Comments from April 2010

Comments on last month’s features and reviews

The case for all-women shortlists, by Ros Ball

From Sianmarie

what a brilliant post. i totally agree.

what’s so funny is (as you say) we’ve had all male shortlists for years,

hundreds of years, and still have all male shortlists now and no one bats

an eyelid. it sucks that we need quotas to get equal representation in

parliament, i wish we could do it without all female shortlists but at the

moment i strongly strongly believe they are needed, for all the reasons

stated in your article.

Comments on earlier features and reviews

Painful vagina? Your poor husband!, by S

From Althea Abel

I think it’s about time someone stood up to society’s belief that sex is only for the benefit of the man. I am currently in a loving relationship

with a man who wants to care for me sexually as much as I want to care for him. However, before this relationship I was abused and raped by my

boyfriend because I didn’t want to put out for him. Your article was both

informative and just what I’ve been wanting to hear from the female

community for years. It gives me hope that more women will find loving

relationships with men who aren’t obbsessed with their penises

(like I did) and that more men (and women) will be understanding of womens sexual problems and needs.

Thank you very much for the article, it was the best thing I’ve read in a

very long time.

From SD

Thank you for posting about vulvar vestibulitis: as someone who has had to deal with this since the beginning of my sex life 12 years ago, I also think that far too few people (men, women, doctors) are aware of it or treat it seriously. As soon as I finally started to try to resolve this

problem 5 years ago, I found myself compelled to talk about it to every one of my (female) friends that I felt close enough to to open up about it — to educate them I suppose, in case they, their friends or children are ever confronted with it. But I haven’t discussed it with any male friends

(though one of them is a GP so I eventually will mention it to him).

Hopefully one day I’ll feel comfortable enough to tell good (male) friends

about this as it’s important for men to be sensitive to it.

In some ways I’ve had it easier than S, in other ways not. The GP who gave me my first pap smear told me it was my agitation that caused the pain from the speculum, not the other way around! She later told me it was useless trying to address my dyspareunia (pain with intercourse) because I was not in a relationship. I had had serious relationships before and have had some since, but at that time, knowing that there would be pain made it very difficult for me to actually get to the point of starting a relationship! Thank goodness I didn’t listen to her and saw various health practitioners (midwife, GPs, gynecologists, physios, psycho-sexual therapists), most of whom were understanding and not too phallocentric. I tackled the vaginismus and learned to stop my pelvic floor muscles from contracting on their own, only to find that the pain was still there. I eventually was diagnosed with VV, have tried anaesthetics. Acupuncture administered by a registered physio has dramatically reduced my symptoms but not completely eliminated them. My successive male partners have been mostly understanding.

I am one of the women who have continued with penetrative sex despite the pain. It was not out of a notion that I owed it to my male partner, but because my body, despite the pain, wanted it. I am lucky in that I have always kept a strong libido (with ups and downs). I have never lost my own desire for experiencing penetration, and I don’t think that’s just because I’m conditioned by my patriarchal/phallocentric society. Yes, it is only one of the many components of a rich, healthy, happy sexual life. I have enjoyed a range of non-penetrative activities with the male partners I have had, and derive much intense pleasure from them (as do they). The fact remains that, even if it isn’t the most efficiently orgasmic activity for a woman, penetration can be very pleasurable and satisfying for women, and enjoying it isn’t just capitulation to patriarchy or false consciousness. I feel that to suggest that it is, as S does, is not helpful. But this view can only properly be defended once it is agreed (as I agree with S) that penetration is not, and should not be, the centre and the only goal of sexual activity. If men can learn to dissociate penetration from their deep sense of their own masculinity, that will be great. I certainly did not see my male lovers as any less masculine if we did not engage in penetration.

I have come to see that I too need to stop penetration because, well, it only perpetuates the cycle of anxiety (will it be painful, won’t it?). The important thing is to stay pain-free. If nothing else, the fact that I

continued penetration despite the pain probably only served to hide the

extent of my problems from my partners, and that defeats the notion of

educating men as well as women about this.

Many thanks to S for posting her story. She says important things about the different treatment men and women receive regarding sexual function and dysfunction and about the need to take a holistic view of sexuality in sex education, including comfort, enjoyment for both partners, and non-penetrative activities.

From Erika

This article really struck a chord with me. My sister experienced similar pain and an inability to have sex when she was 19, but was diagnosed with vaginismus. Different to the condition described in the article, this does have a psychosomatic element to it, but the reaction from different ‘Healthcare Professionals’ was a similar mixed bag to those described by the author. The most understanding professional was a young male GP, who treated her with the utmost dignity, respect and understanding. The worst was a female counsellor, who told my sister that she’d make a ‘fascinating case study’. Needless to say, my sister did not return for further sessions.

Thank you for writing the article, it resonated with what I had thought at the time of my sister’s experience, when she was feeling inadequate, abnormal and disappointing to her boyfriend. The author writes ‘Why are students not offered this kind of information as part of our education system? It’s almost as though as long as you are pregnancy and disease free, nothing else – such as enjoyment or comfort – matters. I worry that we fail spectacularly to provide young men and women with the knowledge and understanding of sexual issues that most of them will encounter’. I myself am hoping to become a teacher and I relish the thought of teaching sex education- to ensure that the children and young people I teach are encouraged to look outside the ‘pregnancy and STD’ box, and further into what enjoyment, comfort, femininity and masculinity mean in our sex lives.

Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, a review by Jess McCabe

From Carole

Re:”Feminist Science Fiction” – truly the best author would have to be Sheri S Tepper, from “Gate to Women’s Country” onwards. Her books cover everything feminist and are appropriately out of this world! Jess McCabe, give ’em a read – you don’t have to be a science fiction fan to thoroughly enjoy them.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I was tempted, but then I read on Wikipedia that Gate to Women’s Country “depicts homosexuality as a genetic and hormonal disorder which has been eugenically removed from the population”. Might give that one a miss!

Women, a review by Charlotte Cooper and Jess McCabe

From Kate Alexandra

Whilst I agree with many of the points made by the authors of review of ‘Women’,I spent the time I was reading it, musing over the use of the word ‘heteronormative’. What an extraordinary word. Ironic that a discussion on inclusion and fair representation should choose to use such inaccessible language. It has been my experience, and is my opinion that six syllables are rarely necessary

Turn your back on Page 3, by Francine Hoenderkamp

From Joanna Blackburn

I have just read, with interest, the article about your campaign to ban page 3, and I fully support and praise this campaign.

At 17 I began to suffer with anorexia and at nearly 27, although

recovered, I have numerous body image issues, fueled mostly by our

societies need to view women as sex objects.

The medias portrayal of women and the relentless need to view women as sexual beings for men to look at is very close to my heart, and something which I think in the day and age that we live in, should change. I ask myself everyday why women are portrayed so differently to men. Why are women usually photographed and shown wearing next to nothing and why should this not change? If men and women are to be seen as equal, than either we as women should be exposed to as much sexual imagery from men as men are from women, or women shouldn’t be viewed as sex objects and shown in such a way.

If you have any more information about your campaign then I would be very interested to hear from you. And i would love the page 3 (and other sexist newspapers) to ban their semi-naked pictures of women. After all, a semi-naked women is hardly news…

Coherent feminism doesn’t stop at Afghan women, by Myriam Francois-Cerrah

From Jeanna Excell

Trying to embrace burqas as a feminist ‘right’ is, to me, very strange. Besides making a burqa-clad woman into what is basically a non-person, a possession, burqas prevent women from doing things that are intrinsic to the feminist movement. Let me explain: when a woman wears a burqa, she is swathed in yards of heavy black fabric. Her visual field is extremely limited. How does she run away from a rapist? How does she keep her head above water if there’s a tsunami, or even if she falls into a lake or a swimming pool? Or is pushed? The right to run away from danger is a basic human right, and one which ALL women should always have. Wearing six inch heels in England might make you sexy, but you can’t run away from danger in them. (Why do you think men find them so sexy?) But we don’t force women to wear heels. And if anyone even suggested that doing so would be ‘good’ for the women and that maybe we should pass a law to that effect, feminists would, quite rightly, flip out.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about burqas. The societies which require women to wear them don’t give them a choice, and by depersonalising women, it becomes acceptable to insist on other, even more oppressive rules for women. These ‘rules’ make it difficult for a woman to protect herself in other ways, too: for example, in many cultures where women wear restrictive garments, they are unable/forbidden to leave their home unless accompanied by a man – what are they to do if their home is broken into? Stay there and hope their father or husband comes home in time to save them? What if there’s a natural disaster? What if there’s a gas leak? The problem is that burqas make it acceptable to take away women’s rights to be HUMAN, and there are never any circumstances in which feminism can embrace that and call it a ‘choice’. It’s the garment equivalent of a ball and chain: you can paint it red and put rhinestones all over it, but it’s still a ball and chain; you can even condition women to like it, but it’s still a ball and chain. You can’t run when you’re wearing one, and you’ll drown in 6 feet of water. Condoning that isn’t feminism as I know it. Honestly, for me, the thinking that feminists can embrace burqas if the women who wear them have ‘chosen’ to do so is patently ridiculous. Having them in a culture of any kind, even a ‘Western’ culture that champions women’s rights, reduces all women’s basic human rights. Pretending it enhances them is just that: pretending.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

To avoid constantly repeating myself, see here.

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

From Anna

I realise that this article is old so I’m not sure if anyone will read a

comment but I had to make a statement.

I don’t know the precise details of this study but I’d just like to make reference to a lecture I attended about 18 months ago by Prof. Steve Jones of UCL on the subject of evolution. One comment he made is that as men age the quality of their offspring is greatly compromised. Because men produce their sex cells on a pretty much daily basis, the sperm is a lot more likely to have abnormalities as the male ages. This means that cell mutations occur.

This seems to be in contradiction to the statements in the referenced paper about not mating with older women with egg mutations. Our eggs are formed at birth and are less susceptible to this so far as I understood. I’m not an expert though!

I think the most obvious flaw in the argument really is the blatent

drawback of having an older father who can’t share the strenuous

responsibilities of fatherhood with the wife. How is this desirable, if you

believe all this evolutionary psychology? A man who may not be able to

stand up to aggressors and defend his offspring? An example of this is that my father is now 73 and my sister is 18 and this has taken it’s toll on how he can keep up with her and relate to her as a father.

Just because men CAN have children later, doesn’t mean they should. Just because they want to mate with younger women, doesn’t mean we all want them to, which I think is the most important point!

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

From Becky

Kate’s breastfeeding article is just lovely. I had tears in my eyes a few times. Tears of empathy, joy and sisterhood.

Thank you Kate, for sharing your story :)

F.A.T., by Katie Muller

From Sophie

Brilliant article Katie. I experienced anorexia and fight the feminist

fight daily to try and make this world a kinder place for young girls to

grow up in. Solidarity with you!

Against censorship, by Laurie Penny

From Isolda GN

About porno and censhorship,i do feel myself insulted as a latina girl.Do the feminists who are against censhorship know that the women used in porno are poor ones and from poor countries like mine? How can you in Europe say that you are in favor of all women if you don´t criminilize what make us commodities for First world men?

Porno has to do with women´s right not with moralism or whatever,i´m surprised feminism still insist on this “no censorship idea” porbabily none of them belongs to a risk group like me.

How the word ‘slut’ oppresses women, by Jennifer Drew

From strathclyde


every time someone such as yourself publishes one of these ridiculous articles with shockingly unfounded claims such as ‘Another aspect of the male sexual script is the belief it is acceptable for males to use coercion, pressure or even the threat of violence in order to gain sexual access to women.” it completly undermines the cause of feminism by giving feminists -who’s aim should be and often is equality between the sexes- a bad name, as bra burning morons. As my mother used to say, if you have nothing useful to write, please find another occupation.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I would respond, but there doesn’t seem to be a specific point being made other than possibly, “I don’t like what you say so I’ll call you a moron and be a bit patronising”.

I did it my way, by Emma Hadfield

From G.C.

Thanks for a wonderful article. I am turning 30 this year, I dare to

aspire to a career, I hold a full time job and just finished a demanding

MA. The worst of all (in the eyes of those who know me) is that I have a

8-year relation ship with a man 20 years older. I refuse to get married and have children (my partner was aware from day 1 about this), which

immediately made people shake their heads on disbelief that my mom allows such enormities. Also I am told that these “fancies” will pass soon. To cap it all, I am proud to say I am a feminist.

All of this is my life, choices that I made and still making, nevertheless people around me still believe that I need to fit in soon otherwise I will miss my chance (and turn into a “catlady” as you say it)

Tough luck for them!

Deconstructing masculinity, by Sheryl Plant

From sue ramm

I totally agree that the construct of masculinity needs a complete

overhaul. It has no place in the modern world, and thankfully there are now laws to protect women from it’s worst abusers. The eldest son in my family was treated like a king and could do no wrong, with the result that he now finds it really hard to hold down any job, because if things don’t go his way, he walks out. He’s now 48, and still living with my parents because he just cannot cope in a world where just being a white, middle class male, isn’t an automatic ticket to a well paid job. He tries to really hard to compensate by attemting to control the rest of the family through intimidation and violence, but we have all had enough! We would all have a lot more time and respect for him, if he had the humility to apologize.

‘Feminists are sexist’, by Catherine Redfern

From Tom

If feminists really cared about how males were potrayed in mainstream media then the common message wouldn’t include that men are pigs and just want to see women half naked. They do the stereotyping and yet blame every male around them for doing the same. Feminists are hypocritical in the sense that they fight stereotyping by stereotyping the men that they blame. It’s these snide comments that seem to go under the radar, but yet are picked up as stereotypes in mainstream media. Also, to answer the question as to why we can’t talk about this openly. How serious do you think a person would take a male activist? They would be condemned as sexist right off the bat. Women have a backround that they can run back to as there reasoning to why they can act this way, but now as the pendelum is swinging to the female side, men have no history to go back on, they only have the

present situation. Feminists are accepted in society, but any male that

cries out against male stereotyping aside from against feminism will be

taken as a joke. That’s virtually what you did in this article, you laughed

at their point, and then admitted they were right. For some reason you

can’t believe that their are men who are smarter then you. You are one of those women who believe that there is no man out there who can possibily out debate you, because their mind is too clouded by there sexist perception of you. You think that our minds have been turned to mush because we watch these adds, and honestly that is why I feel like this site and all that ‘you’ write is wrong.

The Spice Girls, by Catherine Redfern

From élodie springborn

the Spice Girls’ brand of feminism is pure consumerism. It’s like Disneyworld’s version of childhood: selling products made by slave children in the Third World to kids in the affluent West. A nightmare

of hypocrisy and exploitation.

Consumerism is a patriarchal strategy meant to recuperate children to mold them into passive objects while pretending to promote rebellion and individualism. It is revealing enough to watch the Spice Girls’ intro video from 2008 on:

Their vision of the world and that of Disney is one and the same.

Frightening in its conformity: if that is feminism, then Disney marketing

is a underground revolutionary project !

Margaret Thatcher, by Catherine Redfern

From danajane

i think that Margaret thatcher is an good example to young girls. Alot of people don’t like her but i do she is powerful and strong and didn’t let anything stop her from doing what she wanted and for that i admire her. She became prime minister and proved that a woman can do a mans job

Teenagers and cosmetic surgery, by Catherine Redfern

From SoleilSmile

Actually, Grease was all about how Danny strove to conform to Sandy’s world at the expense of his social standing. However, most of the audience missed this. I guess song and dance numbers overwhelmed the plot:)

Feminist or misogynist?, a review by Melanie Newman

From Ana Landis Velazquez

Thank you Melanie Newman for having the courage to unmask the depths of misogyny in crime novels such as “Men Who Hate Women” and “Kiss the Girls”. Your insight into the insertion of a female character who acts out revenge fantasy to displace male guilt is right on and so important to point out, especially in day-to-day conversation when discussion on these sadly popular books comes up.

Women in Chile: Moving towards equality (but only if you look the part), by Jayne

From Steff

Good Article…ads have a terrible way of teaching young women their self-worth and promoting negative gender roles

General comments

From Melanie


This is just an overall series of comments on your website generally,

rather than a comment on a specific thing. I’ve been visiting your site on

a regular basis for about a year and, on the whole, I love it. The articles

are informative, interesting and thought-provoking and the standard of

writing first class. In recent months, I have been particularly impressed

by the Women in Punk series, which has led to me rediscovering X Ray Spex and checking out The slits and The Raincoats, and by the “Painful Vagina? Your Poor Husband”, which left me horrified and angry that large sectors of the medical profession still treat women like pieces of meat, whose main purpose is for their partners’ gratification.

I have also been persuaded to change my views on some topics after what I have read here.

My one criticism of the site (and I hope you don’t mind me mentioning this, but you did say you welcomed comments…) is that I find many of the comments under the blog rude, aggressive and very offputting. In fact, some of the responses I’ve received on occasions when I’ve dared post there have been so hostile and upset me so much that I’ve considered not coming back. And I don’t even think my views are that dissimilar from the majority viewpoint here!

But what’s been said to me is nothing compared to what is often said to others, especially those who hold a minority viewpoint. I feel there is frequently a lack of respect for the right of others to have a different view, the tone is far too often aggressive and shouty, and what

particularly does my head in is accusations that other contributors are not “really” feminists if they hold X view or even that they must “really” be a misogynist troll only pretending to be a feminist. I know that there are trolls on this site and that some of the people with more right-wing

interpretations of feminism can be equally intolerant and annoying, but

this lack of respect or even common civility shown to anyone who doesn’t toe the party line is really diminishing my enjoyment of your otherwise excellent website. I just wish the “Be nice” part of the site rules were enforced more strictly.

From comfort

Its guite amazing finding out that female condom is in existence for

sometime without much awareness in our country (Nigeria).Bravo to you

guys.Ya untiring efforts will go along way in reducing the spread of the

dreaded diseases called AIDS and HIV

From Kate Joester

For Charlotte Revely, who asked in the March comments who the track “She Sells” was by: was it Banderas? They certainly had a song by that name, which I love. In fact, I’m off to see if I can track it down now!

From charlotte crossley

I was only reading your article in company magazines April edition a few days ago. I totally agreed with the article. On Saturday 7th April i was out with a few of my friends having a good time when this drunken man approaches me and says “guess what im going to do to you tonight” i replied by saying “what” he responded “im going to rape you” i looked absolutely appalled at him, then his friend came to drag him away. I reported it to a bouncer who simply said “what do you expect your fit love” This is unacceptable behaviour, we wouldn’t accept this on the street or in the workplace so why should he get away with sexual threats in a bar or nightclub?????

From Sarah Lee

I just had to tell someone who understands as I’m going crazy! Yesterday, in the pre-school nursery playground waiting for my son, a mum with an 8 month old baby girl. The girl was looking at one of the dad’s and her mum said to her, ‘are you making eyes at him. Are you flirting?’ It made me feel pretty sick and depressed but they seemed to think it was funny. I don’t think the same would have been said to a baby boy looking innocently at one of the other mum’s. Another symptom of the over-sexualization/objectification of women and girls?

From micearenice

Just writing to say thank you for your decision not to post anti choice comments. I was finding the site quite difficult reading for a while and am very pleased that it is once again a place in which I can feel I will not be judged for decisions I made about my body and life in the past and views I strongly hold to this day.