introduction This is your self-defence manual; your London Underground map to womyn-positive self-defence in a danger-filled world of patriarchal pitfalls. The fourth wave of feminism is here, and after civil rights, consciousness-raising experiments, splintering affinity groups, scholarship and reams of literature; the age of direct action for gender trouble and equality and against global patriarchy and sexism is here. Fight Like A Girl is a compendium of ideas for empowering ourselves and our sisters. These ideas are also intended to inspire you to your own actions. The womanual comes (so far) in six sections as follows: 1) Raising the standard 2) Fighting Rape 3) Feminist Frontline - against sexist media & advertising 4) Swinging Sisterhood 5) Guerrilla Girls - art for the post-patriarchy 6) Self-Defence Anyone with a zine, website, interest in making flyers etc. is encouraged (@nti-copyright) to reproduce any or every part of these writings. Any more ideas for adding to the list under past, present or future sections; or if you have comments or want to make general connection here is the info: Laura PO Box 23272 London, SE14 6XD UK email@example.com, http://connect.to/synthesis One basic thing to keep in mind is this: PROTECTING OTHER WOMYN IS SELF-DEFENCE AND SELF-DEFENCE IS PROTECTING OTHER WOMYN. fight like a girl part 1) raising the standard VISIBILITY Whether you are a feminist activist sporadically on your own or as part of a well-resourced, organised group; visibility is always extremely valuable. Various liberation movements from gay rights to indigenous rights have found that visibility is a major first step in fighting oppression. When people can ignore you, or are simply ignorant, you don't stand much of a chance. Even negative coverage can in the long term contribute to your overall goals. As Harvey Fierstein said, 'visibility at any cost'. ANONYMITY Visibility does not have to mean going about with a big neon sign over your head saying 'homicidal lesbian terrorist'. In fact, a movement can often be more effective when the proponents remain totally anonymous; especially when there is some illegal activity is involved or if you live somewhere like post-Thatcher Britain where every cop has a camera and every activist potentially has a file on them somewhere. GRAFFITA A single action is magnified when it is part of a larger struggle and one way of indicating this is with recognisable calling cards. Anyone who lives in a city will be familiar with these tags that misguided boys like to leave on bus shelters and streetsigns and once you recognise a particular tag it gains a place in your consciousness. Of course tags are pretty pointless when they have no understandable meaning behind them, but political tags like 'ALF', once people become familiar with the meaning, give the movement a place in the consciousness of the people who see them popping up all over town. So when you go about smashing patriarchy you might find it useful to use a symbol, acronym, name etc as a calling card. Almost all of the billboard improving I've seen has been done by lesbian feminists who include two entwined signs of venus (??) which goes a long way in quickly summing up some of the sentiments behind the graffiti. There is also of course the circle-A sign of venus, the bicycle with signs of venus for wheels (on car advert billboards) etc. Some already existing acronyms and signifiers include: W.A.R. (Women Against Rape), M.O.N.S.T.E.R. (Mobilising our neighbours and sisters to eradicate rape), Guerrilla Girls, H.A.G. (Hell-raising Anarchist Girls), Feminist Frontline, Lesbian Avengers etc. Whatever you do to smash sexism, remember you will achieve even more when you make it clear where you are coming from. If you deface a billboard with an alcohol advert that makes a joke out of date rape for instance, let people know that it is not just alcohol you are attacking! fight like a girl part 2) fighting rape Fighting rape has never been straightforward and probably is more confused than ever now that people like evolutionary biologists are trying to tell us that rape is a natural urge in the human male. But we know better than that; rape is a violent result of patriarchy and a reality in our communities and the community level is a good place to start protecting ourselves. RECLAIMING THE STREETS Find out where in your neighbourhood women have been attacked and leave feminist graffiti as a warning to other women and/or to rapists (eg. 'Women Against Rape', 'Dead men don't rape', etc). If you have a local minicab/taxi service that is run by & for women/gays then help promote them. RAPIST-BASHING Thanks to a sexist legal system and various other social pressures, most rape does not result in punishment for the rapist. Furthermore, the people who do successfully prosecute their rapists are almost never hailed by the media as victors as are the prosecutors in say, murder or libel trials. It is up to us to change this course of events. Terrorising perpetrators has proved very successful in animal rights campaigning and terror tactics are well worth using against rapists. Find out where your local rapist lives and works. Ask his employers how they feel about employing such a person, follow the rapist around intimidating him with silence & glaring or chanting and pointing. Fill his car with something smelly, throw tampons at him, leave graffiti in his neighbourhood, be creative! If he is on trial, taunt him when he enters and leaves court. Never let him be at peace; you will break him eventually. Make sure that successful prosecutions end up on the front page of your local mainstream and radical newspapers. SISTERHOOD When you are going into a potentially dangerous situation eg. going out late at night alone, let a girlfriend know where you are going and when she should check that you have returned safely. Look after other girls - if you see a woman on her own (eg. walking through a park, standing outside a club) don't leave her alone/out of your sight. Don't be ashamed to ask for / offer companionship if you or someone else is going into a potentially dangerous situation. SMASH SEXISM IN ALL ITS FORMS There is a radical feminist slogan that says that, 'Every wolf whistle ends with a rape'. You don't have to take that literally to know that if we don't let people get away with sexist shit in the long run this contributes to the fight against violence. Some of us remember from our schooldays that when some boys were being mean we would call them on their shit. Lots of boys never left the playground and still need to be told off. The 1980's backlash against feminism & women's liberation has made many of us afraid of speaking up when faced by sexism - nobody wants to be called a 'moody bitch with no sense of humour'. Fuck that, I'm an uppity woman and a warrior queen in the revolution to overthrow patriarchy! Most people have never thought to question the patriarchal norms we live in, show them a new point of view and you will eventually win them over. RAPE IS A PEOPLE'S ISSUE When women want to speak for ourselves, we should be able to do so without men always trying to put their twopenn'orth in. But let's hope that in the 21st century we can sometimes work in mixed groups without gender roles creating a hierarchy or silencing women's voices. Rape survivors are all sorts of people and male rape survivors are arguably more silenced than female rape survivors. At present, there are very few mixed support/activist groups for rape survivors and there should be more. fight like a girl part 3) feminist frontline - against sexist media & advertising ON THE STREETS Feminist Frontline is in the spirit of the Animal Liberation Front and anti-nazi activists - underground cells of direct activists ridding the streets of sexism - but in a fun & creative way. FF particularly concentrates on sexism in the media & advertising. I won't here go into the misogyny of Hollywood, the body fascism of the fashion industry, the sexploitation of advertising etc. Either you are bothered by these things or you are not, you feel these are relevant issues or you do not, and you feel that it could be fun to fight them or not. The FF standpoint is, obviously, to go after media in all its forms where it is not womyn-friendly. POTENTIAL TARGETS Billboard advertisements - spraypainting, paintballing, flypostering etc. The creative possibilities are endless. Patriarchal funeral pyre - of stolen products of sexist culture such as lad's mags, porn mags, Arkangel cds etc. Hold it in a public place such as a hardcore festival. Skateboard shops - spraypaint to those decks showing scantily clad wank-fodder, tear out adverts in skate mags with similar images. Cinemas - 1 in 8 Hollywood films contains a rape scene, and of course nearly every Hollywood film is rife with sexism & misogyny. So take your friends to the movies with you and when a dodgy scene starts up, stand up and give a live commentary on what is happening. You can demand to see the cinema manager and get your money back because you don't want to contribute to people who make films with such negative images. 'Feminine Hygiene' - Why are we led to believe that our natural functions are unhygienic? The tampon/pad/douche/feminine deodorant industry is a male-run conspiracy to rip us off, make us unhealthy and alienate us from our bodies! Adverts, supermarkets, dispensers in public toilets are all fair game. MAINSTREAM MEDIA - Who needs it? Boycott all media that is not woman-positive Don't watch films with rape scenes - it only brings us down to constantly see ourselves portrayed as victims FEMINIST FRONTLINE WAS HERE It is always effective to leave a graffiti tag behind when you do actions - let them know this was a raging feminist girl who brought such destruction upon the evil minions of patriarchy! fight like a girl part 4) swinging sisterhood DEFENCE A few months ago the BBC ran a much-hyped documentary-type programme recreating the life of the Neanderthals. Being a keen student of human nature, I intended to watch this programme. Thirty years ago I could expect such a programme to be pretty laughably stereotypical with dusty old ideas about social hierarchies and gender roles. Funny how people can just assume that they know what cavepeople's lives were like and that they must surely have involved me Tarzan, you Jane sexual relationships etc. as well as people murdering each other at every possible opportunity. Surely we wouldn't have such assumptions from contemporary anthropologists? Guess again. I read a blurb in a telly magazine where the programme makers were describing with some glee the incorporation of a rape scene into the programme. Well of course this was the way sex always happened back then, so they believed, and so they wanted to show it. And they were so sodding smug about it! Somehow I still felt something like a responsibility to watch this rubbishy programme, but then I thought about the chapter on patriarchal media in Inga Muscio's world-shattering book 'Cunt - A Declaration of Independence'. Why should I watch anything that brings me down? Why see something that degrades, shows, or represents the degradation of women? When I let myself think about it from a healthily self-centred point of view, it becomes obvious that when I see violence against women and particularly sexual violence portrayed on screen or on paper it disturbs me and rightly so. And how liberating it was to realise that I do not at all have to put myself through that, I really don't. Now if I know a film will contain a rape scene for instance I will not watch it. That is not even on principle but just for simple self-defence and personal empowerment. All day every day we get bombarded by patriarchal images that attack femaleness and the more I can avoid the better for me and the less power the patriarchal media have over me. It works, I swear. I feel stronger every time I refuse to witness some form of media that is not pro-woman. We do not have to see violence against women to know it exists or to fight it or to know it is wrong. Think about it, when we women are constantly seeing ourselves portrayed as victims it is not surprising that some of us come to feel like it is inevitable that we will become victims. When woman-as-victim is all we know, this is pretty likely to make us fearful when we go out at night. Ironically of course it is the people who already look fearful and helpless who are most likely to be preyed on by violent criminals. If a rapist tells you with his body language, 'I am going to rape you', your body language and whether and how you fight back can tell him 'No you won't' and believe it or not, this makes all the difference. But unfortunately filmmakers and the like are usually not interested in portraying strong women characters. In your typical mass media entertainment the woman is a pair of breasts attached to the male lead. The message is sent out to all the young girls out there who are exploring their identity as females; a woman is passive, a woman is secondary to a man, if a man wants to do something it is the woman's job to support him. It makes people angry when I say I think directors are irresponsible for showing rapes in their movies. If you see violence against women onscreen and your heart, your body, your head tells you that this is very uncomfortable, and I mean uncomfortable beyond what you need to follow the story, then just maybe that is because the director is just being sensationalist. Is the rape from the point of view of the rapist? What happens to the woman afterwards? Listen to your own feelings; can you tell if the director is shocked by what is happening onscreen or are the filmmakers just trying to make it dramatic and shocking in a cheap formulaic way? Compare the cold, misanthropic movie Kids with the work of a responsible director like the Indian biopic Bandit Queen. Compare the rape victim-as-victim in The Accused with rape victim as hero(ine) in Boys Don't Cry. In the latter film the woman ends up dead but nevertheless the viewer does not feel as manipulated and brutalized as they might after a sensationalist movie like The Accused. RESPONSE So maybe you don't want to support this sort of entertainment anymore. As well as personal or organized boycotts, how about a bit of smart-arse direct action. For instance when one of these scenes happens in the cinema, why not give a running commentary? Why not bring a load of girlfriends and march out during the offending scene and demand the ticket price back from the manager? If you hear about a new movie, ask people (and it will sound corny but it's important) if it has positive portrayals of women or if it has violence against women. This will both give you information and get the other person thinking more about what they see/have seen. Anything is better than just remaining silent forever about something that makes us feel disempowered. A NOTE ABOUT MALE RAPE As with rape of women, rape of men & boys can be portrayed responsibly, sensationally or any number of ways but perhaps it is more likely to be treated as a joke. The reason this article is about media portrayals of female rape is because it is particularly relevant to how women feel about themselves. Girls and women are socialized their whole lives to be victims of violence. Boys and men are socialized to be perpetrators of violence. This is why I personally believe that it is empowering for women to be more conscious about violence-as-entertainment. Men have different reasons to be concerned about violence-as-entertainment but that is a topic for a different article. Maybe someone else wants to write about that? Any men out there who have been affected by media portrayals of violence? OFFENCE There is nothing limiting about boycotting all patriarchal media. Most of us already boycott or avoid all sorts of mainstream media and these days it is not difficult to find progressive alternatives. Likewise, the world abounds with work by women. Why not immerse yourself in women's work for awhile? Listen to women's music, read books by & about & see art by women, find your local women's libraryÖ There is a lot out there that the patriarchs avoid letting us know about, so start a treasure hunt! Better yet °V create your own treasures to share with your sisters. Organize your own women's art events, performances, film nightsÖ The future is female. fight like a girl part 5) guerrilla girls - art for the post-patriarchy In the previous section of FLAG we were encouraged to look past the mainstream patriarchal culture to the women's work that it tries to bury. For the past decade, there have been feminist direct activists working precisely to point out cultural gender apartheid and to prop up the work of women. Best of all, they know that activism can be endlessly creative, exciting, fun, and challenging to all sorts of people. These are the Guerrilla Girls. Imagine half a dozen women in Gorilla masks descending on posh art exhibition openings, anti-abortion rallies, and award ceremonies. The original GGs in the New York City came from within the arts establishment. They put out posters and adverts with 'Does a woman have to be naked to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art?' This campaign drew attention to the fact that the arts establishment tends to completely ignore and sideline women artists (although a great deal of art depicts naked women). They draw attention to the lack of women directors getting work in Hollywood by putting stickers with statistics in the toilets of cinemas and of the building in which the Oscar ceremony is held. Their sticker and poster campaigns have addressed abortion rights, conservative politics, racism and sexism. GG campaigns are characterised by awesome inventiveness and humour. They have influenced other activist women around the world and pissed off the establishment. You will have to see their work for yourself on: www.guerillagirls.com.