Comments from March 2007

Readers talk back: responses to features, reviews and blog posts received this March

, 10 April 2007

From Roisin

Re: Suffering In Silence: I can’t tell you how great it is to hear such positive and enthusiastic comments from a male feminist – you are very thin on the ground and we all wish there were more of you! Very interesting article…

From Florence

George, I don’t know why there aren’t more guys like you. Spread the

word mate.

From Jessica

I was feeling very discouraged today because I feel like I’m not making any difference whatsoever in the fight for equality. This article was exactly what I needed to remind me that it is indeed the little fights, the individual conversations, that will eventually make a huge difference.

From Charlotte

Just wanted to say- thanks for taking the time to write that article,

George. It is fantastic to see that a man has actually put himself

into a woman’s shoes and walked in them before making conclusions.

All I can say is – spread the word! There is unfortunately a very

large amount of young men who are completely unaware of what it is

like to be a woman in 21st Century British society, and the best we

can to is try to intelligently and calmly explain to them! And

honestly, don’t worry that you have only been aware of women’s issues

for a short amount of time. Provided I get the grades I want, I will

go to Cambridge next year, and I can only hope that there are some

young men there who have experienced a similar sort of epiphany to

you :)

From F

Very few people subscribe to a philosophy or

movement. People change their behaviour if it’s in their interest to

do so. Affordable childcare, alternative adult care, flexible working

and fair competition (instead of male bonding and boys’ clubs) would

be very good for our economy. Talented women face barriers and are

choosing to give up work or their career. This is in nobody’s

interest except those less talented men who are occupying their place

at the highest levels of society. Research has shown that companies

with women in their boards have higher returns. Why are we

obstructing talented people from contributing to society? Why are we

stopping men from being great fathers by denying sufficient paternity

leave and flexible working. Above all, why are we keeping women in

developing countries in ignorance instead of allowing them to own

their lives? This would ensure a better life for their children and

also decrease unwanted pregnancies. Feminism is in everyone’s

interest, but, alas, it lost the way some time ago. It’s time for

feminism to become ‘humanism’ and ensure that men can see the

benefits of everyone’s equality and liberty irrespective of gender.

George Mason, author of the feature, replies

I take your point that not everyone is going to commit to feminism as a

philosophy or movement, but I don’t think feminism is something which most

people couldn’t at least approve of in a more casual way. Lots of people want

things done about poverty and climate change without necessarily making a huge

commitment or having an exact philosophy about it.

Of course people will change their behaviour if it’s in their interest *and

they know it to be*. The problem as I see it is that people don’t recognise

that feminism is in their interest, and so don’t change their behaviour,

because they don’t recognise that women (and in some areas men) do face

barriers based on their gender. I was giving my view on how we can make men

recognise the barriers faced by women when the nature of the problem means that

we don’t experience it first hand.

I’d support all the measures you’d suggest, particularly over flexible working

and paternity leave. I’m convinced that paternity/maternity leave should be the

same for either gender, as the prejudice that women are better parents is just

as damaging as the prejudice that the are worse leaders or whatever.

In the end though, many of the barriers are going to be grounded in prejudice:

some men will not consider hiring a woman executive, because she doesn’t look

the part or whatever, and some women will not apply to be executives for

similar reasons. Those prejudices have to be challenged directly, you can’t

solve the problem just through skillful policy-making.

From Kate H

George Mason says that as a male he never [saw] harassment happening, and that it took his female friend recounting her experiences to open his eyes to the continuing need for feminism. Whilst he can “barely begin to even imagine what it feels like” the problem is that many men imagine that it must feel rather flattering to hear their

judgments about your body or clothes. On my way to work in a modest but fitted suit I once shocked a group of builders to open-mouthed disbelief when I answered back to a lewd comment by facing them and asking what right they had to publicly rate my posterior. But then is this example any different from the senior manager in the office who calls all his female staff “petal” and tells them how “pretty” they look on some days (is my top too low?) and not on others (wear jeans and no make up for guaranteed invisibility), but NEVER talks to his male staff in this way?

The builder and the aging senior manager and all grades of men in between live their lives relatively free from public comments by women on their appearance. Whilst there is nothing wrong with banter in consensual situations, many, many men unwittingly vocalise the objectification of women as sex objects without thinking or caring about the political implications or about how that makes the woman feel (often belittled, sometimes threatened or disgusted).

The problem of harassment is not particular to strangers shouting out at women in the street. It is a much broader cultural issue than that. I do not accept George’s thesis that men are not aware until a woman tells them about it. Men (and, sadly, many women) are complicit actors in a society that consumes Nuts and Loaded and all the rest of the media which tells us that women are up for it all of the time. At work, in the street, in a bar. Comments are invited by the very fact that we are women, and most of the time we are not expected to speak back.

My relatively unsatisfactory solution is not to wear makeup orparticularly revealing clothes most of the time. This makes me invisible to most men. When I choose to ‘make the effort’ it is because I have chosen to (although this choice is steeped in culture too – who says that made up is sexier for going out or smarter for a job interview?), but you can guarantee that some man or another will comment or stare as if they think it is for him. Just another female body to be consumed by the all pervasive male gaze.

George Mason, author of the feature, replies

I definitely accept that harassment is a broad cultural issue, I was simply writing about the first aspect of it that was drawn to my attention.

I really am sure that men often underestimate its extent or impact, however. In my case I was oblivious to it, and in the case of the builders and men who think it’s ‘flattering’ I expect they are oblivious to the harm caused. This of course cannot excuse them, but I think it does highlight the need for feminists to speak out – as you did.

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that the majority are ‘complicit’ in all this, that suggests too much deliberateness. People tend to act in the way society prescribes as acceptable/normal, which is unfortunately still very sexist in many areas, and this is often self-reinforcing: if everyone does it, then it must be okay. Because of this effect society seems to perpetuate itself without any driving force – no-one has to want it to happen, it just does. Sure, the vast majority of people are part of this process, but I think the vast majority of those are part of it unwittingly.

This is why I think the most important thing is to challenge all of the gender prejudices that produce this process at every possible opportunity.

From Sonia Smith

Re: Who’s to say who understands us?: The 50 Men Who Really Understand Women: I think it has been conclusively proven that Observer Woman magazine is appalling. I agree with a comment made in relation to the review of the magazine published on F Word a few months ago – the mere fact of having a magazine specifically for women, while having nothing similar for men, suggests that we are somehow different, deviant even, with special needs. This article about men who ‘really’ understand women only serves to perpetuate the myth that women are ‘difficult’ and ‘confusing’ for men, that our behaviour is baffling and that they must struggle to understand what motivates us. As though understanding us is some sort of special talent that is to be praised and revered. I used to buy the Observer (although I didn’t enjoy it that much – it was just the most bearable of the Sunday papers – I’m boycotting the Times since they published an article that I thought was racist towards Romanies and refused to apologise) but after the first issue of the Woman magazine I stopped in disgust.

From Ally McBile

This review is bang on the button.

From Liz Guest

In response to Joanna Tocher’s article

I fully agree with Joanna Tocher’s opinions on the Observer article.

It was so disappointing, those female writers should be ashamed of


Perhaps the problem was they couldn’t find 50 men to fit the

criteria. I wonder if we could find 50 women who fully understand

women? I wouldn’t be on the list!

From Olga

I found Tocher’s piece to be very well structured and to complement

other pieces you have on “womens” magazines that are now included

with our Sunday papers. I think Tocher gets to the heart of the

problem which is that essentially women are increasingly seen in the

media as are our ‘needs’ only because we are such effective

consumers. I find it horribly depressing that a newspaper should

want to propagate this instead of looking at more intellectual

matters than shopping and botox. I wonder what it implies for the

future of our society too, which Tocher might want to look at in a

future article perhaps. What does it mean that women are

increasingly indebted due to the magnificent marketing aimed straight

at them which is reinforced by the media’s insistence that we are

“shoppers” and little else.

From Pippa Hawken

I stopped reading the Observer woman supplement a long time ago as I

was unable to get through a page without wanting to tear it to

shreds. It’s a horrible magazine entirely based on the premise that

women like pretty shiny things that make them look pretty and make

men like them and want to marry them. It’s edited by Polly Vernon, a

woman who once wrote an article about how it is really cool to be

super-skinny because it makes people from Vogue think you’re cool, so

I suppose we shouldn’t really be surprised.

From Michelle

I was shocked by the retro attitudes of the list. Even the title is

irritating-why do women have to be seen as these mysterious creatures

that men struggle to ‘understand’? You will not gain an understanding

of women by getting bogged down in the superficialities of fashion

and beauty.

From Mark Headey

Re: The Mechanics of Femininity:While I fully agree with Emma Hadfield’s irritation at the gross

assumptions that car mechanics and salesmen make regarding their

female customers, one of her comments did make me to pause;

“men that seem to get lost whilst driving, due to their insistence

that they know the way and their own stubbornness in refusing to use

a map”

Visions of pots and black kettles swam into view.

OK, the mechanics are making an assumption about someone they don’t

know, but it might have been bolstered by exactly the same sort of

examples Emma uses to make her generalisation about male drivers. We

(all of us) tend to notice what we want to notice, and not see what we

do not wish to see.

From Canis

About the ‘girlie’ button thing. You shouldn’t take it so personally. The car advertisement (which I’m

looking for references to on the web, hence i stumbled upon this site)

was one of two adverts, one of which was equally slanderous to men.

In one, a young man drives the car talking to a female audience,

explaining how it’ll be great for girls for loads of reasons, and of

course the ‘girlie’ button.

In the other a woman is driving, and her dialogue is directed at men.

For example at one point she says “It has an engine at the front, for

you to stare at with your mates”, implying that men know actually

nothing about cars but like to pretend they do nevertheless.

So you see, in context it’s not offensive but actually just a bit of

fun. Indeed, you are the very demographic the advert was aimed at

(you mention “I choose to know nothing about cars”) because these

days nobody needs to know about cars to drive them, and that’s what

the adverts were all about.

I wish i could find both ad’s on youtube or somewhere, i’d love to

see them again, they were hilarious.

Anyway, happy motoring.

From P

To Emma Hadfield: quite agree with the article. A couple of years ago

I found my car with a flat tyre. A man, come to ‘help’ me, kept on

asking me whether I had a boyfriend and I kept on asking what a

boyfriend would do. I’m not sure a boyfriend would make a good tyre,

but how would I know? I’m only a girl!

From Carina

Why oh why did you let these men treat

you like this?! Why?! Never mind feeling so disempowered you were

unable to challenge them, that’s just a poor excuse for avoiding a

confrontation, and until you, and I, and all of us, stand up for

ourselves and *demand* to be treated with respect, the cycle will

continute. And why buy a car with such an insulting button? I’d get

another model and practice my parking. Feminism has to be about

action as well as words (in a safe space, no less), otherwise we will

never make progress.

From Roisin

Great article Emma. I totally identify with the sense of

powerlessness you felt when the first mechanic spoke only to your

male companion, not to you. It’s infuriating but very difficult to

know how to address the issue, when the likelihood is that you will

be written off as “a stroppy woman”, “menstrual” and other charming


From E Baeza Chavez

Re: From peace camps to protests – Finn Mackay: Why can’t we have people like Finn Mackay running the country? More

power to her! Rock on!

From Lisa

Re: Flicking the Bean: I think that one way of changing women’s ideas

about their sexuality is to start from the bottom up (no pun

intended). I have always been very open about sex and masturbation,

and although my friends were a bit uncomfortable with this at first,

the change in them has been astounding. I’m proud to say that all of

them now own at least one vibrator!

I also feel that there is a demand for more female-friendly porn –

that’s not to say romantic and sensitive and all of the other crap

that’s meant to turn us on. I mean, would it kill the porn industry

to put some fanciable men in their films for a change? And someone

needs to realise that it’s possible to be dirty without degrading

women in the process…

It’s time to speak up and be honest about our sexuality, until then

it will be always be (wrongly) defined by men.

From Gloria

I’m not sure female masturbation is quite as taboo as you make

out. I can only speak for my own (18-22ish, university student)

circle, but it seems just as acceptable for girls to talk about

masturbation, in passing, as guys. However, I think you raise a

valuable point about it being taboo in the general public domain.

Having said that, have you noticed the amount masturbation features

in films or on tv compared to sex? Partially explicable (perhaps less

useful for narrative interactions) but still somewhat odd.

From Purple

Re: Lifting the veil on mothers and daughters: I want to comment on your observation that

“When a mother is disempowered herself and cannot teach her daughter

how to claim her own voice and truth, the daughter ends up being

angry at her mother for showing her a disempowered picture of


This does not fit with my experience as a woman with two daughter who

was abused by my husband, who has now left our family home. Like many

women in my position I have a calm and close relationship with both my

daughters. We have discussed the possibility that you raise and both

my daughters acknowledge this could have been a possibility but is

not in fact what happened. Having all witnessed their father’s

violent behaviour has drawn use closer together.

I challange you to consider that what you have found is a selective

observation biased by your own experience of being angry at your own

mother for her lack of power

From Mary

Re: Medical students perform pelvic exams on unconscious women without consent: Regarding pelvic exams in the UK – a teenage girl in my block of flats

had a baby about a year ago. During the latter stages of her pregnancy

I encountered her and she was rather upset. A cup of tea later, she

told me what had happened at the hospital. She’d had an internal

exam, which she was expecting, but there was a gaggle of junior

doctors watching, and so that they could all watch, her partner was

sent out of the room. She was uncomfortable about it anyway, and the

absence of her partner was upsetting and the presence of lots of

other young men was more upsetting still. The doctor performed the

exam, and then invited a couple of the students to have a go (without

a word to the young lady). One of them hurt her and she cried out, her

partner then tried to come back into the room and was told again to go

away. Eventually they all left, her partner was let back in, and she

dissolved in tears.

“Why didn’t you ask them not to? *Tell* them to let S stay, or that

you didn’t want the students touching you?” I asked.

“I didn’t think I was allowed to do that,” she replied.

From A UK Medical Student

It certainly used to but medical school policy now is (rightly) that

this is totally unacceptable and we can only ever do a gynae

examination on an anaesthetised patient with their written consent.

However, if you are in theatre and the consultant tells you to do it

then some students might feel that they have no choice. Thankfully

that has never happened to me.

From Anne

Before my

surgery in 2003 in London I was asked to give permission for 2

students to perform exams (for practice) while I was unconscious. I

did so. I assume had I not given permission they would not have

performed the exams.

From Justin

Re: Disney’s first black princess: Look, I can’t believe what you wrote here about “Princess Maddy.” You

are simply pushing the racist envelope to new heights. A Disney

chairman saying girls like pink is not a racist statement. I am

amazed you were even able to turn it into that. And nobody believes

all blacks practice voodoo. It’s a frickin’ fairytale. This is what

fairytales do. People like you, posting trash like this, are the

reason racism still exists today. Please review my article and let me

know what you think!

Jess McCabe , editor of The F-Word, replies

I think you’ve misunderstood my post (it was written at two in the morning, so I may well be at fault in this case!)

The problem with the Disney spokesman’s statement about girls being genetically disposed to like pink is that it is sexist, not that it is racist. You can tell because he was talking about girls being supposedly predetermine to like pink, not children of a particular race.

I had a quick glance at your post on the film, which seems to argue that calling attention to the fact that this is Disney’s first black princess is encouraging more racism.

My response to that is that it is something of note when media giants like Disney put a black, female character in a lead role, after decades of only putting white female characters in those roles. It’s news worthy, both in terms of it showing a progressive change at the corporation, and in terms of highlighting the wider problem of a lack of diversity in the media. Calling attention to it does not make the problem worse: without the dedicated work of activists highlighting things like a lack of diversity these things would never change.

From Laura Gordon

Re: Fairy Tales are Grimm: I loved the article about fairytales, it echoed a lot of thoughts I’ve had during my reading – but I also love fairytales, and while they are problemative I don’t think it’s necessary to give up on them altogether. The beauty of fairytales is that they are inherently flexible; all they require is the basic structural outlines and the sense of magic, wonder and virtue rewarded.

Although heroines *are* always beautiful, it’s equally important to remember that heros are always handsome – the beauty requirement cuts both ways. And many fairytales contain strong, intelligent women that can be highlighted in the telling. Many versions of Little Red Riding Hood don’t include the woodcutter at all; Little Red Riding Hood cleverly takes a knife with her when she is eaten by the wolf, and as a result is able to cut him from the inside (metaphor there!). Similarly, although Snow White has to be brought back to life by the Prince, she is also sufficiently resourceful to run away to the woods and live there safely.

And I could be wrong as it’s a while since I heard the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure Rapunzel has to rescue the prince when he gets caught by her evil stepmother by the hair trick. And if adapting old fairytales isn’t your scene, I can recommend Robin McKinley’s writing – new fairytales, some modern and some set in fairytale nethertime, aimed at a variety of ages, and all with strong female heroines. My father used to read them to me when I was little and I’m sure they made me the feminist I am today – and I still love them!

From Jill

Re: The Pursuit of Happyness: Sure Will Smith’s film about a male single parent makes a fuss about what *some* of us ladies have done for ages, since time immemorial. But there has been plenty written about this, and some film and TV done about it too. Now maybe it is the turn of the men to have their few minutes of fame as single parents. It’s only redressing the balance, and also why gripe about the American-ness of the film? America is ok, it’s no worse than any other culture.

Don’t be a moaner. Is what you write just sour grapes because Will Smith is likeable, funny, kind, sweet and all the rest, and you just feel jealous?

In sisterhood (I have been a single parent too, plus a whole lot of other things, I’m fabulous of coure, but can come to terms with my ordinariness too…)

Dwysan Edwards, author of the review, replies

Thanks for your comments! Not that I’d ever refer to myself as a ‘lady’ however I’m sure you’re correct that many of us ‘women’ have dealt with exactly what Will Smith has for centuries. I can’t tell you how pleased I was he didn’t receive an Oscar for that load of squeamish rubbish! In a patriarchal world which seems to grow from strength to strength I don’t really believe that men need a “few minutes of fame”, they get plenty! As for redressing the balance, unfortunately that’s still way off in the distance but hopefully the feminist women and organisations such as the F Word will go some way to addressing that.

I can assure you also Jill that I am not a “moaner” though it did bring a smile to my face! It seems that any time a woman has a comment to make she is branded a moaner so no change there! As for being ordinary I admire your humbleness, I would never describe myself as ordinary, I’m a woman after all!

From James Givens

I have to say that I take offence to this article. Surely, a lot of women do this day in and day out like Will Smith did in the movie. So do a lot of men. Most men, at least in the Unites States, who try to keep their kids through a custody battle will lose all things being equal. Furthermore, how could you say that you couldn’t empathize with a man because he was in the same position as you or someone you know is in? I really find that sad. I relate myself to women and men in movies all the time, that is part of what I like about movies and what makes them hit close to home is the realness of the movie.

For the record, I am a man who is a single parent due to a tragedy and I believe why people enjoy this movie is because each of us can relate to some part of his journey. Furthermore, his story of making it big surely shows that he takes more steps toward his financial independence that most people will ever attempt. I am just one of

those single parents who work two jobs trying to make ends meat for my kids.

Dwysan Edwards, author of the review, replies

Most people would agree with you about this film, however what I wrote was my opinion which I think is quite self explanatory and which I stick by. I’m not a fan of ‘American Dream’ films, I found it sickly, unrealistic and uninspirational. I appreciate you have a different view and I also sympathise with your situation. As a single mum with two jobs and studying a degree I know how difficult it is for women and men. I would recommend that in future perhaps you could write your own article for The F Word regarding your views.

From Ryan

Thank you for your article. I agree that The Pursuit of Happiness is a terrible movie, but for different reasons than you. As a white male, I’d just like to point that *white* people have to go through what Will Smith’s character went through, and they do it every day,

and better.

As a wealthy privileged white male, I find it difficult to empathize with a movie about one poor black man’s story, when thousands of *white* people go through the exact same thing each day, and I’d really rather hear about myself. Further, I think that such positive and uplifting stories should in fact be banned, and shunned from our society, unless they explicitly resonate with me, only me, and my white male brethren.

Thank you for your time, and if you’re a good little woman, perhaps we can write a movie about you too some day.

From Maura

Re: Crime and Punishment: Maxine Carr and other ‘;evil women’: Your article made me think again on how I view Maxine Carr. My mother spent many years in and out of Prison and was mentally abusive to all 3 of her children. I consider her to be mentally ill. Not a twisted person.

From Alfred Goodson

Re: Bad Mothers: Well Claire Riley is right about one thing that’s for sure, she should

NEVER have children.

I (a man) have 6 kids ranging in age from 34 down to 15 and have

experience of private and NHS birth. Both excellent!

I’m fairly qualified, although a man, to speak on the subject of

Claire’s article. Following divorce form my wife, my two younger

daughters were taken away from her and residency was given to me. I

have now brought them up on my own for 8 years. I find this very

rewarding, although we are poor financially, as a result. How could I

complain? You should not have children, if all you are going to do is

complain. I am sure that Claire’s kids would be as she describes and

all have ASBOS! Her attitudes would be bound to rub off on them. All

of my children have kept out of trouble and I hope I have set a

reasonable example to them. Good moral standards, good manners and

above all kindness and understanding of others. I am not, however,

professing to be a saint, these are attitudes and qualities that we

should ALL instill into our children!

My kids are also FREE. Especially to express their opinions, which

are listened to by me. I am proud of and love each one of them as


Claire, please do NOT tar all mothers with the same brush and bear in

mind that us Dads are not half as bad as you feminists make out.

From Laura

Re: Sin City: Hi, I just want to say that I loved the article by Laura Woodhouse on the film Sin City. I’ve noticed lately that so many films seem to forgot about women completely – it’s possible to watch something like ‘300’ where there’s only basically only one female character, yet this is marketed as being for everyone.

On the other hand, something like Notes On A Scandal, an intense story concentrated on two women, is considered something of a niche product. Even films where male and

female actors are on an equal par – romantic comedies, for example – are dismissed as ‘chick flicks’. Action films are typically blockbusters, but most of the time ‘action’ appears to mean men fighting each other (perhaps with a token feisty woman), and yet

we’re supposed to accept this as an entertainment norm. It seems to me that Hollywood is inherently sexist for this reason alone, not to mention anything of the way actresses are treated.

From cunt

Re: Taboo For Who?: how sweet you feminists are, to go thinking that saying “cunt” out

loud makes you modern.

The last decade or two has been marked by wimmin making a living out

of laughing about how limp and small men’s dicks are.

Let’s see how modern you really are. Let’s welcome comics who make a

living out of jok√≠ng about how dried-up and slack wimmins’ cunts are.

From Andy

Most women I have known detest the word cunt said by anyone but


From Mary

Re: Hairy Women: I think hairy females are wonderful!! I’m a hairy women I love my hair

and yes I flant it as much as posable! We all have hair and I choose

not to shave so if some one has a problem with it sorry for there

issues!! Feel free ladys and grow your hair!!! I’m a by female and

love a women with pit hair and all the other places!!!

From gen

Re: The Freedom Trashcan 2002: whats the problem w/ weight watchers and all those other diet

companies. I\\\’m not saying that its bad to be fat, or chubby or

whatever, but what if you want to lose some weight so you can look

good for yourself? If you are unhappy with your weight and dont feel

good about it, i say go on a diet (if thats what u want). Just

because you decide to diet doesn\\\’t mean that you believe women

should look a certain way or should have a certain body type. It just

means that you want to feel good and feel confident about yourself and

your appearance.

From Ian

Re: Oh! Mr Darcy: Come back Darcy, all is forgiven

In response to Sheryl’s article on why Darcy continues to carry such

allure, I suggest that it is all down to the thrill of

unpredictability. The character promises wild passion and that has

to be worth the risk of being dumped. Nice guys are just boring

(dependable, even tempered and so predictable) which is just not the

same as a rollercoaster ride with its huge ups and downs, twists and

turns. This makes you feel alive rather than simply existing. The

sting, however, is that a permanent rollercoaster ride just makes you

sick and want to get off. so there is the choice; safe, predictable

and boring versus extreme, punishing and lively. Most women probably

let their heads rule their hearts and plump for the safer, more stable

yet more boring option long-term but if they have ever been on the

rollercoaster, they will always look up to the skies, hear the

shrieks of terror, glee and shear abandon and the memories (or

fantasies)come flooding back. Darcy is simply the lure of the

rollercoaster. Love them or hate them, they stir the emotions one

way or the other and so cannot be ignored.

From Andrew

At first I was interested in the article being a big fan of Austen,

but I am disappointed at the lack of insight that this piece offered.

Plant recognizes both that Darcy is much more wealthy and powerful

than Elizabeth and that he is “brutal, conquering, [and] dangerous.”

While the former is undoubtebly true, I wonder how one can attatch

the latter epithets to Darcy. Sure, the story reflects patriarchal

nature of 19th century Britain, this is true, but does it not more so

display the rigid class politics? Mr. Darcy is described as conquering

and dangerous personality (by Plant). The only way to possible support

this seems to be with his initial proposal to Elizabeth: “In vain have

I struggled.” This is an internal struggle however, not against

Elizabeth, but against his own superiority complex. I fail to see how

the idolization of Darcy and ‘Darcy-esque’ figures explains “lusting

after the dominant male archetype.” If my reading of this book is

possible, is not the appeal of Mr. Darcy the fact that he changes (or

appears to change) in a way that would please Elizabeth? Sure, his

character is at some points hostile, but is that not also to some

degree due to Elizabeth’s prejudice against him from the onset? In

all, it does not seem fitting to put Mr. Darcy’s character up as a

poster-boy for the ‘bad-boy’ or the controlling uber-masculine and

dominant archetype of female desire. And then to equate women’s

attraction to this ‘chick-lit’ with domestic violence? Seems like a

big stretch. Finally, Elizabeth’s eventually consenting to marry

Darcy shows the irony Austen seems to intend with this story; she

‘buys in’ to the middle class desire of rubbing shoulders with the

upper class. Her marriage seems to be more rooted in the middle

class’s desire for upward mobility than ‘lusting after the dominant


From Danielle

Re: Mind Your Language: This is in response to “Mind Your Language,” which I greatly enjoyed.

I am surprised that the author did not mention anything about

language and homosexuals. Perhaps what I have observed is unique to

Americans or my immediate area; words like “gay” and “flamer” are

frequently used as insults. I know people who are accepting and

supporting of homosexuals, but mindlessly use “gay” as a put-down. I

remember my peers using the word in such a way that you could replace

it with “stupid,” even when I was too young to understand what sex

was. My first exposure lead me to think of it only as an insult for a

couple years of my childhood. I often hear males my age call each

other “homos” if they want to insult a person for being weak, a bit

strange, or doing anything that goes against accept social norms. I

find it sad that from a young age children learn to associate

language about homosexuality with extreme negativity. The article has

encouraged me to continue make people aware of their word usage and

its effects. Thank you.

Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams, author of the feature, replies

I would agree wholeheartedly that this is

also a problem. In fact, recently, presenters from a UK TV program called

‘Top Gear’ (a program about cars) were reprimanded after some considerable

complaints about their use of the phrase ‘gay’ to describe cars in a

derogatory fashion. But as far as I know they were not reprimanded for

using ‘girly’ in the same way. Perhaps that tells me something – that gay

lobbyists are doing a much better job than feminist lobbyists?

I for one also question the use of ‘gay’ in this way when in conversation

and people are often surprised and defensive in the same way. In fact,

yesterday I got into a ‘heated’ debate with a colleague who was defending

the use of such classifiers as ‘harmless’ and based in biological and social

differences. I.e. if a car looks ‘gay’, then that’s because it has features

commonly associated with gay culture and by getting offended you are saying

that being gay is offensive. He also used the argument that girls DO throw

and run differently because of biology and that on average it is to a lesser

ability than men.

As I’m sure you’ve experienced, it’s hard to argue with people who take such

a stance, but I took the approach of asking why he felt the need to

segregate – then made comparators with segregating behaviour with say a

racial group such as black men – noting the use of the phrase in a

derogatory manor. In his use of averages and average distributions I also

argued that he personally could not throw farther than the current female

Olympic champion shot putter, nor run faster, so his use of these averages

was spurious at best and noted that these phrases were about reinforcing a

sense of superiority and not about celebrating the difference. He was

reluctant to concede, but the others in the room had stopped agreeing with

him by that point so I think it was worth the effort.

All I think we can do is to keep bringing it up – at least then it will

leave only the wilful agitators using these put downs and remove the general

acceptance and off-the-cuff, not-thought-it through uses.

From B Brown

Re: Your Face is Your Fortune: With respect to the fact that more attractive people do better in

business, as far as i was aware this was the case for both males and

females. I can see the argument that someone who looks after

themself, i.e. gets enough sleep, eats well, exercises etc which has

an impact on how you look indicates someones ability at self


I was wondering if the author could explain further how this affects

women more than men and perhaps how we got into this situation –

would a majority of women running businesses change this fact?

From Steph Reid

Re: Declaration of Independence: Fab article, i’m 21 and everyone is constantly asking me if i’ve

a boyfriend..then whispering “what about a girlfriend”. a few of my

closest friends are engaged and i’m happy for them because they are

happy, but they don’t seem to get that i’m happy being independant. I’m emailing your article to them, amybe then they’ll get it a bit


From Mary Ann Dawkins

Re: War of Words: This article ‘war of words’, honestly makes me feel proud of some

recent decisions I have made.

I am a 19 year old sophomore student at California State University,

Fresno. I am a nursing and a women’s studies double major. The reason

I decided to add women’s studies as my second major, would be because

of my Intro to Women’s Studies teacher Dr. Katheryn Forbes of CSUF.

He commitment to teach the 30 of us in her class in such a passionate

and moving way, helped spread her passionate interest into myself. I

wanted to be able to graduate, hopefully start a support group for

women who were just released into society after incarceration. I also

wanted to teach a seminar at local high schools about certain topics

about women such as early pregnancies, rape, women and education


This brings me to what made me come across this article. A group of

my close girlfriends and i created a little group name for our clique

called ‘mighty drunk sluts’. It was a purely satirical ideology that

was suppose to ‘poke fun’ of all the dumb little groups of girls out

there that have secret handshakes and codes of conduct, whatever. but

my friends started to soon take the group seriously, and then BECOME

what we were trying to joke on in the first place. and then some of

their actions became quite related to what a ‘real slut’ would do.

For example, at every party, they would seek out men, that would be

willing to give them lapdances. it was an act, that i honestly am too

conservative to take part in. the big issue comes with the usage of

the term ‘slut’. at first, yes, i took part too. we would all call

each other that, in a playful, fun manner. but then when it was being

used freely, out in the open, i would notice some people weren’t

taking to it-us using the term so freely, i began to wonder–‘why the


Finally, I just got sick of it all. I finally realize, NO i am NOT a

slut, nor do i want to be called one, or portrayed to act like one. I

find the word seriously demeaning, and negative and it is downright

ignorant to use it. So I finally asked my friends to stop calling me

one. It took alot for me to say it. It was signifying that i didn’t

want to be part of this little clique that this hypocrite (me) came

up with, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t go one more day living

surrounded but such hurtful words. Your article inspires me. and I

would like to take the time to thank you for that.

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