Comments from May 2007

Reader responses sent in during the month of May

, 9 June 2007

From Frances Downey

Re: A bride by any other name: I have just read your very interesting article about changing

surnames when getting married and wanted to write to you for a few


I am getting married next year and will not be changing my name. My

name is my name, I have had it all my life and I see absolutely no

reason why I should change it. My boyfriend would prefer me to take

his name but whenever he brings it up I always say “well why don’t

you change your name?”, which generally shuts him up. His family are

a bit dodgy about it but can’t really say anything to me and I am not

particularly bothered about what they think anyway.

But the real thing that struck me when I read your article was that

you are obviously a young vocal woman and you have got married. When

I announced I was getting married my mum went into total shock (she

has never been married) and I think a lot of my other friends were

quite shocked that I have decided to do this at a relatively young

age (25). Also, the only other people who I know who have got/are

getting married are quite traditional in their ideas of women in


So it was lovely to read your article about your husband and yourself

having a completely equal perminent partnership.

From Irina Lester

I fully support the author on her and her husband decision for her not

to change her name, but for husband to do it. That’s what I want to

see more often! I am also annoyed that it is easy for a woman to

change her name during wedding but a man needs deed poll. So, i

salute all brides sticking to their names and all grooms who adopt

female ones.

However, all Eleanor’s musings on the importance of name are totally

lost on me. I think a name is nothing to be proud about, no more than

blue eyes or height. It’s just a name, for god’s sake! It’s arbitrary,

it doesn’t say anything about you, but a bit about pretentions (and

silliness sometimes) of your parents.

I changed my surname by a deed poll when i came to live in UK. I

always hated mine, and i dislike an idea of having a man’s surname.

Just to think, women NEVER have their own surnames. Your mother’s

surname is actually your maternal granddad’s one.

So I had purely my own surname, out of blue, it’s well pronounsable

and not confusing to any English person. And also not too common

(that would be too dull for my liking).

My husband reacted stupidly on it – he wondered if people are going

to wonder and ask questions. They do, yes, and often are impressed by

my unusual nonconformist attitude. Yes, you can change your name if

you don’t like it, just like hair colour, no big deal, just stick

with the one you really like in order not to create too much hustle

for yourself. I simply hate an idea that you “have” to live with

something so arbitrary as name even if you don’t like it.

However my husband wouldn’t like it either if i wanted to have his

surname for the reasons we as feminists understand well.

From Pam

I am so glad that women of Eleanor Turner’s generation are thinking

more deeply about such out-moded traditions as taking the man’s name

on marriage. I did not think of doing that when I married nearly

forty years ago, and felt a sense of loss about my family name that I

wasn’t brave enough to confront. I am delighted that my son and his

wife each retain their own surname. But what’s the answer to the

surname question for their children? Lots of hyphenated names ad

infinitum? Oh, and Eleanor – you’re thinking about your ‘master’s’


From Lynne McLean-Brown

Fantastic article, Having recently got married and adopting a double

barrled name (my husbands and my own) I have also received similar

reactions. What about personal choice and what is right for both

people entering the marriage? well done on a brilliant article!

From Peta Chow

Nice article Eleanor Turner (A Bride By Any Other Name), except is

marriage really about “becoming one unit with one surname”? I don’t

intend to take my fiance’s surname and he won’t be taking mine. I

don’t see it as contradicting the “becoming one unit” part in any

way. My name is my name and his name is his, part of our individual

identities and nothing to do with our relationship.

From Sandra

When I got married a few years ago, I kept my surname and was

surprised by the negative feedback. I’d assumed that nobody would

really care one way or another – it was 2003 after all. I found,

interestingly, that men seemed to accept it without a problem but

older women felt the need to challenge me. One woman who had always

called me by my first name suddenly started calling me Mrs C just to

make a point. I still find it strange that a woman keeping her name

is an issue. I thought we had moved on a long time ago.

From Girish Sethna

I agree with Eleanor Turner, but there

are two issues it seems to me.

Firstly, her surname must inevitably have come from her father’s side

of the family, so how far back do we go?

Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother…???

Of course there is the double-barrelled option, but while that works

for you, what of your daughter or son?

Secondly, in the current age where, as Eleanor says women now own

property and land, surely the idea of ‘ownership’ is out of date.

Perhaps a mutual decision between the couple is best.

As a man, if I were to marry, out of love, I would take my spouse’s

surname. She may want, for the same reason to take mine. But then it

is about love, mutual decision rather than about the old reasons.

Eleanor Turner, author of the article, replies

I appreciate your feedback and I’d like to make a response to the points you


Firstly, what I am proposing about women keeping their own name does not

mean the same as women choosing their mother’s, grandmother’s or

great-grandmother’s names. I propose that women merely have the option to

keep their birth name, same as their male spouses. In a perfect world this

would mean that the name a woman is born with could have been either her

mother’s or her father’s, as her parents would have made the same decision

as she is about to when they themselves got married. I bear no resentment

towards my husband’s previous name, or to my own father’s, grandfather’s or

great-grandfather’s. To me, my name is my name, and if it had come from my

mother or my father, it doesn’t matter. It’s mine and I wouldn’t want to

give it up for the sake of an outdated tradition.

Secondly, it seems that you are in fact agreeing with me on your last point. You say marriage and relationships are about love and mutual

decision-making, which is exactly the point I was making in my article. My

husband and I came to our decision together, and I would want men and women

the world over to adopt this practice. I don’t believe ownership is

relevant either, so while I still appreciate heritage and family lines, I

don’t see why the male line is more important socially than the female. Why

can’t we have either? Both? A mix of the two? In an age so

technologically advanced as ours where tracing family trees can be done at

the click of a button, the argument that keeping the male line going for the

sake of future generations is both absurd and a bit pointless.

I’m glad you would discuss your future name with your spouse and reach a

mutual decision. I wish there were more men and women who felt the same as

we do.

Thank you again for your comments.

From eden smith

I just wanted to congratulate Ms Eleanor Turner on her article. I

personally have no need to make the decision. however I strongly

support any couple who at the very least think about what name they

go by and even more those who challenge the assumption that a males

name should be carried on. I read somewhere that in spain everyone

has two legal last names: one from their father (his father’s

father’s name etc) and one from their mother (her mother’s mother’s

name etc). That way a person is able to trace their family back on

their father’s paternal side and also on their mother’s maternal one.

It makes a lot more sense then our system.

From Mark Kuramoto-Headey

Ah Ms Turner. I congratulate you both. To say it’s a path less trod

is the understatement of the century. Despite so many people

complaining of the vast hoards of women keeping their own name, I

don’t see it. Even the non-romantic women in my office have eagerly

changed their surnames on marriage.

As you can see, when we got married, my wife and I hyphenated our

names. Actually, I wanted my wife to keep her own name, but she

wasn’t that keen; she wanted to take my name. The joint name was a

compromise. I confess, I haven’t got my passport changed, but we

have a bank account and bills in the joint name without the need for

a Deed Poll. I’ll be interested to see what the passport office will

make of my request when it comes.

I think perhaps women do often object more strongly than men when

meeting a woman who’s kept her birth name. My own theory is that

they think you’re passing a critical judgment on their choice and

react to justify it. In fact, I don’t think very many women DO think

seriously about it when they get married. There are still to many

silly romantic notions floating around.

From LL

Not a new but a well written piece on the subject. I did not change my

name r adopt the Mrs. prefix. Yet people do have problem and cards

constantly arrive addressed to Mr and Mrs. I think it does challenge

people’s preconceived ideas of how it is. But more importantly it

bucks the status quo and takes away people’s safety structures. I

think that provokes a bit of fear in them. They don’t see that it is

actually and insult to continue to call you by something you’ve


I wonder if the author would have kept her name if the concept of the

name dying out had not arisen ?

Interesting point thought re the need to alter maiden name to

previous name.

From Ida

In response to the article about changing a name on marriage:

I recently got married and my husband and I have discussed at length

what our family name shall be. Neither of us feel the need to change

our names until children come along and then it looks now like we

will have a double-barrelled name. We would make up a new name but

are reticent to lose the history. I empathise with the author of the

article as I too have had (and will continue to have, no doubt)

varied and often negative reactions to our decision – not my

decision, our decision. People really do seem to find it hard to

believe that husbands may also feel the way some wives feel about the


The whole wedding setup is shockingly steered towards the

disempowerment of women and the empowerment of men. When I was

researching traditions for our wedding, the most shocking of all was

that should the engagement be broken, that the implication should be

made that it was the woman who called it off, not the man. Amazing,

just amazing. I wore no engagement ring, I was not given away from

one man to another, I did not cover myself in a veil… my husband

and I walked up the aisle together, symbolising our arrival at this

point in our lives together.

Weddings, marriage and family commitments appear to still have a some

way to go before they are equally respectful of both sexes.

From Emma Hadfield

In response to the article ‘A Bride by Any Other Name’. I have very

similar views on this area. I come from a very close family and my

name is therefore very important to me. I have had countless

discussions/arguments with friends and family regarding the fact that

should I choose to marry in the future I will be keeping my name as to

lose it would, to me, feel like losing my strong identity and being

forced to take on another. One friend’s argument in response to mine

was that it was tradition and therefore the woman should take on the

man’s name and I just couldn’t make her understand that this was the

same tradition where women don’t work, have babies and are submissive

to their husbands. However, I have a male friend who is due to get

married in June and he is taking on his partner’s name. He agrees

with me in that his girlfriend comes from a close family and he on

the otherhand does not get along with most of his family. He

therefore feels no loyalty to his own name and understands how she

would want to keep her family name going. Highly commended I thought

as not many men think the same. I found it also interesting to read

in your article the difficulty involved in a man changing his name.

I was not aware this was the case and this angers me, highlighting

just another case of inequality in our society today.

From Bea Valle

Re: Rape – is it our fault?: This article is spot-on, a very clever and accurate analysis of the

assumptions on the thorny issue of rape in British society today.

More and more misinformation about rape is being made available in

the last couple of years on TV, radio and papers, however the focus

always seems to be the wrong one. It is depressing that people only

pay attention to things like men who are wrongly convicted for rape,

a number which is statistically insignificant. But issues like the

low conviction rate and this ill-advised campaigns are sidestepped.

From Violet Greaves

Exactly right. Women are being denied the right to live lives without

fear and men are being portrayed as potential

rapists/abusers/murderers unless women handle them by behaving

appropriately. Men and women need to work together to address these

attitudes that constrain both genders.

From Jaq Halogen

In response to your: “Rape – is it our fault?” feature, i’d have to

say that in most of your points, i’m in complete agreement. however,

when you mentioned domestic abuse i was a bit confused as to its

relevance to the rest of the piece.

the issue with many cases of

domestic abuse, as i understand it, is that many women are either

afraid or unwilling to report/press charges against the offenders for

a variety of reasons. that, as i understand it, is why there is so

much information on how to protect yourself if you’re a victim of

domestic abuse.

i’d also like to add that while advice to women on

how to protect themselves against rape, i.e. learning self-defense

and not leaving drinks unattended, is good i feel, as it can help

prevent some rapes, but i completely agree that all the blame should

be placed upon the perpetrators of the rape and not upon the victims.

this idea that women can somehow be held accountable for their own

rapes is such a ludicrous idea that it’s proponents can hardly be

taken seriously.

as a man myself, i’ve never believed that rape is

something that can be forgiven, no matter what substances have been

imbibed by either party. all my life i’ve had the belief that there

is no drug, recreational of otherwise, that makes someone do anything

they wouldn’t, if they knew there wouldn’t be consequences. all drugs

will do is cause you to disregard any longterm damage your actions

may cause. thus, a man who thinks rape is pretty okay, if only other

people would shut up about it, once drunk or otherwise, would still

be tha same man, and thus still completely responsible for his

actions. anyway, sorry for rambling at you, but i really liked it.

Dwysan Edwards, author of the article, replies

Thanks for your response and for taking the time to give your opinion, I certainly don’t look at it as rambling! Always good to hear a different side/point of view, keeps us all on our toes!

With reference to your point about domestic abuse, I take that on board in a minority of cases, however after working with survivors of domestic abuse for a number of years, I feel strongly that the onus for the woman to report the crime, leave the family house, change their whole life or to lock themselves in a room in their house is far from a solution.

Every three days a woman is killed by a partner or former partner in this country. I think it would be much more positive and beneficial to focus on perpetrators of domestic abuse, which is still heavily male-dominated. Some work is being done in schools now to educate girls and boys on gender issues, and I believe firmly that more money and work needs to be done in schools to enable boys and girls to grow up with a healthy respect for one another.

Boys are still growing up feeling superior and stronger to girls and it’s staggering that something like 75% of girls think its OK for a boy to hit them if they kissed someone else!

More work also still needs to be done with the legal system to enable women to report these crimes and to be taken seriously and also for some real consequences to these actions. Almost every woman I’ve supported, even the worst cases, I can count on one hand how many of the men have received a custodial sentence. Although jail may not solve the problems, the lack of consequence to treating people in this way can be no deterrent.

From Girish Sethna

Dwysan Edwards is right (Rape – is it our fault?) there seems to be a

widespread idea that if a woman is raped it’s something she could

have avoided. Rather than something the rapist could have avoided


Rape is bullying. If bullying is unacceptable behaviour, then so is


But there is still a distinct anti-women, sexist portrayal of women

in both advertising and in such tv programmes as CSI: This is not an

issue of women taking a stand tho’. It’s an issue of society as a

whole making the bullying and degradation of women BECAUSE of their

gender, unacceptable. An issue for both men and women universally.

The de-sexualisation of images/words around women in the media is

also necessary.

From Eighmie

I agree with you, women should be allowed to go anywhere, dressed

anyway they please, at whatever time of day or night. I think that

suggesting that a woman needs to keep her wits about her and

maintain presence of mind because there are bad people in this world

, and suggesting otherwise is foolish and simple-minded.

From varrie murray

It seems strange that so much emphasis is placed upon dress and

alchohol consumtion when realisticly the majority of rape victims are

just going around their day to day business,fully clothed and not

under the influence of drugs or alcohol? should we maby also stop

walking our dogs?

From Laura

Re: A hairy dilemma: I feel your pain, though not to your extent. I’ve written about the

same subject in my online diaries over the years. I let my leg hair

grow out for a few months this year, and then tried waxing for the

second time to see if it worked any better this time around. It

didn’t. I’m back to the old routine of shaving and plucking. It

really disturbs me that women are unsexy if they’re hairy, even

though hair is a sign of sexual maturity. It’s like men secretly

only want prepubescent girls, and women have all convinced themselves

that they like it much better looking like one. The response to Julia

Roberts hairy armpits was freakishly loud and critical. Even men, to

a much MUCH smaller extent, are starting to feel self-conscious if

they’re too hairy. It makes me want to shout to everyone, why are we

doing this to ourselves?! Why are we all as a society going mad over

such an inconsequential thing? As if we don’t have enough to worry

about already!

From Rebecca Meakin

I am hairy and proud! I get mocked. Mostly by women at clubs. But

truthfully my not shaving seems to actually be a male magnet in

Hartford, CT. I get so many “not shaving is hot” comments that I

really am not sure what the heck to think. I mean constantly being

told by the media that it’s gross but my real life experience

definitely speaks differently to me anecdotally any way.

From Kitty Chronic

I really enjoyed this article, and must admit i also found it


Of course, like most other women, I started shaving leg and arm-pit

hair off during my early teens, plucking my eyebrows in my late

teens, and at one point became so obsessive (a general

obsessive-compulsive characteristic that still lingers in some forms)

I would even pluck the tiny invisible-to-all-but-me hairs out of the

backs of my fingers.

But for a good few years now i have completely stopped removing body

hair, using deodorant and hair products, and so on – and now can’t

for the life of me think why i ever bothered.

Ms Chaplin’s description of the lengths to which women go to remove

body hair, and the reaction of others to those who don’t, struck me

first as a funny joke; then i had a blimey-it’s-true-but-why moment;

and now i’ve remembered that, actually, i’m the odd one here and am

therefore trying to remember how and why i stopped in the first

place, not being a person of exceptional self-esteem or confidence.

From Adey

My Grrl fiend sent me a link to this ’cause she new i’d be interested.

She also told me that she’d posted a comment but i’ve not looked at it

yet. She is much hairier than me in various places and i don’t find it

in the least bit unattractive. She is mixed race, half Indian, so has

more hair on her face than a white woman may have and i think it’s

lovely, she also has way hairier armpits than i have. hairy women of

the world unite, not all us men need a hair fetish to know that hair

is fine. great article by the way.

From Irina

I honestly have no idea what I could say to the

author, I don’t think I am in the position to advise.

I detest the pressure to cause yourself pain by waxing and I never

waxed. I say to anybody in a conversation about beauty treatments

that I would never wax even if I was paid to go through it. Nobody

ever called me a witch for that, though. But i agree, the pressure is

there, but I still would urge you all to think: to which extent is it

the inner pressure? Maybe you are afraid of your hair more than the

rest of the world.

I may be hairless comparing to other women, true, but on several

occasions in winter, when i NEVER remove hair on legs, i went to

swimming pool and nobody said anything or sniggered. Or in the gym,

when i exercise in shorts. They have other things to notice and think

about, believe me. or try it yourself. And be prepared to say “none of

your fucking business, do mind your own beer gut!” – the world won’t


In my own dealings with those lanky fluff that I have got i draw the

line at pain. Waxing is out, as I said. Depilatory cream is what i

use, but again only in summer and I don’t worry if there is some

stubble. If they stop producing depilatory cream and try forcing

“waxing virgins” into exciting world of pain and self-mutilation, I’d

be the first to go aggressively hairy.

I thought for a while: is getting rid of my hair leg making me less

of a feminist? I still don’t have a clear answer, it’s more like an

opportunistic compromise :)

From Jon Lawrence

Re: 300 Spartans and one strong broad: I thought Rosamund Urwin’s review of 300 was excellent. While I had

heard negativity directed towards the film, this review highlighted

this, and also some of the movies points more on the positive side.

Its hasn’t changed my mind entirely on the movie itself and whether

to watch it or not. However it was still very enjoyable to read what I

considered a very unbiased review. Good work.

From Nancy

Re: What women (don’t) want: You guys seem to have missed something very simple as to the style and

writing at Jezebel. It’s funny, it’s ironic and it is not meant to be

taken so seriously. You simply have over-looked the fact that women

should be able to laugh at the sterotypes as they prove them false.

If it wasn’t for humor and jest in this world life would not be worth

living. Perhaps you should consider taking things more lightly before

you blast a site that is at once entertaining and relevant in this day

and age.

From Doug Henwood

Just read your comments on Jezebel. Holy shit, some feminists really

don’t have a sense of humor. I always thought that was a cheap slur

appropriate to the likes of Katie Roiphe, but I might have to

reconsider now.

From Eliza Mulcahy

If Kate Smurthwaite had taken the time to read the “Jezebel

Manifesto,” she might not have taken such a ridiculous stance on the

new blog.

From the “Manifesto”:

“Jezebel is a blog for women that will attempt to take all the

essentially meaningless but sweet stuff directed our way and give it

a little more meaning, while taking more the serious stuff and making

it more fun, or more personal, or at the very least the subject of our

highly sophisticated brand of sex joke.”

They’re not interested in providing in-depth analysis on Ann Heche’s

divorce, and I don’t think readers are going to Jezebel to hear it.

Smurthwaite seems to assume that any feminism-inspired blog has to

stick to her own brand of feminism, one which not everyone may enjoy.

Celebrity gossip is a large part of our culture, and as such, we have

many blogs about it. We do not, however, have many humorous feminist

outlooks on the matter. I enjoy Jezebel because of it’s subtle sass.

I’m saddened that Smurthwaite cannot understand the humor in “We

thought feminism was supposed to be straightforward,” or “Guess those

fake breasts paid off!”

Her responses to the quotes (which are, of course, taken out of

context) are generally summaries of the ideas Jezebel was trying to

get across (“Since when was cosmetic surgery a business plan?”).

Smurthwaite’s final response, however, was the most hysterical. In

reference [ t o ] : “We thought feminism was supposed to be

straightforward,” she replied, “Who told you that? It’s as

diverse as, erm, the women who definitely WON’T be reading your

stupid website!” This one sentence is dripping with so much irony

and hypocrisy, I found myself laughing aloud. It’s apparent she

missed the sarcasm in Jezebel’s remark, but to angrily reply that

feminism is diverse – oh, that takes the cake. Your entire piece

was raving about how wrong Jezebel’s take on feminism is, yet you

decide to lecture them on the complexity of feminism.

I quite enjoy reading feminist analyses of the cultural affect

celebrity relationships have on society, but I get plenty of that. I

read Jezebel for the intelligent sarcasm and subtle humor. It’s too

bad that Jezebel is just too clever for Kate Smurthwaite.

From Katie

I just read the blog jezebel for the first time today after having

tracked gawker for several months. The article one of your writers

posted on jezebel fails to understand both blogs. The point of these

sites is to consistently and without exception put comedy first. They

sacrifice any and everything for a joke; every cause is subject to

“the funny”. That’s what makes them such great readers of culture.

Comedy may not show us what we like and it certainly may not show us

the world the way we would like it to be, but it shows us the truth

that had previously been left unsaid. Sure, it is politics job to

imagine or show us a possible and desirable world, but not all

writing need or should fulfill politic’s task (that’s ITS job).

Jezebel reveals through comedy the ugly truth about women, females

and femininity in American culture today. That said, it is not

written for readers who unproblematically identify with those roles.

I think your writer underestimates or is naive of the massive

subculture of Americans (of all genders, sexualities, races, classes,

etc.) that identify ironically and only ironically. This subculture

along with many of gawker and jezebel’s readers reside in

metropolitan areas where individualism, self-importance, literacy,

ironic detachment, performativity and that charming brand of youthful

irresponsibility that passes as “carefree”, are encouraged. Hence, the

Nebraska joke–“Nebraska (a state.)”–does not poke fun at stupidity

or geographic illiteracy as your writer implied, but at the ironic

“knowledge” of many middle class metropolitan Americans that the

world doesn’t exist between the Manhattan and Santa Monica (save some

oases like Las Vegas and Austin,TX etc.). If feminism is to survive

itself in an era increasingly and worryingly accepted to be

“post-feminist”, its champions will have to be able to distinguish

the nuances in these sorts of dialogue across cultural differences.

Your writer seemed to be reading a language s/he did not speak whilst

thinking her/himself to be fluent.

From Amanda

Are you entirely without a sense of humor? The excerpts from the blog

Jezebel were very clearly meant as ironic commentary. It strikes me

as absurd that anyone of reasonable intelligence who has actually

read the blog (or Gawker, for that matter) with any sort of care

would understand the comments in any sense other than this.

From maria

Why don’t you get a sense of humor, and then go back to the blog.

Maybe then you’ll realize it’s supposed to be satirical.

Feminists who can never see the sense of humor in anything give other

feminists a bad reputation. It’s OK to laugh!

From lizzie

Um, your author completely missed the sarcasm. The phrase, “Nebraska

(a state)” and a reference to “his vagina” and “where it is coming

from” where two fo the funniest things I have read ina while. The

whole website is a completely sarcastic and wonderfully twisted look

at celebrity culture for women who, like me, are way too interested,

realize the interest is unhealthy, indulge it anyway, but laugh at

the whole thing.

You missed the joke. Which is funny in itself, in a post-modern way.

Actually, the first time I read it, I thought you were doign some

sort of ironic commentary, especially given that you picked the best

quotes. But I have been assured that you were, in fact, serious. So,

in all seriousness, maybe give it another read, recognizing that the

entire thing is sarcasm. K’ bai ;) (see, see what I did there, more

sarcasm. It was funny, right? Right? You know you looove me :)

Kate Smurthwaite, guest blogger for The F-Word, replies

Interesting that we had so many comments on this one. And oddly I had several emails and comments on my own blog from people saying “I’m not an employee of Jezebel but…”. I am certain that at least a fair chunk of the comments are from one group of people who either work there or are friends of those who do.

That said – the two main points see to be:

1) Jezebel isn’t like other women’s magazines.

I agree, it’s not, but that doesn’t make it good does it. That’s like saying if OK magazine is awful because of its adoration of irrelevant celebrities then HEAT magazine, which focuses on bitching about the same celebrities, must be good. They can both be bad. Good for a women’s magazine, online or otherwise, would be coverage of women’s political issues, interviews with positive female role-models, etc.

2) It’s supposed to be funny.

This may be, but (a) it didn’t make me laugh much and (b) the only joke I can find on there seems to be “we should really know better but let’s play along with misogynist stereotypes anyway”.

If you want an online, lighter-reading blog for women, I recommend Dollymix.

From Tony

Re: Pass the bucket…: “Is it easier to “be a feminist” when you’re doing well

financially? Definitely. For starters there is a poverty line below

which idealism simply doesn’t exist, there’s a point where all a

person cares about or can care about is how to get enough food,

water, shelter and medicine to survive the next 24 hours. People

below that line may be feminists but they certainly can’t afford to

be activists. By the same token you’d need to be above that line to

be an activist for any cause — socialism, environmentalism or even

the anti-women’s movement. If you can’t afford pens and paper,

you can’t write your manifesto.”

Sounds as though “feminism” here is being defined in a middle class

way. But why should feminism be about idealism? Why can’t it be about

the pragmatic issues like “how to get enough food, water, shelter and

medicine to survive the next 24 hours”. Aren’t these feminist issues?

Or do you rule out the majority of women by suggesting that you have

to be a middle class idealist activist? And what here constitutes

“activism”? Writing a manifesto? Sounds again as though you’re

writing for a minority.

Kate Smurthwaite, guest blogger for The F-Word, replies

Being a feminist can only (as far as I can see) be about two things: what you believe and what you do. I’m not sure how it can be about how you feed your family other than in respect of those two things.

Now, as far as what you believe – there are two sides to the coin. On the one hand, access to better education may raise the likelihood that you understand the situation well enough to inform your beliefs. On the other hand, being close to grass-roots issues may give you a perspective on those issues that enables a deeper belief, because it has such a strong impact on your own life and those you care about. So in that sense you could argue that those closest to the harshest effects of global misogyny are “more feminist” than those of us cosseted in our nice middle class homes.

As far as what you do goes – I think action has to come from those further up the chain. We can’t sit here, in relative comfort, and expect those who have nothing to be prepared to throw away their next meal for the cause. When you’re right on the breadline you will do whatever it takes to get food on the table, whether that conforms to your ideals or not, you’ll just do it. Having the economic power to chose what you do is a pre-requisite for chosing to do something that furthers the cause of women. And the more free time and free resources you have, the more you are able to do for the cause. So in that sense the reverse is true, us middle-class types are capable of contributing more to the movement and thus being “more feminist”.

And, of course, it’s not really a competition to see who can be the most feminist. The idea actually is for us all to work together, so those who face the daily struggle for basic commodities and understand how important that is need those who don’t face that struggle to help them both practically and by raising awareness.

From Gloria

Re: Johnson goes ahead with books for boys plan: Many ‘typical’ boys books were

ones I loved as a child – Just William, Robinson Crusoe, Dahl’s ‘Boy’

featured in your blog article. But I am pretty shocked at the

inclusion of H Ridder Haggard – King Solomon’s Mines is not only

misogynist, it is also deeply problematic in racial terms. There’s

also a really terrible bit where the Explorer penetrates the heart of

the diamond country by going between two hills called ‘Sheba’s

Breasts’ and down to a cave…. *rants on in Freudian-inflected

English student way*….

From Emily

Re: An unlikely anti-depressant?: I found your response to the report into the link between low levels

of depression and exposure to semen, a little disingenuous. The

report was based on scientific findings it is not for Gallup to put a

social twist on them. I have read other similar reports and another

interpretation is that women are not a monogamous as they are often

portrayed to be . Alternatively that women in a happy and settled

exclusive relationship (in which they use a non-barrier method of

contraception) are less depressed? Neither of which is exactly

damming is it?

From Heather Corinna

Re: Scarleteen sex book: Just wanted to send Laura a thank you for the mention of S.E.X. today.

So, thanks!

I also thought I’d let her know that the section on pornography is a

good deal more involved in the book. Hanne Blank penned the article

at, and while in general, our opinions are pretty

in-line, I draw a bit of a harder line when it comes to presenting

porn, and did give some airtime to discussion on the exploitation of

the industry, as well as how — particularly violent — porn can have

ill effects for people.

Again, though, just a thanks. It’s exceptionally nice when people

really start responding to the need for feminist sexual education, so

it was a day-maker.

From Amanda Chorley

Re: The best way to beat objectification – do it yourself…: I actually own the “petite salope” necklace and was wearing it while

reading your comment on the website. I knew the little slut part but

I actually prefer the translation as “little bitch” so I might use

that instead! While you may say I can’t be feminist by using these

terms about myself, I say I have reclaimed these terms and thus they

no longer have the power to hurt me. I stand up for myself, am not

afraid to give my opinion – however unpopular it may be-, and I’m

not worried about offending male sensibilites. Many people would

therefore consider me a bitch. Oh I also love fucking and I’m not

afraid to talk about it. Slut? A lot of people would say yes. Do I

care? Not really. And I am most definitely a feminist.

While I wouldn’t wear some of the items (“will fuck for shoes”, “i

love porn”) I do appreciate the asthetic. I absolutely love kitsch,

especially when it is mixed with “unfeminine” ideals. In my eyes this

is just the same as (which I love). A lot of

traditionally feminine crafts are looked down upon, for no reason

other than they are what women have traditionally done. This is about

taking them back, and simultaneously rejecting what it means to be

feminine (sweet, chaste, pure etc).

From Jack Pandemian

I agree with your post about Locher’s, but in their defence they do

have a quite splendid t-shirt saying ‘I hate children’ which I covet

with all my heart.

From Padmalatha

My comment on the post – Israel’s segregated buses

I am from Bangalore, India. We have been fighting for our space in

public transports for ages! Even though the state governments had

allocated a certain number of seats for women they were always

occupied by men. I remember as a child my mother fighting with the

men for the seats. These days it is better because the authorities

are actually on your side in this. I personally find this very

relieving since this keeps the women away from groping and staring

men (well mostly atleast) These days we also have ladies’ special

buses too. We have long had separate compartments for women on

trains. I find the system in favour of women and not against.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Thank you for your comment – I would agree with you, there are circumstances where women’s compartments are a good thing.

But I don’t think this is one of those times. I think that the fact that a woman was viciously beaten up when she refused to sit in the women’s section of the bus illustrates that the system isn’t put in place as a choice for women who don’t want to be groped!

From Padmalatha

That I agree with. Here too we’ve had men shout at women for sitting in men’s seats. And he believes he is right by doing so since women did the same years ago!

While this segregation can be a good starting point it cannot be the solution since it will only lead to situations like you mentioned.

I just stumbled upon your website. And I must say it is very interesting and exciting to see feminist thoughts from across the world in one place.

From edi

Regarding mini-skirt ban. To clarify something: ‘Spiegel reports that

prostitution is actually legal in Poland’. It is simply a nonsense.

Prostitution in contrast to Germany is illegal i Poland. That’s the


From Sarah

Re: Any lawyers out there?: I was delighted to see comment on today’s comments by the Scottish

Cardinal. As a Catholic woman I have serious issues with the church

on a number of matters relating to the treatment of women. I also

believe, as the author of this piece, that the church and the

government are separate and MPs ultimately represents the people who

elected them – on the messages they gave out at the time of


I was disappointed however with the final paragraph of the item,

particularly the following:

“Why are we taking advice on morality issues from a man who eats

what he genuinely believes to be human flesh at least once a week?

And why are we giving any media coverage or prestige at all to a man

who dresses like an extra from Harry Potter World?”

The first sentence either shows a basic lack of understanding of

Catholic doctrine or the author does understand it and chooses to

ignore it – either way I find it insulting to my religion for this to

be quoted as a morality issue.

And the second comment I find frankly ridiculous – it smacks of ‘if

you can’t think of anything sensible to say then a cheap laugh will

do’. I believe it is comments like this which allow those against

the feminist movement to then disregard the rest of the piece which

was intelligent, well argued and relevant.

Kate Smurthwaite, guest blogger at The F-Word, replies

To me the threat of religion is that things are held to be “doctrine” rather than “opinion”. We are to accept “doctrine” blindly and unquestioningly. So next week, if a priest tells you “gay people should be burnt” – will you accept that too as “doctrine”? Personally I choose to question everything. To me the obvious question is “if this is human flesh, should i be eating it?”.

And my final point is a joke, yes, well spotted. I thought it was a rather good one what with the link and all. Those who are not too busy pointing out how jokes ruin all the good points feminism makes are usually occupied complaining that feminists take themselves too seriously and don’t have a laugh. As you will note from my blog and from my intro blurb when I started guest-posting on The F-Word – I am both a feminist and a stand-up comic, so I consider it my job to fill both roles.

From Sarah

I think that the role of women in religion is important and should be openly discussed more – many people are afraid to tackle this subject.

I just wanted to say that with regards to doctrine there is a clear difference between the ‘God / faith’ aspects of Catholicism – i.e. that which makes us Catholic, including the beliefs about communion – and the ‘Church’ aspects. Catholics do not have to accept anything that any priest says to them. I feel quite comfortable questioning many aspects of church teachings – including attitudes to women, homosexuality, family planning etc.

Over my life time I have been told what I believe more by non-Catholics than by the Catholic church. People can be very quick to say ‘because you’re a Catholic you think that….’. If I believed everything the church told me I would not be a feminist – but I am – and I choose to challenge the church and remain a Catholic. I believe women should be encouraged to embrace, question or reject any faith they choose to – and then be supported in addressing oppressive aspects of that faith.

And on your last point – you are very funny and I love reading your work – keep up the good work!!

Kate Smurthwaite, guest blogger at The F-Word, replies

I guess we shall have to agree to differ there. I think women (and even silly old men) should be encouraged to realise that we don’t all have an imaginary friend in the sky! I think the vast mountain of scientific evidence points to this and that once we’ve accepted it we have much more freedom to live our lives as we choose to. We don’t have to address the oppressive aspects of faiths, we can just rise above all that and get on with addressing the problems we face in our regular lives.

If you accept one part of a doctrine and not the rest – isn’t that like saying “I believe in an all-powerful being, but I think there are some typos in the book he made and/or he may not have chosen the best people to translate or interpret it”? Atheists moan a great deal about creationists, but I am always amused by religious people who say :I don’t believe in creationism”, but then do believe in other “miracles” like the existence of heaven, virgin birth, rising from the dead, lakes of sulphur, etc. If you’re going to accept one you might as well go the whole hog!

From sian

Re: Could Britney Spears be the feminist icon of our generation?i like this article. i agree with a lot of it. the same thing kind of

happened to kate moss, whre male stars are heroes for drug use, women

are vilified. and the haircut thing is totally true, there is nothing

crazy about short hair! but perhaps we should be careful in

suggesting that getting pissed with no pants on and sleeping around

is an empowering feminist experience. women should be able to do as

they choose, sleep with who they want to and not be shouted at as a

slut for it, if there is one thing i hate it is sexual double

standards, but perhaps sometimes that behaviour is self destructive.

it is a tricky balance.

From Eldridge cleaver

There is nothing the least bit empowering about cracking under the

strain of a career in which sleazy record execs make you into an


From Jan Hunt

Britney is a product of LA advertising and marketing. It is hard to

know who “Britney” is as a human being. I am sure that she has her

issues like most human beings. Her issues, however, are distorted and

commercialised for her financial benefit as well as that of many


Don’t get too excited about trying to unravel, understand, decompose

or dissect “Britney”.

From Kavn

This is in response to the article Hair today, mad tomorrow by

Nichi Hodgson

Great work. Nice to see new perspectives on female baldness… In the

Indian context, a widow is supposed to shave her head (as one of her

many distinguishing marks) and this is to prevent her from seeming

attractive as traditions oppose widow remarriage here (but not for

widowers). Men (who are not naturally bald) are also to do the same

on the death of a parent…

From Omar Iturbe

I have met many women who feel offended by sin city, an i found your

article very interesting. However, i believe all that comes precisely

from all that “tit and ass” on display that you mention. It makes woen

very uncomfortable and keeps them from having a centered judgement. I

believe the whole movie is about tough guys who give everything they

have to help women, and the only characters with real power in the

movie (other than corrupt politicians) are specifically women. Two of

the most important characters get killed for helping a woman and the

most deadly killer is indeed a woman. The women in “old town” are so

organised that even cops fear them, so the only problem here is the

distinctive portrayal of sexual roles and of course the vast exposure

of the female body. That generates an emotional disgust in many

feminist oriented women, and keeps them from being able to watch the

movie from a centered, sensible point of view.

From Karen James

Re: Taboo for who?: Although I think Karen Allen’s article ‘Taboo For Who’ is very

intelligent and well-thought out – she actually hasn’t got the

original origins of the term ‘cunt’ quite right.

Cunt originally was the technical – and quite proper – term used for

the female genitalia since before the Romans invaded Britain. In

those times, the main religion in this country was paganism/wicca.

Since these religions were as much about worship of the female as the

male – the word cunt’s true meaning was in fact ‘goddess’ or ‘high

priestess’. These were the names used for women in the highest ranks

of the pagan/wiccian religions – they still are today.

This means that the only true meaning of the word ‘cunt’ is the

highest honour for a woman and I enjoy explaining this to women who

cringe at the word, in the hope that I will empower them. Women who

feel this word to be a slur clearly don’t know about their heritage

(in fact – where are the women’s heritage lessons on the national


The Romans at this time were mainly all Christians and patriarchal –

they actually invaded Britain and brought Christianity with them.

Since they were a male-oriented society they did not like the

‘free-thinking’ women of Britain and so began a campaign of extreme

force to ensure that Christianity took hold – and any dissenting men

or women were considered ‘witches’ – hence this beagn what later

became the witch hunts and the burning of witches.

They also downgraded anything female by demonising such terms as

‘cunt’ – and as the centuries have passed, patriarchy has taken over

to do the rest.

Please be assured that I do not wish to offend anyone who is a

Christian – I am merely trying to explain where the term cunt really

comes from.

And not to be simplistic about men (or women) who call women cunts in

a defamatory way – because I realize for many women that this is a

horrible experience – but every time a man tries to use this most

ultimate of “insults” on me, I now say “Wow! Good grief – THANKS”!!!

It’s very nice to be called a goddess!!!

From Jan Hunt

The impact of words depends upon the social context within which the

word is constructed. Whether Cunt, Fuck, Dick etc are taboo or passe

depends upon the iconography and the social context surrounding the

words. Cunt may have been a well accepted social descriptor 1500

years ago but may be a derogatory term in current times. The power

of the word is part personal choice and part historical context.

Perhaps in the future the word “nose” will be derogatory. It depends

upon how society, norms and language develops.

In the meantime, best wishes and best fun with the use or application

of your favoured word “fuck” which I understand derives from the Latin


From Tanya Moir

Re: Dysfunctional, moi? The myth of female sexual dysfunction and its medicalisation: Jennifer Drew, THANK YOU. I have been waiting for someone to write

this article.

From Rebecca

Words of Encourgement and Praise:

Dear Author of ‘Dsyfunctional, Moi…?’

What a brave and wonderful article, I admire your strength and focus

on this incredibly important and relevant topic. I wonder though, how

‘modern life’ filled with stress and ‘time’ impacts upon your


From Anastasia Filippova

Re: Don’t cha wish pop was more empowering?: Hello! I’m a singer/songwriter, and I’m completely against this image

that women represent in music…and let’s be honest – most music

stars dress skanky!! But it’s always women – do you ever see men

running around in underwear in their music videos? Ok..maybe once!

Women act like they ‘love’ music, but really they are willing to do

anything for fame, and that’s what they love. I almost fell off my

chair when I found out there was a ‘Pussycat Doll Search” for member

#6 – one of my co-workers came up to me and asked me if I’d like to

participate in the competition. Of course I refused, and I had so

many people say: IT’s such a good opportunity, just go and get famous

with it….aaa…no thanks! So anyway:). Thanks for writing the

article – you’re only 21, and the article was sooo good!

From Guy List

Re: Hairy Women: Having just read the hairy women article commented by Lindsay i just

had to write in and say Bravo! You summed people’s attitudes towards

this subject up to a T and i fully endorse what you had to say.

I would consider myself a real mans man by most people’s standards

having been a Soldier,Doorman and now having been a Stuntman for the

last 15 yrs in the Film Industry. I feel todays obsession with body

hair removal for Women has just gone to far and is inherantly

un-healthy-my friends think im sick because i prefer the natural

look-how wrong is that!! Liking a Bald Vagina that looks like a 10

year old girl is ok though(not). What’s the world becoming when natural

is considered un-natural. Keep growing it ladys, you have my full

support and admiration and there are some REAL MEN out there that

actually like it.

From John Burridge

I’d like to applaud Abbey O’Reilly for her article Flicking the

bean. This was positive feminism, promoting women’s sexual needs

instead of condemning men’s. A breath of fresh air after all those

articles/comments moaning about ‘sexual objectification’ etc.

From God

My contribution to your insane male excluding forum is simply this;

today with pregnancy it is possible to determine the gender of your

child – please, for the sake of a male offspring and his life of

guilt and feminazi indoctrination DO NOT have a boy!

From Bloke

From what I can see feminism is a pathetic need for attention. Well

here\\\’s mine: you\\\’re all sad wenches with nothing better to do

with your time than attempt to belittle men and somehow define

yourselves as morally superior. You should be ashamed of your

right-wing hypocritical views on life and actually do something

constructive with your time than try and post the blame for all of

society\\\’s problems on the male populous.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Included because this is the first time I’ve heard feminism being derided for being too right wing, and it amused me. As did “Bloke’s” inability to master punctuation.

From Jillian Smith

I’m having real problems with the fact that there doesn’t seem to be

a UK based organisation like the US NOW.

Why is it that british feminists cannot seem to organise themsleves

to be a real political influence?

Am I missing something or are the Brits too comsumed by our

differences to stand together for what we all believe in?

From Tyrone

Re: The Pursuit of Happyness: read the book. I didn’t like the movie either, but not for the

reasons you suggest. You would get a lot more insight into the life

of Chris Gardner and the sruggles he faced growing up. The Movie is

grossly inacurate.

From Jay

How you seem to critisize the actual plot of the film, makes me think

how seriously you took that it was based on a true story. I just want

to remind you that it was, the only difference from the true

experience to the film is the time scale. Apparantly the real Chris

went through the hardships over a longer time period. So just dont

hate the film because of the story, because, well.. It’s true.

From Sam

Re: The mechanics of femininity: seriously, why get bothered by this? this guy is a car mechanic, a

manual form of employment rather than academic. Men only act this way

because really they have their own insecurities and wouldn’t want them

to be undermined by a woman, making them feel worse. Additionally, I

don’t know about the USA but in the UK where I am from, we have

insurance companies for women only because it is proven they are

safer drivers. Educated people do not judge others equally as

educated; ignorant men judge women and ignorant women allow

themselves to be judged. This is not meant to be judgmental I just

think its more important to rise above such ignorant people. If they

are narrow minded enough to say such things, then they will not have

the intelligence to be anywhere other than in the car garage… we

have many other opportunities on front of us.

From Julio Emprema

Re: Why men suck (and the women who have to): Men use (ostensibly young) prostitutes because they don’t want to have

sex with middle-aged or older women. There really is nothiing more to

it than that. Also, you don’t pay prostitutes for sex. You pay them

to go away.

From me, myself, I

Re: Men in feminism: I’m an American man. I make the distinction only because I’ve never

been abroad and have no idea what it’s like across the pond.

In my experience, men shy away from feminism because more often than

not we are not allowed to disagree on anything without being labeled

as threatened, dismissive, or chauvinistic and sent packing.

It seems that unless a man is submissive, he’s overbearing.

I’ve attempted to dialogue with feminists about this and only had my

questions and point of view evaded with the tactics previously


Both sides must be willing to listen and consider the other’s

argument as a starting point from which we move forward to

understanding, and eventually, hopefully, to consensus.

Peace, Love, Rock n’ Roll

From caitlin o’sullivan

Re: Fairy tales are Grimm: there are

a few points that i would like to make with regards to this.

She discusses the ‘prince charming’ effect of fairy tales though i

would like to point out that initially some of those well known fairy

tales (including cinderella) were written in france in the 17th

century in salons (high class womens living rooms) where women, and

men sympathetic to their cause, would meet and discuss the politics

of the day. The creation of these stories were a type of parlor game

where old folk tales were remastered. These were used as a way of

criticising the society they grew up in, where women were opressed

and forced into arranged marriages etc, and were commonly about

bright women becoming powerful etc.


She also discusses the use of step-mothers causeing children

psychological damage by making them see their own parents as evil. In

‘the uses of enchatment: the meaning and importance of fairy tales’

Bettelheim argues that the idea of step parents allows children to

hate see their parents as someone else while they are being told off,

for example. This means that they do not feel guilty for these

feelings, which would create more conflict within the child. So that

instead of creatng psychological damage the fairy tales in fact helps

to ease the damage done by such conflicts.

I would also like to point out that when fairy tales were first

published the stories were about the beauty underneath. There are

tales of princes falling in love with a princess who was disguished

as a bear. He falls in love with her because of her inteligence and

understanding not her looks. A good well known example would be

beauty and the beast, where she falls in love with the beast not the


I do not believe that fairy tales should be irradicated i strongly

belive that they have a possitive effect on children.

From ur-mums-boobs

Re: Page 3 – ban it!: i think they should nit ban it because it is good and it makes me


From Joe

In response to your article about banning page 3 girls, Why? This

country is becoming a laughing stock over these politically correct

issues. These girls pose voluntarily, the people buy the paper

voluntarily. Why do you have an issue over this? May I remind you

that God created humans naked, man created clothes. I can only assume

that you are questioning God’s judgement because you are unhappy with

what you have, and need to cover yourself up and therefore are

jealous of others? Am I right?

From Jenn

Re: ‘Feminists are sexist’: Another good response to men who claim that women should do the job of

fighting male stereotyping is to look confused and ask “are you asking

me to do it because you don’t think you’re capable of it? I think you

are – and I think that assuming women should do it is itself

stereotyped. Do you want me to do your ironing too?”

From Girish Sethna

Re: The farmer wants a wife, the wife wants a wife: JC Sutcliffe, (The farmer wants a wife, the wife wants a wife) leaves

out one solution. Why don’t more mums train boys to do the


When my mother came to Britain from India she got a shock. No

servants to do the housework for her. She decided that when she had

kids, they would learn how to do the housework so that they would be

able to be fully independent. As a result, I learned early on to do

the housework. I had to take my turn in doing the ironing, hoovering,

dusting and such as a kid. She always had us helping her in the

kitchen so that we would learn to cook as well.

There is a homo-paranoia, mainly among men, but also backed up by

some women that sees men as being ‘unmanly’ if they do housework.

It’s as if men are expected to be untidy scruffy vulgarians, because

somehow only women ‘worry’ about such things as housework.

But men who live alone have to think about housework at some point.

That many of them do it until they have a female partner when it’s

left to her is unacceptable. But how many women say that and demand

it be shared?

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word


  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds