Monday, 30 April 2012


If you have the stomach for it, I've just read a really interesting article about the disappearance of female bodily hair and what it means. It brings together a lot of strong arguments, many of which I hadn't thought of before, and makes comparisons to how hair has been perceived throughout history as well. I found it really fascinating, but be warned – it is quite graphic.

Disappearance by Roger Friedland

Saturday, 28 April 2012

On Appearances

“After all, I know I’m no match for This Morning’s pulchritudinous host Holly Willoughby, nor are male politicians spared ridicule about their looks (even I have noted David Cameron’s startling resemblance to Henry from Thomas the Tank Engine.)

But there is a difference in the treatment of men and women here.

A A Gill didn’t just mock Mary Beard’s hair, he suggested she shouldn’t be on our screens at all. Similarly, my not looking like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was seen as a weapon to invalidate my opinions — something that doesn’t happen to equally genetically challenged male commentators. Beard has given a perfect illustration of how to handle such criticism, though: women mustn’t let the b******s win.”


Yes! This is exactly the difference between the way that women’s appearance is commented on and the way that men’s is. There was an article by Bryony Gordon in The Telegraph arguing that men are judged on their looks as well, it’s just that we choose to ignore it. This argument misses the point entirely. If a comment is made on a man’s appearance, such as the example she used about David Cameron looking like ham, then it doesn’t imply that because of the way they look, they are not qualified to do their job or have an opinion. However, if a woman’s appearance is commented on, such Rosamund Urwin who wrote this article being called too ugly to be a stripper, then it is a way to bar them from having an opinion. It shuts them up, undermines them, and implies that they are not qualified to be in the position they are in. That is the difference between commenting on a man’s appearance and commenting on a woman’s.

Top Girl, The Game Where Makeovers Are Mandatory and Being Hot Is Everything

“And I was disgusted: young girls already get the idea that looks and possessions matter more than personal achievements and healthy relationships from movies, TV, popular music, tabloids online and off, teen magazines, and every sort of advertising. Do they need games to reinforce that, too?” (via Jezebel)

This is so true. Games aimed at boys (as they have been for most of the time they’ve been around) are about achievements, about challenges, about beating levels and bosses and being the strongest or the most intelligent. Are games aimed at girls just going to be, as this one is, about being the prettiest, the most popular, having the most boys try to chat you up?
For another terrible example of a typical game aimed at young girls, there is this game where all you have to do is kiss Justin Bieber. That’s the whole game.

Please please please let’s not do this – for one thing, these games are SO BORING. People like Jane McGonigal have argued that games can encourage creativity and learning, but I don’t see any redeeming qualities about games like these whatsoever. Sure, young girls like them and play them, but is it good for them? Aren’t there other games that are far better that they would equally enjoy, if only they knew they were allowed to play them?

The media focuses so much on the effect of violence in videogames on young boys; how about focussing on the corrosive effects of ‘games’ that tell young girls that they are only useful if they are pink, pretty and have as many possessions as they possibly can?

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Best Performance Poet You Will Ever Hear

Seriously, if you've never listened to Sonya Renee's poetry, you need to go and rectify that mistake right now. I'd heard 'What Women Deserve' before, but didn't realise she had a whole YouTube backlist of her poetry performances. If you think poetry is dry, or boring, or useless, that it can never teach you anything, or be inspiring, or make you think, then begin with 'Slices', a horrified ode to the strangely American phenomenon of fake cheese. Just listening to her rhythm makes me want to match it in my writing, infiltrates the voice in my head, makes me hear her as a type. Listen to her.

Friday, 30 March 2012

A Site Called Vagenda

“‘Militant feminism’ is another 21st century scare, like the bird flu ‘pandemic’ and eyebrow cancer, both of which have been extensively covered by the Daily Fail. And let’s deconstruct for a second here: ‘feminism’ does, after all - and as everyone seems to voluntarily forget ALL THE TIME - mean ‘equality between women and men.’”

“That’s all feminism boils down to, at the end of the day: choice. The choice to be the most traditional homemaking mother of the pack, or the most cutthroat human rights lawyer in the Supreme Court. The choice to go out on a million, er, ‘test-driving’ dates, or to lose your virginity on your wedding night to a guy your parents introduced you to at church camp.” (The Vagenda – Have we Gone too Far?)

Yes! So glad this blog exists.

Thursday, 29 March 2012


This blog post is a brilliant reply to the misguided Cracked article called 5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women, that has been shared a lot recently.

Here's my favourite line from this excellent rebuttal:

“Either way, stop blaming sex for misogyny. If all men wanted was women to fuck them more, the English language wouldn't even have the word ‘slut’ in it.”

I was talking the other day with someone about equality, and she was telling me it's got better since the days they used to have beauty pageants. I said they still had them in America and she said something about American popular culture being underdeveloped or primitive.

That got me thinking whether it was true or not. I wouldn't want to offend anyone by rashly agreeing with it, because certainly the American people I've met have been very friendly and nice. When I went to New York on a school art trip when I was about 15, we met a lady in an art gallery that we got talking to accidentally, because someone had thought she was somebody else from the back. She gave us some money to go and get a coffee. We had only just met her.

We also met a couple who gave us advice on what bus to catch back to the hotel, so that we didn't have to trudge blocks and blocks back to the hotel again. We didn't know them, either; they just helped us out.

So the American people I've met have been, on the whole, friendly, outgoing and kind. Although some people just seem mental, such as the people who present Fox News, fuelled by anger and hatred, I'm sure it's the same in Britain. The mental ones give the rest of us a bad name.

But the recent crackdown on women's reproductive rights does not fit with a country that calls itself progressive. It seems strange that people who are so terrified of Communism should readily accept personality figures like the hateful Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck telling them what to do. But then, how can you fight for women's rights against people like that, and institutions like the Church? I happen to think that they are very very wrong on these issues, but people listen to them, and they are influential. It's difficult to campaign on issues when people's opinions are influenced by religion, because that makes it a lot harder to argue with them.

I recently finished reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in which Maya Angelou worries that she is a lesbian because she has read something about it, and so sleeps with a boy in her class to reassure herself that she isn't. Three months later, she finds out that she is pregnant, and has the child at 17. She loves her son and doesn't regret having him, but the choice wasn't really given to her, because she wasn't given enough education to know the consequences of her actions beforehand. One of the reasons Angelou worries that she might be a lesbian is because she thinks her body hasn't developed properly. She was not informed about her body, reassured that she was normal, or educated about sex. As such, worried and confused, she tried to reassure herself that she was normal. Now, who do you think a Republican would blame? Not society's failure to educate her about important issues, I'm sure, and I don't think the nameless boy who was the father would even get a mention.

With the recent controversies surrounding contraception in America (and a serious lack of medical understanding), I really do think I might agree that because America is such a young country, it still has a long way to go on some issues. Especially when it polices women and women's sexualities, calling anyone on birth control a slut, but completely neglects to be judgemental about, or even mention, (heterosexual) men's sexualities. It takes two to tango.

That said, we aren't immune to that in Britain either. A terrible terrible article in the Daily Mail blames women for having one night stands, with no mention of men at all, and also complains about the "widespread availability and tolerance of pornography" next to a sidebar where pictures of boobs are apparently news.

So, in summary, I don't really know what I was trying to say with this blog post, but it's been interesting thinking things through.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Test your reading speed

I got 461 words per minute, but that only puts me at about average for university students. I'm going to choose to ignore that and instead go with being 84% faster than the national average.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Today in Charity Shops

I may have gone a little overboard. After a few months of trying not to spend anything on books or clothes, and just make do with what I had, today, I got a black and white stripey t-shirt, a book of Oscar Wilde's children's stories, a collection of short stories by female authors edited by Susan Hill, a copy of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, and a make your own bunting kit. But they're all so amazing!

I also found a little book called The World Book Day The Children's Book of Books 1999, which was a collection of extracts of stories and poems, was available with the £1 book voucher every child in the school was given on that day, and which contained a poem that absolutely scared the crap out of me. It was by Roald Dahl, and it was called The Tummy Beast:

One afternoon I said to mummy,
"Who is this person in my tummy?
"He must be small and very thin
"Or how could he have gotten in?"
My mother said from where she sat,
"It isn't nice to talk like that."
"It's true!" I cried. "I swear it, mummy!
"There is a person in my tummy!
"He talks to me at night in bed,
"He's always asking to be fed,
"Throughout the day, he screams at me,
"Demanding sugar buns for tea.
"He tells me it is not a sin
"To go and raid the biscuit tin.
"I know quite well it's awfully wrong
"To guzzle food the whole day long,
"But really I can't help it, mummy,
"Not with this person in my tummy."
"You horrid child!" my mother cried.
"Admit it right away, you've lied!
"You're simply trying to produce
"A silly asinine excuse!
"You are the greedy guzzling brat!
"And that is why you're always fat!"
I tried once more, "Believe me, mummy,
"There is a person in my tummy."
"I've had enough!" my mother said,
"You'd better go at once to bed!"
Just then, a nicely timed event
Delivered me from punishment.
Deep in my tummy something stirred,
And then an awful noise was heard,
A snorting grumbling grunting sound
That made my tummy jump around.
My darling mother nearly died,
"My goodness, what was that?" she cried.
At once, the tummy voice came through,
It shouted, "Hey there! Listen you!
"I'm getting hungry! I want eats!
"I want lots of chocs and sweets!
"Get me half a pound of nuts!
"Look snappy or I'll twist your guts!"
"That's him!" I cried. "He's in my tummy!
"So now do you believe me mummy?"
But mummy answered nothing more,
For she had fainted on the floor.
(From this website.)

When I first read this, aged 8 or 9, it scared the living daylights out of me, and I think it is the source of my unusual fear of tiny, borrower-style people (glimpses of a tv adaptation of Gulliver's Travels and snippets of the film Honey I Shrunk the Kids can probably be blamed as well). The book seemed vast to me when I was younger, but looking back on it, there's only one or two pages of each story extract, and they're on tiny pages with massive writing. There was one page of Harry Potter in there! How is that supposed to convince you that you like the book enough to buy it?! I also remember being frightened by a short extract featuring a malevolent imaginary friend. I think it was so scary because the story was unfinished, so in my imagination, anything horrible could have happened.

However, it was strange to come across something so evocative of my days in primary school in the middle of a chaotic charity shop.

Saturday, 3 March 2012


Been playing guitar again today for the first time in ages. It's so difficult! I suppose I'm making progress, because I didn't use to be able to strum and sing at once, but I still sound pretty terrible, haha. Also listened to Florence & the Machine, finding odd songs that weren't on albums and generally being overwhelmed by her talent. She has so much imagination! She's never straightforward with her lyrics. She puts things in stories, metaphors and myths, and it has so much emotion behind it.

Ach, I really need to start writing again.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


I've recently discovered a couple of American tv shows from the nineties. I'd seen a lot of pictures of the main character from Daria with quotes from the show circulating on sites like tumblr, but never actually twigged it was a real show. I thought it was just some cartoon that someone had done and put funny quotes over the top.

Turns out Daria is real

And Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is great - I've only managed to watch one episode the whole way through so far, but basically the storyline of being trapped out in space by an woman (awesome evil lady-villain) who wants to see how long it takes for someone to go mad by forcing them to watch awful old B-movies is a thinly veiled premise for the characters to make silly and funny comments all the way through stupid old films that are out of copyright. If you have a spare hour or two, give it a watch. The guys who did this show now do rifftrax, which are commentaries you can download and sync to films which you watch, with the same stupid and funny comments. I've only listened to the one for The Room, that infamous film, and it made me laugh through it all over again.

There's something really nostalgic about both these shows, even though I've never seen them before. Even though they're old and dated, the image quality and the sound quality aren't as good as shows today, there's real warmth and humour in these shows that I feel is missing from a lot of tv today. Sure, tv shows today look flashy, but there's nothing at the heart of them.

The only thing I've found recently that is as fun is Flight of the Conchords. I bought the first series in a charity shop, and me and my sister watched all of them back to back in a whole day in a woozy haze when we were both ill. I love how it's just a show about two friends messing around and being silly.

Flight of the Conchords, doing their thing

Incidentally, I only found out about Daria from watching Nostalgia Chick videos, which I found from a link on Feminist Frequency's twitter page. Nostalgia Chick talks about how there are a lot of great bromances in tv shows (e.g. Scrubs, Flight of the Conchords), but not so many of the female equivalent, and the relationship between Daria and her friend Jane is one of only a few examples. I'd love to see more of that in tv shows today, rather than walking pink stereotypes talking about shoes and shopping. What I think we really need to see is more of people just messing around and having fun, doing stupid things (a la FotC). That sort of thing appeals to everyone with a sense of humour.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Guardian Articles

So many good articles in The Guardian today!

Feminists can be Christians, too

Victoria Coren - it's the Church's job to stand up for the poor

Julie Burchill on moaning women giving feminism a bad name

This last one is particularly interesting... and controversial.

"But moaning about men doesn't make you a feminist – it just makes you a moaner who can't get along with men for reasons that are probably at least as much to do with your failings, flaws and foibles as they are with some imagined horridness on the part of men."

Friday, 27 January 2012

'Why Men Hate Women'

Time to dump another interesting article! This time it's from one of my favourite magazines, the New Internationalist, but from way back in their archives. Slightly inflammatory title but interesting reading.

 Insert inflammatory article name here

Here's a little extract that does a good job of explaining why forcing men into a hyper-masculine role is so damaging for both men and women:

"Why do men express such hatred of women? Psychoanalysts suggest that men's gender identity is very fragile because, within typical child-rearing practices, girls can identify with their primary care-taker while boys have to separate themselves from their mother in order to achieve and assert their masculinity.

'The whole process of becoming masculine is at risk in the little boy from the date of his birth on; his still-to-be-created masculinity is endangered by the primary, profound, primeval oneness with the mother.'6 It is only by setting woman apart as Other, by resisting intimacy with her, by treating her with contempt and aggression, that men assert their own independent and fragile masculinity.

And because men have distanced themselves from 'the weaker sex' over the ages, setting themselves up as superior, it must be unbearably humiliating to need and desire women so much. [...] In heterosexual intercourse men risk discovering in women an unsettling power which contradicts and undermines their own more obvious social, political and physical power. No wonder male sexual desire is so desperately tormented and full of conflict"

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Adding to my 'to read' list, link from Miss Representation:

Get Over It: Men and Women Are from the Same Planet

"There is something about avidly trying to prove men and women are different, or the same, that makes people lose their mind a bit. No matter how much some want it to be true, it is just not that simple; there are no clear cut and easy answers to why we do what we do, and why men and women sometimes have problems getting along. To ignore the enormous wealth of data on how men and women are similar AND different and to try to tackle this enormously complex reality via one-dimensional approaches is just poor science."