Grrrl Power Liverpool presents an online archive essay series, Lonely Girl Phenomenology, as part of WOMEN & LOVE, a new literary project that seeks to investigate the sexism experienced by women and non-binary people within the realms of relationships, romance and love. Inspired by Chris Kraus, the Lonely Girl Phenomenology essay seriesprovides a platform for women and non-binary writers to critically explore how they have experienced and consumed love; in life, in relationships, in public, in private, in media, in film, in music and in literature, in the face of misogyny.
WOMEN & LOVE is an exploration into the sexism and misogyny experienced by self-identified women and non-binary people in the territory of relationships, romance and love. As part of WOMEN & LOVE, the Lonely Girl Phenomenologyessay series will provide a platform for writers to investigate and explore the trite misconceptions and misrepresentations of women and non-binary people. Over the next couple of months we will be publishing essays to provide a safe space for critical analysis and discussion into contemporary, intersectional feminism.
Lonely Girl Phenomenology
is a term coined by Chris Kraus in I Love Dick. Initially met with hostility, owed to the ‘provocative’ title from small-minded misogynists, the book embodies the unequal gender tropes found both in and outside of literature. This revolutionary novel, first published in 1997, depicts a new kind of philosophy that hadn’t been given a platform before – this is the female consciousness written from a female perspective.
Kraus’ infatuation with Dick has been demonised over the years. In failing to connect with the confessional style of her writing, critics have reduced it down to just a woman obsessing over a man. This oversight reinforces the importance of the text. Kraus reclaimed the female first person which is something that had, up until that point, been compromised by and alluded to by male writers. In doing this, Kraus reclaimed space for women to write about their own personal experiences as an alternative to the once deemed ‘universal’ perspectives of men. This was a woman writing about being a woman in the most honest way possible, and this was revolutionary. With this in mind, the Lonely Girl Phenomenology
essay series was created.
Whilst Kraus’ anguish in I Love Dick
is timeless, this project aims to draw on its legacy by further expanding on the idea of honest investigation into the female consciousness in 2017. We want to offer new perspectives on an age-long issue - the subjugation and degradation of women, but to do this through exploring contemporary, intersectional feminism.
Writing this article, we are three women with vastly different life experiences, but with Grrrl Power we work on consensus, we agree on all actions before they are made. All decisions made uphold our intersectional feminist ideals that self-identified women and non-binary people deserve equal representation in the arts.
We more often than not, despite our lives before this point, find ourselves on the same page, or at least reading in the same direction. Despite this, our ideas and understandings of love come from and go to vastly different places. Some of us are in love, out of love, in and out of love with love, in love with different genders, the same genders, multiple genders, in love alongside or separate from sex, and so on and so forth.
What we’re saying is, we have completely different understandings of love and yet society and popular culture enforces a ‘one size fits all' idea. General narratives rarely stray outside of a heteronormative, white, able-bodied, monogamous, procreating relationship. For some people this is love and that’s okay, but what about all of us who don’t fall within this category? We want to explore self-identified women and non-binary people’s experience and consumption of love outside of conventional patriarchal narratives. This is because we’re a demographic of society who are told who to and how to love, when really, isn’t that our decision? Not just who and how, but where, when and most importantly why, and why not?
The Lonely Girl Phenomenology
essay series will explore this misrepresentation and these stereotypes. Women of colour have dealt with some of the worst sexual abuse and have been deemed as hypersexual and promiscuous because of it. Queer and lesbian women have been trivialised as a male fetish, taking away from the importance and authenticity of their individual identity. Asian women are forgotten or mocked. Non-binary people are erased and ignored. Self-identified women and non-binary people are forcefully objectified by simply walking down the street. Then there's the intimacy that happens in friendship that is often dismissed as superficial. In every scenario of love and relationships, consumed and felt, these listed examples hold the burden of being the compromised.
We’re fed up of archaic stereotypes that pitch women against one another and so here we are writing this first entry together - an ode to female friendship as our very own take on WOMEN & LOVE. The Lonely Girl Phenomenology
essay series seeks to highlight that women and non-binary people exist outside of misogyny, patriarchy and society’s confines and constructs of relationships, romance and love. Fuck Valentine’s Day, this year it’s all about self-love and self-care. We exist and love for ourselves.
Peace, Love & Grrrl Power,
Olivia Graham, Michelle Houlston & Aoife Robinson
Sexism is systemic. It has infiltrated our most vulnerable spheres. It is hardly surprising that Lonely Girl Phenomenology, built on the shared experiences of love, loss and relationships, has steadily grown over the last two months. The essays have developed in ways that none of us had anticipated. We have sought to provide a safe, encouraging space for self-identified women to reference their personal experiences and find solace in their diversity. This project has moved beyond feminism as a traditional, academic ideology, and applies itself to the everyday.
We asked self-identified women and non-binary people to respond to the call-out within the realm of love, but our readership has branched outside of the feminist forum. As a closing point, this is not a self-congratulatory post on what we have achieved for feminism, but rather a nod to the importance of continuing discussions outside of heteronormativity and conventional relationships.
At the start of this project, we stated that our ideas and understanding of love come from and go to vastly different places. Even though we have completely different understandings of love, society does not respect that, only offering a ‘one size fits all’ narrative. Kraus’ Lonely Girl Phenomenology
presented an honest, albeit singular, consciousness. This project aimed to develop Kraus’ idea in more detail to present the innumerable, intersectional narratives that aren’t represented publicly. Contributors offered different experiences, but articulated a common depth of dismissal when it came to matters of their heart.
Receiving essays and ideas was enlightening. We were contacted by women who were unsure of their ability to send us an essay, yet their draft was already at a publishable standard. We’ve had women question whether their issues were valid or interesting enough, but their finished piece offered more depth into an area of sexism that we hadn’t considered. We’ve also had men approach us in coffee shops and bars, telling us the essays had changed the way they think of their own love lives and how they approach women.
Since the first essay, we’ve been met with people who’ve found support in the contributors work who, strengthened, have gone on to speak out about their own experiences of sexism. What’s more, taking in the essay series as a collective whole, we have felt overwhelmed to the extent at which women are silenced within society. The narratives of these silenced women existed outside of mainstream conversation and furthermore hadn’t been catered to by mainstream feminism. The sad reality being that many of these voices weren't and, to an extent, still aren’t being heard. Lonely Girl Phenomenology
has by no means exhausted these excluded voices, but hopefully provides entry into wider issues surrounding all women. As a feminist collective, Grrrl Power Liverpool's aims to be intersectional without compromise and will strive to improve this every time, in whatever ways we can.
WOMEN & LOVE has been an insight, a project, a challenge. We are women who love women. This project has been collaborative and we hope that from it you take, read, listen, learn, understand, and grow to dismantle the patriarchy.
Ultimately, as we close this series of essays, we want to say thank you. Thank you especially to all the contributors and their personal insights. Thank you to those who edited and assisted; Holly Hinchliffe, Ella Boner and Kayleigh Heap. Thanks to those who shared the essays. Thanks to those who took the time to give us feedback. And of course, to all the readers, thank you.
Olivia Graham, Michelle Houlston & Aoife Robinson
Please find below a full list of the essay archive. Keep reading and ‘search’ by title for pieces on the site.
Childfree by Choice - Jenny Mugridge
The Yellow Brick Road: A Path to Self-Preservation - Louise Allward
A Phenomenology of Looking; A Phenomenology of Being Looked At - Laura Harris
Othering Women of Colour - Jemima Khalli
The Fetishisation of East Asian Women: Where Racism and Sexism Intersect - Anonymous
Mother Tongue - Naomi Gudgeon
Retail Therapy: the Language of Emotion and ‘the Irrational Woman’ in Fashion and Beauty - Lucy Holt
She Loves You - Kirsty Walker
Male Entitlement: A Discussion into Male Privilege - Michelle Williams
Half-hearted, fully done: coming out as bi & compromise
- Lucy Allard
Your Body is a Battleground - Nicola Selsby-Cunningham
Walt Disney Presents: Princesses in the Realm of Romance - Holly Hinchliffe
Love Hurts - Abbie Wilson
Nothing about me is for you - Flis Mitchell
Sex and Sensuality: The New Wave of Erotica - Jessica Fenna
Undervalued Love - Olivia Graham, Imogen Woolley & Emilia Bona