fight like a girl!

Feminist Direct Action

  • introduction
  • raising the standard
  • fighting rape
  • feminist frontline
  • swinging sisterhood
  • guerrilla girls

  • 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:
    PO Box 23272 
    London,  SE14 6XD UK,
    One basic thing to keep in mind is this: PROTECTING OTHER WOMYN
    fight like a girl part 1) 
    raising the standard
    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
    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. 
    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. 
    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',
    If you have a local minicab/taxi service that is run by & for
    women/gays then help promote them. 
    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
    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
    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. 
    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. 
    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
    fight like a girl part 3) 
    feminist frontline - against sexist
    media & advertising
    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.
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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: