Sunday round-up

// 3 August 2008

What Tami Said_ DeBeers_ Exploitation is forever.jpgDeBeers has created a hideously offensive line of necklaces shaped like tribal masks.

As What Tami Said points out, given the history and current practices of this company, this is beyond tasteless, it’s fucked up.

Is Shirley by Charlotte Bronte a feminist novel? Deborah at The Hand Mirror considers the evidence.

Actor Rhys Ifans thinks date rape is all good, reports the Independent:

Ifans, 40, who sprang to fame in the film Notting Hill, was asked by the station Q Radio to comment on a track by the band the Gutter Twins. The Welsh star expressed his enthusiasm for the act by saying: “It’s kind of like being date raped, which I like.”

When pressed further by the presenter on whether date rape was a good thing, Ifans added: “Well yeah, for guys.”


Evolutionary scientists are always eager to bring everything back to the gene pool. Phila at Echidne of the Snakes satirises them mercilessly:

I woke early, just like my hypervigilant ancestors did back in the Pleistocene. I considered getting out of bed, but then I realized that I ought to read for a while. After all, being able to display a wider range of knowledge than the next fellow could very well enhance my reproductive fitness.

I spent a pleasant hour with Baron Corvo’s The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole, which he wrote in 1934 in order to advertise his health and virility to the wealthy dowagers of Venice. Afterwards, I decided to go downstairs and see how things stood on the Internet. While it may seem to you like a medium of communication, I see it as a battlefield. Yes, a battlefield! For it is there that I go to overawe my male rivals, and dazzle those members of the fair sex who strike me as adequate receptacles for my precious seed.

The Babeland Blog considers fetal masturbation at 32 weeks.

Kit talks through gendered spaces at Today I Am A Boy.

The F Word – the other one, with Gordon Ramsey – featured a drink called Pussy on his show – see Womanist Musing for more.

Yes Jane, you can go to the fancy dress party as Spiderman. Here’s your costume!

Anti-China rhetoric continues to ramp up as the Olympics get closer – Madam Miaow points to one particularly vile example.

Meanwhile, a woman has lost a sexual harassment case in Russia because the judge said abusing women is necessary for the survival of the species, reports The Telegraph. (Via Jezebel. The unnamed 22-year-old woman was locked out of her office, after refusing to have sex with her boss – so far only two women have won sexual harrassment cases in Russia.

The Telegraph has some sobering statistics about the Russian workplace:

According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.

Eighty per cent of those who participated in the survey said they did not believe it possible to win promotion without engaging in sexual relations with their male superiors.

And across the Atlantic, it looks like president Bush plans to veto legislation to promote equal pay, as one of his last acts in office – more at Feministe. Also see the latest Friday Feminist Fuck You for more on the crazy, anti-woman antics of the Bush administration!

Comments From You

butterflywings // Posted 3 August 2008 at 9:36 pm

Er, what’s wrong with anti-China rhetoric?

Generalising about Chinese *people* is wrong, but surely it’s valid to criticise the policies of a country?

China is in fact committing genocide in Tibet. Tibetans who dare to peacefully protest are tortured. To death.

See for information.

Sian // Posted 4 August 2008 at 9:31 am


The particular example of Anti-China rhetoric pointed out by Madame Miaow is bad-“genocide olympics”? There is a lot to criticise the Chinese governments for but genocide is not currently occuring. The problem is that, yes, there are real problems with the Chinese government that make people justifiably angry and I can see why people want to boycott the Olympics for those reasons, but in the media that seems to turn into a broader anti-China thing which gets bad-like the environmental stuff, China is no worse on that frontthan most of the western world (though the problems are different).

The other thing that annoys is the focus on critising China at the expense of criticising other countries with restrictions on freedom of speech etc-I understand why it is occuring currently with the Olympics as they naturally have a spotlight on them, but this has been occuring before this. I suspect it partly emanates from a general anti-communist feeling. I would love to hear more in the news about, say, the crisis in Sudan, etc etc.

Jess // Posted 4 August 2008 at 10:02 am

butterflywings – As a general rule of thumb, if you criticise an entire country you’re talking bullshit. It’s xenophobia disguised as political critique of government policy.

People often indentify quite strongly with their country, generally speaking, and are prone to take offense if you make sweeping statements about it.

Rachel // Posted 4 August 2008 at 11:21 am

Aaargh, we had some ‘Pussy’ promoting people around our university campus earlier this year, all wearing t-shirts with tasteful slogans like ‘why have wings when you can have pussy’ (as in drink our energy drink, not red bull). They dissapeared though, and I hadn’t seen anything of it since so I’d assumed they’d given up. Guess I was wrong…

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 1:25 pm

Sian – yes, which countries are vilified in the media is interesting. I think the UK media are actually pretty soft on China given its human rights abuses (to do with economic reasons…).

That headline is not wrong. Genocide is occurring.

Tibetans are distinct ethnically from the Chinese (and no, I do not want to get into “does race exist?” debate, and yes, caveats, there is really no such thing as the ethnicity “Chinese” of course, it’s a huge country, I know that…).

And Chinese are torturing, to death, Tibetans who dare to not agree with them that Tibet is part of The Motherland or want to practice religion. They are committing cultural genocide, by suppressing Tibet’s religion and culture, building concrete monstrosities over temples and just bringing in so many Chinese workers that the Tibetans will eventually be outnumbered in their own damn country. They will be wiped out just by sheer numbers and intermarriage (and rape, I shouldn’t be surprised…I though feminists were concerned about rape as a weapon of war?)

How would you like it, if the French came over and invaded culturally, made us speak French, eat French food, brutally supressed any rebellion…TORTURED dissenters?

It’s not concentration camps, but I wasn’t aware genocide had to be…I do not think genocide is too strong a word.

Yes of course there are other countries with crappy human rights and other genocides…of course Sudan etc. should be covered more, but it doesn’t follow that because China is covered Sudan is not covered. Papers would cover human rights abuses all over the world, rather than Britney Spears, if it sold papers (not saying that’s right, just saying that’s how it is).

Jess, there is a difference between *criticising a country’s government policy* and *making offensive sweeping generalisations about the individuals inhabiting a country*.

Cf. criticising George Bush vs. saying “Americans are all fat, McDonald’s eating, passportless ignorant rednecks”. (NO I don’t think that, and nor is there anything wrong with being fat, before someone jumps on me!)

I am not sure what you mean “criticising an entire country”? It’s just too vague a statement to address. Surely “China is..” is shorthand for “the Chinese government’s policy is…” or something similar. Yeah people identify with their country, but “my country right or wrong” is a pretty damn stupid attitude (and a patriarchal one, too). I know I would be offended if someone said “British PEOPLE all have bad teeth and are stuffy and snobbish..” but why on earth would I take offence if someone criticised British government policy? It’s like men whining “but *I* don’t do that” when feminists dare talk about violence against women…as I’m sure you are familiar with…well if they don’t, why are they identifying? Patriarchy is enforced via larger societal norms, not individual men (although individuals can choose to some extent to comply with these or fight them, it’s not always a choice, fighting all the time is bloody hard work) – and likewise – Chinese society’s oppression of human rights in the same way isn’t the responsibility of any individual Chinese person – it’s larger than that. So why would they identify?

I don’t believe I have seen any papers say, much less said it myself, that said “all Chinese people are evil oppressors or mindless oppressed puppets who are inferior to us” etc.

Any individual that can’t distinguish valid criticism of their government’s policy vs. xenophobic insults needs to rethink.

Yeah, the line can be quite thin…plenty of examples I can think of …however that there may be invalid criticism that oversteps the mark, does not mean that criticism of any country’s policies or society is always invalid. Do you seriously hold that no country is above criticism? You write as if *any* criticism of China (or any country) is automatically invalid, xenophobic and racist…? THAT is bullshit.

I would have thought feminists should be concerned about the Tibet issue, actually. I remind you of the site I linked to above, if you are in any doubt about it.

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 1:35 pm

And I don’t buy this “we can’t criticise another country unless we are perfect ourselves”.

Doesn’t make sense. No country is a perfect shining utopia of democracy.

YES Iraq was wrong. I didn’t agree with it. Yet should I be offended if someone who is not British criticises Blair/ UK govt. for Iraq? Should I get into some oppression Olympics, throwing back “what about your country and…” (and most if not all countries in the world have done some heinous things re: human rights abuses.)

No. I didn’t vote for the idiot Blair.

And I too know people who lost relatives in the Holocaust. Anyone who claims Nazi Germany was the “only real genocide” to dismiss is highly offensive towards victims of, and those who lost their loved ones in, all other genocides.

It’s oppression Olympics. “Ha! Jews trumps Tibetans! Muslim trumps being black!” and it’s just crazy. A LOT of ethnic/ national and other groups are oppressed. It is not mutually exclusive to give a shit about the Holocaust, Rwanda, Sudan, and Tibet.

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 1:43 pm

To be clear, my earlier comments referred to the blog piece by Madame Miaow that was linked to.

Despite all this, yes, I can see the nasty tone in some commentary about China, and I’m not condoning that. But with the environment – again – at least we have some awareness and are doing *something*, signed up to targets etc. – no it’s not enough, but to claim China is at the same level is ridiculous. It is a major polluter. (Although help and advice, not censure, is the best way to address that. And I wouldn’t take offence if someone pointed out that Scandinavians are in many respects much better than the UK with environmental issues). I do think that the environment has nothing to do with human rights, so yes, it can become a “what’s wrong with China?” thing.

Anti-communist? I doubt it – China is hardly communist these days. If it was, you’d see a LOT more hostility from UK media and UK govt. – the only reason we are soft on China is because it provides us with so much business!

Zenobia // Posted 4 August 2008 at 2:16 pm

How would you like it, if the French came over and invaded culturally, made us speak French, eat French food, brutally supressed any rebellion…TORTURED dissenters?

Don’t tempt me.

Lynne Miles // Posted 4 August 2008 at 2:42 pm

I basically agree with butterflywings – whilst journalists should be mindful of tone, it’s fair to read articles saying ‘China is …’ (as opposed to ‘the Chinese are …’) as a criticism of government policy rather than the Chinese themselves. The Chinese government is responsible for some pretty serious human rights violations, including but not limited to the Tibet situation (see here for more), and we should be talking about that.

It’s questionable whether the Olympics committee should have given the Games to China on these grounds but, since they have, the primary benefit that can come out of it is turning the world’s media spotlight on these abuses and thereby bringing some pressure to bear on the government to clean up their act. It’s absolutely right that the media should be highlighting it. Putting on the Games is, ultimately, a political act, and the host country should be subject to critique. I would expect no less when we come to hold the Games in 2012.

Ronnie // Posted 4 August 2008 at 2:57 pm

I agree with butterflywings. Jess’s comments in response sound patronising, not for the first time. I can’t help thinking that if Adolf Hitler were in power and someone on the f-word criticised him she’d give them one of her little lectures, accuse them of being racist towards poor Adolf and finish by taking it upon herself to issue a public apology.

Zenobia // Posted 4 August 2008 at 3:13 pm

I think Madam Miaow and Jess have a very fair point though. No one has any ‘human rights objections’ to the US, UK, France, or any other Western country hosting the Olympics, despite the fact that the US, for instance, among many other things, financed and backed Mobutu and lots of other similar leaders, and by doing so basically caused a decades-long war in Central Africa and hundreds of thousands of deaths. Or the fact that the US was almost entirely built on a genocide. The UK and France have also done a lot more than their share of colonial oppression.

Not saying we should be all ‘the US this’ and ‘the US that’, just pointing out that there is a double standard here, when talking about a non-Western country we handle it quite differently to a Western one.

And anyway, it’s never a given that when you refer to a country by its name you’re only referring to its government. You’d have to have never been from a country that is on the receiving end of Daily Mail criticism to believe that.

Zenobia // Posted 4 August 2008 at 3:15 pm

Or you know what, there’s a rather useful post at What Tami Said linked up there for all of our convenience, read that, in terms of UK history, and then compare the ways we talk about the UK and China.

Jesswa // Posted 4 August 2008 at 3:16 pm

Re: Rhys Ifan’s comments – this is another example of rape and sexual abuse being trivialised for the sake of comedy, which is really beginning to piss me off. I think “rape”, “date rape” etc have become simple throwaway phrases, so the broader personal and political implication is forgotten.

Venturing terribly off-topic – I wondered if anyone was going to comment on the programme on channel 4 last night, “The WI Ladies’ Guide to Brothels”? It followed an attempt by members of the Hampshire WI to legalise brothels and discover an effective template for brothels in the UK. I thought it was very interesting and raised a lot of very eye-opening points, despite a couple of flaws.

Alex T // Posted 4 August 2008 at 3:28 pm

Just look at The Telegraph’s language for a second:

“100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped”.

They SAID they had suffered sexual harrassment, they SAID they had had intercourse, but they CLAIMED they had been raped.

So even in a context where we can apparently believe women’s words about sexual harrassment and intercourse, there must always be a seed of doubt when it comes to rape. Cause, y’know, women are always making it up.

Jess // Posted 4 August 2008 at 4:01 pm

I do not argue that there are not serious human rights, environmental, etc problems going on in China. Yes, environmental problems in China are worse than in the UK, although there are big improvements underway currently.

However, I think that the situation with the Olympics has allowed columnists, headline writers and, in this case, Tory politicians, a perfect excuse to engage in othering, xenophobic behaviour which is not targetted only at the Chinese government, but the Chinese people, culture etc. None of this excuses the undemocratic, unelected government’s horrendous actions. Stories about China are almost invariably infused with either/or/both paranoia about its increased sway in the world and exoticisation.

I’m not even going to respond to the ridiculous comment about condoning Hitler.

Harpymarx // Posted 4 August 2008 at 4:13 pm

Lynne: “It’s questionable whether the Olympics committee should have given the Games to China on these grounds …”

I hope there are demos and protests highlighting Britain’s imperialism and colonialism in 2012.

It is questionable as well whether Britain should have got the Olympics for 2012 esp. for the war crimes committed in Iraq and Bliar et al are all up to their necks in it. But the media isn’t hell bent on shouting about that….

To me it smacks of hypocrisy… condemning China but turning a blind eye to the appalling acts of brutality committed by the West whether it be Iraq (oh, and being part of privatising and stealing Iraq’s oil), Afghanistan, Iran and further plundering of other natural resources in other countries etc etc.

Britain has a long long history of brutality and dirty tricks…just look at the north of Ireland.

Zenobia // Posted 4 August 2008 at 4:22 pm

To be fair, Jess, she didn’t condone Hitler, she only said that the Holocaust isn’t the only genocide to have ever happened, which is true, as survivors of the Rwandan genocide, among others, can attest.

Although actual Holocaust denial is one of the most despicable political views anyone could ever hold. Although to be honest I don’t really like where this conversation is going, trying to debate who can lay claim to being the victim of a genocide can only end in tears.

Jess // Posted 4 August 2008 at 4:32 pm

Zenobia, I was responding to Ronnie, who said:

I can’t help thinking that if

Adolf Hitler were in power and someone on the f-word criticised him

she’d give them one of her little lectures, accuse them of being racist

towards poor Adolf and finish by taking it upon herself to issue a

public apology.

Zenobia // Posted 4 August 2008 at 4:50 pm

Oh okay, fair enough. Yeah, that comment was pretty daft.

Jess // Posted 4 August 2008 at 4:50 pm

Incidentally, though, on the issue of coverage of China, I’d point to this as one of the recent cases I’ve seen.

When you actually read the article, it’s not as bad as all that for the most part – but the vaguely threatening headline and militaristic photo underneath speak volumes, surely, for how the newspaper is framing China and the Chinese people. And my view is that all of this is motivated more by paranoia over China’s increasing influence in a world which has recently been dominated by European and US culture, economic power, etc, rather than genuine concern about human rights abuses, etc. Not at all to say that shouldn’t be a concern for everyone, but we have to consider the context – which human rights abuses are highlighted; which ignored, what is the context for all this?

For example, on the environmental issue – someone mentioned the fact that the UK has targets, etc, and is trying to do something about the issue. But on climate change, for example, there have been studies showing that most of the emissions have been produced while manufacturing cheap goods to be sold in countries such as the UK. It’s an export of our environmental impact to China, in short, yet you’ll still see stories in the UK press wagging fingers about emissions from Chinese factories.

To contextualise what I meant about criticising a whole country – I think it is absolutely critical to spell out what you mean (i.e. the Chinese government, not the country). Most statements attributing sentiments to countries as a whole are pretty meaningless – I’m not sure I could come up with many defining characteristics of Englishness which didn’t devolve into meaningless generalisations, and I’ve lived here my whole life!

Given that China has a population of over a billion people, contains massive regional diversity, multiple dialects and ethnicities, it’s hard to see that it’d be any easier. And yet we have books such as ‘What Does China Think?’ written by a white English man (I understand he’s considered quite knowledgable, and perhaps it’s better than I’m assuming, but surely it raises an eyebrow to see this kind of exercise carried out).

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for the support, Lynne.

Just wanted to dissociate myself from Ronnie’s bizarre comment re: Hitler. I think someone is either incredibly insensitive or deliberately trolling…


I never said it was a “given” that referring to a country by its name never refers to its inhabitants but only its government. It would depend on the specific context. My point was that *sometimes* this is legitimate criticism of govt. policies.

I actually admire many things about French culture, for your information, before you try to portray me as some Daily Mail “funny furrin people innit” type. I don’t appreciate being the butt of your inane and patronising “jokes”.

I don’t actually read the Mail etc., so have no idea what their China coverage is like. I read the Guardian and the Independent, and I have not seen “othering, xenophobic” or “exoticised” coverage of the China / Olympics issue there. I don’t doubt the tabloids are pretty offensive though. I accept the point that some media outlets do that – but don’t think that equates to “we shouldn’t talk about China at all”.

Also, yes, the UK and in fact most Western European countries have engaged in atrocious behaviour when colonising…but that was 50-100 years ago plus.

I don’t think there is a double standard – if say neo-Nazis took power in some European country and restricted freedom of the press, speech, assembly etc. it would rightly be condemned just as strongly as China is.

We at present do not restrict those freedoms. We are not perfect – what country is?

Cultural relativism is frankly rubbish. I have heard such dross as “it’s just like their culture, it’s different from ours innit” to excuse stuff like, you know, domestic violence…it’s not racist to condemn it, it’s racist to assume that non-white people are capable of nothing better!

Yes cultures are different – but there are absolute moral values.

Lynne Miles // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:00 pm

Harpymarx: did you miss the part where I explicitly said I expected the same level of critique to be directed at the UK in 2012? You make it sound like I said Britain is purer than the driven snow!

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:04 pm

Who is “she”, Zenobia? It’s pretty rude not to address people by name.

I understood Jess’ comment as she meant it. Of course I didn’t imagine anyone would be insane enough to read my comment as you imagine Jess did…I am offended by your linking me to Holocaust denial.

“Trying to debate who can lay claim to being the victim of a genocide can only end in tears” – EXACTLY MY POINT, DEAR! The idiotic Madam Miaow woman was the one claiming that the Tibetans cannot claim genocide cos y’know, it wasn’t the HOLOCAUST – I was saying that such comparisons are pointless!

You seem rather vindictive and nasty.

I await your apology.

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:07 pm

Jess – “someone mentioned the fact that the UK has targets…”

Yes, that was me.

My username is above my post.

You may not agree with me but there is no need for such rudeness.

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:09 pm

Yeah, agree with Lynne – of course no country is above criticism either, and the Olympics is a good opportunity to highlight issues. I too fully expect this to be directed at us in 2012, and won’t be taking offence.

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:12 pm

And someone, oops, Jess, I agree with you about that article – it’s subtly that China is militaristic (like we aren’t).

As I said, I don’t read the Mail.

chem_fem // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:28 pm

This whole discussion is really interesting and I think you do have to tread a careful line when criticising any country and their governments.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot since I decided not to be a part of Feministing any more (as a commenter and regular reader) because it was one of a few ways that some of the commenters (not the main contributers) had frustrated me.

I had read a lot of comments about both British culture and some European countries that I felt I new fairly well, that fell into either two catagories: ‘x country is so bad because’ and ‘well country Y may have a different culture so we can’t really say anything’.

Reading about cultures I knew well being talked about in either a negative or patronising light really managed to get the point across to me about how I could change the way I spoke about countries and cultures I felt unfamiliar with.

It might be worth looking out for foriegn liberals talking about your own country to examine how best to criticise aspects of a country as respectfully as possible. It was really useful for me even if it hasn’t made me ‘perfect’ at it.

butterflywings // Posted 4 August 2008 at 5:46 pm

Interesting point, Chem_fem.

I certainly agree that a little thought and care in the way we speak about other countries is not too much to ask.

I have seen casual generalising comments about “the British” on feministing too, make me laugh more than anything (apparently the NHS is crap, and we all have bad teeth), and when I’ve pointed it out people have mostly been apologetic rather than defensive.

And I have lived and worked in Australia. I have travelled in southeast Asia.

So yeah, contrary to SOME people’s amazingly superior lecturings, I DO know what it feels like, a bit, to be judged by one’s nationality, to be other.

Amazingly though I can distinguish between that and legitimate criticism of my government.

Zenobia // Posted 5 August 2008 at 9:51 am

And I have lived and worked in Australia. I have travelled in southeast Asia.

So yeah, contrary to SOME people’s amazingly superior lecturings, I DO know what it feels like, a bit, to be judged by one’s nationality, to be other

I hope you enjoyed your gap year.

Butterflywings // Posted 5 April 2009 at 10:22 pm

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