May 2013


Today, in a variation on the ongoing, twisty, facepalm-inducing intersectional feminism “debate”, the Guardian reblogged a piece from Louise Mensch’s blog Unfashionista. In it, Mensch accuses those fiendish intersectionalistas of not being sufficiently “reality based”. Intersectional feminists – who are, believe it or not, all British – are too busy checking each other’s privilege to become famous chick lit writers / US secretary of state / vice-important person of a multinational company (basically, anything mega-successful, as long as there’s at least one man above you). American feminists, on the other hand, are ace at this.  

You can see where Mensch is coming from, or rather, you guess see why she takes the position she does. Partly it’s sucking up to the inhabitants of a country she’s just moved to, but there also seems to be something a bit more personal. Basically, if you have a go at feminism for being too focused on the achievements of white, middle-class women, it sounds like you’re having a go at Louise Mensch. And that’s not fair! Cos she’s worked really hard and stuff! (more…)

According to journalist Angela Epstein – whom I hadn’t heard of until five minutes ago, when I happened to tune into 10 O’clock Live – feminism  has “spooked” a generation of women into not having children. Blimey! Poor women, and bad, bad feminists. What will they think of next?

Epstein was debating “feminism” (as if such a thing is debatable) with Christine Hamilton and Laurie Penny. Epstein has children, the other two do not. Epstein is anti-feminist, Hamilton and Penny are not (I know! Christine fucking Hamilton!). In such a situation, it’s clear that Epstein sees herself as the only person qualified to discuss what motherhood does to women and why certain women are missing out. This is total bollocks. Funnily enough, having children does not make a woman an expert on why other women should or shouldn’t breed. (more…)

As a child I always hated The Family Meal. Too many arbitrary rules and too much meat. I’d throw pieces of food under the table, thinking no one noticed, then watch as my brother got pudding while mine was withheld due to the scraps discovered around my chair.

Years later, anorexic, I avoided family meals altogether. I’d hide away with my homework while others ate, finally defrosting Lean Cuisine in the microwave at 10pm. It would take me an hour to eat the half-portion I dished out, then I’d retire to bed, barely having spoken to anyone. (more…)

Say what you like about old-school misogynists, they’re no slackers when it comes to getting a style guide in place. No one knows where they keep it – perhaps in a cave somewhere, surrounded by oestrogen-sensitive traps – but each and every one of them follows it to the letter.

One of the first rules seems to be, whenever expressing misogynist views in print, insist you’re breaking a massive taboo and thereby risking life and limb in our aggressively misandrist society. Everyone knows this is crap, even the people writing it, but it’s obligatory to preface any sexist diatribe with the same old lie. Hence poor old Crimewatch presenter Nick Ross, complaining of how for some it is “heresy” that “victims [of rape] should ever be held responsible at all”. Just imagine! Although, to be fair, in this case he probably does have the beginnings of a point. He’s at least right that for others, this isn’t “heresy” at all. Just look at Facebook. Or Steubenville. Or George Galloway or Kenneth Clarke or even feminist spokeswoman Caitlin Moran. Victims of rape are held responsible for what happens to them all the sodding time. But don’t let that stop you, Nick. Go on, be brave! Say the unsayable, via the radical pages of the Daily Mail, even though it’s been said a billion times before and is no more true now than it ever was. (more…)

So the latest thing to avoid when pregnant is iodine. No, wait – I got it the wrong way round! When pregnant it’s best to have loads of the stuff. Loads of iodine, and loads of iron. And maybe all the other elements that start with “I”, just to be on the safe side (I’ve heard iridium’s nice).

As with all these things, you’re not allowed just to have supplements, though. That’d be cheating (oh, and taking iodine supplements “stuns” the thyroid. A likely story). You have to get your iodine through eating a varied diet, the kind of diet it’s impossible to eat because you’re so busy trying to avoid anything unpasteurised /raw /caffeinated /unwashed /with a high mercury content (that’s assuming you can keep food down in the first place). Anyhow, do your best, and just to help you, here’s a handy, meaningless table listing the iodine content in mcg per average serving of various common foodstuffs. Just make sure it adds up to 250mcg every day while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding; it’s easy, providing you ignore the fact that the list contains items such as nuts, shellfish and oily fish which, actually, you’re not really allowed (plus organic milk is now worse for you than normal milk, but only in terms of iodine content. Make of that what you will). But hey, in case it all seems too much of a hassle, the British Dietetic Association have even illustrated their advice with one of those photos of a headless pregnant woman. There’s a man standing behind her, hands resting protectively on her bump. So now you know just how important it is. You’re not a person, you’re a baby-brewing machine, and you run on iodine, folic acid and virtue. (more…)

Women, Celia Walden argues in the Telegraph, “have got themselves into a tangle over beauty”. Spending “an inordinate percentage of their time worrying about their looks – and the rest of it actively trying to enhance them”, they then object when men show appreciation (as it were). Bizarre. It’s probably because women are fickle, inconsistent and manipulative. Oh, and feminist. That as well.

Citing one example of typical female behaviour, witnessed on the tube “the last time I was back in Britain”, Walden describes a teenage girl calling out a man for staring at her legs:

I felt for him. The girl had very nice legs. The girl knew she had very nice legs, and had chosen to showcase them in a belt of fabric that would draw admiring glances from every male member of that carriage – and a few females besides. Yet she found it demeaning – or “disgusting”, to quote her friend’s empathetic murmur – to be reduced to an object of beauty. Women, she believed, in her indignant, third-wave feminist little head, are more than the sum total of their gloriously appealing body parts.

Ha! Imagine that! Women being more than the sum of their body parts! What will the feminists think of next? (And there are still people who believe trousers are a feminist conspiracy!) (more…)

According to the Daily Mail, my children should never have been born. To be fair, this is true for 99.9% of the human race but it’s always interesting to identify the various and overlapping reasons why this should be so. In this particular instance it’s because they are descended from women who had children in their forties – i.e. old ladies who left it too late.

Both my partner and I have mothers who were born to women over forty. This is because Lancashire in the 1940s was a seething hotbed of middle-class feminist extremism, where women were too busy smashing through glass ceilings to think of reproducing in a timely manner. Or it might be, in my case, because my grandma came from an Irish Catholic background, didn’t believe in practising any form of contraception and had a load of other children before my mother, most of whom survived to adulthood. This is something from which I clearly benefited, having thereby got to exist, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Women such as my grandma clearly didn’t know the risks of late motherhood, such a being pregnant while not being at your maximum blooming potential. The few black and white photos we have don’t show it but let’s be honest, she probably looked well past it by the time she was having my mum – a bit like Kate Garraway in this photo.
(more…)

I’m not especially surprised by the report that only 18% of UK television presenters over the age of 50 are women. Like most people, I occasionally watch TV and see a world in which craggy, authoritative men lead conversations on serious matters, ably assisted in this by smoother-skinned, brightly dressed women who “add a bit of colour”. Of course, such women are capable of doing far more; even so, the discrepancy between them and their male counterparts is distracting. You know at first glance where the priorities lie. Pretty woman may be just as eloquent as craggy man, but how can you believe her, knowing that in five years’ time she’ll be on the scrapheap, replaced by a younger model? The face you can trust can’t be a female one; she won’t be around long enough. Women curdle when they’re placed in the spotlight for too long. (more…)

  1. If you lend George Galloway a fiver, he’s unlikely to think he can now dip into your bank account at every opportunity (on the basis that one shouldn’t have to ask “before every withdrawal”).
  2. If you were to tell someone that most thefts are committed by people outside the family, you wouldn’t then be told “yeah, but to be on the safe side, I’d hide all your valuables from your granny”; on the other hand, tell someone that most rapes are committed by people known to the victim and you’re straight onto the stranger in the dark alley.
  3. If someone steals your iPad, the fact that you willingly gave friends and relatives PC World vouchers for Christmas won’t be seen as an indication that you’d actually consented to your iPad being taken.
  4. You can leave your wallet at home but your body and all its orifices are constantly with you.
  5. UniLAD don’t advise their readers on the odds of getting away with burglary while college frat boys don’t film and circulate scenes of handbag-snatching.
  6. No one decides theft is a “grey area” if you allow someone to touch the product they go on to steal.
  7. Men are expected to be able to control themselves in a consumer society saturated with attractive products just begging to be pilfered; no one accuses advertisers of sending out “confusing messages” to those who lack the financial equivalent of consent.
  8. Theft prevention advice helps people to protect their possessions; rape prevention advice merely formalises the particular behaviours which a given culture deems to constitute “asking for it”.
  9. There is no bodily autonomy equivalent to locking your front door as a safety measure.  There are, however, plenty of ways in which you can limit your own freedom – not drinking, not having consensual sex, not walking home alone, not wearing “provocative “ clothing, not ever leaving the house. You can do all of these things and people will think of more. There is no limit. And this might be sold to you as consistent safety advice but it’s not. It is inconsistent, shifting moral messaging that forms the backdrop to rape culture. You don’t need to be told to feel afraid. You don’t need to be told to feel vulnerable. You don’t need a culture that normalises rape in the name of “protection”.
  10. People don’t own their bodies, they are their bodies. End of.

Here are some things which even the most reactionary branches of the news media might set within the broader context of a sexist culture:

  • the under-representation of women in politics
  • female genital mutilation
  • sexual objectification and harassment

And here is one thing which they don’t:

  • the imprisonment, rape and fertility control of women by men who decide they can “own” them

The first three things are misogyny in action; the latter is just pure evil, badness, whatever you want to call it, providing you don’t use words like “sexist” and “patriarchal”, because that just wouldn’t be playing fair. (more…)

Another day, another clever clogs arrives to tell the feminist masses why they’re fucking up. This time it’s the turn of Martha Gill. Like Charlotte Raven before her, Gill offers a rare insight into the feminist mindset. This is due to the fact that not only is she a feminist herself, but she’s amazingly clever and totally ace at writing. Most feminists are, as Gill so cleverly notes, thick as pigshit and rubbish with words. Thus we should all thank her for her guidance (come on, sheep-like feminist masses! Bleat in gratitude!).

In a piece that is ostensibly on “the perils of Groupthink” Gill makes two timely observations. The first is that every single “online feminist” (i.e. those feminists who are several classes down from a “print feminist”) writes in exactly the same style. And that style is … Well, let’s be honest, it’s the style in which Vagenda write. And Vagenda write in that style deliberately, perhaps because they’re writing about the very magazines whose approach they mimic. It doesn’t take a genius to notice this – Vagenda spell it out for you – but still. Well done, Gill. That’s probably a good few young feminists you’ve embarrassed out of writing on the things they care about, simply because they happen to adopt what you consider to be an overly stylized voice. Sod ‘em, though. It’s all very well finding a voice in this sexist world, but make sure it doesn’t sound too jarring to the more sophisticated feminist ear. (more…)

My son’s best friend isn’t his friend any more. It’s been that way for a while. I’ve noticed, gradually, in the school playground. Ex-best friend doesn’t look out for my son any more, doesn’t respond when he calls his name. Ex-best friend has other friends, high-value friends. For a while I wonder if I’m just being paranoid. Maybe that’s just what five-year-olds are like, I think, but no.

“It’s okay,” my son tells me. “He says I’m allowed to sit next to him on a Tuesday if no one else is there.”

Fuck that, I think.

“It’s not for him to decide where you sit,” I say. “Aren’t there better people to sit with anyhow?”

My son says yes but looks unconvinced.
(more…)

So Tesco define chemistry sets as “for boys” and dolls’ houses as “for girls”. I know this because justified outrage has flared up on twitter, but I also know this because, well, they would do, wouldn’t they? Most toy retailers divide their market segments by gender. It would be nice if they could stick to doing this in their heads and on their spreadsheets but they don’t. They translate their thoughts into webshop drop-down menus, pink and blue aisle segregation, action shots of boys wielding plastic guns while girls mop up the artificial piss of plastic babies. They do it all the time. Every single example should make us furious but of course, that would be impractical. So certain flashpoints – such as this one, and Sainsbury’s selling doctors’ outfits for boys and nurses’ outfits for girls – tend to shape the debate. I’m not sure it could be any different, but it’s interesting to see what irritates the most.

Looking at tweets sent to @uktesco it strikes me that people are far more angry at girls not having access to “boys’ toys” than vice versa. This isn’t a scientific analysis (what with me being a woman and all), but the consensus seems to be that science is ace and to assume girls lack interest in and/or aptitude for it is sexist and insulting – which it indeed is. Far less upsetting, though, is the idea that boys should be denied pink “girls’ stuff”. I find this in worrying in itself, not in a “what about teh menz?” way – my 3-year old son has and loves a pink dolls’ house, but I’m pretty sure he could live without it – but in what it says about how we value things that are artificially defined as “for men” and “for women”. This is clearly hierarchical; “men’s stuff” is better. Even so, I’d question whether this has as much to do with the thing in itself than with the association with men. (more…)

I am the mother of two boys. I know I’m not perfect but I do try to be a good parent. Unfortunately it appears that for the past five years I have been remiss. I have failed to “channel” my sons’ boisterousness.

According to James Delingpole – now the Ross Kemp of posh rightwing journalism – “we seem to have forgotten that boys will be boys”.  I for one am guilty of this. I look at my boys and think “they’re boys”. But rarely do I go on to conclude “and thus they will be boys”. This might sound like a minor omission but it’s not.  What it actually means – and this is a serious fact, because the Telegraph says so – is that they’ll grow up to beat the shit out of other boys. And possibly also girls. And maybe even household pets. Basically, because my boys have not been allowed to “be boys” (as defined by the Victor Book for Boys circa 1964) they will grow up to be violent hooligans as opposed to men of courage – the kind of men who win wars, slaughter beasts and present Top Gear.
(more…)

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