Friday, July 31, 2009

Lady Rantalot : This is what a feminist looks like and therefore her only definition

Ellie Levenson’s article in today’s Gaurdian heralded another blocking and defense of her recently published book the Noughtie’s Girl Guide to Feminism, which the feminist blogosphere has pretty much rejected and Guardian columnist Libby Brooks gave the shakedown in the same publication.

My belief is that women, and pro-feminist men, come to feminism because they feel something isn’t quite right with the world. They might not know what’s wrong, they might not have had that crystal moment when they suddenly think “I’m being treated differently because I’m a woman” but they commit to finding out what that thing is and feminism is a mighty handy tool.

When Ellie Levenson says in her article today that “feminism should not be scary” she’s right, but feminism is kind of scary. That long sticky process of looking at your life, and the lives of those around you and systematically picking apart the tiny intertwined fibres of modern times is hard, and it can be upsetting, especially when you realise that the inequalities you begin see are dismissed off hand by your nearest and dearest. This process of looking at those things in life considered ‘the done thing’ or, dare I say it, ‘normal’ - including shaving, make up wearing etc - is an important part of coming to understand the construction of social interactions and expectations and how they impact on both genders by oppressing and limiting their experience of life without equality.

However, in her book and recent journalistic exploits, Levenson’s constant reliance on looking at feminism from the outside in, bodies, clothes, make up and the like, rather than on intent, action and change is thin and listless. It fails to take in the entire scope of feminism as a political movement and stops at pick n’ mixing almost harmless points, creating a route where those who do choose to conform to gender norms (prescribed levels of make up, shaving etc) can give themselves a hearty pat on the back and call it feminist.

This obsession with the appearance of feminists - that is so endlessly touted by the mainstream media in their re-imagining of a feminist now deviating from their original construct of the hairy pitted, man-hater, to their fresh “noughties” construct of girls gone wild, fragrant and fashion friendly - is a distraction from the movement, and a distraction from the real point of being a feminist.

It disables feminist activists by reducing them once again to eye candy, to hot or not, for their worth to be counted on their looks in relation to their willingness to conform to social norms of beauty. After all, if anyone can call themselves a feminist, without challenging societal norms and hierarchical structures which mean that a persons gender, race and sexual preference will lead to specific pre-determined outcomes, then there is nothing to fear from those who are happy with their status quo (say, in our patriarchal, white society)

I do agree with Ellie that two great tenants of feminism are ‘equality and choice’ however that does not make a every choice, enacted and accessed freely, a feminist choice - it is just a choice feminism has helped you access. I personally think to tout feminism as the freedom to do whatever the fuck you want is a symptom of (often white) middle class privilege, because those choices are unlikely to be as easy to reach for someone of a different class, or race. It also blindsides the fact that people do not exist in individual bubbles, every action we take reflects and refracts through society and as a feminist you have to be prepared to realise some of these choices lead to the oppression and exploitation of women you can’t see of hear. Or they uphold stringent gender binaries in society that blocks men and women from experiencing their lives outside a concrete set of gender requirements.

Whether or not it is her belief, through her book and her ensuing articles defending and advertising it, she has painted herself as a cheerleader for the patriarchy dressed up in a fluffy form of feminism. I do think it was a feminism I would have adhered to as a 18 year old girl, uncomfortable with distancing myself from the positive reinforcement of conforming to societies needs for me, but as I’ve grown and realised you can’t have your cake and eat it, I can only recognise it as a divisive and confused message to women.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mired in the Gap

A new report out from the Women and Work commission points to utterly depressing figures showing that the pay gap between men and women is beginning to widen again after a decade of closing.

Anne Perkins has a great commentary about why it continues to exist - that is occupational segregation, women being more prevalent in the severely underpaid in the 5 c's caring, catering, cashiering, cleaning and clerical

I think there's a point to be made that we should have better pay rate in these jobs that are severely socially undermined but oh so important, better cash - no doubt - would lead to more males choosing it as a possible career, more opportunities to remove gender profiling for work. If we continue to undervalue them, saying that they are jobs not worth holding then who picks up the slack and remains exploited by our work system?

A lot of the negative commentary around this issue is that women choose to leave work when they have children, they choose to go into lower paid, part time work full stop. Well to me that doesn't ring true. As always choice is the important part of these accusations, how much choice exists in this world free of pressure from family/friends/society/the bills stacking up at the door etc etc

This isn't a problem we're going to fix today, or tomorrow but we need to keep it forefront, stem the growth of the pay gap, get talking, get active, get fixing.


Pregnancy is just another kind of fatness...

While trawling the Daily Mail website for articles that make my teeth grate (I know, I have no idea why I do it) I came across one of those oh so joyous weight loss adds, only.. isn't the before image a thin pregnant woman?

I don't even know where to begin.

I'm not linking you to the site, because I don't know how to do that clever thing where they don't get more hits from us visiting in disgust. But if you do want to know what's on there, DM try to shame Kirstie Allsop for possibly having some facial hair, DM feel it necessary to add that new mother Kate Garraway is 42, Gemma Atkinson dissapoints by wearing clothes in public and the DM desperately strain to get a picture of Rhianna's pretty pasties under her top.

Go team.


Little Miss Are You Really Doing This To Your Child?

Hot on the heels of Pink Stinks revulsion at child beauty pageants The Illusionists, film in progress and brilliant blog, linked me to these terrifying pictures of teeny youth beauty contestants. Cue crying.

Images by Susan Anderson


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Drowning in the Shallow End: Third Wave Feminism

I was linked to this great article in Conducive Magazine by a fellow twitterer @ShelbyKnox

Drowning in the Shallow End: Third Wave Feminism
looks at the creation of the third wave, the problems, the possibilities and the future.

In the 1990s a new generation of women heralded the dawn of a new feminist era. But does declaring a “new wave” - particularly one that equates individual lifestyle choices with activism, consumer power with feminism, and diversity with racial equality - make for a feminist social movement?

Heather Tirado Gilligan explores this issue through interviews with feminist scholar Jane Elliott, Colorlines managing editor Daisy Hernandez, lesbian filmmaker Aishah Simmons, and Chicana feminist Cherrie Moraga. Gilligan proposes feminists drop the wave metaphor and organize around the less socially palatable but more pressing goal of addressing inequities.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oh sister, I haven't misjudged beauty pageants or Why I don't agree with India Knight

Excuse the long rant, but...

I have a knee jerk reaction to columnists. Commenting on things is relatively easy, especially when you can frame everything by your own thoughts rather than research, rather than journalism. But before I get into my usual whinge about newspapers being more about individual comment than reporting and researched opinion, lets have a little peak at India Knight’s column for The Sunday Times about finally learning to love beauty pageants. A post where I will counter her opinion, with my opinion.

India’s revulsion of the beauty pageant has been recently replaced with one of the myriad of entrapments of modern raunch culture, a ‘realisation’ that objectification can’t hurt us if we say we want to be objectified. The idea always brings me back to Audre Lorde’s idea that the masters tools will not bring down the masters house, in this situation, to me, that is freedom from the many oppressions and problems that come from being treated as objects will not come from siding with the actions and ideas that make us such. I can understand wanting to revel in attention of others but when all your other achievements are listed under a title of beauty and male relation (as Miss England’s Rachel Christie’s are by India) I feel it somehow negates those achievements without that beauty, that beauty is what makes this woman a real successful sports woman.

India says she doesn’t ‘feel sorry’ for Rachel and she doesn’t ‘think [Rachel] humiliated herself’ so one would assume that these were her previous judgements on women who chose to take part in the blanket of beauty competitions around the world. I’m not a fan of beauty pageants but I’ve never felt so above them as to condescend that they’re “poor, pretty simpletons [who] are just too thick to think for themselves” We all make our choices - feminist or not - we make them because we know they’re the right choices for us. To get forward, to excel and succeed.

The power of beauty in our society is a strong one, we are constantly reminded by the press that beauty, as dictated by societal values, is central to our success (India runs a quick list of these). So why would you choose to refuse that instant reward, that shortcut to having your hard work and achievements given air to the world without having to work twice as hard just to get a look in? It’s a route, often the route, paved out for many women to take, and it takes a whole lot of effort to deny the rewards that come from showing a bit of leg, slapping on the prescribed amount of make-up, showing the correct amount of interest and knowing your place.

Being against beauty pageants for many women is not a cry of the gnarled feminist movement trying to constrict the existence of women we think aren’t trying hard enough. It is a cry of the feminist movement in all it’s continuing growth and freshness, backed by the knowledge of our older sisters who have been fighting this shit for too long, and the backlash of younger women still being forced to perform for their acceptance in what is invariably a mans world.

India’s conclusion that our feminist voices “fail to take into account how fantastically good women have become at objectifying themselves over the past 30 years - not because they’re stupid or misguided when it comes to sexual politics, but because they like it.” is the embodiment of the biggest fraud of our society. That women do not need to be relieved of their oppressions, of the objectification that undermines us at work, on the street in the structure of complex relationships with friends, lovers and strangers because they enjoy these oppressions. Don’t balk if I point you towards Dworkin’s four elements of subordination for structural notes, element three.

India Knight is right, Rachel Christie is an inspiration, she’s an accomplished athlete who specialised in the heptathalon, she trains six days a week, she has passion and talent and is everything the young women of our society need to know about to know they too can be great women. They need to know women do make damn fine participators in sport and not just bit players and cheerleaders. Rachel is also the first black woman to win the pageant title, which does something to subvert the winning ideals of the all white tendencies of Western beauty standards, that's a whole other post. The travesty is that women in sport are so undervalued that Rachel had to fund her athletics training through beauty pageants, and some journalists feel the need to qualify her achievements by highlighting a famous sportsman uncle. Nobody valued this amazing sportswoman until she has proved herself to be beautiful, and now she has society will reward her, with cash prizes, with sponsorship deals. She deserves this money, and as a talented black British woman she deserves our support and attention as she heads towards competitions of her talents, and her passion, and her training.

But she shouldn’t have to spend her time playing the beauty game to get ahead in her arena of excellence, she trains six days a week, she shouldn’t have to tout her body to be recognised for her hurdling, sprinting, jumping, javalining and shotputting. I can’t help but think if women were valued for their actions, their achievements that were made beyond the suffocation of our appearances we would be in a very different position, and that Rachel would have got the money and attention she deserves as an athlete before having to fall back on her beauty.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Issue 7 Review

Pamflet Magazine give some love to issue 7 of Subtext Magazine over at their online blog. Always appreciated.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Looking at another blog...

Over at Obesity Timebomb

Britain's Next Fat Dyke Top Model
...could be you. DIVA, the UK-based lesbian magazine, are publishing a Fat-themed issue this autumn and are looking for folks to model for them.


Call for Papers: The Somatechnics of Size: Queer Interventions

At the F Word

Why rape jokes aren’t harmless fun.

Pam Spaulding
via Feministing

Faux News: new Surgeon General nom 'too fat' to serve

Women and Hollywood hit epic proportions

Milestone Reached at Women & Hollywood: 1,000 Posts

Pink Stinks
get a newsletter, sign up.

So, what do you know?


Access to abortion services in the USA

In an informative and highly disturbing segment, Rachel Maddow goes through all the ways different states block access to abortion. Many states require a 24 hour waiting period, ensuring women have to make two seperate trips; several states have only one abortion provider; others heavily restrict insurers from covering the procedure, etc. etc.

Head over to Alternet to check out the video segment.

[copy taken from Alternet page]


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feminst Book Group (Lincoln)

We're starting a feminist book group in Lincoln so come join us! Monthly meetings, one book per month to read and discuss (chosen by members). Venue and first meeting date TBC once we rally some more interest. It would be wonderful to get this going - we need some communication between feminists in Lincoln!

Join the facebook group or email to express interest.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lars von Trier's Antichrist

I stumbled across this piece on The Guardian site earlier today. It concerns Lars von Trier's Antichrist which premiered at this year's Cannes and has generated quite some talk, particularly concerning the act of female genital mutilation involved in the film. Scroll down for a range of comments, including opinion from Julie Bindel.


Monday, July 13, 2009

The Fat of the Land

My delightful namesake Charlotte Cooper over at the Obesity Timebomb blog linked to the NOLOSE grant winners now on the NOLOSE site. For those not in the now, NOLOSE is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to ending the oppression of fat people and creating vibrant fat queer culture.

This years lucky winners include a London Performance, The Fat of The Land - a Queer Chub Harvest Festival on Saturday October 3rd 2009.

I don't know much about it yet but a quick search brings up Jason Elvis, this years programmer of the LGBT film festival at the BFI London, as being involved which can only be good news.

More as we know it.


Thursday, July 9, 2009


I went to see Offside at the Amnesty building in London last night a part of the Iranian Women's Film festival that has been running since the end of June.

Offside was a fantastic film about a group of young women thrown together when they were caught trying to sneak into the 2006 World Cup Qualifier between Iran and Bahrain. It was really interestingly put together in that the woman who kick started the narrative took a back seat throughout most of the film as the lives of others filtered through the film, only to move up to the centre and front of the narrative again at the end, bringing the film to a close.

The final film of the series, The Day I Became a Woman, is screened on 21st July. Book tickets to avoid dissapointment!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Noughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism - Ellie Levenson


I was eagerly anticipating the release of this book, so much so that I pre-ordered my copy off Amazon (though is it just me or is it a bit strange that under 'Customers who bought this item also bought...' there is only the Godfather trilogy listed? Anyway...) The book arrived in all its 'chick-lit style' glory (chosen to do so by Levenson) and the first thing I noticed was the straightforward nature of its layout with chapters divided up into: the sisterhood, language, sex, work, play, the body beautiful, how not to be a domestic goddess, love and marriage, children and forward feminism. And, alongside the witty comments that I welcomed also in Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti, this was the book's finest moment. Because past the giggles and the accessible layout I felt that Levenson really did live up to how she characterises a noughtie feminist: full of contradictions.

The book ends on the the chapter entitled 'Forward Feminism' which looks at what steps could be taken to further improve women's position in society. Suggestions include 'Women's History Month' or a 'feminist curriculum' in which it is ensured that history classes talk about women's role in history - Levenson stresses this as important yet at the beginning of the book these were things stated that she herself would not be covering in her writing. Surely if this is a guide then this is excluding readers who perhaps do not have any prior knowledge of the women's movement, and is indeed suggesting that this is in the past and not of such an importance? Aha! The first contradiction...

The chapter on Sex was a particularly difficult one for me to get my head around. Firstly Levenson focuses here, as she does in other capacities, on heterosexual relationships which I felt completely ignores the diversity of feminism today and misses a very important point. Whether or not you yourself are heterosexual or homosexual, it does not, in my eyes, mean you cannot discuss alternative sexualities or the importance of sexuality freedom. Secondly I want to raise what I felt was the distasteful handling of rape in her book. Levenson claims:

But is it (rape) as bad as being violently attacked by a stranger down a dark alley and not knowing whether you will live or die? No - page 65

Well, in some cases that is what exactly what rape involves and even when it does not, one's experience of being raped is completely subjective in that feelings regarding the experience can differ from one victim to another. To some rape indeed is as bad as the example above, if not worse, because of the felt violation of your own body. Something perhaps being attacked physically does not even compare to.

An additional comment on the layout then. Whilst the book itself, as I mentioned previously, is really accessible with clear themed chapters, these chapters are further subdivided. These snippets often felt under-developed and inconclusive as arguments in their own right, or indeed as contributions to a bigger ongoing debate. I was often left wanting more. Ellie Levenson talks about choice and contradictions characterising Noughtie Girl Feminism and she's certainly got the contradiction criteria fulfilled. And whilst I am all for this notion of choice it at times feels stretched too thin. Yes, we as women do have choices (and so we should) but we do need some common thread running through the feminist movement for it indeed to be a feminist movement. Being known as those without a coherent message or those full of contradictions, is not going to help our cause.

Amazon Item Description


Far Out Women

Look, I'm just going to block quote a whole tonne of words from the Far Out website, and leave you to get all excited about some real not for cock lesbian storylines.

Far Out is a tell-it-how-it-is window on the lives of a group of friends living in London. Already being hailed as the lesbian Queer As Folk, and drawing comparisons with This Life, Far Out is the creation of new talent Faye Hughes.

The project is the realisation of more than four years’ hard work and determination for Hughes. After touting her script – unsuccessfully – to a number of broadcasters including the BBC’s Writers Room, she has raised backing to launch the show online.

She says: “The media is so out of touch in the way it portrays gay women. Lesbians are either unattractive dykes, ball-breaking shrews or lentil-eating hippies with hairy armpits – and we’re all gagging to ‘convert’ straight women. Thankfully you can no longer portray gay men in this way – but lesbians still seem to be fair game”.

“With Far Out, I wanted to show what life for gay women is really like. That we have real and valid relationships, that we can be butch dykes or girly girls or anything in between, that we have kids, responsible jobs, families, ambitions and aspirations. We can honestly say that we are telling our story from experience, this isn’t a group of men sat in a board room making a series for money”

So, put it in the diary, watch it online, and wait for a TV comission. Oh and check the site and follow them on twitter @FAROUTTV


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Catch Up

OK. Things have been a little fast and loose this week and we've had nothing up on the blog, so let me point you in the direction of some interesting reading.

Over at Obesity Timebomb Charlotte Cooper (that would be, the other Charlotte Cooper) writes some great fat politics stuff and things quite as outrageous and fun as her review of the launch of Beth Ditto's new line: Beth Ditto for Evans Launch aka I taught Kate Moss how to do Donut Hands

In the weeks of eye watering boredom they call Wimbledon Louise France takes the time to point out that the camera men are more interested in the bouncing of buxom anatomies than of tennis balls: Boys, let's focus on the balls, not the belles

Feminist Webs, who featured on the back pages of Issue 7 Subtext, have announced the next stages in their work funded by a Rosa grant. They will be looking for contribution Tuesday 6th July in Manchester: Contribute: Feminist Webs Launch Meeting and Upcoming Events

Continuing the effects of Ada Lovelace Day, women and men are being invited to take some time out for tech and the roles women and have played in it at Bletchley Park, the seriously interesting and underfunded jewel in the computing crown of Great Britain. More over at The F-Word: Women of Bletchley Park

Kira Cochrane, women's editor at the Guardian questions those Tampax ad's: Can more men be persuaded to buy Tampax?


A new book, Fat Studies in the UK, edited by Corinna Tomrley and Ann Kaloski Naylor is released this month at a reasonable £15. The book, a series of essays inspired by the British UK Fat Studies seminar held in York in May 2008, will be helping to bring the importance of fat politics back to feminism and the wide world: Advance Notice
of our exciting new book Fat Studies in the UK