Comments from August – December 2003

More comments from late 2003

, 14 December 2003

From Babe [Babe is a founding member of Rockbitch – Ed]

Dear Lorraine, Thank-you for your reasonable, even toned review [This is Rockbitch] a rare experience for us ! Indeed the message, or at least our urge to change peoples lives for them, has waned due to the simple physics of ‘effort in -result out’! We live as we do happily – no, stuff it wasn’t put on, rather toned down for the camera’s. It’s true that there is so much to the way we live, so many strong minded characters, that even Norman was frustrated by what he had to cut – from my perspective if was the best doco we’ve had done. The dettol douche is not a regular practice ! It’s emergency, cunt full of possible HIV ridden spunk response only. We’re so careful over what condom brand we use, the use of lube and regular changing during long sessions that no-on has had a breakage for years – this more detailed info was cut but it’s all there on our free- website on the pages titled ‘FUCKING”. Anyhow, glad you enjoyed it. Regards,

From Kerrie

Dear Catherine, Thank you and the other contributors for all your hard work. Fantastic website. One of the best feminist resources for young people. I’ve spent the last two months reading the past articles during my lunch hour and during the rest of the day when nobody’s looking!

I know from the comments that it has been said many times but until a few months ago I felt quite isolated apart from a few friends with similar beliefs although they would not employ the f word to describe themselves. It’s thoroughly refreshing to discover that there is interest outside of academic circles (contrary to media reports).

I held the post of women’s rep at uni where a small but determined band of us defeated a motion to abolish the position during a turbulent year of the backlash.

The features on your website have crystallised what I felt and knew inside but often struggled to articulate expecially when faced with comments like “girls aren’t interested in politics”, “we’ve achieved equality” and suggestions of bra-burning. It’s also a pleasant change to read a website without advertisements.

Well done for creating an open forum where opinions are expressed freely. Imbelieve acceptance generates unity. Yours in unity, sisterhood, you name it!

PS. I would add these books to the recommended list [Feminist Must-Reads]: Payne, Karen, Between Ourselves- a rich collection of letters between mother and daughters from 1700-1981, and Baker Miller, Jean, Towards a new psychology of women- a very academic but sensitive and perceptive analysis.

From Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word

Cheers! In all the time this site has been online I’ve never heard from a single person who subscribes to the mythical “kicking-men-in-the-crotch” style feminism. If we can help to bust that particular myth, then all to the better – Editor

From Ho Jo

As a 17 year old self-proclaimed feminist you can imagine I get a lot of crap. So thank you for this site and all its great articles.

From C.M.

Your blurb explaining what you’re about says ‘there’s no party line in feminism’. As a young woman (age 26), I’m afraid my experience disproves this optimistic claim. What I’ve found is that the sine qua non of being acceptable to women who call themselves feminists (in Britain at least) is to have liberal views on abortion. I don’t; I really am very unhappy about the issue, as are a lot of younger women I know. We tend to be treated either with disdain or outright hostility by women who consider themselves feminists. I have yet to figure out exactly why, given that there is evidence that abortion does actually cause a lot of harm to women’s health. Very many women in all age-groups in the UK do NOT have liberal views on abortion. Perhaps thefword should remember that we exist, that we oppose abortion often because it is not helpful to women.

From Michelina

I stumbled upon this while researching a project on feminist philosophy and Simone de Beauvoir, and the writers make some very good points about modern feminism. I must say I especially liked the article about virginity [Big Brother, Virgins, and Female Singleness]. I am a 17 year old virgin, and whenever I tell people they look at me like I am a freak. It seems that now girls feel that they MUST have as much sex as possible to gain social status in the way that boys do. Now it is “prude” that is the bad word, not “slut.” It would be different if they did it by choice, but honestly, how many high school girls are really having great sex? I thought the article was very perceptive.

From Muriel Gowing

Re: How To Create a Women’s Glossy Magazine in Five Minutes. I first started buying womens magazines such as Cosmopolitan in the early 1980s when I was a teenager. Back then they seemed to have more inspirational articles on careers, the arts, education, being independent and the approach was more feminist featuring women such as Erin Pizzey.

Nowadays women’s magazines are full of two-dimensional celebrities and the advice is geared towards turning us into walking, talking, alcopop drinking, anorexic blow-up dolls. Maybe not walking – the shoes women’s magazines feature nowadays are the Western equivalent of Chinese footbinding. No matter how much you pay or who designs them, you cannot walk comfortably in four inch heeled sandals with spaghetti straps.

Perhaps maybe I’m viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses. I’d be interested to know if anybody else thinks that the content of women’s magazines has declined in quality since the 1980s, if this decline has been gradual or has been sparked off by a particular event.

From Julia Say

To follow on from Kate Allen’s piece [Taboo For Who?], my favourite swear word is cunt. I’ve never had a problem with it any more than other terms of abuse, though I am aware some people think wome shouldn’t use it. Maybe in my naivety I like to think it’s an especially great swear word to use with a northern accent! I don’t really see it as any more derogatory than dick, but I suspect some men do. Cheers,

From Sniffey

Aghhh! Sorry, but I had to comment on the Kylie thing. I appreciate others points of view, but whatever positive influence that Kylie might be is more than counteracted by her demeaner and appearance. There is nothing feminist about mincing around in stillettoes and hotpants, caked in make-up, showing off how skinny and hairless you are. She’s little more than soft porn!

From Lorraine Smith

Re: ‘There is no Groom’. I really enjoyed this article, especially the part about the choice of married surname. Being a Smith, for years I thought it would be lovely to change my surname and so planned to do so if I ever got married. However, now I love the name and wouldn’t change it for the world. I have been a Smith all my life and am now glad of the trace of anonymity it provides – in contrast, my partner’s name is quite unusual and constantly needs to be spelt to people. He often gets called by his surname too and so I feel I’d be taking some of his individuality by claiming his name for my own if we ever marry.

A couple of my friends tied the not in the last twelve months and neither have changed their surname. There didn’t seem to be a conscious desision to do so by either of them, but it seems to me a symbol that the marriages are simply cementing their existing relationships rather than changing them.

From Tish

Bravo for ‘There is no Groom’! Good for you; how cheering to read that someone else finds ‘traditional’ marriage rituals pretty creepy. I didn’t feel the need to be shaved plucked and painted within an inch of my life on my wedding day (if I don’t do it normally, why on earth suffer it then? Whatever makes you happy, go for it); my groom and I spent the night before and the morning together (how could it possibly be bad luck?), and I had no intention of being handed over from my father to my husband like a chattel. I think you need a civil wedding rather than a religious one to be able to get away from these rituals which I find just offensive, but the insitutionalised misogyny of churches is another topic.

I didn’t change my name – why should I lose my identity just because I have a partner? I feel lucky to be able to put Doctor as my title, as I think my marital status is nobody’s business, especially as men are not expected to have titles proclaiming theirs and it doesn’t raise the Ms prejudices. I used to use Ms and also encountered plenty of prejudice for doing so, I wish everyone would use it and that stigma might go away. We enjoyed our wedding day immensely because it was exactly what we wanted (still happy 6 years later). I think everyone should try to have whatever kind of wedding they want and never compromise to please anyone else (even family) because it is YOUR day and not theirs. Some people like the traditions and are happy to ignore their roots; well fair enough, but it’s not fair to pressure anyone who would prefer something else. Good for you, and I hope you both have an excellent time!

From Nicola Waterworth

Re: The Name of the Game. I have felt very strongly ever since I can remember thinking about it at all that I am a Ms, largely when I was younger because it just did not make sense that men were Mr and women had their marital status denoted by their choice of Miss or Mrs. Although I agree with much of what Mrs Angela Everitt says regarding a woman’s prerogative to take her husband’s name there is an important distinction to make between changing your surname and adopting Miss or Mrs as a title. Until there is no distinction made by title married women may well find it harder to gain employment due to employer’s assumptions just as married friends of mine often find it easier to talk to their bank manager than I do. Ms should be adopted by all women as marital status is of no relevance to anyone unless the indivdual deems it to be so. This is a bigger issue than married women and employment (employers still regularly enquire as to marital status and whether you have children or not on application forms anyway). Being married is not a barrier to being a feminist in the slightest, neither is taking the surname of your long-term partner. Separate titles for women and not for men, however, remains an archaic throwback to those Victorian values of ownership and conspires in discrimination against women.

From Lori Hilson

Re: The Name of the Game and ‘There is no Groom’. I was a ‘Hill’ and my partner was a ‘Parsons’ – we, and our 2 children are now ‘Hilson’.

Things may be easier if one didn’t think about everything but some of us just cannot do that – and I don’t think we should. I’ve a sneaky suspicion that those who take the easier, no questions raised, route are those who find depression just around the corner as the fairy tale stories they are contributing to just do not exist and real life will appear what ever you do – it’s just that some are more prepared, (by reflecting on things as they go along), than others.

P.S. I chose not see my partner on the morning of our wedding as I didn’t want to take out any frustrations on him and I wanted to be pleased to see him – which I was!

From Rosemarie Hutchinson

An excellent article by Rachel Hawkins on women in science [The Experiences of Young Women in Science]. I am 49 years old, have a D.Phil, 3 daughters and no job! She is right on all scores.

From Louise Ford

Kate Allen’s piece [Taboo For Who?] was spot on. I actually relish using the word ‘cunt’ as an expletive, for the very reasons Kate expressed, specifically:

“Opposing the use of ‘cunt’ is itself sexist, because it grants more respected status to a woman’s genitals than to a man’s. The extra level of offensiveness that many people perceive the word to carry implies a squeamishness about women’s bits – this attitude is in itself sexist or even misogynist!” As an ex-sub editor (for Cosmopolitan, among others – where the word ‘feminist’ was banned by editor Mandi Norwood, much to the annoyance of the whole subs desk, I might add), I am all too aware of how powerful words can be and I have always taken great pleasure in deploying them to best effect.

I’m British, but have been living in New York for the past two years, and it’s interesting to note the disparity in attitudes to the use of ‘cunt’. Within my circle of male & female London friends, we used it often, and enjoyed using it – it was usually voiced in a Laandaan accent, which made it somehow more amusing and less offensive, ie: ‘He’s a faackin cant’. Here in the States, you use it at your own risk as it’s thought way beyond the pale, extremely bad taste, and results in a stunned silence – and I’m talking among friends, here.Still, I continue to use it at the risk of being thought white trash. I would go as far as considering it a personal mission to break word taboos, ‘cunt’ being my current project.

All power to the word!

From Laura Neilly

I found Anna Sandfield’s piece on Body Language [Body Language Speaks Volumes] very interesting. Not only as I remember studying this subject at University (in the distant past), but also how it relates to my life now. I live in Japan with my Japanese fiance, and thinking about issues of body language, especially in our relationship brings up many thought-provoking points. For example, a major problem for western women living in Japan is the fact that because Japanese women’s bodies are generally smaller than ours, our body image becomes even more distorted than usual. We feel huge by comparison, and I definately try to make my body take up less space when sitting or in a lift for example.

Also, many Japanese men apparently think that western women’s faces look angry if they are not smiling. At first I was very aware of this and tried to ensure I always had a smile or at least an open expression on my face. Luckily now I’ve realized the stupidity of this and I think my expression usually reflect my current mood.

In my relationship with my fiance, I think I have noticed some marked differences when compared to previous relationships with western men. My Japanese fiance is physically smaller than western men, and is the same height but lighter build than me. I tend to feel very protective of him and my arms are on the ouside when we hug and he walks on my dominant right side. Sorry this has been such a long message, but I could have gone on even longer! Body language is such an interesting and important subject and especially as a woman living in a different culture with such highly stylized forms of body language, it’s something I am definately aware of!

From Catherine

Hi women, i love the website……i had thought i would not find anything concurring with some/most of my feminist views in the net…….several comments…..yes, where has sisterhood gone? [Whatever Happened to Sisterhood?]…..as we have got older, feminist friends have disappeared under a sea of responsibilities for children, and the talk is always of his problems, his career……i have had to fight back hard from that trait, and now only speak (again) of myself with women friends……and of course listen to them……and the battle goes on, i have worked in refuges , and if you are a woman who works, or who owns her house that she leaves for violence…..she will find it hard to get even temporary accomadation……..i drag my tired self home from work after 10 hour day, to be greeted by partner who says “when are you doing the washing?”………and sorry women just one more, i overhear my elderly writer friend asking her husband if she can stay another 10 minutes chatting with me…….and this is 2003, i pinch myself……..in sisterhood,

From Gwenno Dafydd

Dear Catherine, I read your comments [Contemporary UK Feminism] with a lot of interest. I am forty six years old, a feminist, always have been always will be. I was so delighted to hear of this site but was disappointed to feel slightly excluded because I wasn’t under 30 years of age.

My beliefs are as strong if not stronger than they were when I was in my twenties, a time when I marched on pro-abortion rallies and found out about the violation of women through cliterectomies. Since then my knowledge has deepened about the inequalities we women have to contend with in our lives.

When speaking to younger women in their early twenties I was constantly astounded at how little respect they had for feminism and how little regard they had for all the changes within their lives that feminism had campaigned for. It was as if all these changes had just happened and that there had never been a driving force behind these changes. Therefore, I was really delighted to find a site that seemed to show that feminism was still alive and kicking within the lives of some younger women. So keep up with the focus on younger women and teenagers. They need to appreciate that all the challenges facing women have not been overcome. But don’t keep older women out. I am still very interested in contemporary issues whether they be Eastenders or female stand-up comics, and in fact I may very well have a valuable contribution to make on these issues.

You can’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs but perhaps you can show her a new way of making an omelette! We can all learn from each other but what is crucial is that we do not become divisive.

If you want a new word as a substitute for ‘feminist’ (which seems to be a akin to saying ‘I am a ball breaking bra burning humourless harridan of a woman who is only intent on making men’s lives difficult’ nowadays), how about the twenty first century version: A Womanist. That is: A WOMAN who Insists on Surviving and Triumphing over the odds.

In unity there is strength! So keep sending ‘thefword’. Best wishes

From Sam Thomas

Reading a health magazine that was pressed upon me at certain healthfood shop, I came across an article entitled “what is your pms type”. The idea being to identify your body type and use the appropriate approach to treat PMS. So like the good little lemming – umm I mean reader, I diligently read and tried to identify what my body type is. Am I volatile? Witty? Laid back? Does my energy come in bursts? After reading the article, I discovered a terrible thing. I didn’t fit into any of the boxes.

And then it struck me; here I am in my leisure time trying to fit myself in someone else’s boxes. Admittedly it was for a more useful purpose than generally found in women’s glossies. But why do we do it? At the end is there any pleasure in knowing you fit in a box? Are you enlightened by the answer or are you just struck its smugness. After all, if it were that bloody easy you would already have all the great sex / career / figure that you could ever want.

Can we not have answers unless we fit into a box? Is it comforting to know that we conform to an arbitrary type identified by a smug writer? That I am just like a whole other group of “type c’s” out there who should be more spontaneous to get that tall dark stranger interested in a date or some hot sex? As a fiercely individual woman, I always prided myself on not caring about what other people thought, and going my own way. Then I realised half way through trying to fit myself into a box, that maybe I wasn’t as individual as I’d thought.

I learnt something important lately. A little revelation on my personal road to Damascus. Answers don’t always come in neat little boxes; they come to you as you walk through life. However most of the time I’m too focused on where I’m heading rather than thinking about where I am right now. I always expected enlightenment to appear when I went looking for it, not while I was just getting on with day-to-day life. Irony had clearly paid me a visit, as this revelation came not too long after I’d sent you the email about having a quiz to identify whether I’m a feminist or not. There’s so much going on in my life at the moment I’ve decided to pay a little more attention. Take stock. Think. And take what I need to enjoy the journey. I just thought I’d share. Having temporary custody of a cute little laptop inspired me (I had to give it back this morning….sob).

Take care and thanks for all the hard work you do sharing the site with us all.

From Jacinta Nandi

Dear Catherine, I am mainly writing to congratulate you for a truly brilliant, inspirational website – it is really amazing. I found you guys through a Guardian link and I’m so glad I did.

I especially like that you give young girls a chance and it is refreshing to read their pieces- even if some of them are more rant-like than others! I think that’s probably the best bit about the site actually- the variety of the contributions. I also love that the style and tone of articles is always funny and upbeat, even when writing about serious issues. And I am a big fan of miss Mogga!

Once again: well done! Best wishes,

From Tamlyn Monson

I wholeheartedly agree with Ealasaid Gilfillan’s review of The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe. A magnificently performed, empowering version of the play, and a great relief to the legions of academic Shakespeare fans who squirm uneasily when confronted with this particular work. I hope that the fact that this play’s Petrucchio was ‘really’ female excuses me for finding him scintillatingly attractive despite his boisterous arrogance and strategic cruelty to the unruly Kate.

From Lucy

Hi there, I’d like to add my comments to Ailsa’s review of the Mooncup this month. I bought one 4 months ago – and I agree! It’s a total revelation. I’ve always found tampons made me dry and sore and I was hopeless at remembering to take them out and about with me, and I found pads too messy. The mooncup is brilliant. I have quite a light and regular flow (lucky me) so I only ever have to empty the cup once a day – Now I really can forget about my period and get on with stuff. It’s a bit tricky to put in and take out at first but when I think about how I struggled with tampons as a teenager this is nothing. I’m never going back to anything else EVER. It’s so crap that these will never be in the shops because of course they wouldn’t make any money out of selling them. I’m urging all the women I know to try the mooncup so GO ON TRY IT!

From Laura

Re: Review of the Mooncup. Just a note – in most cases it’s probably sufficient just to wash the mooncup with soap and water (you’d probably want to be more thorough if you were washing it at the end of a period if you had thrush or some other infection). You can sterilise it if you want, but according to WEN [The Women’s Environmental Network] ‘tampons and towels are NOT sterile, despite their glowing white appearance’ (http://www.wen.org.uk/sanpro/sanpro.htm) so a recently sterilised mooncup is probably much more sterile than what you’re used to (and won’t leave any fibres inside you).

In general women find that on heavy days they need to empty their menstrual cups roughly as often as they needed to change their tampons, and on a light day it can be left in for hours, and it’s safe to use overnight. I love my cup too!

From Mr Wonder

Yes I totally agree with Lizzie Garcha’s points [Men in Feminism]. Men are regarded as traitors by other men when they say they are concerned with feminism. There is much more to be done to break down the fear that men perceive from feminist groups. Whilst having heard of stereotypical feminists, who wear DMs and have crew cuts etc, it is no wonder that some men’s views of Feminism at large will be affected by adverse publicity and the over-zealous reporting of such stereotypes in the press. I have yet to meet such a stereotype.

I feel it is important to break down the sex barrier at a young age, since that is when kids start to learn about social interaction. The grown-ups opinion of what is right for a girl or boy may actually do more to ingrain sexist behaviour, long before they actually realize it. I have heard of cases where a boy in Chicago had to fight to be allowed to ballet. It was regarded as a “girl thing”. Equally, why should women not become mechanics or plumbers? Why is that regarded as a man’s job? For my age group 30+, I feel that this is the best place to start, since kids are far more open to change than adults, and the fears of social interaction therefore can be waylaid before they become societal norms.

Regarding men being included into women’s groups, that to me must be regarded as important, since we are dealing with social interaction essentially. I have always found it difficult to understand the real value of groups where men are excluded for being men……surely that is the exact same problem that women face today in society? Because they are women, they cannot earn as much as men. The men’s club excludes the female…..Change must come from both sexes and if we work together, I feel that a wonderful societal change and benefit for all can be achieved……

I’ll certainly keep doing what I can to promote the wonders of feminism and femininity in society:)))

From Daisy

Dear Catherine, Totally agree with your “Feminists Are Sexist” article. I notice whenever I read articles on domestic violence the authors never refer to “women” victims or “male” perpetrators, but always “people”, i.e. how can “people” do this to one another? When they must be aware that the overwhelming majority of cases concern men perpetrating violence against women. There is indeed a great taboo about focusing on women.

Ben Thurgood’s article [Sexual Healing] – hmm. Very commendable, no doubt, but about halfway through I lost the will to live. I think it needed some heavy editing, Dear Editor. This is just my personal opinion, but (and like you, allow me to first point out that I do NOT hate men), I have found most of the f-word articles written by them extremely dull, not to say irritating. Plus I can’t help remembering a cynical comment made by Rik Mayall some years ago: ‘Of course I’m a feminist. It’s the only way to get laid’. Sorry…I know I’m being flippant.

I don’t even bother arguing with unreconstructed types who accuse feminists of sexism. I just say, ‘Yeah, I know how you feel. Women have had to take that crap for the last two thousand years”. It pisses them off a lot more than being taken seriously and pointed in the direction of educational websites, although I’m sure that approach also has its merits.

There is one news item I thought Sara Vali [September News] might have included this month: the one about the “Man of the Year” pictures circulating amongst Tory MEPs in Brussels (husband carrying a bottle of beer while Wife hauls a crate, two women in a cage behind a tractor), for which the Euro parliament is considering a reprimand. Objections to these pictures (which male Labour MEPs also found hysterically funny) are being dismissed as “too politically correct”. It’s the usual suspects again, those whinging feminazis trying to spoil everyone’s good time. Best wishes,

From Name witheld to protect husband from masculine exile!

Re: Sexual Healing and Dysfunctional, moi?.

A big thank you to Ben Thurgood for reviling that revolting beer ad! Within the media and historical representation of women’s roles in general and their sexuality in particular, I will admit that for me it is difficult to work against the stereotype of female sexual passivity. For men, taking the initiative and being the ‘active’ partner is represented as ‘natural’ and is therefore taken for granted. It comes, in most cases, easily to a sexually experienced male. I think this blinds men to the vulnerability of a woman who tries to be active, thereby running counter to everything she ‘knows’. My husband still complains now and then of my unwillingness to initiate sex, but does not realize that on several occasions that I have taken the initiative – turning up at his office in suspender belt and heels (my prime example) or just reaching over in bed to engage him physically – he has often been too busy (in the office case), too tired or simply not particularly interested (Iam aware that within the current gender mythology, such disinterest disqualifies my husband from the manhood club, but nevertheless). When one is holding back the forces of history with one hand and unzipping his fly with the other, the ego-blow of rejection brings everything tumbling down to squash you back into a passive position. Makes you see you have harboured ideas beyond your station.

If the gender climate allowed men and women to be equal partners in sex, a couple of turn-downs would not be devastating, but our ‘reality’, a reality of men as the active, conquesting, sexually predatory partner and women as their passive, submissive prey, in which those who invert the system are thought of – or even think of themselves – as deviant and out of line, makes taking the initiative risky, and failure crushing. In addition, by failing to engage our man in foreplay or intercourse, we fail the glossy mag/Sex and the City version of sexual empowerment – women as the omnipotent sexual bearers of responsibility for the male erection and its ejaculation, successful demander of sexual satisfaction. We are reduced to the traditional, passive, ‘oppressed’ stereotype. My husband complains that on these occasions I have not been active enough; he says that I could have been more forceful in trying to ‘convince’ him to take an interest. Apparently, I can change his mind if I keep the pressure on. But I am unfamiliar with the process of turning ‘No’ into ‘Yes’. For me, no means no. I will not try to force myself on a man if he isn’t interested. By then I am in any case either completely humiliated (It’s hard to know what to do with yourself half-naked and spurned in an office. There seems no way of retaining dignity while scrambling for your clothes), or just disappointed and self-conscious. Certainly no longer in the mood. In the current climate, with the pressures facing women who try to counter the stereotype, it would be great if men could be a little accommodating and more enthusiastic when we do take the initiative. I know this makes us sound, again, like useless passive waifs who need male support, but hey. We don’t have to say ‘Grrr!’ all the time.

From Sarah

Re: Sexual Healing – interesting article. Good to get a view of the authors background.

I for one am not oppressed by him or his penis. I am in a relationship where my partner is not phallocentric and gives me pleasure the way I like it. However, this is rare. I’d like to ask you what the reactions of actively sexual men are towards heterosexual women who say they prefer this? Because sex is a two way process. We can ask for something all we like, but if the man won’t give it to you what do you do? I got lucky _this time_.

This also raises issues of personal safety. I may want something non-penetrative, but how about if a male sexual partner insists? And penetrates me anyway? Can you imagine the reactions in the courtroom as this is explained?

From Rebecca Ryan

As a lesbian I always feel slightly restrained on the feminist issue as I already receive my fair share of “man hater” comments. Also, I have struggled to find young heterosexual women who are interested in discussing feminism. The general response is “it is sexist to be feminist”. Perhaps we are living in less politically aware times. I think that women are currently suffering under a severe backlash against the advances of feminism. For example in the face of sexism in the workplace, we are easily put down with comments such as “Oh don’t be so uptight and it’s just a laugh”. Anyway, well done for the site…

From Ruth Harding

I’m a young woman finishing my Ph.D. in Physics and I read Rachel Hawkins’ article on the difficulties faced by women in science [The Experiences of Young Women in Science] with mixed feelings. She is obviously feels very bitter and needed a rant, and she unfortunately makes some very good points.

I never experienced any hostility to my choice of subject at school, since I went to an academic girls (state) school and I was quite shocked and surprised by what she went through. There is on one hand, quite a lot of awareness about the problems women face in science (e.g. new site http://diversity.iop.org/ run by institute of physics, who’s new Chief Executive, Dr Julia King is a woman. I think many of the problems women academic scientists face in this country are exacerbated by the crisis in higher education in the UK, which makes competition for scarce funding very brutal and desperate for all.

The main problem for women in science seems to be having a family. This is also a problem in many areas of professional work, with women putting off having children for longer and longer. The mobility required when building a career in Science could certainly put a strain on relationships and is particularly difficult when both are in the same situation. However, I suspect that a partner who is also a scientist might respect and make compromises for their wife/girlfriends’ career more that those who are non scientists. There are other interesting points about the type of character (of both sexes) whodecides to follow a career in science – many may be quite individualistic and not interested in what society thinks of them and may prefer to live in their own world, ignoring the experience of others? Best wishes,

From Eve

This site is fantastic! If it’s not too late, I’d like to add a few things to your reading list [Feminist Must Reads]: Anne O Faulk’s empowering novel “Holding Out”, practically everything by Gloria Steinem, “Sex and Power” by Scilla Elworthy and also, “Necessary Targets” by the amazing Eve Ensler.

From Anna

I would like to offer thanks to Beth Spiller for her ‘Order of the Phoenix’ Harry Potter review. I think it is important to examine the message of texts resident in so many households and here Beth voiced concerns which resonate with my unease about the gendered characterisation – in addition to making other valid observations which hadn’t occurred to me at all!

Having discussed the book with friends and family I was under the impression that I was the only person with concerns regarding the character Cho Chang. I found the dialogue between her and Harry (demonstrating the identified periodic insensitivity) peculiarly strained and their plotline the least engaging of the book for many reasons. I am grateful to Beth for articulating her thoughts and thereby helping to crystallise my own.

From Maria Ng

Re: Feminism & ‘hypocrisy’ [‘Feminists Are Sexist’]: You are such a star! Thanks for the arguments to knock down the timewasters. Cheers,

From Donna Newman

Hi, Catherine, just had to tell you how much I love getting these updates (which prompt me to check out the latest at your site), because they ENERGIZE me.

First thing I read was your piece on ‘Feminists Are Sexist’, and you said it the way I wanted to say it. It reiterates a discussion that’s regularly occurring on several feminism lists I’m on where women, as always bending over backward to try to accommodate men’s concerns, are posting stuff from men’s lists about battered men, and the resources that THEY don’t have to compare with what’s available to women. Somehow if it happens to one of them, it’s more horrific than if it happens to 1000 of us. And no, they can’t be bothered to get out there and organize efforts on their own behalf, when women have worked years to set up this (marginally funded but available) system for supporting battered women; just move over and give us our (man’s) share. One guy even filed a lawsuit because they wouldn’t allow him to stay at a battered women’s shelter (geez, these folks are clueless). Arrrrgggghhh.

One of these days, I’m going to get something in to you for your site; my limitation is finding a focus that would be relevant to UK feminism. Probably the main difficulty is there is so danged much to pay attention to, it’s hard to narrow it down to something that would be timely and salient for your site.

From Ailsa

Re: ‘Feminists Are Sexist.’ Great article about “sexist feminist” issues. I live with my girlfriend who when I complain about sexism on TV and in ads is always then sticking up for men and the negative ways they are portrayed… I find that v irritating and if I can drag her away from footie and the playstation I’ll get her to read it!

She also says that I “hate” men. I tell her this is NOT true, individually they are all great, but en masse I’m not so sure. Hope the next issue is going well.

From Nick

Re: ‘Feminists Are Sexist.’. He he he brilliant rant really liked it. I always find it funny when my fellow men get so defensive in the face of feminism. Liked the peice a lot :)

From Aimee

Re: ‘Feminists Are Sexist.’. I just wanted to tell you that I thought your article for the fword was wonderful. I thought it was very interesting that you highlighted how some men complain about male stereotyping yet fail to address the problem in any construcive manner. It seems to be the case that ‘gender issues’ are thought to be solely about women so men are immediately ‘threatened’ by this. In a gender course I took recently there were 8 female students and one male student. I think this illustrates the fact that more women than men are willing to approach notions of gender theory. But I don’t want to start stereotyping and defining gender in a binary way saying ‘women do this’ and ‘men do that’ etc. so I’ll stop now. Just also wanted to add that it was your article in the guardian that introduced me to the fword website and I’m very grateful that I happened upon it, so thanks for that! Keep up the good work,

From Rick Clements

Re: Catherine Redfern’s ‘Feminists Are Sexist.’. As one of the ‘trolls’ of the world please excuse this “attempt to stop feminist action and thought in its tracks, hidden behind a superficial pretence of “fairness”.” While I appreciated Ms Redfern’s acknowledgment that popular culture stereotypes men too and her analysis of “Patriarchy Hurts Men Too” (PHMT), and “Feminism Benefits Men Too” (FBMT) it seems incomplete. To present a complete analysis wouldn’t one need to also consider how “Patriarchy Benefits Women Too” (PBWT) and “Feminism Hurts Men Too” (FHMT)?

Sorry for the intrusion, I’ll go back under my bridge now.

From Justine Frost

I have an eleven year old daughter who plays in two local girls footy teams. She has done extremely well over the last year or so and I am very proud of her. Hollie is playing footy because she loves it. People seem more concerned that she won’t make any money from it as opposed to the fact that it is a hobby, she gets lots of exercise and it is great fun. I was asked by one parent at her school ‘wouldn’t she prefer dancing lessons?’ I couldn’t believe it. The people who run the teams are very dedicated and commited to the girls. We need more teams and the sport needs more support and money thrown at it if they are to stand any chance.

From Anon

Hi, Just wanted to pop in a point about your Harry Potter review [Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix]. It was excellent btw. Rowling’s books are sadly full of sexist claptrap. But they are packed full of cliches, why should gender stereotyping be absent? This is a minor thing, but it is Cedric ‘Diggory’ not ‘Diggle’. I know it is nit picking but it stuck out to me. Thanks…

From Alex

Re: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I read this Harry Potter review with a kind of amazement. Firstly, why exactly should JK Rowling abolish sexism within her fantasy world? The whole series is written in an entirely realistic way, as though the wizarding world exists alongside our own, so why should she make a conscious effort to remove all prejudice from it? In fact, one of the most important themes of the books is the bigoted attitude of “pureblood” wizards towards their half-muggle counterparts. If racism exists in Rowling’s magical world, why shouldn’t sexism? It doesn’t mean that she is advocating male superiority, merely writing about a world in which like ours, discrimination exists.

What’s more, the supposed female stereotypes mentioned are pretty hard to find. Beth Spiller asks whether there are strong female characters, and admits that “On first reading the answer would appear to be yes”. I would suggest that even on second reading the answer remains yes. She lists important females including one of the 3 main characters, an influential senior teacher, a sports captain, and a powerful anti-Harry authority figure. So what if there is a male headmaster, main character and chief baddie? As far as i can see, there is a pretty fair balance of men and women as far as significant characters go.

Yes, in the professional wizarding world, women are slightly outnumbered and most senior positions held by men. Women in the book presumably face similar career challenges as in the real world today.

It sounds to me that Beth has actively looked for female stereotypes in the book. Yes, there are a few giggling girls. There are also the fat, dumb, male bullies. You aren’t supposed to like the silly, simpering girls any more than you are the monosyllabic, aggressive boys. But we all know that both types of people exist in real highschools everywhere. To be honest, i think that there is no feminist issue with the Harry Potter books. The magical world is never presented as any more perfect than ours. JK Rowling’s fiction doesn’t condone any aspect of reality, it simply reflects it.

From Pete

i think your morals and beliefs are sexist, especially in the modern working arena of the sex industry.

[Huh? I asked this guy to explain further but he never replied – Editor]

From Frank Murphy

Re: It’s Rude To Point: Blame Culture’s Easy way Out. Juries are not returning guilty verdicts in rape cases and this needs to be investigated. There is a reluctance to carry out research on Juries in case it interferes with our concept of justice.

From Sara Gonzalez, University of Scranton, PA

Re: Bloody Disgrace Hi from the USA! I noticed that the Diva Cup wasn’t mentioned in the comments related to this article. It sounds very similar to the Mooncup, and I’ve been using it for months with excellent results. Thanks for a great article – I had just been thinking about making this issue my topic to present at my university’s upcoming Feminist Fair.

From B J Fraser

Re: Ball Breaking? Coming out of the Feminist Closet. I have always hesitated using the term feminist about myself, because I have felt more like an ordinary woman with opinions trying to get on in life, rather than a committed feminist (I am hazy on current academic study, for example). However, my bosses, friends and family don’t hesitate to use the term to describe me – some with pride, some with loathing. (For some people, it doesn’t take much to be called a feminist.) Recently I have decided I probably should use the term myself, since I spend at least one morning a week pointing out to my younger colleagues that week’s scare story for women, and why we should fight against such insiduous media representations.

From Alexander Shaw

I just finished reading Carter-ann Mahdavi’s article [It’s rude to point: blame culture’s easy way out] and found it very compelling, i too am a student at Goldsmiths and am glad to find that some students do still care and apathy’s grip is not absolute.

From Karen Murphy

I agree in part to your article about motherhood [Bad Mothers] and it is funny and true. But, when you get to the age where your body clock is ticking loudly you have to make a descision. You could live to regret not having children. And joining the boys in their rat race to climb the career ladder can loose its appeal. However, I have a baby screeming in the background while I write this and am also thinking you could regret having children too. Just kidding! smiles through gritted teeth.

From yahya

i want to marry with any women plz contect me in this regard.

From Amy Jackson

Re: Not all girls (want to) go to Fendi paradise. I fear Alexandra Kokoli has missed the lighthearted fantasy which lies at the heart of Sex and the City. Yes, few of us can afford Manolo Blahniks, fewer still have as much brazen self confidence as Samantha and as little career motivation as any of the quartet. But their lives and loves are not about financial realism, or sexual frigidity. The show is a pure expression of an Epicurean fantasy, where everyone has enough money to make themselves look attractive, where the pursuit of pleasure, whether transient (Samantha) or lasting (Miranda) and where they don’t need men to do this. They are successful, financially independent, and therefore able to spend their income how they choose, be it on fendi bags or not. It is a feminist show, and one which is fun, and funny. Perhaps this is why we can’t take it seriously as social comment.

Re: Driven to Distraction. As with cars, so with sport. I’m a rugby fan – Saracens supporter and keen follower of the England team. Yet when i walked into my university common room to watch a match, alone, without a man on my arm, every male in there turned to gawp. A woman? Entering their preserve of male bonding and complex rules, surely far too difficult for a little woman to comprehend? Say it isn’t so! But now, after the whole Six Nations tournament, and the Spring internationals, i seem to have proved myself and my presence is accepted. That i had to ‘prove myself’ at all is infuriating. Sport is not, nor should it be, a male only enclave. And should you hint that you know how many balls make up an over, or that you can distinguish silly mid off from silly point, an old cricketer will look at you aghast and mentally blacklist you, and a young cricketer will see you as just the kind of girlfriend who might be willing to sit on the boundary line all summer. we can’t win. unlike the england team at the world cup….

From Kare Tyler

Just read your article on female drivers [Driven to Distraction] and this particularly struck a chord with me as i have just purchased my first car. i needed to buy new car mats, so went along to the local halfords. myself and my mum found what we wanted and had a quick look at the cd players whilst we were there. we were quickly approached by two young lads and my mum asked what the difference was between two of the stereos, other than a price difference of ï¿œ40. to which she got the reply “the colour, this one is blue and that one is silver. oh and this one has a bigger volume button”. helpful advice!

From Nick Good – South Africa

Re your position on page 3 girls [Page 3 – Ban It!] – it’s totally absurd and inconsistent with the free choice position taken on other issues such as the morning after pill. Just because you don’t like the idea and find it objectionable you want it banned! How desperately arrogant, worse, dangerous it would be the start of a very slippery slope. If page three were banned all porn would have to be banned, any bare flesh on tv and film, where would it stop? Michael Angelo’s statue of David would have to be covered up & ..what utter nonsense.

If you don’t like it then don’t buy the paper simple! There’s plenty of stuff out there that I find objectionable, even dislike, find tasteless and even think is negative and destructive – but seeking to impose my choice in good taste on the cosmos is something I tend to avoid.

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

The F-Word is written by many different contributors so attacking us for not putting forward “a consistent position” is a misunderstanding of the nature and aims of this site. In any case, if one lone woman questioning the policies of the biggest tabloid newspaper in UK counts as “imposing [one’s] choice in good taste upon the cosmos”, I wonder what The Sun are doing when they plaster their dubious choice in “good taste” across our news, newsagents, public transport, breakfast tables, and our culture? I stand by the article and our right to question the status quo. – Editor

From xxxAlison

Thanks to Anna Sandfield for the positive reveiw of Ani Difranco’s Royal Festival Hall gig. I too was there and thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the fact that she was on her own, but I think this personal approach would of seemed more intimate at a venue like Shepards Bush where I’ve seen her play twice before. The RFH almost lost her in it’s splender, even she commented on how posh it was. She was powerful though and played some of my fav. tunes. I take every opportunity to see her, and she is always worth the 1 or 2 year wait for the next gig. Love the music Ani.

Ps- did anyone else see Bill Oddie in the audience ?

From Susan Weisenberg

Just wanted to say thank you for existing, this is the best “F” site I have seen on the web. I stumbled on this site by accident. I don’t live in the UK, but would like to be posted for updates.

From Jenne Nicholson

About the Ani Difranco Concert review, (July F-Word): Its so nice to see Ani mentioned on this site, I think she has a powerful message to convey and its nice to hear about such an intimate gig (that I missed, sob!). Ani is a completely independent woman, shunning record labels and establishing herself by hard work and selling albums out of a car boot at the end of small venue concerts… and now playing the Royal Festival Hall! Definately a girl too see. The greatest appeal of Ani Difranco is her ability with words, she is a poet who can make you think and laugh and feel, mostly she writes lines I wish I’d thought of!

From Gwenno Dafydd

Re: Ball breaking? Coming out of the feminism closet. Much as I would love to spend time thinking about a sexy sounding hip,trendy, up to the minute name for a feminist that doesn’t scare the shit out of men – I, like the majority of women don’t have the time. I’m just too busy trying to earn a livng, be a half decent mother, run a household, as most women doing the lion’s share of the housework etc etc. So I just thought I’d send you the first thing that jumped into my mind which was ‘womanist’ – that is, a grown up version of a feminist. As we appreciate, most of the challenges that we as women have to overcome really start to kick in as soon as we reach womanhood – such as equal or rather as you so clearly pointed out – unequal pay, lack of affordable childcare, the old boys club, sterotypical job choices that we are still encouraged to make – I could go on and on but I’ve got a fish pie to make and a load of washing to sort out before I conk out exhausted on the sofa.

So W, o, m, a, n, i ( = Independent), s (= Survivor), t (= Triumphing over the odds).

At least it’s something to think about. Best wishes.

From Lucinda Munday

I was searching the net for names of uk feminist magazines, having found Bust and Ms, and I was starting to feel that such a thing did not exist. Yet here you are! A movement needs a shared platform, a starting point…perhaps this is it! The DIY contributory part of it is a great equaliser.

From Yvette

I’m an australian university student studying communication and cultural studies, and your article on the perceived irrelevance of feminism [Ball breaking? Coming out of the feminism closet.] struck a chord with me. one of my big papers i wrote last year actually analysed kylie minogue as an example of third wave feminism! i just wanted to say that i am one of those rare young women happy to proclaim my feminist ideologies whilst claiming my feminity – who says you can’t wear lipstick and be a feminist? (and a lesbian for that matter!) and no – i don’t hate men, and yes – i do have a great relationship with my (ever-present, never-absent) father!! keep up the good work :)

From Hazel

Great site – wish I had found it sooner (saw Catherine’s column in the Guardian yesterday). I have just read the ‘Just Call Me Bob’ feature, and it brought to mind some of the books we have laying around at home (we hoard books like there is no tomorrow) that my Mum and Aunt (and even my nana) read when they were young.

Most of these books were written between the 20s and the 40s, and a lot of them have incredibly positive images of women. There is the ususal scattering of school stories, but the really interesting ones are those that portray girls as pilots etc (unfortunately they tend to have got here thanks to rich daddys, but never mind) and although there is a suggestion that they are unusual, there is no suggestion that they are wrong.

Could these be classed as early feminist stories?

From goatdalf

I was interested to read the review by Lorraine Smith of More Sex Tips for Girls. What particularly fascinated me that she felt it was aimed at women. In my limited experience I had gained the impression that the only people who watched it were young men after a perv. I felt she was more accurate when she commented that sex sells.

From ganflad

Re: Ball breaking? Coming out of the feminism closet.. Should feminism change because of a perception, I’m not so sure. It does seem to me that if the term is associated with men haters this is surely just a reflection of the fact that men still view the issue as a either an unwarranted or a pointless attempt to push for equality. I am sceptical whether or not taking pictures of Kylie is likely to solve this particular problem. Feminism has never had a sole crusade or narrow purpose, it’s beliefs like its members are diverse. It is probably just a reflection of the modern world that this leads it to be seen as vague, irrelevant or outdated.

From Annadï¿œs Rï¿œdï¿œlfsdï¿œttir

Just stumbled across this webzine and think it is well designed and more importantly with good stuff.

From Bela

Re: July 2003 news: “Jeremy Clarkson accused of sexism: a nation is unsurprised”. You may be interested to know that at a recent Degree congregation at Brunel University, Mr. Clarkson was awarded an honorary Ph.D.(in sexism?)..I graduated at the same time, but am now seriously considering sending mine back as it feels tainted…

From Anon

Re: The Experiences of Young Women in Science. I was so very impressed with Ms. Hawkins’ recent article. I myself was an undergraduate Physics major at a major state university in the US five years ago. While there I was sexually assaulted by a professor. I went to the department with this information, where I was advised that I would be graded out of my program if I went to the police with the incident. The savvy professor went to his close (male) colleagues with a ‘confession’, saying that he regretted his behaviour, but that I had come to his office late, and that such actions seemed to communicate interest. The colleagues backed him up, and the stigma I faced for the rest of that year caused a mental breakdown that forced me to leave school and seek psychological treatment, which in turn ended my internship with a satellite office (no pun, etc.) of NASA. At 19 years old my career in the sciences was concluded. After reading Ms. Hawkins’ article, I now feel less sad that I missed out. Thank you,

From Gina Smith

Perhaps I’m missing something but I think the article ‘Bloody Disgrace’ is excessively politicising the issue. Menstrual products are not free – so what? Neither is toilet paper, and that’s used by both genders, for a similarly ‘medical’ purpose. Speaking of which, re-usable sanitary products have about as much appeal as re-useable loo roll. Bleugh!

From An American woman.

To Whom It May Concern: I read your web article “The F Word” regarding female sexual dysfunction – and I totally agree with it. I am a 54 year old woman who has always defined her sexuality for herself. I’ve always had orgasms from solo sex (masturbation) since age seven – and orgasms from intercourse – since age nineteen. I am proactive and assertive with partner sex.

I do not allow intercourse (penetrative sex) in terms of how men define it. I have always had female defined intercourse – that is an intercourse that primarily focuses on the female pleasure / orgasms. It is an intercourse that directly stimulates (“no hands”) the vulva: the mons veneris; inner labia and the clitoris. It produces intense orgasms for the woman – quickly and effectively. There is no fast or deep in and out thrusting. It is an anatomically correct intercourse for the woman – then the man. I will forward a specific description of this, if you wish.

I feel that partner sex must be equal / egalitarian. I agree that it is a whole body experience and that men need to be less phallocentrically defined. I do not allow men to be only focused on their penis – nor to consider sex as intercourse. I enjoy outercourse and intercourse activities – equally. I do not defer to the man. I will only allow a man’s orgasm – after I’ve had my orgasms. I have terminated sexual activities that do not satisfy me. I feel that the woman’s sexual needs / orgasms are primary – and need to be respected and satisfied – by how she determines this. I also believe that no orgasms for her = no orgasm for him.

I am not against penetrative sex for women (if it is her choice) as long as it encompasses her orgasms – first and foremost. I also view penetrative sex as optional and not to be engaged in if it does not provide the woman with her orgasms. Thank you,

From Erin

Hello, I’m a sixteen-year-old from South Carolina. I just have to say that I stumbled across your site and absolutely fell in love with it. It’s refreshing to get the sort of feminism that isn’t all about kicking men in the crotches and setting them on fire. At any rate, I have introduced your site to many of my friends, most of whom have very good things to say about it also. I enjoy reading the articles. Keep it up. Thanks,

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