Comments from December 2010

Comments on this month’s features and reviews

Are you feminist enough?, by Annika Spalding

From Rabs

Excellent and honest article about the reality of juggling one’s

principles and beliefs with our public personas and how there’s still so

much taboo around ‘feminism’, although i would say the writer doesn’t need to feel alone, you never leave the sisterhood you just expand it!! :)

ps- and its not a case of she would have written 10 books, she WILL write 10 and even more… just give her time!

From Dan M.

On being feminist enough: I am a straight white cis male that grew up in a suburban environment. Talk about privileged. Once I brought up feminism when it was the brunt of a joke on Community (when is it NOT the brunt of a joke?) My friend laughed, scoffed, and shook his head. He didn’t believe I was serious about my support. Another time me and him and his sister saw a movie, the recent buddy cop one with Will Ferrell. After the movie I mentioned how almost every joke was a “haha you’re a woman and that = the bad” and they didn’t get it at all. They kinda just ignored the comment.

So, it’s hard to bring it up and start discussion. What I do is, I point

out gender tropes whenever I can, to try and make people think about them, not necessarily change their minds, but at least break down the blinding smokescreen that privilege inevitably puts up. The hardest part is getting past the immediate defense barriers that are raised when the word “feminism” is mentioned. The ignorance and misconceptions surrounding the current movement is terribly disheartening.

Dark angels, by Roxanne Bibizadeh

From catherine lewis

Re “Dark Angels” by Roxanne Bibidizeh: I find this article very depressing in its defence of the veil. Her comment that it prevents women “becoming the object of sexual attention. Personally, it made me feel much safer” is extremely offensive – women in countries where they are forced to wear the veil are generally treated appallingly. Covering yourself up does NOT prevent rape, it just perpetrates the idea that its the woman’s fault if she is raped.

Roxanne Bibizadeh, author of the article, replies

I did not suggest the manteau as a preventative measure against rape. Please refer to my article where I state clearly “I can’t help thinking, does this not just remove the responsibility from the perpetrator onto the victim to guard against temptation?”

From Aparna

While agreeing with Roxanne Bibizadeh’s assertion that every woman has the right to choose what she wears, I would be cautious of equating covering up with less or no sexual harassment. In societies where covering up is mandated, women are no less harassed, nor are they exclusively considered in terms of their ideas or mind. Women are objectified even if they are fully covered, and covering up is not a “solution” to it, nor is it, as is sometimes presented (not in this article) a woman’s “responsibility” to cover up in order to avoid harassment.

Roxanne Bibizadeh, author of the article, replies

My article outlines some observations from personal experience, to reveal the different perspectives on wearing the manteau in Britain. I agree that “covering up” is not the solution to harassment; neither does it ensure that a woman is judged on her ideas or mind. I consider it important to suggest that the decision to wear the manteau and veil is much more complicated than commonly perceived. Whilst I do not support all the reasons why a woman might wear the veil, it is important to document that some do actively choose to wear the manteau. Their reasons are personal, and it would be a mistake not to acknowledge the fact that for them it is a liberating form of expression.

From Stephanie da Roza

On the article ‘dark angels’ I think there are many articles that outline the reasons why women choose to wear muslim dress much better than this one. The idea that it somehow protects you from harassment is offensive, almost victim blaming (although I’m sure that’s not how the author intended it, it may have been that it was simply an observation on her part). You shouldn’t have to wear anything to be safe on the streets from that. In addition, why is it her responsibility to protect the family honour. It’s her decision whether to accept that but why write about it as if it does nt pose any issues to women in general in this article? I didn’t hear her mention anything about the huge double standard that this creates and which I have seen in my own universtiy between the behaviour of muslim men and women (double standards of behaviour are also a problem in wider western culture but that’s not what this article is about, I would have similar issues with any article which tried to make any double standard acceptable). This article tries to make these issues warm and fuzzy but it doesn’t address some key issues. It is entirely her decision whether she wants to accept these cultural values becuase we all ahve to make decisions as to what we will and will not accept but to present it on the F word like this offends me, I read enough of this crap in the wider media, this is a safe space and I don’t need cloaked mysogyny here.

Roxanne Bibizadeh, author of the article, replies

Prior to making judgements I would urge you to read the article in its entirety, you might then appreciate my assertion that the manteau is not a preventative measure. Futhermore, I suggest you take note of the end of the article where I put forward a number of double standards. Just as we should celebrate a woman’s right to choose, we should embrace the wide range of opinions and personal experiences of the manteau and veil. We live in a racially enriched and culturally diverse society, it is essential we discuss these issues, to avoid misunderstandings and misguided conclusions being drawn.

Home Economics: Vintage Advice and Practical Science for the 21st Century Household, a review by Victoria Dutchman-Smith

From cycleboy

Recently, I had cause to give my cooker hood a thorough cleaning and found, to my surprise, that good old-fashioned Borax worked the best. Had I read this book, I might have not wasted so much time on the proprietary brands under my sink. But, I’m a bloke and such advice is just as relevant to me as any woman.

Where Victoria Dutchman-Smith is spot-on is the assumption that these tasks are the sole province of women. Only this week I heard a medical consultant say, “I’m lucky that I earn enough to afford to pay for people to help me out.” Note the words ‘I’ and ‘me’. What is going on? After and 50 years of modern feminism, women still see the home as their sole responsibility. Even women in apparently egalitarian relationships are still the ones who do the organising. Yes, maybe their menfolk do do their fair share, but invariably under the direction of the woman.

I speak with some feeling on this point. Being the one who is the

organiser of our home, I feel put upon and I simply cannot understand how women appear to be quite content to don that mantel without complaint.

Actually, the implicit message this role gives out is, “Men are too

simple-minded to understand what it takes to run a household and it needs us women to organise things.” Every time I hear this, I cannot understand how it is that these men with such fragile egos take this insult on the chin.

Comments on earlier features and reviews

‘It’s not RAPE rape’, by Amity Reed

From Kathy

The law distinguishes between manslaughter and murder on the grounds of intent (murder is intentionally causing death, manslaughter is a causing death in a foreseeable but unintended manner). Perhaps the same should apply here? If the intent is humiliation/domination, as it is in rape; it’s sexual assault; if the intent is therapeutic in a difficult situation where time is of the essence and lives are st stake, we use a different term. The law typically does offer protection to doctors who offer good-quality, life-saving care in situations where the recipient cannot give consent (eg unconscious car accident victim) and doctors clearly have a dual duty of care to mother AND baby. Would we rather a midwife unwrapped a tight cord from around the baby’s neck or lets it suffer brain injury or die while she has an in-depth discussion with the mother about what should be done?

Back to burlesque, by Chloë Emmott

From Corinna

I have just read two articles on this site that were in some ways related. One about women ‘in porn’ and attempts by female porn directors to make porn more female orientated and this one about burlesque, which refers to the original positioning of burlesque as being female-centred having been hijacked within our ‘misogynistic society’ to become yet another male pleasure. Whilst understanding women wanting to own (or steer male) ideas of female sexuality, it is as you say in your article so incredibly difficult to do. As a feminist I am sure of one thing selling women’s bodies will always get the male vote and male support, unlike any other activity women undertake. What is harder for feminists to do is to broaden the forever limiting portrayals of women in all forms of media, where females are virtually only appearing in an image that is most desirable to men. The repeated message to women and girls is that you need to be sexy or beautiful to be ‘successful’ or even ‘noticed’ in this (male dominated) world. There seems to be a real belief by females (of all ages) that they do indeed need to sexually desirable to men to be ‘real women’ or ‘feminine’. It seems to go unnoticed by the majority of women that men only have to be themselves to be attractive and enjoy a sex life. We are female and hence desirable to males, so we shouldn’t have to go to the nth degree to make ourselves more so. We are limiting ourselves by buying man made notions of femininity, none of which is as nature intended and which eat so much of women’s creativity and time. I am therefore very concerned that encouraging women to take ownership of what are after all male centred ideologies of female sexuality and femininity that we are just perpetuating this damaging notion.

Stink bombing the beauty pagaent, by Sarah Levack

From Caitlin

Personally, I feel this is absolutely terrible. I understand that you

want to empower women and show them that they are more than sex objects. However, how can you empower a person if you take their choice away. You did not let the women in the pageant the choice to compete. You ruined what they had chosen. You cannot say someone needs to be enlightened. Very few of us “beauty queens” are quite aware of feminism. However I feel it is our choice, not yours, as to whether we participate or not.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

You’re crediting the protesters with more clout than they actually had: the event went ahead, no-one was prevented from participating.

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

From yo

I’m mexican and was on an exchange for one year in the UK. I was shocked, as my country is regarded as ‘macho’s birthplace, to find people doing exactly what Samara Ginsberg described in her article ‘a handfull’s enough’: two guys groping this girl’s breast in public, daylight

-seriously, it was like 9:00 am- and there she was, not hitting any of them back -she was quite big, or maybe she seemed to me since we mexicans are small mostly-, not saying one word, like she wanted to belong in the gang so she had to stay cool during the situation. They stopped when they saw me and my highly disapproving and shocked look, but I have to admit the issue goes beyond that. Yeah, I’m mexican and i’m a pretty girl – but my status was kind of insane in this country. Most people saw me as the most sexual woman born in the world, flirty and secure, when I actually haven’t being able to be in a relationship in two years due to, what do you think? To guys who can’t even hear me or make a deep conversation beyond ‘you have pretty eyes’. This comes from Mexico, guys here aren’t really into complementing, but the point is, my appearence gave british the idea I must be in and out of relationships or one-night-stands when my case was exactly the opposite.

All I can say I was really glad to find this article, as it means someone else felt the same that I did about her appearence, suddenly I stoped being the nerd I knew I was to become, in other people’s eyes, the most slutty girl in college. I’m aware there must have been cultural issues around this, but hey, someone could have explained to me. Oh wait, they couldn’t, because my looks obvioulsy made them read me as flirty and promiscuous, so for most people I obviously knew what I was doing translated in british manners, despite the fact I grew up in a different continent, and never had been in England before!

I’m very lucky to have find ‘the f word’ through this article, and I

expect to keep reading it for a long time

What Not To Wear say to your co-worker, by Kelly Draper

From Lisa M

I agree with you whole-heartedly. I feel that shows like What Not To Wear are misognystic at worst and misguided at best. Why do I have to conform to other’s ideas about my appearance? I was not put on this earth for other’s approval – only my own. Most of the men who suggest that their partners go on these shows are hardly the spitting images of Johnny Depp! Why are THEY not getting themselves made over for women’s approval?

F.A.T., by Katie Muller

From Jessica Metaneira

Nice article, good points…except for that one figure about how a woman “should” be 22% fat. Healthy range actually goes as low as 14%. Sorry to nitpick but I get a lot of crap for being lean. Usually under the guise of concern. I’m naturally that way and never go above 18% fat even if I’m not doing any exercise at all. Please don’t be prescriptive…

A period of transition, by Helen G

From Matt

In response to Emma’s comment on Helen G’s article – Emma, when you say about how it is considered rude and faintly offensive to call someone a “woman” in the north – as you consider yourself a feminist, I am surprised that you don’t question the idea that calling someone a “woman” is considered rude. Surely, feminists should change people’s attitudes to words – would anyone consider it rude calling an adult male a “man” to his face? What do people continue to find so impolite about “woman”?

Re-classifying rape, by Ilona Jasiewicz

From Julie

I think that Rape should be reclassified as a hate crime. Sexual

intercourse may be involved in the act of rape, but it is about power, it

is about denying consent to the other person (most often a woman). It is

about time that rape is treated as an act of violence

Eat Pray Love: consumerism is not empowerment, a review by Taraneh Ghajar Jerven

From Jo

Thought-provoking, insightful and absolutely spot-on piece. Nice work!

The Perfect Vagina, a review by Amy Clare

From Kasey

I just finished reading the articel. And although it is a very good one I

myself am not wanting to be a little girl, but I do not want the “bits”

hanging. I loath the look of them and I will be booking surgery soon. I

dont think its because of the media…I believe that it is what you are

comfortable and happy with. To each there own.