You’re not designed to be alone…

// 24 February 2009

Gold stars for anyone naming the song!

Anyway here’s a round-up of interesting links….

Firstly can I recomment the fantastic Pink Stinks! campaign which aims to challenge the ubiquitous “culture of pink”. And whose blog highlights this delightful nugget that men should apparently be taking advice on women from a 9 year old boy who talks like, well, a nine year old boy. Alex Greven talks about girls in typically gender stereotypical ways – apparently “There’s a Girl for Every Boy” (“You are like a magnet and girls are the metal”) (i.e. you’re the active agents, girls are just big lumps, cold, hard metal) and ““Pretty girls are like cars that need a lot of oil,”” (of course I’d question what a 9 year old knows about car maintainence too!). Apparently this (the none year old dating guru, not degendering cultural products) was picked up by the Metro but I can’t find that, so here’s an MSNBC link instead and a preview chapter of the book. Pink Stinks highlights the hypocrisy between promoting this and complaining about sexual bullying in schools – “here’s a boy who talks about girls like they are animals. And somehow we are supposed think that this is cute?”. I’d also flag the hypocrisy in general of how newspapers report young women’s sexual choices – from the Metro apparently teenagers (19th February) prefer music to sex but (17th February) girls are shagging from the age of 12 (and by the way that may well be disclosure of child sexual abuse but let’s not be picky shall we).

Who ever thinks a nine year old giving dating tips isn’t an example of the sexualisation of youth would do well to read this from the Times Educational Supplement where this scarily paralell story is told:

At a school where I was teaching, a nine-year-old girl asked me with genuine furrowed-brow anxiety: “Is Playboy rude?” She had been given a Miss February Playboy necklace as a gift from an older sister and some of her more worldly classmates had begun to make her feel that it might not be the obvious and uncomplicated object of envy she had imagined.

Around the world and in other news – Spain may soon allow first term abortions after a report recommending the legislative move was approved by Parliament. Currently Spain and Poland have the most strictive abortion policies in the EU.

Yvonne BradleyThe BBC has profiled Lt Col Yvonne Bradley (right) who is the US military lawyer who helped free Binyam Mohamed.

Lactivist has published a Breastfinding Bingo! card for all those tired arguments by those who complain about public breastfeeding. It’s fantastic!

Muslimah Media Watch makes some interesting observations about the Desi Dolls which appear to be somewhat, well, confused about what they are representing.

These dolls may be causing more damage than good among the children they are hoping to help. The underlying racism may go undetected at the superficial level, but my fear is that these young South Asian children will nonetheless receive the subconscious message that the ideal desi Muslim girl or boy is light skinned, wears the hijab (or cap for boys), doesn’t wear traditional desi clothes, and speaks Arabic with an Arabic accent, not a South Asian or English one. I worry that the message being perpetuated by these Desi Dolls is that to be a better Muslim, one should try to be more Arab and less desi.

And finally, a sports story, over at FemAcadem is a piece on the treatment of a female coach/manager (I dunno, not my thing) of a football team who, on being “allowed” to be in charge of a local league game was verbally abused by men chanting “Get back in the kitchen” and worse and the opposition manager refusing to shake her hand at the end of the game.

As for the press, they were just as bad. From last Thursday, in thelondonpaper, columnist Brad Ashton wrote:

She was upset that nobody took her seriously…what did she expect? Powell was no more than a managerial mascot, part of a gimmick for her club that generated plenty of publicity but did little for the club’s reputation…Whether she likes it or not, women and men’s football simply don’t mix…far greater names have been subjected to far worse.

What did she expect? Maybe she expected the simple courtesy of being taken seriously, given that she probably knew more about the technical aspects of the game than the majority of those watching. Maybe she expected that in 2009, it was no longer socially acceptable to abuse an opposing manager purely on the basis of their gender.

Now I was with Ashton on the tokenism point right up to where I realised he wasn’t arguing that tokenism isn’t enough but that the problem was being female. Apparently we women should know our place – sadly for Ashton I disagree where that is!

Comments From You

Lucy // Posted 24 February 2009 at 3:21 pm

Pinkstinks is fantastic. Have a look at the ‘campaign’ – ‘name and shame’ – no.3 on the list. The word magnets given to girls and boys are gobsmackingly backward: ‘cooking’; ‘clothes’; ‘sugar’, ‘angel’ etc. compared to ‘dirt’; ‘dragon’; ‘rugby’ and ‘climbing’.

Anne Onne // Posted 24 February 2009 at 5:35 pm

I thought the 9 year old was writing for other kids. He’s misguided, but at least he’s 9. Adults actually taking his words seriously. It is important to listen to people younger as well as older than you, and not write off all youngsters because they’re less experienced, but the only reason he’s gotten so famous is because he happens to be parroting the same gender politics that most adults believe, depressing though it is. The idea of, you know, thinking a bit harder than your average 9 year old doesn’t seem that appealing, sadly.

PinkStinks sounds awesome! I actually like pink as a colour (in moderation, and shades other than THAT shade of pink they ALWAYS thrust down our throats, much like I like most colours. But I HATE (you can tell, because of the caps lock!) the way it’s constantly marketed towards girls and women as the only colour we’re supposed to like. It’s got to a point that even The Mail are bemoaning our obssession with marketing pink crap at girls!

Oh, and on the playboy neckace issue: I saw on the News a while back that WHSmith has dropped the playboy range of stationery for girls. About time! Wrong on SO many levels.

Ruth Moss // Posted 24 February 2009 at 5:57 pm

Thanks ever so for the link to my breastfeeding bingo card! (I just wanted to add, you can buy them from, although I don’t get any money for the design, did it out of the goodness – and frustration – of my own heart!) However you ought to link to Llauredhel’s, too… mine was generic comments made to bf Mums whereas hers was based around comments about public breastfeeding:

Anna // Posted 24 February 2009 at 5:59 pm

Oh my god, I *hate* that child. Reminds me to do the best I can to bring my brothers up in a good way – sadly, it’s pretty hard, as the 9 year old has already been exposed to porn and thinks the rather nasty acts contained within are now normal, despite what I say ‘but I saw it on the internet!’, and listens to his friends, who tell him that, you know, girls are asking for it.

Louise Livesey // Posted 24 February 2009 at 6:14 pm

I am not sure hating him is a useful response – he’s only doing what children are taught to do, as Anne said, repeat what he’s been told already about gender. I can strongly see the argument that at his age it’s just not his fault and I’d look to the parents, teachers and publishers in this case. Surely they are more to blame?

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 24 February 2009 at 6:58 pm

Pink Stinks is a fantastic website so will be promoting this widely. Metro has once again indulged in promoting girls as ‘s……’ Yes I know the survey was conducted by Sugar but I would be very interested to know approximately how many under 16 year old boys have engaged in penetrative sex and also how many under 16 year old boys have had more than one sexual female partner.

As Louise rightly pointed out we do not know if some or many of these underage girls were sexually coerced/threatened or subjected to sexual violence by older males or adult males.

Childline’s latest figures show that 8,457 girls were subjected to male sexual violence with 4,780 boys also experiencing sexual violence. Majority of girls and boys who called Childline said the perpetrator was someone they know. Unfortunately Childline appear to consider gender of perpetrators is irrelevant whereas relationship to child victim is vitally important. In fact gender of perpetrators is as important as the relationship to child.

Then there has been recent coverage by BBC Panorama of the hidden fact that male sexual harassment and male sexual assault against girls is endemic within the school environment. Ah but it is called ‘bullying’ which neatly collapses physical and sexual assault.

So surveys do not always tell the whole story only partially and as always media always reinterprets such evidence to fit its own misogynistic agenda.

Carrie // Posted 24 February 2009 at 8:27 pm

Re the football manager thing – the story is that she was the highest bidder in an auction to take charge of the team for one game, so it’s a bit of a gimmick anyway (just as the Ebbsfleet takeover was, when lots of fans of hundreds of different teams put a couple of quid in a fund to buy the club).

Brad Ashton is right in that it’s been distressingly shown time and again that women and men’s football don’t mix – witness the idiot Mike Newell criticising assistant referee Amy Rayner, for instance. The number of women who have made a career in men’s football – as officials, club secretaries, press officers, even journalists – is distressingly small, and that’s because the whole structure is institutionally sexist, much as they may claim to be attempting to address inequalities. (We’ve had a few articles on the blog about this, actually.)

Kate // Posted 24 February 2009 at 11:33 pm

The TES article mentioned here is mine! *Gets briefly over excited at being quoted on the f word!*

But seriously, I think part of the problem is a certain tendency to see children copying the gender stereotypes of adults as somehow quite cute. Kids are extremely good at spotting what kinds of behaviour garner them attention and approval. If they notice mummy and daddy find it pretty funny when they gyrate wildly to girls aloud or hilariously declare ‘women!’ when asked to tidy their rooms they are going to continue that kind of thing.

And so it’s almost inevitable that the more traditionally sexist the advice this unfortunate nine year old gives out, the more attention he is likely to attract, and the more such views are liable to become entrenched in him rather than affected.

Kath // Posted 25 February 2009 at 12:34 am

Actually, the Republic of Ireland has the most restrictive abortion laws in the EU. Abortions are only allowed if the mother’s life is at risk from the pregnancy. Technically this includes risk from suicide but no provision is currently made for abortions in these circumstances. Abortions are not permitted for reasons such as a pregnancy resulting from rape, severe foetal abnormalities or a pregnancy that would result in a stillbirth.

Jenny // Posted 25 February 2009 at 12:48 am

Frank Turner!!!

nikki // Posted 25 February 2009 at 3:43 am

I love the pinkstinks campaign and plan on buying some merchandise soon, but I can’t help but wonder how effective the slogan “I’m no princess” is. I wonder if most people would interpret that to read ‘I’m a troublemaker’ or ‘I don’t behave’ or ‘I’m not a good girl’ instead of the way it is intended? I wonder if maybe a different slogan would be more effective. Something like “more than just a princess” perhaps? Hmm, I’m not good at slogans but do you get my drift?

Louise Livesey // Posted 25 February 2009 at 1:23 pm

Jenny – Gold Star!

Louise Livesey // Posted 25 February 2009 at 1:26 pm

I am reminded of the case of that child who had been encouraged to say racist epithets because it was considered “cute”. *shudders*. You’re right that this is a muli-layered problem.

Louise Livesey // Posted 25 February 2009 at 1:29 pm

Ah but it is called ‘bullying’ which neatly collapses physical and sexual assault

I think we have a linguistic connundrum here because I’d argue we must be careful about not overlooking the fact that sexual assault is a physical assault, it can cause physical injury, as well as being sexual.

Anna // Posted 25 February 2009 at 1:30 pm

Perhaps that is what they’re getting at, Nikki – when I was a kid I was certainly no princess, but I was quite often naughty, dirty, a bit of a troublemaker and most certainly not a good ‘girl’ (I distinctly recall always being quite proud I was a tomboy). I’d have been quite offended had anyone called me ‘princess’.

Ariel Silvera // Posted 25 February 2009 at 3:25 pm

To follow on from what Kath said,

It is very seldom that an abortion will be performed in the Republic of Ireland even under these supposed conditions. Most of the time, women will travel to Britain or Holland to procure an abortion procedure. So, while legally it’s not as restrictive, in reality it is much worse.

nikki // Posted 26 February 2009 at 3:06 am

Yes, Anna, I totally get what you mean, and I heartily support the ‘pinkstinks’ philosophy. I guess my concern is that people who aren’t aware of the campaign will view the ‘no princess’ slogan simply as an admission of the childs negative behaviour as in ‘she’s no princess, she behaves badly’ and by default I think that could be viewed as saying that the princesses are the good little girls and the rest aren’t.

I don’t know if I am explaining this very well and I guess I’m thinking about it from an Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting perspective which is confusing things.

David // Posted 26 February 2009 at 3:25 pm

Childline appear to consider gender of perpetrators is irrelevant whereas relationship to child victim is vitally important. In fact gender of perpetrators is as important as the relationship to child.

I’m not sure that I agree with that, other than as a statistical curiosity. If a child is being sexually or emotionally abused then that is a terrible thing regardless of the perpetrator’s gender. Closeness of relationship affects the consequences of the abuse far more; maternal emotional abuse can quite often affect the child more than from more distant relations.

The Sugar report raises a lot of interesting questions about consent, though. How many of the girls gave consent, how many gave willing consent, how many of their partners were peers, how many were older men? It would be very interesting to know this, as I suspect that pubescent girls are easy to target. The number of girls who seem to put inappropriate photos on Facebook, etc, seems to back that up.

Louise Livesey // Posted 26 February 2009 at 3:35 pm

It is of much more importance than a “statistical curiosity” – for example if it were found that 88% of, say, muggings were committed by women wouldn’t that lead to conversations about how to tackle it and why there is an epidemic? But when 88-95% of child sexual abuse is committed by men (figures from research – citations can be provided if needed) then the response is “that’s not important”.

Actually according to research in the US closeness of relationship isn’t a predominant factor in sequelae to abuse certainly for sexual abuse (for emotional abuse of course we would expect to see differential impacts for presumed closeness although not all children are raised by or emotionally dependent on their mothers).

By the way the law is *really* clear on consent, if they are under 14 they cannot consent in any circumstances. If she’s 14 or under, it’s rape. End of. Asking “how many of these raped children gave consent?” is victim blaming and condoning child abuse. Between 14 and 16 is a grey area depending on age of the man involved.

It’s also victim blaming to say “look at their photo’s on Facebook”. So if someone posts a deshabille shot on Facebook they are consenting to sex are they? If they take a dodgy photo of themselves and share it in their exploration of adulthood roles that means they are obviously sexually aware and mature?

You seem to be saying that men aren’t to blame, the child victims are because obviously children have the same power as adults to understand and actively, knowingly consent? Because obviously playing at grown ups is the same as being one?

Stop, check the law, check your assumptions here and start blaming the perpetrators, not the victims.

Donna // Posted 26 February 2009 at 4:30 pm

Loving the internet phenomena that is males posting on feminist blogs, something along the lines of.. ‘so? That’s not important!’ , ‘What about men?’

The ones on the F word even do a nice bit of women victim blaming, David even mentions inappropriate pictures of young girls on facebook. How’d he learn of that?

I love embracing differing opinions, but consider the kind of opinions sexists like to give on feminism, how easy it is to sugar- coat their posts packing male privilege?

I don’t like men posting here, simply because of the general trend of their posts…

Anne Onne // Posted 26 February 2009 at 9:34 pm

David: Child abuse is child abuse regardless of gender, but not knowing how it affects girls and boys limits our ability to target help to whoever needs it most, and address what kinds of situations these children and young adults are in.

Pubescent girls put up ‘inappropriate’ (by which I assume you mean skimpily dressed) pictures on Facebook, because that’s what we as a society tell them they should do. We call women like that sluts, sure, but by every non-verbal cue, we encourage the idea that women are all about being sex for men. Where do these girls get it from? The magazines they read, the movies they watch, the boys that they are with, and their female friends. Girls are supposed to be sexy (but not too slutty, somehow) and they merely try to live up to that. Facebook is new, but teenage girls dressing provocatively is not.

Nor is it an excuse for being sexually harassed or raped. They are not harassed or otherwise pressured into ‘consenting’ to sex because their facebook pictures are skimpy, but because we live in a society that tells boys that it’s OK to pressure girls into sex, and that 1/3 of boys believes this. That 1/3 of people believe a girl asks for it if she wears the kind of clothes all the celebrities and other women are wearing, or knows the man, or went anywhere alone with him. Girls are abused because we as a society sexualise them whilst removing their sexual agency, and blame victims whilst covering for perpetrators.

Trying to find out how big a problem this is, who is most affected and who the perpetrators are is not trivial. If it’s trivial to you, I really hope you don’t have to pay attention to this because of personal experience. Statistically, you know a woman or girl who was or is raped or abused. Still trivial?

Donna: There are plenty of male commenters that add thoughtful debate and support, and whilst I understand why some spaces will be female only (insert gripe here with how some people define ‘female’) especially when dealing with a specific issue and aiming to provide a particularly safe space, such as a forum for rape victims.

Somewhere general and diverse like the F word benefits from having people of all stripes given a chance to share their views. The downside of this is that they get the occasional person who misses the point and is seeping privilege from every pore. I don’t feel the answer is to limit male participation, but to encourage genuine allies to speak up and point out that these men don’t speak for them. The odd ‘check your privilege’ and link to Feminism 101 don’t go amiss, either.

At any rate, I’d like to say thank you for the moderating work the contributors do: it’s often thankless, hard to decide where to draw the line, and they get to deal with all the ‘OMGYOULEZBIANBITCHEZZZ’ dreck in trying to make this a better place for the rest of us. Here’s to the F word staff. :)

Donna // Posted 27 February 2009 at 2:32 pm

@Anne Onne

I fully agree of course, just getting tired of almost *every* male post being the same, that exaggerated patronizing tone of privilege that just ain’t contributive to discussion or remotely needed.

Well done mods, anyway :P Can’t imagine what you keep from us!

Donna // Posted 27 February 2009 at 2:39 pm

I’ll just add that a lot of commenter’s time is wasted replying to people who 1) don’t get it, and 2) never want to get it.

Male sexists who fail to include sexism, and yet continually disagree with posts and WOMEN BLAME, are not feminists just because they post here.

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