My name is Fay Roberts and I’m a performance poet, event host and organiser, workshop leader, and musician. My day job involves wrangling computers and people who use computers. When I’m not doing the above, I’m a massive geek. This blog will contain stuff about most of the above, and you can find out more about me at http://www.fayroberts.co.uk
Friday, 18 October 2013
I was asked, back last year, to perform in a show in February 2013
called “Women’s Work” – an all-female line-up of poets, musicians, a dancer, a storyteller,
and anything else we could make happen.
It was in aid of the Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre
(CRCC) and, as far as I know, our donated time, effort and merchandise raised
good money for a good cause.
the following on my Facebook wall a few hours ago:
just finished putting together a creative fanzine of local women’s work with
the aim of raising money for CRCC,
featuring work by: Alice Nicholls, Ashley Fox, Carla Keen, Cathy Dunbar, Elaine
Ewart, Emma Ormond, Hollie
McNish poetry, J.S.Watts,
Kay Goodridge, Leanne Moden, Netta Chachamu, and Nikki Marrone.
praise and thanks go to: Leanne, for help, support, and co-production; Carla
for a remarkable and inspiring cover design; Alice for getting us all together
in aid of CRCC in the first place and, of course, to the Centre itself, for all
its amazing work.
I was stoked. Not
only had we produced this in record time, but it was rather beautiful, and will
hopefully raise another little bit of money for a very worthy cause. In addition, I’d managed to say “yes” to
someone who’d offered to help. I even delegated
tasks and everything (don’t faint!)… Yes, we’ll make it available online, but only
after the “launch” of the physical version on 1st November. I’d also broken the back of fear around
producing another Allographic anthology
(I may go into this at some other point on this blog; who knows…) by just
getting on and doing it. Expect more
goodness in the near future.
Anyway, I was then asked (by a friendly, feminist, cis-male
friend) on Facebook if there was any justification in having the aforementioned
pamphlet raising funds for CRCC featuring only work from female artists (takes
action from both sides of an equation to break down inequality, etc.). Without revealing who this was, and in the
interests of keeping everyone informed who’d like to be, opening the debate to
anyone who’d like to get engaged with it, here’s the justification (warning:
Firstly, it was meant to be a fund-raising publication of
work from the female performers who would be appearing on the night (people
seem more likely to donate if they get something back; people like to buy stuff
by people they’ve seen; this was a good solution to combine forces rather than
providing separate merch so that potential punters had to choose between
artists; not everyone on the bill would have merchandise to offer for the
donation stall in any case).
But the women from the 1st November gig didn’t respond in
sufficient numbers (for a start, not everyone had the right genre of material
to go into print) to fill a decent-sized pamphlet, so we expanded it to those
who’d been in the previous show, and then to other notable feminists from the
local area (Rebel Arts Women’s Radio), etc.
I decided to stick with female contributors for several
1. It was the original remit as the performers in the
show(s) were all female.
I’m not saying that only women can talk about feminism, or
sexism, or rape (which involves all genders in all parts of the issue). Not in the slightest. However, the CRCC is run by women for women and
girls, the night chose to highlight the work of women, and I chose to follow
that theme with the accompanying product.
2. The title of the show is “Women’s Work” - producing a
pamphlet entitled “Women’s Work” filled with work by women seemed pretty
3. It’s still very much (in fact, more so now than
previously) the central tenet of Allographic to provide showcases for “other
words, other voices”; since women’s creative work is still, to my mind,
under-exposed in many (if not most) fields, I figured that retaining that theme
would fit nicely with Allographic’s core position.
4. You know what? Still, and all too often, even strong
women get stuck in that “so pleasantly assertive it’s borderline apologetic”
mode, so why not positively celebrate the creative work of women rather than
just emphasise the nature of victimhood associated with rape, and emphasise not
only the fight of feminism against the negative things that happen to women but
also in raising the profile of the positive things that women do? This is something that local homeless charity
FLACK does particularly well, for example.
Was the person who opened this debate with me worried about
that notion that feminism is seen as anti-men rather than pro-women? The thing is: to be feminist is to be
pro-people; to raise people up who are in a position of being discriminated
against is to elevate the whole human race and to improve the lives of those
who’ve just been stepped up to as well.
Feminism is a human rights movement while women are still in a worse
position than men. When the lot of women
across the globe is as good as that of men, I will no longer need to call
myself a feminist, and I’ll hang up my spurs with a smile.
I want the need for “positive discrimination”* to be dead and
buried, having done its job and been retired. But, until that halcyon day when
51% of people in the limelight are women, I’m going to keep trying to
positively promote the creative work of women, LGBTQI* people, people of colour,
disabled people, vulnerably housed people, and anyone else in the margins until
I no longer need to.
Have at it, interwebs. ________________ * A friend has just mentioned that “positive discrimination” should more accurately be called “positive action” - I like!