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To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Ladybeard shares ‘Reclaim’, a project documenting a radical new movement amongst breast cancer survivors
‘Reclaim’ is a photo project by Gem Fletcher and Kate Peters of women who have reframed their journey with breast cancer. Some of these women have decided to undergo reconstruction, others have not; however, all have chosen to adorn their chests with intricate and detailed tattoos. The movement has been termed ‘P.ink’ (Personal Ink) and aims to offer women a way of reclaiming their bodies and turning their trauma into a symbol of strength. Gem and Kate searched the country for women who would be willing to discuss their decision and have their tattoos photographed. Here, we share an extract of their final piece and a selection of the photographs. The full story will be printed in Ladybeard’s ‘Beauty’ issue, published in Winter 2017.
Sarah Roberts spoke to Pavan Amara, who runs the My Body Back Project, about submissive fantasies after rape and why so many women blame themselves for having them
After sexual assault, it is very common for women to fantasise about ‘rape’ or submission. These fantasies are so veiled by guilt that nobody talks about them, which means that official statistics on the proportion of survivors experiencing them are non-existent. Anecdotally though, numbers are high. Often, women report fantasising about the man who assaulted them; in some cases, they are only able to reach orgasm by imagining the attack itself. Psychologists have shown that these kinds of fantasies are actually healthy steps towards recovering from abuse and reclaiming sexual pleasure – but because of the silence around the issue, they become a source of immense shame.
Pavan Amara runs My Body Back Project, which provides specialist healthcare services for survivors of sexual violence – as well as the project’s quarterly Café V sessions, which provide a safe space to talk about sex and masturbation after sexual assault – and all of the confusions, difficulties, and breakthroughs that come with it. Those attending are able to share their own experiences, and receive guidance on feeling physically and sexually autonomous after assault. Pavan started the project following her own experiences of sexual assault, and was struck by how often submissive fantasies came up in these Café V sessions, and the stigma, pain and confusion surrounding them. The first step towards dispelling that stigma, and reconceptualising these fantasies for what they are – natural and healing movements towards mental and sexual autonomy – is breaking the silence. Pavan suggested we have an open conversation about submissive fantasies after rape, considering so many women blame themselves for having them. What follows is extracted from that conversation.
Thirteen days on from the fire at Grenfell Tower the government and the media are still downplaying the tragedy and drip-feeding us numbers of the dead. We want to talk about the people who lost their lives in this horrific, preventable fire and pay tribute to them in any way we can. Here one woman, Caroline, shares her memories of a family who died at Grenfell.
Bex Shorunke interviewed Bronx-born artist Emma Kohlmann to understand why she is creating art with a socio-political resonance
Kohlmann is working to make the primordial form artistically relevant. Abstract in appearance yet visceral in content, her ink drawings zero in on the nuances and complexities that make us human. The traditional genre of the nude is given an overhaul and feminism, role reversal and sex take precedence. The result is a body of work that challenges traditional notions of gender and sexuality.
Kohlmann’s work has seen her collaborate with punk bands Hoax and Natural Law; and in summer 2016, she had a solo show, Studies Into Obscurity, of 130 watercolours at Copenhagen’s V1 gallery. Additionally, she's produced illustrations, zines and everything in between, often collaborating with friend, fellow artist and punk scene advocate, Sonya Sombreuil Cohen who makes beautiful customized denim work. This May, Kohlmann’s work was exhibited at Athens’ Athina fair, and she is currently developing a published series of watercolours.
To Mark Mental Health Awareness Week, we're sharing a piece about Yarl's Wood and the devastating impact detention has on the mental health of detainees. Originally published in our Mind Issue last year, this piece remains deeply urgent, as Yarl's Wood still stands and Britain creeps further toward punitive immigration policy.
International Women’s Day, 2016. As the government unveiled its ‘Strategy to end violence against women and girls: 2016-2020’, around one hundred women stood outside the Home Office in protest at the government’s treatment of refugee women in immigration detention. In between speeches by activists, former detainees, and a handful of politicians, the crowd rallied together chanting, “Theresa May, you are a woman too” and “Set Her Free”. The Set Her Free campaign, launched by Women for Refugee Women in 2013, has since become a rallying call for all those demanding an end to the policy of detaining asylum seekers.
Instead of standing together, we reduce Muslim women to symbols in our society: of otherness and danger and hate. Today we’re sharing a testimony from Anna, who chooses to wear the niqab, about how it feels to bear that burden of representation.
In the wake of the Westminster terror attack, on March 22nd, an image of a woman wearing a hijab became an Islamophobic meme. Circulated thousands of times as supposed evidence of her lack of concern, the picture shows the woman – who has chosen to remain anonymous – looking at her phone next to a group gathered round the injured. She’s spoken out about her devastation after witnessing the attack, and the shock of finding her “picture plastered all over social media by those who could not look beyond my attire, who draw conclusions based on hate and xenophobia”. Unfortunately this targeting of Muslims – and particularly Muslim women in traditional Islamic dress – has become an inevitable aftermath of terrorist incidents around the world. After the 2015 Paris attacks, there was a 300 per cent rise in the number of crimes perpetrated against Muslims in the UK, and a similar surge in violence is predicted to follow the Westminster attack. Read the interview with Anna about her experience of wearing the niqab on the following page.
To mark International Women's Day, we're sharing an interview with Jean Kilbourne about how adverts shape the way we see ourselves, and our power to resist them
Jean Kilbourne was the first person to study the portrayal of women in advertising. She started collecting ads in the late 1960s, tearing them out of magazines and sticking them around her house. Struck by how they repeatedly objectified and dismembered the female body, she became convinced that there was a relationship between advertising and endemic health and social problems, such as domestic violence, eating disorders, and addiction. She put together a slideshow of images and began to tour the United States with her theory. We see over 3,000 adverts every day and yet only around 8 per cent of an ad’s message is received by the conscious mind: Kilbourne’s presentations aim to make these “unconscious messages conscious”. By showing her audiences one advertisement after another, she systematically peels away the gloss and glamour to reveal the harmful messages beneath. The lectures became the basis for her award-winning film Killing Us Softly (1979), which has since been updated three times, charting the representation of women in advertising across four decades. According to Kilbourne, the ads and their consequences are only getting worse: as the female body is reduced from thin, to nothing, ‘0’, to double nothing, ‘00’, rates of mental ill health and gender-based violence are rising. In her critically acclaimed book, Can’t Buy My Love (2000), she analyses the way in which advertising creates and feeds an addictive mentality; in So Sexy So Soon (2009), co-authored with Diane E. Levin, she exposes the disturbing implications of the industry’s sexualisation of young girls. This, she appears alongside Susie Orbach and others in The Illusionists, which examines the terrifying, global spread of these Western feminine ideals and the white-washed, homogenised world they leave in their wake.
Ladybeard is going back to glossy basics with a Beauty Issue. Moving away from the pure, pale and palatable, this issue will embrace diversity and contradiction. We’re looking for writing and art that explores beauty as threat, power, subjection and inspiration – that celebrates the ‘superficial’ and re-imagines the sublime. We make and unmake ourselves in the image of what our culture finds beautiful - send us work that gives us new eyes.
Please send short pitches, along with a sample of your work, by 31 March.
With only a week left till our launch party, here's a sneak peek of the films that will be showing on the night from incredible filmmakers Anna Ginsburg, Kaj Jefferies, Naomi Berrio-Allen, Tyro Heath, Bafic, Ellen Pearson and Stroma Cairns. Tickets are going fast, so if you haven't already get yours here and come join us for a night of even more films, panellists, DJs, jelly-brains and lots and lots of magazines!
Dr Meg John Barker is an activist, psychotherapist and senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University. Internationally recognized as an expert on sex and gender, as well as mental health, Meg John personally identifies as non-binary, and much of their work focuses on the necessity of rethinking traditional classifications for identity. Ahead of their appearance as a panellist at the Ladybeard Launch Party, Meg John explores the mad/sane binary, and how we can move beyond it. If you haven't got your tickets for launch yet, get them here.
At our Mind Issue launch on 12 November, we will be bringing together three extraordinary Ladybeard contributors to discuss ‘Mind: Myth-making and Taboo’. Today we reveal our panellists, plus a taste of what they’ll be exploring. Get ready to follow us down the rabbit hole; get your tickets to the launch here.
Sarah Roberts interviewed writer, author and archivist of 'femoribilia' Lynn Peril about the darker undertones of our age-old infatuation with the 'personality quiz'.
Personality quizzes have long been tropes of women’s magazines. Generations of girls like me have clawed over Cosmo quizzes, seduced by the promise of finding out how they rate in bed or what kind of ‘sexy’ they might be. Although I know they come without any scientific or psychological merit, I find them irresistible. Even when I’m not affirmed as a goddess in the bedroom, there’s something about the process of taking the test and being assigned a category that I find deeply satisfying. But what are the psychic consequences?
Lynn Peril has been collecting personality quizzes and other pop-culture detritus for decades. The author of three books on the subject, she uses the word “femoribilia” to describe the specific breed of pop culture that tells women how to think and behave. Fascinated by the way the personality quiz exploits the dubious pleasure of rating ourselves, she has charted its development from the 1950s to the present day. I went to meet her at her home in Oakland, California, to discuss the uneasy lessons personality quizzes have to teach us about womanhood and identity, and why we’re so obsessed with them.
In the lead up to our launch we're sharing an interview from our most recent issue with inventor of the Anxiety Box: Paul Ford. A writer, blogger, editor, programmer, and businessman, Paul created the Anxiety Box as a characteristically witty response to the serious condition from which he suffers. Anxiety Box is a spam bot that emails the individual about their worries. Transferring the uncontrollable nature of anxiety to an electronic cipher, it literally turns anxious thoughts into spam. You sign up, giving details about what worries you, and Anxiety Box “will take over and send you anxious, urgent, deeply upsetting emails. Delete the email and POOF! the anxiety goes away.” Inspired by Paul's invention, we've created our own anonymous submission box for you to dispose of your anxieties in. These can be anything and everything: a word, an anxious dream, a paranoia, a thought that keeps you awake at night ... We encourage you to post your anxieties to us in physical format as well; writing them on whatever material you have on hand and sending them too 39 Hillmarton Road, London, N7 9JD. Every anxiety we receive will be reincarnated at our launch as part of a physical anxiety box, which will be open all night for guests to absolve themselves of any more worries and anxieties weighing them down. If you haven't already, get your tickets to the launch here.
CN: FLASHING IMAGES
It's been a year but we're BACK and celebrating the release of our second issue with a party at The Hackney Showrooms.
Come join us on November 12th for a night of live music and DJs, interactive mind games and audio-visual displays, a panel on the myths and taboos around the Mind, featuring contributors from the issue, a series of film screenings, and lots and lots of jelly-brain shots.
Get your tickets here NOW before they sell out again!
From the Demon Series, 1999, Oil, gloss and varnish on board, 79x109cm
The Demon Series, 1999, was conceptualised by artist Peter Harris as a visual exploration of the 'demons' of human consciousness. From 'success' to 'loneliness', Harris focused on things that provoke feelings of panic and anxiety, wreaking chaos on our psychological states. He personified these through the creation of rubber-moulded masks worn by his friends, who, under Harris' direction, acted out these internal struggles. Harris captured the role-plays through photographs, which went on to inspire the paintings seen here. With their ominous captions, deep red backgrounds and the contorted faces of their masked protagonists, the series embodies the absurd and irrational anxiety that can engulf our minds.
If you haven't already, order your copy of the Mind Issue here.
Named after enigmatic conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader’s last known performance, ‘Searching For’ began in 2015 and currently consists of Emily, Rachel and Colette who are based in the United States and Canada. Interested in learning how people in the creative community are making their careers happen, the group describes itself as “cultivating a virtual conversation” by seeking out the most exciting artists available online today, asking them compelling questions, and putting together their visual responses in an interview format. This approach was motivated by the collective’s desire to steer away from the classic or cliched interview formats, and challenge people to respond creatively, using any medium of their choice, from selections of their own work, to film stills sourced online. “Connecting with and creating connections between diverse creatives working from disparate geographies”, the results span languages and continents, playing with our notions of communication. Here, Ladybeard feature a ‘Searching For’ exclusive interview with illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen.
Lettice Franklin explores the metaphor of mind as flower and its role in literature and art as a means for imagining the wild workings of the human brain
This summer, like many a summer before it, people took to the fields, to the meadows, to the beaches – for festivals and parties. Many did ‘lose their minds’ and many did so wearing cheap floral wreaths that bloom in profusion from campsite stalls. In doing so they join a long tradition of crazy crowns and of blooming brains.
The blooming of the brain is almost impossible to describe – directly at least. To overcome this difficulty, we turn, over and over again, to horticultural metaphors. ‘Ideas are plants’ is a common, quotidian metaphor: it has been identified as one of the “metaphors we live by”, metaphors that are embedded in the human consciousness and shape the way we look at the world (George Lakoff, Metaphors We Live By, 2003). Think of ‘fertile imaginations’, of ‘seeds of thought’, of ‘ideas coming to fruition’.
Metaphors, we assume, make things easier to understand. They enable us to re-imagine something intangible and complicated – ideas, brains – as something controlled and simple – gardens. But wild, unweeded mind-gardens grow with particular power throughout literature, often straight from characters’ heads, and are not so easily pruned. Perhaps it is here that the metaphor actually approaches perfection, vividly representing the vagaries, the tangles, the briars of thought.
In short, flowers both represent the mind, and bloom abundantly within and from it.
Aitan Ebrahimoff on the emergence of spiritual polyamory and the wealth of female healers facilitating it via the online realm, their varying spiritual prognosis readily available for YouTube viewing.
“If they think I’m cheating – I’ve ridden a bicycle blindfolded. How can I just dodge cars and all of that?” Child mystic and Youtube sensation Yogamaatha is responding to the accusation that her Third Eye, the hidden organ that allows her to see when blindfolded, is a sham. A nine-year-old girl from North Carolina, Yogamaatha claims to have awakened her Third Eye at a meditation and initiation course in Bangalore. Over the last year, she has toured the US demonstrating her abilities to doctors, government officials, and leading financiers. But her biggest audience is online. The youngest in a wave of female audio-visual healers who are breaking the Internet, Yogamaatha’s most viewed video boasts well above 2.5m hits. Spirituality has gone viral, and YouTubers are battling for the truth.