Comments from November 2004

Tons of debate, disagreements, and very interesting comments this month.

, 5 November 2004

From Anon

Re: Why men suck (and the women who have to).

I’d like to thank Laura Carr for this article. Whilst travelling in Sydney

I met many male travellers who freely admitted they had slept with prostitutes

whilst travelling through Thailand. I was distressed by what they were

confessing to and how they weren’t shy to admit it. I was distressed by the

popular reaction to those confessions, which consisted of lots of banter and

hilarity. And I was distressed by how it seemed acceptable as an act and as a

story to tell people. Why was it so ok to do it? Why was it so acceptable to

tell the story? And why was nobody reacting?

One boy admitted proudly that he and his mate had ‘spit-roasted’ a

prostitute (she on all fours, penetrated by one man, whilst giving oral sex to

the other). Nobody raised an eyebrow, everyone had a good giggle, next

subject! Words failed me on each occasion because of a pathetic fear of mine

over receiving a barrage of knee-jerk name-calling and labelling, ‘Get a sense

of humour’, ‘It’s their culture, they’re used to it’, ‘I just needed sex’,

‘But I was nice to her’, ‘Feminist!’ (said like it’s a swearword), ‘It’s so

out there if you don’t take part you stand out’ etc. The nerve of them to

insinuate that to defend my disgust at their actions is more the crime. The

lack of outrage in these circumstances, the normalisation of the sex-trade in

any country, is an example of our limitless culture. The culture that is too

spoilt to say no and too weak to stand up and defend their point for fear of

being unpopular.

I don’t know who I am more cross with; myself for not sticking up for my

beliefs, the audience for over-looking it or the men for feeding the business

and making it more acceptable. I am sad for the women who have to sell

themselves for sex – even if they don’t want my pity. I am sad that I am too

spineless to stick up for them in situations such as these, but most of all I

am sad for those that part with their cash for sex. Sad that they don’t

realise that what makes them feel like a man, a swift blow job, a quick

harmless screw, a cheeky brag, is something so much more dangerous. They’re

maintaining a destructive industry and buying into and perpetuating a myth

that it’s acceptable, that it’s big and a bit clever. Machismo and apathy are

worrying bedfellows.

From Roona

I found Laura Carr’s piece [Why Men Suck (and the Women Who Have To)] very interesting,

however question an assumption that the behaviour she describes was particular

to the local conditions in Cambodia. My experience of male acquaintances

depictions of lap dancing clubs as theme bars, rather than as part of the sex

industry, supports her contention that ‘many western men DO participate in

gross exploitation and commodification of women if they are placed into a

culture in which it is normalized’. That culture however includes the UK.

From Karen Savage

Re: Why Men Suck (and the Women Who Have To)

Here is an article from the Irish Independent of 28th September 2004. It

seems that Cambodia is not the only country where teenage boys use

prostitutes. Sad to say, but this newspaper article does not surprise me given

the inability of Irish men to form relationships and their long history of

abusing women in every possible way. Despite the so called Celtic Tiger and

contrary to appearances, women are still second class citizens in Ireland.

“Boy (15) ‘looking for a prostitute’

A SCHOOLBOY was returned home for his safety after he told a detective the

reason he was outdoors at 3.30am was to go to Leeson Street in search of a

prostitute, a court heard yesterday.

Judge William Early heard at the Children’s Court that the 15-year-old

schoolboy had been stopped on July 12 on Ranelagh Road, Dublin.”

From Emily Baeza

In response to Laura Carr’s article “Why Men suck (and the women who have to)“, I had a similar

experience in Mexico when I went there to teach english, whilst travelling to

tourist hotspots in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, it would be apparent, that

though rare there were women , unfortunately catering to a sex-tourist


But I wonder at the logic of the opinions Laura expressed; she acknowledges

the “gains that were made by us or for our forebearers by us” have become

social norms (just), but didn’t have the courage to tackle those issues for

the “taxi girls” out in Cambodia. Respecting another culture and “living

respectfully within it” is a nice blurb, but never changes a damn thing.

From Jennifer Drew

Re: Why Men Suck (and the Women Who Have To)

Laura Carr’s article is excellent, it states clearly the reason why so many

western men exploit the Cambodian women. Namely, it is because they can!

Cambodia is not the only country where young women have to become sex workers

in order to survive.

However, the reasons these men give for exploiting the women are excuses,

“they say if I didn’t someone else would or I treat the woman kindly etc.” But

the fact remains these men are exploiting the young women. The reasons why

young women are forced to become sex workers and I use the word advisedly is

because of socio-economic conditions and the “normalisation” of the


However, I do know there are women’s organisations working in Cambodia,

Thailand, India, Pakistan and also Afghanistan attempting to effect changes to

rigid gender inequalities. They are also working at various ways of helping

these women learn various skills in an attempt to find less degrading work.

The work is degrading for the women but accountability is with western men who

exploit these women. I know it is perceived as “natural” within the local

populations but that does not mean it is acceptable for western men to

participate. We have a long way to go to even achieve a midgin of gender


But at least the article publicises western men’s sexual behaviours which

is good. Wait until the Consulation on Prostitution within the UK is published

for various excuses, women-blaming etc. to be used as to why men supposedly

“need a sexual release.” The myth is deeply embedded. In reality it amounts to

the same thing – men can if society looks the other way or excuses it. The

debate should be interesting to say the least.

From Robert Cunningham

Re: Why Men Suck (and the Women Who have To)

The article “Why Men Suck” is written by a western woman who can’t fathom

that western men find asian girls EXTREMELY attractive. Something else she is

clueless about is MEN WANT SEX! Not all men, but a good portion of them. It is

that simple. Why would we want to say no to a girl flirtations?

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

Anyone else feel like taking a shower after reading Robert Cunningham’s

contribution to the debate? Well Robert, firstly, you don’t speak for all men

– you only speak for yourself. Not all men are like you. Secondly, of course

the author was a “western woman” because this site is a UK feminist site

(duh). And thirdly, yes men want sex. Guess what? Women want sex just as much;

but generally speaking women aren’t sex tourists who travel to poverty-ridden

countries and take advantage of desperate women and girl’s situations; neither

are we encouraged to hold repulsive racial stereotypes about “asian boys”.

That’s the point.

You know, sometimes it seems like it’s only feminists who actually have

faith in men as moral human beings who have brains and make moral decisions

(for bad or worse). It’s the anti-feminists like Robert who regularly come out

with the kind man-hating, insulting nonsense that says “men just naturally

dominate and exploit women – get used to it!” No wonder that women like Karen

(below) have the view they do. – Editor

From Karen Savage

Re: Why Men Suck (and the Women Who Have To)

The behaviour of the men does not surprise me. If sex is handed to a man on

a plate he will usually take it unless he is gay. The attention of the

beautiful exotic taxi girls who are offering sex and subservience and an

experience that Michael Houllebecq might write about is irrestible to Western

men who deep down don’t like independent women. Men who use prostitutes abroad

on a regular basis tend to become jaded and find it difficult to take up

“normal” relationships at home.

From Ce

Re: Why Men Suck (and the Women Who Have To)

I would like to know what you think about the women out there who pay for

sex (either by men or other women) and if you have seen any of that in

Cambodia. The reason I ask is because there is a growing trend among women who

are into watching pornography and in many aspects, enjoy having the freedom to

buy sex and be in control. Please let me know about your comments, it would be

greatly appreciated.

From Anon

Re: Why Men Suck (and the Women Who Have To)

i have just read Laura Carrs article ‘why men suck…’ and thought it a

brilliant piece of work to show just how ignorant and arrogant some men can

be. I belong to a feminist organisation called the Wollongong Women’s Centre

in NSW Australia which is an information & referral service. I am part of

their newsletter collective & i was wondering if i would be able to use this

article in an upcoming issue to show that it is not just local women’s issues

we need to highlight, but also international abuse of women rights. i would

appreciate the oppotunity to share this article to the membership. with kind


From Jane

Just wanted to say how much I loved your site. Also what about the T-shirt slogans worn by little girls, is it just me or is

there something really inappropiate in seeing a child wearing a top saying

Gold digger?! I thought all that pink for a girl/blue for a boy stuff was

outdated or a myth until I had nephews and nieces and actually saw what

clothes were being sold to them and that the same stereotypes were still being

peddled worse than ever. Love the site. Take care

From Louise Frith

Re: Not My Cup of T: slogans on women’s t-shirts

I found Jo Knowles’ article interesting, and wondered whether she had seen

the T-shirt offered for sale at the time of the Euro 2004 football tournament

by which featured a silhouette of a naked woman with a target

decorated with the St. George’s cross between her legs and the slogan “Lie

Back and Think of England”. I e-mailed them to complain but got no reply.

Depressing stuff … Regards,

P.S. If Jo knows where I can get a T-shirt which says “up yours, Trinny &

Susannah” I’d be glad to have details!

From Kathi

‘There is No

Groom’ was a classic. I esp appreciate it as an event/wedding planner who

happens to be a feminist herself. My goal is to assist other like minded women

to have the wedding they’re not only comfortable with but can enjoy. would

love to hear from others & definately more reflections on familiar

celebrations. Though I live in the States, feminine force is universal,


From Gemma

In response to Beth Anderson’s brilliant article on getting married, There is No


I’m also getting married next year. Independent and feminist. I always

thought that if I got married at all it would be very individual and what was

really important to me was not being part of the nightmarish consumerist

conveyer belt it’s become; all John Lewis lists and bikini waxing. It’s one of

those key points in life where tradition rubs against modernity in an obvious

way for everyone to see. I agree totally that in books and other media the

aesthetics of the day are emphasised and actual mental preparation for the

idea of marriage is ignored (probably because it doesn’t cost money and can’t

be marketed). The thing is that once you’ve made the decision and start

planning you realise that the conventional options (church, caterers etc) are

just easier because the whole system’s set up for it. So tempting to just lie

down on the conveyor belt and let it carry you along! Also, you really

underestimate how much the wedding is important to your family, and actually a

lot of it is about making them happy; since I suppose the marriage afterwards

you both shape more how you want.

On the name change, I find it almost quite weird that young women of our

generation who have their careers and have probably been known by their name

for 30 years should feel coerced into changing it. I’m going for both our

names without a hyphen (I think) but would much prefer him to take mine and

both have both names. And after all that effort of carrying a child, I feel

affronted at thought of it not having my name! Other cultures, e.g. Italian,

most Muslim cultures, don’t have the woman changing her name. Anyway thanks

again for your article and will def. check out indiebrides, cheers,

From Anon

Re: Are You Married? If Not, Why Not?

I would agree that while there is no equivalent “homosexual act of union”

homosexuals are being discriminated against simply for not being heterosexual.

But I think it would be very easy to come with a homosexual equivalent of a

purely civil marriage, and I’m sure it could be sold to the public at large as

something totally different from religious marriage to avoid furore from

religious types.

I really don’t see why marriage has to be intinsically sexist, if the

people who agree to enter into it view each other as equal partners. Yes it is

certainly true that marriage now and in the past has been used to limit

women’s freedom,(ludicrous agreements to obey your husband etc) and that there

is still a lot of pressure on women to get married.

But there’s a lot of pressure on men to get married too- lots of men

getting to their late twenties get asked when they’re going to “settle down”.

A very different pressure from the “don’t be a spinster” theme. But to suggest

a man who is “still single” past when it is traditional is not stigmatised at

all is disingenuous. It’s just not “grown up” for a man not to be in a

committed relationship, preferably a marriage. We would be accused of wanting

to perpetually be a child if we don’t raise a family and fulfill our

traditional roles. This “men need to grow up theme” is also common among

(often very justified)feminist complaints about men’s behaviour.

Your marriage doesn’t have to be patriarchal-just don’t marry a patriarch!

I don’t think marriage can really be said to be homophobic just because it is

not available to homosexual couples who wish to make a public commitment to

each other. A society which fails to provide the same opportunity for

homosexuals to have commitment ceremony is treating homosexuals unfairly

compared with heterosexuals, I entirely agree.So put pressure on government to

provide the same ceremony for everyone.

As a final point I would like to suggest that huge numbers of human

societies have ceremonies and rites for many different events in life, so I

think it’s perfectly natural for us to have a ceremony like marriage, but that

doesn’t mean we can’t change it to conform to contemporary views about gender


From John Olsson

Very good analysis of Maxine Carr’s situation in the media by Jo Knowles. I do

think people who are abused in relationships are extremely vulnerable, and if

they become involved (at whatever level) in a crime, they will almost always

attract a great deal of vilification from the media. For some reason (as you

say) the press (or maybe ‘us’ the public) seem to have a particular thing for

‘wicked, evil women’. It seems the world must always have someone/something to

hate. Stereotyping women in this way (more than one boyfried, lied about her O

Levels, etc) turns the person into an object, and it is this object which

becomes the social hate fetish.

From Steve Edwards

I happened upon the Knowles article on Maxine Carr after hearing a story about a family being

hounded because it was believed Carr was staying with them. I wasn’t looking

for a feminist magazine and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the feminist

slant in the article. I agree with much of what the article said. I read Sue

Carrol’s column and whilst I agree with her on many things, her attitutude to

Carr has always seemed over the top to me. Ms Knowles is right in that Carr

has been demonised and that a large (and ignorant) section of the public

consider her guilty of murder even though she was nowhere near Soham when the

crimes took place. She is also right that the demonisation is greater because

she is a woman and society expects a greater degree of caring from women.

Where I think she is wrong is her apparent condemnation of this view and an

automatic denial of any psychological differences between male and female

propensities towards violence. Society is appalled by female violence

(particularly towards children) because it sees a woman’s role as protective.

This is not merely conditioning. In most animal species it is the female that

protects the young. It is genetically encoded. In my opinion it denigrates

women to imply (for instance) that serial murderers are mainly male because

women are denied the opportunity to become or are conditioned against becomimg

such. Ms Knowles seems to be fighting the old “women are the same as men”

battles which I thought had been discarded along with underwear incineration.

It is also incongruous to bemoan the rising female prison poulation. If women

are the same as men then we should expect equal numbers of female prisoners.

It is also an old left wing trick to talk of people/women sentenced for having

lived a life of poverty and abuse, as is the case of the woman who murdered

another woman. The sentence is for the crime. Abuse, oppression and poverty

are not excuses for crime (except perhaps a proportionate response against an

abuser or oppressor) and to act as an apologist devalues those who are poor,

oppressed and abused an yet retain their humanity.

Thanks for an interesting article

From Kerrie

Re: Binge drinking article


From Ellery

Re: Is Alcohol Really a Feminist Issue?

I agree with Victoria Dutchman-Smith that recent coverage of women’s

drinking has been annoyingly blind to the fact that men have been

binge-drinking for years, and it’s actually a problem for both genders. (Yeah,

I respect the right of people to do what they like with their own bodies, but

if we as a society weren’t a bit concerned at a trend that regularly sees

people end up in casualty, the gutter or worse, it would be very strange and

quite worrying.)

But at the same time, I really think it’s also easy to make too much out of

pundits’ comments in newspaper columns. They’re paid to be rent-a-mouths on

whatever new trends come to light – the Atkins diet one week, immigration the

next, women’s drinking habits the week after. I was also slightly puzzled that

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown came in for stick after saying “[such women] believe

feminism was about the right to behave as wickedly as men”. Isn’t that exactly

what the author was arguing? You could take issue with saying that binge

drinking is “wicked”, although having watched BBC1’s ‘Drunk and Dangerous’ and

seen both drunk women and men laying into people on the ground with kicks and

punches, I can see why people think that.

I was also a little unhappy to see the contributor saying that

“pro-choicers such as myself are frequently accused of being dishonest about

the reality of the foetus, even though, by and large, we’re not (we accept

that foetuses are human, alive and cute)…”.

I’m assuming she meant to say that some, and only some, pro-abortionists (I

hate the terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’; let’s be honest here!) believe

that foetuses are ‘human, alive and cute’. I am pro-abortion and quite

frankly, I don’t – I don’t think that an eight-week old foetus is a human

being in the same way that a newborn baby with all its organs formed is. I

just feel it’s important when we write about feminism to make it clear that we

don’t consider that everyone else’s opinions are the same as ours.

Just to clarify, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown seemed to be arguing that

feminism which is about “the right to behave as wickedly as men” was misguided

and wrong. Victoria was arguing that equality is equality, full stop. So if as

a consequence of equality, women choose to “behave as wickedly as men”,

whatever is seen as “wicked” should not be seen as a feminist issue but as an

issue for both sexes. If something if wrong it is wrong for both, and women

should not be singled out. – Editor

From Toni O’Brien

Re: Is Alcohol Really a Feminist Issue?

Completely inspired article. I love it. i have only recently found this

site and there has always been a big part of me that felt like a true feminist

but was contridicted by what i knew of feminism. a tom boy at heart i have

always found great friends in men (which as i grew up was led to beleive

feminist didnt do) but at the ripe old age of 22 the difference between me and

my male friends is getting ever wider and what isn’t exceptable for me but is

for them is becoming more and more apparent. You article summed up something i

have felt for a while but yet could never articulate. your site has inspired

me to go to university and study again and i think womens studies will be one

of my choices. i find it hard being treated like a frame for my mammory glands

and i feel i should do my bit for the cause. it may take a while, but if ever

i get dishearted i now know there is somewhere i can go to find solice with

like minded people. So once again thank you!

From Aideen

I really enjoyed Ms. Razorblade’s article “The

Ethics of Sex Toys“. It was extremely well-written and well thought out,

leaving no stone unturned. I didn’t realise there were so many issues

surrounding sex toys! Thanks Ms Razorblade for an entertaining and educational


From Meg Stephenson

Re: The Ethics of Sex Toys – Part 2

In the last part of the article “Links you might find interesting” under

“Toys in Babeland” Ms Razorblade suggests that condoms cost 40p each. Perhaps

she has not realised that you can usually get free condoms from your local

family planning clinic.

From Elaine

Hi, I’ve just found your site, directed to it from NUSonline, and after

only a quick look, I’m very impressed. I enjoyed the article ‘the

ethics of sex toys part one’. Ms Razorblade touched on points which I feel

strongly about, such as the common misconception that women don’t masturbate

or use sex toys, in short, that men enjoy sex more than women. I was glad to

read an article addressing these issues and others. I will definately be

revisting this site when I have more time, and also recommending it to


From Tanaya

Re: The Ethics of Sex Toys: Part 2

just sitting over at over at friends house I like sex toys just thought i

was going to use one on him but he does,nt like it super kinky thank fully he

is a perfectually sane guy but a little prundish ricky d may I tell him you

should a little but hole action but he is like any other postion and he is

like aw I,ll try something something airplane in but

Hope you came to some amicable agreement with that prundish(?) friend,

Tanaya. (what the…?!) – Editor

From Julia

Re: The Ethics of Sex Toys: Part 2

An intersting article, have you thought of sending it to the Consumers

Association. They are asking people to suggest things for them to investigate.

There address is : Which?, 2 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 4DF. Phone: 020 7770

7000. Fax: 020 7770 7600. Email:

From Retha Dave

Re: Page 3

Halo there! I am a newly arrived South African in London. Coming to the UK,

I expected a highly civilised society and culture – whoah, was I mistaken! I

would like to address a subject that has me dumbfounded: women’s issues.

I thought your society would be treating women with more respect and

equality than most other places on earth. I do not understand how women could

allow “page 3” pictures in daily newspapers, available for anybody, anywhere,

anytime. I am offended by this image of a woman posing as a piece of nude

nothing, to be ogled and leered at. I frankly don’t care that the girls are

clamouring to be a “page 3 girl”, or that they get paid good money for it, or

that it is one way of achieving notoriety in a man’s world. It perpetuates

very, very bad ideas. I maybe would not have felt so strongly about this if I

didn’t catch a group of schoolboys sniggering at one such picture in my class.

I could see how they looked me up and down – to them I was just “another one

with tits”. (Equality would mean that we get to see a male with a bare penis

on page 4. But this will never happen.)

I find it hard to believe that women in this country don’t stand up against

this bullshit and put a stop to it. I don’t want to address the issue of

pornography, but a naked woman in daily newspapers is outrageous. Who are they

catering for?! By looking at popular magazines and papers, girls are portrayed

as slaves: of fashion, of men’s desires, of celebrity mania. Where are the

majority of girls who apparently get more degrees these days? And the rich

society ladies – they have the freedom to be whoever they want to be, but they

apparently aspire to become another cover face. Instead of using their money

to live truly unique and helpful lives – do they realise how lucky they are

for not having to work for a living? – and yet they live, apparently, to shop

and fuck. Also, women who become illicit lovers to famous men are ridiculed in

public (as they should), while the guy gets a conspiratory “wink-wink,

nudge-nudge” from understanding guys all around? She might be a foolish whore,

but he is the old lecherous goat who cannot keep his lolly zipped up. I do not

understand. There is something wrong. Thank you! Marge D.

PS: Is there nothing we can do about those naked girls in newspapers? I

gather that somebody tried, last year and elicited a noational outcry. Why did

you give up? Thank you!

From Francine

As I get older I am getting increasingly sickened (seems like a harsh word

but it’s the only way to describe my feeling!) by images of the likes of

jordan, jodie marsh, pamela anderson and other women who have simply made a

living out of getting their breasts out and just generally acting like men’s

fodder. however, i sometimes think i should get a sense of humour. i’m not

sure if it’s the women im beginning to hate or the men who embrace this (but

isn’t it science that men naturally want to ‘ogle’ women!) however, i have

such strong feelings towards i leave myself wondering if i am the one who’s in

the wrong and i should just get a sense of humour. i simply feel that all men

think about is sex anyway and the aforementioned girls just encourage this,

which, basically, leaves girls with no chance in life. we’re simply just sex

objects. i think my main question is … should i get a sense of humour!?!


From Lucy

I just want to respond to a few issues raised by others in the “July Comments section“.

Sarah asked for views on the modernising of prostitution laws in the UK. I

feel that the only just way forward is to criminalise the demand, the punter,

and the pimp. As a voluntary worker for a charity attempting to help girls out

of street work, I can only say that the majority of these girls are victims of

a horrific set of circumstances. If I had been through the same things, I

would no doubt be in the same position as they are. Almost all have been

emotionally, physically or sexually abused as children, and frequently all

three. They move seamlessly from exploitation by men in the home/care home/

foster home/ hostel, to exploitation by men on the streets. They crave

affection, they are profoundly vulnerable. Pimps prey on their vulnerability,

users get turned on by it. Many are raped and attacked as they work. They are

rarely viewed as credible witnesses to these attacks since most are on drugs.

The Swedish model for prostitution law is the only humane way of dealing with

the issue. In Sweden it is illegal to buy sex, and women and children are

assisted out of sex work. The only country in the world to have successfully

reduced the number of prostitutes on the streets (by 2/3’s) is Sweden. This

statistic speaks for itself.

In response to Sarahs comments on finding the proliferation of pornography

in supermarkets, local shops etc. offensive – oh, a woman after my own heart.

As a woman, I identify with the girls in the pictures, so that it is almost as

if I feel that I myself have been stripped bare when I see these, usually

young (therefore naive) girls. The censorship laws are outrageous. Papers can

show the top half of men, and therefore, so the male logic goes, the top half

of women. This is a false symmetry because men’s and women’s bodies are

totally different. Breasts can be as personal and sexual an issue for a woman,

as a man’s genitals for a man. Arguably, the most visually interesting part of

a woman for a man is her breasts, and the most visually interesting part of a

man for a woman is his penis (many women might add “when erect”). We like

eachothers dangly bits. Yet women are not allowed to see an erect penis in

print, and men can look at as many breasts as they like, wherever they like. I

feel very uncomfortable when some guy’s reading The Sun page 3, and I’m sure

he would feel uncomfortable if I was sitting there with a picture of a great

big erection in front of me. Men need to understand how profoundly offensive

it can be.

Also, there was some hatefilled guy spouting rubbish about feminists. He

mentions he’s divorced. After reading his comments, I can see why.

From D

In response to the articles about Page 3 and “Lad’s mags”, I

write to canvas opinion… portrayal of women in the media seems to be a huge

problem (bigger than the portrayal of men- although I believe that many male

portrayals are as unrealistic as those of women). I guess I’m interested in

women’s views of what they really think men believe about the pictures in FHM,

on page 3 etc etc.

I think they are there because a lot of men simply have a sex drive that

they have no hope of satisfying in a sexual relationship. The best example is,

I suppose,adolescent boys. Totally filled with new hormones they have no idea

how to deal with, and what was in my experience a very sudden interest in

girls/women. I’m afraid I ‘m going to have to talk about a subject that some

people may well find a bit offensive-masturbation.(by men and boys of course)

There are many men and boys who can’t be sexually active with a partner

because they lack the social skills or confidence or (I have to say

this)aren’t good looking enough (this happens to men as well).These men and

boys still have a sexuality, but they have no outlet other than masturbation.

These (VERY unrealistic) images of women seem to me to be there to give

sexually inactive males something to look at or think about when they wank.

I agree that if this leads to expectations of what women or girls should be

or look like then this causes enormous problems. But where I think I will

disagree with most of the people on this site is that I’m not sure that men

REALLY want women to look like lad mag models or page 3 girls. There is a huge

difference between what you would want to have a (sexual) relationship with

i.e. a flesh and blood woman with whom you can share experiences etc., and

what you will masturbate while looking at a picture of- tittilating pictures

of women, dressed or undressed.

I myself would much rather be involved with someone I was interested in,

but simply don’t have the necessary social skills or confidence, and so find

myself almost constantly single. My problem is, as mentioned before, being

single doesn’t make me frigid. When so much money is made by producing images

of women as sex objects it’s hard to see how this industry can be stopped.

I think an obvious weakness of this line of thinking is that it doesn’t

detract from the fact the media portrayals of women, particularly young women

are problematic-they do cause problems for young girls and women. Also you

could try and stretch this line into some sort of justification for the

existence of the sex industry, where it would obviously fail. I would be

interested to know if anyone has responses to these thoughts, and hopefully

civilised ones- I really have tried to avoid causing offence! thankyou for


From Kerrie

Resonse to

‘Sports Illustrated’

Who would want to be a female tennis player? Just when you thought we were

safe from the Kournikova effect (she did the sensible thing and retired), up

pops another blonde Russian and with one freakish performance garners more

column inches in one weekend than most champions enjoy during their careers.

Players who have strived for years now receive less coverage for a successful

tournament than Sharapova receives for crashing out in the first round.

Because she’s a glamour puss and quite happy to exploit this with no regard

for her peers.

From Sarah

Re: Just a


when i first read this i was angry, but since then i’ve re-read it and

hopefully this will be a little cooler. i’m a socialist who campaigns for

women’s rights. I think this writer is very confused and comes from an

academic background that is out of touch with thwe horrible degrading

exploitation women in the sex industry – in all its different aspects,

incldung stripping – faces. That is the daily violence, coercion and

humilation that women – most of whom do not get the priviledge of ‘exporing’

the ‘femimist’ rationale of why they work as a stripper – but do it because

the sex industrty has either literally enslaved them or deliberately targetted

them because of their vulnerability – young women who have experienced sexual

abuse, have been out of care homes and are on the streets with no access to

support becuase they are under 18, or women who have got into debt and their

debt collector has sold their debt to somebody in the sex trade.

the sex industry is degrading and sexist to its core. It is both ridiculous

and a bit warped to put forward the argument that the sex industry is aboutr

giving women ‘the opportunity to expore their sexuality’ – using the language

of the women’s movement to describe what is probably the most horrendous

degradation and abuse of women and children imaginable – well on a par with


the sex industry – including strip clubs – sell women’s bodies. it reduces

someone from the full status of human to a commodity on the capitalist market

for sale. the ‘customer’ is always’ right and has all the power in this

relationship. the relationship between a stripper, a prostitute, a sex call

‘girl’ is inherently unequal from the start. men use these services becuase

they do not want an equal relationship with a women where it would be expected

that the man ‘gives’ something emotionally, sexually, socially and not just

‘takes, takes, takes’ while the so-called ‘sex worker’ gives, gives, gives.

the sex industry, far from challenging ‘patriarchy’ by having women fully

nude, is actually its truest expression. its is based on the premise, the

women are second class subjects, that women are the property of men. Alexandra

Kollantai, one of the leaders of the russian revolution, wrote that prostition

arose when class based societies first arose – engels showed that human

society existed for hundreds of thousands of years – in hunter gather society

where there was no rich, no poor and no inequality between womken and men. i

don’t have the space to go into this more. however, kollantai wrote that thye

modern form of prostition arose as ‘the offical shadow of bourgieos marriage.’

the ruling class imposed a hypocritical sexual morality that meant that some

women, who were going to pass on private property by produced heirs had to be

virginal wives, while ‘other’ women were to be the ‘dirty’ whores.

this is the ideological origins of the low and abused social status of

prostistutes, strippers and so on. but the morality of the ruling class is not

ours. i do not hate women in the sex industry or think they deserve abuse. i

wnat to campaign to give them every opportunity to get out of this horrendous

‘industry’ and yes given support and solidarity – but i do not, and will not

have time for middle class intellectualss who, however thoughtfully, are

trying to make the sex industry respectable or seen as socially respectable.

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

I totally respect your opinion but must point out a couple of things which

you may have missed. The author of the article is not out of touch. She works

in the sex industry, specifically stripping, and has done for some time (in

fact this was the point of the article!). Assuming that she is a “middle-class

intellectual” is flat-out wrong (apart from the intellectual bit!), unless you

categorise strippers who have to work to make a living as middle-class. As she

explains in the article “my reasons for going to work are less to do with

liberation, subversion and sexuality and more to do with paying the rent.”

Just because she has deeply considered her choices and motivations does not

mean that she is “middle-class” or does not deserve the right, as a sex

worker, to say what she thinks about the sex industry.

Also, she never once claims that the sex industry is a wonderful,

liberating place. She talks about the “mass exploitation and oppression within

the worldwide sex industry”. What she actually says, which I think is pretty

clear, is that when she _first_ entered the industry she had very positive

feelings about it but that these have been dampened by her actual


The main point of her argument was that seeing the sex industry in black

and white terms does not actually help the women involved in it, and we should

accept that there are sometimes grey areas. You may disagree with this

opinion, and that’s fair enough, but I feel it is really unfair to categorise

the author as a cheer-leader for the worldwide sex industry when she is

obviously anything but (in fact it is pretty clear that she probably agrees

with much of what you said about it). Her article was one of the most

thoughtful, honest, brave, least simplistic, least divisive discussions about

the sex industry that I have read for a long time. – Editor

From brooke

Re: Christina Aguilera: Can’t Hold Us Down

you have got to be kidding me. i am astounded that i just read the words of

a, hopefully, educated woman, seen praising this latest attempt of christina

aguilera’s to actually achieve something meaningful from her career. i will

allow, in her defense, that the song does help send this quite important

message to girls everywhere. however, i would never go so far as to say she is

either a role model or a songwriter. the lyrics in this song are sadly

adolscent, the music isnt exactly groundbreaking, the only shred of talent

seen in this composition is aguilera’s singing ability, which does not, we

should remember, allow that she is anything more than a great-sounding radio-

blaring the words of others, just in a better tone. i laughed aloud at the

little sentence at the bottom, about your writer, ha! eclectic taste in music,

my god, i hope this certainly isnt considered as such.

From Shula Rose

I was searching for the Badmothers club via ‘ask jeeves’ when I came across

a link to Claire’s article on ‘bad mothers‘. Intrigued I decided to take a look and was

very glad that I did because it gave me the best laugh I’ve had for ages. I am

that 36 yr old ex-professional, now depressed, under confident, no skills, no

sex, size 14 (wedding dress size 10) mother of 2. The only thing missing from

your article was the fact that as part of the birthing process, the word GUILT

is tattooed on your forehead and from then on you can’t win whatever you do.

Best not to start really unless of course you are filthy rich and can afford

nanny, cook, housekeeper, personal trainer etc etc etc…. Thanks again for

making me laugh – best wishes,

From Jonathan

I am commenting on Catherine Redfern’s article ‘The Signs of

Ageing‘ . I thought this article was wonderful and very inspiring. I am

not a woman, and I am not subjected to the same cosmetic advertising that

bullies people into buying expensive creams and products. But your article was

very intelligent and truthful. Cosmetic surgery will not make a woman look

younger, it will just make her look fake. It is very true also, that facelifts

and Botox injections, as well as chemical and laser skin peels, eye lifts,

etc, erase the beautiful life-character out of a face. Wearing lots of make-up

hides a lifetime of experience from the human eye. A quarter century of living

should add a great deal to a woman’s face, besides a few wrinkles and some

unwelcome folds around the chin, in that time she has become intimately

acquainted with LIFE, and this should show. If a woman tries to erase the

imprint of age, she runs the risk of destroying, at the same time, the imprint

of experience and character. I hate it when you see magazine articles about

Hollywood stars and you see how frozen their faces are with Botox and surgery.

There is no character left. No years of life experience etched beautifully on

their faces, Just a frozen, caked-on mask. It’s unsightly and ugly to


You don’t get more ridiculous than those adverts for anti-ageing face

creams, that claim that slathering on this stuff will make you look like a

dewy-faced supermodel. Women have used anti-ageing cream for years and they

ALL have wrinkles. It just does not work. If creams could work, then why do

Hollywood stars have facelifts? Obviously, creams alone will not solve the

ageing problem.

From Mr Wonder

I find myself questioning the term equality more and more these days. My

initial reaction is “can there be such a thing as universal equality?” After

all we are ALL individual beings, women and men as well as children. We must

celebrate those differences as well as the fact that we ALL suffer the human

condition together. I have heard in conversation men and women who say

statements such as “by binge drinking, they lower the value and core beliefs

of feminism”. I disagree! Women who binge drink show that they fall prey to

the SAME human condition we all face, woman and man. That is in itself

equality. Should women be chastised for such behaviour?? ONLY if such

chastisement is the same as that of men. On that fact, there must be no double

standard in law, as there has been.

Perhaps we should address the main idea of equality????? We all live

through the human condition and that if we make an issue of that between the

sexes, will it lead itself to more inequality!?? Of course we can address

issues such as fair pay etc, but we can’t equalise our condition! Anyone else

had similar thoughts along these lines?

Also, I wondered if there were any studies done into the role of clothing

and feminism? As you will be aware, a man’s defence against a rape charge can

still be that the woman was dressed provocatively! I wondered if there were

any sudies to show whether or not the role of women in society was biased by

her clothing? For example, a woman who wears a trouser suit is superficially

regarded as less “slutty” than a woman who wears a mini skirt. Why I

wonder???????One only has to view such behaviour on the train home every


Equally there may be studies from the other way on, ie there was an example

of a school boy in Canada who was villified by classmates because he wanted to

do ballet and wore the “feminine” leotard. He became an outcast by other male

members of the class. You must read into that statement as feminine being weak

and “girly”. The ultimate insult for some teenage boys!

If there are other feminists involved in such work or know about such

studies, I’d love to be in contact with them.

From Mel

Re: Not For Girls?

They were IRONIC – jokey, ha ha ha…..

Oh no, not again…. – Editor

From Lex

I would like to thank Kate Allen for a truly feminist article. She does not

push the idea of feminism in one’s face but makes one question ‘how’ women are

oppressed and inferiorised. A truly post-structuralist approach to breaking

down social taboos and gender imbalance and privilege!

I am not exactly sure which of Kate Allen’s articles the writer is

referring to… – Editor

From Your worst enemy aka Richard

I am shocked after reading your articles. We chaps aren’t too bad really :)

Maybe you should all get out more and meet some real people. Regards,

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

It’s not us you need to convince – tell this to Robert “men want sex and

will exploit anyone to get it” Cunningham (see comments above). Here’s the

deal: once you guys have figured out whether you want us to treat you as

exploitative thugs who are ignorant and abusive by nature, or respected as

actual human beings with brains who have the ability to make moral choices

(and be held accountable for them), get back to us. Feminists are arguing for

the latter, but hey, it’s your choice. – Editor

From Benjamin

Commenting on Walking with Cavemen. I do find it sexy to watch my fiance

do the laundry and other household chores. Very sexy, indeed she is lucky she

ever gets any laundry done.

Relating to the article Teenagers and Cosmetic Surgery. My fiance thinks she is

ugly, even though everyone else KNOWS she is beautiful inside and out and says

so EXCEPT her sister. She has stated her desire for a nose and boob job

several times and I think it is just sad. Like most people she was not very

actractive physically when she hit puberty and has never come to realize she

has blossomed into a beautiful young lady. Of course she assumes every

complement she receives is given just to make her feel better and truly

insincere. I tell her she is beautiful ever day and I love her humility, but

it bothers me she has such a poor self-image.

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

It’s good that you are helping to raise your fiance’s self-esteem. But

perhaps what really might help her feel better is if you help her out with the

laundry every now and then? You never know, maybe she’ll find that watching

you wash the dishes is “very sexy indeed”. :-) – Editor

From Gwen

Hey, just thought I’d bug you once more, this time in response to “Bloody Disgrace“.

I’ve just recently read a book I think everyone should read called _The Curse_

by Karren Houppert. It goes through, in such well-documented, rage-inducing

detail all the ways which menstration is manipulated for the sake of profit

and control. It was published 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I bought it

while visiting my family in Canada and I don’t know if it’s available here.


Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

Excellent book, and it is already reviewed on this site! You can buy it from Amazon

if you can’t get it anywhere else. – Editor

From Claire

i read your review of Nova magazine with interest, i personally loved every bit

of the mag when it was out and kept all the copies i bought, somehting i’ve

never done before, i also compulsively scanned the mag racks in stores for the

next issue, i thought it was so different, new and interesting. so many other

fashion magazines are so contradictory, like “cosmopolitan” which tells you on

one page how to be an independant, ambitous woman, and on the next how to give

the best blow-job. . . . . however, i’m rambling, what i wanted to ask was

wether you know of any magazines out tat are similar to nova? in your opinion?

i;d be interested to check them out. thanks, c x

Catherine Redfern, editor of The F-Word, replies

We have many other recommended magazines reviewed in our reviews section – check them out!

– Editor

From Kaye

In response to Diet Grrl, although I think I’m a couple of years late, I

only just discovered the site (It’s great by the way). Overall, I liked this

article. I share the anger and dismay at the ability of the media to convince

girls that they are suffering from a fictional disease, then sell the cure at

an obscene profit.

I do, however take serious issue with one thing. You talk about Fiji and

how the ideal body used to be ‘soft round and plump’. But surely the problem

isn’t the type of body that is heralded as the trademark of womanhood, but the

idea that womanhood must be defined in aesthetic ideals in the first place.

As a woman who often has trouble finding clothes that are small enough, I

am fed up with hearing my ideological allies use words like thin with such

contempt, and I am fed up with my body type being associated with a mental

illness, namely anorexia. I used the word woman there, although some would

deny me that because, after all, ‘real women have curves’. I can handle being

told that my flat chest carries no sex appeal, I can handle wearing clothes

that are a bit baggy. What I can’t handle is feeling excluded from feminist

circles because of the size and shape of my body. A large part of contemporary

feminism is dedicated to a woman’s right to be happy in her natural body,

without cutting it open and having bits shoved in and out. I didn’t see

anything in the small print which excludes skinny women from this.

From Ellie Hutchinson

Thankyou, thankyou thankyou! just the other day, me and my friend were

talking about how irrelevant most women’s magazines are to our lives, and here

you are! I will pass on your website address to her and start brain storming

for a possible contribution. (if this all seems a bit rambling-its because Im

so excited about finding this site!)

From Lucy

Re: Refusing

to Be a Man

How refreshing to hear about man who seems to truly understand the meaning

of “objectifying” women. My husband recently confessed to not fully

comprehending what the term meant, and I realised that I also struggle with

the concept. I know I find it deeply upsetting and offensive that pictures of

naked women are so unavoidable, present in the local newsagent, the

supermarkets etc. I realise that its because I identify with the images

because they are women, and so I feel stripped bare, humiliated, as they are.

I feel as if that is me up there on the top shelf, and I feel degraded. A man,

on the other hand simply views them as “other”, therefore he can enjoy them,

as the article says. Perhaps one way of helping men understand that these

images are offensive to women is to ask how they would feel if their mothers,

wives, sisters and daughters were posing for money, and on display in

magazines for any man to look at, enjoy, perhaps mock, perhaps masturbate

over. When I look at a Loaded magazine cover, I wonder what it is that lead

this woman to be standing there, I wonder about her as a person. We need to

help men to view every woman, not just those they care for and love, as

people. Men seem to have a huge capacity for blocking out the humanity in the

women they don’t have to relate to, perhaps this is why so many men exploit,

rape and violate women.

From Dan

Re: Every girl wants a stalker.

I Stumbled onto this website while reading up on Transactional Analysis. I

found the article above very enlightening. I my self have declared my undying

love to my ex girlfriend when we split up, even to go so far as saying I told

her I would fight for her. I did genuinly mean this in away of fighting for

her love and showing she could trust me, however after reading that article,

if it had been the other way round I would have never of felt the way I wanted

her to. At the time felt I must be the knight in shinning armour the one to

play the “I will win your heart” role. I guess I almost felt obliged to show

this over whelming control and as a man i felt it was my duty. Its not until

now I realise how wrong this was. Men, I included do have this overwhelming

need to control, my father was especially good at this, not only my mum, but

also me as a child and also now. The sad fact is that although I resent him

for this, I too used to act in the same way, Without trying to justify the

situation, i don’t think I was ever aware but I did try to control my ex

girlfriend. her response to this was to lash out and ultimately end the

relationship. I can’t say I blame her now, and in the quest to find out why

men/I act the way we do I think I’ve released that we are all equal at birth

and this doesn’t change through life what ever society and modern love films

may make us believe.

From Laurelin

I was interested to read Cazz Blase’s remarks about the movie Troy. As a pedantic

Classicist, I went to see the film equipped with a copy of the Iliad. What

interested me was the way in which the film reduced the influence and power of

the women who were presented as strong in Homer, while making strong those who

were not. I felt that it paid only lip service to Homeric ideals about

womanhood and masculinity, as they are repulsive to the modern viewer. Instead

they ignored these attitudes and altered them to suit modern perceptions of

war and honour.

Helen is largely defined by her beauty in the Iliad, but she also appears

as a judge of male behaviour. She deeply censures Paris for his cowardice,

telling him that he should have died rather than run away from Menelaos. As

far as she is concerned, she has ended up with an inferior man, and his fear

of fighting her ‘superior’ former husband impacts negatively upon her

honour. Cowardice in battle is never tolerated in the Iliad, and Hector too

tells Paris he deserves death for the trouble he had brought on the Trojans.

It is ultimately Helen’s angry words that persuade Paris to go back and

fight; women in the Iliad are sometimes able to shame men and thus compel them

to fulfil their social role. Hector says he would feel shame ‘before the men

and women of Troy’ if he shirked battle. In the film, however, they made

Helen speak kindly to Paris when he ran away from battle, showing her taking

care of him and tending to his wounds. The film had to make Helen a blameless

and sympathetic character and it performed this by showing her as a wife

fleeing a terrible husband who had found happiness with a new man she loved

and cared for. It would have been unacceptable, somehow, to have presented her

chastising Paris for fleeing the carnage he himself had caused. In the Iliad

she is validated by forcing Paris back to battle.

Briseis in the Iliad appears as a helpless pawn in a fight between

Achilleus and Agamemnon. She is given to Achilleus as his concubine, and he

treats her as such; there is no idea of her ‘fighting back’ as in the

film. Her most powerful appearance in the Iliad shows her mourning the death

of Patroclos, because he was kind and gentle to her, and had promised to give

her away to Achilleus in marriage. Briseis was concerned with her social

status as a woman, and believed that a public marriage ceremony would make her

happy and honoured, even though Achilleus had killed her brothers, former

husband and father. The Iliad does appear to have pity for the female victims

of war, even though its main concern is with the glory and deserts of the male

warriors. Women have a prominent role as mourners in the poem. Briseis is

certainly a very strong character in the film, but this is at odds with her

appearance in the original poem, which make her the symbol of the desolation

and cruelty of war. Again, her depiction in the film seems to have enabled the

modern audience to regard Achilleus sympathetically; as she eventually chooses

to have sexual relations with her captor, rather than being compelled to as in

the poem. For him to be a sympathetic character, he cannot be a rapist, and

his character in the Iliad is very unsympathetic indeed.

Andromache largely appears in the Iliad as the fearful wife, terrified for

the safety of her husband, and her fate following his death. She is a symbol

of the domestic sphere, which suffers as the men go out to battle; she is left

to pursue her womanly duties with the daily fear of her husband’s death. In

the poem she is given a strong speech in which she details the desolation that

war (and Achilleus in particular) has wrought on her family and her life. She

even gives a sensible piece of strategic advice, which Hector does not obey

but does admit to been concerned about. Their relationship, although not

perfect by our feminist standards, is in the Iliad a breath of fresh air when

compared to the monetary terms in which captive women are valued by the

Greeks, and the abuses of captive woman by conqueror. Andromache stands as the

ideal wife and a symbol of all that Hector risks every day as he goes out onto

the battlefield. She has a stronger position in the poem than in the film, as

she is honoured greatly by the Trojans, and given an important literary role

as mourner and protester against the realities of war.

There are many important scenes that take place in the ‘domestic

sphere’ in the film which are barely even alluded to in the film, and it was

impossible for a classicist not to note the absence of many female characters.

The exclusion of Cassandra and Polyxena could be justified on the grounds that

the former has a very limited role in the poem (the legend of her second sight

appears is later than Homer), and that the latter does not appear in Homer at

all. But the absence of Priam’s wife Hecabe is hard to understand. In the

poem she presides over female religious ceremony, gives Priam advice, appeals

to Hector from the city not to face Achilleus, tends to Hector’s needs when

he comes in from battle and is one of the chief mourners of Hector. She is

honoured and respected, as the wife of Priam and mother of the best Trojan

warriors Hector and Paris.

Women are of course all honoured purely by their relationships to men in

the Iliad. But if the film makers had wished to show strong female characters

reacting to the terrible circumstances in which they found themselves, they

would have been better off representing accurately the characters of Helen,

Hecabe and Andromache in the film. The modern (and of course, welcome) view of

war as inglorious and wasteful would have been better stated through these

women, as the men of the Iliad are above all things destructive, while their

women weave, nurture and mourn. At the end of the film I could not help but

feel that in their desire to present Hector, Paris, Helen and Achilleus as

sympathetic characters they had completely run roughshod over the poem. One

might ask why we feel the need to justify Helen’s flight to Troy with the

depiction of a despicable and cruel former husband instead of accepting her

choice as hers alone to make. Why did Achilleus and Paris have to be made into

sympathetic characters, when in the Iliad, they were respectively heartless

and cowardly? With a more honest approach to the sources, the film could have

done justice to the bravery and intelligence of Andromache and Hecabe, and

shown Helen’s disgust at having ended up with a pathetic husband. While of

course their virtues are defined within the Homeric scheme of value, and do

not necessarily coincide with ours, I feel their film makers’ time would

have been better spent on making the female characters more than

one-dimensional, and putting the story in the true context of Ancient Greece.

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