All 40 entries tagged Feminism

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March 18, 2012

Alan Moore Essays

Writing about web page

The collection on Alan Moore and sexual ideology is out now, and I have contributed an essay. See the contents below… I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments 1
Introduction: The Polarizing of Alan Moore’s Sexual Politics

Part I: The “Low Form”: Moore and the Complex Relationships of the Comic Book Superhero
1. Libidinal Ecologies: Eroticism and Environmentalism in Swamp Thing
2. Green Love, Red Sex: The Conflation of the Flora and the Flesh in Swamp Thing
3. When “One Bad Day” Becomes One Dark Knight: Love, Madness, and Obsession in the Adaptation of The Killing Joke into Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight
4. “Don’t laugh, Daddy, we’re in love”: Mockery, Fulfillment, and Subversion of Popular Romance Conventions in The Ballad of Halo Jones
5. The Love of Nationalism, Internationalism and Sacred Space in Watchmen

Part II: The Vicious Cabaret of Love, Sexual Desire … and Torture
6. Theorizing Sexual Domination in From Hell and Lost Girls Jack the Ripper versus Wonderlands of Desire
7. “Do you understand how I have loved you?” Terrible Loves and Divine Visions in From Hell
8. Body Politics: Unearthing an Embodied Ethics in V for Vendetta
9. The Poles of Wantonness: Male Asexuality in Alan Moore’s Film Adaptations
10. Reflections on the Looking Glass: Adaptation as Sex and Psychosis in Lost Girls

Part III: Victorian Sexualities and the Ecriture Feminine: Women Writing and the Women of Writing
11. “Avast, Land-Lubbers!” Reading Lost Girls as a Post-Sadeian Text
K. A. LAITY 138
12. The Undying Fire: Erotic Love as Divine Grace in Promethea
13. “It came out of nothing except our love”: Queer Desire and Transcendental Love in Promethea
14. Self-Conscious Sexuality in Promethea
15. I Remain Your Own: Epistolamory in “The New Adventures of Fanny Hill”

Afterword: Disgust with the Revolution

Selected Bibliography 207
About the Contributors 217

February 10, 2011

Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives: Giveaway.

We have recently set up a giveaway for Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives (edited Gunne and Brigley Thompson) on Goodreads. This is to celebrate the book having been published for a year. The essays in this volume discuss narrative strategies employed by international writers when dealing with rape and sexual violence, whether in fiction, poetry, memoir, or drama. In developing these new feminist readings of rape narratives, the contributors aim to incorporate arguments about trauma and resistance in order to establish new dimensions of healing.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives (Routledge Research in ... by Sorcha Gunne

Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives

by Sorcha Gunne

Giveaway ends March 14, 2011.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

January 12, 2011

A Year of Feminist Classics.

Writing about A year of feminist classics from Charlotte's Research blog

I just read on one of the Warwick blogs about a new discussion group that has been set up to discuss feminist classics. Here’s what they say:

A Year of Feminist Classics is a project started by Amy, Ana, Emily Jane and Iris, four book bloggers who share an interest in the feminist movement and its history. The project will work a little like an informal reading group: for all of 2011, we will each month read what we consider to be a central feminist text, with one of us being in charge of the discussion. We invite all readers to join us – you certainly don’t have to commit to the whole twelve months to participate (though we would love it if you did!); if there’s any particular title you have always wanted to read, here’s your chance of doing so with a group of fellow readers who will do their best to use it as a point of departure for a stimulating discussion.

I am thinking of joining in this project, especially for books that I don’t know so well. The schedule is…

January: A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft AND So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba
February: The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill
March: A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
April: Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
May: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
June: God Dies by the Nile by Nawal Saadawi
July: The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoirs
August: The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
September: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
October: Ain’t I a Woman? by bell hooks AND Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism Anthology
November: Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
December: Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Some of these, such as the books by Wollstonecraft, Mill and Butler, I know inside out, but others I would like to reread, and some I simply don’t know such as Nawal El Saadawi’s book. What a great idea it is overall. See the website here:

October 14, 2010

Panel on Cinema, Feminism, Gaze at 'Violence and Reconcilation'

Writing about web page

Sorcha Gunne and I recently spoke at the conference ‘Violence and Reconciliation’. We were talking on narrativising rape and revising scripts of power in short stories by Isabel Allende and Rosario Castellanos. You can see our abstract here Alongside us were papers by Andrew Hennlich who spoke on William Kentridge’s film Ubu Tells the Truth and Xavier Aldana Reyes who discussed ‘Contemporary Horror and the Mediation of Violence.

Hennlich focussed on the links between Kentridge’s film about witnessing violence in South Africa (made in 1997) and Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1927). Hennlich analyzed the words FOR GIVE which appear onscreen and questioned whether to give is an act of compassion or an act of aggression related to the Afrikaans word ‘gif’ meaning poison. Often Kentridge’s imagery suggests that humanity is troubling, e.g. the pig’s head wearing earphones. One particularly interesting scene that Hennlich commented on was the moment when the camera becomes complicit in acts of violence itself; Kentridge shows it blowing up bodies, an act that was based on testimony from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Even for the camera, it is impossible to recover those lost in the violence of Apartheid.

Reyes also commented on the legacies of violence describing the plots and motifs of some very disturbing horror films. The films discussed included Funny Games (1997), My Little Eye (2001), _The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007) and Untraceable (2008). Most of these films have plots relates to recording extreme violence and Reyes described them as Sadeian. Reyes also suggested that the films were not as popular as horror blockbusters like Hostel, because the plots are far more uncomfortable. These films reflect a wound culture, where people stop to look at dead bodies on the pavement and internet users are given the choice whether or not a person dies horribly.

We had an interesting discussion after the panel about the representations of women in these films. Reyes explained that in The Poughkeepsie Tapes, an FBI film analyst tells the other agents that after his wife saw a short extract from one of the tapes, she was so traumatized that she couldn’t let her husband touch her for a year. Again in The Poughkeepsie Tapes, a victim of the murderer who survives, Cheryl Dempsey, is unable to function socially and ends up committing suicide. I had a look on YouTube after the paper and found this disturbing video related to The Poughkeepsie Tapes – disturbing because half way through the “interview” with Cheryl, it becomes clear that she has been severely physically damaged. I actually find the representation of Cheryl extremely objectionable. All it seems to do is reactivate the same old scripts of gendered power and domination. From what Reyes told us about Untraceable, it seems that similar scripts are at work in the representation of the heroine, Jennifer Marsh, who at the end of the film (spoilers!) is caught and tortured before she finally kills the murderer. I am amazed that these exploitative representations of women are still being used, even if it is the horror genre.

June 02, 2010

Debating Anonymity for Rape Defendants: Reponse to Comments on the Letter to my MP.

Follow-up to Letter to Chris White, MP for Leamington, on the law to give anonymity to rape defendants from The Midnight Heart

OK, I have a few points. (I would note though in passing that Karl, the person who took issue with my letter, has some awful misconceptions about what feminism is.)

1. Rapists tend to be men
If you want to get down to it, what I research is sexual violence, which is something that tends to happen to women more. As Mollie Whalen writes:

The vast majority of the entire range of sexually violent acts on our society is perpetrated by adult heterosexual males on females of all races, social classes, ages, and sexualities. The second highest incidence of sexual violence is perpetrated by adult heterosexual males on other males – either adult gay male or male children. (p. 137 in Counseling to End Violence Against Women)

Given this fact, I see no problem in researching this area specifically in relation to women, though actually I do include male survivors and child survivors of sexual violence in my research too. I’m afraid that it is simply not correct to say that ‘Men are the primary victims of all violence from men & women alike’, and it is certainly not accurate to suggest that feminists are only interested in women’s rights. You suggest that in seeking to prevent anonymity for rape defendants, I am seeking a situation where ‘women benefit over men’, but I would point out that denying this kind of anonymity would also benefit male survivors of rape.

2. Clarification of Conviction Rates
The conviction rate for rape cases is around 6%. This figure has not been made up – it comes from a respected Home Office report titled ‘A Gap or a Chasm? Attrition in Reported Rape Cases’ by Liz Kelly, Jo Lovett and Linda Regan. This is what it says:

Home Office figures show an ongoing decline in the conviction rate for reported rape cases, putting it at an all-time low of 5.6 per cent in 2002. This year-on-year increase in attrition represents a justice gap that the government has pledged to address. (p. 10)

The debate regarding the 6% figure emerged because Baroness Stern pointed out that after a rapist is charged, 60% are convicted, but it is important to note that many simply are never charged with the crime. Kelly, Lovett and Regan admit this saying:

All UK studies of attrition in rape cases concur that the highest proportion of cases is lost at the earliest stages, with between half and two-thirds dropping out at the investigative stage, and withdrawal by complainants one of the most important elements. (p. 12)

This simply doesn’t happen with other kinds of crimes and it is just not good enough, especially when the large majority of rape cases go unreported. The reason for having a special method for looking at rape conviction rates is precisely because it is a crime that so often goes unreported in a way that does not apply to other crimes like assault, burglary etc.

3. Clarification of Rates of False Allegations

Feminist researchers do include false rape allegations in their research. Kelly, Lovett and Regan who wrote ‘A Gap or a Chasm? Attrition in Reported Rape’ write the following:

There are false allegations, and possibly slightly more than some researchers and support agencies have suggested. However, at maximum they constitute nine per cent and probably closer to three per cent of all reported cases. (p. 99)

This is what Baroness Stern described too: the “one in ten” figure reported by the newspapers, but remember that this means that 90% of women are telling the truth. I would also add that these figures are not very different from the rates of false allegations for other crimes, but with no other crime is there so much focus on whether the victim is telling the truth or not.

4. Widespread Mistrust of Women Reporting Rape

I’m afraid that there is widespread mistrust of women reporting a rape. In a British poll conducted by Amnesty International in 2006, substantial numbers of respondents blamed the survivor for her own rape if she was drunk (37%), if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing (26%), or if she had many sexual partners (22%). Juries are also less likely to find a rapist guilty in cases where the assailant is known to the woman, where a weapon has not used or where the rape survivor has not sustained incapacitating physical injury. All of these responses reveal the power of rape myths surrounding women’s consent to sexual acts and these myths are reflected in the media.

5. Why Women Need the Opportunity to Come Forward While a Case is Being Held

Prosecution of rape cases often depends on the ability of the rape survivor to testify in a convincing manner. This can be extremely difficult, however, in the face of hostile defence legal strategies like “whacking”, where the defence lawyer seeks to intimidate and humiliate the survivor in order to discredit her (or him). If more victims of a rapist that is being tried come forward during the case, there is a greater chance that the jury will believe the rape survivor’s story. If the defendant has anonymity, it’s possible that his name will never be broadcast. Would John Worboys, “the black cab rapist”, or others like him, have been convicted as a serial rapist if so many courageous women survivors had not come forward after reading about him in the news?

6. There Should Either Be Anonymity for All or for None – Not Just for Rape Defendants

My final point would be to ask you why rape defendants in particular need anonymity. If defendants are going to be given anonymity, then it should apply to all defendants – murder defendants, GBH defendants, burglary defendants etc. But hardly anyone is suggesting that. The fact is that there is a huge paranoia about false rape allegations to the extent that defendants of rape are being given special privileges. You say that you would not want to see your son’s life destroyed by a rape allegation, but equally, I would not want a daughter’s or a son’s rapist to go unpunished.

June 01, 2010

Letter to Chris White, MP for Leamington, on the law to give anonymity to rape defendants

Writing about web page

Dear Chris White,

You are now my MP and I have a problem which I would like some help with. I am an academic researching in the field of violence against women and I am strongly opposed to the proposed move to give anonymity to rape defendants.

Rape conviction rates are still under 10% and most rapists “get away” with their crimes. The failure to properly prosecute rape cases and convict rapists tends to be attributed to two factors: the prevalence of “rape myths” in public opinion and the judicial system; and the intimidating tactics of defence teams in rape cases which refocus the attention of the judge and jury on the moral fibre of the rape survivor rather than the rapist. Juries can be influenced too by their perception of the victim’s character, behaviour and possible drug or alcohol use. In a British poll conducted by Amnesty International in 2006, substantial numbers of respondents blamed the survivor for her own rape if she was drunk (37%), if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing (26%), or if she had many sexual partners (22%). Juries are more likely to find a rapist guilty in cases where the assailant is a stranger, where a weapon is used or where the rape survivor has sustained physical injury. All of these responses reveal the power of rape myths surrounding women’s consent to sexual acts.

Passing a law to give rape defendants anonymity would boost the widely held belief that most women who report rape are lying. Such a law cannot be defended either with an argument about false accusations of rape, because the latest research on false rape allegations has found that the figures are around the same as with other crimes, but no one is suggesting that all defendants have anonymity.In addition, in the UK, if a woman is found to have made a malicious accusation of rape, she loses the right to anonymity and media coverage of false allegations far outweighs reports of men arrested for rape. Finally, I would suggest that in recent cases of serial rapists, the publication of rape defendants’ names has encouraged other rape survivors (who previously were too ashamed or frightened) to come forward (e.g. the John Worboys case ).

I hope that these facts clarify matters. In addition, as my MP, I hope that you will represent my view and refuse to pass this retrograde law, which only compounds the problems that already exist in trying and convicting rapists.


Dr. Zoë Brigley Thompson

March 26, 2010

Interview about Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives.

Writing about web page


Note: In the third from last paragraph, the author gets mixed up – she mentions Sonya when she means Sorcha Gunne, my co-editor. I think that she was confusing her with my colleague, Sonya Andermahr. The article is taken from the University of Northampton magazine, Park Avenue and I reproduce it here, because quite a few people have asked me why I would want to research such a disturbing topic.

March 19, 2010

Still an Ordeal Being Processed by Police After Rape

Writing about web page

When I was visiting Florida earlier this year, I noticed an article in a local paper Folio titled ‘Why It Sucks To Get Raped Jacksonville: Advocate Jessi Acosta offers an unvarnished look at rape’s official aftermath’ authored by journalist Susan Cooper Eastman. The story discusses the Sexual Assault Response Centre in Jacksonville, Florida, and whilst there have been improvements, according to the article, the wait for a forensic examiner can be an ordeal. Sometimes these women have to wait for hours without drinking, showering, combing hair or changing clothes. In addition, when examiners are called out on weekends and holidays, the rape survivor can be made to feel like an incovenience.

March 18, 2010

Frida Kahlo – Self Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky

Writing about web page

Here is a photo from my visit at the wonderful National Museum of Women in the Arts in DC. Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait dedicated to Trotsky stands alongside a sculpture by Barbara Hepworth and other wonderful works by women artists:

Frida Kahlo

For more entries on Kahlo, see this link .

March 05, 2010

Alison Bechdel and Fun Home

Writing about web page

Date: 4th March 2010
Venue: Paul Robeson Centre, Penn State University

Last night I went to see Alison Bechdel talking about her most recent book, Fun Home. In the eighties, Bechdel invented the comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For , inspired by the political and gendered issues of the time, and she has done a great deal of work since, including the 2006 graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.

Thinking about why she became a graphic novelist, Bechdel suggests that it might have been because her parents had so many diverse interests in the arts; in poetry, literature, acting and interior decorating. Bechdel felt a little squashed by her parents’ interests, and rather than becoming an artist or a writer as their ambitions for her dictated, she became a graphic novelist/writer.

Bechdel gave us a great deal of insight into how she began to write and draw as a child. For her influences, she talks about the cartoonist Charles Addams and the clever slippage in his work between words and the images.

Charles Addams

Bechdel recognized this kind of slippage in her own family. It was a family that she would later question when she discovered that her father had been suppressing his homosexuality because he longed to be respectable. Like the Gothic houses of Charles Addams’ sketches, Bechdel’s family house was a lovingly restored Victorian mansion that her father took pains to perfect.

Bechdel kept a diary as a child but was always aware of the power and complexity of language. This awareness first manifested itself by Bechdel contradicting herself. As a child, she would write down events from the day, but would often include a tiny doodle of the words “I think” as if to admit that she might be incorrect or fallible. Later this uncertainty manifested itself in crossing out the names of people written about in the diary which worked as a kind of ritual to protect them. Even later, Bechdel was crossing out entire pages and obliterating entire entries.

In addition to this slippage of words, first recognized in Charles Addams, another influence on Bechdel as a child was the map in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows:

It is not the map itself that intrigues Bechdel, so much as the detail and the animation of the characters, e.g. Toad driving his car badly through the landscape. It is this kind of animation that Bechdel wants to achieve through her use of pictures. This ambition also explains why Bechdel, when she is creating a graphic novel, creates photographs of the poses and obsessively looks up images related to the subject that she is drawing on. She calls herself a ‘method cartoonist’.

After explaining her intentions as a writer/artist, Bechdel read the first chapter from Fun Home alongside a projection of images. She read to us about growing up with her father’s perfectionism, his frustration and his sudden bursts of affection.

Fun Home

Though there is a great deal of humour in the descriptions of Bechdel’s family life, the conclusion of the chapter is hugely moving when she describes her troubled relationship with her father and her loss of him to suicide in her early twenties. I would really recommend Fun Home to anyone interested in stories about the family.


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