“Shut up and read more Aristotle!” Or: Towards a feminist mode of academic relating

Irma Allen

At a recent PhD summer school I attended, in the middle of responding in a critical way to the discussion (as requested by the seminar leader), a male fellow PhD student in the group abruptly and aggressively waded in to shut down what I was saying, not through intellectual argument, but by telling me that I was making ‘autistic comments’ that were ‘irrelevant’, that I was being ‘arrogant’ and that I should ‘stop talking’ – and apparently read more Aristotle… (who felt that women and slaves were inherently inferior beings – was that what I was supposed to understand?) Looking directly at the male Professor who was leading the seminar whilst speaking as a way to exclude my presence, this student insisted that the class ‘please carry on to engage with the text at hand’ (I thought I was…). When I, and others in the room who leapt to my defense, told him this was a totally inappropriate way to interact he said ‘I don’t care, I don’t care about her, she is wasting my time!’ gesticulating in my direction, followed by telling a female colleague who defended me that she should ‘be quiet’. Only when told by other male members of the group that he was being disrespectful and inappropriately personal and rude did he quieten down.

The organizer of the seminar was not present in the room, but the guest seminar leader, a male Professor whose work we were discussing, did not intervene. He simply laughed and watched passively as the group tried to deal with the situation. I had only met my attacker for the first time the day before and had not spoken to him individually. He was able to remain in the seminar, and for the rest of the week he largely remained quiet, yet was, at times, invited to voice his own comments by the course leaders – which he did in a confident, critical and questioning manner – no shame – whilst I, and others, remained quieter, more hesitant, and fearful of this harshly judging presence.

What is wrong here? I could not help to think a number of things all in a rush at once. Would he have told a male colleague that they were being ‘arrogant’ for voicing an opinion that differed to his in a confident, even direct, manner? Would he have told a male colleague to be ‘quiet’ for intervening and disciplining him? In fact – when this happened – he did not. It was only then that he checked himself. What did he mean by ‘autistic comments’ and was he not aware that this was offensive on many levels, implying both that myself and people with autism are not intelligent beings worthy of respect. Should he have been ‘allowed’ to stay in the room and participate in the discussion, let alone being invited to contribute, having violated norms of conduct? Who had the right and power to make that decision? And how is it that four other women commented to me that they felt uncertain and reluctant to speak up after that outburst for fear of being likewise attacked, whilst shame was not apparent in his ongoing engagement? This abrupt interaction not only succeeded in shutting me down but silencing others. The violence still hung there in the air the next day and there was a tension in the group that had not been apparent beforehand.

Whilst this is perhaps an extreme example of chauvinist behavior in such a mild context, it points to wider structural issues that remain unaddressed and usually hidden, except in moments when they burst through so plainly like this. Where do we draw the line around gender-based discrimination, even violence? Are words, bodily postures and attitudes not part and parcel of the everyday practice of sexism, even violence itself? On the last day of the week-long course he again attacked a fellow female student, tearing into her personally by heavily implying that she was stupid and ignorant. As a result I walked out. In a follow up email with the seminar leaders, they stated that they felt that he had ‘not openly discriminated’ against other students, and that ‘we have to accept that some students behave badly’. I think they did their best – but it was not enough. I do not agree that we should accept that some students behave badly. He will most likely pass the course – is that the correct message? That intellectual ideas are divorced from the ethics and accountability of interpersonal relations? That is a deathly creed – yet, again, the rational/emotional, individual/relational dichotomies it rests upon are masculinist in essence. Is this not part and parcel of the same creed which protects male professors who sexually harass female colleagues because of their genius? I only wonder what clues and crumbs of crumby behavior were apparent earlier on in their careers that were enabled to continue through no resistance.

As a female starting out in academia I often feel caught between two binary modes of professional behavior – gearing myself up to be confident, speak up and speak strong in order to be taken seriously and be heard, or alternatively… stay silent and mute as a safe alternative. I do not seem to know how to navigate or practice a middle or re-defining ground. If I speak confidently I am arrogant. If I have a strong opinion, aggressive. Yet it is well known that male counterparts are considered worthy of respect, intelligent and probably in line for a promotion if they act similarly. I have a constant sense that some sort of particular behavior is expected of me, and my fellow female colleagues, yet I do not know what it is. At the same time I seem to spend mental energy trying to figure it out – indeed I am required to. It appears that staying silent, or perhaps speaking with more uncertainty, hesitation and a gentler tone works ‘better’. For some, that is their preferred register. Yet for me, quite a vocal lass, I feel that I regularly fail at this game. Each time I ‘fail’ is another time I learn that who I am is not good enough, is not ‘right’. I am not being woman enough. I am not being feminine enough. I am not doing it right.

Yet it is true that this experience shook me up in other ways. It made me question (yet again) my own manner of engagement. Something I, and I know a number of my female friends, do often. Perhaps he was right, my mind said. in some way – was I being too vocal, too critical, too direct, too outspoken, too hard? Too too…? Perhaps I do not know what I am talking about after all – he’s right, he’s right, I should keep quiet until I’ve read Aristotle… until I’ve read… EVERYTHING THERE IS TO READ…. Not possible… Whilst this mental-chatter overdrive was typically overdone, I couldn’t shake an acute feeling of shame at my own contribution to the set up. Of course nothing justified the manner of his outburst, but it was perhaps true that I had been too forceful in my critique of the work of the guest academic who had had the courage to sit in the firing line and open himself to comment. Later someone said ‘he probably felt he needed to defend the academic, you were destroying him! No, it was good!’ That word ‘destroy’ vibrates with a harsh telling. It is the masculinist mode of competitive and individualized engagement academia largely endorses and socializes one into. Was I just reproducing that? Were my own critical words doing a violence to the vulnerability of any person presenting their words and work to a new audience? Was my shame a form of self-violence, social disciplining, or a basis for agency?

What, then, if instead, I employed a feminist way of speaking up? What might a feminist form of academic communication and intellectual engagement look like? Perhaps for too long women, once allowed into the ivory tower, have seen the only way to be truly accepted is to adopt the tower’s own modes of interaction and augment them, turning up the volume, sharpening the intellectual knife, in order to be seen and heard. I’d like to be able to practice compassionate, yet astute, emotionally resonant yet respected, gentle but determined, personal and entangled engagement. I’d like to contribute to shifting the manner in which communication is conducted in the first place, to something more expansive, care-ing and diffractive. Something non-violent. Not easy. At the same time, I do not want to be an apologist for female assertiveness, in the affirmative sense. I look forward to the day when a female impassioned voice that says ‘I disagree and here’s why’ is not considered ‘brave’, ‘shrill’ or ‘conceited’ by anyone in the room and where gendered violence, where and when it happens, is recognized, called out, and rejected in all forms and at all scales, including in that microcosm that is the precarious and politically-charged space of the classroom, where academic life begins.

Kale and chia seed smoothie, anyone? Instagram’s clean-eating trend, classism and the misrepresentation of veganism.

By Milly Morris & Katie Oliver 

In 2016, Maria Strydom died whilst attempting to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Strydom and her husband were attempting to climb seven summits in seven continents. Yet the tragedy of Strydom’s death was overshadowed in the media by her commitment to a vegan lifestyle; she had previously claimed that her expeditions would prove that “vegans can do anything” and break the stereotype of the sickly vegan suffering from a “lack of protein.” The headlines that followed her death insinuated that Strydom was foolish and arrogant to make such a statement; titles such as ‘Proud vegan climbs Everest to prove haters wrong, dies’ are laced in a smug satisfaction that can loosely be translated to “we told you so, veganism isn’t healthy or safe!” Despite the evidence showing that Strydom’s diet could not be linked to her death, her colourful life as an academic/experienced climber/wife/sister/friend were boiled down to her veganism, sparking debates about the safety in avoiding meat and dairy (Orde, 2016).

More recently, the Italian government announced a proposed plan to send parent’s to prison who “force a vegan lifestyle upon their children”, suggesting that it causes children to be deficient in Iron and other important nutrients. In the UK, many children become malnourished from a diet of processed foods (including meat and dairy) (Deardon, 2016; McVeigh, 2014), yet the news from Italy was followed with headlines such as: “can vegans ever be good parents?” and “is it abuse to put children on a vegan diet?” arguing that vegan diets often lead to children being deficient in iron (Orde, 2016)

So, why is it that veganism seemingly causes such animosity and frustration from the media and wider society?

Veganism has been mocked, dismissed, and vilified in both the media, and in wider society. Those fighting for animal rights are not seen as liberators, because their fight is too far from the norm, and perspectives are tainted with speciesist norms that put human suffering above non-human. A major (inaccurate) criticism of vegan activism is that there is so much human suffering, that we must first “sort out” ourselves before we can focus on the lives and deaths of our non-human sister species. But with an increased interest in intersectionality, theoretically and in practice, and both in academia and popular discourse, it is time to acknowledge and more deeply consider that no suffering stands alone, and that a society built upon violence towards animal bodies can never be one that eradicates human—human violence.

In June 2016, the BBC aired a documentary called “Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets”, hosted by “body-positivity queen” and blogger Grace Victory. She followed a variety of clean-eating diets promoted on Instagram and YouTube to reveal the damaging effects that they could have on the body and on an individual’s mental health. After visiting a whole foods store and gasping at the extortionate prices of certain “super-foods”, Victory states that this “clean eating, vegan thing” is about class rather than health, suggesting that it is a “very middle-class” lifestyle that is unaffordable for the majority of the public (BBC, 2016). This ignores vegan movements such as A. Breeze Harper’s ‘Sistah Vegan’, decolonial and black feminist theorist who approaches veganism from a black perspective, and expresses how it is inherently harmful to associate veganism with whiteness (Harper, 2015). When we are seeking to approach oppression holistically – intersectionally – the dismissal of veganism as a “diet”, instead of the liberation movement that it is, negates the struggle of non-human animals, and misrepresents actual vegans, as opposed to those following a plant-based diet. It is a distinction that is made frequently, even by vegans themselves. Veganism is not a diet. It is a belief system, and a liberation movement. Diet is just one aspect of that.

When we are seeking to approach oppression holistically – intersectionally – the dismissal of veganism as a “diet”, instead of the liberation movement that it is, negates the struggle of non-human animals, and misrepresents actual vegans, as opposed to those following a plant-based diet. It is a distinction that is made frequently, even by vegans themselves. Veganism is not a diet. It is a belief system, and a liberation movement. Diet is just one aspect of that.

Throughout the documentary, it becomes clear that Victory is struggling with her new diet – including a 30 day “potato cleanse” – as she becomes tired and develops bad skin (BBC, 2016). The show concludes with Victory suggesting that vegan, clean-eating is a potentially dangerous habit that can lead to eating disorders. However, Victory failed to point out the distinction between “eating clean” and following a vegan diet; an individual who eats “clean” is doing so for health purposes, whereas veganism is not about losing weight or even being healthy (although the facts show that veganism is perfectly safe and healthy). In contrast, veganism is simply about eating – and living – in a way that is mindful of the planet and of other species.

Reducing veganism to just a diet, and to being solely about the Self, and Self-body, in a confusion with those following a plant-based diet, dismisses the importance and larger message of veganism. Veganism is always already about Other, and Other-bodies, because it is a practice of non-harm, whether this originates as animal-oriented, environmental, or health-based, there is always an Other who is being affected (albeit positively) from the rise of veganism. Conversely, there is always an Other’s suffering and death involved in carnism, in eating and using flesh and animal bodies for human pleasure. The animal-as-food becomes ‘the absent referent’ (Adams, 1990). When the flesh is eaten, it is food, it is not body or being, it is not death, but instead presented as sustenance, life-full, and life-fuel. It cannot be that carnists are unaware of who they are eating, but that there is a carefully curated system in place to ensure that there is no ‘seepage’ of life, or living, in the consumed body. This has been linked to the distance of slaughterhouses, and factory farms, away from populated areas and also to the rise of the presentation of animals raised in ‘family farms’ (see, for example, Lidl’s latest advert https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsiVI6Vxikk), and a desire for a connection to our food (local food movements, British farm standards…), but it fails to show the actual truths behind what is on your plate.

Because veganism is so embodied – it is literally a bodily change and a new practice of everyday life – it is difficult not for it to become an important part of life that vegans want to share. When we see oppression around us at every meal, in all parts of our lives, how can we but use our voices to speak against this? Just as, you would hope, racism, sexism, or any other oppressive practice would be spoken and acted against, so should be speciesism. The problem that the animal liberation movement has to come to terms with, and to continue to work to find ways around, is that it relies wholly on the oppressors liberating the oppressed, and on (human) representatives enacting struggles on behalf of animals. Appealing to the moral sensibilities of carnists to disregard their own pleasure and change their own lives will always come across as “preachy”, but this should not stop vegans continuing to fight for animals, and to expose the lies of happy farm animals and pain-free slaughter that are widely believed. It is perhaps necessary to be preachy, because even if there is only one person who understands, and cannot unknow what they have come to know, it is estimated that in a lifetime, a vegan will spare the lives of 198 animals a year (PETA, 2010).

So, where has this confusion between ‘clean-eating’ and veganism arisen from? 

However, social media’s obsession with ‘clean’ foods has arguably led to the conflation of veganism with dieting. One only need to type the hashtags “#vegan” into the Instagram search bar to find an array of beautifully arranged green smoothies, elaborate salads and the – seemingly infamous – avocado on toast. Alongside these images, harshtags such as “#cleaneating” and “#health” are commonplace and imply that veganism is simply a good way to lose weight. Whilst this cannot be said of all vegan cooking pages on Instagram and Facebook, many social media “health gurus” propose that being vegan is about eating solely “clean” foods that benefit the body. For example, Naturally Megan’s Instagram is strewn with arty vegan dishes that showcase her ‘#plantpowered’ life. All the images contain descriptions of the foods in the caption, such as the following: “carrot cake oats with blueberries, strawberries and vanilla coconut yoghurt” with the hashtag ‘#veganfood’, ‘#healthyeating and ‘#eatclean.’ Whilst the motives behind these uploads may be harmless, these image insinuate that veganism is a pure diet that aims to give the individual the best health possible. Moreover, many of the ingredients on Naturally Megan’s page are exotic and seemingly expensive, such as the following:

“(…) avocado on brown sourdough, strawberries and a chocolate protein smoothie (1 banana, 2 tbsp raw vegan chocolate protein powder, 1 cup almond milk and a handful of ice cubes)” (Naturallymeghan, 2016)

As Zimmer argues, social media is based upon an ‘obsessive documentation of self’; Instagram acts as a ‘highlights’ reel for one’s life to present a polished and perfected version of users to an online audience (Zimmer, 2013). All the messy and painful parts of life are cut out so the viewer sees a neatly cropped square with beautiful lighting. In this sense, it can be argued that rather than getting the message out about an alternative and potentially more ethical lifestyle, these health bloggers are showcasing their status as individual’s who can afford chia seeds and quinoa on a regular basis. It is important to note here that there is nothing wrong with buying and enjoying these products, but that taking pictures of these types of food for an online following is arguably the equivalent of inviting all your neighbours around to watch you wash your brand new Ferrari.

Veganism is classed, sexed, aged, and raced. When veganism is presented over instagram as young, white, societally attractive women such as ‘delciously ella’, ‘freelee the bananagirl’, ‘the blonde vegan’, or PETA’s lettuce ladies, there is an immediate disconnect with non-white, non-middle-class, non-conforming people who in reality are the bulk of vegans. Our animal rights/vegan movement is tainted from the inside with the same problems that can be identified in our societies. Those who are praised and held up as examples and representatives of vegan lifestyles do not actually reflect the 99% of vegans, and we did not choose these people to be our representatives and they do not even stand for what we stand for. The presentation of veganism as a fad, or a weight loss trend, is fundamentally damaging for those of us fighting for liberation, and also for those of us who do not fit the norms of society. The vegan movement is following a similar path to the feminist movement, whereby certain vegans are being held up on a pedestal, and these “stars” of veganism are not chosen by the vegan masses, but by the media and by who will “sell” the most (Freeman, 1975). We saw this most notably in Gloria Steinem in the ’60s and ’70s in the feminist movement, and we can begin to see the same patterns and backlashes in the ‘stars’ of the vegan movement, with a rise in “normal” vegans who do not fit mainstream representations of what a vegan should look like (see Facebook group ‘What Fat Vegans Eat’) taking back the power and purpose of veganism.

There is a fundamental problem in the animal rights movement with misogyny and damaging behaviours towards women which have come to light in recent years, and this is not the only problem that is plaguing veganism. There are racial dynamics within veganism whereby non-white vegans are not afforded the same visibility and reverence that vegan ‘stars’ such as the aforementioned are. There is also the exploitation and appropriation of certain representation of non-white people to sell vegan books, such as the problematic debates around the book ‘Thug Kitchen’ (Bryant Terry, 2014). Non-white people are denied access, their position as vegans is negated because they don’t look or act the part that is expected of them.

Once this is conflated with the vegan lifestyle, the important message of veganism is skewed and becomes about class, which is ultimately tied up with race, and gender (Crenshaw, 1989). Consequently, individuals take may issue with the snobbery that has been associated with veganism, the actual core beliefs of the movement; it is essential that vegans make steps to move away from the assumption that veganism is a “pure” diet that will “cleanse” one’s body. This is a process that is currently in motion; Facebook community pages such as “Fat Vegans” are dedicated to sharing recipes for vegan sweet treats, The Vegan Society’s website allows individual’s to browse “how to be vegan on a budget” (TheVeganSociety, 2016). Overall, it is essential that the movement continues to fight these stereotypes and creates an image for itself that demonstrates its inclusive nature, diverse membership and willingness to occasionally indulge in junk-food.


Adams, C. (1990). The Sexual Politics of Meat. London. Continuum.

BBC. (2016). Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets. Date accessed: 24th August 2016. Accessed from: www.youtube.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCQFz89F5Vw

Crenshaw, K. (1989)  Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex, The University of Chicago Legal Forum 140:139-167

Deardon, L. (2016). Italy’s proposed law to jail vegan parents for up to four years criticised as ‘discriminatory’ attack on human rights. Date accessed: 24th August 2016. Accessed from: www.independent.co.uk: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/italys-proposed-law-to-jail-vegan-parents-for-up-to-four-years-criticised-as-discriminatory-attack-a7193496.html

Freeman, J. (1975) Political Organization in the Feminist Movement. Date accessed: 23rd August 2016. Accessed from: http://www.jofreeman.com: http://www.jofreeman.com/socialmovements/polorg.htm

Harper, A. B. (2015). Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter, Sistah Vegan Conference. April 24th-25th, 2015.

Lidl UK. (2016). #LidlSurprises: Lidl Deluxe Scotch Rump Steak. Date accessed: 23rd August 2016. Accessed from: www.youtube.com: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsiVI6Vxikk

McVeigh, T. (2014). Rickets returns as poor families find healthy diets unaffordable. Date accessed: 23rd August 2016. Accessed from: www.theguardian.co.uk: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/30/child-poverty-link-malnutrition-rickets

Naturallymeghan. (2016). Naturallymeghan. Date accessed: 23rd August 2016. Accessed from: www.instagram.com: https://www.instagram.com/naturallymeghan/?hl=en

Orde, E. (2016). The death of the vegan climber was a tragedy, but her diet was irrelevant. Date accessed: 24th August 2016. Accessed from: www.independent.co.uk: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-death-of-the-vegan-climber-was-a-tragedy-but-her-diet-was-irrelevant-a7046191.html

Orde, E. (2016). Vegan diets for children aren’t abusive – raising a child to eat meat is actually more extreme. Date accessed: 24th August 2016. Accessed from: www.independent.co.uk: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/vegan-diets-for-children-aren-t-abusive-raising-a-child-to-eat-meat-is-actually-more-extreme-a7156266.html

PETA. (2010). Vegans Save 198 Animals a Year. Date accessed: 24th August 2016. Accessed from: www.peta.org: www.peta.org/blog/vegans-save-185-animals-year/

Sistah Vegan Project. (2016). Date accessed: 23rd August 2016. Accessed from: http://www.sistahvegan.com/

Terry, B. (2014) The Problem with ‘Thug’ Cuisine. CNN. Date accessed: 24th August 2016. Accessed from: www.cnn.com: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/10/living/thug-kitchen-controversy-eatocracy/

The Vegan Society. (2016). Vegan on a budget. Date accessed: 23rd August 2016. Accessed from: www.thevegansociety.co.uk: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/recipes/budget/vegan-budget


On clean eating

Bethan Irvine


Set against the backdrop of a so called ‘obesity epidemic’, these days it seems healthy eating diets are everywhere. As this recent article by Milly Morris on Instagram’s fitness trends has already pointed out, social media feeds are now bombarded with images of toned and tight bodies, kale smoothies and raw beets in hand. Accompanied by captions such as “eat clean, get lean”, “just eat real food”, or “you are what you eat”.  On the surface, clean eating trends appear to be a positive thing and are often situated within a counter-movement challenging fast-food culture and the businesses capitalising on the production of cheap and heavily processed food.  At first glance, those spearheading the movement appear empowered and in control, representing the pinnacle of morality, righteousness, and success.

“Eating healthily doesn’t have to be expensive”, they cry.

“It’s just about making the right choices”.

Yet, despite my belief in the healing power of nourishing food which has been produced partly by my own bodily knowledge and experienc, so far my involvement in the healthy-eating movement has left me questioning whether eating “clean” food is always as “empowering” and “healthy” as it seems, and it appears I’m not alone. Recently there’ve have been others voicing their concerns over the damaging potential of today’s #CleanEating movement. For instance, this article by Protein Pow discusses the feelings of guilt and shame that many of us feel when we are unable to eat to the strict rules of eating clean. This week there was also a documentary aired by Vlogger Grace Victory on BBC Three encouraging viewers to question whether healthy eating diets are just eating disorders in disguise. And as I sit here hungry, stuffing my face with green vegetables worrying about today’s calorie intake, I am also troubled by the idea that disordered eating is being normalised and masked by a positive language of health and wellness.

But rather than asking the question: are healthy eating diets are good or bad for us? I feel it’s important to ask other questions such as: how is healthy eating being defined? How is it marketed and sold? Who is defining it? And, who is able to engage with it? To me, asking these questions seems crucial not only to challenging diet industry BS which is received and experienced in multiple and complex ways, but also in cultivating a more inclusive and compassionate fitness culture that challenges the broader systems of power which benefit from our obsessive self-care and preoccupation with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, bodies, and people.  When we ask ourselves these questions, we cannot ignore the political and economic context in which healthy eating diets are located; contemporary neo-liberal capitalism.

Within this context, the commodification of fitness and bodies has produced an array of confusing messages about food as markets seek out new opportunities for capital. Low fat diets, high carb diets, low carb diets, paleo diets, and raw vegan diets are just a few healthy eating fads to be promoted by businesses looking to maximise profit (Dworkin & Wahs, 2009).  But while food businesses do promote healthy eating trends, these diets are not just imposed upon us by evil corporations. Instead they are actively lived and reproduced within our everyday lives and interactions with others. We openly praise others for choosing salad over chips and punish ourselves for indulging in too much chocolate. We post ‘inspirational’ transformation selfies and hate ourselves when we can’t see visible abs.

This process of self-discipline and policing which lies at the heart of the #CleanEating movement demands we look beyond one-dimensional narratives of evil capitalists and brainwashed consumers. To reflect on the way in which the neo-liberal political ideologies of late capitalism are played out within our everyday lives and practices. Within the neo-liberal clean eating movement, food (and bodies) have become categorised as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as states strategically dodge the responsibility for health and place the blame onto individuals whose bodies come to reflect moral and social worth (Crawford, 1990). Those considered ‘too fat’ are persecuted for being lazy and lacking discipline, while toned, slender, and more recently athletic looking bodies are praised for their dedication to making the ‘right choices’ (Cairns and Johnston, 2015).  As the neo-liberal health food industry would have it seem, ‘healthy’ eating can be understood simply as a matter of individuals on a level playing field exercising free-will and consumer choice on the market. Everyone is expected to take personal responsibility for making ‘positive choices’ about their health and diet, regardless of their background (Guthrie and DuPuis, 2006).

Yet, as anyone who has had to cope with illness, injury, unemployment, low wages, a stressful job, life event, or even manage the conflicting demands of a family meal time will tell you, eating “healthy” food isn’t always that simple.  We’ve all seen it. Advocates of healthy eating preaching condescendingly to the ‘uneducated masses’ who are just too stupid to know how to eat ‘right’. Attacks being directed to people considered ‘too fat’ for being dumb and lacking self-control (Orbach, 1978).  But this neo-liberal rhetoric of ‘choice’ overlooks vast inequalities in wealth and resources, and notions of health that place blame onto individuals perpetuate ongoing class divides (Dworkin and Messener, 2002). Clean eating trends privilege and normalise the middle classes who can afford to adopt wholesome lifestyles considered ‘healthy’ and ‘good’. Consequently creating distance between the middle-class and the undesirable working class ‘other’ who simply don’t have enough money spend on raw organic extra virgin coconut oil (Lawler, 2005).

The notion of healthy eating as a personal ‘choice’ also overlooks ongoing gender inequalities. It’s not uncommon to see images of ‘strong’ and ‘empowered’ women who are able to take control, all the while still looking hot. Although men are in no way excluded, it should not be understated that women’s behaviour and bodies continue to be placed under significant scrutiny. As Bartkey has noted, “women’s movement is subjected to a still finer discipline” (1988: 30).  In the process of “choosing” health, many women find themselves caught in a balancing act trying to manage conflicting ideals of femininity.  Often holding themselves accountable to dominant images of ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’ women that are disproportionately white, slender, middle-class, and (hetero)sexually desirable, while simultaneously being encouraged to be a ‘strong’, ‘empowered’, and active consumer (Dworkin and Messner, 2009; Cairns and Johnston, 2015). As mothers, women also continue to take a large proportion of the responsibility for children’s health, deemed a success only if they can make the ‘right’ choices about food and wellbeing (Cairns et al, 2013).

So, while it is great to see that more and more people are challenging contemporary healthy eating trends which risk masking obsessive and disordered eating. I urge critics to also think about the way that #CleanEating trends are washing away ongoing social divisions under the neo-liberal rhetoric of individual liberty and freedom to “choose”; a tactic which is unquestionably in the interests of consumer capitalism (Penny, 2015). Rather than directing our energies inwards, attacking ourselves for eating foods we consider “bad” and patting ourselves on the back for only eating 500 calories in one day, it seems important to begin challenging the wider economic and political agenda that lies beneath our self-hate.


Bartky, S (1988) ‘Foucualt, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power’ in Diamond, I and Quinby, L (Eds) Feminism and Foucault: Reflections on Resistance (Northeastern University Press)

Cairns, K, Johnston, J, and MacKendrick, N. (2013) ‘Feeding the ‘organic child’: Mothering through ethical consumption’ in Journal of Consumer Culture, 13(2): 97-118

Cairns, K & Johnston, J. (2015) ‘Choosing Health: embodied neoliberalism, postfeminism, and the “do-diet” in Springer Science & Business Media Dordrecht, published online on 28 January 2015

Crawford, R. (1980), ‘Healthism and the medicalisation of everyday life’ in International Journal of Health Services: Planning, Administration, Evaluation, 10(3): 365-388

Dworkin, S.L and Wahs, F.L. (2009) Body Panic: Gender, Health, and the Selling of Fitness (New York: New York University Press)

Dworkin and Messner (2002) ‘Just do…what? Sport, Bodies, Gender’ in Sheila ScratonandAnneLintoff (Eds) Gender and Sport: A Reader (Routledge: London)

Guthrie, J. (2005), ‘Embodying Neoliberalism: economy, culture, and the politics of fat’ in Society and Space, 24: 427-448

Lawler, S. (2005). ‘Disgusted subjects: the making of middle-class identities’ in The Sociological Review, 53(3): 429-446

Orbach, S. (1978) Fat is A Feminist Issue (London: Arrow Books)

Morris, M. (2015), ‘#Gymlife: does Instagrams fitness trend have the potential to negatively impact female body image?’, Feminist Academic Collective, https://feministacademiccollective.com/2015/12/17/gymlife-does-instagrams-fitness-trend-have-the-potential-to-negatively-impact-female-body-image/

Penny, L. (2016), ‘Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless’, The Baffler, http://thebaffler.com/blog/laurie-penny-self-care

Protein Pow. (2016) ‘The Dirty on ‘Clean Eating’, http://proteinpow.com/cleaneatingprotein

Not the Herring Song

A morale-boosting ditty by and for the Leicester PhD choir. To be sung very, very loudly.


Of all the ridiculous things I’ve done, starting a doctorate’s number one……

[CALLER – often passed around the group for each verse, but only if people are comfortable solo]

1 – What the hell’s a PhD?

Four long years of purgatory…..

PhD, purgatory and all good things.

2 – How do I do a lit review?

Simply cite Michel Foucoo……

lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things.

3 – What would I do with Jacques Ranciére?

Quote the idiot everywhere……..

Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things.


4 – What’s my supervisor for?

Just someone you should ignore……

supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things.

5 – What’s a methodology?

Whatever you did on holideeee……

methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things.

6 – I just don’t get S-P-S-S

It does not work, quicker to guess……

SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

7 – I’m so proud of my contribution,

Eight hund’red pages of confusion

contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

8 – I only cite from Wikipedia,

It’s there for the reluctant reader.

Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

9 – I collected lots of prim’ry data

I’ll find out it’s all rubbish later,

prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

10 – I have a sort of research question,

But it just gives me indigestion.

research question, indigestion, prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

11 – My colleagues all cite Judith Butler,

But I find half a brick is subtler,

Judith Butler, brick is subtler, research question, indigestion, prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

12 – I’ve got to use a ‘feminist lens’,

Although I have no women friends.

feminist lens, no women friends, Judith Butler, brick is subtler, research question, indigestion, prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

13 – Ethnography’s the trendy thing,

But very hard work, I’d rather sing!

trendy thing, rather sing, feminist lens, no women friends, Judith Butler, brick is subtler, research question, indigestion, prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

14 – I would teach a seminar,

If the students weren’t all in the bar,

seminar, in the bar, trendy thing, rather sing, feminist lens, no women friends, Judith Butler, brick is subtler, research question, indigestion, prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

15 – Eventually I’ll graduate,

And join the folk I’ve come to hate,

graduate, folk I hate, seminar, in the bar, trendy thing, rather sing, feminist lens, no women friends, Judith Butler, brick is subtler, research question, indigestion, prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things

16 – But now I have a doctorate.

And work in Tesco’s, very late.

doctorate, Tesco’s late, graduate, folk I hate, seminar, in the bar, trendy thing, rather sing, feminist lens, no women friends, Judith Butler, brick is subtler, research question, indigestion, prim’ry data, rubbish later, Wikipedia, reluctant reader, contribution, confusion, SPSS, quicker to guess, methodology, holidee, supervisor, to ignore, Ranciére, everywhere, lit review, Michel Foucoo, PhD, purgatory and all good things.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Not the Herring Song – a brief explanation

Andrea Davies & Angus Cameron

This song was produced by participants in the ‘PhD Choir’ at the University of Leicester.  The ‘PhD Choir’ was created originally by Angus Cameron and Andrea Davies (both School of Management) in 2014 as a means of providing some basic voice training for PhD students.  The reasoning was (and remains) that while Universities train PhDs to do all sorts of useful things (coding, stats, methodologies, theory, etc., etc.), the one thing we don’t provide training for is the one thing they’ll need every minute of every day of their research and subsequent academic careers – their voice.  As such, it is not a ‘proper’ choir, because we require no real commitment (other than the first few sessions which are part of a doctoral training programme) and we don’t prepare for performance.  We just get together once a week – in varying numbers – to practice warm-ups, to sing together and to reflect on the importance of the voice (sung, spoken, written and gestural) to what we all do.  Singing together in this way boosts confidence, personal resilience, physical and mental stamina, collegiality and general wellbeing.

Much of what we sing is based on the work of Chris Rowbury – a pioneering choir leader who specialises in those who ‘can’t sing’ (http://chrisrowbury.com/).  Without fail Chris manages to get even the most reluctant of the ‘can’t sing won’t sing’ brigade, not just singing, but doing so in three/four part harmony, often within half an hour or so.  The results are usually astonishing and we’re delighted to have been able to produce our own success stories through the PhD Choir.

The ‘Not the Herring Song’ came about partly from a desire to differentiate ourselves away from reliance on Chris’ songs, but mainly so that we would have something of our own.  As its name suggests, it is based on a traditional folk song called ‘The Herring Song’.  There are many variants of this (YouTube will provide), but in all cases it takes the form of an incremental call and response.  The tune varies (and in our case ‘evolves’ from week to week): rhythm, pronunciation and enthusiastic participation matter far more.  In total it takes about 10 minutes to sing and, by the end, is a major challenge for breath control and vocal stamina.  For that reason it is not something you should attempt without doing a thorough vocal and breathing warm-up first – please don’t hurt yourselves.

It is, at one level, just a ‘bit of fun’ – a wry reflection on the PhD ‘experience’ in the spirit of the ‘world turned upside down’.  But our students also report that they find it inspiring, enthusing and a useful corrective to the distorted perspectives that academia often produces.  We hope you enjoy it too.

Disclosure and exposure in the neoliberal university

Alison Phipps


This Spring, as part of a collaborative partnership of colleagues from the UK and 5 other European countries, I helped to launch a European Commission-funded project entitled ‘Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence‘. Our main aim is to create university environments in which students can disclose experiences of sexual harassment and assault, through providing ‘first response’ training to key staff. We have committed to training 80 staff in each of our 13 Partner and Associate Partner universities.

As we begin our work, I want to think more deeply about disclosure. The word is loaded, and the act is too: laden with emotion and often perceived as a threat. It means to reveal, to expose, to name something which creates discomfort and shame. Our work is loaded. Sexual harassment and assault in universities is pushed under the carpet in every national context I have studied, both within Europe and further afield. The 2015 film The Hunting Ground portrayed US university campuses as sites where sexual predators roam with impunity. Although I was not a fan of the film’s restitution-retribution narrative, it relayed powerful testimonies by survivors who described a heartbreaking silence which resounds across national borders.

In both the US and the UK, disclosures are made within institutions shaped by neoliberal and new managerial rationalities. These both force and inhibit speech in a variety of ways. While not over-simplifying neoliberalism and/or over-stating its effects, a key question for our project must be: what does it mean to respond to disclosure in this context?

Silences within the neoliberal institution have been the subject of much discussion. Less often, we explore how HE sector frameworks, practices and cultures are dependent on particular types of disclosures. Evaluation requires information: as Stephen Ball argues, we must make ourselves ‘calculable’ within contemporary performative regimes. The REF demands descriptions of our departmental intellectual homes; the NSS asks students how they feel about our teaching; we represent our ideas and ambitions in particular (or on particular) forms for annual appraisal. Benchmarking exercises such as Athena SWAN and Stonewall Diversity Champions require us to document our successes, admit our failings and promise to fix them. Foucault’s modern confessional comes to mind here: just as we are asked to give up the secrets of our bodies and minds to doctors and psychiatrists, audit culture demands that we give up the secrets of our labour.

Neoliberal rationalities intersect with the gendered cultures of universities. I have written extensively about student ‘lad culture’, contending that within the contemporary university, this often articulates itself through modes of sexual audit. Like other forms of audit, these force particular types of disclosures: ‘conquests’ must be documented and assessed. The notching up of ‘lad points’, Heidi Mirza reminds us, is not restricted to students: retro-sexist masculinities are at play at all levels of the academy, from the bar to the boardroom.

Citing Felly Simmonds, Mirza also reiterates that for those marginalised within academic environments and discourses, legitimacy often depends on disclosing private information. Women of colour, LGBT+ people and others are excluded from the realms of abstract theorising and speech. We are pushed into the personal register, but this position is vulnerable to dismissal and derision. Partly in response, feminism and other resistant political forms have rightly reclaimed the personal as epistemology. However, I have argued that in a neoliberal context in which both knowledge and experience have become capital, personal disclosures can be weaponised within political movements to shore up power and privilege. Disclosure is complex, then, for our engagements with and our resistances against, the neoliberal institution.


Disclosure is exposure. But exposure for whom? We expose ourselves when we disclose what has happened to us. We also have the potential to expose those who have hurt us, at individual and institutional levels, but this is commonly not realised. We fear exposing ourselves but perhaps even more, we fear exposing them: there will be consequences. This thought is often enough to stop us from disclosing in the first place.

Disclosures are situated within reckonings: for survivors and for the institution. The terms of these are frequently dictated by marketised reputational games. The same systems of monitoring and evaluation which demand some disclosures deny others, insisting that everything is presented with a ‘good spin’. This gives rise to the figure Sara Ahmed has named the ‘institutional killjoy’ (a relative of the feminist killjoy), who ruins everything with their complaints. Like disclosure, complaint is a loaded word. As Whitley and Page remind us, it places the focus on those who complain, rather than those who are complained about. Ahmed puts it like this: ‘those who are damaged become the ones who cause damage. And the institutional response can take the form of: damage limitation.’

Institutionally, disclosure is reckoned up as a market problem. As I have previously suggested, this operates at multiple levels, from departmental micro-politics to the grandiose idea of ‘bringing the university into disrepute.’ Disclosures, rather than the acts of sexual violence they refer to, are what is disreputable because economic values have replaced civic ones. Institutional reckonings around disclosure reduce students and staff to fungible objects within cost-benefit frameworks. This means that disclosures are problematic only inasmuch as they threaten the welfare of the institution.

As a result, as Ahmed contends, complaints often become an injury to the offender: this is especially the case if he (and it is usually, but not always, ‘he’) is seen as an asset. Disclosures can take down star Professors or threaten fraternity endowments and sporting success. Citing Code’s work on testimony, Whitley and Page argue that disclosures can eventually become challenges to hegemonic accounts of what a university is. Spin does not survive long in the face of sustained truth-telling: this is the ultimate reputational risk.


One of the ways power operates is to cover some people up. Some of us are used to revealing ourselves: our bodies are marked as public property; experience is our most legitimate source of knowledge. Others are not to be exposed. Whitley and Page point out that confidentiality, while essential to facilitating disclosures, can also operate as a means to protect high-profile individuals and institutions from damage. The ‘laddish’ disclosures I have documented are made by men, but it is women’s bodies which are laid bare: ‘lad points’ demand that women’s boundaries are crossed, their secrets told. Indeed, when these acts re-appear as women’s disclosures of sexual harassment and assault, they are minimised and denied. When we disclose within such power relations, we only expose ourselves.

In a neoliberal institution, layers of bureaucratic leverage are bundled around the powerful. Whitley and Page highlight how hierarchies between staff and students both enable and conceal abuse; student communities are also characterised by varying degrees of social and institutional privilege, as are relations between staff. The manager who sexually harasses you at the Christmas party also allocates your teaching, conducts your annual appraisal, and assesses your requests for research leave. There are more impersonal bureaucratic controls as well, including stressful and opaque complaints processes which mean it is often easier to keep quiet. As Ahmed points out, the word ‘harass’ derives from the French word for ‘tire’ or ‘vex’, and harassment and bullying succeeds by increasing the costs of fighting against it.

I have argued in the past that audit culture also makes it difficult to look up from our desks to support our students and colleagues who are suffering. This, in turn, normalises harassment and assault and inhibits disclosure. As Whitley and Page put it: ‘If everyone knows what is happening, and yet no one objects to it, then what would reporting it do?’ If boundaries are being crossed in the open, then there is nothing to expose.

It is not surprising, then, that only 4 per cent of UK women students experiencing serious sexual assault report to their universities. This is not just an issue of ‘speaking up’: it is not that simple and it will not be easy to fix. It is about whose speech counts and how, and what kinds of disclosures are elicited and ignored. For our project, there will be a challenge involved in moving beyond the act of disclosure to explore its context. Indeed, disclosure is not just an act: it is an idea and a process which goes to the heart of issues of power and violence in the neoliberal institution.

This post was originally published on Genders, Bodies, Politics.

Protecting abusive academic men because of their ‘genius’ must stop

Jemima Repo


In the last two weeks, we have seen gender, higher education and celebrity revolving around one issue our news feeds. No, I am not referring to Angelina Jolie-Pitt’s appointment as Visiting Professor at the LSE, but rather the series of revelations relating to violence against women in academia and the celebrity-verse. First, on 20th May, Buzzfeed broke the story about two allegations against renowned Yale professor Thomas Pogge for sexual misconduct. Then, on 28th May, global news outlets reported that the Los Angeles Superior Court had issued Johnny Depp with a restraining order in response to his wife Amber Heard’s evidence of a history of domestic violence during their relationship. Finally, on 30th May, one of the world’s best-known feminist scholars, Sara Ahmed, resigned from her professorship at Goldsmiths University due to the institution’s failure to tackle sexual harassment. Brought side by side, three separate events speak volumes about how the obsession with male genius and creativity continues to sustain rape culture.

Ahmed’s bold move to give up her position in protest of her university’s  failure to protect its young female students is rare in academia. As we know, the prevailing response to complaints of sexual harassment received by universities is to hush it up. This was the case at Yale as it has been and continues to be at countless other universities in the UK, US, and beyond. Virtually all academics have heard familiar anecdotes or first-hand accounts about male professors who sleep with or pursue their graduate students, or proposition early career female academics. These are stories often shared in whispers, in jest, or through off-the-cuff remarks at the workplace, over a pint, or at a conference. Yet, as soon as such misconduct is acknowledged, it subsequently gets explained away as harmless, a private affair, or with that awful quip: “boys will be boys”. In addition, the “naïve” young student will be blamed for being foolish enough and not knowing better than to become involved with her professor. Given the power imbalance within institutions between faculty and students, this kind of victim-blaming is deplorable. When the accused is someone like Pogge, the head of an Ivy League Global Justice Programme with world-leading research credentials in ethics, global health, poverty reduction, and, troublingly, gender equity, or any other “progressive”, liberal, left-leaning academic male, the veracity of such accusations becomes virtually inconceivable. It is precisely the mirage of untouchability produced through the idolisation of male genius that enables predators to do what they do and continue to get away with it.

The Pogge case has obvious parallels with the way in which Amber Heard’s allegations have been received. While it would be a big stretch to call academics and celebrities comparable professions, it is not uncommon to refer to some academics as celebrities in their fields and to treat them as such, attending their conference talks or guest lectures just to see what they are like in person, asking for their autograph or a photograph to be posted on social media. Also, like actors, academics tend to see themselves as (intellectually) uniquely gifted and creative. As feminists have argued, those seen as gifted and creative are usually men, while women have achieved their status through hard work. This gives men certain advantages over women, such as being able to pass as the neutral, unembellished embodiment of knowledge and experience, and hence more entitled to benefits, praise and idolatry.

Social media has been rife with people saying Depp should be given the benefit of the doubt, or even calling Heard a liar, including Depp’s industry peers, even though Heard was photographed leaving the court with a bruise on her cheek. At the same time, others pointed out that liking someone is not a good enough reason to make excuses for them. The list of Hollywood men accused of violence against women is long, but these accusations (and in some cases, convictions) have rarely been an impediment to professional success. The catalogue includes Chris Brown, Nicolas Cage, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Sean Connery, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Dennis Rodman, Steven Seagal, Mickey Rouke, Bill Cosby, Christian Slater, James Brown, James Caan, Josh Brolin, Mike Tyson, Enimem, Bill Murray and Michael Fassbender. Sean Penn stands out here as someone who like Pogge has been at the forefront of left-wing celebrity do-gooding, criticising the last Bush administration, rubbing shoulders with Hugo Chávez, defending same-sex marriage, and assisting relief workers in New Orleans and Haiti. Penn exemplifies the sort of prominent male figure, whether academic or artistic, who is always forgiven because of his art, and whose past wrongs are outright forgotten, without being righted, because of his philanthropic work.

The Pogge story is representative of an equivalent trend in academia. The sexual harassment and abuse of female students and colleagues that goes on is an open secret, but one that rarely damages the perpetrators, even when accusations reach public knowledge. And even then, even when someone speaks out, institutions will go out of their way to suppress and silence the issue, as it is not only professorial but institutional reputations that are at stake. When faced with a choice between pursuing disciplinary action that may bring the university into disrepute, or doing nothing and carrying on as before as if the problem did not exist, the careers of young female academics are the cast-away by-product of the latter choice. This would not be the case if women’s intellectual contributions were not seen as somehow expendable in the first place. What’s worse is that female students and academics know this, having been reminded of it daily in the classroom, the meeting room, the staff room, in job hires and promotions, conferences, and citations. Thus, women tend to know the price of speaking out against inequality, and the Depp-Heard case is yet another depressingly predictable case in point.

This is why Sara Ahmed’s resignation is particularly poignant. It sends a powerful signal to universities that there are also prominent figures in the profession who refuse to accept sexual harassment in their workplace. It also challenges all academics to acknowledge that their silence equals complicity in keeping rape culture alive. Ahmed’s privileged position may have enabled her to protest in ways that others cannot, but there other avenues of action for staff that cannot afford to give up their jobs. An important part of this is, as Ahmed suggested last year, finding a way to spread the cost of bringing the problem to attention. This includes naming the behaviour as harassment or abuse, proactively supporting students and colleagues subjected to it, sharing experiences with colleagues and friends that we trust, gathering a record of evidence of abuse in our circles as well as refusing to cite, invite, or share a platform with those who are yet to face disciplinary measures. Only then can we begin to stop the damage being wrecked on women’s personal lives, intellectual growth and careers.

Feminist perspectives on global politics, in poems

Tiina Vaittinen & Saara Särmä


We have just finished teaching a course on feminist perspectives on global politics at the University of Tampere, with an international group of students with different disciplinary backgrounds. During the course, we introduced the students to a wide range of readings on feminist IR, and towards the end of the course Saara gave them a creative assignment, originally picked up from Elina Penttinen’s pedagogical tools. The results, based on the students’ readings of some of the contributors and/or readers of this blog, were so amazing that we want to share the work with you.

Here is the assignment that was given to the class:

1. Choose any text from the course moodle
2. Read it carefully
3. Construct a poem using only words in the text

The poem can be any length, but should capture the essence of the original text (the main argument etc.), write by hand or on a computer, remember, you can also play with the layout…

And here are some of the results. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.

Note 1: The authors’ names and the reference to the text that has inspired the writing can be found at the end of each poem. We have posted only those poems that we got permission for from the poets themselves, and some gave their permission only to anonymous publication.

Note 2: Apologies if the layout of the post is not perfect, that is Tiina’s fault.



iina-eerika grönlund1.png

– Iina-Eerika Grönlund –

(Inspired by Smith, Nicola J. & Donna Lee (2015) ’What’s queer about political science?’ British Journal of Politics and International Relations 17, 49–63.)


Janina Modes

– Janina Modes –

(Inspired by Shepherd, Laura and Lucy Ferguson (2011). “Gender, Governance and Power: Finding the Global at the Local Level”, Globalizations 8(2), 127–133.)


Lucija Mulalic.png

Lucija Mulalic –

(Inspired by Liddle, Joanna and Shirin Rai (1998) “Feminism, Imperialism and Orientalism: the challenge of the ‘Indian woman’”, Women’s History Review 7(4), 495-520.)


Impairments, handicaps, disabilities

Wheelchairs, retrofitting buildings,

Healthy adult males –paradigm of citizens

Who do not fit?


The capable,

The not-capable,

To be dependent,

or independent?


Who do not fit?


Private or public?

Human right issue?

Equal terms?



A social construction?



International Relations?

Cure or rehabilitation?


How do societies

Adapt to or address

These differences?

Physical and social?




Types of states,

World orders,

Community identities,

Types of democracy,

Northern states’ policies.


“Hyper-liberal’’ world order,

Away from welfare states,

Neo-liberal global economy,

Money, money, money.


International disability groups,

Such as,

World Blind Union

World Federation

of the Deaf and



What about,

United Nations,

World Bank?


Who do not fit?


-Nicole Onnela-

(Inspired by: Stienstra, Deborah (2002), ‘DisAbling Globalisation: Rethinking Global Political Economy with a Disability Lens’, Global Society, 16(2): 109-121.)


Quentin Sorbier

Quentin Sorbier –

(Inspired by Smith, Nicola J. & Donna Lee (2015) ’What’s queer about political science?’ British Journal of Politics and International Relations 17, 49–63.)


Jaime de Lorenzo

-Jaime de Lorenzo Barrientos-

(Inspired by Anitta Kynsilehto (ed.) (2008). Islamic feminism: Current perspectives. Tampere Peace Research Institute, Occasional Paper No. 96, 2008.)


anonymous_imagine peace


(Inspired by Boulding, Elise (1989). “Can peace be imagined?” in Peace. Meanings, politics, strategies edited by Linda Rennie Forcey, Prager: New York, Westport, London, pp. 73-84.)


Help wanted

Hanna Asikainen.png

– Hanna Asikainen –

(Inspired by Mason, Corinne L. (2014). ‘“Cripping” the World Bank: Disability, empowerment and the cost of violence against women’, International Feminist Journal of Politics 17(3): 435-453.)



– Delia Stanton Martin –

(Inspired by Johanna Hedva: Sick Woman Theory.)


alice guibert

– Alice Guibert –

(Inspired by Shepherd, Laura and Lucy Ferguson (2011). “Gender, Governance and Power: Finding the Global at the Local Level”, Globalizations 8(2), 127–133.)


anonymous_to end1

– Anonymous –

(Inspired by Pat Armstrong and M. Patricia Connelly (1989). “Feminist Political Economy: An Introduction”, Studies in Political Economy 30, pp. 5-12.)


Pathology of Globalisation

Tiina Vilppolahti.png

– Tiina Vilppolahti –

(Inspired by Stienstra, Deborah (2002) ‘DisAbling Globalisation: Rethinking Global Political Economy with a Disability Lens’, Global Society, 16(2): 109-121.)


chloe lusven

– Chloé Lusven –

(Inspired by Tuula Sakaranaho (2008). ‘“Equal but different”: Women in Turkey from the Islamic point of view’, in Islamic feminism edited by Anitta Kynsilehto, pp. 47-56. Tampere Peace Research Institute Occasional Papers No. 96, TAPRI: Tampere.)


clemence huguet

– Clemence Huguet –

(Inspired by Cynthia Enloe. Bananes, beaches and bases: Making feminist sense of international politics, (Ch. 2: “Lady travelers, Beauty queens, stewardesses, and Chambermaids: the international gendered politics of tourism”).)


segolene laubert

– Segolene Laubert –

(Inspired by Smith, Nicola J., Laing, Mary & Katy Pilcher (2015). ‘Being, Thinking and Doing ‘Queer’ in Debates about Commercial Sex’, in Queer Sex Work, London: Routledge.)


Siiri Lingman

– Siiri Lingman –

(Inspired by Marysia Zalewski: The weight of a man’s shoe.)


My Body Wants To Matter Politically


Attached to the bed

Rising up sick fists in solidarity

Disabled bodies

Banishing them to invisibility

What modes of protest are afforded to sick people?


Importance of bodies

Who can’t protest in the streets

Political activists

Unable to move, hold up a sign, shout a slogan

What modes of protest are afforded to sick people?


Sick Woman Theory as a way to survive

Anyone denied the privileged existence

Voices are heard and valued

Importance to society is everywhere recognized

Importance to society is made explicit by that society

– Franziska Hein –

(Inspired by the transcript of “My Body Is a Prison of Pain so I Want to Leave It Like a Mystic But I Also Love It & Want it to Matter Politically.” from Johanna Hedva’s lecture at the event by the “Women’s Center for Creative Work at Human Resources”, 2015)