No Cosmic Vending Machine

Excited to launch Shizz Coaching why not sign up to follow my blog….

Shizz Coaching


“Luck? I don’t know anything about luck. I’ve never banked on it and I’m afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work – and realizing what is opportunity and what isn’t”.                                                                                                                     –  Lucille Ball

Creating the life you want isn’t about making a wish list and waiting for the universe to deliver  wealth and success to your door in a basket. As David Myers once famously said,  ‘there is no cosmic vending machine’.   Expecting some mystical force to single you out for unbridled good fortune while all around you are experiencing varying degrees of suffering would seem a tad egocentric, and more than a little out of touch with how reality actually works.

Why should you or I be specially selected for bliss, or abundance, or safety, or success, while others are unjustly imprisoned or trapped under falling bombs, or closer to home, experiencing relationship breakdown, unemployment, ill health, bereavement or some other challenging life event. …

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I was moved to re-post this following some issues surfacing for me from a past relationship and a conversation with a friend who is looking to shift some old feelings in order to make room for a new relationship. I would be delighted to work with anyone on this kind of issue, its a very potent method for healing and clearing space ensuring new relationships are not polluted by the old stuff you are carrying and may inappropriately project into the now. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss in more detail

Polka Dot Dakini

Dear friends, I am developing a new series of readings around relationships. I piloted the first of this series first on myself and then tonight on a client who had specifically requested a reading to understand more about a long term relationship which had ended leaving her with a lot of hurt emotions and unanswered questions. She wanted to understand what it had all meant and to gain insight into how she could let go and move on. In working on the design of this new reading, i thought about how I still have residual feelings about some of my ex partners and wondered if I still have more healing and letting go to do. I also thought about how every relationship has in some way been a gift and a learning experience, even when challenging or painful. I wondered whether I really understood the learning, the gift from past…

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Holly Scanlon fierce feminista blogging from She Toon ( Dundee)


Feminism is such a dirty word.

The truth of the matter is its a filthy word that stirs up a beast in common people (myself included) who are either scared, threatened, intimated or unknowledgeable about the term and the meaning behind it. I discovered this over the last week when researching this theme, so much so it had me entangled between floods of tears, an enraged frenzy and fits of laughter.

So what is feminism?

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”

It all started when a post popped up on my news feed that made me look twice, at first I burst out laughing and then a furious wave of anger crept over me, the remark evoked frustration and I had to leave a comment – ‘Do you actually know what the term feminist means?’ It transpires that even in 2014 few people do, it’s…

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Feeling Femme: Observations from Femme Hive 2014


The main Femme Hive venue at Villa Neukölln, Berlin The main Femme Hive venue at Villa Neukölln, Berlin

This October I was lucky enough to be supported by the YWCA Canberra and the ANU, to attend the Femme Hive conference in Berlin. With my PhD work focusing in large part on femme identity, the conference provided a rare opportunity for me to meet femmes outside of an Australian context.

If you’re currently wondering “what even is femme and why is there a conference on it?”, check out this great explanation of femme identity from Queer Fat Femme Bevin Branlandingham. Many people have not come across the term femme before, and even some people I spoke to at the conference were unsure of what the term meant. While the conference was organised around feeling empowered about being queer and feminine identifying, some people were there because other people had labeled them as femme (e.g. lesbian couples are often confronted with the…

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Setting Fire to the Imaginary Standard

I’ve gone through heaven and hell to be where I am now, to own my creativity,  my desire and ability to communicate as a feminine/queer musician/writer/singer/performer.  Age, social approval, conventional notions of success, none of that means anything to me.  I have always been the way I am now – restless, expressive, wakeful; driven to write, driven to give voice to my ideas and my emotional life through performance, through singing in particular, but sometimes it takes other forms, theatre, art, poetry.    I’ve earned my right to take up this space, to be here as an artist, to bring what I have and trust that someone will want to receive it.  That I can connect with someone, even if it’s just one person. I wasted so many years worrying what people would think of my writing, my playing, my appearance and apologising for all the ways I didn’t measure up to the imaginary standard . I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, so self-conscious I could hardly function.  In rehearsal, I was pretty good, live on stage I wasn’t’ a patch on what I knew it could be, and I was often terrible. I couldn’t connect. I was riddled with inner loathing and doubts. I did lots of things to try and free myself from the excruciating dilemma of wanting to perform and hating myself for it. I directed theatre, I performed in an all-female cabaret band, I wrote explicitly feminist songs, I performed on the stand-up comedy circuit, I worked for 20 years in arts education, but inside I was aching because while I enjoyed all these things, I am and have always been an emotional artist, someone who feels deeply and needs to communicate that vocally and through performance.  When I accepted that was my need and also my talent, everything fell into place.  I just had to learn to accept and use that innate vulnerability in my performance, to realise that is where I can truly connect. I still have the doubts, and on some days the loathing, but I use it in my performance, I use everything. And the weird and wonderful thing is, the thing they teach women to fear most  – aging – has become my most potent source of power. I could not have written, or dreamed of doing the things I’m doing now as a younger woman. Coming out as an artist, for me,  is as potent an act as coming out as Gay or Queer, liberating and terrifying, but ultimately it’s the difference between living and existing, or maybe even between living and dying, for me I think that may well be so.

Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities

Two articles introducing the ground breaking and seminal book ‘Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities’ by photographer Del LaGrace Volcano and writer and academic Ulrika Dahl.

Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities


What does femme mean, and how does it differ from the ‘traditional’ femininity which feminism so often puts under the microscope? Milly Shaw reviews a book of photographs of and interviews with femmes from around the world Milly Shaw, 8 September 2008

Stilettos, lipstick, beards: there’s more than one way to be a queer femme. Photographer Del Lagrace Volcano and writer Ulrika Dahl have travelled seven countries in their quest to explore the notion of queer femininity. The result is Femmes of Power, a book of coffee-table-beautiful photography mixed with postgraduate-level queer theory discussions of gender expression.

In a queer world that can still be suspicious of women who claim to be gay yet have long hair, femmes like Swedish linguist Charlotte Karlsdotter, who believe “a well-shaped and kept beard is a beautiful ornament that shouldn’t belong to men only”, occupy a whole other level of queer femininity, which Lagrace Volcano and Dahl are delighted to explore.

The first hurdle for self-identified gender-variant photographer Lagrace Volcano was the very notion of photographing femme women. As he explains, “I asked myself if the world actually needed any more images of ‘pretty women’ since proud, powerful images or portrayals of masculine women are still so rare on screen or in print.” And while it may be true that images masculine women are conspicuously absent, femme women are also largely invisible within queer spaces, and queer women are still underrepresented in mainstream media.

Lagrace Volcano is ‘committed to making images with (speaking) subjects rather than taking images from passive or silenced objects’

Another issue for Lagrace Volcano was how to avoid the near-inevitable objectification of the women being photographed. “…my femme (pretender) history would not be know or apparent to the (mostly) women whom I was working with on this project,” he writes, in the introduction. “Would they see me as a man? Or worse, a ‘wanna-be white man’ aiming his phallic lens at their already over-objectified bodies?”

To avoid the inevitable problem of objectification, Legrace Volcano and co-author Ulrika Dahl haven’t just photographed over 40 amazing queer femme women, they’ve also ensured that each has a voice, a chance to explain and express their understanding of their own femme-ininity. This, for Lagrace Volcano, is the key to his ‘queer feminist methodology’ as a photographer, a working ethos “committed to making images with (speaking) subjects rather than taking images from passive or silenced objects.”

The notion of queer femininities is huge, and Lagrace Volcano and Dahl don’t pretend to cover all aspects. However, they do a remarkable job of looking beyond just white, English-speaking, young, thin bio-women for the subjects of Femmes of Power.

Next to larger-than-life artists and performers such as trans male femme Debra Kate (her favourite look: “a cross between a doll and a birthday cupcake, a child’s drawing of an animal and a clown”) are quieter stories of everyday invisibility and frustration at a femme-unfriendly queer culture.

To us, femininity is neither phallic fantasy nor default, it’s beyond surface and it certainly does not passively wait to come alive through a (male) gaze

“I’m a diesel dyke, in the working-class, take no shit, proud and loud tradition,” says Portland’s Sossity Chiricuzio. “My gender is femme. As much as I love butches, I got tired of my dyke strengths being minimised by them. Almost invariably, if I changed a tyre, used a power tool or picked someone up (sometimes literally) I was told I was ‘having a butch moment’. It doesn’t work like that. I’m a femme, and I do it, so it must be a femme, or even better, a non-gendered thing to do.”

“The images in this book begin to make us visible – in all our glory – yes, in all the complexities of our irreconcilable, besieged, magnificent queer personas,” writes Dahl. “Over the years, I’ve struggled to determine whether I believe femme identity is a drag identity. Trans identities, butch identities, leather daddies and bear bait, drag kings and drag queens and all of the various variations of the drag persona have currently found homes in the land of queerness.”

“To us, femininity is neither phallic fantasy nor default, it’s beyond surface and it certainly does not passively wait to come alive through a (male) gaze. Fiercely intentional, neither objects nor objective, we have stuff to get out our chests. But speaking bittersweets truths to power takes both busty bravery and some serious padding.”

Femmes of Power flirts across the boundaries of straight and gay, male and female in pursuit of femme and femme-ininity. Read the often-weighty text for a deep exploration of queer gender theory, or just flip through the pages of gorgeous photography for some inspirational rethinking of what it means to be femme and queer.


Del LaGrace Volcano and Ulrika Dahl: Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2008.) A lot of mascara and ink has been spent conceiving passionate poetic theory about what the world looks like through a femme figure. (Dahl, 2008) For casual visitors to the king- or queen-dom of ‘queer’, feisty and unashamed examples of ‘gender bending’ or ‘cross-dressing’ would perhaps seem most appropriately and obviously to epitomise the ‘queer’ undoing of normative gender stereotypes. Texts such as Judith Halberstam’s Female Masculinity might appear to uphold this assumption. Here, Halberstam argued groundbreakingly that genealogies of the masculine need to look as much to masculine women as to masculine men to make sense of the set of performative attributes and gestures that make up ‘masculinity’, effectively de-coupling maleness from its social counterpart and showing up the lack of inevitable fit between them. In common parlance, ‘drag’ refers to the putting on of the garb and attributes of the sex to which one does not belong. Judith Butler was clear in her canonical Gender Trouble, that the binary genders of masculine and feminine ‘belong properly’ to none, this ‘belonging to a sex’ being already part of a normative binary logic that excludes intersexed, trans- and gender-variant bodies and lives. Rather, genders are social constructions that straitjacket subjects as either male or female and then create by means of repetition and cultural approbation the illusion of sexual difference as naturally occurring gender. In Butler’s logic, then, there is nothing inevitable or natural about a self- identified woman putting on masculine or feminine ‘drag’. Rather, there is ideology that expects one sort of performance rather than the other. But this expectation can be subverted and the meanings of gender subtly challenged when femininity or masculinity are performed ironically, excessively – in short with queer intent. In spite of this Butlerian insight, it is only relatively recently that scholars and activists have explicitly asked question about the meanings generated when queer women actively and self-consciously produce ‘feminine’ appearances, performances and identities as both sites of resistant gender politics and sources of allo- and auto-erotic pleasures. The collaboration between ‘off-white, self-proclaimed hermaphrodyke’ photographer, Del LaGrace Volcano, and Swedish ‘femme-inist’ ethnographer, Ulrika Dahl, resulting in the aesthetically wondrous and theoretically rich coffee-table-book-cum-radical-manifesto, Femmes of Power, is one such recent contribution to this growing body of scholarship and queer life documentary. It is at once a personal celebration of communities of femme queers, linked by their deliberately avowed and performed femme-ininity, across a series of national and continental

contexts, and an academic intervention in queer studies. As such, the book defies and redefines generic, as well as gendered, conventions. In her introduction, Ulrika Dahl reflects upon her position as ethnographer, teasingly and thought-provokingly addressing the question of ‘femme science’, a term coined by Lisa Duggan and Kathleen McHugh to whose femme scholarship the book addresses itself, and alongside which it finds a place. If science is a masculinist or phallogocentric endeavour, underpinned by its ambition of neutrality, mastery and possession, what is at stake when a queer femme speaks as an ethnographer? Focusing on the queer notion of plural selves, plural positionalities from which we speak and act, Dahl reconciles her identities as a social scientist and a queer femme activist, subject and lover, precisely by refusing to reconcile them, refusing to elide their tensions in order to make them fit a seamless illusion. The femme scientist is one who rejects ‘the imperialist fantasy of scientific “discovery” and question[s] a capitalist consumption logic that feeds on always inventing something new’ (p. 20); rather, she ‘solicits collaboration’ (p. 20) in her collection of ethnographic data. This reflection on feminist ethnographic method echoes Volcano’s photographic principle of making photos with subjects, rather than taking photos of them and the awareness of a history of domination underpinning portraiture: ‘The history of photography is also the history of the violent and ubiquitous exploitation of those who are considered marginal and disposable with the camera as its weapon of choice’ (p. 14). Volcano’s ethics of production is materially underpinned by the innovative ‘copyleft’ system, a form of copyright licensing in which the photographer surrenders certain rights over the distribution of the photograph, resisting the conventions of controlling and capitalising on the image created. An ethos of sharing – of both knowledge and images – runs through the book, then, uniting the collaborators’ methods and subtly, but insistently, rejecting the taking from that characterises mainstream art and ethnography. Thus the doing differently of queer femme performativity is imported to the academic practice of sociology and the artistic practice of photography. SQS The multiple versions of femme identities and practices that expose and celebrate themselves throughout the book similarly resist the ascription of sameness – while nevertheless drawing on solidarity, continuities and community ethics. ‘Femme’ is rendered multiple and multi-layered throughout by considerations on the part of Dahl, Volcano, and the book’s subjects and co-creators, of the intersecting factors of nationality, ethnicity, class-mobility and identifications. ‘Femme’ is not understood as the simple counterpart of ‘butch’ in a lesbian couple here; though at moments and in certain contexts it may well appear as such. Straightforward and permanent binary either/ ors are entirely exceeded by the complex and multi-layered stories and images that are produced. In short, as Dahl puts it, femme ‘never sits still and she is always in relation’ (p. 20). In its commitment to re-imagining ‘femme’ apart from ‘its heterosexist history’ (p. 20), the book engages with those involved in sex work and fat activism; with ‘transfemmes’, bearded ladies, and queer dykes who play with stereotypes of the ‘exotic’, ethnically-marked female, opening the horizon of meanings for those forms of femininity that are subjugated or marginalised in heteronormative narratives. ‘Dyke Marilyn’, for example, is a character performed by Maria Rosa Mojo on London’s club scene. She incarnates humorously ‘the bastard child of Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix who inherited Jimi’s looks and Marilyn’s guitar skills’ (p. 48). She at once debunks and re-creates in celebratory fashion a ‘white idol of femininity’ with ‘black roots’ – the pun on hair dye and ethnic origin a typically femme queer strategy for playing with and undermining the language of categorisation. In Volcano’s photograph (pp. 46–47), she takes a provocative stance in the foreground of a London tourist site, Piccadilly Circus. Dressed in a feather boa, red basque and holding a guitar, she 1/2011 64 Queer Eye Reviews Lisa Downing
dominates the city scene, gazing straight at the viewer, a snarl playing over her red lips. Dyke Marilyn, in her dismantling of categories of ethnicity and iconic femininity, embodies the copy without original, showing up through her ironic citation of Marilyn’s sexiness the very constructedness of feminine desirability in the heterosexist mode, and making it signify otherwise. She imbues it with a queer femme feistiness that both makes us look and that looks back at us challengingly. San Francisco-based Dominatrix and BDSM-educator, Mistress Morgana, similarly adopts strategies of ludic parody and deliberately faulty citation to re-encode and queer the meanings of sex work and domesticity. A ‘twisted Martha Stewart’ (p. 129), her persona is that of a paradoxically kinky-yet- prim 1950s housewife, photographed (pp. 128–9) in the setting of her floral-bedecked retro kitchen. In this image, she smiles warmly and proffers a plate of home-made cupcakes, made from eggs laid by her hens whose names, we are told, are Rita Hayworth and Sophia Loren. The deployment of vintage glamour aesthetics at once appeals to a sense of women’s history and, in its queered form, suggests pleasurable ways of recuperating images and modes of femininity loosened from their ideological linchpins. This double-use of history for reverse discourse is adumbrated in the attention Mistress Morgana accords to the context of some of the fetishes with which she engages: a desire to serve Morgana in 1950s domestic servitude is accommodated so long as it is accompanied by an ‘awareness of the racist reality of that decade’s McMcarthyism and American Apartheid’ (p. 130). Insisting on the necessity to ethically contextualise our desires and practices, Morgana’s form of erotic domination suggests a groundedness in political consciousness that separates queer femme kink from much of its un-self-reflexive heterosexual counterpart. It is, perhaps, in attending to the uses of history to inform the present and shape the future that the overarching ambition of Femmes of Power – ‘to explode the meanings of femininity’ (p. 26) – might be achieved. As a personal footnote to this review, I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the Femmes of Power project when Ulrika Dahl and Del LaGrace Volcano agreed to perform a presentation based on it at a colloquium on ‘Queer in Europe’ that I co-organised with Robert Gillett in Exeter in September 2008. As a scholar of international queer, I found both the publication of the book and the series of presentations and launch events that accompanied it to be a genuinely important event in queer her-story; a visual and verbal dis-articulation and re-framing of so many deleterious and still persistent ideas about femininity – within LGBT cultures, as well as in the heterosexual mainstream. This is a book that engages the senses as well as the intellect; an encounter with it is a synaesthesic and intersubjective interaction with the other and the same. It is my belief that everyone could benefit from an encounter with Femmes of Power. Finally, as a leopard-print-clad, shiny-boot-shod, queer- identified femme, who would never be brave enough to present myself to the camera, I rejoiced in this book in a spirit of rarely experienced recognition, understood in the capacious French sense of reconnaissance, which etymologically encompasses gratitude as well as identification. Works cited Butler, Judith 1990: Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London and New York: Routledge. Duggan, Lisa and Kathleen McHugh 2003: ‘A Fem(me)inist Manifesto’. In Chloe Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri (eds): Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press. Halberstam, Judith 1997: Female Masculinity. Durham: Duke University Press. SQS 1/2011 65 Queer Eye Reviews Lisa Downing

Introducing Shelbatra Jashari

I had the pleasure of meeting and being blown away by performance artist Shelbatra Jashari,  at Femme Hive, whose work really defies categorisation.  The piece I saw entitled ‘Hello Shelly’ was a kind of anti-burlesque piece involving dance, voice over and multi media projection offering a provocative political take on femininity and sexuality.  Shelbatra’s work is inherently political, and  it seems always there is some element of provocation.  For example her work entitled BURKA EXQUISE within which she ‘constructs different customized Burka’s [ burqa( Urdu: بُرقع†) is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions to cover their bodies when in public ]. The dress-character combination form a performance and deal in a non-conformist way with the questioning of cloth and the restriction of the body within political/religious symbolism. Until now, 3 performances have been constructed  Burgeisha, Writing Piece, Barburka).  This is just a very small sample of her incredibly diverse body of performance art work which spans art, text, dance, physical theatre and multi media.

Videos of specific pieces/projects and more information about Shelbatra and her work can be found on http://shelbatrajashari.me/index.php


Femme Utopia

At Femme Hive a charming creature by the name of Lene Preuss led a fascinating ‘speculative fiction’ workshop on the theme of femme/feminine/feminist utopias in contemporary science fiction.  I was in the erotic utopia group ( well, who wouldn’t be?!)  which was really interesting in thinking about how queer and marginalised identities might imagine sex and sexuality in a fictional future society. There was also lively discussion about the portrayal of women, and the dominance of heteronormative values in mainstream science fiction and in the world of on line gaming .  Here’s a summary of the discussions kindly shared by Lene please feel free to add your thoughts and views below.  A speculative fiction group has been set up following t he workshop so maybe we will see some new writing representing alternative future fictions published here sometime!

Erotic Utopias

In a utopic society, your sex, gender and desire could be fluid
Sex can be more conscious, aware and deliberate instead of having the compulsory nature it oftenhas today. (Queer sex is ahead of mainstream culture today, because not so much can be assumed and more aspects have to be negotiated.)
What is sexual intercourse anyway? There are so many aspects already. Ideally, every individual would get to define what sex means for them, just as people already define what their gender is.
Explore many many more genders! There are more axes to gender than just the continuum between male and female.
Develop multi-gender identities, both in the sense of having multiple genders at the same time and consecutively
Cyborg identities could mean direct, physical integration into a mixed human/computer network. That could have huge implications – remote sex and sex with AIs are just two.
Technological assistance in (temporally or not) changing your sex and gender identity such as gender changing underwear. Transformers go!
Sex could be just easy, less possessive, controlling and abusive, without inhibitions, taboos and shame. What if authenticity were installed instead?
On the other hand: Embrace the darkness of desire, it is what makes sex so powerful as well. The authentic darkness can be very bright!

Aspects of Utopia
What is a utopia anyway? One person’s utopia can be another one’s dystopia.
Story-wise, utopias are boring. People want drama which only arises out of adversity.
A society of total acceptance could lead to total stagnation. If everything were perfect, where would be the need for growth?
Removing the need for reproduction was a common topic, but it could lead to a whole lot of other problems (cloning, racism, disablism, genetic engineering, …)

Queer/feminine friendly societies
Need to constantly reevaluate and challenge norms and hierarchies – otherwise the abolition of old norms can lead to new norms that are just as oppressive
Would an “ideal” society be genderless? Hardly, but genders would be freely choosable
Technology offers many new possibilities for liberty, but only if guided by a utopian value system. Technology can just as easily be used to oppress. Technology for liberation of queer/feminine folks already exist, but is mostly used for cementing gender norms. Values come first!

First we take Manhattan …

My fundraising for my Berlin Femme Hive residency is going well. I’ve had contributions coming in left, far left and extreme left of centre since Saturday. £130 towards my target of £500 so far which is incredible! For those of you who havn’t heard, I am seeking sponsorship to attend FEMME HIVE, a conference looking at Queer Feminine Identities in Berlin 10-12 Oct. I’ve been invited to attend as an artist/performer. My plan is to make work while I’m there, capturing the essence of the conference, giving it voice as it were through writing and sound capture. I created this blog as a home for queer femme writing and art using the conference as inspiration. I will also perform there on Oct 12th. I am really excited to be given this opportunity. I applied through kickstarter to raise the funds there and was approved, that was three days ago, but the link to my project still has gltiches and I havn’t been able to launch. Time is running out so I thought I would just make a more personal appeal just now to friends and supporters of my work, and ask if you would consider donating £10 or £20 towards the costs of this venture – basically travel and accommodation. For details of how to donate email me on pauline.m.hynd@gmail.com and I can give you acc no or pay pal ref.I will keep donators informed about the progress of the project and all will receive a CD or sound file of the finished work(s) all support will be gratefully and lovingly received! Thanks in advance! Love Fraulein Paulein xx