Comments from November 2007

Comments on last month’s features and reviews

From Carrie

Re: How many lesbians does it take to sell a t-shirt?: ..I think Joanna Whitehead’s article is terrific. Please tell her I said so!

From maggie

Just wanted to say that the article ‘How many lesbians does it take to sell a t-shirt?’ by Joanna whitehead was fantastic. Its just so true and nice to know other people think it too.

From Tass

I am also an angry Womyn today, some market researcher called at my office ( I am a writer and work from home) and asked to speak to the man of the house, I should have said sorry I am a lesbian, but instead said “If thats the kind of questions you ask, go back to the Victorian age, leave, shoo, go OUT” am still annoyed

From hannah

this is the best piece of writing i have ever read.

Im 17 and everything i think about men and the media had been written for me here.

Absolutley awesome



From bea valle

very intelligent article…

From Jessica

It isn’t only two beautiful women who experience unwanted catcalls. All women receive unwanted attention in public. On a train, in a plane or on the street, most (if not all) women have been the centre of ape behavior. Simply being a lesbian is not the reason…just being a woman (or two).

As to your idea that the general public expects you to look like man-wanna-be’s, I apologize on behalf of every person whose first, second and third experience with a lesbian lead them to believe that all women who love women look like an over-grown Oshkoshbegosh ad. It happens. Alot.

Continue to be beautiful and in love.

From gracchi

Re: Is Tarantino really feminist?: This is a really good article- I think you have captured something about Tarentino. He is one of my least favourite film makers. I hadn’t spotted the sexism before- but yeah I think its there. The thing that’s so grim about Tarentino is that he never displays empathy for the victims of his character’s crimes- its all just cool- violence is cool and so postmodern. I almost think of him as the cinematic equivalent of one of those ultra sophisticated lad’s mags which are actually the Sun, that’s especially true of this project. There is a reason that Grindhouse movies aren’t done anymore- and its not that they are too egalitarian and interesting, its that they were sexist and boring. Quentin should grow up too.

Emma Wood, author of the article, replies

Thanks for your kind comments. The point about empathy is an important one. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer which shows a woman doing exactly what a lot of people would say women do in Tarantino films – kicking ass. But the vital difference (apart from the fact that Buffy was witty and fun and not ultra violent, being a peak time television series) is the moral framework – Buffy only killed (supernatural beings) when it was strictly necessary. Similarly the film ‘Monster’ although it showed Aileen Wuournos as the victim of abuse and an upbringing of dire poverty did not attempt to depict her crimes as justified, but showed that they were morally wrong. Her first killing was depicted as being in self defence, but it was clear that later crimes were committed for the purpose of robbery. There was sympathy for the character – the real Aileen Wuornos was mentally ill as Nick Broomfields documentaries about her show – but her actions were not condoned. Killing isn’t cool and I don’t see women emulating male violence as the aim of feminism.

From Sammie K

Thank you for this article. Glad to see that someone else sees

Tarantino for the scum he is

From Diarmuid Casey

Oh dear. Feminism is sooo passe, hasn’t this bird heard of girl


Seriously though, she’s missing the point. Tarantino hasn’t made a

decent movie since Pulp Fiction. Whether he’s feminist or not is

immaterial – his movies since then have been crap.

As for women’s subconscious fear of “male” violence and the fact they

are forced to live their lives accordingly: do get over yourself love.

Do you not think men subconsciously organise their lives on exactly

the same basis? As she pointed out violence is mostly done to young

men. What does she suggest as a solution to “male” violence? The

abolition of males perhaps? Well, with technological advances and the

amount of oestrogen men are forced to drink due to the FEMALE

contraceptive pill, that day’s probably not too far off. Hope you

feminists feel vindicated when it comes.

Tarantino tries to sell his rubbish movies by using shock tactics. To

try and explain the badness of his work in “feminist” terms is,

frankly, peurile. I don’t watch so-called “torture porn” because its

shite but I’d be willing to bet I could find at least an equal number

of male/female deaths in the genre if I could be bothered. Grow up. We

are all part of the same species. There is enough division already

without half the human race aligning itself against the other half.

As rasta say: “‘Isms’ is Schisms”. Violent men are violent largely

becuase of their upbringing not because they are men! Idiot.

By the way, if you think Uma “anorexia” Thurman looked good in her

sacriligious pastiche of Bruce Lee in the Kill Bill films you must be

an even more delusional “feminist” of the Ali-G variety than I had you

down as. The fact that Quentin insists on using her in every film as

if she were some sort of icon is merely evidence that he’s just

another Hollywood queer in thrall to the gays and “feminists” (of

both types) that run the US film industry. Bun a fire pon dem. One


Emma Wood, author of the article, replies

Dear Mr Casey

Which bird would that be? The dodo perhaps? If feminism is soooo passe why are you reading an essay on whether or not Tarantino is feminist on a feminist website? I was actually under the impression that ‘girl power’ was passe now that the re-formed Spice Girls are reducing to advertising Tesco.

Anyway I fear dear Mr Casey, that you have missed my point which is exactly that Tarantino tries to sell his films using shock, I don’t care how good/bad his films are. And I didn’t think Pulp Fiction was any good either, in fact I watched up to the point where John Travolta and Uma Thurman go dancing before giving up because it was so boring.

The solution I suggest to male violence is the revolutionary one of males stopping being violent. The young men who are victims of violence are almost always victims of violence by other young men. Large sectors of the male population actually do manage to go through their lives without raping and killing, so it is possible.

The problem with Tarantino and his ilk is that their films simultaneously glamourise and trivialise violence. And that is as true of Pulp Fiction (glamourising gang violence) as it is of Death Proof (glamourising violence against women). Masculinity (which is different from being male) is socially constructed in a way that sees violence as a desirable characteristic.

It is perfectly possible to have a society without male violence, but that needs to be a society in which males are not pressured to be violent by cultural influences such as Mr Tarantino. I don’t see where I did suggest that males are essentially violent – I pointed out that in a society where women live their lives in fear of male violence a film about such male violence can hardly be seen as feminist. This fear, in so far as it is a fear of ‘stranger danger’ is in fact unrealistic – women are far more likely to be victims of assaults by men they know. However the point of the horror genre is part of the use of the fear of violence as an agent of social control of women. Instilling a fear of random male violence into women convinces them that they need male ‘protection’. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told I shouldn’t walk around at night on my own, but I’ve done it loads of times and surprise, surprise I’m still here.

I actually find it equally extraordinary that in Liverpool, a city in which an 11 year old boy was recently shot in a random act of violence which may have been gang related, FACT, which is a publicly funded cinema (receiving funding from the arts council, NWDA and Liverpool city council) thought it appropriate to welcome and describe as a ‘great man’ a figure such as Tarantino whose films all glorify violence. Violence is violence is violence, however it is true that the victims of sexualised violence in films are almost always female.

From Beth Speake

Re: Feminism should not become the ‘peeved tiger’: I was unimpressed by this article. Zenobia attacks the idea of being

the ‘peeved tiger’ and yet in this article she roars louder than

anyone else against other feminists without backing up any of her

brash statements. Apart from being obnoxious and badly written, this

article is unhelpful and does not add to the debate over eroticised

violence in any way.

From Emma Wood

Can I just comment on Zenobia’s statment that ‘there seems to be a

feeling among the protesters that the films cause domestic violence’

She seems to have misunderstood the point of the placards protesters


Protesters in Liverpool carried placards which had various statistics

about rape or domestic violence ‘Such as 5.6% conviction rate for

rape’ or ‘1 in 3 women experience domestic violence’. At the bottom

of each of the ‘rape’ placards was the slogan ‘rape is not a joke’

and on the ‘domestic violence’ placards was the slogan ‘violence

against women is not entertainment’.

The point of these placards was NOT that films cause rape or domestic

violence but that Tarantino treated rape as a joke and violence

against women as entertainment. As the statistics illustrate, they

are not. The best bit of the Liverpool protest for me was when a

(slightly drunk) man stopped and asked if the statistic of 5.6%

conviction rate for rape was true. I said it was and he said ‘That’s

really terrible’. And that was why I standing on a Liverpool pavement

for 2 hours was worth it.

From Danielle

I beg to differ with the surmise made in the article about feminism

and the “peeved tiger”. While it may be true that one movie will not

make a man want to beat his wife, I don’t think it can be denied that

the drip, drip, drip effect of violence in the media (which is just

about everywhere, let’s face it) desensitivises (?) us to violence.

I agree that it’s not the sole cause of violence against women,

violence has been part of human nature since forever, but it sure

doesn’t help matters!

From Susan Francis

Re: Built for women: I’d never heard of the WDS. Do planners ever pay attention to what

they say?! I wish the ones here in Colchester would.

The comment about CCTV cameras reminded me that when I inherited a

tenancy and the landlords wanted me to move to somewhere smaller, one

of the places they sent me to look at had a thing on the door where

you could see who was there before answering. First you get into the

block, then up the stairs, then there’s this

more-like-an-outdoor-front-door with the spy-eye. I’m not moving

anywhere you need one of those! (But the CCTV cameras in the street

don’t make me think the area is unsafe, more that too many people who

should have something better to do are watching.)

Eeva Berglund, author of the article, replies

Many thanks for your comment. WDS still has a lot of work to do, that’s for sure, but there are planning authorities and practices (architects, planners, etc.) around the country with whom we’ve done really constructive work (some examples on And there are many women we’ve trained who, I’d like to think, are taking the message forward in the practical stuff of planning and design. Also, there’s now a legal duty

requiring public bodies to take steps to ensure that women – whoever they are – aren’t marginalised, discriminated against or discouraged from participating in public life, for instance using a public park because they’re not adequately maintained. Not that we’ve so far heard of anyone using the law (Gender Equality Duty) to bring a case.

And, yes, CCTV – not a great use of resources!

From angela

Re: TV for men: I am writing a presentation on Feminism at the minute and I wasn’t

sure where to start. I used to really care about Feminism a lot but

you kind of end up dismissing it all because of silly things like the

‘Dave’ chanel – Does it make you feel like bashing your head against a

brick wall?! I wasn’t aware of the Mike Newall stuff either- that is

kind of shocking. I was having trouble thinking of something

‘lighthearted’ that I could talk about after reading that women in

the ‘United Arab Emirates’ were only granted suffrage last year! but I

think your article shows the permeance of ingrained stereotypical

attitudes and it will make for an interesting conversation – The

presentation is for five ‘blokes’, who told me last week that they

don’t understand why women are interested in football, and they are

also annoyed that women have so much maternity leave because it is

not good for companies! I asked them if it is because they feel men

should have more paternity leave but I got the impression that it is

just because maternity leave is so darn inconvienient! I want to

really go to town on them this week but I don’t want them to switch

off.Wish me Luck!

From Connie

In response to ‘TV for men’ – As a big fan of the relaunched ‘Dave’, I

whole-heartedly agree that witty banter, intelligent conversation and

fast cars are not just for men. And whilst I have no doubt that Dave

has men in it’s target audience, I have seen little evidence that

they market these programmes as being purely for men. Yes, there’s a

slight ‘masculine’ tone to their posters, but the idea that certain

imagery is masculine merely perpetuates stereotypes. I have never

felt like an intruder when watching Dave, nor felt like I have been

excluded as a young woman. The fact that this article has immediately

jumped on the idea that Dave is apparently for men serves to do

Carrie Dunn, author of the article, replies

I’m glad that you don’t feel that there’s a male slant to the

marketing, but the BBC clearly states that Dave is aimed at young men.

From Oisin Moore

Hello, my name is Oisin Moore and I am a PhD student at Queen’s

University Belfast, studying history. I would like to comment on

your somewhat ignorant article on the TV “channel for men”, Dave.

There are many ways of pointing out your obvious flaws, but I think I

will follow the (slightly) more diplomatic route, as you are

obvously, a rather, let’s say, touchy person.

For a start, you will find girls who enjoy walking around in pretty

dresses, high heels and ridiculous looking hats. This is what girls

do, there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be beautiful.

Second, to assume that ALL women/girls will be influenced by “fluffy

tripe” is in itself extremely offensive to women.

Third, is cooking not an extremely productive activity? I myself

find solace in the activity, however would inevitably be mocked,

mainly by female associates, for watching cookery programs.

Why is it offensive to women when they are associated with shoes,

clothes, cooking and of course, their hate of men, while on the other

hand it is not offensive to men to like cars, gadgets, porn etc etc.?

Maybe someday we can have a conversation about why my son can’t wear a

skirt to school, shall we? Get off your high horse missy and start

doing something productive with you “academic life”. You are not

aiming for equality, you are aiming for the other extremity. Love and

good luck.

Carrie Dunn, author of the article, replies

Hi Oisin, thanks for your feedback. I’m not a touchy person at all –

nor am I on a horse of any height whatsoever – so appreciate any

constructive criticism. I can’t help thinking that you might have

overlooked a couple of my main points – I say quite clearly that

stereotyping men is bad in the fifth paragraph, and it’s obvious all

along that my argument is that any form of stereotyping based on

gender is a Bad Thing. I’m in no way going to go on any kind of rally

demanding that Dave be renamed; I was just drawing attention to the

fact that there is gender bias (both ways) in programming and viewing,

which you note yourself with your comments on cookery programmes. I’m

sorry if the tongue-in-cheek aspect of the article wasn’t apparent

enough to you.

From Emma Banton

The article about DaveTV was blinkin brilliant and so spot on I sent a

link to UKTV aka DaveTV themselves.

Keep up the amazing work and thank you for helping my personal growth

every day.

From Nina

Re: High heels with a pointe: The idea that a fashion article based on fetish imposes high heels as

the natural choice for women is absurd. Does it also suggest that

fetish is the natural choice for women? That all women must naturally

choose sado-masochistic sex and clothes made of specific materials

because they have noticed that the female body is viewed as

attractive when presented in those ways? Of course not. Then arises

the question what is the natural choice for women? Flat utilitarian

sandals? Kitten heels? Boots with rubber soles? We choose footwear

according to situation and our own aesthetic sense, not because it’s

the natural choice for women. We are not a demographic, yet the

author has fallen into the trap of placing us as a group on a

feminist website.

There is a distinct separation between femininity and female. You

can’t construct female, it’s just a person’s sex. The construction of

femininity comes on top of being female, it’s about expectation and it

occurs constantly in articles about clothing. High heels are feminine

but any person can wear high heels, any person can construct

femininity and the article lacks this basic recognition. To conflate

that construction, that passing S&M whim of a fashion designer and

film director, two people who deal primarily with the facade of

humanity, with the binding of women’s feet in a culture with no

opportunity for equality is extremely short-sighted and in fact it

detracts from everything our parents and grandparents have done to

get us to the point where we can be female with less expectation.

We don’t need to complain about high heels because no one would

notice if I never put on a pair in my life. No one would realise

unless I pointed it out to them because there is no situation that

expects me to wear high heels.

From Kate Walker

“images which present high-heeled footwear as the natural choice for


I am an obsessive wearer of high heels, and have been for as long as

I can remember. Wandering around Oxford a few weeks ago, I was

looking for shoe inspiration and keeping an eye on the feet of those

around me. I’d walked nearly two miles before I saw another woman in

heels, which surprised me. I now keep my eye on feet on a regular

basis (on the street, not in clubs or bars), and rarely see women in


The natural choice round these parts seems to be ballet flats and

Uggs – regular heel-wearers are fast becoming a dying breed.

(Not fighting, just thought it was an interesting observation.)

From Jane Downey

Thankyou for the article. On a separate strand I am concerned about

the lack of wearable footwear. Women are teetering round in

ridiculous shoes and it is very difficult to get any that one could

run for a bus in, or walk far.

I see many young women solve the problem by going to work in trainers

and then changing at work, but this does not challenge the

ridiculousness of expecting women to walk in these things.

I have searched in vain for a pair of shoes this year, and unless one

wants those that would not be out of place in the men’s department –

no-one expects them to wear these things. Even Clarkes is

disappointing, the one pair I liked without high heels would not stay


If I come again, I’m going to be a shoe designer.

From Anna

oooohhh i love em! i wear them almost every day, 4-5 inches and no

lower, but not to please men, indeed i despise getting attention

from men when wearing heels! i like to to feel taller, better

posture and a bit more glam! but looking at those extreme heels in

the pic made me shiver! shoes are made for walking, not laying down!

heels forever( although sensible walkable ones)!

From Amy

This article is fantastic it completely sums up what my art practice

at uni is all about.

From Irina

Re: From ‘oy sexy’ to ‘frigid bitch’ in 30 seconds: Very good article!

Although my baps are nice, they are not big enough to warrant them a

voiced attention, which, conveniently, saves me from yelling back

something along the line “shut your fucking gob, you ugly shit!”

(Because that’s what i normally do, it is almost a reflex now).

We all have that “attention”. I dislike it because a) it is a fucking

familiarity from a stranger to think HIS opinion is of interest to ME

and b) it is an objectification. When i am more peacefully-minded,

I’d simply say “keep your opinion to yourself” or “i don’t need your

attention”. Or even when somebody who i don’t consider a friend or

acquaintance says something about my looks, i say (without foam at

the mouth and blood-shot eyes rolling, though) “I don’t like comments

on my appearance”. People get the point eventually. Even morons on

streets get it, like the one to whom i shouted “get lost! i din’t

want to talk to you” – he simply … pretended it wasn’t for him,

obviously was embarassed to be spurned so publicly, crossed the road

and pretended to talk on his mobile! So, sisters, get your arses in

gear, the devil is not so scary as he is painted!

Another thing, why i detest most of “attention”: i must confess that

i tend to think i am a fucking glamorous bitch, full of grace and

poise, so when an ordinary looking or a plain ugly man dares offer me

his opinion I am enraged: how dares he? If he was attractive AND

voiced it nicely, i would be polite to him (like i do sometimes, when

a builder says “good morning” instead of familiar “hello”). But I am

pissed of by ugliness of those blokes who think they are in fact,

good enough to draw my attention to themselves. Why am i so

aesthetically wired i =n regard of this? I guess it is because i see

that this fucking world sees me as a beauty first, and everything

else second, so i am only playing according to the rules by putting

myself above men whom i consider to plain to compliment me. I can get

something better than that, and you – you shut up, that kind of

reaction. And I am not ashamed of it, you just adjust your ways to

the environment, don’t you? And only after that, it is the

objectification that i mind too.

From Sarah

The aricle From “oy sexy” to “frigid bitch” I thought was amazing.

Recently I have been thinking about the double standard between men

and women in society and I think this article deffenity shows that.

From Helena Wojtczak

It makes me really sad that, after all the effort women have made over

150 years to obtain equality with men in many fields of life, that

women are still treated as fetishised sexual objects for men’s use.

It saddens me even more that young women, who have never been a part

of the long struggle, have been brainwashed into dressing and

behaving and treating themselves as fetishised sex objects for the

use of men.

Men’s right to look at us, depict us and use us as fetishised sex

objects seems never to be challenged these days, save on websites

such as this one. I was looking at Peter Tatchell’s website this

morning and down the left side are links to all the essays he has

written on the site, defending the rights of many secors of society.

I scrolled down to “W” — not one essay on women and the way they

continue to be depicted, even in the national papers, as sex-hungry,

cum-swallowing whores. Just take a look at those phone line adverts.

It is nauseating.

Why are people so quick to stand up for the rights of ethnic or

religious minorities and their right not to be offended, while

ignoring women’s right not to be so depicted?

We need a NEW suffragette movement to give women the dignity we

deserve as human beings with human rights!

From Josephine

I think it’s great that you’re publishing an article on catcalling.

It certainly reminds me why I hate it so much. However I’d like to

draw the debate’s attention to other areas which I don’t feel the

article adequately addressed.

Where is the line between catcalling and compliments? On one side,

people say if the person is feeling offended than chances are its

catcalling. What’s wrong with objectification? Would it be the same

if women objectify men? Are women not allowed to objectify men?

I see now sexual harassment more of an issue of coupling sexuality

with violence. I don’t mind objectification as long as we’re both

doing it on equal playing ground. What I do mind is if the

objectification comes with a feeling of power. I’ve also come to

question if this coupling of sexuality and violence is simply a

culture issue or something that is address all around the world?

From Chloë Emmott

Great article, thanks for raising an issue that’s not raised too

often and if it is never taken seriosuly.

What annoys me most is the way so many men , and women, see it as


The insults that get yelled at us if we don’t respond to what is

quite frankly insulting and demeaning behaviour in the favoured way

(ie jump into bed with the bloke)

we are bomarded with a seriese of insult msot liekly calling us

‘lesbians’ or ‘frigid’ or taking it ‘too seriously’ because ‘it’s

only a bit of fun’ or even worse ‘ a compliment’

You are right to mention the threatening aspect too , sometimes these

situations without obviously violent can be quite scary. I’ve lost

count of the times I’ve walked away(as god knows saying the word NO

doesn’t do anything on it’s own half the time) from men in response

to some random leering/groping/catcalling and been followed. then

walked away again and still been followed.

On a night out many women have had to step in and ‘rescue’ a friend

form unwanted attention.

The tragic thing is most men seemingly see nothing wrong with this

kind of behaviour at all and most women have been used to it they

cease to protest anymore.

Feel I should start challenging men on it more , but then again I’ve

been in enough ‘could have turned sticky’ situations I don’t want to

risk it a lot of the time. But gods knows I want to tell how utterly

unacceptable and repulsive I find their behaviour.

From Ellie Stewart

I have just read Abi Millar’s article on catcalling and found it to be

extremely well written and important, not because of it’s revelatory

nature, but because it unapologetically puts into words the thoughts

that are in the minds of most women but that most women are too

afraid to say. In our culture women are meant to accept this everyday

harrassment as just a bit of fun and something that comes with being a

woman. Whenever I say to a man, ‘how would you like it if…?’ the

ususal response is ‘I’d find it flattering!’ But the point is, women

DON’T do this because women don’t see men as pieces of meat and women

aren’t able to, and don’t want to, play the power games men play with

women. Women should have the right to walk down the street without a

burkha and not be stared at and jeered at. It makes me feel

astoundingly self-concious- it makes me want to retreat into myself

and become invisible. And my only crime is being a young, blond

female. I don’t wear provocative clothing, but I don’t feel I should

have to cover myself up in order to be treated as a normal human

being, minding her own business, walking down the street. I’d like to

thank Abi Millar for raising this issue and confirming that I am not

alone in my outrage and this unjust and reprehensible treatment of


From Jo Wheatley

Re: The problem with pink: Interesting article. 2 things: how is Michelle so sure that money

raised by the pink campaigning is so directly related to reduced

deaths? I would argue this is due to the rolling out of screening,

better awareness & early intervention & treatments which all began

long before the pink madness did. Also, much of the funded research

on breast cancer focuses on genetic causes which account for only

around 10% of breast cancers! Fundraising also helps pay for the very

glossy campaigns (which cost mega bucks) in the first place. My 2nd

point is, & Michelle refers to this, the need to focus on prevention,

maybe even more than ‘cure’, I would argue. Environmental factors

including diet must play a huge part in the high & increasing

incidence of this disease in the developed world. Having had it

myself, I’m very influenced by Prof Jane Plant’s publications. Her

theories seem to be spurned by the medical profession and certainly

(not surprisingly) by the dairy industry. Breast cancer is rare in

rural China where dairy foods are rare. Jane Plant makes a strong

case for her arguments, as a scientist and someone recovered from the

disease too.

From Jessica

A really interesting essay on the breast cancer campaign and its

association with the colour pink. I would like to add that women’s

gynae cancers are RARELY mentioned (despite the new vaccines).

Cervical cancer is the biggest cancer killer of young women on a

global scale (screening drops it below breast cancer in the UK) but

it is never mentioned. as a young woman who has suffered from this

disease i am made to feel like it is something to be ashamed of

(because of the sexually transmitted nature of the disease and the

intimate part of the body it affects) and there are many many women

who feel the same.

From Michael Tajfel

I don’t think there is much emphasis on prevention in a lot of medical

research today. Many conditions, like diabetes, are related to diet,

and I believe that the influence of big food companies makes this


Breast cancer, however, is very strongly influenced by reproductive

patterns in modern society

Early puberty is probably mainly the result of the same diet which

leads to many medical conditions like coronary heart disease.

Breastfeeding can be encouraged, but an important factor is having a

first child late, and having fewer children. Women who have no

children have a considerably increased risk.

Perhaps research could look at the hormonal factors involved in this,

but I have no knowledge of what is going on now.

Comments on blog posts

From Sara Howland

Re: Failed femmes: pity and scorn in the Daily Mail: Your interpretation of the story about Heather and Andrew Howland (my

brother) is so far of the mark – it is not funny.

You clearly know nothing about brain damage and hyper-sexuality. At

no point in the article does it say that women have to become

“sexless” when they become mothers (I am an unmarried “mother

to be” with sexual desires! – I intend to keep my sex life

vibrant when I become a mum).

This is not what the article is about. The purpose of this article

is to gain awareness of an “illness” that is poorly understood by

the medical community and has a profound impact on people’s lives.

We are not just talking about someone who has decided to let her hair

down and enjoy her sexuality. I wish it was the case. I am on open

minded woman, and have no issues with people expressing their

sexuality in any way they feel comfortable – neither does my

brother. We are not judgmental about anyone’s life style choices.

What my brother has described is a painful journey of dealing with the

near death of his sole mate, and the battle with mental illness for

the last 2 years. He has shown incredible strength and endurance, at

no point in your review, have you acknowledged that – which is a


By raising awareness of this condition, my brother is hoping he can

help others in a similar situation. It took them a long time to get

the medical support and understanding they needed.

The heartache that my family has been through since Heather had her

brain injury has been devastating. My brother has done everything he

can to protect Heather and help her through her recovery. You have

no clue about the danger that Heather has inadvertently put herself

and her family in. This article is not about condemning the sexual

desires of a married women. This article is about devastating brain


You done exactly what you have accused the mail of doing – twisting

the facts to suit your own propaganda. I would encourage you to do

some research and perhaps reach out to people in Andrew’s situation

and learn more before “casting your judgment”. Open your mind.

“a woman can either be a good mother or enjoy sex but not both”

and that “somehow, women have to become sexless once they become

mothers.” NOT TRUE AT ALL. This is not the jist of the article.

This is about brain damage, and the devastating effect hyper

sexuality can have (this is an illness, not another word for healthy

sexual appetite – do your research. The part of Heathers brain

that is “physically” damaged is the part that controls basic

impulses, rational higher reasoning – nothing to do with morals).

“Her apparent shame about her condition makes it very easy for the

Daily Mail to sympathise (she is reported to “look at the floor”

when her husband Andy tries to work out how many men she has had

“inappropriate relations” with in the past two years).” Did it

ever occur to you that Heather’s embarrassment could because of the

hurt she has caused her sole mate? Have you ever been in a

meaningful relationship and let that person down? Do you think that

feeling sorry for the hurt you have caused someone you love is

somehow wrong? Again, you have twisted what was intended.

“Conveniently, we also learn that Heather was from a church-going

family, disapproved of extra-marital affairs and hadn’t “as much

as looked at another man” since her wedding day”

AND? What is wrong with that? I am not sure what point you are

trying to make – do you think that is wrong for people to live up

to their vows and go to church? I am not religious or married, but I

don’t see any harm in people living together and been honest with

each other. I think the problem with the world today is people don’t

have tolerance for each others beliefs. There is nothing wrong with

monogamy – or open relationships. Each to their own, don’t judge.

“The possibility that Heather’s hyper sexuality might be her

injured brain’s rather dramatic way of letting go of the binds that

had previously suppressed her is, of course, not even considered.”

My brother has spent 2 years researching and trying to understand

Heather’s illness. He has traveled the country speaking to

specialists in the field. Yes, I am sure he has considered every

single possibility – since he has known Heather for the last 17

years, I think he is in a better position to answer why that is not

the conclusion he has reached at this point.

“According to the mail, all is not lost for the couple because they

are seeing a specialist who is reckons that Heather’s brain can be

retrained to “recognise how it is appropriate to behave.” Also,

Heather has agreed not to leave the house alone, to “ensure her own

safety and Andy’s peace of mind.” Again, I suggest that you do

some research on brain injury. This is not about trying to cure

“immoral behavior”. Try and specifically research about damage

to the limbic system, it might help you to understand the specialists

involvement and their objectives with Heather’s treatment.

Regarding Heather leaving the house – she is not safe to be left on

her own. Unfortunately, there are sexual predators out there (fact) –

I guess my brother does not want Heather to be a dead body found in a

park somewhere one day. Heather also has memory damage, so could

easily forget how to get home again. Unfortunately, the illness has

had a profound effect their financial situation. My brother is now

the sole income generator, and he can not afford to take time off

work (he is a social worker). He worries constantly about her


Holly Combe, author of the blog post, replies

Dear Sara Howland,

Thanks for your comments. First of all, I would like

to assure you that my criticisms were with the Daily

Mail’s coverage of Heather and Andy’s story and not

with them as individuals. I am sorry if I did not make

this clear enough in the post.

I knew I was venturing into sensitive territory by

choosing to critique this particular article but chose

-perhaps rather hastily- to avoid dressing up my post

with condescending platitudes and, instead, simply

focus on critiquing the report itself. Indeed, as

someone who has no direct experience of

hypersexuality, I am not in a position to say how

hypersexual people and their families should deal with

their situation and imagine that attempting to offer

solutions that respect a range of beliefs would be

problematic for even an expert. However, as a writer

and researcher, I *do* consider myself to be in a

position to comment on how the media represents

peoples’ personal stories and that is why I wrote the

piece. It is also why I would defend it.

You say the purpose of the Daily Mail article is to

gain awareness of hypersexuality but I would argue

that it mainly serves to sensationalise it. Yes, it

will make people aware of the condition but if the

writer knows anything more about brain damage and

hypersexuality than I do, they certainly don’t

demonstrate it. However, I think it is fair to say

that journalistic articles aren’t expected to show

expertise on the topic being written about so all I

did was criticise *the way* the Daily Mail reported on

the story.

For the record, I am able to access research papers

about hypersexuality through the university where I

study. However, as the writer of the Daily Mail

article doesn’t make any informed comments about

hypersexuality anyway, this means my opinion with

regard to the overall tone and bias of the piece is

unlikely to change (even if I become highly informed

about the topic).

It is true that the Daily Mail does not *directly* say

women have to become “sexless” when they become

mothers. However, as discussed in my blog post, Jo

commented that the Daily Mail *implies* women should

be sexless once they become mothers. I still agree

with this point. Just look at the headline’s use of

capital letters:

“Help! My wife WAS a doting mother – then she went in

to a coma and now she’s a hypersexual”

Wouldn’t you say this sets up a dichotomy where the

“doting mother” and hypersexual person are seen as

polar opposites (i.e where one is completely

incompatible with the other)? I appreciate that the

changes to Heather’s behaviour have not only been

sexual but I still think the headline exploits her

situation in order to make a conservative point. If

the article wasn’t at least partly about condemning

female sexual desire, why did it say that Heather’s

behaviour would have any other woman “condemned as a

cheap slut”? Why would they say that if they weren’t

using Heather’s situation as a way of reinforcing

traditional ideas about what is acceptable behaviour

in a woman? Would the article have used that kind of

language about a man diagnosed as hypersexual? This

leads me to the following point you make:

“We are not just talking about someone who has decided

to let her hair down and enjoy her sexuality. I wish

it was the case. I am on open minded woman, and have

no issues with people expressing their sexuality in

any way they feel comfortable – neither does my

brother. We are not judgmental about anyone’s life

style choices.”

It’s a shame the same can’t be said for the Daily

Mail! You tell me “each to their own, don’t judge” but

it is worth reiterating that when Heather and Andy

discuss her “dalliances,” the Daily Mail damningly

states that “in any other circumstances, the only

response to such jaw-dropping openness about marital

indiscretions would be ‘yuck’.”

I am fully aware that hypersexuality is not a word for

“healthy sexual appetite” but that doesn’t change the

fact that the Daily Mail still managed to:

1) pass judgment on any woman who would seek out

casual encounters *without* the excuse of being ill


2) speak disparagingly about polyamorous couples who

would happily share such information with each other.

In response to your comments about Heather’s shame,

I’d like to clarify that I wasn’t suggesting Heather’s

discomfort was somehow wrong. I simply said it made it

easy the Daily Mail to sympathise. Would it have been

okay for them to be somewhat more judgemental if this

had happened to a couple in an open relationship and

she *hadn’t* shown shame? I’d say no.

You draw attention to my highlighting of the Mail’s

focus on Heather’s church-going background and

previous disapproval of colleagues who had affairs.

Here, it is worth clarifying that I don’t have

anything against monogamy or religion as valid choices

amongst many. However I do believe an adherence to

those principles by the subjects of an article help

the Daily Mail to make it clear that a story is about

their “sort of people” (or, rather, “not Jeremy Kyle’s

sort”). This means that, in the Mail’s case, it can

serve as a convenient way of reinforcing traditional

ideas about morality.

Another example of this would be in the way the Mail

reports on Heather not being aloud to leave the house

alone. The article makes no reference to how

regrettable it is that a grown woman has to be

protected in such a way (however necessary that may

be). In an article with a more liberal tone, such

musings would seem superfluous and overly obvious.

However, in a piece that already seems extremely

traditional, its absence simply adds to the overall

implication that everything is cosy and right when

women who don’t behave “appropriately” are controlled.

Overall, I’d say I simply analysed the Daily Mail’s

handling of the story. I don’t believe that

constitutes “twisting the facts.” I accept that any

writer or researcher will, to some extent, end up

using people’s stories as a way of reinforcing their

own views and values and the Daily Mail did this in

such an extreme way that I was compelled to offer an

alternative view. I even questioned whether I should

spend time doing this when it seems to be common

knowledge that the paper generally tends to uphold

bigoted views!

Having said that, I would still argue that Heather’s

story would have looked very different in another

paper. If my post persuades just one person to take

their story elsewhere, it will be worthwhile.

From Helen G

Re: Please, please just stop!: Please will you explain to me exactly what you mean by this comment:

“[…] the “Femail” section of The Daily Mail seems to be

suffering from an unfortunate case of gender dysphoria syndrome.”

I underwent SRS exactly 10 weeks ago today to ease my gender

dysphoria, which had driven me to the point of suicide last year. You

may be unaware that GD is a medical condition recognised by the NHS

and supported by international Standards Of Care.

I hope you will understand why I find your use of the term in this

context to be at best superficial and at worst downright offensive. I

sincerely hope this is not yet another example of the oppression of

trans people by feminists manifested in the written word. And as a

metaphor, it is simply wrong and does not work: poor quality writing.

Would you have used disability in such a way? Perhaps you should have

researched the condition a little more thoroughly before you used it

in such a way.

Please email me to explain your use of the term, better still, please

amend your post and explain to your other readers why you have changed


Abby O’Reilly, author of the blog post, replies

Many thanks for your e-mail, which I was forwarded by my editor. Firstly,

the paragraph has now been removed from the post. Secondly, I would like

to apologise. I should not have used that term, and in retrospect I can

see that it was offensive. Please let me assure you that it was not

written to cause offense and was not used in that way – it was insensitive

of me and I am very sorry. As I did not use it to cause upset, I just

assumed that it wouldn’t be interpreted as such, but I can see now that I

should have taken more care.

I understand that GD is a medical condition, and I actually did a lot of

research into this as an undergraduate. I can understand how the last few

weeks must have been difficult for you, and that reading the blog was

upsetting. This was definitely not a case of the suppression of trans

people by feminists through the written word, and I would certainly, on a

personal level, not want to cause upset to you or anybody else with the


From Jane Purcell

Re: What, no make-up?: I take Carol’s point about women being made to

feel less ‘acceptable’ if they choose not to wear it, but let’s not

forget that the simple act of a few artfully applied cosmetics can be

a real boost to the self-esteem.

The English Red Cross has included cosmetology and make-up in

hospital care programmes to improve patients’ physical well being and

boost their self-esteem. Make-up doesn’t have to be seen as a

burdensome mask; it can also boost the spirits.

From Roisin

Re: Should married women change their surnames?: Good for you Abby! We need more consciousness-raising articles such as

this one. Every married woman I know (with only one exception) has

changed her surname to her husband’s, which is something I find truly

terrifying. Independent, intelligent women who view themselves as

their husbands’ equals in every way are blindly submitting to this

repellent practice because it’s “only tradition” or “only

convention”. More articles like this one please – men and women need

to be made aware of the message that is being sent to society by

“traditions” such as these!

From The Huntress

I read the Comment is free article and am amazed (and disgusted) by

the amount of nasty or offensive comments, especially accompanied by

comments that the article is “fluff” or that the issue is trivial. If

it’s so trivial why are they so angry about it?

I agree with you totally. It’s obviously a sign of male possession of

women, that’s what marriage was initially about anyway, and if people

don’t realise that they’re pretty ignorant. It’s also obvious that

it’s still used that way and the problem is that so many women do it

automatically without even thinking about it, because it’s just what

you’re “supposed to do”.

The family unit argument is rubbish, because if that were true there

would be large numbers of men taking their wives’ names too.

And the argument that it’s “just a convention”? Well, so are many

things, but it doesn’t make them meaningless and doesn’t make them

OK. I wish people would realise that taking a man’s surname is the

big deal, instead of the other way round.

From Jennifer McMahon

Re: Wonder Woman gets first female writer: Um, sorry, but Gail Simone is not the first woman to write for Wonder

Woman. Jodi Picoult was on it before her. I’d have to do some

research to see if any other women wrote for Wonder Woman, but that

is 70 odd years’ of history to search through! And there have

definitely always been female comic book artists and writers about

(although in the minority) so it seems unlikely that Jodi and Gail

are the only to women to have contributed to the WW legend!

Gail Simone is fantastic though and has *really* raised the profile

of female comic book writers and gender issues within comics. And her

first issue of WW kicked absolute ass!

Sorry, I’m a comic geek, and it just thought the post did a little

diservice to the woman who came before Gail and all the other women

who have worked in comics before her.

From Hazel

Re: The pen holder that you can ‘rape’: It is also for sale at I have just written to them

informing them I shall never shop at Amazon again until it is

withdrawn. I’d like to think it’s not a pointless “threat” because I

have been buying from them since 1999.

From Ashleigh Bridges

My goodness, maybe they should advertise it as “a gift to exploit and

rape women every single day, you can even do it whilst sat at your

desk” or maybe ” why not get in the festive spirit by making a woman

say ‘no, no, no’-makes a change from ‘ho ho ho’!!”

From Sayem Rahman

The release of a “toy” (if I can even use such a term) like this

belittles the victims of rape, which itself is used as a weapon in

warzones all over the world.

As for the sick f***ers posting in and telling those who’ve been put

through this trauma to ‘chill out’… why don’t you go and get

violated in whatever orifice, come back and tell us you don’t feel

like s*** in any way? Or maybe you have something to hide?

From Lindsey

Re: Sick of films that pair ugly men with beautiful women? Don’t watch Superbad: So, the truth is that pairing pretty women with “ugly” men is a double

standard, but I am taking offense to the simplicity of the argument.

The boys in this particular film were juvinile but upstanding. One

refused to sleep with a girl because he thought she was too drunk to

make a responsible decision. Don’t we want that lesson out there?

Now, in no way am I going to defend this film as full of positive

message, but what the hell do ugly and beautiful mean anyway? But

it’s true, where are the less than avarage girls?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Thanks for your comments! It’s true that I didn’t go into all that much detail in the blog post, as it was just a quick pointer really, rather than an essay or an extended review of the film.

I find the ugly man/beautiful woman device problematic for a number of reasons – as well as being a simple double standard, it has to be viewed in the context of the pressures on women to value themselves in terms of how they measure up to an impossible beauty standard.

One of the boys did refuse to sleep with the girl because she was too drunk – but I found this concept of what constitutes a ‘respectful’ attitude to women and sex rather problematic. She was drunk, it’s true, but she’d made her desires clear – if it had been the other way around, it wouldn’t even have been presented as an option that a girl shouldn’t take advantage of a boy in a drunken state!

In addition to this, the way it is presented made me wonder: did he not sleep with her because she wasn’t able to give full consent and might regret it in the morning? Or was it because she was being open about her desire, and ‘coming on too strong’?

From Rebecca Heller

Re: Our report on Reclaim the Night 2007: I loved the article: ‘Reclaim the Night 2007’ on London’s Reclaim the

Night march – I was there myself and it was a fantastic evening.

However, it was just that – London’s Reclaim the Night march. As the

f word reports ‘contemporary UK feminism’, it is a shame that the

London RTN is still ‘the’ RTN. One of the speeches at the London

rally hoped for Reclaim the Night marches springing up all over the

country. This will be much harder for feminists to motivate

themselves and others about if London’s Reclaim the Night remains

‘Reclaim the Night 2007’.

From Mary Davidson

Re: If turning an orangutan into a sex slave is evil, what does it mean to do that to a human?: Thank you for being bold enough to post the sickness people will stoop

to–for self gain.

I wish–those who are able–would contribute to the poor–shipping

food and clothes–at least. It may help a child not to be sold into


From Steve James

Re: The Page 3 ‘role model’: Ms price is cashing in on a premise that the Victorians discovered

when they first put the face of a pretty girl on a bar of soap; sex

sells. It’s simplistic to dismiss this as a male view of femininity;

it’s evidently a female one a s well. The real culprit is capitalism,

in which all other considerations are submerged beneath the almighty


From Elisabeth Johnson

Re: Reclaim the Night tomorrow!: In response to article on the Reclaim the Night march – specifically

the comments left by readers of Julie Bindel’s online guardian


I totally agree that many of the comments left were patronising, I

totally agree that violence against women on a daily basis is a real

and serious problem, but Julie Bindel’s column still seemed pretty

ridiculous to me. I think Reclaim the Night is a fabulous idea and if

I was living in the UK I would definitely be there, but at the same

time it isn’t useful to alienate those men that may support the

concept and the cause by making wild generalisations. Yes most

rapists are men (a huge huge majority – although I also know of women

who have sexually abused their children for example) but not all men

are rapists. I feel that Julie’s column has given people an excuse to

mock at a brilliant and important event.

From steve james

Can someone tell me what the demonstrations about violence against

women has actually achieved?

From John A

The appropriate response to “Reclaim the Night” for men is to join us

on our “London Pro-Feminist Men’s Group” stall at ULU afterwards. No

other response is acceptable! :-D

From justyna

Re: Un-spice your life: I watched said video with the sound off – which heightened just how

ridiculous the undulating bodies and gratuitous writhing in bras is.

Girl Power? Watching this video to the end was arduous!

As the blog post suggested, sex sells, so will aid in raking in the

cash – conceivably drawing in a demographic not aware or interested

in Children in Need. However unless the next flagship video contains

an unsubtle and unrealistic sexual bias, it’s doubtful this will be

a sustained interest. It’s a cheap shot, which decreases the

integrity of the charity.

It pulls no surprises in terms of girl group videos – glamorous

setting, heavily made up and spangly (lack of) clothing, so

artistically it’s not pushing any boundaries. It also manages to

compound glossy stereotypes of media’s misogyny.

I’m especially concerned that the most naked spice girls – posh and

ginger – are both famed for eating disorders. An exaggerated and

glamorized show of their bodies blatantly puts out some dark and

unhealthy messages, as well as being quite creepy.

For charity? As flagged up in the blog post, it’s unsettling that

this video represents a kid’s charity with all it’s patronising

opulence and pointlessly sexualised posturing. It bears no relevance

to the charity’s ethics just panders to the clichéd representation

of women in mainstream pop music.

From LL

I had not seen the video before. I was shocked. These are supposedly

empowered adult women! and they behaved no better than Britney when

she dressed like a school girl. Children in Need is about family – so

I\’m told – and this was not. This was soft porn. Self promotion ?

Exploitation of a hunger for more money and more fame? I\’m not sure

who I blame more the people who shot it or the women for stripping

down in the first place. They are surely strong enough to say No.

Certainly Sporty was.

The war for equality and respect will never be won while women do

this to themselves.

From steve james

Can someone tell me what the demonstrations about violence against

women has actually achieved?

From Sara Helen

Re: Will it soon be tougher to get an abortion in Scotland than in England?: I really liked this article – good to hear from a Scot on the F-Word!

It’s true, though – the Catholic church has far too much sway over

the debate surrounding issues such as abortion. It would be nice to

hear a scientific discussion about it, so that everyone could know

the facts of the matter and make up their own minds. Abourtion should

be a personal choice made by the woman concerned, not made for her by

politicians or religious leaders.

From Lauren

Re: Girls prefer Bob the Builder to Barbie: I just wanted to comment on Carrie Dunn’s piece about Barbie vs. Bob

the Builder. I don’t think your childhood experience of preferring

cars to Barbies was that unusual at all. My sister and I had a few

Barbies, and we occasionally dressed them up, but mainly we made our

toy animals attack and eat them. And our parents are pretty

conservative, so it wasn’t as if we were being encouraged to defy

gendered toy choices. I remember reading about that study where they

“proved” that boys just naturally choose “boy toys” and girls do the

same for “girl toys.” I thought it was an enormous load of bullshit.

Girls have been rejecting stereotypically girl toys for ages; it just

hasn’t been widely publicized.

Of course, there’s a whole ‘nother can of worms to be opened

regarding the probably pretty widespread attitude that girls can play

with both “boy toys” and “girl toys,” but boys with dolls would be

just wrong.

From Nenena

Re: Buffy actor disappoints even more…: I’ve been reading the F-word blog for a couple months now and really

enjoying it. However, I did not so much enjoy the post about Sarah

Michelle Gellar changing her name. It makes me uncomfortable

whenever feminists *dissaprove* of other women for making choices

like changing names, wearing heels, wearing makeup, or doing anything

else that generally conforms to the patriarchy. I don’t like the

dissaproving finger-wagging, and the tone of the post was way too

close to the “you’re a bad feminist if…” rhetoric that doesn’t help

anybody. I think that it’s possible to critique practices like

name-changing without judging the women who choose (for whatever

reason) to engage in the practice, or to judge them as

“dissappointing” by our standards.

There are plenty of practical reasons for spouses to share a name.

Maybe SMG considered these when she made her decision. Maybe she

didn’t, maybe it was a purely “romantic” gesture on her part. Who

knows? I’ve personally made romantic gestures for my boyfriends that

I realize happen to coincide with patriarchal expectations of women

(i.e. cooking for them, etc) but I don’t feel that any of that

conflicts with my feminist ideals, because these are choices that I

make and that I know I can opt out of any time. If I were married, I

would feel the same way about changing my surname. It would be

problematic if my theoretical husband simply expected me to change my

name as a matter of course. But if he doesn’t, and if he leaves the

decision up to me, then I gotta admit I would probably change my

surname purely for practical purposes. But I would feel comfortable

with that decision as long as I knew that it was my choice, not his.

I also don’t think that the comparison of a name change to a boob job

was fair. I understand that for some people, a name is a fundamental

part of their identity. But for others, like me, I really don’t

care. Maybe SMG doesn’t feel like changing her name is fundamentally

changing her identity, either. Women and men are all going to value

their own surnames to varying degrees. To compare a name change

(which may not be a big deal for some) to a fundamental body

alteration is disingenous. For some, the comparison may be valid.

For others, like me, and possibly like SMG, it’s not.

From Ruth Moss

Re: Swedes fight for right to swim topless (…in November?): Anything that stops breasts being so sexualised and fetishised is just

great with me…

From tom hulley

Re: Does Strictly Come Dancing play into the myth of catfighting women?: Strictly Come Dancing. “Bitchiness” is not a female trait but an

aspect of human character. There is a myth about it though. Years ago

I ran a hostel for young women aged between 14 and 18 and never once

encountered the alleged ‘bitchiness’ found among women. The word is

sexist, of course, while ‘dogged’ could be a term for male

determination both ‘dog’ and ‘bitch’ are used to insult women.

Sorry, back to the dance show … I record it then fast forward

through the biased judging and only watch the dance. It is not very

good this series. In my humble view only Louisa Lytton and Denise

Lewis ever shone as dancers and both were short changed in the show.

One was quite young, one was black -makes you wonder!

Best wishes, Tom.

From John

My girlfriend Carole and I, and several of our female friends are

enthusiastic watchers of SCD and are all appalled when a talented

celeb loses out to a merely popular one. Looks don’t come into it;

nor does age, which you didn’t mention. One of the women here

commented that viewers who can’t dance shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

From Irina

Re: Just another way to alter our bodies: Despite how much some feminists try and bang on about

“medicalisation” of female bodies by male doctors, I just don’t buy

it, especially when this accusation is levelled at the pill and

contraception in general.

The notion, used by some, that contraception benefits men MORE than

women, as they can shag as they please without price to pay, is

sexist in some way. I insist that women also need sex without

consequences. We also need to shag as we please without fear of

pregnancy or disease. All humankind needs it.

The reason contraception is developed for women’s use mostly, I

think, is not because some evil doctors think that “it’s down to

birds to keep the ovulation mess in check”, no. But because if it

fails, it is women’s bodies which will be paying by unwanted pregnacy

and abortion, and therefore to leave it to a bloke is to take away

control more, then by encouraging us to pop in pills.

I personally hate the fact that ovulation happens every bloody month

and all the more thankful to those men who, by inventing the pill,

tell mother nature where to shove it. I am definitely not one of

those ovulation and womb worshiping feminists. As to condoms – they

bloody break and are less effective than a pill. I’d think we all

should cheer and salute the idea of something as effective as the

pill but without side-effects like loss of libido or mood swings. My

only dissapointment is that it will be too late for me to try it,

coupled with concerns that it still might have some unexpected

side-effects like any other medicine.

However i agree with the author of the post completely that long-term

contraception (which doesn’t depend on daily use and remembering to

take it) like implants or injections absolutely MUST be invented for

men as well, if only for the sake of egality. If it takes 2 to tango

when it comes to sex, all the more it should when it comes to


From Matt Wardman

Re: I thought the personal was political: First of all thanks for the link and the thoughtful response.

You say: “We need them to be quite biased in favour of promoting equality and

human rights for all.”

I think that you are assuming a particular view of both “equality”

and “human rights for all” a priori – whereas in reality these are

decisions about (and between) competing rights, and need a

conversation from a number of different points of view.

That is why I think it is the correct decision to have both Edwards

and Ben Summerskill on the commission.

and a small brickbat – any chance of real comments, even if


zohra moosa, author of the blog post, replies

Dear Matt,

Thanks very much for emailing about this.

Agree rights are competing. However Joel Edwards campaigned for the right to discriminate against gay people when delivering services to the general public.

I therefore do not think it is appropriate for him to be on the very Commission that is required to uphold legislation that he does not support or agree with.

I have no problems with the debates around competing rights, but there is a place for this. Appointing Mr Edwards as a Commissioner – which is a public appointment and has a specific job description – is quite another matter.

From Ellen Allcoat

Re: Maplin – stereotypes galore for Xmas!: OMG I was wondering how long it was before someone noticed this! I

have a Maplin right near my house and I literally stopped in the

street to check what I was seeing was correct when I first saw their

Xmas campaign. The fact that I am a techno freak and love most of

what Maplin stock just makes it even more infuriating!!!


From Evie Wallace

Re: Trinny and Susannah: fuck right off: Calm down dear! Trinny and Susannah are not evil tools of the

patriarchal fashion industry. If they were they would tell women to

lose weight, or get nipped and tucked as in that awful Ten Years

Younger programme. They are not body fascists. They send women of

all shapes, sizes and ages to ordinary high street shops, not

designer ones. They don’t suck up to designers. Their advice is

affordable and achievable. And every single woman comes out looking

100% better.

They even made Jeremy Clarkson look good. I rest my case. Now for

heaven sake get those dungarees off and comb your hair. A bit of

lippy wouldn’t go amiss either.

From Evie Wallace

Re: Chuckle chuckle: I see that your response carefully edited my perfectly valid point

that while you may not like T and S, their advice is reasonable, life

enhancing and shows women how to make the most of themselves without

dieting or resorting to plastic surgery. I put in the dungaree

remark as a joke and no offence was meant. But of course that was

the only part of my email you printed.

I bet that if the readers of this great site were offered the chance

of a free makeover by T and S, 99% of them would jump at the chance.

Oh yes they would! Making the most of yourself doesn’t mean you’re

buying into the narrow patriarchal stereotype of the way women are

‘meant’ to look. Sometimes it just means that you want to make the

most of yourself.

Incidentally, one of T and S’s programmes was about dressing in your

70’s and over. What other programme has ever looked at affordable

style for older women? My granny was thrilled.

Jayne, author of the blog post, replies

All of your comment will be printed in the comments section – it is not the norm to publish comments on the blog itself. That part of your response is just what I hear over and over again when I speak out against the beauty industry, and for me it proves how obsessed we are with our appearance and how women choosing to opt out of beauty rituals are often the subject of jokes and (although not in your case) mocking.

As you can see from her post, Samara agrees with your point of view, as do many other women, and I totally understand where you are coming from. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

From Nina

Re: All women are unacceptable, but some women are more unacceptable than others: Samara says: “I always feel like screaming whenever I open a women’s

magazine to be confronted with a series of tips on how to “dress to

flatter your figure”

I think the problem with these magazines is not that they’re telling

people to dress to flatter their figures. I firmly believe that

people should dress their bodies and not simply throw on clothes to

cover themselves (notably I also have this attitude to kitchen

appliances etc.) but the problem lies in the idea that bodies can be

so generalised. As if a pear shape actually exists! It’s an insult to

humanity to believe that following a few rules will actually make you

look better when in actual fact each body needs a different set of

rules! No one should be generalised in that way, it’s insulting to

all of us and Trinny and Susannah’s people always need individual

advice because their bodies need individual attention not some half

baked guidelines.

From icicle

Re: New female condom not set to take off: My partner and I are currently having major problems with

contraception as I am allergic to spermicide, hormonal contraceptives

seem to have a reasonably severe depressive/destabilizing affect on me

and he is currently unable to put a condom on without losing his

erection (has been a problem for 3 months).

I personally would be so pleased if femidoms were redesigned and made

more widely available.

The current model leaves a lot to be desired and is my only real

contraceptive option.

Abby O’Reilly, author of the blog post, replies

Many thanks for your comments on my recent blog post. I can appreciate

your situation, and that you would welcome the new design female condom as

a method of barrier contraception. I do believe, however, that many women

would still be reluctant to use this as a method of birth

control/protection from STDs, when there are other methods available that

would perhaps be more pleasurable to use. I do think, however, that if

women do want to use the female condom, then of course, it is nothing but

fantastic that the new design is more user friendly. I continue to be

concerned however, that the responsibility for contraception seems to be

disproportionately placed on women.

From Helen

Re: Sexist jokes cause discrimination – study: So sexist jokes cause discrimination? – all the more reason to

campaign against lads mags then!

From Rosie

Re: Merry-go-rounds and badge wearing coppers:

I told my boyfriend about the pay gap – he didn’t believe me. Where

could I find proof from an impartial source? If I showed him the

statistics on a webpage such as the Fawcett Society’s, for example,

he would say it was just propaganda. Where do the Fawcett Society get

their information from?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I am not sure whether the Fawcett Society does its own independent research on the pay gap, but the government produces official figures, through the Office for National Statistics.

From Maria Dixon

Re: Fatties more likely to get cancer: Samara

Ginsberg misses the point when she objects to the article focusing on

women. This study was specifically intended to look at women’s health,

and the effect of the menopause in particular. How could it possibly

have included men?

If the effects of the menopause and other women specific health

issues (such as endometrial cancer, mentioned in the article) weren’t

studied that would undoubtedly show that the health & science

communities take no interest in women’s health. We should be

championing scientists who research the health issues that affect

either sex, not damning them because one piece of media-friendly

research happens to focus on women.

The fact that a similar report has not come out about men at the

exact same time is pretty irrelevant. There is, and continues to be,

research into health issues for both genders.

I love your blog, but some of the pieces are very poorly thought out.

There’s no point in objecting to something just for the sake of it!

Samara Ginsberg, author of the blog post, replies

I wasn’t objecting to that particular article focusing on women, just to the general media trend of swooping on anything involving women’s weight. Having said that, at the moment this is of course pretty much eclipsed by the ‘childhood obesity crisis’ anyway. I also had absolutely no intention whatsoever of criticising the medical profession or scientists themselves. It’s an ironic coincidence that my best friend happens to be a scientist for Cancer Research UK! All I was saying was that it occurred to me that I can’t remember ever having read anything like this focusing on men, and I was wondering if this might be because it was considered less media-friendly. Sorry if that wasn’t clear…

From mia

Re: Powerful women: I find the the point the Gaurdian makes about Cristina Fernández de

Kirchner being the most powerful woman in Latin America due to the

fact that the only other country run by a woman has a smaller economy

telling. When a man is regarded the most powerful of something, he is

regarded so because he has more power than both men and women in his


Enough said.

From Wane

Re: Raise age of consent for porn to 21?: so fucking wot if they use college girls,

its an idea, so wot.

shud the ide of MILF be stopped too for sume other reason.. this

guys is just anti porn

Comments on earlier features and reviews

From David Sorrill

Re: Reasons to be cheerful: I have been a lifelong male feminist and tried to promote at every

opportunity the rights of women. In particular, I try to use

inclusive language to the extent possible, humankind instead of

mankind, etc. However, I am confused about the use of some nouns

which traditionally have a male and female form, say, hero and

heroine, manager and manageress or actor and actress. Is it still

acceptable to use both of these in your view or is the fact that the

female form identifies the person as a woman inappropriate?

Many thanks

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

It’s my own view that it is inappropriate to use job titles that indicate the gender of the person doing the job, because it implies that there is a distinction between say a male manager and a woman doing the same job. It is particularly problematic in fields of work such as acting, where female actors really are treated as a different ‘product’ than male actors, given worse lines, forced into early retirement and paid much less.

From D Tran

The biological clock ticks because the timer reminds you that your

body is only capable of conceiving and carrying to term a child for a

limited time in your lifespan. Good for you if you have decided that

having a child is not for you for whatever reason, but you don’t know

what it’s like or what you have missed out on until you have tried it.

So tough luck if you change you mind later. Once you reached 45 years

of age, Mother Nature has taken the decision is out your hands and

you will never get to experience the joys of motherhood (unless you

undergo expensive fertility treatment). I would rather prefer to try

something once (while I still can), and speak from experience, rather

than spout out the same old drivvle about ‘not all women want

children’ from the ripe old age of 24, and then let time past and

regret not doing so later on in life.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I can’t help but feel it’s a bit of a cavalier attitude to bring a human being into the world on the basis of trying out lots of life experiences!

From Helen Rainey

Re: The new breastfeeding taboo: Wow! I cannot believe how hard it is to find an article that speaks

the truth for many women. Finally, an article written about the “dark

side” of breastfeeding and the MANY pitfalls and problems that

thousands of women encounter! We woman who are “lactationally

challenged” should not be made to feel like losers because we turn to

formula to feed our infants. We are left with no other alternative.

We could continue with excruciating pain, cracked and blistered

nipples, the inevitable decline in milk production, and the soul

destroying cries of misery from our less than contented newborns OR

we could crack open a case of Emfamil. What is the crime here?

Bravo to the writer!

From Charlotte (age 16)

Re: Teenagers and cosmetic surgery: Okay, I don’t know how old this article is but it is exactly what I

have been looking for! For a start all my friends are perfect- they

are who they want to be they have the best personalities but ALL have

hang-ups about their bodies! I can’t see why, there is no such thing

as “normal” or “fitting-in” and even if there was, who would want to

be a part of it (that’s my opinion). So I’ve shown this article to my

friends and they’re finally beginniging to believe me a little bit!

Also, in my AS level sociology class I am studing gender roles so

this article has also provided me with some fantastic facts. Thirdly,

I am doing a speech on “The stupid thing women do to their bodies in

order to look ‘good’!” which is how I came across this peice of text

when searching for a style modle.

Thank You

The article is great [=

Charlotte Sky Parker

Aged 16 (p.s. I apologise for any spelling mistakes)

From Ashley Cuffe

Re: No porn is good porn?: Abby O’Reillys ‘no porn is good porn’ is spot on. I am doing research

on feminist views of pornography for a third year law course and I

think this article is not only informative but also bloody hilarious!

A girl after my own heart.

From Manny

Sadly i first though this website would be about facts how womens

equality should be risen in the world. It seems not. I only see

people cross talking, whining and instead of telling facts just

overwatching them or ignoring them. I never seen anything good about

other sex being better than other. If you would give me awnser why

women are better than men i might actually considering joining


From Mae B

Re: Paper Dolls: Searching for Women within Kerrang Magazine: I couldn’t agree more with this article – I’m a musician and have

played in bands for 15 years and in that time sadly, not much has

changed with regards to attitudes of women in music. If anything more

recently it’s actually got worse! Even for those magazines and ‘zines

who champion marginalized sections of culture and therefore have in

theory a feminist aspect(which are commonly run by younger women in

my experience) have overly sexualized images of female musicians

pouting and for their self worth and approval in a softcore porn


The current generation appear to be so apathetic on the essential

politically aware topics of sexual equality, it’s alarming.

Here’s the longer version of this

debate that I contributed to which rages on the following pages. Not

only about the diabolical representation of women in music but also the decline of music itself….

From x kitty x

Re: Whose slut?:

I WAS begining to believe I am a feminist worst nightmare untill I

read this article. I think it’s great. I was a stripper and loved it.

I loved being looked at. I felt I was sexy before and do not need men

to meke me feel sexy but I loved them strarring at me it’s a great

feeling to know men want you but can’t have you but they will pay

money to look any way. It’s great to wind them up and make them

beleve they have the power when they don’t. Although I feel this way

I have had lap dances from women because women are beutiful to look

at. When I have a dance I don’t feel powerful I feel respectful. If

all you think about is being sexy or a sex object how is any one ment

to enjoy it. Women should stop worrying and take power over men and

them selves.

From arkesh ajay

Re: ‘Who… me? I’m just a housewife’: Samantha,

first thing first. i am inspired. you have a fight at hand every

single moment of your life, and it inspires to see how you rise upto


nextly, the syndrome you talk about is visible throughout the

movement, irrespective of cultures and countries. i am from india.

and a guy. the feminist movement here is still not into its

adulthood, its still not a major movement affecting many a lives, but

mostly concentrated in big cities, with their ‘elite’ connections in

place. apart from the few and far-between trips that are undertaken

by these few student-groups, to the remote villages and small towns,

there is no footprints of the movement visible in those places.

the ‘elite, rich, educated’ tag is very much apparent; and being a

‘hetero-sexual non-working’ feminist is nearly unacceptable. however

there are people (and those are the truer feminists) who know the

basic aim of the movement, that of being inclusive understanding and

non-alienating, but they need to shout out (as u put it)..

From Saki Hegarty

Samantha Jay does not have to reach out to those of us who live on

‘council estates’ – because, unlike those institutionalised and

removed from wider society on psychiatric wards, and the like, we are

already feminists. Many of us are single mothers, who are far too

busy getting on with life, working, raising our daughters, to have

the time to write thousands of words pathetically begging acceptance

into an ‘ism. Believe it or not, many council tenants are already

feminists. My mother stayed at home to raise us, and she taught me

all about feminism in action.

Feminism is what you do, not what you say. What do you do?

From Catyche

Hi! In her amazing article titled “‘Who… me? I’m just a

housewife'” Samantha Jay mentioned that she wrote other articles

about feminism for some other blogs and online zines. Would you

happen to know which those are? Because her writing really helped me

since I’m going through almost exactly what she experienced and I’d

love to read more of her stuff. Thank you for your help.

From Guy Patching

Re: ‘Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’: This is response to your article on the vagina institute. Before you

worry that this is going to be one of the doubtless many abusive

e-mails you get it isn’t (if you don’t get them then I am glad). I

only wanted to mention in response to your suggestion that penis

worry for boys is not so much of a worry because they can view other

penises. This is contrary to my experience where I did not see

another penis for almost the entirety of my adolescence in part due

to the incredibly homophobia of my surroundings. This lead me to have

a terrible fear about my penis which lead to a lack of confidence with

women. I don’t think that this is a unique case either from occasional

hints I get from friends; genital awareness is a problem, I would

suggest, almost if not just as pressing for younger men as it is for

younger women.

Regards and thanks for the blog which I find a worthwhile read.

From randy

Re: Every girl wants a stalker: i think the subject of stalking was very well discussed. there is a

double standard regrading women initiating are

under terrible stress because of this belief that we have to do all

the work. we try hard and when we are rebuffed by women, it makes

some men so angry they end up stalking the woman unitentionally

because they invested so much in her emotionally (ie liking her a

LONG TIME before asking her out, to keep from being too forward).

it’s a really messed up game for some guys: a girl shows them

attention, then when they respond, the girl realizes that she didn’t

really like him and runs away. the guy feels ” why did she bother me?

why couldn’t she have just left me alone? i wouldn’t feel this way if

she hadn’t done all that”.

i think all of us need to be serious about realtionships and not

flirt for fun. we should show attention when we seriously think the

other person is special.