Comments from July 2007

This month readers wonder about the practicalities of banana insertion, compose anti-feminist verses and stand up for the single life

, 11 August 2007

From Anj Green

Re: The F Word podcast: episode one!: Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed the podcast. Lots to learn

and one or two small points that I got all happy and “See? SEE? I’ve

been saying this for ages!” about in a

glad-that-someone-else-is-saying-it-too way. Looking forward to


From Charlotte

Hello :) I just listened to your podcast, and firstly- keep them

coming, I really enjoyed it! I think it is a really good medium to

discuss some of the issues you covered, I constantly wished I could

butt in and make a point!

I wanted to just mention one of the issues you raised in the second

podcast, specifically about female body hair.

I have not shaved my legs for the past 3 years- I remember, one day,

I just suddenly realised how I view it now- utterly monotonous and

pointless. As a result, now, I get my legs waxed about every 3

months, at the most. I actually spent about 9 months, maybe more,

where I didn’t touch them at all.

I don’t often wear skirts when I can avoid it (simply due to personal

preference), but occasionally I had to, meaning my legs were on

display. I recall many of you said that you were too scared of having

‘negative reactions’ to your legs- I in fact found that I was

relatively hassle-free. A couple of women made positive comments to

me about it in fact! I got the odd funny look from a few people, but

nothing more.

Interestingly enough, I found that the people who were most bothered

about my legs were in fact women! My boyfriend was entirely

nonplussed about it, my male friends were not that bothered, a couple

made jokes about it, but all the actively negative comments I ever got

were from female acquaintances. I found this very interesting- not

what I had expected. But my view is that this is because it is

particularly ingrained in the female psyche that there is some

‘objective beauty’, and it does not include hair- after all, it is

us, not men, who are the ones who are targeted with all the

‘anti-hair’ marketing. Gilette? Immac? You have blood on your hands.


What are your thoughts on this?

Anyway- I just wanted to say, keep up the good work, make another

podcast, and I hope (perhaps in vain) that I have added something to

this discussion :)

From Lorna Gregory

I listened to your podcast and the discussion about women with hairy

legs and armpits.

I am a women with hairy legs and armpits, I stopped shaving when I

was 20.

In some ways for me it was a way of reclaiming my body as my own. Not

shaving my legs allowed me to rebel against what mainstream society

thought my body should be.

To this day my hairy legs and armpits are the one thing about my body

I like and I can feel are truly my own. they are the one part of my

body that doesn’t feel like a battle ground, I have claimed them and


I do get nasty comments from people, mainly women (especially teenage

girls) and sometimes I am tempted to shave because of this(and for the

first year I did shave my legs from time to time), but in the last 2

years or so I have resisted the temptation and I feel happier for


I do not think women who shave their legs are being ‘unfeminist’,

after all this about being able to make your own personal choice.

Feminism allows me to not shave my legs but I wouldn’t want it to

dictate what I should do with my body.

Thanks for the podcast, I enjoyed it.

From Joanna

Hi, I have just listened to your podcast, and I wanted to say how much

I enjoyed it and I hope you continue to do them. Although I love

reading feminist sites, it was even better to hear a discussion. I

look forward to joining a feminist group soon so I can get involved

too. Reading is great, but discussion is essential – there are so

many complex issues that can make more sense when you talk them

through. Keep up the good work!

From Irina

Re: Yummy-mummy or pramface?: Yes, i agree with the author, all that attention to how quickly a

celebrity looses post-pregnancy weight and becomes pert again is

ridiculous and misleading. I also think all that army of celebrity

body-keepers wraps it up as a feminist desire not to let your body

suffer as a result of pregnancy, or wish not to sacrifice your body

and youth for motherhood. In a way, a good idea, but not in the way

they do it. It is too much strain and stress for celebrities, and if

they were not always under the public beady eye, I am sure, they

wouldn’t sweat it so much.

I think thinking women should just ignore celeb mags, then it will be

less pressure. Just don’t read it. Because otherwise , yes, you will

no longer be able to live without that bag or this newest pram which

costs an amount of somebody’s holiday. Out of sight, out of mind, I’d


But I also cannot agree with the author that I see other women I know

who are under pressure of perfect anything – body, childcare etc. No,

those women I know, who are mothers, don’t live as if they take each

tip from Heat magazine for guidance. These are quite middle class

educated professional women and they don’t have the dream life of

yummy mummies.

Actually, even looking at them, at people who were not poor to begin

with and who had kids, i see that i don’t want such lifestyle, not in

a million years. I definitely prefer “expensive white wine/better

holiday” variety.

I sometimes think that celeb mags make such a cult out of motherhood

in a sly propadandist way. Of course, if they wrote about grim

reality of it, who in their right mind would want to have children?

But if you portray it as if it’s an attractive lifestyle, then it is

a) pleasant to read about and b) someone may not even bother to get

that morning-after pill they initially thought of. So I see why they

do it and I see why we shouldn’t give a toss about it.

From Gayle

Re: I did it my way: I wholeheartedly identified with the author of the above article. At

33, unmarried and childless, I am continuously having to justify my

life choices to family, friends and colleagues. I have never felt

the least desire to get married or have children – I am very

independent-minded and happy to be single. Everyone around me,

however, assumes I am hiding my despair at not being part of a couple

beneath my cheery disposition, “Don’t worry, he’s out there” “You’ll

meet the right one someday”‘ they tell me. Thanks but I couldn’t

care less. I would rather focus on returning to post-grad education

to further my career which I plan to do this year. I date but I

don’t want to be in a serious relationship – why can’t people accept

this? My very worst experience was regarding the issue of not

wanting children. I returned to my local clinic to renew my

prescription for the contraceptive pill and I had some questions

about sterilisation as perhaps a future option. The (female) doctor

looked over my notes and commented that I had been on the pill for

some time and asked me my age (29 at the time). She then refused to

even discuss sterilisation (“It was ridiculous that a woman of my age

who hadn’t had children would even think about such a thing”) and

proceeded to harangue me about not wanting children. My

protestations were waved away and I was told “You must think

seriously about it now. You are not getting any younger and you may

leave it too late” and “Your partner may leave you for someone who

will have his children” etc etc. After 10 mins of this browbeating,

I left in a state of shock and actually burst into tears on the way

home. What I should have done was report the doctor for her

attitude. Why should women be practically forced into making life

decisions based on what society expects rather than what makes them

happy? Anyway, this was a great article, which I suspect will

continue to be relevant for a long time to come.

From Luna

I wish to thank you for writing such a wonderful article, which I

would like to decribe as a piece of art! Just like a creative artist

who cares only about his/her vision without succumbing to world’s

expectations, you wrote this article straight from your heart!

I faced a similar situation many times in my life as well, and I

daresay, so have many women. But what truly defines you is your

ability to prove to yourself, above all, that your life is meant to

be run by you alone, on your own values, and not on society’s norms.

It feels good to read another woman’s thoughts on this issue!

Rock on!

From Janine

thanks Emma for your thoughts on being single and living

independently. I really needed validating today for this is how I

live my live. Sometimes I can’t find role models who emulate this

single existence and I have felt like I am not normal. I am very

normal and I want to resist the pressures to be “normal,”. I love

being single and being able to do things and make my own choices in

the world. Thanks for writing this artile.

From Michelle Wright

Great article, with a really important message to get across. Women

today are still expected to get a man and settle down; it may be more

acceptable for women to delay marriage and motherhood for their

careers/independence, but it is still largely assumed that eventually

a woman will want/should settle down.

Like Emma, the idea of spending 50-odd years with the same person

fills me with dread. I don’t think that’s being selfish; in fact the

accusation that those women who shun relationships for autonomy are

selfish is just another manifestation of the feminine stereotype-

that women should be selfless and give themselves to others, never

mind what they actually want for themselves.

From Laura Woods

I just wanted to thank Emma Hadfield for her article on choosing to

remain unmarried and child-free. I am 23 and have known for many

years that I did not want children, and couldn’t see myself getting

married. No one believes me when I say this, people insist on telling

me that i’ll change my mind when I get older. Sometimes I find it

easier to just say “yeah, maybe…” and leave it at that, other times

I stand my ground. If I do stand my ground people tend to get angry.

I’ve got no idea why: I don’t really see what my choices about my

life have to do with anyone else.

The other day I was talking to my mum about a friends wedding, and I

started a sentence with “If I ever get married…”. That was as far

as I got before my mum cut in with “What do you mean “if”, of course

you’ll get married!”. I think she thought I meant it in a

self-pitying way, as in “if I ever find a man who wants to marry me”.

I explained to her that I didn’t mean that, that I’d said “if” because

I didn’t know if I ever wanted to get married, and that I didn’t think

it was really necessary. She left it at that but I’m not sure she

really understood.

Anyway, sorry for the long-winded comment! It’s so refreshing to hear

someone who doesn’t feel the need to apologise for making a choice

about her personal life.

From ingenious paradox

Just like to say that as a woman who has *always* wanted children, I

am fully in support of those women who don’t! (For one thing, it

leaves all the more room for us…)

From Irina

First, I think 28 is too early even to think, even in a sad,

“emotional” drunken state, that one will end up alone. So many things

will happen!

Second, reading the bit of the article, where the author says that a

certain stage in relationship, if you haven’t broken up by then,

requires “tolerance and sacrifice”, I just want to say: if life with

a bloke is not better, more fun, more interesting, with more

opportunities, with more learning new things, than a life on your

own, don’t live with him. The whole point of relationship, in my

view, is that it HAD to be better than living alone. If not, what’s

the bloody point?!

Especially if you are not hung up on having kids. I think not wanting

kids makes a woman freer, in that she doen’t so much depend on finding

Mr Right as the one who desperately dreams about a family. So, Emma is

in a better situation here.

I also cannot see any attraction in having a “normal family”,

although I am happily married now for 9 years. I haven’t seen all I

want to see, haven’t read all I want to read, there always be

restaraunts, conserts i want to go, so I prefer to spend my money and

time on other things, and not kids. Some couples can do a bit of

camping here and there on a cheap and then declare that they “have

seen it all” in a bit of a “tick that” mood and then proceed to

having kids as if to say: “and NOW we are havning a proper meaningful

adult life”, but I just know that it is not my style.

So, overall, not being worked up in a lather about having abloke and

children, like Emma says, is a good thing. Surely in this life there

are far too many other things that you cannot help worrying about.

From Louise Livesey

Samara – your article on the ‘Vagina Institute’ was fab. Thank-you! Just as a side question out of morbid curiosity – are you meant to

peel the banana before the banana test? If so how do you prevent it

mushing up during entry to the vagina? Surely you can only do this

if you have a large vaginal opening therefore defeating the purposed

point of the test? Inquiring minds (well alright, a feminism with a

sense of logic better than the ‘Vagina Institute’) want to know!

Samara Ginsberg, author of the article, replies

You’re definitely supposed to peel the banana first! I am assuming that the

“test” has to be conducted when one is in, um, an aroused state, otherwise

there’s no way you’d be able to shove it in, surely? They don’t, however, give

you any tips on how you’re supposed to get the bits of banana out after

you’ve successfully masticated them, which is what I was concerned about.

Surely it can’t be good for you, having fruit stuck down there? I wouldn’t

be surprised if it’s not possible anyway, unless you’re one of those

prostitutes that can fire ping pong balls out of your chuff – probably just

another thing they put in to make women feel that they’re in need of the

“services” on offer. Perhaps it’s the vaginal equivalent of the “pencil

test”, which as far as I can make out must be “failed” by anyone above an A

cup. This is bullshit, have a laugh about it, and don’t stick anything down

there that wasn’t designed for that purpose.

From Aurélien Selle

Excellent review! Thanks.

From Claire

In response to the article “Hey honey, your vagina needs a mint!” I’d

just like to say well done for the article and that while I’m

saddened about the Vagina Institute’s existence, I’m not at all


When I first started having sex (aged 16) I never even thought about

what my vagina looked like and whether or not it was ‘attractive’ or

‘feminine’. It just worked. And I had a happy enough sex life for

many years before one of my boyfriends – when I was 22 – complained

that it was too hairy. I was shocked and appalled, and a little hurt

too. What had it ever done to him except give him pleasure? The

ungrateful sod.

That particular boyfriend, as it turned out, was quite partial to

porn. Go figure. In fact I blame the infiltration of porn imagery

into mainstream culture for the whole rise of vaginal aesthetics. For

some reason, women’s magazines seem to have suddenly decided that porn

is just so damn cool that a woman simply has to be eeny weeny and bare

down there, or she’s letting the side down. I read an article recently

advising women on how to get the charmingly-named ‘porno-perfect

pussy’. Everywhere you look it’s ‘Brazilian’ this and ‘Hollywood’

that. Sex & The City had an episode where the characters gushed about

bare fannies, and Carrie wouldn’t have sex without being waxed first.

There’s so much judgement about vaginal ‘standards’ now that there’s

no wonder anxious women log onto websites such as The Vagina


I’ve not been immune to this growing social pressure and it makes me

angry to think that I suddenly have a problem with my own bits, to

the point where I’d feel self conscious about getting down to it with

a new lover. I long for the days when I was 16 and didn’t give a shit.

But despite this I have not succumbed to the razor, the wax strip or

any dodgy potion designed to ‘pretty up’ my lady garden. And I think

articles such as this one, highlighting the extreme stupidity of

judging your poor vagina like it was in Miss World (“and this fanny

has failed the swimsuit round for a noticeable pant moustache!”),

should be all over the mainstream media to counteract this miserable

and self-esteem bashing trend.

From Verde

It is both interesting and disappointing that this article didn’t

deconstruct the notion of ‘femininity’.

Femininity is not the quality of being biologically female, but the

quality of conforming to various socio-cultural constructs of what it

is to be female.

The author’s closing comment “Where I come from, in order to be

feminine all you need is two X chromosomes” reveals the general

ignorance about femininity. As femininity is a socio-cultural

construct, being in possession of two X chromosomes is neither here

nor there, as I suspect many feminine women who have been through the

process of gender reassignment, and who have XY chromosomes, would

attest to.

Feminism is done for if feminist writers are unable to broaden their

horizons, stretch their intellects and examine the language and

constructs which shape our society.

From Beth Speake

I agree with Laurie’s article regarding the absurdity of the ‘debate’

around size zero. Magazines suddenly deciding that they will

scrutinize women for being too thin instead of too fat have no

honourable intentions of broadening the spectrum of what is

considered attractive, only selling more copies of their magazines.

It also massively misinterprets the serious problem of eating

disorders, whilst subjecting people like my sister, anorexic for over

5 years, to the notion that she has chosen to starve herself in order

to get to a ‘size zero’ as pictured on the front cover of thousands

of magazines.

From Sarah

Good article and a topic still very much in need of discussion,

although I have to say I do disagree with many points. I think in

many ways the lines between eating disorders and extreme diets are

becoming blurred as to be virtually indistinguishable – looking at

society it now seems as if nearly all women suffer from eating

disorders in some form or other.. To consciously restrict calorie

intake when one is not overweight is surely deeply harmful to one’s

psychological well being – and yet it seems for women today, this is

considered the norm. Indeed, how does one go about labelling one

person, lets say Victoria Beckam, as just being obsessed with

dieting, and another as suffering from ‘a far more complex

psychological disorder, often stemming from deep, long-standing

self-esteem issues and triggered by specific personal trauma’? Surely

to severely restrict one’s food intake to the extent that collar bones

jut out and that one feels dizzy from eating only lettuce all day is

in itself a psychological disorder, whether it stems from sheer

obsession with one’s appearance or from personal trauma? I don’t

think that one can completely separate and disassociate a clinically

diagnosed eating disorder with what most women in our society

experience on a daily basis – that is, obsession with weight, caused

by exposure to a media that presents us with these fake ideals.

You point out that 10% of those suffering from eating disorders are

men – yet that’s still a whopping 90% that are women – why should

this be? Is it just pure coincidence that probably around 90% of

advertising campaigns use women’s bodies to sell products.. It is a

fact as far as I’m aware, that eating disorders do not really exist

in other cultures that do not hold up thinness as a physical ideal.

And the media-driven, sexist culture that we are part of affects all

women, which is why I think so many women do suffer from these

disorders. To me, the image of ‘Angela’ swanning around Harvey Nicks

and starving herself is every bit as real – and every bit as tragic

as those who are being treated for diagnosed eating disorders.

From Rachel Littlejohn

It could also be argued that by focusing on women’s bodies; the mass

media ensure that we’re sufficiently distracted not to challenge more

political inequalities.

From Connie

I was really glad to read your recent article about the ‘size-zero’

frenzy currently doing the rounds in the media. It has bothered me

for some time that I hear ignorant statements about eating disorders

during ‘debates’ about the perceived problem, all of them overlooking

the fact that eating disorders are mental illnesses. One does not

become an anorexic by looking at a few too many pictures of Nicole

Richie, although the way ‘size-zero’ has been spun this seems to be

actually believed by many. So once again the seriousness of these

illnesses is belittled constantly by the media, turning all sufferers

into silly little girls with an over-zealous interest in fashion and


From Anna

In response to Laurie Penny’s Size Zero article: Thank you for going

some way towards explaining that “Size Zero” is not the point.

Unfortunately the start of the article is somewhat confusing. In the

fourth paragraph the writer states that “a UK women’s dress size

four” indicates “a body-mass index typical of a severely underweight

young woman”. Rubbish! At 163cm tall I have a BMI of 19.5 (rated as

normal, although as a healthy caucasian it seems I am anomilous

according to statistics quoted in the article) and typically wear a

UK size 6 although more and more often have to opt for UK size 4 when

the 6 is too big. For shorter women (and there are a lot in the UK,

average height according to a 2004 survey by the NHS of women over 16

in the UK is 161.4 cm) wearing a UK size 4 does not indicate the

wearer is at all underweight, they are simply “small” all over. The

writer seems here to have become mixed up between actual clothes

sizing and BMI (a figure describing ratio of height to weight).

UK clothes are getting bigger! I have a collection of vintage dresses

which all fit on me and range up to a UK size 14 (Marks and Spencer

’60s). I have neither lost or gained weight in the past 8 years but

have gone from buying new clothes in a size 8 or 10 to a size 4 or 6.

Of course if I were to fit in these clothes and was tall enough to be

considered as a fashion model (most agencies state their lower cut

off point for women at 173cm) I would have to be proportionately a

lot thinner and thus probably be unhealthy, but the article does not

seem to be written about models but about the general population.

Wearing “Size Zero” is not in itself an indication of a problem with

the wearer, it is an indication of the ridiculous fact that year by

year standard clothes sizes are getting bigger in order to flatter

fatter generations.

Angela, the fictional woman who opens the article, seems to have no

problem in finding clothes to fit her little frame. I’d like to be

able to afford to shop where she does. It has become increasingly

difficult for me to find clothes which fit properly as many shops

don’t stock sizes below 8 or 10. Of course I am lucky enough to be

able to avoid VAT and buy childrens clothes in some cases, but these

are not designed to navigate a woman’s curves so items such as jeans

and dresses are out of the question and I spend a lot of time putting

darts into shirts. George at Asda and Topshop are two of the few shops

I can frequently find clothes in a size 4 and I am relieved to be able

to find them.

UK size 4 is (limitedly) available not in order to exasserbate eating

disorders but because some people are smaller than others and because

the UK market has had to make room for an expanding population.

Laurie Penny, author of the article, replies

I understand you point all to well, being myself a UK size 6-4 who has trouble finding clothes! I myself wear a ‘Size Zero’ when I can find it in the shops. I, too, am ‘simply small all over’ (at 4ft 11!), and I am more than aware that body mass index and dress size have little to do with one another. Occasional frustrated shopping trips aside, however, this has never been much of an issue for me – if anything, it stops me spending my student loan on unnecessary clothes!

My very point was that ‘Size Zero’ a hugely misleading term. Of course not everyone who is ‘size zero’ is unhealthy, in the same way that not everyone who has an eating disorder is a ‘Size Zero’, or even ‘underweight’. This article was intended to shed light on some of the dangerous and untrue stereotypes about eating disorders that have been circulating in the media in recent months.

Finally, it should be clear that ‘Angela’ is an imaginary character – the expensive shops in which she spends time and money were specifically chosen to remind readers of the fallacy of the stereotype which associates eating disorders, anorexia in particular, with frippery, fashion-consciousness and excessive self-indulgence.

From Romilly

About bloody time – someone talking sense!

As someone who used to suffer from anorexia, it was spot on. Eating

disorders are terribly destructive both physically and mentally – I

wasted so much valuable time obsessing about food and being thin –

the nation’s current obsession (i.e. more that usual) with extreme

thinness is just depressing. Women amount to more than their jean

size – that’s the message we should be hammering home to our

friends, lovers, sisters and daughters. Thanks for the great article.

From Rhiannon

Re: Why replication isn’t subversion: Louise Livesey says in her article on t-shirt slogans that she

“absolutely reserve[s] the right for feminists to contextually

subvert the patriarchal meanings of these t-shirt slogans in their

own way.” I’d like to invite her (or others) to suggest contexts in

which the slogans she discusses (e.g. “No time to fuck”) would be

read as subversive and feminist. For example, is a power-dressed

businesswoman on the Tube wearing a blouse which says ‘no time to

fuck’ feminist (because she is taking control of her own life and

holding down a respectable job, and has broken away from being a

sexual object) or is it a cruel reminder of the fact that in order to

succeed in the ‘man’s world’ of the City she must give up her

sexuality, which would not be demanded of a man in that position?

From Catherine

I completely agree with you. Nothing makes me angrier than the

so-called “ironic” embracing of offensive terms, images, themes. To

me, an “ironic” or “tongue-in-cheek” video clip featuring 50 women in

string bikinis is still offensive. unless there is an added message

to make it clear, how does it stop being offensive simply because the

creator calls it ironic?

Same goes for these t-shirts, as far as I’m concerned. And in my

experience, a hell of a lot of people dont even get/detect irony,

even when someone else might think its blindingly obvious. when a guy

sees a woman wearing a t-shirt saying NOBODY KNOWS I’M A LESBIAN, I

bet my life that he isnt thinking “wow, there’s a subversive feminist

over there”. its laughable.

I suspect that one possible reason you have had no further reply from

those posters is that their argument doesnt stand up to even the

slightest scrutiny, so the discussion has run its course.

Anyway, thanks for a good article. My only critique would be that it

isnt worded strongly enough – ha ha!

Myabe I’m just too angry???

From Helen

Re: Girls play violent games too: With regard to the post “Girls play violent video games too”, there

was recently a couple of very interesting articles about violent

video games in the 21st April edition of the New Scientist. These

indicated that scientific evidence for a link between media violence

and aggression is very strong: “Meta analysis shows that the

statistical correlation between exposure to media violence and

aggression is not quite as strong as that linking smoking to an

increased risk of lung cancer. It is, however, double the strength of

the correlation between passive smoking and lung cancer, twice as

strong as the link between condom use and reduction in risk of

catching HIV, about three times the strength of the idea that calcium

increases bone strength, and more than three times as strong as the

correlation between time spent doing homework and academic

achievement”. Worth a read.

The main article also contains this interesting snippet: “Jonathon

Roberts of Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that women, who

usually fare worse than men at spatial rotation tests, improve when

exposed to 3D video games (whereas men did not) to the point where

the sex difference disappears”. I found this interesting, since it

implies that women are less good at spatial skills because the roles

we typically perform in society mean that we are less practised at

these skills, rather than any innate difference in ability between

men and women. Presumably the same applies to men and communication


From Helen

Re: We all want an alpha-male, apparently…: I enjoyed Abby O’Reilly’s post “We all want an alpha male apparently”.

I happen to find physically powerful men attractive, but not for the

reasons that Daniel Miessler suggests. I like them because they look

fit, healthy and cuddly, and I also like the way they can be used to

loom threateningly behind me when I go into shops to complain about

things. I do however also like them to be kind, sympathetic and nice

to talk to. In short, if I am honest, I want a sexually attractive

man who will be nice to me, and if required, protect me and my

children. It is this last point I think, where men like Daniel

Miessler get confused, thinking women such as me like men who are

bastards. I might like a man who is a bastard TO OTHER MEN, but only

if he was always nice to me. If he was aggressive and nasty TO ME,

then he would be completely pointless, wholly undesirable and left

well alone. Fortunately, in my experience, lots of men do exist who

are in fact aggressive and critical of other men, but very kind to

women. They are lovely.

From Damon

Re: Things not to do if you have breasts #2: I don’t think it is necessarily wrong to request that a woman with

her breasts (cleavage) exposed either covers up or relocates to a

different area of the bus outside the vision of the male driver. I

think yelling down the aisle barking commands was the wrong way to go

about it, he should have been discreet.

What we have to take into consideration, is that men do get

distracted by breasts, thongs, mid riffs, etc. It is a biological

response. I’m not suggesting that men totally lose control, but they

do lose some control, hence their loss of ability to concentrate.

To be blunt, if this man was feeling particularly horny, then he is

much more likely to be distracted by exposed breasts. It is a

perfectly legitimate request for the man to ask (politely and

discreetly) for the woman to be considerate.

Yes, women should be able to wear whatever they want, but in some

instances a degree of modesty is necessary. The male bus driver is

responsible for the lives of his passengers. He made the right call,

but went the wrong way about it.

From Edward

The bus driver was in the right. The woman may have gotten

humiliated, but at the price of a decreased risk to the other

passengers. It is not his fault he got distracted, he is only male,

and he went about the appropriate actions to solve his distractions.

Maybe the woman will think twice before walking about with her titties

practically hanging out now.

Lynne Miles, author of the blog post, replies

Thanks for your incisive comments, Edward.

That’s a very low opinion of men you have there. And they say feminists are the man-haters?

From Anni Wilson

Re: Loose Women: In response to your comments about ITV’s Loosewomen TV show.. well

said, I totally agree! The first time I watched LW I felt embarrassed

to be female. It’s like the TV equivalent of the Jeremy Vine show –

“How would you feel if a known paedophile lived in your street?..

Ring us on…” – style of journalism.

The only person on the LW show who is anything approaching normal is

Carol McGiffin. Often mocked by the other presenters as depressing,

confrontational, extremist (?) and straight-talking because she

doesn’t fit into their perception of how a woman in her 40s should

behave (no steady man, no kids, going out socialising and enjoying

herself, god forbid). Give Carol her own grumpy old woman show, I


The other presenters are tokens of everything people dislike about

stereotypical women, totally “not in my back yard”, closed-minded

Daily Mail readers. It’s almost a comedy, and I’m waiting for it to

be parodied on an alternative comedy show. Sadly it’s far from

entertainment as daytime fodder for the long-term unemployed.

From Rei

Regarding article on ‘Loosen Women’, a brilliant critique of one of

the most irritating programmes ever to stain our screens. Nailbombing

it too good for them (especially Carol McGiffon).

From pip lewis

Re: Lifting the veil on mothers and daughters: Lifting the veil on mother and daughters

It was so good to read this article,it is a crucial issue that is so

neglected in our lives as women.It would be amazing to see this

thinking developed into a book.

From leanne pucik

Re: A bride by any other name: i have just read eleanor taylor speaking about name changes in

marriage, i have always said i wanted to keep my own name if i were

to get married and when i have mentioned this to anyone i have had a

similar reaction, some even think it is selfish. it is the couples

choice not everyone elses

From Marie

It’s so refreshing to hear a new view on this subject. It is

something I have felt strongly about all my life.

My surname is a common one, but it is my name, one I have had all my

life, the one I have registered academic, personal and work triumphs

against. I struggle with the idea that just because I have found the

man with whom I wish to spend the rest of my life, that I should

automatically take his name.

It’s a tricky situation – take hers, take his, take both, take

neither – made worse by the fact that there is a weight of societal

expectation on all of us to do what everyone else does.

For me, the name should be a symbol of a union, which is why I would

prefer both parties to take a new double barrelled name. This would

represent both the union and the dual heritage of both children.

Whatever my children do after that is their call. As you say, my

name, my choice.

The sad thing is that I am not at all sure that this will ever come

to pass. I imagine there is a fairly small band of men in this world

who would take such an open minded approach and decide it jointly as

you and your husband did. I live in hope that their numbers


From Bob

Re: Rape – is it our fault?: It seems to me that sentiments such as ‘the woman is never to blame

for being raped’ stem from a belief that women should be able to live

their lives free from personal responsibility or are held to lower

standards of responsible behaviour than are others.

[From the article] “Does a woman drinking alcohol, maybe becoming

drunk, make a man or for that matter another woman attack her?”

Being drunk decreases her ability to defend herself and will cause

potential assailants to identify her as an easy target and be more

likely to make an attempt at attacking or raping her.

[From article] “It incenses me that women are still being told to act

appropriately in order to reduce the risks of being assaulted.”

Being told to act in a responsible manner to reduce danger to

yourself is common and accepted in almost every situation imaginable.

I can’t understand how anyone could feel incensed by this. Why is such

a suggestion unreasonable – why are women not expected to safeguard

their own personal safety? Do you have a similar reaction to

suggestions relating to other situations, such as that people avoid

injury and loss by not driving while drunk and leaving their

valuables unattended, or is it specifically because ‘rape’ is the


From article] “So are women to blame? Of course not! There is never

an excuse for violence.”

I wish to point out that I believe and understand that when someone

is raped, whether they were drunk and what they were wearing and so

on are irrelevant, it’s still rape, the rapist is the one choosing to

rape and the rapist should be prosecuted.

I also understand that this is an imperfect world – it is one in

which if you do something stupid you will probably get hurt and if

you make yourself vulnerable there will likely be someone nearby to

exploit you.

To make a statement like ‘women are never to blame’ suggests that

women have no control over which situations they put themselves in

and the risks they expose themselves to.

Women do have this control and can (and should) choose to use it – to

suggest otherwise is to infantilize them.

I think that putting the focus of anti-rape campaigns on men who

might choose to rape would be largely futile.

Those inclined to engage in any sort of criminal activities already

know that these actions are criminal and are not going to be deterred

by being reminded of this.

The only effective option is to make attempts at criminal behaviour

as difficult and costly as possible. In many cases this can only be

achieved by exercising personal responsibility.

Dwysan Edwards, author of the article, replies

The statistics speak for themselves. We all have personal responsibility including men who decide to rape. It’s not against the law to drink or wear a short skirt. It is against the law to steal and to drink whilst driving. Unfortunately your arguments in this case simply do not make any sense. However I appreciate you taking the time to respond and again stress that your response in future should be to the audience of the F Word by writing your own article and not attacking someone else’s opinion.

From want to be unknown

Re: WAG do you want to be when you grow up?: sooo wat exactly are you implying with your artical about wags babe?

yes all of that is wat has happened,but wat is your point on wags uv

just stated wat we have seen in the media about them?

From Marilyn Ramos

Re: Oh, Mr Darcy!: Mr. Darcy is not attractive in view of the fact that that he is a

patriarch, but the sole reason that he did everything in his power to

fix his past mistakes for love. When men are willing to forget

impertinence for affection, they simply become irresistible in the

eyes of the women they are endeavoring. It is that fact that makes

Mr. Darcy considered a gentleman and charming amongst women.

Jess McCabe , editor of The F-Word, replies

Yes, the perfect man is one who is willing to forgive our impertinence. During the process of endevouring us.

From Maureen Hannon

I found Sheryl Plant’s article on Mr. Darcy, whom she describes as

“brutal,” “violent,” and

domineering,” to be quite amusing. Her assessment of him as the

archetypical abusive male is much more descriptive of Wickam than

Darcy. I’m left to wonder if Ms. Plant actually ever read Pride and


From her evaluation of Darcy’s underlying motives and

abusive nature toward women, it doesn’t appear so – if she did, I

can’t believe she actually understood what Austen intended in

creating this character, who broods, not because of his need to

dominate women but because of his insecurities with society in

general – his lack of ease with both men and women in conversation,

and his distrust of the women of his day, who threw their daughters

at him in the hopes of securing their own family fortunes.

Given the

example of Elizabeth’s mother, can we really blame him? A good

offense, after all, is often the best defense. As we learn at the

end of the book, however, Darcy himself recognizes his failings and

thanks Elizabeth for rightly calling him on his pride, rudeness, and

disdain for others’ feelings.

This novel is about the kind of

emotional growth that we all want in our men. I married a man very

much like Mr. Darcy, and although there were many tough years getting

through his thick walls (most of them erected in defense of women who

treated him badly), I’m so grateful I hung in there. P & P is much

more Elizabeth’s story than Darcy’s, and anyone who has actually read

the book (not just watched the films) already knows that Elizabeth

sets Mr. Darcy on a more evolved path in his dealings with both women

and men. She was, after all, the first real fictional feminist in

English literature, but happily, also a woman who is capable of

seeing – and loving – this man for who he really is; and not just a

one-dimensional caricature that serves to make the author’s point.

Darcy is a man who was never taught that gentleness, civility and good

manners are a far more successful means of attracting others to us

than pride and rudeness. There are plenty of men out there who fit

Ms. Plant’s description of brutality and violence against women.

Unfortunately for the readers of this article, Mr. Darcy isn’t one of

them. To Ms. Plan’ts readers: please don’t dismiss this classic,

brilliantly written gem of a story because Ms. Plant missed the

entire point of the book. Mr. Darcy is, in fact, a wonderful study

in how men can – and do – change. Let’s drop the hyperbole and

finally come to grips with who we are as feminist women, and start

helping men evolve into who they can be as men.

From Nisa

Re: Female commentator kicks off barrage of sexism: The point for me is that the vast majority of sporting events they

comment on is male sport!

It’s ironic that in the UK during the 1920s womens football teams

(mainly composed of workers from factories, offices, etc) were

numerous and popular and attracted great crowds. Until the Football

Association, worrying that women’s football was taking over, banned

women’s teams from all the big places. So now we have the situation

today where female tv football commentators are never commenting on a

women’s football match!

Here endeth today’s history lesson.

From Darren

The article, “25 Burning Questions” was outstanding. -DWL, Boston, MA,


From Emma Owen

I want to comment on the article to breastfeeding by cathryn dagger. I

have just read your article and nearly cried! I desperetly wanted to

breastfeed my baby (now 7 months)and gave up after 4 days, having the

same problems as you. Recently after the birth of some of my friends

babies and watching them breastfeed I have been beating myself up

about the fact that I didn’t and feeling as though I missed out on a

bonding experience that I will never get back. However reading your

article has reminded me what it was like and again the contentment of

alfie once I had given him his first bottle, and the relief me and my

husband both felt. Thankyou. I feel I have been letting this build up

inside me and now feel a sense of relief xx

From steve wilson

Dear Holly,

I read,with great delight,your

review of Amy Winehouse.

Face it,after forty yrs of

feminist training,many women

just flat like the idea of a

strong,yes,strong man.

I love Amy,I love her confusion,her passion,her


Try just letting some women think the way they naturally

do,and accept it.

It will ease your frustration

with your shrinking feminist


Best Regards,


Holly Combe, author of the article, replies

“This poet’s “great delight” leads me to suspect that

he has conveniently ignored the nuances in my piece

and, instead, would prefer to imagine the writer as an

angry red-faced ninny, shaking her fist while the rest

of the world laughs and points at her futile

“frustration.” To be honest, I’m really not sure where

he got the impression that I harbour some tyrannical

desire not to “let some women think the way they

naturally do” but the notion certainly seems to have

made him very happy. I hate to be a spoilsport but

perhaps he needs to read the review again?

As he rightly says, some women *do* “just flat like

the idea of a strong man” but what about men who like

the idea of a strong woman? Are they just going to

have to accept the demand that *they* “should be

stronger”? Would a male singer expressing his wish for

a woman to be stronger than him be praised for his

“confusion, passion and honesty”? I think not. Of

course, I hope I’m wrong but it’s not a sentiment I

often hear expressed in songs sung by men. Perhaps

readers could send me lots of heartening examples that

suggest traditional gender roles no longer hold any

real power in society anymore?

While they’re at it, they might want to tell me all

about this “shrinking feminist nation” that I have

managed to inhabit without realising. (I know it

rhymed but, really, that’s just plain silly isn’t


From Leanne

Re: Hardcore: i have always been neutral in regards to porn but after reading about

the way ‘felicity’ was treated when she was persuing the path to

pornstardom i was appalled and discusted

From Jessica

Re: Attention seeker: I’d just like to say how much I enjoyed Rosa’s article in response to

Sara Cox’s rant on BBC radio. I am also a sixth form student and I

think more girls of this age should have similar views. It was very

funny and refreshing to read.

From Bonnie Walsh

Re: Don’t cha wish pop was more empowering?: This artical was fantastic. It is so true. At the moment in school I

am writing an assignment on how women are potrayed in the Music

industry, This artical was very useful. I 100% support what was said,

I wish there was more artists like Pink and the Spice Girls. I am also

major fans of them. I wish all the very best fighting this battle that

needs to be won.

From T. Morrin

Ok, so,thanks to the Guardian I have began readin the F word, and it

is wonderful. A breath of fresh air (Well, fresh for me anyway!)

Slight problem with “Don’t cha wish pop was more empowering?” (I

know it was written a year ago, but let me vent!) Pink, whose song

lyrics are indeed anti-conformist, sends out the exact mixed messages

that the author bemoans. Firstly, here in Ireland our Tabloids got

their chance to be Brit-like by publishing prominently the fact that

she had topless lady dancers at her concert in Dublins Point Depot,

snogging each other. “Straight-looking” (A term I hate, but please

allow it) topless women kissing each other in front of a presumebly

mostly female crowd surely is a perfect example of the mixed messages

referred to? Further, in her video for stupid girl, while decrying the

stupid girls who writhe around in bikinis and nowt much else, she

writhes around in a bikini and nowt much else in scenes that were

reminiscint of a carry on film. Just a comment!

From JK Rowling IS GOD!

Re: Paper d: searching for women within Kerrang Magazine: This article by Collette on Kerrange magazine really made my day. In

Australia, we also have Uk Kerrange, and Blunt Magazine. I had aso

noticed Kerrange’s attitude towards women in the industry. I gave up

on it a year ago, and started reading Kerrange. Recently I came

across a full page ad for Mobile King, depicting half naked women. I

emailed the editer and told him how I felt about it’s representation

of women and the message this sends to female fans. He responeded the

day after, explaining that the magazine does not choose which ads it

puts in, and that he agrees that the ad was tacky and hopes that the

magazine covers both male and female artists… well, it does more

than Kerrange, any way. Suprising it was the letter of the month next

issue. I have since never seen a biased ad yet. I am glad that there

is somebody else who sees this problem with music mags. I love female

rockers, esp Karen O, Melissa Auf der Maur, Shirly Manson, Amy Lee,

Gallhammer, and many of the others Collette mentioned. I am yet to

see them recognised by these mags, however. This article has inspired

me to write yet another letter, spewing of all the female talent sadly


P.S. Yes, Emo is a load [at]#$!

From Snusket

Re: The farmer wants a wife, the wife wants a wife: It seems that mostly american women have this problem with men not

doing their home-duties. well, here in europe in most countries

(sepcially in the north) we have no trouble with that at all. washing

machine? big deal? vaccum cleaining- sure. dishes- well, come on.

cooking the dinner- sure thing! the thing is, maybe in the US you

have bad confidence in your guys. tell them, show them, and they will

do it. else, leave them.

Jess McCabe , editor of The F-Word, replies

Last time I looked, the UK was still in Europe. That said, good advice about leaving men who treat you like a maid!

From Rachel Littlejohn

I was appalled to realise that whilst at uni, my friends and I had

fallen into just such a trap. We’re all enlightened, intelligent

women who socialise with men who are the same; and yet when it came

to certain situations; we were replicating the same patterns that for

so many decades our mothers, and our mothers mothers have fought to

break free from. Why, when male friends come over for dinner, do we

cook and then clear the plates? Or in a mixed group, the female

guests will immediately rise to help wash dishes as soon as

everyone’s finished but the men don’t? It may seem insignificant but

it’s these tiny disparities that end up contributing to lifetimes of

thankless and expected servitude.

From Joan Holmes

Re: More than just ‘;Jam and Jerusalem’: why we should join the Women’s Institute: I;m sure that WI members would welcome folk from other ethnic groups

and creeds with open arms if they showed an interest, but why should

they stop singing Jerusalem or ending with The Queen. Surely people

come to our shores to join in, integrate, be British and don’t expect

us to change, just to be included and an effort made to get to know

them. Indeed I wonder if many would want to belong anyway. Perhaps it

is not their thing.

Jess McCabe , editor of The F-Word, replies

I think this is a bit problematic: not least because of the assumption that coming to live in the UK means abandoning all ties and assimilating. Indeed, some people come to the UK to escape torture, persecution and death, not just to “join in” with our activities. Perhaps more people would want to join the Women’s Institute, if it didn’t chose a song which takes patriotism to the rather ridiculous point of suggesting that Jesus took a quick trip to Glastonbury before ascending into heaven, just to show how brilliant England is compared to everywhere else.

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