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...