Comments from September 2009

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Feminist or misogynist?, a review by Melanie Newman

From Girl

I definitely think they are feminist.

Sure, it’s a little unrealistic that Salander can kick men’s arses – but have you ever come across a work of fiction that was true to life? Anyway, it is made clear that she works out, studied boxing for years, and also possesses unusually quick reflexes. She defeats men through quick wit and cunning, or their unfitness or stupidity. It is possible, actually, for a small and skinny woman to fight large men and win. Sheer brute strength is not everything.

Salander isn’t a pathetic victim. Her diagnosis of mental health problems is clearly shown to be ridiculous. Larsson’s saying more about the system than about Salander. A brilliant, but socially awkward (and possibly Asperger’s) woman, with in addition, plenty of reason in her background

that explains why she’s troubled, is written off as incapable when she is anything but. Salander is a survivor, not your typical helpless, self-destructive, vulnerable, victim young women with such issues are usually portrayed as.

As for the heartbreak – really, has anyone, ever, NOT experienced that? We have all experienced the sting of seeing the person we like with someone else, and realising we should have told them how we feel (which she was on her way to do). It doesn’t make her a dupe! Just human.

Similarly. The breasts. She is not obsessed with them. In the second book it’s briefly mentioned that she had augmentation, but it’s clear she had almost nothing before, so it’s not as if she was an average size and wanted to be a glamourous doll, she just wanted to be…normal. I’ve been very skinny and hence a 34A, and have gained weight, and I love having

actual…breasts. She is shown as admiring them in the mirror once – don’t most women check themselves out on a daily basis?? Again, she isn’t doing it to be a pornstar Barbie. She is doing it to be normal. Imagine she had a facial disfigurement, say, and had it corrected – wouldn’t she be perfectly normal to enjoy looking at herself for a while??

Blomkvist is not a womaniser – it’s implied that he was in the past, but he isn’t exactly a Casanova now. Iirc he only sleeps with Erika Bergstrom. (As for husband’s ‘permission’, unintentionally sexist? Erika is shown as a strong career woman who doesn’t take crap from men, and would hardly seek permission – it’s implied her husband would rather she didn’t sleep with another man).

Finally, yes there is violence but it is NOT written in a glamourised, sexualised or ‘titillating’ way as some scenes in thrillers often are. The entire point of the books is to condemn violence against women, and you can’t really do that without showing violence against women. Scenes where Salander inflicts damage on men are probably similar – both are written in a matter-of-fact way. It’s never implied that the female victim wanted or deserved violence – whereas there is with the Salander on men scenes. (Not that this shouldn’t be the case, as they DO deserve it, for various reasons).

Once again, the books are absolutely feminist.

From sam

Excellent review of a book I thought way, way overrated but didn’t much care to put effort into defining why.

Feminism and the vampire novel, by Caitlin Brown

From Halo Jones

I agree, Twilight is filled with all sorts of nasty subtext. But one good thing has emerged from it – as someone working in the sci-fi and publishing industry, I’d just like to point out that Twilight has gotten so many young girls into an often male-dominated space – (male) colleagues returning from the san diego comic con this year complained about the number of young women at the con who were Twilight fans. Not something they would have complained about had all the girls been scantily-clad cosplayers, I’m sure – the ‘twihards’ were there for their own enjoyment. In a space which is often a centre of misogyny (note the ‘EAFail’ this year – where female con-workers were subject to legitimised sexual harassment) I think that this is a real achievement for the Twilight fans!

From Kate

Re. Caitlin Brown’s article on the vampire novel – what about the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles? I can’t profess to have read more than one or two, and it was years ago, but I remember there were strong female vampire characters.

From Alex

This is an interesting article which goes along with a lot of what I thought while reading the Twilight books – that there are definitely some feminist questions to be asked about the relative positions of power. Eclipse, in particular, left me unsettled with Edward using his physical

and emotional power to prevent Bella from seeing certain friends (although to her credit she finds ways around this).

I had to pick up on the ‘fetishisation of whiteness’ comments, however. I just don’t agree that it’s the case. For one thing, Jacob’s ‘russet’ appearance is often commented on as appealing – and it’s good enough for Bella’s very white daughter. Many of Jacob’s fellow native Americans are singled out for their physical beauty, as are some of the vampires who are particularly stunning because their skin was clearly once darker beneath the inevitable pallor of the undead (they’re also a realistic mixture of decent and annoying people). The reason I noticed this is because I was beginning to wonder if anyone in these books was just damn unattractive! Colour never came into it in my reading of the text.

Interesting stuff, thank you.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Racist comments are not always negative comments; in this case, the “russet” description is on the surface positive – but it’s also exoticising and Othering. This post at Racialicious includes some further explanation.

From Sophie

If we’re talking about feminist vampire novels I think you have to include

the ones that reject the usual vampire novel structure (Porn/romance where

the sexy man vampire seduces the female protagonist, sex=death etc)

In Sunshine by Robin McKinley, vampirism *isn’t just a metaphor for sex*

and while the male vampire helps the female protagonist find her power it’s

still *her* journey.

Meanwhile Fledgeling by Octavia Butler has a female vampire protagonist

and is made of awesome, while the sexual and power relationships get a bit

disturbing it’s at least in an original way.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I also recommend Fledgeling, it’s great! Peeps by Scott Westerfeld is also good.

The F-Word bloggers’ position on transphobia and cissexism

From Lara

I think the statement is a very positive step, the only area where

confusion may lie is:

  • Any assertion that trans people are mentally ill. This is also disablist.

As men / women who may wish to have the op must undergo psychological assessment it is a crucial part of the journey. People who do not pass may go abroad to have the surgery they want, but a psychologist may consider their desires to be part of a mental illness. I don’t know if this statement could be reconsidered somehow?

Helen G, blogger at The F-Word, replies

Don’t most forms of surgery require some sort of psychological evaluation, however limited, take place beforehand? Surely the doctors and surgeons have a duty of care to fully assess patients in their care to make sure that they receive the appropriate treatment?

However, to be able to begin transitioning anyway, let alone through to surgery, requires a formal medical diagnosis of “Gender Identity Disorder”, as set out in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The point being that, under the criteria of the DSM, transsexual women are anyway deemed “mentally ill” from Day One by the very medical process on which we rely for palliative treatments such as estrogen therapy and SRS.

The fact that I, as a transsexual woman, do not perceive myself to be “mentally ill” just because of my gender dissonance, is entirely irrelevant to the medical process: the minute I was diagnosed with GID I was also deemed to be “mentally ill” in the eyes of the medical professionals who are responsible for my treatment. The stigmatisation that transsexual people experience arises from this medical pathologisation, and one consequence of that is that the term “mentally ill” is then automatically also applied to us by mainstream cis society, regardless of what we may think. This is what I understand the meaning of the quoted sentence to be – it’s asking TFW commenters not to contribute to that externally imposed stigmatisation by referring to transsexual people as “mentally ill”.

I’m not sure that the issue of travelling abroad for SRS is relevant here because the Standards of Care which govern the medical and surgical treatment of transsexual people are applied internationally. Contrary to what a surprising number of people believe, you can’t just hop on a plane to Thailand and get a taxi straight to the O.R. as soon as you step off the runway. Wherever a transsexual woman goes for her surgery, she will need to be psychologically assessed (and thereby automatically labelled as “mentally ill”) – and that process will have taken place a long time before the surgery date is set. Travelling abroad for surgery does not exempt anyone from that.

Also, in passing, I’m a little uncomfortable with some of the terminology you use, but perhaps a discussion around that subject may be best kept to another time.

Comments on older features and reviews

How do I look in this, on this, doing this, with this…?, by Alex Brew

From Karen

Beautifully written article. Thank you.

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

From Georgia Read Cutting

I am a 46 year old dentist and I honestly feel in my profession women are not going forwards at the rate they should be. There have only EVER been 2 female professors in all the dental departments in the UK , one of whom is now dead ! I was in a class of 25 men & 25 women back in the 80’s , no difference in talent, the most outstanding student was female, so what happened ? A female teacher way back then told me women ‘ don’t get promoted to professorship ‘ .. Thought it would ‘ve changed by now ! Anyone any ideas ?!

From Robin

I’m responding to “The Woman Engineer” article. I agree with everything the author wrote. I do think it’s getting better for women with each generation, although it’s a slow process.

I’m 49, and I’m a technical writer. I write computer manuals, but I should have been, wanted to be, a programmer. Had I been born male, I think I would have been; my father was.

I have a very logical mind, and I love computers and technology. But when I was growing up in the US in the 60s and 70s, I was discouraged from learning science and math. In fact, my own mother told me, when I was 16, in 1976, that it was OK if I didn’t go to college, but it was imperative that my older brother go to college because he would have to take care of a family one day. As it turns out, a divorce meant that I, too, am supporting my own family, so thank goodness my father was less sexist than my mother, and pushed me to go to college. However, he never encouraged me to become a programmer like he was.

What really gets me is that I work with a lot of very bright, and some brilliant, programmers, almost all male. Most of them assume I’m not as smart as they are, and some of them love to make it clear that they think that. Not all, but some. They have no idea, nor do they care, how much I know. They have no idea, nor do they care, how much harder it’s been for me to succeed in the technology field. They have no idea how women who do go into technology have been pigeonholed into jobs such as technical writing.

Although I don’t put a huge amount of stock in it, my IQ is 150, which is undoubtedly higher than some of theirs. I’m sure they’d be amazed – and maybe appalled – if they knew found out.

I’ve tried to encourage my own daughter in science and math, which she has an affinity for, but, at 16, she wants to be a guitarist, which she also has an affinity for. Her father is not sexist, and that helps. At least she’ll have a real choice, whereas I really didn’t.

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, a review by Bellavita

From sianmarie

louise and charlotte

i hope you read the comments on this article and that it reassures you that you are not abnormal and that you don’t require surgery on your labia to be normal. all women come in different shapes, colours and labia sizes, and there is no normal or standard labia that we need to adhere to in order to be “normal”. when i was younger (i am 25 now – just!) i was paranoid about my labia and vagina and thought it was a weird shape, odd looking and wrong, but as i have grown older i have learnt that no women’s labia and vagina are the same and instead we should rejoice in the great feelings and sensations they give us, both sexually and (perhaps eventually) when having a baby if you so choose. the fear i have about labiaplasty is that it reduces sensation and sexual feeling at the cost of “looking better” which is tragic.

i think what the writer of the article means, and what comes across in the other comments, is that there is no normal and that when the programme suggested the girl had a labiplasty they were ignoring the fact that we should not put aesthetics above an organ (for that is what we are talking about) working properly.

charlotte – you talk about the psychological impact of having a large labia, and yes i appreciate and try to understand your viewpoint. but where has this idea of a normal labia come from? is the psych impact the result of not having a labia that is considered “normal”? what we need to tell each other and all the women around us is that if it is part of your body, if it is physically healthy and does the job it is supposed to do, then it Is normal! women’s bodies are all unique and different. i might have a bigger nose than you, or one breast might be bigger than the other – but if my nose can smell and my breasts are healthy, then everything’s ok. i don’t want to patronise you or anything like that but i urge you to reconsider surgery, you are no doubt a beautiful and healthy woman who should be proud of her body and enjoy what her body is capable of. i am so sorry that you have this unhappiness over the appearance of your labia but please let me reassure you a hundred times over that you are normal, your labia is no doubt normal and that there are no standards of beauty that your labia “should” live up to, it’s your body and your body to prize.

IT’s a man’s world?, by Sue Schofield

From Sue

The issue is still current, but is being addressed:

Hi Sue,

I saw your piece in the Guardian encouraging the celebration of women in IT and thought you would be interested to hear about this year’s ‘Connecting Women in IT’ event. Dell is hosting the event along with Nortel, Intel, IBM, HP and Cisco, the aim of the bi-annual event is to get to the heart of issues impacting the gender imbalance in the technology

industry. I’d like to put you in touch with Ingrid Devin, EMEA diversity manager for Dell, who can provide an overview of this event as well as providing a current perspective on pressing issues and findings in this area:

Recent research from Catalyst suggests that men have a huge role to play when it comes to addressing the gender imbalance. They must be engaged in gender diversity initiatives, understand the strengths women can bring to a workforce and fully supportive of a change initiative. Dell’s male workforce is fully supportive of the organizations gender and diversity

programmes. Specific programs currently underway include a reverse mentoring pilot program where women in middle management roles at Dell are mentoring some of the organizations most senior men to give them an insight into the female perception of the world of work and the daily challenges faced.

Lack of women on the board is still a major issue. Dell recently undertook research in Ireland for example that found there to be very few women in board positions- largely due to women being more hesitant when it comes to networking and self promotion. As a member of Ireland’s national government strategy in this area, Dell’s response to these findings was to create a list of female directors who have the skills and experience to be board members, and circulate their details to companies across the country.

Social media has a key role to play in creating opportunities for women in IT. According to a recent Rapleaf study, although men are traditionally the early adopters of new technologies when it comes to social media, women are at the forefront. This has the potential to drive key diversity objectives as women for example, can use these tools as a means of networking and

sharing key learning’s. Organizations should use this fact to their advantage, encouraging the implementation of online women forums, through training on how to make the most of tools such as Twitter in business and via social networking recruiting drives.

Many thanks,

Louisa ( PR co)

There’s more on Connecting Women in IT here, and it’s great to see support

from such large companies as Dell, Intel etc.


Turn your back on Page 3, by Francine Hoenderkamp

From A liberal man

Turn your back on Page 3. Just because you are a woman it doesn’t mean that you can tell other women what they can do with their bodies. If you don’t like Page 3 then don’t look at it.

From Moran

Great article and I have joined the campaign. For many years I have felt so hopelessly furious over this issue. Just one point in the article I found to stick in my throat a bit – “Although, if it did ever come to this, maybe he could start with closing the breast augmentation wings, especially as it is now possible to get breast enlargements on the NHS if

it is affecting a woman’s self-esteem…” – what about women that have had to go through mastectomies…?

Also, I think that after introducing the campaign, to launch so swiftly into linking the issue of violence against women could be a mistake. This sort of direct link is a point for ‘sexists’ or people against you to rally around, launching figures and detracting from the overall aim which is to remove harmful pornograpghic images from our newspapers. I am in agreement with your arguments of course but i’ve seen time and time again those sorts of reactions which take time, focus and energy to answer.

Keep up the good work xxx

From Lawtears

The reason p3 still exists is the same reason you use a naked woman to make the point. The same reason PETA used naked women to make their point.

And the same reason that women do go out dressed to please and why bird watching by men (often)doesn’t involve feathers in any way. Please see the irony.

Francine Hoenderkamp, author of the article, replies

There is nothing misogynistic about a bare back, Lawtears. This is what pornography is doing; it’s making it unacceptable to show ANY flesh. Of course, this image could be classed as a ‘cop-out’ but it’s an effective cop-out. If a glamour model was to turn her back on the camera she would be displaying her bare back. This is a pun that simply can’t be ignored -flesh card or not.

From Lara (via Facebook)

I really feel that a campaign to get a man on page 4 would be a lot more successful with a lot more public support. The page 3 back photos are still the female body being used. It’s really weird x

Francine Hoenderkamp, author of the article, replies

Hi Lara,

A young girl, sometimes barely out of school, with her breasts out, staring provocatively at the reader, whoever they are, accepted as some iconic feature of our most popular newspaper as NORMAL in society? Now, that is WEIRD.

From Amena

An excellent campaign. I agree with everything you’ve written. But isn’t it possible to run a campaign (any campaign) without using a stylised, sexualised image of a naked woman to promote it? Yes, your picture is of a woman’s back, not her breasts, but backs, thighs, ankles, necks etc are all sexualised parts of a woman’s body to men. And the model in your campaign

picture is slim, curvy, with long glossy hair, and lying in that vulnerable, girly way that men love. There’s absolutely nothing remotely empowering about her; just the opposite. Yes, I get your message -turn a page 3 woman round, so you see her back not her breasts. But shouldn’t your message be: clothe a p3 woman, so her sexualised body (any part of it) is no longer on display, to titillate men and demean other women? You can have pictures of women’s backs, clothed in t-shirts, shirts, dresses etc, with the message scrawled on those, and without a camera shot that lingers down to the curve of the butt. Those would be so much more empowering than 100s of photos of naked women. The photo was the first thing I noticed when I clicked onto the article – it looked like a typical sexist advertising shot, and surely, we, as feminists, don’t have to buy into that to promote our cause. Why do women have to strip off to make a point? Do men do this? This photo and the others you’ve asked for will provide great ammo for the other side. Which is a shame, because what you’ve written is good. But just

as a picture can say a thousand words, it can also destroy a thousand words. It’s a shame. I’d join your campaign, but I’m not taking my clothes off for anyone – I’m a feminist.

From Lorie

I support the idea of getting rid of Page 3, but “turning your back” could imply that our breasts themselves are the dirty thing, that we in exposing our breasts are saying “look at me!”

As much as I despite pornography of any sort, I have always admired that in Europe, topfreedom was not illegal. It’s only that it is sexualised that I hate it.

Some of the women should still face the camera, but perhaps have a message scrawled across their chest in body paint. This is so that the breasts are not cast as the ugliness of Page 3, but the dirtiness of the whole image portrayed.

Francine Hoenderkamp, author of the article, replies

It’s a beautifully radical idea, Lorie and you’re 100% right. It’s not nudity we are fighting against here, it’s pornography! I’m currently debating this over on my facebook page so I will copy and paste your comment, as it’s a vital and important point to make, and give those who disapprove something else to think about when calling the current bare-back image hypocritical.

From Councillor David Pearson

A very good article and I would like to join any campaign that would remove page 3 girls from papers and especially the work place.

It is offensive to women who have to put with them rather than risk losing her job.

Calendar girls, by Molly Lavender

From Anonymous

Obviously, there is no female equivalent to male “biggest breast” calendars because women are DIFFERENT from men. We shallow men are highly visual creatures to an extent that women cannot fathom. Scientific research has shown that men ejaculate _farther_ when making love with “hotter” women. The vast majority of women don’t want “biggest penis” calendars, but they do go to “chick flicks” and buy romance novels (which allow for the

imagination). You know who buys “hot guys” calendars? Gay men (the visual again, see?). Cheers.

Summary: Men are different from women.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Anonymous commenter, please take yourself to Feminism 101’s excellent post on this.

Beyond Noughtie Girls, a review by Laurie Penny

From ajk

i ♥ laurie penny.

fabulous review. excellent writing.

From merryn smith

From what I have read, I fear this book is tale of guilt that speaks to middle class white women who have made some gains in the professions in last two decades and who now spend their lives in the company of male colleagues. It is the ‘successful’ women who is ‘free’ to make ‘choices’ and consume at will and, it would seem in this book, want to be ‘free’ to ‘choose’ to become part of the establishment. What is worrying is that so many young women in power do not want to know how other women fight to get them those positions (the abstract straw feminists). They want to make it all go away so they can live in a little temporary consumer dream where they don’t have to fight anything or anyone. You get the impression that if laws concerning equal pay, abortion or divorce were to be eroded that these women would not make a fuss if their own position of privilege went unthreatened. This is a very narrow, complacent and conservative feminism that fails completely to grasp any of the sophistication of feminist

thought or feminist implications for the human rights movement. How disheartening to think this weak vanilla bigotry is being offered to young women as an into to feminism. Feminism-because you’re worth it….

From Catherine

I very much liked Laurie’s review of Noughtie Girls. I live in Australia and I haven’t seen the book here, but the cover and blurb would have put me off anyway. Sometimes I wish these psuedo-feminists would just not say anything at all, rather than trot out and reinforce the same old stereotypes and imply that it is unbecoming for a sophisticated modern woman to be an unapologetic feminist. We have some writers and columnists in Australia who do just that. It is all the more depressing because their work appears in a media that is saturated in covert sexism/misogyny and offensive stereotyping (both of women and men).

Well done Laurie.

Baby Beauty Queens, a review by Eleanor M

From Hazel

I am no feminist, but having watched this programme, have come to pretty much the same conclusions as Eleanor. With the exception of Sasha, I too felt that these mothers were miss-guiding their children into thinking their only possible assets were their faces and bodies. However, I would like to point out that Madison was brought up with a mother who did make her money as a beauty therapist. Thus Madison has been shown beauty is crucial (at least within her family) as it represents their livelihood. What I considered most worrying about this programme was the lack of mental preparation the mothers had given their kids for the eventuality of losing the contest- in fact they instead rather gave the impression it was inevitable their kids would win. Not only did this show a complete lack of thought as to the potential mental welfare of their children, but also a genuine lack of common sense. Beauty, and the arts generally, are competitive and difficult to do well in a fact happily overlooked. Madison’s sisters desire to become a choreographer showed this best- her mother again considering such show-y talent as the only option for a career, and encourage this, despite the unlikelihood of it.

Confessions of a brand new feminist, by Anna Corbett

From Laurel

My name is Laurel, I’m 23 and I’m a feminist too…

I grew up with feminist parents, listening to Woman’s Hour, but I still managed to decide that feminism was outdated and over-aggressive. I would have described myself as a feminist when I was a teenager but I was looking for someone, anyone, to fight then so as I ‘grew up’ I discounted all of the ideas I had had then as silly and immature.

Somehow in the past six months I have reclaimed my right to be a feminist and also to be political.

Wikipedia has been constructive for me as well. Reading about the branches of feminism and realising that I was already being a feminist without realising it was liberating in itself.

I haven’t quite taken the big step of getting involved in a womens group but I imagine that when I go to university in three weeks time it’ll be one of the first things I find out about.

From Jen

I just read Anna Corbett’s ‘confessions of a brand new feminist’ and just wanted to say how heartwarming I found it. I, too, am a 22 year old, but I have always been a feminist, thanks to my parents along with life experiences. It was just so good to read, and I will spread the word to the (unfortunately many) friends of mine who are currently in the ‘feminism’s been and gone’ camp.

Thank you for making this site and doing everything you do.

Best wishes


Feminist and proud.

From Greg Mouat

Responding to “Confessions of a Brand new Feminist”. As a 23 year old pro-feminist male and sociology student, i found this an invigorating read. I’m currently about to start my dissertation looking at ‘the relevance of the women’s liberation movement and feminism to young British Women today’ and find this website a great source of material for current feminist dialogue and inspirational to say the least.

Skirting the issue, by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

From sianmarie

i just wanted to say how much i enjoyed this piece and to get an insight into your views on this complex issue.

using the mooncup literally changed my life, my perspecitve on my body and my perspective on my periods! by actually thinking about my periods and my body and the way i could bring my body back under my control by using the mooncup rather than being beholden to P and G made me feel so much more comfortable with my periods and my body. it takes a while to get used to, but now i don’t know how i got on without my mooncup! and it doesn’t itch, it doesn’t contain bleach and other nasty chemicals and it is amazingly good for the environment! i’ve written all about mooncups on my blog here:

Men! Feminism needs you! (Not your privilege…), by Anne Onne

From sianmarie

i’ve been thinking about this a lot recently especialyl after reading the debate on cath elliott’s blog “the blokeosphere”, and some comments on my own blog, and some comments on the f word. everything in the post is so spot on, so pertinent. thank you for writing it!

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

From Diane

When I was young I really liked American Girl magazine. It had some of those cute girly things, but they were much more age appropriate things like interesting ways to style your hair. They also had short story contests regularly, simple craft ideas. So these kind of magazines do exist, though you may have to look a bit harder for them.

Why my son wears pink, by Penni F

From Beki

I just read your article about your boy that wears pink… that was last August… does he still wear pink and have long blong curly hair? I am asking because my son is now 11 years old, he has almost waist length blond hair, it was curly until it got long, and his favorite color is pink, he wears TONS of pink cloths and mostly girls jeans and girls shirts because they are pink, and I get harrased about allowing him to do that. I have been told I should “Man him up” but he is the most gentle boy, he gives he hugs, and picks me flowers, and stills hugs me in front of his friends, and if somebody is hurt he will try to help them… he has been like this since he was very young, about 2 years old…

When I was reading your article, it was like I was writing it 9 years ago… it was amazing…

You are a great person to let your boy be himself…

Rape – is it our fault?, by Dwysan Edwards

From Nathan Curry

I think it’s a good article. I live in the US, and we don’t have any posters admonishing girls to act preventatively, and while I get what you’re saying about causing fear, I also think that young girls have to be apprised of reality. I will never rape anyone, but when approaching the

issue of rape, the people I have cooperation from would be the women, not the rapists.

As for preventing rape, I think there’s a lot to be said for actually working to empower men. I don’t think a rape often occurs that isn’t an act of frustrated anger. Also, I’ve gotten in arguments with feminists who have refused to acknowledge that the rapist was a child who is no longer expressing healthy sexuality. I see lots of positive messages encouraging women to love their sexuality, but in the US, we mutilate 50% of newborn males’ genitalia, convince them that only homosexuals have emotions or like having their nipples touched, and then tell them to grow the hell up.

Hell, men are conditioned to feel like dancing compromises their masculinity. Which means men aren’t allowed to express any joy with their bodies except sex, and if they’re unsuccessful in that regard, it’s an unhappy situation. And I know plenty of worthy men who are unable to meet women because of the social barriers that women put up to not have to deal

with too many assholes at one time. It’s a shame.

I just don’t think the way men are taught to view themselves and others is healthy, and most people refuse to acknowledge that it’s a problem. My question is that if children are turning in to rapists, should we try to help them? Or should we threaten and torture them some more? Most feminists I talk to seem to conclude the latter, which is a shame.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I fully agree that working to prevent rape, and prevent young boys from growing up into adult male rapists, and also men who condone and cannot recognise it when other men rape, is a major priority.

I think what you’ll find, though, is that feminists are not exactly keen on actual rapists, and sympathy towards men’s ‘issues’ only lasts so far – once a man has actually become a rapist, then, while I think it’s a bit much to say “most” feminists would advocate threatening or torture, you’re not going to find much sympathy. Women’s autonomy to go through life without fear of or experiencing sexual violence has to be the primary consideration.

The Great Big Glorious (Sexist) Book for Girls, a review by Paul Brown

From Emily Kate F

Wow! I was suprised to see that was by a guy. I agree completely! These gender-defining books are very stupid and sexist. Good job.

Under the Knife, by Michelle Wright

From Vicky

I discovered that my local radio station (‘Wild FM’ in the Netherlands) is running a breast enlargement competition in which listeners are invited to take a photo of themselves pouting at the camera and submit it to the competition. Other listeners then vote on which one of woman wins breast enlargement surgery worth around €4,000. This shocked me enough as a concept in itself. But the marketing language surrounding it made me even more angry: the competition is being run in collaboration with MediClinic, which I assume is the surgery, the description of which translated as ‘specilaists in breast enlargement and other corrections’. Corrections? Excuse me? Meanwhile, the advertising used a roleplay between two Dutch women discussing a trip to the beach in which they see lots of women with ‘beautiful big breasts’ and how much they want these themselves. The female radio presenter (who is usually reasonably sane and has her own opinions) was condoning this competition too, as though it was all perfectly acceptable. Granted, she is probably scripted by her (no-doubt male) producer, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’ve lived in Holland for 4 years now, and admired its largely independent open-minded views, but this proves the pervasive ingreasingly global acceptance of surgery as a way to ‘correct’ our bodies into a single stereotype.

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

From emily

I would just like to say thank you. It is so hard for me when my peers give me that “oh I’m so sorry” look when I tell them how long my boyfriend and I have been together and how we don’t intend to get married. Don’t feel sorry for me; I certainly don’t.

General comments

From Renata Britton

Just letting off steam as I have just seen the new advertisement for the launch of Guitar Hero 5 featuring Hugh Hefner (isn’t he dead yet!) and a brace of Playboy Bunnies. I attempted to contact Guitar Hero to voice my enthusiastic lack of support…. I was thinking of buying it for my sons, nephew and nieces under the impression they were encouraging girls to try it (I’m a real guitar player myself). How wrong was I! The ad caters to the lowest common denominator of the evidently still, phalocentric rock community. Rock Chicks are still not worth considering as a market. Alright then. My advice is: just learn how to play the real thing girls.

With massive thanks to Helen G, who has compiled and coded this month’s comments