Comments from May 2008

Comments on the latest features and reviews

A slice-by-slice attack on women’s right to choose, by Kit Roskelly

From Charlotte

Really informative article and a great read! I was horrified today to find

that a friend of mine [a male] thinks it is a great idea to slash the 24

weeks – I disagree. Though he said he didn’t disagree with abortion, I

became confused when he said ‘I don’t see why you can’t just have it to

full-term and give it away’. Thankfully I had the article to back me up!!

From Irina Lester

“A slice-by- slice attack on women’s right to choose” – brilliant eloquent

article, couldn’t be better said.

From Louisa

5 months isn’t enough time? lets face it – after a maximum of 1 month

you’d miss your period – you’re telling me that 4 months isn’t enough time

to see a doctor and descide if you want an abortion? doesn’t it seem

ludicrous to you that premature babies can actualy be born with little

intervention and survive and an age when the mother would still have the

right to abort? and what about the fact that most abortions aren’t rape or

similar – why aren’t you promoting women choosing if they want to get

pregnant in the first place? isn’t that the kind of desicion they should be

making – not desciding 5 months down the line. I think very little of your


From Teresa Phillips

If we put aside the small percentage of the pregnant women who have been

raped, or have a life-threatening disease, we are left with the majority

cases; women who are pregnant because they chose to have sex. If you choose

to have sex, you are choosing the possibility of pregnancy. Babies are a

gift. It is not up to us to abort life. It is NOT our right to abort life

that we created. If you want sex, be prepared for babies. As for the

minority of women I mentioned to start with, that’s a bit different. That’s

a whole different can of worms. But they aren’t the majority.

From Jo

I wholeheartedly agree with the article on the attack on abortion rights.

This has been an unscientific, emotive and misogynistic campaign and it is

just the beginning. Women everywhere have the right to decide themselves

whether or not to have an abortion. Do not vote for any MP who endorses

such an attack on women’s rights. If your MP voted for a reduction in the

time limit, write to them and explain that they have lost your vote.

From Amity

I read and admired your article on the necessity of protesting the current

attempts to lower the abortion limit to 20 weeks. You made several good

points, especially by commenting that it is often the privileged who are

able to quickly identify their pregnancies, make a decision and quickly

access abortion if they choose not to continue it. I will be attending the

protest outside Parliament next week and hope we are able to prevent this

proposal from becoming law.

I also wanted to give you kudos for the point you made about giving women

more options for *after* they give birth as a way to perhaps reduce the

number of women who feel limited by becoming mothers and therefore choose

abortion. You were spot on about needing subsidised or free child care and

financial help for those who choose to stay at home full time with their

children. I am currently a stay-at-home mum mainly because I can’t afford

childcare. I like being at home with my daughter and have another child on

the way who I look forward to being with all the time, but the cost of

living has risen so much that it is becoming increasingly difficult to

survive on my husband’s salary alone. At the same time, we can’t afford for

me to go back to work if it means full-time child care. The catch-22 I find

myself in is utterly depressing and I wish more women, like yourself, were

speaking up about it and working to find a solution.

From sian

yes yes and yes! i never understand what the anti choice movment plan to

do if they get there way – it isn’t like they are campaigning for better

rights for single mothers! it is so short sighted and makes me furious.

From D. Murray

You mention mysogyny as if anti-abortion was mysogynous when actually it

breeds mysogyny and the choice to carry or abort a child leaves the man

without any further responsibility in the issue. No help or support or

money has to be given because the woman ‘chose’ to have the baby where as

the man only ‘chose’ to have the sex. Abortion is often anti-feminist and

undermines a womans right to be respected as a mother. The anti-abortion

campaign make having a baby like some sort of disease for which the only

cure is abortion – and if refused, well the mothers on her own then, isn’t

she? You corrupt the term ‘feminism’ by denying respect and inclusion of

women who have babies. Abortion, even for serious medical reasons, is a

sad, if sometimes necessary procedure. it is not like just ‘having a tooth

out’, and has long term effects on a woman who ‘chooses’ this option. Real

feminism would fight the need for this choice. At the end of the day a

human life has been lost and an opportunity to nurture that life has gone

with it. It is false to assume that abortion means freedom, justice or

liberty or even humanity – it just, sometimes,

happens. Like life.

Are women and girls vulnerable?, by Jennifer Drew

From figleaf

Hi Jennifer,

This is a pretty interesting point. I sort of think the emphasis on

“vulnerability” might be a (possibly male-only) reaction to criticism of

the more sexual “she was asking for it.” The good news is if they’re

saying the victims are “vulnerable” they’re not accusing the victim of

dressing, acting, being, thinking, or otherwise seeming somehow sexual. On

the other hand they’re *still accusing the victim!*

I’m not sure how often I’ve used it but I’m pretty sure I picked up

vulnerability terminology back when rape-awareness groups stressed the

importance of women taking affirmative avoidance steps. But that was

decades ago and times have changed.

Anyway I think you’re right about shining the light on the perpetrators,

not the victims. Because *even if* someone wanted to make the

vulnerability argument, the fact that A was chosen because she or he seemed

more vulnerable than B doesn’t change *who was doing the choosing.*

Therefore *that’s* who needs to be dealt with.

Anyway, the other day Amanda Marcotte pointed to a study saying how

actually putting the focus on men… taking outreach and education to *us,*

holding *us* responsible, made a huge difference. Seems like if it’s

worked before it ought to work now.

Cool post.

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

Hi Figleaf,

Thank you for your comments and also for saying my article is a ‘cool


Regarding the use of the word vulnerable when the media and UK courts refer to

female survivors of men’s violence. A colleague of mine highlighted how

disengenous this term is because it neatly deflects attention away from

the male perpetrator’s actions and instead the female survivor’s actions

become central. In other words, it is another justification/excuse for

violent men’s actions and behaviours.

Of course using the word ‘vulnerable’ when describing a female survivor

is blaming her because she was ‘vulnerable’ and therefore ‘her

vulnerability’ caused the man to commit a crime. But as you say, it

does not in any way alter

the fact a male perpetrator chooses to commit a crime against a female

and therefore he alone is responsible for his

actions not the victim.

Amanda Marcotte is right putting the focus on men and showing them how

they are responsible for not challenging or

shaming men who commit violence against women does make a huge

difference. Far too many men believe their male peers condone violence

against women whereas in fact many men do not, but it is the peer power

which causes these men to remain silent bystanders. Jackson Katz says a

lot more about male bystanders. I highly recommend his work.

From Paul Leake

I think at least part of the concentration on men attaching ‘vulnerable’

women and children is because the men have transgressed what they have been

taught is (part) of their gender role. A man’s role (the argument goes) is

to protect and provide for their family, and by extension protect the

vulnerable – see the whole ‘women and children first’ attitude, the

publicity on attacks on women and children by the Germans to get men to

sign up for war, or numerous violent Hollywood films. It’s as patronising

as hell, and with a tendency to expect women to be ‘grateful’ to the

violent man protecting her but slightly more subtle than Jennifer Drew

suggests. Whatever the experience of those who have been our [collective]

victims suggests, we want to believe being a ‘real man’ is about protecting

the vulnerable, not assualting them.

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your comments concerning my recent article. However, part

of the problem of men’s violence against women is what is called the

‘traditional masculine role’. The ‘traditional masculine role’ teaches

boys that girls are weaker than boys; that girls should always be

protected from other boys; that girls and women need a ‘protective male’

to shelter them from the world’s adversities.

Teaching boys they should act protectively towards women, simultaneously

teaches girls they are not as capable as males and need a ‘male

protector.’ It also teaches boys that girls and women ‘belong to men’

because they need to be protected from other predatory males. It also

serves to justify male power over women because if a woman ‘needs to be

protected from other predatory males’ then she cannot possibly hold

equal status in relation to a man.

My point about ‘vulnerability’ was that this word is used selectively

and it rarely applies to men who have been victims of other men’s

violence. ‘Vulnerability’ too is a disengenous way of deflecting

attention away from violent men’s actions and their accountability.

Your comment concerning propaganda wherein the German military claimed

that the enemy was attacking German men’s women was a deliberate tactic

as you say, to encourage men to enlist. But of course, this too fed

into traditional masculine beliefs that women of the same ethnicity or

race as men ‘belong to the men or are owned by the men’.

Violent Hollywood films also perpetuate the notion that women are

helpless creatures who always need a strong, dominant male to rescue

them from whatever disaster is occurring. Women in these films are

secondary cardboard cutouts whose only role is to highlight male courage

and strength.

Being a ‘real man’ is not about proving one’s masculinity or protecting

the vulnerable but it is about respecting and treating women as equals.

It is not about ‘tolerating women’ rather it is understanding and

accepting that yes, women too are human just like men and women too,

just like men have rights. One of which is the right not to be

subjected to male violence because one happens to be a woman.

Not all women are vulnerable and in fact many women survivors of male

violence show considerable courage and fortitude in refusing to be

defeated by men’s violent actions.

From Alison James

I believe men attack women and girls because they see them as MORE

powerful than them and therefore need to be brought down. As a participant

in group counseling for abused women I noticed that many of us were far

above average in the looks department.

The news reports should say that “a powerful woman was attacked” rather

than “a vulnerable woman was attacked” It’s all about the male need for


Thanks for the excellent article.

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your comments concerning my recent article. I disagree

somewhat with your comment that men who attack women in whatever way do

so because they perceive the woman as being more powerful than

themselves. It could well be part of the problem but many men believe

it is their right to exert control and domination over women. This is

enacted in various ways such as men committing sexual violence, seeking

to control a woman’s movements, or sexually harassing a woman because

they then feel bigger and more powerful than the woman.

The dynamics of male partner abuse are somewhat different but central is

the man’s belief he has the right to control the woman’s life and he

systematically sets out to dominate and control her totally. Some men

abuse their female partners because they believe the female partner is

more intelligent than they are, or they believe their female partner’s

role is to cater for all their needs.

If the media were to report a ‘powerful woman’ was attacked by a man

unfortunately this would reinforce the belief that women are responsible

for men’s violence because the woman was supposedly more powerful and

therefore she should have been able to stop the man’s violence.

But you’re right male power and male belief in their right to exert

power over women is central.

Stripping the illusion, by Quinn Capes-Ivy

From Jennifer Drew

I too attended the meeting and I heard Prof. Rosalind Gill speak, but what

really caught my attention was Prof. Gill saying that rather than

sexualisation of culture it is sexualisation of women which is the real

issue. Prof. Gill also said men are not the ones being sexualised. Very,

very important points Prof. Gill raised, because all too often claims are

made wherein we supposedly live in a sexualised culture. We do not – truth

is we live in a culture which has normalised reduction of women and girls

to men’s sexualised commodities. Men are not the ones being sexualised as

commodities and for Prof. Gill to actually put it in gender-specific terms

effectively challenges the all too often gender neutral claim ‘we live in a

sexualised culture.’

From Lizzie

In response to ‘Stripping the Illusion’…

I was shocked by the legalities (or lack of) surrounding strip clubs. I

have always been angered by these so called ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ and am glad

that activism and new legislation will be making a dent in this lucrative


Changing attitudes is another matter. Here’s an excerpt from a ‘classy’ UK


“On any night we have up to 50 of the most beautiful girls in the world,

and the dancers that appear on stage are the very best on offer from the

UK, Europe and the world”

The language screams objectification, the women are literally presented as

consumer items. “The best on offer…the world”? Clearly the global economy

has reached its height.

The prostitution found in the clubs is also implied by the euphemistic

“For a more relaxing and exclusive experience visit our VIP rooms away

from the crowds”

Of course the website clearly states ‘the rules’ (e.g. ‘no touching opf

the dancers at any time’) but I have to question the need for a ‘more

exclusive experience’ if these rules are adhered to.

Those who believe these establishments to be harmless are clearly naieve

or plain deluded.

From Carly

As a lap dancer myself and also a feminist, I find the lap dance article

to contain no truth whatsoever and highly offensive and one sided, if

anything, it is not the woman that is exploited it is the sad men that pay.

also there is a big difference between prostitution and dancing 3feet away

from a customer.

From Audrey Cook

Fantastic coverage. I might just add that BBC 3 are endorsing and

glamorising the normalisation of women as commercial sex objects: in the

last two weeks they have screened three shows about young girls either pole

dancing or working as glamour models: My Body for Bucks, Glamour Girls and

Page 3 Teens. I am doing a PhD with a large gender content so quit au fait

with how the media constructs feminine identity. I complained: and so should

more people. I am sick of the lad’s mags, sick of the lap dancing and

prostitutes for stags nights being considered normal and most of all, I am

sick of a media engine that drives this and an apathetic populous who nods

along without realising the damage they do for the role and status of women

in society.

Keep up the fab work.

From Helen S

In response to Stripping the illusion.

I nabbed a few choice phrases from this excellent article and stuck them

in a message to my MP, just because I couldn’t think of a better way to

word them. Hope you don’t mind. I thought I’d post it in case a few

F-Worders were too busy to write, so they could just copy and paste if they

wanted. A truly awesome website for contacting your MP, and keeping tabs

on her/him is – I hope you check it out. It makes

being politically active that bit easier. I usually get a written reply

from my MP within a week or two.

Dear Andrew Smith,

I am writing to you to ask you to support closing the loophole in the 2003

Licensing Act which allows lap-dancing clubs to be licensed as leisure

establishments rather than sex establishments. This loophole takes power

away from voters and politicians who object to lap-dancing establishments.

Councils have the power to regulate sex shops and sex cinemas, but not

strip clubs, and I think that this is a sad state of affairs. As a

feminist, a voter and a human being, I urge you to consider this matter

seriously. Apparently, there will be a ten minute bill coming up about this

in the next few weeks, and I would really appreciate your support.

Yours sincerely,

Helen S

Sexuality and sainthood, by Itala Atteih

From Andrew Durrant

I thought the article was enlightening and informative, without avoiding

some poignant issues for the time the works were produced to the impact

they have in today’s world. Excellent, please write more……

From Patricia A-Ambo

Nicely put, hear hear. There should be more paintings of nude men…

F.A.T., by Katie Muller

From Cara

Er, I am an “apple” shaped woman.

Thanks for making me feel even more freakish. I would far rather look

“feminine” and “curvy”.

From susan throssell hunt

Being so preocuppied with weight is a way that internalised oppression is

used. If we are preocuppied with our weight, or indeed what colour hair we

have, what we are wearing today, what colour our toe nails should be, what

colour hair she has, what colour her toe nails are, is she heavier than me,

what is she wearing today….whilst we are preocuppied with all that, we

arent noticing the bigger picture….that if we all stood together we would

change the world. we would end sexism and we would have ‘it all’!

From Kylie

In response to F.A.T.

To be genderblind, too much fat is not healthy. Don’t be an obesity

enabler; it’s just as awful as an anorexic supporter.

The Oxbridge sex workers, by Laurie Penny

From Rachel

It is sad that young women are turning to this lifestyle, but, as a 22

year old pretty female from a privately educated middle class background, I

know for a fact as the article states, that this is not just a problem

limited to the less priviliged women. I have been in a similar situation, I

was at uni, and started stripping, which I did for two years. It paid for

my uni- and some more!…I loved it for a while, I felt liberated. I also

lived with a girl who was an escort, and she earned more than some high

flying business people I know! I am not saying it is acceptable, of course

it depends on the opinion of the individual, what I am saying it is a big

problem, and it is not going to go away any time soon. Especially since

this lifestyle tends to lead into drugs and hedonism, and a sense of low

self esteem or a warped and twisted view of men (I know I will never trust

them again.) I now have a good job in front of house hospitality, and

luckily escaped the drugs, as I dont like them anyway, but for some young

girls what starts as a temporary way of making money, becomes addictive and

turns into a way of life. The problem is, that as long as there are men who

are offering these vast amounts of money to ‘use’ these young women as a

sexual toy, there are going to be women who will take advantage of this and

they will be fooling themselves that they are being strong individuals and

using the men for money when in fact it IS the other way around. It is

always going to be a problem, but there are things that society can do to

stop this happening: more education and campaiging on the subject, and, I

am afraid to say, that we have to expose this lifestyle for what it really

is, totally unglamourous and unhealthy and ruins and warps a young girls

mind. What can we do about this? We can only educate against it, becuase I

am afraid as long as there are men with money, there is going to be a call

for services like this.

Comments on older features and reviews

Walking on eggshells, by Alex Brew

From Cliff Laine

What a fascinating article. I came to it in a roundabout way through

someone I know who’s done a performance art project called Butt Naked at

the Green Room in Manchester.

I think what you’re doing is a great project. As you realise, you’re

putting yourself in quite a dangerous position, but this is the kind of

bravery that society needs if any of the inequalities and violence you

identify are ever going to diminish. I have to admit while I was reading

the article I was imagining poses in which I would sit if asked to do the

same thing. It’s quite a good self-reflective thing to ask men to do.

The normalisation of porn is very worrying and depressing. I think the

gutter end of the newspaper market has played a great part in making these

sorts of images tolerated and any project to try to wrest control of

stereotyped sexualised images of women must be welcomed – even though I’m

sure you must feel like you have (excuse the image!) your finger in a very

big dyke.

Good luck to you, I think it’s great what you’ve done.

From Richard Alexander

Hello, from Texas, USA! I read the article, “Walking on eggshells” with

some personal interest. I am an avid amateur photographer and was very

briefly a male art model, and I greatly enjoy viewing the female form.

Maybe it is a sign of my beginner status, but I view photo sessions as akin

to theater. As the photographer, I am like a director, with an idea of what

I am trying to convey. I leave it to the model, as actor, to convey the

message with his own interpretation. This works particularly well for me,

because I don’t know very much about posing models. So, much of the

“eggshells” article seemed to relate to a situation that I did not know

existed in the photo session; absolute directional control over everything

the model does. I realize that, ideally, nothing in the photograph is

accidental. Lighting, color, motion, lines, location, every pixel, is the

deliberate design of the photographer. I let too many chips fall where they

may. Even so, I like watching my female model interpret my ideas and convey

my message for me.

I would offer another reason, in addition to that mentioned in the

article, why women might not approach men on the street and ask them to

pose partially or completely nude. No one really wants to see naked men. At

least in the U.S., nude men are a fad, a stunt. They became an annoying

cliche a decade ago, but film makers continue to employ them. In any event,

most male nudity has nothing to do with the splendor or beauty or elegance

or design of the male body, and everything to do with sexual daring on the

part of the director. Of course, in the U.S., I probably get into a lot of

trouble if I were to walk up to women on the street and asking them to pose

partially or completely nude, too, so women are not the only powerless sex.

Natural deodorants, by Kerry Saegert

From amy peront

I enjoyed your perspective on natural deodarants. I, too, am

trying to live naturally and as organically as possible. I do not use

deodarant at all and have found that washing with Desert Essence Tea Tree

Oil Thoroughly Clean Face Wash under my arms and in the groin area daily

prevents mal-odors for most of the day. Tea Tree oil is a natural

antiseptic. Also I carry a spritz bottle with combo of tea tree oil,

alcohol, and essential oil of lavender. If I have a particular sweaty day,

I spritz and wipe my underarms, and the odor is gone. It is great!! No

alluminum, no parabens, no propylene glycol….and the list of poisons and

toxins goes on— but not on me or my family.

Stopping violence against women at its primary root, by Matthew Provost

From Clare

Thanks for writing the article, I’m glad a man cares about this.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Indeed, Clare – although we’d hope for more than one!

Feminism is not man-hating!, blog post by Abby O’Reilly

From David

Why does your blog have an article entitled feminism is not about man

hating, when there so many callouse and cruel comments about men, i.e

\”unfortunately men are considered expendable.\” I believe that being

considered expendable is the worst discrimination of all and yet is

trivialised by a dismissive remark, as being unfortunate and then anyone

who points these facts out is called a troll for speaking the truth.

Pretending you are not a hate movement is not going is not going to change

the fact that you are. Pretending the holocaust never happened is not going

to change the fact that it did.

From ‘oy sexy’ to ‘frigid bitch’ in 30 seconds, by Abi M

From Lou

Well, after all, it is most of us women who crave being “sexy” above

almost all things. What did we expect?

Contraception and control, by Megan

From Nate

My name is Nate, and I’m an 18 y/o from Texas, USA. This article has been

of TREMENDOUS help for my research paper on Teen Pregnancy and my ongoing

debate over the issue of-you guessed it- Contraception for Teens.

Bravo-splended work.

Loose Women, by Dawn Kofie

From jess

im a great fan of loose women and think it shows a bit of female

domination on tv which is what feminists have been fighting for equality

and all that. would you rather have this hour of listenin to a few women

ramble on about their lives and current affairs which can be funny, or the

racist, discriminatory and derogatory sitcoms which was about all you cud

watch 30 years ago. look back to then and see how much it\’s progressed it

seems a lot of people will never be happy and will always want something to

moan about. dont get me wrong im a feminist myslef and i think thats why i

enjoy the programme. thankyou for reading.

The Sexual Life of Catherine M, review by Tamlyn Monson

From Reva Golden

I don’t agree with Tamlyn Monson’s review of The Sexual Life of Catherine

M – by Catherine Millet. The review talks about Catherine’s failure to

establish attachments that are considered “normal”. However, Catherine

makes perfectly clear in her book her difficulty in making “normal”

attachments – and that she indeed formed relationships when she had been

sexual with others – and generally not before. In fact, she overcame a

profound shyness by allowing herself to be casually sexual – and she also

found a way to get pleasure in being pleasing to others (really a feminist

issue here) before it occurred to her to think of her own pleasure. (What

male could ever say the same?

Also, although it was not blatant in the book, it was truly touching to me

how much true depth there was to the relationship between herself and

Jacques. There was true sharing and compassion and concern. Perhaps the

reviewers don’t like it that a person can be as casual and such a sexual

glutton and that this behavior does not necessarily impede the occurrence

of actual love.

Tracey, Tomma and the Turner conspiracy, by Sue Gilbert

From itala

Really good article. I definately agree that the term ‘woman artist’ can

be a problematic one, at times unnecessarily gendering art. I would

however have to disagree with what you say abut ‘Tracey Emin’s work is

essentially female, whilst the Chapman’s work often violently disturbing,

is definately male’. I think this implies that artists who are women

innevitably have feminine sensibilities and only produce art according to

their gender. Are women incapable of creating violently disturbing art? I

would argue that some of Emin’s work is pretty disturbing, yet her approach

is different. Is that purely because she is a woman? or is it beacuse she

is an individual, an artist who makes art the way she wants, regardless of

the stereotypes attatched to her gender?

From ryochus

“Tracey, Tomma and the Turner conspiracy”

‘they dont like our art, so they must be sexist’

Sue Gilbert, author of the article, replies

Thanks for your comment Ryochus, and I actually wish it was that simple! Art is firstly a question of personal taste, nobody likes it all. My question is, who are they?

If, as the Tate claims, ignoring art that hasn’t been created by men goes right back to the art schools, these have had since the feminist outcry in the ’70s to get their fingers out. There have always been a lot of women students in art schools, and not just studying fashion and design. I don’t know how many women teach fine art in art schools and departments today, but in the ’60s and ’70s it was probably zero.

Also, avant-garde women artists have been around for ever but the way the tabloid press treats contemporary women artists, you’d think there were only two around. (That Tracey Emin, she gets drunk you know, and swears and sleeps around, oh yes and she puts her dirty knickers in an art gallery – ha ha ha! And there’s that Rachel Whiteread, who put this ugly great concrete thing based on a crappy old house in a nice park opposite somebody’s home and she didn’t have planning permission! Luckily the council knocked it down or she might have put one outside your house next!)

The obvious “They” are the Turner Prize judges, and here’s where it gets a bit confusing. Many of the judging panels since 1990 have included a large proportion of women, who I certain would not want to be described as sexist, but who may have strived a little too hard to appear unbiased on gender grounds. There is also Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, who from 1988 to 2007 was the chairman of the judging panel, how much responsibility does he hold?

Recently the application form for consideration for the Turner Prize has become more widely available, which may bring an increase in women being nominated – for 2008 three women have been shortlisted, and one man. The judges include two women and Serota has been replaced by Stephen Deuchar. I still wonder how the number of application forms the Tate receives for the prize is whittled down to the four nominees, and who does the whittling?

From Rebecca O’Rourke

Enjoyed Sue Gilberts’ article very much. An impressive depth of passion

and research, worn lightly. Good stuff. Grateful too for the introduction

to the f word site as well.

Girls Aloud, beauty secrets and lies, by Michelle Wright

From Shelley Groves

The insecurities of being in the public eye! It’s young girls I feel

sorry for who are taking these girl bands as their role models. I hope by

the time my daughter (age 3) is older there is a real shift in attitudes

about weight and people become happy in their own skin. But we live in a

media obsessed age at the moment and everything a celeb does is scrutinsed

by the newspapers and magazines. Publications like Heat and Closer are

obsessed with celebs putting on a pound or having a spot and people who buy

those mags feel good to see they are ‘less than perfect’. So in a way you

can’t blame insecure young celebs acting in this way – our culture has gone

that way. I’m glad I’m older and more secure, I’m 9stone 12 and 5ft 7 and

having lost nearly 2 stone through exercise and healthier eating feel very

happy with my shape and think it is very sad that young girls who have

absolutely stunning figures are still unhappy with their shape despite

denying themselves so much to achieve them. Our society has gone crazy.

Mind your language, by Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams

From Virtuella

Thank you for this very insightful article. As somebody who largely shuns

TV, I am not up-to-date with the phenomenon you are describing, but I can

easily believe it. May I add a point from another context: something that

riles me is that my son, from when he was a few days old, was referred to

by many people as a “little man”. Nobody ever called my daughter a “little

woman”, and rightly so, she is still only four. But I had defend my son

against this language reminding people: “He’s not a man, he’s just a baby

boy.” To which the majority of people replied: “Ach, well, it’s just

something you say.” Exactly.

‘Feminists are sexist’, by Catherine Redfern

From Aldo


Having read your article the one thing that really stands out is your

obvious arrogance and unwillingness to divulge into the actual points put

across in a fair manner that evaluates the points made. Looking at the

emails you recieved they have all been put across in a fairly intelligent

manner and they deserve better than to be ridiculed. Also, your

generalisation of racism that is towards black people is stereotyping in

itself, implying that black people are the only victims of racism, an

attitude that creates so many problems.

I am also annoyed at your perception that, to quote, “We can’t refer to

women, we have to refer to ‘people’ – which includes men, which

therefore makes it okay”. This is a pathetic argument as the PC brigade,

that seems to have the unequivical support of feminists, are changing job

titles etc from chairman or chairwoman to chairperson due to complaints of

sexism. I also feel that there are several cases of comlete over-reaction

to certain adverts as, whilst most woman want to be ‘sexually liberated’

they get offended at the portrayel of sex between a man and woman.

From M

I just read your “Feminists are Sexist” article, and I want to thank you a

million, billion, trillion times over. I seem to have noticed these things

subconsciously and they were eating away at me inside, but I wasn’t

consciously aware of them. I pay $90/a week for therapy, but I just got

the equivalent of several months of therapy for free out of that one


I would just like to add that there was one example of the phenomenon that

you missed. If you take a look at many “men’s rights” websites, you will

see many complaints about domestic violence shelters and the fact that men

are usually not allowed in. The shelters themselves say that they cannot

allow men because it is far too common for the abuser to pose as a victim

so that they can infiltrate the shelter.

The response from the “men’s rights” advocates is that feminists should

put together men’s shelters! You may be aware that many of these shelters

were established in the 60’s and 70’s, when women had virtually no power or

money, but these unsung heroes somehow managed to scrape together the

resources to build these shelters. Today, the shelters still require a

great deal of work and money, which is very difficult to put together.

Now rich, white men are complaining that these women don’t extend those

resources to provide for men while the men themselves sit back and blog?

The level of entitlement is astounding!

From Joel

Ha! All this baloney about how “feminists would be the least likely to say

this” and “not all feminists hate men!” and then this at the bottom:

“Catherine Redfern does not hate men. She could spend many a happy hour

watching the Justin Timberlake ‘Rock Your Body’ video. She also realises

this admission completely ruins any credibility she once had.”

Really eh? Well if those facts ruin your credibility regarding feminism,

then feminism is every bit as ignorant and useless as I thought it was.

Move on. Get into the 21st century. Maybe turn on the TV or go outside? Men

are the ones being stereotyped and belittled en masse these days. Feminism

is an obsolete, separatist ideology that has LONG outlived its original

purpose. At least in the UK and the States, women have achieved equality

and then some. Some of them choose to pursue high-powered business careers

or professions in science, mathematics, and software development. Good for

them! I guess, unfortunately, that some choose to utilize their time

complaining about men and how unfair our “patriarchal” society is. Get over


By the way, what is “permision”?

Hair today, mad tomorrow, by Nichi Hodgson

From nicky zip

I’d like to thank Nichi Hodgson for writing a piece about female baldness.

Little commentary exists between the medical press and the media. Little

current data in the UK seems to exist. I’m currently involved in an Image

Survey for bald women, which looks at a range of issues and how women cope.

The survey is being run inconjuction with Alopecia UK and Bald Girls Do

Lunch, USA and can be found at

Thea Chassin the founder of BGDL is on a something of a mission to break

down this social taboo, and by holding lunches all over the US raise

awareness and acceptance of bald women going about their lives, in her own

words ‘this is another way of looking’.

Glamour models made me sick, by Hannah Whittaker

From A Cook

The last paragraph in this article makes a highly valid point that has

repurcussions for the construction of women’s identity today. If women are

encouraged by the media to co-op and collude in their own degradation and

are then kidded into thinking this is empowering, they need to consider

that identity is a collaborative exercise. To whit, stripping, lap dancing,

soft core porn, pole dancing etc functions to construct women as sex

objects available for purchase by men. It does not matter if they enjoy the

attention and somehow think this gives them ‘power’ because the social

domain will bestow them a degrading image. Hence, the author is right in

that glamour models may have a high IQ but so long as they work to present

themselves as sex objects fodder for the mass media, any claim to equality,

intelligence or independence is automatically denied. All they do is

construct an identity around fulfilling a male fantasy and literally sell

their body to achieve this. Hardly sounds like empowerment, does it? In

fact it reduces the identity positions available to women at large whose

cultural forms are determined by such media.

My PhD focusses on identity construction.

Show Girls: The State of, by Marion Beach

From Karolyn Szejner

I am studying Theatre & Performance at Degree level and am doing a seminar

and presentation on Feminist Theatre. With so many articles and

practitioner’s labeled with the F Word it has been a mountain to climb to

find a simple answer to what feminist theatre was, is and aiming towards!

Having read the works of Sarah Kane I was still wondering how the positive

message of every woman’s struggle to acknowledged and built on. This

article opened a window and I Thank Marion for that!! I am a degree

student and mother of three small children. If only my struggle for a

better future for my family would be acknowledged instead of being put down

as a mum wanting benefits and not wanting to get a job! I thank you Marion

for this article. It has inspired me. My hopes for the fresh new future

of femisist theatre are burning passionately.

The Boy, reviewed by Holly Combe

From tony

The only problem I seem to have with the book is the fact that some may

use it to house their own pedophilic fantasies and may in turn end up

harming younger boys in the process. Other than that, i can understand the

concept of “the beautiful boy”, and realize that before pedophilia was

really open to the public’s eye, nudity was not something looked down upon

in art. It is my personal belief that the body is a sacred thing and should

be treated that way… Of course I don’t agree with people labeling Greer

as a pedophile herself because she doesn’t seem to be one at all.

Revolution Girl Style Now!, reviewed by Jess McCabe

From Strawberry Shortkick

What a fantastic review! Your mention of creation of culture brought me

back to that intensity of purpose we all shared… I venture to guess that

the riot grrrl resurgence (or reemergence?) is taking place in roller derby

leagues across the United States and beyond… in St. Louis, our d.i.y.

league is comprised of women who grew up in the riot grrrl movement of the

90s… and now with careers and babies and the likes, we are back to

organizing a new culture by and for women… this time with mass messaging

and appeal…

Take back the streets, by various authors

From Bryce

The article is labeled “take back the streets”. This is a true analogy.

The topic of harrasment towards women by sucubment males, this also true.

Yet, the irony is myself am male and can to easily picture the accounts

told. Though i believe i hold a decent notion of respect for another

like-minded female, I find my own tounge slipping some times, I also find

the times when it does slip I’m usually put in my place by several

sucumbent females. Females sticking up for each other , is usually what

changes these situations of harrasment by men. I believe think its time

for women to show men to true indentity of unity.

Body language speaks volumes, by Anna Sandfield

Kate S

Anna’s article on the difference between male and female non-verbal

behaviour; very interesting and relevant. I strongly agree with much of

what you say, particularly with regard to smiling. I consider myself to be

a generally happy, outgoing and sociable person, yet I have, on numerous

occasions, being subjected to the ‘cheer up love, may never happen’

scenario you mention, merely because I am going on about my business,

thinking my own thoughts (which- and I know I’m far from alone on this one-

aren’t all about fluffy kittens and cherry pies). My facial expression is

not always one of radiant good will towards colleagues or passers-by on the

street, but one that reflects my thoughts or feelings at the time. So why

do men- and it is invariably men who comment on my insufficient joie de

vivre- insist on being so affected by it? Why do they respond to my

neutrality or sobriety in such a wounded, resentful way (even when their

disapproval is delivered in a seemingly humorous and well-meaning manner),

as if me not favouring them with a beatific grin at any given opportunity

is a personal slight against them?

General comments

From Clare

Dear F-Word,

I thought you would appreciate this. I just spat my coffee onto my

monitor! how aggravating that I really do want one of these things. But not

because I am a feeble-armed woman.

“Through extensive R&D, the inclusion of the 8.9″ display screen does not

affect the overall weight of the Eee PC 900, which remains below 1kg –

making it easy for children and women to carry it around…”



From O. Andrew

I have meticulously perused this website and have made several conclusions

of my own. To start, I would like to state that I believe in equality of

people of all genders, races, creed’s and sexual orientation. I feel that

the very meaning of the term ‘feminism’ have modified and been affiliated

with many (mis)interpretations; throughout the evolution of the term and

the meaning, there have been many issues that have been addressed, however

it can be said that some of these issues raised within this site have been

convoluted and under the perception of women- only. I feel that you have

failed to recognise the importance, the meaning, the attribution and

particular connotations that directly oppose the ‘true’ original ideology

of feminism. This website, and as a generalisation, the entire perception

of feminism and femininity, are empowered by what women think is correct

and acceptable. It has to be said that certain aspects of this website

divulge into a distorted viewpoint of ‘real issues’. For instance, you

mention about domestic violence, from the viewpoint of women, accepting the

repression, the stories and lamentations of women- this is not a problem,

however there is no mention of domestic abuse from a male perspective. Men

can be subject to domestic violence and i think that this should be

addressed within ‘feminism’ as feminism is suppossed to be the equality

between men and women-is it not?!. You fail to state the equality of

viewpoints from both sexes, however understand issues from a

female-orientated ideology. Feminism should,if you wish to consider

yourselves equal, address issues of women as well as men. Feminism should

equal equality not the domination of women. Mr. Andrew

From Chris

I stumbled across this website and read a selection of articles, they are

mostly well written and very thoughtful.

However, one comment I would make is that for all the apparently

’empowering’ articles, in none of them did I see anything putting

responsibility on women. The website portrays men in general as if we are

some faceless mass of misogynistic rapists and pedophiles.

As with most people, we want freedom without responsibility. To become

equals one must take on equal responsibility. Having read this website

however, I never saw any acknowledgment of this, or blame for this

passivity apportioned to other women. I refer back to a faceless mass of

men, lurking in wait to pounce on womens’ rights who is to blame.

In my workplace women frequently use their ‘feminine wiles’ to gain

advantage over the men. Is this not sexist? Almost to say “You are

animalistic, we are not, and we will exploit you for this.

The problems addressed in these articles, while very astute, are

examinations of symptoms rather than causes. For example the attacks on

language, PCness etc.

Fundamentally I think the problems feminists see can be reduced to feeling

somewhat infantilised and missing out on opportunities.

The solution to this is for women to be prepared to take on the same

responsibility as every other man.

Unfortunately, the woman who is willing to do this is highly exceptional

and not the rule. The majority of women are content to sit back and watch

others vie for this responsibility.

This is a common female attitude, if women wish to compete with men on a

level playing field, they must be willing to take on the responsibility

that comes with the rights. ‘Rights’ referring to the ‘right’ not to be

looked upon as anything less than an equal, for example.

Thanks for reading.



From Cara

I wondered if you could put out an alert about some truly disgusting rape

enabling attitudes in a BBC programme, Love Soup.

On 17 May, in this fictional programme (which is a comedy drama about

dating, romance, etc.) a male character states that “women often say no

when they mean yes”. He had been on a date with a woman, and admitted to

putting his hand down her jeans when she had said no.

He received no negative consequence for this.

This constitutes sexual assault.

The attitude that “no does not mean no” justifies rape and sexual assault.

I am disgusted that the BBC propagates such attitudes.

Readers can complain about this programme at

I have done so, and got a typical patronising “sorry you are so

oversensitive” response.

If readers inundate them, they might realise that this kind of attitude is

NOT acceptable.

I would be very grateful if you could post the above on the F-Word.

From Inga Brereton

Not much about education policy on your site. I am a secondary school

governor increasingly worried that the relentless underperformance of boys

in exams means that they are consistently given extra resources even though

their poor performance in the classroom has not lead to men being penalised

financially in the workplace for poor academic results. As research

suggests that girls do better at single sex schools and boys do better at

mixed, how can it be justified to spend public money disadvantaging girls

by refusing to fund girls schools in the state sector? Can you imagine

that happening if research showed that boys schools would improve results?

Please also look into the inherent unfairness of student funding for

married mature women students. I will be in huge debt by the end of my

degree which if I were a single parent or husband with children I would not

be. Anyone would think that married woman with children were not to be

encouraged to join the professional classes.

From Janet

Those washable pads sound good from Moon Mammas. You have convinced me!

The trouble is I can’t get on the site. Do you know if they have stopped

business? If so, do you recommend any other washable pads?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

You can find a listing of suppliers of reusable pads here