Comments from July 2008

Comments from July

, 26 August 2008

Comments on the latest features and reviews

Self harm, by Nino

From Corinne

Just a quiick BRAVO for Nino who wrote the article on self harm. I think

you’re an amazing woman who has displayed wisdom and maturity far beyond

your years….far beyond my years even and I’m a Granny ! I admire your

insight and bravery and applaude your ability to communicate in a down to

earth accessible way…Good on you, Lady !

From LOU

Nino’s article on self harm is impressive for a young woman. I love the

title that makes both points instantly. Not only the narrow way this

‘social issue’ is discussed and ‘treated’ but that indeed all women suffer

the consequences of patriarcial exclusion.

From Anon

I really like Nino’s articles and I hope she will be back to write more.

I can relate to the way she described abusive relationships as a form of

self-harm from my own experience. The shame and guilt I felt after coming

out of such a relationship was much deeper and long-lasting than any

feelings I had for the man. I was embarassed at having been complicit in my

own destruction, for blinding myself to what was happening to me simply

because he was my boyfriend so I should love him, regardless of how he

treated me.

Because of all the distress at how I felt I had made a fool of myself I

hadn’t really considered outside influences on my behaviour – the societal

belief that I should want to hold on to an attractive and popular man and

that surely if he wasn’t a good person he wouldn’t be in such high demand.

Even when some of my friends spoke up against him I was still convinced

that he was only a crap boyfriend because I wasn’t a good enough

girlfriend. During that time I pursued no other interests than those I

thought would make myself more acceptable to him – I also completely

changed my appearance.

Another factor of our society I think may be an influence is that it is

acceptable for a man to do very little (clearly just having a penis is

achievement enough) but women are seen as lazy if we’re not constantly

striving at the ideals of thinness, beauty, financial solvency (to fund

beauty), an active social life, the pursuit of a mate and family life, and

other possible things I haven’t thought of. If we don’t feel like it we

become automatic underachievers and self-harm by abusive man has the

multiple solution of providing a mate, punishing yourself for not doing

anything else, and giving you a new set of standards to strive for. I think

this is what happened to me as I was made to feel bad for not wanting to

wear make-up and not caring that I wasn’t thin. I punished myself via a

nasty man for not being feminine enough, for having little interest in

stereotypical female preoccupations, for being less than I should be.

Now a little older and a little wiser I am glad to know that my identity

as a woman depends on no one else’s approval but my own, and that if I

would rather watch tv and eat biscuits instead of do my hair and makeup I

am entitled to. My greatest joy is in being unrestricted in my own home,

being able to indulge my habits without judgement and be comfortable with

myself. In that sense the restriction of an abusive partner doesn’t just

stop you pursuing your dreams, it stops you being able to ‘be’ at all.

(sorry this is such a long meander, this article affected me a lot)

From Kayleigh

your post- was amazing, so honestly and powerfully written. I can so

relate and you made me look at issues from a another perspective.

excellent. I used to self harm as a teenager, usually because of how I

was feeling due to guys treating me like shit, and my parents went berserk

and said they would send me to a psychiatric if i didnt stop, ridiculous!

anyway thank you for this post- it was very inspiring!

From Sam Jones

I just want to say a huge Thank You to Nino for her article on self harm.

It brought back a lot of memories for me of when I used to self harm as a

result of bullying at school. I was one of the girls who dared to stand up

to a boys and was so different, refusing to cow-tow to their assumed

superiority. As a result I was ostracized and mocked to the point where I

was cutting myself everyday just to make the emotional pain more bearable.

What helped me was the words of another girl who had been self harming for

a lot longer and who showed me her scars. Seeing those wounds on another

person brought it home to me just what I was doing to myself. I wasn’t

going to let the bastards win. That girl and I remained friends since we

left school and have been like sisters ever since. It is the support of

other women that was the true healer for me.

From Shea

I thought Nino’s article on Self Harm was possibly the most brillant thing

I have ever read online or in the mainstream media.

This phrase “Other than keep ourselves busy with pointless activities as

we wait to die. Your soul never dies. But you can misplace it and, hell,

you can lose it.” really stands out for me.

It seems apt that you used Ophelia– a while ago there was a book called

Vanishing Ophelia or something similar, talking about the crisis among

female adolescents, the rise of eating disorders and self harm. There

really is an epidemic where women, especially young women feel guilty for

existing. They try and literally disappear, carving away at their physical

presence through self harm and eating disorders, its so tragic its


We really need a strong reversal of this and “raunch culture” that women

are worth far more than their looks, that they have an intrinsic worth not

related to their appearance or intellectual capacity. Until we do we are

going to keep seeing young women, the modern Ophelia who have become

casualties of societies warped views.

Very relevant and very insightful, thank you Nino.

What a load of wank, by Sophie Platt

From Lori

I absolutely loved your article about female masturbation! As a female

masturbator myself, I have had many awkward moments where the subject of

sex comes up, and I plain tell them that sometimes, I just prefer

masturbation. It just feels better some times. I work with all women, all

of us over 20, and not one of them will even admit to masturbating. I think

it’s high time we taught females that masturbation is *good* and enjoyable,

and that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

P.S. I agree with the phallic sex toy angle. While I don’t mind using

them, sometimes, when I’m not in the mood, it kind of weirds me out that

one of the ways I get pleasure is through a fake penis. I wonder how many

men really use fake vaginas to masturbate.

From Aimee

This is a brilliant article! At school, I was ‘that girl’ you mention who

doesn’t give a damn about talking about masturbation and will admit to it

without shame, and I could never, ever understand why something which is

considered ‘natural’ for boys was considered ‘dirty’ for girls. It seems to

me that this idea is perpetuated because it implies that women are not for

themselves; they are for men to use and for them to use themselves for

pleasure is wrong. Like, if your Playstation turned itsself on and started

playing itsself. Girls need to learn that they exist ONLY for themselves

and NOT for the gratification of others.

Re; the issue of the university friend – I am incredulous as to why this

girl stayed with this joker. Surely, anyone with any respect for themselves

would have told him where to go immediately? Shocking.

From Jacqui

totally agree. Thought it was just me who thought like this. I didn’t

have an orgasm until I was 28 – and that was by going to the library as I’d

read the word “clitoris” somewhere and went to find out what it meant. I

know I was born in the 50s but this is ridiculous. I am still amazed by

the responses of women much younger than me (I’m in my 50s) who believe

they need a “good hard cock” to be satisfied sexually. I mainly keep my

thoughts to myself as I also believe I shouldn’t be joining in the sexual

banter at my age – so … we’ve a long way to go .. and we haven’t come

very far – but hopefully we’ll all keep trying to push the boundaries no

matter how old/young or experienced/inexperienced we are. But stuff like

this makes me feel so depressed. I really thought most young women were

getting it on like the boys – but I really don’t think they are – they’re

still lapping up what the media and society tell them.

From josie

I am in my forties and started vigorously and frequently giving myself

pleasure with some mind blowing orgasms since about the age of 12 although

I didn\’t start puberty until 15, and still doing it despite being married

for many years. I have NEVER discussed this with anyone! It would be sooo

embarrasing. Men discuss their sex lives with their mates and probably

some are keen to exaggerate their masturbating activity. Perhaps if women

talked about this more would it empower us or would it reveal too much

about ourselves and leave us open to criticism,and perhaps women are more

competitive than we think.

From Jennifer Drew

Our society has for over a century denied that pubescent girls and adult

women even experience sexual desire and sexual feelings let alone learning

there is nothing wrong in self-stimulating oneself. But of course female

sexuality has been declared to be for the use and pleasure of men NEVER

WOMEN and most certainly no woman or girl was supposed to stimulate herself

in order to learn what she likes or dislikes.

Which is why female sexuality is constantly promoted as one of performance

and exhibitionism always with the invisible male person in mind. Female

sexuality is never supposedly about a woman’s own sexual pleasure or


So, excellent that this taboo subject has been challenged. As Deborah

Tolman has said ‘female sexual desire is the missing discourse.’ Girls

when experiencing puberty supposedly never experience sexual feelings or

emotions instead their primary focus is supposedly always on reproductive


There is a term for this social construction and it is called

phallocentricism which is why so many vibrators are made and promoted as

pseudo penises. Because according to male-centric notions of human

sexuality the penis is the only object which can stimulate a woman’s body.

The only reason why so many boys and men engage in self-stimulation is

because their penis doubles both as an excretory organ as well as a

sexually reproductive organ. Women’s bodies however, have the clitoris,

the purpose of which is solely sexual pleasure and not reproduction. Also,

because all males regularly handle their penises this gives them ample

opportunity to learn that touching and caressing this part gives them

sexual pleasure. Since the clitoris is not located outside the body but

just inside the vaginal area this partially explains why generation after

generation women have to re-learn the clitoris actually exists. So,

penises most definitely are not the be-all and end-all of human sexuality

despite what phallocentricism claims.

From Mark Headey

Actually, this comment is off on a bit of a tangent; namely men sitting

with their legs apart “taking up room”. While I am not going to deny that

this may sometimes be the reason, but I’d like to offer an alternative


You women may not believe this but, take it from one who actually owns a

pair of testicles, sometimes sitting with your legs together can actually

be painful if the said objects are inconveniently placed. True, in the

comfort of one’s own space, this is easily remedied. Unfortunately,

rummaging around in ones trousers to put some order to the miscreants is

generally frowned upon in public. So, I too have occasinally sat with my

legs un-necessarily widely splayed until I could find the right occasion to

“adjust” myself.

Just thought you should know. It may not always be because we me are

being “macho” and demanding more space than reasonable.

From Moody

Fantastic article. Would be a great read for a lot of young girls whose

only sex education is the right wing abstinence program. Thanks.

From julia

Reading this piece, I realize that some things have changed. I know women

who never orgasamed or masturbated until their late twenties. Women who’d

been through marriages before they found their own sexual pleasure. That

said, it is still very sad that girls are taught to keep their bodies

tucked away, in every sense. And that boys are not taught that their hands

and tongues in the right spots can lead to fireworks for their partners.

The future of activism, by Deborah McAlister

From alison

I agree that we need to make our presence known to those who are scared of

feminism or think it doesn\’t exist anymore. Some of us are using ironic

flyers and \”This Insults Women\” stickers to put in/on offensive magazines

and newspapers to raise awareness and provoke discussion amongst the

general public. Obviously, the more people doing this the more impact it

will have. I also really like the idea of the art/graffiti approach, it

creates the impression of an underground movement and could be really


From Liz Ely

Hiya – great article on activism ! In Edinburgh someone has been

stenciling little men signs about the place, to which I have been adding

skirts and hair and writing yay feminism. Probably won’t do much but sure

is fun :)

From Janet Hunter

Totally accurate! We are less active and society apears to have gone back

to the 1950’s. Mostly due to marketing and the mass media projecting images

of women’s bodies as commodities. I’ve noticed that the girls I teach are

much less well informed than I was about feminism in the early 1990’s and

much more eager to embrace steroetypes. Where do we go from here?

From Alice Tichborne

I think making and distributing feminist zines for school girls could be a

very useful (and non-arrestable) way of spending activist energy. I know

that if someone had left a stack of feminsit zines around in my classroom,

I would have gobbled them up.

From Alice Dale

Deborah is absolutely right. We need to do more and we can’t rely on just

venting our feelings on the internet!

We need to expand on the bat-phone call out idea (the alert system to let

other feminists know when comments on national websites are rude and

offensive). We need to set up an email alert system for when there is a new

petition to the Government, and don’t ASK people to sign, TELL them to sign

– and then TELL them to send it on. We need to get people turning 18

involved in the political process. If there’s a problem out there that

isn’t political we need to work out how to address it (complain about an

advert in the UK? Go to the Advertising Standards Authority!)

We need to build on the brand name of Active Feminism! So, any thoughts on

how to go forward from here?

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Great ideas, but I can’t get behind the idea of “brand name Active Feminism”, I don’t think!

From Nino

Spot on. Activism is not active enough.

Movements don’t move

And people just point and wonder.

The graffiti idea i quite like. Mind you, I did spend this afternoon

cleaning the orange cock a lad called ‘2pac’ (I kid you not) graffitied on

my tree.

But I know the difference between art and vandalism and art is always a

good start.

i think it is important people know that we care. For my anti BNP

movement, I want to get poster put up in as many shops, businesses, cafes

etc who will take them. So that, although my and my breakdance crew cannot

smash the BNP – we can show them that we, and those people who let us put

up poster, care. Our caring may kill some of thier confidence. Women need

to use art and their individual talents and passions to decorate this

country and show people that yes, we know we live in a patriachy, we’re

over it. But guess what, we care about how we’re treated.

By the way, I’m chemically imbalance too, so yay! (we could also start a

club. or a cult.)

From Val

“There’s got to be a better way, any ideas?” I found myself asking the

same question lately.

I’m involved with women’s groups and I really appreciate

what they offer in terms of emotional support. However ,it seems to me the

focus is

more on helping women with their suffering rather than on what can be done

to prevent it.

I believe an option could be to promote local action. For example, having

small social meetups that take an issue, discuss it and propose what can be

done in practice to improve the situation. Then do it!

As far as I am aware, there aren’t any in my area (Brighton), but if

there’s anyone interested in such an idea, I’d be happy to develop it


From Jess

I certainly agree with you about sending out a high profile and unified

message. My partner is a school citizenship teacher who is a bit of a

wannabe feminist (but can’t quite make that leap!). The kids in his classes

are aware about campaigns like fathers for justice but NOTHING about

feminist issues. Why is this? Personally, I think a lot of it is down to

the feminist movement being so fractured due to differing opinions by

feminists on issues like prostitution etc. I also think that there is a bit

of intellectual snobbery within the movement with certain people

deliberately seeking a more radical or alternative solution to a problem on

the sole basis of wanting to be considered different and furthering their

own agenda.

My view is that we need to have a campaign that we can ALL get behind,

something that is not inaccessable to women who don’t consider themselves

feminist (i agree “feminist” is considered a dirty word by many). I don’t

think it should be an inflammatory issue like lapdancing clubs, something

simple like “fathers for justice” (sorry to keep using that example). A

loud single message that is accessable to as many people as possible.

From lindsey spilman

Before I write my comment I have to say I too have ADHD!

The last generation of feminists had the task of changing laws. As in the

1970’s and 80’s a lot of the laws in place were sexist. Today equality

exists in theory, but there appears to still be some form of social

structure in place that discourages women from fully taking up equality.

The gender thing is still there, inequality is there as an unwritten law.

Examples are women going to work in office jobs wearing extreme high heels

and feeling as if they have to wear make up and heels to look smart. Men in

the equivalent job get to wear shoes that do not restrict there mobility

and do not have to wear make up. They have there cotton shirts which are a

luxury for women as most women shirts have added stretch which can make you

sweat. In law there is nothing to tell women that these things are needed

to look the part. But something in the social order of things is doing

this. Advertising is also getting more sexist, as it is becoming more

expectable to have gender specific ads for anything. All these things get

passed off as fashion. But fashion does not struggle to make stylish shoes

without heels for men. It also does not struggle to make clothes for men

that do not require the wearer to compromise for them. It appears that been

a woman means that you are expected to compromise for your clothes and

devote hours to your appearance. While men are done up with a bit of

fragrance, a pressed shirt (pressed by?) and a smart pair of shoes that

involve no compromise.

Being an activist starts from rejecting the things that you are expected

to do just because you are female in everyday life. I refuse to wear

make-up, skin tight clothes full of nylon in the summer, delicate shoes

that are not made for walking in. I go to the gym and keep fit, I refuse to

be bothered about sweating while I am there, I refuse to stick to lower

body only, I refuse to be obsessed with handbags, and I refuse to wear

impractical clothes. I refuse to diet; I also refuse to over eat. But at

the same time I do not deny myself items, I have as much right to as many

clothes as the average man has. I also have as much right as him to have

the same standard as him. I refuse to do femininity, but at the same time I

refuse to do masculinity. After all refusal to conform to femininity does

not make me less of a woman.

Today’s issues cannot be solved by demonstrating in the way the feminist

of yesterdays did as there is no law to fight. The only way to get a new

wave of feminism active today is to get feminism in a positive light in the

media as much as possible. Challenge the way TV cameras are used. When the

news cameras go to shopping centres, they always film women’s feet if

they are wearing heels. Or if a woman is in the news her feet will always

be shown if she has heels on. When women are doing femininity cameras

always focus on it as a way of reinforcing it. Even computer generated

images always show these things.

The things that people see on a daily basis do affect them, images of

gender stereotypes are every where and people are conforming to them

without even been aware that they are doing it. Today’s sexism is very

indirect and covert. I went in to a D.I.Y shop for some working gloves for

sanding the other day and the smallest size in glove was a 10. The average

woman takes a 7, this is sexist because the store had just catered for men,

and it had assumed that women do these types of house jobs. They instead

wash up. This is why they make washing up gloves in smaller sizes. When a

company makes something for women that is usually only made for men, like

boxing gloves they have to make them pink, again the focus is appearance

rather then function.

From Laura

We studied the amazing Liz Lochhead for advanced higher english (Mary

Queen of Scots and Dracula from a feminist perspective!). Although that is

only a voluntary part of the scottish syllabus in a subject that few people

take but the 2 boys in my class benefitted from it :)

Knife crime and masculinity, by Jennifer Drew

From Ruth Moss

Thanks so much for such an interesting and informative article. Certainly

food for thought.

From Nino

Now here’s an honest view the mainstream media would never give us! This

is a geniusely crafted piece of work that is highly unquestionable…

As a youth worker, hip hop head and anti voilence activist I’ve been going

back and forth with this shit for a long long time.

But the media’s demonizing and isolating of young people is what is making

things so terribly disfucntional right now.

The ideas we were having, the things we were doing that were having an

affect on young people like myself, were literally crapped on by the media.

And not only are we back on square one. We’re sliding below it.

The Channel 4 recent interpretations of my home town Bradford were totally


I know them lads, I know this city, I know those spots. And you know what,

just how they made Bradford out to be hell in the Riots reception, its all

rubbish. Yes, like Peckham,like Oldham, like many many cities in the UK.

There are a few bad boys with a few bad toys. It is not general concern for

the public, nor is it something we see as a huge threat. after that program

was aired. Our weapon assisted crime went up. Cheers channel 4, my mate can

no longer dance on his right arm.

Another thing the media have not pointed out is the increasing number of

young women carrying knives – I stopped a girl on my train the other day

who wielded a bread knife, clearly from her mums kitchen at me. There is

also a prevalance of female gangs. who. trust me, should be feared way more

than the male ones.

The rest of the country who are fearing what they are been fed by the

media need to shut up, leave off and let those who know about this stuff,

from the inside, deal with it in the ways we know work.

Big ups again for the minting piece.

stay free and true


Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

Thank you for your comments and especially your feedback. I quite agree

the media must be held responsible for constantly demonising young women

and men. I too agree media misrepresentations and deliberate

polarisation of cities such as Bradford. Areas such as Peckham provide

a totally skewed picture resulting in viewers or readers believing our

world is becoming increasingly dangerous and violent. But in reality

living in a home environment is still the most dangerous place to be,

especially for girls and women.

I do disagree however with your view that girl gangs are far worse than

male gangs. One of the reasons why girl gangs are perceived as ‘far

worse than boy gangs’ is because girls in general are socialised not to

adopt aggressive or violent behaviour. Therefore, when we hear, read or

have access to girl gangs we believe these young women are deviants

because they are not conforming to the narrow patriarchal feminine role.

There have been girl gangs for well over a century now and the reasons

as usual are complex but we should not fall into the trap of

stereotyping girls as ‘worse than boys.’ Quoting Chesney-Lind who has

conducted in-depth studies of both girl and boy gangs ‘the media’s

portrayal of girl gangs is one wherein they are represented as evil, bad

masculinised females which conveniently ignores the societal context,

particularly in relation to young minority women.

Why teen gangs exist is a complex issue and some of the factors include

a sense of belonging, power, protection, respect, prestige, identify and

not forgetting access to amounts of cash and drugs. Another factor

with regards to girl gangs is that many teen girls have experienced male

sexual violence committed against them and some join a gang in order to

belong and to have a safe refuge. However, this is not to say all the

above factors are present all the time because claiming they are would

essentalise and reinforce beliefs that gang members are all evil


So, the reasons for girl gangs are complex and we must not fall in the

trap of demonising girls who are gang members.

I have not the slightest doubt that some teenage girls are carrying

knives but we need to ask the pertinent question why? Not ‘oh girls are

enacting masculinised behaviour now so they must be deviant, evil

monsters.’ Perhaps girls who carry knives live in fear of attack by

other teen boys or girls or else they believe it will give them added

protection since they have experienced or witnessed violence in their


This is not to excuse or justify girl or boy violence but as you say we

must not ‘other’ them and create a psuedo moral panic. But

unfortunately the present government and the media too, are intent on

doing precisely this and the end result is an increase in an

authoritarian and scapegoating society.

If we as a society sincerely want change, it will not happen when

certain groups are marginalised and demonised. This only results in

those with greater power and privilege ensuring the status quo remains


From Lynsey

An insightful article, I thought the very same thing the other day: it is

only boys stabbing each other, not girls. The Daily Mail are quick to point

out that this many are black, or have single mothers, or absent fathers,

but they don’t point out what’s staring straight at us: they are all boys.

The idea that if it was girls commiting these crimes, it would be reported

entirely differently is absolutely true: there would be absolute hysteria.

So i think it’s right that we shoudl stand up and point the finger and say,

we are not doing this; they are.

From Kevin

I only have two points.

Mothers are required to take responsibility for ensuring that their sons

do not go around stabbing eachother because, unfortunately, it is often the

case that there is no one else to do it.

The other point is that the incidence of “girl gang” violence, although

low, is on the increase.

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

The only way our society could ensure

that mothers be held totally responsible for their sons behaviour and

welfare would be for the mother and boy to be held in total isolation

with no contact with the outside world or in fact any contact with their


Since this would in effect be imprisonment and an abuse of the mothers’

and child’s human rights I do not think this situation will happen. So,

why should mothers alone be held responsible – could it be because

society and especially the government and other powerful institutions

have decided mothers will be the scapegoats for societal problems,

especially how masculinity continues to be constructed.

As already stated in my article the media has a very powerful influence

on girls and boys, but since my article focused on boys knifing other

boys I showed how the media perpetuates and mirrors what our patriarchal

society considers to be appropriate masculine behaviour. Girls and boys

are influenced and learn how to enact their supposed appropriate gender

roles via their peers, schools, families, relations and of course not

forgetting the media.

I suggest you read more about how gender is constructed and I highly

recommend Gender Stereotypes and Roles by Susan Basow or you might like

to read Jackson Kat’s book The Macho Paradox. Katz is a male activist

who has considerable experience and expertise in challenging myths

concerning males and masculinity.

With regards to your claim that ‘the incidence of “girl gang” violence

although is increasing’. Yes, the evidence shows that female violence

is increasing but statistics do not always tell the whole story. The

latest figures show that 87,200 young women were charged for a number of

offences including acts of violence. However, we do not have the

breakdown of what type of violence was committed. I have yet to read of

large numbers of girls knifing and murdering other girls or women. But

this is not to deny it happens, however when such cases are reported the

media immediately inflates the issue and claims ‘girl violence is on the

increase.’ According to the media girl violence is worse than male on

male violence. Nothing could be further from the truth. The number of

males arrested for acts of violence has increased by 31,000 to 400,900

in the year 2006/7. So compared with the number of female acts of

violence male violence by far exceeds this number.

Attempting to deflect attention away from male violence is not a new

tactic because it has been used time and again. Obviously criticising

or challenging male violence is still a non-issue because males are

supposedly naturally more violent than females. Which explains why

there is such an outcry whenever a female commits an act of violence.

Women are not supposed to enact aggressive behaviour or commit acts of

violence. However, despite media claims, women and girls like men and

boys are human and both are subject to the same feelings and emotions.

How these emotions and feelings are expressed differ according to the

person’s gender. Women and girls are punished if they deviate from

patriarchal norms of femininity whereas boys and men are praised for

demonstrating their refusal to accept insults or disrespect from other

males and especially from women or girls.

So I repeat why should mothers be scapegoated for a social problem.

Rather than believing all the media hype and deliberate misinformation

we need to look at why so many teen boys are commiting violence against

other teen boys. Could it be that many teen boys live in fear of their

lives because if they appear to deviate from the constraints of

supposedly appropriate masculine behaviour they will be called ‘girls or

sissies’ by other boys who believe they are enacting real manly

behaviour. Come that – calling a boy or man a ‘girl’ says a great deal

about how women and girls are valued or rather devalued within our

society. Boys and girls learn our society is a hierarchal one wherein

powerful men are at the top, followed by less powerful males, then women

and lastly of course are children. Boys learn they must constantly

prove their supposed ‘masculinity’ because it so fragile and of course

who do they have to prove their ‘masculinity’ to? Why other boys and

men of course. Women’s and girls’ opinions are irrelevant because being

born female automatically makes the person a subordinate creature

according to patriarchal myths.

Claiming mothers are responsible is simply scapegoating and conveniently

ignores how society should in fact be analysing and attempting to

understand the complexities of male violence. Feminism which has been

much maligned and marginalised provides in-depth analysis and research

with regards to masculinities. But of course this challenges male power

and the media which is male-dominated cannot possibly allow alternative

views to be widely circulated. The government too is predominantly male

and refuses to listen to experts who understand how gender socialisation

operates in all its complexities.

From Lindsey Spilman

Gender rolls have changed in adult society over the past 20 or 30 years.

Young children are still brought up in the same gender binary way they have

always been. There is a conflict between child hood and adult hood. Boys

toys are mostly built on aggression (guns war tanks, action figures). As

are video games. All these behaviours are unacceptable in adult society.

Girls toys are mostly based around mothering or looking pritty. This

reinforces the old gender based ideas. A lot of the boy’s mags and games

show women who look like. Boys and girls are dressed differently; this

encourages them to play differently. In adult life both genders have to mix

together in the work place. All these issues could be solved if children

were treating as children not as girls and boys. Many studies have shown

that gender is inbuilt in the brain. So in theory there will be difference

anyway. When children are brought up with there gender constantly

reinforced it results in hyper masculinity or hyper femininity in adult

hood for many. This is because the natural gender differences which start

off small are magnified by up bringing. Gender is constructed to magnify

biological sex differences.

What really needs to be done is to encourage children to play for fun,

with unisex toys. Both genders need to build things, to help develop the

problem solving part of there brain. Both genders need to go out side with

nature and get dirty. Crystal growing, a telescope, making a volcano,

chemistry kits are good for both genders to get into science. I do not see

why girls need to play with dolls; the inbuilt maternal instinct will not

be strengthened by this. Boys do not play at being fathers. As for toys

that mimic doing the house work, these are silly, both genders need to help

out with some of the real stuff. Blue for boys only? Evidence shows that

blue and green help people to concentrate; pink can have the opposite

effect. A blue or green room may be better for both genders.

Boys from a young age are encouraged to put there creativity if they have

it, into building or constructing something i.e. there’s there to last

and they as well as everyone can see there achievement. Like making a model

of a car or something. Girls are encouraged to put there creativity on

there body for everyone else to look but them, they become the objects of

there own creativity when they put on make-up or do there hair, or put

glitter on there selves. There creativity is not there to last, is

disposable and soon forgotten after it is all washed off. The boys model

car is there being admired the next day. The girl is back to the start.

Then in adult life the same occurs with women putting there creativity

into make-up and fashion all of which have no permanent effect on the

world, instead they further undermine the confidence of women. Men are then

putting there creativity into more permanent things. Architecture and

building design.

Kink 101, by Kit Roskelly

From Jessie

The article on BDSM is fantastic. I & some of my friends are involved in

‘the scene’ but have never felt entirely comfortable with BDSM. This

article is very well written, has a clear train of thought and tackling an

issue I have found hard to get my head around. Well done on having the

courage to tackle such a heavy subject. This is very topical given the

change in laws regarding BDSM . It has also helped me to put words to how I

was feeling and thinking. Thank-you

From Lauren O

I think the article “Kink 101” was a great take on the BDSM scene. I am

not into that at all, but I think it is quite important to respect the

preferences of those who are.

If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend the article Kinky Sex

for Social Justice over at The 1585.

From m Andrea

“Hey, I know you don’t like my choices, but shut up. You don’t have the

right to criticise. I am exempt from criticism. I claim

criticism-exemption privilege.”

Pleeeeeeze. Have you heard of this new thing? It’s called “free


There’s also this other thing, it’s called “let’s pretend there are no

limits on healthy human behavior”. Let’s pretend every new thing is

“progressive” and “radical” and “pushing the boundaries” and everything

that has limits is “bad” and so everything which crosses that line

automatically, without thinking about it *at all*, becomes good.

No. Grow up. That crap doesn’t work when two years try it, and it

doesn’t work when twelve year olds try it, either.

From Emma

Kit, this is a great article and I’m really pleased to see a feminist

evaluation of bdsm written from a favourable perspective! I enjoy power

play myself, and I do get *very* tired of being told it’s unfeminist of me

to enjoy submission – particularly when I’ve been given much more respect

and found more importance was placed on my consent and enjoyment within the

relationship. Your point about exploring one’s sexuality being important

rings particularly true – and for me, that exploration is a part of my own

feminism and political stance; if I can accept it, and be aware of the

politics ramifications, then surely it’s ok – I don’t expect everyone to

enjoy the same sex as I do, but nor do I expect everyone to share the same

preferences in books or opinions on politics; if I can respect them, then

why must I be made to feel I’m not a “real” feminist. Thank you again for a

great article!

From Mobot

I really appreciated this article – although I can’t claim to have any

real knowledge of the BDSM scene, I like the idea that it promotes frank

and safe discussions about boundaries and consent. But mainly, I think it’s

vital that feminism in all its forms is respectful to individual

sexualities – I’ve had too many heated debates with feminists who appear to

have very fixed ideas of what is ‘acceptable’, which I believe can alienate

other feminists and potential allies. It’s a bit of a minefield though – I

can see the point in being anti porn, for example, but can’t quite bring

myself to pass judgement on a whole concept as if it was a straight forward


From Lemur

For your article on feminism and BDSM: thank you. Thank you, thank you. As

a feminist sub, i try hard to reconcile my beliefs about the treatment of

women and the need for change, and what I do in bed. Your article clarified

a lot of ideas I had but couldn’t articulate. If it’s ok with you I’ll be

linking to this (with credit) on my blog. You’ve helped me understand

myself, and feminism, better. So thank you!

From A different Helen

Kit Roskelly’s article “Kink 101” seems to be using similar arguments to

the sex and porn industry in trying to convince us that feminism should be

supportive of BDSM. We are told that because the sex and porn industries

provide employment for women and enable some to earn good money, being

exploited in pornography or selling ourselves as prostitutes is empowering

and feminist. To me however, this is missing the point. In my view,

feminism is not about individuals, but about what benefits or disadvantages

women as a group. When women are bought and sold as sexual commodities for

male use, this lowers our status in society, and encourages attitudes

amongst men that increase the likelihood of discrimination, harrassment and

sexual violence. To me therefore, working or supporting these industries is

not feminist, because in general, they do women more harm than good.

Similarly, just because some women have sufficient self confidence and

assertiveness to get what they want from BDSM, this does not make it

feminist. I am not familiar with any research in this area, but my gut

feeling is that normalising BDSM would simply provide more opportunities

for women to be coerced and abused, and consequently not something that

feminists should support. Furthermore, I would like to think that feminism

is about making the world a better place. Does getting off on other

peoples’ suffering and humiliation, even if they are consenting, make the

world a better place? I’m afraid I am inclined to think not. Sorry.

From Polly Styrene

Kit Roskelly presents feminist objections to BDSM as simply objections to

a ‘sexuality’ and therefore claims that feminists should not ‘pass

judgement’. Apart from the irony of someone writing an article telling

women that they shouldn’t tell other people what to do – since the

author themselves is thereby telling people what to do – this is quite

simply a false analogy.

The analogy is popularly used because everyone can see the injustice of –

for example – male homosexuality being illegal, and BDSM practitioners

therefore like to paint BDSM in the same terms. Which ignores the huge

differences – BDSM is not a ‘sexuality’ in the same way as

homosexuality but is a sexual practice that can be performed by

heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals. Objectors to homosexuality

object to the fact that the participants are the same sex, not the act

itself. Criticisms of BDSM are based on the idea that BDSM practices

themselves are harmful in some way.

My personal objections to BDSM are:

1) BDSM echoes and reifies harmful power relations in the wider society

2) BDSM is based on ‘consent’ but consent is not an absolute concept

and this ignores the extent to which coercion can be used to generate such

consent, especially when pre existing power relations between the

participants are unequal

3) Imagery used in BDSM is deeply offensive to many. It is frequently

racist and often includes the eroticisation of childhood sexual abuse and


4) BDSM can involve the infliction of actual bodily harm both

psychological and physical to participants.

Black American feminist Audre Lorde said in relation to Samois, the

lesbian S/M group founded by Pat Califia and others

“Without a rigorous and

consistent evaluation of what kind of a future we wish to create, and a

scrupulous examination of the expressions of power we choose to incorporate

into all our relationships including our most private ones, we are not

progressing, but merely re-casting our own characters in the same old weary

drama…SM is not the sharing of power, it is merely a depressing replay of

the old and destructive dominant/subordinate mode of human relating and

one-sided power, which is even now grinding our earth and our human

consciousness into dust” Lorde was saying quite simply that desires to

wield power in BDSM cannot be separated from unequal and abusive power

relations in the rest of life – as Lorde says “As a minority woman I

know dominance and submission are not bedroom issues”

Personally I find it difficult to imagine how a person could want to role

play abusive practices in their sex life and not want to express those

characteristics in the rest of their life – but even if they can, the

highly sanitised version of BDSM that Kit Roskelly presents ignores the

reality. The reality which includes themes of Nazi torture, images of

slavery, ‘rape fantasies’ and the eroticisation of child abuse. Leading

BDSM advocate Pat Califia advocated sex with underage children and even

defends child porn.

And produced a book called ‘Doing it for Daddy – short sexy fiction

about a very forbidden fantasy’.

This imagery is inevitably defended on the grounds that it is only

fantasy, but ignores the fact that it is often brought into the public

realm where it is hugely threatening for many women who have experience

real life sexual violence. Blogger Charliegrrl recounts here

her experience of being in a workshop on women’s sexuality and hearing a

BDSM practitioner talk – without any warning – about ‘rape

fantasies’ and ‘rape play’. Which caused many women who had

experienced rape to leave the workshop extremely upset. And of course much

BDSM imagery is deeply racist – slavery actually happened to the

foremothers of a huge number of women alive today, it wasn’t just a sexy

roleplay, it was actual human suffering. Max Mosley is currently pursuing a

legal case claiming his own BDSM ‘orgy’ wasn’t Nazi themed – which

shows how offensive and hurtful Nazi imagery is to many.

But BDSM often involves actual harm as well, physical and psychological.

“Operation Spanner” was a famous case in which a number of gay male

BDSM practitioners filmed themselves inflicting harm on the genitals of

other men – including nailing someone’s penis to a board. They defended

themselves on the grounds that the victims consented, but lost their case

as it was held that it was impossible to consent to ‘more than a trifling

injury’. So BDSM practitioners who inflict actual bodily harm – which

many do – are currently breaking the law. It was proposed by John

Major’s government to change the law on this, until domestic violence

groups who hadn’t been consulted initially, pointed out that it would

make obtaining convictions in cases of domestic violence almost impossible.

Which leads us to the question of ‘what is consent’. I personally

know women who have been in BDSM relationships to which they consented but

which afterwards they said were little more than self harm by proxy

(ironically Kit Roskelly’s piece follows Nino’s excellent article on

this very subject). ‘Stockholm syndrome’

is a well

recognised syndrome in the field of domestic violence where an abuse victim

will bond with their abuser as a survival technique. Those who have been

subject to abuse in their past are particularly liable to recreate abusive

relationships – many women I have met who have practised BDSM have past

histories of self harm.

Here feminist law professors

report on the case of Glenn Marcus who was found guilty of ‘sex

trafficking and forced labour’ with regard to the abuse of his

‘slave’ Jodi. Jodi was subjected to prolonged physical and sexual abuse

to which Marcus claimed she consented, by virtue of having agreed to be his


Kit Roskelly conveniently ignores what Nino’s wonderful piece of writing

so points out ” It’s so much easier to be hit by someone else than it

is to hit yourself.” She completely ignores the possibility that someone

involved in BDSM may have pre existing vulnerabilities which render their

ability to ‘consent’ hugely skewed.

Glenn Marcus claimed that Jodi as his ‘slave’ (Kit Roskelly in her

piece also omits to mention that the collars she talks about are signs of

collaring – agreeing to be someone’s ‘slave’) had foregone any

right to say no. In the Uk there are many women also being kept as

‘slaves’. Remember the news story of the “Darlington Sex slave


Does Kit Roskelly really think this, or Glenn Marcus can be defended as

‘feminist?’ Is she aware of the existence of the ‘UK Slave Register’?

The inevitable response of BDSM practitioners to these criticisms seems to

be to claim that all these abusive practices are ‘not BDSM’. Which

sounds to me like saying that if you have a car accident you are not

driving because you didn’t do it properly. If it is represented as BDSM

and we are told that BDSM is a practice that is merely a ‘highly

desirable exploration’ of sex life, how are the unwary and vulnerable to

resist exploitation? It is not only permissible for feminists to critique

BDSM in my opinion, it is vital.

From blondegirl

I applaud the author of this article. She hit the nail on the head- when

consent is given, there is nothing but respect between the two players.

Many women who play a submissive role in the bedroom are anything but

submissive out of it- it’s all make believe- the role you play is for

sexual gratification, and most of the time has nothing to do with who you

are as a person. As the sex-advice columnist Dan Savage has said, “It’s

cops and robbers for grownups…with their pants off.”

In my experience, there are few real misogynists in BDSM; it’s easy to

recognize them, and as a result, other players will reject them. As one

woman famously put it, “He’s not a dom…he’s just an asshole.” These

people are not accepted by the community in general, by either men or


Finally, let’s not forget- in actuality, it is the submissive who

ultimately controls the dominant. Everything is, in the end, done to please


The power balance is, in essence, equalized. Anyone with any real

knowledge of BDSM will realize it is perfectly compatible with feminism. I

personally count myself as both a feminist, and a member of the BDSM


Domestic violence and disabled women, by Clare Laxton

From Sabre

Thank you for this. It brought to light an issue that I had never thought

of, and it was well written. That donkey charity thing is infuriating. I do

think that in our society people do still somehow blame disabled people for

their situation, add that to the blame placed on women for domestic

violence and it becomes even more difficult to find help when you need it.

From Torygirl

I found the feature on disability and domestic violence really thought

provoking and enjoyed reading it very much. However, although I don’t have

the statistics at my fingertips, I have a feeling that those experiencing

disability expands with age, and most disability occurs within the elderly.

Given the fact that women tend to have longer life expectancies than men

(and what a bed of roses those final few years turn out to be…) the issue

of disability and domestic abuse surely overlaps strongly with the issue of

elder abuse, yet that is not mentioned in the article. For this reason, I

suspect that there is less than a complete picture here.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a review by Melanie Newman

From Claudia Flores

“What happened to the women in The Diving-bell and the Butterfly in its

transition from memoir to film, asks Melanie Newman?”

I watched the film last night, and being myself a sufferer of a chronic

non-degenerative condition, the attitude of Bauby is totally encouraging.

But that second scene you mention made me think about him in a totally

different way – couldn’t he be more respectful to the dutiful mother of his

children, asking ‘the mistress’ to call again next day?? I asked myself. I

was intrigued enough by the end of the film to find out ‘other truths’.

I’d rather think that the answer to your question is: culture shapes

gender relations to the point in which a successful and emancipated French

businesswoman, de la Rochefoucauld needed a very elaborated

revenge ten years later. That seems the case if besides of non-silenced

Bauby’s friends declarations in Beth Arnold’s article, you read Caroline

Iggulden’s interview to de la Rochefoucauld on The Sun (not that I read it

regularly, but it came up on my search)

Salon’s article states “When Bauby died, his children, Théo and Céleste,

were the inheritors of their father’s rights and royalties, and, naturally,

Sylvie de la Rochefoucauld acted as her minor children’s representative in

their business matters.” She seems to have been very skillful to make

Bauby’s father talk on the saving scene “Having a mistress is no excuse for

leaving the mother of your children”. But more importantly, in real life

Bauby’s son’s words “[I liked] the way Julian showed my mom strong and

getting over my dad”, echo a skillfully manipulated sense of her own

version of the relationship.

Perhaps de la Rochefoucauld cannot come to terms of having accepted an

arrangement with Bauby in which, deep down, she wanted him to have married

her. Or perhaps she wanted the respect that she did not give herself

allowing him to have “many mistresses. To learn what really happened to

“the women”, his girlfriend, Florence, should speak out.

From Ardella Jones

I’m really glad someone made these points about the movie and the

libertie’s taken with Bauby’s autobiography. When are we going to see a

film about an imobile, crippled woman with two devoted men by her side?

Comments on older features and reviews

Sex and the City the movie: Having your (wedding) cake and eating it, review by Catherine Redfern

From leaf

I had many of the same responses to the film ; that it was more

conventional and less daring than the series and a bit of a disappointment.

But what really bugged me was that it encouraged the habit of believing

that you can endlessley remedy your relationship. Let’s face it, in real

life a relationship of Carrie and Big would hardly be a happy one. On again

off again is very emotionally straining and I feel this film encouraged

it.too many women hang on to their boyfriends desperately and forgive them

everything already.

And why didn’t Samantha fuck Dante? Cannot forgive it, if she was going to

leave Smith anyway, she should have taken advantage of the occasion! We

were expecting it! There were hardly any decent sex scenes in the film!

And the implication that Miranda drove Steve away by not waxing was very

sexist and very reactionary. I never liked Steve anyway she shoulda dumped

him. Men who cannot handle pubic hair are not sexually mature. How credible

is a lawyer marrying a bar-tender anyway? And if they wanted to make this

one for fortysomethings they should have talked about second marriages.

From Susan

For the most part I agree with you. I thought Sex and the City (the

series) was original and brought up social issues in a contemplative (and

often caustic, but for good reason) way. The movie got all soapy and sloppy

to me. The whole wedding hoopla was absurd. But what got me like a knife in

the gut was this: last week I watched the last disc of season 4 with a

friend. I thought I had seen all of the SATC episodes. Well, there was one

I missed–A Vogue Idea. In this episode (as you may well know) Carrie

reveals to a senior male editor at Vogue that her father abandoned her and

her mother when Carrie was 5 years old, Carrie never knew why he left,

never had seen or heard from him again. This is about the saddest thing

that can happen to a child (in this way, in the sequence as described

above.) In fact, it would be so traumatic that one would be totally screwed

up in terms of the opposite sex, well, pretty much for life–and I saw this

as a child and adolescent psychotherapist. The writers did nothing with

this information other than have Carrie type “How much do father figures

figure?” (we know the answer to this, do we not?) But Carrie doesn’t (no

wonder she is a poor lost soul in this world) and she talks with Miranda at

the end of the episode about this, wondering if it was “significant” or

not–Miranda blows it off as “nothing at all” and says “my father was home

at 7 every night and I have no clue about men.” So the viewer is left with

the idea that, well, fathers aren’t important, really (a horrible view) and

that Carrie’s early trauma wasn’t really trauma at all. The writers by

putting this material in the series and handling it as they did was

pathetic. Never was anything else said. Carrie never gets help (real help)

for her early trauma and actually the writers have Carrie tell us this

information and then we are to watch her “act-out” in dysfunctional ways

for two more seasons, then add the movie and it’s all for “our enjoyment”

and “our fun”…I think that’s a terrible thing for writers to do to a

character. They simply used her and led us to also. It sickened me. No

wonder Carrie was drawn to “Mr. Big”….how does a father look to a 5 year

old girl when she looks up at him? Big. The whole idea of not knowing his

name is weird in this context (Big’s that is.) All of Carrie’s relationship

problems can pretty well be connected to that one episode in season 4–yet,

it is never developed. At all. It’s as if father abandoning their families

and never seeing them again….EVER…is well, just normative and fine. No

wonder Carrie hit Big in the face with the flowers like a child. (But who

would know this? I doubt the writers were even aware of their own

unconcious stuff)…no wonder Carrie would be drawn to Big, no wonder she

couldn’t commit to Aidan. And while a happy-ever-ending was presented,

Carrie has a huge hole in her heart from her past that has never ever been

dealt with and it’s a hole Mr. Big cannot fill. No way.

It’s no wonder the whole thing felt off-kilter. It was. The series was now

that I look back on it in light of the episode I speak of. I was just


Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

First, I have to admit that I’m coming at this having never seen a single episode of Sex and the City, or the movie. But I have to say that I really disagree with the idea that growing up without a father, for whatever reason, irrevocably spoils a woman’s ability to have good relationships with men later in life.

I just don’t think it stands up – sure, it’s a traumatic thing to happen to a child, but I’d urge you to consider the effect that this kind of sentiment has on the many, many people who have been in the – not incredibly rare – position, of growing up without a daddy figure for whatever reason. The important thing, in my view, is growing up with loving parents and family – whoever that may be. It’s also worth considering that the type of father who would do this may not be the type of father you’d want around.

Men! Feminism needs you! (Not your privilege…), by Anne Onne

From stephen m

The first time I read an article like this one about men’s participation

in feminist matters it was definitely hard to take. Later after thinking

about what was written, I had to admit it was very good advice and helped

me to further understand general feminist attitudes toward men.

I would recommend interested men discuss feminist issues with close

feminist friends (women and/or men). This puts the issues in very personal

perspective… every day, these issues are affecting the lives of women,

including the women you like/love.

From Kevin

There are some who argue that men and people who are white cannot be the

victims of sexism or racism. That, instead, they are experiencing the

effects of oppressed people reclaiming their rights. I must confess that I

do not hold that position. I believe that discrimination is about people

who have power (To grant access or to commit violence) abusing or misusing

that power.

From hannah

I felt the part in this article about the writer’s reaction to a scene in

Eastenders was silly and beside the point. As a feminist woman, I would

also say that shaking and feeling breathless while watching a woman get

threatened on TV is a little over-sensitive. That’s fine – some people are

over-sensitive. I personally can’t watch horror films at all because I hate

seeing people in pain. But I dislike the idea that all women are fragile

flowers who can’t bear to watch other ickle girls in dangerous situations

on TV. This kind of personal, all-pain-is-my-pain pontificating doesn’t

help anyone and is more likely to put men off than draw them in. But while

we’re on the subject of Eastenders – how about the evil baby-snatching

doctor? That particular piece of character development is practically the

living embodiment of anti-feminist backlash.

Anne Onne, author of the article, replies

I respect your right to disagree, or indeed to feel that the anecdote is irrelevant, but I have to disagree. I wasn’t writing about a reaction to a portrayal of a gender-neutral horrific experience, but an experience that affects women. The aim wasn’t to suggest that all women are emotionally invested in horror plots to a point they can’t stand them. It was to highlight how much more personal something is when it has the possibility of affecting you.

I never suggested that all women would feel empathy with the female character in the situation (though a few have emailed in telling us they have, so it’s not just me), but that men, as people not taught to fear rape, could not. And that as a result, it’s important to listen to those who are much more involved, much more at risk, rather than focusing on your own more limited and protected experiences. The point to men was that there are things they have never feared, or indeed thought about, and that women’s opinions and experiences in these fields would be very different. Many women might not have felt so involved, and that’s fine. Just like trigger warnings and 18 certificates, it’s up to individual people do decide what they can handle, but I do think it should be labelled. You might accuse me of being over-sensitive, but an actual rape victim should probably have more warning before being exposed to something that might give them flashbacks. That’s just my opinion.

I haven’t been watching the last few weeks of Eastenders. But I do agree the baby-snatching wicked witch trope is a tiresome reminder that feminism is still needed.

Hairy Anniversary, blog post by Laura Woodhouse

From Shael

Being a 21 year old black woman who has NEVER shaved her legs can be

difficult. Make up. T-shirts with shoulder-cut sleeves. Hair less legs. No.

No. No! I must admit that I’m hugely self-conscious of my hairy legs. I

embrace your love for your own individuality. I just want to print out your

article and paste it on my phone and my office desk. Weird, I know. You and

other people who love different hairy parts on homo sapiens really

represent the heart of this world. I love my shorts (especially in the

South), and I wished that I would grow a pair of “nuts” and just wear them.

It just pisses me off that there are some people on this earth that always

have to give you their 2 cents when you have your own. This topic has been

challenging for me. I love reading articles (like this) about women who

love their unique body hair. So, maybe I am a feminist. If only I had the

power to block out other people’s 2 cents like the gov’t will probably do

to the actual 1 cent piece. Maybe I should become bilingual. Women like

you give me a little courage to put on shorts. Hey, I said that I am hugely

self-conscious of my legs. Maybe it will scare away dumbass men and stupid

girls who wanted to be your friend post-hairy leg reveal. This world is

cruel. Thank you! I have saved your article in my e-mail mailbox.

– Not responding to unsupporting advice from strangers is hair-raisingly


Rape: an unfinished revolution, by Louise Livesey

From Tracey Heynes

Regarding the review of the book on the history of rape,the last comment

about “your granny’s birthdaygift” – even though qualified – was shamefully

ageist and stereotyping of older women….and unworthy of an article on a

feminist website!!!!! It assumes all older women would somehow be

uninterested(or offended)by the subject – how narrow-minded.

From James Walkling

I would just like to say please women keep up the feminist movement as a

man I use to have a very limited view of feminism. But after I read an

excellent review from g2 about the crisis women are now facing in the UK

and the world. It’s changed my view complete. For me to see a women as

less of an equal is beyond my understanding I can see a women only as an

equal except when it comes to multitasking. It makes me sick that old men

or right wing religious people are trying to take the freedoms of women

away. For example the argument in government about how long you can have a

abortion what right as old narrowed mind men got to tell you what you can

do with your bodies! In a very sexual culture I fear for women, the review

on the 5% conviction rate on rape is beyond a joke. What I found more

shocking that people put some of the blame on women if they are drunk or

wear certain clothes as part responsible for getting raped. all I’d like

to see what the results would be if a man who got raped because he was

drunk or wearied the wrong clothes would people say part of it would be

he’s fault? I really doubt I would see the same results. I could go on

and on but all I would say there are men that support the fight for women

rights I am one of them so please keep fight on!

A slice-by-slice attack on women’s right to choose, by Kit Roskelly

From Joshua Jackson

I support the work done by not only this organisation but by the feminist

movement as a whole, and as a male feel that this struggle for equality is

well faught and women deserve the equal rights of men in every respect.

Thank you for making my world a more equal place in which i live. Thank


Female commentator kicks off barrage of sexism, by Katherine

From Amy Blundell

this is a really good article and i really enjoyed reading it. I am doing

some research for my dissertation which is about women being employed at

football clubs and what jobs are available to them in comparison to men.

this article provided some interseting thoughts about sexism in other areas

of football. thanks

Can burlesque be feminist?, by Chloe Emmott

From Poppy M Cherry (Philippa)

Thank you for this fabulous article about burlesque. I have been

performing at burlesque shows (mostly Bella’s, actually!) for just over a

year. I never feel that I am exploiting myself, rather celebrating myself!

I’m not a size zero. I’m not a size 10 or 12. That doesn’t mean my body

isn’t beautiful though and there is little more empowering to that thought

than a room full of people cheering when I’m on stage. Given that most of

the audience is women, there is really very little about the show that is

actually sexual; it is rather a sensual, cheeky and fun experience.

Please pass on my thanks to Chloe (or Inanna!) for being willing to open

up her mind and give it a go.

*hugs and sparkles*

How to create a woman’s glossy magazine in five minutes, by Catherine Redfern

From John

I’m a returning student in graphic design and really enjoyed your article

on how to make a magazine in 5 mins. It is so true all the comments you

made. Amazing how people fall for the same magazines month after month but

never really get anything out of them. touche’

We Need to Talk About Kevin, review by Janet Phillips

From Amanda

The review of “We need to talk about Kevin” was conventional to say the

least. It was a novel that appalled me (mostly for the hideous writing

style and artificial epistolary format), but also because of the

representation of motherhood and parenthood, disability and mental illness.

Your review did not go into any of these complex issues raised in this book

– apparently Eva could have been doing more important things than raising

her child, and she was degraded and humiliated by the act of motherhood.

This is not the case. The character, wealthy and self-indulgent in the

highest degree, chose motherhood (she was not forced into it in any way –

in both instances, she did not inform her partner she was ending her

contraception), and when she found pregnancy required self-sacrifice on her

part, decided she no longer wanted her child. She chose to see her seven

week old child as deliberately malicious, as somehow deliberately

“refusing” her breast and “performing” for her husband even at that young

age. Her account is unreliable and self-interested. Rather than finding

this a novel which explores the experience of motherhood as a marginalising

and degrading experience, I found it to be a novel which exposed the

self-interested and self-indulgent nature of American culture, which

creates children capable of mass-murdering other children. At the same

time, questions of mental illness and social disorders are totally

overlooked – I found that to be offensive.

The epidemic of male violence against women, by Jennifer Drew

From loggylogic

When are these men hating feminists going to stop all this propoganda and

realise that men are also victims of abuse by vicious women.It really irks

me that there is so much hatred towards a fellow human being.

Filling the hole, by Katie Muller

From Michael Morgan

Men do have a hole inside them as well. Your assumption that it can be

filled by a women is wrong. I have a hole and I have a marriage the is

good, but the hole remains..

Are women and girls vulnerable?, by Jennifer Drew

From Chris

This article seems a little bias. I appreciate that frequesntly describing

women as vulnerable can be linked to an older way of thinking of them as

“the weaker sex” (a phrase that implies more than it literally states) but

I take issue with this article. For one thing many of the quotes of

“vulnerable” have been taken from lawyers trying to secure convictions – of

course they are going to use emotive terms like that to convince a jury,

and if it helps get these criminals locked up that’s a good thing.

Furthermore, on average, women are significantly less physically strong

than men, so in the crude everyday sense of the word it is true that women

are more ‘vulnerable’ – they find it (on average) harder to fight off an

attack, and I fail to see how acknowledging this is in anyway pandering to

the idea that it is not men’s fault. This article also claims that women

are told [ t o ] : “always believe male colleagues, male acquaintances and

male family members are completely trustworthy”. Now a commonly quoted

statistic is that most women who are raped are raped by men they know well

and trust. It is easy to find in mainstream media, so I would like to know

who exactly is trying to brainwash women in to trusting all men, because it

certainly isn’t the mainstream establishment. I would also like to point

out the conceptual difference between being a rapist and being a

msyogynist. If I murder a man, even several men, it does not mean I hate

men, or despise their gender. If someone rapes a woman, that does not show

them to be a msyogynist; it shows them to be evil, selfish, vicious and

probably sex obsessed. (not obsessed in a sense that makes them less

responsible for their actions – being obsessed with money does not make you

less responsible for fraud). The article raises a question as to why these

men rape women, and seems to find the answer to be that it’s because they

are mysogynists. It is clear however that one can be a mysogynist without

raping any women (a gay male mysogynist for example) and that a rapist need

not be a mysogynist. I have no doubt that mysogny is a factor in some rape

cases, but if Jennifer Drew is going to claim that it is the main

explanation, and that it is a result of what children are taught by

mainstream society, then she must cite evidence, for example psychological

surverys and profiles of sex offenders. She cites no statistics, surverys

or reliable empirical evidence, and yet is convinced that her radical

answer is correct and the more obvious answer wrong. It looks as though she

is basing her views on faith rather than reason.

Please do not get me wrong, I consider myself a feminist and if there is

empirical evidence such as psychological surveys that supports Drew’s claim

I will change my position on the subject. I hope this gets a response, I am

open minded and will readily change my mind if given a rational reason to.

For the record, I beleive (based on employment/income statistics and

statistics of domestic violence) that there is a significant amount of

sexism left in our society.

Jennifer Drew, author of the article, replies

Clare Loxton’s

article Domestic violence and disabled women, says that often disabled women are not in


‘vulnerable’ but rather they are ‘disabled’ because of societal

attitudes, prejudices and exclusion. In other words, disabled women who

experience male violence do not experience this because of their

‘vulnerability or disabledness’ but because they experience disadvantage

due to societal attitudes and beliefs.

Likewise, claiming a woman who has experienced male sexual/physical

violence is a ‘vulnerable’ person subtly implies the woman’s supposed

vulnerability was partially responsible for causing the male perpetrator

to inflict an act of violence on the woman.

Prosecution council and the media too routinely depict women survivors

of male violence as ‘vulnerable individuals’ and therefore it is their

very ‘vulnerability’ which made them a victim of male violence. Using

such terminology subtly deflects attention away from the behaviour and

actions of the male perpetrator. It effectively pathologises women

because they are supposedly weaker and hence ‘vulnerable’ to men’s

sexual and physical violence. Reality is that not all women are weaker

than men and likewise not all men are stronger than women. Research has

consistently shown that some women are physically stronger than men and

some women are taller than men. Janet Shibley-Hyde has conducted a meta

analysis of research into the supposed innate biological differences

between women and men. Same Difference written by Rosalind Barnett and

Caryl Rivers also analyses and debunks myths concerning women’s supposed

innate weakness compared to men as a group. The Frailty Myth by Colette

Dowling discusses and analyses how women as girls are indoctrinated into

believing they are physically weaker than boys. Both these books

provide factual research evidence of how the myth men are stronger than

women is used to maintain male dominance and power over women as a


Likewise the media rarely if ever reports news items wherein women and

girls have successfully fought or resisted a man or boy intent on raping

them. I highly recommend the book ‘Her Wits About Her: Self-Defence

Success Stories by Women’ edited by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves. Here

you will find real life stories of women and girls – yes girls too who

used their wits in order to outwit a male intent on raping them.

Physical strength in itself is not always a guarantee that a male rapist

will succeed in raping a woman or girl.

You claim that labelling women survivors of male violence as

‘vulnerable’ does not deflect attention away from the male perpetrator’s

accountability. But in fact, claiming a woman or girl survivor was

‘vulnerable’ does negate male accountability. Imagine if a male

survivor of male violence were labelled ‘vulnerable.’ Such a definition

would be hotly disputed because the assumption is that no man is ever

‘vulnerable.’ Whereas women are supposedly ‘vulnerable’ and because

they are ‘vulnerable to male violence’ it is their responsibility to

ensure they never put themselves in danger or at risk of male violence.

By individualising women’s supposed ‘vulnerability’ it neatly

invisibilises how unequal power operates and it also invisibilises how

society accords men as a group greater power and rights than women.

Yes indeed women are commonly told they should trust male colleagues,

male friends and especially male relatives because the real villains are

supposedly deranged male monsters who are not normal ‘respectable men.’

In fact the media does not accept that most rapes are committed by men

who are acquainted with the female survivor. Repeatedly the media

commonly provides examples of male strangers raping and sexually abusing

‘innocent women and girls.’ It is still widely disputed that men who

are a woman’s partner, relative, work colleague, acquaintance and even a

date, are the ones responsible for committing sexual violence against


Eaves Housing recently published in-depth research which showed the

media has consistently deliberately misrepresented male violence against

women and in particular has portrayed ‘real rape’ as only occurring when

a deranged male stranger has raped a woman or girl. If you look under

the sub-heading Lilith Project there you will find a variety of research

which has been conducted in respect of the multiple ways men enact

violence against women and children.

Our patriarchal society does not want to accept the reality of male

violence against women, which is why the conviction rate for men charged

with raping a woman or girl is still only around 6%. Most rapes are

committed by men who know the woman or girl and since the male rapist

knows the female survivor, rape myths immediately come into play.

Likewise misogynstic beliefs concerning what is supposedly appropriate

female sexual behaviour and male sexual behaviour ensure that most male

rapists are acquitted. Further information concerning rape myths can be

located on the Rape Crisis website and also End Violence Against Women

website. The book ‘I never Called it Rape’ by Robin Warsaw is an

excellent starting point in order to learn how male-dominant ideologies

concerning male sexuality and female sexuality are used to excuse and

justify men raping women.

One of the central reasons why the legal system, society and the media

too refuse to accept feminist research concerning male sexual violence

is because if our society accepted it is men’s responsibility not to

commit rape this would effectively curtail male privilege and power.

Consider how male sexuality continues to be constructed as predatory,

uncontrollable once aroused, plus of course men are rarely held

accountable for their behaviour. Instead it is a woman’s responsibility

to ensure she is not raped by a man and if she fails it is her fault

never the man’s. It is considered acceptable for a man to use pressure,

coercion or even the threat of force in order to gain sexual access to a

woman he considers has ‘signalled sexual availability.’ Rus Funk has

written a book aimed at men and I highly recommend it in order to learn

how boys are socialised into accepting predatory male sexuality as

normal and natural. The title of this book is Stopping Rape: A

Challenge For Men. Christopher Kilmartin

and Julie Allison have recently published a book entitled ‘Men’s

Violence Against Women: Theory, Research and Activism.’ Again I highly

recommend this since the authors are experts in the field of male

violence against women.

A man does not have to be a rapist in order to believe misogynistic


concerning women as a group. Misogyny means hatred and or contempt of

women as a group and it also means devaluing women compared to men.

Misogyny also means holding women in contempt or hating them because

they are biologically female rather than male. This is the essence of

misogyny believing women are inferior to men because of their sex.

The difference between murdering a woman and murdering a man is that

predominantly men who murder a man or men do so not because they hate

men but because of something the male victim has done or threatens to do

and therefore the only way of silencing the man is by murdering him.

However, many men murder women because female victims happen to be women

not because of their actions or behaviour. I have yet to read of men

being murdered because they happen to be male. Ask yourself why do so

many men murder their female partners when the woman declares she is no

longer prepared to continue living with him. Because these men believe

they own the woman and she has no right to act independently of his

wishes. Such men believe women exist to serve men’s needs and desires

and have no independent rights of their own. Therefore, these men

believe it is their right to punish the woman because she has deviated

from male-defined views of how women should behave and act. Male acts

of violence against women are predominantly committed because they are

women and such acts of violence are used to enforce male dominance and

control over women as a group. Not all men commit violence against

women but the very fact that many men do so serves to reinforce the

oppression of women by men. Likewise acts of violence committed against

men and women of colour are predominantly committed not because of

individualised hatred or contempt but because our white society still

believes that non-whites are inferior to whites and as such are a lesser

and subordinate group. So it is with male violence against women and

many men use violence in order to maintain and enforce male control over


An excellent example of how male privilege and power operates. Do most

men become concerned when venturing out in a public sphere that another

man will approach them or as he passes by call out sexualised insults or

tell the man to get his kit off. Of course not yet it is common for

women and girls to experience constant male sexual harassment in public

spheres. Many men consider it their right to leer, yell at women and

tell a woman to ‘get her breasts out for his sexual pleasure. It is

not considered male sexual harassment but rather male sexual right to

comment and make sexually degrading comments about a woman’s or girl’s

body, since women and girls supposedly exist for men to leer at and

demonstrate their male power by these misogynistic insults.

No, most men who commit rape are not monsters, evil or sex obsessed what

they are enacting is the extreme continuum of masculinity. Men learn as

boys that one of the main privileges of masculinity is the belief it is

a male’s right to seek sexual access to women and girls. Men learn as

boys they are expected to always initiate and control any sexual

interaction with women and men are expected to use pressure, coercion or

threats of violence in order to gain access to the woman’s body. Rape

is both male violence and also male belief it is his right to have

sexual access to any woman. This is what most individuals find so

difficult to understand. Men are taught as boys that their sexuality is

supposedly uncontrollable once aroused and it is a man’s right to seek

sexual satisfaction with any woman he considers ‘available.’ The woman’

sexual desires and wishes are irrelevant because the man’s sexual

desires and wishes supercede hers. Hence the centuries old

justification for men committing rape because women and girls supposedly

lead a man on and once he becomes aroused he is not held accountable for

his actions. Far too many men believe it is their right to force a

woman to accept penetration once sexual activity has occurred because

this is the logical conclusion of a sexual encounter – successful

penetration of a woman’s body by the man. It is not ‘real rape’ because

the woman supposedly really wanted the man to penetrate her body and she

was just

acting coy. In effect women’s sexuality continues to be subordinated

and controlled by men for men’s sexual pleasure and gratification.

Rape is also commonly used by men to humiliate and punish women who they

believe have disrespected them or to destroy their bodily integrity.

Rape in war is common and its aim is the destruction of ‘enemy women’

and men who rape ‘enemy women’ do so in order to systematically destroy

the enemy society. After all, globally it is still widely held that

women are responsible for men raping them and once a woman has been

raped she is ‘shamed and has lost her honour.’ Raped women are commonly

cast out from their society and if they are married their husbands

commonly abandon them.

You appear to be taking an individualised stance wherein you believe

that the actions of individual men have no bearing on how male power and

privilege operates. All men do not have to commit rape in order for

women to live in fear of a man raping them. It is how society

consistently condones, justifies and excuses male violence against women

which ensures that men retain their power and privilege over women.

Yes indeed men who are homosexuals can be misogynists but remember the

term misogyny means male hatred or male contempt for women.

The reason I did not give examples of research, evidence and feminist

analysis of male violence against women was because this article was

intended for the general reader. As already stated above, I have given

excellent examples of how male violence against women operates. Do

check out Rape Crisis website and also End Violence Against Website.

You might also investigate the UN’s website because there you will see

overwhelming evidence of men’s continued violence against women and


If you consider yourself a feminist then I have to ask the question why

do you disbelieve the predominance of male sexual and physical violence

against women. The evidence is available within the public sphere but

of course the media which is male-dominated is not interested in citing

statistics and evidence.

You might also consider checking out the website The White Ribbon

Campaign. This is a male-led pro-feminist organisation which originated

in Canada shortly after a male student cold bloodedly and callously

murdered a number of women students. This man’s twisted logic was that

he had been denied a place in studying engineering because these uppity

women had usurped his male privilege wherein being male supposedly

entitled him a place studying engineering.

The White Ribbon Campaign is for men only and its aim is to challenge

dominant misogynstic notions of what it means to be a ‘real man.’ The

ultimate aim of The White Ribbon Campaign is to further egalitarian

relationships between women and men rather than the patriarchal system

which claims that men are innately superior to women and it is natural

and right for women to be subordinated to men as a group.

Remember that research reports cannot possibly cover all the

complexities of why so many men engage in violence against women neither

can such reports always cover the complexities of how societal beliefs

such as the construction of gender and sexuality operates to ensure that

women as a group continue to be perceived as defective humans compared

to men as a group. One only has to read a few newspapers to begin to

gain an understanding of how women are portrayed. The newspapers

consistently portray men as being at the ‘centre of the universe’ and

reports all focus on men’s actions and initiatives. Women if they

feature are rarely shown as diverse individuals, instead women are

primarily represented in relation to men or the focus is on the woman’s

sexualised body parts. When the media reports publication of new

research in respect of gender, predominantly the focus is on women’s

negative aspects compared to men’s supposedly positive traits and

abilities. I believe this helps to perpetuate society’s increased

misogyny and women-hatred.

Stripping the illusion…, by Anji Capes

From Manuel Fernandez

A campaign to stop lap-dancing clubs? Is that really the most efficient

use of your time? Instead of protesting the mis-education of children, the

corrupt politicians, the massacres on the other side of the world. You come

to the conclusion that women lap-dancing for men is worthy of a campaign? I

think your campaign is delusional and I doubt it will succeed (in fact I

hope it doesn’t). If this is some sort of “feminist crusade” should you not

find a worthier cause? What about all the women in the Middle East that

can’t even show their wrist. You have the right to do whatever you wish,

but other women can’t. I hope you rethink your “campaign” and find a

worthier cause. I find this crusade oppressive and disgusting.

‘Honey! Your vagina needs a mint’, by Samara Ginsberg

From David Harris

I guess I’m weird; I PREFER hairy vaginas over bald ones and size doesn’t

matter; what matters is the chemistry with the woman. On the other hand, I

have heard from several sources that penis size DOES matter, so that shifts

my opinion a bit to preferring vaginas small enough for me to give her a

thrill, over and above foreplay, licking, massaging…whatever.

Also, The Vagina Institute (which I have never heard and which doesn’t

interest me) is nothing but a porn site, run by people who can’t make that

much money any other way, so who cares what they say about it? Mostly

people like them.

Are you married? If not, why not?, by Victoria Dutchman-Smith

From Rachel

I came on your website while “googling” for articles on marriage in

general. I am 28 year old, been in a relationship for less than a year

with my 32 year old boyfriend. We are considering getting married.

I was opposed to marriage for a while and the reason is I found it was

useless. My parents are divorced and I was once engaged to someone which

also turned out to be going the wrong person.

Until I met the man of my life… he explained to me his perspective on

marriage and I happened to agree with it. To us, marriage is a commitment

to each other that we will spend the rest of our lives together and will do

everything to make this relationship work. It doesnt matter who proposes,

who wears the rings, what religion we are in, who will be at out wedding,

or whether or not we decide to change our name.

In fact, I intend to propose to my boyfriend, and he already said he

would say yes. I will propose because I want a stable relationship, I want

a partner who will be there for me in good and bad days… its not about

who wears the pants… its about being a team and facing life’s future

events together.

Stopping violence against women at its primary root, by Matthew Provost

From Shev

I was really interested to read Matthew Provost’s article on the link

between misogyny and sexism and playground bullying. Social norms are often

most fiercely enforced in a place like school, where fitting in is

all-important, vicious power-struggles are the norm, and everyone is trying

to work out who they are and where they fit in.

I recently read an article in a free gay community magazine (Istrongly

recommend these, incidentally, even for straight men and women – a powerful

source of news that you would not otherwise hear on mainstrem news outlets.

G3, fyne times, pink paper and bent are all good, and free in local gay

bars). A Stonewall survey found that out of the 10 most common insults in

the playground, 8 of them referred specifically to homosexuals, and the

other two… yep, you guessed it, to women, or in this case, girls. And

yes, of course the insults were sexual in nature. If this is what children

are learning as a form of social control (homos are bad, girls are bad,

sexuality is really bad – and also entirely the fault of homos and girls),

then it is of no surprise that these attitudes continue over to adult life,

and cause so much pain and misery to all of us.

PS – I really hate Chris Moyles.

Why men should care about gender stereotypes, by Alex Gibson

From Marge

As a woman I truly enjoyed reading your article because I

have found many men easily accepting these brutish stereotypes from their

teens. I am tired of the “sex-obsessed” and aloof versions of male

reality we are presented in the media and after reading your article I

found hope in the fact that there will one day rise an aggregate of men who

stand up and say No! Also, what these stereotypes foster is a focus on

male domination in relationships rather than clear communication between

two humans. You can yell, scream, cry, and hug in the process and you will

merely display human empathy rather than what would be defined as

“sissy” behaviors. This clear communication strengthens bonds and

helps in both party’s quality of life, so I might be running out of space

here to explain, but ultimately if we put aside gender stereotypes, and as

you say see one another as human we will be much better off. Keep up the

good work. Best wishes from California!

Jacky Fleming on drawing for feminism, by Jess McCabe

From Laura Bennett

I adore Jacky Fleming. I’d have been interested to see her response had

your interviewer asked her about her decision to draw for “You”, The Mail

on Sunday’s magazine?

The biological clock, by Catherine Redfern

From Mel

I agree with this article – although I am 12 years older than the writer

and the decision to not have children becomes even more pressing. I long

for improved contraception, I long for people to accept my and my partner’s

decision, I long for society to realise that not all women want to be

mothers. Feminists have fought so hard for mother’s rights, about time we

started fighting for our right not to be a mother.

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