P&G’s Stupid “Thank You Mum” Campaign Redux: The Boycott


Yesterday, I blogged my loathing for the sickly, obnoxious and totally misogynistic twaddle that Proctor & Gamble thinks is a good advertising campaign leading up to the Olympics. Judging by the reaction [and retweets] of my blogpost, I’m not the only one who is offended by this tripe. It’s one of the most ill-judged advertising campaigns I’ve seen in a while. It’s on par with the Outdoor Advertising Agency’s attempt at social media via slurring the characters of all working mothers [I’d link to the genius haikus written by the ever brilliant members of MN but Gary-The-Ad-Man was kinda whiny and they had to be deleted].

It’s a pile of shite and one deserving of its own campaign to let P&G know just how offended we are by the assumption that the only role mothers have is as skivvies and silent cheerleaders. Just what P&G thinks Paula Radcliffe, currently their ambassador for Pampers, does for a living is beyond me. Or, have they simply failed to notice the woman is an Olympian and a mother?

Helpfully, P&G have supplied contact details and a FB page on which customers can place their constructive concerns about the overwhelming fuckwittery that went into this campaign.

For a full list of assets and information related to the P&G’s ‘Thank You, Mum’s’ campaign, including photos and video, please contact:

Rosalind Jeffcoat: Rosalind.jeffcoat@hillandknowlton.com
Sophie Horton: Sophie.horton@hillandknowlton.com

FB: www.facebook.com/thankyoumum

There are a variety of contact details here. General enquiries by phone can be made here: +44 (0)1932 896000 or + 44 (0)191 297 5000

Should you choose to boycott, this is a list of some of P&G’s major brands:

Pampers
Ariel
Always
Pantene
Mach3
Fairy
Pringles
Lenor
Iams
Oral-B
Duracell
Olay
Head & Shoulders
Gillette
Braun
Fusion
Ace
Febreze
Ambi-Pur

In a remarkable coincidence which in no way reflects the relative intelligence of our cats [because they are all on the nincompoop spectrum], we can now boycott Iams as the cats loathe the new and improved Iams Light recipe. The fact that they won’t eat any other brand is a slight problem but one we shall overcome.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: P&G Sponsors Mums?

Seriously, does no one who works for P&G’s marketing department or their advertising company know what ‘sponsor’ means because I don’t think they are working from the same dictionary as the rest of us. I’m a Mum and the fuckers have never sent me a sponsorship cheque.

Mostly, they’ve underpaid the ‘Mums’ who work in their factories making products that many of these employees won’t be able to afford.

Then they pay themselves healthy bonuses for profiteering off the labour of ‘Mums’. Let’s be honest here, most of these bonus-receivers will have penises.

P&G don’t sponsor Mums. They are just another greedy multinational corporation who care only about profit. If they gave a shit about ‘Mums’, they’d try actually paying the ‘Mums’ who work for them a living wage and benefits: like healthcare.

Or, and here’s a really radical thought: what about being an industry leader in equal pay, maternity and paternity leave, flexible working, extended benefits for health insurance, dental, glasses and prescriptions.

Instead of bullshit and extremely aggravating advertising campaigns where they fundamentally misunderstand the definition of the word ‘sponsor’, maybe they could just not act like another capitalist-patriarchal industry which profits off the (un)waged labour of women.

Oh, and while they are at it, perhaps they could actually learn that women aren’t servants; that men are equally capable of washing dishes, doing laundry and cleaning toilets. That men are just as likely to need buy dish detergent as women. Because, as annoying as these stupid sponsorship commercials are, they aren’t half as offensive as their assumption that women are nothing more than skivvies.

And, they should fire which ever nincompoop who came up with the ‘Have a Happy Period’ ads that their subsidiary Always has been running for years. Nothing makes me rage more than a bunch of stupid men coming up with an ad which suggests that having a smelly piece of chemically enhanced plastic near my fanjo will make up for the cramps and pain. Arsehats.

#SpucOff

I love protests. It is an incredibly powerful and amazing experience to be out on the streets with other women being loud and vocal and taking up the very space The Patriarchy denies women. The #SpucOff protest today in Edinburgh [and other cities across the UK] was an incredible, if cold, experience. So many beautiful women standing up for the rights of other women. It was a privilege standing with these women in support of free and legal access to abortion for all women.

SPUC were out with their usual coterie of offensive images and factually incorrect posters about abortion but the sign that fucked me off the most was: “Women Need Love Not Abortions”. The unbelievably hypocrisy of this from a group who aren’t only anti-abortion but also against sex education, birth control, and gay marriage was breath-taking. Any organisation which is against sex education and birth control isn’t about “loving” women. Nor do they give a shit about the “children” they are supposedly saving through the banning of abortion.


If they did “love” women, they would be on the streets protesting about:

  • poverty since we all know the vast majority of people living in poverty are elderly women and single mothers 
  • welfare reform which predominantly effects women especially those with children 
  • cuts to rape crisis services 
  • cuts to domestic violence services since children who witness domestic violence against their mothers are victims of abuse themselves. 
  • cuts to jobs in the public sector which effect mostly women and, in consequence, push their children further into poverty. 

And, they wouldn’t be protesting against birth control because birth control is the one thing which does have an immediate effect on poverty and women’s health.

Preventing women from accessing birth control does not “save” unborn children. It harms women. It harms children.

I am pro-choice because I believe all women have the right to control their own bodies and the right to make personal choices about how many children they want to have. Denying women this choice is misogyny; pure and simple.

Petition to scrap the requirement for a second doctor’s signature when seeking abortion in the UK mainland

Terri White’s Faux Mea Culpa for Playing the Handmaiden Game

This weekend saw an interesting array of anti-feminist articles written by women. I’ve already complained about Caitlin Moran’s complete lack of understanding about feminism as a political theory [despite professing to be one]. That article was utter twaddle. Then I came across Terri White’s faux mea culpa for her work at Nuts magazine and her part in the massive increase in pornographer. White disingenuously suggests she built her career off other women’s breasts. She did not. She built her career off the pornographication and abuse of other women.

It starts with this:

As the sound of jazz filled the air in the office that night I diligently got on with the task at hand. It was slow. It was laborious. It was tedious. It was decapitating topless women. I was associate editor on the best-selling men’s weekly magazine Nuts and tomorrow was the launch of Assess My Breasts – an online brand extension inviting women to upload pictures of themselves (or rather, their breasts) to be rated out of 10. But first, before we went live, I had to populate it; ensuring it launched with a 100-boob bang rather than a no-boob whimper. Faces were a no-no – part of the “appeal” was anonymity so the girls would feel comfortable with being publicly graded. And so, there I was at 9pm, attempting a mass head-chopping on pictures we kept on file and had sought permission to upload.

Decapitationgate was the peak of the “real girl” phenomenon in men’s magazines – ordinary girls, in ordinary situations, pictured in their underwear. A phenomenon we at Nuts had happened upon several months before and one that had made the magazine a huge success. And along with it, a success of the people who worked on it.

Seriously, where do you even start unpacking that? White worked on a project which reduced women to their breasts (apparently, you weren’t allowed to use the word tits, as if that made the blindest bit of difference) and allowed men to rank them. Let’s be honest with this: they were ranking them for fuckability and nothing else. Any pretence at a different meaning is just intellectual dishonesty masquerading as “fun”.

However, White does attempt a half-hearted attempt to understand the extent of the damage that the lad’s mags made:

While lads’ mags alone didn’t create this sexualised culture, they responded to it and reinforced it, helping it grow into a mass-market monster wearing a glossy mask of normality. We told a generation of young men that a woman’s value lay in the pertness of her breasts and willingness to flash in a public place before going home to have sex. The dirty kind. We told a generation of young women that it wasn’t necessary to get an education or build a career to improve your life. Just be willing to bare your breasts and look what you could win! A pot of gold! And a footballer! And I was a part of that for entirely selfish reasons. I tossed any concerns out of the window in favour of the feel of the monthly payslip and the warm glow of success.

It does lack some serious political analysis but as a concluding paragraph would have at least been an attempt at taking some personal responsibility. Instead, White decides to go for this:

But I still feel awkward at the thought of telling women that they should not and could not participate in this culture. The dominant voices in this debate are still those from the middle class, who can only imagine what it’s like to walk in these women’s 5in heels. I remember what it’s like to feel that opportunities just don’t exist for your kind and that when they come along you need to cling on for dear life. And maybe, just maybe, some of the women who claim to do it and enjoy it really do mean it.

Would I do it all again knowing what I know now? No. We did too much damage. While the magazines themselves may be in decline, the culture they helped to create can still be seen in towns and cities all around the UK – from the Saturday-night porny perspex heels to the casual DIY sex tapes and still-held hopes for fast fame. And, in retrospect, I could have built a career and achieved the financial security I hankered for without my Nuts years and without using other women’s breasts as my stepping stone to get there.

Let’s be honest here. This isn’t really a mea culpa for her participation in an industry which deliberately and maliciously harms women and creates a reduction construction of female sexuality which effectively erases it out of existence. It’s a “it’s not my fault. I didn’t have any choice but anyways the women who did bare their breasts totally had the choice not too” argument favoured by liberal, so-called “sex positive” feminists [that would be sex positive if you think turning over control of human sexuality to Hugh Hefner was a good plan. The term is about as sensible as calling the anti-choice wingnuts in the abortion debate “pro-life” when its patently obvious they don’t give a flying fuck about children since they are the same asshats which vote against universal health care, welfare and education in favour of building more bombs].

So, I’m obviously angry here but its a righteous anger. I want my children to grow up and have healthy sexual experiences with people who love them. I do not want my girls growing up in a society that only celebrates the “accomplishments” of women who have breast implants and sex tapes because those aren’t accomplishments. They are the continuing victimisation and degradation of women. White might be feeling some middle class guilt at exploiting young women but not enough to actually take responsibility for it.

And, frankly, the argument that all the men she worked with were “loving, family men” is laughable. It really is. That’s what people say about their next door neighbour who turns out to be a serial rapist, or the violent alcoholic from up the road who kills his wife or the drunk driver. Women say it because we are expected to play nice and never, ever critique men’s roles in propagating and encouraging misogyny. We just get to blame other women. I call bullshit.

Terri White got a financial reward for her participation in perpetuating misogyny; a misogyny that required women at the forefront to prevent those very accusations. White, Lili Harges, Indira Das-Gupta, and Sali Hughes profited off and assisted in the dramatic increase in the pornographication of young women’s sexuality. Sometimes, all we need to hear is: I’m sorry. I fucked up. Feminists know how hard it is to succeed in our Capitalist-Patriarchy which punishes any woman who puts her head above the parapet but false mea culpas are as damaging as continuing to profit from misogyny.

We all know its a game. Let’s just be more honest about playing it.

Why Caitlin Moran is wrong on the Samantha Bricks “saga”

I’ve already blogged about my feelings on the furor over Samantha Brick’s articles in the Daily Mail a few weeks ago. I believe the Daily Mail set her up for a serious kicking because of the misogyny inherent in their organisation. They are the best selling newspaper in the UK because they feed on the very insecurities they encourage in their readers. They are vile.

I was shocked to see Caitlin Moran’s article in the Times today suggesting that the reaction Bricks got was nothing to do with Feminism. I would have thought it was patently obvious that insulting a woman for “not being as attractive as she thinks she is” is pretty much the essence of anti-feminist discourse. The Patriarchy requires women to police other women’s behaviour in order to survive. Buying into the discourse around Brick’s article just reinforces the Patriarchal structures which blame women for just not being fuckable enough: that would be 21 and malnourished.

Moran is a liberal Feminist and I generally disagree with her on a number of political issues, however this column just disappointed me with its lack of political analysis. Moran suggests that those of us who think this is a Feminist issue are deluded and that men are derided in a similar manner to women in these instances and that Brick was just acting like a “div”. Frankly, I think that’s twaddle:

I think we all knew this, really. It’s a Human Behaviour Check Yo’Self 101 not to go around quacking about how great you are, given that it’s wholly self-defeating. People who say, “I’m clever” tend to be thick, people who say, “I’m mad, me!” usually work in accounts and people who say they’re beautiful tend to be fairly average, but apt to spend a lot of money on trouser suits and highlights. 

So, yes: let us be clear. There is a world of difference between “women doing something” and “it being a matter for feminism”. Lest we forget, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of social, sexual and political equality to men”. It’s got nothing to do with a Daily Mail journalist on a deadline pointing to her arse and saying, “See this? It’s hawt.”

Feminism is about liberating women from oppression; an oppression reinforced by a Patriarchy that punishes women for not thinking they are ugly, pathetic and stupid. Any woman who suggests she might actually be anything but stupid is, therefore, asking to be humiliated and belittled.

As for the last part of her article where Moran suggests two subject which aren’t Feminist, well, I’m going to suggest she’s been drinking the Handmaiden Communion Wine.

1) Beauty routines. There’s been a spate of pieces recently questioning whether a true feminist can wax her legs, thread her eyebrows or wear make-up. While the beauty industry is, as all multibillion-dollar industries tend to be, built on trying to encourage profligate consumerist behaviour through unrealistic imagery, there’s nothing inherently un-feminist about wanting to muck around with how you look. How can there be? If there were then, theoretically, feminists wouldn’t be able to dress up at Hallowe’en, or go to fancy-dress parties rigged out as Scooby-Doo, either. While men can grow beards or wear hats, women can wear eyeliner and wax their legs. Besides, David Bowie wore make-up and it was ACE, ipso facto, Barry M. 

2) Housework. “When,” I was asked, recently, “will feminism get my boyfriend to do his share of the housework?” Wow. While my slatternly nature is perfectly happy with putting off hoovering by saying, “I’m just waiting for a wholesale societal change to kick in. Come and hoover the front room, instead,” if you really want it hoovered, that might all take a while. Surely here, as with everything else in a relationship with two people in love, you just need to discuss your mutual wants and needs, then come to an agreement. You don’t need the advocacy of rights on the basis of social, sexual and political equality to men, dude. You just need a rota.

Beauty regimes and housework are the two most obvious ways that the Patriarchy reinforces the oppression of women. There is a reason why women who don’t starve themselves or wear shoes which deform their feet are considered unfuckable and it isn’t because they are frigid. It’s because their existence is a threat; as is the refusal of men to take equal responsibility for the required work to maintain a family. Women will never be equal to men as long as we are required to dress like fucktoys and scrub toilets because men can’t be arsed too.

The Clan of The Cave Bear

I’m not going to lie here. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel bored me senseless: the never-ending descriptions of berry gathering and mammoth slaughtering. I did care about Ayla but I was rather hoping she’d kick the ever-loving crap out of Broud from about chapter four. The only way I’d read the next five in the series is if somewhere along the way Ayla finds herself commanding an army to flatten Broud.

Honestly, the only book I’ve come across lately which bored me even more was A.S Byatt’s The Children’s Book. One decent chapter followed by hundreds of pages of drivel about hideous people no one could possibly care about being horrible to one another; held together by what felt like a series of primary school essays. Or, several hundred pages of “look-at-me, I can use Wikipedia and copy and paste pretentious twaddle about shit no one cares about”. Either way, the book was dreadful and dull.

There are some brilliant entries for Worst Book in the World on this thread. Lord of the Flies features heavily as does The Room and The Slap; although, i personally like The Room.

I Never Said Yes

I’ve only just watched BBC 3’s documentary I Never Said Yes by Pips Taylor. I’ve been putting it off mostly because I knew how much it would upset me but actually it disappointed me far more than it upset me. I wasn’t expecting a radical feminist expose on rape but I was expecting something less, well, naive. The questions Taylor posed were interesting:

… what happens when a victim does want to report an attack or rape here in the UK? Do victims have enough support to help them through their ordeal? What is it like to experience our justice system?

But, they were also self-evident questions to anyone who has experienced sexualised violence or has an interest in the criminal justice system and its treatment of victims. It left me wondering who precisely were the target audience of this documentary. I would have thought that the only people interested in watching would have been people in the two former categories. It’s not a subject matter likely to appeal to those with no relevant experience or interest. The mish-mash of survivor stories, interviews and voice-overs was disconcerting and far too Daily Mail rather than in-depth journalism.
The most powerful part of the documentary was the five survivors Taylor interviewed who, simply, deserved more time. There was simply far too much information incorporated into a one hour documentary: the survivors competed with police and attorneys with the focus flipping between personal experiences of rape, to the failures of the criminal justice system and rape myths. It felt like a whistle-stop tour with the survivors merely addendums to to Taylor’s pontificating. They should have been the focus; not Taylor.

Now, I grant you that part of my problem with the documentary is that it definitely fit into the new “shock-doc” television which takes serious problems and bounces them about like balloons in between voice-overs, bad scene settings and “re-enactments”. It was a documentary on rape. It does not need a re-enactment or scenes cut to pop-art to make a “point”. I loathe this type of television as much as I hate reality television as it assumes the audience is too dim to understand what the “experts” say so it requires, usually, someone incredibly chirpy to repeat their words; as if chirpy makes it easier to understand.

What really annoyed me most was Taylor’s handling of an interview with a group of young men. She was asking questions about consent but let the young men bandy about rape myths without really challenging them and, consequently, it ended with the suggestion that men are just “bad” at reading signals. Taylor even repeats this in her BBC blog on the documentary:

The problem that shocked me most of all was young peoples’ attitudes towards consent and what is and isn’t okay. Young people are the most vulnerable, yet it seems that there is a lack of communication amongst them.

Rape is not a communication “problem”; nor is it about inadequate boundaries. Rape is about power and control. Men who rape, rape because they can. Not because they are confused by a woman in a short skirt dancing with her friends. Frankly, if a man is too stupid to understand the difference between consensual sex and rape then they are too stupid to be having sex.


Taylor may have been looking at the devastating consequences of rape myths on the ability of rape survivors to access the criminal justice system but she let some seriously bad myths go unchallenged; as when interviewing a defense attorney who suggested some rapists deserved lesser sentencing because of their “good” character. Technically, she critiqued this theory in one sentence in a voice-over but she never directly challenged the defense attorney. Having a “good” character should not be a defense to rape; nor should it be considered a mitigating factor. A man who rapes can not, and does not, have a “good” character.
And, ending her blog with this:

Although people regard rape to be a depressing subject, meeting the survivors has shown me a hopeful side – that victims can regain power.

Well, it just made me want to bang my head against the wall. Although, the reference to one of the survivors as an “incredible bird” was equally cringe-worthy.


Really, it just made me wish that Kat Banyard of UK Feminista who was interviewed for her credentials as a feminist campaigner had been in charge rather than used for a sound-bite on porn which wasn’t explored properly. Considering the interest in changing and challenging rape laws and rape myths, this documentary could have sparked a series of thought-provoking documentaries exploring the issues in more detail. Instead, it felt like pulp fiction.

Children’s Fiction Recommendations

 

 


Children’s fiction has always been something I’ve enjoyed; retracing treasured books from my childhood or raiding my daughter’s bookcases. I like to tell them it’s a quality control measure but it’s really just an excuse to read books adults aren’t “supposed” to read. We have an extensive collection of children’s fiction, some of which is positively dire: Linda Chapman’s Magic Unicorn and Daisy Meadows’ Rainbow Magic spring to mind. I bought them because my kids read them and encouraging a love of literature when they are young is one of the two most  important gifts you can a child (the other obviously being unconditional love).

We do have the usual classic childen’s literature written by women and featuring strong female characters: L.M Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, and Judy Blume’s Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. There really is a lot of excellent children’s literature written by women; this list is also weighted to Canadian writers). 
These are some of my favourite and less well-known children’s books (at least in the UK; some are winners of major children’s literary prizes in North America:
Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust: This a very harrowing tale of a young girl living in the Depression in the US who suffers a major family tragedy. It is incredibly beautiful but also incredibly sad and isn’t for sensitive children. It’s also written entirely as poetry which makes it utterly incredible.
Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time: Like Hesse’s Out of the Dust, A Wrinkle in Time is also a Newberry Prize winner. Meg Murry and her small brother have to rescue their father after he goes missing whilst expirmenting with time travel and the Fifth Dimension. It’s a book about string theory and physics aimed at 8-10 year olds. What’s not to love?
Jean Little’s Mine For Keeps: All of Jean Little’s books are beautiful but this is the first one I ever read and I have a soft spot in my heart for it. Sally Copeland has just returned to her family after boarding at a special school for children. Sarah’s cerebral palsy is the reason she lived away but the book is really about family and love main fitting in. Home From Far is my other favourite.
Kit Pearson’s A Handful of Time and Awake and Dreaming: These are both aimed at 8-12 year olds but deal with issues of death, homelessness and loss. Beautiful but difficult for sensitive children.
Susan Terris’ Nell: Nell is the story of a 19th century woman who is affianced to her cousin but does not want to marry him. She responds to the lack of control over her future by developing anorexia. 
Carol Matas’ Lisa: Lisa was the first Carol Matas book my mother bought me for my 12th birthday. I’ve since collected all her others but this one remains my favourite. It’s the story of a young Jewish girl in Denmark during World War Two who, along with her brother and his best friend, joins the Danish resistance. Jesper is the sequel to Lisa but Matas’ most famous book is Daniel’s Story which was used as the basis of a touring educational program by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 
Karen Cushman’s Catherine, Called Birdy: This is the story of a young girl in Medieval England who does not want to just be another member of the landed gentry sold off into marriage by her father. The best part of the story is the flaming chickens as weapons of mass destruction. It’s worth reading just for that line. 
My daughter’s current favourite books:
Small: Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy, Polly Dunbar’s Penguin, Gillian Rogerson’s You Can’t Eat a Princess, Mary Hoffman’s Amazing Grace and Julia Donaldson’s Zog
Teenager:  Tamora Pierce’s The Immortals and Song of the Lioness series, Patricia Wrede’s The Enchanted Forest, Trudi Canavan’s Magician’s Guild series, Allison Croggon’s Book of Pellinor series, Rochelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires. 

Gok Wan Redux: The Tale of Samantha Brick

I’m going to be completely honest here and say I didn’t read the Samantha Brick article. In fact, I spent most of the past two days somewhat perplexed as to why someone I had never heard of was dominating my twitter feed with comments about how ugly she is. Generally, I assume it’s someone from a reality TV program and then ignore. In this case, the level of misogyny and hatred leveled at a woman surprised me enough to google. Now, I have no intention of reading the article and, thereby, increasing the Daily Mail’s revenue streams as the misogyny, racism, homophobia and disablism they perpetuate on a daily basis is without equal. I do think the fallout of the Samantha Brick article is worth examining though, since it represents everything that is wrong with The Patriarchy.

I haven’t read either article written by Brick, but I’m fairly sure Harriet Walker’s article in today’s Independent would sum up my criticisms of the Daily Mail’s incurable misogyny:

Samantha Brick … A glutton for punishment perhaps; woefully misguided, certainly. Doing it for the money? You bet. But Samantha Brick’s message and martyrdom go right to the very heart of a patriarchal culture that we normally just put up with, one that makes everyone a little less well-disposed toward one another. Bear-baiting and cockfighting might be illegal, but woman-baiting is not, and certain institutions are content to cynically set up and sell ringside seats to the most horrid and vitriolic of catfights. … 

Brick is clearly an insecure and socially inept sort of person; she’s also patently not as beautiful as she thinks she is. But that’s the point: Brick is a witless puppet for a male hegemony that derives its power partly from the myth that all women everywhere are endlessly patronising and hurting each other. That women don’t like each other, especially if one happens to be more attractive, is “a taboo that needed shattering”, says Brick. But the real maxim begging to be flouted here is that women – both the bullies and the bullied in this scenario – are set up for this kind of fall again and again. … 

They’re much more likely to be subject to character assassinations because of this – but that has become the system we work by, and we don’t question why the men aren’t getting the same sort of flak. “Why must women be so catty? Men wouldn’t be bothered by this, I’m sure,” snorted one commentator on a radio chatshow about Brick. Yet many of those who were most acerbic about her on Twitter were men: public figures, comedians, TV stars and the like. … 

Generally though, men are immune to this kind of baiting; they are not subject to anywhere near as much scrutiny as women are, either in terms of their appearance or the way they relate to each other. If a woman is sloppily dressed or fat, she can’t be taken seriously; if she’s beautiful, she’s a harpy; if she’s sexy, she’s up for it. The constraints are so embedded now that we take the bait without realising it’s a trap. And the newspaper that perpetuates it all rakes in the cash. …

This is why I find men like Gok Wan so destructive and Patriarchal. Now, I have no idea if Gok Wan has waded into this debate and, frankly, I have no intention wasting my time checking this out. But this situation is precisely why I loathe Wan’s Patriarchy-approved physical attractiveness as the only way to body confidence for women. It’s reductive, arrogant and completely lacking in basic human kindness. Sheila Jeffrey’s talks about women using Patriarchy-approved tools like make-up and high heels as armor against sexualised humiliation and bullying and this is precisely the type of behavior Wan insists is “beneficial” to women. It might be “protective” for women to engage in Patriarchy-approved behavior [and judging individual women for wearing make-up/heels/spanx is unfeminist as Jeffreys rightly points out], but we can not pretend that it’s not a problem for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. That isn’t an excuse to be deliberately rude but rather recognising that the Patriarchy functions by isolating and belittling women.

The Daily Mail set Samantha Brick up to fail as Gok Wan does weekly in his “truss yourself up in some spanx, throw on some high heels that will damage your feet the same way Chinese foot-binding did for a millenium and pretend that make-up is what separates you from poor self-confidence”. Jeffreys doesn’t argue that wearing make-up is the same as plastic surgery or foot-binding but rather that they all exist on a continuum of woman-hating which makes women’s bodies the visible sign of The Patriarchy. What Wan perpetuates is those harmful Traditional Cultural Practices under the UN definition which, as Jeffreys points out, is generally only applied to non-Western practices despite labiaplasty in the “West” having the same consequences as female genital mutilation which is constructing female sexuality as only for the benefit for men by removing/ decreasing women’s pleasure.

We need to stop focussing on whether or not Samantha Brick meets the patriarchal-approved definition of physical beauty and start looking at the reasons why women who do not meet it are punished by becoming unfuckable. We need to stop celebrating breast implants which decrease sexual pleasure and the ability to breast-feed as a “good” thing when it is nothing more than self-harm by proxy. We need to start celebrating women for being women; for being strong, beautiful, incredible and so very intelligent. All that the Tale of Samantha Brick proves is that the Patriarchy hates women. Let’s stop buying into the Patriarchy’s discourse and make our own and be that very powerful Feminist armed resistance of women loving and supporting women.

Twinkling Lights: A Short Story

This is a short story by my beautiful daughter who has finally given me permission to publish it. 

Twinkling Lights.
            Little sparkles filled the dark heavy sky that stretched like a dome over her head. Ellie looked in awe, the back of her neck aching slightly. She blinked and pictures appeared in the night sky. Taking her favourite fairy wand, she traced pictures of people, animals. She imagined a thin sparkly silver trail following the tip of her wand… And the pictures came to life. The great hero Hercules with his sword chased a lion across the night sky. Ellie spun around, her wand wafting in the air and her tutu whirling around her as she pretended to be a lion. Pouncing on Hercules, she jumped onto a chair and clawed the air, growling in the back of her throat. Hercules armour shredded beneath her sharp, mighty claws and then she was Hercules. Raising her sword, she clasped the hilt with both hands and brought it down on the lions’ neck. She jumped around waving her wand and princess cloak in the air. In her mind, the lions’ thick, golden skin was heavy in her hands, and her huge sword glinted silver with red.            

            George carried two mugs of hot chocolate round the corner, and almost spilled them. A little girl in a tutu was dancing round the balcony, waving her wand and cloak. Her luminous pink outfit stood out against the dark marble floor and plain ledge. The whole house, pinewood, looked out over a cliff: a very steep and dangerous cliff. Sharp rocks jutted out of the grass. But George wasn’t worried about that. He smiled fondly at his daughter as he set the mugs on a table.

            “Careful of the hot chocolate okay sweetheart.” Little Ellie kept dancing, yelling something about victory over a lion. George watched her for a minute then suddenly swooped down and picked her up. He tickled her and she screamed with delight.

            “Daddy, stop it!” Ellie giggled. Chuckling to himself, he put her down.

            “What were you talking about?” George asked her curiously.

            “I was pretending to be Hercules and the lion. You know… That story you told me about last night?” Ellie boasted. “When Hercules killed the lion with his sword.”

            “Actually, Hercules strangled the lion. The lion’s skin could not be pierced by any weapon, remember?” George gently reminded her.

            “No he didn’t. He killed the lion with his mighty sword!” Ellie stamped her foot crossly and folded her arms. Pouting.

            George laughed. “Do you want another story tonight?” He asked gently.

            “Yes please! A Greek Mythology one!” (Ellie felt very big and proud at knowing such big words.) She eagerly climbed into his lap, and looked at him expectantly.

            Daddy looked up the sky, and pointed to a group of stars. Gently he told her another story. It was about a princess called Andromeda. Just then the phone rang. George picked her up, and put her on the balcony ledge to admire the stars.

            “Don’t move.” He said sternly. And left.

            Ellie looked up and traced the constellation of Andromeda with her finger. Craning her neck back, she looked at every little star she could see. She counted them. She wanted to touch them. To name them.
            Cautiously, Ellie stood up on the beam. She wobbled, her balance off… And found it again. Ellie looked up at the stars again. Stretching on her tiptoes, She reached with her finger, and pretended she was touching each little star. She took a step forward.
And fell.

            George listened vaguely, twirling the phone chord around his finger. He wasn’t particularly interested. Just then, he heard a scream. A high-pitched scream of terror of a little girl.

            “Ellie.” He whispered.

            Throwing down the phone, he ran to the balcony… But Ellie wasn’t there. Panic crashed through him like a tsunami. It pulled him towards his daughter. A terrifying force that he willingly gave himself too.

            Ellie felt the air battering her cheeks, her hair. One minute, she was gazing at the stars, and the next, she was watching the ground race towards her at an alarming rate. She felt the wind snatch tears from her eyes, and she tried to look up. Up at the stars that were sure to protect her. Protect her from this nightmare. Squeezing her eyes shut, she tried to imagine it was all a dream. Just a dream. She opened her eyes, and just had time to widen them in fear before she felt the pain of a sharp rock explode against the side of her head.

            George watched in horror at his little girl. He could feel the wind tugging at his clothes, but that didn’t matter. The wind robbed the last of his breath as he tried to take a gasp of air. Tears blurred his vision. But that was okay. He didn’t want to see his precious daughter covered in blood, and limp. Lifeless. Lifeless as she kept falling onto 
more rocks. He choked back a sob of despair as the rock got him too.

            Ellie coughed and rolled over. Her head hurt so badly. It was like a drum was pounding through her head. Her sides hurt. Her back hurt. She tried to stand up, but yelled in pain as her leg collapsed underneath her. A muted thud to her right made her look. Her heart leaped as she recognised the greying hair.

“Daddy?” She tried to whisper. It came out like a croak. The head shifted and looked at her.

            Relief washed through him.

            “It’s going to be okay Ellie. Alright.” He murmured to her. He wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince.  Himself or his daughter.

            Crawling over on his belly, he quickly made an assessment of the damage. A broken arm and leg. Several cracked ribs. A throbbing head. He was sure he could feel blood running down the side of his head. He looked at his daughter and realized she must be broken the same way. He gently pulled her towards him, and cradled her.

            Ellie breathed in the scent of his clothes. She didn’t like the blood, but she could faintly smell his scent. She looked at the stars. Twinkling little lights that filled her life.

            “Thank you stars.” She whispered. “Daddy, tell me another story.”
She heard her father draw in a breath, and felt him wince in pain. And then his voice drowned out the pain. But all the time she kept gazing at the stars. The regular, steady heartbeat of her fathers was slowing down. Smiling at the stars, she closed her eyes and tried to sleep.

            After all, she thought, it’s only a story.