Comments from October 2010

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Putting survivors back in the centre of the anti-violence movement, by Sophie Taylor and Davina James-Hanman

From Sheila

What I find so sadly and poignantly ironic about this piece is that it is an article, not a blog piece, so you are not inviting open comment. Talk about silencing victims…Don’t you want to hear?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

It’s perfectly possible to comment on this article, as should be clear to anyone reading this… errr… comment on the article. However, a switch to more live, ‘blog style’ comments is under consideration.

A cautionary tale of a ‘feminist’ man, by Justine

From Hannah Mills

Justine – thank you so much for sharing your story. I went through a

similar experience with my ex-boyfriend. He would belittle me, laugh at my feminist ideas and he too made me feel like the few times I had lost my temper with him made me practically insane.

I have debated for a while whether he raped me or not. I was always compliant but only because he would grope and fondle me for hours until I finally decided it would be easier to give in so I could finally get some sleep. The sad thing is I really don’t believe he thinks he did anything wrong. Even if I did say something to him I know he would accuse me of being ‘hysterical’ or even just plain lying.

I am so glad that relationship finally ended. I hope yours will too

without much strife and that you too can breathe an enormous sigh of relief and move on.

From KJB

Dear Justine,

I have read your piece ‘Beware of ‘feminist’ men’ and I want to say, thank you so much. The amazing courage that it took to survive what you went through, let alone share that with readers of the F-Word, is beyond my comprehension.

Your piece really struck a note with me, as your [UNPRINTABLE] husband sounds so much like my sister’s ex-husband. This man, despite her starting divorce proceedings last year, is STILL obfuscating and trying to find ways to make my whole family’s lives hell! What you went through is undoubtedly far worse though, and at times, your tale brought me right to the verge of tears. Again, your courage astounds me, and I would say you are a feminist heroine! Brava – and thank you again.

From Ellen

I just want to thank Justine for sharing her story. It was the first

article I’ve every read on the F word and it made me feel like someone else understood. The last line about men reveling in their privileged when it suits them is spot on. Thank you!

From Rich

Before i comment on the article regarding the femminist male, i wish to say that i feel for the writer. She clearly has had many ups and downs in life, more downs that ups, and i hope she is coping well with the breakdown of her marriage. However, i consider myself a femminist male, not to an extreme measure but i am pretty femminist. I think it is unfair to say that men cannot be femminist, you cannot say that one man’s action represents every other man’s.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Hmm, I don’t think that Justine was arguing that men can’t be feminist (or pro-feminist). But of course just because a man identifies as a feminist, doesn’t mean he’s definitely going to act in a feminist way, or not be abusive.

From Jennifer Drew

Thank you Justine for writing about your experience in respect of this coercive and abusive male. Sadly all too commonly women experience not physical violence but the more subtle hidden male coercion and control and it this which so many women find impossible to understand unless they themselves have experienced it first hand.

You did not commit ‘violence’ against this abusive male rather you were totally justified in reacting to his coercion and control.

Doubtless you know that men who are manipulative always claim they are the ‘real victims’ and it is their female partner ex female partner who is the ‘abuser.’

I know you weren’t seeking sympathy but I just wanted to thank you for speaking out and if one woman as a result of reading your article realises she too is being psychologically controlled and manipulated by a man who professes to love her. Then your article will have ‘done its job’ – letting women know they are not the ones who are “mad” rather what they are experiencing is subtle male coercion and control over their lives.

From kiwihelen

Hi Justine,

Sounds to me as if you may have had the misfortune of having a

relationship with someone with a personality disorder.

So much of what you have written resonates with me, and that was what my T gave as a tentative diagnosis to my ex, when it all came out about a) how crazy I had felt in the relationship and b) how much he has distorted the truth about our relationship – yep, I too have been painted as the abuser. I am fortunate, I’ve found a “proper” feminist man, though sadly he too is a survivor of abuse.

Makes you think eh?

From Layla

I don’t think the title of this article nor the tiny final paragraph

warning us to beware of feminist men, bore any connection whatsoever to the content of the article.

What we were given was an evidently (and inevitably) rather one sided account of a failed relationship from the perspective of one of the people in that relationship.

Clearly the author has had a hard time during the course of her life and I am not attempting to put her down but I do think that it’s a bit of a stretch to tag this as a cautionary tale about ‘feminist men’.

In fact it’s more than a stretch, it’s misleading and unfair.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

As above, I think the point is that claiming to be feminist does not a feminist man make. Hence the headline refers to “man” singular, not all feminist/pro-feminist men.

From Chloe

Thank you Justine. So many of the experiences you described about the “feminist” man were familiar to me. Like, always ending up comforting him, ringing at a set time every day because I was away at university, texting saying where I was, who I was with and had to make a 4 hour trip home every weekend to see him just to spend the whole of the time arguing until it was time to go back. It was spirit crushing.

I recently got out of the relationship, if things hadn’t ended sooner or I didn’t have the amazing support of my mother I could have dropped out of university and ended up living with his parents, trapped and totally in his control. It was only when I was diagnosed with depression and went to counseling where my therapist told me “it’s not your job to make him happy” that everything clicked into place. It’s taken me a good half a year to stop hating men and start to get over the emotional and I’ve now realised, sexual, abuse. I don’t regret what happened. At least I know it won’t ever happen to me again.

Thank you for telling your story.

From Kate

“beware of the feminist man” was a great piece on some of the subtle ways we can be victimized or manipulated, especially when someone knows our history. It’s especially hard to trust oneself when dealing with depression. I’m impressed that after just 6 months the author is able to write publicly about her experience. Appreciation to you all

From Louise

‘I texted my mum to say sorry, and went to find the Brooklyn bridge. Had I found it, I would have jumped. I realise that it sounds melodramatic, and that a lot of people will make such statements without ever really meaning to follow through, but I really would have.’

I know what you mean, but at the same time, please don’t belittle people who make such statements and don’t actually go on to commit or attempt suicide.

It is not actually as simple as ‘meaning to’ or ‘not meaning to’. I know when I took an overdose, I had no idea whether I actually ‘meant it’. The way you phrased this sounded dangerously close to ‘oh, just

attention-seeking’ – and anyone who says such things, even if they don’t

really intend to do it, needs help.

Out with the old warrior queens, in with the new?, by Hanna Thomas

From Tamsin Omond

I’m so pleased someone is asking these questions. We, at Climate Rush, are so proud to stand on the mighty shoulders of Boudicca, the Suffragettes and so many more. But there is so much more room for us to celebrate present day heroes.

Please join us on 13th October at the Toynbee Hall where we will gather with Caroline Lucas and others to decide how best our women-led group can move the climate debate forward.

Thank you Hanna for reminding us that it’s okay to want to an

inspirational person. In fact that it’s essential for climate activists to

allow themselves this small accolade.

From Andrew Jinks

Re Hanna Thomas’ article “Out with the old warrior queens, in with the new?”. I like the argument in general. But Boudicca was not an “Anglo-Saxon warrior queen” but queen of the Iceni, a tribe who spoke Britonnic – a Celtic language of the group ancestral to modern Welsh and Breton. This was about 400 years before there were any Angles or Saxons in Britain as far as anyone knows. The name Boudicca, (modern Welsh Buddug) means “the victorious one”.

One other quibble – although there is a large amount of archaeological evidence for the native people’s success in fighting back against the Romans during this revolt in the form of destruction layers at Colchester, St Albans and London, we only have the Romans’ word for the atrocities against women. The history of colonialism in recent centuries should warn us to be sceptical of colonisers’ claims about the “lesser peoples” who resist them.

Hanna Thomas, author of the article, replies

Good point. We have edited the feature to remove “Anglo-Saxon”. My bike is actually made by the company Iceni, so not quite sure why I made that slip! As for your point that we only have the Roman’s word – well of course I agree with you, but that is true of any kind of historical account that we have. History in general tends to favour the stories of the victorious – of colonisers, of men. We should take any account with a pinch of salt, whilst recognising that unfortunately, they are often the only accounts we have.

Comments on earlier features and reviews

‘It’s not RAPE rape’, by Amity Reed

From polly

Re ‘It’s not rape rape’.

Amity Reed immediately lost any sympathy I had for her argument with this sentence.

“Even where intent was not necessarily malicious (for example, when a man doesn’t stop intercourse after a woman has objected, even if she initially consented), the resulting mental distress is virtually the same as rapes perpetrated with intent to harm.”

There is no way that this can be compared with a clumsily performed medical procedure, unless you believe the ‘I couldn’t stop when I’d started’ rape myth.

There is clearly a world of difference in intent. As soon as a woman says stop and a man continues intercourse, there IS an intention to harm. The intention to harm starts the minute that he knows she has withdrawn consent.

This is in no way comparable to a medical procedure (even one carried out with consent) that is believed – however wrongly – to be in the interests of the patient. You cannot compare the two in any way. To say a man who continues clearly unwanted intercourse is not ‘malicious’ and there is no intent to harm is ludicrous. And more to the point it’s a rape apologist argument.

From NavelgazingMidwife

I have tears in my eyes that another writer hears what women are saying. Thank you a thousand times… and a hundred thousand more from the women who know birthrape viscerally.

I am a homebirth midwife who spent a great deal of time in hospitals with women over the last 27 years. I have not only witnessed birthrape first-hand, I also participated, before I had my eyes pried open, in horrific acts against women. I’ve written the stories that I know and the stories I’ve been told. Women continue coming to me with their own stories of birthrape.

When I first heard the term, I also balked, having been a woman who was raped (in the traditional sense), but I went and looked up the terms “rape,” “assault,” and “battery,” in the legal sense of the word and

birthrape, absolutely, falls into those LEGAL parameters.

However, you are absolutely correct. WOMEN define their experiences.

Your piece is so amazing; I know it will fly around the Internet for years to come. Thank you so much for taking the time and emotional energy to address this very, very important issue.

From NaturalBirthGoddess

In response to “It’s not RAPE rape”:

By far, the best article written, to date, about the feelings of women who are “birth raped”. So, direct and to the point, it’s hard to argue that it cannot happen.

Kudos to the author for such a wonderful, thought-provoking article!!

From Jennifer Drew

Comment in respect of Article entitled ‘It’s not RAPE rape.’

When Robin Warshaw published her findings on widespread acceptance of males deliberately raping and subjecting their girlfriends, causual female acquaitances, female work colleagues – in fact any woman known to the male rapists what happened? Why there was immediately a chorus from men and their supporters that acquaitance rape does not exist but was supposedly an invention of so-called ‘radical feminists (yes we radicals are always scapegoated) determined to prevent men from engaging in supposedly natural ‘male sexual expression’ Then when Diana Skully, Andrea Parrott and other radical feminists published similar findings concerning the widespread practice of males routinely raping known women, men’s hysterical responses increased. Nor must we forget men married to women were granted for centuries the right – yes right to rape their wives because hey wives didn’t own their bodies instead they were men’s property.

So now we are experiencing similar mass male hysteria and yes a few ‘feminists’ are also engaging in hysteria – because ‘birth rape’ supposedly does not exist. Yes indeed and males do not routinely rape and subject girl and boy children to sexual violence do they?

The continuing narrow definition of what supposedly encompasses rape suits our male supremacist society very well because surely we women should remember our bodies are not ours – they are men’s property to do whatever they wish.

Rape is often both about male sexual entitlement wherein the male rapist uses the woman’s body in order to enforce his sexual entitlement as well as subjecting her to sexual violence. The very fact a male rapist uses his penis/fingers/hands/objects as a sexualised weapon against the woman/women is deliberate. It is about maintaining male sexual dominance over women and girls.

So too many medical practitioners primarily male believe it is their right to inflict any violence they wish on the female patient because she

supposedly loses ownership of her body due to giving birth to a child.

Would we so complacent if male patients were routinely subjected to

internal examinations without seeking the consent of the male patient? I

think not, but because women do not have sexual autonomy or ownership of their bodies, this means our male supremacist society and male medical practitioners can inflict sexual violence on the female patient at will.

Why? Because rape is not rape is not rape – unless men and their

apologists say so!

By the way I have worked with female survivors of men’s sexual violence and all too often the female survivors blame themselves – rather than the male perpetrators. Birth rape happens and it is because women are still fighting for their full human status not only to be acknowledged but respected.

From Samantha

As a victim of rape and what this writer would call “birth rape” I am

disgusted and angered by this term. When my doctor was performing medical procedures on me while I was screaming “NO” in pain I knew that she was doing what was best for both me and my baby. My child was born almost dead and had to be in the NICU – if she hadn’t have done what she did he would have died. I was not afraid of the woman I spent 39 weeks entrusting my body to, although I was afraid of the procedures and afraid for my child and afraid the pain. That experience was a FAR cry from when a man attacked me and raped me. He certainly was not doing what was best for me and in no way did it feel like what I experienced during the birth of my child. Being violated in such a traumatic way during rape in no way compares to so called “birth rape”. When you’re under a man who may kill you when he’s done with you and you don’t know whether or not you’ll ever see your loved ones again is not anything like the experience of unwanted medical procedures during a time in which great pain, stress and fear keep you from making sound decisions.

From Dr H

As a doctor, I find the reports of women describing ‘birth rape’ very

distressing. I am deeply saddened that what should be a monumentous event in a woman’s life is so blighted by feelings of being assaulted and


Most births pass without any need for instrumentation, caesarean section or even excessive intimate examination. However, unfortunately some do not. When this happens, it is because there is a serious risk to the baby’s health and survival, and sometimes to the mother’s too. Things happen quickly in these situations and sometimes the communication between midwife/doctor and Mum is hurried, brief or, inexcusably, missed. Health professionals have to gain consent from patients to perform examinations and procedures except in extremis when lives are at stake. The ethical dilemma here is that to save the baby’s life, you often have to perform a procedure on the mother. I’m sure everyone reading this blog has at least some awareness of the principle of self-determination of the woman in cases of termination of pregnancy, which describes the woman’s right to determine what happens to her body, but can it be applied in pregnancies at term when there is a viable foetus that is trying to make its way out into the world? Can the mother’s right to self-determination be over-ruled to prevent harm to, or even the death of, her child? I cannot answer that question but feel it casts an interesting angle on ‘birth rape’. I am an ardent feminist but sometimes feel that in some women’s issues there is more than just women’s rights to consider and that the issues are far more complex and wide-reaching.

NB if doctors, nurses or midwives perform a procedure or examination on a patient without their consent, unless they can prove it is to save the

patient’s (or patient’s child’s?) life, then they can be charged with battery under common law. My understanding of the criminal law is there has to be the intent to commit a crime. I would hope healthcare professionals who do commit battery against their patients by failing to gain consent never do it with the intent of raping the patient. That is why I object to calling it rape- I understand that the women to whom this has happened feel this way but to imply that someone did this to them with the intention of raping them? Surely there has to be a better term?

From Laura

I thought your article was well written and possessed the accurate amount of anger behind it. We should be angry that something so precious as childbirth has been taken away from us and not only the control that is so important, but now some apparently think we are merely vessels like our humanity is stripped once we conceive.

I have been raped. I have also had the blessing of giving birth to my

daughter with little intervention by way of a water birth. She is almost

two now, but I can still remember quite clearly the extreme, heightened

state of my vaginal area when my midwife checked my dilation. It was so intrusive feeling I can certainly understand why the term birth rape is

necessary, not that this heightened state needs to be present to be rape.

This was a loving, young woman assisting me in the most minimal,

compassionate way yet as soon as she touched me I wanted nothing else at that moment but her hand out of me. I cannot imagine a person with any less compassion doing the same or worse without in the least causing extreme discomfort and distress. Considering a person being crass, emotional void and ignoring of personal boundaries and perpetrating into a woman’s vagina despite her own wishes is in fact rape. The presence of a baby does not change that! When does NO stop meaning NO? Simply put it doesn’t!!

I know you know all of this, but I just wanted to offer my support. I am enraged by birth rape as well as many other crimes committed against women especially during pregnancy, birth, labor and child raising. It is important we all stand for our rights to be woman in fullness. We have been blessed with the ability to grow, carry and birth a child. We do not need help usually, but when we do we should still be able to say NO!

From MickiSue

Could you BE any more over the top, here? I have four kids, and I also spent 7 years working in labor and delivery, two as a nursing assistant and 5 as a registered nurse.

My arguments against the term “birth rape” are simple: first of all, there are better, more accurate terms for the VERY RARE occurrence of forcible violation of women during childbirth. Stated simply, a vaginal exam, even if it’s not comfortable, is not rape. And it IS a necessary part of giving care to a woman in childbirth.

Look. I’m quite sure that men who have exams, multiple times a year, because they are at risk for, or have contracted prostate cancer are not thrilled about the urologist sticking his or her finger up their rectum to examine the prostate. But it’s necessary. And it’s not rape, even if the guy doesn’t want it done: it’s a medical procedure.

Calling a bad experience, no matter HOW bad, during a medical procedure “rape” cheapens both the experience of the person who’s undergone the bad experience, and rape, itself. Find another term, OK? If you want to be taken seriously in this issue, then do not use hyperbole in discussing it.

From Sarah Glover

Thank you thank you Amity Reed for the article “it’s not rape rape”. Birth rape and the inhumanity put onto women revolving around pregnancy cannot be dismissed any longer. It gave such a clear picture as to why women cannot stand down. Thanks again

From Enter your name here

This is the singularly most ridiculous article I have ever read! As a

woman and as an RN I object to the term “birth-rape”. You do a grave

disservice to every woman who has been raped and brutalized. As a woman, as a registered nurse and as a survivor of rape, what goes on in the delivery room is NOT rape. I will admit I have seen doctors who were disrespectful, rough and abrupt while attending a delivering mother. I condemn those physicians in the strongest possible terms. I lost a treasured job because I reported an MD who I felt was unbelievably crude and rough during a delivery. I would not let the issue go when the hospital exonerated that MD, and decided that his actions were the result stress and a lack of sleep. For my efforts, I was terminated. Md’s like the one I reported should not be allowed to touch any woman or any other human for that matter. However to describe the ministrations that occur during a delivery as rape is naive, incendiary, inflammatory and grossly inaccurate. There is no doubt whatsoever that during labor and delivery a woman will be touched, inspected, and examined numerous times by physicians and nurses. Sometimes medical professionals are not as sensitive to the needs of the mother for privacy, but the bottom line, the intent and goal of every MD and nurse involved in the birthing process is to deliver a healthy, wonderful, LIVING baby. The act of giving birth requires genital exposure, and requires internal examination in order to determine the stage of labor, and dilation of the cervical os. There is no intent to violate, humiliate or “rape” the delivering mother. I have seen too many complications, maternal and fetal deaths as a result of unattended births or births attended by poorly educated mid wives who were more intent on making the birth a mystical experience rather then concentrating on the health of mother and baby. If a woman decides to become pregnant and if she decides to have assistance

during delivery, she has to expect hands touching, feeling and probing her genitalia, both internal and external. Every woman has the right to go to alternative practitioners for delivery. If a pregnant woman does not want internal exams or handling of her external and internal genitalia, she should not get pregnant, or perhaps she should deliver her baby on her own. I am not excusing physicians who are disrespectful, rude, rough, and insensitive to delivering mothers, on the contrary I hold them to the strictest of standards, but examining a mother during labor and delivery is vital to the end result, which is the delivery of a healthy, LIVE baby. As a survivor of rape, I can tell you that what I experienced during my rape was in no way similar to what I experienced giving birth to my children. I was not beaten, denigrated, or humiliated during childbirth. That all happened during my rape. When the rape ended, I was bruised, cut, bleeding and battered both physically and psychologically. After I gave birth I had a beautiful new life in my arms. There was no comparison between the the two. I had an enormous amount of difficulty getting pregnant and maintaining my pregnancy. I lost 5 pregnancies before I had my child. I would have done anything, undergone anything, would have allowed a host of Md’s to exam me if it would have meant the delivery of a living child. I think perhaps that feminists, especially young feminists, are so focused on finding discrimination against women that they see discrimination and inadequate treatment of women in every experience. When these women have experienced childbirth AND rape, I think that they will be better qualified to make an educated assessment. Until then please do not lessen the horrific nature of rape. Do not compare the professional examinations of a qualified physician to the agony and pain inflicted during rape.

From nance

I was a young, scared first time mother, and had a truely awful experience giving birth to my daughter at the hands of a bullying and unpleasant midwife (luckilly the shift changed, and after 16 hrs of the most awful experience, the midwife who took over was amazing) I never considered the very brutal way i was ‘treated’ in this way, but reading this article it brought back a flood of memories. Forcible catheterisation, physically punishing treatment (far more painful and dehumanising than any other aspect of the birth) etc made it a terrifying and overwhelming episode. I didn’t have wooly/utopian expectations about giving birth, and i was young, scared and not very assertive, and i really think it contributed very heavilly to what the doctor called PPD, but i think was more akin to PTSD. It is a form of rape, because it is chiefly about power and control, and that is just as damaging if the control being asserted is in the name of medical convention becuase it dehumanises the woman, and steals control of her body. That IS rape.

From Sheila Kitzinger

Dear Amity

I was very impressed with your response to the rape discussion. It is powerful and succinct. I shall refer to what you are saying in my lectures and teaching about distress after childbirth.

With all best wishes

From Susan Hewitt

Your fascinating article on Birth Rape has cleared up something that’s puzzled me.

30 years ago I gave birth to my third child, in hospital. It was a quick and easy birth, taking around 3 hrs. I was not pushing for long, and was not distressed, and neither was the baby. My waters had not broken,(they had not broken in my previous two births), but the midwife said she was going to break the membrane. She turned away from me, to a cabinet containing various instruments, and began to prepare to intervene. Instinctively I knew intervention would be wrong. Terror spurred me on to make the most powerful push in my life! My baby came complete i.e. head, shoulders, body in one push. The midwife, shocked, said thank goodness she had not used instruments to break the waters.

I was in a very agitated state, trembling and frightened and I did not sleep all night (baby was born at 8.20pm).

A simple, easy, natural birth experience had been changed into one that shocked me.

I am sure the midwife was acting in what was to her my best interests, and was in no way rape, but nevertheless I felt VIOLATED!

From Erin Mackey

I chose homebirth two times (awesome experiences, BTW) because I was afraid once I got in the hospital I would cease to have any autonomy and choice in how I gave birth. I did not invent this out of thin air, but rather drew this conclusion from many friends’ disempowered birth stories. In short, the hospital didn’t feel safe. It may make people feel uncomfortable to hear the words “birth rape” but it doesn’t change how these women feel. IMHO, they can just deal with it. It is not these womens’ jobs to make everyone else feel more comfortable.

From Kate Hillier

Just prior to my being ready to push on Aug 24th, 2008 at St Thomas’ birth ward, a chap came in, no eye contact and with a shove into my vagina announced that I was ready. I laughed – I laughed because I thought – Birth is Mental, how odd it is that things happen during this period, and not at any other time – unless you’re being assaulted (this thought came much later when I realised how horrifying it was). He looked at me, and without saying anything, turned and left the room. Mind boggling really.

Empowering just one person: An interview with Zoe Margolis, by Catherine Redfern

From Kellie

Thanks for this interview! You’ve just managed to cover all of the

questions I wanted to ask Zoe after reading GWAOTM and I’m really excited by her answers. I think she expresses perfectly the tension that feminists are currently forced to exist in when it comes to the question of sex, and female sexuality in particular. She gives me hope that there are more than two sides to the argument. Thank you Catherine!

From John Burridge

I found it interesting reading “Empowering Just One Person: An Interview with Zoe Margolis”. First of all I’d like to make my loyalties clear. When it comes to feminism I’m with the sex-positive/anti censorship feminists and against the anti-porn feminists (Margolis seems to be a mixture of both).

In the 1990s there was a kind of civil war within feminism between the anti-porn feminists on one side and the anti-censorship feminists on the other, the latter being represented by Feminists Against Censorship (FAC) in the UK and the Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce (FACT) in the USA.

But in this recent third wave of feminism it seems to be the voices of the anti-porn feminists (as represented by the organisation OBJECT) that are being heard the most. Where are FAC and FACT (or similar voices) this time round?

Honeymoon cystitis?, by Hannah Fearn

From Sarah Parker

I must say how refreshing I found this article to read, as if a load had been lifted and some greater force was telling me I wasn’t an

unreasonable person and I wasn’t alone. However, from this relief came a feeling of sadness as I recognised that so many women experience this

agonising, life altering condition receiving minimal help from those in

positions to offer it.

My own story is one also full of dismissive doctors, endless

prescriptions, repetitive advice and continual frustration. As I turned 25

in October 2009, I found myself in a new and exciting relationship. This is when I begun experiencing cystitis. Having suffered bladder and urine

infections during my childhood, I was familiar with the increasingly

uncomfortable sensation. A visit to my doctor resulted in a short

antibiotic prescription and advice to drink ‘plenty of cranberry

juice’. Over the next 3 months I experienced as many infections, each

time being given a short course of antibiotics and advice to drink

‘plenty of cranberry juice’. My fifth infection developed on Christmas

eve and resulted in a visit to A&E where a doctor who appeared as equally dismissive warned me of how my sexual behaviour could fuel such infections. Now I’m not only being told that there’s not much that can help treat my condition but that finally being able to enjoy a full, varied, liberating sex life is bad for my health and likely to cause me continued pain. To have a medical professional degrade my experience further by using the term ‘Honeymoon cystitis’ just added to my fury. By this time, I was frustrated, angry, upset and losing hope. I was also on sickness monitoring at work and I was becoming ever more nervous about the pain experienced during intimacy.

In the absence of any help, I turned to the scientific community to find my answers. I cannot describe my surprise at discovering how little this area had been researched, especially regarding the amount of women who had shared their experiences of painful urinary infections with me. How can a disease affect so many women and not warrant extensive scientific research? Not only does the subject matter appear to be heavily underrepresented in the literature, doctors appear to be unwilling to help. After my sixth infection, unbearable pain, more frequent incontinence and the development of thrush due to extensive antibiotic use, I pleaded with my doctor for a referral to a specialist. She refused. It appeared my case would not benefit from the attention of a specialist. Was this another way to reiterate to me that my recurrent cystitis was not a case of limited treatment options or poor diagnosis but rather a consequence of my own ‘unhygienic’ sexual behaviour.

A year later, after eight infections, countless visits to my doctors and endless prescriptions my questions still remain unanswered. I live with the constant threat of future infections, which are inevitable. I am glad that this issue is being bought to the fore front of attention for all the readers of the f word and hopefully other women who experience similar grievances will find some consolidation in this shared experience. I can only hope that researchers consider cystitis with the attention it deserves to avoid women in the future being victim to a disease that has blighted so many before them.

From Maddy Farrow

Thank you for writing this. I am in exactly the same position as you, and, after over 10 years of suffering am still fighting for a referal. I

was told that doctors are reluctant to refer cases of UTIs as it is ‘just’

a common women’s condition. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s not important. You’re right, if men had any kind of infection which prevented them from having sex, a cure would have been developed decades ago.

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

From v

The picture at the end of the article is not an invitation to rape but

should it really be glorified?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I’m not sure what your objection is to the photo, or what you think is being glorified.

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

From Zaron Burnett III

Great article about the influence of riotgrrrl punk on third wave feminism and culture at large. Living in NorCal at the time of the riotgrrls’ greatest influence and often traveling to play shows or visit friends in Olympia, I was very much affected by all that sprang from the riotgrrl ethos. As a young punk who was neither a riotgrrl nor a girl of any sort, I happily rooted for every riotgrrl I knew- and defended their rights to be wherever they wanted to be and as punk as they wanted to be. I miss their music, their spirit and their attitude. But i wanted to help proclaim not all of their spirit is gone or relegated to warm corners of memory… riotgrrls are out there still affecting the culture. If you have a coffee cup worth of free-time, I attached a link to a web-serial I made and it’s very much inspired by allthings riotgrrl.

Sometimes, I think we just need to keep our chins up… and some other times a small change in the wind suggest to me the spirit is coming back from the roots on up… once again.



Loving your site from the other side of the Atlantic,

Gender in the playground, by Kate Townshend

From Chloe

It doesn’t help that shops like TK Max have a pink girls toys section

which has dolls and cooking things and a blue boys toy section with

everything else.

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

From Crystal

Thank you! You have helped solve my naming dilemma. My partner & I are expecting our first child in a month & have been stuck on what to name them. We would simply hyphenate our last names except that I already have a double-hyphenated name. We were considering triple-hyphenating but it didn’t sit right with me. I identify far more with my mother & the last name she gave me, so why would I pass along the names of both my mother & father when I don’t feel the same connection to the patrimonial side of my family? Still, there was no way I could allow my son to take on my male partner’s last name & continue to call myself a feminist. We have decided to use your system of me passing on my mother’s maiden name & my male partner passing on his patrimonial name. I feel that I am staying true to my feminist self & I’m sure our little guy will be happy to not have the hassle of a triple hyphenated name!

What a load of wank, by Sophie Platt

From Charlotte Revely

It doesn’t go far to redress the balance but there is a great line in

series 2 of Gavin and Stacey, when she is trying to reassure the lads she

is not embarrassed by saying she regularly cracks a few off whilst watching daytime TV. Must have been watershed moment in British sitcom!

From Lulu

Re the “taboo on female masturbation” article:

Taboo? Feels a bit wrong? Speak for yourself! Perhaps my Nan might have had a few issues about discussing the subject, but I’ve always enjoyed a good w**k and have never felt the need to make any apology for doing it. I thought this ‘taboo’ was done and dusted 50 years ago – the article may as well have been about the author’s nervousness about using a ballot box.

Enough with the pendulum!, by Catherine Redfern

From John

I notice that you referred to Louis Theroux’s documentary on Thai brides. In my opinion the fellow in the documentary is so sleazy. I am married to a Thai woman myself, but we are the same age and yes she does get “headaches” and so do I sometimes as well. That’s part of married life isn’t it? I’ve lived here for six years and I think it’s a shame that TV portrays such a bad image of Thailand all the time. I also happen to know and work with a few western women who are married to Thai men as well. It would be nice if someone could offer an alternative view on this, what do you think?

Feminist or misogynist?, a review by Melanie Newman

From William Parke-Sutherland

Thank you, Melanie Newman for your article and analysis of Larson’s

novel(s). Expertly crafted and powerful commentar

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, a review by Bellavita

From Miss Young

Honestly I think your opinion is relatively biased. I’m going to assume you do not have this problem of large labia? Therefore you have no idea what it’s really like. When I was younger I was always very very

uncomfortable with the size of my labia. They always caused pain when

walking, working out or just sitting down. I was about 14 at the time,

still a virgin, and never seen what another vagina looked like in my life.

So even without media and social influence I was extremely uncomfortable and felt something wasn’t ‘normal’. When I did lose my virginity and thereafter it was painful and embarrassing that my labia always got ‘caught’ if you will , while having sex. My bf’s never said anything to me but I refused to let them look. I had thoughts and even almost attempted to cut them myself. Thankful when I turned 22 i found a doctor that performed labiaplasty and had them removed. From that day forward I couldn’t have been happier. Whoever said plastic surgery cannot buy confidence lied!! It solved all my problems in that area. I for one am a feminist as well and I think we are entitled to this right. To deny a women this right based on the context of the surgery goes against what feminism stands for, the empowerment of women to have a CHOICE!!!!

Hairy Women, a review by Lindsay

From Mark Sands

Good article by Lindsay about women with hair. One thing that I thought about is when one is different or embraces a different idea about anything, they are made to stand out and be ostracized. This is an extra pressure by society to decide that hair on a woman is unattractive, and not allow opposing views. When women shave, sometimes the hairs grow back thicker. The bigger point though, is that if a woman is okay with her natural self, and happy, then people will yet harass her into conforming to society’s idea of what a woman looks like, or how she keeps herself. I am a man who likes women with hair, because it accents their features and proves they are mature in years It is an attractive quality for me. That may make me different from many, but not deserving to be ostracized. Not when here are worse traits to worry about. Women suffer enough with heir groming routine and dressing regimen. Must we add more to the pressure of looking a certain way to someone else by requiring all hairless women? I have to wonder why

all women must look the same. I also wonder why any person would be required to do away with anything that they may be satisfied with. We wory about person having complexes. Sometimes we may give them to the people by pointing out things they didn’t worry about at first. These are reasons why I agreed wholeheartedly with the author of this article.

Hardcore, by Catherine Redfern

From K Star

Having just read your review of the 2001 Hardcore doc, I have to point out that Jarvis Cocker is not your enemy, and never was. If you’d listened to the album This Is Hardcore, or bothered to find out what the inspiration was, you’d know that it was when the band had been monotonously touring, finding themselves in bland hotel rooms around the world every night for a long time. Jarvis noted the proliferation of free porn channels, and began to wonder who and where these ‘actors’ were now, what lives they’d had, who they really were and how they felt, etc. If indeed you’d bothered reading the title track lyrics, you’d see how it was about the tedium of porn and how predictable it all is, not a glorification at all. Jarvis is an intelligent man, always most unlikely that he’d write anything just to be cool, let alone what you were accusing him of. On that album in fact there’s the song “I’m A Man” all about the male macho stereotypes that he doesn’t fit into and dislikes so much. I’d put both of these tracks in a feminist top 20, if one were ever to be compiled.

You should’ve done your research before tarring him with the same brush as the mass bullshit male-centric media.. although this was years ago, that album doesn’t deserve to be quoted as ‘part of the problem’ of the Disneyfication of porn; he’s a true artist who I’ve always known was on my side, the side of righteous justice, and you did him a terrible disservice by mentioning him here. Poor show.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Um, this review has nothing to do with Pulp or Jarvis Cocker. Best to read the article before commenting.

General comments

From tom

Hi.. Not sure if you’ve seen this, if you have, I’d really like more

attention drawn to it. Its freaking me out here!

.. A man.. who beats his wife.. would have gone away scot free, if the

woman had not been willing to break his religious beliefs. They were

perfectly willing to refuse a womans testimony because of a piece of

cloth.. a thin piece of cloth. This man “punched her in the mouth” so hard that it “knocked a tooth out”.. and .. I really cannot express how sickened I am!

From Chloe Doherty

I recently heard about this site and I’m keen to follow its progress.

A frustration I have with the country as it stands it the clear

disadvantage women have if they wish to have children and progress in any career. My sugestion for helping change this is to give men equal paternity rights. This way men will be as inconvienient as women to employ. This would help break the glass ceiling. I was brought up to believe men and women should be equal as far as is possible so 1 year v 4 weeks shows that we are not equal.