January 2013


Yesterday I found myself in a room with a woman who was telling me that it was permissible to eat. She also told me that it was permissible to put on weight, and permissible to grow as you age, and permissible not to have rules about every single item of food that you buy. It was all very radical and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It felt a bit cultish, or rather un-cultish. It was as though I was being de-programmed, made to unlearn all that I’d come to believe. What she was saying made sense, yet it sounded so odd. I kept thinking “but that’s not what I’ve been told. How can you be right and everyone else be wrong?” (more…)

I am 37 years old and have thus been an adult for quite some time. Nevertheless, I have still managed to think some incredibly stupid things. Here are just a few of the things I have believed while being an actual grown-up:

  1. if you use too much bath oil, the oil sinks in through your pores and makes you fat
  2. if you inhale while standing too close to someone eating a sausage roll then you can’t be a proper vegetarian
  3. it is both possible and morally acceptable to achieve gender equality and sort out all the other “equalities” later

I will allow you a few moments of headdesk / facepalm despair. (more…)

Dear Liz Jones

Today you wrote a column about women like me, that is, middle-class women who became mothers in our 30s. Thank you. Usually no one ever pontificates about our lives, motivations, shriveled eggs, outrageous sense of entitlement when we’re out and about pushing a buggy the size of a 4×4 etc., so it makes a pleasant change. Nevertheless, while listing all of our flaws — and heaven knows, we late breeders have got them — there’s one you missed out. Yes, we might be selfish, overly obsessed with our offspring, fussy, flabby and over-tired, but do you know what else we are? Really fucking patronising. Therefore allow me, Liz, to patronise you. (more…)

Writing in Saturday’s Guardian, Deborah Orr is a bit mean about feminism, suggesting that its “influence [...] on contemporary society is overstated”. Obviously this upsets me. Feminism is my fwend. I don’t like people being mean about it. So there. She also proposes that when faced with misogyny “we need to say a great deal more than: ‘This is horrible. Poor us’”. Sod that. I just like saying “this is horrible. Poor us”. There’s nothing like undirected bitterness to fuel the feminist fire. (more…)

I’m not a philosopher. I did one module of philosophy as part of my masters and I did it very badly, managing to scrape a pass by pretending to understand Kritik der reinen Vernunft when all my ideas actually came from Sophie’s World. Hence I am not very hot on philosophical terminology and naming different types of argument (straw man and circular are about my limit). All the same, I have decided to at least attempt to write a response to this post on rape, victim blaming and logical fallacies. The central point being made – that being drunk does make women vulnerable, therefore it’s intellectually dishonest and logically fallacious to present it as irrelevant to discussions of sexual assault – is presented clearly, with great pains taken not to offend. However, while I recognise the positive intent, I don’t think it’s an honest representation of the integrity of most feminist debates on this subject. Furthermore, I don’t feel it captures how and why discussing a hypothetical victim’s alcohol consumption causes offence.

I don’t want this to be seen as a highly critical or combative post. On the contrary, it is refreshing to read something about rape and victim blaming which has made me think rather than want to throw things (so no more CiF comment threads for me, I fear …). (more…)

Women have always had to deal with misogyny, therefore it is ridiculous for individuals to kick up a fuss about it now. This appears to be the argument made by Cristina Odone in her latest Telegraph blog, in which she expresses her sadness at “clever Mary [Beard] […] being stupid” for responding to vicious online attacks:

Come on, Mary. Women in public arenas get a lot of flak – they always have. Think of Livia and Julia back in the time of Augustus. They were attacked for everything they did, simply because they refused to stay in the background and fawn on men. The same is true today. A woman who sticks her head above the parapet – whether it be to present a history programme on the BBC or debate issues on Question Time – is asking for brickbats and (some) bouquets. If she doesn’t have the stomach for it, she should stick to lecturing undergraduates.

So that’s Mary put in her place, although only if you believe that standing up for yourself is the same as not having “the stomach” to deal with aggressive bullying and threats of sexual violence. Odone is convinced these things are indeed the same, claiming that  “Mary Beard’s defensiveness is widespread among women of stature”. Silly Mary Beard, and silly women in general, for lacking the bravery to behave like good girls and suck up whatever nastiness comes their way.  (more…)

I am ill. My partner, however, is more ill. For me, this is almost as annoying as my being ill in the first place.  

I don’t mean to be unsympathetic but I feel that as a feminist, I am put in a difficult position. I don’t like gender stereotyping yet man-flu is itself a horrible pseudo-misandrist stereotype – one of those fake weaknesses, like being crap at washing up, which mean men get to laze around watching telly while women do all the work, at least in TV adverts. I don’t want to be in a TV advert. I don’t want to find myself playing the role of one of those Boots or Anadin women – the passive-aggressive little troupers who “just get on with it”, taking on all domestic work while caring for their poor, sick menfolk and ostentatiously ignoring their own needs (no, no, I’ll just take this pill. I’m fine honest. I’ll just take this pill and stomp around metaphorically juggling all my responsibilities while my piss-poor family watches and does sod all, the bastards). I find all of this rather offensive. Hence even though my partner cannot make it out of bed, I am resentful. Why should I have to do everything? Why can’t I get man-flu, too? (more…)

Today’s Observer includes a piece entitled “Women own up to guilt over eating habits”. It’s an interesting choice of wording – are women “owning up” to the eating itself or is this some kind of meta-guilt relating to their response to food? I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s both. These days, not only is eating too much and being a porker a Bad Thing, but so too is failing to be a Real Woman who celebrates her curves. Hence regardless of whether you’re literally stuffed, metaphorically you are.

According to the piece “millions of British women have eating binges, lie about how much they weigh and have a negative relationship with food”. All pretty remarkable, when you consider that only 2,000 British women were interviewed. It’s amazing what wilful extrapolation can do:

Three-quarters of UK women – 24 million – say they often feel guilty about how much they eat. Women typically think about food 12 times a day and those under 25 have it on their minds twice as much as those over 55, the poll found. Six out of 10 told researchers they had lied about how much food they ate, almost half (43.74%) said they snacked in secret and more than a quarter (27.68%) confessed to binge eating – this rises to more than a third (36.72%) of those under 25.

Whether or not this really does affect 24 million women, it’s sad that anyone has these feelings at all. Eating ought to be a pleasurable and sociable experience. Still, at least the dieting industry is doing its best to raise awareness of all the lives it fucks up, albeit while taking the opportunity to persuade a few more people to fuck up their lives just that little bit more. (more…)

In Oklahoma, this month, Jamie Lynn Russell, 33, died in agony from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy in jail. Police, who were called to a hospital where Russell sought help for severe abdominal pain, charged her with drug possession after finding two prescription pills that did not belong to her.

Guardian report on ‘criminalisation of pregnancy’ in US institutions

When I turned up in tears at an unfamiliar doctor’s surgery, convinced (correctly, it turned out) that I was experiencing the start of a miscarriage, I have no idea what was in my bag. Probably the usual – money, phone, lipgloss, Prozac, half-eaten tubes of Fruit Pastilles. I leave stuff in there for months. There may even have been the remnants of my pre-pregnant life – Alka Seltzer, the odd cigarette butt, those stupid RU21 pills that were meant to prevent hangovers but never did. I didn’t live a pure life before I conceived, and I sort of muddled through afterwards. I’m relatively organised, on the grand scale of things, but clean-living would be an exaggeration. (more…)

There is a simple reason why some of the best private schools, and some of the best state schools too, focus on developing a young person’s whole potential. It’s because it prepares them for the future.

So says Stephen Twigg, shadow education secretary. And who can argue with that? Well, I can, for starters. I’ve nothing against developing potential in the young and preparing them for the future. Nor do I mind teachers playing a part in this. All the same, I suspect my understanding of “potential” and “preparation for the future” isn’t necessarily the same as Twigg’s. (more…)

Right now, I am not, strictly speaking, “helping feminism”. Indeed, if you knew which café I was sitting in to write this, you’d say I was complicit in all sorts of badnesses. An absence of active feminism-helping is just the tip of the iceberg. All the same, by ‘fessing up to this, I am at least making a show of solidarity with Beyoncé, who currently stands accused of having let the sisterhood down.

In an article in today’s Guardian, Hadley Freeman tells the singer / entrepreneur / superstar that “being photographed in your underwear doesn’t help feminism”. Got that, Ms Knowles? You’re dead fit and everything, but the sight of your scantily clad form is not promoting gender equality. To be fair, I’m not so sure Beyoncé ever thought that it was, but Freeman’s told her all the same. Cue lots of gleefully sexist CiF comments about how feminism’s all gone to pot and women are confused and anyhow, don’t those girls who go on slutwalks claim to be helping feminism? Ha ha! That’ll teach ‘em. (more…)

Dear state school pupils with aspirations to go on to higher education

I am sorry, for I have failed you. You may be blaming tuition fees, or unpaid internships, or the loss of EMA for ruining your prospects, but actually it’s me and others of my ilk. For I, a fellow state school pupil, had opportunities, great opportunities, and I wasted them, and now everyone thinks you’re rubbish as a result.

We are led to believe that this country is run by a cabal of Oxbridge graduates who dominate politics, law, business and the media – and it is. All the same, I am an Oxbridge graduate. I’ve done both the Ox (BA) and the –bridge (PhD). So really I ought to be pretty damn powerful, with lots and lots of money. Alas, I’m not. I’ve always assumed it’s because, from a position of privilege, I’ve been able to make choices and money and power weren’t my priorities. Turns out I got it wrong. It’s because of the school I went to. I mean, it wasn’t a bad school. It was actually a pretty nice grammar school but still, it was hardly Cheltenham Ladies College, and that matters, you see. That’s why I lack the “soft skills” necessary to succeed. It’s also why everyone thinks that you do, too. (more…)

Are you a pisser or a wanker? When it comes to the latest lefty spat, are you part of the privileged journalist circle-jerk or the intersectional pissing contest? Are you more clever than thou or more righteous? Let’s be clear – I’m not interested in what you actually think. I just want to second-guess your motivations in the least charitable way possible.

Today I tweeted a link to a post that I thought was really, really good, but then I worried that in doing so, I’d look really, really bad. It was about how white feminists behave around black feminists, and I couldn’t help thinking that since I’m a white feminist, it might have looked like I was saying “look at me, everyone! I’m totally not racist – but you might be!” I don’t want people to think this. I care about these issues, but I also care about being liked. I don’t want to be seen as a pissing contest lefty. I thought it was a great post (read it!) but alas, I can’t really say that without being viewed as having an ostentatious intersectional moment. Ho-hum. (more…)

So I’d been having one of those days and I decided, in a moment of complete stupidity, that I’d wind down in my lunch hour by going on Twitter (yes, I know!). And then of course the first thing I spotted was this:

Now, it’s not necessarily a bad question. And on a good day I’d have been thinking hmm, interesting. I’d say it’s a mix of influences such as … (at which point I’d have realised there was no way of putting this into 140 characters and given up). But I was having a bad day so my immediate response was Well, that’s f***ing obvious. It’s because most people are useless and young women are no exception. And that’s only 100 characters. I didn’t tweet it though as I thought it would annoy most people (what with them being useless).

Of course, I found myself looking at the responses Vagenda did get. Pah, I thought. Even the feminists are useless. Blaming other feminists for the stereotypes promoted by anti-feminists. When actually feminists are ace. Apart from these ones, who are useless.

Judgement duly passed, I then stalked off to retrieve my sandwich. (more…)

Is there any point in trying to understand how rapists view the world? Funnily enough, I’m starting to believe there is. Perhaps if we were more willing to engage with the rapist perspective, we’d all stop doing those things which increase the prevalence of sexual assault. And no, I don’t mean wearing high heels or drinking too much. Because that’s just silly, isn’t it? I mean seriously, why don’t we actually stop doing those things which make rapists believe that the rapes they commit are acceptable?

According to research quoted by Jil Filipovic in response to a Alyssa Rose’s claim that “Nice guys commit rape, too“, “cultural opposition to rape myths makes men less likely to commit assault, and acceptance of those myths makes sexual assault more likely”. I find this interesting, but not at all surprising. Indeed, it just makes sense. If we define certain rapes as worse than others – if we suggest certain attacks involve “grey areas” – if we perpetuate the idea that most “real” rapes involve violence, strangers and dark alleyways, then we are telling most rapists that they’re not like all the others. We encourage them to believe their situation is different. I’m not saying it’s therefore our fault that they rape, just that maybe, just maybe, some of us should think first before offering supposedly sensible advice to those we’ve chosen to define as potential victims. (more…)

According to a piece in today’s Guardian, “the girl power generation are confused”. I’m not surprised. I’m confused, too, not least because I’d always assumed was part of said generation. Alas, it turns out I’m too old. Already 21 when Wannabe was released, I can’t be one of the “twentysomething women” who can claim to be “the most liberated and educated women ever”. So liberated, in fact, that they get to be defined by a 1990s girl band (the lack of a corresponding Boyzone generation can be taken as clear evidence that the pendulum has swung too far).

But wait! Said twentysomethings might be liberated and educated, but as you’ve already guessed, they’re still not happy! And not just because previous generations were awarded enigmatic letters such as X and Y whereas they got the sodding Spice Girls. Today’s young women are unhappy because too many people have written too many books telling them what to do. From The Rules to He’s Just Not That Into You, books have bombarded women with “contradictory messages” which leave them “in a bind, and without much help in figuring out what they actually want” (see, that’s what happens when you make the ladies literate): (more…)

On New Year’s Eve my family and I sat watching the BBC’s review of the year. In between resigned mumblings about how we were all “too old for this” and my mother’s general tuttings at people having done stuff of import without having consulted her first, my partner and I noted some glaring omissions. Yes, it’s all very well to get excited about London 2012, the US elections and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. But what about my partner starting his new job? And our three-year-old getting potty trained in record time?  These – alongside our five-year-old getting a speaking part in the school nativity play – have been the key events of our year.

Media narratives are always shamefully selective, aren’t they? I’ve never forgiven Channel 4 News for not mentioning the death of Hollyoaks’ Dan Hunter in 2004, despite the fact that the headlines came on immediately after we’d watched the horror on Debbie Dean’s face as Dan’s rally car exploded. Seriously, priorities, people! If you’re wondering why viewers switch off, look no further. If we can’t see a narrative that’s relevant to us then the whole thing is pointless. (more…)

Tomorrow I must write down every single thing I eat and drink. Not just that, but also the time, place and how I feel about it. What’s more, all of it must be done as soon as possible after the eating and/or drinking event. To be frank, the whole thing is set to be a complete pain in the arse. All the same, I’ve got to do it. It’s the rules.

Next week I start my Last Ever Eating Disorder Treatment, in preparation for which I have to keep a food diary. My first treatment took place in 1987. Thus a whole quarter century later I’m still trying to rid myself of ideas that took hold when I was eleven years old. I can’t help thinking what a fucking idiot. How did I ever end up in such a position? I only started the sodding diet so I could end up perfect. Is that really so much to ask? (more…)

A week before Christmas my partner and I took our children to an underground Christmas grotto in some caves near where we live. It’s the first time I’ve been but there’s a display there every year. First you get your two minutes with Santa, then you wander from cavern to cavern, admiring the decorations. It’s all very nice, but it’s still really just for kids. Hence my partner and I devised a game to keep ourselves occupied: Christmas present shag bingo. All along the walls of the caves were fake presents with different names printed on them. The object of the game was to see how many names of former shags you could spot as you went along. By the end of the visit, my youngest had a cuddly turtle, my eldest a toy fighter jet and my partner a resounding shag bingo victory. Rather disappointingly, I’d only got one name out of the whole sodding cave. That said, I’ve actually slept with three different Simons, hence feel I should have been awarded a higher score for that. Plus I can’t remember the name of everyone I’ve ever slept with (the sign of either a misspent youth or encroaching old age). Anyhow, I lost, but can’t help feeling I deserve to have done better. (more…)

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