LGBTQ

Women's Fightback: Russian woman faces jail for feminist sketches

A Russian woman is on trial for “production and dissemination of pornographic materials” for sharing her drawings of the female body online. Activist Yulia Tsvetkova was arrested on 20 November 2019 and put on house arrest two days later after being charged. The charges relate to body-positive pictures including sketches of a woman’s vulva, which she posted on social media as part of her women’s empowerment campaign. When she was arrested, police raided her house and her previous work. She says that the officers verbally abused her, saying she was a “lesbian, sex trainer and propagandist...

Three decades after "It's a Sin"

The excellent It’s A Sin, brilliantly reviewed in Solidarity 580 here, has propelled queer pop star Olly Alexander — Ritchie — into greater fame. The deeply moving 2017 documentary Olly Alexander: Growing Up Gay (directed by Vicki Cooper, available on BBC iPlayer) has got greater coverage. The documentary looks into the experiences — mental health difficulties, and bullying — of young gay people today, growing up three or four decades after the people of It’s A Sin. The contrast between Olly and Richie is perhaps starker even than the unimaginably different contexts. Where Richie was secretive...

Diary of an engineer: Nest of vipers

Work is depressingly slow. The fewer jobs there are, the more lethargic we become. L keeps suggesting: “We’ll do that tomorrow — spread it out. Our problem today was that we started too early, that’s why the morning’s dragging.” A trip to the control room turns into a drink in the control room, then long discussions that become increasingly awful to listen to. I offer to make a round of drinks and A says says to N — “It’s International Women’s Day, you should offer to make drinks.” N doesn’t offer. Instead everyone goes silent and looks at me, as if they expect me to make a speech. I feel...

Strajk! An interview with Ewa Pospieszynska

On 27th January, a near-total ban on abortion came into effect across Poland, three months after a ruling by the country ’s constitutional court. Poland already had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, but the new law - which removed severe foetal abnormalities from the list of exemptions - was seen as totemic, and part of a more generalised assault by the ruling Law and Justice Party (or PiS - short for Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) against Poland’s democratic institutions and minorities. In response to it, over the course of October and November, gigantic demonstrations gripped the...

Feminism, Interrupted: a write-up

This write-up follows a discussion in Workers ’ Liberty’s socialist feminist reading group. Usually held in South London, the monthly reading group has been held online during the pandemic. To get involved, write to: womensfightback@workersliberty.org Feminism, Interrupted is the second book from Lola Olufemi, co-author of A FLY Girls Guide to University. A cross-between an introductory text and manifesto, the book is a collection of ten essays covering topics from trans rights and islamophobic misogyny to food and art. The first chapter, “Know your history”, reflects on a rich history of...

Cancel culture and trans rights

Much is said in the right-wing press about 'cancel culture'; the phenomenon of people facing a public backlash for things that they have said or done in the past. Cancel culture, what it is and how it operates, is laid out capably and convincingly by left-wing YouTuber Natalie Wynn, known as ContraPoints, in her video “Canceling”. In this she lays out the way in which cancel culture operates. A particular viewpoint or action (confirmed or alleged) by an individual or group is abstracted and essentialised into an often vague assertion about the character or nature of that individual or group...

Esther Roper, Eva Gore-Booth and "Urania"

Esther Roper and Eva Gore Booth had lived and worked together for twenty years when they, along with three others, launched their magazine Urania. It was 1916, the middle of the First World War. Less than three months earlier, 485 people had been killed in the Easter Rising in Dublin and Eva’s sister, Constance Markiewvicz, had escaped execution for her part in the rebellion on the grounds of her sex. Urania, however, was not an outlet for Esther and Eva’s anti-war activism. Nor was it a magazine targeting the tens of thousands of working class women they had organised with in the suffrage and...

China's first gay film

News of the Chinese Education Ministry’s ludicrous concern over the “feminisation” of Chinese boys brings to mind China’s first explicitly gay film, East Palace, West Palace, directed by Zhang Yuan in 1996. Homosexuality was legalised in the following year, but gays are still regularly harassed for supposed “hooliganism”. A-Lan, a gay writer, is attracted to a policeman, Xiao Shi, and intentionally gets arrested by him in a public toilet (the title refers to two toilets in Beijing where gay men meet). Xiao Shi interrogates A-Lan overnight in the police station. As he listens to the young...

Turkish government attacks LGBTI+ activists

The protests at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul have continued: at the beginning of this year, President Erdoğan appointed a puppet rector against the wishes of students and university workers. Much of the recent “culture war” around the protests has focused on LGBTI+ people. During an art show at the university, a piece of art showed the Kaaba (the large black cube in Mecca which is the final destination of the Hajj) alongside a rainbow flag. Students involved in this were arrested, and the Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu called them “four LGBT perverts” on Twitter. The state also...

Big issues, clumsy film

Deepa Mehta’s coming-of-age tale of a gay Tamil boy growing up in 1970s Sri Lanka, and in the post-1983 civil war between the country’s Tamil minority and ruling Sinhalese majority, is an ambitious one, aiming to wrangle with some heavy politicised themes. It opens with a group of children from wealthy families playing happily, amongst them an eight year old Arjie playing dress-up as a bride with makeup. The tense family dynamic is established instantly by Arjie’s father’s disapproval of Arjie. He warns his wife against encouraging this “nonsense”. He is set up as the oppressive patriarchal...

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