Comments from August 2007

What you had to say about The F-Word in August

, 5 September 2007

From Jan

Re: Coitophobia: who do you trust?: I really identified with this article about men and violence. I was

one of those women. My first experience of sex was rape and I went on

further to endure abusive relationships, being threatenned by men and

forcefully fucked. I am single, I am lesbian. I don’t accept the idea

that a woman is incomplete without a man and I get tired that the myth

is perpetuated by society. The person who seems to perpetuate this the

most is my mother, who I love dearly. I do feel so complete in many

other ways and I know that being single and female over 35 is

actually really liberating. Thanks for writing this. Much love and

light to all women who experience violence and oppression on any

level. Buddhism and femminism go hand in hand.

Maria Roberts, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your comments. I’m glad it reached

out to you; I think women who have been through tough relationships

so often get stigmatised, it’s good to provide alternative pictures.

It’s been very hard for me to actually talk about all this some seven

years later, the play has kind of encouraged me to do so, and so it’s

worth it if someone who has been through a similar situation says

they identified with it.

From Irina

Despite the fact that the article “Coitophobia -who do you trust?”

concentrates on the play Maria Roberts wrote, the art side of it

wasn’t what deeply touched me. (I am quite often unimpressed by art

but absolutely taken aback by authors’ real lives.)

That Maria suffered such abuse made me extremely angry. I coudn’t

stop thinking that the only conclusion from the whole article i can

make is never deal with any man who is either sad or angry.

Especially angry. Men go on a lot about their anger and have no

problems with expressing it, while women suffer quite often as a

result and suppress their own anger.

What made me absolutely indignant is the fact that a young women who

could have great 20-s by studying, partying, living carefree fun life

like many other young women do, had to go through all this just

because of one fucked-up arsehole. I wish EVERY woman would be able

to say in a situation like this to an unbalanced partner: you are not

good enough for me, get out of my life, this is not what i want.

When i think why this sometimes doesn’t happen i suspect that a wish

not to appear “selfish” is what killing (and in literal sense too)

these women. That they somehow think they have to be kind,

understanding towards men with problems. As a result, these women

stay by those men for years, tolerate abuse, give birth to their

children. I am angry that such myths fuck up young women’s lives. I

don’t know the nature of Maria feelings towards her abuser, I am not

talking about her now, but about other women who might feel they

should be gentler and sympathize. No, we musn’t. To hell with those

who think you should be an angel, run away from anybody displaying

dodgy personality traits (and women need to be educated to spot them

early enough). You don’t need a boyfriend “with problems” (failed

artist/ unaknowledged genius/ traumathised in childhood or somenone

“who just made a mistake in life”). You need someone who will love,

adore and respect you, problematic people should apply to social

sercvices, not to your life. We deserve a good happy life, not a hell

because of your “fate” or unlucky chance. I am so insistent on this

also because in the country of my birth, Russia, male alcoholism is a

serius problem and many women of older generations not only blamed

themselves for their husbands drinking but also for their not being

able to save them. They lived horrible miserable lives, which could

be changed if they thought about themselves and what THEY want to

happen in their lives. If only those women said: to hell with you and

your problems, they are not mine, I don’t want such shit in my life, i

want happiness – if only they could be unashamed about desire for

happiness, and didn’d feel guilty that they want pleasures and not

tears, i think a lot of these stories of abuse didn’t happen. But the

myth of female self-abnegation and selflessness which women

internalize is responsible for the fact that refuge centres are

always full and 2 women a week are killed. Fear to look and act

selfish kills.

Maria Roberts, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your comments. In many respects you are correct: it’s this idea to help that makes women stay – initially but I think this changes over time. Women don’t fall in love with violent men, they fall in love with men who then become violent, at first they want to help because they don’t wish to see the worst, then it becomes impossible to leave. In my case, at least, it was dangerous to leave, you truly do believe they will kill you and the police….well they are a load of crap. Or they were then, things are slightly different now. But I’m glad that you commented on the piece, thank you.

From Karly Henne

Re: Skirting the issue: Actually, commercially made reusable pads do have a plastic layer –

the Wemoon pads do, and they are fantastic. Most patters also

recommend inserting a layer of water-resistant fabric to stop

leaking. They work very well. I’ve been using them with a “keeper”

(like the moon cup) for several years, and would highly recommend it.

Not only is better for my own health and the environment (less

chemicals, less waste) but I am much more comfortable as well!

From Kate

Reusable pads get my vote. I am telling all my friends to try them.

I have been using Lunapads for 6 months now (for an initial outlay of

£50 – which is more than enough for a heavy week) and I won’t go back

to the plastic backed disposables. Lunapads are washable towels made

up of a base pad with a snap fastening (like wings) to attach to your

knickers, and then absorbent liners (with or without wings and of

varying lengths) which you can make as thick or thin as you need and

are held securely in place with a thin elastic front and back.

I find that washable pads are best because they are made from natural

fibre and so they are a lot more comfortable, especially in summer.

There is also no need to wash them during the day if you are out

(this was my biggest worry) – I have found that a swapping about of

layers does the job whilst at work.

From sian

Really interesting article. I am also pissed off a lot of the time by

the patronising tosh that fills tampon adverts – particulalry the one

with the boyfriend and the sweets/tampon – it makes no sense!

i read in alien she about how tampax etc often contain bleach and

other chemicals not for hygiene or any beneficial reasons, but

because they look clean and fresh. i completely balk from putting

bleach etc inside me, and so, although i haven’t venturd in to the

realms of moon cups, i do try and but organic and natural tampons

when i can. the problem is, they are only available in a few (ie

organic supermarket) shops, which can make it tricky when you get

caught. but the more women turn to alternative products, then the

greater availability and the greater awareness that bleach and

unnatural fibres aren’t very good for inside you.

From Virago Bites

I’ve recently converted to the

Mooncup and I absolutely love it. The first period is a nightmare as

you get used to it, but after that there is no going back. I wore a

tampon as a stop-gap one day and it felt so unnatural inside of me,

strangely a latex cup in unnoticeable compared to a regular tampon. I

really urge anyone to give the cup a try for a few cycles, once you’re

used to it it’s like not having a period – I can leave mine in for 12

hours at a time. The menstrual cup support community

is a godsend for

any issues you might have.

The more I see scented tampons, tampons with skirts and ‘fresh

feminine wipes’ the more enraged I become at the marketing of

menstrual products. Told that our cycle and vaginas are dirty and

shameful, ever more gimmicky products are shoved down our throats

trying to make us spend more and ultimately fill up more landfill. At

least the various menstrual cups aren’t marketed so cynically, and you

only need a few in a lifetime.

From rachel goodall

Re: Abby Lee – girl with (not just) a one-track mind: If you read the blog part about types of one night stands you will see

that she laments the fact that most of them are disappointing and

that the best, the “lovers” are few and far between.Besides the fact

that most “lovers2 are in relationships what else does it tell you

that she looks for in a ONS? Also Ihave read the blog from Jan 2003

to Dec 2005 and there is not that much sex going on at the present-

only 5 partners within 2 years. On top of that , she claims she wants

a relationship and that ONS are emotionall unfulfilling.

Abby O’Reilly, author of the article, replies

Thanks for your comment on the Abby Lee interview. It was fantastic that

Abby was able to answer so many questions in so much depth. But I would also

like to address a few issues you raised. I think it is too reductive to say

that Abby finds one-night stands unfulfilling, as she definitely promotes

the idea that women should have a more liberated attitude to sex and to

achieving sexual gratification independent of relationships.

The majority of

women still crave this even if they are not in committed relationships, and

as I discussed in my article, although Abby does support the concept of sex

for sex’s sake, she doesn’t view it exclusively as a mechanical process. She

does appreciate that one *can* get emotionally involved with a person they

are having sex with, and that this in itself can be an enjoyable process.

But I don’t think there is disproportionate emphasis placed on her

discontentment with one-night stands, nor do I think that she laments those

she has had as regrettable because they did not satisfy her emotionally. I

think to endorse this interpretation does to an extent devalue the message

Abby is conveying, which is that no-strings sex can be enjoyable and that

there should not continue to be a stigma attached to this.

Whether or not

she wants a relationship, she still views this as being separate to the

pursuit of sexual pleasure, as well as being something that would play an

integral role in a relationship. Although she may not have had many sexual

partners over the last two years, her writing is still very sexually

charged, and she does reminisce about past sexual experiences, as well as

provide detailed expositions of her sexual fantasies. The fact that she has

not had a huge number of sexual partners recently does not undermine the

fact that she still supports an empowered, liberal and frank attitude to

sex, something she explores eloquently through her own creativity; she still

demonstrates that it is not wrong for a women to be thinking about sex even

if she is not having sex frequently at that time.

I think that Abby’s

attitude is healthy in that although she may like to have a relationship

should she meet someone suitable, she does not view her time as a single

woman as nothing more than an interim period between relationships, nor does

she lament the fact that she is single throughout her blog (or bitterly

resent those who appear to be in ‘happy relationships).’ She doesn’t let her

lack of relationship inhibit her in any way, and is still determined to have

fun, setting a good example to young women by taking responsibility for her

own pleasure.

From Laura

Abby Lee is quoted as saying “I also think that women do need to get

more active in bed and take charge of their sexuality – regardless of

how society views them”.

ut what if a woman doesn’t WANT to get active in bed? The problem I

have with the presentation of Abby Lee’s work as ‘feminist’ is that,

far from being taboo, the idea of the woman who constantly wants sex

actually chimes neatly with a hell of a lot of male porn inspired

fantasy. Particularly Ms Lee’s approach to ‘compulsory

heterosexuality’ – I heard one of her pieces about being attracted to

a woman in which she described the woman she was attracted to in

completly objectifying terms – she would not fancy anyone with less

than a C cup etc, etc. No possibility that two women could actually

have a relationship based on something other than satisfying straight

male faux lesbian fantasises.

The only truly revolutionary thing I could imagine hearing about

sexwise in the present day is either a straight woman who just isn’t

that bothered about sex, or a lesbian who doesn’t have long

fingernails and look like a page 3 model. But not much chance of that

I fear.

Abby O’Reilly, author of the article, replies

I think Abby’s comment

about women needing to get ‘more active in the bedroom’ was not an order,

but rather providing support for those women who would like to and feel that

they cannot owing to social stereotyping and prejudice. Of course, not all

women want to be sexually vociferous, some may be more passive, and others

may not want nor enjoy sex at all. But on the other had some women really

enjoy sex and want to be more adventurous, and more than that they want to

feel that they can talk about this openly without being criticised for doing

so. Abby Lee falls into the latter cateogory, and I believe her comments

reflect this attitude rather than telling woment the way they should behave

– if anything I think she actually resists the tendency to place women in a

box of any sort, offering a new way, not the way.

I would disagree that she advocates ‘compulsory heterosexuality,’ I think if

anything she shows that sexuality can be fluid, that women can be attracted

to men and women. A lot of her experiences have been based on superficial

attractions resulting in one-night stands, and so I think that it’s

difficult to look to her writing to show a balanced representation of a

meaningful lesbian relationship, as Abby is predominantly attracted to men,

and pursues relationships with men. Maybe she does have specific physical

criteria she likes a sexual partner to meet, but so do a lot of women. She

should not have to conform to political correct modes of sexual expression

as people generally don’t think that way when assessing the eligibility of a

sexual partner. As I said in the feature, I think what Abby’s work

demonstrates is that both men and women can be subject to objectification-it

is part of the human condition, meaning that both commit the crime and are

the victims of it. I also think it’s worth remembering that when Abby first

wrote the blog it was an an outlet for her personal thoughts and feelings,

she did not anticipate her identity being made public knowledge, so she was

not attempting to offer a utopian view of female sexualit, which is part of

the effectiveness of it. It is sincere and real, and whatever criticism that

is levied against it, the support she has received from a number of women

indicates that she has written something that represents the thoughts of a

portion of the female population.

I think that the ‘straight woman who isn’t interested in sex’ is something

that has already been done – I think this is the way women were

predominantly seen (think Queen Victoria and the lie back and think of

England line). In the Victorian era there wasn’t even a term to describe

sexual attraction between women as authorities believed that lesbianism

didn’t exist. What we have done over the decades is move away from this

oppression, so women are able to articulate their own sexual desires, and

what Abby Lee’s book has done is shown how we have moved a step forward

again as women can admit to having sex outside of relationships and not feel

ashamed about it. They can enjoy sex and talk about it explicitly. The

reaction to her book and the media surrounding the release show the extent

to which this is still something society finds difficult to swallow.

There is a market for lesbians as part of the male masturbatory fantasy, but

I think this is largely the ‘she’s straight but she’s kissing her friend

because she’s turned bad and she’s so horny’ idea. Abby Lee is genuinely

attracted to women, and indulges in sexual relations with them for her own

gratification. I also think we need to move away from the idea that a

person’s sexuality can be determined by their appearance.

From Irina

Very good article on Abby Lee.

I would like to make 3 points:

1. “Girl with one-track mind” is priceless in a way that it is the

first book that i know which has positive image of how a woman has

sex. I like reading books about sex lives of women and both “Sexual

life of Catherine M.” and “One hundred brush strokes before going to

bed” look really sad next to Abby’s. In both those books authors, one

a teenager, another a mature experienced woman, struggle through a

thick cloud of patriarchal ideas of female sexuality and get trapped

in it. Reading about Catherine M. makes it especially clear how, in

fact, her sexuality was constructed by men, tailored for their

tastes, although the author herself doesn’t see it. (For example,

Catherine admits that before the age of 35 she didn’t think sex is

something you do for your pleasure entirely; the men she dealt with

were the types who would be annoyed if she wanted to stop sex in

order to go for a wee; another episode tells how she, instead of flat

refusal to see someone, lies that she is married. In fact, she says

many friends saw her as always willing to take part in group sex and

never saying no, and she takes it as a compliment.) What makes her

book extremely annoying is that her elaborate language of an art

magazine editor makes her submissive experience sound almost like a

philosophy. The single notion that she has sex with men as a mean of

communication wraps her unability to assert herself sexually and fear

of talking in some sort of flimsy artistic veil with pretention for


Abby is a completely different sex character. She is healthy. Healthy

to read about.

2. Abby’s attitude to double standard is admirable. Not only she

admits its’ exhistence but she insists we must ignore its’ pressure

to mould our sex lives. Her book is also a political book because of


3. I, as a Russian woman, feel particularly enraged by Abby’s outing

as done by what sounds like a Russain journalist to me (Anna

Mikhailova is as a Russian name as Jane Jones an English). Of course,

it could be written by any British right wing scum as well. But. I

have seen a lot of Russian young women with such attitude to other

women’s healthy greedy sexual appetites, as Mikhailova dispalys. The

attitide of some pathetic cow who hopes that in slaying the “slut”

she herself looks like a real lady (pure and classy) to some men.

Such women suck up to men and their chauvinism, that’s what i meam,

and in Russia, being a partiarchal and very traditionalist country as

it is, unfortunately such women and such attitudes are not rare. When

i was reading shameless Mikhailova’s piece in the Sunday Times I had

a familiar feeling: it was like reading some Russian-language

chat-room treads or blogs…

From headey

Abby O’Reilly’s article on Abbey Lee was an interesting read.

However, one thing jarred with me: giving the real name of Ms Lee.

Why? Given her justified critisism of the Sunday Times, this seemed

just a little odd.

Yes, it was in the public domain, so why give it? Those who knew her

real name didn’t need to be told and those who didn’t (me), presumably

didn’t need to know.

Abby O’Reilly, author of the article, replies


can completely appreciate what you are saying, and it is a valid point,

and one I thought would be raised. In the process of writing the article,

I did myself question whether or not I should make reference to Lee’s real

name. (I did this at only one point during the article, and for the rest

she was referred to as her persona.) The reason I eventually decided to do

so is because I felt that in the process of ‘outing’ her the national

press had stooped to deplorable lengths to try and portray Abby in a

distinctly negative light, exposing her real identity as if to try and

bolster the outdated and counter-productive judgements they hurled at her.

I felt that Lee dealt with her exposure in a dignified manner, something

that obviously took a lot of strength to do. I have not read a substantial

interview with Lee that has not concentrated solely on her sexual

experiences. I have read nothing that questions further the implications

of her writing from a feminist perspective and her interpretation of

gender relations in the twenty-first century. Her writing does touch on

these ideas in a much more effective way than dense academic publications,

although this is often negated as people are more shocked that a woman can

speak about sex in such a frank manner, and so she has not really been

provided with the opportunity to draw on her ideas further in the majority

of interviews. Lee provided very interesting comments about Feminism,

looking at the implications of her exposure as being influenceed by her

gender. I felt that as she shared such insightful thoughts on contemporary

sexual politics, that she should be credited for it, not just as Abby Lee

but as her real-life identity, in a positive and praising light. Her

real-name is already in the public domain, you’re right, but not in a

favourable way, and it was not introduced in a positive way. I was

attempting to counter the negativity of the national press coverage, and

to illustrate the fact that Abby has not been silenced or forced into

shameful submission for doing nothing more than writing what she feels

just owing to the publication of her name. I also wanted to show that

regardless of Lee’s real-name, she still has a strong fan-base that has

not been deterred from reading her work by the attempts made by the press

to villify her. I felt that choosing not to mention her real-name would

somewhow endorse the idea that it was wrong for a ‘real-life woman’ to

think and express themselves in this way.Presumably for those who do not

know her name but are fans of the work, the publication of her name here

will not matter either way. I hope this explains my reasoning behind the

use of Lee’s real name.

From Jaq Halogen

Re: The Great Big Glorious (Sexist) Book for Girls: wow, i had no idea that missing part of a chromosome gave me tha right

to be a terrible person.

now, i think you mentioned this in tha article, but i wasn’t entirely

clear on it, are you sure that this book wasn’t intended as a joke,

however poor tha execution may have been? i mean, obviously even if

it was, it certainly isn’t clear enough, and thus is just as

dangerous as if it was intended to undermine feminism, but then tha

authors would merely be incompetent, as opposed to directly


Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

It’s not a joke.

From Alex Abel

I bought the Dangerous Book for Boys because I skimmed the contents

and thought it was, fun, really good basic information regardless of

gender. I would not touch the girls equivalent that you have

described as it sounds patronising and typically sterotyped. I have a

little boy who I hope grows up to believe that women and men are

individuals not just the gender slaves that the media portray.

From Sara Bradley

Re: Maid of the manor: I really enjoying reading the article written by Amity Reed on the

division of household chores. A very entertaining and cleverly

written piece highlighting feelings most women who have lived with a

member of the opposite sex must have felt at some stage, go girl!

From Dan Gambiera

Re: ‘;Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’: Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

As a heterosexual man I’m not oblivious to good or not-so-good female

looks. And I’ve been around the usual complement of vaginas. Except

for diseases and one poor woman who had already had way too many

children (and had other problems) every single one of them has been

exquisite in its own way.

This is just another way to make women feel inadequate about

themselves. Scratch that. It’s a stroke site for people with some

sort of weird numerical biometric fetish and very little experience

with actual naked women.

I just hope the insecure and impressionable (male and female) stay

away from this site before it causes unrealistic expectations and

poor self image.

From Sarah Hutchings

When reading the article, ‘;Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’ I was

shocked, I am 18 years old and have never been ashamed about my body

but the fact that men ( or indeed women ) think they have a right to

publish what is ‘feminine’ and what is ‘ugly’ is outrageous.

I do not disagree with waxing or any form of hair removal, but I’m

sure if someone started a website claiming what is a ‘masculine’

penis and what is not there would be a fuss about it.

Our raving media society has turned men into perfectionists – or in

fact peadophiles, in wanting hairless, child-like women who represent

the pre-pubescent percentage of the country. This of course does not

apply to all men, but I believe that porn stars shouldn’t be shunned,

but the people who take an interest in them. What happened to the

world where intelligence and wit was more important than a scentless,

hairless, child-like vagina?

I think there are a lot more important things in life to be honest.

Ps. I have recently found this site when doing an english essay, and

are glad to see there are women who share the same views as I do. I

have attended a german school and whenever a woman answers back to a

male about anything she is considered a ‘feminist’ as if its a bad

thing. I reject this idea, and think it as a positive, strive for

equality. Well done women!

From Bill

I read your comments on “The Vagina Institute”. Can’t agree more.

What a load of BS!

Rating a woman on her crotch is beyond ridiculous! My wife is hardly

the picture perfect female form. But she is probably the best woman I

have ever met.

That site is nothing more than a massive play on female insecurity.

Just as bad as the long standing run against men and their penis.

Take this pill, use this pump, have your cock cut to pieces with


Men have dealt with this shit for a long time and I guess there are

millions to be made. Gee, I can hardly wait for the “Natural female

enhancement” commericals.

I am sick of the thousands of “female scent” commercials. It’s a

vagina, they smell like vaginas, they look like vaginas. they all

look/smell/taste similar, but different.

I am married to a woman, not a vagina and pair of tits!!

So, here is my advice to women about thier vaginas. Enjoy that you

have one. Enjoy it’s uniqueness. It’s yours and any man or woman

that wants you will accept the various pieces that you come with!

Rant over!

Ps. I took all the male surveys. I wanted to let these people know

that while all men have preferences, there is no such thing as a bad

vagina. What there is an abundence of is bad people!

From Tyrlia

Even though, i am a male. You raise a very good point, alot of girls

i know are already self-concious about their weight and breast size

these are 2 of the bigger issues. I think the last thing they need is

to be scrutinised by the way, in which their vagina looks and smells.

Thats my thoughts on this issue.

From Richard

I can’t imagine having sex with a woman that is hairless. To me it

would be like having sex with a little girl.

From Irina

Re: Why replication isn’t subversion: About “subversive” t-shirts. I had a look at a website and some of the

t-shirts made me laugh, they are a third finger indeed: “you suck”,

and “i hate children”, all in nice little cute flowers. You see, it

is sharp contrast between a ball breaking unfeminine message, and

niceness which itself is being mocked here. I think a get lost sort

of message really jeers at stereotypes of femininity when it sits on, at first glance, feminine background. The you notice it and shock

is delivered.

I also agree that other messages are stupid and do play into what

author calls heterosexual submissive stereotype of femininity.

But that phrase is mentioned so often in the article that you would

think author is talking to thicks with short attention span, so she

desperately needs to repeat it, to really hammer it in. Once is

enough. Message got across, thank you.

What I absolutely couldn’t stand is the notion that a model could

have faeces smeared around her mouth. Ok, we absolutely hate

presentation of a woman as a sex toy, but for chrissake there is no

need to hate a model by assuming such an ridiculous and outrageous

thing. There is no need to punish her for stupid pose she is asked to

assume. For, linking shit, a powerful image for all abusive purposes

in our culture, with a certain individual is to display an unmasked

intention to degrade them. Why such hatred for a lass who didn’t do

anything bad to you? Just because she wears a shirt you don’t like?

Who the hell is the author to assume such a superiority over this

model? Is the author any better, more valuable, more irreplacable

human being than that model? No. Not in the slightest. So, model

having shit around her mouth is no more likely to happen than our

author having it there. Let’s just assume that very few individuals

would get off from eating faeces and in all our long eventfull lives

we are veeeery unlikely to come across them, so no need to assume

that anybody we don’t like is one of them.

Or maybe the author intended to show all us, vanilla softies, that

she is unshockable and hint at some wild side of her we all should be

in awe of. Like, eating shit is regular daily activity, so why not

assume a model is equally enlightened. I am positevely puzzled…

Louise Livesey, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your response to my article on the F Word website. The F Word, and all the authors who sail in her, appreciate the differences within feminism and that they may lead to some strong feelings. I am truly sorry you felt condescended to reading the article, although other responses received have been very positive.

To address some of your points in more detail, I use the terms heterosexual and submissive once each in the piece (and not together), and don’t use stereotype or femininity at all so I find it a little hard to respond to the idea that I repeat the phrase “heterosexual submissive stereotype of femininity” in the article.

The use of croprophilic imagery in pornography (or images using croprophilic overtones) is covered in several publications and books predating my writing but a good place to start would always be Andrea Dworkin’s Pornography: Men Possessing Women. Not For Sale by Stark and Wishnant also, as I recollect, furthers this work on imagery and meaning. It’s sad but true that paedophilic, croprophilic and necrophilic images from pornography have crossed into mainstream advertising (you only need remember the American’s Next Top Model scandal over the “murder pics” to see what I mean). To point out the images have croprophilic undertones (or rather overtones in this case) isn’t, however, a comment on the model. For it to be such you’d have to misunderstand the power models (don’t) hold on an advertising job. A model doesn’t have the ability to challenge or refuse to pose in a certain way and it is the photographer or artistic director who will set up the “flavour” of the shoot. To deconstruct the image is in no way to comment on the integrity of the model, the image has an existence divorced from the model precisely because (sadly) the model is interchangable (it could be any model) whilst the image communicate a message in cultural shorthand suggestive of sexual practices.

I do think to conflate the comments on the image into being a comment on the model is rather difficult to respond to but I shall say this. I have no strong feelings about the model either way. I do however have strong feelings on the image and it’s representations. If you feel that’s me being superior then so be it. The image analysis was not designed to shock (and indeed I included a caveat that I didn’t want to take the deconstruction too far) and the analysis gives absolutely no hints, clues or references to my own desires or practices whatsoever. To suggest it does, Irina, is personalising the argument in a way which is actually very insulting. As I began with, The F Word, and feminism more generally, welcomes the diversity of views within the feminist movement. As do I and I am firmly committed to engaging with and discussing contentious issues with other feminists whenever the opportunity arises. However the rules of engagement of debate must include an acceptance that sinking to personal insult is not entirely appropriate – otherwise we’re no better than the conservative right who declare feminists to be “dungaree wearing lesbians” “witches” and “family destroyers”.

Thanks again for your comments and I am pleased the article was at least food for thought.

From Irina

Re: Buying gunk: I was appalled by the fact that many women rushed and queued for N17

creem, but not for the reasons you rightly expect but because … N17

is such an inefficient tat, I cannot for the life of me imagine how

anybody in right mind would slap on their face ANYTHING sold, for

gawdssake, in Boots! I mean, they give you free vouchers each time

you pop in for a painkiller, in order to get rid of N17 stuff, ‘cos

nobody wants it in the first place, haven’t you noticed?!

Right. Calm down now. Yes, your author is right: obsession with

staying young is bad, it is self-degrading. It is an equivalent of

saying: I am not good enough. When I realized that, I stopped cutting

off those couple of grey hairs that I have got: I don’t want to be

younger, I am at a good enough age.

It is the same with face creams. But there must be a healthy pleasure

some women like me derive in nice-smelling gunk, or from a feeling

that you look after your skin. I dunno, for some women it matters

that their face skn is softer and smoother than their heels, there is

nothing wrong with mucking with some nice potions and lotions. As long

as it is ENJOYABLE. That’s important. When it becomes what beauty

assistants unwittingly call a “routine”, it is time to give up such

time-wasting activity, i.e. when you do it for others, not for

yourself, as a self-indulgent thing. (However, I am aware, that

you’ll say: nah, you don’t do it for yourself, you internalize outer

pressure to look good and, by assuming that YOU actually want it, you

make it feel less oppressive. I know. I sometimes use this argumet


Equally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not liking creams and

not being fascinated by them and, therefore, not minding having dry

skin or split hair. i want to say: it is important to ENJOY. If you don’t, that’s the

best reason to stop doing something.

From orlando

Re: Against ‘;herstory’: That’s some sloppy etymology from Jess in relation to ‘herstory’. As

Parker points out, the route is Greek and has nothing to do with

‘him’ or ‘his’. History may give a sonic impression of a link to a

gender-related English word, but that is entirely superficial and

coincidental. This is in addition to the fact that ‘herstory’ just

invites ghettoisation of aspects of history pertaining to women.

Better to focus our energy on demanding increased acknowledgement

that women have always been equally involved in history – just not in

its records.

From Samara

Re: Teachers pigeonhole black girls: Re your blog post on the treatment of Black girls in school, the

comments about them being sexualised and provocatively dressed might

simply be down to them developing earlier than their White peers.

Black women tend to have more tits and arse than White women, and

this tits and arse tends to develop at a younger age. A girl can’t

help having D-cup breasts at the age of 12, but because large breasts

are so fetishised in Western society, people see her as “highly

sexualised”. The association of large breasts with lack of

intelligence and promiscuity makes life difficult enough for grown

women with big knockers. But as soon as a girl grows bigger breasts

than her peers she is subject to the same culture, however young she

is. It’s appalling.

From tom hulley

Re: Eating disorders may have a genetic basis: bit worried about blogpost ‘eating disorders may have a genetic basis’

-physical traits, like eye colour, have such a basis but despite

thousands of claims nobody has shown any facet of behaviour solely

based on genetics.

can I recommend susan bordo on cultural influences:

of course anorexia should not trivialised but perhaps people are

active swimmers in the strong currents of cultural influence not just

genetic objects.

Samara Ginsberg, author of the blog post, replies

I wasn’t suggesting that eating disorders were inherited in the same way as

eye colour, nor was that the conclusion of the original research! The basic

conclusion of the research seems to be that the pattern of processing

information that *can* lead to a person developing an eating disorder may be

inherited, not that having this particular style of brain function condemns

a person to developing an eating disorder. Sorry if that wasn’t clear!

Obviously society and the media play a part. But billions of women every day

are subjected to media images of malnourished models and few starve

themselves to the point of death. The reason that I blogged this article was

that it seems to me that 99% of media coverage of eating disorders seems to

focus on silly girls emulating size zero models and it was great to see an

article treating them as serious medical conditions.

From Terri Hoggart

Re: Is it better to pee like a man?: These are wonderful inventions

and i really feel i should stand up for them as they’ve saved me from

festival toilets 3years in a row!

hurray for p-mates!

Also great website :)

From Sara Alam

Re: Playboy launches social networking site; has a confused boss: In reference to the Playboy social networking blog: It’s hard to

imagine anyone affiliated with Playboy as being remotely feminst,

especially considering the Romanian 2000 edition of Playboy sported

an article titled: ‘How to Beat Your Wife Without Leaving Marks.’

Utterly lost for words.

Thank you for the f-word space, without which I would feel very

alone in my objections to ‘modern’ life.

From Helen

Re: Women prefer pink – it’s apparently genetic…: It was interesting to read the two posts about women apparently

preferring redder shades of blue (distorted by the media into a

liking for pink). My immediate reaction to this was that this is

probably because a significant number of men (I think about 10%) are

red-green colour blind. My husband is one of these, and unless

something is really bright red, he cannot see the red at all. Thus

purple or mauve shades appear blue to him, and he is unable to

distinguish between browns, greens and greys. Because of this, a

picture which contains a lot of reddish and/or greenish colours and

which to me appears attractive and brightly coloured, he will

describe as boring and drab. Since the research shows that most men

and women prefer blue, but more women than men prefer redder shades,

this may simply be because there is a proportion of men who just

cannot see the red.

I doubt that being able to detect red in particular helps with

gathering food, since, as the posts pointed out, few foods are red.

Attention to detail and good colour vision in general would have been

more useful.

From apu

Re: Racism against indigenous peoples – alive and well: I just saw the post, racism against indigenous people, and had to chip

in – sometimes this can be called racism, sometimes as in India, where

there is largely no “other” race really, it is simply the by product

of a colonial mentality that refuses to away. Hence we have clubs

that will refuse entry to men who wear traditional dhoti and kurta.

However, they won’t do any such thing to women in India, since

paradoxically, women wearing traditional dress would be encouraged as

bearers of culture, and infact are even told that they “need” to wear

Indian clothes. Can’t win, can you!

From Helen

Re: Bindel in trans debate: Sorry, the woman makes me very cross. Can’t tell if she’s being provocative or is just plain naive. To say

(as she did) that sex reassignment surgery is simply genital

mutilation misses the point in a spectacular way. Some of my fellow

‘sufferers’ of gender dysphoria might say that any publicity is good

publicity. I disagree. I feel she makes no useful contribution to the

debate. If you want meaningful debate I could give you lots of links,

but I’ll restrain myself and post just a few that have some bearing:

Not so much a care path…

Trans issues are women’s issues

There is nothing essential about being a woman

The two month lag in posting these comments made me smile: with

luck I should be about a week post-op by the time you get to this!

From Marcus Mattern

Re: We all want an alpha-male, apparently…: In the article, you seem to take offense at the premise that men can

know what women want. Well, if they can’t, that leaves us at an

impasse for inter-gender discourse altogether, doesn’t it? I

understand the ‘evidence’ the author cited was sexist evolutionary

psychology (p.s. most of it is), but I would have appreciated a more

substantive counter-argument, particularly because I believe the

article has some truth to it.

Is it so incredible to believe that women brought up in a country

where they are still the second sex would be most comfortable with a

partner who treats them as such? The paradigm of female-male

relations is still unfortunately one of submission and dominance

which is why when you look to mass culture for relationship advice,

women are instructed to be timid, unopinionated, and even

self-deprecating (there’s a recent article in Oprah’s magazine that

does just that) and men are instructed to be aggressive,

argumentative, and even insult women to get their attention. This

isn’t the only way for a nice (or any) guy to get laid, but there’s a

high demand for this information and not a lot of feminist literature

tackling the subject in a more responsible fashion (in contrast, some

Tibetan/Bon books do a decent job giving morally conscious advice for

romantic and sexual relationships).

What’s wrong with the “nice-guy” article is not that the advice given

is bullshit (the justification is bullshit), but that the advice may

be sound, since it lets men use sexism internalized by women to get

what they want.

From Amanda Barry

Re: A bride by any other name: I would like to thank Eleanor Turner for her article on her and her

husband’s decisions to take her name. Since I will be married in less

than three months, I am currently contemplating what do about my own

name. Eleanor articulated very well a lot of the thoughts I have been

having. One of my biggest happenings that are leaning me towards

keeping my current name is that while visiting my grandparents graves

recently I began to notice something I had never taken note of before.

All the female names on the grave stones had their previous names;

even if they had changed their names upon marriage. So, I thought, if

I’m one name when I’m born, and the same name when I die, why spend

any time in between with a different name.

From Rachel Burstow

Re: The F Word podcast: episode one!: I absolutely loved the Podcast!

The first one was like having a feminist newspaper with all the

discussions about current issues – really great to hear things being

discussed from MY perspective.

The second bit was responsible for me getting some very strange looks

in public as I couldn’t help laughing out loud and mmming in approval

– it was like listening to a group of friends except I kept wanting

to join in too! I haven’t had these sorts of discussions for years

and it was great to hear a good variety of women – some not so

confident – some more so,talking about their views.

Gave me loads to think about and I feel I’m not alone on my thoughts.

Can we have another one please – I’d love a discussion on lap dancing

clubs and their place in our environments as this is a big issue in

my home town Brighton which has just licensed nude dancing clubs.

Anyway thanks for giving up the time to do it and keep eating those


From RT

Stop saying ‘like’. It makes you sound like ineloquent teenagers.

The giggling during the discussion of the sad story of the father who

killed one of his children was inappropriate.

Lastly, how about doing some research before recording? How long

would it have taken for you to find out the facts about Wimbledon

prize money and the reasons why women play only 3 sets?

Unless you can produce a pod-cast that is more mature and better

informed, I doubt you’ll get many repeat listeners. And that would be

a shame because there is so little feminist discussion around.

From Danielle

Hello! I just wanted to thank you all for the podcast; I thought it

was terrific. I can’t wait for the next one!

From Zach

Re: Sympathy for the Devil – The Rolling Stones: In response to your article re: the Stones, I think your feminist

reconstruction of Mick and Keith as men and as song-writers goes a

bit far. The Rolling Stones were originally, and some would say

essentially remain, a blues band. As in, Chicago Blues. Chess

Records. Muddy Waters.

Go back and listen to 50’s Chicago blues. It’s all music about

working class drunks bemoaning their whiskey and woman problems.

It’s also classic and created the whole genre of rock and roll they

began to explore and define.

Rock and Roll without crude dittys about bedding underage girls and

bitter breakups…well it wouldn’t be rock and roll. But then, no one

really makes it anymore anyway, except guys like the Stones and Lou


I’m not sure if its a “defense” but blues and rock are not the ideal

places to go searching for 21st century enlightened thinking,

especially feminist thinking.

Chuck Berry (Keith’s greatest mentor) did go to jail for his

um…activities with the other sex. Rock and Roll to me was about

screaming it out, even if the truth was sexist or ignorant, or


But without the Stones there would be no Patty Smith and no U2 and no

Smiths and no REM and no Radiohead, who might very well reflect very

different values.

But the Stones were pioneers in exploitation. They were punk before

the Sex Pistols, Glitter before Bowies, and Blues before Clapton.

That being said, I like your article, and I don’t think you should

feel any reason to feel liking the Rolling Stones compromises your

feminism. The sexual frustration and angst of the London in the

sixties was captured, and it ain’t pretty. I think that’s the point.

If the Stones bother you, what does blues and country do to you? Or

Lou Reed?

From Kim Taylor

Re: Women unite, Reclaim the nNght!: I think all people who say that a woman deserves to be raped because

of what she does/wears/says ought to wash their mouths out with soap.

Just because a woman likes to look nice does not mean she is asking

for it. I myself was raped, granted as a child, but it is not

something women ask for and it stays with you forever. You never

forget. How would these people like it to happen to them, then see

what they have to say. Women all over the world have the right to

do/say/wear/be wherever they like, it is our country too and we have

the right to be safe when we venture out of our doors. Or even when

we stay in doors.

From jo Ainsworth

Re: A perfect delusion: I ally enjoyed reading the article, in particular how men strive to

retain power and control over relationships, since women now appear

to have more confidence in being able to express their dissatisfaction

better. In addition I thought the underlying influence on consumers

to purchase more products in a bid to strive for this level of

expected perfection,fuelling the economic market was fascinating.

This need to look perfect and live up to these images appears

increasingly evident in young girls in the city.

From Sara

Re: Paper dolls: searching for women within Kerrang Magazine: I have only just come across this article and I think that what is

important to note is that the lack of women in Kerrang is reflective

of the rock music industry as a whole. I have had to deal with

Kerrang through various jobs and the irony is, it has more women and

men working in their emap office. And more women than in any other

music magazine.

From Robert

Re: Hairy women: I agree with Lindsey, hairy women are beautiful

desirable. there is nothing dirty or smelly about them. women that

shave off what God gave them needs to get a grip on there live\’s and

so does the men that promote\’s it.

From Janet Davidson

Re: I am writing in response to Will Aitken’s remarks in Comments June

2007 on an article about Harry Potter. He says:” We could make a very

politically correct book with strong female heroines and lots of

indians, sihks (sic) and throw in a couple of the welsh aswell or we

could just leave childrens (sic) fiction as it is.”

What exactly is “politically correct” about strong females, indians,

sikhs and welsh people populating the world. It is a simple matter of

fact that they do along with everybody else. I actually don’t believe

that anyone could seriously write this racist nonsense. Will Aitken

even admits that the book is a reflection of the world we live in

today. Maybe he had better look out his window and check out who’s

actually there.

From Sarah

oK, I haven’t got a single post to reply to at the moment. All I can

say is that the F word is my home page , and I find it very

reassuring that there is so much debate going on regarding feminism.

I am proud and excited to part of such a network, and i derice a

great deal of pleasure and satisfaction out of reading your articles.

Thank you! Wish I had something more substantial to say, but I’ll

recommend your services as I can.

From Laura Carter Admirer

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

I have just read your article about Cambodia. Very interesting,

well written. but quite obviously, you have absolutely no idea about

a male’s thinking or perceptions. Maybe you will in the next life

……..I hope so …………

From Michelle

Re: I want to say thank you for writing “Why men suck (and the women who

have to)”. It was very well written and it reflects my personal

views on the sex industry and the exploitation of women. I recently

visited Amsterdam and returned to America with a knot in my stomach.

Thank you for putting words to my response to an industry very much

alive in my country and the the world.

From christobel

Re: Pick ‘;n’ mix feminism: Germaine Greer a radical feminist? Are you joking? SHe thought that

lesdianism was a ‘retreat from the true business of the heterosexual


From antonia

Re: More than just ‘;Jam and Jerusalem’: why we should join the Women’s Institute: I really would like to voice my

dispproval of the attitude regards the WI and Jerusalem. Its a lovely

old tradition and one in which they are clearly proud. You are not

signing up to a creed or a way of life by singing along – merely

joining in a group. A song or hymn should not be dropped to

accomodate other people. What for? The WI should be joined on merit

eg what it represents and what it offers. I joined in several

feminist organisations in Latin America and Africa and went along

with the traditions. I would not dream of imposing on other people.

Had I wanted to i could have chosen not to sing along. It would be

nice if a group like this could share its pride in its traditions.

There is nothing to stop more being added by anyone who joins in

from. All you do by removing a song and a bit of the groups heritage

is foster yet more resentment over a total non issue.

From Irina Lester

WI seems to me to be a rather stale organization, and if it quietly

dies out, then good riddance. Why? Exactly because – a quote from

Catherine Redfern in the article – “it is assosiated with very

traditional attitudes and behaviours”. Now, do we, as feminists,

delight in very traditional attitudes and behaviours? Nope, we bend

backwards to eliminate them, as we, women, feel this bloody

traditionalism (in the shape of sexism, homophobia, religious morony)

on our backs. Do I need to argue more?

The author of the article, Melanie Dunn, calls WI (brace yourselves,

comrados!) “a formidable voice of reason”. Well, I’m b******d. How on

earth can a thouroughly Christian organization be a voice of, of all

things, a reason, is beyond me.

The simple thing is: if you want to see whether an organization is a

good progressive one, check if it campaings against domestic

violence, sexism, homophobia, and for abortion rights and better sex

ed in schools. No? Milk price or proper packaging for bananas,

instead? Then leave them, poor loves, to their jam and belting out

national anthem and stop fooling yourself that you are not wasting

your valuable campaigning time in a wrong company.

From Seph

Is anyone else getting really irritated by seeing the Playboy bunny

symbol on everything just lately? not only that but it’s being worn

by women, it’s even on back-to-school stationary now, I see Mothers

buying “Playboy” (on the shelves right next to Hello Kitty and The

Simpsons stuff) pencil cases for thier 10 year old daughters and I

feel as if they’re buying them a sign saying “I don’t mind being

degraded and treated as nothing more then a sexual object, in fact,

i’ll even spend money to promote the practice!”

From Simran

Re: A bride by any other name: Thankyou! I’ve been arguing against changing my name if I marry, and

this is a well-crafted expression of the reasons that I have chosen

to not do so.

So what if it creates ‘order’, or is a tradition? Tradition isn’t

always right, and changing your name is a anachronistic relic of a

male dominated past.

From ty

Re: ‘Feminists are sexist’: good artical but i do have some complaints first off i’m not a

feminists or an anti-feminists but i just wanted to say that there

are sexist women out there who see there selves as goddesses because

there female and they justify this by saying there feminists but me i

see it both ways there are sexist men just like there are sexiest

women and to top it off there are even women who are anti-feminists i

really don’t know who to stand up for because i seen women act just as

bad as menso i guess i’ll just have to stand up for both i’m sorry for

the spelling and i don’t know if i truly explained what i was tring to

say but the key point is that some feminsts are just as sexiest as men

it’s weird because all these feminists think different ways i guess

some are like you and others just hate men period i even seen some

dis housewives for some reason.

From John Potamites

Re: Dysfunctional, moi? The myth of female sexual dysfunction and its medicalisation: Generalizations leave us standing at the doors of universals and

absolutes. Sometimes I’ve felt “that” way; and some men I know have

too; and some women too. But sometimes we haven’t. And I’ve always

felt better when I’ve felt the “other” way. I’ve been told the same

by others as well. So why don’t you give us some numbers? And why

don’t you ask women why they don’t show and tell partners what they’d

like? I asked my daughters if do that, but before they could

answer(shyness/embarrassment/privacy), I told them I hope they have,

do, and will. After all, we’re all born ignorant and hardly improve.

But helping each other is a step in the right direction.

From Kim Linden

Re: Strictly feminist: interview with Amy Prior: Why call it Ladyfest and say its about feminism? I’m confused. The

word ‘lady’ to me still has real connotations of an attitude where

women never speak politics and in fact you never speak, ever. You

just look ‘good’ and make the ‘right’ poses. Just like Diana. If it

is to reclaim the word ‘lady’, viz a vis ‘cunt’ etc, or to attract a

wider number of women, and girls, I would be concerned about the

analysis of the motive. Whatever happened to women, woman or womyn,

Feminism? I just had a delicious thought – imagine calling it

Cuntfest. Ok that’s out I know, but I think it sounds more

interesting. I must say as a feminist who has come here from

Australia, I find the ground for feminists sadly less than for women

in Australia, in some ways. Like calling feminist events ‘Lady’fests

and no good IWD events at all anywhere except one small scale one in

London (this trend is starting to hit oz), the extent and level of

sexism in the media, mainly the dailys and tabloids and so on. Your

abortion laws are sort of better than oz. Only just and in some ways

not better. I’ve just convinced myself we need feminism like we

always have and need to call women’s and girls (young women’s)

gatherings/festivuses what they really are. I am curious as to the

name though and would love to hear your response. I did a search on

your history on this page as I am sure others must have raised this

topic as well, but couldn’t find anything through the search engine

on this page.

From Becci

Re: Loose Women: I agree with Dawn’s article on Loose Women…the programme wouldn’t be

so bad if it was made to be a cheesy day time programme, it’s that

fact that it is trying portray the women as opinionated and

hard-hitting – when really all they do is make women look as if all

they are interested in are men and celebrities.

From Jaq Halogen

Re: Female commentator kicks off barrage of sexism: did that one comment really say “‘women’ ain’t shit [etc.]?” cause

thats almost a line from a Snoop Dogg song, but selectively

paraphrased. Snoop uses a much ruder word for women.

as an american football (both meanings) fan, i know how

groundbreaking it is for there to be a female commentator, and after

watching tha clip on youtube, i honestly don’t see whats wrong with

her voice, it sounds fine to me.

you might also be pleased to know that after clicking on tha link in

your article to tha sexist group, (for investigative purposes only, i

promise) it takes me directly to facebook’s homepage, which i believe

means tha group has been shut down. score one for feminism?

From Lexi

Re: Taboo For who?: What an empowering article! Just what I wanted to read. Over the past

year I fundamentally have changed much to my husband disgust, and

abhorrence. At the age of 50 I have self confidence and sexual

confidence, I am thinking for my self. I am me. Yesterday he called me

a cunt in its offensive derogatory form. I was shocked. But having

this article it sums him up. A misogynist and terrified of my new

found confidence. Thank you for the article.

From poelano

Re: Contraception and Control – Teenage Rights: I honestly think what Megan said is not right culturally speaking,

even based on Western tradition. If you had a teenage daughter or

son, you’d want to be involved in their lives, and advice them on

decisions to make, becuase we all know that teenagers are not mature

to make independent decisions, We cannot say we will take away the

parenthood responsibility of parents over their children. And the

more teenagers get exposed to unnecessary freedom the more lost our

generation becomes.

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