Comments from January 2008

Comments on last month’s features and reviews

From mc

Re: Glamour models made me sick: this is a very insightful article and i agree with most of the

content. In a system defined and driven by men and theie ideas and

ways of thinking it is dfficult for women to be honest, even to

themselves, about how we feel regarding the constant pressure to look

certain ways. Indeed, to be a woman is defined by your looks whereas

for men it is strenght etc. Breaking down these gender demands is a

first stpe in empowering young women. My fear is for teh so many

young females that have grown up with the music and popular culture

of the 90’s onwards where women have been presented as nothing else

but objects – i fear for their self esteem or the falsity that it is

currently built upon. There needs to be debate and ocmment in

mainstream media about thsisissue.

From Kim

I read the ‘Glamour models made me sick’ article and empathised with

Hannah, I’ve never had a real problem with food but what goes through

my mind when seeing these model was spot on. I’ve no desire to be like

them, I wouldn’t want to waste my life doing what they do or even look

like them but there are periods where i feel (and i believe most girls

feel) inadequate, I know in my own heart there’s nothing wrong with me

as Hannah stated these girls ‘don’t have the awareness…’ but when I

see them I begin to feel insecure and start thinking that I ‘should’

have a flat stomach or I ‘should’ be thinner, when I know in my own

mind that it’s not important because who I am is the most important

thing. I sometimes confide in my older brother about how I feel I’m

unattractive and his reply is usually along the lines of “why do you

want spend your time worrying about how you look for men when the men

that are bothered because you haven’t got a flat stomache aren’t worth

being with?”. It’s true but when overhearing some conversations

between other young men I get so annoyed with the way women are still

spoken about like we’re objects and the way sex is still discussed in

unequal terms, it’s usually ‘she LET me do this to her’, when the

reason she ‘let’ you was most likely because she wanted to do it just

as much as you. I don’t believe men are fully to blame for women’s

unhealthy relationship with their body, the competition between women

upsets me more, even when girls are friends they seem to be happy if

they’re mate puts on a bit of weight or doesn’t look as good as she

normally does on a night out (obviously this doesn’t apply to all

girls). I just think that women are quick to judge each other when we

should be sticking together to help each other with these kinds of

problems not competing in the pointless struggle.

From Linsey DesCourier

Having read your article,I have had a huge wieght lifted off my

shoulders. I always believed I was being petty, small minded, vain

and jealous when I had similar thoughts to yours. I believed that no

one else in the world seemed to mind. Your account reminds me greatly

of my own experience in my mid-teens, the feelings of insecurity and

that my boyfriend would think I was a second rate woman because I was

not ‘beautiful’ like the airbrushed models. At 24 years of age I have

grown out of these thoughts as I, like yourself, have become a clear

thinking female with self respect that came about from having a mind

of my own and intelligence, amongst other attributes. I am now a

pilot and before that I was an aircraft engineer but it could very

easily have went wrong as my self worth was almost non exsistant in

my late teens when I was constantly bombarded with lads mags, sexist

newspapers, music videos, billboards, adverts…etc.

It pains me to think how many other young women who, in their most

tender years, are being greatly harmed by the vision of what a women

should be rather than being shown what women can be. I wish the world

would listen to young females who have been damaged by false

projections of how a women should be and start appreciating the

female as the individual intelligent person that she is.

From Lucy Griffin

Hannah Whittaker shows great strength of character and emotional

maturity in her article “Glamour Models Make Me Sick.” I would like

her to know that she isn’t alone, other women are going through the

same thing and other women are fighting just as intensely as she is

to make this world a better place. One day we will win this war, one

day we will be free and women won’t be pressured into posing for

naked photographs/films or prostituting themseleves. Keep going


From Claire George

Good for you. I couldn’t agree more.

From Eveliina S

I loved the article about Glamour-models contributing to eating

disorders. I myself have been that girl throwing up her dinner and

comparing herself to irrational ideals, thankfully I’ve kicked the

habit since. The question the author posed, “Do they know how many

times my meal was eaten only to be thrown up again?” really hit home

for me. Thank you for speaking up, keep the site up – this is the one

resort I turn to when I come across double standards or downright

misogyny in my daily life. Don’t know where I’d be without you

ladies! Many thanks.

From Zoe

It’s generally accepted at the moment that eating disorders are

something you have a predisposition to. Don’t blame your condition on

girls who happen to enjoy exhibitionism. It’s not their fault either.

Nothing was forcing you to look at them either, you tracked them


Just focus on getting better…

From Zoe Bidgood

Re: Against censorship: The problem with the porn industry is that it’s totally unbalanced.

It’s assumed to be for men and so it’s made by men.

Women are ashamed to come out as a market, so they sneakily get their

hands on what they can, even though it wasn’t made with them in mind

as an audience, so it’s not what it could be.

What porn needs is more women running it, and consuming it, not just

starring in it or watching it in secret.

Create a demand for better porn, ladies!

From Heidi

This is in response to Laurie Penny’s article Against Censorship. I

found myself agreeing with her wholeheartedly, until I came to this


“Pornography that includes, for example, violent BDSM games, rape and

abuse fantasy or necrophilia – to over 18s, who would hopefully be

adult enough to explore valid kinks in a mature way that would ensure

that they remain fantasy.”

I am curious to know why Ms. Penny equates BDSM with rape, abuse, and

necrophilia. The difference is glaring: rape, abuse and necrophila

are about non-consensual sexual practices, but BDSM is practiced

under the mantra, “safe, sane, and CONSENSUAL”. So yes, there IS

violence in BDSM, but what makes it different is that it is FANTASY

violence, and the real-life practiioners of BDSM do not, in reality,

aim to actually harm anyone.

As well, I would like to point out the irony of her critcizing the

government’s ban on homosexual porn as being judgmental, while she

seems eager to do the very same thing to BDSM porn.

But don’t get me wrong- as a practitioner of BDSM, I totally agree

with the premise that any pornography, and especially pornography

that depicts violence-even if it is consensual violence- be limited

to those over 18 who are hopefully mature enough to handle it.

As someone once pointed out to me, BDSM is like the the pro-level of

sex; just you have to walk before you can run, you have to work your

way up the ladder of sexual experience to be ready for BDSM.

From Ellie Stewart

I agree with her. She calls for a kind of pornography that is well

scripted, where the men and women are portrayed as equals, were sex

is joyful and playful and never demeaning or violent. In other words,

what women want from pornography. However, the disturbing fact is

that men don’t want this kind of pornography- men want pornography

where women are voiceless sex objects, where women are subjected to

degrading and violent acts. You only have to type in ‘rape porn’ on

Google to find thousands of websites dedicated to it. Imagine the

number of supposedly normal men who masturbate to this stuff.

Also, she claims there is no link to watching violent pornography and

sexual crime, where in fact there is. And in the cases where the link

is not direct, surely if a man is consistently watching violent

pornography, he will build up an idea that this is an acceptable way

to treat women. Maybe it goes some way to explaining why 45% of rapes

are not caused by some sicko who lurks round alley ways, but by

someone the victim knows. She may have said no, but much of porn

involves the violent domination of women. Women saying ‘no’ is a turn


It’s all about supply and demand: if men get turned on by the

disturbing filth that saturates the internet, and pay for it, why is

anyone going to be motivated to change it? The kind of porn Laurie

Penny calls for is exactly what women want. But by far and away porn

is consumed voraciously by men and not women, and you have to give

the men what they want.

From Irina

I disagree with “Agaist censorship” article and its’ author that there

is no need to ban violent porn. It is all too good to say we need to

“re-think” porn, but who is going to do it? how long will it take? Is

it worth spending time on it, given that there are a lot of other

problems already? One needs to start somewhere and starting by

banning rape porn sounds good to me. You know, hate speech, death

threats, for example, are not addressed in such a way: like, let’s

rethink how we communicate to others, in non-aggressive way. They are

illegal. I think scenes of violence filmed for sexual gratification

should be treated in the same way.

Prostitutes is the category of women most likely of all others to be

murdered. It is not all down to their availability to strangers, why

necesserily a stranger would harm anybody? But it is their perceived

role as dirty subjects of humiliation derived straight from most

abhorent porn which makes them victims of men who are caught up in

the distorted sexual games. I think murders of prostitutes show what

can be done to women, but played out on those most easy targets.

Then, don’t forget the power to influence others which any human

fantasy has. Why, do you think, child porn is banned? Surely not only

because the idea is just so awful but also not to make it acceptable.

What is then different between sexual violence towards a woman and

sexual violence towards a child? Why one should be banned and the

other just rethoght of?

From Helen

I’m afraid Laurie Penny’s article “Against Censorship” did rather

annoy me, particularly her assertion that it is a “widely accepted

fact that there is not a shred of evidence to support a direct link

between violent sexual crime and ‘extreme’ pornography”. This is not

true, since there is plenty of scientific evidence to support such a

link. I have collected a number of references to a variety of

relevant articles and placed them on my website, together with

their abstracts if she would care to take a look. Apart from a couple,

all these articles have been collected from the scientific literature,

and as far as I am aware are from peer reviewed journals.

Laurie may well counter that there are also scientific studies that

purport to disprove the link between pornography and sexual violence,

and she would be correct in this. However, the findings of most of

these studies have been shown to be false by the the comprehensive

review conducted by Malamuth et al in 2000, and in any case, such

studies often use invalid measures of sexual violence, such as

arrests or convictions for rape, which as we are all well aware, bear

little relation to the actual amount of sexual violence that occurs.

Whilst Laurie is entitled to to disagree with the findings of studies

that show pornography results in sexual violence against women, she

should explain why she believes the studies are faulty, and not, like

the pornography industry, simply pretend they dont exist.

From Ella

“I would restrict so-called ‘extreme’ pornography – pornography

that includes, for example, violent BDSM games, rape and abuse

fantasy or necrophilia – to over 18s, who would hopefully be adult

enough to explore valid kinks in a mature way that would ensure that

they remain fantasy.”

What are “valid kinks”? Who is “validating” violent porn?

From Mike

I’d just like to commend your site and Laurie Penny for the excellent

article, “Against Censorship”. I thought it was incisive, thoughtful

and interesting, and made an excellent point: that reformation and

education are the best ways to eliminate misogynistic tendencies in

pornography and the media as a whole.

Bravo, and keep up the good work!

From Rachel Harris-Gardiner

I have to say that I did not agree with most of Laurie Penny’s

pro-pornography article, which failed to touch on the basic questions

surrounding porn and the supposed need for it. Just because some

people enjoy it, doesn’t make it right.

However, as an archaeologist specialising in the Neolithic period,

I’d like to know where the evidence for the “early porn” she refers

to comes from? I have seen this type of assumption many times and

have yet to come across any definite Palaeolithic or later porn!

There are many representations of nudity and of genitalia and

breasts, but these are not found in overt or explicit sexual scenes:

they normally occur singly as figurines, or as human depictions. None

of the figures are shown interacting and it is probably more valid to

look at them as simple markers of male/female imagery or devices to

ensure the viewer sees the sex of the figure or object, which was

presumably important to understanding it.

I am an unashamed porn opponent, but do take time to read other

arguments if they are decently constructed. Nevertheless, the

legitimisation of porn through giving it a largely imaginary ancient

history annoys me, as a feminist and as an archaeologist.

From mc

Re: Miss LSE or Miss-ogyny: excellent article – i took part in something similar in my own

college so well done.

From Tracey Heynes

As an British citizen who moved to Switzerland about 20 years ago,I

have always been critical of the “backwardness”of host country in

terms of gender issues.I have never understood how they could

continue to get enthusiastic about local and national beauty

contests,proudly telling people that,it my country,such things were

considered old-fashioned and beneath us,as we were far more advanced

in terms of how we view women.Imagine then my horror upon reading

this article! I cannot believe that universities,of all places,would

be associated with something that so belittles the status of

women.Well done to the author of this article and other young women

who stood up and expressed their oppostion.

From Zoe

I don’t understand what you’re objecting to at all.

There are beauty pageants for men, they just don’t compete directly

against women. Like tennis…

Who judges what is beautiful? Well, er, the judges or the public or

whoever it was voting for the winner. If you have a problem with

their opinions surely you should take it up with them personally?

Antonia Strachey, author of the article, replies

Zoe, indeed there are beauty pageants both for women and for men. You seemed to think that I was objecting to all beauty pageants – that was not my intention though, you are right, I do hold some reservations about them as I detailed. However my focus was on objecting to an academic institution allowing itself to be linked with a competition that judged its students in terms of their attractiveness. The LSE Student’s Union has a code that students should not be judged on their physical appearance. Though the event was outside of the jurisdiction of that code because the Student Union withdrew support, I think the sentiment is quite correct. The motivation of that statement, I surmise, was that it was felt inappropriate for students to feel that their university had a reaction, either positive or negative, to their appearance. I think that is very right and that is why I think holding a beauty pageant at a university is importantly different from, say, tennis.

I don’t object to individuals expressing their ideas of beauty, of course not, quite the reverse. But I do object to the view that there is one kind of beauty on which everyone agrees and it can be measured and judged in the same way as a sprint – I think this is wrongheaded.

I hope that clarified the position I was taking and answered any questions.

From Marie Manyard

Re: A period of transition: As a mother artist feminist feminine lesbian I work through my own struggles, change is slow.

My experience, struggle and survival created my vision for women.

I am trying to set up a women only group and have been confronted by women in support of trans gender who are very hostile towards me, demanding my definition of woman?

I welcome any individual to talk to me and yet I know I must draw the line?

It occured to me that we could incorporate a gender day to benefit all of us!

Helen G, author of the article, replies

It seems to me that Marie might find it useful to define her frames of reference a little more clearly. She uses a couple of words/phrases which are perhaps a little vague:

1. “Women only group”. This is a term which really makes me nervous! It seems inextricably linked to the phrase “womyn born womyn” which, as I have said elsewhere, I find worryingly biocentrist. It underlies most of my fears about “radical feminism” as it seems invariably to lead to a separatist viewpoint and consequently excludes trans women like me.

Most notably, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival implemented a policy which ” has gained notoriety, as it officially requests that the attendees be ‘women-born-women’ (WBW) only. That is, those who were born and raised as girls, and currently identify as women.”

“In 1991 Nancy Burkholder, who had attended the festival the year before without incident, was expelled from MWMF when she disclosed her transsexual status to festival workers who, in turn, informed the festival office. Ms. Burkholder was asked to leave the festival and received a full refund of her ticket. Festival organizers continued to advocate their support of the women-born-women policy even as criticism from some segments of the queer community mounted in response to Ms. Burkholder’s departure. “

Even today, nearly 17 years later, the debate still rages on that subject. There have been many other instances of exclusion of trans women, in many areas, on the same grounds. I can only surmise, but I wonder if this may well be at the root of the apparent hostility that Marie has experienced from certain quarters. My belief is that any WBW policy is merely oppression of one group (trans women) by another (cis women). And in that context, it is no different, in my opinion, from the oppression of women by men.

I would also caution her against accusing “women in support of trans gender” of being “very hostile” since it may be that any such hostility (if that’s indeed what it is) may simply be a reflexive reaction to a perceived hostility from someone who sees the discrimination inherent in “women only” policies as acceptable.

If someone decides that I, as a trans woman, am not a woman, then what is that person saying about me, my bacground, my experience – my very existence?

This may be where the “demands” that she define ‘woman’ have come from.

2. “Transgender”. To me, this is an umbrella term and it refers to a whole spectrum of people who question their gender and how they express themselves. So it can refer not only to trans women like me, but it could be argued that it might also include intersex, queer, boi, butch/femme lesbians and cross-dressers, to name just a few – a whole range of people may fall under this category.

So it would be helpful if Marie could clarify who she’s including when she uses the phrase “women in support of trans gender”.

At the risk of being accused of shameless self-promotion, my piece for The F Word contains many hyperlinks which Marie may find useful sources of reference. In addition, the “Further Reading” section at the foot of the article contains links to other pieces directly on these subjects, most of which are pertinent to Marie’s experience and which she may find helpful to read.

From Hez

I applaud Helen for her article, as her point is one vital to the

feminist movement. To succeed, we need to accept everyone as equal,

and just as we can’t ignore women of age or colour we cannot ignore a

woman just because she was once a man.

I myself, sometimes at risk of appearing to be a “dungaree wearing

lesbian”, have short hair and wear androgynous clothing a lot of the

time. I too have experienced hostility and disbelief from people I

pass asking aloud “Is that a man or a woman?”

If we want to discard the principle of “typical femininity” our

culture will need to move itself away from the idea that one is

either female and thus is x, y and z, or is a man and is thus x, y

and z. And in this case “x, y and z” can cover genitals too.

Helen G, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to me, and for your kind words.

Without wishing to appear ungrateful, there is just one point that I would like to mention: “…we cannot ignore a woman just because she was once a man.”

I’m afraid I’m a little uncomfortable with this description – I realise you didn’t mean anything disrespectful, but as far as I’m concerned I’ve always been a woman. I have never been a man; unfortunately I was born with certain male characteristics, and did spend many years in denial, but various treatments have eased the condition considerably for me.

I realise that may sound trite or glib, but believe me, it’s something I’ve lived with all my life and it’s something I do feel quite strongly about.

This gender dissonance is at the core of the medical condition of gender dysphoria. It must be a hard thing to grasp for those people lucky enough never to have experienced any discrepancy between their gender (what’s between their ears) and their biological sex (what’s between their legs) – perhaps you might consider this rhetorical question: If you, as a woman, had been born with a penis – how would you feel?

I’m sorry if I sound picky, especially after you sent such a good message, the general content of which I agree with whole-heartedly, I mean no offence, I just would like people to realise how deeply GD affects sufferers.

From Hez

I apologize for my ignorant use of terminology. I do understand now why my use of the word “man” was out of place and frankly quite offensive, and I will be careful not to make the same mistake in the future.

From Irina

I met a trans woman only once: I was smoking outside of a pub and she

asked me for a lighter. I think she called me “darling” and it is then

I felt confused because I noticed her appearance properly for a first

time and thought for a sec: is is a man trying to patronise me? or is

it a woman? what to say? I’d be more aggresive with a man in such a

situation and, to access the level of my assertiveness, i need to

know who it was i was talking to. Funny, you’d say.

Eventually i just politely remarked, more as an explanation than

affront, that i don’t like to be called darling, that usually men do

that so bloody often and it annoys me. I was frank with this person

and then she said: I am not a man. Also, nicely. So we talked a bit.

She said that she is undergoing hormonal treatment, that soon she

will have an operation. That people used to beat her up, and it

sickened me. I mean – for what? for not looking either one or

another? For looking something in between? One just despairs at

humankind sometimes.

She made some effort to feminise her appearance and talked how she’d

love her boobs and “being a woman”. I looked again at her face and

could see how the features would transform later, i could see an

attractive female face behind the stubble and manly brows and said to

her: I think you will be a beautiful woman, at the same time being

slightly ashamed of myself because what does being beautiful has to

do with being a woman? Wasn’t I patronising now? Sometimes you

symphataze with someone and want to say something kind and assume

that what you are saying pleases them. But she was really pleased.

I also think it is easy for those feminists who are born and look

women say to others: why don’t you be brave and do the dirty job for

all of us for the sake of equality, why don’t you suffer for our own

sake? don’t have operations, let’s teach the world that having male

genitals or no womb is totally acceptable for a woman. I also want to

live in aworld where these things don’t matter that much. But i also

don’t want individuals caught up between the anatomy and mind to

suffer. And if the operation and visual transformation is what it

takes to give them peace and enjoy life as we enjoy it – without

fear, harassement, abuse, akward glances, tactless questions – then

be it, and good luck with it. Hope they get the result they want.

First of all, it is not a feminist question, but a question of a

support for another human being in thie difficult personal journey.

From Emma

Helen G says she is a woman, but by this, if i have read her article

correctly,(apologies if I haven’t) she seems to be saying that her

biological sex is female. Which to me (and Judith Butler and Simone

de Beauvoir et al) isn’t the same as saying that a person’s ‘gender’

is woman. Personally I am a born biological female but I don’t

identify as a ‘woman’ – ie with the gender role woman – in the

expected societal sense at all. That doesn’t mean that I wish to

change my biological sex, merely that I don’t identify with the

expected behaviour patterns that this implies. And also because I

don’t go round behaving in a ‘feminine’ way I wouldn’t say that I

enjoy cisgender privilege either – I am frequently the target of

hostility because of my ‘masculine’ appearance despite the fact that

I’m hardly incredibly butch.

A question frequently posed by queer activists and theorists is ‘what

is the definition of a woman?’. The answer of course, as Humpty Dumpty

pointed out is that a word means anything you want it to. What the

average person in the street means when they say ‘woman’ is adult

biological female. Indeed up here in t’north to call someone a

‘woman’ to their face would be considered rude and faintly abusive –

the polite term is ‘lady’.

The reason why some feminists (including me) say ‘gender is a social

construct’ is that we consider ‘gender’ to be nothing more than the

reification of socially constructed gender roles. Biological sex is

of course a physical reality, and it is biological sex (or more

accurately percieved biological sex) that is the basis of

discrimination in society.

There are numerous examples of biological females (like trumpeter

Billy Tipton) who ‘passed’ as men and gained male privilege as a

result. Similarly people of black and minority ethnic origin who can

‘pass’ as white (or even just whiter) will be treated differently

from their peers – hence the massive popularity of harmful skin

lightening creams.

But just as the physical differences between someone with a ‘black’

or a ‘white’ skin are just that – physical differences and nothing

more, so the physical differences between ‘men’ and ‘women’ are just

that and nothing more – they’re only relevant if you want to have a

baby, when they are pretty darn vital! The problem is that in a

racist and sexist society people are discriminated against on the

basis of their ‘race’ or ‘gender’ – so these physical differences

have a very real impact. I recently came across this article which explains that contrary to popular belief, men and

women are really psychologically very similar. Biological sex is

undoubtedly a reality, discrimination against ‘women’ is undoubtedly

a reality, but that is because we live in a society in which the

gender ‘woman’ is constructed as inferior to the gender ‘man’ – not

because there is anything inherent about gender. As Simone de

Beauvoir pointed out, one is not born a ‘woman’, one becomes one.

Helen G, author of the article, replies

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can compose a detailed reply to you because I’m convinced that you are simply trolling. Why? Look again at your opening words: “Helen G says she is a woman, but by this, if i have read her article correctly, (apologies if I haven’t) she seems to be saying that her biological sex is female. “

I state quite clearly in my third paragraph that I’m a trans woman, and I even link to Wikipedia’s definition – “A transwoman […] is a transsexual or transgender person who was naturally born or physically assigned as male at birth but feels that this is not an accurate or complete description of themselves and identifies as a woman. “

And in my fifth paragraph I state, equally clearly, that “in September […] I underwent Sex Reassignment Surgery in Bangkok” – and again I link to Wikipedia’s definition.

All of which leads me to think that you are being deliberately disingenuous, simply to pave the way for you to revisit several tired old, potentially transphobic assertions in an attempt to provoke me into some sort of knee-jerk reaction.

I have no interest in being drawn into the “trans women can’t be feminists because they’re not real women” argument, however you wish to dress it up – it has been dealt with too many times before, and all but one of the points you raise are covered in the links I provide in the Further Reading box-out at the foot of my piece.

The one point I haven’t covered is your playing of the race card but, quite simply, from where I’m standing it seems clear that women of colour are just as likely to be marginalised in feminism as trans women are. See also these links:

Alas, A Blog

Questioning Transphobia

Look. All women have our own diverse experiences, we experience life differently and we’re oppressed in many ways because of race, disability, class, and sexual orientation. My experience as a white woman is not the same as a black woman’s, a black woman’s experiences are not the same as mine if she is cissexual and I am transsexual, and my experience as a trans woman is not the same as yours as a cis woman. We have intersections that stack up and multiply the social complications we face, and for women of colour it is as impossible to separate “race” from “gender” as it is for women with disabilities to separate “disability” from “gender”.

Instead of looking for a (non-existent) common thread that binds all women together, perhaps we should address the real experiences that real women live. And a form of feminism that excludes and/or scapegoats women who don’t share that mythical common thread isn’t a feminism I can relate to.

From Danielle

It didn’t occur to me until I’d finished reading the article on

trans-gender that the whole way through I’d been reading in a male

voice in my head (if that makes sense). I am left wondering what that

says about my attitude to trans women…

Helen G, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your comment – your brevity makes me wonder what you left unsaid, but, if I may, I’d just like to say a couple of things by way of a response.


I find that I am – irrationally, perhaps – becoming cautious about using that particular word. I think that it is useful as an umbrella term for referring to people who are, one way or another, either questioning their gender identities or simply in a different part of the gender continuum from the good old gender binary. So it can include trans women, trans men, intersex, and maybe even cross dressers, to mention a few. But I am a trans woman. I do not refer to myself as transgender(ed) as I do not find it specific enough.

“the whole way through I’d been reading in a male voice in my head (if that makes sense)”

This is a particularly telling remark. It’s known as ‘misgendering’, or ‘ungendering’, a person and my feelings about it range from sad to offended to upset to angry, depending on my own state of mind at the time. I believe it is, at best, discriminatory and at worst bigoted and transphobic – depending on the context in which it is used. In addition, it carries with it a biological essentialist subtext to which I have some very deep-seated objections.

Generally speaking, it reflects the received wisdom that it’s acceptable to say, for example, “That’s Helen – she used to be a man”. In a sense, that may be true – I don’t deny that I was born and raised male, but even in my most extreme moments of denial, it never felt right to call myself ‘male’, or ‘a man’ and so on, even if I couldn’t fully explain why. I have worked hard on this aspect of my condition – I was diagnosed gender dysphoric in October 2006 – with the help of my gender counsellor and the most direct way I can explain it is to ask you (I’m assuming you were born and raised female) – how would you feel if you had been born with a penis?

So I’m a woman. I refer to myself as a trans woman because ‘trans’ is a useful shorthand to indicate that my background and experience may be quite different from, for example, someone born and raised as a cisgendered woman. But that doesn’t make me any less of a woman than you or anybody else.

You may find it helpful to revisit some of the links I added in the ‘Further Reading’ box-out at the foot of my piece – they cover the subject quite comprehensively.

I hope you find this information useful in explaining why marginalising, tokenising and ‘othering’ trans women is counterproductive and contrary to the fundamental tenets of feminism.

From Amy

Re: What not to watch: Personally, I couldn’t watch the whole thing. It pissed me off way

too much (mind you, Trinny and Susannah annoy me anyway, especially

with their ridiculous floral fetish). It wound me up, the whole

premise of the episode, because of the impetus on looking attractive:

for fuck’s sake, when you’re at work, surely the important thing is

how well you do your job (no matter what it is) as opposed to how

frumpy or hot you’re looking?!


From Stephanie

I’m glad ‘Undress The Nation’ was written about here, I was apalled

at how ignorant Trinny and Susannah were – their assertion that women

who work in retail with bad uniforms must somehow have low self-esteem

really angered me. Trinny and Susannah seem to be in their own

ignorant, little bubble and didn’t realise how patronising and

demeaning they came across as – especially the dressing up of the

canteen workers in pink, with ‘princess’ labels and continually

refering to them as ‘dinner ladies’ despite the fact that the women

had told them that they didn’t like that title.

From Lizzie

Ah the bane of so many people. There are many examples of T and S’s

‘ignorant indifference fed by elitist solipsism’ to use Alexandra

M. Kokoli’s beautiful phrase, in this foolish exercise of a TV show.

Of course, one of Trinny’s main considerations in working anywhere

would probably be the uniform, however not everyone has their’s and

others’ appearance on their mind 24/7, otherwise we would have no

health and social care, no buildings, bridges, roads, children, etc,


Clothes. Are. Not. Just. About. Appearance. And even when we consider

the role clothes and warpaint play in how we are visually interpreted,

there is yet again a broader spectrum of issues than I have ever

noticed T and S address on tv and in their handy little book that my

mum bought herself. The main thing that T and S focus on is the way

that a person can hide/ ‘compensate’ for/ create an illusion of

not having undesirable aspects of their figure. Now, for me, I do

often select certain necklines etc that I feel ‘compliment’ me, but

there are many aspects that come into play when selecting an item of

clothing (price figuring very highly.). Some items on the list are the

colour, do I like it, does it suit my colouring? Warmth or

breathability, the way the fabric moves, or the cut allows me to

move, etc.

Not everybody cares about looking ‘frumpy’ or ‘dowdy’, and

although I often try to look lees scruffy and sleepy than I often

feel, sometimes it has really, really worked in my favour to look as

inconspicuous and unattractive as possible. Not everyone can take

taxis and drive everywhere, in fact most of the population cant,

swathes have to walk around and travel through or live in areas where

they feel under threat of various kinds of attack , often alone,

possibly going back to an empty house. When this has been the case

for me, personal experience has shown that I have felt safer looking

quite unattractive. This has also been the case in some work

environments, where I have dressed smartly but not in a way that

would be thought to flatter my figure, or colouring, partly due to

the practical nature of the work requiring specific clothes that I

can move easily in, with breathing fabrics, and also due to the

clientelle I was dealing with with very little/ very poor security

measures in place. Obviously dressing unattractively to limit hassle

isn’t foolproof, and there are other measures one can use, but it can

help me feel more secure in certain sitautions, just as dressing up

makes me feel safer from bitchy comments and being held in low regard

by people like Trinny and Sussanah in other situations. And the

instinct for self- preservation is arguably a clear form of self


I’m not sure if the above is particularly ‘feminist’ in the views

expressed, but ther you go.

In addition, aside from ‘queer eye for the staright guy’, very few of

these shows target men, and even ‘queer eye for the straight guy’ did

not try and imply that it was ‘low self esteem’ that was causing these

unruly males to negelt aesthetics to the extent that they had. I am

also in complete ignorance of the existence of an episode of what not

to wear that has targeted a male. Even if one has been made, the

number of women dealt with would still grossly outnumber the amount

of males dealt with. One is to assume that on the whole, males have

innately better dress sense than women. That is the only


From jo

Re: It’s So You: In response to your article about fashion and feminism I’d like to say

that it evoked memories for me. For years I have spent a lot of my

desposable income on clothes and shoes and all the other bits and

pieces, and that amounts to a lot of money. As a child we (my sister

and I) were very poor, and often teased for our poor clothing. I

hated shopping, mainly because it involved trawling discount stores

for clothes that never fit me. The love affair I now enjoy isn’t so

much with expensive clothes as it is with clothes that fit. Only the

better retailers sell clothes that fit the curvier lady (by which I

don’t mean overweight, I’m a size 8). Cheap clothes are always very

poorly tailored, it is impossible for a woman with a small waist, and

prominent bust and hips to find clothes. I spent my teens hidden in

big baggy clothes. Which I now lament. At 100lbs I was called fat –

because of the big clothes I wore. This is an issue that feminism

should address. Not my clothes, but the way that there is very

little ‘fit’ in womens clothes, especially the cheaper ones.

From Emma

I think it’s very true that however you dress someone will look down on

you for it, and that’s the main problem with clothes, but also why

they’re important. The point about clothes is not what they are (high

heels are hard to walk in, but frankly that doesn’t stop a lot of men

wanting to wear them) but what they symbolise. Black American activist

Angela Davis has complained that she is chiefly known for her hairdo,

but the truth is that Angela Davis’s hair was in itself a

revolutionary act. Allowing her hair to grow into its natural Afro

instead of straightening it to resemble white women’s hair was a

powerful expression of her real identity. And that’s why early

feminists were so keen to reject stereotypically ‘female’ clothing –

it said that they were also rejecting stereotypically female roles.

There’s nothing wrong with liking clothes, the problem I have is with

compulsion. There seems to have been a trend in women’s fashion

recently for clothes to get more and more hyper feminine, which makes

shopping for clothes difficult for anyone who doesn’t really want to

dress like a Trinny and Susannah clone. This has thankfully abated a

bit now thanks to the influence of all those Emo kids in baggy black,

but even casually dressed young women are still under pressure to wear

tight ‘sexy’ clothes that show off their body which only look good on

the very thin. I have no problem with people making a choice to wear

the clothes they want as long as it is choice and not made out of

fear or pressure. The ‘choice’ we get from clothes retailers seems to

be no choice at all most of the time.

Comments on blog posts

From Sarah

Re: Pill could be made available at pharmacies: I work in a London secondary school, and we recently received a box of

these hideous leaflets. It was only when my boss read one over lunch

that we realised what they were about. My boss, being an excellent

sensible lady, refused to hand them out, and dumped the lot in the

recycling. We’re a very large girls school, in a socially deprived

area, but our school has the lowest rate of teen pregnancy in the

borough, and it’s certainly not something we achieved by telling kids

to abstein!

From Joanne Parker

First off, I would like to say I am a huge huge fan of the website.

It\’s very refreshing to hear that other people have a problem with

what society calls the norm at the moment.

Anyway,just something which I found in passing earlier on today in

Sky magazine-more commercialisation (if that\’s a word) of the

wonderful Playboy brand. Hugh Hefner has done a \’guest blog\’ in

which he explains the \”impact I\’ve managed to have on changing

social sexual values and life itself\” Indeed he has changed them,but

not into anything worthwile. Just wanted to point this out to you. On

a positive note though, an interview with newsreader Dermot Murnaghan

asked him who his favourite hero/heroine is, in which he replied \”

The Pankhursts. Forget the Spice Girls-that was proper girl power\”

This little snippit managed to lift my spirits after I had read the

\’blog\’ from that horrid old man.

From Jane Purcell

Re: My fake baby: Regarding the piece about My Fake Baby, I too saw the programme and it

made me feel wretched. Because no matter how harmless their fixation,

it’s a fixation that keeps these women forever ‘stuck’. A woman who

has lost a baby whether because she’s a grandmother and her daughter

has moved away, or she’s a mother and the baby has died – by buying a

perfect ‘fake’ baby, she is never going to move on. Far better to

spend the money on as you say, a ticket to go and actually SEE her

living grandchild, or on therapy.

Also personally speaking, as a mother, one of the best bits is the

knowledge that ‘this too will change’ – that whatever stage the baby

is going through, good or bad, it will never always be like this.

That parenthood is never static.

From lisa kelly

brilliant piece, intelligent, measured and written with great care.

been really fed up today reading shoddy rushed sensational blog

entries. well done.

From BrevisMus

For the amount of work put in to each doll (we saw Jaime

inserting individual strands of hair, for instance), I think £350 is

actually a very reasonable price. After having watched the

documentary, I had assumed the dolls would be in the thousands. We

tend to devalue craftspeople nowadays (and they have to undersell

themselves in order to compete with mass-made), or feel price should

be based on the cost of the raw materials, without including the time

of the artisan. I’ve seen a lot of criticism that Jaime saying that

she is making money out of people, but once you take her labour costs

into account, I can’t imagine that she’s raking it in.

From Pam

I find your article very disturbing. What you have wrote about is

only 2 examples of the issue. What about the rest of it??

A lot of reborn artists see it as a work of art. A way to be

creative. Just because it isn’t on a canvas and is on a vinyl or

silicone doll makes no difference.

To be completely honest I would guess 90 percent of the women

population never outgrow their love for dolls. A lot of people see

them as just that, beautiful dolls to be looked at, whether it be on

a bed, in a crib, or in a glass case. WHAT does it matter how the

doll is displayed?

I’ve heard psychiatrists say having an animal is good therapy to

stroke it. I don’t see why holding a doll and touching it would be

any different. If it helps the person deal with their situation how

can that be bad? If it helps to ease the pain, why is that “bad for


I feel your article is not researched enough and uneducated. Maybe

the US is different but at least here they show both sides of the

story for the public to form their own opinion.

Am I a reborn artist? No but I hope to be. Do I own a reborn? Yes

2 of them that look like my real life twins when they were born.

Both my babies are 4 years old now. I bought my babies as a reminder

of what they used to look like when first born. My babies lay on my

bed as a reminder for me to look at and enjoy.

The term “fake baby” is way off. These are in no way intended to be

fake babies. They are dolls who are reborn. If you look up the term

reborn you will find it means from re- “back, again” + born, past

tense of birth. Which means these dolls are reconstructed with new

paints, details, eyes, and clothing. Much in the same way people are

bringing life back into old paintings. Cleaning them up, making them

appear better than before. Bringing life into something old. Just a

figure of speech, not meaning to make it come to actual life.

I also watched the broadcast. You either overlooked or just paid no

mind to the fact that she said “I know these are not actual babies

and are just dolls”.

Point being, if you want to inform the public, just don’t show one

persons point of view. Show the whole picture.

From jackie

No one is scathing at men who want to sit by a pond all day with a

stick in their hand (I believe they call it fishing) but if a woman

wants to collect dolls she seen as odd or a freak – why is this I

wonder? Dolls have been collected for generations and surely

reborns are just the next step in doll collecting in this techno age.

As for replacing a dead baby with a reborn well all people grieve

differently and if having something to hold helps some couple then

why not? Any one who hasn’t suffered a loss can’t possibly say how

they would or would not behave in those circumstances.

From Pamela Jooste

I am from South Africa. I currently have 4 reborn dolls which they

are only beautiful look alike baby dolls. I love them to bits dress

them beautifully and are admired and enveyed by my friends. I have

always had a passion for dolls being a only daughter with 3 brothers

and then having 3 boys i just love to buy a beautiful doll. The

ladies/artist that create these most precious possession – my Hat off

to you ladies !!! They bring so much joy and happiness and admiration

for doll lovers world wide. For those negative comments shame just

like a lot of us think golf is boring it is choices and our choice is

to have and own beautiful dolls.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Because of the large volume of emails we received about this post, we have not been able to publish every comment.

From marion cowden

Re: Oh those poor ‘post-abortive men’: my body my choice, what will this lead to forced gestations are men

going to look after these unwanted children, if past performance is a

guide, no they are not.This romantic ideal of children all tow haired

and big eyed is not the day to day reality its very hard boring work

with little to no mental stimulation. How can a man who happly paid

for one abortion and cannot remember the feelings of the then

girlfriend, would this morned for fetus have seen or heard from this

man again no because it did not suit him at the time to be a father

and now he has seen a scan with his wife and he is oh so sorry and

its all come flooding back oh boo hoo poor man.

From Fiona

Re: Get skinny!: Just reading the “testimonies” in the Pink Patch item, something

really doesn’t sit right with them. Why would a girl from Harrogate

refer to her “sophomore year”? It’s not a term I’ve heard much in the

UK, in fact I’m never very sure exactly which year they mean! I

suppose it’s not entirely impossible, but it strikes me as an

American company switching out place names to make it sound a bit

more credible.

From Bero

Re: Simone de Beauvoir’s centenary – and bottom: I think that Simone de Beauvoir wrote the most comprehensive study of

the situation of women in this society that has ever been written.

The publishing of her nude is just a sign of the times – money can be

made from anything and everything. Personally, it makes me angry.

Let’s have a photo of Bush nude or Benedict 16 – that would make us

sick rather than angry.

From Paul Brown

Re: ‘Iron my shirt’ as political commentary: I think it is absolutely right for feminist bloggers, including Jess,

to point out the sexism and misogyny being directed at Hilary

Clinton’s leadership campaign. However, feminists should also bear

in mind that Hilary did and said nothing about ther husband’s abusive

relationship with a young intern (Monica Lewinsky), or the fact that

Bill Clinton has been accused of rape by several women. In the best

biography of Clinton, No One Left to Lie To – the Values of the Worst

Family by Christopher Hitchens, Hitchens goes over the most convincing

rape allegations in detail, and makes a point of stating clearly that

he is convinced there was a rapist in the White House. No legal

action was taken by Clinton as a result. Furthermore, when a female

reporter pressed Al Gore on the question of whether he believed

Clinton was guilty of rape, rather than deny it, he avoided answering

directly and simply said that a president should be judged on his

political performance in office.

Hilary is one half of this most cynical, ruthless and ambitious

marriage of convenience. While I do not hold her responsible for her

husband’s abuse of women, I do think that feminists should expect her

to take a position on these issues, and should point out that she has

been happy to share a personal and political partnership, and the

surname, of an arch misogynist. Also, as Germaine Greer pointed out,

she is only a candidate because “she shared a bed with Bill Clinton –

sometimes”. The feminist blogosphere appears to have been strangely

quiet on this darker side of Hilary Clinton.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

What has any of that got to do with the deluge of misogyny directed at Hillary Clinton? Nothing. There’s no excuse at all for it at all. Banners telling her to “iron my shirt” are a blunt, vile response to a woman with the presumption to think she could become president, not a nuanced critique of her policies or any blame she might share in the behaviour of her husband. It strikes me that the men holding those signs – and the people responsible for all the many, many sexist attacks on the senator – would be hard pressed to care much about anything Bill might have done.

In addition, I think it is totally inappropriate to try and palm off any of the blame for acts that Bill Clinton has been accused of committing. If those accusations are true, he alone is responsible.

From Roisin

Re: Sexual Harassment on CiF: Just wanted to say well done Abby! I thought your article was great

and starting the blog is a wonderful idea – we need to keep talking

about this issue and making it clear that women DO NOT appreciate

this kind of “attention”. I hope the offensive and really quite

ludicrous comments on the CiF page don’t get you down too much. Best

wishes x

From Helen G

Good post Abby, pity about the “Mens Rights” posters trying to turn it

into an oppression olympics.

From tom hulley

Re: VW paid for union leaders’ brothel visits: vw/ union staff and brothel visits: almost as sick as it gets but not

quite as bad as aerospace companies buying their senior management

underage girls in the far east – i live in an aerospace town and have

heard this more than once but nobody will name anyone

apart from this i find myself querying men (and sadly boys more so)

almost every day about their contempt for women expressed in many


call me old-fashioned but I can see no alternative to cutting their

balls off if they can’t use them considerately …

From Cara

Re: On the Tube: Good article.

Why is it that we women do this? We think, I’m just being

paranoid…he doesn’t *mean* to intimidate me…we think it’s somehow

our fault, “sending out the wrong signals”.

Yet such behaviour is unacceptable.

From P Howard

Re: Feminism is not man-hating!: Abby, you seem quite fired up about Sarfraz’s article on CiF. Yet you

seem not to understand how he got the impression you were blaming all

men rather than particular abnormal individuals. I direct you to the

end of the article he referred [ t o ] :

“do we need to take a grassroots approach, providing greater

education at school level to permanently remove the need to grab,

grope and leer from the male psyche?”

If I suggested that we should school women in an attempt to remove

the need to overindulge on shoes ‘from the female psyche’, you would

be rightly offended. You imply there that ‘the need to grab, grope

and leer’ is universally a part of the psyche of all men.

If you meant of some men, or the abusive minority, then you have

missed the mark. If, on the other hand, you take it as read that the

generic male psyche tends to grab, to grope and to leer, then you are

displaying exactly the prejudiced view that Sarfraz is trying to

highlight and argue.

I suspect that Sarfraz is making a general point, sparked by what he

read in your article, but which has built up from many incidents in

which he has felt subject to prejudice, in much the same way as you

have generalised from your harassment on the tube to the issue of

harassment generally. I don’t think Sarfraz is in any way suggesting

that your subject matter is unworthy, and I for one support the cause

of combatting abusive or harassing behaviour.

But it is important that if you want to fight bias and prejudice

against women that you avoid it in what you write. As an occasional

journalist I understand the attraction of general statements,

particularly in the conclusions, but it is here that many of the

prejudices against women are perpetrated.

So keep writing on these issues, but be very careful when you are

tempted to generalise about men or the male psyche. It is these that

have probably been the cause of the background level of offense felt

by men like Sarfraz. Perhaps a dialogue with him, rather than an

argument, would be a constructive way through the minefield.

From Justyna

If it was a response to your piece on street harrassment – I certainly

couldn’t pick it up.

Other issues like women going to parties and sending topless photos

seemed to gently push the “asking for it” element. As much as I think

complying to male titilation mechanisms is pathetic – it sadly has a

lot to do with male dominated sexual pleasure in society as a whole –

and shouldn’t be lightly chucked in at the end.

His response lacked focus or basic research into gender politics.

From Yvonne

Re: Femail watch: Women Drivers

Commonly held misconceptions about male/female drivers.

1. Myth – Women cause more accidents between other vehicles by

driving over-cautiously.

Fact – The only way I know of to cause an accident and not be hit

yourself is to half pull out of a side road or from parked, causing

an approaching vehicle to swerve and hit someone else. If you did

this, you would still be found responsible for the accident, and

therefore it would show up in accident statistics.

2. Men have more accidents because there are more male drivers on

the roads.

Fact – For every 4 male drivers in the UK, there are 3 female

drivers, and this is rising. However, men have more than twice as

many accidents as women.

3. Gordon Ramsey can spit feathers all he likes, if women weren’t

safer drivers, insurance companies wouldn’t be targeting them with

discounted insurance. It’s as simple as that :-)

From Elena

Re: Abby Lee on the need for change: I love reading things like this, words that shake you to the bone.

Because, the words are honest truth.

From Janis Hindman

Re: Selling toy irons to girls: And of course….as I am pretty sure I’ve read on this website…gives

us the reason why men, no sorry, ‘men’ think it’ ok to shout out ‘Iron

my shirt!’ to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

From Lindsey M Sheehan

This reminds me of a couple of years back when me and a friend were

in Littlewoods and came across the charming “Domestic Servitude

Simulator” featuring kitchenette with oven, sink and a washing

machine now with free bonus of an ironing board and rotary washing

line. Personally I don’t mind the idea of children imitating their

parents but the fact that all these products are only available in

pink puts out the clear message that this is for girls and boys must

not touch.

Maybe when I have kids I will paint all the “girls” toys blue and the

“boys” toys pink and see who plays with what….

From Annika Spalding

Re: Blaming the man: I just wanted to say to Abby that I enjoy all her writing, and I

couldn’t believe the amount of stick she got for her article “Men who

stare”. Why do I feel that men are missing the point here? What Abby

described was an experience, one of which many woman go through on a

daily basis. Why are some people so pig-ignorant that they think that

just because it isn’t happening to them, or anybody that they know,

then it is just an exaggeration? It seems that some of the men are

more interested in saying that we are asking for it, than actually

putting their hands up and recognising the problem.

The biggest problem at the moment, I think, is that the men who have

responded to her article are not even willing to consider

street-harassment. They are not even willing to think about how it

can make a woman feel frightened, intimidated and on edge. Then you

get a journalist writing an article which, in my opinion, is

promoting misogynism. You know who I mean. Men already have a twisted

view of feminism without this fool fuelling further arguments.

If only men were able to experience life in a woman’s body for a

year, they would soon find out. Its so hard for them to believe that

women experience such vile harassment, that in their opinion it

couldn’t possibly be true. I wonder if any of them have even bothered

to ask a woman about street-harassment. Or does it suit them to stick

to their own narrow minded opinions?

From Rose Grant

Mr Manzoor asks: why is it that no man I know has ever behaved even

remotely like the men in these articles?

I answer with a question: How does Mr Manzoor know they haven’t?

Does he think that if he did not see it, it did not happen? Perhaps

he thinks that since the men he knows have not told him that they

commit violence against women it is safe to assume that they do not.

I’m sure that if he ever finds out that a man he knows has committed

violence against a woman he will be “so shocked”. Everyone always is.

From Jennifer McMahon

Re: In praise of pants: Regarding being interested in the underwear men wear, I think it is a

case of different strokes for different folks! I can totally see that

a lot of people couldn’t care less what underwear their sexual partner

is wearing, but I personally much prefer to see my boyfriend in tight

shorts rather than loose boxers. It’s all about the package…mmmm.

I certainly don’t spend more than £50 a year on underwear myself


From Mark Headey

Re: Get your free clitoridectomy here!: Having lived in Indonesia for over 5 years, I confess to being

surprised by the item about FGM there. However, as a bloke, I can

accept that perhaps I was not the right sex to overhear chat about

this topic. (However, I did hear of a pretty barbaric MALE

circumcision ritual that occurs in Timor.)

On the other hand, I do urge a little caution. There are a number of

“practices” carried out on girls that all get labelled as

“circumcision”; ranging from a symbolic drawing of blood, cutting the

tip of the clitoris to the “pharonic” circumcision. Clearly, any of

these done without the aid of an anaesthetic would be painful and, as

such, cannot be defended. However, a symbolic drawing of blood would

not have the same physical or psychological effects of the pharonic

FGM. Exactly what goes on in Indonesia needs to be determined before

we get too condemnatory.

From Jenna Willis

Re: Sugar and spice and all things nice: Thank God! Someone else has picked up on that horrible Strawberry

Shortcake Ad!! I first saw it about a week ago and have made a point

of mentioning it to all my friends and family. I am amazed that such

stereotypical reinforcement can still appear on our TVs. Who works

for these advertising agencies?

From Penny

I just wanted to say a “bravo!” to this post! Every time I see those

ads I start to seethe. I notice that the “just like Mum” line has

disappeared, but sadly that doesn’t change the message of the ad at

all. I am so surprised that ads like this are even allowed these


From Vina Anderson

Re: Reclaim The Night Manchester, Saturday 1st March: Congratulations on your march to reclaim the night. We march in New

Zealand too. We can both do it for a better standard of safety on our

streets wherever we are in the world.

From Leanne Bibby

Re: More random acts of feminism…: Absolutely amazing. Made me smile and gave me loads of ideas! Thank


From Yvonne

Got to be honest, I can’t advocate petty theft or lying to your

husband about what you spent joint money on. The point is, it’s not

about sneakily gaining economic recompense, it’s about openly gaining

it, with the associated due respect and status. It’s not about

claiming money for housework, it’s about gaining the hours lost to

doing more than your fair share of it.

As for my ideas on random acts of feminism –

1. Value the hard working females you work with by praise and good

reports to bosses.

2. Stick up for men when you see them getting the sexist treatment

too (be a man… men can’t do anything right… real men don’t


From Emily Johnson

I know I’ve probably missed the boat on this post, but one of my new

favorite “acts” (admittedly, only one test run thus far) is to take a

cheap t-shirt and write “Menstruating” on it. Wear during period.

You’ll get some dirty looks, a few laughs, and a surprising amount of

support from your fellow feminists. Best side effect: those who claim

liberal attitudes towards women are exposed to their own discomfort,

and a great dialouge can begin.

From Lisa

Re: Feminist Coalition Against Prostitution launches February: I’d like to push the debate on the proposed legislation on

prostitution a bit further. I haven’t found (maybe I’m mistaken )

anyone here dealing with the Petition by the English Collective of

Prostitutes (and various blogs by sex workers) to decriminalise,

rather than ban prostitution as proposed or continue with the current

confused mix of legal/illegal activity which clearly isn’t helping sex


Given that female poverty is rife, given that a Marxist perspective

clearly reveals a strong class/economic cause for the activity (in

addition to the gender perspective) and given that from a

sociologocial/criminological perspective it is clear that prohibition

is not an effective deterrent, I want to retain my right to sell

sexual services as/when desparate measures may be called for.

Criminal offences already exist for murder, rape, sexual assault,

kidnapping, imprisonment, slavery, grevious bodily harm, actual

bodily harm, assault (threatening words and behaviour inducing fear),

drug dealing (although an example of the failure of prohibition) and

harassement – near enough all possible risks encountered by sex


Questions to raise – will arresting clients for buying sexual

services stop those clients wanting to buy sexual services ? stop

them seeking these services on the black market (as is the case now

with drugs)? stop them paying money to the providers of the service ?

shifting the money more to gangsters (moving the women more not less

into a position of a product) ? once the ban is in force where will

poor women in desperate circumstances looking for the next rent

cheque be able to get their hands on ready cash ? the government ?

charity ? the police ?

It’s all very well wishing for an ideal world where this market

didn’t exist but from the harsh reality of cash-strapped women it can

be literally a life-saver.

Why is it OK (and will continue to be so) for young, ambitious

professional women to sell sexual services in exchange for a job,

promotion, good freelance contract, project ? Why is it OK (and will

continue to be so ) for non-working wives to lunch, play tennis, get

manicures in exchange for sex and perhaps most importantly for them

to be paraded in public as trophy sex toys ? Is it because they’re

generally white, middle-class and discrete it’s OK ? Or is it the old

quip “Prostitutes charge by the hour, wives by the lifetime” attitude

returning ?

Will the whole issue become increasingly irrelevant given raunch

culture’s push for all women to be available to all men at all times

– men who pay may increasingly be seen as mugs ?

I apologise for the length of the proposal but I wanted you to see a

good overview.

From Claire George

Re: Sexist shorthand?: I’m on a journalism course and I noticed a similar thing in McNae’s

Essential Law for Journalists. It usually assumes that people are

men, unless of course they are the Queen.

From Amee Smart

Re: Super-sexist ad by Dutch optician…: I am completly disgusted by this form of comedy and quite frankly i am

not laughing. Personaly because i look like the one with glasses like

thats supposed to make me look more ‘intelligent’ or ‘classy other

then ithe fact is ‘m as blind a bat without them. How pathetic! yeah

i’m splittin my sides!

From sumac celeste

me and my mother thought it was offensive and degrading to women.

BLOOD BOILING is an understatement.

all we can ask is what age and sex THEIR advertising executives are?

rhetorical question?


From Edina

Hye, grettings from Croatia.

I love your page.

I’m a blonde with glases.

I don’t think the campain is sexsist.

It’s true… i know … it’s sad.

What are your arguments?

How many pictures does the seriess have ?


P.S. Sorry about the spelling.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Dear Edina,

I am glad you love The F-Word, but I can’t agree with you that this ad isn’t sexist. The series presents a range of male characters, and just one woman. While the ads feature men with a range of possible interpretations of their jobs – butcher or artist? Truck driver or professor? The sole image of a woman identifies her in terms of how ‘easy’ she is – or how easy it would be for a presumed male viewer to get her into bed.

This viewpoint reduces women to sexual conquests for men, while denying women’s sexual agency – a view of sex which paints men as the ones who always want it and women as the ones who reluctantly (if they’re not ‘easy’) dole it out, does not leave much room for the idea that women want sex and pleasure for their own sakes.

In addition, the drawing of the supposedly ‘easy’ woman perpetuates the ridiculous stereotype that possessing blonde hair and breasts somehow reflects on a woman’s intelligence and sex life.

From Nina

Re: You know you’re living in a patriarchy when…: Laura, next time a group of men behave like they’re about to attack

you call the police. That should scare the shit out of them.

From tracey

Re: Pre-pubescent Brazilians (no not the country…..): Couldn’t agree with you more. my 14 year old asked me for a bikini wax

this week, becasue all her friends are “doing it” and it seems that I

am the only Mom who is horrified. Since when is having pubic hair

disguisting? All our ancestors did and they seemed to have coped just

find in finding mates!!

Comments on older features and reviews

From Chelsea


Not That Into You: I have read, he’s just not that into you and taken with a grain of

salt i found it helpfull. I dont think of myself as a sad and lonely

person but after reading this book I may become one. It is very

convincing and possibly true for some men. A few guys I have read it

to say “yep it true”. There is one thing I cling to, he’s not that

into me yet…

Not because I need to change or act all cute and coy but because

there are things going on in our paths. Like I a am a fat stupid

repulsive person and he just needs more time to know me.

I dont want this comment published I am not sure why I am writting

it. I just had a guy stop me mid head job and go get something to eat

no reason… I need to cling to the he’s just not into thingy or else

I have more issues. My high sex drive does drive alot of men away as

they all pretend to be macho blah blah but in reality I have met only

a few who are as preoccupied with it as I am. I understand men Like

women may be tierd bored ect but I have no patience and get angry

quiet easily. I am sure I have a stack of my own issues but I feel

that if he cant keep up the pace then there is really no need to be

in the kitchen. Needles to say I am not married. I was in a very

fulfilling relationship for 10 years and with that comes drought. Now

I am single or dating I dont feel the need to comprimise and wait

around for some one. I will find a suitable partner. As unfeminist as

it sounds I need a life partner. Some one to share the sunrises with

and to cook for me because I enjoy that and hope to get what i want.

I will be a survivor if I am alone.

Spinster as I might end up I am more comfotable alone then with Mr

not right now.

From Mickey Costoff

God damn. Word up sister.

From susanna

First i like to say this dating field keeps getting more confussing

with every day passing , there are more rule ( so it seem ) that ever

befor and its a miracle that ppl ever get together if you ask me ,am

dutch and i wonder if the same rules according to the book aply for

the dutch men lol , because over here it seems men want to be chased

en not the other way around , does that mean that all dutch guys just

arnt in to us ??? I do think that men are complicated just like women

, oh yes there are perhaps certain ‘rules’ and i think the book can

help in certain sitatuations but lets be honest , some men are shy ,

married , have some deep feeling of i cant be good enough for her

ect , there are so many reasons why a man wont ask a woman so in a

way the book hands out some simple rules that can aply to some but am

sure not to all . me i dont think i will sit and wait and than realize

that he isnt in to me by the phone , i would try first and if he isnt

responding the way i would think fits the situation i would move on

, maybe thats what the book is trying to say in a way , like in that

sex in the city episode , that other date of miranda had the runnings

?? not sure how to put it in english anyway she went flat on her face

saying that he prob wasnt in to her so a bit of filtering is

nessecery lady’s befor u thow out a perhaps nice guy . I like the

artical it was good .

From radhika oltikar

well, whether you like it or not..this book is practical and makes

complete sense. Irt’s essentially about not wasting your time and

emotions on someone who is just not interested. And it really

addresses ONLY romantic ”passing the time of

day”, as you mention, is excluded. OF COURSE we all have and want

platonic relationships with men..but that is not what this book is

addressing, is it?

Holly Combe, author of the article, replies

I don’t take issue with this book because I somehow

dislike it for being “practical” or making “sense.” My

criticism is that it seems to be claiming its advice

is universally applicable when, actually, women and

men are far more complex than that. Sure, I can

imagine someone with fairly traditional values,

looking for someone who shares them, finding the

advice useful. Indeed, had the book been called “A

Dating Guide for Traditionalists” I’d have left it

alone. (Each to their own, after all.)

I also realise there is a certain kind of guy out

there who will actively chase a woman if he thinks

she’s The One but is generally repelled if a woman

decides he’s perfect for her and subsequently chases

*him.* However, I also think it would be unfair to say

all men follow this stereotype. Anyway, I know plenty

of women who would prefer to put the double-standard

lovers off fairly early on. Some of us just aren’t

that into them!

I’d also argue that “passing the time of day” is is

not necessarily excluded when it comes to finding

lovers and partners. In my experience, some of the

most successful relationships have been struck up when

the people involved just got talking (without any

agenda) and found that they had lots in common.

This book seems to be part of a current trend for

approaching relationships in a business-like way. I

don’t think there is anything wrong with encouraging

people to focus on their goals but I do think such

advice is rather convoluted and impractical if it

requires the reader to invert such a drive by

converting it into passivity.

From G

Re: Sick of celebrity: I think the empty headed shoe addicts on SATC are rather strange role

models. You should learn to cook not because you are a woman but

because everyone should be able to. I agree with much of what you

have said however knowing to buy property a financial genius does not

make. I think we should (men and women) be more discerning when it

comes to role models Madame Curie is an appropriate role model not a

silly women who plays a silly character. What do you think?

From Catherine

Re: Smug intentions: Richard and Judy on chivalry: A really interesting article; as a woman who positively enjoys a

late-night stroll alone through suburbia or the crowded city, having

fended off the anxious voices (which is not to say I don’t appreciate

a lift when it is raining, but that’s rather different) I was

particularly interested in the points you raised about this. There’s

also the ‘chivalrous’ bloke who walks a woman home ‘for her own

safety’ and then expects to be invited inside in recompense…

Really one can’t put it much better than Dorothy L. Sayers did:

“The desire to have all of the fun is nine tenths of the law of


From Carol

Re: ‘Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’: I agree on several points author Samara Ginsberg makes.

However, I think that more than catering to men’s desires, having a

shaved vagina is in many cases a woman’s own choice. This choice may

not be influenced by men’s fantasy of a vagina. I personally remember

how bad I felt when, at 11 years old, I had this dark fuzz covering my

genitalia and obstructing its view. I could no longer look at my own

labia and when I had my periods it was so messy and the pubic hair

would get stuck on the sanitary pad. I would look at baby’s vaginas

with angst because mine no longer looked smooth, but rather covered

with coarse dark hair. I have talked to some of my girlfriends and

sister about this and they feel the same way too. So, I think it’s

more of a personal experience. Now, in the ideal world, I would like

to have some hair down there. I would like it to be soft (rather than

coarse) and sparse. I would like for my partner to feel that the fuzz

down there is a caress, not a scrub on his penis. I would like it to

grow in a particular way and in some areas only. That is why I have

opted to have Brazilian laser hair removal in my nether areas. I

have left a small triangle on top, so that I still look like a grown

woman. But I want my labia and everything down there to be smooth as

a baby. Since I can’t control hair growth and texture I rather have

none. Am I wrong for feeling this way? I don’t think so.

Samara Ginsberg, author of the article, replies

I wasn’t suggesting that hair removal was in any way wrong in itself, I just object to the idea that it’s an absolute prerequisite for attractiveness and that the merest hint of hair renders a vulva hideous and disgusting. I suspect that porn started off on this “shaved beaver” business simply because it means you get to see more of the beaver itself that way rather than because all men hate hair. However, it’s started a culture in which having a Brazilian is regarded as part of normal grooming, a lot of men expect it, and a lot of women don’t even question it. It’s the idea of obligation and the idea that women in their natural state are unattractive that’s the problem. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty hairy myself and remove most of it for practical as well as aesthetic reasons, so I’m certainly in no position to go round telling anyone that they’re not a proper feminist unless their bush is sprouting up to their ears. Your bush is nobody’s business but your own. The only other people who will ever see it are anyone you happen to sleep with, who I’m sure won’t kick you out of bed if your pubic topiary is not quite to their taste, and your gynaecologist, who has definitely seen it all before!

From Allison

Re: Could Britney Spears be the feminist icon of our generation?: Mrs. Jean, you are my idol. =)

From T

Re: Hairy Women: Interesting article. Being male and hating the fact I must shave my

face, I don’t know if I could endure having to shave everywhere else

to be accepted. But, on the other hand, I never complained at the

smooth skin after my girlfriends would shave their legs. I do prefer

a more natural growth “down there”. I would much rather pick a hair

off of my tongue than not. It looks much sexier than bald.

From Stephen Kenny

Re: Maid of the manor: It’s worth considering that merely because you want something done,

does not mean that someone should do it for you. It seems astonishing

to me, in the 21st century, that people should be complaining about

the environment that they create for themselves: You do not own your

husband, and he does not own you; You are two completely independent

individuals, with absolute freedom of choice, and freedom of action.

I’ve never met anyone, in any environment, who does not have some

characteristics that irritate me, to some extent.

With the marriage rate in merry free-fall, it is becoming apparant

that, increasingly, people are realising that they simply don’t have

to put up with what they perceive as the downsides of what they

believe that contract to be. Railing is only fun, or satisfying, or

even sensible, when there is someone, or something, to rail against.

It seems that In future, for an increasing majority, they will have

no reason to rail, and were they to do so, for a reason I cannot

fathom, it would be into the wind, or at an empty chair.

As for women chosing to stay at home, I can’t, frankly, think of

anything more sensible. It’s only the lack of a hard working,

wealthy, wife who is prepared to subsidise this that stops me

embracing such a fascinating and busy life, with open, not to say

yearning, arms. I’ve never understood this obsession with wanting a

job. With the rapid disappearance of any social status linked to

jobs, it leaves us with merely money, and who is obsessed with that?

Having lived alone much of my life, I find housework a breeze, and

cooking a pleasure, which would leave me the vast majority of my day

to do with as I wish, and I do so wish. I have spent three years

changing nappies, not on a baby you understand, but at the other end

of the three score years and ten, so know, to some extent, whereof I

speak. The fact that the development of the faculties tends to go in

the opposite direction to the norm, does add a certain grey

hopelessness, to an otherwise similar situation. Unfortunately,

wealthy women tend to marry men who are as wealthy, if not more so,

than themselves. There are, I regret, no such charming social or

cultural norms equivalent to those which enable a wealthy male

banker, to marry a female nursery nurse.

From Marie

Re: How to Look Good Naked: Great article about ‘How to Look Good Naked’. I agree, it’s a very

enjoyable watch. Gok’s great at celebrating the female form, no

matter how big/small/old/young it is. Hurrah!

The one thing that disturbs me about the series, however, is the

woman flinging off her bra at the end of the catwalk show. It seems a

tired way of showing female liberation – and I think that the

photoshoot is enough to fulfil the ‘looking good naked’ part of the

show’s premise. It just jars when I watch it and I wonder if anyone

else feels the same.

From mitzi gaynor

i dont believe in”lookin good naked” i dont believe a shoppin trip

,new clothes is the answer. I stand in front of the mirror i hate

my body. And havin someone tell me different would’nt change my mind.

There is no way that i look good the way i am. I so do not like my

body and the only way would be diet exercise or surgery probaly all

3. If thats all it takes for them theyre lucky!

From Alex Corwin

I love Gok Wan too!

I find the show fascinating to watch because of it’s premise of

showing women how they really look and how to get rid of their body

conflicts, especially in comparison with something like 10 Years

Younger. I’d wager that the women that get the Gok treatment are far

happier 5/10 years down the line then those that get all the surgery

because they have addressed their issues rather then covering them up

with £££ of surgery that they ordinarily couldn’t afford!

Not only that, but I firmly believe that shows like 10 Years Younger

or Extreme Makeover are having a damaging affect on viewers, who

rather then learning to love themselves as they are, are waiting for

some TV show to turn up and magically change their lives. This is not

a positive message to be sending out!

More Gok Wan I say!

From Flic

Re: From ‘oy sexy’ to ‘frigid bitch’ in 30 seconds: Great article.. Wolf whistling is just as much about making a woman

feel uncomfortable as it is about anything else!

When you mentioned how one woman dressed as a man one day and got

polite stares instead of, ‘you’re a walking pussy’, it really brings

it home how much of a power game these catcalls actually are.

From Nicola

Re: ‘Feminists are sexists’: A total pleasure to read your page. A definition of the male sex

which, to many a woman rings true. Thought at times it was maybe

just ‘me’ (my husbands words) that was the problem, housework was my

job, even though I’ve got 2 kids (well, he did contribute on that

score) and hold down a 30 hour a week ‘part time job’. When does a

woman’s day really end? When the day ends, you become an on-call to

your kids in the event of them falling ill. A man’s sleep is

seldomley broken!!

From JR

Re: The Great Big Glorious (Sexist) Book for Girls: I wonder how many little girls Paul knows? Every one that I know – my

own daughter ( 9 ) included, has loved this book and has used its

ideas to get them away from horrid girly websites and chatrooms and

go into the garden and get dirty and some fresh air. Wake up Paul and

come out of your ivory tower and into the real world. There will be

plenty of time for girls to learn about sexism and lesbians when

they’re old enough to.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I’m afraid that the point isn’t whether girls like the book, but what effect it has on them. Barbie may be popular, but that doesn’t mean she is healthy.