Comments from January – March 2004

More comments!

, 14 March 2004

From Angela Dennis, UQ Women’s Collective, Queensland, Australia

Hi all at the f-word, Re: The Feminist Minefield

The word ‘pornography’ is used so generously and loosely that one would be forgiven for thinking that it is all the same. That is a mistake. Because it can mean that we are talking at cross-purposes. I recently read an article about a female director who was directing primarily “lesbian pornography”, in which all the women filmed genuinely enjoyed the experience, genuinely orgasmed, and were portrayed in such a way that reflected the fact that they are sexual human beings. That was called ‘pornography’. Lets contrast that with some videos that I found at a bloke’s house the other day. These videos are mainstream (as opposed to marginal or rare), mass-produced, recent, and commonly bought by (mostly) men at the local adult store. I took a moment to write down some of the titles and phrases from the back of the cassettes;

[Note from Editor: Here, Angela provided examples of typical titles and phrases from porn videos. I decided not to reproduce them here, mainly because I felt conflicted over printing such misogynistic, potentially triggering language on a feminist site – even if it is used to demonstrate how truly awful some porn can be. I guess this is censorship, but I hope you understand why. Anyone who wants to find examples of this kind of thing can easily find them elsewhere on the net. – Catherine]

These tapes are also called ‘pornography’. My understanding is that the women in these tapes largely feel more pain or discomfort than pleasure. Nevertheless, they are portrayed in the tapes as enjoying everything that they do, or that is done to them in the porn. Also, as you can tell from above, the type of sex advertised above involves women getting things done TO them, and getting used, degraded and tossed aside in the process.. The words above resemble hate-propaganda….the women is ‘put down’ as ‘slutty’, ‘nasty’, at the same time as she is wanted for sex. But the sex comes across more as a punishment…..ie they get ‘royally ass-fucked’, he ‘crams it up their ass’. Lorraine Smith argues that, “anyone who has actually looked at the genre in the 21st century must surely realise that the linguistic root of the term (pornography) is no longer relevant to what it describes.”, where the linguistic root refers to domination and violence against women. Unfortunately, I think the above quotes prove her incorrect.

I won’t go through all the issues involved in answering the question of whether the latter porn is somehow empowering to the actresses because they make more money than the men, except to the say that my opinion is that it is not empowering at all. The message I really want to get across is that we have to understand what is really out there to be able to discuss pornography. In fact, I encourage all women to go to an adult store, or look on the net, and see what types of images are being consumed. Yes, there is a growth of ‘porn for women’ (which seems to be merely porn which acknowledges that women are humans), lesbian porn, gay porn and others. However, the vast majority of porn, that is, the stuff that fills aisle after aisle at the local adult store, the stuff that many guys have stashed in their cupboards, the stuff that gets spammed into our inboxes, is the type of porn that I have quoted above. This type of porn isn’t interested in seeing women as real people, and feminists are right to be concerned.

ps. There is an excellent book by Gail Dines, Robert Jensen and Ann Russo which analyses the content of mass-marketed porn, and which could be of use to anyone interested.

From Youth of Australia

Re: The Feminist Minefield. Porn is not liberating to anyone., women and men included. I’m sorry but i dont think that skinny girls with big boobs is helping us as women to become equal. We are not all like those women on the porn sites i now i for one do not look like that. Frankly those girls by men are looked upon as nothing more then ‘as a piece of ass’. I have witnessed what young men have said about these women ‘wow what a nice par of jugs they are’ and ‘wouldnt you like a piece of that’. This is teaching boys from a young age to only see women as things, not as actual beings and in turn as they grow up will think of these things and as men in our society try to oppress us and will not see us for who we are but for what our bodies look like. I have seen in my life young girls who see these girls and think ‘if guys like this then i have to be like this’. I’m sorry but do you think that this is what young girls should think about? This is why many girls are becoming belimic or anorexic. Porn is not just something to ‘excite’ peolpe porn is a never ending cycle of depressed girls and horny little boys who will eventually become men and i do not want that kind of man in this society.

From poncho fiend

Hello, I have been quite interested in feminism for some time and your website has been a wonderful source of information. However, I found courtney love to be an unreliable source in the article ‘diet grrrl’. Her status as a riot grrrl has always been questionable; if she found the riot grrrl ‘image’ to be oppressive (obviously she did not understand its aims to begin with) why did she wear it? This brings up an interesting issue. Is it possible to reclaim an image which has been used to repress (such as the ‘dolly’ image) whilst it is still read by many in society as a symbol of (women’s) weakness. In my opinion, of course. I wear what I want and look overtly feminine; anyone who views me as being a ‘tart’ or ‘slut’ due to my appearance will soon discover that these labels are meaningless; i am no more subsurvient than the typical hairy legged feminist architype. Whilst there are still ‘images’ and ‘styles’ that are seen as oppressive…they will be used as tools in this way. Once they are reclaimed they are rendered meaningless. At least this is what i hope we are slowly achieving?

From Peta

I found the site when searching for alternative menstrual products. What a brilliant site! it articulates so much of what I have been ranting about for ages. I’ve forwarded some links on to friends who tend to roll their eyes at what I’m saying and who shy away from the word feminism in exactly the same way that I did a few years back.

From Joanna

Re: The Feminist Minefield. i just read this article, having found this site only yesterday and seeing the number of comments about it. so here’s my disjointed input.

first off, i like porn. i like hardcore porn because it’s arousing, and i like bad cheesy softcore porn because it generally has apalling production values and is hilarious.

it seems pointless to argue that porn is bad because it objectifies women.. because of course it does. it objectifies men. it objectifies sex – its entirely about watching people have sex. the whole point is that you don’t care who they are, what their backgrounds are etc, youre watching it for the fact that theyre up for it. the old zipless fuck deal. i watch porn because i like looking at the women, and then i identify with them. i KNOW i’m not the only woman to have a fantasy life involving being sleazy / slutty ( and i take slutty to be a positive thing ) and while i probably wouldn’t want five men in one go in real life i’m all for watching it on tv and then getting it on on the sofa with my amour du jour.

it seems depressing however to say that porn is ok now because women are making money out of it, as if money is the only measure of equality, the only standard by which we can judge something. a huge amount of the adult industry is tied up with expliotation, but so is a great amount of pretty much all industries. unless all your clothes come from an eco co-operative of some kind chances are they were sewn together by a child in a third world country earning a pittance. its not an excuse, its just a fact of life. and moves towards protecting and supporting workers in the adult industry are a good good thing. the sex trade isn’t going to go anywhere and by digging our heads in the sand we’re just making a bad situation worse for alot of women out there

lastly the rape / porn issue – all i can say is if a porn film spurs you to go and rape a random woman… chances are likely you had some issues to start with, and something probably would have triggered you sooner or later.

(ps i worked for two months on a chatline ( my brief glimpse into the adult industry :) ) and for two and a half years in mental health. and i’m really lazy about capitalizing)

From Queen Thatch

Hello, I just read Anna Sandfield’s article “Holy Trinity – female characters in The Matrix: Reloaded” and I LOVED it! Although I do enjoy the kung-fu action and gun battles in the Matrix triogy, my absoulte first reason for loving these 3 films is because of Trinity. In my opinion, she is the ideal woman: intelligent, strong, independent, determined, and she is still capable of love. I think that Sandfield’s excellent analysis of Trinity sums up why I find her admirable. Trinity is the kind of role model young girls should have today. I really enjoyed reading the article, it was well written.

From Claudia Elliott

Re: A woman’s glossy mag in 5 mins: all true, apart from making up the horoscope in our coffee breaks – we’ve never had a coffee break (not since the 1950s anyway).

From Aaren

Hi – Just wanted to say what a brilliant article ‘the eminem defence’ was.

From John

Hi, It was refreshing to read Natasha Forrest’s article ‘Whose Slut?’, in which she argues that ‘sexual objectification’ is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve always felt that many women get some kind of thrill (whether sexual or otherwise) from knowing that men lust after them.

As a boy growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s (I’m now 37), I often saw sexy female dancers like Pan’s People and Legs & Co on Top of the Pops etc. Not once did I ever feel that these and similar images had anything to do with male power over women. In fact, the entrancing and arousing effect that these images had on me made me feel that women had some kind of power over me, and I resented it. I resented it because I found having sexual feelings extremely embarrassing. This was especially true when I was aged 12-16. I resented women’s ability to ‘make’ me feel sexually aroused. I was very shy of girls and blamed them for it. However, from my late teens onwards, I embraced eroticism and now I love sexual titillation. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that there is no such thing as too much of it!

In her response to Natasha’s article, Missmogga accuses Natasha of being a ‘middle class feminist whose never been near a porno shoot…’ In fact, similar criticisms have been levelled at anti-pornography feminists. They have been accused by other feminists of being mostly white, middle class women who don’t understand the needs of women who work in the sex industry. Missmogga says she knows some women who ‘get a cock rammed down their throat and told to take it, just to make rent’. I don’t doubt for one minute that some women in the porn industry are exploited or mistreated. But this doesn’t mean that the industry is bad per se. There are children in some third world countries who are employed in carpet-making factories and paid a pittance. Does this mean that all carpet-making is bad?

Anti-pornography feminists claim they are trying to save their sisters in the sex industry. However, sex workers have complained bitterly about the contribution that anti-pornography feminists have made to stigmatising their work.

From Natalie Nezhati

Your article ‘taboo for who’ was really thought provoking. however i’d still be reluctant to use the word cunt as an insult as i think there lies a difference in male and female power.our patriarchal society views men as more than simply a penis, and men will always believe they are more,whereas women, esp prostitutes, strippers etc are often defined by their sexual organs.i am quite tempted to start using the word cunt though,if just for the shock effect it would have on people coming from a young female!

From Annie Zijlstra

Re: ‘The Name of the Game’, by Mrs Angela Everitt. Who said women have no choices? Miss, Mrs or Ms? Choose the latter if you dare, it looks odd, sounds worse, and people look at you quizzically when you say it, thinking ‘is she a bra-burning feminist or am I safe?’

And men, well they just have plain old Mr. Poor sods. So lacking in choice, surely their denial is criminal, unjust, wrong in today’s society? Well I think not.

Maybe I’m paranoid but doesn’t Mrs look rather like Mr, but with an ‘s’ on the end. Add an apostrophe and you’ve got Mr’s. And isn’t that what it actually means?

Now why is it that men only have the one prefix? It doesn’t change when they’re married, nor do they in fact change the name they’ve grown up with. Mr doesn’t tell you if the man you’re talking to is single, married or perhaps divorced. No, Mr is anonymous, enigmatic, vague.

Miss, however, what does that say? Single, alone, not married yet, fair game, waiting… And Mrs? Attached, no longer available, belongs to someone, taken.

My argument, is why do we bother with any prefix at all? Why must I state my marital or life state when I fill in a form, book some theatre tickets, make an appointment, sign up for an email letter? Is it necessary to declare that I am single or married? Am I not just me, Annie? Is that not enough?

Male or female? That’s a fair question, but female – married or single? I’m sorry that’s just too far. That goes beyond ‘need to know’. That goes back to 19th century mores, where you would know not only be Mrs so and so, but you would also carry his first name: Mrs Alfred Fitzgerald. No identity of your own, you were his, not only in ‘all but name’, in everything.

I appreciate that it may be nice to declare to the world ‘I’m married and proud’, as Mrs Angela Everitt argued. I understand where she’s coming from, I think. But why didn’t Mr Everitt get to change his prefix, so he can declare to the world as well that he’s married and proud? Now that seems a real inequality to me.

From Sam

re: The Feminist Minefield. Lorraine has avoided a tremendous amount of information to make her claim that porn doesn’t harm women. Sex is never risk-free. The only sure ways to prevent pregnancy are hysterectomy or abstinence, and if all prostitutes (and yes, porn actresses are prostitutes) are not sterilized, then a good portion of them will be/are subjected to repeated abortions. Also, genital warts are not prevented by condom use and are a leading cause of cervical cancer.

Hospitals look and smell like the do because great efforts are taken to keep dangerous human fluids from contacting others and transmitting disease. Condoms protect against AIDS but are only 90% effective with actual usage and an estimated 1/5 of johns pay more money to put women’s health at risk for the sake of their own sexual pleasure.

Prostitution ruins women’s health physically and mentally. Pornstitution does the same, as an EU study finding porn actresses have 6 times the suicide rate of non-sex workering women.

From Jane Lee

I stumbled across your site while searching for stuff on International Women’s Day 2004. I’ve only skimmed the surface but it looks ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!! Thank you for creating such a useful and inspiring resource

From JASMIN

WHEN I VISITED YOUR WEBSITE I WAS DEEPLY TOUCHED TO FIND THAT THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO SHARE THE SAME THOUGHTS, FEELINGS & OPINOINS AS I DO, ALTHOUGH I AM ONLY TWELVE I DO HAVE STRONG BELIEFS ABOUT THIS MATTER THAT OVERPOWERING THE WOMENS RACE. I TRY NOT TO TIE ALL MEN IN THE SAME KNOT, IT’S JUST THAT MEN EVERYWHERE ARE POISIONING THE MINDS OF WOMEN, SARCASM THEY SAY IT IS BUT FOR EVERY WORD OF SARCASM THEY SPEAK ONE LITTLE GIRLS HOPES & DREAMS ARE SHATTERED AND THEY ARE THROWN INTO A WORLD WHERE EVERY RACE THEY RUN THEY WILL ALWAYS COME SECOND BEST. EVERY YEAR 5,000 THATS 13 A DAY, GIRLS ALL AROUND THE WORLD SUFFER THERE DEATH BY HONOUR KILLINGS JUST BECAUSE THERE FATHERS DONT LIKE THERE BOYFRIENDS, OR CAREER PATH E.T.C. THATS NOT RIGHT. WOMEN ARE ALWAYS VIEWED AS A SEX OBJECT OR A COOK OR CLEANING. THINK FOR YOURSELF. YOU ARE WHO YOU CHOOSE TO BE.

From Debra Sherbina

re: The Feminist Minefield. I want to agree with the author of this article that pornography is satisfying and liberating for women, but if I ruminate upon this and am honest with myself I really cannot agree. Personally, I feel more manipulated and preached to by the “sex industry” and how it tells women (and men) to behave sexually than I ever could by any radical feminist ideology. I’ve come to this conclusion myself–that porn is just an extension of the patriarchal system we live and breathe in–(and that many people deny even exists, because we’re all so used to it). Tits and ass pretending to be “sexual liberation,” and women reduced to smiling siliconed objects to please men isn’t a particular turn-on of mine. problem is–porn is touted as so freeing and liberating, and any criticism of it “prudish” and “sex-negative.” hence–the dilemma for some of us. I honestly feel I can still be sexual without liking the gender representations in the sex industry, but a lot of the messages people who feel like I do receive from society tell me we can’t. Wish I had time to come up with a possible solution, but gotta run on to work in this Pacific Time Zone. Is one of the problems not enough full-frontal male nudity in “mainstream” films, perhaps? (I’m talking American R-Rated..) lots of T@A and more when it comes to women, though. The sexist hypocrisy here is really annoying….but I don’t think the bandaid of more male nudity will ever solve the deeper problem of misogyny and sexism in this society. maybe it would tell future generations that nudity doesn’t only mean nekkid wimmin, though–and this could be a start.

From Cristy

The article “blame culture” by Carter-Ann Mahdavi kind of pissed me off. Rape IS a women’s problem. The idea that we have to turn to the culture as a whole to protect us seems a little self defeating of the point of feminism. Of course we’re trying to change society and minimize stereotypes and all that, but…I think it IS a woman’s responsibility to learn how to protect herself from predators. I have taken martial arts for years and feel quite safe walking out into a dark parking lot or alley “alone and unprotected”. It’s OUR job to protect ourselves, not society’s or men’s. Especially not men’s. *shudder,anger,twitch,twitch* The idea that a man would even think to try to protect me sends me into spasms of thought consuming rage.

From Marion

I really liked Finn Mackay’s article on women’s peace camps [From Greenham to Menwith]. I wish I had been at that weekend as it sounds amazing. Sometimes I am so appalled at the world I don’t know where to begin! But she at least gave us somewhere to start! It can be difficult if you’re not ‘in the know’ to know what you can do. There are lots of feminists in the peace movement but they need to be more visible. See you at Menwith in March! (www.blockthebase.org.uk)

From Susan Naylor

Regarding Michelle winning Pop Idol [Cutting Women Down to Size]. Simon Callow appeared to be an avid supporter of Michelle despite her size,yet in the past he has repeatedly voiced his belief that a Pop Idol has to present a credible image and that therefore looks including size are legitimate reasons for excluding certain individuals from further progression in Pop Idol.

So the promotion of Michelle is I feel self serving in order that Pop Idol does not look sizeist and also transitory. Either Michelle will be a size 10 next time we see her or we won’t be seeing Michelle.

From silver

I found Beth Spiller’s article on feminism and weddings [There is No Groom] very interesting. I have just got married myself, and would like to reassure her that there are some women who keep their own name for all situations and circumstances. I’m ‘lucky’ in that my husband is a feminist gender historian (but if he had had any objections to my keeping my own name, or to my disregarding any other sexist and essentially oppressive traditions, he would not have become my husband). Our families have been harder to convince, mostly thinking that we are very strange (and, most irritatingly, that we should grow up). They and our friends bring up issues that I see as largely irrelevant and, really, not my problem. For example, if a bank cannot process a joint account because we have different names, that’s a problem with the bank, not me. If and when we have children and other parents think that they’re ‘illegitimate’ because they have a different surname from one or both of us, again, that’s their problem. I had thought that was an old-fashioned prejudice, but I know from experience that many people are concerned about other people thinking that my future children are illegitimate. I am, however, totally unmoved by their concerns and have no intention of sacrificing my principles in order to keep people happy and maintain the sexist status quo.

I had thought, perhaps naively, that my friends my age would not be surprised that I would keep my own name. Not so. Most of them were at least as surprised and horrified as my seventy-year-old relatives. But then most of my friends believe in gender stereotypes and use them to play relationship games whose rules are not entirely clear to me. As far as I can tell, they see marriage as a gender war instead of a partnership.

My husband and I wrote our entire ceremony ourselves and chose our own vows. We had deliberately omitted the traditional line ‘you may now kiss the bride’ and I was very annoyed when our marriage commissioner decided to say it anyway. That was just one example – and thankfully the last – of the difficulty of opposing a ‘blinding adherence to tradition’, as Spiller has it. In the run up to the wedding I had to deal with friends and in-laws who were distraught that I wasn’t going for a facial, having my legs waxed, having my hair put up or having my make up done. I wasn’t even going to buy a new dress but I had nothing else to wear except jeans. As Spiller says, the idea that not making this kind of expected effort means that you are not committed to marriage is ridiculous. I know of people who are desperate to get married, get engaged very quickly and spend the next year or so fully occupied with wedding plans. It seems suspiciously as though they don’t want to ask themselves whether they should actually be getting married.

How can we stop this assumption that every girl’s dream from birth (or rather from the moment that her mother/society/the media tells her so) is a white wedding?

From 22 year old scottish feminist

If there are women studies courses at uni does anyone think there should be an area in the curriculum for it at high schools? As a student teacher I’m quite shocked by the attitudes of teachers/lecturers to brush issues of gender equality under the carpet. At school I did a gender lesson and the fourteen year old females were very aware of inequalities but honestly believed they could not do anything about it. I agree with page three imagine having to tell 12 year olds looking at the difference between broadsheet and tabloid that our society percieves it as ok to objectify girls but not boys! While we’re at it what about cleaning products on tv under represented by men?

From L Langley

Re: How To Create a Woman’s Glossy Magazine in Five Minutes, Re: Women’s magazine front covers: Ever seen a women in a wheelchair on the front cover of a woman’s glossy magazine?

From B.

Re: Kill Bill, Killing people or beating them up is hardly a symbol of empowerment for anyone. President Bush Jr. has killed many people and I would never call him a paragon of manliness. Same with Saddam. If we’re stuck with violent movies defining feminine empowerment I’d mach Sigourney Weaver’s Lt. Ripley in Aliens to Thurman’s Bride any day of the week. Intelligent, resourceful, courageous, ‘doing the best with what she has’, and never forgetting her humanity. Cartoon samuri warriors in drag are a dime a dozen.

From Jamie

I read Lorraine Smith’s article [ “The Feminist Minefield”] a while, then sat thinking on it, as I am also researching a project on why men commit more sex crimes than women(in fact more of all types of crime).

I imagine the different responses if the issue was child pornography, but many of the same issues apply. By the same thread of Smith’s argument, if children could make good money out of pornography, then they should go for it. Sorry but that is just such a repulsive idea!

Also, she vaguely acknowledges the “bad parts” of the industry, but seems content not to really challenge them. The idea is if a few women and a lot of men, can take pleasure and profit from pornography to hell with the ones that suffer.

Sorry but I’m not so sure about the line that banning pornography would stop the abuse of women in the porn industry on and off camera. Supply tends to meet demand.

I may be wrong in this but if you look at interviews by criminologists like Ronald M.Holmes they find that serious sex offenders (rapists and sexual killers) like Ted Bundy, used pornography as a motivational tool before their rape, torture and killing of women.

Pornography has been described as the “sophisticated technological trafficking” of women. It reinforces the view of women as mere objects, commodities “things to be owned, used and consumed and pushes companion beliefs: all women are whores and it is acceptable to do anything you want to them.”G.Dines 1984

According to former porn actress Jane Johnson “There’s been a big change in pornography. The hating way in which women are portrayed has escalated so fast, now you see everything–women being skewered, women being killed.”And the trouble is that not everyone is able to distance themselves from it, or realise it is just acting. There are enough psychos out there, for it to influence alot of rapes, alot of sexual assaults. If it makes one man go out and attack an innocent woman, then, is it really something feminism should stand up for?

I have serious reservations about the whole shift in attitudes to pornography and the idea that it is more female friendly. I have to say I can’t agree. I think it has just pervaded society more and more and being made more and more acceptable, by “lad culture” and the advent of soft porn.

The selling of womens bodies is still exploitive, but now if you complain about it you are making a fuss over nothing or being a “total feminist”(which I consider a total compliment). This is quite a dangerous attitude as, as it is women are taught to minimize and trivialize their experiences of abuse, now it would seem like we are encouraging that process.

Societies like Japan, have much, much more disciplined and regimented social attitudes and greater respect for the sex roles. They also have a history of respecting and venerating concubinage, and prostitution, (which lacks the stigma that is attached here in the west) that western socities do not share.To draw a comparison is not particularly fair or acurate. Also given that the Japanese culture may/or may not encourage the reporting of rape.Official statistics also point to a 27% rise in the number of rapes in this country since last year(2002/2003) (see www.guardian.co.uk).(Stats are wonderful things that can be badied around to support or discredit any argument.)

I don’t believe that rock music makes kids kill their classmates, but I do think that a gun -loving, gun-providing, violent and aggressive society does help to promote such desperate acts.

I laugh at the idea of a “blame culture”, because it exists among women, and it blames women. If you are raped or sexually assaulted and you didn’t resist enough( through fear) then the blame is on you. Who in a rape case was the one supposedly asking for it?

Also it seems very sad to me, that just being with somebody you love, and you find physically and sexually attractive is not enough to enjoy a good sex life, or get turned on by. That you would need sex toys or pornography to have a good time, rather than just exploring your partners body, and enjoying the intimacy that brings.

Championing pornography just feels to me like a retrograde step. Its like all those men, who support prostitution—except they wouldn’t want their wives and daughters doing it, and they definitley wouldn’t do it themselves.

I think alot of women in the porn industry would love the high flying career, denied them.But would alot of the high flying career woman feel so great about a role reversal?Things might look very different, when its you selling sex for a living.

From E.B.

I just read the article on pornography, “the feminist minefield” by Lorraine Smith, and I have to say I just don’t buy it. So what if there are women making big bucks from it, can you really call that a “valid” career? Wouldn’t these women be happier, in careers which stimulated them mentally, rather than used and exploited them for their bodies, and removed the chance of them bettering themselves in any other field of work?

Sorry but its been kicking around for too long, “feminists” who try to reclaim pornography for the female masses, but really are just fufilling roles as the sad little darlings of the porn industry. Sorry but you can’t argue porn is glamourous or sexy, consensual sex in a loving relationship, now thats gorgeous, not seeing some poor cow being banged up the ass, for a few quid.

Pornography is just another excuse to degrade women and identify them as sex objects, to be used for the pleasure and profit of men. Studies have actually shown that it incites men, predisposed to rape to go out and commit

it.

Now call me a spoilsport if you will, but aren’t there enough women being raped, and sexually abused everyday in the real world, and having to fight against the prejudicies of police forces, the “justice” system and general population, against the stereotype of the “willing woman” always up for it any time, any place, anyhow; without having to face those same stereotypes played out up on screen?

Why doesn’t Lorraine Smith, concentrate her energies on improving education for women, or seeing that they get a fair hearing in rape trials? presently 95% of accused rapists walk free from conviction, are you really content to believe that pornography, viewed as much by rapists as by male prosecutors and defence lawyers and judges, doesn’t influence the way these men think?

c’mon enough of that shit now. The only women who really want to see pornography promoted are the capitalist pets of the industry, who are no better in their denigration of women than the rest of the misogynist, greedy bastards running the show.

From Jeremy

I really enjoyed your comments on feminism. Good web page!

From Gunny Walker, Murfreesboro, TN

Re: 25 Burning Questions, I would disagree with your stance on question number 19. I know that when I am work and go to lunch with friends we often go to the bathroom together. And yes, we actually talk to each other while we do. This is so commonplace that we also have old jokes to tell while peeing. Of course, I’ve seen the roles reversed from what you’d expect. A friend of mine said to his wife in at breakfast one morning. “Hey, I just saw xxxx and was talking to him.” While looking around, she asked, “Oh really, where did you see him at?” “In the bathroom, at the urinal.” “You mean you guys talk to each other in the bathroom?” She was actually shocked, so I guess there are guys who talk to each other and some that don’t. I guess it’s that way for women, too. I’ve even talked to strangers at the urinal a couple of times. Though once the guy quickly left without even washing his hands. I just wanted to know that you weren’t entirely right on that answer.

Holly Combes replies

Hey Gunny, Let’s not forget that it was MSN’s imaginary Everyman who asked those initial questions and not me! Yes, I did take MSN’s word for it that men generally don’t go to the bathroom in groups and I would also stand by my belief that this is the standard of conventional male conduct that, in the past, men have tended to be taught. However, I’m definitely glad to hear men are rejecting it. I’m all for showing up the myths behind those silly questions. Indeed, that was the reason I wrote the piece in the first place!

From Sarah Jackson

I love your site! It’s soooo good to encounter a uk-based feminist webspace!

From Amy

Re: Bad Mothers. I wholeheartedly agree with Claire Riley about the ‘childcare’ issue. I am 24 and have no intention of having children. When i impart this information to other females I get one of two reactions; a patronising lecture on feeling differently once youre pregnan(like its a foregone conclusion I ever will be)so stop being so silly; or total disbelief and a lecture about being old, lonely and unfulfilled. The intention is to make me feel like some kind of freaky she-bitch. I truly believe that too much emphasis is still put on the role of being a ‘mother’, particularly in this very child-centred society in which we appear to be living. If I dont feel incomplete now, how will having a baby make me feel more whole? Whilst I was at college my boyfriends brother impregnated his 17 year-old girlfriend to much jubilation. I was the only person who didnt see it as something to celebrate. And from that moment on I was treated as some kind of unfeeling weirdo. I get digs made all the time about wasting all those years at university when I coulldve started a family by now. I dont see those who take the motherhood path as inferior or as victims or owt like that. Im just getting fed up of being made to feel that I cant be a real woman without having children.

From Denise Vernon

Re: Stand Up for Equality. Kadie Armstrong might consider the way women are becoming equals with their male peers in the sitcom (Ab Fab and Goodness Gracious Me) and sketch show (Smack the Pony). In these contexts, women can create a credible world for their jokes, and root the humour in character and narratives. Here they are subversive and clever, and can laugh at women, without seeming to make some universal comment about womanhood. The linear joke or gag, is often simplistic in delivery, and sets up a comptetive relationship between audience and the standup. The aggression that is often built into the joke and the arena, or bear-pit of the stand up venue, can often mitigate against the subtle, subversive nature of women’s humour. In sitcoms and sketch shows we have become very effective fresh voices, especially in the areas of observational comedy, absurdism and the comic grotesque.

From Tom

Re: Smug Intentions – Richard and Judy on Chivalry. “Chivalry” can be used by men to justify violence or harrasment against other men, and even child abuse of young boys.

i.e. “I beat/shout at my boy because he’s dirty and must be trained to treat women like goddesses and have no impure thoughts about them.”

“I beat up that guy in the bar/ harrased that guy on the train because I thought he was bothering that girl he started speaking to.”

Like any other moral philosophy, chivalry has its evil extremes which promote social insanity.

From Agnieszka Jablonska

Dear Natasha Forrest, Thank you for the review of Wife Swap, back in February. It encapsulated exactly what I thought of it. I have only just discovered this site (it’s wonderful) and shortly after reading your review in which you say: “Come to think of it, “Husband Swap” wouldn’t work at all – you’d just end up with doctors trying to fix cars for the week, or lawyers crashing planes. Men’s lives are far too difficult and important to be messed around like that”, I almost fell of my chair seeing the BOSS SWAP advertised on TV!! You did underestimate your gift of foresight, as it does seem that nothing is too difficult or too important to mess with in search for cheap thrills. Except that they couldn’t bring themselves to call it Husband Swap – far too demeaning ;)))) With my best regards,

From Vix

I enjoy ur site very much esp. being put in touvh with the fanzine writers, but as of yet, it is just a one-way interaction, i would like to see a forum and chatroom, so that we can interact with those in the community.

From chloe maslin

I think this site is fantastic, it’s good to know that such websites excist exploring the some say controversial issue of feminism. It is about time that we got our say and what a marvelous way of doing it. I look forward to recieving new info through joining the mailing list and reading fresh articles on the matter. When reading some of the responses it was great to read the view of younger feminists, young people are in touch with politics despite the view of some, however they have not been able to express themselves untill the f word!!!

From Claire Wheeler

Hi, I’m a 23 year old feminist It’s great to eventually find people who want to listen and share their views. I’ve been going slowly insane since June when I completed my Degree in Women’s Studies as there are no discussion groups (that I can find) outside the confines of uni.

From Ilona

Just read the “Feminists are Sexist” piece… absolutely loved it! It put into words various arguments I’d had in my head for ages but didn’t know how to express, and addressed the issue of men who see themselves as pretty liberal and right-on while still being threatened by feminism. Case in point: my ex-boyfriend (a white male) was very into black women writers (studied their work in college) and very aware of racism… but anything that was JUST about women, or JUST about sexism, was trivial to him. If it didn’t have an “important” focus, and to him racism was an important focus, it was trivial. Of course, racism is important, but let’s not place it above activism that “only” benefits women.

From michelle

i first heard Rockbitch years ago on the xfm rockshow and bought their album because i liked their music, only afterwards did i go see them live at the peel in kingston. i don’t see why some people hate them to be honest – i think they’re brilliant!

From Chris Bell

I would just like to thank you for having a broad and accessible range of information on feminist issues, which not only interested me but has proven to be useful for my Women’s Studies course at Lancaster Uni.

I would also encourage men to take up similar courses to my own (in my class there are 116 women and two men) as it is a broadening experience, but be forewarned, there will be people who instantly assume you are gay or doubt your motives for such an undertaking, and you should always be prepared for this. In the end though, it’s all about doing what you want to do, and you don’t have to be classed as a feminist or otherwise to do it. Thank you again,

From Alice Lambert

I am really glad I found your site – I discovered it when looking for feminist articles on body image. There is so much of relevance and interest to read here. I would like to contribute sometime!

From Emma-Louise

A few years a go a few of my close friends took me out to lunch and told me they could not see me any more. They were married and stayed at home with their children. So apparently we had nothing in common now. One of my most treasured friends at the time spoke of how my feminist outlook used to be fashionable but don’t I think I should start to grow up now. I did the only thing I could think of at the time and dumped my cup of coffee over her, and stormed out (in retrospect not the most assertive thing I could of done). I know that they were probably not the nicest people in the world and I am undoubtbly better off without them. Sadly I find their attitude in so may people that I meet. I can not change my view points because they are who I am. I was bought up in a very sexist household and was reminded everyday that being born with a vagina made me a worthless person. I spent a large part of my childhood believing that. This is really why I wanted to thank you. On days when I feel useless or feel isolated for my views, I load up The F Word, and I feel comforted that there are other people out there, who live, breath and fight for the same ideals as me. I am now in my mid-twenties studying for an English Literature degree. One day I hope that I might forfill my dream and write a book to inspire women in the same way your site has inspired me.

From Jane

I read Lorraine Smith (The Feminist Minefield?) with great interest. While I agree with what she says, and the rationale behind it, my disagreement lies with the issues she did not discuss. As a feminist I too have very mixed feelings about pornography.

In pornography the false beauty standards so often observed in mainstream media are often (although not exclusively) stretched to even greater extremes, which send twisted messages of what body shapes are acceptable, normal, and even sexy. Secondly, sex acts which many people would consider deameaning or harmful are taken out of any realistic context, with the effect of normalising them. For example, the popularity and mainstreaming of S&M images can result in hurtful ordeals for women. I have heard women complain that their partners have, without discussing beforehand, used humiliating ‘dirty talk’, slapped them, yanked their hair and even pinned them down. Each of these can be very upsetting to people who do not see this as part of an ordinary sexual relationship. Indeed, without consent these things can be assault. But as these things are normalised there comes a point where it ceases to be seen as an assault, and becomes just a ‘misunderstanding’.

As so many young people see porn prior to having sexual relationships of their own, how are they to know that the hurt or shame they may feel is not their own fault? Surely making porn even more widely available will normalise it even further, making the distinctions harder to draw?

From Kate, 21 y/o nursing student, Western Australia.

Hi, I’m a bit of a fence sitter when it comes to the pornography and feminism debate. I frequently visit this site because I find the articles very interesting. Lorraine Smith’s “The Feminist Minefield” gave me a few things to think about in relation to pornography. Firstly, I disagree that women are really coming out on top in the porn industry. Sure, as individuals, women may be coming out on top of pornography from a career and money point of view, but aren’t these women being “successful” by actually reinforcing men’s interests of sexualising the women in a male patriarchy? Aren’t these women actually benefiting from the industry by complying what people want to see in a male patriarchy? Although women may consume pornography, men still seem to be the larger audience and as discussed in an early article (make reference) women may have been so sexualised to the point where women have been taught to get a sexual response out of looking at other women (refer to “Whose Slut?” by Natasha Forrest). Secondly, although it may be that pornography hasn’t been necessarily linked to higher rates of sex crime, pornography, like many other types of media, can make sex crimes seem more frivolous. As we are repeatedly exposed to something, it gives less impact (Myers) and I think from that point of view, pornography makes sex crime against women seem less bad, more common, and also reinforces the rape myth ‘that women want it’ as media gives us social cues to follow when we are not sure of an issue.

From Daisy

Re. Lorraine Smith’s article The Feminist Minefield?. I would really love to think that women have claimed porn for themselves as a means of empowerment. Unfortunately reality keeps getting in the way. Lorraine airily writes that exploitation of women is “no longer the norm”. This is simply not true. And that she’s done her research from carefully selected sites. Carefully selected to illustrate the point she wants to make? I would say so.

The sad fact is that the vast majority of “workers” in the sex “industry” are in it because they need money and see no better way of making it. Enjoying sex and feeling empowered is the last thing on their minds. I wish it were different and I hope things change drastically, but at the moment to suggest otherwise is to pull that filmy angora right down over your wide innocent eyes. And while no direct link between porn and rape may have been established, exploitation of women in the porn industry all helps to prop up a society where they are still second class citizens.

Look at the “poor men”? Don’t think so, Lorraine!

From Kate Byron

Re: The Feminist Minefield?. Just read the article about pornography from Lorraine Smith. I thinks it’s great to put the other perspective across but i didn’t find it that convincing in the end. Although the female actresses might be quite well paid now, and earn more than their fellow male co-star, they still earn nothing near to what the big (male) cheese who owns the rights to the individual porn movies and who gets off, not just on the woman on the screen, but on the fat wadges of cash that come rolling his way. As Lorraine said, it’s easy to sell sex…and it sells well. Basically, the point i think i’m trying to make is that men are overwhelmingly the main viewers of the kind of porn we’ve got today (and i can’t help but feel it’s created from a male perspective) and it should be noticed that men own the porn industry too, not women. AND it still isn’t tailored or marketed to get the potential female market in…basically it is aimed at a male audience. there could be far more done to arouse the female masses if they so choose and as an incentive to the porn industry, there would be more cash for them!

From Leanna Williams

Re: The Feminist Minefield?. I just want to say I couldn’t agree more with Lorraine Smith’s well-researched article on the subject of pornography. Too often anti-porn feminists will fuel the oppression of women in the porn industry even more by creating the public image of it being seedy, degrading etc. discouraging more feminists from getting involved or supporting it and attempting to put down the very valid careers of the workers in this industry. How feminist is it to deny a woman the right to work the way she wants to? Furthermore, I can say from personal experince that there is no more empowering a feeling than loving your body, so why not share that with others?

From Tracy Carpenter

This is to Nicky Rayner in reguards to her review of Tori Amos’s Tales of a Librarian. I think this is a wonderfully composed article and shows the depth to which Tori and her music have touched you. I appreciate your honesty and personal connections to this artist. From one Tori lover to another…I can feel you sister! Keep loving its the only way through this,

From Zoe Bremer

I was pleased to read Alix Brodie’s article on the Rolling Stones. I’m a lifelong fan of theirs (must be my age) and list several more blues artists amongst my musical favourites (e.g. Johnny Mars, Ruthless Blues, Johnny Winter). Quite a few of my friends have criticised me for listening to so many male artists but my answer to that is that I like the genre. If more women played the blues, then I’d buy their records and go and see their shows.

Maybe you could feature some female blues artists in future such as Dana Gillespie. Why should men make all the best music?

From Jenne Nicholson

Re: Kill Bill. Although I myself haven’t yet seen the movie, having just read the current issue’s article on ‘Kill Bill’ its now definately a movie on my must see list! Following on from the points raised, I think women are either pro-active or reactive to the situations they find themselves in in film and it is the pro-active women who have the girl power.

From Gwenno Dafydd

Re: Stand Up For Equality. I read Kadie Armstrong’s article with great interest. I have been working on a book about female stand-up comics for the last few years. I am a performer myself, having worked professionally for over twenty years. I started this research as my Masters thesis in Women’s Studies and continued because it was so fascinating.

I have interviewed twenty female stand-up’s ranging from those that do it at the moment, from stalwart Jo Brand to newcomer Nina Conti and to those who have progressed through stand-up to other comedy careers such as Ronni Ancona and Nina Wadia. It has been a labour of love (Transcripts of interviews were more than twenty thousand words!!)but I feel I have many of the answers to your questions.

I am now at the point where I am looking for a publishing company. Any contacts or feet in doors would be very welcome. Thanks.

From Jennifer Drew

Re-Classifying Rape. Ilona Jaslewicz’s excellent article focuses on the fact rape is not a sex crime it is in fact a crime of gender hatred. I personally am not at all surprised that the male writer who rightly publicised the fact only a tiny percentage of women falsely accuse men of rape received such vitriolic letters from many men. The myth still persists women falsely accuse men of rape. In reality the current statistics regarding false accusations of rape remain at only 2%. This is very telling.

One only has to look at the case of Dena Thompson, convicted of murdering her second husband. The media has dubbed Thompson a “Black Widow” and the Recorder who passed sentence on Thompson declared “men can now sleep safe in their beds.” Such a crass statement is beyond belief. Are all men threatened by Thompson’s actions? Rape survivors do not receive such media attention. I believe Thompson’s case shows there is a deeply engrained misogny among many men. (Note: I said not all). All women are still presumed to be inherent liars, manipulators and as in Thompson’s case lethal to men’s welfare and lives. Women are still dichtomised as either whores or madonnas. They are either “evil” or “good.” These misogonistic myths which help to perpetuate gender hatred must be challenged.

An excellent book entitled Femicide in Global Perspective edited by Diana E.H. Russell and Roberta A. Harmes discusses in considerable detail the politics of femicide which they consider to be gender hatred directed at women irrespective of their ethnicity, class or sexual orientation.

From Tracy

HELLO WHAT A PUKKA SITE!!! I READ YESTERDAY ALL ABOUT MOONMAMAS FLEECE ECO FRIENDLY PADS AND HAD TO BUY SOME…..HOPEFULLY I WILL BE ABLE TO TRY THEM AND BE JUST AS PLEASED KNOWING I’M HELPING THE EARTH ABIT MORE!!!

ALSO IAM TRYING TO TRACK DOWN SOME ALTERNATIVES TO TALCUM POWDER AS THIS IS NONE TO CLEVER FOR YOUR SKIN AND BY DUSTING YOURSELF WITH IT IN VARIOUS AREAS EACH MORNING LIKE I DO ,YOU ARE PUTTING YOURSELF AT RISK OF POSS OVARIAN CANCER ETC ETC!!!!!!PLEASE LET ME KNOW…..THANXS ALOT…..TRACY. ALSO IAM JUST ABOUT TO TRY ONE OF THOSE TEWAS CRYSTALS(THE ALT TO ANTIPERSPIRANTS WHICH AGAIN ARE LINKED TO CANCER!!!!!!!!)

From GB

I just wanted to say that I completely agree with the ban on Page 3, for many reasons.

Firstly, it has been ‘accepted’ so much that women who aren’t too confident in expressing their true feelings now feel pressurised to say nothing, and accept it for fear of being teased or agrued with for not agreeing with (apparantly) the majority. I feel that people like myself are mocked for not agreeing with it when there are actually more people out there who find in unacceptable, its just that no-one speaks up enough about it.

Secondly, no matter what the girls themselves say about it not being ‘porn’, ok its not the same level as porn but at the same time it is women with their breasts bared to the world. If a film has a topless scene, it is classified a 15 so how come The Sun or Daily Star are accessible to everyone, including children? Porn magazines are placed on the top shelf for a good reason, nudity at the end of the day is nudity and they shouldn’t be allowed to be sold with the other newspapers, which by the way do fufill their quota as reporting media issues and don’t rely on sex for sales!

Thirdly, I have a partner that respects me enough to not read such papers, but then again I havd the confidence and respect for myself to let him know it is not acceptable if he is to be with me – there a lot of women out there that would not be able to do that and I feel very sorry for them.

and last of all, It is a vicious circle, as long as there are the sad women out there who are willing to take their clothes off for money, there will be men who buy the papers, and then there will be the partners who will be forced into insecurities about themselves because they feel they should look like them….no paper should have the power to do that to anyone. The sooner it gets banned the better. Kind regards

From Miss A McDonald

With regards to the issue of banning Page 3, I see no point in that as we are overwhelemed with sexual exploitation in the media and advertising. There is no getting away from it.

What I see is that there is a HUGE gap in the market for anything that appeals to women.

I read on this website the following- “Page 3 fans claim that Mr Page 7 made things equal – both sides had a chance to ogle the opposite sex over their brekkie. This is a fallacy. Just because pictures of naked men are now becoming common currency in certain parts of the media – advertising especially – doesn’t justify Page 3. Objectifying EVERYONE doesn’t make objectifying women any better.”

I have to disagree. There is very little use of naked men in advertising. You only need to turn on your television and 95% of adverts have women selling on the product. In every national tabloid there are semi clad women on every other page.

It’s getting to the stage of sheer ridiculous. Trying to ban Page 3 won’t work and will never happen.

So how about doing something for women? I and many of my female friends have discussed the subject and feel that it is indeed sexist for The Sun to have pictures of naked women yet nothing for it’s female readers. It’s a matter of principle. If you loathe it then fair enough. If you feel indifferent or you can understand my point of view I ask for your support as I am campaigning to get a page in the newspaper for women. It’s all about equality. I am asking women who agree with me to contact the sun at talkback@the-sun.co.uk

From chandra.x

Re: Page 3 – Ban It! – dude!! im doing research for a media project at uni…and i just read the paper on Kate Allen and her trying to ban page 3 models.

i cannot believe people like this.some girls have to make money doing this. If they choose to make money in this way, then who the hell is she to make these decisions for them? Im an 18 year old female and i love page 3! it wakes me up when i read it and some of the models they used are very attractive and i wish them all the best in getting recognised. i do not see the problem with page 3…and she is a total, over protective feminist. I have no problem with feminists but sometimes they go so over the top its unbelievable. they say that research carried out is bias and by doing it their way, they make it equal. When in actual fact, your just being sexist yourselves. for example… feminist psychology studies.totally bias. you lot really need to calm down and stop being so over protective over something so stupid. there are many more things that you can argue against, such as better facilities for rape victims.spend the money on them, not this issue.its not worth it!

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

Editor responds: I have three points to make in answer to this.

a) I never understood the concept that ‘there are more important things to argue against’ – a frequent argument to make feminists shut up. For starters, many feminists see media imagery as interconnected with issues of rape and sexual violence, not seperate, so it’s not seen as an “either/or” thing. Secondly, feminists *are* arguing for rape victims as well – what makes you think they aren’t? Just because we also focus on other issues too doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the “more serious” stuff.

b) Regarding the idea that feminism itself is sexist – I addressed this in my article: “Feminists are Sexist”. What I’m sensing from your comments is an assumption that there is no bias in anything except feminism – and I have to say I’m not as optimistic as you on this one. The view that sexism and gender stereotyping has totally disappeared from society after millenia of being ingrained into our culture is, I feel, rather naive.

c) On this site, “she is a total feminist” is hardly an insult! :o)]

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