Comments from May 2009

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Breaking the circle, by L

From zohra

On L’s piece Breaking the Cycle: really affirming to read someone’s

testimonial on their journey to re-centre themselves, and heal and resist

the violence they have experienced. Powerful piece, thank you L.

From Rachael

Thank you so much L, for putting most women’s everyday experiences of rape

and abuse into words. I have suffered the same as you througout my life –

and no one listens.

I even get the same tiresome denial from other women who have experienced

the same as me.

And that is the problem…sexual violence from men and boy’s is considered

right and normal – but it is not!!

And it is so nice to hear that you have realized this at such a young age

(if you don’t mind my saying). You can go on to be very strong – you

already are.

Just a small warning….you may get comments from others on this site who

are still in denial. I wrote on a blog recently about my rapes and I was

astonished by all the sexism in return. But this is just to let you know

that many people do understand and I wish you all the best in your healing

and your future.

From Jennifer Drew

Thank you very much for L for courageously writing publicly about your

experiences of male sexual violence committed against you. What you

describe is common and whilst what happened to me in the past was not

identical, I too was subjected to deliberate male sexual harassment whilst

a child then later as a teenager and subsequently as a young adult woman.

The central message I constantly received was that men and boys had the

right to sexually humilate and sexually assault me. For years I was

confused and did not understand why I was so angry and depressed.

It has taken me years to understand how and why so many men and boys

engage in male sexual violence against women. It has also taken me a very

long time to understand the complexities of how and why so many women

accept this and attempt to instil the passive message to girls and young

women that men and boys must never be held accountable for their actions.

I am an activist focusing on male sexual violence against women and

children. I always state that overwhelmingly it is known men and boys who

commit sexual violence against women and children not the ‘deviant

stranger.’ However myths concerning male sexual violence against women are

still very strong. But you are right to emphasise this fact. I have

attended a number of LFN Reclaim The Night Marches and the focus has always

been inclusive wherein we state on our leaflets that it is known men and

boys who are the ones who commit these crimes against women and children.

Fitting into the narrow defnition of what it supposedly means to be a

woman or man is impossible, but our male-dominated society is determined to

keep women in a ‘tiny box.’

Doubtless you might receive emails claiming your experiences were

‘isolated ones’ and that most men and boys are ‘good.’ The sad truth is

this is not the case. Male sexual violence against women and children is a

means of maintaining male power and domination over women and girls. Boys

learn this as they grow up and girls learn they are supposed to ‘swallow

their anger’ and ignore the routine and mundane ‘little rapes’ committed by

men and boys.

Healing from these ‘little rapes’ is not easy, because each woman/girl is

different. But it does happen – however we can never wipe completely from

our minds the effects of men’s and boys’ callous, cruel sexual violence.

That is the reality.

Aggression is often a coping strategy when a woman/girl is faced with men

and boys constantly taunting and sexually insulting her. So, too is

depression because women and girls are socialised into believing they alone

are responsible for men’s and boys’ sexual violence.

But we have to continue to speak out and hold those men and boys

accountable for their sexual violence committed against women and girls.

We also have to speak out about how masculinity and femininity is still

constructed. Masculinity teaches boys and men they have the innate right

of unlimited sexual access to women and girls, but fortunately many

feminist women and a good few pro-feminist men ‘get it it.’

Thank you again for this article – remember writing this article knowing

it will be read by both feminists and anti-feminists is a very courageous

act. All too often we limit ‘courage’ to physical activity – but many

times courage is about mental strength. Overcoming our fears and terrors

is something which cannot be accomplised easily – so take pride in what you

have written.

Raising boys? Help yourself to some gender stereotypes, a review by Clare Gould

From Amity

Thank you, Clare, for a great article. All this “What about the mEnz?!!1!”

stuff is quite tiresome, really. I’ve often seen this book in the shops and

thankfully never picked it up. As mother to a girl and a boy, I don’t feel

that I need to parent them differently, at least not enough to warrant a

separate manual. Thanks for the warning!

From Maddie

Brilliant, well-argued, well-researched and thoughtful piece that has

articulated loads of half-thoughts that I’ve been trying to flesh out for

ages! Thanks…

From katrina

“… in appropriating the language of gender equality and ‘respect’

for girls and women, he simultaneously uses the logic of sexism.”

And that about sums up Steve Biddulph’s modus operandi. I’m so sorry to

hear he’s now sucking UK in parents too, but I see that you are on to him.

From magic_at_mungos

Clare Gould wrote about the gender stereotypes in raising children. I\’m

glad to see that she seems to be doing what works for her family despite

the external pressures of gender sterotyping.

It just reminds me of when looking for congratulaions cards for a couple

who has just had their first child and there was only one that wasn\’t pink

or blue or tied into gender sterotypes and I thank my parents for making me

aware of this when looking for these kind of things. It\’s the same when

buying presents for my goddaughter. I refused to buy barbies or Bratz

merchandising but tried to look for colouring books or something I think

she would enjoy that was gender neutral and couldn\’t believe how difficult

it still was. Has the efforts done by feminist groups in the 70s and 80s

still made so little impact that we still buy into these gendered toys?

From Lisa

Steven Biddulph is a psychologist but his books are typical ‘science-lite’

aimed at the unscientific lay reader. His more academic work is published

in academic reports.

He is not a fan of traditional C19 Victorian culture in the slightest but

he is part of the C20 ‘natural’ parenting movement, which fits well with

Green/Earth-centered Feminism (popular in Scandanavia and Germany for

example) but does conflict with Capitalist UK/USA Feminism.

The obvious key point of conflict between these 2 schools of feminism is

the priority given to the slow, organic separation between mother and child

post-partum by the ‘natural’ Green Feminists versus the priority on instant

separation and return to full-time paid work outside the home in Capitalist

Feminism. In Germany for example feminists fought for 3 year maternity

leave with a right to a part-time job thereafter so that the mother and

child can delay weaning for up to 2 to 3 years and the mother can have

close 1-to-1 supervision over the child’s early development herself.

With respect to male-female dynamics Green Feminism celebrates and works

with the dualism on many different levels. Scandanavian men are especially

good examples for the points raised by Claire. They have no problem working

in Kindergartens for example but males and females interact with the

children in different ways and in fact this is why males are recruited to

work with the children.

From a European perspective UK/US Feminism is narrow, perscriptive, rigid,

obsessively materialistic and ill-informed. Both Germany and Scandanavia

have managed to create far more feminist societies depsite/because of (?)

their more ‘natural’ Green Feminism. Whereas the UK/US are more difficult

societies for women despite/because of (?) their insistence that ‘women and

men are the same’.

Acknowledging and respecting differences is in reality fairer than denying

they exist. It is not in any way saying one is ‘better’ than the other just

that they are different. Why is this a problem in the UK/US when it isn’t

elsewhere in the world ?

From heidi shelton

Awesome article! I also had a

daughter, then a son. They are grown now and I am so glad that they were

both raised with the same amount of love and attention. My son is kind to

women, sensitive, a musician, and a very well rounded person. He IS good at

math and science, but my daughter is better! Thanks for reminding us of the

things we have in common and not our differences.

From Jennifer Drew

There is innumerable evidence that girls and boys, men and women are not

from different planets but do in fact share similar characteristrics, but

then this is heresy because it is seen as threatening the supposedly

natural social order wherein being male = superiority and female =


Many boys are not ‘sporty,’ avidly interested in mechanical or

technological toys but instead have interests in so-called ‘feminised

areas.’ But these boys are stigmatised as being ‘effeminate’ by other boys

and men because they are not following the patriarchal ideal. Likewise

girls who do not display appropriate ‘feminine’ behaviour or interests are

called ‘tomboys.’ It is acceptable for a girl to be a so-called ‘tomboy’

until she reaches adolescence, then society pressurises her to conform to

patriarchal notions of ‘femininity.’ Boys too are pressurised to conform

but it is other boys and men who police boys behaviour.

We are currently living in a society which once again has reverted to the

myth ‘biology is destiny’ and woe betide anyone who challenges the supposed

natural seperate female and male spheres. Girls are all ‘passive, more

interested in forming relationships whereas boys are independent, curious

and keen to explore.’ Woe betide any woman who dares to challenge this

myth and especially mothers because once again it is women who are blamed

for supposedly causing the ‘male moral panic.’ Men are apparently in

danger of extinction or will lose their masculinity. Such panics occurred

at the end of the 19th century and it happened because women in vast

numbers were challenging male-centered notions of what it means to be a

woman or man. Every time women gain a smidgen of their rights, there is a

backlash and this is precisely what is happening now.

Steve Biddulph is a pseudo expert because he provides no concrete evidence

whatsoever that girls and boys are from different planets. He uses pseudo

science to reinforce his claims and because we as a society have assumed

‘biology is destiny’ it is extremely hard to show how this is not the case

but rather is due to socialisation. Women and men are far more similar

than dissimilar – fact not fiction.

From Scott

Your article on sexism and parenting is so very refreshing to read. I work

with kids every day and am studying to be a child psychologist here in the

US. I see both extremes that you mention. I see the parents who let their

child be open with their creativity and express the things that are true to

themselves. I also see (and a majority of the time) the parents that give

in to the gender stereotypes and mold their children to do the same. It’s

good to know that some other people feel the same. Thanks for your wise

words about challenging the status quo.

From Jay McCauley Bowstead

Clare is quite right in pointing out how bizarre and creepingly

reactionary attitudes to bringing up boys and girls are. As a boy brought

up by feminist parents in the 1980s my experiences may not be entirely

representative. I know that my parents were keen to shield me from

gender-normative attitudes at home. I soon became aware at school and from

friends that my behaviour, likes and dislikes were sometimes not thought

appropriate for a boy and of course this was confusing and sometimes


While I would have hoped to see significant breakdown in my lifetime of

repressive attitudes to masculinity and femininity being projected on to

children, in some ways I think things have got worse. Toys, books and

clothing for children seem almost always to focused either at boys or at

girls. I was shocked to read a friend’s daughter’s picture book which

featured a ballet party. The girls in this story came to the party dressed

as ballerinas the boys incongruously came as pirates – the author hadn’t

imagined boys could be ballet dancers apparently. Children’s cookbooks seem

always to have a mother and daughter on the front. Don’t even get me onto

war toys. It’s like their is some sort of fascist conspiracy to produce

totally dysfunctional male children – and then the Daily Mail wonders why

young men are so prone to violence.

From Karen

This bloke Biddulph

sounds a right pratt. I was a tomboy, had toy cars, a clockwork petrol

pump, garage etc and my younger brother was actually glad of me being a

tomboy because we bonded well and could play well together irrespective of

our genders. He is the only boy out of the 4 of us and the result of us

both playing together is that (ignoring the other issues of abuse we faced

together) we are in fact er, normal! I am fed up with men saying that

actually women want a “real” man which is as insulting to men as labelling

the less commercially attractive woman as “ugly”. I have a lovely fem-ally

partner, who is totally comfortable with his gender identity, that I

wouldn’t trade ever for a caveman, thank you. I am also fed up with going

around supermarkets and hearing parents telling their child that they dont

want such and such a toy because its meant for “the other side”. Mr

Biddulph, I dont raise a child myself, I could if I wanted or had to, but I

don’t. I raise a pet tortoise instead. Sorry to be so abnormal but that’s

me. So there! (big raspberry noise, exit stage left)

From Anna Greneker

Clare, all I can say in response to your ‘Raising Boys?’ gender article

is, “You go woman! And keep them coming”. You are right on target. I am a

single mom to my son. His father is nothing like the man he will turn out

to be-this is evident at age 7-and I am now glad that I am raising him

alone. He is kind and considerate. It has been just the two of us since he

was 2 and before that his father traveled Monday through Friday. I won’t

voice my opinion of my ex because I do not wish them to be viewed as coming

from a scorned and bitter woman. I am not. I will say that his father has

gender character beliefs embedded into his nature that I would never wish

my son to aquire. Ans many of them, too many. My child has a compassion for

others that suprises even me sometimes. He also loves to go to his

Papa’s(my step-father) and shoot guns and go boating and get his fill of

male bonding, but will help Nana with the cooking while they take the

occasional break from the outdoors to eat. As you see, they follow the old

stereotyping, but thanks to having the priveledge to raise this child on my

own-something I did not ask for and believed devestating at the time I was

told this was the new agenda for my life-he is turning out to be everything

a CHILD can be. I might ad that my Daddy’s own life was a good example for

me. He was raised in the “Man World”, but after raising 3 daughters after

my mother and he divorced, he was enlightened and a changed “Man”. He has

been both Mother and Father to me. He has been my PARENT and raised me as

his CHILD. I loved your article. Do you have any books published or might

where I go to enjoy more of your wisdom?

From Amy Clare

This is an excellent review and Clare Gould really hit the nail on the

head when she said: “Nature, it seemed, needed to be nurtured into

existence.” If ‘typical boy’ behaviours were so ‘natural’ then no nurturing

would be needed! Whatever you did as a parent, boys would still ‘be boys’.

Not to mention that Biddulph is suggesting fixing the problems of the

status quo by adhering to the gender norms of the status quo! So books like

Biddulph’s are fundamentally contradictory. They are written from a basis

of fear and have nothing to do with reality. Sadly, it is books like these

that get most of the media attention.

I’d love it if there was a parenting book (it would be more like a

pamphlet!) which just said, ‘let your child be themselves’.

From meg carter

great article, claire, thanks.

the points you make are so bleeding obvious but they are overlooked with

such persistence (my son was born 22 years ago and the same state of

affairs applied then!) that they continue to be invisible in public


I found your article via a link in – have you done any

newspaper opinion pieces? if not, please do!

From jean morreau

Come on Clare, if not for your witty self description, I would say you

were choking on your own bile.

What’s wrong with males and females being both the same and different?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Well at least we know where we stand with jean: stereotypes are just true and drawing attention to harmful stereotyping and discrimination is “bile”.

On kickboxing, women’s aggression and self-defence, by Jessica Burton

From Rachael

Thank you Jessica, for putting into words what I have always felt!

I am sick and tired of being assumed to be “weak” because I am a woman!!

Never mind that I tend to tower over many guys (I am six foot).

Never mind that the last man who tried to grab me in a public place backed

right off after I told him I am an expert in martial arts and would kick

his ass!!

Never mind all that…because I am still just a weak and pathetic woman!!

I have practised martial arts my whole life and although you are spot-on

in that all avenues must be explored as far as violence against women….I

absolutely believe that EVERY girl should be taught self-defence, right

from whan she is old enough, in school. It should be part of the


It’s amazing the power it gives you to mentally and physically, have

confidence in yourself. And how it can make you realize that “women are

weak” is just another load of patriarchial bull! Thanks again!

From Sarah Sutcliffe

I agree with Jessica Burton’s article on the merits of learning a martial

art. I did Taekwondo for four years and it wasn’t until then that I

actually started honestly rejoicing in my body – because I was getting the

right balance of exercise and food, my body was at its ideal shape (Its own

ideal shape, not society’s ideal shape) and I loved it. I realised my body

was not just a vessel for my brain (the most-valued, in my academic

intellectual upbringing), but a thing of strength and beauty and ability in

its own right. Last but not least, I saw women of literally all shapes and

sizes in the communal changing rooms; on the mat, all of them equally red

and sweaty and ‘ugly’ in the unflattering white pyjama-uniforms, and all of

them strong and capable of breaking boards and clean techniques and

terrifying war-cries. Within the sanctuary of the Dojang, THIS was what was

valued most about them: their abilities, not their looks. Seeing and

experiencing that there is no requisite body shape for success or beauty

(because a successful technique will always look beautiful) did more for

clearing up all my inherited hang-ups about the female body than reading

any tome on feminist theory every could.

I’ve long stopped martial arts, but recently took up aerial skills

(trapeze, silks, ropes etc) and only yesterday realised I was looking upon

my bruised and rope-burned feet with the same smugness that I used to look

upon my bruised forearms, seeing the marks as tokens of my strength and

capability, as badges of honour.

From Hanna


I’m a 28-year-old, professional, intelligent female. I wear dresses, or

jeans, or sometimes both. I don’t describe myself as a militant feminist,

but I have also never considered myself to have less merit because of my

gender – a benefit of being part of the first post-feminist generation,


Every week between August and April, I play 80 minutes of full-on,

full-contact, bone-crunching rugby. There are a lot of us who do – a tribe

of women around the world who know what it means to be strong, healthy, and

confident in our own skins.

I don’t play rugby because I think it’s a pair of fingers up at the

heteronormative establishment. I don’t play rugby because I’m an overly

aggressive steriod-popping neanderthal.

I play because it’s amazing to feel what my body is capable of, both in

terms of momentary requirements on the pitch, and in the results of

training over a longer period of time. I play because every week I spend

80 minutes as part of a team of 15 amazing women who, like me, are always

ready to put their own bodies in harm’s way for the sake of a fellow

player. I play because it’s taught me that mental

and physical pain aren’t unbreakable barriers, but challenges. Most

importantly, after years of loathing my wide thighs and “unfeminine”

shoulders, I know what my body is FOR – to run, to push physical limits, to

be strong, and to be enjoyed.

Ironically it’s the reactions we get from those who don’t understand (men

and women) which binds the female rugby community closer together. When I

tell people I play rugby, responses vary from “you mean touch rugby?” to

“so, you’re a lesbian then” (as though sexual orientation has anything to

do with athletic prowess). Women are, alarmingly, the worst culprits:

“but all those bruises, and what about your face?”.

Yes, it hurts. The training is gruelling. We play in snow, rain and

sleet. But being able to walk with shoulders back, confident that I have

value in society regardless of dress size/marital status/whatever, is


Every battle scar is a reminder of the warrior I am, and the strength

within, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

From Sam Jones

Thanks for that great article. I myself have done karate for the last 12

years and found that it has changed my life for the better. We are

constantly being bombarded by the media, men and sometimes other women,

telling us how much our bodies aren’t our own. We are made to feel that we

are the property of our husbands, our children or anybody else who happens

to look at us and make demands of us. Martial arts takes you back inside

yourself, to reclaim what is rightfully yours. It doesn’t matter that your

legs are not long and slim, because you now appreciate that they can help

you to kick fast and hard. You don’t care if you don’t have slender arms,

because your arms can punch hard enough to smash through a breack board.

It’s now all about enjoying what your body can do for you. It has helped

me to escape for the spiral path of self loathing that I was pushed onto as

a teenager.

From Irina

I agree with Jessica Burton and thought myself quite often that

self-defence classes should be mandatory for teenage girls especially as

they tend to experience street harrasement when they are more likely to be

intimidated by it. One learns (hopefully) confidence with repetition of

these unpleasant situations but it is still horrible for educational system

not to do anything to prevent such feelings of fear and shame in these

young girls when it first happens to them. Ideally it should come with sex

education tailored for boys that will teach them to respect girls and care

about them, and use condoms. (I am still perplexed that although teenage

pregnnacies seem to be all about underpriviledged girls nobody points a

blaming finger at the boys who didn’t put the fucking condom in the first


I also know from personal experience how exhilarating it feels to express

anger where fear used to be (say, street harrassement) – like in your case

with two drunk idiots. How dare they frighten you? This should be the first

reaction, but it takes time to unlearn a lot of crap in order to get to

first true reactions.

Also if women were encouraged to rejoyce in their phyicality there would

be less eating disorders and confidence problems – those hormoneds kicking

in after an exercise would not allow a level of anxiety necessary for

nurturing self-doubt and obsession with “imperfections”, you’d simply be

too happy to think about this bullshit.

Anyway, thank you for the great article. (one question to the author – is

kickboxing suitable for shortsighted people? i know that sometimes

strenuous exercise is adviced against in order not to damage eye nerves. Do

you know anyhting about it?)

Jessica Burton, author of the article, replies

I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I’m afraid I don’t know about the advice against exercise for short sighted people, however there are three short sighted people in my class (including my partner) and they take part with their glasses off and don’t seem to have trouble.

Having used Google to search for short sightedness and exercise it seems that people with pigment dispersion syndrome are advised against “impact” sports in order to minimise their condition, see this Wikipedia page.

Since most sufferers are men in their 20s-40s (and not all myopic) I think you’ll be fine! Also, I think you’ll find that most classes (like mine) are non-contact or semi-contact, with semi-contact meaning what we refer to as “10% power”, so strong impact to the head is extremely rare.

Thanks for reading the article!

From Ellen Croteau

I want to take up kickboxing because I have a chronic urge to bust some

ass, preferably while screaming and hollering.

But really, Miss Jessica, a power screwdriver?! It only takes the muscles

in your hand to turn the thing!

Good article.

Comments on older features and reviews

Just a stripper, by Natasha Forrest

From joseph

“Just a Stripper” by Natasha Forrest” Congratulations, Natasha….you have

now fully intellectualized your own exploitation, just like your employer

has intellectualized it. The next step is blaming the damage on yourself,

after you leave this addictve, destructive lifestyle, and intellectualizing


Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

And what’s the impact of your comment, do you think?

‘Feminists are sexist’, by Catherine Redfern

From mick murph

Feminists are extreme cowards and bullies, targeting white men with their

hysteria while being completely silent with support for their muslim

“sisters” in the uk who are real victims of real discrimination. Shame on

you cowardly self interested bullies.

The Vagina Monologues, a review by Catherine Redfern

From A Martin

Is there nothing at all problematical to you about an adult woman

involving a six-year old girl in discussion of her private parts? Is there

not an obvious issue here to do with the sexualisation of minors?

Incidentally, the seduction of a sixteen year old girl in the play by a

twenty-four year old woman, which she presents in such a positive light,

was originally between a grown woman and a thirteen year old girl. In the

original version of the play, the girl describes the experience as “a good

rape”.If a male author, whether heterosexual or homosexual, had written a

play portraying the sexualisation and seduction of minors in a similarly

positive light, I think there would, rightly, be outrage.

There is no good reason why a different standard should apply to Ensler.

Attempts to “normalise” the sexual exploitation of minors are deeply


Sick of celebrity, by Nicky Raynor

From Vicki Bray

*claps emphatically*

I too am utterly bored by celebrity culture. And the assumption that

jealousy is what motivates women to question its value. I have been

complimented for my looks many times and have a good sex life, but I still

don’t want to be some perfection obsessed ninnie, I would like to cultivate

all aspects of myself, because I know some day, I will grow old and looks

cannot be relied upon forever. (which is where these celebs will come

unstuck!) Sex, money and making the most of your looks are merely

ingrediants in life. The trouble is, people like Jordon have valorised them

as the be all and end all, condensing everything about thier image into

‘pure sex'(the face, the look, the expressions). This isn’t life. This

isn’t living. It’s a consumer driven comprise of self, based on the idea

that being seen is more important than actually just experiencing a variety

of things.

It’s saddening that people such as Jordon as so unreceptive to the idea

that there could be more to life than that.

Glamour models made me sick, by Hannah Whittaker

From tasha

well i dont know where to start… im 18 and a half and you sound so much

like me its unreal, i thought i was the only one who actually felt like

this to that extent you explained everything perfectly down to the feelings

and the truth. my boyfriend has a lot of these magazines many of which

featuring lucy pinder (his favourite) and everytime i think of her my heart

sinks an i feel worthless and boring and not good enough for anyone let

alone him, i turned his habit into my obsession and its ruining our

relationship. i would like to thankyou for a fantastic article, very well

written and highlighting the truth of how im sure a lot of women feel about


For the good of the species? by Eirwen-Jane Pierrot

From Sophrine

This is clearly an absurd proposition and the most basic examination of

the facts blows it to pieces. If it were true, then young women, in fact

all women, would also be attracted to very elderly men (for the sake of the

longevity of their intended offspring). If it were true, the older the man,

the more attractive a woman would find him. And yet, strangely, I do not

see young women and girls sticking up posters of octagenarians, lusting and

coo-ing over 90-somethings. No, they admire pictures of glossy young men.

On the whole, they don’t find elderly men attractive (though clearly some

older men like to believe they do). Yes traditionally, in the past and in

some developing countries today, some older men have married younger women

– but this has much more to do with wealth and power than some genetic

imperative. Madonna’s current beau, a 22-year-old beauty, illustrates this

point very clearly. This ‘news’ article referred to in your f-word piece is

absurd and inflammatory.

From jilly

The comments from the Aussie. This man needs to open his eyes and see

that the majority of 50 men out there are very much past there sell by

date, and that the ugly factor sets in even if they still can get an

errection. Often younger women do look more visually sexy then there older

counter part as do many virile young men. Believe me it’s far nicer

watching young guys on the beach playing foot/volley ball and not the saggy

flabby old guys. So baring this in mind, should a women who looks far

better then her husband /partner which is so often the case at 50, go

chasing after a younger man. For reasons such as her husband/partner has

lost his hair/teeth, developed a fat belly,has balls which dangle like golf

balls in a very old sock between his legs, or has a disfuntional penis and

(the man) is growing older and not looking quite as hot lately as a 20/30

year old virile guy.Life is not all about reproduction as some would have

us believe,it is also about partnership and having someone to help you

though illness/old age and all that might come with that. This is something

that is all to often over looked in favour of sexual gratification.Other

men need to react to this article and guys such as this Aussie as he

insults their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and many a husbands wife who

happen to be 50 . Many younger women wouldn’t look twice at the Rod

stewarts of this world if they were just ordinary penniless 50 men sat in

the corner of a pub somewhere or stripped off on the beach in shorts.

Especially if there was a young guy standing next to them who had plenty of

money to splash about. I really hope this guy and any like him end up with

some form of penile functional disorder.

From Sara Gold

In response to Eirwen-Jane Pierrot’s article, “For the good of the

species?”, I would only add that science has shown that older men tend to

produce offspring with more birth defects and greater developmental

problems than do younger men. For the good of the species, therefore,

society should insist that older men be vasectomized, if not completely


From Libs


I am so cross I can hardly write after reading “for the good of the

species” Didn’t really understand the fuss until I read the original

study. The author really does expect women to drop down dead after the

menopause. He/she tells us that “Evolutionary theory says that

individuals should die of old age when their reproductive lives are

complete” and uses this flawed statement to frame their article.

grrrrrrrrrrrr I love how the author totally;

ignores the role older females play in many species caring for group


ingores the fact that as men age the quality of their sperm decreases

leading to higher instances of genetic disease in their offspring,

ignores the fact that just making a baby isn’t enough to add to the gene

pool, you or someone you trust has to care for your offspring long enough

to ensure it actually survives to adulthood.

The list goes on but I am too mad to write more. But then what do I

know? I’m just a fertile female who hasn’t been chased by the right older

man yet and my Masters in Chemistry means I probably don’t understand the

complexities of this bizaare take on evolutionary theory.

From Ellen Croteau

Recently there was a “scientific” articel published that made me cringe in

a similar manner to the author of this f word article.

I thought she might be interested: click here to read

The above article, from “science blog– science news straight from the

source!” (!!) is about the highly scientific and white-coated test in which

a group of doctors videotaped women walking and tried to discern which of

the women were the most “orgasmic” from the way they walked. This rigorous

and enlightening study invloved a test group of 16 women– “university

students.” (Chosen on a basis, I can’t help but cynically guess, perhaps of

who was the most — sientific term here– “hot.”)

This “experiment” only calls to mind a group of men watching women walking

by and then talking about how great or horrible in bed each of the women

might be.

But surely it’s nothing of the sort.

It’s very worth noting that the study is only interested in a women’s

vaginal orgasmic “ability.”

It is quite a scientific leap for mankind indeed, to be able to know just

from looking, which women you will require more effort than dick wiggling

to get off, no disrespect for good and generous dick wigglers.

Give an ass a lab coat….

I did it my way, by Emma Hadfield

From JH

Excellent article. I felt the same at 28… and still do 10 years later.

I wish more women would speak out about marriage and children, and then

maybe more would feel comfortable not conforming.

Why men should care about gender stereotypes, by Alex Gibson

From josh j

good read…mad me look at myself differently…wow i cant beleive that i

was that ignorant to “stereotypes”

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, by Bellavita

From Sara

I completely agree with this article. I watched Embarrassing Bodies about

a year ago and there was a similar story but with an older woman, they

suggested the same procedure. I watched this and felt completely abnormal

as my labia were larger than the ones on the show. I went through a tough

time trying to wrestle with the fact that I knew that this was a culturally

favored look rather than an actual abnormality. I went to the doctor who

could see that why I was so worried but decided against it after a few

cancelled operations. The fact that the show commented on is meant to

reassure teenagers of their normalcy is absolutely absurd. This is part of

the long pathologisation of women’s bodies and goes to show that there is

no stone unturned. Throwing medical language at this ‘problem’ is only

encouraging one thing- the low self esteem of average women who do not fit

into stereotypical associations of beauty. It really angers me that I am

made to feel inadequate (as many other young women my age) and doubful of

my own body…so much for the democratisation of different bodies on

reality/makeover television…they all purport to increase homogeniety

amongst women through consumerism or medical interventions. It angers me


From Georgia

You say that embarressment isn’t an illness? Maybe not, but it can still

cause psychological defects. I agree that the girl on the show should have

been reassured, but if she was that uncomfortable about it and it was

preventing her from having sex then she should have had it – and she did.

Maybe the show did raise paranoia in young people, but I was aware of my

large labia minora long before watching the show and have experienced alot

of comments by guys and girls on previous, and to be honest, it makes you

feel like shit. And plus, I do suffer with pain during sex and sometimes

lack of hygiene (even though i bath twice a day) Leaving me with bacterial

infections such as cystytis or thrush. But the embarressment is what makes

me want the surgery most. All men arn’t angels, and saying things like ‘A

man should love you for who you are’ is fair enough, but its a bit naive

don’t you think? Personally my boyfriend is lovely and understands my

situation but even with him, my boyfriend of 8 months, I sometimes feel

embarressed about it. Be honest about this, men can be judgemental. If a

woman was to have a one night stand, then in 2 weeks time realise there

were rumours about her ‘wizards sleeve’ in her friendship circle, is that

fair? It may not be a physical defect but she is suffering. You may say

that woman shouldnt have one night stands but it happens – alot. The woman

should have the right to sleep with someone without getting into a

relationship with someone even if you consider it immoral. I am very

passionate about this subject, and yes, labioplasty shouldn’t be given to

those who do not need it – but understand from their point of view? How

would you feel?

Georgia, 16.

Take Back The Streets, by various authors

From tina

Never have I been so disappointed – here I came to your website and

expected some profound and wonderful fix to life, but no- just another rant

about how unjust and unequal the world is. GET A LIFE and strive for things

that matter to us all -jobs,family,love- it’s that easy!

Having read through your site a little further, I’m delighted to say that

on the 1st page I’ve only come across 5 posts that are SEXIST, RACIST,

AGEIST, DISCRIMINATORY or otherwise inflammatary! Oh well done you modern


Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I think it’s a bit much to expect us to provide an all-singing, all-dancing fix to every problem life has to offer. What that feature did do was give our readers a space to tell their stories of ongoing harassment and make it visible, when this is something that is usually dismissed as nothing much.

Because you didn’t elaborate or give examples, I can’t really respond to the criticisms of sexist, racist, ageist, discriminatory posts appearing on the site.

A woman… and a geek? by Wisrutta Atthakor

From Agnès Denie

I just wanted to let you know, I recognize your experience. I’m not big on

games, I’m more of a reader myself. But I’m not afraid to tinker on my PC

either. And it bugs me to no end when salesmen (invariably men) treat me

like an idiot, or approach my boyfriend when I’m the customer!

And another thing: Neil Gaiman usually does really well in the


From Melanie Davis

I too am a woman and a geek and I know where you’re coming

from. Actually I think the geek world has made huge strides learning to

let women in. It used to be, a typical sci fi book cover had a scantily

clad lady being threatened by a monster and rescued by a big manly hunk.

Now there are masses of tough female role models in sci fi and fantasy,

take Buffy, or Anita Blake the Vampire Hunter (ok controversial one I know)

or Nikki in Heroes. So many (male) writers are trying out the strong

female archetype now because they know there’s a market…us. If they can

only hold back from the temptation of turning these tough babes, halfway

through the story, into romantic sidekicks without their great

personalities, we’ll start to get somewhere. Another point on the plus

side for pretty ladies in geekdom: boy are we at a premium and isn’t that

good for catching the cute boys? From someone already happily married to

another cute geek…

From Kate

I am commenting on Wisrutta Atthakor’s article. Although I am not a

full-fledged geek, perhaps, like her I am a sci-fi fan and would like to

make the case for other girls in sci-fi. Doctor Who companions I think

are better female characters, being normal people rather than Amazon

warriors and also capable of looking after themselves and sometimes even

the Doctor (although I have admitt there are some issues about them

screaming and him having to save them most of the time, and the fact there

was a cavegirl!) But the newer ones are good, one was even a doctor too and

spent the whole series saving the Doctor from this and that!

I’d also like to mention Six from Battlestar Gallitica, I know she was

sexed up, but she totally had control of Balta. She owned him.

I’d also like to point out that even sci-fi men often have high ranks and

do most of the saving, they too have to conform to ideal of the hot, sexy

strong man. Men are used as eye-candy too.

From jazz T

hi im a 19 year old student. you and i are very alike in out geekish

nature, i love playing video games and reading graphic novels i always have

done. perhaps i have just been lucky or as generations change so do certain

views. I’m happy to say i have not come across any lads who think the games

i play are generally ones that are aimed at girls and we have long

discussions about regarding games and comic books. Although i completely

agree with you view on the way women are depicted in graphic novels and

films, especially Manga, i did want to put your mind at rest and show you

that there has been a change, if only slight, in the males view of Women’s

knowledge and enjoyment of video games and comics.

From aduna

i love the article about being a female and a geek by wisrutta(not sure

about the spelling). i am not a geek in the way she describes but i am

different and i believe if all women dared to be different or simply

themselves most streotypes would reach an end. I AM A GEEK AND I LOVE


From Ana Spencer

I too have worked for an electrical retailer that also sells Games etc.

The issues I had were usually with (male) customers. They really felt that

technology was somehow their domain and wouldnt accept any advice from me.

If they said it was broken it was broken- even when I pointed out the

batteries were in the wrong way round! Constantly I would have customers

ask me a question, pretend to listen to my answer then approach a male

colleague with exactly the same query. My male colleagues did not suffer

the same type of harrasment and derision such as being slapped on the

bottom by an elderly gentleman buying a washing machine, or asked to test a

DVD player with a pornographic DVD inside. Or stalked by a customer who

named his computer after me. A lack of women in shops selling technology

and games also means the patronising treatment Wisrutta received is still

widespread, often endemic in the management of the companies that sell

these items. This will take time to change. In the meantime keep beating

the boys at their ‘own’ game Wisrutta.

From Justin Brown

This can go both ways. You think women respects men’s inherent child

rearing abilities? One time when I was an out of work teacher, I tried to

get a job at various daycares, and I’m pretty sure the vibe I was getting

was “Why would you want to work at a daycare? Are you a child molestor or


As a Geek yourself, you should know what its like for the male Geek

growing up. Persecuted socially, held back by a education system designed

for mediocracy, and continuesly rejected by females. Hell, our Geek

culture is largely based on the fact that we are often without famale

companionship, hence the overt sexualization of much of Geek entertainment.

You gotta take it where you can get it. Plus, men doubt other men’s

abilities all the time (or should, as men bullshit so much.) and hence why

we compete. Don’t whine, just continue to show them up. (Secretly they

will fall in love with you for it.) Cultures don’t automatically accomadate

outsiders by changing their cultural norms, so don’t expect Geeks to. By

the way, I always wanted a Geek for a wife, and I’m sure your quite the

prize, just don’t hate on people who sometimes have little else other then

their Geeky ways to fulfill them. There is a facism of beauty in modern

society, and Geeks are not known for their aesthetic value, just our

ability to think like a geek; mastery of niche subject matter followed by

quick and creative meta and micro anaylisis of said material. The Geek

shall inherit the Earth.

The Perfect Vagina, a review by Amy Clare

From belle

I’m commenting on the ‘perfect vagina’ topic.. I want to say that I was

born with the affliction of long hanging labias.. They are very

uncomfortable!! The inside of my vagina is literally hanging out, it rubs

itself raw on my underware and pants and gets pinched in my pants when I

sit or cross my legs!! The awful thing is I thought this was normal and it

was something every woman had to deal with, things like: tucking the labias

back up in between my outer lips and trying to keep it there by wearing

extremely small tight panties( which usually doesn’t last very long).

I honestly grew up thinking that is why most women are insecure.. And that

all women always walked around with the same discomfort… Needless to say

I was completely shocked and humiliated to find out that the majority of

women don’t live with the same painful affliction I do (specially the

young ones in my age range)!!..

I am considering labioplasty for comfort reasons.. ANNND also for

cosmetic reasons—Due to the fact that the elderly men in my neighborhood

look down at my crotch and give me dirty looks like they think I’m a

transvestite!! When I wear bikinis I literally look like I have small

testicals. So, that being said, anyone who doesn’t understand why a woman

would want a perfect vagina is just completely “IGNORANT”… And as for the

girls with nice vaginas that have mental problems and want a

better/different one, well they make up such a tiny percentage of the women

that have had or are considering vaginoplasty.

So next time you ask a woman that is considering any cosmetic surgery on

their genetelia, ‘why’ she would do such a thing; REMEMBER that most likey

she IS NOT going to tell you that she is sick of looking like she has a set

balls!! I mean come on how embarrasing, of course any woman is going to try

and pull it off smoothly and say she just wants to look “perfect”.


Not a happy birthday, by Amity Reed

From Sarah

Thank you for verbalising what has been denied and even ridiculed for

years. I took the power back and birthed my third child at home (hvbac) and

no longer fear childbirth. Childbirth and birth rape are poles apart but

look the same in the medical records and I feel empowered simply reading my

experience in anothers words. Deepest thanks, Sarah.

Stink bombing the beauty pagaent, by Sarah Levack

From Joanne

Good on you for shaking things up at the beauty pageant! It feels like

feminism has been more about theory than action for far too long, and

whether people agree or disagree with the protest, it’s obviously left a

deep impression on people.

From Chacha

This is great stuff. Stinkbombing is a perfect ripost – retaining a

degree of humour in there is vital, I think. Not that it’s not a serious

subject, but militancy without any humour involved has a tendency to shut

people’s eyes and ears off to what’s actually being highlighted. And the

image of the sour-faced feminist is yet another much-peddled distortion

that needs to be countered. i’m not yet sure who this collective

comprises, but good on you guys and gals, and thanks for giving me some

hope that all is not lost in this particular battle.

Pity in Pink, by Posie Rider

From moira murray

Why is this writer so concerned with the colour of her laptop? Lots of

women do like pink or coloured laptops – why shouldn’t they? Anyway, pink

is a really nice colour and the writer is lucky to get a sales assistant to

bother with her at all – usually they just leave you alone to fumble around

looking for what you want.

My ancestors were ‘votes for women’ freedom fighters and they would have

loved a pink laptop rather than a black one – or any laptop but, of course,

they didn’t make them at all in the 1900s, or even pink ink for a pen. So I

am still looking for a site that takes feminism and its real issues

seriously but this cause seems to have been hijacked. Yet I cannot but

believe in justice for women and therefore support feminism, which is

needed as much now as ever, but for real issues, rather than gaffs made by

over zealous sales assistants.

Posie Rider, author of the article, replies

Moira, I appreciate your point, and as I mentioned in my article, am aware that niggling cultural assumptions in no way equate to the forms of injustice suffered by women overseas, or to the legal and employment inequalities in the UK. That said, the pink-for-ladies dilemma is hardly limited to one incident, one tactless shop assistant, as the most minimal research will demonstrate. Dismissing particular instances as irrelevant means that not only to we fail to recognise the personal as the political, we also ignore the totalising effects of culture and risk making our targets so abstract that we are unable to act upon them: so, sexual dis-empowerment and the objectification of women might seem like worthy targets for feminists, but how do we go about changing them? Deconstructing ‘neutral’ cultural objects seems to be a pretty good place to start, seeing as its through culture that we ‘learn’ our roles in the first place. There’s a risk, as you infer, of not seeing the wood for the trees, but if you’re looking for the wood, you really had better pay attention to those trees.

As for our suffragette fore-mothers, I really can’t say how they’d have accessorised their laptops, if they’d had them (thanks for pointing that out!). Emmeline was quite stylish and always had a great hat, so I don’t think she’d have missed a chance to ‘individualise’. My guess is purple, green and white.

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

From Taylor Burnham

I just wanted to say…thank you SO very much for this article. No, I

don’t think you are an airhead. Actually, this story quite inspired and

helped me. I am 15, living in the U.S., with a height of 5 ft.1″ and a 28

in. waist with 36DD sized breasts. There isn’t a day where my boobs aren’t

mentioned. I can’t go to the mall without being stared at by older men AND

women (or without my best friend informing me that they are doing so.) When

I was in 8th grade just a year ago, this one boy would always grab at my

chest even when I told him “stop.” The ironic thing? Just this year he told

me “more than a handful is just a waste.” I transferred to a new middle

school and just found more and more people (mainly girls) saying, “Oh!

YOU’RE the big-boobs girl,” when I’d walk into the bathroom, or calling me

fat when the only thing “fat” about me are my breasts. I’m all about fine

arts. Actress, writer, dancer (believe me, it’s hard to be when you look

like me), all and beyond. And I’d say I’m very good at all, not to mention

all of the advanced high school courses I am taking. When people say “the

bigger the boobs, the smaller the brain” it offends me. What? Is my only

talent supposed to be carrying rocks on my chest? And when I defend myself

with the feminist attitude I carry, people get angry and say that I get mad

about everything, after they’ve just critized my body! I cry in the mirror

when I can’t fit into little tops like all the other girls, and I would

kill for a breast-reduction…but your story somehow made me want to parade

around proud with a smile on my face. Though I’m still not going to be

exactly chipper with my appearance, I can’t say your story didn’t make me

feel a bit more comforted. It’s good to know that there are other females

who are thin with big breasts out there. My friend stumbled upon your story

and sent it to me. It feels like it was meant to be, and thank you so much,

once again.

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

From E.T.

I’m writing about the article where Mrs Pythian-Adams suggests women keep

their maiden names when they marry . . . I don’t think it’s at all wrong

for a woman to take her husband’s surname. Double-barrelled names are

pretentious and trust me – from a teacher’s point of view, it’s hellish at

a parents’ evening when the child, the mother and the father all have

different names and put on a great show of being offended if you make the

heinous mistake of assuming that people from one family will have one name.

Should I ever marry, I’d definitely take my husband’s name. (As you’ll see

from my name, I have embarrassing initials which resulted in years of

bullying at school. I considered changing my surname but you wouldn’t

believe the hassle, time and cost name-changing incurs.) Even if I had a

lovely surname, I’d still change it to my husband’s. You write about

tradition as if it’s a bad thing. Taking a man’s name isn’t about

oppression any more – it’s just about doing the sensible thing.

I also want to point out to the author that I’ve lived in China, where I’d

consider women to be far more oppressed than they are in the UK. Yet in

China, if a Mr Zhang marries a Miss Chen, Miss Chen keeps her surname. The

surname of the children will either be Zhang or Chen depending on what the

parents prefer – and I know plenty of cases where the wife’s name has been

chosen, because it has a nicer meaning or because it goes better with the

child’s first name. This tradition takes place all over East Asia, even in

Japan, which is still very patriarchal.

Alright darlin’, by Selina Jervis

From U S

“But to men it may be seen as a signal that a 13-year-old can be treated

as a woman if she dresses like one, and so it’s OK to perv on children.”

I’m 43, and I don’t like harrassment any more than I did as a teenager.

The only difference is that now I get it from the younger pervs as well as

the older ones.

General comments

From Rebecca

Just want to say thanks for such a great website, I found it solely by

chance when an article on the site came up when I was searching for

something entirely different. All the articles are really interesting and a

couple have really helped me. I rarely bookmark sites but this was I

certainly did. Thanks :-)

From Charlotte

I’m interested in feminism partly due to having afew unpleasant

experiences in the workplace related to gender. I’ve looked at the ‘getting

in touch with UK feminists’ section of the site though have not had much

luck. – Could you please put me in touch with any gps in my area – i live

in Newark in Nottinghamshire. Thank you so much!