Comments from January 2010

Comments on last month’s features and reviews

The professional masquerade, by Amica Lane

From Jo

Very interesting. So much WRONG with your workplace attitude to dresscode! How can they force you to wear make-up?!

I work in the NHS, and in my office generally even the top-level staff are fairly casual.

We’re OK so long as we don’t wear jeans / slogan tees / bikinis…in fact, generally speaking, I would say the men tend to be smarter than the women.

From G

Very interesting article. I worked in both finance and at a Big4

consultancy and make-up was nt at all part of my day in the US. Interesting that it is so different in the UK. (But I did wear skirt suits, business shirts or trouser suits every day, and trousers only became acceptable after about 1996).

From Kate

“Sexy, not slutty,” became the mantra. “Sexy enough for the men to feel happy, but not too sexy as so to intimidate the other women.”‘

Because it’s about keeping to your role, not actually being happy and getting too much attention – that’s not liked either!

I dress for comfort and feel i’m not playing the part; work my femininity, and suddenly I’m a threat or a slut. Interesting the angles our woman-hating society takes.

Great article.. I’m dreading going into the workplace. At university we have the same opportunities, we party as much as the guys, work as hard to get the same grades. We all go to lectures in hoodies, uggs and pjs. At work we come out of the bubble into a sexist environment from the pay, to the openly leering, offensive attitudes, down to the nail polish. Just not looking forward to it. Especially not getting into my fifties and still trying to look 20, like a lot of professional women. Just wish sometimes there was a solution that wasn’t either playing along and reducing yourself to a plastic crazy man-pleaser, or being a radical trailblazer – wish I didn’t have to live in a patriarchal system.

From Corporate Finance Woman

Interesting article. Maybe times are getting worse for junior women. I’ve been in corporate finance jobs with four different employers for the last twenty years, and a couple of secondments too, so a broad range of environments. I never had a single comment made about my clothing, make-up or appearance (apart from the usual female to female comment that something looked nice). Were you deliberately testing the boundaries a bit. You said you didn’t like school uniform. Some jobs have dress codes. I never saw a man or a woman in my environments dressing indiscreetly. The only incident I know where someone had to be spoken to was a junior man who wore white socks and brown trekker type shoes with business suits. He stood out. In my twenties and thirties, I wore black or blue suits and shirts. Yes boring. But I didn’t feel the need to express myself through clothing. I rather hoped I did that through the quality of my work. I’m senior now and I wear what the hell I like. I haven’t worn a suit for about 10 years. My shoes are flat. I have a selection of cardigans draped in the office and go to meetings wearing them. I would hate it if your article put off ambitious women from entering corporate finance. It didn’t suit you. But you found something you like. Corporate finance probably suits people who

think creatively but express themselves conventionally.

Amica Lane, author of the article, replies

Thanks for your reply but I believe you have missed the point of this article. From your description of your work attire, it is probably safe to assume that you never recieved a comment about your make-up/look because you uphold the standard prototype of what is expected from women in this environment.

I would not wish to deter anyone from entering corporate finance if they so wish, but are you suggesting that if someone does not fit this predetermined ‘conventional’ mould then they do not belong? This is exactly the mindspace that needs to change.

From geraldine biggerton

I really liked Amica Lane’s article on dress in the workplace. Men often think they are hard done by as they are expected to wear a shirt and probably a tie; they think women can wear what they like but the article showed this is far from true. It really is a minefield and I was glad Ms Lane picked up on the difficulties of pleasing both male and female colleagues.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I agree, but it is also true men face all sorts of policing of their masculinity when it comes to clothes, in the workplace and out.

Comments on older features and reviews

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

From soinbhe lally

excellent article on sexism in sport.

From Adam Jackson

A question that might be worth considering, especially from a feminist perspective, is why do we still have gender-based segregation in almost all sports? I can see that in something like boxing, there may be some justification for such a divide in terms of protecting the participants (in the same way that there are weight classifications), but in sports such as athletics, or tennis, there would seem to be very little reason why the sexes could not compete alongside each other. I can’t imagine I’d be the only one who love to see Venus Williams battle against Andy Murray, say!

I suppose the argument against this is that men would dominate, and women would be sidelined. Is this an argument we would accept in other fields, though? In any case, even if it might be true in some events, that does not necessarily argue for segregation – its been decades since a white sprinter won an Olympic medal in the 100m, but that has hardly brought about suggestions that we should (re)introduce racial segregation in sport.

By restricting women to a field of competitors that is limited by gender, it may actually be that their full potential is limited. They are led to set their sights at being, for example, ‘the fastest women’, rather than

being ‘the fastest human’. If women routinely trained with, and competed against men, perhaps from an early age, who is to say that that they would not develop to a higher standard than they do now. In any case, even if it meant success was rather rarer, it would surely be of greater value and impact too – a women who won Wimbledon, beating men as well as her fellow women: now that would be a story the press definitely *would* report!

The truth is, I suppose, that as it stands at the moment, womens sports are often, at the highest levels, simply of a lesser standard than their male equivalent (partly because of the gender based-split referred to above). Harsh, but basically true. The best woman footballers are simply no match in terms of skill to their male counterparts. Inevitably, the public wants to watch sport at the highest level, and so, at present, it will almost always give more attention to the male competitors than the female. To change that, we need to break down the gender divide whenever we can, and all allow all of humankind to compete on a level playing field.

I think, though, that, regardless of what is done, athletes – of both

genders – are always going to be treated as objects of sexual desire. Sport and ‘the body beautiful’ are far too linked, in their history, as well in their present, for that to be eliminated, even if we wished it (and I think it is naive to believe that male athletes aren’t viewed in a similar way by female spectators as vice-versa – having attended several rugby matches with female friends, I’m only too aware that women aren’t nearly as innocent in this regard as this article might suggest!).

Feminists in sport have rather shied away from attempting to break down the true boundaries between the genders. But until they do (and indeed, until the women competitors themselves do), they cannot really expect to have equal attention in the eyes of the public and press.

Girls in the lead, by Clare Burgess

From David Space

It was interesting and quite uplifting to read Clair Burgess’ account of the benefits to girls of having their own space where they can just “be

girls” without the predictable impact of having boys around. It was nice

also to see that on principal she believes excluding half the population

“feels” wrong.

But there was a surprising and glaring ommission – isn’t the key point of controversy that while the Guides exclude boys, the Scouts are no longer permitted to exclude girls? In this context it seems a disingenuous to gloss over that important difference.

Moving towards solidarity, by Laurie Penny

From gina morvay

Just wanted to make a correction on Laurie Penny’s piece on trans

inclusion. Charlie Anders is, in fact, a trans woman, does not identify as

genderqueer and, as such should not be referred to using “his”. Look on Ms. Anders’ website and writings and you will see she only uses female

pronouns. Thanks.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Laurie’s feature quoted from Charlie’s essay, and reflected how she identified at the time it was written. In response to gina’s comment, Laurie emailed Charlie and had a discussion about this, and I’ve since edited the feature.

Women’s art in Paris: elles@centrepompidou, a review by Susan Gilbert

From Rachel Baylis

Wonderful to see a review of this inspiring exhibition. As a feminist artist myself walking through this history of brave and innovative women, I was also only too aware of the lack of feminst art in public and private galleries, and the rage I feel drives me on. I would like to have seen more up to date work too. Thanks for the review – I’m going back to see revist the exhibition in February and this article certainly helps set the scene again for me!

Gender and sentencing, by Rachel Thwaites

From Heather

This is absolutely true and succinctly put. The only solution is to make the facts about sentencing for women as public as possible.

A streamlined new me, by Laura Thomas

From Nina

Well done! I think it was very brave of you to shave your head, as its so rare to see women who are bald of their own accord. But I find it horrible that you recieved abuse from strangers because of your desision. In this day and age it is disgusting that women can’t do what they want with their appearance without being persecuted.

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

From Jennifer Smedley

I really enjoyed the points you made in your article Wisrutta and would like to offer a possible solution to this question based on my own personal experience growing up as a working class Catholic in Liverpool, England. When I was around 3 years old, something occured which has interestingly stuck in both parents memories even though I am now almost 31! Normally my grandparents looked after me when my mum went to work but this day was quite unusual in that my father was looking after me. My mum recalls that when she returned from work, I was barely recognisable, completely covered head to toe in mud. It was everywhere! In my hair, in my clothes! My poor dad sheepishly explained to her at the time that he had let me make mud pies in the garden for much of the afternoon and was consequently subjected to a severe reprimand by my mother “What have you done to her?!” she exclaimed, “How could you let her get like that?!” My father truthfully

couldn’t understand the problem – to him I was just a kid who had been

having immense fun. Within minutes my mother had swept me away and cleaned me up. To this day, my father comments often on how she would never let me get very dirty as a child, and I have noticed that this didn’t seem to happen with my younger brother.

Is it possible that subjects like science and engineering were always ‘too dirty’ for girls to get involved with? Oils, grease, chemicals, grubby

machinery – hardly pretty comfortable places where little girls want to hang out right? Also consider the phrase ‘rough and tumble’ and how it is usually applied to boys.

This was certainly the way I grew to view labs and factories – grubby, dirty, smelly, unpleasant even frightening places. At school I much preferred the nice clean humanities classrooms to the scary science and maths rooms with all their strange equipment. Today I am a linguist by profession, certainly a classically female area. I could have gone into science or engineering, I was a very able student academically.

I think I’ve compromised as an adult to cope with what I believe to be my early ‘anti rough & tumble’ conditioning. I enjoy using the logical ‘male’ part of my brain when it comes to the study of grammar, much like in maths or science, but to my own (and my mother’s) relief there is neither a dirty factory nor grubby lab coat in sight!

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

From arlette gyslain

i can not tell you how pleased i was in reading this. for once a woman actually is proud of the ways she looks. i am d-so sorry you had to go through all those things when you were at school. i am as well fed up of people assuming that just because someone has big boobs they are should be less self concience. i am a small b and most people think i am lying when I say i like my small boobs. anywayz i am sure you are as beautiful as you say you are, and do not be ashamed of it.

A Bride by Any Other Name, by Eleanor Turner

From Anna Carey

I’d like to say thank you to Eleanor Turner for her article ‘A bride by

another name’ have said everything that I feel about the subject. I

am getting married in April and keeping my own surname and my partner his..we both agree that it is archaic for a woman to take a man’s name and are happy with our own surnames ..although he will take mine socially but cant be bothered with the lengthy costly legal process which Eleanor points out . My surname is neither my mother’s or my father’s but an old family name which I was given when my parents divorced..I was brought up by my mother, and both her and her sisters have kept their surnames. My partner and I also agree that should we have children they will also take my surname, as you say women should rightfully carry the family name through sheer biological common sense! Women have been fighting for gender equalities for decades, if people still cant see that it’s as natural for a man to take his wife’s name as her to take his or both to keep their own names then they really have lost sight of their own independent thought processes and most likely will always follow the flock…sadly their loss.

Challenging the ‘sex sells’ cliche, by Rachel Bell

From truth, deal with it

why the fuck would you be offended by some women choosing to be topless in magz or being in porn, this is kind of hypocritical of you to think women who choose these carrier paths are wrong and are only doing this because of the men. believe it or not they can think for themselves. remember these women choose to do this, no one is forcing you to agree to it or do it.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

You’re missing the point, truth, deal with it. Rachel isn’t arguing that women working in the sex industry are wrong, she’s challenging the way women are represented in the media and in porn.

Contraception and control – teenage rights, by Megan

From terry

Im a parent of a 15 yr. old teenage girl who is very smart but is still

15.I would like to know that if you want the same right s as a adult then

why is it when you do something that is wrong per-say the parent is held

responsible.I dont understand where at in a teenagers life they feel they

have the right to make decisions that could affect there hole life and there brains have not developed to b able to understand the what may happen to them for those decisions,

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty , a review by Bellavita

From Ashlee

I did labioplasty after I saw some ads that suggested that big labia were abnormal.

Before that I had no physical discomfort or insecurities.

But after I heard about labioplasty I got extremely ashamed of myself.

Now that I have done it I look mutilated and after 7 months I still have

agonizing pain and sex is impossible.

To what extent do we have to butcher our normal bodies to catch up

With the media created “ideals”? :(

Loose Women, by Dawn Kofie

From James

I completely agree with the article. Loose Women is a waste of airtime that could be better filled with a Polish Testcard. It’s vacuous nonsense.

Make Me Perfect, a review by Helen Reeves

From Sharon Connolly

I’m sorry but the article author is niaive and idealistic. I work as an image consultant an it all my teachings the first thing that I say is I shouldn’t really have a job, we should all be taken at face value, no matter how we look or what we wear its whats inside that counts..BUT..since time began our basic instincts, and not just humans are success and progress to the fit, beautiful and healthy – thats is evolution, and as such, whatever your ideals of beauty are society will compel you to aspire to them. I’m not a huge fan of many make-over programs because they show unrealistic extremes. Women who take NO care and effort in their appearance transformed far past what they could achieve without thousands of pounds.

My whole job is about making people look better. I teach them to embrace their curves or slender frames, what ever they have but I do show them how to use make-up to lift sagging eyes and how to use accessories to divert away from their least favourite features.

It’s about balance but the authors view that ugly women should just

celebrate what makes them unique is niaive. Hair cut and colour, learn

how to do make-up, dress well (which you can do at any budget), stop

stuffing pizza and get up off your ass and exercise – for the health of

your body.

I don’t advocate drastic surgery, every woman is beautiful in her own way, but we all need beautifying too. So before we all skip off into the forests wearing sandals we have knitted ourselves to talk about our inner beauty – I for one will have taken an extra 15 minutes to straighten my hair, put my make-up on and do a few sit ups.

You’re a 44-year old man: the Michael Jackson Interview, a review by Catherine Redfern

From Jacqueline Rice

I found the article You’re a 44-year old man: the Michael Jackson

Interview by Catherine Redfern to be full of very interesting points. That

some of his behavior was seen as weird or bizarre simply because it was a male doing it was something I’d never considered before. Michael Jackson was not weird, strange or bizarre though the media went out of their way to portray him that way. The fact that so many had problems with his plastic surgeries was another issue that I thought needed a rest. What he chose to do to himself was his business and no one else’s. The media set themselves up to judge what was appropriate and inappropriate and again, that was none of their or anyone else’s business. Thanks for this. I know I’m commenting on an old article, but I just ran across it today. I appreciate being able to leave a comment.

General Comments

From Hmmm

Feminists are all women with a or many personal issue(s)… wake up and stop blaming genders!

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

That told us! No more blaming genders, we’ll go back to working on our personal issues ;)

From George Orwell

What a big site. Full of the most earnest, Fascist Left drivel. What

onanism. I believe we have sent the Fascist Right packing in our society. Now, I believe that we should send the Fascist Left packing.

A million good reasons don’t make something right which insight condems. Your statements on this site are puerile and predictable. There isn’t a shred of creative thinking in the lot. You are tired and uninspired. What a load of vituperative writing which doesn’t ring any bells.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Thanks for taking the time to write in and tell us we’re vituperative, nice use of a Thesaurus!

Many thanks to Helen G, who compiles and codes our comments