Comments from July 2010

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Rape: treat the cause, not the symptom, by Amy Nicholson

From Laura Pearman

It is high time we fight for this kind of a cultural shift, that Amy

writes about with zeal and consideration.

I feel invigorated as a feminist after reading this!

More of the same please!

From Audrey

Good article. Reinforced everything that i as a festical goer feels and have said over the past couple of weeks. Why educate women on ‘behaviour modifciation’ when it’s what we do anyway? Educate men and their friends as to what is right and wrong!!! It’s not too hard i’ve brought up a son!

Amy Nicholson, author of the article, replies

I agree – stronger education has got to be a primary focus for tackling this sort of violence, and it’s great to know that there are women doing fantastic work like you to support it.

Thanks again, it’s ace we have forums like The F-Word to discuss these issues!

From Colin

A thoughtful and thought-provoking piece.

I’ve been working at festivals for 14 years, and, whilst not wishing to make a direct connection between this and the dreadful attacks at Latitude & T, there seems to have been an increase in casual misogyny at festivals in the last few years. The “stag” mentality seems to have become far more prevalent, and I’ve seen some jaw-droppingly offensive T-shirts being sported.

There seems to be a tendency in some quarters to blame any trouble or aggression at festivals on “chavs”, but, in my experience, it’s usually groups of middle-class lads who seem to have bought into the whole Zoo/Nuts vile cartoon version of masculinity.

Amy Nicholson, author of the article, replies

I’d be inclined to agree that yes, I’ve noticed a considerable shift in the attitude of a lot of people at festivals.

That, I think, is part of a much larger problem and that the ‘stag’ attitude you talk about, as well as these vicious attacks may indeed have a similar root cause.

I hope that in the future, education and encouragement of mutual respect between people will become a greater priority. You make a very good point about the ‘casual misogyny’ and it’s this insidious behaviour I’m desperate to see eradicated.

And while I agree, there’s not much to be done about the t-shirts – we all have a right to freedom of expression, however dimly lit we think that expression may be!

Thanks again, and hope you see a brighter time for the rest of festival season.

From Cazz Blase

I’ve very pleased that this piece has been written, and that Jess has put it up on the site so quickly. But I’m also saddened that it had to be

written at all… This is something everyone should be horrified about, and shrugging and suggesting that female festival goers should get out of the kitchen if they can’t stand the heat, which is what seemed to be being suggested, or should be escorted everywhere, shows how little attitudes to safety have changed, not just at festivals, but generally. I’m not surprised, but I am angry about it.

That said, I felt the piece was exceptionally well written, and I’m

pleased it was written from the point of view of a regular festival goer,

not someone at a distance, as I think that’s a massive strength to the


From Josie

Terrific article. I’m not a festival goer but was sickened at the reports of these two rapes. And thanks to this article, also quite disgusted by the festival organiser’s response. Why is the message is still not getting through – rape victims (survivors) are NOT THE ONES RESPONSIBLE!!! I think the analogy that the writer uses is spot on – no car owners get asked to cover up their cars at night or park them out of sight, despite cars getting stolen on a regular basis. We have a long way to go, let’s keep going!

Amy Nicholson, author of the article, replies

There are a lot of us that feel very strongly about this, and we all need to do what we can to push in the right direction. As you say, let’s keep going!


Amy, superb commentary, well done. A gutsy and well thought out piece, thought provoking on many levels. I’m so proud of you. XAX

From LonerGrrrl

I wholeheartedly echo the sentiments in this article. Campaigns to prevent sexual violence at music festivals (and everywhere, really) should be targeted at men and not women.

It’s particularly troubling to hear of women being raped at events like this, given that music festivals should be a space in which everyone can let themselves go and be free. And now to think we’ll be having warnings about the dangers of stomping the festival site alone at night and being given rape alarms – it’s another way in which women’s freedom and enjoyment of these events will be curtailed.

Engaging men to think about sexual violence and treat women with respect would be more in keeping with the festival ethos so we can all have a good time.

Amy Nicholson, author of the article, replies

I’m glad my piece resonated with you. I don’t understand how this most unconscionable crime is almost without education or campaigning aimed at men. That which we have seen is far from encouraging – remember those ‘no entry’ pants?

Encouraging behaviour modification over encouragement of proper respect among individuals is, to put it bluntly, terrifying.

Here’s hoping next year will be sunny, the line-ups will be stellar, and women will be safer – and not because they’re all too discouraged to come out in the first place.

From Nicola

‘Rape – treat the cause, not the symptom’ is an excellent article and has echoed thoughts I have had for some time. I can’t count on my fingers the amount of times I have had to challenge people when they make comments about rape victimes ‘asking for it’ because of being out late or wearing certain clothes. I totally agree that campaigns need to focus on the rapists. and not the victims, because they are the ones who need to change their behaviour and attitudes towards women.

From lou

on the lattitude rape attacks:

So true-when the threat of terrorism is talked about, we are told that to change the way we behave is to give in to the whims of the terrorists and that that’s how they win.

We don’t stop using the tube, or london buses, or aeroplanes and we don’t start changing the way we behave so as not to “provoke” the fundamental islamic terrorists or the IRA or whoever else might be the current bogey man…

Amy Nicholson, author of the article, replies

Thanks very much for your comments – you’re absolutely right. It’s time to stop people (male and female) from defining each other by prejudice and to encourage every individual to take responsibility for their own actions.

One step at a time, we’ll get there!

From Sarah Shaw

Reading the article on rape at latitude gave me heart. I agree that

targeting rapists should be the way forward; if a campaign that tells

people not to drink and drive can be effective, why not one that tells

people not to rape. I have used this argument in repsonse to advertising

campaigns bt charities such as Save the Children. Why don’t they address abusers, telling them not to hurt children. Replies have been that they do address people directly – but what they do is ask for money, not an end to violence. I understand that the Scottish Zero Tolerance of Violence against Women campaign has had results, and support the call for more along these lines.

Amy Nicholson, author of the article, replies

I’d agree with this – I think there’s a tendency to demonise violent people, whatever the motivation or target of the violence, which delineates between them and the rest of society. It’s easy to see the temptation with this; no-one like to think that ‘just anybody’ is capable of violent acts. However, this only ever results in a disinclination to target any sort of communication at them.

From blakerivers

I agree with what the author has to say. However, I would like to

elaborate a little bit on actually treating the possible causes of rape.

There are a complex variety of factors which contribute to rape, and many of them may be hard to identify and reverse, but there are a few that stand out clearly. For one, racism is sometimes a cause of particularly violent rapes. There is often a disparity between how a member of a desired class (a white woman, for instance) treats a another member of the desired class versus a member of an undesired class (e.g., a colored man). While this has gotten better over the years, it can still lead to the violent unleashing of anger and sexual frustration. I don’t know any immediate solution to issues of racism and sexual politics, but that’s one thing that can push some men over the edge.

Another thing that is very important is the semi-dangerous relationship between two of a required behaviors of the female gender role in society: 1) playing hard to get, and 2) passivity. These things are instilled in girls from a very early age and naturally become the default behavior (to some degree) of most sexually mature females. While most of the time this remains completely innocuous, it can often lead to sending unwanted messages. Look at it from a guy’s perspective; a woman expects him to make all of the come-ons and sexual advances, yet she refuses most of his advances because she’s playing hard to get, compelling him to become more forceful in his overtures. Repeat this cycle many times and you can create a dangerous situation for some men. Their frustration level builds up to explosive heights and (perhaps because of some social ineptitude) they don’t know when “no” means “no” anymore. Many accused rapists claim that the female was egging them on the whole time. This could result from the kind of playing-hard-to-get confusion that I’m talking about. He’s tired of her teases and retreats, and so he eventually follows the advice “be a man” and uses physical coercion.

Perhaps the outdated gap in gender roles needs to be lessened so that this age-old sexual confusion abates. I’m not saying that this is what caused the rapes at the festival mentioned in this article, just that it is a major contributing factor in rape statistics.

Lastly I’d like to refer to female objectification as a frequent component in rape mentality. The onus is on both men AND women to not perpetuate the trend of sexual objectification. In order to get attention, esteem, and acceptance, women (especially very young women) fall to advertising their various sexual body parts, and once the habit starts it stays. Men are all too eager to accept this with no objections, and surprisingly most women have no objections either. Look up “cosplay” in a google image search or “female gamer.” Look up how females are portrayed in modern video games and comics. It’s all about women’s bodies as eye candy. I believe that this contributes to the mentality that woman’s greatest function and value is sex. With this mindset, no wonder rape occurs. It allow the rapist to dehumanize the woman. After all, according to the media she’s not a human being, she’s a sex object.

Amy Nicholson, author of the article, replies

Yes, I’d agree that the underlying causes for rape are many, complex and contingent on context. Yes, there will be varying motivations, whether racial, personal, psychological or opportunistic. However, I think it’s important to note that whatever the cause, the act of rape is in all cases, I think, an act of dehumanisation. That is to say that whoever is involved, there is a collapse in the proper indentification of individuality – the rapist sees the victim as of lesser value.

Your comments about required behaviours strengthen this. The idea of a ‘required behaviour’ is itself a departure from individuality and, therefore is to a lesser extent also a dehumanisation.

Likewise the objectification you mention in cosplay, video games or any other arena that goes on here.

What I would like to see more of in the future is a greater encouragement for individual self-responsibility for all people, regardless of gender, age, or any other factor, in the hope that mutual respect breeds relationships of transparency and trust.

The idea of objectification being perpetuated by women was addressed really well a few years ago by Ariel Levy in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs. The book’s not perfect but it’s a great read – give it a go!

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Just to add to Amy’s reply, I feel like this needs some deconstruction:

“While this has gotten better over the years, it can still lead to the violent unleashing of anger and sexual frustration. I don’t know any immediate solution to issues of racism and sexual politics, but that’s one thing that can push some men over the edge.”

The notion that women’s behaviour ‘pushes men over the edge’ is coming at this from the wrong end; victims don’t cause themselves to be raped. The only thing that can prevent a rape from occuring is if the rapist doesn’t rape. I would strongly dispute the suggestion that rapists are black and ethnic minority men “unleashing.. anger and sexual frustration” on white women.

Racism plays into sexual violence, but not in the way you’re describing. Research in the US suggests women of colour experience more sexual violence than white women. Recently Amnesty published statistics showing one in three Native American women will be raped during her lifetime, about 2.5x than the average from women in the US. (One in four women in the UK have experienced rape or attempted rape). I couldn’t immediately find statistics on this in the UK – but other statistics show that women who experience multiple oppressions, be that racism, poverty, etc, are likely to experience more sexual violence.

From Wanda Zyborska

Well done Amy Nicholson for writing a great article on rape. It is so good to see those arguments clearly made. The focus on the victim has been making me see red for years.

Women in punk: the disappearing years, by Cazz Blase

From Louise

As always I loved your article. Very interesting and valuable. I’m going to check the film about the Stains I’m sure my band will love it ! I’m now looking forward to reading your next article…

Cazz Blase, author of the article, replies

Aw, that’s so nice! I am still, I think, coming to terms with how nice, and how supportive, people have been at every stage of the punk women series. Being a very cynical person, and having had bad experiences researching at least one other big project in the past, it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised by the essential niceness and decency of the human race.

I haven’t seen ‘Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains!’ myself, but plan to purchase it on DVD when I can afford to. Your band might also be interested to note the way that trailor seems to pay homage to bands like the Runaways and the Go-Go’s, although how much that was intentional I have yet to find out…

A woman engineer, by Hayley Martin

From Sandra Baker

I work at a research centre where we have a project called WISET (women in Science Engineering and Technology) they run lots of

training for women getting back into SET jobs and for school girls to get

them more into physics etc. Have a look at the website.

From cycleboy

Stick with it, Hayley. Sorry you’ve had some negative experiences.

Having said that, I’ve known young male engineers who have had difficulty when out on site from older contractors not believing someone so young can know anything. As you’re still only 21, I would guess some of the comments could be as much to do with your age as your sex.

That said, I have a friend who is a strong supporter of WISE, and finds that organisation a good place to re-charge the emotional and technical batteries. You might find it useful, and a good way to network. I believe they run useful courses too.

From Kelly Hogaboom

I graduated in chemical engineering in ’99 and began work in the. I was soon the first female foreman in the company’s 80 years, supervising crews of 25 men (mostly white, mostly twice my age). I can relate to a lot of what the author is talking about. Young female engineers are supposed to have a sense of humor about a lot of stuff they shouldn’t have to.

From Pam Wain

For inspiring women, try the Women’s Engineering Society. The Annual Conference is always good value, offering plenty of opportunities to talk to women who are facing the same challenges, and to senior women who have found a way through.

From Cycleboy

Many moons ago I commented to a (male) colleague that a woman I was introducing to driving had trouble knowing which way to turn the steering wheel when reversing. He commented that, as she was from a fairly poor country, she probably did not have sit-on toy tractors or go-karts as a child. We (boys, at least) do, and so learn steering without really realising it. I realised he was absolutely correct.

Many years later I saw a little girl whizzing around in a toy car, as

confident in reverse as going forward. Clearly, she wouldn’t have any

trouble when reversing a car.

Extending this analogy further, it’s hardly surprising that girls might

struggle holding a hammer if they’ve never been given the opportunity. Of course, this applies equally to boys wielding an iron or a rolling pin.

From Audrey Winterbottom

The experiences that you described took me back to mine when I was simply doing a degree in Genetics in 1973-6 and subsequently when I worked in public relations for technical companies. I think that you are now one of the trail blazers and future role models in the making for women in engineering. I notice such improvements from when I was younger but there are still pockets of predjudice and I can see no other way than just working well and professionally drawing support from the good colleagues and carefully and selectively challenging the sexist obstacles in your way. I found that I made mistakes and had to avoid being looked at as the one making waves and lacking a sense of humour etc Now I feel proud of myself and know that I did my bit that made improvements. I read Ray Stracey’s The Cause and found that there wasn’t just a small band of notable feminists but a larger group of everyday women such as you and me that over-time paved the way forward.

I am now a careers adviser and equality and diversity is taken very

seriously. I do not know whether you should warn people when they cross over into non traditional areas for their sex that the going might get tough – it’s a moral maze.

Best wishes for the future

Ms, Miss or Mrs?, by Amelia Sage

From Carmen

I would encourage British women to continue to use Ms and to demand that it be a viable title open to ANY woman who wants it. Where I come from (Australia) it pretty much means I don’t want you to know my marital status (because it’s not relevant and it’s none of your business). I started using it in my early 20s without any problems and then I moved to the UK where I was told many times that you’re only a Ms if you’ve been married and are now divorced! When I moved back to Australia last year it was so refreshing to see Ms on forms everywhere. And when I got married last year I didn’t change my name and I didn’t have to change my title anywhere. And whenever I’m asked why I use it I just remind people that a man’s title (Mr) is not dependent on his marital status so why should mine be.

From Susan Gilbert

Brilliant piece Amelia, and even as a non lesbian I can agree and

empathise with most of it! I’ve been a Ms ever since I read my first copy

of Spare Rib and it was a bit harder in the 70’s. They’d look at me, a

little hippy with a long skirt and long hair, and wonder where my dungarees were. When I added to the confusion by getting married but refusing to change my name, even my mother didn’t know what to call me. She still doesn’t and insists on using my husband’s name, but that’s her problem. The way to deal with the patriarchy is to confuse the hell out of them! My approach is, if I’m asked for a title, either in person or more usually on some tick-box form, they get Ms and serve them right if it confuses them.

To be a bit serious, I would certainly prefer to abolish all such titles,

along with the monarchy, the house of lords etc. It’s all archaic mumbo


From Pam isherwood

It’s simple – ‘Mr’ stands for both mister and master, ie marital status

and age is ignored. So ‘Ms’ is used for all women. Makes life easier for

all the form-fillers. Why do they resist?

NB In Germany, Frau is for adult women, Fraulein for young ones. That system seems easier still.

Or no titles at all – mr, ms etc are just signs that we are not

aristocrats. Time to dump them all? I never use a title unless forced to by some annoying online tick-box.

From Sheila

Thanks for this post. I call myself Miss because I find it quite empowering, funnily enough. Lots of very senior women in the professions do the same. My children’s school find this very difficult and insist on calling me Mrs Followed by my maiden surname, which makes me sound like my mother or my brother’s wife. But at least it gives me the “respectability” of being a Mrs – I imagine they only think there was one virgin birth and that I feel stigmatised to be an unmarried mother, instead of which I feel incredibly proud.

From kinelfire

Amelia’s article about Ms/Miss/Mrs made me chuckle in recognition. Where possible, I’ve been going with Ms because I don’t think my romantic situation is anyone’s business unless I choose to share it with them. It annoys me though, that even when I emphasise ‘Ms’, people still sometimes use ‘Miss’. As it happens I am still legally married, so that’s factually incorrect by the mistaken person’s own standards.

Why can’t Ms just be the default, and those who wish to use Miss and/or Mrs can opt for those instead? It would save a fair bit of irritation and offence all round!

From Deborah Eade

I opened my first bank account in 1972 and insisted, to my mother’s

incomprehension, in getting the title Ms. At that time one was asked

whether that was a married or unmarried ‘Ms’.

But 10 years later as a trainee teacher in a supposedly progressive London school, I wasn’t ‘allowed’ to use Ms and was told by the departmental head, a Mrs Someone, that choosing to do so would be deemed ‘aggressive’. This in a school where a pregnant colleague was knifed by the parent of one of her students.

Ever since then I’ve lived in countries where the Miss/Mrs/Ms distinction simply doesn’t exist. Any woman over the age of around 30, or in a senior position, is automatically referred to as Senora, Signora, or Madame irrespective of marital status. Tons of other battles to be fought on the other side of the Channel, but this isn’t one of them!

From Katie

Interestingly, I think perhaps the association of ‘Ms’ with lesbianism is waning. I’m a straight ‘Ms’, and among my generation (I’m 23) nobody thinks it odd at all. Granted I’m one of the very few women I know who use ‘Ms’ and indeed would continue to us it (and my own surname) if I ever got married, but no one has ever made a judgment about my choice.

I think it may even have improved in my lifetime. I remember being asked what ‘Murz’ meant several times when I gave my name over the phone in my late teens. Nowadays it seems to be immediately recognised and unquestioned, and I haven’t found a website in years which didn’t list it as an option when subscribing to something. In fact, most website seem to offer Miss, Mrs, Mr and Ms even when they don’t offer Rev. or Dr.

I’d say, as much as we feminists tend to be rather ‘doom and gloom’ about our progress, things have significantly improved on this one issue.

From Stephanie

Well done for not letting others “squeeze out” the little feminist


Unfortunately, in France we don’t have the option of being called “Ms”, so I am “Mademoiselle”. But in English, I have been a “Ms” since I found out about the term as a teenager. I guess that, growing up in France, I was only faintly aware of the association with hairy legs and stereotypes of lesbians.

Nowadays, I am officially allowed to call myself “Dr” and for the first

few months I revelled in this. After reading your post, though, I wish I

hadn’t changed the title on my bank card from Ms to Dr. I am a Ms for

roughly the same reason as you – it is no one else’s business what my

relationships with the men in my life – father or partner – are. Strictly

speaking, neither Miss nor Mrs applies to me anymore since I hold a

professional title. I suppose that means that “Ms” doesn’t apply either but I think I will keep using it, if only because I do not have that luxury in my native language.

From Nancy Roberts

A great article and painfully true to life. Mrs, Miss and Ms all come

loaded with connotations, none of them are neutral in the way that Mr is.

Like the author I have fought to be referred to as Ms, and even then have felt the degree of compromise involved. Until women are no longer defined by their ownership by a man, Ms is the best we can do – and we should continue to fight to have it taken seriously by the institutions of

patriarchal power….we will have won when Mr and Ms are the ONLY choices offered on mortgate applications and the like!

From Mz C Moon

I agree we should not apologise for self-definition and like yr invented identities. Yr article made me incline towards Mz. As in Mz gender queer, Mz unapologetically self-defined Mz riot girrrl & perhaps Mz best-agree-with-me-now-or-it’s-only-gonna-get-more-challenging!

From Dorothy

I even had this problem at Waterstones getting a book card. “Miss


“No, Ms.” Roll of the eyes, and a “You do know Ms is if you’re widowed, right?”

Then a tense discussion about the history of the title Ms, and me

deciding that a local bookshop is a better bet.


From Erica Brooks

I enjoyed Amelia Sage’s essay on titles, especially as titles have been foremost in my own mind lately. I got married last month, and suddenly names and titles have become very confusing subjects, especially to my husband’s family. I come from California, where people tend to use ‘Ms’ as a catch-all, just to make sure nobody gets offended. (I’m all in favour of this mindset.) Here, I’ve had to explain to everyone, including my husband, just why it defeats the purpose to switch from ‘Ms’ to ‘Mrs’ when I get married (kinda missing the point, there, guys). And the cards! The vast majority are not only ignorant of my title, but of any part of my name. They address it to ‘Mr and Mrs A Mather’. I’m not in there anywhere. I usually tell my husband it’s another one for him and his mistress. ‘sigh’

From laila Namdarkhan

The use of Ms. is not just a Lesbian title, but used by myself as a title that does not align me with being ‘someone elses property’.I am neither Miss or anyones Mrs…….Men have one title MR and womon should demand the same right Ms. I had no trouble with my bank, perhaps you should change banks..the Coo-op are very accommodating in these matters….

From Eike

I’m with you on the whole Ms Miss Mrs thing- I now have a PhD and am ‘Dr’ – I can only recommend it, for that reason alone. It’s quite satisfying to be able to say to people who ask ‘is that Miss or Mrs or Ms’ ‘it’s Dr, actually’. I might be perceived as arrogant, but I’ll take that in

return… me and my feminist friends who also did PhDs used to joke that

being able to give this reply was the sole reason for doing a PhD, and

while that’s not strictly speaking true it is certianly one of it’s most

lasting rewards :-)

From yasmin keyani

I’ve signed myself as a ‘Ms’ since reading my mum’s Spare Rib as a

child. It just made sense to me. Why should women be treated differently to men, even with their title? Despite this, I too have noticed people’s suspicion. They just don’t get it. Am I lesbian? None of your business. Or am I a frustrated unmarried woman? No, I’m not interested in weddings, sorry. Actually, I don’t want to be judged by my title as anything except someone female. Now, 21 years after being with my partner and having a child, do I still have to prove myself?

From MRS Roz Callaghan

Can you please explain to me why a movement that purports to promote all things feminine refuses to accept the titles of Miss or Mrs, but instead prefers to use the sexless, neutered title of Ms?

I am very much a female and feel extremely insulted when EVERYBODY insists on addressing me as MS. Why are you ashamed of being female?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

If it’s possible to define what the feminist movement(s) is(are), I’m not sure promoting all things feminine is really part of the programme per se.

Ms is a pronoun which doesn’t define women by their relationship to men, just like Mr doesn’t define men in relationship to women; there’s nothing sexless (neutered?!) about either. The whole system might be too binary for some, in fact.

Personally I think feminism is the total opposite of being ashamed to be female. Sexists and misogynists (and more generally the sexist, misogynist culture) are the ones who are specialists at piling shame on women and girls!

From Nicola Davidson

Amelia, what a great article. It captures the rage so many women must feel at the insidious, sometimes unspoken, patriarchal culture we live in. You describe yourself as young, something I’d be very hard pushed to do. I have two pieces of advice. The first is don’t be “made to feel petty…etc” just don’t feel it. The second – you’re right, we shouldn’t be labeled in accordance with our relationship to a man, even our lovely dads – keep up the fight!

Viva la vagina, a review by Jessica Gjergji

From Ruth

Sounds like the reviewer enjoyed it, and that’s great, obviously. But I just feel that to have an entire review of the Vagina Monologues without once mentioning how ciscentric the idea that vagina=woman is, is itself pretty ciscentric.

It’s my understanding that the Vagina Monologues has – since it was first written – been performed with an all trans woman cast but I could be wrong. Anyway, it’s not something the reviewer bothers to mention or bring up. Oh well.

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, a review by Carina Schneider

From Kelly Hogaboom

Re: Carla’s article “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging”

Thank you. This was a wonderful play-by-play analysis. Sounds like teen girl culture/media in the UK is a lot like the US – very grim. As the

mother to an 8 year old girl and 6 year old boy this stuff is very real to


Thank you for a great article!

Comments on older features and reviews

Sarkless Kitty and the ghosts of misogyny, by Katharine Edgar

From Charlotte Revely

Thank you for such an interesting take on general legend and folklore. I hadn’t really considered this before but appreciate the thought and analysis you have put into this. It reminded of reading Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” a few years ago. I had never heard of Mary Boleynand so checked to see whether this account was based in truth. The reality was that the Boleyns appear to have been a scheming family using their daughters to climb the ladders of court. Mary had already been married off at a young age but when Henry set his eye on her she was ordered by her father and uncle to oblige herself as his mistress to assist their rise at court. Anne decided there was more to play for and refused to become themistress and the rest you know. This is a gripping novel written from a female perspective but when I checked this in Simon Schama’s ” A History of Britain” he refers to Mary as being “notorious as an easy conquest”. The reality is she was a powerless child being used a sexual pawn by a patriarchal order and I found this take by a respected historian absolutely shocking in the lack of understanding and the judgmental stance. Many of our common narratives, myths, histories and legends would bear closer analysis like this and I would appreciate more of this.

Katharine Edgar, author of the article, replies

Many thanks for your very interesting comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

You make an excellent point about the parallel with popular historians reproducing without question traditional gender bias. It is something I’ve noticed too, with respect to David Starkey (no surprise there, given his attitude to women’s history….). They should know better!

I have also read The Other Boleyn Girl and agree with you – it is really gripping and I love the way it re-presents a familiar historical story. I had never consciously thought of Philippa Gregory as a feminist writer but perhaps she is and that’s why I love her so much! She is so good on the kind of detail that forces you to think about what it really meant, physically, for these women to be used as political pawns (the scene where Mary is forced back into Henry’s bed shortly after giving birth is particularly memorable.) So that Schama line about Mary is really quite offensive (not to mention a missed opportunity to tell a much more interesting story….)

I had never thought before about writing about this issue but maybe I will now – I will definitely look out for this kind of thing next time I watch tv history. Thanks for a really great suggestion.

Is it time for abortion to return to the political agenda?, by Lisa Ansell

From Sarah Fisher

Excellent article! Thanks for highlighting that while women in Britain

certainly can’t take abortion rights for granted, women in Ireland don’t have the right to a safe and legal abortion at home in their own country.

Abortion Support Network (ASN) is a volunteer-run organisation that

supports women travelling from Ireland to England for an abortion, by providing grants towards procedures and overnight accommodation in London . We’re always looking for volunteers and of course funding. So if you’re interested in helping out or would like to know more about ASN please take a look at our website:

Sarah Fisher,

Abortion Support Network.

Painful vagina? Your poor husband!, by S

From Rae Shelton

Oh my Gosh. I have had this! I went to the doctors about eight times to see different professionals and it was ‘thrush, thrush, thrush… some people use natural live yoghurt for that! *giggle!*’

I know they were just doing their best but my mum said it was all in my head and I needed to ‘leave myself alone’! As if! The agony…the very thought of sex made it hurt and burn and made me just feel crap. I knew it couldn’t be an STI, because I wasn’t sexually active when I first had it. I believed the doctors who said it was thrush. I couldn’t believe how over 50% of women could have this pain and still be okay; all I wanted to do was lie naked close to a shower with no contact with anyone or any stress.

Then everything changed, I got better and then I got real thrush; with the itchy discharge. I thought; this is a walk in the park compared to the agony of the old thing!

I know this is probably an old post, but thank you for showing me that there’s more out there than just thrush / cistitis, and it’s not all in my freaking head, caused by stress or fear of sex! I had on and off from about 14 to 20…with no help. My vulva just felt like a burn.

Thank you again, what you do is wonderful.

Moving towards solidarity, by Laurie Penny

From SM

AWESOME article. Thank you for taking the time to research and share.

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

From Ansar Bakshi

I wished to comment upon a recent article published by Myriam Francois Cerrah regarding the Burka and perceived European double standards.

It was an astoundingly specious and wholly untenable predication on which she constructed her arguement.

Freedom, comes with responsibility, and foremost among those

responsibilities, is that of being able to integrate in the society in

which one lives. Those women who wear the veil and knowingly isolate

themselves from the rest of us, and by extension, any meaningful form of engagement, are essentially perverting the concept of freedom and

manipulating it in a manner to suggest that any state efforts to terminate their own self-ostracization from society is to be construed as state oppression against Muslim women. This is the kernel of the arguement that Myriam is omitting deliberately, despite knowing the limitations of assimilation that face women clad in the Burka.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Of course, women’s responsibility is always first and foremost to present her body and her presence in the least offensive way possible to other people. That’s much more important than her own comfort level, or freedom to religious expression, or self determination. How could I have forgotten!

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

From wolverine

Thanks for this article.

I hate how women are encouraged to see themselves as weak and behave as if weak, even if they’re 5’8 and heavy, even if they can easily deadlift up that sack of coal instead of asking for help.

We need to get rid of the idea that weakness and being ‘delicate’ are

somehow a necessary part of femininity.

Why feminists shouldn’t have to keep mum, by Victoria Dutchman-Smith

From michelle shearer

Finally! FINALLY! Halle-fword-LUJAH! I can’t begin to tell you how I feel right now having read this article. Thank you for a well informed,

said-it-when-nooneelse-would-dare read.

Please check out a little Mama revolution we have started over here in Australia, along those very lines..

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

From wolverine

I know how you feel. I hate my large breasts and it’s partly simply

because they’re too heavy for my back muscles and make me feel ungainly, but partly because I get seen as a sex object, and that is one thing I definitely do not wish to be.

HPV vaccination – the debate isn’t over yet, by Kit Roskelly

From wolverine

Very good points. I hate when teachers and other authority figures try and teach young people that sex is wrong and dangerous and you must never do it until you’re way into adulthood. It’s part of being human and we should teach teens to have safe sex, not NO sex.

The media has failed women’s football, by Carrie Dunn

From Kayleigh

I have been reading your article based around ‘the media failing womens football’ i feel that all recorded in that article is so true, speaking as a female footballer, and i am currently completing research based around barriers women footballers face, with media being a big part as it can link with lack of sponsership and lack of money which leads to a reduce in opportunities for young good footballers coming, and developing to elite standard.

Why not feminism?, by Emma Cosh

From Rita Banerji

I think part of the reason that women have shied away from the feminist movement since the 80s is because of the image that media and men in general created for feminists — the image of a bitter, angry,

unreasonable, man-hating woman.

Take back the streets, by Catherine Redfern

From wolverine

I’m a 20 year old woman and this totally resonated with me. I’m so sick of being expected to tolerate that behaviour because I’m female.

I was once walking to the newsagent minding my own business, and suddenly I heard a bloodcurdling ‘WHOOOOOOOOOO!’ right in my ear. I had been walking along totally in my own world and I got a massive shock. I reacted out of shock and turned to the two grinning young construction workers and screamed ‘You fucking sick monster!’

My mother couldn’t understand why I was so alarmed and enraged. I pointed out that in any other context, shouting at someone in the street and frightening them is usually called antisocial behaviour and is not tolerated. Why do we make an exception for when men and boys do it to women?

Contraception and control – teenage rights, by Megan

From wolverine

Great article. You made some very good points. Too many schools focus on teaching teenagers that sex is wrong and bad and will damage their frail little emotions if they do it before they’re at least 21. It’s ridiculous. Sex is part of being human, and to try and cast it as a danger to be avoided is absurd. Thanks for a sober and well thought perspective.

The biological clock, by Catherine Redfern

From Sarah Rauchas

The article ‘The Biological Clock’ rang many bells for me. Until I was 35, I did not want to have children. I did not want to give birth. And both giving birth and being responsible for childcare were things that I felt I had not resolved, for myself, from a feminist perspective.

Then at 35, something changed for me. It was not any biological clock. That phrase still really irritates me. It was not any ‘broodiness’, nor earth-mother instinct. What happened was that my mother died.

Unexpectedly, quietly and gently. And my response, among the tears and the grief, included the fact that my whole being wanted to have a child.

What followed were 10 years of arguing with my partner, fertility treatment, complete obsession, an inability to be with people who had young children. I really wished that I had understood what choices I was making by opting to remain childless; I’d definitely not thought them through from any angles other than those I’d seen in feminist writing (thus far).

At age 45 I gave birth to a wonderful daughter, thanks to much technology, medical intervention, and the help of people on 3 different continents. Only now, 6 years later, am I able to look back on the 10 years of ‘infertility hell’ and realise — and accept — that if I had done

things differently, I would not have the daughter I have today.

One of the responses to your article was about parenting being a one-way thing. You give, anything you get back is a bonus. Yes, it is. I agree completely. But you make those bonuses through your attitude to


I am not arguing that the Biological Clock is a valid theory. My

experience was certainly not that. But the pain of the inability to have

children in the conventional way, in all probability because I’d waited

till a later age to become a parent, definitely made me look back at my

decisions (both explicit and implicit) and wish there had been more

dialogue over this.

I am new to the website; I am very inspired by it and both my daughter and my adopted son will be hearing about some of the discussions on it as they grow up.

Teenagers and cosmetic surgery, by Catherine Redfern

From wolverine

It’s sad how young women seem to think that anything but a highly

idealized and sexualized female body is gross, unfeminine, and wrong. I’ve never understood why so many women want big breasts. It says something about society that an ideal female body is an ungainly and impractical one.

Macbeth, a review by Yasmin Eshref

From Paula Benson

I would like to thank Yasmin for coming to the show & taking time to critique our work. It’s an honour & a privilege to be part of a discourse

on women in theatre & be engaged in a body of work with which hopefully our feminist foremothers would be proud (particularly mine!) Most male critics seemed to be obsessed with our sexuality, which is not only insulting but completely irrelevant. We are a family company in blood as well as intention and as Honour Bayes (Theatre Workbook) put it “Harking back to the days of family run theatres there is a hint of nostalgia to this company formed as it is from 10 year long friendships, family members and young performers who have grown up with Benson in the rehearsal room”. Our intention is to stage plays with strong parts for women, hence we always return to the Bard and also to showcase each member’s talents. For instance, Velenzia (Lady Macbeth) is also a Make-up Artist & therefore is the Make-up Designer/Artist for all our shows, Ciara (Third Witch/Malcolm/Fleance) is an up and coming singer so I always devise a method for her to sing, Ezra (Dancer/Musician) is so talented in these fields that he choreographs the dance sequences and this year is scoring the soundtrack for our production of Romeo & Juliet and so it goes on. We used to lose a fortune each year dragging ourselves up to Edinburgh but since the advent of the Camden Fringe, set up by those amazing, forward-thinking women, Zena & Michelle, we’ve been able to platform our work on home turf & become part of a bigger family of passionate creatives.

So having this article written by Yasmin in which she gives the cast such thorough notes is not only a thrill but also a real boost. At this

juncture, may I be so bold as to correct Yasmin on one point, where she

comments “At other times the soundtrack was not so fitting, Stevie

Wonder’s ‘Superstitious’ was the background music for the feast

Macbeth and his wife host upon his coronation, but its inclusion seemed

almost gratuitous, and not entirely in synche with what was happening in

the play at the time”, the music for this scene & our uber-cheesy 70’s

dance routine was in fact ‘Queen Bitch’ by David Bowie which Mo Homouda cleverly cut the promo to. Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ was actually the tagline for the Witches so that every time they would appear the opening few bars were played or Charlie & Ez would beat out the distinctive drum intro from it. It was supposed to be a running gag through the piece, therefore, I do apologise if it seemed as if it was playing constantly. However, many many thanks to Yasmin again & if she is around at the end of August we would love to invite her to Romeo & Juliet, just let us know & I will leave her a ticket on the door!

Paula Benson


Get Over It Productions

Feminist or misogynist?, a review by Melanie Newman

From Timothy Davis

Thanks for the frank review. I wanted to know whether as a Christian as I should read the Millennium Trilogy. I now know the dark reality of this sensation. What disturbs me the most is that the titillation of this novel may stimulate some misogynists to acts of violence. I fear that it may have the opposite effect to the supposed objective of the books.

Sexual “liberation” and increased “artistic freedom” since the ’60’s has only further sexually-enslaved women as it has unshackled the sinfulness in men’s hearts. What an appalling tragedy!

From laila Namdarkhan

Having read the reviews and the article about Girls with the Dragon Tatoo, having read all the books now in the Milenium series, I am also of the opinion that there is an deep underlying misogyny running through all 3 of these books. Graphic rape scenes, bold letters spelling out terms of vile abuse against womon in the final book, cinvince me that there is nothing at all here that honours or respects womon but rather supports the mainstream pornification of the culture.

Miss Naked Beauty UK: more degrading than Miss World?, a review by Claire Mercer

From Leanne

In response to the article Miss Naked Beauty UK: I found the programmes very interesting, and the women who featured in the shows were of diverse shapes, sizes and colours. The show was designed as in a mock up of original ‘beauty’ pagents, but instead of being judged on appearance, they were being judged on confidence, integrity and genuine support for natural beauty. The ‘real woman’ comment does suggest that there are women who aren’t real, and of course there are, plastic surgery, airbrushing etc. in all media create unrealistic women, and this has a huge influence on women of all ages. Many people suffer in the quest to get the ‘perfect’ body which these so called ‘models’ and ‘celebrities’ appear to possess. The contest aimed to show that you don’t need to put a fake mask on everyday to be beautiful, but that beauty comes from within. And yes, Gok’s How to Look Good Naked, helps women to feel confident in themselves, by making them look nice in their own eyes, he never tries to make them conform to any ideal. I am pro natural beauty and anti fake plastic women (that being both physically and personality wise) but all women are free to make choices, and even though we hate to admit it, everybody judges a book by its cover…why would you dress or act like something you’re not?

The Descent, a review by Jess McCabe

From Wanjiru

That’s an interesting article. Before reading it i would never have recognised any hint of misogyny in The Descent. I really like The Descent because of the strong female characters; but you’re right, it is a shame that they aren’t allowed to escape. I like the fact that it isn’t 2d

heroism we’re presented with in the film. Perhaps that could be read as a sign of misogyny when you think of the film as being about gender and compare it to other horror films. The end of The Descent 2 is ridiculous. The last survivor escapes from the cave, runs for 30 second then stops to make a text on her phone before getting wacked over the head with a shovel and dragged back to the cave by some old guy. Who would stop running to text? Perhaps only a woman! I think your observations are very valid but i’m willing to overlook some of them because of the fact that there are so few films with strong female characters.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Maybe a list of horror films with strong female characters would be a good idea… !