Comments from April 2009

Dodgy science blogging, the tribulations of women geeks and a stink bomb protest at a beauty pagaent captured the imagination of commenters this month, along with much more

, 1 June 2009

For the good of the species? by Eirwen-Jane Pierrot

From Louise

I am a (female) scientist, and I take issue with Eirwen-Jane Pierrot’s

conclusion in “For the good of the species?” that “whatever so-called facts

are uncovered, scientists need to communicate them responsibly”. In the

blog she’s talking about, the writer used all the misogynistic, offensive

phrases she discusses, and the criticism is well-deserved. But we have no

indication that this blogger is a scientist – it’s far more likely s/he is

from an unrelated background and sexed up a press release into this article

in the hope of reaching the lowest common denominator audience.

However, in the original scientific article – available here

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0000785 – the

authors don’t espouse any such opinion. In other words, the scientists

WERE quite responsible in communicating their work (and not “so-called”

work either – this is sound research).

So, please – blame the media purveyors who dumb down, misinterpret and

misrepresent scientific research for public consumption, but don’t tar with

the same brush the actual scientists who communicate their work fairly and

responsibly.

From Angela Brant

I couldn’t agree more with Eirwen-Jane- even if this research turned out

to be true and valid- and it sounds like a Just-so story to me- then it

doesn’t follow that this is correct behavior. It is never scientifically

valid when discussing human behaviour to argue from what IS to what SHOULD

BE.

This flimsy justification of the ‘trophy wife’ phenomonon is incredibly

suspect to my eyes

From K Flower

This type of article is so common when trying to twist evolutionary theory

to further current agendas. As a (female) scientist who studied evolution

and zoology at university, I was driven to near madness by the subjectivity

of some interpretations. Especially in so-called ‘evolutionary psychology’.

I agree, it is very irresponsible to try and justify/explain some terrible

aspects of human behaviour (e.g. rape, male agression) on ideas of what our

species *could* have been like hundreds of thousands of years ago –

especially without a counter discussion of individual autonomy.

These articles fail to realise that mechanisms of evolution and natural

selection which work over millennia are not relevant to daily activities.

Human beings have a unique brain, capable of huge variation and

adaptability. The process of evolution has produced a brain that can assess

individual situations, people, times. A brain which is taught how to

survive and behave by the people who raise us from children. It is crazy to

try and excuse away and justify behaviour based on a crude idea of Homo

sapiens a hundred thousand years ago (indeed, they may be rather

insulted!).

In terms of this particular idea:

1. Past the age of about 40, sperm begins to deteriorate in quality – it

is more likely to fertilise an egg which will not develop, and to create

problems in any offspring. (Not that this is heard much of in the

media…)

2. Humans are thought to live past reproductive age (in contrast to other

species) due to the advantages inherent in helping raise grandchildren.

Evolutionary, genetic success for an individual is actually thought to be

better measured by the number of grandchildren they leave behind.

The first of these points walks all over the idea that being an older

father is in any way benefitial. The second provides all the reason

necessary to explain human longevity. In addition, if people are so anxious

to assert their ‘male evolutionary inheritance’, perhaps they should all

fight for mates and die young from infected wounds? Or perhaps kill the

children of ‘their’ female’s previous mate? (In fact, there is evidence

that step-fathers are more likely to abuse children…). No one would argue

for the right to do that.

It is very upsetting to me that scientists can think so lazily through

these issues and present them as black and white. It makes the discipline

feel very hostile to women, and part of the whole culture that I want to

leave (I am making a move from research to science teaching).

From Gweem

Hmm.My response to these scientists is this – if we die at the end of our

reproductive usefulness, why is it that here in the west, where women all

become infertile around the age of 50 whilst men are still capable of (and

sometimes do) producing more offspring for years after, women have the

slightly longer lifespan? Is it due to us deciding to have children later

and later, or is it because of the results of more worthy scientific

findings in the areas of, say, medicine? I know which answer I’m going

for.

From Jennifer Drew

I am commenting in respect of article entitled ‘For the Good of The

Species.’ Or perhaps that should have been ‘For the Good of Male Species?

Obviously the author(s) of the spurious article concerning older men’s

supposedly innate biological need to stalk, sexually dominate and control

young women has not read or even heard of this science book. ‘Exposing

Men: The Science and Politics of Male Reproduction.’ The author Cynthia R.

Daniels provides an insight as to how male reproductive organs have been

ignored because all the focus is on ‘woman as essentally a reproductive

body.’ Not until I read this book did I learn that male reproductive

systems degenerate as men age so that older men who impregnate younger

women can cause the woman’s child to have a genetic disability or other

form of medical problem.

The reason is because men’s reproductive systems deteriorate but this is

not widely known because it is supposedly not necessary to study male

reproductive systems. The reason is ‘male sexuality is inter-connected

with notions of male sexual virility and any study of male sexual

reproductive systems immediately undermines this myth.

Note: my comment about ‘spurious article’ refers to the article critiqued

not to the person who wrote article critiquing ‘misogynistic pseudo

science’ which is supposedly objective and rational.

As regards history not being supposedly of any relevance – well as this

Fword article demonstrates herstory provides an excellent method of

debunking pseudo masculinist science, because if female herstorians did not

study his tory – then we would not know how science is male-defined,

male-centered and commonly promotes a misogynistic agenda masquerading as

‘evolution.’

So, bottom line is – women don’t believe all the lies science proclaims as

‘truth’ because older men are not ‘sexually virile’ but like women their

sexual reproductive systems do degenerate. I only use the word degenerate

because this is the common term when applied to female reproductive

anatomy.

As regards the 50 year old male quoted in article – well obviously he has

not looked in the mirror recently, because facts are men age too and their

physical bodies change and ‘deterioriate.’ Sad – but it is a fact of life!

From Headey

Eirwen-Jane Pierrot has a point, in that science can be misused. Also,

every scientist comes with their own life experiences that can colour their

interpretation of the evidence.

As one with scientific training, I wish to stick up for science. However,

I do think every science course should include a module on the history of

science. Then, perhaps more scientists will be more aware of how many

scientific “facts” have been disproved over the years. One only has to

look at the medical developments to see how wrong-headed some historical

ideas were. Indeed, I once heard it said that a lecturer in a medical

school told his students that 50% of what he would teach them were

incorrect. The trouble is, he didn’t know which 50% it was.

The source for Ms Pierrot’s article was a science blog. Please do not be

misled into believing that such a source is irrefutable. Even a

peer-reviewed paper does not mean that a given piece of research is

ipso-facto ‘true’, only that it has been carried out using approved

scientific methods and the conclusions are reasonable. This does not mean

the entire scientific community necessarily believes them. ‘Good’

scientists always keep an open mind, even if something seems to have

already been proven beyond doubt.

Eirwen-Jane Pierrot, author of the article, replies

I think Headey has it spot on when she notes the benefit of history of science classes. They really should be far more wide ranging and readily available. I think people often shrug off the idea of ‘history of…’ classes, or lessons in epistemology, as at best the easy option and at worse pointless. Really, they are the best way of keeping us grounded and of encouraging greater questioning and exploration.

And I should add that this isn’t restricted to the scientific disciplines. Any course of study that purports any kind of ‘objectivity’, from law and anthropology right through to physics and genetics, would benefit from critical evaluation of the history of its ideas. I quite agree that the ‘best’ scientists, or social scientists, historians or any other number of professions, are the ones that question the established authority and recognise the extent to which their society and experiences impact upon both themselves and the normative order.

I only wish Mr 35069 knew that.

From Jim Murray

The premise was simply made – Older men procreating with young women will

increase average longevity…

Nothing in this rant of an article puts any arguement against that

premise.

Jane may not like the implications, or perhaps the bald way it was said,

but proper scientists do not, and should not, dress up their findings.

What next? – rejecting the law of gravity because it drags down womens

breasts and not the equivelent body parts on men…!

Daft, just daft…

Eirwen-Jane Pierrot, author of the article, replies

I’m afraid that Mr Murray has missed the point:

“I’m not condemning the theory of evolution. I’m not condemning genetics. I’m not condemning the men and women in the lab with their white coats for undertaking valuable research. My point is that whatever so-called facts are uncovered, scientists need to communicate them responsibly. I don’t want any kind of science to justify as ‘normal’ my being made to feel uncomfortable walking down my own street because I’m being eyed up by some old bloke across the road (or for that matter a young bloke across the road). I don’t want to be hassled and ‘chased’ on a night out with friends and have science say that it’s OK. And I don’t want older women to be ditched by their husbands, or employers or anyone else because of a scientifically sanctioned preoccupation with youth, beauty and procreation. “

Mr Murray, I can assure you I have no intention of discounting laws of gravity, nor any other scientific law unless it is irresponsible abused. Then I believe it is the duty of all of us, scientists or otherwise, to question the authority of that law, and to hold it to account. Knowledge=Power. And if throughout history people had failed to question the assumed knowledge of the time, well the world would be a very dark place indeed.

Let’s take, for example, the links between scientific classification, biological anthropology and racism. In the 18th century, Linneaus,the pioneer of biological taxonomy, designated the human races as biological categories: European white people belonged to the category Homo sapiens europaeus while African black people belonged to Homo sapiens afer. But Linnaeus himself added ranking to his classification; he wrote that the former is “ruled by customs,” the latter “ruled by caprice”. An non-scientific, value-based judgement was imposed onto a scientific theory. With horrific consequences.

Mr Murray is right about one thing, the best scientists do not (or at least certainly should not) dress up their findings. But the very fact here is that it has been dressed up. “Eirwen-Jane may not like the implications, or perhaps the bald way in which it was said.” Well, quite. It isn’t the science itself that I am commenting on, but how it has been obscured to suggest that “chasing” (which I’m sure many young women find intrusive and could do withough) is somehow acceptable behaviour. Science must not be couched in value judgements. It’s at best irresponsible and at worst dangerous. And it certainly should not be used as an apologism for misogyny of the likes of Mr 35069.

From Chloe

It seems to be embedded in everything, how women should just face up to

losing all value past 40. I can’t believe science has the nerve to back

this up so insistently with little evidence, all in the name of showing us

what’s good for the species!

I get the feeling it’s not even menopause, the taunt ‘shelf- life of milk’

is applied to women as young as you and me. I know a 50 year old who will

only date 20/ 21 year olds. Many old men stick to the ’18- 25′ category;

even openly stating about fertility, something they clearly know nothing

about. I’ve sadly been with these types and the talk regarding ‘nubile’

women… goes on and on, while I’m there! All spun by this rather scary

‘make- believe- evo- babble’ side of science!

Maybe I wouldn’t mind if past 30 we still had the other things we were

valued for. But oh yes! We live in a patriarchy and ‘women have no value

beyond youth and beauty’. Something every type of structure in this society

tries to beat in to us.

Hence why the taunt torments.

More should fight for value beyond what’s given to us in the form of

youth. As well as fighting the patriarchy selling us as expendable meat.

It’s easy to blame the patriarchy – and I do. But this lack of value

beyond youth that affects and hurts most women at some level, is something

women actually PLAY up to! Why do women object to fighting for women’s

increased worth in society, refusing to see what’s right in front of them

when they’re made to leave their newsjob, job at a bar reaching a certain

age? When their husband leaves and there’s no hope left?

The patriarchy affects women’s lives in a big way. An object – to No

Value at All. It’s not acceptable, and leaves many hopeless, stressed,

depressed. Not that they were feeling too great being hunted down by old

men, before this.

Not every woman after 40 wants a life devoted to looking after

grandchildren. Or being a slave to her husband- the one who still adds

actual value to the species! But the world of work where there’s value and

easy money doesn’t want her – and neither does her husband who’s recently

taken to ‘chasing’ 20 year olds.

From Posie Rider

This is a great article, I couldn’t believe the Science Blog post when I

read it! It’s all subtext, hardly any research and a lot of arrogance, and

the reader comments of ‘Pwoar’ crikey really do say it all. I wonder what

they expect women to do with this research? Start turning away young lovers

(male or female, their research is obviously meaningless to anyone not

fitting the reproductive heterosexual box) in favour of older men ‘for the

good of the species’? It sounds like the worst chat up line ever to me.

I’ve written a fuller version of my thoughts over at my blog.

Ps, more insights from Science Blog:

“Move over, Y chromosome – it’s time X got some attention.

In the first evolutionary study of the chromosome associated with being

female, University of California, Berkeley, biologist Doris Bachtrog and

her colleagues show that the history of the X chromosome is every bit as

interesting as the much-studied, male-determining Y chromosome, and offers

important clues to the origins and benefits of sexual reproduction.”

Wow, how long did it take us to realise that women’s genetic make up is,

gosh, important?

From polly styrene

Re “For the good of the species?” I do wish people (or should I say

journalists) would understand the theory of evolution. In a nutshell it is

this:

1)Mutations occur in organisms completely at random

2)Those organisms that are more fitted to their surroundings are more

likely to survive and therefore to breed. Thus favourable mutations become

more widespread.

An example is caterpillars that are eaten by birds. If the caterpillars

are green rather than brown, and they spend their life crawling on green

plants, they are less likely to be eaten than brown caterpillars because

they’re harder for the birds to see. So the green caterpillars will over

time become the dominant species. They wouldn’t if they spent their time

crawling on brown tree trunks, the brown caterpillars would.

What doesn’t happen in the theory of evolution is that an organism somehow

‘senses’ that a certain mutation would be favourable and arranges for it to

occur.

Thus Rod Stewart is hardly contributing to the good of the human race by

having children when he’s 60. If someone has genes for longevity they will

be passed on at whatever point in their life they have children. So

somebody who has children when they’re 20 and lives to be 90 will have

passed on the genes for longevity anyway. EXCEPT of course that children

get two sets of genes, one from each parent. So the child only has a 50%

chance of getting the longevity genes anyway.

And someone who lives to 90 is only marginally more likely to have had

children than somebody who lives to 50 the way society is currently

structured. Therefore someone with genes that make them more likely to live

to 90 isn’t significantly more likely to reproduce anyway.

And significant evolution takes thousands of years of course, unless

you’re a fruit fly.

Of course older men will come up with any old tripe to try and convince

themselves they’re irrestible to young women. So not only is this ‘science’

patriarchal it isn’t even real science.

From A different Helen

Eiwen-Jane Pierrot’s article “For the Good of the Species” made a good

point about the poor reporting of scientific research. The survival of the

human race depends much more on the ability of women to bear children than

on general longevity. After all, at the limit, you only need one man to

keep the human race going (and the younger he is the more fertile he is),

but the longer the child bearing period for a woman, the more offspring she

can produce. On that basis, its surely better to pair up older women with

younger men, and so encourage the lengthening of the fertile period for

women.

Eirwen-Jane Pierrot, author of the article, replies

Many, many thanks for all the comments I’ve received. This was my first article submitted to The F-Word and it feels great to have been part of such a lively debate. All your thoughts have been most welcome. Thanks especially to those who have pointed us in the direction of science to counter that of “Older Men Chasing Younger Women” and to all the feminist scientists who have voiced their thoughts. This gives me hope!

A woman… and a geek? by Wisrutta Atthakor

From JenniferRuth

Oh Wisrutta, this article describes my experience as a “geeky” woman down

to a T! I also worked in a video games store and had to deal with a lot of

sexist reactions. I’ve been playing video games my whole life (currently

wasting my time on Gears of War and Fable II) so wen I was in Uni I felt

that I had landed the perfect job! However, I don’t remember a day going by

without a sexist incident taking place. I had customers who talked to my

breasts and have also suffered the “so you play The Sims?” question. I also

had one incident of a man refusing to let me serve him – specifically, he

asked for a male member of staff because he didn’t think I could help him.

Yes, he said that to my face! God forbid a woman should have knowledge of

video games.

Funnily enough, I now work as graphic designer with video game clients!

I’m also very into comic books – specifically, I love DC superheros.

Luckily, the comic shop I go to has a woman on staff and is very

woman-friendly, but I have been to so many other places that either think I

am shopping for my boyfriend or literally can’t believe that there is a

woman who asks for Superman or Final Crisis.

I think what annoys me most though is the constant whine of geeky or gamer

men that there aren’t any game/comic reading women out there. There are

loads of us. They are just upset that we don’t want to date them. When they

say they wish they had a gamer girlfriend, what they *really* mean is “I

wish I had a girlfriend who wouldn’t moan when I play Counterstrike for 12

hours over the weekend, and will play games with me when I want to, but

never be better than me.” Oh yeah, I have had personal experience of that

type. It really winds up a lot of men when you pwn them on a video game.

Maybe that is why I ended up with a boyfriend who isn’t anywhere near as

geeky as I am.

The big problem is, these hostile men tend to push women away from groups

and online gaming (it is not worth the hassle to have the headphones on in

xbox live). Therefore, geeky women never really get to meet one another. I

think that perhaps I might be inspired to start up a geeky girl meet-up

group in Manchester – we could exchange sci-fi books, play video games and

read comics. It would be awesome, don’t you think?

From HarpyMarx

I really liked the article \”Woman and a Geek\” and on a personal level I

get so fed up too when I buy electronic stuff that shop staff (usually

blokes) look at my male partner when he is clueless in setting up

televisions, DVDs players, computers and so on. I do it as the very idea of

putting these things together turns him into a gibbering wreck!

But what also annoys me is that if you are a female geek then you are sad,

lonely and kinda sexless…. It\’s just one big sexist stereotype!

My own \’geekery\’ is political theory and indeed I can talk about it til

the cows come home and that, again, puts me in \’weird woman\’ bracket.

Therefore…sad, lonely and sexless….

Gimme strength!

From Amy2

Though things ARE bad in all types of representation of women everywhere,

in comics/ gaming and geekworld it does seem to be especially isolating.

Not a huge fan of geeky stuff. Maybe it’s because it’s always

unquestionably male- centred. And yet when I have played games it’s really

stimulated my imagination, I used to play Buffy and tennis games on the

xbox and it was actually escapism. The same kind you get from reading a

nice book.

One of the worst places to walk into is a games/ comic (geek) store. Even

worse than a posh clothes store, the intimidation comes from a stereotype

you’re not supposed to be there.

A male is allowed to have his own life, however geeky or pathetic that is.

He can have a life lousing at the pub, living off takeaways and football.

Men are allowed to sink into geekiness. Whereas with women there’s always

that concern, on some level we have to be prim and proper. Walking into a

games store is like we couldn’t give a damn about life, we too just want to

mess around in a virtual reality. On some indistinct level that’s not

acceptable for women.

What’s interesting also is that men can be gamers way way into adulthood.

It might be looked down on – but not the same as if an adult woman was

playing games, she’d be a shock to people, wasting her life away when there

are men, children and worries about looking good for men to tend to.

Really agree about Lara Croft. It’s like the Buffy comics, sure there’s a

whole race of super women, but this is clearly written so as to meet the

male gaze, Buffy has lesbian sex, Faith has a bad slayer nude scene with

another bad slayer; nubility/ shelf- life references are there in the

dozens. It’s as if Buffy going from mainstream TV to geek scene comics,

meant it had free reign to become sexist.

The escapism games provide can be important for women already living in a

world completely feeding them sexism. I think women, especially feminist,

‘geeks’ could be crucial! Going to the other extreme and creating worlds

where sexism for once, never crosses the brain.

From apu

Interesting piece. I am always struck by how anything ‘geeky’ (including

maths and science) is seen as so un-cool in many Western countries (or is

this more the US and UK?), and within that, women are still one rung lower.

From Ledh

I like playing video games, the internet, choosing my own laptop and

installing the entire thing just like you. I am also always treated as

‘dumb’ in video game stores and when I went to buy my own laptop, people

kept adressing my dad over my head about the speed of ‘this baby’ and how

many gigabytes it had. I knew more about it than my dad, yet he was

adressed… and I was paying. It bothered me as well that my male friends

are still baffled when I tell them I play Baldur’s Gate II.

do know of one store where a woman is co-owner, and that seems to do the

trick to get some respect!

From Andieberry

Awesome article.I`m a woman geek and proud!!!

Wisrutta Atthakor, author of the article, replies

I find it extremely sad that so many things that are considered

‘geeky’ is seen as uncool. I cannot say for other Western countries

other than the UK, but it certainly seems to be the case here. Fewer

and fewer students choose to do a science or maths-based course at

university, and indeed at school. It is especially worrying when, as

the educational boards and establishments are trying to encourage more

young people into maths and science, toy companies are alienating half

of the child population – girls, of course – as Sabre posted in her

guest blog Chemistry kits ‘for boys’. I think it’s

so important not to label things as boys’/men’s stuff or girs’/women’s

stuff or to judge something as uncool just because it is not part of

what is considered mainstream or because it is ‘different’.

I have received some comments to my article from my friends via

Facebook, and they have expressed similar attitudes when it comes to

computers, cars and football – all supposedly men’s interests. One was

talked down to when trying to buy a DVD burner, even after having

shown considerable knowledge of the inside of her computer. Another

was ignored by the AA breakdown rescue staff as he talked to her

boyfriend, despite the fact that it was her car, she knew more about

cars than her boyfriend does and her boyfriend doesn’t even like

driving. However, on a more positive note, progress seems to have been

made if you are a football fan. You would’ve been an oddball if you

were female and liked football in the ’80s, but I’ve been told that it

has “got past the stage where it’s assumed that females are only there

‘to look at the players’ legs’ and might even actually understand the

game”, to directly quote a friend.

I am so glad to see that there are other women geeks like me out

there, but unfortunately we are all going through the same thing.

It’s, of course, comforting to know that there are others out there in

the same boat, but really, it shouldn’t have to be this way, should

it? We shouldn’t be ignored and talked over just because we’re women.

We shouldn’t be considered sad, lonely, sexless, etc because we enjoy

science, football, cars or politics. We shouldn’t be made to feel

intimidated when we walk into a games store because of some ridiculous

preconception that women don’t belong there. But in knowing that there

are plenty of us out there certainly gives us strength. We just need

to be defiant and keep proving them wrong!

Stink bombing the beauty pagaent, by Sarah Levack

From Amity

Absolutely spot on and fan-bloody-tastic. I fully support what you did and

the message you are trying to get across. A huge ‘well done’ to all who

participated.

From Amy2

Haha definitely inspired! Love it!

From Rebecca Thomson

I love the fact that you disrupted the pagaent, and I think the article

shows why we need to keep repeating ourselves, over and over again, on why

events like this need to go and the culture driving them needs to change. I

cant believe the participants seriously thought it was empowering. I find

it really disheartening that so many people – men AND women – seem to

support stuff like this, and drone on about jealous protestors. It seems

like we havent moved on at all since the 70s! What makes the situation

worse is that marketing departments and advertisers have cottoned on to the

fact that men’s insecurities can be exploited as profitably as women’s, and

the beauty industry is increasingly aiming to make money from them. You can

see it in the higher number of billboards with pictures of men with

rippling six packs!! and the growing number of products for them. This

doesnt help women, and it’s starting to suck men into the situation that

women have been in for generations. It’s like we’re going backwards.

From Grace

Appalling. The most important right a human being can have is the right to

self-ownership. The right to determine what they do, and how they are

perceived. The right to make stupid “unempowered” decisions is as important

as the right to make “empowered” ones. It is not acceptable to attack the

right to self-ownership and self determination, for any reason, no matter

what the cause, and regardless of who you intended to benefit.

Furthermore, your actions will have done nothing to endear such women to

feminism. You have presented feminism as something which attacks their

choices, and spoils their fun in a childish and vindictive way, which,

regardless of the intention comes across as sour grapes. People like you

are the reason I will not call myself a feminist. I will not claim

allegiance with this kind of exercise. I support total individualism, and

if that is a view which is incompatible with feminism, then you have

rejected a large proportion of British women, and damaged the cause by

specialising it along left-wing, collectivist lines.

From Wisrutta Atthakor

I have both read your article here on The F Word as well as taken a look

at your website, and I’m glad to see firm action being taken! I also often

find that I’m made to feel as though it’s somehow unacceptable and ‘square’

to openly speak up against the objectification and sexualisation of women

in these ways, as though I’m the one who is not understanding or accepting

of this modern ‘freedom’ that women have in choosing to be judged by their

looks.

I found the response to the ‘desert island’ question particularly

cringing. The whole bimbo and air-headed feel of the pageant completely

undermines the fact that these women are meant to be university students:

using their brains and not their bodies to get ahead in this world. It’s

things like this that really makes me sometimes sigh in despondency – is

this all we get, after generations of fighting for women’s liberation? But

of course it’s not all doom and gloom because there are still people

willing to put energy and effort into standing up against it.

So a huge well done and congratulations on your successful protest! I

really hope it has opened people’s eyes.

From Karen

Woo Hoo, Just read about the cattle market protest (sorry, beauty contest)

Excellent! Glad that you got some messages across but pretty apalled (but

sadly believing it ) about the way the “gentlemen” there treated you. Am

sick to the back teeth of seeing things in the media like the question,

directed at an objectified woman “Hot or Not?” Who gives a fudge, is she a

nice person or not. Well done again.

Comments on older features and reviews

Pity in Pink, by Posie Rider

From bunny mazonas

I was particularly amused by that “research” regarding a woman’s “inbuilt”

love for pink, considering that during the Victorian era pink was a colour

considered appropriate only for boys, and not girls.

And yeah… even above and beyond the frustrating “product for FEMALE!

Has pink!” is the “product for FEMALE! Does not need to have decent spec;

just pink! No RAM! No disc space! Just pink!”

I actually prefer my computers to be you know… good. Fortunately for

me, I don’t need a laptop, so can build my own and just buy the parts

online.

From Amber

Thank you for the Pity in Pink article! As a child I greatly disliked

pink, but remember feeling the pressure from adults to like it. So much so,

I even painted my room pink in order to appease the distinguishable pang of

shame I felt for not liking the colour. I sold out on myself. (I did

eventually wield my individuality, and painted my room an authoritative

navy… which I also ended up hating a little while later…)

Anyway.

Later in life I took up playing the electric guitar – a musical instrument

which has stereotypically been framed as a “guy’s thing”. Historically

speaking, all the cool playing techniques that were pioneered on the

instrument were at a time when things were first being uh… electrified…

aka when women were still occupationally limited, etc… So of course all

the original “electric guitar gods” were boys. Even boys who were just

doing new yet easy things like… ooooo, aaah… playing three note power

chords.

So when Daisy Rock Guitars came out to target the girl market, my first

reaction was to be thoroughly annoyed. The Pity in Pink article reminded me

about all this -and what a great point about the machine being a sexless

device to express and communicate. (Though obviously guitar-making and

aesthetics are a different craft than that of a hi-tech device, but the

principal is relatively the same.)

The guitar is an instrument of musical expression and creativity! Why slap

a gender on an object? Musicians (girl or boy) should choose our

instruments based on what style and shape of sound we’re hoping to achieve,

not having to worry whether the aesthetics are gender-appropriate. *

Pink flower and red heart-shaped guitars? Give me a break! It was even

more of a betrayal when my own personal favourite brand line – Gibson

guitars – followed suit and announced their “Goddess” line (jewel toned

instruments… thankfully not as blatantly PINK as daisy rock but very “sky

blue, jewel, rose hue, blah blah finishes). Seriously? Too reminiscent of

female shaving products for me!

At the end of the day I hope most people consider Daisy Rock a novelty

guitar. I also don’t appreciate a dumbed down, simplistic volume and

control knob on Gibson’s “girl SG”. Jerks! Talk about sending the wrong

message – “Girls are too girly to understand bridge and neck pickups.”

Oooooh and three note power chords are for boys! Tricks are for kids!

Stop pressuring me to like pink!!!

*I admit, I’m a complete hypocrite – I do buy guitars not only based on

sound quality but also if I think they’re pretty enough … though to me

pretty doesn’t equate with axes that are Barbie-pink, flower or heart

shaped.

SOURCE:

http://www.electric-guitar-review.com/2006/06/07/top-10-guitars-for-girls/

Hellions: Pop Culture’s Rebel Women, a review by Michelle Wright

From constance

love this review! Made my day :)

Miss Naked Beauty UK: more degrading than Miss World? a review by Laura Doherty

From Teresa E. Rushton

I couldn’t agree more with Laura Doherty on the points she so clearly put

forward regarding “Miss Naked Beauty UK show”. I watched this show with my

very astute 15 year old daughter. We had some very dissapointing moments as

the show progressed and once again concluded that it was another show

purported to educate but served only to line the pockets of producers and

hosts in the end. Sigh.

From Jess PJ

Hello!

I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the article on the Miss Naked

Beauty Pageant. Well said! As it was presented in such an odd way (with

“integrity”), it took me awhile to figure out why it didn’t seem right. It

was just as humiliating as the other reality shows, and I felt sympathy for

the poor girls forced to compete against each other in weekly “challenges,”

particularly attending plastic surgery procedures (one girl was criticised

for feeling ill after watching a surgery at close range!) and then having

to write “essays” about whether or not plastic surgery is ever “right.” The

girl who spoke in favour of plastic surgery, for any reason, was kicked off

the show that week! Surely “real women” can disagree? I just hope that more

people who watched this program noticed its inconsistencies, and I hope to

read more articles by this writer in the future!

From Samantha Reardon

That show is degrading. How was it suppose to make me feel as a 20 year

old female?

Feminist progress: undermined by the media? by Anna-Kate

From liz mercer

anna… what a fantastic article! i agree wholeheartedly. i struggle

through the same arguments with my husband! most reasonable men are happy

with any woman who is a healthy size and has all her facial features in the

right place. women allow themselves to believe they should be like the

models every where, and advertisements for face creams ,programs on what to

wear, shows like americas next top model and so on are just not

helping…eugh!

Time to end parental leave discrimination, by Jennifer Gray

From Ewan Johnson

Straightforward statement of straightforward truths, but somehow seemingly

still needed in today’s world.

It would be interesting to know the author’s, and others’ views, on the

changes proposed by the EHRC this week. They went far beyond the

‘transferable’ leave suggested here, noting that unless some leave was

earmarked specifically for non-mothers the effect might be just to force

women out of the workplace further, and that it was disaterous to change

the law to promote free choice before a major change in attitudes to caring

responsibilities has emerged.They also suggested that leave should not be

taken in parallel, but should be sequential, that is that ‘paternal’ leave

could only be taken if the partner were willing to act as full-time carer.

Partners probably should be forced to look after kids full-time, its

totally different to helping or sharing, and gives great insight into

children’s lives and the roles forced on mothers. It does, however, go

against what many parents would choose given an ‘ideal’ world (in

particular, I suspect, support for extended periods just after birth is

wanted by both parents).

Surely, however, a position based on equality has to be prepared to

sacrifice choice (including that of some women) in this case? Would be

interested to hear the arguments, other internet discussions of this

descend into sexism and anti-parent rants against partners’ (or indeed any)

leave without engaging with the detail. But the detail seems to determine,

for me at least, whether the change is feminist (in the sense of promoting

equality) or just better for many women.

‘Hasn’t anybody ever told you a handful is enough?’ by Samara Ginsberg

From Amity

As a rather ‘small’ woman (32A), I’ve always been self-conscious of my

small size. I mean heck, my 13 year old sister wears the same size as me,

and will obviously grow! My 15 year old sister wears a 36C and she’s 7

years younger than me! So I was glad to read this article…to give the

true other side. Thank you very much for writing it, Samara. It was a big

eye-opener for me.

From Gemma

Just a general note of praise for a fantastic website. Some of your

articles hit home so hard, in ways that I did not think would affect me.

This article in particular was a godsend.

Keep up the good work!

Piercing the whitening silence, by Terese Jonsson

From Annika

Wow!

You’ve said everything I wanted to say and so much more. This needed to be

written, someone had to stand up and ask “What are WE going to do about

it?”.

I’m sure you have had many responses, some positive, others ‘interesting’,

as I did when I wrote the article you mentioned. I hope this encourages

some kind of action or change, so that feminism can move forward, instead

of going around in circles. We can make it happen, but we need to work

together; you can’t clap with one hand. Hope this makes sense :)

Embarrassing Teenage Bodies advocates cosmetic labiaplasty, a review by Bellavita

From candy

thank you for your powerful article. I am on the brink of getting this

operation done…with the thousands of persuasive factors that are

influencing me to do so, yours is the one article I read that has made me

put the whole thing on hold. thank you.

From Katie

I can’t even begin to articulate how refreshing it was to read your

assault on Channel4’s Embarassing Teenage Bodies programme – a programme

which was purportedly designed to provide a source of reassurance to

teenagers regarding changes that occur during puberty – but a show that

ironically ended up defeating its own point by presenting vaginal cosmetic

surgery as the only route to ‘normality’ for young women whose labia minora

protrude out from their labia majora.The show, as you quite rightly pointed

out, proves the fact that there is a MAJOR problem with the way in which

the female genitalia is viewed in modern society, on both a sexual and

cosmetic level.Pornography is unmistakably to blame, not only for the

particular images it presents (and on this point, it’s quite obvious that

most femal porn actresses have clearly had labiaplasties), but for the

impact these images have on men, who then impose this expectation on women,

either directly or indirectly, to have a particular kind of vaginal

appearance. This inevitably compounds the sense of insecurity that women

have about this part of their bodies, which develops during puberty and is

unlikely to ever go away as long as a) the vagina does not occupy any

positive place in modern visual culture and b) porn continues to convey the

same images as it does now.

From Laura

Wow very informative article. Thank you for pointing this out. It’s so sad

that so many young women may have skewered perceptions about their anatomy

and a shame that the prevailing attitudes only seem to value a women

genitalia based on their aesthetic value.

‘Feminists are sexist’, by Catherine Redfern

From Dan

I’ll admit, I was one of those people that thought feminists were merely

the opposite of chauvinists. Thank you for this article clarifying what it

really is about – equal opportunities where neither men nor women will be

discriminated. And that’s a worthy cause to fight for.

It’s not just the ‘ idiocy’ of men that’s actually our disadvantage,

although you might have heard of this before. The image of the ‘ weak

woman’ and the ‘ strong man ‘ also means that there are higher expectations

of men. People in general percieve a man as more of a threat than a woman

in any way, so we are disadvantaged when doing sales or persuasion jobs.

And in the case of divorce cases ( or so I’ve heard) women are normally

awarded the children because of the domestic perception of them. I’m not

arguing or asking you to change anything, I just want to give my opinion on

the issue – that sexism is a double-edged sword.

And I do understand that in general society, sexism hurts women more than

men. So while I still believe that the biological differences in the sexes

differ from more than physical, I wish you the best of luck in your battle

for womens’ rights.

Choice and disability, by Victoria Al-Sharqi

From J Murphy

A fantastic and inspiring article by someone who truly speaks from the

heart. If only our society could see the true value in each and every

individual rather than tailoring everyone to meet its criteria. Each

individual has something to give and we are all entitled to our place on

earth. By embracing and understanding everyone’s differences perhaps we

may become true, rounded individuals, rather than selfish individuals with

a warped view of perfection.

From Anna Baas

Hello, I just wanted to say that Victoria’s article about selective

abortion is brilliance. Keep it up :)

From Dan

‘ While I may not understand severe disability, there are plenty of able

bodied people who do, so why don’t I just sit back and leave these

difficult questions to the real experts? ‘

Well said. To be honest the sarcasm in the article made me giggle a little

( I’m a sucker for sarcastic humor) but down to the topic – I like making

my own choices, and I can’t imagine people losing that idea. I’m also a

firm believer that lots of things can happen – pigs can and will one day

fly, we might be able to clone George Clooney, and anyone can be happy

with their lot in life. Even the fabled disabled people!

I’m curious as to why they said you were anti-choice. You didn’t say you

were against abortion, right? Only selective abortion… that’s not choice,

that’s the doctor’s decision to decide life and death, playing God with

tweezers and knives. From what I read, your disability isn’t stupidity,

which is more than I can say for much of the population on our planet.

And until doctors can predict the future event by event, with 100%

accuracy ( in which case why are they in operating theatres and not in

circus tents with crystal balls and such, or going to the nearest church as

a prophet? ) they shouldn’t be the judge of personal decisions like your

child.

In other words, we need to accept people’s right to be prejudiced

because, if we are honest, most of us are.’

Just like we should accept people’s right to be stupid because most of us

are. Furedi makes a really good point there.

People have a right to choose their own lives besides, of course, any big

hand in the sky pointing them around or squishing them for fun or greater

goods. And you make very good points here, in particular that all this

debate about disabled people is going around from people who suffer from

chronic assumption. I heard it’s fatal if left alone, or at least

degenerates to brain-dead status.

‘ Wonderful as you undoubtedly are, I am not pining away in my corner

because it’s impossible for me to be just like you.

You have a cat and a killer sarcastic humor. My flawless perfectly

engineered body doesn’t make up for that.

If you’re reading this, thanks for going through the comment. And best of

luck with your campaign!

Alright darlin’, by Selina Jervis

From Megan Field

It is very frightening when men behave this way and it is unfortunate that

is often every day. It is worse when you feel worse because of how you look

i.e. think it is your fault for attracting attention when it clearly isn’t.

I mean, men are allowed to be topless in warm weather so the clothes that

females wear to keep cool cannot be used as a justification for lewd

comments!

From xsarahx

It’s said to say, but I never ever use public transport now because the

amount of times that men have said inappropriate things to me, or touched

me (!). I went for a run only the other day and a group of men in the park

asked me to show them my “clunge”… I don’t feel safe to go out without my

boyfriend anymore.

From Claire

If a man walked past me and said, “I just had to say, you look lovely

today”, I would be flattered. I can say that this never happens.’

So true! It happens so rarely that I can vividly remember it happening

some 25 years ago when an older West Indian man said ‘Lovely young ladies’

as he walked past. Nothing more was said (we did say thank you!) or done,

no leering, just an appreciative comment. And I even appreciated a wolf

whistle once in a night club when I felt I was really looking the bees’

knees! Again, it was totally non-threatening nor leeringly done.

The good news, though, is that the volume of leering, ‘cheer up, darling’,

‘do you want to come home and f*** with me?’ (how did I resist that one!)

or ‘give us a smile’ does decrease sharply as you get older! I still feel

apprehensive when walking past a group outside a pub, forgetting that I’m

now 52 and none of them are interested in making me feel uncomfortable.

It’s not at all a new phenomenon, clearly. Nothing has changed. And yet

some would have us believe that feminism has had its day because we’ve

achieved equality. Hmmm.

From Tony

I found your article quite offensive and immature. Your attempted

generalisation of any man over 25 years as some sort of drooling pervert

was immature and I suspect in large part, fabricated.

I am a man in my mid forties and I have to say that I simply do not

recognise the sort of creep that you describe. We are all aware that the

occasional neanderthal on a building site might shout something

inappropriate at a passing woman, but why can’t you accept that these

people are the exception rather than the rule? Simply tell him to piss off

and grow up, or ignore him, whatever – but don’t tar all men with the same

brush. We are individuals, too, you know.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I suppose it hasn’t occured to you that you don’t recognise this behaviour because it’s directed at women from men, and men don’t do it when a woman is walking along with a man as a rule. The scale of the response to this article and many others we have run is evidence that street harassment is a daily occurance for many, probably most, women. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction and making it all about you, it might be worth stepping back and actually reading and absorbing what Selina said. It boggles the mind why you think it’s “offensive” and “immature” to give testimony in a public space, acknowledging day-in day-out harassment.

From Paul S

Whilst this is an excellent article, I think it needs to go slightly

further.

The impression i have is that many men engage in this sort of practice,

not because they think younger women will be interested in them sexually,

but because they actively derive pleasure from the sexual power their

approaches generate.

Men who behave like this must know it is intimidating and frightening for

lone women – and that’s what gets them off.

That it is now so publicly acceptable to behave in this manner simply

makes the behaviour even more sickening.

How many lesbians does it take to sell a t-shirt? by Joanna Whitehead

From LEXY

It’s refreshing to hear what a gay woman thinks about the continued

exploitation of the

“girls together” imagery in the public market. I think

the comments made by a typically dozy media about the release of that

musn’t-see film “Lesbian Vampire Killers” demonstrate how in certain

quarters same-sex attraction in women is seen at best as a novelty.

Admittedly this film was viewed as titilation and was savaged by critics.

Even so at least two reviews jokingly referred to this “comic-horror” as

being “a waste of a good title”. Hmmmm whats so great about the title?

Remove the word “Vampire” from it and what does the title become? If

anything it’s the title which is just the first thing about it that leaves

a rather nasty taste in the mouth. In an

interview with the reliably thick and glib Empire magazine the stars of the

movie Matthew Horne and James Corden (who can also be seen wasting their

talent in a t.v sketch show that amounts to Hale and Pace minus the good

bits) were asked to name their “favourite Lesbians”. Excuse me???? Was

Robin Williams ever asked to name his favourite gay man in publicity for

“The Birdcage”.

Frankly I’d say we have a long way to go over certain matters.

Loose Women, a review by Dawn Kofie

From karenlucas

i think u r talking a load of rubbish it is a very good programme and a

good laugh i am disabled and live on my own and it makes my day they all

get on well and r funny just what we need 2 c on the tele these days with

so much doom and gloom around

Pretty vacant, by Holly Combe

From Mr Janie Watkins

My wife wears the trousers in our marriage. When i clean our flat, she

does insist that I wear a dress. So at least in our arrangement, a pretty

dress does strongly represent subordination.

Sin City, a review by Laura Woodhouse

From Heather

I really enjoyed reading this article. It’s far too true that women are

objectified, and that the media’s portrayal of what’s socially acceptable

is less than desireable or comfortable for most women. Even men are

portrayed to act a certain way in society though, we’re all being

brainwashed into thinking and acting a certain way and to pass it off as

human nature. I’m grossly disgusted with nudity, it’s surpassed its

artistic merit most of the time and so has excessive violence. Say no to

the media, not to nakedness.

Mind your language, by Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams

From Lesley

I am commenting in relation to the article by Sarah Louisa Phythian-Adams

“Mind Your Language” . Great reasoned issues raised by Louisa. I believe

that her central theme “: the need for feminists to better challenge to

gendered stereotypes written , spoken and signed or else they are

reinforced could equally reply to the reporting of male violence against

women. Exemplary of this lack of challenge are these reports of murdered

victims of male violence. where I see rehashed reportage of women and

children who have been victims of male violence

http://dvmemorial.wordpress.com/

which is a blog is a link from the http://www.millionwomenrise.com/

website.

There, I read unchallenged statements. In relation to the 2005 murder of

toddler Milly Hall, I read “Millie was murdered by Hall to punish his wife

for her infidelity.” why are we rehashing such words? why are we inferring

a reasoning for the crime ? Another , in relation to the Monika Szmecht’s

murderer, Anthony Clarke I read “Clarke’s jealousy was completely

unfounded.” so what if is was founded? Why are these reports (mostly

rehashed from the Daily Mail and the BBC ) not being challenged in “how”

they are written? as they are from a particular engendered style of

reporting . Surely we as feminists have a duty to challenge and discredit

them rather than rehash them ?

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

From Tracey Keating

I really really injoyed this Sex & the City Review. It captured all the

points that I was trying (badly) to make to my friends who were oohing and

ahhing through the entire movie. I sent them a link to this review and they

now understand the problems I had which the author is clearly better at

getting across than me. Thanks again!!

Sexual healing? by Jennifer Drew

From Lena Munday

I agree TOTALLY with Jennifer Drew on this. Penetration does not deliver

the goods (and this is biologically obvious really, considering the

clitoris is outside the vagina) and women should NEVER be made to feel

inadequate for not enjoying it. I firmly believe many women ‘put up and

shut up’ thinking they will lose their men if they tell them the truth.

Keep these articles coming!

General comments

From Jamila Bchir

I can’t find anything about lesbians on your site!! We are not even listed

in your long list of categories. And I can’t find anything about Germaine

Greer’s homophobic rant either (Guardian, 9 March 09).Another huge omission

is a dedicated section on hate supernaturalism (religion) responsible for a

massive proportion of the violence and abuse of women worldwide.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

I agree that our coverage of lesbian issues, and LGBT issues more generally, could be better. Because we’re contributor-led and volunteer run, that can sometimes mean that we have gaps in our coverage, which we work to address. Also, the categories do need a bit of a shake-up and additions/changes – currently that’s not the best way to navigate the site or find relevant content.

Like I said, we’re volunteer-run, so we can’t guarantee full coverage. I can’t immediately remember the piece by Germaine Greer you are talking about, but please feel free to submit something if you have something to say about it!

From Dawn Mason

I simply want to let you know how much I enjoy reading all the articles

here. It really gets me thinking and in general I agree very strongly with

what’s discussed. Keep new articles coming and I’ll keep recommending this

site to friends and colleagues! Thanks

From Melody Ross

I have a daughter 17 yrs. and I am looking for a possible summer

camp/experience which has a feminist and social activist focus. Have any

ideas where I can look.

Jess McCabe, editor of The F-Word, replies

Any suggestions for Melody?

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