Comments from September 2008

Comments on September’s features and reviews

Whose feminism is it?, by Annika Spalding

From Michelle

Really interesting and important article, thanks for writing and giving

your thoughts.

I feel addressing who is and is not ‘included’ within feminism is a very

pertinent topic and something we constantly need to be aware of, so that we

acknowledge the many differences between women and the ways in which

feminism needs to tackle all kinds of inequalities to improve all women’s


I think a key way in which to start to reach out to groups of women who

perhaps traditionally and historically have not been involved in feminism,

is to listen to those women, without imposing a more ‘enlightened’ feminist

view on them. Just because a woman does not define as a feminist, or has

not read up on feminist theory, does not mean she isn’t politicised or has

opinions on the way the world should be and how her situation could be


I think it’s important not to see feminism as a more enlightened state,

and expect other women to ‘catch up’, as it’s not as simplistic as that,

and listening to all groups of women can go some way to ensuring feminism

is relevant to all woman and has something for everyone.

From Debi Crow

I’d just like to say I really enjoyed your article, and I think it is so

important that it was written and got published. You make many good points

that all women and feminists need to consider.

I can also tell you you are not alone in feeling left out sometimes. I

feel like that a great deal of the time (less now than in the past, but I

used to more consciously try to “fit in” then than I do now). I am married

with a young child, I do not have a Women’s Studies degree etc etc. In

fact, I have now pretty much given up on the label “feminist” for myself –

it just doesn’t seem to fit all that well, although I still believe most of

the things I used to.

Anyway, I just wanted to say congratulations on a great article – I really

hope it gets feminists and feminist organisations thinking about being more


From Hazel

Annika, Thank you for posting this. As a working-class disabled white

woman I too often feel excluded; so many discussions about what to do in

the (white collar) workplace, how to raise your (middle-class) children,

and so many articles about disabled (victims) women, and poor women

claiming benefits (who are victims of the system). None of which really

feels like it’s my life – or my feminism, for that matter.

It’s only a bloody tampon, by Gemma Bolwell and Harriet Chandle

From Tom Hulley

Doesn’t the producer know that controversy also puts ‘bums on seats’? Of

course, that is not the main point. How sad that your important and

principled work is put under such unfair pressure.

I complained to my local council about a series of obnoxious, sexist and

racist stand up comics appearing at our local council funded theatre

-nothing to do with us they said!

So if your are male and stand on the stage insulting women, black people,

old people, disabled people etc. it is fine. If you try to make people

think about change then you will be censored.

It is tough but keep up the struggle.


Yes, indeed why is

‘menstruation’ taboo when routinely we are subjected to film and theatrical

images of men engaged in either single or group rape of women. Likewise

images of male sexual and physical violence against women are ‘eroticised

and presented as entertainment’ with hardly anyone batting an eyelid.

Unfortunately your company had no choice since either was withdrawing the

supposedly offensive scene or have financial support withdrawn.

At least this scene has been shown publicly to theatre audiences and your

company has learned how prejudice and bias does enact a heavy toll.

Similar somewhat to the outcry expressed by a number of television viewers

who wrongly believed an Eastenders storyline about a male adult who is

known to the family, manipulates the family in order to sexually abuse and

attempt to rape a female child. Same question why? Is it because some

issues are better kept hidden and out of sight. But who are the ones who

benefit and who are the ones who are made to feel ‘dirty and deviant.’

From Andrew

I just wanted to say what a shame it is that you were put in this

position. The situation would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. It is a

disappointment that the producer wasn’t willing to back you, though I

completely understand your decision to continue with the performances and

am sure that the good it did for women’s theatre was immeasurable.

From Claire McCann

This is a great article and clearly highlights that some issues are still

taboo! It has also spurred on a very interesting debate for a few of us

feminists here, having to deal with positive and negative comments on the

link to your article from my facebook page!

From The Countess

I believe that the ‘Greenham Common Women’ protesting against US nuclear

missile bases in the UK in the 1980s tied ‘used tampons’ around the

perimeter fence of a missile silo.The ‘radical’ (read ‘abhorrent’) nature

of this act seems to have not changed at all …

Her Naked Skin, by debi withers

From Eleanor T

Fantastic article, Debi! A very thoughtful and intelligent review.

Loving outside the line of monogamy: Tristan Taormino’s new guide to open relationships, a review by Red Chidgey

From Sarah Irving

I read Red Chidgey’s review of Tristan Taormino’s book on non-monogamy

with interest. As a woman currently in a monogamous relationship but who

has tried non-monogamy in several permutations before, one of the things

that disturbs me about discussions of non-monogamy is their tendency to

focus on the people within the core relationship and on how to manage and

maintain this relationship, and on how fulfilling an open relationship can


What they often don’t address fully is the situation of people who are on

what might be termed the ‘receiving end’ of non-monogamy.

Obviously this largely refers to the kind of relationship where there is a

core partnership but where its members are free to sleep with other people,

either as ongoing ‘secondary’ relationships or in casual encounters. This,

in my experience (which is mainly of a politicised, anarcho/a non-monogamy

setting), seems to be the commonest variety. There are of course long

debates to be had about the power relations within those ‘core’

relationships, and the frequency with which the decision to be

non-monogamous might come from one, more emotionally powerful partner

within them. But as I said, I’m interested in how rarely I see proper

discussion of the position occupied by the people outside of this, who in

books, pamphlets and articles on the subject tend to remain somewhat

shadowy. Of course, many of them may be totally happy with their role –

they may get a sexual relationship with minimal demands on their time, or

fun casual sex with a total honesty about there being no more complex

relationship expectations to pop out of the woodwork.

But I’ve also seen too many cases of people who’ve been really into the

person they’ve slept with, and have effectively had to put up with knowing

that they are totally and unchangeably in second place because they know

that it’s all they are ever likely to get, but are too involved to walk

away. Or people who’ve slept with one half of an open couple without full

information on the nature of the deal they’ve inadvertantly become part of.

However casual that encounter, people exercising their choice to be in open

relationships need to be completely up-front about what they can and cannot

offer, and about the limitations they have on the time and emotional effort

that they can put into a relationship. Of course, in a perfect world no-one

would be in emotional exploitative or unfulfilling relationships, and

they’re woefully common in monogamous as well as non-monogamous circles.

But the sense of liberation and positivity which often surrounds writings

on non-monogamy seems to me to fail to address some of the downsides, and

to fully admit the extent to which freedom for one person can mean

exploitation for another.

In a well-run open set-up, the person in the open relationship has a

loving, supportive environment to go back to – it’s the third (4th, 5th,

nth) person who can be vulnerable.

I might be underestimating Taormino’s book, and maybe it does stress the

need for ethical treatment of, and more consideration towards, those

outside non-monogamous core couples. But I didn’t see too much evidence of

this in the review, and it’s something sadly lacking in many pro-polyamory


From Ruth

I think it’s a bit strong (and unnecessary in context) to call monogamy a

“lie”. For many of us it works perfectly well, thanks, even if it owes more

to tolerance and forgiveness than romantic notions of “the One” – on which

it is in no way dependent.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Yep, after thinking it over we did too and the headline for this feature was changed. Red has written a full response to these comments on the blog, which you can see here

Across the porn divide, by Debi Crow

From Jennifer-Ruth

I thought this was a wonderful article Debs. I tend to feel more at home

and agree with radical feminist ideology than I do with sex-positive

feminism (a term I really hate, because I am not anti-sex! I will try using

it if women identify with it though. You made a good case for and against

it in your article).

However, I have never really understood the sniping between bloggers based

on this differing ideology, because the core of feminism remains the same.

For instance, I do have certain feelings about gender but they can only

come from inside myself. It makes no sense to me to dismiss what

trans-women feel or to deny their voices. Besides, I have a very feminine

appearance, so it is probably easier for me to deny the existence of gender

whilst at the same time slotting perfectly in to what society expects me to

look like. How can I possibly say what I feel about my gender is the way

that everyone feels?

Another example is that I lean towards being anti-porn and I see a lot of

problems with porn and in its effects in society. But I have a friend who

has posed for pictures in adult magazines. Should I not be her friend? Her

body, her choice. Why should I disrespect that? But I digress…

You are right, debate is very important, but speaking out for women is

more important. We have to be able to speak out and fight for women – tiny

blog wars mean nothing in comparison. I don’t have my own blog and I am not

a prolific commenter but I love reading all the different feminist

theories. I love that there are all sorts of women out there fighting for

women. I love that there are women who recognise how badly we still need

feminism and that they won’t shut up about it. I find all these strong

women – including yourself – an inspiration to make me stand up and call

out sexism in my day to day life when I see it.

From m Andrea

Oh please, the problem isn’t some “great mystical divide”, it’s that the

people who enjoy prostituted women have nothing to say to anybody who

doesn’t agree with them besides insults.

I am tired of people who believe that one-sided “communication problem” is

somehow the fault of anybody besides themselves.

From A Different Helen

Debi Crow’s article, “Across the Porn Divide”, made me think long and

hard. I know where she is coming from – I do not like conflict and

confrontation and would much rather everyone got on. And of course she is

right, we can get on perfectly well with people we fundamentally disagree

with. I have been an atheist since the age of 12, but most of my best

friends are devout Christians. Although we are poles apart on religious

issues, they know where I stand and I know where they do, but in all other

respects we get on famously. I can even get on perfectly well with male

chauvinists. They may not like the fact that I am an educated working

mother who earns as much as they do, but we can still put our differences

aside to work effectively together.

However, I do have a problem with the pro-pornography and pro-prostitution

crowd. Feminism for me, and surely this is not contentious, is about

equality. Yet while women can be bought and sold as chattels for male

sexual pleasure, and the misogynistic anti-woman propaganda that is

pornography is openly for sale in High Street shops, women can never be

equal. Supporting the sex industry, is for me, not feminist by definition.

If some women want to collude with the patriarchy by selling their bodies

and undermining the status of women in society then thats fine – I

fundamentally disagree with what they are doing, but no doubt I could still

get on with them as people. What I cannot accept though, is when they argue

in favour of the sex industry from a feminist platform. The sex industry

and those that profit from it are not interested in equality for women, but

in making money, and they associate themselves with feminism simply because

it serves to legitimise what they do, and so protect their financial

interests. In calling themselves feminists they are being deceitful and

insincere, and their presence in the feminist movement undermines it. If,

for the sake of harmony, we extend the hand of acceptance to the

pro-pornstitution crowd, we may as well say “Well, lets just accept

patriarchy then – anything for a quiet life”!! And that’s not what we

become feminists for, is it? Debi is just being too nice.

From lucy

In response to the article ‘Across the porn divide’ by Debi Crow , I would

like to ask the author if there are any particular women’s sites that she

could recommend, I am interested in debating gender issues although I do

not think I fit in to trditional catogory of feminist thought. I had not

heard of the term ‘sex positive’ before reading your article but I think it

may apply to my own veiwpoint . Thankyou it would be great if yourself or

anyone reading this comment could suggest sites where I can engage in

discussions about issues relating to women in modern society.I am

interested in sexuality and ways in which a women can empower herself

through a strong image (I am a punk) and greater awareness of her

sexuality.I hope this comment made sense I havent really written anything

in ages!!!

From Aideen

What a delightfully well-written article! The

author got her points across very clearly, not to mention the fact that her

argument was very necessary. A pleasure to read.

From Eleanor T

Fantastic article, Debi! A very thoughtful and intelligent review.

Uglies, a review by Cazz Blase

From tabi alonso

Have you read from Colombian author, Gustavo Bolívar, “Sin Tetas no hay

Paraíso” (no tits,no paradise) novel?

It is to say the least, horrifyingly showing the new standards of beauty

all aver our cities.

Try it, you will not be dissapointed..


From Genevieve

While I enjoyed Cazz Blake’s article about the Uglies trilogy (quartet?),

one very important thing was left out of her synopsis of Uglies–Tally’s

relationship with David was one of the key elements in her development

towards an acceptance of the beauty of ordinary people.

From Lottie Elle

For the review of the Uglies series. I loved the series itself, having

discovered it quite out of the blue, and it did what i love best about

reading books – it made me THINK. To be honest, I couldn’t stop thinking

about it, still can’t really. What is beauty? What is so special about

fame? All these questions! This was a great review all the series and gave

it an also great summary.

Janes in Love, a review by Sarah C L

From Soirore

Janes in Love cannot fail the Bechdel test because it is not a film. Also

something cannot fail in part. If there are moments in a film where two

women are talking about something other than men it passes.

If you want to make a criticism of the graphic novel you should use a

method that suits what you want to say rather than appropriating and

misusing one designed for another medium. Yes I know the Bechdel test comes

from a comic but it is explicitly about films.

Sarah C L, author of the article, replies

I realise the original strip refers to films, but in what way are those criteria inaplicable to any form of storytelling? If I had listed a similar set of rules without referring to Bechdel/Wallace, you would probably be complaining that I was using their ideas without crediting them properly! Tsk, what a waste of good comic book reading time.

From Serian

I haven’t read the comic yet, I’m checking whether my library has it as I

read it but it sounds okay to me.

If the main character hasn’t been given a completely huge chest, tiny

waist and thighs then I’m happy.

But I do think that it isn’t a problem that they mainly talk about boys.

I’m 14. Adolescence is not exciting and most of the guys suck.

It’s a fact. So do a lot of the girls. But even so one of the things we

talk about most is guys.

It’s not that we do it because we think it’s what we ought to be doing, we

do it because we want to.

I can see why you don’t like that part of the comic but it is important.

Guys make up a great deal of the conversation. At least we can do it in a

way that doesn’t take away from who we are.

Sarah C L, author of the article, replies

Like I said, I’m not the target audience for this book, and you can decide for yourself whether the Janes’ interest in boys is to the detriment of the story and the characters or not.

Part of feminism is about challenging the status quo, and what is generally considered to be ‘normal’. If women in the past had accepted everything they did – and by extension everything that was done to them – as normal, natural and inevitable, then we wouldn’t have the vote, let alone abortion rights, fair divorce laws or a legal definition of rape that doesn’t treat it as damage to another man’s property.

I find it interesting that you say that adolescence sucks, but just accept that as the way things have to be; the concept of ‘teenager’ didn’t even really exist before the 1950s, when it was invented to create a new consumer market. Perhaps if our society made adolescence more interesting, you would have more exciting things to do than talk about boys?

The Perfect Vagina, a review by Amy Clare

From Cara

Brilliant article.

Pretty much what I felt, too. Good programme, didn’t go far enough.

And LOL at the point that there aren’t men going around hating their

penises – yeah, as if!

From Andy Davies

I’m skeptical as to whether C4 really intended it to be a feminist

program- I think it was just another C4 docu-porn program. It’s more

designed at dirty, sexually frustrated middle-aged men and sexually

overactive teenage boys. But it is interesting to hear a new take on it.

I agree it has a “love yourself as you are” moral (without having watched

the program, but heard quite a lot) which I’m sure can only be good, but I

don’t believe that’s what was intended by the program. I think C4 is

getting too much credit for that!

From Jenny

I totally agree. The programme\’s message was clearly a positive one and I

can\’t fault it for that. However, as it finished I was left with a sense

that it didn\’t delve nearly far enough into what is a very complex

situation. Also, was anyone else a bit irked by the terminology Lisa Rogers

used throughout? I\’m all for reclaiming language for women, but am not

wholly comfortable with such casual use of terms like \’flaps\’ etc. This

jokey, faintly derogatory way of referring to vaginas seems to be one of

the reasons why women may find it difficult to accept the uniqueness and

specificities of their own bodies. Just a thought. Overall though, yes a

charming documentary, definitely a step in the right direction.

From Anonymous

you know while i was watching the programme i wondered if id get a chance

to comment on it and voila! i feel that this was a long awaited documentry

that should have beenshowed time ago. i watched half the show with tears in

my eyes as the women expressed their emotions and i thought amy did an

EXCELLENT job presenting, may i also add HOW BEAUTIFUL IS SHE! with such a

busy lifestyle and children of her own Lisa Rogers still found time to do such a

project and i respect her for that. in small but meaningful words….thank


From Sniff

This programme irritated me enourmously as it was presented by an ex-model

(whom I found hypocritical) and the analysis was the usual post-feminist

take of “we’re all equal now therefore women must be making a free choice

to do this / feel this way”.

I really wanted the prog to explore the porn influence more and discuss

how the different (and unequal) social location of men and women, and all

the issues of objectification surrounding that inequality, lead to the porn

look becoming normalised and expected of women whilst men remain relatively


The programe also treated labiaplasty as some sort of abhorrent new trend,

when in fact it is just the latest in a long line of misogynistic

self-mutilation practices expected of women. Personally, I would rather

have my labia chopped (as it only needs to be done once) than spend a

lifetime battling to remove body hair, as most women do but fail to

recognise as equally coercive as they have been indoctrinated into

believeing that they do so out of choice.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Hmmm, the programme took a uniformly negative approach to the whole concept of labiaplasty. I don’t think it presented it as an uncomplicated free choice.

Frankly, I find the comparison of labiaplasty to hair removal hard to understand – one involves a temporary, reversible bit of hassle (not a mutilation), the other surgery on one of the most sensitive parts of the body.

From Rosie

Excellent article. I didn’t watch the program myself, instead I got a

review of it down the pub from two friends. From the way they were talking

about it, I’d say Amy Clare was absolutely right in saying that this

documentary was not nearly brave enough or probing enough. My friends (one

male and one female) didn’t seem to have been instilled with any feminist

feeling, but rather were talking as if the program were a freak show,

showcasing the most disgusting fannies. Their conversation just became

about what makes a nice vulva. One friend friend used the phrases ‘beef

curtains’ and ‘badly stuffed kebab’ to describe ‘bad’ fannies, and the

other echoed these sentiments saying there should be no ‘frilly bits’. (Why

are frills feminine on clothing but not genitals I wonder? The patriarchy

could at least be consistent!!)

There was some criticism of one of the surgeons, who was deemed ‘creepy’,

for showing pictures of a sixteen year old’s vulva. ‘But she did have the

worst one’, my friend reasoned straight afterwards.

The most bizzare thing was that, to round off the conversation, the male

friend said he thought it was ridiculous for anyone to have cosmetic

surgery. ‘It won’t make you happy, you should accept yourself as you are.’

I felt like screaming that perhaps the REASON people aren’t happy with how

they are is phrases such as ‘beef curtains’ being bandied around in casual

pub conversations!

I think this illustrates pretty well how documentaries such as this

sometimes only do half a job – my friends were repelled by the idea of

surgery, but still agreed that the girls’ vulvas were disgusting. I

completely agree with Amy Clare that more questions needed to be asked

about WHY our beauty standards are what they are.

One thing I would take issue with though in Ms. Clare’s article, is the

question ‘why are similarly large numbers of men not experiencing a

plethora of painful emotions at the sight of their penises?’ I personally

would guess that many, many men DO have painful lackings of confidence

about their genitals. There was a similar documentary a while ago about men

who agonised that their penises weren’t big enough, causing them serious

self esteem problems – certainly not something to be dismissed. A couple of

these men went through with surgery. As well as being more truthful, I

think it is immensely uselful to feminism to include an analysis of the

worries men have about their genitals alongside an analysis of the worries

women have. Why do men think they should be bigger and women think they

should be smaller? Surely this is very telling of the sexual roles of

active and passive, dominant and submissive that society has traditionally,

and is still, assigning to men and women.

From Lucy

Aren’t vaginas invisible in that they are inside women’s bodies and vulvas

are the visible women’s genitalia? Why is the word vagina used instead of

vulva in all articles about vulvas and in the media (e.g., “The Vagina


From Tris

Without disagreeing with the article in general, I’d point out that a

large fraction of men DO worry about their dicks, especially when they are

teenagers, and I don’t know anyone who gets more spam about labiaplasty

than they do about penis enlargement…

Amy Clare, author of the article, replies

I accept that men do feel insecurities about their penises, particularly when it comes to size, however I feel that what prompts these women to undergo labiaplasty is in a different league. Men may (wrongly) feel that to be desirable, they need a bigger penis. Whereas women are being told that to be desirable, their genitalia need to be small, ‘neat’, ‘tucked in’, hair-free and essentially childlike. It is this that most disturbs me, and there is no male equivalent to this, as men are never told that they need to look like little boys in order to be sexually attractive. You’re right about spam emails offering penis extension more often than they offer labiaplasty – however, this lack of spam advertising clearly hasn’t done the labiaplasty business any harm, in fact, business is booming, so go figure. While any industry that plays on people’s insecurities (be they male or female) and offers up an unrealistic image as ‘normal’ in order to make money is wrong, I feel that those which encourage women to look like little girls are doing the most psychological damage, as this constitutes an erasing of women’s adult sexuality.

Comments on earlier features and reviews

Why my son wears pink, by Penni F

From kate

hurray! i’m currently writing about contemporary understandings of

masculinities and children, particularly looking at education and

literature, and the level of normativity is still pretty shocking to be

honest. but it’s great to hear of parents encouraging individuality and

diversity, and those values will definitely stay with your son later in

life. sounds like you are raising him to be a strong and open minded

character, and having been encouraged to express himself so openly will be

sure to challenge anyone who tries to tell him otherwise! if only more

people allowed individuals to be themselves, instead of trying to make us

all fit into out-dated, limiting and boring stereotypes! kate

From Alex Brew

Gorgeous. Thanks! It’s courageous and so necessary to bring up a human

being – not a boy or a girl.

What a load of wank, by Sophie Platt

From sam

on the article about masturbation

go on girls get wanking. it’s good for you

it connects the brain with the body with the soul.

Sisters! Some of us are mothers, too!, by Ruth Moss

From Carlota Larrea

I was happy to read something about motherhood on this website. I think

the author is spot on that nowadays feminism seems to ignore issues related

to motherhood.

From Annika

Thank you so much for the “Sisters! Some of us are mothers, too!”


I have just found out that I am pregnant, and while I am excited for the

furture, I was also a little wary.

I believe that I am a feminist, but had begun to wonder if there was room

in today’s feminism for a first time mum.

So thank you, for writing this. Thank you very much for speaking for us.

From Claire

Yes. Lots of women are mothers. Mother is a subcatergory of female.

Lets not conflate the two things.

I am a woman of 32 who does not want children. The current fashion –

government policy, media, employment law, campaign groups – is to conflate

‘woman’ with ‘mother with ‘parent”.

This encourages discrimination in the workplace. Many roles – for good

business reasons – are family unfriendly or it is far less efficient eg to

have a job share. Employers are forced to compromise business needs for

parent = mother = woman. Only rational then that many empoyers don’t want

to employ women of childbearing aged (if you want the citation for this

research google it).

So my interests – as a women who doesn’t want to be a mother – cannot

coincide with women who do unless the parent = mother = woman equation

changes. At the moment I’m putting in business necessary hours which

mothers won’t (cf part time and flexibler workers) and going to interviews

where employers wonder about my commitment/maternity leave. This is called

neither having the cake nor eating it.

In the name of the father…, by Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams

From Libs

Aghhhh! I’ve also just got married and am heartily sick of the number of

people who actually look angered when I tell them I’m not changing my name.

My partner and I had very few, very short uninvolved discussions about

this topic years before we even thought of getting married. He likes his

name – I’m not keen on mine but don’t particularly want to change it for

anyone. Neither of us wanted to change our names – end of story. Years

later, when we decided to get married, we didn’t even talk about it. It

wasn’t an issue until random relatives and workmates kept asking, digging

and finally demanding “well what does Chris say?!” I suddenly realised it

wasn’t actually something we had discussed recently and so decided I had

better check that he knew I wasn’t changing my name. When I asked he

seemed a bit confused at first – wondering why it would even be an issue.

Once we’d started the conversation he did then bring up the worry of kids

and we came to a similar solution, albeit slightly different as our names

just won’t double barrel. Basically we would pass both our names down to

our kids but for girls my name would be last and for boys his name would be

last (we assumed the last name would be the real surname and the second

last a sort of extra middle name). When the kids were old enough to decide

for themselves they could keep/use/pass on the name that they prefered

because both names would be on their birth certificate. Again we were

happy with our inspired, simple alternative and returned to our cups of

tea. Yet when I tried to explain this “madness” to our nosy relatives I

was also greeted with a sniffy “that’s a bit confusing.” and “what a

palava!”. Hmmm and I thought changing my name, work email, business cards,

passport and who knows what else was a palava!

Now I’ve thought about it I’ve realised that many of my friends have

changed their names after marriage (one did have a truly awful name tho and

couldn’t wait to get rid of it) I respect their choice but I do wonder

about the amount of pressure that is heaped on women to just put up and

shut up. Still, I guess that’s an old story.

From Michelle

I really enjoyed Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams’ article ‘In the Name of the

Father’. How encouraging to know someone else has given this issue the

thought it deserves, and come up with a brilliant solution as well. I don’t

plan to ever marry, for many of the reasons Phythian-Adams mentions, but I

will certainly consider this name scheme for personal use should

name-passing become relevant to me.

From Cara

what a brilliant solution!

I think it should be made law, NOW.

From anon

I thought that Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams’ “In The Name of the Father”

was incredibly unfair. I fall into her third category of women who are

obviously accepting the patriarchal society in which we live by choosing to

take their husband’s last name because of distaste for their own. Why

didn’t I change it as soon as I was legally able to do so instead of

waiting for the “convenience” of marriage? Because that would have been

horribly offensive to my father’s side of the family! It is a name I have

been teased about for my whole life, and no, my husband’s last name did not

happen to be the one last name I absolutely adored, but it was certainly an

improvement. I don’t see why such a personal choice should be attacked in

this way, or why I should be seen as less of a feminist for choosing to

change my last name.

From Tris

I have to admit that this is normally the sort of thing which I think is

pretty trivial, and which all the proposed variants seem clumsy compared to

the status quo.

Sarah’s system for preserving both names is so simple and effective

though, that I’m pretty sure it SHOULD become standard immediately.

It’s both fairer AND more useful than the current system. Inspired!

From Grace

This is such a great article and I was so glad to read the in depth models

of name keeping/changing as so much thought and love had obviously gone

into it.

Unfortunately I am no wiser about my own decision in this case! Which is

of course not that fault of the author, but perhaps some one could offer

advice? I don’t like my surname – even though I love my Dad his family are

idiots and my name also gets spelled wrong constantly, and sounds like

‘migraine’ (McGrainor). Equally I don’t want to take my partner’s surname

(Barnes) because it doesn’t seem right to just become Mrs Barnes to me as a

feminist, AND I don’t really want to be affiliated to his mother in this

way (as near to a ‘handmaiden of the patriarchy’ as I’ve ever met I

think!). I think really my partner would be happy to change his name as we

have already talked about just picking a new name, but his family are the

kind of people that would be mortified by such a denouncement of tradition

and they’re not even the kind of people you can discuss things with (my

partner particularly has terrible trouble trying to express his feelings to

his mother because she has honed a sad-dog expression perfectly for

whenever he says something she doesn’t like!).

So honestly, I’m in a pickle. I do want to get married, I do want to have

the same name as my children, I don’t want my surname and I don’t want his

either but he is rightly worried about the repercussions with his family

should he give up their name. I don’t know if anyone can help me on this,

or tell me to stop being such an idiot, but just wanted to express my

situation as it was so prominent in my mind reading this piece.

Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams, author of the article, replies

Firstly to say that I can totally understand your position. It seems that on mentioning marriage suddenly a strange door to the 1950s is opened and people you had otherwise thought to be quite forward thinking are expressing disapproval at the slightest deviation from the good-wife homestead model! The first thing you have to realise is that you can’t win! Unless you become Mrs Barnes, even if you do, you will most likely meet with some resistance, bullying and cajoling, which will range from grand rhetoric to accusations of just being ‘petty’.

I can understand your dilemma regarding your chosen names when you consider all of the background. However, there is a counter-weight. Two things that didn’t make it into the article I wrote was my sister’s heartache over changing her name and, though I am reluctant to bring it up, watching friends go through messy divorces. My sister married eight years ago now. Her hubby is from India, and she found the scrutiny over his immigration quite intimidating. So much so that she felt that if she didn’t change her name it would in someway look as though she wasn’t committed! It wasn’t until we lost our parents, that she expressed how truly upset she had felt over feeling pressured into changing her name (another one of the reasons I wanted my system to give equal weight to both parent’s names). So much so that she considered changing back. Of course – she then gave birth to their first child and was faced with the same dilemma that she wanted to share that same bond with her own son – hence the cycle started again!

Secondly I had watched people I knew get divorced. Despite wishing everyone happiness in their partnerships, I’m sorry to be the one to say it, but divorces are a sad fact. With about 85% of women changing their names – according to US statistics – the deed poll offices are kept quite busy with women wanting to change them back – who then find themselves either without the same surname as their children or changing their children’s names also. That didn’t go in the article because I think it unfair to point the finger at newly weds and say ‘nah nah, half of you will divorce anyway’, it seems quite mean spirited – especially since I am myself newly married. Mind, if you were to believe some people – they’d say that not changing your name shows a lack of commitment to marriage and will mean that you (i.e. me) will be one of them! In any case what I’m saying is – not that I think you’ll get divorced, but that other people’s imposition of the good-wife model is by no means the panacea they paint.

The way we got around the issue in the end was to emphasise the partnership element of getting married. That the values of equality that we wanted to pass on to our children was not supported by the traditional model – which was based in Patriarchy and a history of oppression. From what you say, I’m pretty sure your mother-in-law will be quite upset if you deviate in any way from Mrs Barnes, but at the end of the day it’s your decision because it’s your name which you will live with every day. I read this article by a woman who was similarly conflicted – you may find it helpful – or not (!).

From reading your dilemma, to be honest – my first thoughts were what would be wrong with ‘Barnes-McGrainor’ or ‘McGrainor-Barnes’, except that you pointed out that you didn’t want either. Does the two of them together not sound sufficiently different?

With regards to your surname, I was told (only a couple of weeks ago actually), that there is a significance to the Mc or Mac part of a name – in that it meant ‘son of’ and the equivalent ‘daughter of’ did exist but was ‘Nee’. I can understand that with the patrinomal system only the ‘son of’ would survive. Perhaps you could combine your names leaving out the ‘Mc’ or just keep Grainor. Or if you really want neither, perhaps you could look back over your husband’s and your family trees and find a surname you both like in there? Or indeed – make a new one up?

What Not To Wear say to your co-worker, by Kelly Draper

From Michelle Brampton

I am also a teacher but at an all girls school. In one of my Media

Studies lesson last week one of the girls cried during a discussion about

female perfection (we were exploding the myth of the Barbie doll

look/Jordan)…she suffers with low self-esteem and, this is what was

great; she said she felt relieved that this myth was exploded for her – she

said she felt free! This made me feel good, but also incredibly sad.

From Ellie S

In response to the article “What not to say to your co-worker” There is a

group on facebook called. BOYCOTT Womens Magazines that Promote Negative

Body Image. The more people that join the more influence we will have on

those that buy theses magazines reguarly.

From Irina

i have read similar articles many times, the message of it is

painfully familiar, but for some reason yours reduced me to the point of

spitting hellfire.

I just cannot get over the fact how much this got into you, how much you

seem to be oppressed by this issue. But you have indicated that you kinda

know what to do about it by saying at the end that it is a good thing to

have a dress sense that embarrasses 14- old boys.

So you know what to do: not to dash for the new pair of killer heels

(named aptly for what they do to your comfort and health) but to tell the

morons to fuck off.

If i were you i’d rather revel in others dissappointment over my dress

sense. I’d enjoy showing that i don’t care about their opinion, concept of

feminity, etc. Be defiant. It is the only possible and right reaction. I

bet if you couple it with the assertive look and stance it would be great.

Great for everybody: you, because the more assertive you look and behave

the less likely some wanker to attempt criticisms (they do it mainly to

whom they perceive as weak and not being able to give back as good as they

get), to others – who might fear volunteering unsolicited opinion thinking

you will trash them and to other women who might think ” she doesn’t give a

shit and she is happy, so i can be like this too”.

Please get angry, and not submissive. I have long ago learned to enjoy

defiance and I know that some people’s dislike is the best compliment ever.

Please don’t internalize other people’s problem (i.e. their misogyny).

From sian norris

i am totally with you on that dream kelly. i spend a lot of sleepless

nights working out how i can get the funding to make that magazine, rather

than slog my guts out writing for things i don’t believe in. i think the

magazine and tv obsession with “correcting” women is terrifying. it worries

me that if I have a daughter, no matter how hard i try to raise her to love

herself, the influence of these ads and outlets will drown out my voice. we

need a media revolution.

Mooncup, a review by Ailsa

From Dawn Walker

I have never heard of the Mooncup before. I was about to forward Ailsa’a

review to all my family and friends, but balked at her prolific use of the

“c” word. I am not a prude, I am a lorry driver, I hate to admit it but I

swear like a trooper regularly, but I like most women hate that word, and

don’t understand why she would ruin a very good piece of writing in that


Could Britney Spears be the feminist icon of our generation?, by Theadora Jean

From Frances Sales

Ms Theadora Jean has very interesting points in her article about Britney.

As the star has pointed out many times in her songs, it is her prerogative

to do what she wants. Why can’t we just respect that? I’ve noticed that

when we women decide to do something that’s not “in the plan” or to get

more than what’s expected of us–everyone condemns our actions. The world

hasn’t changed after all. Women are still second-class citizens. Shame.

How to create a woman’s glossy magazine in five minutes, by Catherine Redfern

From abii

all i wnat to say is thankyheww you reli helped me make a grade A in

english i had to make a cover of a magazine thanks lmao

Is Tarantino really feminist?, a review by Emma Wood

From Gillian

i consider myself a riot grrl and third wave feminist. i think that

deathproof was a brilliant film! and it made me feel empowered as a girl in

geeky boy comic book land at least. i mean you have to consider that it is

a fantasy horror type film and is unrealistic, thats what tarrintino does.

Its great to see that he’s having female characters winning against men.

Isn’t that the point? i think it’s a compliment. it’s about getting revenge

on the big bad men that we all hate and the fact that they don’t have to

find a man to do it for them.

i get what you mean, in the way its from a sci-fi ‘male’ perspective, that

battling till the end, extreme violence and seeking revenge, isn’t how we

women would typically go about revenge, but thats a matter of opinion.

Murderous car chases are also not something we do in modern life but i

think thats a separate issue about tarrintino films.

the point i’m making is that in his own way, i think he is geniunely

trying to do women justice, and have good roles for females in his films.

Zoe Bell is just the coolest chick ever and does her own stunts! That’s

something that goes against the grain, and he put her in his film. Not bad

i think! Kick ass!

Are you married? If not, why not?, by Victoria Dutchman-Smith

From Eric

And yet, if the statistic I have read in a recent american book is true,

those in 40% of marriages are much happier than all the other categories

(single, divorce, living together etc.).

There must be something very worthwhile in marriage for such a high

statistic . Perhaps it gets down to the people and what they believe, and

really how much they love each other

From Lisa Firth

Absolutely, I agree 100%! I’m sick of trying to explain to people why I

choose not be married, to assure them that it is my choice and not a secret

plan to lull my partner into a false sense of security before I ensnare

him, to convince them that I am not on the look out for someone better and

just making do until then, and to get them off the defensive because they

themselves have chosen to marry and take my not doing so as a personal

insult. I reject marriage and all its outdated patriarchal and religious

associations. I do not feel the need to have my union sanctioned by

society, church or state. My chosen partnership and commitment to same is

purely a matter, as far as I am concerned, for my partner and me, and to

some extent our nearest and dearest. We will soon be taking part in a

Humanist commitment celebration: non-legal, non-patriarchal and distinct

from marriage in every way, to celebrate our partnership with the few

people we hold dearest. And I will always be proud to hold up my head and

say that I am an unmarried woman.

Get mad, by Jamie Lee Merrick

From Karen Vaughan

Couldn’t have put it better myself. I too have recently read some excerpts

from “pro-men” websites and to say that they are now the hysterical gender

is an understatement. I work with lots of men that are fortunately used to

the idea of equality but some of what I read on the web is downright scary.

Keep speaking up for us, ladies!

The mechanics of feminity, by Emma Hadfield

From Karen Vaughan

Hi. I liked the article about women and mechanics: you want to try

qualifying as one! I’m a fully qualified engineer in mechanical, electrical

and motor vehicle disciplines and the amount of shit I had to take at

college because I didn’t look like Jordan but had a brain instead, it was

unreal! Equality hasn’t reached engineering sadly. I can also read maps,

take engines to bits etc yet male mechanics still treat me like little

girly no-mind, until I tell them I’m qualified! Suddenly they go white and

can’t get their heads around the idea that an engineer can have a vagina!

BTW, I’ve noticed generally the F word has become a swear word again and

the men are starting to feel threatened (they are wonderful macho creatures

aren’t they!) I hate this because it’s not like they’ve even suffered a

percent of what women have in past few thousand years and they are doing


Page 3 – Ban It!, by Kate Allen

From LC

When I first saw page 3, as a young girl of maybe eight, I was confused

and upset by it. I could not understand why people producing or READING a

newspaper would feel it appropriate to have such a sexual, personal and

utterly sexist picture (in this context) as a daily feature amongst the

pages of a NEWSpaper. I knew porn existed, but that when my friend and I

found an old porn mag, the content didn’t upset me. It was clearly aimed

at men, but the stories described fun, consensual sex – respect for women

as sexual partners. Page three gave me a serious shock. It made me doubt

the sanity of people who felt comfortable reading about major news events

with a sexual image right beside it, as though as though reading about

someone’s suffering was a bit too much like hard work, and needed a bit of

garnish. And as a young girl, knowing that all those adults, male and

female, in the newspaper office, and in the homes of the men AND WOMEN who

bought it, took it for granted that this was a completely appropriate use

of and mainstream image for a young woman, the atmosphere that “this is

fun, and if you don’t agree, you’re wrong” made me feel like absolute,

absolute shit. Even at that age, I felt it was fundamentally inappropriate,

because of the context, in a newspaper lying on my friend’s family’s

breakfast table. It took away a lot of my faith in adults, and my hope in

what I could be. It made me feel very small. It felt like the world putting

me in my place. It frightened me, and it still does. The only upside, is it

provides an easy guide to avoiding a certain number of absolute idiots,

beause they can be identified by the paper they are carrying.

Why men should care about gender stereotypes, by Alex Gibson

From bianca

hey i really liked what you had to say. i know you were more about the men

however i do know where your coming from. I agree and think men and boys

should take your advice because personally i wont be bringing them food

while there watching tv so they better grow up. i am quite passionate about

these topics so good work =]

Knife crime and masculinity, by Jennifer Drew

From Molly & Nathaniel

We found this article very useful when researching knife crime for


Some very interesting points were made