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August 29 2013

Le programme d'éducation sexuelle de l'Oregon veut "aider à réduire la pauvreté, la discrimination,…

Le programme d’éducation sexuelle de l’Oregon veut « aider à réduire la pauvreté, la discrimination, les inégalités et normes de genre » :

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5518/9619371822_8fbcd6581e_o.jpg

The Empowerment cure : How teen sex-ed has undergone a brilliant and rapid evolution
But there’s one area of reproductive health that has been quietly and steadily improving for years: reducing teen pregnancies. During the last years of the Bush administration, the teen birth rate rose for the first time since 1992. But from 2007-2011 (the four most recent years the experts crunched the numbers), the trend swiftly reversed and the teen birth rate nationwide dropped a whopping 25 percent.
(...)
Essentially, what health-care workers learned in the dark years between 2005 and 2007 was that just telling teens to abstain from sex was not an effective approach. Trying to reduce teen pregnancies by telling teens what not to do is myopic. As teenagers—especially black and Latino teens—start to grapple with issues of oppression, sex, and economics, they need support in developing healthy, empowered lives in general. Rather than telling teens what their sexual choices should be, they need the tools to decide for themselves.

“You can’t come into communities of color and say, ‘This is what needs to happen, so we’re going to do this,’” says health educator Gary-Smith, who works with Portland’s African American communities. “What you need to do instead is go to the community and have them determine what’s important to them, so it’s relevant to their lives. For communities that have a history of being disenfranchised and defined by others, giving them a space to talk about what that’s like for them—and then they can frame what they want—is really important.”
(...)
This local outreach and holistic work on sexual health is possible because of a major recent change in how the federal government funds sexual health programs. Instead of betting all its money on abstinence-only education, since 2010, reproductive health advocates pushed federal policy to instead favor “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention programs—meaning rigorous research has shown they’re actually effective.

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-empowerment-cure-how-teen-sex-ed-has-undergone-a-brilliant-and-ra

#éducation_sexuelle #contraception #avortement #birth_control #empowerment #women

July 29 2012

Ten things I miss about the 20th century | Ian Martin

Smoke everywhere, lovely great lumps of concrete and chirpy bus conductors – just some of the things I liked about the good old days

1. Vocalised cheerfulness I'm not saying people were happier in the 20th century; they weren't. There was a lot to contend with: war, TB, no bass end on record players etc. But there was more public cheerfulness. People would sing out loud just walking down the street. Try doing that now and see if passersby make eye contact. Remember bus conductors? Chirpiness was a required skill then for a Routemaster crew. Passengers were often treated to a "soundclash" – the conductor perhaps whistling the latest Tommy Steele, the driver loudly crooning something upbeat by Edmundo Ros. It was a bit like nowadays when you get teenagers at different ends of the bus playing syncopated misogyny on their phones, only happy instead of angry.

2. Coal Yeah, I know it killed half of us, but I miss the smell of coal smoke. It used to be everywhere, belching out of trains and chimneys, atomised, inhaled. Most people were addicted to cigarettes too. Everyone died smokey bacon flavour. Buildings were agreeably shrouded in grime. Fog was thick, like a sodium-yellow blanket. Of course we older people are kicking ourselves that we didn't put some soot away for the future. Now it goes for up to £3,000 a scuttleful and is keenly sought after by billionaires, who dress up like the cast of Mad Men and snort it through 10 bob notes. Sooty the hand puppet, he was from a more innocent age too.

3. Proper weather The climate's been broken for years (see "Coal" above, soz) but it can't be fixed because NOBODY DOES REPAIRS ANY MORE.

4. Having a pint with a racist Maybe it's the invisibility of old people, but I rarely "fall into conversation" with morons in the pub these days. It's what happened in the golden age before we had mobiles to check. There'd be a neutral remark about the weather and before you knew it some sullen clump of sideboards and tash opposite would be blaming "them" for his early black-and-white version of Broken Britain. Then you'd have an argument while you drank your pints and it seemed quite important to engage and challenge. Today, if anyone says anything racist the protocol is to smile, pretend to go to the toilet, tweet "Oh my God, there's a totally racist dude in this pub", then covertly film them and hope they say something YouTubeable.

5. Women's liberation So much clearer then: men are shit, we've ruined everything, stand aside, woman's right to choose, equal pay, non-patriarchal parenting, loose clothes. Now feminism's tribalised it's much more confusing. Julie Bindel's lesbo resistance or Caitlin Moran's cock-based irony? Both, obviously. But I miss the days of free thinking and reparations, when New Men did all the cooking and were more than happy to be sexual playthings, although to be honest my mind's wandering a bit now.

6. The majesty of concrete Lovely, egalitarian, optimistic great lumps of concrete, eg the Hayward Gallery, were going up on the South Bank at about the time the Kinks released Waterloo Sunset. We were in paradise.

7. Haughty television Never mind Starkey, Schama and all the other clever dicks with their blousons and gesticulating on battlements and meticulous reconstructed scenes because apparently we can't be trusted to use our own bloody imaginations any more. Before colour telly, AJP Taylor could talk into a camera for an hour armed only with an immaculate brain, a glass of water and 10 Woodbine.

8. Working-class MPs We used to have loads of them. Working miners became union reps, discovered a natural gift for turning rage into oratory and were duly elected as parliamentary tribunes for working people. Dennis Skinner's still there like a pissed uncle at a funeral, but who remembers Coventry's Dave Nellist? When he was an MP in the 80s he insisted on taking only the average wage of skilled workers in his constituency. The rest he gave back to Labour, who in return expelled him for being too militant and then waited gormlesssly for Neil "The Welsh Mussolini" Kinnock to become prime minister. Today our House of Commons is just the Members' Pavilion at Lord's without the hats.

9. Counter culture These days it's all "meta" or "pop-up" and I'm not entirely sure what they are. Oppositional thinking's too sophisticated now. It was all much simpler when culture had three gears only and a puncture repair kit in the saddlebag. Ah, Spam sandwiches, orange squash, purple hearts … sorry, mind's gone again.

10. Non-monetised public space The internet saw the last century out and this one in. Early on there was great excitement about "virtual reality" yet who could have foreseen REALITY TURNING INTO THE INTERNET? A journey through London in 2012 is like navigating your way from one JavaScript nightmare to another in the days before ad blockers. Every available square inch of public space, every cubic foot of public air now has to be jizzed over by flickering ads and corporate branding. And looming above it all the grotesque Shard, our capital's latest and most disgusting lump of privatised skyline. Capitalism giving us a scaly, taloned middle finger. What next – sponsored clouds? Toll pavements? Paywalled churches? Sure, it sounds ridiculous but you mark my words, soon they'll be charging us to get into St Paul's Cathedral. Oh.

Charlie Brooker is away.


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May 29 2012

Tracey Emin could have exploded a lot of menopause myths – but she blew it | Joanna Moorehead

For many women the menopause is a time of rebirth and opportunity, not the 'beginning of dying' that Emin describes

People don't talk about the menopause, Tracey Emin told the Guardian. Well, she's right – people don't. So Emin does. "It is a nightmare, an absolute nightmare," she says. "It's horrible… [it] makes you feel slightly dead… it is the beginning of dying."

Oh dear! Women of our age – and I'm almost the same vintage as Emin – want to be more visible, acknowledged and celebrated. We don't want to slip quietly from the stage, as we all too often seem to be expected to do – and here's Emin, with a big new show opening in Margate, where she was raised. She's a perfect ambassador for us.

And what does she do? Well, she blows it: she gets a chance to be positive, ballsy and feisty about a tricky subject (and goodness knows, she's been positive, ballsy and feisty about plenty of other tricky subjects in her time) and she shreds it. Totally. Because who is going to believe that mid-life womanhood has got anything to it if Emin, one of the small number of late-fortysomething women in the public eye, reports from the front line that it's a nightmare?

The reality, for many of us, is that the menopause is not nightmarish, or horrible, and nor does it feel like the anteroom to death. In fact it feels more like a new beginning – a time of fresh opportunities and unexplored directions. For some of us (not Emin, it's true, since she's not had children) it's a time of expanding space, as our offspring grow up and manage to do more for themselves. For others, it's a time to reassess relationships and – sometimes – to find them wanting, sometimes enough to move on from them. And while it absolutely doesn't feel to me like the last stop before the graveyard, there's certainly a sense that there are some opportunities in life that, if not taken now, will quite probably never happen again.

One of the conundrums of the debate on ageing seems to me to be that while it happens to all of us, the negativity that's always surrounded the menopause seems to hint at scarier, deeper darknesses around women's ageing than men's.

What Emin could have done (should have done, in my view) was properly explore her feelings about the menopause in her new show. She could have looked – and oh my goodness, what a service it would have been for all of us forty- and fiftysomething women – at the state of mid-life womanhood in the same way that the wonderful Louise Bourgeois explored, in her 80s and 90s, the state of later-life womanhood. Bourgeois didn't moan or whinge about being older; and where it slowed her down, she folded that slowing down into her art.

Emin could have done all this, shining new light on a subject that men have long ridiculed, and women have been too polite or frightened to explore. I somehow can't help suspecting, too, that if Emin had chosen to take the bull by the horns, the reviewers – the Guardian's Jonathan Jones among them – might have found rather more to praise in the show itself.

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April 27 2012

These magazine covers are graphic examples that sex can sell feminism | Jonathan Jones

Does Newsweek and Foreign Policy's double act of covers objectify women or simply draw attention to good journalism?

Can you judge a magazine by its cover? Or to put it another way, should you judge a society by the images it circulates, or by the laws it enacts and the customs it lives by?

These two covers of current American magazines might mistakenly be seen as an indictment of the hypocrisy and shallowness of western secular society. While Foreign Policy promotes a feature on women in the Middle East with a photograph of a model with her naked body painted to look as if she's covered up according to Islamic principles, the cover of Newsweek uses another naked model, this time wearing a black silk blindfold, to sell an article on what it claims is a vogue for submission fantasies among America's women. The pictures make an entertaining double act as they seem to play off one another in so many ways – one of which is the contrast between recreational submission and actual submission.

Katie Roiphe's piece in Newsweek, to which which the blindfolded nude draws our eyes, is inspired by the bestselling e-novel Fifty Shades of Grey to argue that American women, while enjoying more economic and social power than ever before, are currently fascinated by a "watered-down, skinny-vanilla-latte version of sadomasochism". I would say the cover of Newsweek is actually a subtle illustration of this thesis. It pastiches that contrived "skinny-vanilla-latte" image of sadomasochism. It is closer to a Valentine's card than it is to the X Portfolio. The relationship between image and word in the case of Foreign Policy is a lot more challenging.

Mona Eltahawy's article, which the image of a nude cover-up promotes, argues that the battleground of modern feminism should be the middle east and that women are the true victims of oppression in the region, both before and after the Arab spring. She accuses Arab societies of institutional misogyny. Her article is full of horrifying examples. In Saudi Arabia, she points out, women are perpetual minors who are forbidden to drive and will acquire only very limited voting rights, finally, in 2015. When a school in Mecca caught fire in 2002 "morality police" caused the deaths of 15 girls by forbidding them to escape because they were not wearing headscarves or cloaks. Meanwhile 55% of women in Yemen are illiterate.

Clearly, Eltahawy has said goodbye to a broad swath of relativist, liberal opinion in this article, by rejecting the intellectual respectability of the idea that Islamic practices on gender should be respected and understood as different. The cover of Foreign Policy might be seen as a final parting shot, except of course the writer probably had no control over how her work was illustrated. Does the picture offer ammunition to critics of her piece who can point to its "orientalism" and its graphic evidence of the forces that oppress women in the free western world she apparently so admires? After all, when Naomi Wolf said she felt free wearing the hijab, it was presumably images such as these she felt liberated from.

I would argue the contrary. Some might say that western society's endless representation of women as sexual commodities – as typified by these pictures – is a pretty good argument for religious "modesty". But in reality they reveal a genuinely free society in which women speak powerfully. Both draw attention to incisive pieces of journalism about women, by women. Sex sells, but it can sell feminism, too.

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April 17 2012

Swedish minister denies claims of racism over black woman cake stunt

Calls for Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth to resign over role in art event supposedly highlighting female genital mutilation and racism

Sweden's minister of culture has been accused of racism after cutting a cake depicting a naked black woman.

Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth was taking part in an event at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the capital's museum of modern art and home to works by Picasso and Dalí. She was invited to cut the cake, an art installation meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation. She began, as instructed, by taking a chunk from the cake's "clitoris".

The artist, Makode Aj Linde, who created the installation for World Art Day on 15 April, took part in the cake-cutting, with his blackened face and head sticking up next to the cake's stomach and arms. The cakes "insides" were a gruesome red. A video shows him screaming loudly every time a visitor hacks off another slice of the cake.

Linde posted photos of the "genital mutilation cake" on his Facebook page. But the images provoked a furious response, with Sweden's African-Swedish Association describing it as "a racist spectacle".

A spokesman for the association, Kitimbwa Sabuni, told Sweden's The Local newspaper: "In our view, this simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden."

The association has demanded her resignation. In a statement, Sabuni said the association doubted a cake party meant to highlight the issue of female genital mutilation had achieved its aim. Instead, the cake was just "a racist caricature of a black woman". He said the minister's decision to take part in a dubious event with cannibalistic overtones showed her "incompetence and lack of judgment".

Sabuni told the newspaper: "Her participation, as she laughs, drinks and eats cake, merely adds to the insult against people who suffer from racist taunts and against women affected by circumcision."

Adelsohn Liljeroth, however, said she sympathised with the association's criticisms but denied she had done anything wrong. Speaking to the TT news agency, she conceded the cake installation was provocative and rather bizarre, and said she had been invited to speak about artistic freedom and the right to offend.

She added: "They wanted me to cut the cake." Ultimately, the artist was to blame for any confusion, she said, arguing that the situation had been misinterpreted. "He claims that it challenges a romanticised and exoticised view from the west about something that is really about violence and racism," she said. "Art needs to be provocative."

Sabuni dismissed the remarks, according to Swedish media reports, and called the minister's comments "extremely insulting". He added: "Sweden thinks of itself as a place where racism is not a problem. That just provides cover for not discussing the issue, which leads to incidents like this.

"To participate in a racist manifestation masquerading as art is totally over the line and can only be interpreted as the culture minister supporting the Moderna Museet's racist prank," he said.


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March 08 2012

March 04 2012

Letizia Battaglia: shooting the mafia

When the photographer returned to Sicily she didn't expect a war – but then the Corleonesi began a killing spree. Twenty years on from the murder of her friend the anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, one of the great photographers of our time talks about her experiences

When Letizia Battaglia returned to Palermo in 1974 from a three-year sojourn in Milan, the city was enjoying a period of relative calm. There was the endemic corruption, obviously, and the usual posse of self-serving politicians. But no one was expecting a bloodbath, least of all Battaglia. She was already a 40-year-old mother of three, enjoying her first steady job as picture editor of a city newspaper. She wasn't looking to cover a war. But war, it seemed, had decided to come looking for her.

Sitting at a low table in her eighth-floor apartment in Palermo, Battaglia, now 76, flicks through some of the iconic images she captured during what Italians call the anni di piombo, the years of (flying) lead. Eighteen years in which the ferocious Corleonesi mafia clan would claim the lives of governors, senior policemen, entire mafia families and, ultimately, two of Battaglia's dearest friends: the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

This May marks the 20th anniversary of Falcone's assassination by a massive motorway bomb, which also killed the husband of Rosaria Schifani, one of Falcone's bodyguards. In the intervening years the big drug-trafficking wars have shifted, on a blood meridian, from Sicily to the Mexican border. But Battaglia's photographs testify that nothing has changed, that none of this is new. The techniques pioneered by the Corleonesi have proved their efficacy. Maximum violence. Total extermination of your rivals. Intimidation of the state.

If horror still lurches reliably out of Battaglia's pictures, so do the more complicated emotions of pity and despair. To many, these are the qualities that elevate them to the status of art. Battaglia's reputation has steadily risen over the years, attracting awards and exhibition space as far afield as New York and Amsterdam. But long before the foreign prizes and plaudits arrived, she'd already received domestic recognition of a more heartfelt kind: death threats.

That Battaglia ignored the threats, despite being advised to lie low by Falcone himself, comes as no surprise once you've met her. At first she puts you at ease with her husky laugh and friendly little dog, Pippo. Her apartment is dark and cool, the walls adorned with two of her more soothing photographic portraits: a girl, and a dove. Further along is a framed Red Flag (it's from India, sent by a daughter), which seems in keeping with Battaglia's bohemian dress and 60s fringe. Beyond the bookshelves is a balcony, its tiles and pot plants shining in the summer sun. Framed by the door the view could almost be a photo, a sanitised vision of the sunny present.

But once her eyes have fixed on you, her intensity is revealed. Let your gaze drift down to your notebook when she is declaiming something and you are abruptly reprimanded. "Look me in the eyes!" She is deadly serious. She insists on being heard. She smokes a lot.


During the height of the violence Battaglia would get called out at all hours of the day and night, and be on the scene of a murder, pushing through ghoulish crowds of onlookers, before the blood of the dead had begun to dry. It was unrelenting: they would find as many as seven bodies at a time. No sooner had she and her colleagues raced across town on mopeds to cover one killing, than they would receive news of another hit. "Before you'd even dealt with the desperation and suffering of one murder, you were already on the way to another. More blood, more violence."

But she didn't stop. This was never just a job. It was her duty as a citizen, she believed. And it showed. These urgent, often grainy shots were politics of the most incendiary kind. They were asking a question that no one at the time wanted, or dared, to hear: why?

"The worst thing was that we didn't understand at first where this inferno came from, she says. "No one knew about the Corleonesi. No one was getting caught for these crimes. And they always killed the best people. The best judges, the best policemen, the best politicians. It took years to understand what was going on, thanks to the work of Falcone and the testimony of the pentito Tommaso Buscetta."

Battaglia's inability to shield herself from the horrors she witnessed is still evident. At one point she shudders and asks me to put away a photo taken by her then-boyfriend and fellow photographer, Franco Zecchin. The photo in question has an almost surreal quality to it – three bored-looking young men slouch in the back of a bus, looking for all the world as if they haven't realised they're dead yet.

However, Battaglia didn't only photograph corpses. She ranged across Sicily, taking in religious festivals, psychiatric hospitals, crumbling slums and aristocratic salons. The stars of her photos are often young women, quietly enduring their various predicaments. The compassion that shines out of these portraits dispels any doubts one might entertain while wading through the bloodier end of her catalogue. Her art is not exploitative – it is about exploitation.

Though Battaglia describes her own childhood as serene, it was also suffocatingly cloistered. Palermo after the war was not a place for independent-minded girls and her father was possessive. He kept her locked up in the family home. "I couldn't go out because men would bother me on the street, even at 11 years of age," she says. Life with her jealous father soon became intolerable and at the first opportunity she bolted, which in those days meant marriage – at the age of 16, to a prosperous older man who worked in the coffee business.

Three children followed, but little happiness. Twenty-one years would pass before Battaglia finally mustered the courage to walk out. In a country where divorce was still illegal and feminism just a distant rumour, she installed herself and her daughters in the single room of an "alternative" household in Milan. She was penniless but free. Her family considered her ruined.

In Milan she learned her craft as a photo-reporter and soon, despite her family's forebodings, she was enjoying success and all the other things she'd previously lacked in life: creativity, independence, intellectual friends. Among these was the Sicilian author Leonardo Sciascia. It was he who later wrote a catty article that labelled Borsellino as a "professional of the anti-mafia". The article was seized upon by the judge's enemies and used to isolate him. Five years later both he and Falcone were blown up by two separate bombs, one after the other. The judges knew it was coming. As Falcone said: "It is my destiny to take a bullet from the mafia one day. The only thing I don't know is when."

"Sciascia was an adorable person, but he had an outdated idea of the mafia," Battaglia says. "He made a mistake with that article, but I forgave him." As for Falcone and Borsellino, she has only praise. "I have two photographs of each of us together, taken by my daughter. They are the most important photographs of my life. I was proud to know them. These two brave Sicilians died to defend us."

But perhaps the most important friendship she made was with the maverick anti-mafia mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, with whom she served both on the city council and as a deputy in the regional parliament. "Those were the most beautiful years of my life. Better than being in love, or having children."

A price must be paid for this kind of political commitment. It was difficult for her daughters; it was difficult for her, too. When she bought an apartment in one of the roughest parts of town, intending to share the people's problems, she was repeatedly burgled under the eyes of her neighbours who, true to form, never saw a thing. A cynic might suggest this was a classic case of a communist intellectual showing solidarity with the masses, and the masses failing to reciprocate. But at least the thieves didn't steal her negatives. Battaglia's immense archive would provide sensational evidence when the former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti found himself in court answering charges of links to the mafia. Battaglia, years before, had taken a photo of him during a visit to Sicily which unwittingly showed him in the company of a mafioso. Despite this, the prosecution never succeeded in securing a conviction.

It was a defeat for the anti-mafia movement, one of many. But despite the difficulties of winning cases such as these, Battaglia believes that the answer to defeating Cosa Nostra is deceptively simple. "The mafia can be beaten, but only if people stop voting for dishonest politicians. It's no longer just a Sicilian problem. It's all over Italy."

Battaglia no longer does reportage – "I'm too old to keep walking the streets" – but she regularly visits schools and attends anti-mafia events, however lost the cause may seem sometimes. Is this what people mean when they describe her as impegnata, involved?

"It means setting an example," she says. "It means opposing the mafia in everything that I say and buy and eat. Every person that I meet, every gesture that I make, it's all connected to the need to liberate my country from the mafia." In a city like Palermo, where the vast majority of shops and businesses pay extortion money, that's not as easy as it sounds.

In fact, Battaglia doesn't go out much any more, except in the morning to walk the dog. She avoids contact with the city's middle classes, deemed guilty of what she calls moral absenteeism. She admits: "Palermo is a bit of a prison for me – it holds me down. Every now and then I need to get away. I even moved to Paris for a year and a half, but I couldn't help thinking about Palermo – despite all of its problems, its shit, its corruption, which is even worse now than it was before."

These symptoms of embittered love will be familiar to anyone who has lived in Sicily for an extended period of time. The place is infuriating, self-destructive and very nearly hopeless, but you can't shake it off. As Battaglia's friend Sciascia once said: "I hate and detest Sicily insofar as I love it, and insofar as it does not respond to the kind of love I would like to have for it."


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March 01 2012

Permission to be horrible and other ways to generate creativity

I met Denise R. Jacobs (@denisejacobs) the old fashioned way, not through Twitter or LinkedIn: a mutual acquaintance introduced us. We corresponded via email and actually got together in person a few months later at Web 2.0 Expo, where Denise was speaking. I was impressed both by her passion for giving people the knowledge, tools and resources to feel more empowered in their work as well as the breadth of her experience. Denise wrote "The CSS Detective Guide" and co-authored "InterAct with Web Standards." She also develops curricula for the Web Standards Project Education Task Force and was nominated for .Net Magazine's 2010 Best of the Web "Standards Champion" award.

I spoke with Denise recently about her experiences writing her book, how that led her to new ways of thinking, how she got started the web design, and other projects.

You're known for your web design work. What motivated you to explore the more non-technical topics of creative inspiration?

Denise JacobsDenise R. Jacobs: During the writing process "The CSS Detective Guide" I had a huge epiphany about myself and my ideas of creativity. I had to do battle on a daily basis with my inner critic and figure out ways to silence it, so that I could just get the work done.

In an industry where people are constantly producing wonderful things, it's really hard not to compare yourself to others. In terms of the creativity and the inspiration, it's easy to have panicky moments when you feel as though you can't come up with another idea, a new design, more content. I wanted to formulate ways to access creativity and channel that amazing feeling that you can take on the world, both for myself to help other people. So I wrote an article as a way to solidify my own techniques and to help anybody else who may need to silence a mean voice in their head as well.

Creativity isn't always associated with the technical community. Why is that?

Denise R. Jacobs: It's because there's such a limited definition of creativity in our culture. People treat artists as if they're off in their own world or put them on a pedestal. But it's a misconception that technical people aren't creative. Developers and coders and database architects are extremely creative, just as scientists are. They have to come up with solutions and code that have never been written before. If that's not creativity, I don't know what is.

I'm reading "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel H. Pink, which explores how right-brain is the new wave. We're entering a new conceptual, high-touch era whereas before we were in a very analytical era. Our industry, the technical industry, is actually a perfect in-between point of left brain and right brain. You have to have both, a whole-brain approach, to be successful in our industry.

What steps can people take to bring creativity into their professional and personal lives?

Denise R. Jacobs: One of my favorite techniques for being creative, and productive in general, is to give yourself permission to be as horrible at something as you possibly can, to even mess it up. That permission actually lowers inhibition filters and allows you to take chances that you would normally not take. Often that ends up making it good because you're not as invested in it and therefore not as self-conscious about the process.

Another important technique is to set aside time where your brain is resting, where you're not actually trying to produce something. Give it space to be able to make connections that it wouldn't necessarily have made before. Insights come when you're taking a walk, sitting on the beach or the park bench, playing with your dog. Because your brain is relaxing, it can go places that it doesn't usually go when you're concentrating or you're thinking hard.

In this industry, there's a subculture that is always on — on the computer, on social networks, connecting with people. There is never a time to not be on. When you're at dinner with a friend, you're checking in on Foursquare. You're tweeting. You're taking a picture to upload to your Facebook profile. Texting friends. To just be off is huge and can make all of the difference in the world.

With social media and other tools for people to come together, both in real life and virtually, what do you think about the state of communities today?

Denise R. Jacobs: I could be biased, but one thing I do see is that despite all of our virtual connections, in real life, it's kind of awkward. People are so used to communicating with each other digitally, texting for instance, that they're starting to lose the capacity to have genuine in-person connections to some degree. People aren't engaging with each other. Yet they try to depict it as such to keep themselves entertained.

A trend I'd like to see is for communities and people who make connections virtually to solidify that with an in-person connection. And if you make an in-person connection, then further solidify that with a virtual connection. Let there be a constant ebb and flow, a circuit going back and forth between both real life and virtual connections so that you can't really rely completely on either one. That's why we have these tools — we crave connection. We don't really have enough of it, but we can't depend solely on tools to create all of the connection that we need and vice versa.

What trends and people are you following?

Denise R. Jacobs: Location and self-publishing are trends I watch popping up all over the place. There are so many things going on that it's kind of overwhelming. I rely on serendipity and I focus more on concepts, ideas, and people because they are what underlie the trends. I am inspired by unapologetic creativity and unapologetic cleverness. I admire the younger people coming into the industry who are developing and innovating like crazy.

I admire the work Jane McGonigal is doing, her "Reality Is Broken" book and her whole gaming productivity movement. She takes ownership for being a woman in an industry where that's not typical and doesn't tone herself down at all. She's very feminine and a badass, has a PhD and awesome ideas and that's just the way it is with her.

I also admire Kathy Sierra because she's been around for a while and she's also an incredibly intelligent and clever person, a great speaker, and also someone with a lot of really wonderful ideas.

Tell us about your Rawk the Web project.

Denise R. Jacobs: There are a lot of diverse experts in the tech industry, women and people of color, but they're not very visible in terms of speaking at conferences or writing articles or books or whatever. It's not that conferences or publishers don't want a more diverse lineup, but often they just don't know who to get or how to go about it.

I was at a conference last year and the organizer asked me to fill in for a speaker who had to cancel. Afterwards, I ended up talking to a woman who really wanted to become a speaker but didn't know where to start. This was a perfect example of what people are probably saying to themselves. "I don't know enough. How do I get started? It seems really imposing. There's no room for anybody new."

I started Rawk the Web to give people actual information and have experts share their story about how they got started so that other people can see that they can do it, too. I also want to provide resources to people who may be inclined to give women and people of color more visibility, a network of people they can talk to and get inspiration from to take that first step. This is a really good time for it because people see me at conferences and notice I'm often the only brown person there — they're very conscious of it and glad to see me on stage. I'm hoping to launch it in June and that there will eventually be a Rawk the Web Conference. I know I'm not the only person working on this issue, but I'd like it to be more of a concentrated effort.

How did you get started with CSS and what do you see in its near future?

Denise R. Jacobs: Back in late 1996, nobody was updating the website at the place I was working so I volunteered to take care of it. During that process, I taught myself HTML — it was actually before CSS had really been widely embraced. Over the course of the next few years, I worked in localization for a Microsoft product, then I was a web group product manager at another software company, then later an instructor at Seattle Central Community College in their web design and development programs. Around 2002, web standards started becoming more popular. It was so much better and so much easier. One file to control the whole website — brilliant! It was an amazing, exciting time, to see the changing of the guard, what the web was moving from and what it was moving toward.

I couldn't call myself a web design instructor in good conscience without knowing CSS and I couldn't send students out into the world with outdated and inefficient skills. So I keep up with the trends, particularly by reading articles on A List Apart, and blogs by Dave Shea, Andy Budd and Doug Bowman.

As for the future of CSS, there's going to be a lot more reliance and trust of browsers. Browser vendors know what an important role they play and that browser wars don't do much good. More browser companies are working together with the W3C to establish and embrace standards.

Because of that, changes are happening faster. There's a big push for people to get up to speed with current best practices and develop new ones. For things like page layouts and CSS3, there are some really neat properties that are going to change the way people think about their approach to web layouts and the craft of building websites. It's going to be interesting to see how long those properties take to be adopted and what people come up with for them.

This interview was edited and condensed.

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November 11 2011

Confessions of a not-so-public speaker

Empty Stage by Max Wolfe, on Flickr One of Web 2.0 Summit 2011's memorable moments came early, when program chair John Battelle was gently but earnestly admonished by anthropologist Genevieve Bell for not having more women on stage that day. Cue lots of applause from the audience. John rejoined that he wouldn't discuss the number of women who had turned him down.

Part of my job here at O'Reilly is to encourage women, people of color, and other folks often underrepresented at tech conferences to be speakers at our events. I can really empathize with John: I've been turned down a lot, too. During that moment at Web 2.0 Summit, I wondered how many women applauding Genevieve's comment are regular tech conference speakers themselves. It's one thing to say we need role models and a very different thing to actually be one.

And that's exactly the intersection I find myself standing in now.

I worked in fundraising for many years, and it wasn't until I became a donor myself that I truly understood how to overcome the challenges of getting people to open their wallets — not to mention understand how good it feels to give to an important cause. Similarly, I know I won't be able to be a true agent for diversity in our speaker rosters until I step up and become a public speaker myself.

You'd think it'd be easier being in the conference organizing biz, but for me, it's the opposite. The quality of speakers I usually see — engaging, humorous, knowledgeable, and at one with their slide decks — can be a bit intimidating. While I don't think I'll be a speaker at Web 2.0 Summit any time soon, the biggest issue is just taking those first steps toward the speaker side of the street.

So, I've resolved to start my speaking journey. Some people are naturals on stage, and others, like me, need some encouragement. Make that a lot of encouragement. I've been fortunate to have two accomplished speakers cheering me on: entrepreneur and writer Jessica Faye Carter and investment book author Cathleen Rittereiser. They're helping me put together an action plan for becoming a public speaker.

In the hopes that it inspires more than just me, I'd like to share their excellent advice more broadly — below you'll find five tips for launching your own public speaking effort.

Join an online speaking organizationLinkedIn and MeetUp are rife with speaking groups; SpeakerMatch and Speakerfile are two fairly new social networking sites.

Join a speaking group in real lifeToastmasters and National Speakers Association (NSA) are two of the largest and most active. NSA's online magazine has great resources for speakers.

Read — Dale Carnegie's "The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking" still gets high marks today. Take a look at "Confessions of a Public Speaker," "The Confident Speaker," and "Slide:ology." [Disclosure: "Confessions of a Public Speaker" and "Slide:ology" are O'Reilly titles.]

Start low-key — User group meetings and Ignite events are usually supportive places to get your feet wet. Scott Berkun's Why You Should Speak (at Ignite) presentation (embedded below) is an inspirational and succinct primer for newbies, and it helps answer the pesky what-the-hell-do-I-talk-about question.

Team up — Take the stage with a more experienced speaker. Even if you just push the button on the slide clicker, you're still putting yourself in front of an audience.

Come along with me, won't you? Even if you're not part of an "underrepresented group." It's good for our careers; the communities we represent; the causes we espouse; and hey, I've heard it can be fun, too.

I'd love to hear from you. How did you get started speaking? What are your suggestions and resources for honing preso chops? What do you get out of speaking in public? If you're an event organizer, what steps are you taking to diversify your participants? If you're a regular on the conference circuit, what do you do to mentor and encourage others to take the podium?

Please share your advice and ideas in the comments area.

Associated photo on home and category pages: 224/365 Mic by thebarrowboy, on Flickr. Photo at top of post: Empty Stage by Max Wolfe, on Flickr.

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October 13 2011

!Women Art Revolution: the rise of female artists

A new documentary looks back at the battle for recognition of figures including Carolee Schneemann and the Guerrila Girls

As Brooklyn-based artist Marni Kotak plans to give birth publicly in the name of art and Tacita Dean takes over the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern following Tracey Emin's much praised retrospective at the Hayward Gallery over the summer, it doesn't feel like a bad time for female artists. However, until recently it was a rare treat to find women's art in galleries at all, as a new documentary film shows.

!Women Art Revolution recalls the young American female artists of the 1960s who fought for change in a male-dominated art world. From Carolee Schneemann's radical performances, via Martha Rosier's brilliantly aggressive Semiotics of the Kitchen to the Guerrilla Girls' campaigns that shamed major art institutions, it shows how the personal became political.

Lynn Hershman Leeson, feminist artist and the film-maker behind !Women Art Revolution, collected footage over a 40-year period before finally releasing it earlier this year. Adamant that she didn't want to leave out any of the 13,000 minutes of footage ("I always thought that women were the outtakes of history"), what hasn't made the final cut is available to view online and another site, rawwar.org, encourages female artists to upload their work so that it is never lost. This archive could go on to be Hershman Leeson and the feminist art movement's greatest legacy of all. On the phone from San Francisco she explains her reasons for making it: "It's not like this history was erased. This history never existed."

Hershman Leeson recalls selling a work in 1975. As soon as the (male) buyer learned the artist was female the deal was off. She also tried to donate some artworks to a local museum to be preserved, only to have them rejected. But she has had the last laugh: 35 years later her work was appraised for 9,000 times its original sale price and purchased by the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, the profits from which funded the film.

!Women Art Revolution: A Secret History will screen at the Whitechapel Gallery, E1 on Saturday 15 at 3pm with Lynn Hershman Leeson and Achim Borchardt-Hume in conversation. For more information see womenartrevolution.com and to access the full archive of footage visit lib.stanford.edu/women-art-revolution.


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August 25 2011

Female forms

The UK is alive with beautiful sculptures of women, rendered in stone and metal, and even carved into hillsides

• The UK's best sculptures of women – in pictures

On the outskirts of Cramlington, something remarkable is taking shape: a giant sculpture of a woman carved into the landscape. Four hundred metres long and taller than the Angel of the North, Northumberlandia will be the largest replica of the human body in the world. She was designed by Charles Jencks, and is created out of 1.5m tonnes of overburden from the nearby Shotton open-cast mine. Come her completion in 2013, visitors will be able to walk over her giant form, over shins and thighs and 34-metre-tall breasts, admiring the views of Northumberland, as well as celebrating the naked female form.

But Northumberlandia is not alone; our land is alive with female forms – Britannias in Billingsgate, Pankhursts in Victoria, and Eleanor Rigbys in Liverpool; with coyly draped muses in the gardens of stately homes, gentle mourners peeping out among the roses in Highgate Cemetery, and allegorical figures standing indomitably on Glasgow's City Chambers and Holborn Viaduct; their forms vary from the voluptuous to the lean, the demure to the brazen. Here, we present eight sculptures of women to be admired in the British landscape:

Broadgate Venus, Fernando Botero, Exchange Square, Liverpool Street, London

Columbian sculptor Botero created this voluptuous five-tonne figure in 1990, placing her in the heart of London's financial district. She lies on her right side, succulent skin vaguely draped, eyes to the heavens and one hand half-raised. Visit her on a weekday and note her pleasing incongruity as besuited workers scuttle by with briefcases and eyes lowered, her curvaceous, abundant form in marked contrast to the angular architecture of many of the City's office blocks.

Bean An T-Visce (Lady of the Water), Alannah Robins, Grizedale Forest, Cumbria

Grizedale Forest is home to some of the country's most stunning sculpture – 60 permanent works created in response to the landscape, including Charles Bray's 1994 work Light Column and Kerry Morrison's Some Fern. Among them stands Alannah Robins's 1995 sculpture Bean An T-Visce, which shows one lithe female figure standing arms-aloft in a brook as she directs a flume of water on to another figure before her. It is a quite magical work, and comes alive in the wood's speckled light.

Sitting by Sophie Ryder at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

In 1986, Sophie Ryder began a residency at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Her work is described as "an exploration of the female psyche and sexuality" In her 2007 sculpture, Sitting, this takes the form of a large, grey, naked female figure with the head of a hare, seated calmly on the grass, legs tucked beneath her and resting on one arm. Much of the pleasure of Ryder's work comes from texture, the bronze ruffled, the colour matt, and from the sculptures' curiously romantic air.

The River by Dhruva Mistry, Birmingham

When Dhuvra Mistry's sculpture of a naked woman in a fountain first arrived in central Birmingham in the early 90s, locals nicknamed it the Floozie in the Jacuzzi. The vast bronze is more serene than the epithet might suggest – resting back in the water, knees bent and crossed, her face quite perfectly composed. Around the edge of her pool runs a quotation from TS Eliot's Burnt Norton:

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotus rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered, out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

Interestingly, The River is not Birmingham's only aquatic female offering – not far away, on the University of Birmingham's Edgbaston Campus, you will also find William Bloye's elegant Bronze Mermaid.

The Family of Man by Barbara Hepworth, Snape Maltings, Suffolk

It would seem wrong to write about landscape and sculpture in Britain and not mention Hepworth. "First and last," she noted in a 1946 explanation of her approach to sculpture, "there is the human figure, which in the country becomes a free and moving part of a greater whole. This relationship between figure and landscape is vitally important to me. I cannot feel it in a city." And so to see Hepworth's work outdoors seems right and respectful. Around the concert hall at Snape Maltings, site of the annual Aldeburgh festival, three of her bronze figures stand beside the reed beds. Family of Man was a project begun by Hepworth in 1973. It consists of nine abstract figures – ancestors, parents, bride and groom, children. Two castings were made of the figures, and the full set can be viewed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The second set was split up. Three (Young Girl, Parent I and Parent II) stand in Hepworth's home town of Wakefield, and three here in Suffolk – Ancestor 1 and 2 and Parent 1. They make for magnificent viewing: imposing, primeval, totemic, the poet Simon Armitage once described their block-like forms as "full of beautiful possibility".

Reclining Woman: Elbow, by Henry Moore, Leeds

Moore's women can be admired in outdoor locations around the country – from Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, to a housing estate in Kennington, south London. This hearty bronze props herself up outside Leeds City Art Gallery, her skin a deeply polished, burnished shade, her fists clenched and one leg raised. Moore, who spent his youth in Leeds, sited the statue himself, in the summer before the gallery's new sculpture extension was opened. He reportedly relished the contrast between her rounded form and the gallery's austere limestone exterior.

Siren by Andre Wallace, Newcastle

At the top of Sandgate Steps in Newcastle sits Andre Wallace's sculpture Siren. She has been here since 1995, a partner to Wallace's River God, which is nearby, blowing Siren a kiss. Made of bronze, we see only her bare torso, and her hands clasped at her waist. Her head is exaggerated, in corrugated form behind her, and she wears a bell for an earring. There is something of the Easter Island statue about her poise, her chin level and her eyes fixed across the river, to the Baltic Centre on the far shore.

Folkestone Mermaid by Cornelia Parker

Parker's stunning bronze life-cast of 38-year-old mother-of-two Georgina Baker was one of the highlights of this year's Folkestone Triennial – a strong, notably tailless figure, quietly verdigrising by the shore. Parker was influenced by Edvard Eriksen's Little Mermaid statue, which has occupied a place on the quayside in Copenhagen since 1913, and Baker was chosen out of 50 applicants from the local area, plucked from among her rivals for her "statuesque" physique and her "spirit of freedom". The Folkestone Mermaid sits in the town's harbour, on a rock above the Sunny Sands beach, her feet trailed with seaweed and her gaze fixed steadily on the channel.


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The UK's best sculptures of women - in pictures

From a voluptuous Henry Moore in Leeds, to Barbara Hepworth's abstract bronzes in Suffolk



April 07 2011

Margaret Harrison: a brush with the law

Her art was branded indecent and the police shut down her exhibition. Now the artist talks about the changes that have taken place in the 40 years since then

Forty years ago, in April 1971, the police closed down London's first overtly one-woman feminist art show after just one day, on the grounds of indecency. At first glance, British artist Margaret Harrison's drawings fitted into the imagery that fine art and popular culture were infatuated with at that time: comic-book superheroes and pneumatic Vargas-inspired pin-ups – think pop artist Tom Wesselmann's nudes and the 50s-style glamour girl sprawled, supine, on Roxy Music's debut album.

Yet, unaware of their double standards, the police objected to the portrayal of men in Harrison's work as demeaning. There was Hugh Hefner squeezed into a bunny girl costume, a beefy but emasculated Captain America wearing false breasts and a stars 'n' stripes-patterned basque, and Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist who tried to murder Andy Warhol, stamping on his Brillo box artwork.

These images, says Harrison, "questioned the idea of having a fixed sexuality". She has previously said the police "were reacting as males to the notion that there were other manifestations of sexuality than the strictly heterosexual variety, and that was threatening".

What was her reaction to the suppression of her work? "Shock. I'd been in a cocoon of discussions with other women," says Harrison, who founded the London Women's Liberation Art Group in 1970. "Until then, my work hadn't been in the public domain." Did it politicise her? "The events of 1968 had already done so, but the reaction to the show politicised me more."

A new exhibition of her work, I Am A Fantasy, which combines late 60s/ early 70s pieces with later additions, opens in London next week. It will include a reproduction of the Hefner piece, which went missing during the original exhibition. By coincidence, Hefner is back in the news: a Playboy Club is to open soon in Mayfair (the last one closed in 1981). Does this make Harrison feel her efforts to raise awareness of sexism were in vain? "No, this revival seems quaint, just good retro business. But it's out of step with today. My original bunny girl image highlighted the ridiculous idea that the only career for women was wearing this clothing. You might want to wear this stuff now and then, but it shouldn't be your only option. Lady Gaga and Madonna have used such imagery to great effect."

Harrison is less well known than feminist artists such as Mary Kelly and Nancy Spero, but is highly respected in the art world: the Tate owns seven of her pieces. Living in London in the 70s, the anti-Vietnam war protests and the American artists and writers who had escaped the draft inspired her, as did changes in fashion and rock music and the rise of pop art. "My Captain America piece was also a comment on the Vietnam war," she says. "Other drawings examined the media's equation of women with food. My work also referenced the underground cartoons of Robert Crumb, Eric Stanton and Oz magazine. I was attracted to Vargas's style, too, but wanted to unpick it."

Her 70s drawings crossed pop art with a nascent feminist sensibility, and were spiked with mordant humour: "I was critiquing American pop culture but using irony rather than being militant," she says.

Her late 70s art was more political still. She says Rape, a 1978 piece that spotlights the injustices against women in rape cases via newspaper cuttings and reproductions of classic paintings, did challenge attitudes. "The Arts Council, which bought it, planned to show it at the Serpentine but decided it couldn't because it was a 'family gallery' with free entry, so it moved it to the Hayward gallery. But it ignored the fact that it had been shown at the Battersea Arts Centre, where schoolteachers used it to introduce pupils to this issue."

Some of Harrison's contemporary versions of her 70s drawings, such as an image of actor David Walliams in drag, suggest things have changed for the better, with the notion of ambiguous sexuality becoming more mainstream: "I found an image of Walliams in a magazine wearing a stiffly corseted Vivienne Westwood dress. It struck me that, in the west, images of corseted women previously represented oppression. But this picture shows acceptance of a range of sexuality we couldn't have imagined in the early 70s."

• I Am a Fantasy is at Payne Shurvell, London EC2, from 15 April to 21 May.


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March 08 2011

New exhibition offers insight into women's experience of prison

Girls Behind Bars showcases the work of women prisoners, and offers the public a different view of the criminal justice system

See pictures of some of the artworks here

Eve McDougall has come a long way since 1979 when, at 15 years old, she was serving a two-year sentence in an adult prison for breaking a window. "I was hungry. I saw bread in a bakery so I broke in. I can't tell you the mental damage it did being in an adult jail. I was terrified. When I think how things have turned out I can't believe it."

Now 52, McDougall, who describes herself as a "self-taught" artist, is to show her artwork in an exhibition in London. From 9 March McDougall's work will be on display along with that of other women ex-prisoners and prisoners in a gallery run by the mental health charity, Together. "I've been drawing and painting since I was a kid," she explains. "I've always found it so therapeutic."

The free exhibition, Girls Behind Bars: Female Experiences of Justice, which McDougall helped organise, will include works ranging from video installation to sculpture to painting, as well as short stories and poetry. McDougall believes it will offer an insight into the often harsh experiences of women prisoners.

"The hope is that it will give members of the public and people who work in the justice system a different perspective of women who have been in jail. It's about opening minds."

Claire Monger, who co-manages the gallery for Together, says the idea for the exhibition came to her after meeting McDougall. She was so impressed she asked her to be a consultant on the project, working with experienced curators, Ronee Hui and Louise McDonnell. "Through the art and words of female prisoners, offenders and ex-offenders the exhibition aims to explore their life experiences, and what justice has been like, from their points of view," Monger explains. "We hope it will raise further awareness of the problems that can be caused by sending vulnerable women to prison, and the benefits of alternatives."

Timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the Corston report – a landmark inquiry headed by Baroness Corston following the deaths of six women at Styal prison, which looked at the experiences of vulnerable women within the criminal justice system – the organisers hope the project will shed renewed light on the issue.

Women account for just 5% of the prison population but campaigners are concerned – borne out by Corston's original report – that most are incarcerated for non-violent offences, while around 70% have two or more mental health conditions. Women also account for more than half of all self-harm among the prison population. Advocates are also worried that pressure on funding could threaten many of the support initiatives established after Corston was published.

"I really hope we can have an impact," McDougall says. "I want there to be greater awareness of our experiences. They matter."

The exhibition runs until 10 June at the Together Our Space gallery, 12 Old Street, London, EC1V 9BE.


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Cindy Sherman | Top 100 women

American artist and photographer, famed for her self-portraits in disguise, subverting notions of identity and gender

"The work is what it is and hopefully it's seen as feminist work, or feminist-advised work," says Cindy Sherman about her art, "but I'm not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff." But feminists were eager to claim her, inspired by her photographs that were not self-portraits but spoke of gender, identity and power.

In her early Untitled Film Stills, Sherman, always her own favourite muse, appears as B-movie cliches – as sex object or domestic drudge. In her Centerfolds series, she appears as a seductress and in another as terrified and vulnerable. Sherman, 57, has become everything from career woman to clown, beauty to hag, doll to dead, playing with disguise and stereotypes.

Her work, spanning more than 30 years, has made her one of the most important, and collected, female artists in the world. Last year, a 6ft photograph of Sherman as a muddied corpse sold for a record $2.7m (£1.7m).


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Zaha Hadid | Architect

Iraqi architect who has designed buildings all over the world and last year won the Stirling prize

Born and raised in Iraq, Hadid, 60, has lived in Britain since 1971, but her adopted country has been slow to embrace her talent – that is now changing, with her waved Olympic aquatic centre due to open, joining her school in Brixton and a cancer centre in Kirkcaldy. Last year she won the Stirling prize for her Maxxi museum in Rome.


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Tacita Dean | Top 100 women

Turner nominated artist who is set to fill the Tate's Turbine Hall

Tacita Dean, 45, will become a great deal more famous this October, when her work for Tate Modern's Turbine Hall is unveiled. She should already be a household name. Nominated for the Turner prize in 1998, notable In truth, she should already be a household name: the quiet seriousness, gentle curiosity and unfailing beauty of her art ought to have seen to that. But Dean, who lives and makes her work, largely in film, in Berlin, is not a limelight-seeker; she inspires not through personal flamboyance but through the careful seriousness of her practice. works include The Presentation Sisters, which quietly and observantly follows a group of Irish nunsas they perform the ritual of their daily lives. A recent work, Prisoner Pair, filmed pears suspended in schnapps as they grew and ripened in the bottle (an Alsatian delicacy), an almost eventless 11-minute work in which one's attention was brought to bear on to the minute incremental changes to burnished light and brooding shadow.


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Marina Abramovic | Top 100 women

Yugoslavian performance artist famed for her gruelling, intimate works that are legendary feats of endurance, self-exposure and risk

The daughter of high-ranking officers in Tito's Yugoslavia, Marina Abramovic makes gruelling, intimate performances that are legendary feats of endurance, self-exposure and risk. She has invited audiences to manipulate her body, providing whips, knives and a gun loaded with a single bullet. She has sat among rotting cow's bones, scrubbing them clean while singing a tragic lament, a performance that reflected on the civil wars in the Balkans, and won her a Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice Biennale. Her alarming art is leavened by great humour and tenderness. Abramovic is inspirational in setting the bar almost impossibly high for performance art.


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Rachel Whiteread | Top 100 women

British artist who filled the Tate Turbine hall with boxes and took on Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth

An accident of timing led to Whiteread, 48, being grouped into that noisy, boisterous 90s movement, the Young British Artists, but she was the least showy of her peers. Best known for her casts, turning empty space into a solid, some of Whiteread's best work doesn't even exist any more. The piece that won her the Turner prize in 1993, the first woman to win the award, was House, concrete poured into a Victorian terraced house in east London whose walls were then peeled away to reveal the solidified void; it was demolished soon afterwards. After she filled the Turbine hall of the Tate Modern with a landscape of 14,000 white plastic boxes – casts of cardboard boxes – in 2005 for her work Embankment, they were dismantled and recycled.

Whiteread, who was raised in Essex and London, and studied sculpture at the Slade School of Art, is often concerned with the familiarity of domesticity – tables, chairs, rooms – but she can also do art on a big scale, chosen to create Vienna's Holocaust memorial and as one of the artists who created work for Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth. "She has always talked about intimacy and quietness in her work, and yet she is also the only artist of her generation who has tackled these huge public projects. That is a very rare balance," says Mark Francis, director of the Gagosian gallery.


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Paula Rego | Top 100 women

Portuguese painter who broke boundaries at the Slade School of Art and was nominated for the Turner prize in her 50s

To look over Paula Rego's body of work is to look over the landscape of women's experience: desire, abortion, rape, female circumcision, childbirth, family relationships, dominating and being dominated by men; her masculine female figures are sometimes lonely, but usually fierce and often bent on revenge. Success came relatively late in life – a graduate of the Slade School of Art at a time when female artists were taught how to support and inspire their "superior" male artist partners ("women were good either for going to bed with or making good wives – particularly if they came with their own money and could support the men".

Rego, now 75, was in her 40s before her first big solo exhibition, and in her 50s when she was nominated for the Turner prize. Although she was made a dame last year, Rego was born in Portugal and in 2009, a In 2009, Paula Rego – House of Stories, a gallery dedicated to housing her work, opened in Portugal. Germaine Greer, whose portrait by Rego hangs in the National Portrait Gallery says, "no other artist has ever come close to capturing Rego's sense of the phantasmagoria that is female reality."


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