15 December 2007

Talk to your daughter

Here's an interesting thing - an advert from Dove (part of their 'campaign for real beauty') with the message 'talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does' and some strong images of how damaging the quest for 'beauty' can be: plastic surgery, extreme weight fluctuations, eating disorders. Of course, Dove are part of the beauty industry, and this is an advert, designed to sell a range of products, which women use not because they need to but because they feel they need to, thanks to the exact same images that Dove is criticising here.

I guess I mainly think this is a good thing - I also like a previous advert showing exactly how unreal pictures of models can be - and I like Dove putting out pictures of bigger and older women saying that they are beautiful and feel happy about themselves, although it's kind of an annoying reminder that mainstream media images of women are so very limited: we all know beautiful women who don't fit the very limited model of beauty, so 'fat (and old) women are pretty too - shock, horror' ought to be redundant.

What I'd really like, in an ideal world, is for looks to be just one of the qualities that women (and men!) have, and that physical appearance should fall back in importance compared to kindness, intelligence, courage, and wit. I think this is already, to a certain extent, the case for men: if you read a women's magazine 'Top 100 sexy men', you're sure to find less physically beautiful specimens: writers, comedians, sportsmen and politicians, as well as the Brad Pitts and George Clooneys. Of course, I don't really think you can draw very important conclusions from observing glossy magazines, but a men's magazine list will be very different, featuring only pretty women, mostly young women, and plenty who are models or socialites and in the list purely for their looks alone.

Of course, as always, there's a radical divide between what the media shows and how people actually behave: I don't know a man (well, maybe one or two) who could go out with a woman for her looks alone; and of course looks are things that women consider in men. But the media is given to commenting disproportionately on women's looks; so is it better to say 'well, there are more beautiful women than you think, and most of them aren't a size 10', or to say 'fuck beauty - what about my achievements'? Of course, it's foolish to imagine that Dove could make that last statement, but wouldn't it be great if someone did?

12 December 2007

HULK SMASH - no 1 in a continuing series

Link in title. Serious or not? You decide. Highlights include:

I sat there watching [my date] tuck into a second huge plate of shepherd’s pie and realised why no self-respecting American girl consumes carbohydrates after 2pm.

I’ve been in a room with two English girls when one is preparing for a black-tie ball. She came out in her outfit and asked: “How do I look?” The other girl cocked her head sympathetically and said: “Adorable”. I thought, “Adorable . . . like a hooker.”

and, most charming of all

There is one aspect of their appearance about which British women do obsess: their shoes. Great, I’m glad you have beautiful shoes that pain you in all types of exquisite ways (that men would never put up with). I’m sure other women will be incredibly impressed by your new Jimmy Choos or Blahniks. But, ladies, the only time a man will notice your shoes is if your feet are wedged on top of his shoulders bouncing either side of his head.

06 December 2007

Feministing go all web 2.0

This sounds great, I think - the excellent American feminist blog Feministing are enlarging to become a community where you can join, create a profile, make your own blog and so on. Sounds like a brilliant idea.

Women held back in the workplace

Link in title. Another report tells us that women are held back in the workplace as they get locked into a vicious circle: they take a greater share of the domestic work, so they have to take part-time or flexible jobs, earn less, and then carry on doing more domestic work because they earn less. The report's author suggests that
Changing the divide could come through labour market changes offering women the same full-time, higher status working opportunities as men, he added, or it could come through a greater sharing of domestic labour.

22 November 2007

Reclaim the Night

The London Feminist Network's Reclaim the Night march and rally is on this weekend.

Anyone fancy going?

29 October 2007


I just googled a pal of my sister's from school. She's now a Sky Sports presenter, and I went to YouTube to see what she's like on the telly. First three comments on the clips were these:

i'd fuck this girl so hard in her ass and fannie that she wudnt b able to piss and shit for a week ;)

i want her to give me a blowjob, and i cum on her tits. wow wat a cocktease lol, i want to suck on her tits, i want to do her in every hole, bet shes a right slut who would do anything.

I would putt in the rough wiv this lil filly,, Then punt a goal kick thru her legs, might just pot a pink red brown on mill. Not forgeting to score and touch down a try, then if she bowls me a googley i will serve her a ace finished by wanking into her open gob!!! Oops... Well you get wot i mean..... WHOLLLOP!

She's a very pretty woman (and presumably got the job at least partly because of that - that's how the media work), but she's also very good at what she does. I've seen better presenters, but I've seen far worse. Of the sixteen comments on that clip, only one isn't directly about her looks (or her age - the consensus is "legal"), and even then it's by someone with the same surname as her just saying "go [surname]!". Of the remaining fifteen comments, six are obscene.

Why is this even vaguely acceptable? I feel like crying.

What's in a name?

What do people think of this? I've just had a bit of an argument elsewhere on the internet with someone who described Margaret Sandra as "a self-indulgent twit" after he read this article. I was surprised by my own anger.

11 October 2007

Doris Lessing has been awarded the Nobel prize for literature

Doris Lessing is the 11th woman to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Her book The Golden Notebook is another of the books which really inspired me as a feminist. I'm utterly delighted about this.

07 October 2007

Sexual Politics: the limits of secularism, the time of coalition

Judith Butler - theorist on gender, power, identity and sexuality, and author of Gender Trouble - has a public lecture at the LSE on October 30th on progressive sexual politics and the rise of social movements based on ethnic and religious identity. The blurb for the lecture says:

This lecture considers the conditions for coalition that might exist between religious and sexual minorities through focusing on differential forms of state coercion. Several arguments have emerged in Europe and elsewhere, claiming that feminism and progressive sexual politics are threatened by new religious communities and the effects of Islam in particular and base their views on libertarian principles (feminism and progressive sexual politics rely on increasingly robust conceptions of personal liberty) and on criticisms of multiculturalism (cast as a relativist enterprise that is unable to ground strong normative claims). Such arguments tend to rely on conceptions of sexual or gender freedom which presume certain conceptions of secular progress and to forget or dismiss conceptions of sexual politics that are bound to anti-racist struggle. Without denying that clear tensions exist between religious traditions that condemn and forbid homosexuality and progressive sexual movements that tend to promote exclusionary conceptions of the secular, the lecture focuses on the importance of conceptions of cultural translation, antagonism, and the critique of state coercion to consider what ‘critical coalition’ might mean for religious and sexual minorities.

02 October 2007

How other feminists can keep one sane

This stupid, stupid article by David Cox on rape convictions (only published in the Comment is Free section on the Guardian website, which suggests it didn't make the cut for the print version) would really get me down if it weren't for the responses by super lovely great feminists here, here and here. Go feminists!

(Also I love how they all say 'don't even bother to read the comments'...)

Do men speak Martian and women Venusian?

Deborah Cameron, a feminist linguist at Oxford, thinks not in the excellent and interesting extracts from her book currently being serialised in the Guardian. (These things are usually only up for a week due to copyright restrictions.)

Edit: part 2 is here.

Just because it's testable doesn't make it innate

A new study by the University of Edinburgh suggests that although mean 'intelligence'* is the same for women and men, there are many more men in both the top and bottom 2 percent (reported in the Times, here). The study tests brothers and sisters, in a way that's meant to eliminate the differences in family background that may influence results - but even within the same family, the way boys are taught and encouraged may be different to the way girls are, so what does that prove? What I find even more questionable is the idea that this is somehow an evolutionary trait - surely the fact that men fall into both the top and bottom areas shows that there hasn't necessarily been an evolutionary advantage for more 'intelligent' men? The Times reports Joan Harvey of Newcastle University as saying: “Men and boys are socialised into higher levels of achievement.”

* lengthy complaint about the impossibility of defining, identifying and testing intelligence in any meaningful way deleted, see Stephen Jay Gould's The mismeasure of man for more.

27 September 2007

Which books turned you into a feminist?

Lovely article in the Guardian asking feminists which books inspired them and made them feminists - I love Jessica Valente's story about Naomi Wolf. So: which books made you a feminist? For me, I'd say Little Women had a big effect when I was very young indeed, showing how women have to make an effort to show that they're as good as men - and that this is what they should do. When I was older, The Female Eunuch was brilliant not so much because it showed me new things about the world but because it showed how much my experiences of the world were part of a big, meaningful, connected whole - and also showed me both how far we'd come since the seventies and how far we still had to go.

What books made you a feminist? The Guardian would like to hear (books@guardian.co.uk) - but do comment below as well...

12 September 2007

Ladyfests and the third wave

A couple of really interesting Guardian articles I've been meaning to link to for a while. I really love the idea of Ladyfests and was wondering whether we'd have the time to do one at some stage. Maybe that possible Rape Crisis fundraiser we were talking about...

And another article about third wave feminism and where we're going next. I really liked the closing paragraph:

It is time to stop deploying rigid and vapid cliches - damsel, good girl and slut - and fixating on the alleged excesses of one contested aspect. We need to keep our eyes on the wider array of women's issues. May the stripping pole go the way of the charred bra, a quaint reminder of how those calling it from the sidelines got it very wrong.

Sisterhood Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild by Deborah Siegel , also sounds really interesting, if treading a little on old ground...

11 September 2007

More on pink for girls, blue for boys

Thanks to Sorcha for the link to Ben Goldacre's excellent article criticising the recent study claiming that there may be a scientific basis behind the pink for girls, blue for boys stereotype. He links to a few more interesting articles: a history and discussion of the pink/blue tradition at gentlebirth.com, an American natural birth website; an interesting discussion of the relationship between colour and gender, reviewing the studies done of male and female colour preference; and a really interesting article about the phenomenon of little (in this case, American) girls refusing to wear any colour but pink.

07 September 2007

Feminist fightback conference - 20th October 2007

Link in title to a socialist-feminist conference being held in UEL in October - a friend is an organiser (or at least she was last year). It's free to attend although you have to register and the topics being discussed look very interesting.

For those of you on Facebook it also has a Facebook page.

Guerrilla Girls on YouTube

Great exerpt from a talk by the Guerrilla Girls at New York's MOMA about the origins of the group and how far women have come in the art world since then. Depressingly, not very far...

29 August 2007

Have a little objectification with your lipstick

Nice to see that Superdrug has started stocking a range of Playboy branded cosmetics. Because, y'know, when I see a Playboy model the first thing I wonder is 'Where did she get that great lipstick?'

Feminism declared dead, again

Link in title to an article in the Times declaring feminism dead, again. This comes after comments by Fay Weldon that young women today aren't interested in feminism, and, strangely, from Germaine Greer's new book on Shakespeare's wife. Mr Linklater describes Germaine's portrait of Anne Hathaway as showing:

...a woman of such shining domestic virtue that she would not have been out of place in a novel by Louisa May Alcott, and whose devotion to her husband might well have qualified her as a 16th-century Stepford wife. Where, exactly, does that leave feminism?

Well, what exactly is the problem here? It's always been an important idea within feminism that one of the reasons men have historically been able to dominate is because they have the support and back-up of a wife who can take care of all the boring stuff and household affairs. But what I really don't understand is why our choice of a feminist role model boils down to a two horse race between Princess Diana and Anne Hathaway. Anyone want to explain that one to me?

22 August 2007

Seeing red

This article in the Guardian about how men and women might be 'biologically programmed' to like blue and pink had me spluttering over my cornflakes I can tell you, ladies. The reasoning behind it is just so laughable I had to check the date and that it wasn't a spoof submission from the University of Bums on Seats' social sciences division. (http://www.cynicalbastards.com/ubs/)

What is surprising I suppose isn't that this sort of half-baked crap gets kicked around academic departments, but that the newspapers see fit to print it with any level of credibility.

21 August 2007

Long time no post - A couple of things

It's been a while since I posted, but here I am again. I noticed a couple of interesting bits of research in the news today, links from the Guardian:

Gender pay gaps could be caused by critical perception of women who negotiate and push for wage increases, rather than women not being assertive enough to ask for more, which is the explanation often put forward. I'm certainly aware of a lack of assertion on my part, I hadn't considered the pressure for me to not to ask in the first place as it might affect how my boss regards me. Have any of you had similar experiences? Do you feel you can't ask for a raise? Do you know if male colleagues earn more or less than you?

Also, research scientists are saying that men and women are naturally drawn to certain colours , which could explain the whole pink and blue thing. Hmmm. Not sure if I like the tone of this article, but anyway...

24 July 2007

New look

I got absolutely fed up with all that pink. If anyone hates it, I'll change it back...

And a brief rant

Why the fuck is anyone worrying about what Hillary Clinton is wearing? Ten quid to anyone who can show me an article in which a male politician's clothes are analysed in this level of detail.

India elects first female president

Link in title to BBC news report on India's first female president. It seems to be more of a ceremonial role, but Feministing have mentioned a great speech she gave during her campaign in which she said that 'women were the backbone of every home and they contributed greatly to the progress and development of the nation'.


Link in title to a Guardian article about a wonderful group of midwives in SE London - focussing on natural births, trying to teach women how normal and unscary giving birth can be, they've got fantastic results: half the women they deal with give birth at home, compared to 2% nationally, and their caesarean rate is 15%, compared to 24% nationally.

Susan Greenfield writes about the difficulties faced by women in the sciences

Link in title to Guardian article. Again, it's the same old problem - maternity - exacerbated by the fact that

Scientists on the whole don't achieve a secure position until their mid-30s, which for women is beyond their ideal time for starting a family.

As well as this there are the problems of stereotyped ideas of male and female subjects - interestingly, she points out that in the biological sciences there are roughly equal numbers of men and women at undergraduate level (men greatly outnumber women in the physical sciences) but it's after women reach the age where they want children that the number of women falls away drastically.

"Equality is still twenty years away"

The Equal Opportunities Commission, soon to merge into the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, have said goodbye with an extensive report on gender equality in Britain today, and their results are not exactly cheerful reading. Link in title to the Guardian article, and lots of information here at the EOC website.

It's pretty much a definitive answer to anyone who reckons we don't need feminism any more, though:

Men are still paid more than women; every year thousands of pregnant workers are treated unfairly; and thousands of women are sexually harassed at work. Although half of us want to work more flexible hours, many of us still cannot achieve this; public policies, which could do so much to make life fairer, often fail to do so; and economic and political power is still mostly held by men. And we should never forget that gender inequality still underpins life and death issues - every month seven women are killed by their partner, ex-partner or lover.

19 July 2007

Happy 50th Birthday, Guardian Women's page

Link in title to a celebration of the Guardian women's page which is fifty years old this year. Lots of brilliant archive articles - really makes you appreciate how far we've come. I liked the letter entitled 'The ghastly effect of short skirts and bare legs', with its warning to unmarried men:

Finally, a warning to young men contemplating matrimony look at your future mother-in-law's legs in order to observe the trend.

and a run-down of Eighties fashions.

13 July 2007

Rape Crisis - trying to get a campaign started

If you're interested in making a fuss about the removal of funding from Rape Crisis Centres, you might try contacting your MP through FaxYourMP, an organisation who will fax or email your MP for you.

If you're looking for stats to back your letter up, you can find the Home Office stats for rape and sexual assault in London and rape and sexual assault nationally. The curve for rape is pretty shocking although possibly reflects a rise in reporting rape as much as a rise in rape committed.

There's also a petition on the Downing Street e-petitions site calling for more rapists to be convicted which also mentions Rape Crisis Centres. I may start a petition specifically about Rape Crisis, but it requests that you avoid duplication so I haven't decided whether that's the correct thing to do yet.

You could also contact Harriet Harman, who is currently Minister for Women and Equality.

New UK Feminist Mags

Good news, everyone! Quite a few feminist magazines have been launched in the UK recently according to The Guardian, link in title. Feminist blogs and groups are also mentioned including some we already know about, like the f word and LFN. According to The Guardian's Jess McCabe, this is all proof of a rejuvenated women's movement. Huzzah.

And here's some more new mag links:

Perhaps we can take a look at them at the next group?

11 July 2007

What’s Feminism Got To Do With It?

The Women's Resource Centre, in association with the Directory of Social Change, is hosting a debate on the role of feminism in the women's voluntary and community sector on Tuesday 11 September at 6.30pm at the Directory of Social Change, London NW1.

Do you have to be a feminist to work in the women's sector? Is feminism the key to women's activism or an exclusive, outdated or unhelpful concept?

Chaired by Natasha Walter (Guardian columnist, author of The New Feminism, and co-ordinator of Women for Refugee Women), this event will bring together speakers from within the sector and beyond to debate the importance of feminism in the modern women's voluntary sector.

Brita Fernandez-Schmidt, Head of Programmes & Policy at Womankind Worldwide
Ranjit Kaur, Director of Rights of Women
Humera Khan, founder of the An-Nisa Society
Denise King, Chief Executive of Girlguiding UK

For more information, click on the link in the title, or contact Leah on info@wrc.org.uk or 020 7324 3040.

Further to T's post below

Rape Crisis's website has links to petitions about the removal of government funding - one hosted by the Sun, which is at least one good thing Rebekah Wade has done. It also suggests holding a fundraising event for RCC and talks about volunteering in local groups. A fundraising effort would be a good thing to do - any ideas?

UK Rape Crisis centre threats

Guardian article is linked to in title. Rape Crisis are being threatened with closures of up to half of their centres due to funding problems.

Maybe we could try raising some money? I had no idea it had got this bad, only two small centres serve the whole of London now, and they've gone from 84 in 1985 to 34 these days.

10 July 2007

Why can't Zoe write like this all the time?

Zoe Williams in the Guardian talking about how meaningful or otherwise the number of female ministers is. Shame she doesn't always write like this - when she writes on women's politics and issues she's pretty good. Splendidly vomitous quote from Hazel Blears:

"The way women relate to politics is different to men, they're interested in everyday lives, stories, people they meet, not statistics and GDP."

Oooh! (girlish giggle) And we're interested in that dishy Mr Brown, too, and maybe we'd turn out to vote more if they made the ballot papers pink and decorated the polling booths in glitter and marabou?

The best and worst of Radio 4

There was a really interesting documentary about Sylvia Pankhurst and her life after being a suffragette on Radio 4 last night - she spent a lot of time campaigning on behalf of Haile Selassie,. protesting the Italian occupation of Ethiopia. It's available on Listen Again until next Monday.

On the Today programme this morning, by contrast, they were discussing the new Tory policy of giving tax breaks of around twenty pounds a week to married couples. John Humphrys, who seems to be growing ever more offensive, was at his very worst here - the interview starts about ten minutes in - talking to a married woman and a woman who had been with her partner for fourteen years and had two children without marrying.

The unmarried woman said quite reasonably that to have the wedding she'd like would cost money that she would rather spend on a holiday - Humphrys retorts 'You could have a quick registry office job, couldn't you? Only cost a couple of quid!'. The Tory claim that married couples are financially less well off than cohabiting couples went pretty much unquestioned, as did the married woman's claim that people in a stable relationship who are married are making more of a 'contribution to society' than people who are unmarried. It also became clear but wasn't discussed that in the case of the two women being interviewed, the unmarried couple were better off because both partners went out to work, while the married woman stayed at home.

09 July 2007

This headline made me really angry

A 17 year old girl was shot dead in a pub near my home a couple of weeks ago. I don't read the local paper regularly, so only learned the news about a week later when I got off at a different stop and saw the police incident board outside the pub where it happened. A minute or two later I saw the front page headline on a board outside a newsagent: Teenage party girl shot dead .

She was a 17 year old girl, out celebrating after her exams. The body of the story is told more sympathetically, so why does the headline make it sound like she deserved to die by using the standard tabloid euphemism for 'druggy tart'?

I think of the some dives where I drank and went clubbing when I was 17, and some of the people who were around (some of whom undoubtedly had access to guns) and I wonder what the headlines would have been if anything bad had happened to me.

03 July 2007

Interview with feminist writer Deborah Siegel

Via feministing. Interesting interview with Siegel, who has written a sort of history of feminism from the 1960s to today - the book looks pretty good.

02 July 2007

Another day, another moral panic in America...

They roam the streets with pink pistols, they are from lower socio-economic groups, they go about beating up men and forcing girls to join the "lesbian lifestyle" and perform unnatural acts on each other. Yes, lesbian girl gangs are coming to a neighbourhood near you. So says, er, Fox News.

30 June 2007

Egypt bans all female circumcision

http://www.guardian.co.uk/egypt/story/0,,2115290,00.html is a good start, but I wish it said more about what "exceptional cases" have allowed it to continue since the initial ban. I'm also really shocked at the percentages reported - if this is a country where genital mutilation has theoretically been banned for ten years, then how are 50% of girls between the ages of 10 and 18 reporting it in a survey carried out in the last two years?

29 June 2007

The end of 'Blair's babes'?

Link to Guardian article in title. Gordon Brown's cabinet contains three fewer women that Tony Blair's, although he has appointed the first ever female home secretary. Tony Blair's cabinet contained the highest ever number of women - eight, a third of the entire cabinet; previously only nine women had made it to Cabinet level. However, the three women who have left the Cabinet - Patricia Hewitt, Hilary Armstrong, and Lady Amos, seem to have resigned, rather than being sacked, although Margaret Beckett, first ever female foreign secretary, was demoted.

UK doctors call for easier access to abortion

Via the Today programme, feministing and the Guardian.

Doctors at the BMA's annual conference backed a call to remove the legal requirement for women to obtain permission from two doctors before undergoing a termination in the first three months of pregnancy.

Annoying women's mag shocker

Via feministing, this is really depressing. Marie-Claire equates the burkini with a freakshow and then features and then... well have a look. Bleurgh.

When will women's mags feature things we want to read? Sigh.

Crazy judge gives lenient sentence to rapist of ten year old girl

I'm sure most of you saw this. What the hell was going on there? As though how someone's dressed makes any rape a lesser crime somehow, aside from the fact that this was a ten year old girl. Christ.

Ms, Miss or Mrs?

An article from the Guardian about the title Ms and how no-one uses it or see it as important anymore. To the point where an American company defines it as "the legal definition of Ms was a woman who was formerly married." What?

I still use it, though mainly on forms where it's an option, if not I'll add it where possible.

What title do you use on forms, or in real life? Does it get a reaction?

Ms Nasty

I've just come across a discussion in Another Place about the use of Ms instead of Miss or Mrs, and I'm fair squeaking with grumpiness.

Sample quotes from women there include:
"I've always hated "Ms"- both the way it sounds and its chippy connotations",
"I think that the argument that your marital status is no-one's business is outdated; it is a hangover from a time when people would form judgements about you based on that. These days, it's accepted that you could be living with a partner, single, married, in a civil partnership or a combination of the above, and none have any bearing on your status as a functioning adult. So to use a title that hides whether or not you're married seems a bit perverse- basically making a point that no-one much cares about"
"I am Miss and am soon to become a Mrs. Being a Ms has never really occurred to me, although I can quite understand why some women would choose to. "
And my old favourite "I honestly can't remember ever having been treated differently because I'm a woman, at least not in a way that I noticed. "

What is going on here? Since when is it chippy to want an honorific which doesn't denote marital status? Gah!

26 June 2007

Anti-abortion campaigners target school sexual health services

From the Guardian. This is really worrying, anti-abortion campaigners are now having a go at school sexual heath services for handing out morning-after pills, which they seem to equate with abortion. These groups are promoting abstinence drives and citing lower pregnancy figures in the US as proof that teaching abstinence only works. Gah.

London feminist network

Via Feministing, and following on from posts about personal art work and street harrassment, one of London Feminist Network's projects as part of their Reclaim the Night campaign is collecting clothing that women were wearing when harrassed:

Based on similar campaigns in India we are launching an “I DID NOT ASK FOR IT UK” campaign. We are asking women to send us garments they were wearing when they were sexually harassed, in any way. We would like you to add the message “I Did Not Ask For It” to the garment, sew it onto a tee-shirt or marker pen it onto a pair of jeans, embroider it onto a dress or boiler suit… Or draw, paint or digitise the message “I Did Not Ask For It” and then pin the drawing onto your chosen garment, photograph it and send it to us at our e.mail address or send with a comment to our myspace. Feel free to add other messages of your choice, be as creative as possible.

25 June 2007

Street Harrassment

Another thing we were discussing at the group the other week. The links via Feministing are problematic and bring up issues of race in the US alongside this form of harrassment. Still, some of the comments make sobering reading. It happens to women everywhere. Sigh.

24 June 2007

Club des Femmes film festival

A friend is curating this new twice-yearly festival of queer and feminist film.

"Welcome to Club des Femmes's Summer Camp for Girls, a shaded, leafy space in the hot glare of contemporary conservatism. At Summer Camp this year relive the freedom of punk as Club des Femmes revisits Vivienne Dick, Sadie Benning, Lizzie Borden - filmmakers who defined a new world order and gave back to girls the Power of Camp. Why not also pull up a log and light up the campfire to celebrate our annual investigations into recent women's filmmaking. Or feeling curious about Dykesploitation? This year's spotlight falls on Kristy McNichol."

Most of the films are at the Renoir or the Curzon Soho, and if anybody fancies going just drop me a line - I'm going to try to get to some of them.

22 June 2007

Women, art and relationships

From the Guardian, an article about French conceptual artist Sophie Calle turning heartbreak into what sounds like a wonderful work. I always feel uneasy about this kind of personal conceptual stuff, as though you're intruding somehow. Though I also feel uneasy about the criticism that women artists like Tracey Emin get for airing their dirty linen in public. The comment always seem tinged with a bit of misogyny, or maybe that's too strong, more a disapproval at unseemly, emotional women. If you know what I mean.

What are your thoughts?

And here's another fucking dreadful ad....

Courtesy of the f-word's blog:

The small writing at the bottom reads: PS2. Because your girlfriend bores you shitless. Do these people think women don't buy computer games?

This is just priceless

Talking about body image... Ohmigod, I'm speechless at this yoghurt ad, via Feministing. Apparently Brazilian women need to know how they might look (pretty good actually, fuckos!) if they eat too much full-fat yoghurt. Argh.

21 June 2007

That Beth Ditto nude cover...

I meant to post about this a while back and the Israeli women soldiers reminded me. There's been much talk about her nude cover and lots of debate as to whether she should've done it, from both feminists and other numbskulls who took it upon themselves to be disgusted by the picture all over the internet.

Personally, I think the fact that we find a picture like this so shocking says a lot about our society. As discussed at our group, people feel they have the right to comment on women and their bodies as a matter of course. I just loved this response to the whole debate by a male American feminist which I found via Feministing. Yeah!

Here's the thing: it's none of your fucking business how healthy Beth Ditto is.

The education 'gender gap'

An interesting article about the 'gender gap' in UK education - because only 30% of boys take A-levels, compared to 40% of girls, but the same proportion of each sex apply to university, the government may not achieve its goal of sending 50% of young people to university. Interesting to see that not only do some sources suggest that girls do better than boys at school, but also

...pupils who learn in a second language are more likely to be high achievers at key stage 4 (age 14 to 16) and Chinese, Asian, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Black African and other white pupils are between two and four times more likely to do well than their white British peers.

The DfE suggests that girls and boys do equally well at school, however.

Review of abortion laws

There is to be a House of Commons review of the abortion laws, in light of the fact that medical advances mean that ever more premature babies are able to survive. I didn't know that the time limit of 24 weeks for abortion was lowered in 1990 from 28 weeks in the Abortion Act. The review is not going to take 'moral or ethical' issues into account.

Abortions continue to increase by a small amount each year - by 4% in 2006.

Israeli women soldiers strip off for tourism

The Israeli consulate in New York came up with this bright idea to boost Israel's image with American men. Charming. Via the Guardian, Feministing and the BBC.

19 June 2007

Cervical cancer vaccine

A life-saving vaccine against cervical cancer could be offered to all young girls in their first year at secondary school in the UK. Good news, you'd think, eh? Only some are not seeing it that way according to the Guardian's Kira Cochrane...

12 June 2007

A couple of old articles

A slightly negative review of Imelda Whelehan's Overloaded in the Guardian, and an article about the Miss World competition (in 1999) in which she talks to Melissa Benn about 'ironic' sexism.

'Right to breastfeed' to be made law?

Report on a Green paper about making the 'right to breastfeed' in public a legal right, and to give women 'equal rights' in private men's clubs. Did anyone hear the awful old buffer on the Today programme claiming that men were second class citizens because they don't get family allowance and they can't join the Women's Institute? The mind boggles!

04 June 2007

The Hollywood "celluloid ceiling"

Via Feministing, Jane Campion admits to feeling lonely on the Cannes directors' podium in USA Today

When Jane Campion was honored onstage at the Cannes Film Festival with about 30 other major directors Sunday, she was the lone woman of the bunch. And she's still not used to how strange that feels.

29 May 2007

Drinking when pregnant advice: sensible precaution or patronising paternalism?

New government advice warns women not to drink any alcohol at all when pregnant, changing their line from previous advice which was to drink only a small amount - comments here and here in the Guardian. (The second one is by Zoe Williams and pretty nonsensical, sorry.) Is this a sensible precaution, given that doctors estimate that 7,500 foetuses are harmed every year by pregnant women drinking? Or is it patronising and paternalistic to assume that unless you scare pregnant women into complete abstention, they will choose to act irresponsibly?

Making trouble - the seventies women's movement remembered

The lovely Melissa Benn (daughter of Tony, and author of Madonna and child, an excellent book about the feminist politics of motherhood) reviews the equally fab Lynne Segal's autobiography in the Guardian last week. I love these fantastic enthusiastic seventies feminists.

And more nostalgia for the second wave feminists in this lovely article about the sixties by Margaret Drabble.

Women in Refrigerators

Following on from my rant about Spiderman, here's a link to a blog that's about the representation of women in comics. (Thanks, Katherine!)

This is a list I made when it occurred to me that it's not that healthy to be a female character in comics. I'm curious to find out if this list seems somewhat disproportionate, and if so, what it means, really. These are superheroines who have been either depowered, raped, or cut up and stuck in the refrigerator. I know I missed a bunch. Some have been revived, even improved -- although the question remains as to why they were thrown in the wood chipper in the first place.

25 May 2007

Iraqi feminist Yanar Mohammed

Via Guernica magazine, an interview with Yanar Mohammed, the founder of Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) which I've posted about previously.

21 May 2007

Women in need of rescue?

I went to see Spiderman 3 last night and it wasn't as bad as I was expecting having read reviews and heard friends slate the film. I thought the Sandman effects were striking and action was entertaining, but, I found myself more and more annoyed by the simpering Mary-Jane who was helpless and whiny in equal parts. Maybe I'm remembering this all wrong but wasn't Mary-Jane suppose to be quite feisty? Her Wikipedia entry says she saved Spidey's life on numerous occasions but Raimi's film turned her into the ultimate damsel in distress, and a not very likeable one at that. Obviously, I realise that there are some powerful female superheros in comics and their film representations these days, and not all in the tradition of the highly sexualised images you'd imagine - I'm thinking of the all powerful Jean Grey and other heroes in the X-men, though WIMN's voice also have interesting things to say on the female characters in that particular series of superhero flicks. I'm starting to feel like we're going backwards with this genre, and it's a real shame as directors like Raimi could've made an effort to change things. Judging by his quotes in the article I linked to in the title, it didn't even feature on his radar. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood does with Wonderwoman, and I haven't seen the much lauded Heroes series. Here's hoping they're not more of the same.

18 May 2007

A new Iraq for Women?

I always seem to be posting about the horrific treatment of women in war zones, don't I? Pretty shocking accounts of life for women in Iraq right now. This article also has details of how we can help see below. The geek in me is also fascinated with the underground railroad that takes at risk women to safety.

The Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq runs shelters for battered women in four cities and an "underground railroad" to conduct women at risk of murder to safe havens. In response to the murder of Doaa, it is mounting an international campaign to ban honour killings and force Kurdish and Iraqi legal authorities to investigate and prosecute them. There have been demonstrations in London and Erbil; you can sign OWFI's petition at equalityiniraq.com, where you can also show your support for women's rights in Iraq by clicking on "make a donation".

This is lovely

Here's a lovely game for a Friday: anti-feminist bingo. Points for getting a line in any direction and for a full house...

17 May 2007

And what's more...

...it's not even the worst article in this month's issue!

Men have issues too

The marvellous spitting mad blog directed me to this article about how men feel pain too (link in title). Now I have nothing against male pain; I think a major part of the problem with our patriarchal society is that it forces both men and women into certain roles, and while women have traditionally been the weaker party, it's not necessarily any more fulfilling for a man to be forced into the position of having to earn more money, be 'strong', be aggressive, etc. But this guy should really have chosen his words a bit more carefully.

The male-grooming market - what we spend to offset our physical insecurity - was, if you can believe this, worth £685 million in 2004. And according to Mintel, the market analysts, we will be spending £821 million in 2009. That's £136 million of added insecurity. As well as worrying about the closeness of our shave, the look and colour of our hair, and how we smell, we will also be paranoid about the fact that our complexions are not flawless.

Welcome to my world. How long do you think it will be before the naked and impossibly perfect male body becomes the standard image used to sell everything from petrol to hosiery? Because boy, can you look forward to some insecurity then.

We are hard-wired to be aggressive, competitive, crazy for status and sex.

Are you? Or is it just that society expects you to be competitive, aggressive, etc? I suspect the latter. And if so, you'll have to struggle against it, won't you, just like women had to fight not to be seen as submissive and brainless. No one said it was going to be easy. Perhaps you could start by questioning what's 'hard-wired' into you and what's just a social construct?

And, as he points out, just because women feel powerless doesn't mean that men don't also feel powerless.

Oh, right. I thought only one sex had the monopoly on feeling powerless. Silly me.

a lot of guys are feeling threatened by women in the workplace, 'because the women are as outgoing, as confident, as the guys'.

Not more confident. Not aggressive, or overbearing, or domineering. Not committing sexual harassment, or putting others down. Just as confident as these poor men! That's terrible. Hang on a sec...

At its most basic, your identity as a man comes down to two things. You are a sperm factory, and a sperm-shooting machine.

Your identity is what you make it, mate.

So anyway, he then goes on to talk to a vacuous woman who tells him they are going to breed out all those terrible 'male genes' - I only got biology GCSE but I didn't realise genes had a gender - and a male friend of his who reassures him that it's only the 'alpha-male types' who will be eliminated in this bright female future. Then we have a bit more biological determinism crap from a guy who may or may not be related to Ali G, some misrepresentation of Susan Faludi's book Stiffed and then a bit of self-pitying mea culpa keening and wailing.

Can't this guy just go out into the woods with his buddies and beat drums naked or something? Do I have to read this rubbish in what claims to be a quality newspaper?

Oh and then the tosser who used to edit Loaded wonders how he can get sex and companionship without entering into a proper relationship. I have no idea what this person thinks of as a proper relationship but he sounds insane.

16 May 2007

Name and Shame...

Apologies for the cheesy title, but I couldn't resist...

This is a really interesting article on the issue of taking your husband's name, and naming your child. Like Bridget Appleby, I have been surprised at the amount of female friends who have gone back to the tradition of taking their husband's surname when getting married. She goes on to talk about her reasons for wanting to give her daughter her own surname. I've discussed this with many of you before, does it really matter as we're all named after our fathers anyway or is it about personal identity? I just don't understand why someone would want to change their name completely. How do you feel about it?

14 May 2007

Sisterhood? Sigh...

So I was in Peacocks at the weekend and noticed that they're currently selling a line of canvas bags emblazoned with the slogan 'Your boyfriend thinks I'm hot'. With perfect timing, the Pussycat Dolls's Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me came on the music system.

Now I know some men like to think we all spend our time squabbling over them, but really!

11 May 2007

Blondes have more fun?

Funny article (link in title, via Things magazine) about being a blonde woman or a bottle blonde and the social meanings of blondeness.

Sigmund Freud would have had a field day. At this week's Allan Border Medal - Australian cricket's glittering night of nights - the players were almost overshadowed. All their wives or girlfriends, bar only one, were strikingly blonde.

Freud's conclusion, according to Melbourne academic Dr John Armstrong, would be that they were all, in fact, one woman. "The men are bonding by having one woman who they share between them," Armstrong says.

Feminist artists

A report from the Guardian on a new show at the Camden Arts Centre and the renaissance of feminist art. Interesting that some women artists still feel this definition limits them and means their work will be dismissed:

"The minute you define your art in those terms, people dismiss it as something they have seen before," said another. And most agreed that feminist politics do not attract younger women, and, as such, are better avoided in descriptions of their work: "It's a cliche," commented one, "but I think there is still the perception that being a feminist means hating men or at least having too much body hair."

Really? Are we still dealing with these kinds of cliches? Thank goodness for the Guerilla Girls...

10 May 2007

Old buffer talks nonsense

The BBC is going to the dogs because it is 'run by women', old right wing buffer Patrick Moore says.

Not one Director General of the BBC has ever been female, Wikipedia says.

Women in Eastern Congo

Interesting report on Eastern Congo on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, though the link above doesn't seem to have updated to today's report which was about the women of Eastern Congo. In recent years thousands of women have been subjected to rape and violence by militia groups. Many of these men have been imprisoned but are either escaping or buying their way out of prison by the sounds of the report. Use listen again or keep an eye out for the update.

Some good news

Thank goodness, the Irish teenager who wanted to travel to the UK to have her seriously brain-damaged foetus aborted has been allowed to. Common sense prevails, although how stupid that the case had to be dragged through the courts before she was allowed to do this.

Perfect girls, starving daughters

There's an interesting looking book out by one of the contributors to the feministing blog: Perfect girls, starving daughters by Courtney Martin is about body image, particularly in teenagers, and the pressures on young women to conform to a certain body type and look - with relation to mental illness and eating disorders. Looks interesting. Possible group choice in future?

If you go to Courtney Martin's website, meanwhile, you find an interesting article about the response to the Virginia Tech shootings by her which talks about how scared US students have been making public the names and photos of their fellow students suffering from mental illnesses, in order to identify potential 'threats'. Way to make the alienated feel more part of the community...

09 May 2007

On the mothering imperative

Also on the subject of motherhood; I'm a woman in my mid thirties and this is a very real issue for me. I regularly veer between panic at the social pressure and my own biological clock ticking (apologies for the cliché) and feeling indignant that this is suddenly the only major achievement that some expect of me or are interested in. It's hard not to let the "hurry, hurry, we're all doomed" aspect of this affect your relationship. Generally, I go along with Sarah Churchwell's no nonsense approach, if it happens, fantastic, if not I'll adopt, or get over it. Hard to face, but true. Do you all feel this, or is it just me?

Home births... and free births?

I'm enormously pleased by Patricia Hewitt's proposal to make home birth available to all women in Britain, as I've always wanted to give birth at home (when I get round to having children, of course). There's been some debate about the idea in the Guardian: here, here and here; and today G2 includes an article on free birth - giving birth not only at home, but without any medical attention and sometimes without anyone else present. There's a website dedicated to it here. Interesting, but terrifying, I think - certainly not something I'd be happy doing - but I suppose women gave birth for millennia with no doctor present...

Irish abortion case decided this afternoon

The High Court in the Republic of Ireland will decide this afternoon whether to let a teenage girl leave the country for an abortion. The foetus she is carrying has a brain disease which means it will only survive for a couple of days after birth. Link in title to a news report. According to the Guardian, about 7,000 women travel from Ireland to Britain every year to have abortions.

04 May 2007

Fat women not unattractive shocker

Came across this article (link in title) in the Times. Now it's in the beauty section, so perhaps I'm being unfair, but the tone is really fucking annoying. OK, fat women can be sexy. Wow! Is this some kind of Damascene revelation?

I agree this is a bit nicer than the comments one quite frequently hears that fat women are just plain ugly or unattractive - and can't be anything else - but please can't we just stop saying any kind of looks or body shape is better than any other? You don't counter the body image problems of people who desperately want to be thinner by saying fat is better, you counter them (surely) by saying that these things shouldn't matter, that everyone can be beautiful and sexy to someone, that beauty and sexiness is really only important to the people you are close to/want to sleep with/love. Or am I being unfair? Thoughts?

The truth isn't sexy

An interesting campaign (described as 'the best ever excuse for a pub crawl!') highlighting the problems behind the sex trade, The truth isn't sexy will be handing out posters, flyers and beermats which draw attention to the exploitative nature of prostitution and sex trafficking. They're meeting on Saturday 19th May at 11am at The Art Academy, 201 Union St, London, SE1 0LN.

03 May 2007

Women in Iraq

A truly amazing interview, via Feministing and Guernica magazine, with Yanar Mohammed, an Iraqui feminist activist, talking about the ways in which the occupation of Iraq has been bad for women.

Mohammed asserts unequivocally that war and occupation have cost Iraqi women their legal standing and their everyday freedoms of dress and movement—a topic that has received surprisingly scant news coverage beyond scattered reports on sectarian violence and infamous prison abuses. “The first losers in all of this were women,” Mohammed says of post-invasion Iraqi society.

Woman's hour - history timeline

Just noticed on the Woman's Hour page that they have a fab project up at the moment: a timeline of women's history illustrated with photographs sent in by listeners. Have a look, the photos are great and each decade has a little commentary accompanying the photo slideshow.

01 May 2007

Feminists on the net

I came across this ancient article (link in title) about some of the feminist blogs and websites there are around. I've added some to the link lists at the side and I think everyone who can post should also be able to edit that stuff and so can add good links and stuff you come across. And that way the links are easier to get to!

Women in 'torture porn'

Something that has been disturbing me, and many others I imagine, is the popularity of torture and slash horror in film right now. I honestly cannot understand why someone would want to watch something like Saw or Wolf Creek; so obviously I haven't really seen more than a trailer of this kind of thing. I didn't realise how misogynistic it all was until recently when Feministing alerted me to the fact that you can actually get an action figure doll of Rapist Number One, a character played by Quentin Tarantino, from toy shops in the US. More on this in an article from Film Guardian, not one for your lunch break maybe, it's sickening stuff, but makes a really good point about how women are portrayed in this kind of film...


18 April 2007

Full frontal feminism

Jessica Valente, co-founder of the young feminist website feministing.com, writes in the Guardian about what feminism has to offer to young women and her new book aimed at teenage girls, Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters.

The book might be an idea for the next group? Which incidentally probably won't be until June or so - after I finish my exams...

29 March 2007

Extract from Benazhir Bhutto's autobiography

Amazing article about the way being a woman and pregnancy in particular affected her political career:

Once the political opposition learned I was pregnant, all hell broke loose. They called on the president and the military to overthrow me. They argued that Pakistan's government rules did not provide for a pregnant prime minister going on maternity leave. They said that during delivery I would be incapacitated and therefore the government machinery would irretrievably break down for that period of time. This, to them, was unconstitutional, necessitating the president, backed by the military, to dismiss the prime minister and install an interim government to hold new elections.

19 March 2007

Dignity, period.

From an email from Mabel (link in title)

The economic crisis in Zimbabwe now means that ordinary women are unable to afford basic sanitary protection. With inflation topping 1200%, just one pack of sanitary pads costs more than 50% of the average monthly wage for women in Zimbabwe. Faced with such economic adversity, manufacturers of sanitary products have fled Zimbabwe, compounding the shortages.

As a consequence, millions of Zimbabwean women are forced to replace tampons with newspapers and dirty rags, a practice which has led to vaginal infections for which there is no available medication.

Moreover, these medical infections are often falsely attributed to sexually transmitted infections leading to social embarrassment and domestic violence.

This lack of sanitary products has far reaching implications. Families suffer from increased poverty as mothers and wives are unable to work when they have their periods. This means that they are unable to buy food and clothes or finance their children’s education. In addition girls are forced to take time off school, further jeopardising their education.

Millions of women and girls across Zimbabwe face unnecessary suffering and hardship, ACTSA campaigns to ensure that these women are afforded their most basic human rights.

How much would you be prepared to pay for basic sanitary protection??

What is your dignity worth??

13 March 2007

We hate Observer woman

Excellent blog about the vacuous waste of paper and space that is Observer Woman magazine. Anyone really wanting to raise their own blood pressure should read this article:

By your mid-twenties, you're on a six-figure salary forging a path in a previously male-dominated world. You own your own flat, a Mulberry handbag and a Marc Jacobs frock.

Yup, that's my life.

02 March 2007

Lynne Segal

Lynne Segal is a feminist who always comes across as being very positive and sensible: Julie Bindel interviews her in today's Guardian as LS publishes her memoirs. Searching for more about her online, I found her response to the Ariel Levy book we discussed a while ago. Her books Why feminism? sounds really interesting.

31 January 2007

rape - the perfect crime

I studied rape for my criminology course and had to read books and articles on the subject dated from the 50s and 60s.

Reading the reactions to an article such as the one published today on the BBC website, makes my blood boil. So little has change, apart from the recognition of the crime of marital rape. Women are still accused of crying wolf. Women have still to prove themselves as being the 'perfect victim' in order to be believed.

16 January 2007

Fascinating article on the abortion ban in El Salvador

The last issue of Observer Woman was pure fluff - not a bad thing except when written by the odious Polly Vernon, and I quite enjoyed fulminating at the dreadfulness of some of the 'tribes' of women (notably the Earth Mothers).

But there in the middle of it was a really interesting and well-written article on El Salvador, with photos by a world-class documentary photographer. For anybody who didn't see it, concealed in mountains of fluff as it was, abortion is illegal in El Salvador, in all circumstances including rape, incest and threat to the mother's life. And if a doctor realises you have had an abortion, s/he is obliged to report you to the police, and you can be sentenced to 30-50 years in prison.

15 January 2007

RIP Alice Coltrane

Interesting obituary here of Alice Coltrane - widow of John Coltrane, but also a gifted musician and composer in her own right. She also had another, later life as a new age guru.