Embodying Belfast’s Feminist Activism – Ep 4


Helen website photo

(Photo Credit: Helen McBride speaking at a Belfast Reclaim the Night event in 2015.  Photo by Ciara McMullan.)


I’ve [co-founder Sam] had the privilege to know my friend Helen McBride for at least seven years now.  She currently lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and in the span of our friendship she has become increasingly immersed in feminist activism.  We met while graduate students at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, and from the beginning her work and energies were directed to studying and highlighting the role of women and feminism.  Her graduate historical research explored the role of Northern Irish women community organizers within the peace process during the Troubles.  While in Laramie she became involved in the community’s Take Back the Night and SlutWalk events.  When she returned to Belfast following her graduate work, she became heavily involved in the feminist activist community, co-founding the city’s Hollaback chapter, joining the Belfast Feminist Network, and becoming a member of the Belfast Go Girl collective of young, creative women, as well as the city’s local roller derby community.  As far as I’m concerned, Helen exemplifies how millions of women embody their feminist activism and politics within their everyday life.



In this episode of Somatic, I talk with Helen about her feminist activities in Belfast, and ask her to speak to how she sees herself embodying her politics and activism in her day-to-day activities.  As Helen discusses in the episode, the embodiment of feminist activism is a particularly complicated subject within the context of Northern Ireland, as questions of feminism and the role of women become intersected with issues of ethno-nationalist and religious conflict, as well as the country’s ongoing peace process.  Helen illuminates how feminism has been impacted by Northern Irish politics, shedding light on the struggles women have endured as they fight for greater equality and spaces for creative, feminist expression.  As the world continues to deal with an era of increasing austerity measure and the rise of Brexit and Donald Trump, there are few topics more important to challenging misogyny, sexism, racism, anti-semitism than that of how women already embody their feminist activism.

For those who wish to read Helen’s master’s thesis on the role of women during the Northern Ireland peace process during the Troubles, see:

McBride, Helen M. “Northern Irish Women and the Third Sector.” University of Wyoming, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2012.

Helen also does a podcast with her friend Niamh called Oatcast, where they discuss “the trials and tribulations of modern life as queer ladies living in Belfast.”  Click here to visit their podcast.

Here are links to the various organizations in Belfast that Helen discusses in the episode:

Belfast Feminist Network

Go Girl community of creative females

Hollaback Belfast

Belfast City Rockets

Here is a recent article in The New Statesman on the politics of abortion rights in Northern Ireland.

Below are some interesting articles on feminist activism and the role of gender in the American and global (sporting) context:

A recent piece in Harper’s on the 2017 women’s march on Washington, D.C. following the election of President Donald Trump.

A recent article in Guernica online magazine on the importance of considering gender in the world’s response to climate change.

For work more specifically on the intersections of gender and sport/physical culture, see sport scholars Cheryl Cooky, Michael Messner and Michela Musto’s recent study of exclusion of women’s sport in television news and highlights shows.