Comments from July 2009

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Confessions of a brand new feminist, by Anna Corbett

From Sarah Bee

Go Anna! Welcome to the sisterhoods of feminisms – happy growing, x.

From Bea

Judging from the quality of your article you are also an excellent writer.

Keep it up!

From Wisrutta Atthakor

Great article! It’s great to see people aged 22 proclaiming that they’re

feminists! I have always considered myself a feminist, but it wasn’t always

so easy to admit it openly, especially when I was younger. When I was at

school I told people I was a feminist and was met with a barrage of hostile

reactions towards my feminism – they had the same negative attitudes

towards feminism that you mention in your article. As a result, I had kept

quiet about it for over ten years – only in the past few years have I been

brave enough to confidently express myself as a feminist again.

You, and people like you, are really important for young feminists today!

Keep on challenging people’s misguided attitudes and notions about feminism

and feminists!

From Janis

Hear! Hear! Anna. Thank you for sharing that, it is easy to despair of

women who think we have it all, because that is so far from the truth.

I agree very strongly with your observation about how women often are

feminists without realising it. I have had conversations (astoundingly)

with women my own age who feel that a married woman should be addressed by

her husband’s full name. (They don’t seem to ever address the same question

as it applies to same gender couples.) But I’ve never come across a women

who thought we should lose the vote. (Thank goodness).

I recently read the book ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’, whose author, Azar

Nafisi, discusses how her mother’s generation had the same levels of

freedom as western women, yet her daughter had almost no freedom at all.

How swiftly it can all vanish if we don’t continue to fight for it – and in

Nafisi’s case, the women of Iran DID continue to fight for it and it was

still taken away.

From tom hulley

Sometimes I regret that old lessons must be re-learned and old struggles

re-fought. As a friend of sixties feminism I have been disappointed by its

dismissal by so many women.

Anna you have made my day.

I realise that young people need to learn for themselves and not be

spoon-fed by the previous generation. When you turned to Simone de Beauvoir

and others, you were making your own choice and your own sense of history.

You were also using the past to give a new meaning to the present.

What is encouraging is that people like you will remake feminism as a

vibrant and active dialogue with present concerns.

Your article was more than welcome …the modern world needs as many

Annas as there are stars in the sky. Their messages may differ but will, I

hope, focus first on the collective interests of women as you did and as

feminism has always intended (which its detractors have always tried to


Thank you for a lovely, clear, honest and important piece of writing.

From Amity

Brava, Anna! You expressed the feminist-within realisation (mine was very

similar and at about the same age) so articulately and wonderfully. Even a

few years later, I am still voraciously devouring feminist material and

engaging in feminist discourse with others in my quest to recognise,

address and fight for an end to gender discrimination and institutional

sexism. Enjoy the journey!

From Josie

Welcome! I loved your article and your excitement and enthusiasm came

shining through every line. I also agree fully with your idea about

convincing other women that they are already feminists by asking them if

they believe in things like equal pay, rights over your own body etc.

There’s still a lot of misconceptions that feminism is about female

supremacy, man-hating and body hair and it’s downright sad, so good for you

for de-bunking the ridiculous myths.

It’s very thrilling feeling your consciousness go ‘ping’ and seeing the

world through very different eyes for the first time so thank you for

sharing your story and enjoy your new-found awareness!

From earwicga

As happy as I am Anna that you have experienced this ephiphany, I must

point out the basic fact that raising children is in fact WORK and in my

view the hardest work I have ever done. Perhaps you could find a minute to

think about the term “paid employment” to refer to what you call “work”.

From Kate_L

I would just like to

say that I was heartened to read this article. Thank you very much for

sharing your experience.

I studied what was a kind of feminist history of womankind throughout the

ages for my history A level at school, and having gone to an all girls

Grammar (this was in the late 90s, early 2000s), it seemed to have little

relevance. I assume this was because I had a very liberal upbringing, where

talent mattered, regardless of gender and then to be ensconced in an all

girls school, full of very bright people…. well, surely the feminists had

not only attained but also surpassed their goals! No-one expected me to be

chained to the kitchen….

And then I made it out of school, into the big bad world of work and

University – suddenly, all that irrelevant women’s history seems very

appropriate indeed. I also learned of literary feminism, through my English

degree and a convert, like yourself, was born.

Even among (some, certainly not all) enlightened female friends, when I

talk about the conflict between, for example, my feminist principles and

the societal inculcation that anything but ultra thin is bad, I tend to get

sniggered at. My point being that it is not in line with my feminist

principles to diet to obtain a body perceived as appropriate by society,

the media etc, when I know that is it not, in fact, appropriate or


However, perhaps I’ll send this article their way, and see if I can get

them thinking too.

Anna Corbett, author of the article, replies

You are, of course, entirely right and I apologise for my careless wording. As you say it should indeed read “paid employment” and I was in no way trying to insinuating that raising children is less work than employment outside the home. In fact I was trying to express the opposite opinion and that I believe that those who chose to stay at home should be treated with equal respect that those who chose (or are compelled by economic restraints) to engage in paid employment. I shall rectify my language in the future.

From Cimen Ekici

I think this article highlights an extremely important phenomenon which

warrants further discussion. I am convinced that the word itself maybe

forming a barrier against recruiting more young women to the cause. (Also

interesting to note that this website is called the ‘f-word’). Perhaps it

is time to re-brand and start calling ourselves ‘equalists’?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Although on the face of it, adopting a new name for the moment sounds appealing, I think that the backlash would not stop if ‘equalists’ or some other name came into use. The fact of the matter is, the same people would continue backlashing, as it were, because it’s the ideas themselves which provoke that reaction, not the name… Feminism 101 summarises the arguments on this quite well.

From me

This is a great and inspiring article especially for women your age, but

of course most readers of this blog already agree with you. How about

trying to get it published on a newspaper or women’s (or girl’s) magazine’s

web site or?

From Joanna

Go comrade!! I think it’s great that you’ve started thinking more about

such important and relevant issues. Who knows? Maybe your conversation

with the anti-feminists struck a chord… here’s hoping! From one

feminist, to another…

From Caitlin

The conversation you had with your friends entirely echoes the one I’ve

had many times with my boyfriend, now husband. He believes in equal rights

for men and women – I believe that makes him a feminist, while he does not.

Oh well. It’s frustrating but at least he believes in the right things.

The woman engineer: are we really that incompetent? by Wisrutta Atthakor

From Clare

Great to see this article. I’m an engineer and an anarcha-feminist and

I’ve been looking into this area for some time.

I attempted (semi-successfully) to get a edition of the Engineers Journal

(the magazine of Engineers Ireland, Ireland’s professional institution for

engineers) to focus on women in engineering. There was a mixed response and

I could write a thesis about the experience. I’d encourage others to try

this – I convinced the editor to use the March issue of the journal of this

to mark International Women’s Day. In the end, it was almost a struggle to

get the editor to include a sentence stating that 9% of the members of

Engineers Ireland are women – it wasn’t opinion, it wasn’t radical

conjecture, it was a fact!! I included articles about WITS (Women in

Technology and Science) an Irish organisation and WAVES (Women – a voice in

engineering society) a student organisation in DIT that helps women

studying Engineering in a very much male dominated college and also a

technical paper included which was written by a woman. It ended up all

quite tokenistic but interesting all the same.

Anyway, I’m also currently working on an article on “Women and girls in

SET” for The Rag no.4 which is due out in Autumn 2009 (see

I am particularly interested in the experiences of women engineers in the

work place. There is a blog I found which is always interesting to read – but very often this contains

submissions from women working in academic settings rather than the typical

office/site workplace.

I’d welcome any comments or help on people’s experiences and ideas.

From TDevine

I am so glad I stumbled across this article! I’ve found it fits to my

field as well. I’m a college student, studying to become a thoracic

surgeon. When I was little, I kept switching from wanting to be a doctor to

a genetic engineer. Over the years though, I became unsure if I was able

to, because I kept hearing/seeing that women were unable to stomach

gruesome things like blood and opened bodies.

Slowly I became convinced that I wasn’t the iron-stomached tomboy I

thought I was. Instead, I started to believe I was a “normal” woman. One

wanted to be a wife and went faint at the thought of dissecting things. I

even opted out of dissections in Biology.

Thankfully, I got into Anatomy class in high school and fell head over

heels in love with it. After winning an award for my skills in the class, I

started thinking about how I used to be and snapped back to my senses.

Now I’m back on track, more determined than ever and proud of my

tomboy-ish ways.

Though I still get asked if I’m sure I don’t want to “just be a nurse?”

From Jennifer Drew

Excellent article which very neatly challenges what passes for

‘commonsense’ views concerning women’s and girls’ supposed innate

ineptitude with regards to what is misogynistically termed ‘masculine


A number of feminist experts on education have researched in detail how

girls and boys learn at school. Their findings are that boys are

encouraged to explore and examine how technology works; how computers work

and even what is the relevance of science. Girls however, are strongly

encouraged to focus solely on ‘feminine’ subjects such as English,

literature or history.

But truth is all these subjects are important but the most important

criteria for any girl or boy is to have an adult around who encourages them

in whatever subject(s) they are intensely interested in. Subjects are

simply subjects they are not ‘gendered’ but our male-dominant society

believes certain subjects are ‘masculine’ whereas others are ‘feminine.’

The educational system is still highly gendered and promotes a rigid

divide between ‘masculine and feminine subjects.’ An excellent book

entitled Failing at Fairness written by two expert educationalists details

just how girls continue to be short-changed by our misogynistic society.

Women are excellent engineers but unlike men they achieved their ambition,

despite being told ‘but engineering is masculine subject and not suitable

for you.’ I’ve lost count of the number of women engineers and women

architects I’ve interviewed in the course of my work as a social

researcher. Yet still our society refuses to accept women and men are both

from earth – not venus or mars.

Not all men are interested in ‘masculine subjects’ and not all women are

interested in ‘feminine subjects’ and the reason is because we are all

diverse human beings. Being born female does not mean the baby already has

so-called innate ‘feminine’ traits – rather from the minute she is born the

female child is subjected to a never-ending barrage of ‘you can’t do this

or that because you’re a girl.’ Whereas boy babies from the minute they

are born they are expected to be more interested in exploring and

discovering the world. Boys are also subjected to a barrage of messages

but these are positive ones emphasising how clever the boy child is and how

when he is older he will be an engineer or a scientist. Okay so not all

males are interested in science but if one believes the media and society,

boys supposedly have this innate interest in science and if they don’t they

are effeminate.

Such rigid reinforcement of narrow gender roles negatively affects our

society because far too many bright and intelligent young women and girls

do not achieve their full potential but instead due to constant negative

messages believe they cannot become engineers or scientists. This is a

waste of a huge amount of talent and skills due solely to the myth that

boys and girls have different brains and both sexes are supposedly innately

interested in either ‘feminine or masculine subjects’ not a mixture of


From An engineer who happens to be femail

The lack of women in SET is cultural and current western cultural

attitudes are making it harder for women to move into engineering; one

could argue harder than 20 years ago.

In some south eastern asian countries (?Malaysia comes to mind, but I

could be wrong), the number of students studing computer science is

dominated by women, not men. Yet in the west, it is overwhelmingly white


We need more articles like this that point out the cultural bias and the

fallacy in the arguments. Keep it up.

From Karen

Hi Wisrutta, as a female motor vehicle/mech/elec engineer, i raise my hat

to you for an excellent article about the challenges still being placed

before potential female SET workers. The idiots I went to college with just

didnt know how to deal with having a woman on their course so they dealt

with it in the usual way, pornos left on my desk, telling me they would

rather have a model there than me so there was “something nice to look at”

and general crap. I wiped the floor with them and that really pissed them

off. This plus the crap I was dealing with at home gave me such an

inferiority complex that my apprenticeship was a nightmare. I was too

frightened to touch anything in case I broke it because of how low my

self-esteem had sunk. But I got there and I just want to say that if any

other would-be scientists and engineers of whatever discipline are reading

this, please dont give up. Thats what they want. Are you really going to

let idiots like that make your life’s decisions for you. You get there in

the end, there may well be heartache but it is worth it in the end. Because

of how much I had to cope with, I won the British apprentice of the year

19-24 age group in 2004. I beat 20,000 other applicants, mostly men, from

all walks of life and I still think how I may not have made something good

like that come out of my life, just because a bunch of male teenagers (and

my father) didnt like me. Ladies, get stuck in, stand up and be counted!

Wisrutta Atthakor, author of the article, replies

Karen, congratulations on winning the Apprentice of the Year award! It is certainly a huge achievement and one that just goes to show that it really is possible for women to excel in SET. I never had any doubts, of course, but it’s the changing of archaic views and especially the hostilities that women have to put up with in male-dominated work places that does, I must admit, sometimes make me feel somewhat despondent. I mean, you shouldn’t have had to be expected to ‘laugh off’ insulting jokes and attitudes and no one should have to be. But when I hear of all the success stories, they really do remind me that it’s definitely worth fighting for.

From bex

This is a great article, thank you. I am a female sound engineer, and

almost all of my peers are men. I was lucky enough to go to a school

(all-girls, incidentally) where I was instilled with the belief that I

could be whatever I wanted, be that an engineer, writer, chef, astronaut –

literally anything – if I was prepared to put the hours in. I think this is

the message that we should be sending to girls and young women everywhere –

it’s certainly what I try to pass on to my two stepdaughters. I do think

that men and women are different, but that this simply means that we have

different things to bring to any given profession, and I’ve also found the

different approaches employed by myself and my male colleagues to be

interesting and mutually beneficial. We’re at our best when we work

together and play to our individual strengths!

From Melusine

I thought this was

a great article, but noticed one mistake: research actually shows that

women (on average) outperform men on tasks involving manual dexterity and

fine motor coordination. (Logically, this should result in arguments that

that men are rubbish at surgery and it should be dominated by women, but

strangely anti-feminists don’t seem to think this way…)

Wisrutta Atthakor, author of the article, replies

Melusine, perhaps you could point me in the direction of the research you mention. I would be very interested indeed! Next time someone tries to tell me that men are better at these things, I’ll actually be able to back up my argument. Also, the mistake you say – I would disagree that it is a mistake per se. In my article, I did not point towards any studies or research claiming that men were actually better than women at manual dexterity and fine motor coordination. I based my article on the general perception that a lot of people have, sans any evidence from any research. Therefore, it is not actually a mistake. It is merely what I hear ‘on the street’, as it were. But thanks for bringing up existing research and, like I mentioned, I would be extremely interested to see this piece of research for myself.

From Josie

Excellent article Wisrutta! I am an early years professional and am

frequently horrified by comments made by parents AND other professionals re

children’s gender. I’m sure we’ve all heard examples – ‘she’s a typical

girl, loves dollies’, ‘he loves his bike, he’s a typical boy’. I just want

to scream ‘NO NO NO!’ but have started offering a slightly more rational

response instead, usually just something as simple as ‘oh you know, some

girls love bikes too’ or whatever, but I like to tell myself that it gets

people thinking.

I usually offer children stickers as rewards for completing tasks and

always make a point of offering flower stickers AND star stickers to both

boys and girls. I have had a few disturbing comments from parents – one

little boy picked a pink flower sticker and his mum said to me ‘I worry

about him sometimes!’. I wish parents could realise that they are not only

pigeon-holing their own child and possibly restricting their potential as a

result, but that these rigid gender rules sow the seeds of homophobia,

sexism and bigotry in general. It’s a very important issue and as

feminists it’s important that we challenge these dangerous and restrictive

assumptions whenever we can

From headey

Some years ago I lived in Indonesia. An Indonesian friend complained that

shop assistants used to try to speak to her in English. “Why? I’m

Indonesian.” she would say, to their bemusement.

Then, one day, I caught a glimpse of her walking down the street and

realised she didn’t walk like a local. She’d been raised in Tokyo and the

USA and walked like most Westerners.

So, what has this to do with women engineers? Simple. If something as

nebulous as ones gait is picked up – without anyone actually saying

anything to you – to the point that your whole identity can be questioned.

Clearly, children absorb a huge amount simply be looking and being. Never

mind the comments well meaning parents, aunts, uncles and friends might

say. The idea that girls are being put off science and engineering should

come as no surprise to anyone walking the aisles of a toy shop. The sooner

schools, toy manufacturers and society as a whole allows itself to nurture

curiosity in children, irrespective of sex, the quicker we shall progress

and – perhaps – mature as a species.

From Frances

I think all the things you’ve said are true. Regarding children’s toys, I

definitely think they encourage different behaviour for different genders –

although that didn’t stop me from stealing the clothes from my brother’s

action man to create action barbie and also didn’t stop my brother from

stealing my doll to play daddy I still think its important that children

aren’t made to feel guilty for being interested in things not associated

with their gender. My parents encouraged it and bought my brother a toy

vacuum cleaner for his fourth birthday!

From Geraldine O’Donnell

Reading this has resonated with me as I’ve recently been thinking about

feminist parenting. My fiance and I want to start a family soon, and my one

of my dearest wishes for my futre children is that they have choices and

are able to think critically about the world around them and the messages

it sends them. One book that has been useful in encouraging me to think

more about this is “Packaging Girlhood” by Lamb & Brown.

I was a little girl who loved to learn (which bemused my parents), who

asked many question about everything (too many, I was told), and loved to

tinker, to find out how things worked. Lots of these aspects of my

personality were subtly discouraged, yet my liking for dolls, making

clothes and painting pictures were praised and rewarded. I received the

package of ‘girlhood’ from my parents, playmates, teachers, and those

girls on tv who I soon learned to admire.

As it happens, I am happy with the way things turned out, but I will never

forget that I was guided away from some of my interests purely because they

were perceived as “not for girls.” I am a geographer now, and incredibly

happy with it, but I could have been an engineer, I could have been a

scientist, had those options not been closed off to me.

I want to raise children without this type of exclusion, even though I

know that they are likely to feel it from the rest of society. I just want

to give my future little girls and my future little boys the opportunity to

grow into whoever it is they want to be, to pursue their interests, to

learn without gender boundaries. I never want them to mourn the little girl

inside who loved to build things.

Wisrutta Atthakor, author of the article, replies

You’re so right about wanting to give your children opportunities and letting them have the choices to make, although I can imagine how difficult it must be when they’re getting strong negative messages from elsewhere. I’m not a mother myself, but reading some of the posts about the difficulties some parents face being feminist parents makes me rather dread the prospect of one day becoming one.

I wonder, as well, whether gender differentiation when it comes to toys has somehow become worse in the last couple of decades. I mean, the difference between 1981, as seen in Jess McCabe’s post and in Jayne’s post seems startling!

From Caitlin

Well said! I had LEGO as a child and I loved it! There was never any sense

in my household that LEGO was a boy’s toy and when my male cousin, age 3,

asked for his own Barbie doll (he liked mine), he got one. I never had

Meccano though, which may have been even better than LEGO in terms of

learning mechanics and practical physics.

Wisrutta Atthakor, author of the article, replies

It’s great that you’ve never experienced any differentiation between sexes when it comes to toys; if only all households were like yours! And yes, Meccano is also great when it comes to training the young minds.

The Politics of Breastfeeding, a review by Karen Gregory

From Kalista

I’m so glad that you wrote the book about The Politics of Breastfeeding. I

so wish that many more people breastfed. I have breastfed all 5 of my

children, and don’t regret it a single bit!!!!

They are great and I have always and will always be an advocate of

breastfeeding. God made cow’s milk for baby cows, He made beans to be

eaten, and he made mother’s milk for their precious babies!

From Jane

As a mother who was not able to breastfeed, I thought this article was

excellent, well balanced, well researched, and without the condescending

attitude that is sadly often prevalent towards bottle feeding mothers. The

phrase about ‘telling us breast is best but then letting us get on with it’

really struck home. It’s all very well being bombarded with leaflets on

how important breastfeeding is, but a new mother needs a lot more than an

overstretched midwife jamming her nipple against a fretting baby’s mouth.

I found breastfeeing painful and nobody ever explained why my right breast

was only producing a dribble! I tried a breast pump but nothing got the

supply going and so after six weeks of struggle I gave up. Gentle non

pressured support might have made a difference.

Having said that I also feel strongly that mothers should support each

other and not engage in competitive parenting. There’s enough of that

nonsense around already.

From Ruth Moss

Brilliant review of an excellent book. I just hope the commenters are kind

to you and you don’t get the usual “breastfeeding nazi” jibes that often

get shouted about when anyone dares to open their mouth and suggest that

formula milk is not the equal of breast milk.

Karen Gregory, author of the article, replies

Thank you very much for your comment on the review of ‘The Politics of Breastfeeding.’ I’m glad you enjoyed it. I do think it is a shame when the debate gets dragged down to hurling insults at each other rather than supporting women in their choices. I have to say all the comments on the article have been very positive so far!

From Lisa

The UK is particularly unsupportive of breastfeeding mothers – much of the

training, products and cultural support available to mothers in Germany

(for example) is unheard of in the UK.

One small but very, very useful product is St John’s Wort oil. It is red

and midwives in Germany put it on the ante-natal list for pregnant women to

start massaging it into nipples and it is applied post-natally before and

after feeding to prevent sore/cracked nipples and boy does it work ! This

‘problem’ (unnecessary and artificially created as it is) doesn’t really

exist in Germany.

There are many other examples so it is sad that women in the UK are kept

in the dark – maybe somebody should translate some of the German literature

and import some of the products ?

Karen Gregory, author of the article, replies

That’s interesting about the support in Germany. I’ve not heard of St John’s Wort being used to help prevent sore nipples. Interestingly, Gabrielle Palmer argues in the book that it should not be necessary to treat the nipples with anything as sore nipples are almost always the result of problems like incorrect latch and positioning or practices like limiting time at the breast. On saying that I have to say I found Lasinoh a God-send and used it for many weeks until my daughter’s tongue tie was sorted out.

From Jo White

I breast-fed both my babies for 8 and 11 months. Both times I had thrush

on my nipples for the first 10 weeks, was like having my nipples hacked off

with a rusty saw throughout each feed. I got very depressed as I couldn’t

go out as the pain was too severe and I would cry during the feeds. I look

back now and see it as the hardest time of my life, and my greatest

achievement was to continue despite the agony. When the thrush went it was

a totally different experience, beautiful and bonding…I shudder to think

that I would never have got to that point.

Support for helping me through the thrush was limited. There was one

breastfeeding councillor in my area with a week’s waiting list, which

seemed like an eternity at the time, I remember begging with the

receptionist to please let me see her earlier as I was in so much pain.

There is only one antibiotic which can help clear thrush, and I was lucky

to have an understanding doctor to prescribe this as many friends were told

by their doctors that they would not prescribe it. My breakthrough came

when I paid £150 to a breastfeeding expert to come to my house and help,

within 15 minutes she retaught me how to feed in a way that would limit the

pain….the relief was overwhelming. I was lucky that we could afford

this, and my heart goes out to anyone who is suffering with this.

There is little info about thrush in the antenatal or postnatal classes.

If you google it you can see how many forums there are for women crying out

for advice and help.

There is also little research into thrush, something which I believe needs

to change as it is one of the main causes of pain and therefore leads to

women stopping breastfeeding.

I finished breast feeding last month, it was very emotional as there will

probably be no more babies. Those two thrush episodes remain my darkest

hours, I used to curl up into a ball and just wail between feeds as I was

dreading the next feed.

I look forward to reading this book.

Karen Gregory, author of the article, replies

I am really sorry to hear what a tough time you had and can only sympathise. There are so many people who really suffer because of the lack of support out there. I think you are right about more research into thrush. I know of many women who have had this problem and have had real problems getting the right treatment (GPs who won’t treat the baby and mum at the same time, or treat with the wrong thing, etc). I was in a similar position to you in that I had to contact a lactation specialist to get the help I needed in the end. We were lucky that she let us travel to her NHS clinic which was really against the rules to have my daughter’s tongue tie treated.

It’s such a shame that the early weeks and even months can be so marred by difficulties with breastfeeding. It is so needless. I’m glad you were able to get to the point where you enjoyed all the positive aspects of breastfeeding.

Calendar girls, by Molly Lavender

From Kati

While I’ve been never seen a “cock of the month” calendar in the UK, they

seem to be readily available in Italy. Although it’s interesting to note

that all the penises on display are from either works of art or

archaeological finds. I’m torn on whether this is a double-standard… are

male genitalia only considered an acceptable subject for calendars if they

have some artistic merit?

Comment’s on older features and reviews

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, a review by Bellavita

From Laura

thankyou so much i to watched the channel 4 show about enlarged labia i

never had a problem with how mine looked until i watched that show i was

bigger than the girl on their and ever since i was looking for cosmetic

surgery for my self even though it didnt bother me or my partner of 5 years

before it certianlly crushed my confidence after since finding your article

on the internet i now realise i am not abnormal down below and will not be

persuing surgery

From steph

I came across you article on labioplastery while researching this form of

surgery. I had NO idea i was different and wasnt in the slightest bothered

about it untill i saw that episode on embarrising illnesses. i was watching

it with my boyfriend and was litrally embaressed because I felt i should

have already known how ‘awful’ i looked. Ever since i have been completely

embaressed, paranoid and sometimes i feel extremely down. After reading

your article and the comments you posted i realised i am not alone.

Thankyou so much for posting this article, now instead of wanting the

surgery i want to make other women who have felt the same realise it is

normal, and to NEVER let anybody make you want to change who you are. Or a

poxy television programme thats for sure.

From Charlotte

in response to bellavita’s article on embarrassing teenage bodies, i feel

she is being very ignorant of the psychological effects that an “abnormal”

vagina has to a woman. like it or not, we all have our own ideas of what is

normal and when we do not feel that we are it can be very distressing. i

have this problem myself and it has caused me so much pain, very little

physically but the impact on my sex life is huge. if i had the money, i

would have surgery. lots of women out there are probably as diguisted by

themselves as i am, and if surgery can bring them confidence and peace of

mind then they should be made aware of this option.

From Anon

thank you for your very honest and much-needed article in these

post-feminist times. I too am a woman with larger labia than shown on the

Embarrassing Bodies programme – and until now thought my body was ‘normal’.

No boyfriend has ever commented on my anatomy and the only problem I’ve

really encountered is not being able to pee in a straight line! And yes I

sometimes have to part my labia for sex but I thought that was part of the

fun. After this programme and with my labia I think getting bigger as I get

older, I suddenly start to think maybe I should do something – but why?

What is the difference between labiaplasty and other cosmetic surgery?

None. Just as noses are different sizes then so too are other parts of our

anatomy. I guess it would be better to carry on in blissful ignorance of my

‘difference’ or better still embrace it. Think rose petals not beef


A 41 year old unrepentant feminist

From LT

What a fantastic article regarding the channel 4 programme \’Embarassing

Teenage Bodies\’ and the way in which the 19 year old girl who was

self-conscious about her labia was handled. I too was appalled by this, and

as a 19 year old with slightly larger labia myself, I found it disgusting

that a healthy and normal girl like her was instructed that mutilating

herself was the only answer. Larger inner labia are not a problem, and

referring to them as such can only diminish the confidence of perfectly

normal girls such as myself.

I totally agree that this was a terribly bad judgement on the part of the

programme makers, and it seriously upsets me that so many other young women

have been filled with unfounded paranoia because of it. I wish you the best

of luck with your complaint and I hope you get a reply.

From Louise

I Watched This Programme And I Have Protruding Labia Too. It’s Now Made Me

Think There’s Something Very Wrong And I Am Too Considering Surgery Now.

Time to end parental leave discrimination, by Jennifer Gray

From Zoe Bremer

The European Commission took advice from a group of obstetricians about

maternity leave. Their opinion was that maternity leave should be

distinguished from parental leave and consist solely of sick leave.

Parental leave should be available to either parent or a “nominated third

party” e.g. the mother’s husband if he is not the father, or the baby’s

grandparent. Since we already have Statutory Sick Pay and, for those not

entitled to it, Incapacity Benefit, why bother with maternity pay at all?

No obstetrician is going to begrudge a patient a couple of weeks off work

(as this group of doctors recommended – they saw no reason to give women

time off during pregnancy). If we switched to SSP only, the issue of

parental leave could be negotiated separately, without reference to the sex

of the person taking the leave.

Of course, we also need to address the issue of why any government in a

grossly overcrowded country such as this should have any policy that

effectively pays people to breed. This is an environmental issue that no

one appears to want to address.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Erm, a couple of obvious points: giving birth and bringing up a child is not the same as being ill. And maternity leave isn’t “paying people to breed”, it’s recognising that new parents need financial support.

Kink 101, by Kit Roskelly

From Chiara E

Thank you so much! I have always had an overwhelming feeling of guilt for

considering myself a feminist through and through while being very into

sexual submission. So many (very well-argued) anti articles have left me

feeling terribly uncomfortable about my sexuality. This was a breath of

fresh air and very reassuring. After all, feminism is about choice.

Some body to love, by Lara Williams

From Nicola

I’d just like to say ‘Bravo!’ to Lara Williams for her ‘Some Body to Love’


I felt so liberated when I hit my thirties and I realised that my entire

worth wasn’t bound up in my dress size! Nights out with friends was about

who looked the best and who was the thinnest and sometimes I would bail out

if I didn’t feel I looked good enough. Now I remember that I’ve been

invited becuase I’m funny and always have something interesting to say, and

I encourage other women I know to recognise this.

Piercing the whitening silence, by Terese Jonsson

From Alice Onwordi

In response to the March article “whose feminism is it?” I think feminism

still has to reach out to men as well, of all races and socio economic

groups. They are still predominantly in the most powerful positions in


Stink bombing the beauty pagaent, by Sarah Levack

From Nina Mega

way to go! good work:)

From nick

I ‘d like your thoughts please….

I worked at the Miss Wales contest last weekend…and there was a Mr Wales

contest too.

I dont think there were any protests outside the venue …but would

feminists protest against the Miss Wales contest only…and not the Mr

Wales ? The Mr.Wales contestants had to do a ‘swimwear’ section …the

ladies did not ……… that not wrong too ????

Losing my hijab, by Ala Abbas

From Farah

That was a very interesting article. I hope whenever you started wearing

hijab your parents had told you that youre doing this because it is a

requirement in Islam not because of “culture or tradition”. Surah Azab and

Surah Nur clearly explain how Hijab is a requirement… I feel like your

article mixed wearing a hijab/being covered with women being oppressed,

however that is not that case. Islam does not ‘degrade’ women by requiring

them to cover…that has no relationship. Anyhow, great presentation of

your point of view! I enjoyed reading the article.

May Allah bless you!

Britney Spears, daddy’s little girl? by Cila Warncke

From Polly styrene

Not being an avid Britney Spears fan, I, like most people was unaware of

her legal situation. How can an adult be placed permanently in the

guardianship of anyone? I mean obviously it HAS happened and is possible

under US law, but WTF?

I think the point is that, even if Britney Spear’s father is a complete

saint, the fact that this can happen at all is an appalling abuse of human

rights. Mind you, it is from the nation that brought us Guantanamo bay.

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

From Fay

I agree with most of what’s been said in this piece. I just want to

suggest that maybe it’s not so much the scientists who are at fault here,

as the media for the way they seize on ‘science’ stories and then re-write

them to appeal to their readers. Just a possibility, but then again I

don’t know where you found this article.

(And yes, I’ve also known those very arrogant and condescending science

students, thankfully some professional scientists seem to have grown up a

bit since their undergraduate days.)

Enough with the pendulum! by Catherine Redfern

From sianmarie

love this article! it’s so simple, and if we all work together we can

really affect real change.

i spent a weekend with my brother recently and everytime there was an ad

or a moment on tv that was sexist towards men, he jumped up and pointed it

out to me, as proof that “the pendulum” (although he didn’t use that term)

had swung the other way. but he didn’t notice any of the sexist towards

women ads. i think this is really an issue of privilege. i try really hard

now to notice when ads are sexist towards men, because i don’t experience

directly that kind of sexism myself, just as i am learning to try harder

and harder to spot ads etc that are racist/disablist/ageist/transphobic so

i can recognise where my privilieges are, and where discrimination is


i am always really shocked by the pendulum argument anyway, as it so

completely disregards the global issue. we don’t have equality in the uk,

but we certainly don’t have equality in the world. when men say they are

the underdog, i just want to point them in the direction of the rest of the

world, where so often women suffer such horrendous discrmination. notice

your priviliege!

the comments about radical feminism are really interesting. i wrote an

article about andrea dworkin, and i came to the eventual conclusion that

even if i disagreed with her most of her statements, i think it was

important that people said the radical things so that we can question our

own views and discover more about our own feminisms. a bit like how i don’t

like michael moore, but i am glad he makes those films as at least that way

he encourages people to ask questions about what he is saying.

i don’t think women shuold fight men’s battles on their behalf, we

shouldn’t be doing their protesting for them. but i hope so much that we

can encourage men to see that feminism is about men too, and that together

we can work to make this world better.

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

From Wren

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! the article ‘Hasnt anyone told you a

handful is enough’ by Samara Ginsberg gave amazing perspective and really

hit home for me. i hope her story can let others see what body criticism

can do to a young woman.

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

From LibraDog

Well said, Claire. I was given this book as a gift, and it really is a

pile of misogynistic, male supremascist crap. Sadly, this is the sort of

backlash conservatism that the masses want to believe, in the “Mars and

Venus” mould. My advice: burn it and parent as a feminist. Your son will

thank you for it in the long run.

From David

It seems a pointless task, but it does need to be pointed out that men and

women to have intrinsic differences, and it is a sociological wrong of

feminists to insist that their doctrine of ‘no difference’ is actually a

source of conflict, not to mention downright arrogant. However, I dare say

my foray into commenting on this site will be met with derision or

sarcasm. A truth however, remains a truth and cannot be reconstructed to

fit the feminist propaganda.

Why men should care about gender stereotypes, by Alex Gibson

From John

I was a feminist for many years a position that I found accepted by other

men. Disappointingly I found women to be largely negative to me and my

family as I took on the role as a single parent. It was assumed, by many

women including my mother, that as a man encroaching on the female role I

would fail miserably. I succeeded but that was due to calling on my

‘feminine side’! The prejudice was appalling and I only just survived! Most

women and men can’t believe the dreadful inequality. I am no longer a

feminist – women can look after themselves and sadly sometimes at the

expense of men who care.