Comments from November 2002 – March 2003

Comments from 2002 and 2003

, 14 March 2003

From Claire

I would just like to comment on the article about cosmetic surgery [Teenagers and Cosmetic Surgery]. You left out the fact that men are also insecure about themselves as can be shown by the increasing number of men opting for surgery. I am already considering having facial cosmetic surgery and this stems from the fact that i do feel insecure about jthe way i look. But that is my choice and i do not expect everyone to agree with me. I think cosmetic surgery is as a result of society’s obsession with the way we look, however that is the way it is and i don’t think we can change that. Love the website and many of the articles are extremely interesting. And also for the girl who said girls who want to have cosmetic surgery are stupid, i have taken six AS-Levels and got straight A’s, speak Dutch fluently and have been excepted at Cambridge and i want cosmetic surgery yet i am definetely not stupid. (Don’t mean to sound arrogant :-))

From Martha

Reading the article Pretty Vacant I agree with Holly about skirt- wearers being associated with feminity and subservience, but I tend to feel that more about longer or flowerier skirts. There is an element of that with shorter skirts but i think my main aprehension about wearing them is (as was written in the ‘zine ‘spilt milkshake’) the ‘rape me hemline’. There is a different reaction to you if you wear short skirts, I was wearing one the other day and had two men about twice my age approach me in the street and ask me how i was etc., and other people looking me up and giving me derisive looks. My main worrry about wearing short skirts is that they are indiscriminately sexually alluring, and I like wearing them, but i dont particularly want this mind of attention, particularly as as an individual, i am not very good at dealing with it. Maybe if i wore short skirts more often i’d get a bit more practise. I was attending a university open day, and I also felt that the other girls there were a bit more wary of me. It was only girls who asked me if i was cold wearing only a skirt (the answer being no, as i was also wearing two pairs of tights a v. warm jumper.). Either boys don’t really consider this or keep scthum, or the girls were trying to make some comment about how much more practical they were in wearing trousers on such a day. I know they’re not in vogue right now, but wearing short skirts is less revealing than when evetyone went round in leggings in the 80s, and as I was v. little at the time, i was wondering if they were seen as sexually as short skirts are? It feels like I’m making some kind of sexual statement everytime i put one on.

From Anna

Hello, I’m e-mailing to join the mailing list. As with many of your other readers I experienced a great sense of relief on getting here and seeing all these great articles by other feminists out there, just confirmation that they were out there in the UK has certainly made my week. Academically I know they/we must be out there but knowing where is difficult, as highlighted in the article on the Bradford feminist discussion group. I feel lucky to have my sister and my academic supervisor to talk feminism with but still, there’s a gap.

Anyway enough blethering, thanks for the genuinely wonderful site, I will be returning often.

From Mr. Wonder

Your summation of the Michael Jackson Interview is absolutely spot on. It is a great shame that men are reviled for showing love, compassion and caring, those traits being regarded as weak and therefore feminine. I hope one day that man and woman can live in harmony, without the social stereotypes that society has placed on them. Men and women have a lot more in common with each other if only both sexes would stop and take a look at themselves. Your wonderful website encourages that. Thanks!!!!

From Patricia Renard

This comment is in reference to the article lamenting the loss of sisterhood [Whatever happened to sisterhood?]. I guess that I am older by your standards (being 45 and having teenage daughters of my own) but I wanted to bring up a point. It is true that as we get into relationships with men, and have children, we tend to drift away from our friends. But I found that as our marriages fall apart, we find ourselves reconnecting with women. Being on welfare with 5 children, I found a great sense of community and sisterhood with other single mothers groups and welfare rights groups. These groups are mainly women. And we have women of all ages, the only common factor among us is that we are women and we have children. And mostly we are poor as well. sisterhood is still very much alive, maybe in just a different form that the author is thinking of.

From Francine Taylor

Re: Where are the radicals?. Natasha Forrest’ statement: she sees herself as a postmodern feminist and therefore refuses all labels is indicative of the utter intellectual confusion of the whole article. Postmodern IS a label! I find the pro-sex feminists profoundly oppressive. I am a “sex if I want to and the way I want to” feminist. The notion that sex, performed most traditionally to satisfy male fantasies as “sex workers” is liberating to women is the biggest fraud since Hitler called his party national SOCIALISM.

From Donna Newman

Excellent piece on Michael Jackson, and I think you make some very timely observations. Whatever the truth is underlying Michael Jackson’s behavior, I think you make a good argument for not automatically assuming that his “deviation” from what is considered “typical” or “acceptable” male conduct is either pathological or deleterious.

It’s very easy to jump on the condemnation bandwagon, and I appreciate the way that you came at this from a different perspective, not only with respect to Jackson, but relating it to the way that women deal with these same issues and the backlash men are already experiencing when they try to take on a child care role.

From Ropinder Gill

First of all I’d like to say how fantastic it is to have F-Word. I would love the chance to exchange views and learn more about what other women think about issues that I care about. Every day I come across things I believe are feminist issues yet many of my peers think that gender differences are no longer the problem that they were. Only last weekend I was appalled to learn of the very lax regulations and non-existant support for mail order brides in the UK; a greater than average proportion of whom are subject to violence, slave-like conditions and rape. Most of all I would to feel that I could do something tangible to help rather than just exchange ideas – whether it is a petition or some direct action to highlight a cause. I look forward to hearing from you about what features will be included in your next issue and how we can all help each other make a difference.

From Jennifer Drew

I have just read Holly Combe’s most interesting and totally relevant article on chivalry [ Smug Intentions] and in particular Richard and Judy’s approach to this outdated and patriarchal concept.

Holly Combe is to be congratulated for getting to the core of “chivalry.” As Holly Combe said, chivalry is not about respect and treating women as equal to men, instead it is actually another form of sexism, only this time it is benevolent sexism. Men who believe in chivalry are in fact stating their refusal to accept and treat women as their equals. I have experienced supposed chivalry from men and their attitudes have always been the same, one of superiority and patronisation towards a “poor, weaker female.” On the other hand I have also experienced egaliterian acts of kindness from men who do not believe they are better or superior to me, but acted simply from common humanity. However, as Holly Combe said in her article, the media hates feminism and can only depict feminists in a vicious, stereotypical demeaning manner. Sexism like racism is now a criminal offence, but it is still prevalent only more overt than direct.

I watched Richard and Judy’s feature on chivalry and was aghast how it was interpreted. Any woman who did not uphold the idea of chivalry was deemed to be a man-hater. As Holly Combe said in her article, men who uphold the idea of chivalry and that does not mean all men, do so because it gives them a sense of superiority and power over the “poor, fragile, defenceless little woman.”

Men who recount experiences of having their hypocritical chivalry rebufed by supposedly man-hating feminists, in fact have had their male egos dented. As for Richard in the Richard and Judy show time and again he has shown himself to be a male stereotype, he constantly interrupts, is ill-informed, patronises women and is boorish!

From Alex

Re: Review of Michael Jackson Interview While i agree with a lot of the ideas in this article, i found a few things to be little more than assertions. The notion that the hype surrounding Jackson’s face comes directly from his gender, and furthermore that his plastic surgery would be accepted by society were he female, is somewhat short-sighted. He has had an excessive amount of surgery, drastically changed his appearance, and is left looking like someone who has been in a terrible accident and undergone face re-modelling (albeit good re-modelling). I cannot think of any other public figure, male or female, who has had emough cosmetic work done to prompt similar wide-spread interest. This being the case, i would suggest that a famous woman who underwent such dramatic changes would also find them the focus of much media attention… Leslie Ash’s collagen injections spring to mind.

As for the negative reactions towards Jackson’s relationship with children, i think that our automatic response (of discomfort) should not be ignored. While i think it is true that a women in his position would be the subject of far less speculation, the intimacy of his, a grown adult, relationships with children other than his own, is not entirely natural. Affection for children is wonderful, but it is Jackson’s constant fascination with them, and physical closeness to them, that disturb me. It is only natural to be more wary of a man than a woman as a potential sexual threat- the great majority of paedophilia or sexual abuse cases involve men. This is not something unfairly imposed by society, it is simply what we observe as being the case. Having said all this, i was not left feeling that Jackson was an actual danger to children.

I do however, agree completely about Bashir imposing personal assumptions through his questioning. He repeatedly stressed the word “man”, and with the tree-climbing comment, seemed to be mocking Jackson for his lack of what Bashir would consider healthy male traits. By the end of the documentary, i felt little for Jackson, but contempt for his interviwer.

From Gemma

Randomly came across your site when doing some research for an article I’m writing. I think it is a fantastic website, packed with well-written, witty articles and is just what my age-group (20-30) needed. – Really uplifting, refreshing and positive. Thank you!

From Marion

Re: Lesbians: ignored by mainstream female culture? I feel I must point out that women’s magazines DO discriminate against Caribbean, Jewish, Hindu, African, Asian, Muslim, and disabled sections of society! as well as many others. And not only do they refuse to admit that lesbians exist but also that heterosexual women whose lives don’t revolve ENTIRELY around ‘getting’ or ‘keeping’ a man exist.

From Donna Newman

Wow! Love this place. Saw the link in the tagline of a fellow poster on the thirdwave mailing list, as I’ve found that following peoples’ taglines can be very educational.

Just read a little here before getting caught up on the Comments page, which is an education in itself. Lots of GREAT comments, and I’m delighted to hear so many different voices. My suggestion, as a 49-year-old “childless, hetero, single, white, middle class, college-educated, career woman”: listen to those who say that any definition of feminism that divides women or marginalizes the relevance of any woman’s experience/issues based on her ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, socioeconomic level, etc., is counterproductive to our aims and just fills those who are against us with glee (divide and conquer is SO predictably effective). Certain issues may not be relevant to me personally, but I’ll be standing right at your side when you fight that battle on behalf of the women it DOES impact. If it can happen to ANY woman, it can happen to EVERY woman, and therefore is worthy of my attention and every resource I can put my hands to.

This site and its articles and especially the comments of visitors gives me renewed hope, something which has been an ephemeral experience for me since the Republicans took the elections here in 2000.

From Lizzie Garcha

Re: Alien She? I’ve been studying something close to this [The fact that feminism is aimed at the white middle class] for my History Coursework, namely the huge problem of racism within the American Women’s Liberation Movement, and how in particular, at this time black women, and working class women were marginalised, and this was at the beginning of the 19th Century, and how getting the vote didn’t really change anything in the end… It’s sad to see that some things never really seem to change, racism is still widespread, as is discrimination against the working class. Surely until there is no discrimination within feminism as a movement as a whole then nothing will change? Unless we can all unite, despite differences then the oppression that exists all over the world is going to stay there? And as much as we can talk and debate about this, surely it’s time for action, and to make things change, rather than waiting for other people to do it?

From Lucy

i think that you should stay out of peoples buisness if they want breast inlargements i think they should personaly would love to have bigger breasts and if i could afford it i would consider it its about self asteam and feeling good about yourself not people who sit and juge people because they dont agree you are perthetic

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

I sent the following email in response to Lucy’s post, but her email address did not work – Catherine

Hello Lucy, Thanks for taking the time to write. I’m sorry you think I am “pathetic”. Did you read the article all the way through? My article about cosmetic surgery [Teenagers and Cosmetic Surgery] was not about “judging” people, it was about looking at wider issues such as: why do so many people feel unhappy with their bodies the way they are? …and the way society pressurises women and girls to fit the mould of being “perfect”. I was asking why people have low self-esteem in the first place, and as I explained in the article, I see the reason for this to be due to the culture we live in – instead of taking the view that womens bodies are inherently flawed and ugly.

Please let me know which part of the article you thought was “sitting and judging”? Perhaps I should quote the following paragraph which perhaps you missed:

“It’s not the specific issue of breast implants I am talking about really. Neither is it the young age of these girls… The solution is not to ban 16 year olds from having plastic surgery, or ban it altogether. I’m all for the fundamental right of women to do what they want with their bodies and make their own decisions about their lives. BUT I believe there is a more fundamental issue here; that what’s behind this are some unquestioned assumptions about womens bodies that our society subscribes to.”

My article went on to address society’s assumption that women’s bodies are naturally flawed and ugly, which I think has a large impact in making women and girls want to “fix” their bodies by having cosmetic surgery.

Please enlighten me further about which part of the article so offended you. I would be interested to know more. Best wishes, Catherine

From Jamie Lee Merrick

Hi there, Enjoyed the article about teenagers and cosmetic surgery, and yes there are many valuable points in there. But you miss the fact that the girls having these operations are too stupid to see past the hard sell, and superficial. Most girls, when younger and less sure of their selves think of surgery and it is due to society and the pressure to be perfect, but later the intelligent majority grow to accept their own brand of gorgeousness and count themselves they didn’t spend thousands to be cut and sliced. I think alot of the pressure behind the beauty myth comes from capitalists making money from women’s insecurities. Tell pale women they should be tanned, dark skinned women that paler skin is attractive, skinny girls that curves are in and curvy girls that being thin is it, and you’ve covered most of the population as a market. Think of the billions we pay in the cosmetics and beauty product industries, then theres womens magazines. Telling women they have imperfections makes alot of money, never mind the kids it fucks up with eating disorders and ruinous self esteem.

From Daisy

I thought Natasha Forrest’s article ‘Where are the Radicals?’ was great. I agree that the so-called ‘radicals’ are not radical or rebellious at all – they ARE very much about rules and taboos and cliches. They present an insulting picture of women as passive, infantilised, oppressed victims, and an equally insulting view of men as “monkey-see-monkey-do” imbeciles. If girls/women don’t regard themselves as victims, ‘radicals’would say they’re brainwashed. They won’t acknowledge the fact that not all girls/women can define their sexuality within ‘radically’ approved limits. I.e. a lot of girls/women are interested in porn.It is just not as simple as “all men are oppressors, all women are victims”. They leave no room for grey areas, ambiguity. Freedom of speech and thought…TRUTH. They seem to think “What must not be cannot be”.

They even use deeply sexist language to describe rape, employing terms like ‘violation’ and ‘defilement’, which suggests they unconsciously retain the patriarchal image of women as pure, sacred, powerless, virginal objects to be owned. Which is the only way you can think in terms of ‘defilement’ and ‘violation’! Who’s brainwashed here??? I’m scared!

From Joanne Steventon

I believe that Daisy has misinterpreted JoJo’s article [see comments below re: All About Eve]. She clearly states that sexist ads and sexist attitudes are not to be forgotten, just that there are a lot more important issues that can cause more damage than a wolf whistle. I feel that JoJo puts a very strong point across in her argument and raises awareness of important issues such as domestic violence and rape. Can I suggest that Daisy reads the article again?

I have to say that thefword is a brilliant website and I look forward to the next issue.

From Sarah Jenkin

re: Whatever Happened to Sisterhood? wow! Brilliant article! It really hits the nerve. Think back to what Virginia Woolf was saying about how men use women as looking glasses to reflect back their image at twice their size. Or what Naomi Wolf was saying in “The Beauty myth”, about how women are driven into insane sexual competition with each other. I need to stop seeing other women as ‘the enemy’, and comparing myself to them. It’s a hard habit to break, even though as a feminist I’m aware of the beauty myth. I was so pleased to read this well thought out article.

I find it hard to keep up with my friends not because I’m always working on short-term contracts, and having to move on every once in a while. It’s hard to keep in contact with friends who live halfway across the country! Maybe when I get a permanent contract and can settle down somewhere, without having to wonder what I’ll be doing when the contract runs out….

In my work I do my best to support women. I work in a public library, and I’m working hard to make sure that women returners to the workplace, in particular, have the IT skills they need in the workplace, and I’m looking forward to when i can address that particular issue on an on-going basis. I try to do my work as a feminist librarian, the problem is, as yet I can see no real network for us feminist librarians. Yet. I’m working on it. We need things like this because all this work is being done individually, but it really needs to be co-ordinated and celebrated, for Max effect. So I can see why an article like this is actually quite helpful. And I think some of the myths about 2nd wave feminism need to be broken, the ones that intimidate me when I have time and space alone, and wondering why everybody hasn’t ‘got it together like they did in the 70s’, so thanks for the article!

From Lindsay

I just sent another comment about the age debate [Is this website discriminating?] and after reading many of the articles and comments on the site wanted to add this. As a graduate with a degree that focused on gender studies I was able to enjoy many of the articles and debates on this site. I’m a bit surprised at just how academic much of it is written, complete with direct quotes from authors and a whole lot of jargon. As a site aimed at young women and (I would hope) convincing them that feminism isn’t all the stereotypes presented in the media, I wish that we could speak to each other in plain English. Contrary to popular belief, you can talk about complex issues in a way that doesn’t alienate anyone without a degree, especially those young women that we should be trying to get on board. Many of the comments given by young people were very short and guarded, most likely because they felt that the didn’t have the authority to write more or even describe themselves as feminists because they hadn’t read all the theory. We should be convincing these young women that feminism is about a personal political stance rather than a carefully formulated theory based on the writing of a bunch of academics.

From Daisy

Some time ago (way down on your comments page) I asked if any readers had checked out Men’s Rights websites and suggested they might do so if they hadn’t already. Well, I now repeat that suggestion for the following different reasons:

– Does UK Men’s Rights have an ongoing debate about whether or not they should admit ‘older’ men? NO!

– Are they squabbling with one another and blaming each other for feeling alienated and not seeing each other’s point-of-view? NO!

– Are some men saying there are too many white, middle-class men who can’t empathise with the problems of black or working-class men? NO!

– Do they welcome women’s in-put and take pains to stress that they don’t hate women? FUHGEDDABOUTIT!

If any of them are reading this website they’ll be thinking of the old adage ‘Divide and Rule’ and rubbing their hands (or something else) with glee. So – wake up and whiff the coffee! Concentrate on the political, social and economic injustices that all women of every age, colour, race, creed, face EVERY DAY. And forget the rest.

I would also like to say to the lady who gets so angry at other feminists for complaining about sexist ads and wolf whistles when women and children are being raped and subjected to ‘domestic’ violence [All About Eve]: Get your head around the fact that although sexist ads and wolf whistles are of course trivial by comparison, they play a big part in contributing to the kind of climate in which rape and ‘domestic’ violence can happen and go largely unpunished.

From Jaclyn Kee

What is lacking for young feminists is a coherent discourse which galvanises the victories of previous feminist movementS that have been internalised into the subconscious with today’s reality of discrimination. When there are no words or ideology to articulate, then displacement is inevitable. But first, there must exist a painful exercise of recognising and dealing with the present through retrospective analysis, and thus far, I see that the effort has been reluctant. But then again, I could be wrong.

From Nic-S

Thanks for this site! I love reading something intelligent for a change. I’m another one of these people who doesn’t know if they have a right to call themselves a feminist; all I know is that I’m angry at the way women, and indeed all people are treated. It’s as simple as that. My current crusade is against books (I’m a school librarian) that are totally out of date gender-roles wise. Everyone recognises problems with girls magazines, but no one considers the lasting effects of some of this bloody odious literature!

From Jennifer Drew

In response to Jane Collins’ article, Alien She? in December’s issue of the F-Word, I am writing to say on some points I agree with Jane. Feminism has and is still viewed to some extent as aimed at and for white, heterosexual middle-class women. Also, many women and men when asked what is their understanding of Feminism and Feminists, all say it is about man-hating, lesbian middle-class women…

To read more of Jennifers comments on “Alien She?” click here

From Jenna

Just read the article on pick ‘n’ mix feminism and just wanted to say I really enjoyed it. I am currently studying for an english and philosophy degree. I am taking a module on womens writing and so issues of feminism are constantly discussed. I found in my seminar group of approx 15 students (most female) I was the only one willing to say I was I a feminist. The men were not sure if they could be and the women didnt want to be. I felt like a lone crusader. Nice to know other young women of my generation are aware of such issues and interested in discussing them. Going now to check out the rest of the site. Best wishes and merry christmas,

From Sandra (age 42 and a half)

The age debate is just a huge distraction from the important issues your site should be addressing. Time to bring it to a close I would suggest… It simply doesn’t matter. Feminists have always allowed themselves to be diverted from their main aim: gender equality. I doubt the UK Men’s Movement – and similar – devote any attention to such matters.

From Ness

Has anyone else seen the latest issue of Real Magazine in it there is what appears to be a romantic perfume advert,featuring the perfect model-looking young couple, but the bottle label reads, in reality 40% of women suffer domestic violence – bloody brilliant ad!! Almost worth subscribing to Real Mag, just for that!! Check it out everyone, could Real be the next Feminist mag??

From Lizzie Garcha

RE: The Experiences of Young Women in Science. This article struck a chord with me as last year I took Physics as an AS level. The imbalance was obvious, I was one of only 3 or 4 girls at my school who chose to do physics. The teachers were mostly male, although we did have a female teacher, who was one of only two female physics teachers in the whole county of Hertfordshire! As the majority of people who do physics are boys, it seems as though the course tends to be designed for boys, rather than trying to include girls as well. From reading the article, it is clear that there is a need for change in maths and science.

However, there are still major splits in many subjects. For example, it is not often that you find boys taking up cooking, or textiles in school. Surely issues such as those should be addressed as well. Boys who do take up those subjects will be thought of as ‘wimps’ and ‘sissies’. I ended up dropping physics after AS, partially as the classes were less interesting as I didn’t like the fact that it was so male dominated. If I got something wrong, I would be looked at sympathetically after all, I was only a girl.

The same happened when I chose resistant materials (woodwork basically) for technology at GCSE. Only 4 or 5 girls took the subject, and girls were always looked upon as weaker, as though they always needed help.

Although science may be more male dominated than most subjects, it seems that the whole educational system needs help to redress the balance of men to women in any particular subject.

The article showed up a lot about the imbalance in science. It was very good overall!

From Helen

I’ve just read Rachael Hawkins’ article about women in science [The Experiences of Young Women in Science], and I would like to say that it’s about time people started to wake up to the fact that, more often than not, scientists are forced to choose their career over their partners and families, a state of affairs that particularly penalises women scientists. I am a biologist, a month into my first postdoc, and Rachael’s article came at a time when I have been thinking a lot about the issues she describes. I’m an ecologist, a branch of science which attracts a lot of women, but the situation is still relatively grim – my university is seen as a bastion of women in ecology because we have two female professors. It’s not that science actively discriminates against women – at least I’ve never found it so – but the way it works is inherently unwelcoming to women.

As for discrimination against girls in science subjects, I know that one. Not so much in biology, but in chemistry in the sixth form the boys in my class took bets on how long it would take all three of the girls to drop out. Eventually I was the only girl in the class.

Thanks, Rachael, for highlighting the issue. I’ll be sending the URL to my friends.

From Nicole Klokow

JoJo Kirtley’s article [All About Eve] hit a nerve with me. I live in South Africa where we have a very high incidence of rape and baby rape… among the highest in the world I’m sure. Only yesterday I read an article about a little girl of two years being killed – she was sodomised. Her wounds turned septic and she died. As awful as this case is, it is not unique – baby rape is becoming a serious problem in this country. In a column across from this heart-wrenching report we have a picture of a scantily-clad beauty queen, and many more throughout in what professes to be an ‘intelligent’ newspaper. Glamour model Jordan shows off her assets on the back page (our equivalent of the British Page three). JoJo is so right in saying that while we concentrate on negative images in advertising and wolf-whistles on the street, women are being raped and mutilated, babies are sodomised – we have to do something, but I am at a loss as to what. It is impossible to express the pain and anger I feel in only a few words.

From Gwenno Dafydd Williams

Thank God the ‘f word’ is alive and kicking. As someone who grew up in the very middle of the second wave of feminism I was beginning to despair of young women – where the f*** was that fighting spirit which forced governments to change policies to ensure that women’s contribution to society was not only limited to the kitchen sink. I would like to write reams and reams in support of this site but am afraid that running a home, caring for a family and trying to work as well as all the other myriad responsibilities I have stops me from doing so – who said the fight was won! Don’t forget that there’s an awful lot of experience out there in us ‘old feminists’ who are still interested in all those issues that younger feminists are dealing with – don’t disregard us! In unity there is strength!

From Geraldine

I found your brilliant website after searching for months on the internet for something relevant. I am really excited about it and I particularly liked the items on the pendulum, bad mothers, the eminem defence and women’s magazines.

I am not a feminist “in-the-know”, i.e. I haven’t ever read any feminist books (have no idea even where to start) etc. or talked to anyone (English) about feminism.

After I spent some time in the Yemen, people kept asking me what it was like for women over there and I realised that things weren’t hugely different here (in some ways worse). So I got more and more frustrated and angry, flying off into a “feminazi” rant at the slightest remark (I couldn’t pass a newsagents without going on about my hatred of the Sun)

– until I found the f-word (so relieved to find out it’s not just me) !!! I’m still looking for something I can DO – but in the mean time, I’ve mentioned the website address to everyone (whether they want to know or not).

I would love to see an article or know what people think about marriage now and the ms/miss/mrs issue and why men stare in the street (is it just me/a lack of outer confidence or is it an age thing?)

From Sarah Sanderson

I think JoJo kirtleys paper [All About Eve] is both informative, insightful, fresh and generally heart felt. I commend her on this shocking piece and hope others read it and feel as inspired as i do!!

From Clare

Just discovered your site while looking at soc fem newsgroups and have joined your mailing list. I’m currently attending a short evening class on Philosophy of British Feminism and as a 50+ am intrigued by the responses from different age groups. I have spent ages reading articles on your site until my old eyes are tired – will do more tomorrow. Congratulations on a terrific site, thank you for restoring my faith in current day feminism.

From Michelle

I am a mature student (45) at Sussex University in the third year of my degree, and have just joined a re-launched women’s group, i have always considered myself a feminist but have never been active before (always too busy working and living). i must say until I came across this debate i hadn’t realised the site was for young women specificially. I think women have enough problems to overcome in areas of discrimination without creating further divisions of our own, and many women do not think they are old just because they have lived a certain number of years. I would suggest you keep your format which is very good and welcome comments from women of all ages.

From Andy

In response to Natasha Forrest’s article [Where are the Radicals?]: My problem with the term ‘liberal’ is its associations with woolly, vague politics, and specifically with the Liberal Party. The word has moved away from its earlier meanings. Natasha wants to reclaim the term (at the same time as “reject[ing] all labels”, somehow) – why not instead reclaim the term ‘radical’?

Language is slippery. Natasha says she’s “never heard the word ‘conservative’ used in a definition of radical” – yet there are undoubtedly self-proclaimed radical conservatives out there. The US government is infested with them. Libertarians like to talk about ‘liberalising’ world markets, and believe in less government (or no government, like anarchists), which sounds anti-authoritarian – but they are definitely towards the far right end of the political spectrum.

It’s always better to get the chance to tell people in detail what you actually stand for, but realistically, those opportunities are few, and you are going to end up with a label one way or another. I don’t think I personally could be proud to call myself a liberal. Radical, yes. Why not take that term and start to use it in such a way that its meaning within feminism begins to match its meaning outside of it? No-one assumes radicals in any other struggle are trying to separate themselves off from the rest of the human race. And I wonder how many people outside academia even know, these days, what labelling yourself a ‘radical feminist’ used to mean.

From Danny

I’ve just glanced over your website. It looks very boring.

From Vivien

I just heard about your website on Women’s Hour BBC Radio 4. I was at Art College in London in the early seventies when being a Feminist was something you were proud of. By the way, I was introduced to feminism by a male sociologist! Much of the art female students produced was fired by identifying and researching the distinctions between male and female art. Were there any? What were they? (A lot of domestic issues then) There was a lot of heated debate at the time between the radical feminists (separatists) who believed that wearing make-up was a crime, and the majority of other people like myself who were simply aware at that time that women were in a considerably disadvantaged position in many areas. However, there is a huge difference compared to then. It struck me that so many young people feel alone, solitary voices, afraid to speak out for their convictions. Life is more individual these days. When I was young we felt solidarity, there were movements and causes that gave us the feeling we belonged to something greater than ourselves. We had also grown up with parents who had gone through the second world war and we had been educated in schools that still treated children as young soldiers needing to be disciplined. We had a lot to rebel about.

I think the downside of female liberation these days is that while women have gained greater freedom and more access to society, they are paying the price. The real problem is that women have the opportunity to be men and women (in their roles) but not vice versa. They are still running the household and taking care of the children while working in demanding jobs. I know a few families where both partners try to share duties but when push comes to shove it is almost always the man who is more important. Some of the early feminists did get it right when they tried to elevate the role of the housewife. Role models such as hugely successful pop stars or actresses do not reflect the lives of the majority of people who cannot afford nannies to take care of the children. Reality is that many children in inner cities are being shortchanged because society expects women to do everything and there is an attitude against women who, god forbid, might actually want to stay at home for a few years to care for young children. I do not envy young women faced with the dilemma of wanting a good job and becoming mothers as well. I live in a country with the oldest mothers in the world (the Netherlands) because a lot of women pursue a career first and then (in their thirties or close to 40) have their first baby. Suddenly they are awakened to the fact that the lives they were leading were not equal. They usually resign themselves to the fact that their partner is, after all, head of the household. (To use an outdated term) What feminism needs is a re-evaluation. It needs to be redefined by young people to adapt to the world they are growing up in. To address feminism as a multi-cultural issue that is relevant to society as a whole, to men as well as women. Feminism has to recognise the differences in the sexes, to acknowledge them and to work with them, not against them. Whereas feminism initially needed a certain amount of inward looking soul-searching and name-tagging Women are such and such Men are so and so….. we need to have a joint debate. Women have shown they can adapt to the male working environment, men have to be given the opportunity to take over the female environment and I do notice young men proudly walking around with the baby strapped to their front, or wheeling the buggy.

Anyway, I’ve gone on for long enough. I hope my e-mail won’t make you want to restrict comments to the under 40s. We 50 year-olds may occasionally raise points that still count. Good luck,

From Natasha Forest

I just want to say I absolutely agree with everything Missmogga said [What’s Up Baby?], and find it strange that she was so critical of my article Whose Slut?, which basically said the same sort of thing.

Despite the way some people have interpreted what I wrote, I am NOT a fan of the way the media objectifies women OR the way the sex industry currently works. However, like Missmogga, I am very interested in finding ways to reclaim the objectification of women (go-go dancing is objectification) through alternative media and a cooperative, non-exploitative sex industry. The cabaret act sounds cool – good luck!

From Ruthe

At 66yrs I am so far out of your age range that I suppose I am beginning again- at least thats my excuse for sending this contribution to your debate [Is this website discriminating?]. I was delighted to find your website for one very important reason – I am in my third year at university as a mature(!!)student and one of the most worrying aspects has been the number of ‘young’ women students who seem to believe that equality has been achieved. The ‘f’ word is something that they do not want to be associated with. Your website has given a grizzled ‘old’ feminist hope for the future and long may you continue to dedemonise(is there such a word?)the ‘f’word to younger women.

From Daisy

Re. I Love the 70’s: Great article, very interesting. I get the impression that a lot of women who were in their teens/twenties during that time wanted equal pay (well, who wouldn’t!) and other rights etc, but couldn’t identify with the feminist movement because they thought it meant renouncing men and lipstick etc. This was very much the fault of the media, which went on about “wimmin’s libbers” who they made out to be a bunch of strident, man-loathing, crew-cut, dungareed lesbians, and partly the fault of some women’s groups themselves. We have echoes of this alienated feeling today, for example Missis Beckham saying she doesn’t consider herself a feminist because she likes wearing lipgloss and having men hold doors open for her.

I think the feminist movement (then and now) got tragically sidetracked by focussing far too judgementally on women’s personal lives (this started out with good intentions but ended up having a negative effect) and not concentrating on the political, social and economic inequalities. We need to get back to those and maintain that focus.

From Lila

[re: I Love The 70s] No, the “glorious seventies” didn’t exist. But things have changed. For most young women in the UK there are more opportunities than there were for most of us 30 years ago. Perhaps things changed less for Polly Toynbee than for others without her family advantages?

[re: missmogga’s comments below] Double-barrelled names? What’s the relevance of that? Many women kept their surnames on marriage to try to prove their independence of their husbands, so children inherited both names. Then what happens with the next generation? They have to choose eventually, they can’t inflict 4 surnames on their children, can they? Of course we know all surnames are patriarchal, the choice is only between names handed down from fathers, grandfathers, husbands etc. I did think of calling myself Rosemarysdaughter but it’s a bit too long.

From Amy Jackson

A couple more feminist books [Feminist Must Reads]. The first one i ever read was ‘The Female Eunuch’ and that blew me away – a really good starting point. And you need ‘a vindication of the rights of women’ by Mary wollstonecraft as a background of the centuries of oppression women faced. then there’s ‘Bitch’ by Elizabeth Wurtzel, which is great, and although it’s not specifically feminist, it couldn’t have been written without feminism – ‘No Logo’ by Naomi Klein which is a truly life chaging book. for fiction, i’d recommend anything by George Eliot for a realistic and unbiased look at the sexes in the 18th/19th centuries. there are more too.

From Lucy

I really love this website and I am especially pleased that missmogga has started writing for the site [What’s Up Baby?], as I am mixed race and share her concern that the site’s contributors are (apparently) ethnically and socially homogenous. I thought her article on the music industry and racial stereotyping was excellent. However, I also think her attitude is unhelpful and her response to “Whose Slut?” was abusive and unfair. I thought the whole point of this site was that it allowed for a diversity of opinion. She seemed to be saying that if you haven’t worked in the sex industry then you are not allowed an opinion on porn. Other than that, keep up the good work!

From Daisy

If I’m going to be trashed and stereotyped by the likes of Missmogga [re: comments below and article What’s Up Baby?] for being white and/or middle-class and even (ohmigod) a graduate, then I don’t see any more reason to read this website than buy a copy of The Sun. And don’t even get me started on why we seem to feel the need to define ourselves and others by skin colour, class, etc.

Missmogga says she’s “got the tits”. Well, congratulations, darling, we all know how important that is.

I’m sure you quite rightly would not even dream of printing any comments denigrating to black and/or working class (here come the stereotypical definitions again, well, I didn’t start it)people. So let’s not denigrate anyone for their colour or background. The winds of racism blow every way. Yours in disappointment,

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

Hi Daisy, Thanks for your recent email. I am sorry you feel disappointed. My policy for the site is that it is open to anyone who is a “young British feminist”. This means that it may contain viewpoints which not everyone agrees with or which angers or annoys people (see the whole “Whose Slut” hoo-ha). I also do not try to change the content of what people say because I feel that it should be a place where people can speak freely without me trying to edit them too much and make them say what I think they should say. Inevitably this means that some people will get annoyed / upset by what they read. My solution to this is to make the site an open place for discussion and to let people respond. The F-Word, hopefully, is a place where you *can* speak back about something which angers you. I try to actively promote discussion and feedback about the articles.

About missmogga’s comments specifically. There have been a few people who have written about what she said, a few have been supportive and a few have been angry, like you. And I can understand why her comments have caused anger. But I did feel missmogga had a valid point to make about the website, even though she perhaps did not express it in the most tactful way. And good for her, she actually did something about it by agreeing to write an article. I hope this helps to explain things and I hope you will continue to enjoy the site. I will put your comments on the comments page, unless you don’t want me to? Best wishes, Catherine

From Daisy

Hi Catherine, You can put my comment on the page (and this one too) if you want, but actually I have changed my mind a bit now because yes, on reflection, I suppose Missmogga does have a valid point about the website and yes, she did write an article. That still doesn’t give her the right to denigrate and stereotype anyone for being white. One comment I really had to laugh at was the idea of white, middle-class feminists “in pursuit of a hedonistic good time”. If you’re in pursuit of a good time I don’t believe you can even think about feminism because the resulting picture of non-freedom would be too bloody depressing. Well, if you’ll excuse me now, dahling, I’m just dying for a skinny latte! Must dash. Yours sincerely, Daisy Double-Barrel. x

From Jennifer

Within the news section of the F-Word there is an item concerning the “epidemic” proportions of young women under the age of 16 who have contracted a sexually transmitted disease or diseases.

The report on STI’S received immense coverage from tabloid papers, all writing at length about female sexuality and promiscuity. This research only focused on active female sexuality, apparently the numbers of males who have also contracted sexually transmitted diseases because of their sexual activity is irrelevant.

On reading this report, one would be led to believe only women and girls are responsible for contracting STI’s and only women and young girls are promiscuous. In reality, the majority of STI’s are transmitted from male to female, not the reverse. It is because men and teenage boys still refuse to practice safe sex that the numbers of teenage girls suffering STI’s is increasing. Also, one has to consider the power difference. It is extremely difficult for young teenage girls to actually admit they have sexual feelings and desires without being labelled sluts. This is why so many teenage girls believe “sexual activity should be spontaneous” or the girl in question believes she was carried away by her feelings, rather than face the reality – girls and women all have sexual feelings and desires. Yet society still refuses to accept women’s and girl’s sexuality. Teenage boys are praised for saying they have sexual desires and positive comments are made concerning “raging teenage male testosterone” – another male myth. Girls however, are called sluts and slags. Now, it would seem girls and women are also responsible for the huge increase in sexually transmitted diseases. We are once more back in the Victorian Age, only this time instead of prostitutes being blamed for the epidemic of STI’s, it is promiscuous girls and women who are responsible. Men and boys are just “innocent bystanders,” whose sexual activity is biologically normal and real males should always be ready and willing to engage in sexual activity, regardless of the consequences.

This is yet another excellent example of how sexual double standards are still very much in force and why only girls are blamed for the STI epidemic. Male practices of demanding and expecting sexual intercourse, because only penetration is real sex are once again made “invisible.” Also, how teenage girls attempt to negotiate safer sexual practices are also ignored.

From Angela Barrett, age 26, Journalist (not rich and not living off my parents). currently childless.

Re: Bad Mothers by Claire Riley Despite the hyperbole, I agree with the sentiment behind Claire’s piece about motherhood – these days women feel that motherhood is an experience that they must have, another box to tick on the endless slog towards ‘having it all’, which for many ends in with the heartbreak and pain of IVF. Its an added pressure that we could all do without.

That said – I am ‘pro-motherhood’ (for want of a better expression), and I think its the obsession with celebrity our society has at the moment that feminism should rally against, not child rearing. Images of Liz Hurley stick thin only months after giving birth to her son, and admitting that she had to ‘starve herself’ to acheive her figure are not helpful, as aren’t airbrushed pictures of ‘down to earth’ celebrity mothers, who claim to do all their own child rearing, but whose lives are made considerably easier by an army or personal trainers, assistants and nannnies. (I remember a propersterous interview with Mel B on This Morning, where she told a post natally depressed woman that all she needed to do to snap out of it was take some nice candlelit hot baths).

Anyway, my point is that these images are devoured by impressionable young girls, who are the same impressionable young girls who get pregnant before they’re out of their teens. It sounds like the mothers Claire is railing against are the ones who just got pregant far too young, before they’d had a chance to experience anything outside their home town. As someone who used to live in a small working class town, I recognise the stereotypes Claire uses, but don’t agree that they’re inevitable. What we need to promote is more sex education and open discussion about contraception for the under sixteens, and stick two fingers up to the Daily Mail brigade who go into spasms every time it’s mentioned.

From Lois Temel

Just wanted to make a post to say how much I’ve enjoyed the site. It is important to a have a space, even a virtual one, to address the issues of feminism in the 3rd millenium!

I was also very interested to read Missmogga’s email of criticisms [see below] – and am looking forward to whatever article(s) she submits. I work with a variety of women who have survived/are living through all manner of situations (such as addicition, prostitution, domestic violence, poverty, abiuse, racial preduce/exoticism) which feminism should be all about exposing and addressing.

I think to dismiss the kind of debates on the website, such as the postings on ‘third wave feminism’ and ‘the spice girls’, as middle class trivia is a little harsh. Afterall such media savvy iconography is what filters into the mainstream understanding of woman (for men and women alike). However I would agree that the site is maybe missing something that represents and speaks to women whose experience is different from that of the middle class college graduate. Sadly I left the life of the former (abused council house girl) to become the latter (graduate articulate working woman) sometime ago and struggle to try to remember what it was to be that trampled confused person who once proudly said they’d smack anyone who called them a feminist in the mouth for the insult. But, college was the place where I discovered what feminism really was and that it spoke to and about and for women from all backgrounds – think of Alice Walker if you don’t believe me! But the academic stuff isn’t for the majority of people from my ‘background’ and I think the challenge for feminism has always been to make itself appear as relevant to the woman on the street as it actually is. Looking forward to more debate and articles!

From M

Heard about this website on Women’s Hour! I’m so glad feminism is on the agenda again, and it’s thank you to young feminists for that. But I think some of the comments so far have been verging on the ageist – don’t young feminists have a sense of history, and an interest in other feminists’ stories? I’m 48 – is that ancient to you? Don’t worry – I won’t bore you with tales of Reclaim the Night and pro-abortion marches – not unless you ask me to! I know you want to carve out your own definition, and not get bogged down in the past, so go ahead. I don’t think you’re in danger of getting swamped by ‘older’ feminists. ( don’t consider myself as old, by the way). The few of us that are out there are just glad to find the issues are still striking a chord in those born since the 70s and 80s (and 90s)! Let’s have more discussion of issues and less argy-bargy about age, and more sharing of common experiences, like how we have to cope as women in a patriarchal society.

From S

Your piece about motherhood [Bad Mothers] was one of the funniest rants I’ve read in a long while. Do you ever check out weightlessdog.com? There are a bunch of people there who share your views to the nth degree! Thanks for the bitingly funny, accurate commentary. I felt the same way at 24…still feel the same way at 36. Best wishes

From Jamie

I totally agree about the Irma Kurtz article [ Why Irma Kurtz is wrong about rape]. Her advice was utterly misguided, sensitively inept and bordering on repulsive.

We live in the 21st century, where only 7.5% of rapes (reported) get convictions,if that wasn’t enough of an invitation to rape women, you get women like Kurtz, dispensing “helpful”, repugnant advice.

How does an average young women, without a black belt in Karate fight back? Does Kurtz or Paglia for that matter have any idea just how physically strong men are? What a load of horseshit! So if they want to take it back to biological roots, lets just correct some myths first. How do most men sense these ovulating hormones? I would say that they’d have to be close enough to scent pheromones, i.e in the same room as a woman, which already puts her at a legal disadvantage. Most men can’t tell jack about a woman’s physical, or physiological condition, thats why, in evolutionary terms,its a distinct advantage to women. A man cannot tell, by looking at a woman or by smelling her whether she is six weeks pregnant, ovulating, etc.

If we’re playing twist the biological fact, Irma,then it would be well to remember that in medieval times, women were only thought to be able to get pregnant through orgasm, therefore a woman who was raped, and became subsequently pregnant, could be blamed, because she must have climaxed during the rape and therefore “enjoyed it”! That was 600 years ago for fuck’s sake!?!?

Isn’t it time that men, women & society especially the criminal justice system, accepted that its not a biological(or any other) right that men have to force themselves on women. Murder is still murder even if the victim doesn’t resist at all i.e poison. Is the bombing of the twin towers not a crime because the FBI and CIA were aware it was going to happen and took few steps to prevent it, (thereby giving “consent”)? Jesus! With that kind of logic half the prison population in the British Isles could walk tomorrow.

The woman did not want sex, she was fully clothed, frozen and face down on the bed not dressed to the nines in Agent Provocateur. Anyone with half a brain cell and a smidge of compassion can see that consent wasn’t given. Why is it that a woman, who smokes, drinks, frequents bars,clubs& pubs, has had more than three sexual partners, has ever had an abortion or failed a college course, can have it used against her, but a man with previous convictions for rape or aggravated sexual assault doesn’t have to have that revealed in court?

women today,I speak as one, have to put up with so much shit anyway, without being prejudiced against by the legal system, which should be there to protect the weak and defenceless, and punnish the criminals not the reverse. But instead of finding support from our own sex, the harshest critics of women seem to be women. Even the late Mother Teresa refused five Indian women aid, because they had been raped by soldiers and aborted the resulting pregnancies.

To say Irma Kurtz is supposed to be a counsellor, offering helpful advice and support she does a pretty poor job. Maybe the real lesson from this is don’t read women’s magazines, they just recycle the same traditional party line, albeit with a shiny glossier appearance.

From Holly Combe

Re: ‘How to Create a Woman’s Glossy Magazine in Five Minutes’ This article illustrated that engaging with popular ‘women’s’ culture needn’t be a passive experience. If we understand how the media operates, we are in a stronger position to challenge the ideology it perpetuates. The observations were spot on, especially the section about quizzes. At 14, I frittered literally hours away on those incredibly condescending ‘Mostly A’s, B’s, C’s or D’s?’ cod-psychology tests (perhaps we should blame the psychologist Eysenck, as it often all links back to his neat little categorisations). I knew they were restricting, but I still wanted to be the coolest Not-Too-Extreme-Either-Way ‘type’. I mean, contrary to traditional belief, we all want to be the best don’t we? And no one likes to be thought of as the so-called ‘loser’, however flawed the values behind the judgement may be.

These magazines seem to be attempting to lure us away from any worthwhile pursuits or more intelligent analysis by filling our heads with soppy neurosis about what the banal minutiae of our everyday lives says about our ‘inner selves’. One of the worst examples of this that I ever saw was in a supplement from the December 2001 issue of Cosmopolitan, where the way in which you wear down your lipstick was analysed as being indicative of your ‘real’ character. So that’s today’s priority sorted then. We are to check our make-up bags and throw out anything that might indicate to those omnipresent onlookers that we are anything less than ‘Fun Loving’ or, worse still, UPTIGHT.

I want to see magazines in the newsagent’s with articles like some of those that I have seen on the F-Word website. Come to think of it, when Cosmopolitan started out, it was not afraid of the word ‘Feminism’ at all. I recently got hold of some copies from the early 80’s and, although I cringed at some of those articles that were still somewhat scripted in tradition (perhaps a cause to celebrate the progress we actually have made?) I couldn’t help noticing how the magazine was largely unafraid of openly embracing feminist thought. So what went wrong? Did advertising sponsorship gradually undermine it? (Naomi Wolf explores this in the ‘Culture’ chapter of ‘The Beauty Myth’.) Or is it sadly true that the majority of women in our so-called ‘post-feminist’ age now feel we should have moved on, that ‘it’s gone too far’ and the magazines are simply reflecting that climate, rather than creating it?

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