Reflections on Fiona ‘Fee’ Wood’s Talk 2019

Read on for a piece by Daniel Skentelbery

(Cultural Studies PhD Student)

Fiona “Fee” Wood is an accomplished photographer who puts her talents into practise by working with community groups to support and educate.

In addition to owning her own business “It’s All About Me Photography”, she has also just completed an MA in Fine Art Photography at Staffordshire University.

During her time at Staffs she also dedicated herself to student politics, holding the position of President of Staffordshire Students Union for two years, and campaigning for transgender and LGB+ rights.

Her efforts saw the introduction of gender neutral toilets on Staffordshire campus and have also seen her awarded with the Midlands Stonewall Role Model award (2019).

At this engaging talk, Fee brought a collection of her photography, which served as a heartfelt exploration of Trans* identities in reaction to the binaries and changing landscapes of the world today.

Fee has a beautiful and haunting portfolio, and for me to attempt to describe them here would only do them a disservice, I can only hope that you get to see them and that plans for her work to be exhibited go ahead in the near future.

Instead I want to share some of the wider discussions that were had throughout the course of Fee’s talk and what we, the students and staff of Keele, can do to make Keele a more inclusive place.

In the opening to Fee’s talk, she posed the question: are things better today, compared to 40/50 years ago for Trans* individuals?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

There is just as much abuse and discrimination in our society now (if not more), than there was in the 1970’s.

Developments in online technologies, limited and/or problematic representation in the media, and under resourced health care, are all factors which make the lives of Trans* individuals an everyday struggle.

But at the roots, as Fee made clear, is a lack of acceptance.

Transphobia is rife in today’s mediated culture of bigots and bigoted TERFs.

Fee points out that because of the pressures of society, this results in Trans* individuals hiding and withdrawing.

Fee argued that the result of said pressures pushed people to ‘return into the closet’, a point which she illustrates through the struggles in certain compositions of her work.

The question then is, how can society change, toeliminate such discrimination and pressures, in favour of a more inclusive culture?

“Education!” Fee answers.

Education should not be exclusive to schooling and academic bubbles, education should not ‘stop’ when you enter employment.

Rather it should be a constant process of self-betterment.

It should be the objective of society to integrate acceptance into practise.

To have institutions such as Staffordshire University introduce gender neutral toilets, is credit to Fee’s efforts and an example of putting acceptance into action.

Whilst an institution might pride itself in being accepting, such institutions might in fact fail to meet up to their words.

This brings us to the discussion of Keele University.

A discussion between Fee and the students regarding the ongoing negotiations to see gender neutral toilets introduced at Keele University closed the talk.

Drawing on from the campaigns Fee led at Staffordshire University, it was discussed what staff and students might be able to do at Keelein order to progress this campaign.

After all, when Keele as an institution is spending money on Gordon Ramsay impersonators and paying a marketing team to make, quite frankly, abysmal parodies of John Lewis adverts; yet decline time and time again to introduce gender neutral facilities.

You begin to question the institutions priorities.

The institutional authorities might be very eloquent as to why they are declining to see gender neutral toilets throughout the university.

But let’s not beat around the bush, whatever delicate wording these ‘authorities’ may give to such shallow rejections is out right discriminatory.

So long as Keele University management fail to act, Keele University remains an institution which is transphobic, and prejudice against non-binary and intersex people.

To finish off, I want to highlight that the community here at Keele is very different to the institution which governs and restricts it (and it’s the belief that they are the same thing which only allows the institution to get away with so much, at the expense of both students and staff).

Because of the backwards and conservative view points of institutionmanagement, this only goes to highlight the urgency of education.

We are seeing the community of students and staff come together to speak against the structures of the institution, but we need to be louder.

This marks exactly why we need groups such as W.O.K.E. and societies such as Intersectional Feminist Society (KIFS), Keele Women Empowerment Network (KWEN), and Keele LGBT+.

The work they all do is invaluable, but all good fights require unity and persistence.

So let’s keep putting the pressure on, and see that our voices only ever get louder!

Thank you to Fee for coming and giving such an excellent talk, and a thank you to W.O.K.E. for organising the event

If you would like to get involved with WOKE please get in contact here

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