Men are Allies in the Feminist Movement


Welcome to the fourth edition of The Feminist Reading List. Find the previous lists here. And don’t forget to tell us what else you are reading or what you think about these reading lists.


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Notice how we phrased our title here? We are in no doubt that you awesome male-bodied folks out there are kindred souls when it comes to the feminist movement. We understand and forgive your confusions. We know you have questions and we want to be the people with the answers or at least the resources that contain the answers.

We know you have opinions, and we know many of you are better attuned to feminist discourse than a lot of us, and we tip our imaginary hats to you. We want to befriend you and have occasional brunches with you. No, we won’t attack you if you disagree with our ideas. We want to have civil, open-minded dialogues with you.

Let’s also get another thing clear – we the feminists don’t hate men. Or rather, we don’t blanket-hate all men just because they are men. We may end up hating or disliking or ignoring some men for specific reasons, but then that’s another story.

This list is for all those men who at some point or the other have been commanded to “man up!” We know that’s a lot of men!

This list is for all those men who like pink but won’t dare wear pink; who like reading ‘women’s’ magazines but do so only on the sly while sitting on the pot; who are befuddled when accused of ‘mansplaining’ or ‘manspreading’; who believe women are from Venus; who openly declare their feminist credentials; who don’t know the first thing about feminism; who think all feminists have hairy legs and bushy crotches; who have/have not read textbooks on female anatomy.

In short, this list is for all men! And women! And for all the people who give no shit about that gender binary!


1. What is feminism?

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This fundamental question seems to flummox many, many women and men alike, even in these times – irrespective of educational qualification, geographical location, and level of interest in the music of Beyoncé. Time magazine even wanted the word ‘feminism’ banned last year.

We know, it’s kinda sad!

Why ‘feminism’ remains one of the most misunderstood terms in the lexicon is down to multiple factors. Its true definition got lost in translation across the third wave, and got pushed along to confusing banks as the Internet took up the cause and launched a million blogs. But the word, the movement, the belief was and remains fundamentally the same as it has always been – it means equality of choices, benefits, opportunities, and rights between women and all other sexes, and men.

Keep it simple! Read –

Feminism: What is it? (via Eastern Kentucky University, 
Women & Gender Studies
I Asked Indian Men On Tinder About Feminism. 
Here Is What They Said... (via Huffington Post)
What Men Learn What Feminism Means and Then 
Realize Something Obvious (via Upworthy)

2. Do men belong in this movement?

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The Feminist Movement has been historically led by women (duh!), but to hold that against the movement is to ignore the realities of those initial times. The first few decades of feminist movements were fraught and often disparate. Women were forced to jump in front of horses, starve in jails, and face up to all the ignominy of spinsterhood to communicate their points across. These were women who were bold visionaries, fiery speakers, and fearless activists. But not even all women were in on this equality movement; even the seminal Suffragette Movement had spawned very active, women-led anti-suffragette camps.

To think that feminism has from the start been a gargantuan gang of all women of the world was as false then as it is, unfortunately, even now. Why initially there were few men joining the movement or even peripherally supporting it is in fact a reflection on the men of the times, and not the women. In all probability, the latter would have welcomed every iota of support from the former. There never has been a decided campaign against men joining feminist ranks, there has just always been the reality that men never thought it their ground to join, or rather, mistakenly thought it was an assault on them.

It wasn’t as well articulated then as it is now that feminism is in fact an assault on the patriarchal system, one that sneakily and constantly insults and imprisons both women and men. The men who have realized this have rallied with women, they have written in support of women, they have sung songs for them. And so many of them have shed all inhibitions and called themselves ‘feminists’.

So, yeah, men can be feminists, men have been feminists. ‘Feminist’ doesn’t define or represent a gender. It is a commitment to equality between women and men. Period. Make it a habit to strongly disagree with anyone who tells you otherwise. Read –

What Roles Should Men Play in Feminism? (via Finally Feminism 101)
A Few Good Men – India’s Hidden Male Feminists (via Kafila)
So You Want to Be a Male Feminist? Here Are 11 Simple Rules 
to Follow (via mic.com)

3. Gender stereotypes are two-edged swords

Few women will disagree with you when you as a man choose to assert that you feel the obnoxious pull of patriarchy in your life as well. We all know you do. We know how stupid it is to be dictated to about the colours you can wear, the kind of music you can listen to, how you are expected to be brave all the time, how the Marlboro Man should be your ideal of manhood and not your neighbourhood hipster with his androgynous choices. How you get called a ‘pussy’, or ‘henpecked’, if your female partner earns more than you, or is taller than you, or is more vocal than you. Rest assured, even the US President, Barack Obama, cannot escape the idiocy of these judgements.

These stereotypes are dangerous and insidious, and have played havoc with the minds and relationships of generations of men. If you have ever thought about how to become a feminist, you could start right here, by vociferously questioning these rigid gender-specific roles, and by daring to forge healthy relationships with women beyond these dictates. You have every right to be yourself and be free of imaginary rules of ‘manhood’, just as women have every right to be truly free in their lives.

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You see, our fight is more similar than you had ever guessed! Read –

How Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (via Feminism in India)
Because Boys Can’t Wear Pink (via 365-reasons-to-be-a-feminist)
When Men Experience Sexism (via The Atlantic)
5 Stupid Sexist Things Expected of Men (via Salon.com)

And Watch –

Movie Recommendation: Revolutionary Road (imdb)

4. That said… don’t try to derail feminist discourse

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Patriarchy-dictated gender stereotypes affect both men and women. We are in agreement. Completely. But this line of thought becomes hugely detrimental to the feminist cause when it is thrown around every time women want to focus on grave issues affecting them. There is even an acronym for it – PHMT – Patriarchy Hurts Men Too – devised specifically to express our irritation with this trend. To constantly bring up your sufferings as a man while discussing the plight of women, some of whom have suffered crippling disadvantages all their lives, is selfish at best and smugly condescending at worst. Once you start misusing this ‘I am a victim too’ card to wantonly drown the voice of the majority of women, you become part of the massively annoying culture of derailment of feminist understanding, and in fact, may possibly make even the most liberal feminists wary of your presence around them. Because every time you do that, you are re-asserting that old habit of pushing down women’s concerns and making men’s gripes the top order of things. You are telling us that, ‘Hey, you think you got problems, look at me, listen to my concerns, and then let’s compare degrees of suffering!’

Would you bring up your annoyance with a car break-down at a meeting about cake-making? No, right? Exactly. Pick your moments, respect all discourses, and never act like your issues are more important than the others. Read –

Patriarchy Hurts Men Too (via Geek Feminism Wiki) 
#YesAllWomen [TRIGGER WARNING: The content includes mentions of 
gender-based abuse and/or violence] (via Slate.com)
Male Privilege, Discussion Derailments, and the Politics of Politeness 
(via Vegan Feminist Network)

5. Question male-privilege

FRL 08This is another fantastic way of asserting your commitment to feminism – by recognizing how you, as a male-bodied person, have certain undeniable privileges in your everyday life. It is tempting, especially in an urbane environment, to out-rightly reject the notion of such a privilege. But it can’t change the fact that it does exist. Have you ever felt the compulsion to change out of sweaty/baggy clothes just because you are stepping out of the house, even to buy milk? Has anyone ever suggested to you that you are successful only because you have a fine rack and/or probably gave the boss a discreet hand-job? Have you felt your heart flutter in panic every time a stranger came too close to you while walking on a street? Have you ever had to stay on in abusive relationships because you have been told that your child needs a father, no matter how violent or indifferent? Have you been called a slut for wearing make-up and short dresses, and made fun of as a drab queen when not?

Jumping into these uncomfortable questions and realizing that in all probability most of your answers are negatory can be a great first step into a feminist state of mind. How you choose to go from there is of course your decision. Read –

13 Questions That Men Never Have To Ask Themselves (via Role Reboot)
10 Ways Men Can Combat Sexist Entitlement in Public 
(via Change from Within)
Ways Men In Tech Are Unintentionally Sexist (via Not a Pattern)

6. The Male-Gaze and Phallo-centrism

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These two ideas are massive monoliths in the academic kingdom of gender studies. If you consider yourself male and are sitting on the fence about feminism, we highly recommend that you put on some Patti Smith music in the background and read up on these terms. The male gaze especially has taken on a million layers in this age of unbridled exposure to media of all forms. It brings to question how we modern folks define sexuality and sensuality when it comes to women; who we anoint as sex symbols and pin-ups, and who we tear down as whores and skanks; how we choose to represent women on the screen, what their clothes and dialogues seek to communicate; why only ‘jocks’ can ‘land’ ‘hot chicks’ and the rest of the male-kind must pick at scraps; why men and women can never be platonic friends who empower each other’s thoughts and outlook; why James Bond is awesome for being able to sleep around with no commitment issues, but no major female-hero film figure can manage to be that guiltlessly promiscuous. This list is long, folks. Read –

This essay will give a clear overview of the Male Gaze theory
 and how it applies to media. (via Storify)
The Male Gaze Has Outlived its Usefulness (via Movie Mezzanine)
We’re Taking Lesbian Sexuality Back from the Male Gaze and 
the Result Is Awesome (via Everyday Feminism)

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7. Assigning convenient definitions to a gender

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To conflate one person’s idiosyncrasy as being the hallmark of the entire gender that person belongs to is a serious mistake we all tend to make. So, if your boyfriend is sloppy and can’t work a flush, then ALL men are sloppy and need flush coaching. If you had bad sex with an ex-girlfriend who had small boobs, then presto! Now you know that ALL women with small boobs are going to give you blue balls.

What a load of crap!

This kind of simplistic thinking is exactly what is turning books like Men Are From Mars….etc. into bestsellers. And also filling the Internet with endless memes and posters and GIFs that push distressingly stupid ideas about women and men. And these often get pasted onto Facebook feeds, and then people go ‘like’ it, and ‘share’ it, or go ‘sooo true!!’ in the comments section. Phssssh!!! We have lost count of the number of times we have mentally slapped people who have uttered the words “Men will be Men” in front of us!

So do this – next time you are tempted to think that women/men are this and that, try remembering that there are billions of people on this planet and that there is a thing called the law of averages. Let’s beat this drivel with some good old scientific thinking, and some faith in the complexity of human behaviour.

What It Means To 'Be A Man': How Male Gender Stereotypes Try 
To Fit Growing Boys Into A Mold, And Fail (via Medical Daily)
Gender & Gender Identity (via Planned Parenthood)

8. Protect the man

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There is no point in denying that there probably exists a fiery sub-brand of feminism that possibly dreams of mass castrations and the annihilation of all male-kind. The second wave of feminism did indeed produce some thinkers who wept at that extremist altar. But, just as it is unfair to denigrate an entire religion because of the actions of some fundamentalists, so it is unfair to consider the entire feminist landscape as invested in just one violent line of thought. Indeed, even self-proclaimed feminists need to constantly whip their hair around trying to keep up with divergent thoughts on what women want and should be fighting for or against.

So, yeah, we get why some men around the world have thought of protecting themselves from feminists, and of launching ‘meninist’ movements. Technically there is nothing wrong with such arrangements, we are all allowed to protect our own interests against real and perceived dangers. But the ‘meninist’ movement at its worst comes across as an institutionalized derailment tactic against feminism. It misunderstands the latter’s capacity to stand up for aggrieved men as well. It tries to play up the ‘men as victims’ card to do just what patriarchy expects men to do all the time – make sure that their voices are the most dominant, and to view any female expression as some grandiose evil plan aimed at usurping power from the male. In short, let’s make sure that everything is back to being all about men. Thankfully, we are not buying it.

Why calling yourself a ‘meninist’ is both insulting, and stupid. 
(via Day of the Girl)
Will 2015 be the year of meninism? (via Telegraph)

9. Feminism and friendship/love/sex/casual attraction

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Rarely will you come across a girl/woman who will co-relate your stubble with your political beliefs. So is the case with body hair when it comes to women – in most cases we keep it, or shave it, or just don’t care either way about it, only as a matter of convenience and not because the feminist charter forced us to take an oath about it. Girls and women embody all sorts of quirks, and to believe in nonsense like all women hate video games is just as annoying as saying that all guys love video games. Your dating ‘game’ should not be coloured by ridiculous claims that all women are over-sensitive kooks and that you as ‘men’ need to be on guard against manipulations. These notions of behaviour are constantly piled onto us by businesses who look to make tons of money by playing us as their pawns. Did dousing yourself in that deo make mini-skirt clad women fall all over you like dandruff? Exactly!

Rejecting this trend that treats men and women like airheads is a fantastic statement in feminist thinking. If you identify as male and happen to be dating a person who identifies as female and is vocally feminist, then hey, pop out the champagne! Because you will be the recipient of eye-opening dialogues on female orgasms, female tropes, vaginal mysteries, body-shaming, clitoral stimulation, rape culture, and so much more awesomeness.

Sex with a feminist is awesome, sex as a feminist is awesome. So is love, so is everything else. Because it is based on mutual understanding of equality and respect and opportunity. The moment you stop viewing a feminist, or rather any woman aware and communicative of her feelings and opinions, as a threat to your manhood (whatever that is), you have crossed over to the other side. Don’t let anyone tell you what makes you a man. Read –

I am a Guy and I Hyphenated My Last Name When I Got Married 
(via Lover.ly)
What’s The Best Way to Have Great Sex With A Woman: 
Just Ask These 11 Kickass Men (via mic.com)
Gloria Steinem Explains Feminism’s Perks For Men (via NY Mag The Cut)

10. Rape Culture and what constitutes Consent

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In this age of thinking up labels for all things and happenings, one of the terms we are most glad about is ‘rape culture’. Because it scoops up micro-aggressions as well as everything beyond that relates to rape. It is time we all stopped thinking of rape as one incident somewhere against some person by some random salivating stranger in a dark alley, and start looking at it as a compound problem that has every day symptoms, affecting a lot of women, and also a significant number of men. Rape culture afflicts not just actions, but language, gestures, presumptions, clothes, and more.

Reading about the proliferation of rape culture will naturally lead to the question of consent, again an issue that should be fairly simple, but is expressly not. We could all go on and on about ‘yes means yes’ and the absence of ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘yes’, but a lot of people will still be confused when faced with the possibility of easy sex with a drunken girl friend or acquaintance. The one good solution could be to educate oneself and as many folks around as possible so that there are enough voices of reason to yank confused brains back to rationality.

And as a side note, never say “I know you want it”. To anyone! Ever! Jeez. Read –

[TRIGGER WARNING: The content below includes discussions on sexual abuse and/or violence.]

What is Rape Culture (via Women Against Violence Against Women)
This is Rape Culture – And Look at the Damage It Does (via The Guardian)
Yes, Rape Culture Is Real, And Here's What It Looks Like 
(via The Huffington Post)
This Woman Just Explained Consent With The Most Perfect Metaphor 
(via The Loop)

11. Feminist fatherhood

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We as daughters cannot overstate the influence our mothers can have on us, both great and tragic. What we cannot also ignore is the deeply significant role a liberal, feminist father can have on our lives. Really, this example can colour everything from our relationships to our parenting philosophies. A feminist father can impart valuable lessons on what a healthy relationship truly means, and on how to identify abuse, and most importantly, imbibe that crucial level of confidence in their children to walk out and seek better lives for themselves when the going gets unfair. A feminist father will raise feminist sons, and in effect, will help realize a feminist generation.

10 Tips For Feminist Fathers (via Feminist Fatherhood)
Thanks, feminist movement, for making Father’s Day better for dads 
(via MSNBC)

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Women in Myths, Mythologies and Epics


Welcome to the second edition by The Feminist Reading List. Last week, we explored the correlation between shame and the female body. Today, we take you back to the ancient still present today – the archetypes, the mythologies, and the epic women that continue to define the women of today in some way or the other.
These lists don’t intend to be exhaustive, but more of thought/conversation-starters. So please-please drop us links to readings, songs, thoughts in your head and whatnot that are missing out in the conversation here. We want to hear from you.


When it comes to our prejudices, the lines between myth and reality often blur, often without realising it. This is especially true when it comes to the historical projection of ‘the woman’. Some of the biases against women, a lot of the misinformation about the female form/anatomy/libido/moods, and most instances of casual/benevolent/deliberate/murderous sexism and misogyny can be traced back to the ‘life-lessons’ that are packed in our epics. Even for the ones who never ready any of the holy books or the legends, these stories are not completely unknown, and their effects are often sub-conscious and surprisingly well-entrenched.

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(click image for source)

1. Not all about Eve

You will find them all here – the all-sacrificing Earth mother with no voice of her own; the ever-pliant wife with no independent identity of her own; the evil wench who dares to speak her mind and satiate her sexual hunger on her own, and thus who must be condemned; the witch who must be burnt at the stake. The list is long, and the moulds these stories set the women into continue to affect our thinking about women till date. Try this mental exercise – count the number of film/TV show/video game/etc. examples that pop up in your head while you read about these female characters.

Read: Hit and Myth – How Old Tales Shape Modern Perceptions of Women (from The National)

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2. The Archetypes Still Rule

Archetypes are like trashy rom-coms – they seem hilariously harmless at first, but become increasingly problematic on deeper introspection. Sexual archetypes trap women inside rigid compartments that exist, mostly, in service of the specific fantasies of men. If you conjure up an archetype, you essentially negate the natural complexity of a woman’s form and feelings, believing that she fulfils one and just one function or role. This excuse then necessitates poly-everything amongst men. Convenient, eh?

The Five Feminine Sexual Archetypes

What Are The Different Roles of Women in Mythology

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(click image for source)

3. Beware of the Woman

Misogyny is nothing new of course, we all kind of guessed that. But it is still depressing to note how widespread the idea of the woman-as-the-source-of-all-evil really is. Arguably, every epic or myth or legend that features female characters unfailingly casts them as crafty mischief-makers, or as naïve ingénues who mysteriously inspire wickedness and violence in others (read men). One woman’s evil deed can start wars, destroy entire civilisations, or condemn generations to misfortune. If not for the horrific connotations, women all over the world would rightfully gloat over such fabulous powers!

A Feminist Nightmare: How Fear of Women Haunts Our Earliest Myths

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4. The Idea of Purity – Madonna/Whore Complex

Keep this in mind – a woman can either be virginal, pure, and obedient; or voracious, lustful, and guiltlessly adventurous. The former is ‘pure’ and represented by the chaste ‘white’; the latter is a ‘whore/slut/skank’, identifiable by the insultingly bold ‘red’. The pure one will wait and dream, pout and pirouette; the whore will speak-out, talk-back, and arrogantly seek her own pleasures. If you are a ‘good man’, you must fool around with the one in red, but marry the one in white. Simple!

For better understanding, please watch this video of the song ‘You Belong With Me’ by serial offender and feminist flip-flopper, Taylor Swift:

In case it still isn’t clear, read this: Taylor Swift Thinks You’re A Slut

5. The Irony of the Goddess System

Especially true of Indian culture is the irony of goddess worship and the simultaneous second-class citizen status of women. It is a strange disconnect, this deifying of the imaginary female inside temples, while at the same time systematically oppressing flesh-and-blood women, often in the name of tradition. Seeing a goddess in a live female form can become benevolent sexism – girls are ‘lakshmi ka roop’ and thus need to be protected and cherished – or it can devolve into customs that are frightfully exploitative of young girls and women, but which remain beyond any questioning because of supposed divine approval.

Serving the Goddess (WARNING: Some of the content may be disturbing for sensitive readers.)

There is plenty of academic thought available on this topic: Goddess Cultures in India

6. The Biblical Wife

Following a religion and a religious life-style must ideally be a choice based on free will and reasonable questioning. But as we can guess by the absence of leprechauns in the world, there is no such thing as ideal. Religious texts and their attached mythologies have historically been interpreted to instigate the subjugation of women. The ‘Christian Way’ enforces rigid gender-roles and believes that the patriarchal system, with a submissive wife acting as support staff and baby-making machine, is how God ordained the world to be. This idea becomes chronically problematic when it becomes an excuse for sustained, and of course unreported, mental and physical abuse.

5 Marks of A Biblical Wife

How Playing A Good Christian Wife Almost Killed Me (CONTENT WARNING: This article contains information about emotional assault and/or violence.)

7. I See Blood!

No feminist reading list is complete without a gripe about the inescapable period, so here it is – all the men and women who have strong, hateful feelings towards menses, despair not. You all have been historically condemned to be hysterical (hehe) about this sensitive topic. Blood in the battlefield may signal victory, courage, and power, but blood from the female reproductive system has been tagged by legend as being indicative of great evil and lunacy.

Have you suddenly been reminded of that instance when you accused an outspoken or rightfully angry/assertive woman of PMSing on you? We know you have been!

Menses Madness: Menstruation Myths and the Medieval Mindset

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8. Women as Extensions of Men

Indian epics, like almost everything Indian, are mind-bogglingly complex. There have been many commendable recent efforts in giving the female characters from these epics a louder voice, a fairer fate, and sometimes even chances of delightful revenge. But the originals have stood the test of time and thus have influenced in far greater sweeps than any modern comic or novel. Some repeating themes in these epics are the depiction of women as either 1) pawns or 2) prize or 3) punitive damage. The sprawling Mahabharatha is replete with examples corroborating these themes. Irrespective of their individual talents or intellect, women are primarily presented as beings of honour, as extensions of their husband’s good or bad deeds, as the mothers-of-so-and-so, as willing participants in their spouse’s benevolent polygamy – in short, the woman does not exist without the man. In the land of ardhanareeshwar and yoni-worship, this kinda sucks.

Women in Hindu Mythology by Devdutt Pattanaik

Here is what they don’t tell you about feminism and sexuality in Hindu mythology

Feminist Revisions of Indian Epics

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9) Quranic Confusions

Just how well the contents of the Holy Quran have been interpreted will probably be up for debate till the end is nigh, but recent times have sure witnessed much interest in both apologist and fundamentalist reassertions of what exactly constitutes the true Islamic way of life. These waves of opinion crucially touch upon the Quranic position on women, but unfortunately offer no unified inference. Many scholars are convinced that the holy text has always mentioned women as beings lower in stature than men, as ones who need to be obedient and subservient to their husbands. There are mentions of lowering of the gaze and of modesty of clothing. Like many other texts, women are accused of being the harbingers of evil, if gone astray that is. The re-thinkers on the other hand insist that the Quran considers men and women equal, is expressly against violence against women, and that both genders need only be obedient to the word of Allah. The media has tended to focus on the issues of the veil, child marriage, polygamy, circumcision, and domestic violence amongst Muslim women around the world. But even to the most culturally-sensitive amongst us, it is difficult not to see the unholy milkshaking of patriarchal traditions and religious beliefs at play here. And they both seem to be helpfully validating each other’s existence.

The Importance of Women

A Woman’s Worth Relative to a Man’s

Aisha Elahi: Change is Needed Now to Help My Shackled Sisters (CONTENT WARNING: This article contains information about physical and emotional assault and violence.)

Through the eyes of a modern Muslim woman

Book recommendation – The Emergence of Feminism among Indian Muslim Women 1920-1947 by Azra Asghar Ali

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The Whole Truth of Coming Out of the Closet | Robot Hugs Comic

Originally published on Everyday Feminism and re-published here with their permission.


(Trigger Warning: Use of transphobic slur.)

“Coming out of the closet” is big part of our lingo and understanding of the LGBTQIA+ experience. But do you know about the many different meanings of being “out” for different people?

This comic breaks down what the concept of the closet really means, and shows how cis and straight people can help dismantle the forces building closets around our identities.

With Love,
The Editors at Everyday Feminism

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K is a Contributing Comic Artist for Everyday Feminism. They are a Canadian, non-binary, genderqueer, peoplequeer, mentally ill, critical feminist robot. They are the artist and writer for Robot Hugs, a twice-weekly webcomic about (among other things) gender, identity, feminism, mental health, and cats. In their spare time, they provide peer education and workshops on negotiation, consent, and identity. You can follow them on Twitter @RobotHugsComic

BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival Online for Free

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Stories of peer pressure, love, marriage, schools, siblings, friendship, passion, protest, cycling, and activism wrapped in to five beautiful short films made by a group of gay, lesbian and trans filmmakers. Now online for free. For the first time ever, in partnership with the British Council’s fiveFilms4freedom project, five short films from BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival are available to watch online, for free, worldwide. Click here to watch and click here to read more.

On a related note, there are a set of films being brought down to the Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai by three curators from Germany. They will present works addressing various kinds of conflict around issues of nationality, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, family history and migration. They look into which cinematic languages are appropriate to show case stories of conflict and how cinema might shape our understanding of conflict. Everybody is welcome and entry is free. Here is the poster – (Event on Facebook)

identity and conflict einvite