Comments from March 2009

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Olive would have told me to shut up and do something, by Tara Atluri

From Kimberly

I may be biased as a member of ROC, but I thought Tara’s article was right on the money about the state of black feminist politics and the urgency off Olive’s politics that should spur us on.

About language: I’m wondering if in Canada they use the term “people of color” as a unifier as we do in the U.S.? I’ve not heard it used in the U.K. and I think there’s something to be said for defining ourselves as a political grouping that is, in fact, not the minority the world over.

Hellions: Pop Culture’s Rebel Women, a review by Michelle Wright

From Campbell

Love this article and the conclusion is so very apt. How to be rebellious and not follow the male model is a challenge. Or for it not to be gendered at all would be great.

Miss Naked Beauty UK: more degrading than Miss World? by Claire Mercer

From Vicky Allison

Ooh, you have hit the nail right on the head with this article. I wrote similar on my blog because I responded and auditioned to a call for ‘Gok’s Beauty Show- are you a fabulous female?’ On the application form, nothing was mentioned about it being a ‘natural’ beauty contest… although dispite my disclosure about a boob job and permanent make up, still got through??!! I had email communications with the producers, who said they wanted to give everyone a fair change. This show was a shambles and didn’t seem to know what it was looking for. Great post. Thank you.

From Gweem

A very good article – however, you’ve rather hit a nerve with your framing of one of my friends…

“However, Dawn (who made it to the final) apparently “had a really individual style”, so in this case smoky black eye makeup and tight vintage, pin-up style waistlines are okay – never mind the fact that they are inspired by traditional male sexual fantasies, and hark back to a day when it was legal for a husband to rape his wife…”

It IS a rather tenuous link, and I don’t think Dawn, a woman I know personally, a top-of-her-class human rights lawyer, would take kindly to being labelled as an advocate for the social caging and raping of women simply through the fact that, yes, she does enjoy wearing clothes which are form-fitting. Her style was changed a little to suit the show’s standards over time, too – that ‘smoky black makeup’ was simply a toned-down version of her gothic style that she started out with. I suppose, though, that corsetry or very tall shoes would also count as a bad thing by these criteria.

Whilst I understand your criticism of fashion for women (having evaluated and become quite conflicted about my own tightly-laced wardrobe a few times recently) I do find the way you’ve framed this rather insulting – implying that any woman who dresses in a fashion inspired by a historical period (when women had to ‘know their place) can in no way be feminist, because she apparently glamourising everything about that point in time as opposed to just the clothes. You have managed to completely ignore Dawn’s impressive personal achievements and vocation by simply introducing her as ‘the woman in the vintage clothes’ – something they managed to at least try and steer clear of on MNB. This, I feel, is every bit as silencing and disrespectful as the beauty pagaents.

From sianmarie

thanks for writng this article, although i didn’t watch the programme, i chose not to watch it precisely for the reasons delineated in your piece. for example – what is a real woman? i hate the magazine headlines “real women have curves” as though women without curves aren’t real – a non woman. i find it so insulting, and promotes just as terrible body image stereotypes.

i just find the whole concpet of the programme incredibly problematic and i have found it difficult to say precisely why – so thank you for doing so!

i find the whole issue of how to look good naked difficult to accept as well. if the programe is about “real beauty” (and, again, what is real beauty??) then why the waxing, plucking, fake tanning and make over-ing?
there’s nothing “real” about fake tan!! it seems to say you can look good naked only if you adhere to certain beauty practices, otherwise you will look wrong.

i also can’t stand the way gok wan calls all women girls. argh!

Piercing the whitening silence, by Terese Jonsson

From rita

I love this article and it touches so many critical points. In my opinion, i would not want white people to drop thier privillege of being white for the sake of others. I am a female of colour. I will say this because if at one point in time women of colour need to achieve something and they have difficulties, then always it helps to have someone with white privillage to further a cause. I think white feminists are at a stage other feminists of colour are not yet, because i believe they have had a longer battle than we, so naturally at a different stage. I think the problem comes in when feminists of colour and the white feminists are not able to enter each
others frame of reference. They all might have the same problem but when it affects them in different ways. Like saying the same thing but in different languages. And if one cannot attempt to see the importance of what another says and where they are coming from with it, then the clash starts and the defensive walls go up. Women of colour and their strong culture have a bigger battle because there are so many strings attached which i think the white feminsts have managed to loosen abit. I am african, but the african feminists have bigger roots that need to be uprooted before they can reach a certain level. The traditional cultures and poverty are big hinderances. I guess my question is, how easy is it to enter each other’s frame of reference without feeling burdened or dismissed or underlooked?

I think that point of putting ones view across amongst your own race and being afraid to be seen as ignorant is so true even amongst black bloggers, and the worst bit is the way people react to it and make one feel so ignorant and unimportant and yet it could be the same case for them on other topics that one is well versed on and they are not. I have had this experience and i am fighting the attitude but sometimes i feel i am trying too hard and just feel like giving up all together. Which is hard when you keep reading one sided views and it feels like it is going no where and becoming predictable and boring. And sometimes when one gives a view, some will oppose it without giving their stand on the issue which makes it hard to create a line of thought and healthy debate.

From Giuseppe Ciano

From reading your website from the past year you seem to just attack white middle class men.

The white elephant as far as I’m concerned is the role of muslim woman and how they are treated by their community.

They are the most vulnerable people in our society and nothing is said about them.

Terese Jonsson, author of the article, replies

I wonder why you think this article was about attacking white middle-class men, when it was actually about white feminists, most of which are women.

As for your second point, you’re making such a sweeping generalisation that it’s hard to even respond to. Which Muslim woman? Which community? Muslim communities are as diverse as any other. I am not saying that Muslim women are not oppressed or that non-Muslims should turn a blind eye towards it, but there is a difference between the colonialist stance of white non-Muslim feminists thinking it is their mission to ‘save the Muslim women’ and working with Muslim women, in solidarity and coalitions (which is what I was calling for in my article). There are lots of Muslim women working and speaking out against oppression. The way you put it, you make it sound like all Muslim women are complete victims of ‘their community’, with no agency of their own, and that is not a helpful attitude, as Muslim women activists have said over and over and over.

Anyway, you really should head over to some sites by Muslim women, you’d not do badly to start with Muslimah Media Watch’s post How to Write about Muslims. They’ve also got links to 100+ other blogs by Muslim activists. If you want to do something for Muslim women, start by listening to what their saying.

From Sabre

What a great article! Thank you for articulating many of thoughts I myself have about the lack of discussion about the intersections of feminism. Although I am middle class, university-educated, heterosexual, cis-gendered
and able bodied, I am not white. I often feel that where I come from is slightly ignored, despite other’s best intentions. I am happy to participate in discussions but feel that something is lacking, that I’m a bit ‘left out of the club’.

Being Asian means it is easy for me to examine the impacts of race on my life and my community, simply because it’s something I’m aware of almost every day. I do understand that for white feminists it can be easy not to think about race, just like I don’t think about my other privileges every day. Perhaps it’s human nature, we base our world view on ourselves and it takes an extra effort to think outside of that.

I think that once you are in the feminist community, i.e. read blogs, go to conferences you can forget that for most women feminism doesn’t really exist. We aren’t reaching the vast majoriy of women out there, who see feminism as outdated, un-fun, constrictive, judgemental, irrelevant, exclusive or a special interest. We have to work at making feminism relevant to all people – they won’t just come to us and our way of thinking automatically.

Terese Jonsson, author of the article, replies

Thanks for the comment! I’m glad that you liked it. I think it’s true that we base our world view on ourselves – but it’s only easy to not have to think outside of that view if your perspective is the majority, dominant one. Like you say, you have to think about race almost every day, and most white people don’t. But if we dig deeper into that – why should it be any different? White people have an ethnicity as much as Asian people do. I think this is a problem generally, but also within a lot of feminism. When someone mentions ‘race’, people immediately think ‘black’ or ‘Asian’ or ‘ethnic minority’. I was at a feminist event last autumn (and this seems to happen all the time) and there were a number of panels, including one titled ‘feminism and race’. The majority of the other panelists were white, but on the ‘feminism and race’ panel all of them were non-white. And the majority-white audience went so silent during the open discussion after that panel. Like white women didn’t think they had anything to do with ‘race’. Because there’s this understanding underpinned by racism that white is not a racial/ethnic identity.

I think if feminism is to have any relevance, we have to remind ourselves constantly to think about all oppressions, whether we benefit from them or are at a disadvantage because of them. I like to think that feminism is part of a movement to end all oppression, but unless we are attentive to all the intersections of oppressions and identity it never truly can be.

Anyway – a bit of a ramble, but this is what your comment made me think about!

From Sabre

I totally agree with you. Too often ‘ethnic’ means ‘ethnic minority’, which makes race seem like some sort of special interest rather an issue that affects everyone. There’s a lot of homegenising of ‘whiteness’ too; I know a white Irish person who considers himself as part of an ethnic minority but feels this isn’t often recognised. And is there even a name for the discrimination that happens against people from different parts of England? Like when people stereotype ‘Northerners’ or discriminate subtly based on someone’s accent? I see this happening too.

We have to stop being afraid to acknowledge that ethnic minority people can be incredibly racist and discriminatory themselves (as individuals and as communities). It’s not a simple case of white=oppressor and non-white=oppressed, it’s far more complex. I know it sounds silly to even have to say this, but I just never see this discussed much. Maybe ethnic majority people should be less afraid of broaching the subject, or maybe the discussion should be led by minority groups, I don’t know.

From Jen

Excellent article, and it’s nice to see someone else referring to the Guardian “lifestyle pages” rather than the Guardian’s “rousing feminist commentary”.

It’s quite depressing how ancient this discussion is, certainly more than a quarter of a century. Reading Angela Davis even, you get the impression she was tapping her white feminist contemporaries on the shoulder, going “hey, white feminists said the same thing at the end of the 19th century and it resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths! Stop it!”.

Sometimes it’s so ongoing that it seems that this debate is a central part of what keeps imperialist white feminism going, this cycle of hand-wringing and “ooh we must do better” and then failing to do so. I mean, imagine how uncomfortable and un-cosy it would make a lot of our feminist gatherings if a lot of black working-class women and teenage mums from council estates started showing up and there were these whole new issues to confront?

And this is where we have to examine what we really mean by “diversity” and “inclusion”, and another expression you hear a lot (but you didn’t actually use): “marginalised voices”, since a voice that isn’t embodied isn’t going to find its way to your meetings, and is going to stay safely in a zine or a podcast (ir if it does come to your meeting, will remain safely on the podium, say its piece, and then leave). But coming back to diversity and inclusion, it almost sounds like we’re collecting people (or rather their voices), doesn’t it? Why would we actually talk about people like that? We certainly don’t include or collect the voices of white middle-class women, we don’t have to, they’re already there implicitly (all this “we” and “us”). So why this stamp-collecting language around women who aren’t white and middle-class? People can only be “diverse” if they’re already “different” and “other” (i.e. not boring old “us”). What we mean by that is that we want to be able to tick all the people who bother us off a list so we don’t have to deal with them. I mean, a lot of our anti-racist
rhetoric (like that Rachel Cooke article) is that we don’t want crap stuff to happen to black people. Big deal – neither did colonials, by and large, because they needed black people to remain in working order, because the economy depended on it.

And in fact it’s not too surprising, because a lot of white middle-class feminism is about not wanting to be bothered by sexism anymore: we actually have that option, I mean our lives are slightly worse but we can still be pretty comfortable, and sometimes when you get used to the restrictions they’re less scary than the freedom – sometimes not wanting to take the responsibilities seems like freedom, and that tends to be the lot of white middle-class women (and that’s another thing, also, we do tend to want to collect the issues of women culturally miles away from us because that way we can avoid dealing with our own).

If nothing else, someone coming into one of our groups wanting to do something about sexism itself, rather than its appearance, is going to have a hard time just for not putting her head in the sand with the rest of us.

(Well, and there’s the fact that if your career is in feminist writing, you’re going to be a bit screwed if sexism actually goes away, so for Guardian lifestyle columnists, there’s a vested interest in being ineffectual).

The result of all of this is that the anti-racist language used in feminism a lot is just as racist as the racist language. You don’t “include” people, you fucking talk to them and work with them.

Although actually the most valuable lesson is that, as you say, feminism is ultimately about people, so if we work from that foundation, instead of feminism being about us, then maybe we can get somewhere.

From david abstract

While I agree with the broad thrust of Terse Jonsson’s article “The Whitening Silence” I have to take issue with some specifics:

“A good starting point is to accept that all white people in Western society are racist to some extent – it has been ingrained in us since birth.”

An even better starting point (since it is based in the world as it really is) is to accept that all people in all societies at all times have some form of tribalist instinct. It is not present in all individuals to the same degree, or always re-enforced by ideology or social ethos – but it is always present. To suggest that ONLY “White” people in “Western” societies (“White” and “Western” are both racist self-definitions btw) is frankly patronising and just a little bit… racist. The essential core of anti-racism is the idea that beneath climate adaptive variations and local culture all people are fundamentally the same – with the same capacity for all human feelings, including the negative and destructive ones. By making the point in these terms Terese implies that people from other societies and differing pigmentation are without racist feeling – (sadly) not true.

“It is only white (middle-class, straight, able-bodied, cis-gendered…) women who have the privilege to separate out gender as a single axis of oppression, to only look at an issue from the ‘gender angle'”

Largely because they only differ from the ruling assumptions of our society in the fact that they are women. The emergence of ruling class feminists like Harriet Harman is of course positive – however class is still the decisive factor in modern society, and it too could do with being more openly discussed in the feminist movement, instead of being reduced to a two word entry at the beginning of the list of writers interests.

And finally – I don’t have space/time to rehash the Afghanistan arguments here, but I will say this: the Taliban are one of, if not the most, dogmatically woman hating groups on the planet today – and one of the most violent. That violence only increases in intensity the more power they have. I assume that Terese agrees they must be stopped, put out of power and put down, (since she is a self declared anti-racist and anti-imperialist) – how does she imagine this is to be achieved? With marches in London? With petitions? With sanctions? All these were tried and failed miserably.

At some point in the struggle against violent fascists force of arms is vital.

Connected with this – you would find it well worth the time to investigate secularist and anti-clericalist movements in the UK and around the world – remember witch trials still happen, and the worst anti-women agendas are held by theocratic groups.

Terese Jonsson, author of the article, replies

Maybe I should have clarified. Of course I don’t mean that only white people are prejudiced, all people are. But there is a difference between prejudice against people of a different colour and racism, and that difference is power, cultural dominance, and institutional backing of those prejudiced beliefs. This definition (racism = prejudice + power) is commonly used within a lot of anti-racist movements. But even if you don’t use/accept that definition, I didn’t actually say that non-white people aren’t racist, I only said that all white people are. And that’s what I was addressing in my article – white racism. Because even if you argue that all people, no matter what race, are racist, that doesn’t negate the fact that only white people in Britain have the institutional support & hundreds of years of colonial domination and violence as backing for their racist actions/words.

I agree totally that class needs to be discussed much more within a lot of UK feminism. That’s why I said at the start of my piece that Annika’s article brought up a lot of important strands, but in this particular piece I was going to focus on just one of those. But don’t imply that I don’t think class is important because I focused on race in this one article – that seems to me a way of evading actually talking about race. I also don’t agree that class is necessarily the decisive factor in modern society – it is one of several decisive factors, and also intimately linked and connected with others.

I don’t want to go into lenghty details of the Afghanistan invasion either, but as you’ve brought it up, a couple of points….

  • You have ignored the fact that the Afghanistan invasion in actuality had nothing to do with liberating women, but was about retaliation for 9/11 and a strategic move in the ‘war on terror’. The ‘liberating women’ argument was just very convenient at the time for getting popular support (the Taliban as you will be aware had been in power since 1996), and that’s what I mean about white feminist positions on Muslim women – they need to be grounded in an anti-racist historically based perspective – otherwise they can easily be coopted for whatever ends politicians find appropriate. There are many other parts of the world where intense women hating occurs, yet US/UK imperialist governments are of course not interested in invading unless there are other interests at stake.
  • I don’t think you can look at the situation in Afghanistan and the rise to power of the Taliban without looking at the history of USSR and US basically using Afghan people and their country as a pawn in the cold war
  • The invasion was not actually successful in eradicating the Taliban, and it is once again gaining in strength. The underlying problems were not solved, just bulldozed over for a while. War doesn’t work either. And now how many Afghan men, women and children are dead? How many US and British soldiers? There are no easy answers, of course. I’m not saying that marches in London or petitions will ever work. But I am never going to agree with you that war/invasion is the answer either.

    Thanks for the suggestions I look into secularist and anti-clericalist movements, I will do. I hope you will equally take up my suggestion and spend some time reading the authors I linked to in my article.

  • From LonerGrrrl

    I thought this was a really great, thoughtful and useful article. As a white feminist, I appreciated the practical approach you took to the subject by suggesting ways in which white feminists can start engaging in non-racist, less white-centric feminist thought & practice.

    I also liked that you acknowledged the important role of herstory and how women of colour (feminist-identified or not) have always been involved in struggles for women’s liberation, anti-racism and anti-capitalism. I also agree that anti-racist practice should be an everyday process, not just something we do a couple of times a year in a conference workshop.

    The way I try and work on acknowledging and breaking down my white privilege is to try and get into the mindset of decentering whiteness as the norm. This is why I have an issue with words such as ‘inclusivity’ – often those throwing those kinds of words out are the ones who have the power to ‘include’ or not others without those same privileges. It’s not about ‘including’ women of colour in feminist groups and conference agendas. ‘Cause that posits white as the norm, from which women of colour are then added on to. It’s about decentring white as the norm, and making sure women of colour are involved from the outset, determining the agenda, and not just being slotted into it out of white feminist desires to appear ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’.

    Comments on older features and reviews

    Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, a review by Bellavita

    From Dolly3917

    We totally agree with your article and thought that it was an embarassment to the health service that a GP on channel four was supportive of this surgery as opposed to reaching out to young people and assuring them that they are normal. Whilst it might get tv ratings, one can only question the level of damage that has been done to young people in similar circumstances. It is hard enough to be a teenager these days without this addes stress.

    What does the politics of hair say about modern Britain? by Veronica Wood-Querales

    From Lizbeth

    I just stumbled upon Veronica Wood-Querales, for her views on how women of mixed descent are ‘exoticised’ and how ethnic markers such as hair, skin tone, etc compound the discrimination women feel in many spheres. I understand Veronica because although I’m not half-venezuelan (I’m a 100% Venezuelan) I’ve been living in the UK for 12 years and have led a rich professional life which has not been without itsepisodes of sexism and racism. Veronica, you put words to my thoughts, well done!

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

    From Laura Doherty

    What a great article! I think this conflicting feeling of wanting to conform to mainstream concepts of attractiveness, and normalness, but at the same time realising that it is wrong is ubiquitous among women these
    days. And I think that your outlook is testimony to your own strength and self-esteem. This obsession with physical appearance needs to be curbed – the values in mainstream popular culture are (I feel) starting to show the nasty signs of what happens when unchecked capitalism is followed to its conclusion. Thanks for a very entertaining article – it’s nice to know that there are some humans still out there!

    Reclassifying rape, by Ilona Jasiewicz

    From Patsy Allison

    I agree with you and will help you change the law, lets get a group going to change rape to a hate crime b/c then they will do the time! I live in Illinois but also living in MO and CA but victims are so mistreated. It should be a hate crime b/c it is against a certain sex. If a guy was only raping gays it would be a hate crime. A man who rapes does not love women, he hates them. its a hate crime. period. Lets start with the serial rapists.

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

    From Briony Clarke

    I love the article In the name of the father, about changing of surnames on marriage and the idea of encompassing a new format where females and males pass on the female/male name with their lineage. Brilliant, i wish more people were interested, I shall be susggesting this to my partner and soon to be father of my second child (the first by another man has my name solely). This article has explained my feelings and given a solution i feel very comfortable with and don’t see can be contested! Thanks

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

    From Kay Bourgeois Harris

    Delightful article– In 1969 I breastfed the first of two daughters –my best friend said you’d lose weight” While my first rationale to breastfeed was not for the ultimate weel being of my daughters—these babies were much smarter than I and both nursed for over three years. Their births started a young 21 year old on a career path into Women’ Healthcare . I wanted other women to be supported with their parenting choices. My almost 40 year old, mother of 5 exclusively breastfed babies, sent me this article. From Scotland, to Wichita, Kansas then to Huntington Beach, California the sharing by women unite us. If a circle of nursing mothers, from around the world, sat down with their babies—issues of war, poverty and prejudice would be dramatically impacted. Blesing to you two children theies mommies and daddies.

    IT’s a man’s world? by Sue Schofield

    From Andieberry

    Great article , i`m a newbie to tech talk but strongly feel its a sexist wall that needs to be pulled down.I sincerely believe my sex is no barrier to my identity online i haven`t however `shown` any clues as to my sex on the red hatter forums because i know deep down the barrier exists. Recently when completing an xbox game i noted that on the credits only 5 female names appeared only one of which was a programmer and frankly i`m disgusted that this sexist culture within the I.T sector hasn`t been taken to task.I`ve signed the pledge for Ada Lovelace day thanks for bringing that to the fore.

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

    From JD

    It’s true, life *is* made incredibly difficult for young women by the nasty objectification that has been going on in (probably the majority of) the media over the last few decades (if not longer). And for the many, many young women who are unlucky & don’t grow up in the kind of supportive, secure home where a strong, healthy sense of self is fostered, it is likely to be experienced as an unremitting personal attack. I myself struggled with it for decades. I find now that a great way to deal with it (whenever possible) is to recognise its absurdity & its insane obsessiveness and laugh at it. Because the chronic objectification of women *is* a ridiculous compulsion. It’s very sad that ‘the majority’ seem to buy into it, but there are many of us others out here, including some men (& I am lucky to now have a partner who finds all that crap totally hilarious & reminds me not to take it seriously, bless him!). So please don’t let the idiocy & garbage out there stop you from fighting for your sense of who & how you are: strong, brave and clever. It will pay off in the long run.

    ‘Feminists are sexist’, by Catherine Redfern

    From Matt Wheatley

    This is a quick responce to the article “Feminism is Sexism.”

    I agree with many points raised; the main point of the article being that activists for womens rights shouldnt have to spend exactly 50% of there time on mens issues.

    Of course the argument that feminism is sexist because it doesnt deal with male oppression to the same degree is nonsencical. But one it is a serious issue that I have had to face as a trade unionist of Sexism by Feminists.

    I have been expelled from meetings for being male, told my opinions are not vallid and that as a heterosexual male I am a rapist.

    Now I am not saying that the main current of feminism is sexist but a small very loud minority makes many ativists away from the struggle from equality with these ideas.

    Also I would like to expand on your point that “a white woman should not presume to speak for a black woman” that a woman should not presume to speak for a woman; Emiline Pankhurst had many reactionary ideas (and anti-democratic) that lead to Sylvia Panchurst’s split and participation in the Communist movement. The question of equality of gender is fully linked to the question of capitalism. Full equality between the sexes is impossible under capitalism.

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    A couple of telling points in this email, about being a male feminist/pro-feminist man/ally – most clearly, the fact that you were ejected from a meeting because you were a man, suggests that you were forcing yourself into a meeting that you knew was meant to be women-only. It suggests that you need to do a bit of Feminism 101 work on why trans-inclusive women-only spaces are needed, and what function they serve, and consider what might be behind your determination to force your way into one.

    Pity in Pink, by Posie Rider

    From Mathilda Harends

    I remember the frustration I felt bringing up my two girls in a society that color codes the sexes. Each time I visited my home country Holland, I would return with a truckload of children’s clothes in all colors of the rainbow. The continuous herding of women into pink ghettos is a sign of regression, not liberation.

    From constance

    Loved reading this. I can remember (was it the 80s?) when we tried to have non-gender-specific things for boys and girls, like lego and books that challenged stereotypes. This sort of article also resonates so much with my experience as an IT literate woman who (sort of ) enjoys seeing how patronising shop staff can be when trying to sell me things. The other thing I do want to say is that my sons loved pink till they went to school and got told by other children that they weren’t allowed to like it. And it was easier to avoid pink clothes and other girly stuff for my older daughters in the 80s. My youngest (aged 9) takes great delight in rejecting pink and wearing her brother’s cast-offs – although at 13 he has started choosing pink t-shirts when buying clothes. And pink has only been for girls for the last 100 years or so anyway. How did they justify people choosing pink for baby boys back then?

    From Ms Alison Black

    I like pink, its feminine & nice, also the basic colours of things is black & silver, or grey, dull colours, the pink adds floavour to things. I had a choice of a pink or a black tv, i bought pink, because its vibrant colour & black was dull, so it would be good if things were in other colours, but i managed 2 get a pink, toaster & kettle after a struggle, as they were black, silver or white. Need sum vibrant colours 2 lighten up our lives.

    Posie Rider, author of the article, replies

    I agree with you point in part, Alison, and of course if you really do like pink then I wouldn’t dream of forcing you into filling your life with what you see as dull electrical products. I’ve painted my bedroom green, blue & gold and blood red in my time, and passed a year in a rented house with a lilac bedroom which wasn’t the least bit uncomfortable. Vibrant colours improve my mood, but only because there are enough colours to match the full spectrum of my moods. Pink has it’s place, but its feminine connotations, which you enjoy, experienced alone can and do feel stifling for many women. If you’re going to treat colour in this way, why not be more open to a variety of colours, treating them as joyful visual experiences rather than something ‘feminine’ that’s in some mysterious way connected to your personal life? As the 12-year-old Marcel Proust replied when asked what was his favourite colour, “Beauty is not in colours, but in their harmony.”

    You say you could only find pink products as an alternative to the dull tones, but isn’t that rather telling? Why weren’t green, red or blue products on offer to suit a range of interior designs and tastes? I do think that when we start talking in these terms, feminism and the problem with pink begins to sound rather trite, as if it’s just a question of politicising our accessories. I think the problem goes much deeper, as some other readers, especially those with young children, have pointed out.

    ‘Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’, by Samara Ginsberg

    From JD

    Just regarding the ‘Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’ article by Samara Ginsberg. I was actually surfing the web trying to find a discussion board to chat with other women about how to deal with how ugly I find my (male) partner’s genitalia, but my Google search for “ugly penis” came up with – oddly enough – more results about vaginas being ugly than anything else! How bizarre! When penises are clearly so much more awful. These men are like doting mothers with a hideous baby, convinced that the thing is beautiful. But when they go on to attack vaginas for being unsightly, well, it’s so hypocritical it’s funny.

    Alright darlin’, by Selina Jervis

    From Elisa Chavez

    Hey, we’ve got the same thing going on in California– nothing near as bad as what’s described here, but I get some catcalls and stalking. I’d love to actually ask men about it. I think I’m going to start. I mean, it’d be difficult to data-gather (who do you target for a study? what do you ask them?), but at least something informal …

    From Ida

    Street harrassment these days for me is how I know summer has arrived.

    I’ve tried for years (I’m 32; I’ve been harrassed since I was 15) to find a way to make it work for me or make it better or make it stop and so far, no good. I think it’s because there’s one born every minute, but I’m an optimist. The main thing I would like to get across is that you’re worth more than the lesson you may give to the harrasser, so always play it safe.

    If it’s safe to respond or you’re trying to defuse a situation, I’ve found one of the better ways to react is to shush the harrasser(s). If you treat them like you’re the teacher and they’re the unruly pupils and you shush them, it can easier to deal with than if you try to confront with aggression or if you try to ignore.

    Aggression tends to stay with you in anger and ignoring them tends to do very little, though this is usually the first line of defence.

    I also agree with the author when she alludes to street sexual harrassment being along the same gradient as more violent and damaging sexual harrassment & rape. I believe it boils down to a lot of the same thing – a similar view of women, a similar view of how men and women interact, a similar view of who’s in charge and who holds the power.

    Street harrassment is intimidating, it’s dangerous at worst and annoying at best but what always annoys me the most is that I was, like the author, just minding my own business.

    From Witchypoo

    Excellent and thought provoking article Selina. I am 35 so thankfully do not experience the leers and sexual comments so much anymore. Although, I was approached recently when I was out with my son, which quite frankly was just a little weird. Whenever I have experienced public sexual harassment however, it does take me back to being 15 again. Have I worn something provocative? How should I respond? Is it my fault? Keep my head down, keep walking and make me invisible someone please. Then in the aftermath I’ll just get really angry. Who are these fuckers anyway? Once however, I did manage to get the better of someone.

    I’m not sure what it is that makes these men partake in this public sexual bullying? And why they focus on young women/girls in particular? Maybe it’s the fear of their own mortality? I always think of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, when the beautiful young naked woman emerges from the bath, then as she gets closer to him she turns into the aging ‘old hag’. Also in Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton, where Nicholson walks into Keaton’s room only to find her completely naked, the sheer fear and panic on his face. Basically he is faced with his own mortality by gazing upon the older woman. Makes me think of Helene Cixous’s ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ – turning man to stone (death) because he looks at her. Huh, pathetic.

    Another reason could be woman’s constant sexual objectification and magnification within our culture and media. This focus on the girl/woman’s desire to be desired, where they are not holders of the gaze themselves but are to be looked upon (Laura Mulvey still going strong on this argument). This could explain your sister’s remark about how she feels ugly if she doesn’t get a comment that day. I feel sad that we still haven’t progressed and that young women today are still getting these issues.

    Whatever it is, it’s not on is it really? Maybe an unexpected reaction is the only way? But then you have to be careful they don’t turn violent I guess. Live in fear? Bollocks to that. Like I said before, I got the better of someone once, a few years ago now. This was only because I was slightly drunk and the full moon coincided with my PMT or summit. This guy approached me whilst I was on my way home early one evening, I used to cut through this car park. He showed me his penis. I don’t know why because it wasn’t very impressive. Anyway, I started walking towards him and I got incredibly close to him somehow and fixed his eyes. Then I felt myself being compelled to lunge for it and then yank it. He wasn’t expecting that. He gasped ‘bitch’ and ‘ah’ whilst doubling over in a metaphorically castrated stance. He attempted a little run in the other direction whilst trying to make himself decent again. His face was bright red through obvious embarrassment and failure. I laughed manically all the way home. Then I felt bad. Not because of him and his withered manhood, but for all of the other women who may have encountered him and been afraid. I didn’t do anything about it and I think I should have. Anyway, great article.

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

    From femmegaygal

    Thanks for writing this article. It is something that hadn’t previously entered my consiousness, but that I would now like to know more about. I hope that I can get my hands on the book!

    So, you really think we’re stupid, do you? by Ananya

    From Camilla

    I thought your article was really good. You made some points I wish I’d made!

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

    From Johnny Doe

    I am so sorry you were exposed to all that crap. As a guy, i found some of the things you described shocking, and very out of line by the guys. I grew up in a place where if a girl doesn’t put the moves on you, you don’t really say/do anything about it, you just go on, and act like a normal person. I hope you are ok now =).

    Why men should care about gender stereotypes, by Alex Gibson

    From Brianna

    I am thrilled about this article!, i am a visual arts student at the University of the Faser Valley in Canada BC, lately i have been working on a project for school that focuses on breaking male stereotypes, and for men to speak out and break free from them, because I am just as conserned with the troubles and challenges that men face in todays society!!!

    HPV vaccination – the debate isn’t over yet, by Kit Roskelly

    From Sophie McKeand

    My daughter’s class were given the HPV vaccine last year.

    I would firstly like to point out that I am in no way religious (

    However, here is my explanation for not giving consent for my child to have the HPV Vaccine:

    1/ The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) has been well aware for several years that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) has no direct link to cervical cancer.

    2/ There is evidence that the vaccine currently being administered for HPV — Gardasil — may increase the risk of precancerous cervical lesions by an alarming 44.6 percent in some women. The vaccine, it turns out, may be far more dangerous to the health of women than doing nothing at all.

    3/ this is a grand medical hoax that, not surprisingly, appears to be designed to exploit the fear of cancer to sell vaccines. The victims in all this, of course, are the young girls who are apparently being subjected to a medically useless (and potentially dangerous) vaccine.

    4/ The FDA news release of March 31, 2003 acknowledges that “most infections (by HPV) are short-lived and not associated with cervical cancer”, in recognition of the advances in medical science and technology since 1988. So, since 2003 the scientific staff of the FDA no longer considers HPV infection to be a high-risk disease when writing educational materials for the general public.

    5/ Furthermore, the FDA states, in the same press release, “Most women who become infected with HPV are able to eradicate the virus and suffer no apparent long-term consequences to their health.”

    6/ In other words, HPV infections do not cause cervical cancer! Remember, the entire push for mandatory HPV vaccinations of young girls across the country has been the urgent call to “save” these young girls from cervical cancer. The vaccine push has been about “savings lives.” But as these documents clearly reveal, HPV is no threat to the lives of young girls.

    For the full report by Mike Adams, from which these excerpts were taken, visit

    I have my own concerns to add to those listed above:

    1/ I am increasingly concerned that Big Pharmaceutical Companies ‘Big Pharma’ are only interested in profit margins rather than saving lives and this latest vaccine is a clear example of this.

    2/ There are news reports that 15+ girls have died in the US after having the vaccine and others report dreadful side effects such as paralysis and horrific rashes etc..

    3/ The letter that I received from the NHS through the school states that:

    “Parents must act in their children’s best interests in considering consent and need to recognise that children who fully understand the issues are legally able to make their own decisions about consent.”

    My daughter is TWELVE YEARS OLD, the school does not allow her to leave the premises at lunchtime as she is not considered old enough to be responsible enough to behave herself for 45 minutes without a teacher watching her! Yet she is supposedly old enough to fully understand the health implications of this vaccine and it’s impact on her life once she becomes sexually active in the future?

    4/ Less than 1,000 death occurred from cervical cancer in the UK in 2006, whereas during the period 2002/03 to 2004/05, two out of five children in London lived below the poverty threshold after housing costs have been met. This amounts to over 600,000 children IN LONDON ALONE. Based on this definition, more than half of the children in Inner London lived in poverty.

    Why is so much money being spent on vaccinating entire populations against cancer when many children do not even have their basic daily needs met? Is it because there is no money to be made out of lifting children out of poverty but you can charge £££’s per head to sell a dodgy vaccine to this nanny state?

    5/ Finally the letter sent to parents also states that:

    ‘the impact of the vaccine will be evaluated through the cervical cancer screening programme using computerised immunisation records.’

    My child IS NOT A NUMBER nor is she a guinea pig, I intend to ensure that she remains that way.

    I truly hope that you will print this response to the above mentioned article as I am furious that such an imbalanced and dreadfully misguided article has been published with no counter argument.

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    Kit’s feature was an opinion piece, which is why there’s no counter-argument. However, I would certainly not have published the uncited claims you’ve made here.

    When the FDA says “most infections (by HPV) are short-lived and not associated with cervical cancer”, that does not mean “HPV does not cause cervical cancer”, it means “HPV does not cause cancer every time”. According to Cancer Research UK: “Some types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, particularly types 16, 18, 31, 33 and 45. They are called high risk types. Almost all women with cervical cancer have at least one of these types of HPV in the cells of their cervix.

    “Of the different types of HPV, types 16 and 18 cause about 7 out of 10 (70%) cancers of the cervix. The other types cause most of the remaining 30% of cervical cancers.”

    However, HPV is one of the most common types of viruses around, and the vast majority of people will get it at some point in their lives – again, according to Cancer Research UK. There are more than 100 strains. Along with cervical cancer, HPV causes veruccas, genital warts, etc.

    Although it’s true that in the grand scheme of things, cervical cancer is deadly only in a small number of cases, it’s hard to see that the families and friends of the 1,000 women who die every year from the disease would be so sanguine about that fact.

    Incitement to rape, by Victoria Dutchman-Smith

    From William Hammond

    Having read your article concerning rape, I have come to the conclusion that the only safe way for a man to play it, is to ask for a signature before indulging in any sexual activity with a woman. It’s just too bloody dangerous these days.

    Victoria Dutchman-Smith, author of the article, replies

    Many thanks for your response to my article. I think the way most men cope in this confusing world is by just not raping women, something which tends to mean women don’t then accuse them of rape. If you want to faff about asking for signatures, though, that’s your privilege (given the likelihood of being falsely accused of rape, it seems to me the equivalent of never leaving the house in order to avoid being hit by a passing meteor, but as long as your paranoias don’t harm anyone else, I guess you’re welcome to them).

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    I’d just add to Victoria’s response, that the idea that getting someone to sign a contract saying they consent to sex blithely ignores the fact that consent is not a one-time thing, it’s ongoing.

    From the front lines, by Ella Alexander

    From Sue

    I was a victim of abuse. What your failed to mention was, that we are virtually brainwashed into thinking that we are not fit for anything, and nobody else would want or care for us.So we are on our own with no where to go or anyone to help us!

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

    From Marjorie C.

    I think that women should not abort a healthy fetus after 24 weeks, but I very strongly disagree with making laws preventing them from doing so if they choose, and rolling back the clock to 20 weeks is a twist in the wrong direction. These abortion laws are moving toward putting a gestational age on right to life, and I think are seriously affecting the way doctors treat women during birth, with the fetus being put before the health of the mother, often providing justification for a myriad of unnecessary and dangerous interventions. Restricting access to abortion restricts access to maternal autonomy, and makes pregnant women public property subject to the whims of others.

    Why feminists shouldn’t have to keep mum, by Victoria Dutchman-Smith

    From Ewan Johnson

    I’ve just read this for the first time having returned from a shocking ‘parents’ group full of lovely parents, and thought I’d comment while my son naps.

    The absurdity of the two key features of motherhood Victoria reveals hit me square in the face today. I was the only man in the room, something that had previously led to some exclusion because (at least as so far had been stated) it was assumed I was not ‘full time’ and so did not suffer from the same problems. Once the women realised I was, at this point, the ‘full-time’ carer I suddenly regained that bizarre amasculine status that I’d once had as a teenage ‘best friend’, and gained access to a whole new series of ‘noble suffering mothers’ worries’, such as why men always think the post-night-feed getting-back-into-bed moment is an excuse for sex, why said general horniness stops them giving decent back massages, and why they don’t appreciate a mother’s need for make-up. The thing reached a crescendo of absurdity when I was asked by one younger mother about breast feeding in public and how it made ‘me’ feel to have to do that with ‘my baby’ when out-and-about.

    I don’t know whether the whole thing is cause for optimism (absolute gender blindness occurs at some stage within actual interactions) or utter despair (the only way to be a full-time parent within the current accepted
    range of discussion is to be a woman). I’m verging towards the second, but the whole thing would seem to demonstrate both the sharpness of the article and the age old truth that unnecessarily gendered expectations, ultimately, work to the disadvanatge of both sexes. And that, if I seem to have breasts, a major diet is essential.

    But What of Us? UK Riot Grrrl – Part 2, by Cazz Blase

    From freira

    good stuff!but lets move on..

    where is the fun & action?

    The F Word podcast: episode one!, featuring: Polly Cassidy, Holly Combe, Lynne Miles and Jess McCabe

    From Paul

    Just downloading your podcasts, but before I listen, I will tell you, that I love natural women, and so do most of my many friends. Then I got to thinking about the men who invented these unnatural womens fashions? They are mostly gay, and don’t go out with women, so it’s the silly women who take notice of them, that are the real fools. Shaved women resemble children, and that’s worrying to normal men. So may I please say to these wax-mad women. “Don’t think all men like what you are doing, as many don’t.

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    Erm, well. Where to start?! 1) ‘Natural’ versus ‘unnatural’ – women don’t become ‘unnatural’ or ‘fake’ by shaving a bit of hair off. 2) What’s your basis for arguing that gay men came up with this idea? It’s surely most clearly perpetuated by porn, made by straight men for straight men. 3) In any case, women don’t actually exist in order to please men, that’s not women’s purpose on Earth, even, funnily enough, women who are attracted to men.

    Girls Like Us vs. Diva,

    From Lucy

    This is the first article that has actually put my feelings about DIVA into words. I’ve never been able to put my finger on what the problem is apart from, “it’s full of tits and ass – and how does that represent me just because I love women?!”

    Thank you!

    Men in feminism, by Lizzie Garcha

    From Ann Duckworth

    I am afraid this will not occur in any life time for men to embrace feminism. Differential treatment from a young age with more aggression directed toward Males to make them tough; little or no mental/emotional/social support for fear of coddling, again to make them tough; and providing love, honor, respect only on the condition of sufficient achievement, status, and image (those Males without receive more aggression and neglect), again to make them tough; is causing many many Males to fall behind academically and now economically. Since girls and women are not supposed to be tough, it is okay to provide love, honor respect, along with mental/emotional/social support just for being girls. Now in the information age, this differential treatment from a young age is leaving more Males behind and more Females ahead in ability to think, learn, and compete for jobs and earnings. So you see until this differential treatment is corrected, society will continue to develop many happy, qualified women and many disadvantaged, unqualified, and angry men. This is the dilemma society is facing. Complete learning theory to all on request.

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    Confusing: isn’t that an argument for why feminism would benefit men? Anyway, I agree with a lot of this, but the facts do suggest that men are falling behind economically, if you consider women on average are still paid 17% less than men, and if you just consider ethnic minority women, the pay gap is 20%. I’d agree that men are harmed by our patriarchal, kyriarchal society, but still they are cushioned, economically at least, by male privilege.

    From Peter Son

    I can understand the intellectual arguments you postulate as a self-proclaimed feminists. Firstly, I think it is appropriate to state that I am of the male gender. I am not, however, a male-feminist. I understand the feminist argument that women are treated unequally to that of men. I think there is unnecessary focus on gendering human rights. Human rights is in actuality, a Western liberal social construct that fails to understand
    the cultural diversity that exists within our pluralistic world. It is true to say that women are unfairly treated in a supposedly democratic country like the UK and Australia. However, I am convinced that feminism is fundamentally flawed as its arguments adopts a double standard hypocrisy. By accepting the stereotype that females are always worse off than their male counterparts, and thereby radically claiming that females deserve more “prominence” in the social sphere, is not only short-sighted, but is a complete repudiation of men and women being equal. I suggest that feminists should seriously look into the reasons why they are pushing so hard for women’s rights. Is it for human equality? Or rather, is it just a case of victim mentality whereby females are claiming more than “human rights”. I postulate that your next article should ackowledge the assumptions you make about your own gender. I believe that the female counterpart is equally capable, equally intellectual and equally human. By assuming that she is not is nothing short of paradoxical. I agree that international organisation and in a grassroot level, that statistically women might not be in roles of power, however, in democratic countries like Australia and the UK, there are no legal hindrances circumscribing women to domesticated roles. I suggest the feminism movement attempts to achieve emancipation within themselves first, rather than trying to find faults with the world.

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    There sure are a lot of comments I need to refer to Feminism 101 this month.

    Peter says that there’s no reason that “the female counterpart is equally capable, equally intelligent and equally human”. Why, then, does he think that the corridors of power are so male-dominated? Why is it than one in 10 women will be sexually assaulted each year in the UK? I could keep on going with statistics, but I can’t help but feel a trip to Feminism 101 and the male privilege check list would be more helpful.

    No porn is good porn? by Abby O’Reilly

    From turgenev

    porn needs a woman’s perspective as the bulk of the product produced by men is as erotic as watching a gang of navvies dig a hole:American porn in particular could come under the heading ‘yo! ugly sex.’ The films of Melanie are good,particularly as they’re not dominated by the body glamour that Anna Span seems preoccupied with. Good luck and regards

    Of corset matters, by Laurie Penny

    From Karen

    Hi Laurie, I read your corsetry article with interest as an occasional wearer of one. I agree that back in the day when women were forced to wear one to prevent them from doing anything other than stay at home, this was unacceptable. I feel though that if the wearer is doing so because they want to for themselves, then that should be fine. I wear one sometimes as I feel great when I do, both for the look it gives me and because I get a sexual kick out of it, the occasional light bondage complete with tight corset is something I enjoy (whatever floats peoples boats etc.) and I don’t see that it should detract from my basic feminist personality. Lots of corsets are appearing in the media again, I agree. And I would also agree that it is more for the titillation of the usual suspects (as per the audience of zuts, lesbian vampire killers etc) rather than those of us that actually like them from the viewpoint of wearing them, instead of just looking at them. But I would like to just say that wearing one doesn’t mean that it is done for the attentions of the opposite sex, I do it for me and isn’t that a basic feminist principle, doing things for yourself and to hell with what the low-brow club-thumpers think? Kind regards and thanks for writing an interesting article.

    Abby McBeal, a review by Natasha Forrest

    From Mariana Vilchis

    Im sorry, i cant but desagree with the article, its not the criticism about he show that bothers me, is the insistance of the author to clasify “the women way of being” “the woman sexuality” just as davie kelley does in his own way. when are we going to undertand that every individual is made by the choices we made every day and not by the box the media , you or kelley wants to put us into.

    The Descent, a review by Jess McCabe

    From Whatever

    Hi, I’m responding to your article on the horror film The Descent. I disagree about the mixed messages you saw in the film, I think it is outright feminist.

    You commented that according to the film’s portrayal, attacking the creatures makes the women just as monsterous and that there is no heroism in it. I’d disagree with that some. Rather than the attacking itself, it is the bloodlust and thirst for the violence that makes Sarah, and to a lesser extent Juno, monsterous.

    Compare this with Becca and Sam. They’re not hunting, they just want to make it out alive, so they’re not portrayed as savage or bad people at all. Indeed, I would say that Becca does in fact get a heroic and selfless portrayal – she takes on a crawler by herself and tells her sister to run for it. Later in the film, Sam uses her last seconds of life to climb onto a crawler’s back and stick a knife in it, rendering it unable to hurt Becca or Juno, so she gets a heroic death.

    I think they were purposely set up as the norm, or a contrast to Sarah and Juno, who are both going off the deep end some due to trauma, guilt [on Juno’s part] and being left down there alone – notice that once she runs into the sisters again, Juno goes back to normal? Interestingly, this is also where Juno gets her heroic moment, refusing to leave the cave without Sarah. Presumably to atone for leaving Beth, it is still an extremely brave decision that made Juno a hero in the eyes of many fans.

    And yes, the less morally ambiguous women die off quicker. Yes, perhapsthe film could have been centered around one of them instead… Quite simply, I would say this is because the characters who are having the problems with sanity are naturally more interesting. There’s more material there. It’d be kind of weird if “Carrie,” was about Sue Snell instead, while Sissy Spacek developed powers and went crazy on the sidelines, huh? Same principle.

    I’m not sure what you mean saying that the women don’t survive the way men do in similar films. The Descent is half standard horror plot about a group of 4 to 8 people who get killed one-by-one by someone or something. In those movies, there’s usually a lone survivor, and she’s almost always a girl.

    The other half of this movie is like The Shining, Carrie, or even Ginger Snaps, about someone becoming psychotic over the course of the film. But in those movies, the psychopath usually dies, unless it’s a prequel. Sorry, but what are these “similar films,” where the blokes all live?

    In any case, I think it’s far more important that we had a cast of strong, smart, tough women who were each given the full character treatment, were into extreme sports, and were able to kick some monster ass. I’d take that doomed group any day over six weak, personality-less ditzes who survive themovie through dumb luck.

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    I’m afraid to say that I’d probably have to rewatch the film in order to respond in detail, as it’s been nearly four years since I wrote the review! But I’d just point out that Ginger Snaps does share one thing with The Descent: it’s about fear of menstruation and female puberty. It’s surely a metaphor for how ‘monsterous’ girls coming into their sexuality are? That said, I like it a lot more than The Descent, and it is a rare film centred on two girls, sisterhood, etc.

    General Comments

    From Mark Wilson

    Hi Jess, Catherine, whoever this is read by. I stumbled across your website while trying to find information relating to the Izevbekhais, and… am not sure that I can adequately describe my reaction to it is. Both Jess and Catherine come across as good people in their introduction to the website, and their description of the purposes, philosophy and governance of the F word is largely positive and wholesome. But I am disturbed, mostly by two things. Firstly, the site comes across as very pro-feminist. I am aware that this is so obvious as to make me sound really dumb, and it only bothers me in the context of the second thing. This is that feminism isn’t defined at all. In fact, the site makes it clear that it is, in principle, for anyone that defines themselves as feminist, whatever that might be. The very existence of the site predicates a belief that feminism is a good thing. A Good Thing, even. And I guess the main reason that this (the lack of a justification for this, even to the extent of saying what feminism is) bothers me is that I don’t necessarily agree with this. Not because I am anti-female, but because I think that an ideology that is pro- a particular group implies that greater value is to be placed in the group in question than in the remainder. So, neither do I like the words nationalism, racism, or patriarchism. I acknowledge that women are not given equal opportunities in all circumstances, and believe that in circumstances where this is the case, corrective action should be taken. But I don’t think this action is best defined as pro-woman. Giving women equal opportunities to men, men equal opportunities to women, is not pro- either gender. It is anti-discriminatory, pro-fair, pro-human. My worry about the word feminism is that it is a discriminatory word – focussing attention and value on one gender. While this approach may be successful in addressing many injustices, it may result in others. It may tend towards division, and from the point of view of someone that loves people and their inter-connectedness, that doesn’t seem good. Please could you do me a great favour and go some way to defining feminism, as you see it? I don’t necessarily mean putting it in a box, I mean telling me what you think is good about feminism, why the concept is worth the time and energy that you give to it. I just spotted the bit about “If you do not want your comment to be published…”. I have no ambitions for or objections to your publishing the above, but what I really hope for is a reply.

    Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

    Feminist Site is Feminist, Shocker!?

    Please go read Feminism 101

    From Sesi

    I’m not e-mailing to get this put up on the site or to receive a reply. I just think that what I’m about to say needs to be said and recognised. [Ed: she did however later say it was OK for this to be published]

    Hopefully, it may seem like something that may brighten your day.

    I am 14 (nearly 15) and I go to a mixed, comprehensive in South London. At the start of the year, we had a new pupil in my form who I’m going to call Fernanda, originally from Colombia and more recently from Spain.

    She’s moved around a LOT in her life and knows how it feels to be the new girl. She’s been bullied a bit from the sounds of things and probably knows that keeping quiet can be the easiest thing to do.

    She came here, speaking absolutely no English and has put up with people coming up to her and yelling HOLA without complaint and is polite and friendly to everyone.

    However, she has always stood up for what she believes. Even when she can’t quite put what she wants to say into English, she’ll stand up to racism and homophobic remarks.

    I’m sure you know how hard that is even if you’re an English speaking adult.

    I just wanted someone to know about how amazing she is and to tell you that there’s a light in our tunnel.

    [This post was updated in February 2019 to remove a writer’s name]