Comments from February 2010

Comments on last month’s features and reviews

Bring the herstory of riot grrrl back into the present, by Heather McIntosh

From sianmarie

i remember when i first encountered riot grrl (a little late off the mark) at ladyfest in 2003. it had a massive effect on me, got me reading and listening and organising ladyfest next time it came to town.

these women are inspirations to me. i wish that riot grrl was everywhere! instead, i feel it has been a little bit co-opted and neutralised into a mainstream version of female singers who are seen as ‘credible’ but are still very much of the record label power. when kathleen and the grrls start the pounding beat of feminist sweepstakes, rollerskating in the disco, when karen O swoons over maps, when miss kittin bleeps and hums morosely, when the chicks laugh and sing in monotone, when missy elliott punches back a line – it all makes me feel like women have the ability to do something amazing and powerful and that we have this massive, rich and fascinating culture. that is drowned out by the sounds of men in the music biz and the dominance of men on gig listings. riot grrl was like a sanctuary in that respect for me, as are the amazing women musicians I listen to, respect and love.

From debi

While I welcome Heather McIntosh’s desire the re-invigorate the memory of riot grrrl and its potential to mobilise personal and collective feminism, her article is also a missed opportunity to engage with the British legacies of the movement, as well as some of the wider histories of self-organised music-making that sprang from the Women’s Liberation Movement.

A common narrative associated with riot grrrl is that what Hanna at al was doing was new, particularly in terms of their anti-capitalism, their adoption of DIY ethics and uncompromising attitude to self-representation (seen through the production of zines). As with many things, nothing is ever really new. The women involved in making music within the UK WLM in the late 1970s, for example, were fiercely anti-capitalist and saw the only way that women would be empowered within culture was if they created their own networks and communities away from the male-dominated, capitalist mainstream. They even saw female punk acts – who often were signed to mainstream labels (The Slits were signed to Island records, for example) – as selling out.

Consider this statement, which can be found in the back of the Sisters in Song songbook: ‘We are firmly against feminist music being taken up by the music industry and being commercialised in any way. We are involved in taking control over our own music, which means not only playing and singing, but also gaining knowledge about instruments, equipment, sound engineering and recording – usually a male domain, and having control over distribution of our music, etc.’ Such words may just as well be lifted straight from the riot grrrl manifesto circulating in Olympia in the early 90s.

As with many articles on riot grrrl, Heather failed to directly engage with the histories of British riot grrrl, yet this is not really her fault since these histories are yet to be written. Just because they are not readily available we shouldn’t assume they didn’t happen because they did.

To bring it more up to date, where was the mention of Ladyfests in her article, which is surely an important part of the legacy of riot grrrl? In the UK, as well as throughout the world in the noughties, many ladyfests took place. These festivals supported the ‘small and inclusive communities [that] have always been integral to the workings and the successes of underground music scenes’ that the author sees as necessary now. Not that these scenes were inclusive either, being often white dominated, but they did exist. On top of this were (and still are) collectives working in cities organising queer/ grrrl positive shows which further sustained the possibility of stages for women and queer artists to get up and strut their stuff.

Again, I agree with McIntosh’s call to arms approach in her article, but please do not erase what has taken place and continue to take place in the realm of feminist, queer and DIY music. Admittedly, researching DIY feminist and queer scenes is difficult because of their underground nature. Because these scenes exist outside of mainstream capital – and to a certain extent with their own economic cultures themselves – they are not visible to many people, and they certainly are the first thing to be passed over when we write history and try to tell people what happened – and what we need to do now.

Riot grrrl has an important history in the UK and it is important to acknowledge its legacy and how it has created communities that have survived across time – despite being very fragile and ephemeral in nature. Riot grrrl in the UK did not begin and end with Huggy Bear as I heard a man say on Ruth Barnes’ The Other Woman Radio Show on Resonance FM last week. That was the one time it gained mainstream currency, yes, but after that it went underground and it is there we must continue to look if we are to reclaim the power of its legacy, and take it seriously now.

The author also spelt Red Chidgey’s name wrong!

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Oops, apologies to Red Chidgey – her name is now spelt correctly

From maggie o’

This article is so important to me. Ive been gigging playing live in the male dominated music business for 15 years. Its unreal the completely sexist behaviour I have had to endure through my travels. Like how its ok for a man to shout at a sound engineer about their sound but when I do it or another woman we become known as a bitch, and get labled as the hard one to work with in future gigs. Throughout my career Ive always tried to work with other female musicians within my band line up but time after time it is male upon male turning up to play drums or bass for me. I am passionate about music and women in music and riot grrl is my babckbone. I just wonder sometimes where all this thinking, mindset and hard work in the 1990’s has gone. I find it so hard to find other female musicians, where are they all? Im sick of the stage i share always being male dominated. There is so much yet to change where women and the music industry are concerned.

Hello Kitty Must Die, a review by Kaite Welsh

From Aimee

I’ve pre ordered this already and I cannot WAIT to read it!

The Fossil Hunter, a review by Kaite Welsh

From Susan Brown

I have a book that I’ve had for years called “Mary Anning’s Treasures”. So this isn’t the first book of it’s kind.

From Natasha

Thanks so much for the review of ‘The Fossil Girl’ – I had no idea this book was available until the review caught my attention! I mentor three young girls as part of a community outreach programme through my work, and as part of this I took two of them to the Natural History Museum. As we walked through near the dinosaurs and the halls lined with the fossils discovered by Mary Anning, one of them immediately became really animated and told me all about how she’d learnt about Mary Anning in school and how she was inspirational for her time. I like to think of myself as fairly well read but I’d heard nothing about Mary Anning. The book sounds like a fascinating look into the life of someone who should be better known – thank you for the wonderful review!

Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, a review by Melanie Newman

From A J

While I don’t necessarily agree with every you say, this was a

tremendously well-written, thought-provoking and nuanced review article, Melanie.

(I’m not sure if it makes me want to read the book though, but that’s only because I now can’t help but think that the work might have been a rather more interesting and enlightening tome had you written it rather than Natasha Walter!)

From Mobot

I’m (cautiously) interested to read Living Dolls… the review highlights some pretty gaping inconsistencies within its author’s stance, particularly on women’s sexual behaviours. I suppose this area will always be fraught with contradiction and dilemmas for many people – if we assume that there are about as many ways to express sexuality as there are people, it becomes difficult to state a case that has relevance across the board. The issue of ‘promiscuity’ (I hate that word!) for example, is a thorny one. While I don’t believe there’s a moral dimension to how many people a consenting adult chooses to have sexual relationships with, I do think that much of what appears to be liberated behaviour to many young women is often informed by pressure to behave in particular ways… I only mention this because I think it demonstrates how complex these issues are, rather than out of some kind of disapproval towards other women’s behaviour (which I feel would be kind of anti-feminist). It feels like the author of Living Dolls hasn’t figured out her own stance too successfully, but I’ll need to read it to find out for sure.

Oh and with all due respect, I don’t think that the absence of quantitative data invalidates the interviews she carries out… I’m not by any means trying to validate her work, but just want to point out that most feminist social researchers would agree on the importance of qualitative data (the personal is political and all that!)

Feminism and fat, by Helen Dring

From Lianne

Having not read Orbach, I found this really profound:

“…that thinness can be seen as a way of fading away, of fitting in, of conforming to the pattern that someone else has defined for you. Fatness is a way of rebelling against that, and exercising the right to stand out from the crowd.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about body size, image, and health in relation to social norms, and this has added another fresh dimension to my opinion. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

From Maguire

This article was rather helpful just now in allowing me to put some aspects of society, and my relation to it, into perspective. Thank you.

Slim is everything isn’t it? At least according to the world at large right now. In the US I would even dare to say that the ideal image of thin goes above and beyond, where we are all expected to be practically anorexic in order to be found attractive and strong. Well unhealthy is not my idea of strong, but there is so much stock in superficiality that is continually propagated by the media and fashion industries. It is hard not to place or hold against yourself these very same societal standards, when you are fed them day in and out.

Off topic there is an wonderful interview series you might enjoy of professional women in online journalism.

The interviews were conducted by the University of Iowa, Fall 2009, Gender and Mass Media class and genuinely offers some insight and perspective into the future of online journalism and women in the field.

From Katie Jane

About 2 years ago, my husband died, and the physical manifestation of my grief was a complete loss of appetite (for food at least, my appetite for wine and cigarettes increased proportionately). I lost a stone and a dress size and my trousers started to fall down. Like you, I hated this, as I no longer felt like myself, and the weight loss had been caused by something outside of my control. I resented other women’s comments such as ‘you look really well, really slim’, as I felt so flippin awful.

I still haven’t put on much weight, and unfortunately seem to have developed a peculiar need to stay thin as, since this all happened after during a period of emotional upheaval, I now associate it with being looked after. Not healthy!

Thanks for your article, it was good to hear I’m not the only one who’d rather be a bit fatter.

From maz

Having just read Helen Dring’s article regarding “fat is a feminist issue” and how her weight loss mader her understand this.

I would just like to say it was so refreshing to read something like this, when at the moment we seem surrounded by diets and ideals of thinness.

a few years ago I was curvy, in all the right places, I was confident, bubbly and proud. I met my boyfriend and after about a year of being together I found myself “fearing fat” as written by Helen ” Thin women, however, can fear becoming fat because they fear being a failure, or preserve their thinness” After a year of dieting I became severly anorexic, to the point where it nearlly killed me, I had a year in hospital and a year or so after that recovering but still have some issues now. I had never aimed to get that thin, i just wanted to look like all these perfect women in order to always feel desired and protected from the worries that my boyfriend might stray. The thinner I got the mpre protected I felt, until I started to become invisible too, I still looked at all these women in the magazines, but i didnt look glamorous, i wasnt attractive and nobody complimented me anymore. I looked really ill.. but i didnt stop striving because I knew i didnt look like these attractive women on the magazines and tv, I certainly didnt feel glamorous, but i felt too scared of fat to stop dieting. The power media had on me was huge and i am sure its the same for many others, men aswell as women, even moreso now. Creating what seems a social ideal makes people feel they have to subscribe to it to feel any sense of worth.

I feel so strongly that the media has to be changed, just recently I came accross an article in the telegraph, with a photograph of a blatantly underweight model (only she had slightly bigger boobs than normal) reading “curves are back” within this article were comments such as “she looks slim, theres no denying that” followed later by “she looks refreshingly healthy in comparrison to size zero models” (in my oppinion, and the oppinion of many i have asked she doesnt look far off size zero at all and is clearly underweight.

This rages me, it is again telling girls and women that this is healthy, that diet is attractive and powerfull and confidence boosting, that we have to not just be a healthy weight but actually, in order to truly be desired, look like this (a very thin woman) whilst telling readers this is what it looks like to be curvy ( imagine all those women who are larger than her reading this thinking wow, if thats curvy then i must really be overweight!) These women have a choice, some may not let it bother them, but others will feel pressure to diet and deny themselves health and happiness, and others may feel low on confidence, self esteem and worht because they dont fit this image.

What we should be promoting is health and mental happiness, I wish more could be done to govern how newspapers and other media are portraying these unhealthy ideals.

Well done Helen, but lets do more.

From Saskia Papadakis

I lost a lot of weight this past year due to lingering illness, and I felt furious every time someone congratulated me on dropping those pounds, as though the fact that I had been too sick to eat was something to be applauded, as though the horrible effects of the illness were somehow made worth it because I looked thinner. Thank you for writing this article – it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who thinks that what matters is not that I conform, but whether or not I am comfortable in my own skin.

From Ruth Moss

Your experiences as a thin woman really do shed light on the whole idea of fat and size acceptance, and thanks for taking the time to write and share your experiences in this way.

I’m a fat woman and only this just gone year have I started to accept that I am fat, and now I’m working on actually seeing it as part of my identity, and that I can be fat *and* fairly femme.

For me, stopping dieting, throwing away the scales and wearing the right size of clothing was pretty liberating (although I guess I didn’t tie it into feminism so much).

Again, thanks for writing this (and also, nice to see another Liverpool girl writing)!

From Suzanne

I always think it’s funny when people use Marilyn Monroe as an example of a famous, sexy, “average” celebrity. Yes, she wore a size 14…but it was a size 14 in the 50’s. Sizing has changed *dramatically* since then. I looked up her measurements (37-23-36) which is about what I am (except her waist was a few inches smaller) and I wear a size 4-6 in modern clothing. Reversly, when I make a clothing item from a pattern I fit a size 12-14. Just because Marilyn wore a size 14 does not mean she’s the same size as women who wear 14’s today.

From Melody

thank you. i viewed this in the opposite way you did. i was a thin, waiflike (perfect) young girl at 16. a dancer an actress and weighing a whopping 110lbs on a 5’3″ frame. i prided myself on my thinness. then i had a knee replacement due to injury. i gained over 100lbs since then. most of it gained due to limited mobility post-op. i noticed the insane shift in attention i received. and even heard a lot of “well if you work, you’ll get back to when you were better” (not healthier… better.) now i am a proud curvy girl and sort of resent myself for fighting so hard to keep that tiny frame when even then i knew it didn’t define who i was.

From Marielle

Hi, I have commented on this article already but in todays newspaper something again struck me.

A size 6 model, weighing around 7 stone was sacked because she refused to lose more weight, she was told by a modelling agency (possibly more than one) that she was too fat and was not wanted.

This as the article states, is after another model recently died of anorexia-associated heart failure during a fashion show for New York’s fashion week, her sister also died of anorexia related problems six months later, she was also a model. This article was in the telegraph and was a fairly small piece, i am aware it is disturbing but if attitudes are going to change then this sort of story needs to be given front page coverage, it is shocking. I know I may be more sensitive than others, having gone through an eating disorder myslef, however I would be very suprised if others didn’t feel strongly about such an issue.

If you have any advice for me, on how I could tackle this firther in some way, please let me know. I really want to get more involved in feminist issues such as this but just dont know where to start.

Thnaks for taking the time to read this.

From Anonymous

Interesting article by Helen Dring about her weight loss and what changed as a result of it in her own feminist views/attitudes and other people’s reactions.

I have a similar story of unintended weight loss but, unlike Helen, I still have so much stress and other issues that trouble me, that I don’t think of what it means to me in terms of self-image or my feminist views. I have never been curvy, but rather slender and boyish, so there wasn’t that much of me in the first place anyway and then last year as a result of marital problems I lost about 5-6kg. My BMI is now around 17,6 and most my usual size 8 clothes hang off me. In my case the reaction from others is not compliments but, understandingly, concern. Recently I even stopped exercising on a treadmill at my gym as not to lose more weight and I can only go there for a swim – I need some form exersice for sanity’s sake. I tried to cheer myself up by seeing this slenderness as an advantage and bought a shorter skirt (well, the only one I can wear now as old ones are too baggy at the waistline). But it also cannot escape me that such slenderness is a result of something so unhealthy, brutal and unwholesome, that it is associated with stress and much mental pain – so, obviously, there is nothing to celebrate. I’d trade it back for untroubled happy years even if it means having some cellulite as I did then! It is still a surprise for me to brush occasionally past my protruding hip bones or notice sharp knees, to be able to see the ribcage and virtually no bum, but there is no spesific feminist significance of my changed body shape to me, only a reminder of what I have been through mentally and physically. I don’t feel any more beautiful because I am more like those waifs in the mags, I either don’t feel particularly shocked at this visual change either – because last year’s sleepless nights, no appetite, constant worries and obsessive thoughts loom much larger in my mind than what it brought upon my appearance. I still think sometimes that happiness is just being able to walk on a street without crying or being able to brush my teeth without retching brought by nerves.

Much bigger challenge for me as a feminist in all this story is not what happened to my body, but the feeling that I wasn’t a strong woman, who could cope with the situation, and the deep sense, on the countrary, of being humbled down by it, seeing my weakness and lots of scary truths about myself. It all sounds week and rather damsel-in-distress kind of way, not something you’d profess on a a feminist site but I have decided not to beat myself up for this lack of personal strenght and feistiness because if I do, I’d sink even deeper. I’ve decided to be kinder to myself in this situation and eat more cakes :) and somehow, sooner or later, I’ll get through.

Comments on older features and reviews

The professional masquerade, by Amica Lane

From Sianmarie

wow, that is just awful! i am lucky – i work in ‘creative’ where no one cares what i wear and if i have make up on or not. but to be so explicit as to say ‘sexy not slutty’ – i mean, what the hell are you there for? And curls looking unprofessional? curls are just curls!

people wonder why these inequalities in the workplace are so pronounced, I think this pretty much sums it up…

From Charlotte Revely

Depressing that this is still so blatantly true (although love your response to being the face of the sector). There is another hidden element here which is the cost of maintaining this level of grooming, not only are women paid less but are also expected to spend more on make-up, hair, clothes, accessories etc. This is money which could be used for pension provision or simply investing in a better life now. I generally play by the basic rules of clean and smart (although the public sector is much more flexible and forgiving of these rules in any case) but beyond that I refuse to co-operate. I have better things to do with my time and money than spend it in salons and department stores. That said I almost certainly wouldn’t have survived investment banking or PR as a career.

From Alex

Well said Amica. After 5 years of full-time work I’ve already grown to despise the over-use of the word ” professional ” especially when it’s turned into an adjective.

Best of luck with your future work.

From Nicola

Thanks so much for ‘The Professional Masquerade’. I have had endless discussions with colleagues about what is and is not appropriate work wear. My response? I’ll be myself, wear what makes me feel good and will expect that the job that I do and not the length of my skirt will ensure my professional success.

From Lilian

I’ve just read your article ‘Professional Masquerade’ and I must say the article goes slightly over the top. I’ve worked in the banking industry for the last 10 years and I simply do not believe an employee would be issued with a warning for not wearing make-up. I don’t buy that at all. Perhaps some advice was given regarding dress code and make-up may have been advised, but large companies are not stupid and they know how much trouble they would be in for giving someone an official warning for not wearing make-up.

To be honest I find that work dress codes are not stricter for women. If anything, I think they are stricter on men. Women can wear trousers, skirts, dresses, shirts, blouses, smart tops, different colours etc. Different types of shoes and they can have long or short hair. Men have a much limited choice. In the hot summer months, women can dress much lighter whereas men don’t always have this option.

With regards to hair, to be honest I think very curly hair is just generally perceived as a bit messier than straight hair. Most senior men that have very curly hair usually cut it very short so not as to have big curls sticking up from their heads and women who have very curly hair are aware of this; this issue of curly hair is more of a general appearance stereotype for business people than female specific. I have seen women getting away with murder in offices with what they wear, even very senior women. At the end of the day a company has every right to require their employees to look smart especially if they have very senior roles or are meeting clients. If a woman has very long or messy hair, then it’s not unreasonable to expect her to have tidier hair and this rules applies to men as well. In fact in most senior roles it is sometimes not even acceptable for men to have long hair. So the crux of it is, because it is acceptable for women to have long hair, then it it should also be acceptable for the woman to also have neat and tidy hair as this is expected of men also. I’m sure this rule also applies strictly to the few males who may have longer hair than usual.

I have never seen men complain about what women wear in the office. In fact if anything, it is usually women who are more concerned about dress codes and it is usually the senior female managers who tend to be more picky. So it’s not exactly fair to blame men here.

Where I work, women are not allowed to wear open toe shoes. But I don’t find this unreasonable since men don’t even have the option to wear such shoes.

There is sexism at work of course there is, but it’s not always the mens’ fault and like I said when it comes to sexism with dress codes, the men usually have a much more raw deal.

I have never seen any men coming to meetings in their tennis gear…….they have always looked very smart. If this person who wrote the article said that men came in wearing tennis gear to meetings, then it was probably an informal meeting where I am sure both sexes could have come dressed in their tennis gear. If the women chose not to and chose instead to look smarter, surely that was their choice and no one else’s.

As woman, I think most women actually dress well for the approval of other women rather than men. Men are competitive with each other in certain things. When it comes to dress, lot’s of women are competitive with each other. Not in a bad way, I just think a lot of women like to be admired by their fellow female colleagues with their choice of clothes, good taste and style. I like to look good at work and I certainly do not do it to impress the males in the office. In fact most men are probably not that concerned about what I’m wearing. If women are overly concerned about their appearance, then that is their choice and no-one else’s fault. In fact a lot of women think that men are more concerned with what women wear than they actually are.

I think women get a very fair deal in the workplace when it comes to dress code and they don’t always appreciate it. They often think that they should automatically be afforded much more choice just because they are women.

Le’s look at things in perspective here and not just from an extremely feminist point of view, which in my mind is very unrealistic.

Amica Lane, author of the article, replies

Whilst I applaud your choice to assimilate gracefully into the status quo, and eschew those of us with the audacity to have curly (sorry, messy) hair, I would like to point out that your arguments are firmly rooted in the reasoning of ‘it is what it is’, but my argument is focused on questioning the rules that are already in play.

You agree with the sentiment that when it comes to professional image, it is obviously important to you that workers must fit in with the standard mould, but still, my point is why does it matter?

I’m glad that in your career, you did not meet the hurdles and criticism that I did, probably because you know how to play the game and blend in with the suited crowd. I did not. Was my work subpar? No. How I fulfilled my role was never in dispute, but my image was. Although you’ve never witnessed such discrimination in the workplace personally, I can assure you, just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean that it does not exist. And whilst people continue to put down such issues as ‘phantom feminazi phenomena’, the issues will never be resolved.

At no point in my article did I say that men were solely responsible for this system; a patriarchal ideology is more often than not enforced by women. I suggest you read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy for a greater insight into this phenomenon.

As a final note, after reading reader feedback from this article, it saddens me that out of all the positive feedback, the two responses that miss the point both come from an older generation who work in the banking industry. It only goes to show that these ridiculous notions are continually being enforced within banking without question. I hope more people do question these standards. Because equality is not ‘for everyone except those who look different’. It is for all.

From Caroline

I think your manager may be the most extreme dress conscious person in the entire corporate world. I work at a financial institution and have never seen such extreme views on dress code.

It’s not just the corporate world where men don’t take so much care with their appearance as women, it’s everywhere. So I don’t believe it’s sexist for a man not to have to be as well groomed in an office because he doesn’t have to act that way in any other walk of life.

At my office you just have to look smart and presentable. I know a few men who attract murmers of complaint when they’re unshaven, shirt unbuttoned, uncombed hair. Just as a woman does if she’s got a shirt skirt and knee high leather boots. In my office as long as you’re clean and ironed you are perfectly well respected.

I feel it’s more about knowing the situation you’re in rather than sexism. You wouldn’t wear a bikini to a funeral and you wouldn’t wear a mini skirt in an office. It sounds like your office is very different to mine!

A question of (sexism in) sport, by Natalie Davis

From Sue Lawrence

Thank you for your well researched article on how women are viewed in sports. I would like to take it a few steps further and suggest that minimal media coverage and sexualization of female athletes is political and examples of maintaining male viewpoints. In my PhD research on sport and dealing with trauma for adolescents, I came across a body of literature on sport and how it’s used politically. Sporting events like the Olympics or World Cups are used as vehicles for demonstrating national pride, uniting a country, making a statement etc. A recent movie, Invictus, was on how Nelson Mandela utilised the South African Rugby team to unite fractured South Africa. By winning the World Cup, they helped to unite their country.

However, very few of the articles I came across featured women’s sports and how they are used in this manner. Why I wondered? The answer may lie in how life is largely reflected from a male point of view (except for The F-Word of course) One author, Hans Bonde writes about how sports is the place where men can be men and dominate a space not occupied by women (Bonde 20091). Sport is a demonstration of masculinity. When sport is used as a platform for a political message, it is male thoughts/values coming through a vehicle which is also male orientated. Politics is male dominated, the value system imbedded in politics is male dominated and sport is imbedded with male values as well. So its no wonder female sports are not used as vehicles and that when woman are the focal point of sport, it is often from a sexual standpoint.

Natalie, lets promote female athletes on woman’s terms, with their clothes on. It may be the only way to counteract the present view. The Olympics is regularly hijacked for political purposes most recently for China’s human right’s abuses. Perhaps the London 2010 can be hijacked for women’s purposes?

1. Bonde, Hans (2009) ‘The Great Male Cycle: Sport, Politics and European Masculinity Today’, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 26:10, 1540-1554

From Florence

I love tennis, but women’s coverage (that’s ‘women’s tennis’ not just ‘tennis’) drives me crazy. The excuse for an up-the-skirt-shot, the fact that they are called Miss or Mrs Williams, Sharapova, Davenport etc, because the marital status affects their playing ability, that they are relegated to the back courts when the men are playing on the centre, and the creepy comments of commentators (‘I don’t know how you pronounce her name, I just call her hot’).

Also when the men’s end of year tournament is advertised it is a battle, with exciting clips of tennis matches, when the womens end of year tournamant is advertised its Maria Sharapova walking in a park in a pretty pink dress.

On sisterhood, by Katie Sutton

From Johanna G

On the topic of prostitution – I highly recommend you read Victor Malarek’s book entitled: “The Johns – sex for sale and the men who buy it.” He offers a magnificent insider’s look. As for my personal view, I believe that if female sexuality is ever going to be on par with male sexuality, we need to work towards getting rid of the Madonna/Whore complex. And the institution of prostitution stands in the way of achieving this goal. Also, I have researched this and related topics over the past year and have written some essays that I’ve posted on a blog that’s predominantly read by males. Following is the latest one “Pornography for women”

Finally, please feel free to edit my comment since English is not my mother tongue.

From Paula Wright

it’s curious. Can one be a feminist and not a radical left winger? What is the attraction between the two. Capitalism is female liberations enabler.

Moving towards solidarity, by Laurie Penny

From Olivia Singer

I just wanted to congratulate Laurie Penny (and of course The F Word) for the wonderful article that elegantly articulated how those who call themselves feminists should be ashamed to engage with transphobic argument. Without sounding preachy, polemic or anti-cis, the article explored what I feel should be glaringly obvious to Greer, Bindel etc but clearly is not. All I can hope is that journalism like Ms Pennie’s continues to proliferate and inspire a new generation of feminists who will be less blinkered and prejudiced in their goals of equality and liberty than some second-wave feminists have proven to be.

A streamlined new me, by Laura Thomas

From Poppy

I couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything you said. I’m hardly ‘abnormal’ -as in most people I know have the same attitude as me: I will shave/hair remove sometimes, but will happily go swimming/wear a skirt or tank top when I’ve not shaved for a couple of weeks. To be honest no one even really notices. Similarly, sometimes I blowdry my head hair and put on shining serum etc, but sometimes I don’t.

This show really was about women with really obsessive attitudes or serious confidence issues, not about hairy women in general.

Anyway, great article!

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

From Annie

My whole life, I have been compressing my breasts with sports bras and tape to make them appear flat. I don’t know why, but my biggest fear in life is to have big breasts.

My breasts are 30e. I just went in for a bra fitting today and started bawling in the changerooms. The women fitting me thought telling me I had “enormous” breasts would make me feel good. I have never cried so hard in my life.

I call in sick to work and skip school if I feel my breasts look too big.

I am terrified that they will never shrink. I am in denial that these are the breasts I have.

I hate them. I want them gone. They are too big for my body.

I just turned 20, and I hope in the next few years I will be able to come to accept them as you have, Samara. Thank you for writing this. I feel like you wrote it for me.

From melissa

Thank you so much for writing that article.

I am a size 10DD. And up until year 10 in highschool i was a size 10A.. I was always in the background, but i liked it that way, because the only boys that noticed me were the ones who bothered to get to know me.

Nowadays, i’ll sit on a train and people will stalk me. I have boys screaming “Show us your tits”. And whenever i’m out in the city at night.

There will be at least one boy that tries to grope me.

My friends are mainly of asian descent, and are blessed with flat chests. They envy me and say i should be happy and they dont feel empathetic at all. But i really really hate it.

I didnt work at all these holidays, i stayed at home and exercised 8 hours a day, in the hope i would lose breast fat the natural way before i went back to university.. I lost nothing, but my waist size went from 27 inches to 24.

I know look even curvier and i think surgery is the only option.

I completely understand how you feel and i thank you so much for writing that article.

Its the most disgusting feeling knowing that boys only talk to you for your breasts. Personality is the last thing they are interested once they see curves and it upsets me greatly.

Praying that you will find a man who looks past that, and protects you from other men who wont.

Not a happy birthday, by Amity Reed

From Mary K.

A very insightful article.

Now I see why I didn’t want to have any more hospital births.

Back then I did not see any other options.

Thankfully, now there are.

From Krista

Your article on birth rape was really, really well written. I wish more could see it and understand what it feels like to be helpless during such a fragile time.

From Salem Hamilton

Wonderful article on Birth Rape, that I ran across on Facebook. As we learn more and more what is involved in this crucial time of human development during pregnancy and the birth experience, I feel that this issue is not only one of the greatest womens rights issues, but quite possibly one of the greatest human rights issues that we face today. Thank you for bringing more awareness to women that we must take the power back in the births of our babies – if we do – I believe that it will give us the much needed strength to take back our power on a larger scale and is crucial to creating a peaceful future. Thank you.

From susan

even though i practice illegally i will continue to do so. this is just the reason why i support women who give birth how they choose..

From bec stennett

Thank you for writing this article. I had a very traumatic 1st birth.

With a vacuum extraction, epiosomity & 20 stitches, my baby was born dead with the cord around her neck, she was revived, & as a result. I had NO maternal feelings. & suffered P.N.D, then was sent to a psychologist. Who told me that I SHOULD have loved & enjoyed this Trumatic Birth. My daughter is 17yrs old now. & I am still affected by her trumatic birth. even after counselling. Yes counselling works, But I still cringe, when I watch births on FOXTEL.

Why men should care about gender stereotypes, by Alex Gibson

From Ali

How utterly refreshing.

From dave

i would say that my professional progress has been hampered because i am a man. i work in social care and quite frankly most new jobs that become available go to women. My superiors are very open that they employ new employees based on personality and that means another woman they can talk to. the whole organisation is rife with them, chatting, rude, bullying women. they have their group clique and protect it aggressively.

I did it my way, by Emma Hadfield

From Xav

new to this website and stumbled upon your article. Thank you for putting so elocantly what has been on my mind for years. It is a recomfort to know that I am not the only “abnormal” women by society standard. thank you

Female commentator kicks off barrage of sexism, by Katherine

From michael

What a load of bollocks – Women should be allowed to comment on Womens sports nothing wrong with that, just leave ‘Blokie’ type sport to blokes that’s all, then we will all be happy ok. :-0)

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Yes, because total sex segregation of sports commentary is the answer. Oh, wait. Maybe you just need to deal with your weird aversion to hearing and seeing women talk instead?

What’s a ‘Blokie’ type sport?! Of course, you’ve probably been casting your eyes to the ground at the sight of women all this time, so you don’t realise, but actually women and men generally play the same type of sports.

Oh, Mr Darcy!, by Sheryl Plant

From Elizabeth Cole

In response to the article, I believe that the literary Mr. Darcy displays nothing of brutality or violence, only arrogance and pride. In the beginning he didn’t have anything to do with Elizabeth Bennett, and didn’t think her even tolerably attractive. The article portrays him as lustful and violent, when really, he does not give a second thought of Elizabeth until he observes her character. The reason he is interested in her is completely due to her pluckiness and vivacity, not because of her vulnerability or attractiveness. In fact, when Elizabeth lashes out at him

in the parsonage for destroying the happiness of her sister and Mr. Wickham he changes the way he acts almost immediately. When she and her relatives visit Pemberley, he has changed his tune entirely, and is perfectly kind and genteel; and it’s all to win the heart of Elizabeth. Based on this interpretation of the novel, you’d find nothing of what you described Mr. Darcy to be, (except the dark physiognomy and brooding behavior) that would be more along the lines of an Edward Rochester from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. A better example of violent attraction from Pride and Prejudice would be George Wickham. Elizabeth is attracted to him initially until she learns from Mr. Darcy of how he jilted Georgiana Darcy when she was only fifteen. He had planned to elope with her and steal her fortune. He ends up with Lydia Bennett. He takes advantage of her silliness and vulnerability, and essentially ruins her life forever. I’ll reread the book to attempt to find the stronger arguement of the two, and I hope you will as well. It’s a good habit to be aware of multiple opinions, I wish that you’d give mine consideration.

Re-classifying rape, by Ilona Jasiewicz

From chloe young

I was raped and it definately should be classified as a hate crime. I was raped because I am a lesbian. If that isn’t a hate crime what is? However I have yet to find much info on it in regards to this

Taboo For Who?, by Kate Allen

From Janna Graves

Being called a cunt is in my opinion said by a man with no respect for a woman. It shows a lack of class, a disrespect toward women and is an attempt to be abusive.

Body image, by Raine Stretford

From A.Yates

I am exceedingly grateful to have finally found an article that sums up everything i have experienced in the past 6 months. I was introduced to the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy. One poem in particular has always stuck in my mind, especially the line “she starved on, stayed in, stared in,/ the mirror, svelter, slimmer”. I think it adequately summarises the pressures on women to be slim and “aesthtically pleasing”. I am currently at boarding school and our upper sixth house is mixed. Naturally a lot of t.v. is watched and the popular choice is music channels. Music channels increasingly depict women as sex objects. Sitting in a room full of drooling boys is both demoralising and degrading. The girls in the house, myself included, feel increasingly under pressure to look attractive and thin. Much pressure has been put on heterosexual relationships within the house, whereby girls feel inadequate as their boyfriend’s attention is frequently diverted away from them and directed towards the t.v. screen. I often argue with many of the boys about the portrayal of women and i am simply laughed at. The quesition is ask myself, however, is why do i not have the support of the rest of the girls in the house. They too feel the pressure from the media and from the boys. I am not asking every female to be a feminist, but i do believe that young women especially, need to retain self-respect and fight the aesthetic prejudices we are subjected to in everyday life .

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

From Helen

Hi Clare –

just a bit of a warning, Biddulph’s one of those people who evidently have some kind of web crawler for stuff mentioning his name, because I published a blog post way back when and he WHOOSHED in in about a day or so (as I recall, but may be a bit out there.) And I don’t think he would be a regular reader. Just a bit of a heads up in case this happens to you. Since you’re studying to be a barrister, I expect you can debate him better than I could in comments!

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, a review by Bellavita

From Jessie

I just wanted to say thank you for posting this article. Last night I watched a programme similar to the one you mentioned in which they said that the woman’s labia was slightly abnormal. I was watching the show with hopes that it could reassure me that I didn’t look so different, but instead it made me feel like I was abnormal and I have been thinking up ways that I can get £3000 for a labiaplasty ever since and it has been making me feel down all day. The link to the website you posted me has really helped me to see that infact, I am NOT that abnormal and shouldn’t be made to feel so.


From Allan

I have been very happily married to the same woman for almost twenty years and I would definitely not want her to receive labiaplasty. A woman’s inner labia are absolutely beautiful- visually and sexually. The spreading of the inner labia resembles a beautiful orchid, especially when engorged during foreplay. Why anyone would want to cut off such beauty is incomprehensible to me.

The Incredibles, a review by Ms Razorblade

From Elmo

I hate to be pedantic/a nuisance/just plain sad but this is a safe space so im going to do it anyway: please can you not equate “Ginger” with “bad”. I could write a whole essay (maybe one day i will) on how the sad/ugly/slutty/weird/geeky/naff/undesirable/evil characters in films usually have red hair, but i’ll just leave it with saying that listing ginger hair with the rest of a characters unattracive features is another (of many) nails in the coffin lid of my self esteem. I know that seems extreme, and dont worry, everyone does it, but I thought it was time I commented on this trend. And its not like it was you who actually gave the character red hair.

Besides that, great article, the film was on again at christmas, and I noticed a lot of your points (particularly about Elastagirl) were so true :)

From CCX2005

Wow, that was amazing, I never even noticed most of the things you talked about in that article. Please keep this up! However, there is one mistake you made, when you said Mr. and Mrs. Incredible completely forget about Mirage who is unconscious. Actually, she is conscious, because she informs them before they leave that the children may have triggered the alarm.

Kill Bill, a review by Aideen Johnston

From louise

Just wanting to say i throughly enjoyed your article. I have been studying a similar topic to base my trailer i am created for my media studies alevel course and your article was very interesting!

Mooncup, a review by Ailsa

From Terri

I am so glad that people are talking about this product. It isn’t advertised at all, and you don’t find it in supermarkets.

I am a huge fan of the MoonCup or other branded menstrual cups. They are not only environmentally sound (you only need one, max two ever, and you aren’t flushing tampons into the sea or burning pads and depleting the ozone layer) but they are also cost effective and comfortable. You only need one, so the one-off cost of £20 is not so bad. How much do you spend on tampons and pads? If you need a second one after having a child or getting older, it’s still a small price to pay.

They’re comfortable and effective. if you have EXTREMELY heavy periods, then yeah, you’re gonna need to empty it more often. It only holds so much. But for the average person, it holds plenty.

The first day I used mine, I used a sanitary towel as well, just in case. I adjusted it for a few minutes, and then I went on an outdoor adventure obstacle course. It was strenous and I ran, jumped, climbed, abseiled, crawled, sat, stood, jumped, crouched and fell. Not once did I feel ANY discomfort at all. Not once was there a leak.

At the time, I didn’t have this confidence, as I hadn’t used it before, and ran straight to a bathroom after a few hours of activity. The sanitary towel was bone dry and clean. No leaks. I emptied the MoonCup and carried on.

It is the most comfortable, easiest thing in the world (once you have the hang of it, initially). You will need either hand-washing facilities or wet-wipes after emptying it, but to be honest, you should really be washing your hands when using tampons.

It can be a little awkward at first but it took me mere minutes to master, and the worst reviews I have seen online say it took one menstrual cycle to master. One cycle, then you’re set for life.

It’s easy to clean too!

The Vagina Monologues, a review by Catherine Redfern

From Tasaffy

Wow! I simply loved how brilliantly you wrote about the play. I am organizing it for the first time in Dhaka this year, and it’s been kind of disappointing reading all the different critics and responses to the play from around the world…but this article of yours was just fabulous and totally encouraging! I think it is what I have always heard both men and women friends of mine say about it, and you just caught it perfectly. Perfect! :)))

General comments

From Carolynn O’Donnell

Dear F-Word Podcasters: lovely podcast on pornography. I thought the discussion was very diverse and included many well-developed feminist perspectives. I really appreciate that you all know what you’re talking about! When are more podcasts coming out?

Your fan in the U.S.,

Carolynn O’Donnell

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Unfortunately, the podcasts take a long time to organise and edit, and at the moment it’s not really possible to make another one happen. Maybe one day!