As the magazine More! is about to close, I decided to buy a copy. I’m pretty sure I bought the first ever edition so it seemed fitting to be there at the end. I haven’t bought it much in the intervening 25 years – and for that my sexual repertoire will no doubt have suffered – but I felt it might be interesting to see what the magazine’s like now. Short answer: still crap.

Long answer: possibly even worse than it was before. I don’t know for sure. I was twelve when More! was launched and while I didn’t religiously follow all the advice the glossies threw my way, I didn’t actively question it, either. I absorbed it passively, as you do when you’re working on the assumption that there’s lots of adult stuff out there which might look weird but that’s only because you don’t get it yet. Sometimes you question it, briefly, but ultimately hurry back to acceptance. After all, who are you to know better? I remember watching James Bond films in the 1980s, disturbed by the fact that it looked as though the Roger Moore character was raping women but concluding that he couldn’t be because mainstream films, like glossy magazines, are “proper”. And after all, this is 007 and he’s a goodie, isn’t he? Now I’m older I ask questions more, but to a certain extent I still have to force myself to do it. If everyone else appears to think something is acceptable, it feels arrogant to argue otherwise.
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If you are a feminist it can be difficult to understand the position of any woman who isn’t. Gloria Steinem claimed “a woman has two choices: either she’s a feminist or a masochist” (what this says about the choices of feminists who are into BDSM I do not know). Julie Burchill, meanwhile, has argued that “there is a short and sharp way to deal with women who say they are not feminists”:

If a woman answers ‘no’ to the question ‘Are you a feminist?’, she should immediately be stripped of her voting rights, her right to institute divorce, her legal protection from domestic violence and marital rape – oh, and her pay should be cut to 19% less than that of her male colleagues. Then she could lead the carefree, non-ball-breaking life she so desires, and not be forced to take advantage of all those unpleasant and exhausting social gains which those nasty butch feminists in the 20th century forced on her.

To which one is tempted to respond “oh, sod off, you attention-seeking transphobe”. Yet could it be that in this one instance Burchill has a point? Shouldn’t those who refuse to acknowledge their oppression be made to experience its full force? After all, aren’t they complicit in every other woman’s oppression, too? (more…)

Domestic abusers! You know that thing when you’re having a massive row with your partner over something entirely trivial – it could be, say, Christmas presents – and it reaches the point where you suddenly feel the need to head to the garage, arm yourself with white spirits and a lighter, douse your partner in flammable liquid and then wave a naked flame around, just to give him or her a fright?  Well, last Christmas Stephen Eastwood did just that and something entirely unexpected happened – he managed to set his wife on fire and she died! And now he’s got to go to prison!

I imagine a story such as this strikes fear into the hearts of respectable, behind-closed-doors attackers everywhere. Hence it may be of some consolation for them to learn that Eastwood wasn’t convicted of murder. Despite Eastwood lying to the police (he originally blamed his wife for the incident, claiming she’d started the fire with a cigarette, something which was later demonstrated to have been impossible), the judge who sentenced Eastwood to eight years for manslaughter declared himself “sure that [the defendant] did not intend [his wife] to catch fire and did not intend the result”: (more…)

A week ago I attended the switching on of the Christmas lights in Coleford. If you have heard of this village during the past year, it’s likely to be because it’s where this family lived. I don’t want to write about this particular story because there’s someone left behind and just trying to imagine her pain is impossible. All the same, it was strange being in that place, for that cheery, festive reason. Perhaps it isn’t so strange if you live there all the time, but to me, because I don’t, there was something unreal about it all. How do these things happen and how do communities go on?

Four years ago Jon Ronson – author of the utterly brilliant Them - tried to make sense of the community Christopher Foster left behind after he killed his wife, daughter, animals and then himself. In an article for the Guardian Weekend magazine, Ronson travels to Maesbrook in Shropshire to talk to Foster’s friends and acquaintances:
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When the brilliant @therealsgm mentioned she was organising a bloghop as part of 16 Days of Action on Violence against Women, my almost-instant reaction was “I know! I’ll write something on VAW at Christmas!” Not because I’ve experienced it myself or because I’m an expert on the subject, you understand. Merely because I love Christmas almost as much as I hate violence against women, therefore … Well, anyhow, I didn’t think the general ignorance would be a problem. I assumed it would just be easy to look up stuff on the internet. Turns out it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to write about it.

To begin with I was obviously going to adopt a smug, pseudo-saintly position, from which I would inform everyone that actually, abusing others IS BAD and surely at this time of year – AT CHRISTMAS, of all times! – we should all be nice and love one another. For the fact is, Christmas is a time for families and children and … well, that’s the whole problem. Violence really rains on the whole Christmas parade. (more…)

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