New Book, Contains Me

This is a new book from Luna Press’s Academia Lunare imprint which will be out on August 9th. It is titled Gender Identity and Sexuality in Fantasy and Science Fiction and covers a wide range of topics within that. My essay, fairly obviously, is about trans representation in SF&F. Juliet McKenna has written about the problems women face as authors, all the way from getting an agent to getting your book stocked and reviewed once it is published. There’s a whole bunch of other essays too that I don’t know much about. You can pre-order a copy here.

Luna will be doing a number of promotional posts about the book over the next few days, each one focusing on a different author. I’m due up on Sunday. I’ll tweet links to them as and when they appear.

Non-UK readers, you’ll be able to get copies at Worldcon.

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Janet Mock Interview

One of my favorite trans writers, Janet Mock, has a new book out. Surpassing Certainty picks up where Redefining Realness left off and takes her story from transition through to the point where she felt safe and confident enough to come out publicly as trans. Because she has a book to promote, she’s doing a lot of media work, and in particular there is an interview I have just listened to that I really liked. It is on a podcast called Politically Re-Active. To get to it you’ll need to navigate to Season 2, Episode 1, as there are not direct links.

Janet covers a lot of ground in the interview, but I was particularly struck by her description of how growing up trans in Hawaii was very different from doing so in the mainland USA because Hawaii has a thriving native trans culture that European missionaries failed to wipe out. Her thoughts on the Women’s March on Washington, and on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s comments about trans people, are also very illuminating.

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As people on social media may have noticed, I have been traveling a lot of late. To add to that, I had no wifi in my hotel room in Germany, so I was online a lot less than usual for a convention. Consequently catch-up is required. I owe you folks a post on the Eurocon, and I still owe you one about the British Museum’s LGBT History Trail. I’ll be at home for a few days, so hopefully I can get those done. In the meantime you’ll get some quick posts just so you don’t forget me entirely.

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Fringe Tonight

I’m back from the Eurocon in Dortmund and have much to report, but I have to dash off to Exeter for work today. This evening I will be hosting BristolCon Fringe, featuring Peter Newman and Kate Coe. Full details here. See some of you then.

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Feminist SF Book Launch in Bristol

By Thursday evening, assuming all goes well, I will be in Dortmund. However, the lucky Bristol people can go to the launch of a new YA science fiction book at Waterstones. Virginia Bergin’s Who Runs the World? is one of those post-apocalypse things. Here’s the blurb:

Sixty years after a virus has wiped out almost all the men on the planet, things are pretty much just as you would imagine a world run by women might be: war has ended; greed is not tolerated; the ecological needs of the planet are always put first. In two generations, the female population has grieved, pulled together and moved on, and life really is pretty good – if you’re a girl.

It’s not so great if you’re a boy, but fourteen-year- old River wouldn’t know that. Until she met Mason, she thought they were basically extinct.

Why yes, I have suggested that the rest of the Tiptree jury reads this one. How did you guess?

If you can’t make that event, Virigina will be one of our guests at Fringe in July.

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Monthly Hugs Launch Party

There are plenty of things I could be doing in Bristol this evening, and an Amanda Palmer concert in London, but instead I will be packing to go to Eurocon. One of the things I am not attending is the Monthly Hugs Launch Party being run by the lovely people at No More Taboo. Monthly Hugs is a new, fun and innovative way to tackle period poverty by making that time of the month something people will look forward to on account of the box of goodies that will be arriving. It is a fabulous initiative and if you’d like to know more, or help the project, there is a crowdfunding thing here.

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Historical Fiction at the Zoo

As a kid I was addicted to the Animal Magic show on children’s BBC, fronted by Johnny Morris. As the older readers among you may remember, it was set in Bristol Zoo. Little did I imagine that I would one day end up being on display in the zoo myself.

No, don’t worry, this is nothing to do with my having cat genes. Nor do I expect to be put in a cage. Rather I will be speaking at Creative Histories, a conference on the intersection of history and fiction. My paper is going to be on “Challenging Colonialism through Steampunk”. Also on the programme is my OutStories colleague, Andy Foyle, who will be talking about telling LGBT history through maps.

The conference is at the end of July (and I’ll be going straight from there down to Brighton for Trans Pride – yes, I know, I’m mad). I’m looking forward to it. If anyone has any recommendations for anti-colonialist steampunk besides Everfair, Buffalo Soldier and Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion, please let me know.

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Mad Week

Yeah, I know, I have been quiet for a while. Things have been busy.

I left you folks on Wednesday last week after having done a radio show. On Thursday morning I did training for a bunch of PHSE teachers in Bristol, then got on a train for London.

I accidentally ran into Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer on Thursday evening, which was lovely, but my main purpose for being there was to spend Friday at the Stonewall offices being trained to do role model events at schools. It was a lot of fun, and I met some really great people, all of whom will be fabulous role models.

After the training I spent a couple of hours in the British Museum checking out their LGBT History exhibit. There is some good material in there, but it could be a lot better. When I get time I will do a proper post about it. Then I spent a whole lot of money in Forbidden Planet, as one does.

I was up early on Saturday and off down to Egham where I was speaking at a conference on Rethinking Gender at Royal Holloway. I got to meet Justin Bengry, the mastermind behind the Notches blog. People seemed entertained by my tales of queer Romans, even the Italians. Then it was back home.

On Sunday I was in Bristol for Borderless, a one-day event put on by the feminist cooperative, See It From Her, which exists to improve the ways that women and non-binary people are portrayed in the media. I got to chair a panel on Identity, which had some amazing participants.

It would have been nice to get home in time for the Canadian Grand Prix and collapse in front of that, but instead I got home rather later and fell asleep.

June is going to be like that a lot. I know, it is entirely my own fault.

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Election Tomorrow

I’m doing training in Bristol tomorrow morning and traveling to London in the afternoon for a couple of events on Thursday and Friday. That means I’ll be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to get to the polling station to vote.

My constituency is about as dark blue as it gets. The results last time around were:

  • 1st – UKIP wannabe
  • 2nd – Official UKIP
  • 3rd – Labour
  • 4th – LibDems
  • 5th – Greens

Ordinarily in such circumstances I’d be voting Green to get their share of the national vote up. This time, however, I’ll be voting Labour for the first time in my life. Not only is Laura Pictor the only woman on the ballot (and therefore the candidate of choice for WEP members), she’s also the candidate with the best chance of depriving the Tories of a seat. I’m not a Socialist, and there are Conservative MPs that I have a lot of time for, but their current leader not only doesn’t believe in human rights, she has staked her entire campaign on a promise to repeal human rights legislation. Not to mention the whole disaster of her relations with Europe, her sucking up to Trump, the selling off of the NHS… Need I go on?

Elsewhere I’d like to wish the very best of luck to Helen Belcher (LibDem), Sophie Cook (Labour) and Aimee Challenor (Green) who are trying hard to get a trans person into Parliament. Good luck also to Molly Scott Cato, Thangam Debbonaire and Stephen Williams in Bristol West. I’m so sorry that two of you have to lose.

And finally a huge cheer and masses of luck to Sophie Walker, Nimco Ali, Harini Iyengar, Sharon Lovell, Sally Carr, Celine Thomas and Kirstein Rummery who are the first ever parliamentary candidates for the Women’s Equality Party. You are making history, ladies.

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Today on Ujima – Dinosaurs, Afrofuturism, Psychology & Feminism

It was radio day again today. I think I had a great bunch of guests on Women’s Outlook. Hopefully you do too.

We began with DB Redfern from the Bristol Museums Service telling us all about the fabulous new dinosaur exhibit they have open this summer. Actually it is not strictly a dinosaur thing, because the star attraction, Doris the Pliosaurus, was a sea dweller. She might have eaten dinosaurs, though. Anyway, she was a magnificent monster: as long as a bus with teeth the size of bananas. Doris would have eaten great white sharks as snacks. DB and I had a great discussion, covering important topics such as dinosaur poop and whether Nessie exists. Kids of all ages will love this one.

After the news I was joined by Zahra Ash-Harper and Edson Burton to discuss the Afrofuturism event, Afrometropolis, that I attended a couple of weeks ago. We had a great chat about what Aforfuturism, and an African-centered future, might mean. I got in a plug for Worldcon 75, Nalo and Karen. I do hope we get more events like this in Bristol.

You can listen to the first hour of the show here.

For the second hour I was joined my a new friend, Clare Mehta, who is a psychology professor from Boston. She’s doing some really interesting work on human ideas of gender and how they are affected by social settings. This all harks back to some of the things that Cordelia Fine was talking about in Testosterone Rex. Fascinatingly, your social environment, and the sort of things that you are doing, can affect your hormone levels. And yes, women do have testosterone in their bodies, and men have estrogen.

Also in that segment I had a pre-recorded interview with Nimco Ali that I did when she was in town doing a talk on the campaign to end Female Genital Mutilation. One of the things she talks about in the interview is having to leave Bristol because she was getting death threats. Ironically today on Twitter she was talking about getting death threats for standing as a Women’s Equality Party candidate. Hopefully once the election is over I can catch up with her again and talk about her experiences as a candidate.

To go with the interview I played the wonderful song, “My Clitoris”, produced by a local charity. I had to check the OfCom regulations carefully for that, but apparently it is perfectly OK to say “vagina” and “clitoris” on the radio. Thank goodness for that, because if we can’t talk openly about this stuff then we are never going to put an end to FGM.

My final guests were Byrony and Liza from See It From Her, a wonderful new group that exists to promote women and non-binary people in the media. They are putting on a one-day event called Borderless on Sunday, and it is sort of a Women’s Outlook co-production because both Yaz and I are on the programme chairing panels. Yaz is doing the one on racism, and I’m doing the one on identity. It is a free event, but you do need to book via Eventbrite so that they can keep an eye on the numbers. Even if you are not interested in what Yaz and I are doing, do come anyway because food is being provided by Kalpna’s Woolf’s amazing 91 Ways project. There’s lots of other stuff too. The full programme is on the Eventbrite page.

You can listen to the second hour of the show here.

The playlist for today’s show was as follows:

  • Whitney Houston – Love will save the day
  • George Clinton – Walk the Dinosaur
  • Janelle Monae – Dance Apocalyptic
  • Sun Ra – Blues at Midnight
  • Integrate – My Clitoris
  • Michael Jackson – Human Nature
  • Meet Your Feet – World Party
  • O Jays – Love Train

And because the video is so good (and we had to cut the song a little short) here is the You Tube version of “My Clitoris”.

Posted in Feminism, Gender, Nature, Radio, Science Fiction, Where's Cheryl? | Leave a comment

In The Papers

The nice people at Bristol 24/7 have a new featuring up and running in which they interview interesting people who have a connection to the city. This week said “interesting” person is me. You can find the article here.

Obviously I’m very grateful to Caragh and the rest of the B24/7 for this. Caragh’s job at the paper is community outreach, so I’m expecting to be working a lot more with her in the coming months, both on LGBT issues and through Ujima. (For the benefit on non-Celtic readers, her name is pronounced “Kara”, like Supergirl.)

Normally I try to go easy on the egoboo stuff here, but I’d be grateful if the article got a lot of traffic because that will help make the case for B24/7 having more LGBT+ content.

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Accidental Birds of Prey

On my way home from Hay I chanced upon some signs directing me to the International Centre for Birds of Prey. Well, you have to stop, don’t you. And I’m delighted that I did. There was no wedgie, of course, so the eagles looked a little small to me, but there were lots of splendid birds on display, including Moccas the condor who has her own Twitter feed.

There are, of course, live flying displays. The one I sat in on lasted about 45 minutes, though they can run longer if the birds decide they want more time on the wing. I got to see a variety of birds including an eagle, a burrowing owl, a peregrine and some harris hawks.

The staff know their stuff. I learned quite a lot about the birds. One of the more interesting bits of information is that a peregrine and a harris hawk are about the same weight. The hawk looks much bigger, but the peregrine is solid muscle with tiny wings built for diving at speed. The hawk has much bigger wings designed to allow it to turn on a sixpence so that it can hunt the insects that it preys on. While a peregrine is an awesome sight, I must admit a certain fondness for a bird that might eat mosquitoes by the score.

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A Morning in Hereford

One of the things I had planned to do on my trip to Hay was take some time out on the way home to see more of Hereford. It is a lovely little city with a whole heap of history. In particular, it has one of the best Cathedrals in the country. But to start with I’d like to put in a recommendation for the place where I stayed: No. 21. Here are some photos.

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It was very comfortable, the staff were very friendly, the breakfast was good, and it was cheap. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Meanwhile, out in the city, there is plenty of olde Englande stuff to keep the tourist happy. The bull is, of course, nothing to do with stock markets, and everything to do with Hereford’s most famous product.

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Finally we get to the cathedral itself, which is quite spectacular regardless of what it contains. If you are there in the summer, try to make it at lunch time on a Tuesday as they have a weekly series of organ recitals. Sadly I could not stay, but I caught some of the rehearsals which were amazing.

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The building, however, pales into insignificance compared to what it contains. First up, there is the Mappa Mundi, the largest mediaeval map in existence.

Alongside the map itself there was an exhibition of art inspired by the map. Grayson Perry was the best known artist featured, but I preferred the work of Genevieve Belgard who picked up on some of the fabulous creatures shown inhabiting remote parts of the world. All of these creatures are, of course, featured in Cat Valente’s Prester John trilogy.

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Alongside the map, the cathedral has a surviving mediaeval chained library, a relic of times when books were so valuable that you had to chain them up to make sure no one stole them. The library has 16th century copies of works by famous classical authors as well as religious texts. The exhibition is also an excuse to talk about how mediaeval books were made.

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May Fringe – Emma Newman & Piotr Świetlik

Huzzah, we are up to date!

Our first reader for May was local author and sometime radio show host, Piotr Świetlik. He read part of a science fiction story set in Pennsylvania (but not that Pennsylvania).

Our headline guest for May was Emma Newman. She read the first chapter of her novel, After Atlas, which is a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. This introduces us to the main character in the novel, Carlos Moreno. He is a detective, but also the son one of the passengers on the Atlas, the colony ship from Planetfall. This story takes place many years after the Atlas left Earth.

When introducing Emma, I mentioned some top secret news that I couldn’t divulge at the time. I can now reveal that Emma will be the Guest of Honour at Åcon 9 in Flnland next year. The piece I wrote about Emma can be found here.

Finally for May, Piotr and Emma are put to the question. Emma and I go off on a bit of a feminist rant and we more than earn our explicit tag on iTunes. Piotr explains where Pennsylvania is. There is some discussion of tea, jeopardy and mild peril.

Tom cheekily asks a question that Emma used on a guest during a recent Tea & Jeopardy episode: what science fiction trope would the panel most like to see the back of, and which one would they be happy to see more of?

Peter Newman reveals what he will be reading when he headlines Fringe in June.

The full schedule for the rest of 2017 is now fixed. You can find it here. And with any luck we’ll now have each month’s podcasts up shortly after the event.

Posted in Podcasts, Readings, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Mother of Invention

Nope, this is nothing to do with Frank Zappa. It is an anthology from Twelfth Planet which is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. The theme is that it will feature diverse, challenging stories about gender as it relates to the creation of artificial intelligence and robotics. It will be edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts & Rivqa Rafael, and will include stories by Jo Anderton, John Chu, Kameron Hurley, Rosaleen Love, Sandra McDonald, Seanan McGuire, E.C. Myers, Justina Robson, Nisi Shawl, Cat Sparks, Bogi Takács & Kaaron Warren. There will be on open submission period too. I have a story I want to write for it, but I doubt that I’ll have time to actually write it and the thought of being in that sort of company is frankly terrifying.

Just back it, OK? It’s gonna be awesome.

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Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry & Chris Riddell do Mythology

Yesterday at the Hay Literary Festival Neil Gaiman and Stephen Fry did an event about mythology. Neil talked about his hugely successful Norse Mythology book, and Stephen about a forthcoming book on Greek Myths. As a special bonus, Chris Riddell sketched live during the event. The 1700 audience (which included Tony Robinson) was enthralled.

Neil read the story of how Fenrir Wolf was chained by the gods, and Tyr lost his hand. Stephen read the story of how King Midas got ass’s ears. I’m assuming that you are familiar with both of these.

What you might not know is that the legendary Midas was said to be king of Gordium, the same city where, years later, Alexander the Great cut a great knot. Gordium is in Phyrgia in central Turkey, which is also the home province of Cybele.

At the end of the event Amanda read Neil’s poem, “The Mushroom Hunters”, which is about how women invented science. This was apparently a request from Stephen who had seen the original reading on Brainpickings.

Neil did a four hour signing after the event, which meant that he missed Amanda’s concert. I went to the gig, which was great. More of that another time. After Amanda had finished, I managed to catch up with Neil who was finally getting time off to eat. As we were chatting, Chris came up with his stack of sketches from the talk. I asked if I could photograph them. The light wasn’t great, and all I had was my phone, but if you’d like to see the sketches you can find them all here.

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Welcome to Afrometropolis

Last night I was at The Arnolfini for an event curated by my friend, Edson Burton. Afrometroplis was a multi-media experience inspired by Afrofuturism. The idea was to create a futuristic and funkadelic city state inspired by African culture. I tried hard not to think of Rosewater, because I’m not sure that I trust Tade’s aliens.

There was a lot of stuff going on, including a preview of a short film by Ytasha Womack and a very impressive jam session. You can learn more of what went on from the website.

I spent much of the evening in the Manifesto Development session. The idea was to come up with a political manifesto for life in Afrometropolis, and in theory we were supposed to be inspired by writers such as Octavia Butler. I was rather hoping to have a discussion of Earthseed, the religion that Butler developed for the Parable books. As it turned out, the rest of the people there were more interested in discussing what African identity meant, and whether Bristol was a successful multi-cultural city, which is perfectly fine. I’m hoping I can lure Zahra Ash-Harper onto my radio show to talk about how the discussion went (and about our shared love of Black Panther).

My thanks to Edson and the team at Come The Revolution for a great evening. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay for the party.

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Festival of Ideas Does Feminism

On Thursday evening I attended two feminist-themed events at the Watershed in Bristol. Both of them were organized by the Bristol Festival of Ideas.

First up was science journalist, Angela Saini, promoting her new book. Inferior, expansively subtitled, How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story, is all about how gender bias, sometimes unconscious and sometimes not, has been a feature of science over the years. Mostly the book is about biology, because this is an area in which men have used dubious science to claim superiority over women. This has been going on for a very long time. Aristotle has a lot to answer for, and Darwin was no better.

The biggest problem area is evolutionary psychology, where people make the most bizarre claims. Saini focused on the question as to why human women (uniquely among primates, but not the entire animal kingdom) live for a long time after they have ceased to be fertile. Many people on Twitter and Facebook reacting to my posts mentioned the sensible idea that older women are useful to society and it is good to keep them alive. There is an alternative theory (developed by men) that old women are ugly so there is no need for them to be fertile, and consequently they have lost the ability to breed.

Those of you who are on social media may have seen this week’s joke evolutionary psychology theory: that women have evolved to become bisexual because men love watching lesbian sex.

It doesn’t take much to poke fun at this stuff, but it is useful to have someone like Saini around to work on the more serious bad science. Fans of Cordelia Fine will doubtless love her book. I’m looking forward to it too, but I can’t read it just yet because the event only had a limited number of pre-publication copies and they sold out.

The reason why I was late getting in the queue is that I’d made a couple of new friends. One is a psychologist from Boston who understands the need to consider trans issues in her work. I’m hoping to learn a lot more about what she’s doing next week. In the meantime I’m going to check out the work of Charlotte Tate, who is also doing good work in this area.

My other new pal is Virginia Bergin, a Bristol-based writer of YA science fiction. Her latest book, Who Runs the World, is a pretty obvious candidate for the Tiptree. My chagrin at not having heard of Virginia before was mollified slightly by the fact that Virginia had no idea that Bristol had an SF&F community. We plan to rectify both of these issues.

The second event featured anti-FGM campaigner and Women’s Equality Party parliamentary candidate, Nimco Ali. She’s an amazing person who has done a huge amount to get the UK authorities to take FGM seriously. I recorded a brief interview with her after the talk which I’ll air on my June 7th Women’s Outlook show.

My thanks are due to Nimco for helping me understand what was going on in Rome as successive emperors attempted to ban child castration. It all makes much more sense now.

Now if only we could get the UK to ban surgery on intersex children.

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminism, Science | 2 Comments

April Fringe, the Legendary Open Mic

We are almost caught up on the Fringe podcasts now. Tom has edited the May readings and I’ll be able to put them live in early June once our upload allowance has reset. In the meantime here are the April readings, which feature the legendary BristolCon Fringe Open Mic. Because I had to catch a train down to Plymouth for work I could not stay for the whole event, so Tom got his first taste of hosting. He did a fine job. Also I got to read first.

In the first session we have the following:

Me, with part of my Amazons in Space story that I’m trying to write for the Space Marine Midwives anthology. This is a very rough first draft of the opening, which I had to cut down a bit to make it fit in 5 minutes. For those interested in the history, by Amazons are based on Scythian women warriors (who very much did exist). Enaree is a Scythian term for a non-binary person (probably assigned male at birth, possibly a eunuch).

Ian McConaghy with the opening of a science fiction novel set in near future Los Angeles.

Joanne Hall with a short story about monks, illuminated manuscripts and dragons. This one is apparently due to appear in an anthology soon. I’m looking forward to it.

Felicia Barker with a fantasy short story featuring some very famous fairies. I’ve not heard Felicia read before and I was impressed.

In session 2 we have:

Chloe Headdon with the opening of a YA fantasy novel. Chloe is someone else I’d not heard before, indeed this was her first ever public reading. Again I was impressed.

Steve Tanner with an extract from his fantasy novel, Blind Faith.

Suzanne McConaghy with part of a science fiction short story, “Partners in Crime”.

Justin Newland with short story that forms the prologue to fantasy novel set in China.

There is no Q&A in the open mic, because we want to make the experience as friendly as possible for the readers. Some of them are quite frightened enough without having myself or Tom thrust a microphone in their face and quiz them.

The June Fringe event will feature Pete Newman and Kate Coe.

Posted in Podcasts, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

Gendered Voices – Day 2

Following on from yesterday’s post, here’s what we got up to on the second day of the Gendered Voices conference.

Session one was all about representation and began with Rosie talking about her research into coming out experiences. This is very valuable work, and the sort of thing that Berkeley and I will keep a close eye on as it can be used as evidence to encourage action by local and national government.

Next up an emergency fill-in from Louise (always a brave thing to do) about the 19th Century gothic writer, Lucas Malet, noted for her particularly morbid imagination. Malet was the daughter of novelist Charles Kingsley who wrote The Water Babies, an exceptionally unpleasant piece of Christian allegory aimed at kids. It is no wonder the poor woman grew up warped. There are a lot of people doing research on 20th century women Gothic writers, but Louise is the only one I know who is working on the 19th Century. I’m sure she’d welcome some company.

The final paper was from Jenn and was about trans and non-binary representation in literature, in particular the literary fiction market. Jenn says that they know of only nine literary novels featuring trans characters. I’m pretty sure I could name nine from the past year in SF, and a similar number in realist YA, but thus far Jenn is resisting all of my attempts to lure them to the Dark Side.

Session two was all about violence and was very intense. It began with Jassi, a lawyer, talking about girl soldiers. When we hear about child soldiers in the media it is always about boys, but in fact between 30% and 40% of child soldiers are female. Not only are they erased by the Western media, but if the war they are fighting in is halted then they will be forced back into subservient social roles by their supposed rescuers.

Elena talked about group counseling for victims of sexual violence. Apparently this is quite effective, whereas one-to-one counseling can often further isolate the victim. Elena says that it is very rarely used in the UK. That’s interesting, because this sort of counseling is specifically mentioned in the Equality Act as a circumstance in which trans women can be excluded from women-only spaces. I had assumed that it would therefore be common, but no, the government made all that fuss about trans women not being women over a situation that was very unlikely to arise.

Encouragingly, Elena said that the rape crisis center she is working with is trans-inclusive.

The final speaker was Patrick who talked about women volunteers in the IRA. There were apparently a lot of them, and the way that they worked reminded me a lot of the French Resistance. Interestingly the IRA, despite being Catholic, were (and presumably still are) pro-abortion. I gather from social media that one of these IRA women is now a Conservative parliamentary candidate.

The keynote speaker for the conference was Thangam Debbonaire, the current MP for Bristol East. It was really good of her to keep the commitment despite there being an election on and her seat being very much at risk. She also gave a great speech. She’d make a brilliant WEP MP, but I can’t blame her for going with a party that can get her elected, even if its policies on women’s issues are not as good as ours.

Session three was on masculinities and opened up with Katherine talking about Priapus and modern masculinity. Priapus, you may remember, is the Roman god with the massive dick. The Romans used pictures of him to demonstrate how supposedly virile they were. Katherine compared Roman poetry and graffiti to modern social media posts and came to the brilliant conclusion that dick pics are modern day Priapus images. If cameras had been around in Roman times, they would have sent people pictures of their own dicks too. And they would have sent them to men that they wanted to dominate as well as to women.

Charlotte talked about the contrasting portrayals of King Richard and Henry Bolingbroke in Shakespeare’s Richard II. It bemused me as to why Shakespeare, writing during the reign of Elizabeth, would have written about an effeminate king being replaced by a manly usurper. So I asked, and discovered that the play had been sponsored by Essex, who was in the process of plotting a coup at the time. I have no idea how Will talked his way out of that one. I’m sure that Elizabeth must have been tempted to do the “Off with his head!” thing.

The paper that generated most social media chatter was one by Henry on the gender of mediaeval clergy. Some historians hold that the clergy were seen as a third gender by the rest of society. Henry, by examining the writings of late mediaeval chroniclers, made a convincing case that many of them did not see themselves in that way, and indeed went to great lengths to show how manly they were in their own domain (which was the spiritual war against sin).

The final session was on feminism, and kicked off with Ana looking at the educational reforms promoted by the lesbian author, Bryher. She had some really good ideas about how to give kids better education, but they did not go down well with the Great British Public. The Daily Mail asked readers to give their own views on the proposals. One man wrote in to say that it was the duty of school to educate girls out of having an imagination.

This was followed by Teresa talking about historical fiction writer, Sylvia Townsend Warner. She sounds like someone I would like to read, especially her fantasy novel, Lolly Willowes.

Finally we had James, a philosophy student, asking, “Why is there Feminist Epistemology at all?” The title apparently riffs off a well-known paper about the theory of mathematics. James made some very good points, particularly about Standpoint Theory. However, I don’t think you can even begin to talk about what feminist epistemology might be until you have first defined what feminism is. As that’s enough to keep many philosophers busy for decades to come, I think James’s question will have to wait.

You will note that I found something good to say about every paper. Huge congratulations to the organizers. That’s what I call a quality conference. I do hope it runs again next year.

Posted in Academic, Books, Feminism, Gender, History, Law, Philosophy | Leave a comment