Comments from November 2009

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Bright Star and women in film, a review by Jess McCabe

From Benjamin Jackson

I found your article on female filmmakers and the film Bright Star in particular very interesting. I loved Bright Star. I found it had a very moving, subdued beauty and loved the performance of Abbie Cornish.

I wanted to comment on the figures the article gave regarding the small number of women working in Hollywood. These numbers, while startling, are unfortunately not surprising. To add to this, according to the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (, at least 70% of all film reviews are written by men. I thought that figure might be of interest. Thanks for your


From Laura Thomas

I found this article very interesting, particularly the reference to Bechdel’s test, which will prove useful for my study of women in cinema at university. While it would be great to see more action/horror/thriller female directors, its great that you highlight how women in the film

history are able to put a new stance on traditionalist period dramas.

Gender and sentencing, by Rachel Thwaites

From Jo

In response to the article on gender biased justice system, I totally agreee with the author. Many years ago I thought the same, particularly about the moors murderers. I rememeber thinking, why do they vilify Hindley more than Brady? Personally, I would have gladly eradicated both of them, however, it did raise the question of female violence. There is a definate acceptance that men can be violent, as the author states little more than animals. Mind you, looking at the atrocities that some of them get away with, women do have to wonder??? I abhor violence in all its forms, it takes a certain level of intelligence, enlightenment and education to understand these concepts within society. Unfortunately, most of the population (female and male), either are to lazy or not interested to care. A long way to go to change global attitudes, but im with you xx

From gadgetgal

Gender and Sentencing – Brilliantly put and a subject that has fascinated and disturbed me for many years. I didn’t watch that particular episode of Question Time you referred to but they seem to go a little “hoorah, let’s

jump on the bandwagon” when a popular topic of discussion comes up, which made me go off watching it regularly a while ago – I got a bit angry at the lack of balance and the leading questions.

I think I read a few years ago that women also tend to be sent to prison more often for lesser offences (like bad debts and tv licences) than men as well – not sure where I read it but I’m wondering if that’s still true as


From Charli

I found the article ineresting and well thought out over all but I was amazed that in such a detailed article only half of the gender and crime double standard was covered. That is that women over all are less likely to be sentenced (but as mentioned, if they are sentenced they often get harsher sentences). I feel that without this important part of the issue covered you cannot give a full response to the differences in the way males and females are treated in the justice system.

A streamlined new me, by Laura Thomas

From sarah

What a fascinating article. Thank you for sharing that with us, especially the reactions you got from other people. I don’t get this whole thing about long hair and only women are supposed to have it.

I get a bad reaction when I have short hair, and some people ask when I pass in the street if I’m a man or woman. Wish I could say it was just ignorant teenagers but it isn’t. Only men are “allowed” to have short hair, apparantly. I’m growing it out because I get less hassle with longer hair, and I’m tired of taking and fighting my corner every goddamn time.

From Elmo

I can really relate to this article, as i too have long red hair. I never quite had the courage to cut it all off, but there was a day when i stood for at least half an hour with the scissors in my hand, waiting for the nerve to do the deed. I had some incredibly hurtful comments hurled at me throughout childhood, and my teenage years (i’m still only seventeen) and they continue to this day. People don’t seem to realise how hurtful it is to continuesly make comments over and over again about someones appearance. People told me how ugly i was, how no one would ever fancy me, ever want to sleep with me, and to this day that makes me worried that i truly repulse people. That sounds melodramatic, but after years of people constanly telling me how gross they thought my hair was, it was hard to think any differently. Even friends say “i like your hair…but generally, i think gingers are ugly”. Verbally, the abuse has been appalling. Physically, i once has stones thrown at me- i would say that was as bad as it got.

I jut wanted to say that i know exactly how you feel, and people shouldn’t scorn redheads for being over reactive- most of them don’t realise that we are constantly, daily being attacked, verbally and physically (at least two people in Britain have been stabbed for “being ginger”). This bullying has really knocked my confidence as a person, as it did to you. So thats all i wanted to say, really, that your not alone, and that redheads are fucking sick of being made fun of. If people accept that its wrong to make fun of someones skin colour, why cant they realise its wrong to make fun of someone hair colour? Isn’t it all just melanin?

Sorry, this wasn’t much to do with the article topic, but i’m glad you have the courage to write about it. Thats all :)

From Karen

Hi Laura, thank you for sharing your experience with shaving your hair. I don’t know to this day why I hacked mine off because of the problems I was having at the time but it certainly had an effect on the way people treated me. Some part of me thinks that it was to make myself look aggressive or detach myself from perceived femininity as being female had always been bad for me. It has grown back now and I suppose I am ok with it (except the dull crap-brown colour, I dye it reddy) but was amazed when you were saying how much aggro just being given the gift of red hair was. I have found redheads to be some of the most attractive ladies and really cant understand the world’s problem with it. I am glad that you know the fair-weather fair-hair “friend” was the one with the problem. Thank you again.

From Irina

re: Laura Thomas’s experiment with shaivng her hair off. I wish she wrote more about others reaction rather than just one paragraph containging examples of some abuse from strangers. But in fact the article just repeats the usual “we are subjected to pressure/stereotypes of long-haired femininity” which is preaching to the converted. (Also i find a problem with expressions like “we were sat”, “we were stood”, it is a bit grating – by whom? didn’t you sit or stand somewhere yourself? But I shouldn’t criticise somebody’s language as i am a bloody foreigner myself).

A bit more substance to the article would be great. I fear causing an uproar but have to say, if some wretched Glamour or Marie Claire did the very same experiment (as they do occasionally, something along the line of “wearing a really short skirt all day and see who says what and how good old me feels”), the final piece would be more informative and interesting. Also, if the author supplied couple of photos of herself – with the mane and without – it would be a good illustration, since it is an article about visual appearance change, and a radical one.

Laura Thomas, author of the article, replies

Hello Irina,

I wrote this article as an account of a personal experience I had, so the reason that the reactions I noted are negative is because these were the people who had the most impact on me during that experience. I did have positive feedback at the time and afterwards, which I could have included. I chose not to explore in depth theory on the subject in the article as I mainly wished to write about how shaving my hair off made me feel on an emotional level. I hoped that readers would find it interesting to relate on a personal level with the writer, as opposed to being simply informed and educated.

From Lara

Haha I’m a regularly commentator on here but sad to say…

In a Holland & Barrett’s shop window I saw a before-and-after photo of a woman who apparently suffered the ordeal of having pale skin in summer. She looked mildly discontent in her before shot and, after the “amazing transformation” affected through tanning pills, she posed anew with marginally warmer skin tone and plastic grin.

The advert proudly read: “From pasty… to tasty”.

that is me!

Comments on older features and reviews

Mysteries of the Iconographies, a review by Kaite Welsh

From Sue Gilbert

Great to hear that Carolee Schneeman is still going strong, she’s been a feminist icon for decades so naturally she’s been deliberately overlooked as an artist. Far too in their faces for the male art establishment to cope with! well reported, Kaite.

Feminist or misogynist?, a review by Melanie Newman

From Stephen Thompson

I read with interest your article on Girl With Dragon Tattoo, which I am in the process of listening to. I have really enjoyed it so far but was interested on a different view of its characters as all reviews I have read have been full of praise and lacking in depth. Yours is the only one of interest that I have found.I don’t agree with everything you say but thank you for writing a thoughtful, intelligent piece.

I was wondering, just as a matter of interest, which crime authors do you enjoy? Who do you think gets under the skin of women (and men) well? I personally love Fred Vargas, if you have read her.

And I think Scott Turow has incredible insight into people. Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine is always fascinating.

From Dondi

Thank you for this article. I found the books hard to put down because of the fast paced plot but felt a bit sick and uneasy about it. Lisbet Salanader is a male fantasy cartoon. Her character is inconsistent with the real reactions of an introverted abused girl. She hates authority and abuse of power but presents her tender breasts for implants to a stranger.

No psychological logic there. I think Sieg Larssen was probably a charming mysogynist who had a self image as a good guy. Life imitates art. Eva Gabrielsson, his real life love, was, in the end, screwed.

Feminism and the vampire novel, by Caitlin Brown

From LMG

I enjoyed your article regarding sexism and vampire literature, however I would say that we should not study much enjoyed stories for hidden meanings and subtle references when there are obvious, disgusting and undiguisable crimes against feminism in our every day to day lives. Also, love can be an all consuming thing, not necessarily to do with the power of men but in finding a soulmate.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I think it’s really important to look at how our culture creates the environment that leads to violence against women and other issues. Also, studying and thinking about cultural media is important in its own right, and why not look at it with a feminist lense, the same as with other lenses of analysis? I’d also suggest reading the entry in Feminism 101 for a general response to the question “why are you talking about X when Y is so much more important”.

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

From Daniella Schefer

Hello, I just read your article. I’m a woman working in electrical engineering in Switzerland. I’m 37 years old, and back after an absence from the field. I think I am capable (otherwise I’d get out; I’m not a glutton for punishment); but sometimes, I feel like I am judged before I even start talking. Rather frustrating, but since I am so stubborn, I’ll not be leaving the field again anytime soon. Thanks for your article. I think lots of people (especially men) like to think that these issues don’t exist anymore.

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

From courtney love

britneys ather molested and raped her soi says jessica spears as he did the same to her , shes taken a polygraph too im shocked im the first to speak about this it makes me sick evernmy own daughter wont call herself a feminist and im just a crack whore for telling what i kn ow to be a fact, good good work, jenny did good work in stone too this sclictoretomy excuse moi consrvatorship shit is insane all is about money the pboc its one collectve of some very creepy lawyers and since feninism is dead lets let molesty dad in wtf> lynns a malignent narcisstic crazy woman and im like the sane one in marat sade sometimes im glad your around wo, man, courtney, find me on facebook courtney love cobain

From courtney love

unfirtunatly ior not i had to send her to the notw cos she wanted top het paid butr at lezst uts comnibg out , itd be sp much better if the guradian c overed this,

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

From Anne

I was lent Biddulph’s book when my son was born 2 years ago, and was put off from delving into it from the first couple of pages – your article confirms all my worst fears. I am trying to resist the onslaught of gender-stereotyping parenting (buying a pink cup is my latest attempt to rebel). Through their wide reaching bestsellers, I hold writers like Biddulph and John Gray (Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus) partly responsible for the sexism in our society, and for contributing to the endurance of miscommunication between men and women, rather than, as they claim, improving relationships!

Alright darlin’, by Selina Jervis

From Bela Hamid

Thank you for writing this article. My sister and I also have numerous stories of harassment like these and often wonder: what are we supposed to do about it?

These encounters often happen on public transport, waiting for buses, walking alone and so on. We’ve each tried different strategies for dealing with it, and these seem to be working to some degree.

I didn’t think that this was a common problem because it’s not one that gets talked about a lot, even amongst my girl friends…so I assumed that I was giving off some kind of vibe – of being easy prey.

It was interesting to read your account of this kind of behaviour.

I think that what we’ve experienced is just another example of a general

lack of manners in society.

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

From Malgosia

I loved this piece. It made me weepy at how awesome it was. When I had my first child, I was blindsided by the intensity of motherhood, and by breastfeeding in particular. At the time, I could find nothing about breastfeeding and feminism that I could agree with. There was never any other choice for me,

but it took me a couple of years to find language to express my conviction that breastfeeding was a radically feminist act, against all the messages I was hearing promoting liberation through bottle-feeding. Thank you for articulating this so powerfully.

From Sheila Stubbs

Excellent breastfeeding article! I love the way you identify the emotions one feels while breastfeeding and I love that you put your child’s needs first in a culture that tut-tuts at breastfeeding. I love that you show how breastfeeding is a feminist issue, in spite of the popular idea that women who take care of their own children are somehow unliberated.

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

From Evie

I am 7 years old and I love school. I totally agree with you.

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

From Frank Richards

A thousand thanks for your excellent proposal. I as well as (many, I hope) Wikipedia (WP) readers will appreciate it very much. You can see your article used throughout the “Double surname” subsection of the WP article “Matrilineality”, as the source reference. Your article was truly a godsend — without it I don’t think this subsection could have been included. Do you think your article will remain on the web for many more years? (Else, someone [I?] really should get it preserved on WP itself, but I don’t know how.) Again, my or our heartfelt compliments to you on your proposal and article!

I have made good use of your excellent proposal about matrilineal surname patrilineal surname = double surname.

A bride by any other name, by Eleanor Turner

From [name withheld by request]

I recently got married and I did take my husbands name. we talked about it beforehand as I did feel slightly as if I was ‘betraying’ my feminist principles. However, I hated my name, I had my fathers who is a registered sex offender, so you can see why I did not want his. I would have changed my name years ago to my mothers but my first name is the same as her

surname (what a family eh?) When my mother and her partner were thinking of getting married they decided that he would take her name. Basically I just think that its a very personal decision, and I just wish it was taken for very personal reasons rather than just tradition.

X-Men: The Last Stand, a review by Shelley Rees

From Ratul

This article overlooked sexism a bit too much, though I understand some of the contexts.

It is more important to get the facts to be logically correct. Wolverine had to be the one to kill Jean because he is the only one who could continuously regenerate, hence not get vaporized as he approached her. However at first I thought the same way as you – only he was allowed to approach her because he loved her.

Also, as much as I would have loved to believe it, I don’t think Scott was not Jean’s husband – but a boyfriend.

Deconstructing Masculinity, by Sheryl Plant

From Nick Adamson

Hey there. I just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and the main idea really resonates with me. As a man who tries to reinvent masculinity into something that isn’t aggressive, I find it amazing how much I have to reassure people that I’m not homosexual. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being homosexual, just about the assumption that heterosexual males have to act aggressive in order to retain their legitimacy. One (relatively small) criticism: I think your portrayal of hip hop needs a qualifier: you’re talking about corporate hip-hop, as far as I can tell. And, in that genre, your comments are generally true. But, they’re not true of hip-hop across the board, and I think it’s important to realize that hip-hop is a legitimate cultural expression and artform, one which is not monolithic. In other words, in the future perhaps you could try to limit your critique to the popularized hip-hop that (I think) you’re talking about, not hip-hop as a whole. Overall though, I think this is a well written and very important article, and I’ll be sharing it with people I know. Thanks! :)

Mooncup, a review by Ailsa

From Fabi

I have just received my Mooncup on the post and I can’t wait to try it! I love the idea of no supporting these big companies selling products that are damaging to both my body and nature.

‘Feminists are sexist’, by Catherine Redfern

From mtg2192

I understand what you are saying about equality, and I agree with the notion that people should not be limited by the “macho” stereotype. I am a man, and I have some interests that some people would consider more feminine. I am far from the stereotypical macho man, although I still do believe that I am physically stronger than most women due simply to size and muscular strength, and I also still believe that women’s bodies are meant for nurturing rather than physical labor (though both genders are equal in mind and in capabilities).

What makes me hate feminism, though, is not the attitude of the majority of feminists, but the attitude of some of feminism’s leaders, the people like Cyntia Heimel, who said “All men are not slimy warthogs. Some men are silly giraffes, some woebegone puppies, some insecure frogs. But if one is not careful, those slimy warthogs can ruin it for all the others.”

Or other such as this quote by Gloria Steinem: “If women are supposed to be less rational and more emotional at the beginning of our menstrual cycle when the female hormone is at its lowest level, then why isn’t it logical to say that, in those few days, women behave the most like the way men behave all month long?”

Believe me, I believe in gender equality. I just hate the feeling, much like you do, that somebody is trying to make something less accessible to me. When people make fun of men’s intelligence, I take it as a personal affront, which it is. When people make fun of women’s intelligence, I think it is wrong (though not as personal to me because I am not the one being insulted).

I believe in equal treatment – for equal work of course – but I do not believe that women are superior to men.

And this is what these men who you are talking about are saying. They’re just so angry they want to try and make you feel bad for it. I suppose the same way Gloria Steinem talks condescendingly about men.

From Dave Sadler

Hi, I read an article which was a response to some emails that a few men had sent in stating that feminism was sexist as it only represents women etc. I must admit that I was one of these men who had the same impression of sexism until I stumbled accross this article. I now realise that sexism and feminism do not go hand in hand, men and women are pretty much the same regardless of what adverts and media portray – men being over grown children etc, I no longer think that feminists only have negative things to say about men, and don’t stereotype all men. So I must apologise to feminists for being judging you all as sexist. It seems to me that a sexist cannot be a feminist, when a woman makes a sexist comment about a man she is insulting other women in a way, the same is true when a man makes a

sexist remark about a woman he is insulting other men too. I think I’ve started to waffle on a bit now and I’m probably not making any sense.

Anyway sorry once again and thanks for the article that has corrected me gone is the chip on my shoulder!


Thanks to Helen G who coded and compiled this month’s comments round-up!