Comments from April 2003 – July 2003

From Jennifer Drew

This is to say thank you very much to Andy for his article on abortion [Reproductive Freedom in the UK].

The myth still exists in the UK that all women can have an abortion on demand, but as Andy stated so concisely, the decision rests with a medical doctor – not the woman! Finally, just to say publicising campaigns which threaten the right for women to seek abortions do work. I recently joined NAC when I learned there is a campaign being mounted by Pro-Lifers and I have followed the on-going threat to Abortion Rights for Women in America, particularly the increasingly violent campaign being waged upon Abortion Clinics and staff working there.

From Sam

I’m glad that you’ve gone for the contemporary rather than young label. Selfishly on the basis that now I’m creeping up the line of age boxes, I was feeling quite excluded. Wasn’t I allowed to join in? Had I missed the boat? fortunately not – Now I just have to worry about whether I’m a feminist or not! Seriously, how would one know if one was? I’m not a very complex woman, I can only understand temporal physics and existentialism when extremely drunk. Is there a test I can take? Would the f-word do a pop quiz so I can check? (sorry getting distracted a male colleague is doing the “I don’t know” which actually means “I can’t be arsed” and the office manager is not letting him get away with it….tee hee. Second worst (usually male but not exclusively) crime after “Where is x” which means “I can’t be bothered to look / remeber where I put things / please get it for me” Do men do it more because they can get away with it or because it usually gets a response?)

I’ll go now before I wander off topic even more. Excellent site. Keep up the good work. (5 days until new Potter book, 14 days until my 32nd birthday. I know which one I’m looking forward to more. Take care.

From Hypatia Martinez

I just read an article entitled, “Pick ‘n’ Mix Feminism.” I also read the article on Sisterhood [Whatever Happened to Sisterhood?] and while I found certain parts rubbing me the wrong way, I’m glad women are talking about feminism. I’m 27 years old, Dominican-American, a college graduate and presently unemployed (all part of Bush’s plan to boost the economy I’m sure…). Anyhow, I’ve been involved with feminism ever since I was in college and had a feminist-attitude (??) even before then. I joined NOW in NYC and was so disappointed. There was such a tug of war between older and younger feminists. I was so disappointed when both groups got together to discuss the gap. The older women called us the Britney brigade.

1. Oppression is an equal opportunity offender. I think what our foremothers didn’t get around to REALLY looking at is that gender oppression is not the only thing that puts women down. I really believe that even if we lived in a society where women were equal, women would still be strippers and prostitutes…and economy has nothing to do with it.

Women, like men, have self-esteem problems that often have nothing to do with gender. I watch all these reality shows with women trying to find love and I’m blown away by the desire for ATTENTION…even if they get embarrassed in the process. Women, HUMANS, need recognition that they didn’t get from their parents. And while i will continue to fight for political, economic and sexual freedom, if i ever have children, i will NURTURE them….give them TIME to share with me so they’re not off asking MTV to follow them around on “the Real World” (a show that i am addicted to, sorry to say!). ha ha.

2. Sexuality. I also think that the “Third Wave of Feminism” is about striking a balance between Mental power and Sexual power. the mothers of feminism (from the ones fighting for the vote to the ones who fought for abortion rights) needed men to see that they were capable of success, achievement. And if you noticed, most of the wonderful strides made have to do with political and economic issues. In the meantime, we haven’t learned to embrace our sexuality. The fact that the “Vagina Monologues” hit a nerve is proof of this. Sexuality is a part of us and a very powerful one. It’s even one that scares men cuz they don’t understand it and they want to dominate it.

I don’t go around in short mini skirts and i think most women in clubs who wear them do it for men. Not many women are admiring their own thighs in short mini skirts. And besides, I don’t want to explore my sexuality by satisfying someone else’s. But what i do want to do is explore how it feels to be sexual…and contrary to what Christina Aguilera thinks, I don’t think being “proud of my sexuality” means showing off my ass.

So the question is…how does one embrace their sexuality without being exploited..and i’m not talking about the often sugary goddess babble that many of my older peasant dressed friends say with their long, uncombed hair as they light incense. I’m talking about being a “MODERN” woman, educated, attractive, and horny and finding my medium. Can i have a one-night stand and really feel good about myself? is that empowerment or enslavement? is this new wave of female bisexuality really about women feeling comfortable to express their passions or just a slew of drunk girls enjoying gawking men? I think it’s the 3rd-wavers who need to further investigate that social/personal issue…i don’t want to live in a world where i am no longer oppressed at work but dying emotionally at home. And like Elizabeth Cady Stanton wisely noted, (and this is paraphrased) the revolution will come when we investigate the institution of marriage. She knew that once we got things in check in our personal lives, we could get our public lives in check as well. :)

From Aine

Hi there, I really enjoy getting your newsletter and reading what other women have to say about the world around us. However, I didn’t think the article by Andrew Bowden [Real Men Drink Pints] had any place on a feminist website. It had nothing to do with feminism at all! In any way shape or form. If he is that bothered about getting a nice gift for a man, or indeed a woman he knows and loves, then he should apply a little bit of imagination and get somethign that the person he is buying for will actually like and want rather than just chosing from the narrow selection of gifts packaged for him by supermarkets and the like. There are tons of gender nuetral cards with photos or prints on. This isn’t
something new or shocking – shops market pot pourri and bath salts as gifts for the ladies, and socks and novelty ties as gifts for them men. You don’t have to buy them!

The other male contributor’s article [Reproductive Freedom in the UK] was interesting and on a subject of interest to all women, and I would like to hope all men – exactly the type of subject I want to read about on a contemporary feminist website, so please don’t think my comments are just because I object to a man writing.

I just object to a man writing about irrelevant nonsense.

Thank you for all the work you put into the site Catherine!

From Lizzie Garcha

In response to ‘Real Men Drink Pints’ there is a problem as to when it comes to buying fathers day presents, but the same occurs for mothers day presents, and childrens toys. There are definite toys for boys and girls. But, there’s an easy way to get round it all… just be a bit more inventive and get something that someone will like, not what the shops tell you people will like.

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

Aine, Thank you very much for your comments and support, which are always appreciated! :-)

I felt that Andrew Bowden’s piece was a light-hearted and humorous article (in the tradition of previous F-Word contributors), which poked fun at society’s ridiculously limited concept of masculinity. The article, I felt, demonstrated that men *can* critique mainstream masculinity from a pro-feminist perspective; and I feel this is an important feminist project, especially as the only groups taking up this issue seem to be the anti-feminist men’s groups who blame feminism for all men’s woes. Using several everyday examples, Andrew Bowden demonstrated that the reason why masculinity is so limited and prescribed in our culture is because masculinity defines itself against femininity, which is seen as weak and of lesser value (hence the only way men are allowed to experience “feminine” bubble baths and still remain “real men” is by packaging them as hyper-masculine beer-cans!). I know that some feminists disagree with me, but it’s my view that feminism should embrace critiques of masculinity – because whatever society says is “masculine” implies that the polar opposite characteristic is “feminine” (the “Mars and Venus” argument). For these reasons, I think that men should be encouraged to critique masculinity so that they can contribute to the goals of feminism, which includes liberation for both sexes.

Thanks for your comments! Catherine, Editor

From Lorraine Smith

I was very impressed with Andrew Bowden’s article, “Real Men Drink Pints”. Not only was it refreshing to see a male point of view on the site, but it proves just how much that dreaded f-word is still feared in modern society. Men are being made to feel that feminism is robbing them of their masculinity, because advertisers and product manufacturers are telling them so. No matter how often celebrities like David Beckham show that young men want to bow to their feminine side occasionally, the resulting media reaction will have most blokes believing that they are being opressed by their women if they do. Until attitudes change, I fear that buying a half-decent Father’s Day gift will remain an elusive task.

From N.L.

Very interesting review on “To Wong Foo…” by Katherine Lubar.

Having seen the film several times and thoroughly enjoyed it, Ms. Lubar’s review gave me a different perspective in the social problems glossed over in the film.

I hope you will have more reviews by Ms. Lubar.

From Liz Sutton, Press & Information Co-ordinator, Women’s Environmental Network

Re Breast Cancer reaches record levels [Item mentioned in June News pages].

What Cancer Research UK failed to mention in their announcement was that environmental factors are probably contributing to the alarming rise. Breast cancer cases nearly doubled in the 20 years to 1999 (the year the 40,000+ figure is from). This reflects a similar pattern across the industrialised world over the last 50 years or so. Why is it that the ‘reasons’ given always seem to be our fault: we’re living too long, having children too late or not at all, drinking too much and now eating too much? Genetics only account for about 5-10% of cases – and do not explain why the cancer risk for daughters of women who have migrated from a country with low incidence to a country with higher incidence, parralels the risk in their new country. What never seems to be mentioned is the role played by environmental pollutants, notably industrially-made chemicals that mimic or disrupt oestrogen. Surprisingly little research is being done to establish how these are contributing to rising rates of this (or other hormone-related diseases), despite plenty of indicators that should be ringing loud alarm bells. Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) thinks there’s enough evidence already to justify taking precautionary action to phase the most suspect chemicals out of use and is campaigning for action by Government, health services and responsible industries.

Breast cancer can be prevented – not by selling us more drugs to block the effects of the pollutants but by removing the pollutants in the first place. We need people to support us to get that message across and make clear that women don’t want to get breast cancer in the first place.

F-word readers who are interested can find out more by visiting or emailing us at [email protected].

From Damien

Dear Editor, I stumbled upon your website while searching Google for information on the year when women began to vote in the UK. I’m sure that was several good hours ago – good because I’ve learned a great deal from being inadvertently side-tracked from what I was writing, despite not yet finding what I was looking for.

Your articles on a wide range of issues are not only informative within the context of what they are serving to discuss, but as a whole they have also served to inform me on the importance of feminism in this day and age, and to highlight my hitherto ignorance as to what feminism represents.

Despite not being a stupid person by any means, I have never understood contemporary feminism, or the requirement for it – to a great extent at least. This is an awful shame, because the enlightenment I have gleaned from reading – and pondering – a few of the featured articles is remarkable. It is a terrible pity that feminism is no longer being publicly represented on a wide scale by the sort of well-meaning, intelligent women who contribute to your site, but by a crass, feeble-minded and loud-mouthed minority who have distorted notions regarding feminism. Nonetheless, it is these people who are heard above all else, I feel, and I have until now ignorantly viewed contemporary feminism as an obnoxious and relentless conspiracy by a maverick splinter group of embittered female guerillas to exact their apocalyptic revenge upon all men once and for all.

Yes, I do exaggerate, but only slightly! I am a 20 year old university student, so my peers, outside friends and I have no real knowledge of the battle women have fought in the last few decades, and what it has achieved. Unfortunately, in the few times that feminism has briefly been brought up in conversation, not once have we considered what it hasn’t achieved. The overriding assumption seems to be that there isn’t anything left to fight for, more or less; the battle has been won, and those who still complain are merely men-haters or paranoid women whose minds are running a few decades too slow.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything I read by your contributors, but that is merely a product of personal opinion, and not of gender induced knee-jerk reactions. There is just no use in blindly agreeing with someone else’s opinion. As I’ve said, I see all this as an invaluable insight, and I’ve bookmarked the site for future reference.

I hope my letter imbues your hearts with some hope, but at the same time reaffirms your knowledge that there is a long way to go before things change satisfactorily: both in terms of alerting people to the lingering inequalities we face and in finally ridding society of them. I can’t offer any solutions, but I will give your website – and feminism itself – a well-thought mention on my weblog, which a number of my male peers read regularly.

From Ant

Re: Bend Over Girls – He’s in Freak Mode I do remember the video, it in my opinion depicted as you stated a man apparently being urged into a sexual act with his girlfriends best pal. I would say that the man appears to be young, still not in control of his urges and with an interesting route left to travel to manhood. Still it’s only a video and i agree the tune sound okay.

ps. All those rap and RnB videos with the cruel boyfriend cheating on the singer and finally receiving some type of physical retribution are also just videos and i do not see the incredible issues you have extracted from the reelist suggested in these. enjoyed your stuff anyway.

From Helen

I just read your piece on the change from ‘young’ to ‘contemporary’ and found it insightful, balanced, thoughtful and ultimately honest.

It sometimes feels that there are few enough of us fems about anyway, without getting too divisive and exclusive. Anyway, the internet is a medium that (to some extent) tranforms identity from something that is perceived into something that is expressed – a much more dynamic and interesting interpretation of what it is to be a woman in society today.

I looooove the site and might even think of contributing one day!!

From Daisy

Re: Reply to Nigel Planer

Agree with Adrian Hopkins [see comment further down this page] that poor old Nigel Planer supports wimmin and feminism and has been tragically misunderstood by some unempathetic people. It’s just…if only he hadn’t used THAT word…”castratingly”!!! Ow.

From Anna

I just wanted to mail my thanks and congratulations to Rachael Hawkins on writing such an informative and interesting article on the experiences of young women in science, which I was directed to from the Comments page.

As a woman who has recently finished a course of postgraduate study I can confirm that these problems are not confined to the field of Physics. Reading the article I had one of those great affirming ‘I am not alone!’ moments, thanks Rachael.

I am presently experiencing the difficult post-post-graduate decisions stage described and I wanted to say well done to Rachael for making her choice and wish her lots of good luck with the Art foundation year.

From RichVanDeusen

Re: One Beat – Sleater Kinney Why is it that people reviewing S-K records (especially the people that like them) can’t tell which one’s Carrie and which one’s Corin? That’s Corins’ singing you’re talking about.

From Katy

I found out about your website while researching feminism for my sociology course, and your site has become a regular fixture on my ‘history’ list. The articles published are relevant, inspiring and informed. Andy Roberts’ article on reproductive freedom in the UK prompted me to write this email.

Having recently gone through the medical abortion procedure, I experienced a series of doubts and periods of incredible despair and regret, and found myself always asking ‘what if?’

This should not be the case. Women should have the right to make a choice and not suffer the shame and stigma of having an abortion. Its about time someone addressed the issue. Thankyou for your time.

From Jessica

Just discovered this site by accident and it is fantastic! As another comment says, thank god I’m not alone. It’s wonderful to read funny and intelligent reviews from a viewpoint which makes sense to me. Recently a
friend and I were discussing how alienating it can be when you’re watching a good film or tv programme and they keep throwing exploitative, objectifying images of women in your face. It’s especially difficult when I watch with my boyfriend and he can’t understand why it upsets me so much. By the way, I love your review of The Matrix Reloaded – I agree that Trinity is a great and inspiring female character and shows how even classically beautiful women don’t have to be merely sex objects, ‘guardian angels’, or love interests. Keep up the great work!

From Ann Kaloski (age … oh, don’t give a toss!)

Just came eacross this – it’s really great, and glad to see the ‘young’ shifting to ‘contemporary’ … now I can join in and maybe look at Helen Mirren as well as Ms Dynamite, Miss Marple alongside Buffy (I’m an avid fan of all four).

From Inez Malcolm.

I read your review on the channel four programme Model Behaviour. I thought I would email my comments.

Being young myself I am fully aware of the pressures of “looking good” and having the “ideal figure”. I used to have an eating disorder so am aware of how a person can be influenced so much by media that they will do anything to look “good”.

But this pressure is everywhere, even at the age of five years and up you are subject to it, I mean have you ever seen a fat Barbie?!? We get it drummrd into us without knowing it that thin is beautiful. We have an obsession with dieting and healthy eating. Model behaviour didnt influence teenagers or young women to diet,or lose weight. anymore than any other programme, or magazine.

We have to accept that image is a big part of our sociaty and I think programmes like model behaviour are good, and I dont think they should be stopped, we cant wrap people up in cotton wool, we cant think we cant show thin people on tv because young girls may get depressed or develop an eating disorder! If they want to get depressed or develop an eating disorder go to WHSmith and look on the magazine shelves, thats full of pictures of young thin atrractive women.

Young girls have to get things into preportion,and like I said I had an eating disorder so I made the mistake. But I learnt from my mistake.

If we stop showing programmes like model behaviour then we may as wells top programmes like, Top of the pops,The music channels. And all teenage girl magazines and blokes magazines, like Max power and FHM.

I appreciate that everyones entiteld to ther own opinion and thank god we are!

From Rainer

Just by reading Natasha Forrest’s article “Where are the Radicals?” I was given a lot of breathing space I missed out on for a long time. Thanks.

From Laura Sheard

What a fantastic site! I came across it by following a link from an article on Guardian Unlimited. I love the emphasis on “younger” women and agree with what a lot of people on this site are saying – I often feel like I am the ONLY one to feel this way.

From Adrian Hopkins

Re: Response to Nigel Planer I think you’ve misunderstood what Nigel Planer was trying to say. He wasn’t portraying himself and his gender as being hard done by nor was he blaming women or feminists for the problems males face in life. I believe that he supports women and feminism, and that the point he was trying to make was that a small proportion of millitant feminists give the rest of their gender a bad name, and scare people away.

It’s just an opinion feel free to disagree with me, but as a man I can relate to what he’s saying. There are women out there who I think of as being to feminism what extremist fanatics are to religion.

I feel he’s very sympathetic to the plight of women, he’s just trying to point out what he’s found from his own experiance, which is that feminism should be about teaching, educating and informing men rather than trying to get some kind of retribution, because that’s not productive.

From Kate Marzillier

I found your site while Googling for feminist websites after being extremely wound up by recent issues of Glamour magazine. Excellent site – thank god I’m not alone!

From dj

I just have to say this is a wonderful site. Very inspiring! As a “born male” I am at conflict with my ideas and the gender I am precieved. To me Feminsim has never been a dirty word. It has been the biggest and greatest influence on my life. keep up the great work.

From Natasha Gravill

Dear Catherine, having just read your review of ‘Bitch’ by Elizabeth Wurtzel, after logging in for the first time at the instruction of Kristin Aune I thought I might offer some thoughts. Like yourself, I really wanted to like it and found similar problems.However, I believe there is an explanation for Wurtzel ‘veering off on tangents’ and ‘writing about whatever comes into her head’ as you so accurately described; she was on drugs, more accurately, Ritalin and cocaine as I went on to find out from a past Observer article.(24/02/02)Having read ‘Prozac Nation’ perhaps you were already aware of this, only it was not noted in your review. I’m looking forward to checking out the rest of your site. It’s comforting to know you guys are out there! With warm regards,

From Dee

What an excellent site! I was browsing….trying to find the Trouble and Strife website (and I still haven’t so if you know the addy I’d appreciate it if you’d let me have it!). Very interesting reading here though. You’re now in my favourites! Thanks.

From Katie

Re: Bad Mothers Haahahahahaha! Brilliant! I totally disagree with everything now…. but thats exactly what I assumed motherhood to be …… before I had my kids. I was 17 when I had my first, need I say unplanned! I’ve just had my second at 24 unplanned again!

I am still kick ass rock chick (hahaha does this sound desperate?) I still have a life…..and a band……I still play rock music too loud…. but I’m a bloody good mum. (and I dont have a twat the size of wookey hole, despite 2 natural deliveries LOL!!!!)

No one mentions how amazing having babies is…..the X-files has got nothing on growing small people inside your body….how wierd is that! Anyway I truly madly deeply love my babies, they are the best thing I ever did!

From Celia

I am writing on the subject of your piece on the documentary “Hairy Women”. I was relieved to read a different point of view, it was very refreshing to me, and very like my own point of view (which always helps!)

Since I decided to stop shaving – being a poor student over Christmas last year, I decided that expensive razor blades and shaving foam were innessential compared to, for example, food – I have not noticed either a change in any bodily odour or anything else and it did piss me off to see that women with enough money to have expensive laser treatment on their nonexistant hair were shown as the very best examples of Modern Womanhood As It Is Lived Today. Especially since I can barely afford decent razors (cheap ones cut me to bits).

The best/worst comment on the show was when the PR worker said she was “suspicious” of women who don’t get rid of their body hair. I wondered what that meant. Would she have thought I was a terrorist? A criminal? I think she
meant she’s suspicious of poor people. Or lesbians. Or poor lesbians like myself, in case we try to rape her and steal her wallet while we’re doing it.

I spoke to my mother about this, and she said that (having been a hippy in the 1970s) she’d found that most people don’t actually give a crap – especially the men she fancied.

I don’t know what my point is except to say thankyou for agreeing with me – I find “unusual” viewpoints like this so refreshing. Also, I may have written in response to the article earlier, but I only found this site today.

From Kate Tyler

We live in a male world. Websites like this help us to claw back what is ours. I cannot believe that we are fighting for EQUALITY. We live in the dark ages. An article you maybe interested in is ‘who says feminism is dead?’ by Kristin Aune which appears in todays Guardian. Coincidently this is where I found out about thefword.

Thanks, and keep up the good work.

From MyrtleGirl

Re: Responses to “Bloody Disgrace” VAT was imposed on san pro back in the 1980s. Unfortunately VAT cannot be removed from san pro as European rules say that once VAT has been imposed on a product it cannot be removed entirely. However, VAT can be reduced to the lowest rate of any member country (which is currently 5%), and after a long campaign by many Labour women MPs, Gordon Brown reduced the VAT on san pro to 5%, the lowest VAT rate.

Gordon was however, too embarrassed to mention even the phrase “san pro” in the House of Commons, let alone words like sanitary towels or tampons, so the reduction didn’t get much publicity. The reason you didn’t see the price go down (except in a few stores like Boots who highlighted the change), is because many companies kept the difference for themselves.

From Zoe Bremer

I read the article Get Mad. I looked at one of the websites that the author didn’t like. It’s odd that she doesn’t support the concept of father’s rights. I was raised to believe in equal rights. I cannot condone any law that puts women before men or that grants mothers rights that fathers do not have. We now have a Human Rights Act that has failed to grant fathers the same rights and responsibilities as mothers. Am I, as a feminist, meant to support this anomaly? If women want equal opportunities then they must stop monopolising children and insist on fathers doing their fair share of childcare, i.e. 50%. The only fault I can see on one of these websites is that the author mistakenly thought that our stupid, sexist law of ‘infanticide’ covered the whole of the UK. Scotland does not recognise such a law. In Scotland murder is murder.

From Sarah

Re: The Biological Clock.

A lot of the time, women are told to have children because:

1/ It is selfish not to

2/ If they don’t they will die old lonely and infirm. No-one will visit them and it will be their fault.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in care homes, both nursing and residential. Close family members owned one for several years. The number of residents with family, large families even, that do not receive visitors is astounding. I’ve seen a large number of very lonely older people, mainly women, dwindle away with neglect. Their families leave them to rot. This is quite often nothing to do with the distance they live from the home. This message that having children will save you from a lonely old age is incorrect.

And yet from somewhere we are bombarded with the message that unless we have children we will have no-one. What about friends you make at these homes? Many older people make friends, and prefer the company of friends who have similar experiences/ outlooks. They even form sexual relationships, though this is a taboo subject that no-one seems ready to discuss.

There are far too many old people out there with children who are lonely for me to believe that.

From Daisy

I was stunned by the MSM “25 Burning Questions”. To admit I had MSM as my homepage now makes me blush even more deeply than when a big, strong guy gives me an intense stare as he opens a door and ushers me through with a grandiose gesture. And when he clocks my responding grandiose gesture, it’s snort, snarl, “What do these wimmin WANT?” Go, Holly!!!

Another burning question: female sexual dysfunction, so-called. Brilliant article. Yes, if only those unreconstructed guys out there could free themselves from the tyranny of the thrusting penis and realise there are other ways to make a woman come (which said ways have been documented in many well-written books and articles going back further than the 1950’s, I do believe!)then wouldn’t we be so much happier? Sigh. And don’t even get me started on those smarmy-pharmy companies. It’s not pills women need (I’m referring to hetero women here, as I’m..),it’s evolved men who can locate a clitoris as easily as the nearest pub (sorry about the gender stereotype there, I’m just employing it to pithily illustrate my point). Oh, and the pharmaceutical companies might like to develop pills which prevent men burping and smelling of beer and farts, because that would help female sexual arousal considerably. Doesn’t it all seem logical when looked at from a different perspective?! Great issue. I LOVE the f-word!

p.s. To the Famous Missmogga: I notice you signed yourself “missmogga the unpopular” when you wrote a comment on one of the articles.

Ahh, come on, Mz M! You might not win Diplomat of the Year (supposing you wanted to), but you did raise valid points, which I admitted in a later comment after my anger had cooled (and wasn’t THAT big of me? yeah!). So just carry on getting in faces and up noses (ugh) and sparking heated debates. It don’t mean we don’t love ya! All the best and I send you a hug.

From Kristin Abkemeier

Dear F-word, First of all, I want to commend you on your fabulous website which I only discovered today while searching for articles about women leaving physics (about which more below). I am pleased to see that you did review Bitch magazine favorably–I am an American who usually lives in San Francisco, and I have enjoyed that magazine for five years now. From what I’ve seen of your site so far, you are doing much the same thing but focused on British women’s issues. Bravo!

As I mentioned above, I found your site through a very specialized search, and my entry onto your site was via Rachael Hawkins’s November 2002 article about why she is leaving academic physics [The Experiences of Young Women in Science]. I left physics myself six years ago, going into information technology and then studying illustration, fine art, and design, and I very much can relate to the mixed emotions she expressed in her article. Like her, I loved the subject but had an unlucky graduate school career, and although I had the option to continue on along the academic career track, I chose not to because when I added up all considerations, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle. Perhaps if I’d written an articulate piece like she did, I might have been able to enlighten someone like her a little earlier on…but sadly, it seems like we each have to figure out for ourselves what we can take. Incidentally, I was the only woman in my graduate school class of 25, and while that means that 100% of the women in my class left physics after finishing her Ph.D., the majority of male classmates to whom I was closest also left physics, too. Basically, the guys I related to the most also had real problems with the aggressive style needed to survive in academic physics. And there’s that very large factor known as “luck”, and I have stories to tell about lab politics, let me tell you. Her article really hit home with me, because although I strongly feel that I made the right choice in leaving physics six years ago, there is still a part of me that is unresolved about it as well. If you could please forward this letter to her, I would be most grateful.

From Katherine

Re: Bad Mothers Claire Riley’s rant is just that, a rant, but whilst it is understandable and a bit funny, it is also just plain juvenile. Motherhood comes in all shapes and sizes; there is a lot of pressure on women to have kids and be saints about it but there’s also a lot of pressure on women NOT to have kids. Claire should read the article on Women in Science in your excellent forum!

As for the comments about “twat” size, women’s vaginas are for the most part designed to stretch a good deal; there are exercises one can do to restore muscle tone; and presumably one’s partner has *something* to do with sexual satisfaction.

I have to say (as an “elderly primigravida”, age 45, one 2-year-old son and a doctorate in a scientific subject)that Claire’s article sounds more like a state of rage about herself than an interesting comment about maternity. However, it is true that there are a lot of people who think a person, especially a woman, isn’t a Real Human [TM] unless she has children, and that is deeply offensive and annoying. But castigating motherhood as such isn’t a contribution to the debate. Claire had a mother and was a child. It’s a fact. The question is how do we live our lives, with or without children, with dignity, and frankly I would hate to have to work with a Claire as a colleague, because she would be one of those women who hate having mothers in the office and so would not accord me the dignity or respect she clearly would have for a single and childless woman. Women who hate maternity per se just play into the hands of the sexist men and women who run companies and other organisations. I suspect that when Claire gets a bit more experience of life she will wake up to this reality and modify her state of rage a bit. For her sake, I hope so! Smiling wryly,

From Lily

I read the article 25 Burning Questions. I can’t believe that people are putting such sexist crap on the internet. I have been to the ‘women’s’ page on MSN and it is filled with stuff about appearance and ‘aren’t pink things great?’ and how to look great for your man (no equivalent section about how to look great for your woman that I could find on any part of MSN) while the men’s page is presumably filled with interesting stuff about computers and cars. Now I am a girl and guess what? My favourite colour is NOT pink, and I HATE makeup, and I am much more interested in action movies and computers than frocks and boyfriends. I mean if you like that kind of stuff that’s fine, but what I object to is companies who assume women are pink and girly and men are hard and like trucks and manly stuff. A great article. Keep up the good work Holly!

From Helen

Hi Catherine and co, I really liked the article “Bloody Disgrace“, as the awful waste (both environmental and money-related!) involved in disposable san pro has been bugging me just lately. So I was overjoyed to find a link at the end of the article to a site in the UK which sells the Keeper. However, I went back to the site today to order one and they’ve stopped selling them! Undaunted, I asked Google, and found a site selling both the Keeper and a silicon-based, UK-manufactured (and cheaper) alternative. It’s at: Thanks for another great issue of the F-Word!

From Zoe Bremer

Re: Bloody Disgrace Re: Sanitary protection, A diaphragm works perfectly effectively and is FREE on the NHS. Personally speaking, I don’t need to bother; thanks to years of menstrual problems, I’ve had a Mirena coil fitted. I still get the occasional twinge of pain but it’s cheaper than buying tampons.

From Davina henderson

Re: Bloody Disgrace It’s all very well to say that we might not want the economy style towels etc. that we might get if we got them free on the NHS but why the hell have they got VAT on them. Last time i checked they weren’t a luxury item, but a health issue. Diane Abbott campaigned for this to be taken off for years but the male-dominated House of Commons so persistently ignored her that it ended up completely off the agenda. Anyway the condoms we get free on the NHS are perfectly ok so why shouldn’t we expect the same from our sanitary protection?

Click here for more responses to the article “Bloody Disgrace”

From Lizzie Garcha

I know that this isn’t strictly relavent to the topics on here at the moment, but today I read an article from the Weekend in the Guardian called ‘Against the Rapists’. The article was about young girls in certain areas of France who had been gang raped, often more than once. Almost all involved were under the age of 18, and regularly the girls were too scared to report the crime, with one girl not even knowing that what had been done to her was a crime. I know that this site raises important issues for feminists, but surely an issue such as this needs far more support than anything else on here. If feminism is to prove that it hasn’t become a sleeping movement, then there needs to be more pressure and action against what is happening in France at the moment. The article can be read online at:,3605,928781,00.html

From Maria Ng

Dear Catherine, Belated comments on the age issue. Haven’t got around to reading the most recent debate on it, but I thoroughly agreed with comments from people who didn’t think the ‘young’ aspect of the site was at all obtrusive/exclusive/that noticeable. Also, one of the many great things about the site is that it is what people make of it – i.e. what they contribute to it, and it didn’t seem at all that you would exclude anything for not being of relevance to ‘young’ feminism.

As someone else suggested, if any readers aren’t happy with the site, they could well go and set up their own, indeed there certainly aren’t enough British feminist websites out there, the more the better. And my initial thought was ‘I need something that says it’s for young feminists’ – otherwise I’m a drift in a culture where the only identity on offer for young women seems to be the kind of fashion/celebrity/relationship obsessive that the glossy women’s mags think they’re addressing. And it’s young women who are going to carry feminism forward.

But then I later thought, maybe an alternative tag for the site might be something like ’21st century feminism’ – the real point is, that the site is about feminism being alive & relevant to women in the here and now. And though I still feel very young, at almost 30, maybe in a decade or too I might feel a little riled at something that says it’s for the young. :) best wishes,

From Andy Smith

I’ve just spent some time reading the website to find out the feminist view on certain issues, and was refreshed by some of the diverse views offered, especially regarding the Michael Jackson interview. As what I would like to think I am, an un-biased outsider I couldn’t help feeling a man-hating under-current, and got the impression that in some cases the next sentences would be that “women should unite and destroy the commen enemy (men)”. I do personally think that way of thinking can be very un-healthy in society.

On Michael Jackson, he could’ve got away with being liked, being accepted, etc if he conducted himself a little better. The sleeping with other children, well you’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt with that. However dangling his baby over the side of a high-rise building and saying daft things like he wants to adopt one baby from every continent just causes to alarm people. Understandably so… And how many lies has he told about his appearance? Fair enough he doesn’t have to tell us the truth cause it’s none of our business. Cheers.

From Rae

I know ths is hardly original considering the amount of emails you’ve had singing your praise, but I thought that after a long time reading, I’d contact you to say thankyou! I have been a feminist in thinking since i was a little girl, but I only started finding out about the ‘F-Word’ and what it truly means a couple of years ago, and this site was one of the first places I came across. I am 16 and it distresses me that not enough young women my age are even prepared to entertain theidea of feminism, but rather than moaning on about it I find comfort in websites such as this, and in the few like-minded people i know, one of whom is my mum which is pretty cool. thanks to Catherine and all the contributers!

From Gandalf

Re: Review of “24” Is it fair to expect 24 to portray it’s characters as normal human beings when the show’s essence is more or less devolved from reality and relies on constant schemeing double crossing plot twists from every side? For me the entire show ended up being a self-cliche.

From Andy

Re: Page 3 – Ban it! Over a decade ago, Clare Short tried to ban Page 3 by introducing a bill in Parliament. Must have seemed like a good idea at the time. The problem was, if I remember rightly, she proposed to ban all “sexually provocative” pictures of women from newspapers (I hope I’m quoting correctly, there). This would’ve posed some pretty thorny problems if the bill had become law. But, of course, such a bizarrely-framed piece of censorship was doomed to failure anyway, and surely Short must have known that? Only goes to show, I guess, that she never was as clued up as some people seemed to think until her recent failure to resign over the war on Iraq.

But then, how exactly would you frame a piece of legislation to ban Page 3? We know we hate it, but how do you define it precisely enough in law to remove it from our tabloids? Personally, I’d put forward an even better proposal: ban the tabloids altogether. (Oh, and the Telegraph, and the Times. All right, the so-called Independent too…)

Censorship doesn’t work. We know from experience – for instance, Canada’s adoption of the Dworkin-McKinnon ‘anti-porn’ law – that supposedly progressive censorship measures are always used primarily against marginalised and/or left-wing groups.

Getting rid of Page 3 requires a bigger change than any law. I really thought we were getting there, sometime in the early 90s. And then along came Loaded magazine, ‘lad culture’ and all that shit… but I live in hope.

From Lindsay

In response to Catherine’s article ‘Ka-ching, bling bling, ching ching and floss: Women sing about money’. I really enjoyed your article about women, music and money and especially appreciate your ability to see past how female pop stars dress and pay attention to their lyrics. I absolutely agree that it is good that more and more mainstream artists are singing about being financially and generally independent of a man. But I do take issue with how much some pop, rnb and hip-hop artists emphasise and normalise the obsession with bling-bling, even in the context of sticking to their ghetto roots.

I think Ms. Dynamite deserves extra praise for recognising the political implications of not only money obsession but also luxury products. When she asks how many Africans died for those diamonds, she puts herself on a different plane than J-Lo who tries to assert that despite her riches and rocks, she is still the same girl from the streets. With so many young people getting seduced by credit cards and finding themselves in debt or stealing just to keep up with the celebrity Joneses, does J-Lo really understand the issues facing her people who have no choice but to live on the block?

I’m not trying to say that people with less money shouldn’t be allowed to desire the same things that the wealthy regularly display. And I am not naive enough to expect all famous people to be positive role models extolling values about ethical investment and charity. That’s not now or was it ever what celebrity was about.

I just want to give special recognition to artists like Ms. Dynamite and alot of hip-hop acts who never make it to the mainstream because they question the need to equate black music and fame with the excessive consumerism that keeps non-famous people perpetually in the ghetto and poverty. The same goes for female artists, like Ms. Dynamite in her jumpsuit, who can praise financial independence without going on about buying into the beauty ideal through clothes, jewelry or plastic surgery. But I guess that means questioning the entire mainstream music industry because as one black comedian said recently, white people get tired really quickly of us saying ‘Fight the Power’ but they’ll listen forever to us sing ‘It’s gettin’ hot in here, so take of all your clothes’.

From Barbara

My daughter is 16 years old and is surprised to find her friends do not consider themselves to be feminists. I decided to do some research for her to help her “debate” the issue and came across your site when I researched through google “feminism: a dirty word”. I will definitely direct my daughter to your sight. Thank you very much. I am 53 years old myself and have always been a feminist, animal lover, book lover, movie nut, man/woman/people lover, cook, gardener, and much more …. I am also married to a feminist (inter alia.) – for 31 years!! Best wishes!!!!!!

From Sarah

Re: The Biological Clock. Interesting article. The responses were thought provoking. I’m Still thinking about it. As far as i can see, it is human nature to always wonder about ‘the path not chosen’, so no matter what choice you make about children, there may always be the nagging doubt about what you could have done.

I do not like children, never have, never will. I have given up too damn much to be independant. From what i can see, single MOTHERS everywhere, I would give up everything to have children. No independance, no security nothing. There’s no way I will give up my hard earned independance for that.

I’m sure mothers have some happy memories of their children. I’m happy for them if they are happy with their choice. But they may ask themselves what they have missed out on professionally, personally, friendship, travel. Even just the space to be yourself (the same way women without children may wonder what they have missed out on).

As far as I am concerned, as a women, i have way too much to lose. Men are too likely to walk out on a marriage/partner and children, who are then left with the female partner, for me to want to take a chance on them…

Childcare is not the most thrilling occupation for many people. Until more men take their share of the responsibility, or childcare is collectivised, I don’t see these people easily changing their mind.

From Charlie

I would just like to say a huge thank you and well done for your website. I found out about it purely by accident as i am doing my dissertation about The Spice Girls, Madonna and Pink, and the role feminism has played with their performances. Your website is inspiring and I will definitely keep checking it even after my dissertation is done. Thank you, thank you, thank you,

From Lucy B

This site looks very promising and in touch with relevant debates. I like the title- as it reclaims the original employment of feminism- which has become rather redundent in conveying meaning without inviting a list of ready made assumptions. Love it!

From Ruth

In reference to March 2003 article on Page 3 being banned [Page 3 – Ban it!], I would just like to as some views on the topic.

I myself think the need to plaster semi naked women over a newspaper, shows that we are very much stuck in a time where women are used as nothing but sex objects. Although these women are obviously consenting to the use of their bodies within this way. I do not feel that it will be banned, for there are too many testosterone fuled males who see nothing wrong with the portrayal of women in such a way. Men like to gawp, and it shows nothing but primitive nature on their part.

However, i do feel that it is and always has been somewhat of a disgrace. After all, if men really want to see women splashed naked then surely they can get over the shame of purchasing a porn magazine. We do not need some busty blonde staring back at us, as we try and read the world news, especially with recent events like that of the war in Iraq. Even though the Sun has never been a newspaper to do things by half.

There is a time and a place for everything…and i think they’ll find they’re wrong on both accounts.

From Jes!

Re: Bad Mothers I would like to say thank you to Claire Riley for the reality check! why don’t I go slit me wrists right now. I happen to be a 22 year old single mother, stuck in a shitty council house, bringing up two kids alone and working 25 hours a week. Although I do happen to see your point you’ve only seen it from the outside in. You have never been in my situation and even though I have ruined my life in the eyes of many, I know that’s not the case. Yes I fucked up pretty big time but I do really love my kids. They are the best mistakes I’ve ever made and even though it’s tough now I know that they are going make me. Before them I was going no-where they have provided me with more ambition and drive then I have ever had. I am new breed of woman and we are many. While the men for this world lose their grip it we are waiting to catch it. Women like me shouldn’t be pited, fore we are raising the future and are the backbone of this country. We deserve respect for that. “so bow before us for you are not worthy!”.

If you don’t want to have kids thats your choice but more then likely you’ll probably leave it really late then find your-self in your fourties struggling like mad to cope because you simply aren’t twenty two anymore. Or a very lonely old woman with no family to visit you and no grandchild to tell you past to while us stupid teenage mums will be enjoying our freedom as our children we be grow up.I personally would rather do it young. I relish that I am a independent women with exciting and challenging future. I consider myself lucky I have two fanastic kids, a family that loves me and 8 great mates that have stuck by me. I find pleasure in the fact that I am a superwoman and I can and will have it all! P.S ‘Remember Having kids is not the end of your life they are merely the beginning!’

Peace to you all

From Jennifer Nicholson

Reading Catherine Redfern’s analysis of the positive trend in female financial independence in the music industry (“Ka-ching, bling bling, ching ching and floss: Women sing about money”),I can’t help but hear my cynicism screaming “Yes, but who is profiting from the sales of those songs?” As positive a message as these artists are sending out to their fans (and I don’t want to underrate this as the pop world seems to be so influential at the moment- especially to women) I can’t help but wonder, dispite all the money these Independent women are making, how much their fat cat, (probably male) managers, record labels etc are making off their sucess. Are they all really as independent as they claim in their music?

From Nicola Waterworth

Although I agree with much of what was said in ‘Alien She?’ and the response regarding the focus of feminism on white middle class women, I do fear that there are also some dangerous myths about the Women’s Movement of the 1970s that are being repeated here. My own historical research agrees with an article by Debbie Cameron (Telling it Like it Wasn’t: how Radical Feminism became History’, Trouble & Strife (27) 1993), in which she warns about the hidden agenda of women writing the history of this period. Cameron highlights the idea that many women in their reflections on the movement have incorporated ideas that the movement was entirley unaware of difference and diversity in the early 1970s. It is clear from examining theoretical papers and newsletters, or the more accessible Women’s Liberation Movement anthologies, of the time that this was largely not the case. Women’s groups were often dominated by educated, white middle class women and the centrality of the consciousness-raising process did result in concentration on issues which affected these women alone but this did not happen in a vacuum entirely unaware of ‘other’ women. The main aganda did lack concentration on the concerns of many groups of women. However, the idea that an understanding of difference had to wait until the late 1970s or 1980s to evolve is damaging to our understanding of the second-wave and the lessons we are able to take from it and also undermines the work begun by non-white, non-middle class women’s groups set up in the 1970s.

From Mr Wonder

Wonderful article about the Wife-Swap program on Channel 4. It seems a lot of television is aimed at the expendability of relationships within society. It seems that we are taking our cues as to how to relate to each other from tv nowadays. That little box in the corner of our living rooms has a lot to answer for. I wonder why we are so easily programmed to think in these terms?

From Daisy

This month’s issue is terrific: I’ve got sore eyes now after reading from cover to cover!

Re. the Page 3 feature [Page 3 – Ban it!]: I found this interesting, because even though as Kate Allen points out, it’s not the most important issue, I was trying to analyse exactly why I find Page 3 and even lingerie ads disturbing. I think it’s because the women are presented as consumer items just waiting to be bought. And the lingerie ads say to women, if you dress like this you can sell yourself to a higher bidder. It’s all about economics, and who’s got more economic power in our society.

Men and women’s reactions to Page 3 are also different. Most women (me included) just have to laugh when they see a naked bloke, especially as even though they’re nude they often reserve the right to hide the most relevant bit! But when men see a naked woman, even though they might laugh, their eyes do kind of glaze over to some extent. It’s the same with strip shows: the women see it as a laugh, guys watching a woman strip are deadly serious!

Like Kate, I don’t think Page 3 should be banned, because it’s attitudes that need to change. Like maybe the car industry can now get its head around the fact that – hey! – wimmin buy cars too. And they don’t necessarily want cars that look like shopping trolleys…. Congratulations on a great issue! Best wishes,

From Cazz

Re Page 3 – Ban it!: You might want to bear in mind that Rebekah Wade is the woman who comes fresh from editing The News Of The World, who took personal responsibility for and encouraged public hysteria over paedophilia a few years back, leading to several attempted lynchings of perfectly innocent people who were either wrongly named and shamed or had similar names etc to those named and shamed. To expect quality journalism from her at The Sun would be optimistic to say the least.

From Johanna Woodnutt

I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments expressed in your article ‘The Eminem Defence’ – Does irony mean that we can’t be offended? It’s really refreshing to have the supposedly postmodern male loop hole called into question. Irony is no longer enough to fall back on…

I would like to add to the debate the idea that, in my experience, men set up a scenario in which they are ‘allowed ‘ to make sexist comments to women by covertly implying that they are somehow complementing their female listeners via the mutually acknowledged ‘irony’ involved. Let’s begin with the assumption that there is a certain male social construct ( and I know this is a rash generalisation) whereby men talk to each other with an ease and familiarity not permissable when women are present. They have a dialogue which they regard as ‘male property’. This includes sexist jokes which become allowable in this context because of the irony loop hole or ‘Eminem Defence’.

When there is a woman present, they continue with this dialogue regardless, implying that the woman is ‘one of the lads’ and should take it as
a compliment that she has been let into this inner circle of maleness. I view this as a move from the former status quo where men wouldn’t say certain
things in front of women (clearly totally patronising) to a new situation where they will make sexist comments in fromt of women because, as a friend, the women looses her gender identity in their eyes and beomes exempt from offense.

She then alienates her friends by speaking out and asserting her gender identity and/or she is made to feel stupid because she didn’t ‘get’ the irony.

From Venessa

For me I hate Eminem [The Enimen Defence] but that is not so any more. After hearing Clean out my closet, I am ashamed to say I went with what everyone was saying about him. That he was bad and keep it away from my children. Well am so sorry for this because I put
judgement on to something that I had no idea about and so for the first time I am going to give this artist a real play and see what he has got to say. I may not like all he says but when do we in life. So sorry that I sat in judgement.