New Features! New Reviews!

This month’s update isn’t finished yet, but there’s already plenty of interesting stuff to read. First up, Irina Lester reviews One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed, by Melissa Panarello.

It’s definitely an interesting contrast to last month’s interview with sex-blogger Abby Lee – whose book and blog appear positively uncomplicated in comparison. But Irina teases out the good – including the difficult lessons Panarello can teach us about how boys see girls:

What is so deeply shocking in the book is not group sex as such, or the fact that a teenage girl took part in it, but the fact that our culture makes it possible for boys and men to exploit girls sexually, and for girls to accept sex entirely on men’s terms. The boys’ utter disregard for Melissa’s sexual needs and even comfort are really disturbing. Instead of moralising and decrying teenage sex, one should ask what makes these boys so brutish and inhuman, and where sex education fails if boys hold such atrocious attitudes towards girls.

On a similar(ish) theme, Chloe Emmott gives us a first person account of going to a burlesque class, and the mixed reactions it provokes:

While I still hold a few reservations, and have no doubt that many see burlesque as exploitative and demeaning, I cannot bring myself to disapprove of something that let me celebrate my body and feel utterly at home in my skin.

Meanwhile, Veronica Wood-Querales argues that feminism must tackle racism head on – and recognise that for women from ethnic minorities, discrimination on the grounds of race and gender come hand-in-hand. Hair, she says, illustrates how difficult it is to untangle these forms of discrimination:

A friend of mine was once told by an employer that her afro hair was not “professional”. Her boss went on to say that if she got her hair relaxed it would better suit the company’s image.

We have more on the topic of body image. Abi Millar takes on the thorny topic of ‘skinny porn’ – by which she means the obsessions women’s magazines seem to have developed with watching the weight of female celebrities. Particularly horrifying, is theskinnywebsite. “This website is to gossip mags what hardcore pornography is to Carry on Camping,” says Abi.

But she has those magazines firmly in her sights:

You’ll find adverts for diet products next to ‘body-positive’ interviews with invariably ‘curvy’ celebs; you’ll find page-spreads of pin-thin models, close to self-righteous chastisements of celebrities the same size; you’ll find that celebrities’ supposed weights, and even heights, will oscillate insanely from one magazine to the next (is Lily Allen 5ft2 or 5ft6? is Keira Knightley a 00 or a 12?); and you’ll find that these magazines tell you nothing but that the female body is an object to be judged.

Finally, Amity Reed considers the issue of housework, and why men resist taking on their equal share with such enthusiasm:

Our sisters from the disco decades must be wishing they hadn’t bothered burning those bras after all. To think, we could’ve been using them as dust cloths all this time.

Plenty to get your teeth into there, and there is more to come next week!

Photo by Bukutgirl, shared under a Creative Commons license.