but over the course of the year, I have been noticing a much higher ‘base level’ of engagement with feminism in a lot of pop culture. Parks and Recreation is an awesome show that is explicitly feminist (because Amy Poelher is just the best) and I think, particularly with Tina Fey and Amy Poelher hosting the Golden Globes, there’s a bit of a reversal of that whole ‘women aren’t funny’ nonsense. There are even some corners of the internet where this seems to be the case - can anyone imagine this article by Luke McKinney being posted on Cracked a year ago?

Something awesome you learned/discovered?

That I can be an influence on others! I’m used to thinking about other people who inspire me, but I have, to my astonishment, found out that the things I care about and take action on have been inspirational to some people I know this year. - Isadora

I came out as bi to my very religious mother at the end of 2011 and she’s since started talking about women with me in a way that is both weird and lovely. So I’d say I discovered a new aspect to my relationship with my mum. Also, that I’m more capable than I used to believe.

What was your 2012 Lash-career like?

I joined Lashings late in 2012 and joined in the protest to save the women’s library. I’m excited to newly be a part of Lashings! - Isadora

I did things I never thought I’d do: sung a cappella on stage, and even danced a little! As well as madcap travelling to gigs around the country, I’ve also been writing for Lashings regularly. I’m sad that circumstances prevented my joining the gang in Edinburgh, as I feel like my experience of Lashings can almost be counted in units of “Edinburghs”. I first met Lashings in Edinburgh 2010 (and ended up loving the show so much I saw them twice), and it was in Edinburgh 2011 when Annalytica first discussed the idea of my joining - so going and performing at Edinburgh 2012 would have been perfect. But onwards and upwards - hopefully I’ll be treading the boards in Edinburgh in 2013! It’s been an amazing ride so far - I’m so pleased to have finally joined. -Orlando

I joined Lashings this year and it’s been awesome. I’ve met really fantastic people and had a lot of fun. I’ve actually danced onstage which was surprising! Unfortunately, like Orlando, I didn’t get to go to Edinburgh with Lashings this year but hopefully that’ll be something I can manage in 2013. -Sasha Rocket

What do you want to see happen in 2013?

I'm looking forward to marriage law being equalised. For my younger (10-15 years ago) self this is a huge dream come true. I might not feel exactly the same about marriage anymore but this would have made my younger self’s year life.
In a more trivial area, as a dancer, I would love to see programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing have non-heteronormative pairings. It’s going to happen at some point. - Isadora

I am looking forward to (hopefully this year) seeing ‘Tropes vs. Women in Video Games’ a Kickstarter funded project by Anita Sarkeesian. This video series promises to address the sexist tropes that are present in games and gaming culture at large. Sarkeesian is famous for her highly enlightening Feminist Frequency series and the unfortunate hate campaign that followed when her latest project was announced. As a comic book reader, I would also like to see a better representation of female comic book characters with less sexual objectification following the ‘Hawkeye Initiative’ of Dec’ 2012. If the comic book writers can listen to fans and put meme jokes into the Deadpool serials, I would sure think they could listen about how objectification is damaging for audiences. Here’s to hoping for a less oppressive geeknerd culture (Bishop).

I’d like to tack my agreement onto everything that’s already been said but I’d especially like to see more non-faily pop culture and, like Bishop says, a less oppressive geekdom. -Sasha Rocket

^ Can I add in Escher Girls link, even though it’s been going longer? eschergirls.tumblr.com
I want to see more asexual visibility - we already had a massive surge this year, so it’s an exciting time for us! - Jenni

What do you want to MAKE happen in 2013?

Is it too optimistic to say 'bring about queer-feminist anti-kyriarchal utopia'? I guess so. In which case, keep on making safer spaces for the people who need them - and keep on working to change the world outside those spaces, one teaspoon at a time. -Orlando

I’m with Orlando here, but on a less optimistic scale - get the notion of ‘asexuality’ out there. And create a space for geeks that’s queer/female friendly (not at all a plug for Nine Worlds, I promise...) - Jenni

Every time I try to answer this question, my brain just keeps yelling ‘CHEESECAKE’ at me. So, I guess I want to make cheesecake happen in 2013. Plus, I’m really looking forward to certain lashplans that I’m also hoping to be involved in. -Sasha Rocket

What do you want to do in Lashings this year?

I’m pretty excited to newly be a part of Lashings. I’m looking forward to being in a pantomime. And challenging dance stereotypes as much as I can in any performances :) - Isadora

Keep on blogging! - Jenni

I might die of joy the first time Lashings performs a song I’ve written. (Sebastienne and Zim are both ready and waiting for the one I’m working on right now, but it’s still not complete...) Aside from wanting to write a lot of songs and sketches (and having grand ambitions of them becoming Lashings classics), I want to develop as a performer myself and become confident with a wider range of Lashings numbers. And of course, I’ll continue blogging - I have quite a few topics lined up! -Orlando

I’m hoping to get better at dancing as that’s something I feel less confident about, and I want to write stuff. -Sasha Rocket

… so those are the thoughts of some Lashers on the year behind and the year behind. How about you?

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Links round-up

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Founding member of Lashings, Annalytica, is giving her first solo stand-up performance since leaving the collective - 29th January in Soho, at the Progressive Women Funny Fundraiser. If you love the thoughtfulness and humour she brought to Lashings, now’s your chance to see her again! 

Gendered Intelligence are conducting on a survey on trans youth and employment - if you’re a young UK-based trans person, please help them by filling it in.

Lawrence Allen analysises the visibility of bi women in pop, and what it means for the feminist and LGBT movements. (Content warning: Chaz Bono is briefly implicitly framed as a masculine woman rather than a trans man.)

Some of us have just noticed Love Is Respect - an awareness and resources website for issues of abuse and domestic violence.

Black Feminists Manchester on racism within white feminist spaces - this is crucially important reading.

Gyzym writes this amazing article on Beauty and the Beast, Liking Problematic Things, Love Actually, rape culture, what we learn without realising it - and what we’re teaching kids without realising it.

Over at Delirium’s Library, there’s an incisive discussion of Stephen Moffat, the various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett!), and what the appearance of lesbian couple Vastra and Jenny in the recent Doctor Who Christmas special might really indicate in Moffat’s world of ‘escapist bachelor fantasy’.

And on the topic of Doctor Who, kyriarchy, and the past, Sharon P at Rude Girl Mag muses on Martha Jones, time travel, and oppression.
“Fuck going back in time; that shit’s for the birds. I’ll be over here in the future, where black women can be space pirates and battle commanders and save the world.”

Sophie Mayer interviews queer feminist hero Alison Bechdel - artist, writer, origin of the famed ‘Bechdel test’, and all-round inspiring human being.

This is article is from 2007, but it’s been making the rounds on Tumblr lately - content warnings for ableism (including the word ‘retarded’ used uncritically), and descriptions of medical abuse andneglect. Anne McDonald challenges the ‘Pillow Angel’ case - where the growth (and sexual development) girl with disabilities was arrested through medical intervention - from the perspective of someone who was once considered to be just as much of a ‘lost cause’.

It’s been a long and frantic week for trans coverage in the media - beginning with the journalistic crucifying of trans doctor and gender clinic practitioner Dr Richard Curtis (based on complaints from some patients regretting transition). Some of the trans community responded with the twitter hashtag #TransDocFail, detailing the routine discrimination they faced at the hands of medical professionals.
(Our own kaberett talks here about why they’re not reading #TransDocFail - because they’ve got their plate full dealing with their own - which is coming up to its third birthday!)

But trans issues really hit the news at the tail of the week, when Suzanne Moore described the ideal body - unnattainable by ‘women’ - as that of ‘a Brazilian transsexual’, and after criticism from various transfolk and allies online, left Twitter. The Observer saw fit to print a vitriolic, slur-filled and unutterably transphobic ‘defence’ of Moore by self-proclaimed ‘feminist’ shock-jock Julie Burchill (SERIOUS trigger warnings for transphobic language, which is quoted in many of the below links). Below are some of the reactions, in the press and on the blogosphere:
Roz Kaveney @ The Guardian - ‘Julie Burchill has ended up bullying the trans community’
Jane Fae @ The Independent - ‘Burchill's attack follows the same pattern - trans stories are only of interest if we star as villains’
Paris Lees @ DIVA - ‘An open letter to Suzanne Moore’
Ruth Pearce @ Lesbilicious - ‘Transphobia in The Guardian: no excuse for hate speech’
Christine Burns @ Plain Sense - ‘Mending fences’
Quinnae @ Nuclear Unicorn - ‘Unguarded and Poorly Observed: A Response to Julie Burchill’
Brooke Magnanti @ The Telegraph - ‘We don't need Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill to police the borders of womanhood’
NUS Women’s Campaign’s official statement

After mass outcry, a petition, and a great many letters to the editor of The Observer - Sebastienne’s open letter is here  - a number of things happened. The Observer apologised; Moore returned to Twitter and apologised; The Observer removed the original Burchill article (and all the long, articulate comments taking her to task); The Independent ran an article pooh-poohing its removal in the name of ‘free speech’; The Telegraph reprinted it; and the trollish backlash begins. We’re pretty sure this summary (written the night before) will be out of date by the time this round-up gets published!

… after all that, trans readers would be forgiven for feeling very drained indeed. (We know that some of the trans Lashers are.) So, to end this round-up, here’s a lovely article from Autostraddle about ‘radical self care’ for trans people - 25 Things I Do To Make My Body Dysphoria Feel Smaller and Quieter.

Friday 11 January 2013

A Year in the Life of Lashings: “I’m so glad I live here in twenty-twelve...”

Lashings of Ginger Bee Timer
Posted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

Well, the new year is beginning to settle upon us, and the hustle and bustle of the festive season in its various forms has all but slipped away. (And because capitalism is apparently relentless in its pursuit of holiday-based profit, shops are replacing chocolate tree-decorations with the earliest Easter eggs we've ever seen.) Many of us, Lashers old and new, rung in the new year at a party that also celebrated Lashings’ fourth birthday - that’s right, on December 31st 2012, Lashings became exactly four years old. We can hardly believe it! As our gracious host Galatea said, “If it were a human being, it would be old enough to eat bread covered with colourful sprinkles and throw its own tantrums by now...” We’re also fast approaching the second birthday of this blog - January February 18th - so that’s two milestones within a month a month -and-a-half!

So, for our first long-form blog entry this year, and In the spirit of last year’s round-up post, ‘A year in the life of Lashings’, let’s have good long look at the year behind.

Lashings began 2012 with a bang, with two performances of ‘Cinderella: A Queer Sort of Pantomime’ in Oxford and London. Scripted by writer extraordinaire Galatea, positive response to the show was overwhelming! (For those who didn’t manage to see it or get the DVD, we give a synopsis in this interview.) ‘Cinderella’ also marked the Lashings debut of Cleopatra, who has since become invaluable to the collective.

March saw us performing at Linacre College’s queer feminist cabaret ‘Gender Rebels’, where we gave our first airing to an early version of Josie Long-inspired number “80s Tribute Government” as well as a sensual butch/femme dance number set to CN Lester’s cover of “I’m Your Man”. Clearly not at all tired out from our work on the panto, we also announced our plans for another show with an over-arching concept: Alternative Sex Education. An ambitious project riffing off a line from an Edinburgh review - “if only Lashings could end up on the national curriculum” - we set ourselves the task of exploring what we wish we’d been taught about sex and relationships in school (and what we really wish we hadn’t). We began fundraising online for alt.sex.ed, offering prizes such as mp3s, zines, and the recording of the panto - and surpassed our £1000 target!

In April and May we were busily working behind the scenes - and were also joined by three new Lashers! kaberett and Valentina had encountered Lashings via the London panto and fallen in love with our brand of queer-feminist joy, while long-time Lashfriend Orlando finally took the plunge several months after being invited. The run-up to alt.sex.ed saw us trialling a new way of organising rehearsals, splitting the show into distinct London and Oxford sections to allow for easier co-ordination before weaving everything back together in a weekend of brainstorming and dress run-throughs.

We premiered alt.sex.ed at OxFringe in June, featuring a plethora of new songs and sketches. Our energetic opening number, “Twenty-Twelve”, is an impassioned debate (set to the tune of West Side Story’s “America”!) about whether the modern world is a good place to be queer - with a fast group dance that has us all gasping! Carlotta’s “Bad Romance” - a critique of the relationship models in Twilight, in the key of Lady Gaga - has since proved a perennial hit, while Galatea’s hilarious “Kink Scouts” sketch was popular enough for people to request the Scouts as characters for the annual Yuletide fanworks exchange! Other fantastic new acts included Annalytica’s bittersweet satire “Don’t Know Why” (a song about the way sexual (mis)communication is encouraged in popular narratives), the educational and tongue-twisting Professor Galatea’s Eurocentric History of Western Queerdom, and Lilka’s powerfully emotive performance of two Lashings classics (a biting political version of “Acceptable” leading directly on to the dance “Our Daughters Will Never Be Free”).

July brought our second preview showing of Alternative Sex Education at the Pirate Castle in London, with a different set list. The emotional peak of the show came in linked songs about queer youth suicide “It Breaks My Heart” and “It Gets Better (Tomorrow)”, spoken and sung by Lilka and Annalytica, and accompanied by Florestan’s rich and soaring cello. Audience members (and several Lashers) were left in tears, and your correspondent on this blog is choking up just thinking about it. As the Oxford and London showings dealt with some powerful and distressing subject matter, these were the first nights where we provided trigger warnings online and on the door - which we now do for every one of our shows!

June and July were also months of travelling beyond our usual haunts -  we performed at two more Cutlery Drawer fundraisers in Cambridge and Brighton, as well as the Trans Tent at Nottinghamshire Pride. We were lucky enough to be alongside the fabulous CN Lester for the first two, and Nottinghamshire was the first time we performed with trans-feminist punk band Not Right. Not Right were due to play at Cambridge too, but unfortunately they had to drop out - which, on the plus side, led to our now-somewhat-legendary extra set MC’d by Sebastienne as Margaret Thatcher, and the best complaint we’ve ever received (“creating an unsafe space for Tories”)! New Lasher Sasha Rocket also performed for the first time when Lashings appeared at Gendered Intelligence’s fundraiser, CampOUT at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

We took alt.sex.ed to Edinburgh Fringe festival, in a long run of 3rd-17th August, performing at the now ex-Bongo Club on Holyrood Road, and spending most of our spare time advertising the show on the High Street (or “Royal Mile”). We kept the alt.sex.ed format, but played with the content. Some new things which started in Edinburgh were:
- Debuting Rob & Zim’s “Bad Touch”, which turns a filthy tune by the Bloodhound Gang into a duet about the joys of asexual relationships. (“You and me baby we’re both asexual / when I invite you up for coffee there is nothing subtextual”)
- Re-focussing “Vagina Dentata” to open the show. We removed the Disney rant and instead talked about the kind of people who say “I don’t need feminism, I have equality now”.
- After we moved that to the beginning of the show, we needed something else for our puritanical stage-invaders to object to; Sebastienne came to the rescue with two-and-a-half verses of “Wanking at Lunchtime” (to the tune of - you guessed it - “Walking on Sunshine”), a filthy-funny song about a relationship between two people with mismatched sex drives.

We lived in a top-floor flat (I don’t understand the spatial geography, but somehow, in Edinburgh, all flats seem to be top-floor-flats), 10-15 of us a night spread across 4 rooms. We were round the corner from an amazing alt pub where we ate a lot of veggie nachos, drank a lot of plum sake, and stroked a lot of dogs.

We were so excited when Galatea came to visit - she’d been responsible for kick-starting the alt.sex.ed format, and writing the first through-scripts, and we are so grateful to her for that. However, she was really ill for the duration of her stay, and was not able to perform with us once. Despite this, and despite midnight hospital trips, she managed to write us a whole new through-script for our final five shows!

Alternative Sex Education was also the last run for two of our beloved long-standing Lashers, as both Florestan and Annalytica parted ways with us to focus on their own projects. Florestan has been incredibly active in the world of music: arranging the score for the 
Better Strangers Feminist Opera Collective production of Dido (and playing Aeneas in it!), conducting a number of choirs including British Humanist Association Choir, singing with Diversity (an LGBT chamber choir), teaching music in private lessons and workshops for children, and still having time to write and arrange music for concert, theatre, and film! Annalytica has set up incredibly useful website Feminist Performers, which provides reviews, recommendations, and a calendar of feminist performance events. She has also been developing a solo stand-up act, which debuts very soon in London on January 29th at the Progressive Women Funny Fundraiser. We wish both of them the very best, and should they choose to work with us again, they will of course be welcomed with open arms! “Once a king or queen sovereign in Narnia, always a king or queen sovereign in Narnia...”

At our September AGM, we resolved on a first for Lashings: an active recruitment drive! We ran three taster sessions in different cities where we invited potential Lashers to come and meet us for some drama games, friendly conversation, and a chance to learn more about what it’s like to work with Lashings. The response was enthusiastic, and we began training up a new crop of Apprentice Lashers - some of whom are already making their mark on this very blog!

In October Lashings headed over to Revolt, a punk / riot grrl night in Coventry, organised by Ruth of the above-mentioned Not Right - we lampshaded our totally non-punk sound by beginning with acoustic happy-clappy number “Join The Fight With Me”, but ended on as loud a note as we could muster with “80s Tribute Government” (video here - sorry about the missing sound in the first verse!).

November 29th was the first gig for many of our Apprentice Lashers (affectionately nicknamed “the Lashlings”), as we led an acoustic sing-along set at a protest organised by Save The Women’s Library - featured in this video of the night.

Our final gig of the year, Lashings of Afternoon Tea Time, was a cosy and friendly Sunday at our much-loved East Oxford Community Centre, with (as you might expected) lots of tea and home-made cakes, and a chance for many of the Lashlings to show off their skills. Debut numbers included “Wannabe” (a Spice Girls parody - never let it be said that Lashings aren’t topical...) and new government-policy-themed songs “Bare Necessities” and “A Spoonful of Bullshit” (examinations from Patch and kaberett on how the welfare state is being attacked, and how those in power make such cuts palatable in the media, respectively). We also added an Avengers section to our Sci-Fi Skits, and premiered new version of “Everyone’s A Little Bit Privileged” which replaced Stephen Fry with Amanda Palmer in the position of “person we love(d) and admire(d) who failed to apologise for a hurtful privileged statement/act”.

So that was our 2012! We have a very exciting 2013 ahead, with work behind the scenes on loads of new acts, plus another big project that you’ll hopefully be hearing about very soon! We at Lashings wish you all the best for the coming year, and look forward to sharing it with you. :)

- Orlando and Sebastienne

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Links round-up: welcome to 2013!

Lashings of Ginger Bee TimerPosted by Lashings of Ginger Beer Time

... and the Lashings blog returns from its festive break! We hope you've all had a lovely holiday season, no matter how you spent it.

Your Holiday Mom is a USA-based project that ran between Thanksgiving and New Year, where a group of mothers wrote/recorded a daily message to LGBTQ young people who aren't getting the support they need from their own parents.

It's now the time of year where dieting (among other forms of self-denial) is heavily encouraged by the social rituals of New Year's Resolutions: The Fat Nutritionist offers a brief but incisive reminder of the dangers of this, not only to health but to one's own sense of humanity. (For those new to The Fat Nutritionist, Cleopatra recently discovered her work via this article, which is an excellent discussion of common misconceptions around HAES, Fat Acceptance, obesity and the food industry.)

The latest Ask A Geek Feminist answer on being a better trans* ally is lovely.

Do not pass 'Go', do not collect £200, just go and read this blog post by Foz Meadows about how our beliefs about what is possible in the future (eg. sci fi and fantasy fiction) is shaped by our perceptions of what has happened in the past:
Almost uniformly, in fact, it seems as though such complaints of racial and sexual inaccuracy have nothing whatsoever to do with history and everything to do with a foggy, bastardised and ultimately inaccurate species of faux-knowledge gleaned primarily – if not exclusively – from homogeneous SFF, RPG settings, TV shows and Hollywood. And if that’s so, then no historic sensibilities are actually being affronted, because none genuinely exist: instead, it’s just a reflexive way of expressing either conscious or subconscious outrage that someone who isn’t white, straight and/or male is being given the spotlight.
One atheist writes about her disagreement with use of confrontational tactics in the atheist movement.

For anyone who enjoyed Jenni's post on the Friend Zone but felt a yearning for more sarcasm and MS Paint, The Singing Duck offers a hilarious deconstruction of how to 'get out of the friend zone' (content notice: misogyny and sexist stereotypes (reproduced in-text for analysis), cartoon representation of violence, and TW for a dismissive mention of rape allegations).

Jen Dziura at The Gloss questions the commonplace that "women are more emotional", examining how "emotional outbursts typically more associated with men (shouting, expressing anger openly) are given a pass in public discourse in a way that emotional outbursts typically more associated with women (crying, “getting upset”) are stigmatized."

On a final note of pure happiness, enjoy this gender-bending video of Ukrainian singer Artem Semenov singing both parts in Phantom Of The Opera.