Comments from February 2009

Comments on the latest features and reviews

Alright darlin’, by Selina Jervis

From JenniferRuth

You say “I can understand that a man has a natural reaction when they see

a woman or girl they are attracted to, but he doesn’t have to act on it

by staring or shouting something.”

I don’t think that these men do shout something because they are attracted

to the woman. They do it to humiliate us. Every man knows that shouting

“slut” at a woman, or grabbing her in the street, or cornering her with

inappropriate questions is not going to make her fall at his feet. They

*know* it makes us uncomfortable, and that is why they do it. They are

exercising their power over women.

A man with a genuine interest in someone would never approach a woman in a

threatening way. The men that harass know exactly what they are doing and

try to hide behind the excuse of “being friendly” – how friendly do these

men ever remain once they have been rebuffed? I was once followed by a

so-called “friendly man” after I politely rejected him as he screamed

“fucking cunt” at me. And that is who he really was. A misogynist.

I don’t know a single woman that hasn’t experienced street harassment at

some point. The thing is, women cannot prevent it and cannot stop it. Only

men can – men will have to stand up to their friends and brothers when the

leer and yell and grope and say “that is not right” instead of staying

silent. Silence is complicit. Street harassment is woman hatred at its core

and the sooner we all realise that then the sooner it can be taken


From G

The behavior that you are describing, and which I am increasingly reading

about as I start to read British newspapers, is completely unacceptable in

both the US (my native country) and in Germany (where I live now). If a man

attempted to grab me and pull me toward a car, he would be hunted by the

police as an attempted rapist and a person who had committed assault.

I have recently been reading how rape is “acceptable” in the UK in a way

that I thought was only from the pre-80’s period, and this article where

the author finds it necessary to say that she does not dress

“provocatively” bears out what I have been reading: Women have the right to

dress in any legal manner and to be safe from rape, harassment and assault.

That’s the law in the US: is there an out for rapists in the UK who say,

“she asked for it because she wore an “X””. I am so sad to read this.

From Ruth Moss

“I would not consider myself a provocative dresser or particularly

attractive. I do not wear low-cut tops or high heels in the daytime. I

don’t dress typically, but tend to favour vintage dresses. I have curly

red hair too, which I am told most do not favour, so judging by the amount

of men that leer at me, a lot of girls must be in my situation or worse.”

You’ve hit the nail on the head there, really. It doesn’t matter what you

wear, how attractive or otherwise you look… it’s very little to do with

that – if anything – and everything to do with the fact you’re female and

in their eyes vulnerable, they’re male, and they want to remind you of it.

It is about power.

I must admit, I do think age comes into it too. Not so much because

younger people are more (culturally speaking) attractive, but because your

youth makes you even more vulnerable in their eyes and even more of a


I got a lot less street harassment (“compliments” – ha) when I got over

the age of about 26 or 27. Nothing much about me changed physically –

except I looked older and probably more likely to give them a slap – maybe?

Not sure.

Although the scary thing is, since having a child, I’ve had more wolf

whistles and comments again. I am not at all (culturally speaking)

attractive really!

Which I think ties into the theory about vulnerability. There’s not much

more vulnerable than a woman who has a young child with her. She can’t

answer back and not only has to protect herself but also her child.

It might change as you get older, slightly – but rest assured, it is

nothing to do with the way you look or dress. You are never, EVER asking

for it.

Good luck to you and good luck with your web site.

From Anna

Oh god, yes. Thursday night I was walking to a friend’s house from the pub

when we were honked at by two blokes in a white van who slowed down to leer

a bit. I gave them a slightly tipsy mouthful (you know; eff off, have you

really got nothing better to be doing, get a life) and they drove off. I

thought nothing more of it. Five minutes later they were back. Mounting the

pavement, honking their horn at us. And again. And again. Eventually they

slowed down to a crawl and though by this point I’m usually terrified for

some reason (maybe the alcohol) I was livid. I called 999 and told them

what had been happening for the past half hour and gave the registration

number of the vehicle.

I’ve had bad experiences with the police before, but they were incredibly

good this time – basically told me to get into a pub, which wasn’t terribly

helpful as we were nowhere near anywhere by that point but they did call

back to find out what was going on and asking if I wished to pursue it

further. My friend, who in the end vaguely recognised one of the blokes in

the van as someone she went to school with, asked me not to, but I wish I


The thing is – what can be done? Smile and nod and you feel like you’re

encouraging, tell them to eff off and you feel like you’re provoking. You

can’t win.


Reference article entitled ‘Alright darlin’ No excuses, no justifications

because men and teenage boys know precisely what they are doing and that is

enacting male sexual harassment against women and girls. This male

behaviour is not new but because of the constant sexualisation of women and

girls via the media far more men and boys are adopting this misogynistic

and contemptuous attitude towards women and girls.

Male sexual harassment is never ‘funny’ or just a game, because it is all

about men and boys enacting their presumed male sex right and power over

women and girls.

So what can be done to stop such men and boys believing women and girls

exist solely as males’ sexualised commodities. Well, when it happens to

any woman or girl don’t argue with the misogynist or politely ignore him.

Just say ‘stop sexually harassing women. I don’t like and women don’t like

it.’ If the male abuser continues to justify/claim you’re the one to blame

don’t get involved in an argument. Keep saying like a broken record.

‘Stop making sexualised comments about women’s bodies’ Always focus on

what the abusive man is saying. Use your body and stand up straight don’t

hunch because this sends the message the misogynist has got the upper hand.

Remain calm and use a cold tone not angry but cold. If the abuser

attempts to escalate the situation look around to see if there is a shop or

somewhere where a number of people are gathered. I highly recommend all

women and girls should read Back Off by Martha J. Langelan because this

feminist author shows precisely how and why so many men and boys are

deliberately engaging in sexually harassing women and girls.

It is men’s and boys’ behaviour which must be challenged and changed not

women’s and girls.’ For too long men and boys have been told ‘they’re just

boys being boys.’ Nonsense – such male behaviour is never innate it is

learned cultural behaviour and it can be changed. Do we accept racist

comments and insults as ‘just whites being whites.’ No, so we must not

accept, excuse or deny sexual harassment is a male problem never a female


Research has shown media misoygnistic representations of women and girls

has a direct impact on how men and boys behave towards women and girls.

But this does not mean we should do nothing. Report of the APA Task Force

on The Sexualisation of Girls shows clearly how media reinforces

misogynistic and male-dominant beliefs concerning women and girls.

Neither are such men treating girls under the age of 16 in ways which

‘adult women supposedly wish to be treated.’ This is not about girls being

treated ‘as adult women’ but rather it is about men of all ages believing

girls and women exist solely for their sexual gratification. All too

often such misogynistic men sexually harass women and girls when these men

are accompanied by other males and such men enact sexually violent

behaviour because they also want to prove their supposed ‘manhood’ to the

other men. But that is men’s problem not women’s and the focus must

always be on challenging male sexual harassment. The law is ineffective

and is still deeply male-defined and male-dominated. This is why feminists

in the 70s and 80s named the issue as male sexual harassment. But now it

appears to have once again become hidden. Instead we focus on asking

ourselves what have we done to incur such male violence – answer is nothing

apart from the fact we are female and hence seen as rightful targets of

men’s sexual contempt and abuse. Tell your friends and tell your female

relatives such male behaviour is never acceptable and furthermore challenge

male friends if they indulge in such behaviour. It can be done, but be

warned many men and boys know their behaviour is wrong so they will try to

excuse minimalise or turn the situation around. Don’t let that happen –

keep focused on the issues not the personality of the abuser. Also, if

men and boys read porn mags such as Zoo, Nuts etc. then they will be

influenced by misogynistic messages contained therein. The ways in which

men and boys try to justify and excuse their behaviour is at times almost

incomprehensible but they are accountable for their behaviour – never women

and girls.

From Lisa

As a 38 year old remembering my childhood (yes it started in the early 80s

when we were 10-12 ish) I’m not sure this problem has got worse. We used to

have a problem with ‘flashers’ as they were sweetly termed – try sitting on

a park bench aged 11 and realising that the man standing only a foot behind

you is masturbating. In the 80s and 90s we too had the ‘Oi fancy a shag’

etc comments from groups of men.

BUT in my experience the situation improves a lot once girls become quite

clearly older (even from my twenties especially if in a suit). The men are

deliberately exploiting the lack of experience, the differences in social

status and age, shyness and lack of confidence of a younger woman. The

truth is they do it precisely because they will be no consequences for

them. Once you start to look like you could cause trouble for them you will

find the situation improves – try walking down the street in Boudicea,

Queen Elizabeth mode with an ‘Off with their head’ mantra to give you a

hard edge to your eye and take up a martial art !

From Charlie

I am surprised you’re being told red isn’t a favored colour. you’re most

certainly wrong there. As a fellow red head i assure you that the hair is

loved once men get over hte teasing stage…

Which is kind of irrelevant.

I just wanted to say that I feel you. I’ve been followed home, chatted up

by men older than my grandfather on occasions, and leered at since I was

15ish. 10 years on and I still get the same reactions.

It isn’t acceptable. It isn’t. It never was and it never will be. It’s

revolting that we are living in a time that this has become acceptable,

that it’s often just brushed off as men being men *Shudders*

When it comes down to it there’s a lot on this site that I just don’t get

and a lot I don’t agree with, it’s like that with me an feminism in general

though, but this I understand and you ahve my full agreement. This isn’t


I only wish I could still pull the 15 year old card. Actually I might try

it sometime I think the confusion it’d cause would make for good getaway


From Jackie Bather

I found this article to be disturbing…that older men are apparently

leering at young girls, in the street.So, it’s about power and domination,

let’s face it.Maybe it is easier to intimidate younger women , so men take

advantage of this…sad wretches that they are.

From Frederikke Lindholm

I agree with the author that asking questions about decency and polite

behaviour is entirely in its place. No matter how common catcalling has

become for every girl and woman who – shock and horror – appears in public

once in a while, it shall never be accepted. What really gets on my nerves

is when you decline politely/protest loudly (same thing, really – if you

say ‘no’ in any kind of way, you’re just a ‘stuck-up bitch), the men

manufacture pathetic excuses about innocent compliments and aesthetic

appreciation. Let’s face it, it’s not like catcallers, given the

opportunity, would simply sit down and start painting our portrait, is it?’

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, a review by Bellavita

From Fran

Thanks so much for this. I have the same “condition”, and never thought of

it as a problem until I was exposed to pornographic norms. I saw the

programme when it first aired and it really upset me — I feel so sorry for

the girls and women who will watch this and conclude that they need surgery

on a perfectly normal part of their bodies.

From Rosie

In response to the review of Embarrassing Teenage Bodies –

I too saw this programme and was horrified. It reawakened all my own fears

and insecurities about my protuding labia minora. I had reassured myself

that I was normal years ago by looking at sites such as

(thank God for these wonderful websites) but all it took was that awful

‘doctor’ telling that girl she should get herself off to a surgeon quick

sharp to make me feel like shit again. Just goes to show how powerful these

shows can be. I mostly feel fine about my vulva, but if someone mentions

‘beef curtains’ I feel terrible again. In fact, the only time I experience

‘irritation’ from my labia is when I’m feeling insecure about them being

ugly, otherwise I never even feel them. All this insecurity from a feminist

who knows deep down that she is perfectly normal. I dread to think what

shows such as embarrassing teenage bodies do to women who have never had

the benefit of Betty Dodson or

There seem to be rather a lot of labia shaming programmes about – the

original Embarrassing Bodies featured a woman in her 40s coming to this

same doctor with the same worry. Cue lots of wry jokes from the narrator

about how this patient has ‘got herself into a right flap’ and comments

such as ‘she probably feels much better now she’s free of THESE’, as the

camera cuts to her now disembodied labia lying in a metal dish. If I wasn’t

too busy trying to work out if I feel shit about my own labia, or just

horrified at the programme, I’d probably laugh.

From emma

I also think that pornogrpahy distorts mens perception of what their penis

should look like and how it should perform.

From Jo

I used to have the same paranoid

feelings as the girls mentioned in this article, and when I was 16 went to

the doctor about it. She told me that I was ‘absolutely, perfectly normal’

and I never worried again! It’s a shame that the girl in the programme

didn’t have such an understanding doctor, especially since (at least to me)

her labia were barely noticeable.

From C.K.

Living outside the U.K. I’ve never seen this program but am horrified but

what you’ve had to say here. It’s bad enough that many girls have totally

unrealistic expectations about their bodies due to pornography but now

some doctors are apparently accepting this ludicrous standard and

medicalizing what is a completely normal and healthy variation in women’s


This program has obviously been hugely irresponsible and if they have any

ethics at all they should seek to remedy this soon. Please keep us posted

as to their response to your complaint.

From femmegaygal

I have this ‘problem’. I never knew that it was in any way an issue. In

fact until I slept with another woman who very much conformed to the porn

version of ‘normal’ I didn’t realise that I was in any way unusual. I

don’t get discomfort, infections, or any of the rest of it. I just look

different to her. I suspect that if I had realised sooner (say when I was

first sexually active as a teenager) I may have been much more self

consious and concerned. As it is I think its pretty normal, women come in

all shapes and sizes. I think its really sad that young women are being

told that more of their bodies need to conform to some unrealistic idea of


From Alicia

I thought I was abnormal as a teenager, and even went to see a doctor who

assured me that I was quite normal. If only we were more frequently exposed

to the variety of vulvas, rather than being forced to conform to an

‘ideal’, fewer women would worry about this. I am appalled that people

should consider unnecessary cosmetic surgery .

I should add I gave birth three times, easily, and have had a very

satisfactory sex life as well.

From Autumn


I remember going to and running know your cervix workshops in the 1980s,

that gave women the chance to see other women’s vaginas and see the


Move on 25yrs and now there is cosmetic surgery for our perceived

imperfections – someone is making money out of it – and its thought that we

are “liberated” because we can choose and pay for it ourselves

At least there are The Vagina Monologues.

From David Ray

I completely agree with you on your review of this article. The extent to

which women are encouraged to go so that they can be “traditionally

attractive” is complete nonsense. I had never been exposed to anyone who

considered the subject to be a “problem,” and am glad to have been informed

of the misinformation people are being exposed to. More power to you!

From bex

I’m appalled that this young woman was advised to have surgery on her

completely normal labia, rather than being reassured and directed to the

website that the author mentions, to see just how normal she was. The only

type of images that young women – and men – are likely to see in mainstream

media of naked women are the completely unrealistic porn pictures. Fake,

gravity-defying breasts, and vulvas with no protusions or pubic hair. Just

like a blow-up doll really, and treating our bodies and sexuality as

commodities rather than the wonderful, joyous, sensual things that they

are. This programme is cruel and irresponsible, making young women feel

ashamed of themselves at the very time when they should be getting

reassurance that they are normal and beautiful just as nature intended.

Bellavita, author of the article, replies

Thank you for all your comments and for sharing my outrage.

Rosie, you sum up completely how that programme made me feel. Here I am, a

strong woman, a feminist who doesn’t take any shit anymore. I am secure

about my body, have a great sex life etc. But this programme (briefly

thankfully) re-opened that old wound and in no uncertain terms told me that

I wasn’t normal, I was ugly, I had a condition, I needed rectifying. I felt

ashamed, unattractive and extremely upset all over again. It took me a

couple of days to reject those feelings and decide that the only course was

to speak out about it.

I didn’t realise this was the second time the programme has covered this

issue so badly and I am incensed to hear that they didn’t understand their

mistake the first time around. Do their colleagues not challenge them? Do

they not read the anguished comments left on their website?

C.K to your question about their response to my complaint, will you be

surprised to hear I have had none? There doesn’t seem to be a ‘contact us’

link on their website and I struggled to find who to send the letter to. In

the end I sent it c/o Channel 4, but have had no reply. It is almost as if

they don’t give a shit, isn’t it?

As an update, I have checked the comments on their embarrassing illnesses

‘am I normal’ section and their below the belt website from the series that

featured this piece and I am sorry to say that the pleas for help on this

issue are still coming thick and fast. Young women speaking of being too

embarrassed to have sex, of feeling sickened by their own bodies, one even

contemplating tying string around her labia to make them drop off. It is

heartbreaking. There have been some comments from women telling them they

are not abnormal, but that message is clearly no where near as powerful as

the message the show gave out.

Pity in Pink, by Posie Rider

From Louise Whittle

I too am looking for a laptop (Mac as opposed to

PC)….and it doesn’t bode well. Hideous pink colours as well. Oh well, I

can’t wait for some bloke to patronise me about ‘girly friendly’


From Helen

I *love* that research. Most hilarious evolutionary psych idea ever.

Wimmins like pink because it’s totally like berries. Teh mens don’t like

pink because they don’t gather, they hunt. And animal flesh isn’t cissy

pink…. Except when it is…

Plus I’ve been told that pink used to be considered a manly colour in the

UK (don’t have sources so not certain) and that’s why it’s popular on

scarfs/crests for old public schools and colleges.

From Hannah

The same thing happened to me when i was upgrading my phone last month.

The sales assistant brought up a huge list of phones I was eligible to

upgrade to but then ‘helpfully’ pointed out two pink phones and told me how

popular they are with ‘the ladies’ at the moment. Like you said I don’t

object to pink phones being produced but I do object to being steered

towards them as if they’re the ideal option for me because I’m female. The

look on my face probably said it all to be honest because he then said ‘Or

maybe you’d prefer a black or silver phone?’…

From Bob

“in order to distinguish between ripe and non-ripe fruit such as berries

then women developed an innate preference for reddish tones.”

Surely, then, men would also be attracted to pink, as it resembles the

blood of the animals he was hunting?

Posie Rider, author of the article, replies

Exactly, Bob! Apparently, men like blue because, er, they were out in the wide world ‘looking at the sky’. Women like dark, cavernous spaces (beds, cupboards, the vagina) while men like spears, tigers, stones etc. Maybe men like silver and grey laptops because they remind them of stones or the sheen on the skin of a freshy caught fish? It’s absolutely baffling.

And did women never see the sky? Did they just “not like that sort of thing”? If you cut me, do I not bleed?

I have only one word to say to these quacks. BLACKBERRIES.

From Eleanor T

In response to Posie Rider’s recent article, I wish to say this:


I fight battles every single day with both men and women who think all

girls like pink and all boys like blue. If this were really the case, why

aren’t all the proper, “sensible” laptops coloured blue? Why don’t we see

more items in blue? It’s because people think men have the capacity to

think about product specifics… and women don’t. I grow ever more

frustrated by this the more of the world I explore.

Posie, your article was brilliant and couldn’t have come at a better time.

Question though: did you end up buying a laptop from that store or did you

turn your nose up at the wall of pink and stalk out in a huff?

From Christina crease

just read your ‘pink laptop’ blog, it made me smile, I’m a 32 year old

computer programmer and when i went to PCWorld for a new laptop they tried

to sell me a pink laptop, i pointed out that it was really only children

who might like them and how silly i would look turning up to a business

meeting with a barbie laptop! i opted instead for a sony viao, its very

powerful and comes in a sleek shiny midnight blue case. very elegant, and

much more grown up than pink! anyway, a very entertaining read :-D

From heather harvey

just wanted to say great article and I assume we all know about the new

web campaign “Pink Stinks”,

From Caroline Armstrong

I loved your article about the pink laptops. I too am aghast at the amount

of regular items coloured pink just so that girls will buy them. Also that

it appears to WORK because people DO actually buy the stuff. I want to

pounce on them in the street and shake them into sense. My local pound shop

has a whole range of DIY tools and accessories, coloured pink, with the

phrase ‘just for girls’ printed on. Am I incapable of using black pliars?

Wouldn’t I understand what a black screwdriver is? Loved the article, keep

up the good work!

From Lara

I have a shiny new laptop. It’s pink and I’m very excited.


Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I think the point Posie was trying to make wasn’t that women shouldn’t want or buy pink laptops, but that it’s insulting when shops assume that the best, easiest, automatic way to get women to buy stuff is to make it in pink. It’s all kinds of patronising for companies to assume that they can just make a product pink and women will buy it.

Intersex (For Lack of a Better Word), a review by debi withers

From polly styrene

“Before all the radical feminists reading this throw their hands up and

say “that ain’t my community you’re talking about there”, “

And why would they? Just another bit of F word rad Fem bashing?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I didn’t interpret that line in debi’s review as bashing anyone.

Comments on older features and reviews

Feminist progress: undermined by the media?, by Anna-Kate

From Karen

I was an abused child and have low self-esteem as a result. I had a boob

job last year, which took a lot of doing as I am a traditional feminist,

fed up with the way image is held way over content these days. I decided to

have it done to make myself feel better (in conjunction with 5 yrs of

therapy so far and antidepressants). As an engineer today, I feel totally

unvalued by society as I work for a living in an unglamorous but essential

job as a fully skilled craftsman (I reserve the right to use craftsMAN as I

am equal to my male colleagues). So do girls surveyed recently want to be

engineers or scientists? Nope, 45% want to be models and a mere 4% want to

be scientists or engineers. Grim, isn’t it? Anna, you have hit the nail

firmly on the head. So much exposure to the soft porn world of the media is

(probably deliberately) depowering the women of the future. I feel a bit

more normal these days but I sometimes wonder if my vocation was worth all

the stick I got from the little boys on the courses with me. Probably not,

I don’t count, I just work on a sewage farm, not on page 3 (mind you, the

Sun’s full of s*** too!)

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Thanks for your contribution, Karen. Just wanted to make a small point – I don’t think that saying “craftswoman” implies women doing that job are not equal, quite the opposite (although personally I prefer gender-neutral job-titles).

From Rachel Clarke

In ‘Feminist progress: undermined by the media?’ Anna Kate states that she

is not opposed to women choosing to be glamour models and porn stars

because it is their right to choose any career they wish. “Surely” she

writes “that’s what the past generations of women have been fighting

for.” Well, I disagree. Surely what past generations of feminists fought

for – and what we are still fighting for – is the abolition of patriarchy,

and in this specific case the abolition of a patriarchy that objectifies

women for the so-called sexual gratification of men.

Why – on the basis of their sex – do women have the right to collude in

the patriarchy through objectifying themselves and other women? Economic

benefit does surely does not justify a woman’s choice to participate in the

sexual objectification of women, even if she is choosing to exploit her own


| feel this article would be more honest and feminist if it recognised

that patriarchy is not simply the oppression and / or subordination of

women by men, but is also affected by class and economics, so that in some

cases women can collude in the oppression of women for their own (monetary)


From Alison

Hi am alison, am mid 30’s but there is a lot of status on stereo typing

women & men, i do think that women are protrayed as bimbos as what the male

feel threatened by a women, so they ridicule women to be better when in

fact women are the mothers of children, carers, look-support. Young women

in general there is so much pressure on them now to act as women, even as

there teens, the saying goes, 10 going on 30, there is so much prressure

for women now adays, that showing off your body is a must when in fact you

dont have to, women used to feel sexy for them, dress 2 suite themslves,

now they dress for men, which i feel is sad, but if they dress more so for

them, rathar than men, it will help, but not alot.

Keep women power going!!

Sex and the City the movie: Having your (wedding) cake and eating it, a review by Catherine Redfern

From Ally

I definitely agree that the movie was not a scratch on the series. But I

must protest, I didn’t even find it entertaining. Carrie and Big’s

relationship was always a bad idea, throughout the entire show. He appeared

to be the only man that could, in a sense, control her. I was particularly

upset that she ended up with a man who had treated her so badly, and felt

this was a completely un-feminist end to such a liberating show. Also,

Steve and Miranda’s situation I found unbelievable, and somewhat

pessimistic towards the male sex. Steve was such a kind and likeable

character, he was not at all the kind of guy to cheat, infact he was

completely besotted with Miranda throughout the show. Also, I couldn’t see

Miranda, being such a strong independant woman, taking back a cheating

husband and letting herself be blamed for infidelity. No matter how much

she loved a man, her nature wouldn’t forget such a betrayal. I was agree

that she took him back, I was more angry that they even wrote such a

terrible story into the film. I also have to say that while Samantha’s

story was the most true to character and innovative, I honestly thought

that her relationship with Smith was perfect, and the way he supported her

throughout her cancer was touching. I felt she had her freedom, could be

whoever she wanted to be and still have him. Infact it seemed to me the

perfect, liberating relationship and I was bitter to see it end.

‘Hasn’t anybody ever told you a handful is enough?’ by Samara Ginsberg

From Maria Henriksson-Bell

In response to the article ‘Hasn’t anybody told you that a handful is

enough?’ by Samara Ginsberg.

I have an average female body, am averagely attractive and get the average

amount of sleezy comments, hooting at, groping etc. I really got a shock

and horrible introduction to what life must be like for people with more

noticeable features when I was pregnant. Before being pregnant I could be

as invisible as any other average looking woman. (Only getting leered at

occasionally…) When I was pregnant I was treated like public property. I

hated that I got unsolicited advice from strangers, questions, comments etc

however well meaning they were. It opened my eyes to what daily life must

be like for some people and I will take great care now to show how

unimpressed I am if people make stupid comments about other peoples bodies,

or comment unnecessarily at all for that matter.

From Karen

Hi Samara, thank you for your frank contribution regarding the issue of

bust size. I have to admit that I have had trouble in the past with

jealousy as I was a 34AA and had no end of abuse from teenage boys who

thought me worthless just because I wasn’t hot enough to turn them on (my

brains and stamina didn’t count a jot). I feel that you have suffered a lot

of harassment for, as usual, no good reason ( I was once molested for the

crime of wearing a miniskirt, haven’t worn one in public since).

Unfortunately, the male morons that run this world are only concerned with

the money they make by peddling soft porn to young lads, with their

idealised women ( they never talk, nag offer contradiction, just sit there

inviting men to shag them) and to hell with the rest of us. I had a boob

job to help me feel better as my tiny breasts made my life hell (just the

thought of trying clothes on in a shop made me hyperventilate) but I have

to say that being only exactly 5ft tall, a size 10 36C, I don’t fit in any

category, be it the overweight and proud club, the small with curves or the

tall, leggy porn star. I don’t even fit in the “real women” category as

curves on a 5 footer make me look slightly obese rather than normal. Please

do not be offended. I salute you for your honesty and feel for you with

regards to what you endured but it’s still no bed of roses for those of us

that don’t fit anywhere.

From Laurence

You ended by saying something along the lines of don’t worry too much

about what people think of you – but I think you need to take your own

advice some more. I had (and have) very blonde hair – something that marked

me out as different and recognisable at school. I was bullied, endured

teachers joining in with the various witticisms and nicknames concerning my

admittedly very blonde hair. I’m often accused of being an albino. My point

is that people always seize upon distinctions of others. I think you are

not aware of this as you should be; the article could easily have been

written by someone with small breasts and the problems they encountered, I


From Alex T

I don’t know if this’ll make you feel better or worse – I don’t know what

I think about it myself – but I was in the same youth orchestra as you and

in the years I witnessed it, the ‘melons’ award went to the boy with the

biggest, er, boobs! I’ll not name them here but you can probably guess who

the recipients were – generally overweight brass players!

How many lesbians does it take to sell a t-shirt? by Joanna Whitehead

From Catie

Very relevant article and it is hard to find

people who are aware of this trend that has sprung up quite recently. As a

woman who is questioning her sexuality it is really confusing to see how

lesbian sexuality is so hyper-sexualized and contrived in our entertainment

media and within the culture of young people (I’m a recent college

graduate). A few years ago people would see two women walking down the

street holding hands and maybe wouldn’t pay a lot of attention but now

there is such a stereotypical reaction and really I think exploitation and

ridicule involved. Especially when so many young women are almost

performing a peep-show, seemingly for men’s entertainment. Can lesbian

sexuality be free from the male eye? Thanks for sharing your thoughts on

here and it is important to know that I am not the only one who is

perplexed by this.

Now That’s What I Call Misogyny! by Molly Lavender

From Hannah

I complete agree with Molly’s analysis of the sexism in music. The fact

taht you have thousands of young girls bleeting out the words to ‘Bleeding

Love’ is terrifying when you actually think about the horrible lyrics that

song actually contains. And as for the whole music magazines next to the

porn! It’s so true and so irritating. Thanks for an enlightening article.

Where the size-zero debate goes awry, by Laurie Penny

From Ashlea

In response to this article, I am 5’7″ approaching 5’8″ and on a severely

bloated and well fed day MIGHT reach a BMI of 18.2. I’m the kind of person

who’s ribs just show. My spine shows. My prominent collarbones are often

commented on. My thighs don’t touch when I walk. You make this body type

sound grotesque and disgusting. But the part that makes me sad is that’s

how I LOOK. I look like that naturally and I’m always told through the

media that I’m unhealthy and disgusting. I’m perfectly healthy, I’m not low

in vitamins, I kayak, I bike, I climb, I rappel, I camp. I’ve been known to

eat a litre of ice cream in one sitting. I have a voracious appetite. My

body type doesn’t deserve to be refered to as grotesque any more than

anybody else’s.

How To Create a Woman’s Glossy Magazine in Five Minutes, by Catherine Redfern

From yvonne

i think that it is a very good article except for the fact that u guys r

really racist in some ways. ‘A white covergirl’? bitch please! Lokke at

Monique! yea,ever heard of her? she is an american covergirl.How about

Beyonce,iman,tyra banks,ashanti…i can go on and on. Before u want to

write an artic;e that has something to do with race, you need to get ur

facts right. Catherine,or what ever ur name is,u have to rewrite this

article because i am deeply offended by it! Except for all those flaws,this

helped me a little.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Thanks for giving your perspective. I think some of this might be explained because the article was written in 2001, and the situation has improved a bit since then in terms of magazines putting women of colour on their covers. But still, point taken, the article could have made its point a lot clearer, which I think was that magazine editors don’t put women of colour on the cover often enough, and it unintentionally invisibilised women who have been on the covers of magazines…

Suffering in silence, by George Mason

From Barry

In the article Suffering in Silence, George Mason asks “Why are girls

given dolls and boys toy swords?”. Well they are given them because they

want them. Why do they want them? Because its in the best interest of the

genes who made them. Not only did natural selection shape our bodies but

it also shaped our minds too. One could say that when children play its

just the genes tricking them into practicing certain survival tasks, like

when we see baby tigers play fighting on TV. So girls want to play with

dolls because it was in the best interest of the genes to make females good

mothers and look after the new copies of themselves. Whereas boys want to

play with swords because it was in the best interest of the genes for males

to raid other tribes for wives, to kill all the males and have more kids.

These tendencies are in our bones and we start practicing them as children.

This is what evolutionary psychology teaches us.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I suggest beginning with this article in Scientific American which addresses some of the fallacies of evolutionary psychology.

Taboo for who, by Kate Allen

From Candido Bousquet

I could not agree more with what you’re saying. I also believe that the

only reason why some words are considered taboo is because of the

connotation attached to them. Due away with the history and connotation

attached to the words and we get rid of their negativity.

Breastfeeding: radical, feminist and good for you, by Kate Joester

From Janice Milnerwood

I just wanted to thank the author of ‘Breastfeeding: radical, feminist and

good for you’, for a really powerful essay. It covers a lot of the

feelings I have about breastfeeding. As a feminist and what some might

call a lactavist I have trouble reconciling my anti-formula stance. I

recognise that women should choose what they do with their bodies, but when

it comes to women who choose not to breastfeed I can’t help but feel

critical of their decision.

From Irina

It is great that the author of the article could overcome the initial

difficulties and do breastfeeding as a feminist act as well. But i am not

sure I agree with her when she says that “women are being taught to doubt

their capacities and trained to fail, all so that corporations can make a

profit by selling us a poor substitute for ourselves”.

recently there was a lot of breastfeeding propaganda. But not all women

like breastfeeding – to a point where other feminists are pointing out that

there is the pressure to succeed at breastfeeding too (exercised by

midwives, doctors, breastfeeding advocates), and this pressure

damages women’s confidence in themselves too. Fabulous that the author

managed, but surely breastfeeeding souldn’t be a panacea for everybody no

matter what. And i personally know a woman whose milk dissapeared as a

result of stress of combining looking after a new baby and getting ready

for university exams. Also, if your nipples nearly drop, some women will

choose a formula, and who is to wag a finger here? For some, if it is so

painful, it is better not to be a martyr and stop beating yourself.

From JF Néron

I have taught my two daughters that a male is not disrespectful by

default. They have a respectful and caring dad and they have grown to learn

that being a girl is a source of happiness, that breasts are to be

respected (as the rest of their bodies) and that breastfeeding is the most

wonderful thing you can do for your newborn baby. My girls will not see men

as the enemy. Their sexual choice in life is theirs and I will respect what

they choose. They have a caring dad and I wish them caring lovers,

hopefully as respectful as I am of them. Then they will be happy and their

kids too.

Oh, you might be interested in

“”. We had to teach

Facebook that a breast is not obscene. A breast is source of life and


Losing my hijab, by Ala Abbas

From Irina

I would very much like the left to take a notice of this article by Ala

Abbas – because recently debate on the left was dominated by defending the

right to wear a hijab by English Muslim women. I argued hours and hours

with my husband on this subject and he said that in the Muslim countries

the left would be defending a right NOT to wear hijab, as it is obligatory

there, while in Britain right-wing media consentrates mostly on hijab

issue. Where i stand in this debate: one of feminist commentator (maybe

Joan Smith of the Independent, i am not sure) summed up the best – “no part

of a woman’s body is obscene to cover it” but as I, a though and through

western atheist woman, hate if someone dare tell me not to wear something,

so i would imagine Muslim women not liking to be told this too. Let it be

up to them to decide about hijab, but it shouldn’t preclude anybody

criticising the tradition itself.

I do however take an issue with the notion of “modesty”. Although Ala

maintains that rules of modesty should be the same for men and women, as a

feminist, I cannot but see “modesty” ONLY in negative terms – because for

centuries it has been a stick to beat women with. It is devised to

subjugate women, it is used only in relation to women, and rarely to men,

therefore modesty is a misogynyst concept to me. It stinks of humbling a

woman down, be it discouragement from wearing more extravagant clothes and

standing out in a crowd, or discouragewment to take a central place in a

discussion, or to be a soul of the company. it may take many forms but the

agenda behind is always the same – “woman, know your place”, and drilling

in a woman a everpresent feeling of others’ eyes on her. So, maybe there

are other words to describe someone being polite, and not obnoxious or

insensitive to others, but modesty is a very contaminated word, purely

because of its application mostly to women’s behaviour with the aim to

police it.

From catherine

re: Ala Abbas’s article “Losing My Hijab” – How lovely to read at last

that completely covering the body, and exposing as much of it as possible,

are two sides of the same misogynistic coin!

Not a happy birthday, by Amity Reed

From Jennifer

Whilst agreeing with the majority of the recommendations cited in the

article, I disagree with the author’s stance on c-sections. For some

people, myself included, the idea of going through labour and giving brith

‘naturally’ is unthinkable. It’s not that I’m ‘too push to push’, I’m just

too scared. Recent reasearch (2000) suggests that this may be linked to a

condition known as primary tokophobia, the causes of which have not been

fully investigated. For people with this condition, an elective c-section

may be the only way to avoid considerable psychological trauma. For further

information on tokophobia I would recommend ‘Tokophobia: an unreasoning

dread of childbirth’ in The British Journal of Psychiatry (2000) 176:


Handbags and gladrags, by Beth Anderson

From Joy-Mari

I tried going without a handbag in 2006. It was awesome and I would do it


I do, however, think we can blame women’s clothing: our clothing do not

have enough pockets for keys, cellphones and wallets.

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

From tonya

I really appreciate this article and am glad to see someone bring this to

light. I’m just learning more about feminism and was a bit uncomfortable

for I’m a mother and am offended by comments mentioned. I’m proud of my

daughter and want to help provide her a world of safety and equality. i

want to improve conditions as well and do what i can for justice and

improvement life.I just don’t like reading things that make me feel

excluded or that there’s something wrong with me for choosing motherhood. I

almost died and she too and I’d do it again anyday.

F.A.T., by Katie Muller

From Xanthe

Thank you for this article – it really gave me a wakeup call.

Fighting the fat issue is useless and damaging to all women. It’s time we

love our bodies for what they do for us everyday rather than dwell on

warped perceptions of our figures.

From here on in I’m also going to let myself be.

Challenging sex object culture: definitely needed, definitely lively and definitely a key issue for 2009! by Sandrine Levêque

From Councillor David Pearson

I was very disappointed to read that boris Johnston has gone back on his

word to fund four new rape crisis centres.

Do we know why?

Is is money or lack of committment to promoting womens rights?

From Ryoko

I agree sex object culture is becoming more and more of a problem. This is

especially obvious after watching many Super Bowl commercials with half

naked women trying to sell you their product. The sad part about this is

that if the men were the half naked objects on the television selling the

product, half the viewers would be paying attention. When you take this

into consideration, women are basically being paid less for selling more

than a man would.

The ways women are presented in the media truly have become

pornographically inspired. During the summer months I can guarantee every

person has seen a tabloid magazine with its main article being “10 Best

and Worst Beach Bodies.” The majority of the images in these articles are

of women in barely there string bikinis. Now compare that spread with one

of a Gentlemen’s magazine such as Playboy. There is no difference in the

amount of clothing, but the one thing the tabloid magazine lacks is the

seductive “I want you” look on the model’s face. Should that really

be the only difference between being classified as “family friendly”

and “explicit?” These are essentially porno magazines resting on the

stands next to you as you wait in line at the grocery store.

It is true that there is an abundant amount of prejudice towards women

because of society’s sexualization of them. Like you said, “The imagery

we are surrounded by promotes an exclusionary ideal of white, young and

‘hot’ women. Yet take a walk outside and this picture is at odds with

the diversity and plurality of women who live and work around you.” Never

should a woman feel excluded in a world that was made for them.

Stopping violence at its primary root, by Matthew Provost

From Charles Flesher

As a teacher in an urban high school in the U.S., I have seen some

bullying: mostly the same sex sort. Fighting though is a different

matter. Nearly all the fights we have at school are between girls. It

seems in the last 30 years, boys have become more passive and the girls

have become more like boys used to be when I was in high school.

Furthermore, I notice far more girls slugging, hitting, or mouthing-off to

boys than the other way around.

Choice and disability, by Victoria Al-Sharqi

From Vicky

Pro-choice. Words inevitably associated with feminism. Having just read

\”L\’evenement\” by Annie Ernaux, abortion has been very much on my mind.

When I consider that nightmare scenario of getting pregnant (accidentally

of course) the scariest part of this is in fact a fear of shame, and this

is so strong that it would actually cause me to have an abortion when I am

personally opposed to it (not in an absolute sense, I must add, but within

the context of my own life and values).

Though society expects we should be having sex, we are severely censured

if this results in pregnancy. Young, single mothers are considered stupid.

We forget that no method of contraception is 100% effective or that a small

carelessness may lead to pregnancy. This overwheleming disapproval of

unplanned pregnancy may in many cases force women into terminating

pregnancies, and for centuries has done just this. There are untold numbers

of women who find the idea of aborting their own foetus deeply distressing

for a whole score of reasons, religion one of them, but who feel compelled

to abort and thus experience great trauma because of societal pressure, or,

in some cases (a slightly separate issue) due to pressure from a partner.