Comments from readers. From Francine Hoenderkamp Re: Sin City. I almost couldn’t finish your article because of my anger at how, once again, women are portrayed on our screens. However, if I talk about this to my boyfriend, I’ve got issues or I’ve been abused or something. I have learnt to ‘keep my mouth shut’ – as his wee brain can’t take my ‘man hating’ (something is seriously f***ed up here don’t you think?!) however,this needs to be shouted about on a daily basis. Why don’t I ever hear anger from women on a national scale?! Men are continuing to get away with it, it seems. Women celebrities are to blame. In this case, why do they even take the roles?! From Connie Referring to: Sin City by Laura Woodhouse. Although I fully understand your points in this article, I do feel that your damning of the film is somewhat misguided. I initially had the same fears about this film, relating to the portrayal of it’s female characters, which I felt might be a let down for a film I had been greatly anticipating. And yes, there are mysoginistic characters in this film, female characters are subject to battering, ‘ownership’ by men, and other acts of violence, but their portrayal is no worse than the portrayal of the male characters in the same film. I cannot think of a single male character that was not in some way murderous or psycotic, and in fact on closer inspection it can be seen that the film’s female characters are in fact far more varied in their portrayal than their male counterparts. For me, this film is rather a portrayal of a whole host of flawed characters from both of the sexes living in a utterly unrealistic and largely surreal world. Frank Miller’s work can in fact be seen as a comment on the harmful stereotypes that are found in Hollywood and modern pop culture at large, both by their indiscriminantly equally flawed characters and the destructiveness of the world that they inhabit. Such a film should not be taken as ‘sexist’, and certainly not harmful, except for those who are not capable of thinking beyond what they are visually fed. From Kathryn Hey – in response to the Sin City review – thoroughly good piece of work – one tiny criticism – the character Lucille wasn’t a police officer she was a parol office. slight difference but wee facts like that can make the rest of the piece seem less credible sometimes. I’m pedantic :) but on the whole well, I’ve seen it and I wish I’d had the gumption to walk out too. From Anoushka Havinden About the Sin City article – at last, glad I’m not the only one who found it made my blood boil to see all those poor helpless ladies bound, shot, slashed and killed – unless the big horny old men stepped in to rescue them. Not a mention of this violent misogeny in any reviews! It’s that insiduous old ‘irony’ excuse, isn’t it, and it’s taking us back 60 years… I left halfway too, wishing all the hard-bitten, beautifully filmed male saviours would just hurry up and die already…but it seems none of my liberal and enlightened friends (male or female) even picked up on that aspect of the film. They just thought it was cooooool… From Alison Bancroft Please find below my response to the article by Laura Woodhouse on the film Sin City. I hope it will be of interest. There is far more to graphic novels that the “gravity defying breasts, unimaginably pert buttocks and thigh length PVC boots” identified by Laura Woodhouse as the defining features of the genre. Graphic authors like Lily Lau, Colleen Coover, Mery Fleenor and Julie Doucet have been working with the format to produce work with a strongly feminist content since at least the mid-70’s. You can’t criticise “comic-strip culture” as a whole any more than not liking War of the Worlds should be a reason for criticising cinema as a whole, rather than Spielberg, Cruise or Wells. The depiction of women in Sin City is a consequence of Frank Miller’s tastes in depicting women. Whether he’s attempting a semi-parodic, extreme, turned-up-to-11 version of noir or whether he actually likes old-fashioned gender roles where women are princesses, sluts or tough bitches and men are bastard villains or bastard heroes is up for question. But I would say it’s down to Miller’s distinctive authorial style. I would also caution against producing an analysis of a film that you have not seen in its entirety. The most jaded critic will always guard against the accusation of ignorance that will inevitably follow an admission of omission, and it would be a mistake to assume there is some political capital to be gained from quitting a theatre or a movie house and predicating objections on the fact of your departure. I would also question the recollection of the costuming of female characters in Sin City. Far from there being a visual feast of female flesh from start to finish, there were plenty of instances where they were decently clad, with no offending nipples in sight. The lady in red evening dress at the beginning? Nancy, when she comes upstairs after her act? (wearing vest and jeans) Miho? (oriental style kimono) The woman Irish terrorist? (in army fatigues) When I next need an evening dress, I’d quite like something that says “sex”, like the lady’s sparkly red one, rather than something that says “nun on day release”. Though I actually think it spelled out elegance. There was nothing screaming “fuck me” about the Irish woman or Miho’s outfits either. I do think the roles of men and women in this film were ludicrously limited, to the extent that the Marv/Goldie and Hartigan/Nancy stories were weirdly similar, but again, that is an authorial decision emanating from Frank Miller’s creative judgement. Note that I say men and women. I’d be more inclined to see Sin City as inherently misanthropic, rather than misogynist. The whole film is shot through with implied sexuality and eroticism. It is easy to pick up on is the representations of polarised and compulsorily heterosexual gender identity within this very eroticised visual form. It doesn’t make the film inherently misogynist, though. Your assertion, that a sexualised representation of women is somehow inherently sexist, is a reductive argument that oversimplifies female sexuality and the way it’s represented culturally. The castrating potential of Miho, manifested in her swords, is the anarchic force that exists outside of language. She is the essence of the feminine. She is that which cannot be represented in language. Far from being silenced, her power is such that she cannot speak. A power that dare not speak its name, perhaps? She is profoundly erotic, precisely because she is fully dressed and absolutely silent, but it is dangerous eroticism that exists independently of compulsory heterosexuality. Sin City does not suggest how the world should be. It suggests how the world is. To rail against the injustice of this is akin to railing against the injustice of the sun rising in the east. We should read closely all representations, films, novels, comics, photography in all its forms, to see what insights we can gain from them. There is usually far more than meets the eye. From Jess Have just read Laura Woodhouse’s review of Sin City. My (male) partner really wanted to go and see this, but I had misgivings about it based on the trailer, and your review totally confirmed them. Why is it that in order to make something that’s seen as challenging, cutting-edge, and cool, you have to fill it with semi/fully naked women? And undermine any strength of character, personality, or intelligence they might have? Sorry you had to sit through it, but thanks for saving me! From Bonnie Normally being too lazy to add a comment on such websites, I just wanted to say that I am thrilled to have stumbled across your website in my hours of boredom surfing the net at work. I am a strong female who at the same time embraces my femininity and indeed even enjoys wearing a skirt. However, I am all to aware of the contradictions within this modern culture in which we live and like the rest of society struggle to find my place within it all. It is refreshing to read such an array of thought provoking articles that attempt to understand and unravel how and why this particlular female dynamic exisits. From Allison Powell Kate Allen’s “Taboo for Who?” was more than a bit interesting. It brought to my mind the book “Nigger,” written a couple of years ago by a Harvard professor. The ownership factor is something that I have seen American women able to do with the word “bitch,” but never with this word. I shall enjoy discussing this in my book club meeting, when we talk about this word as it was used in our latest novel. Bravo to a wonderfully written and thought-provoking article! I’ll be back to this site! From Bioject After reading your article Pretty Vacant, I must make a comment. I am a guy so my opinion probably doesn’t really matter here anyway, but in my opinion, skirts do not demean women. In fact when I females in skirts, I admire it. Shoot I get extremely jealous of you and all the other women out there. I would LOVE to wear a skirt. Unfortunately for me, society still hasn’t acceptable that kind of attire for men yet. You should think about how much farther women have come in such a short time. Look, you can wear pants, shorts, skirts, dresses, and everything else. In fact you can even wear boxers and it is socially acceptable. I would say the only clothing that might catch the attention of somebody passing by would be a guys suit and companies have already designed suits for women that look good. Another thing you should remember. A skirt is just a piece of clothing. When it comes down to it, it’s YOU who either makes yourself appear more inferior or less inferior, not the clothing. Again, remember that I would really like to wear that skirt MUCH MORE than you probably would. Wear it for me then because I can’t. From Emily Baeza I feel so glad to see the article on street harassment. You really would think in this age of ASBOs and anti-harassment laws, that more could be done to prevent this. It is probably an occurance that happens regualrly in every woman’s life. I remember being whistled at and having horns blown when I was fourteen. Fourteen! jesus these men have no shame and most of them need to grow up. If women just went up to men and said suggestive things or made sexually offensive remarks, you would expect it to result badly with violence and or assault. Why is it men think one day we wont react badly to this provocation either? Its vulgar, digusting and dis-respectful and just shows the level of intelligence and maturity of *most* men in this country. No surprise tha misogyny is prevalent throughout this country and its media. From Lorraine I just felt I ought to say thanks so much for the blog. In between F-Word updates I used to read the gender issues special report page on The Guardian’s website, but now I have another page to add to my daily reading list. Congratulations on a great idea well executed – the contributers are excellent! From Alan i love your site. nelly the rapper is an idiot. i just sent an email to the pres. of his new bologne co. called pimpology-how does this crap help society. its like having fast food for every meal-eventually one will one to through up. please let me know how i can get involved! highest regards. From Michal thank u 4 this article, it was a pleasure 2 read From LR Great article Kate [Taboo for Who?]. I hear the word “cunt” very often when I am doing gigs in various pubs and I find that it is most commonly used by the yobbo types. To make their use of the word justified, the so called “civil” people use “cunt” as a stereotype of the poor yobbo. My friend was eating dinner with some girls from out west recently, and one spilled her soup and exclaimed “OOOUUCCHH, I BURNED MY CUNT!”, much to the shock of the rest of the dinner table! Everybody is getting bored of “fuck”, its impact as a violent word is getting less and less. Cunt is very versatile and can be substituted for fuck, e.g., “Cunt Off”, “Some Cunt stole my beer!”, “Every Cunt’s here!”, “No Cunt works do they?!” etc…..I am also finding that inner circles of friends have no problem extensively using “cunt” when having conversations amongst themselves. This is almost entirely for humour value and stereotype of those that actually use the word seriously in their vocabulary. So in essence, I beleive the word is being toyed with by those that are still a little squeamish about using it in public and eventually it will become a non abusive word. Keep up the good work (ya cunt! haha)! From microchipette i just wanted to say that i totally agree with the article on ‘feminine feminism‘ by laura wadsworth. i recently wrote something on my blog about the same issue. i find it incredibly annoying, patronising and reductive when people argue or assume that you cannot possibly be a feminist if you wear tiny skirts, the colour pink or take the slightest bit of pride in your appearance. simone de beauvoir was honest about her desire to look good and wear lipstick. does this make her less of a feminist icon? i think it’s dangerous for feminists to be prescriptive and say that ‘girlies’ are bad for feminism. girliness is great! i hope other women laura’s age realise that you can celebrate your appearance, your sexuality and your politics without feeling conflicted. to thine own self be true, and let others do the same! From Esther Anyone at Uni doing Women’s Studies and fed up with having to tolerate the *hilarious* question “So what’s Men’s Studies then?” Simply answer as I did during my MA: “EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE SYLLABUS”. I thank you! From Rachel Re: Desperate Housewives: I think you should watch the final episode of Sex and the City again. Though not perhaps always a feminist icon, I saw Carrie’s return in a much more positive light. I thought that Carrie’s decision to go back was a declaration of love for New York, her friends and a life she chose. Big was an added perk, but not her reason for going back. Try seeing it from this perspective and I think you can enjoy it. Certainly I watched with 2 single city girl friends and they thought it was a very positive end to the series with as feisty an ending as an American series was ever going to manage. From sabz Kill Bill: Wow is this really written by a sixteen year old! From Matt Thompson Re: Crime and Punishment: This was an absolutley superb article written sensitively and thoughtfully by the author. From Ben Drake Hi, As a pro-feminist trade unionist I’ve subscribed to the email list for some months now and keep meaning to email just to say how great it is. Interesting articles, valuable debates – a great resource in this so-called ‘post-feminist’ age. As for the hysterical whingeing men who email you abuse – well, to coin a phrase, if they’re shooting at you, you must be doing something right. More power to you. From Helen Foley i thought natalie’s article [FHM Music Channel] was hilarious. i am particularly interested in her topic as i am currently writing my MA dissertaion on FHM magazine, I share her despair!! From Alicia Bostock I absolutely adore you, Michelle Jenkins! I’ve just read your article on Model Behavior and I wish you were more publically involved at the time. You may, or may not recognise my name but I wash one of the unfortunate finalists. It all started when I went to see a Manga exhibition in Manchester and I signed this peice of paper……There was no way out, I knew the score from the very beginning and it fucked up my life! I was 6 stone when I was ‘freed’. Not from ‘model lust’, but depression, too much time in the gym (no cameras after 7pm!) and a strong taste for Absynth! FOUR years on and people still recognise me (it frightens me that not just that mud sticks, but for how long!) all over the world. The winner, Jenny Richards (who I apparently was “jealous [of] and hated”), abandoned her child, had ludicrous amounts of plastic surgery, perfomed by her boyfriend, and took up cocaine. Patricia Sheehan who was released on the same day as myself threw herself off a balcony in Japan, just last month. I straightened my hair, denied it (I still do!) and made friends with people who’d never even heard of it. Elizebeth Creightmore-Edwards is doing fantastic! She was young enough, and pretty oblivious, thankfully, that she survived unscathed! She kept me alive when we were in that house and is now one of my best friends. I love her so much, but if I was given the choice of turning the clock back, I’m sad to say, at the risk of never meeting her, I’d hesitate. It’s just nice to know that people still genuinely see things for what they really are. All of my friends have now seen it, initially to my utter horror, but everyone of them told me they know the real me and see straight through the bollocks! Thanks for reading! From Chrissie Re Contraception and Control – Teenage Rights. hi megan i am a teenager too and i very much agree with your article. i am not being biased but i really do think that contraception should be given to under 16 year olds and we should all have the same rights. From Unknown Re Contraception and Control – Teenage Rights. Megan, I am a mom of two teenage daughters 14 and 15 in the US. Your article failed to mention the unfortunate high incident of forced sex on teenage girls in both our countries. But aside from that, I agree with you. Last year one of my daughter’s friends was raped and she did not tell her mom until 4 days later. I immediately went to my gynecologist, told her that I wanted to have a prescription for EMC for my daughters. Once filled, I showed it to my daughters, explained to them about it, told them where it was in my medicine cabinet and that it was there for them. No matter what. No questions asked. Whether rape or a mistake. That as a mother my biggest concern was that they be protected from a pregnancy and abortion. I am amazed at the women I know who were shocked when I told them that. The Rightwing Religious F***Nuts have done a brilliant job of slanting the story that having such availability promotes sexual promiscuity. I guess we shouldn’t tell our kids to put on a seatbelt either; it might make them want to get into an accident. My opinion? The Religious Right Wingnuts KNOW teenagers will experiment with sex and are indeed quite happy with young girls being pregnant. Why? Think about it? It knocks them clear out of the ballpark of the Male Power System from the getgo. From Gwen Hey, Regarding the article on street harassment. When I first read where it says instances go up with spring temperatures, I thought to myself that wasn’t true. Then the next day walking down a main road on a sunny Glasgow Sunday this guy growled at my tits while walking past me. (Promted maybe by a lack of bra?) I turned on my heels and asked him loudly if he had some sort of problem with my body and told him to show more respect in the future. Both him and his friend looked pretty scared. It was a victory in some ways and I was proud of myself for being assertive but I had this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach for the rest of the day. I don’t know how they manage to make me feel like that; nothing else can. From Kate Hodgson Just writing to express my appreciation of Shaira Kadir’s article “Stepford Wives in Training” – as an ex-Cambridge student myself, although at perhaps one of the slightly less rigidly traditional colleges, I immediately recognised the attititudes and behaviours that she described! Thanks very much for an interesting read. From Karin With reference to the article on the $pread magazine. I found both commentaries interesting and informative. I am somewhat stunned to hear that COYOTE was never a prostitute’s organization. This was not my experience with it in 1984 in Oakland Ca. I took part in a few meetings, all I could get the guts to do. In these meetings there were at minimum 15 women, of which 4 of us had left (some just) the trade, 3 were active on the street, one was a sex therapist and two in the film (“porn”) industry. That would be 10 of 15. Hearing from Margo St James, her story first hand, I did not perceive her to be an academic who simply desired to promote the sex trade. Her primary effect on me, was to create a space where I could acknowledge, feel safe and gain “pride” in my own life experience. I could do this in the company of others who were either still there, or out, or supportive of it either way. My experience is of 2/3 of the participants being from the sex-trade (active or having left) not the 3 ou quote. If I was duped, I suppose it does not matter, as it gave me a fighting chance to stay off the street, feel I was a human being, feel I belonged somewhere, and a sense that suicide was not inevitable. I found the few (perhaps 5) meetings to be encouraging, non-judgemental and woman-affirming. I was not rejected as a whore nor an ex-whore. I simply had a life experience that others shared. It felt empowering. From Essi I just wanted to thank Nicky Raynor for writing such an inspiring review on Tori Amos’s album Tales of A Librarian. It’s the best review on Tori’s music (rather than just one album) I’ve ever read and I wish I could read more of her thoughts on Tori’s music, as she said she could go on forever. Oh well. Thank you. From Elizabeth Shaw In response to “the Biological Clock.” Let’s suffice it to say, yes the author is too young, way too young to be feeling the pressure of society on women to reproduce. I know very few women in their twenties who are ready to make such a huge, life altering decision. Once she is in her thirties, her identity will be stronger and she will be better able to make such important life decisions without being so concerned about what others think. I am pregnant with my second child at 39. I hate being pregnant, labor is a breeze in comparison, yet I did it a second time for reasons that are beyond logical explanation. I do know that my decision to become a mother had little to do with nurture and everything to do with nature. We are all dumb beasts when you really get down to it. That said, there is nothing wrong with making the decision to stay childless. In fact I envy any woman who has such a strong vision of her life in the big picture. My life is still unfolding bit by bit and I will have to wait until the credits roll to decide if the choices I made were the right ones.