Orange prize for Literature


I’ve been too angry to blog about this. I can’t believe Orange is no longer sponsoring the women-only Prize for Fiction. In terms of cultural femicide, this is as big a blow as one can get. The Orange Prize was also a big part of my plan for #readingonlybookswrittenbywomen. I’m rather gutted that Orange have withdrawn from it (although twitter is awash with rumours of Apple sponsoring it next. Let’s hope not until after Apple and Amazon get thoroughly thwacked for over-charging on e-books). In fact, I’d be okay with Amazon being made responsible for this prize and doubling the prize money (and doubling the long-list and being forced to give those writers prize money too) as punishment for failing to pay tax (Obviously, whilst being forced to pay tax in the UK too). Actually, I’d rather like Amazon to sort out its tax bill soonish as I’ve always fancied buying a second kindle devoted only books written by women since my other kindle is full of classics and children’s books written by men; a bit of sex segregation could be fun. 

Anyway, this is a fond farewell to the Orange Prize for fiction which has been responsible for my awareness of some wonderful books which quickly hit my favourite list (and this by no means an exhaustive list):

  • Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela
  • Room by Emma Donoghue 
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan 
  • The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna 
  • Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The White Women on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
  • Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Micheals.
  • Property by Valerie Martin
This is the long-list from the 2012 Orange Prize. This year’s winner was Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles:

  • Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (Quercus) – Swedish; 1st Novel
  • On the Floor by Aifric Campbell (Serpent’s Tail) – Irish; 3rd Novel
  • The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (The Clerkenwell Press) – American; 4th Novel
  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (Picador) – Irish; 7th Novel
  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent’s Tail) – Canadian; 2nd Novel
  • The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape) – Irish; 5th Nove
  • The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki (Headline Review) – British; 5th Novel
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (Quercus) – American; 4th Novel
  • Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury) – British; 3rd Novel
  • Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (Faber & Faber) – British; 2nd Novel
  • The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – British; 2nd Novel
  • The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape) – British; 6th Novel
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker) – American; 1st Novel
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury) – American; 1st Novel
  • Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (Atlantic Books) – American; 7th Novel
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury) – American; 6th Novel
  • There but for the by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton) – British; 5th Novel
  • The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard (Alma Books) – British; 2nd Novel
  • Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (Chatto & Windus) – British; 1st Novel
  • The Submission by Amy Waldman (William Heinemann) – American; 1st Novel

#RadFem2012 Redux: Manchester’s Women Up North Conference

Two days ago, I blogged about the (successful) campaign to prevent Sheila Jeffreys from speaking at the #RadFem2012 conference. The campaign itself was unpleasant with some very serious threats made against the conference as well as an unnecessary amount of misogynistic abuse levelled at the women organising the conference. Here’s a hint: if you want me to take you seriously as a Feminist, you do not call other women cunts. Ever. That term is nothing but misogynistic. It can not be reclaimed to be used as a term of abuse.

I was so very sad to hear that the venue, Conway Hall, had ceded to the demands of a vocal minority of aggressive people and banned Sheila Jeffreys. I do not see the need to have inclusive to everyone feminist conferences all the time. If the activists were so concerned about the silencing of transwomen from the conference, they could have organised a simultaneous conference. Or, gone for peaceful counter-protest. Violent threats and silencing tactics help no one. They only serve to cause ructions within the Feminist movement which is what the Patriarchy wants.

Today, the first thing that came up on my Facebook feed was this blog stating that the activists who have silenced the women from RadFem2012 are now targeting Manchester Feminist Network’s Women Up North conference because it is holding one session closed for FAAB survivors of sexual violence. The conference is trans-inclusive except for this one session so I am not sure why it would be targeted. It also has a space for Black-women only and I don’t see anyone campaigning against that deliberately excluding people.

This is the response by the Manchester Feminist Network to a question as to whether or not the conference is trans-inclusive:

We don’t see it as transphobic to have some seperate space for born women. Some of the women in our group are vocal advocates of trans-women’s rights. Some of us advocate for trans-women’s human rights but still want to be in born woman space sometimes and don’t see the 2 as mutually exclusive. Many of us have trans-women as family members, friends and work colleagues. As a feminist network of different women we struggle with these differences and yet try to still work together. The compropmise that we came to for Women Up North was that it would generally be open to trans-women but that the sexual abuse survivors and sexuality workshops could be designated born women only as the facilitators requested this. 

The vast majority of sexual abuse is committed on women by men. Most women seek out women only services for support and recovery e.g. rape crisis centres, survivors groups or women counsellors. This doesnt mean that all male counsellors or support services are rapists, but that unfortunately under patriarchy women are understandably sometimes fearful of and uncomfortable around men (just think how differently it impacts on women when having a man or woman walking behind them when alone out at night). Sadly, some of us would not feel as safe/uninhibited in the presence of people who have lived some of their lives as men, however those individuals feel/see themselves and whether they too are survivors of sexual violence. Blame patriarchy for this, not feminist survivors of abuse. Please work with us seperately when requested, and together at all other times to challenge male violence and patriarchy. We have alot of common ground and alot of work to do! Some of us like this article by Jenny Roberts, a trans-woman who used to run the lesbian bookshop and arts festival Libertas http://www.annelawrence.com/buildingbridges.html 

This is our response on the matter and we are unlikely to respond to individual comments, apologies.

It makes me very sad when women’s voices are silence because of political lobbying. As I said in my other blogpost, all women [whether they be FAAB or transwomen] have the right to safe spaces to discuss issues which are personal. Lesbian women should not have to discuss domestic violence with heterosexual women if they don’t want. Transgendered people have the right to close spaces so they discuss issues of “passing” or surgery without feeling the need to “educate” an audience with no personal experience on the issue. In this, a little bit of kindness and listening to the needs of others wouldn’t go remiss. Personally, I think the obvious compromise is to run a second session on sexual violence which is trans-inclusive for those who choose to attend it.

#RadFem2012

I’ve been writing this blogpost for a few days now and, as ever, I’m behind the times since Sheila Jeffreys has now been banned from the conference venue for “promoting hatred”. I find this incredibly disappointing and it makes me so very angry that women’s voices are once again being silenced because of a concerted attack by a group of activists who use shameful bullying tacts to silence any opposition. The Guardian article is here.

This is my post, not quite finished [or edited] since I meant it for tomorrow but I would rather it be read now:

I’ve been trying to write this blogpost since the vitriol against #RadFem2012 started trending on twitter. I’ve been horrified by the level of violence and hate speech that has accompanied the announcement of the Radical Feminist conference in London. This might reflect entirely who I follow on Twitter and Facebook, but the vast majority of insults, especially those which threaten violence, have been by a few transactivists against radical feminists. After all, I didn’t see anyone who self-identified as Radical Feminist suggesting that people who disagreed with them were “scum” like those Transactivists using the hashtag: #radscum2012. I’ve not seen any Radical Feminsts using words like “cunt” to dismiss and belittle Transactivists. There is even a Resist RadFem2012 blog set-up. I won’t be attending #RadFem2012 this summer but that’s for financial reasons and not because I don’t want to be there. I missed the Go Feminism conference in February for the same reason. If I had the financial resources, I would spend my life traipsing up and down the UK on a train attending Feminist conferences and festivals. Being surrounded by Feminists of all persuasions is a beautiful thing; even if we don’t agree on all points just being with people who are critical of our capitalist-patriarchy is inspiring.

I am, however, really struggling to understand the vitriol targeting the Radical Feminist conference. I genuinely do not see why people are so angry about one conference for women-born only. It is not like there is a dearth of Feminist conferences and activities in the UK right now. If anything, we are at the beginning of a major Feminist activist revival. There should be opportunities for everyone to participate in Feminist activism without denigrating or deriding attempts by others to engage in activism and consciousness-raising.

Intersectionality:

There are many forms of oppression and discrimination that women born women have to deal with which is different from the discrimination faced by Transgender people. I think it would be equally disrespectful for me to assert my “right” to attend a conference which is for transgender women only. Indeed, the Philadelphia Trans-Health conference includes closed sessions for Transgendered people only. I think it is inhumane and utterly arrogant for me to assume that I should be allowed into this space because there are issues of discrimination faced by transgendered people that I, as a FAAB, have never experienced and do not have the ability to offer anything constructive other than sympathy. Transgender people don’t need a straight, FAAB sitting in the corner offering sympathy. They need a space where they can discuss their lived experiences without worrying about whether or not an audience is present [or worrying if the audience is sympathetic] just like FAAB deserve.

It is as equally disrespectful for me to assert my “right” to attend a conference for Black Feminist women-only based on an assumption of “shared experience” because of our biological sex. Or, and this term sets my teeth on edge, my “right” to attend a Black-women only event in order to “educate” myself about the specific structural oppression faced by Black women due to misogyny and racism. If I were truly interested in “educating” myself about the multiple oppressions experienced by “Othered” women, I would read books, articles and, increasingly, blogs written by these women. Hell, Twitter and Facebook offer opportunities to learn without being rude. Demanding access to their space would be asserting a White Privilege that I do not deserve. Black women have the personal need and the political right to close their space to white women. I have neither the personal need nor the political right to demand access to that space.

Transgender people do experience serious oppression and discrimination in our capitalist-Patriarchy. Anyone suggesting differently is either deliberately minimising the level of sexual violence and harassment transgendered people receive or has not yet considered it. I have never heard a Feminist argue that Transgender people do not experience violence [sexual and otherwise]. I have heard Feminists argue that the violence experienced by Transgendered people originates in the same Patriarchal constructs as misogyny BUT that the violence and oppression of women is both experientially and structurally different. That is not to say that one individual has it “worse” than another or that the specific experience of one individual can be used as representative of all, whether they be women or transgender but, rather that, the specific oppressions experienced by FAAB is qualitatively different to that experienced by transgendered people. It is also infinitely more likely for women to experience gender-based violence.

FAAB should also have the right to get together to support, mourn and celebrate their experiences of oppression because of misogyny. FAAB should be allowed to discuss issues like amenorrhea, pregnancy, childbirth, infertility, abortion, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape and other sex-based socially constructed forms of discrimination without an audience. Women, as a sex, are entitled to a safe space to talk. Denying women the right to do so is basic misogynistic oppression. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas of Feminism where women and transgender people can’t come together to engage in activism. It just means it doesn’t have to be every time. To quote Beachcomber on MN: “This is a political issue, an issue of social groups and hierarchy – it is not an issue of individual circumstance or reality”. Everyone is entitled to a space in which to contemplate and critique their experiences within their own social group.

Personal Reflections:

I suppose its important here to note where I started my journey as a feminist. I grew up in an area of Canada with a very high population of First Nations people. Whilst I can write a catalogue of the institutionalised sexism and misogyny I experienced, it is nothing like the experience of First Nations women who suffered under the dual oppressions of racism and misogyny. My statistical risk of being rape was exponentially smaller than that of First Nations women; as was my statistical chance of being a victim of gendered murder. I experienced similar “smaller” sexual assaults to First Nations women but, again, not in the numbers experienced by First Nations women. The treatment of First Nations women in Canada is a national disgrace that is frequently elided from the public sphere. My first feminist “activism” was a protest against the public support a white rapist received because his victim had to be “lying” because she was First Nations and therefore supposedly sexually available to all white men.

I am also disabled but I wasn’t born disabled. Nor do I have a disability which is “visible”. I have never been stared at or insulted in the street for looking “different”. I can “pass” as non-disabled. I’ve never struggled on the London Underground [except when carrying heavy luggage]. I’ve never had to stand at a bus stop and watch a bus driver refuse to allow me on because I am in a wheelchair. These oppressions and discriminatory practises are different and everyone should have the right to gather to discuss issues personal to them without having to worry about whether or not they will be attacked for them.

Constructing Gender:

I also have both white privilege and class privilege. Neither of these negate my oppression as a woman. They do make more privileged than Black women and poor women. As a feminist, I want to see the eradication of the gender binary hierarchy and the destruction of the systemic and institutionalised oppression of women in the capitalist-patriarchy. I believe that sex is biology but gender is a social construct designed to oppress women. Gender can be “performed” but it is inherently a destructive and reductive social construct. Performing it only serves to reinforce that destructive and reductive social construct and further oppress women. I think it is telling that for MtF transgender people in the UK to be allowed surgery on the NHS, they have to “live” for two years performing femininity: not gender but femininity by wearing dresses, make up and high heels. If this were how women were identified, I would know very few FAAB who would pass. I do not believe women will ever be “free” until we have destroyed the Patriarchy which also requires destroying capitalism. The Patriarchy predates capitalism but it now functions in symbiosis with capitalism so that we can not destroy one without the other. The capitalist-Patriarchy is harmful for everyone. Yes, there is an intersectionality of oppressions that privilege certain groups of women over other women [and over other men in terms of poverty]. I do not understand how we can destroy the Patriarchy if we are reinforcing the gender binary hierarchy.

The Right to Protest?

I am quite concerned about the threats of intimidation and violence being levied at the women who will be attending the Radical Feminist conference; particularly the not-quite-ironic threats by certain transactivists using the same language of oppression as MRAs. They are agitating for protests outside the conference which are reminiscent of those held by anti-choice arseholes outside abortion clinics. I can not believe people who self-identify as Feminists don’t see how hypocritical that stance is. I remember attending a Holocaust Memorial Day viewing of the film The Pianist which ended in with a question and answer session with Holocaust survivors derailed by Palestinian activists. Whilst I support the aims of Palestinian activists in fighting the human rights violations committed by the Israeli government, targeting vulnerable, elderly Holocaust survivors was rude, mean-spirited and unlikely to convert me to their cause. I feel the same about those specific Transactivists threatening and intimidating women wanting to attend this Radical Feminist conference. It only serves to alienate me from their cause.

I also think its quite problematic to be protesting outside an event that will be attended by vulnerable women; particularly women who have experienced male violence within their personal relationships or experienced violence as prostituted women. Agitating outside a venue is very different to peaceful protest. Whilst I’m not entirely fond of the suggestion that people will be outside picketing with signs, the thought that people will be deliberately attending to shout abuse and denigrate the women attending makes me really quite sad. Have we genuinely got to the point where a group of women can’t get together to discuss issues relevant to them without being abused or insulted?

In many ways, this feels like the same debate around Reclaim the Night when men, who weren’t going to attend anyways, get all uppity about not being allowed to attend. Or, what annoys me even more, men are then invited to attend RTN’s which immediately excludes vulnerable women and then the men don’t bother to show up. I have to wonder how much of the hate speech on Twitter under the #radscum2012 and #radfem2012 hashtags are genuinely by people interested in radical feminism and transgender rights and how many are only using it as a way of unleashing their bigotry. This is the kind of abuse radical feminists receive via their blogs and twitter. The number of times “cunt” is used as an insult is telling.

I think it’s worth noting that this conference is predicated on a number of issues which MRAs find problematic. It takes as its starting point the theory that the “sex industry” is inherently misogynistic and that the idea of “sex-positive” feminism is an anachronism which privileges male sexuality and reduces women only to objects. It assumes that porn is violent women-hating and that prostitution amounts to nothing more than the rape of vulnerable women.

In trying to write this, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs. These are a selection of some I’ve been reading over the past week:

Radical Pro-Feminist

Gender Trender

Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues

Femonade

Feministing

F-Word

How Trans Women Challenge Feminism

CherryBlossomLife

Mumsnet Thread

Update with More Resources:

Fact Check Me on Cotton Ceilings

Pleasure and Possibilities Workshop

Gender Trender

Dinosaurs and Janice Raymond

Born Genderless

Resist RadFem

Building Bridges

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: Galaxy Chocolate

Galaxy have two advertisements currently running which are utter misogynistic drivel. The first is the fecking awful women hanging out at a theatre pretending to be sophisticated when they are really viewing male strippers. Reversing the objectification of women trope and using male strippers instead of women isn’t creative nor is it interesting. It just reinforces the same old patriarchal nonsense and reduces women’s sexuality to an object. It also allows stupid people to yammer on about women staring at men’s naked bodies being the same as men staring at women’s naked bodies. It isn’t. It never has been. It never will be. It doesn’t matter how many tantrums the clinically stupid who hang out with F4J have; the objectification of women’s bodies causes violence against women. That just doesn’t happen with the Chippendales.

The Galaxy ad which pisses me off the most is the one with the woman who hides chocolate about her flat so that her roommates won’t eat it. Hiding food isn’t the sign of a woman with a healthy relationship to food. Its quite a serious red flag for eating disorders. This ad simply fetishises eating disorders as something that all women should aspire too. It’s also hardly surprising that the model in the ad is on the unhealthy side of slim. I turn off the TV every time I see this ad because it makes me sad and utterly fucked off with a society that treats women eating as a social taboo.

Obviously, I’m also boycotting Galaxy. I don’t like ads which insult my intelligence or my body. Both of these ads do that.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: EDF’s “Olympic Thank You”


Nothing says thank you to your customers like women dressed up in skimpy gold medal costumes dancing about. It is so good to see that EDF isn’t at all afraid of using misogyny in its advertising. After all, misogyny is so uncommon. It’s positively genre-breaking to make a commercial involving half-naked women dancing. Oh, wait. That’s like every other commercial around. #advertisingfail

What really fucks me off about the “women as gold medals” ad is that you just know someone is going to come back and say: ooohhh, but they are such good dancers. Well, duh. But, men are damn good dancers too and I doubt anyone in the advertising firm that came up with this shit would ever have thought about using a male dancer.

And, EDF did manage to make an non-misogynistic thank you advertisement which didn’t make me want to rip my hair out. So, why use such derivative, dull shite using the familiar trope of women=object when you have managed to make one which wasn’t stupid?

Hustler being Despicable. Again: Sexualisation is Silencing Petition

Hustler being disgusting and despicable is par for the course. Larry Flynt is horrible, vicious misogynist. I would like to say that there is nothing he can do which would surprise me but it would be a lie. I am not going to link any images because, frankly, I find them so triggering that I refuse to have them linked on my blog nor do I want to increase traffic to any misogynistic site which might have the images linked. I would like to see publications like Hustler banned and their proprietors and editors required to pay huge fines to support rape crisis centres and shelters.

Hustler’s current attack on conservative S.E. Cupp, rather like the attacks on Tory MP Louise Mensch, is based entirely on misogynistic constructions of sex/gender and the punishment of women who dare to have opinions and make them publicly. Now, personally, I don’t agree with pretty much anything Cupp and Mensch say. I find their views abhorrent but finding their views abhorrent is not an excuse to sexually humiliate, bully and intimidate women. It is this kind of behaviour that silences women. It encourages and perpetuates the rape culture which violates the lives of so many women and children. Allowing this kind of smear campaign to go unchallenged is a passive affirmation that it is acceptable to treat women in this manner.

As such, I have signed the petition by the Women’s Media Center denouncing Hustler for its vile attack on S.E. Cupp. The media release from the Women’s Media Center is below:

Petition

Gloria Steinem, Women’s Media Center Denounce Hustler Attack On Conservative Commentator

May 24, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT:

CRISTAL WILLIAMS CHANCELLOR, MEDIA RELATIONS MANAGER

THE WOMEN’S MEDIA CENTER

202-587-1636

CRISTAL@WOMENSMEDIACENTER.COM

Women’s Media Center Condemns Hustler’s Sexist Attack on S.E. Cupp

Statement from the Women’s Media Center:

Hustler Magazine has posted a picture of conservative commentator S.E. Cupp with a Photoshopped penis in her mouth. This is a prime example of sexism against women in the media and the Women’s Media Center stands with S.E. Cupp and women everywhere in condemning Hustler.

Gloria Steinem, Co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center, said of the incident, “As another of the countless women who have been attacked, defamed and endangered by Larry Flynt and Hustler over the years, I am proud to stand with S.E. Cupp and defend her right to free speech and respect. One has only to look at Flynt’s record of woman-hatred and the depiction of sexualized violence against females–including children, as in such famous Hustler features as ‘Chester the Molester’–to see that the only thing more damaging than Flynt’s hatred would be his approval.”

Robin Morgan, also co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center, had this to say: “In Hustler’s worst degrading, woman-hating tradition, the magazine has done it yet again. Larry Flynt and the editors of Hustler–with the apparent IQs of inebriated gnats–clearly cannot grasp a basic fact: When you demean one woman, you demean us all, and all of us fight back. The Women’s Media Center was founded to confront precisely this kind of vicious, unfunny, destructive representation of female human beings–whatever their political position, and whether or not we agree with it.”

Julie Burton, President of the Women’s Media Center, said, “It makes no difference that Larry Flynt thinks he is opposing the defunding of Planned Parenthood. His crude, sexist attacks on Ms. Cupp demean all women–and undermine his claim to support women’s rights. As a pro-choice, feminist organization, we do not agree with Ms. Cupp’s stance. But the sexualization of women in the media is not a partisan issue–it’s an ongoing problem that makes it harder for women on both sides of the aisle to run for office and be taken seriously as political commentators and media makers.”

“At nearly the exact same time last year, the Women’s Media Center successfully defended conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham when Ed Schultz called her a ‘slut,’” Burton said. “Our stance has always been that from Gloria Steinem to Sarah Palin, a woman’s political opinions, whatever they are, should never be met with sexist attacks.”

“We urge all men and women, regardless of your political beliefs, to stand up against the misogyny Hustler wants the country to accept as par for the course,” Burton said. “The only way our culture moves against sexism is when stand as one and say this is unacceptable.”

To join the Women’s Media Center’s call to stand with Ms. Cupp and against media misogyny, sign the petition at www.change.org/standwithSE

In the No Shit Sherlock Category We Have: Lap Dancing Clubs Increase Sexual violence


The knowledge that lap dancing clubs lead to an increase in sexual violence is hardly a surprise to anyone whose actually bothered to read any of the research into the links between increased sexual violence and the sex industry. This, however, is the first time I’ve heard a senior police officer discuss lap dancing clubs in such terms. Inspector Ian Drummond-Smith, the police chief in the “resort” of Newquay wrote an official letter objecting to the town council licensing a lap dancing club. Drummond-Smith claimed that the lap dancing clubs had already “contributed” to 14 rapes and 34 other sexual assaults in the area within the last two years. Okay, I’m not entirely comfortable with this bit: 

“It is of concern that sexual entertainment would take place in such proximity to dwellings and vulnerable persons, and those leaving the premises, having been subject to highly sexualised performances, may be at greater risk of committing sexual offences. The combination of factors above, in particular the vulnerable groups identified, have contributed to the sex crimes.”

Since, it seems to imply that men who commit sexual offences after participating in the objectification and abuse of women in lap dancing clubs are “vulnerable”; as if men are so controlled by their penises that they can’t help but rape women after hanging out in a lap dancing club. That pisses me off. Women are vulnerable because of the increase in sexual violence. Men are at an increased risk of committing a criminal offence; that does not make them vulnerable.

But, I am pleased to hear a senior police officer making the national press whilst arguing against the provision of lap dancing clubs and I am incredibly grateful to the campaigners at Object who fought to have lap dancing clubs rezoned as “sex entertainment venues” (in England and Wales) so that the general public has an opportunity to campaign against their existence. I hope the Scottish government has the gumption to do the same.

Some resources:

Julie Bindel and Liz Kelly, A Critical Examination of Responses to Prostitution in Four Countries: Victoria, Australia; Ireland; the Netherlands and Sweden, (London Metroplitan University, 2003)

Jennifer Hayashi Danns with Sandrine Leveque, Stripped: The Bare Reality of Lap Dancing, (Claireview, 2011)

Gail Dines, Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, (Beacon Press, 2010)

Kelly Holsoppe, Stripclubs According to Strippers: Exposing Workplace Sexual Violence, (Metropolitan Coalition Against Prostitution, 1998)

Robert Jensen, Pornography and the End of Masculinity, (South End Press, 2007)

Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, (Pocket Books, 2005)

Melinda Tankard Reist, Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, (Spinifex, 2009)

Dr Meagan Tyler, Prof Sheila Jeffries, et al. Not Just Harmless Fun: The Strip Club Industry in Victoria, Australia. (Coalition Against Trafficking Women, 2010)

Natasha Walter, Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, (Virago, 2010)

Turns out the BBC was a bit confused about Harlots, Housewives and Heroines


Turns out the BBC was a bit confused about Harlots, Housewives and Heroines. I complained about it here yesterday because the trailer claimed to be about the history of “girls” in the 17th century. Turns out whichever dipstick at the BBC who wrote the review hadn’t actually bothered to watch the program since it was clearly about WOMEN; as in those people running about the planet with vaginas who are over the age 18. Women not girls. Dr. Lucy Worsley, the presenter [and currently Chief curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces] uses the word women over and over again. It’s unfortunate that the BBC felt they had to advertise the program in such a pathetic, hyper-sexualised manner. It devalues the work of Dr. Lucy Worsley and cheapens the very real history of women. This documentary didn’t need “sexing” up. It was intriguing on its own merits. That’s not to say it wasn’t problematic. As a dear friend pointed out on Twitter: “What she [Worsley] does with the subject is good but choice to focus on elite & mistresses sets it up on patriarchal terms” but any program that starts with the question: “Was this female empowerment or just a new form of exploitation?” is worth watching.

The BBC needs to stop demeaning and belittling the intelligence of its audience and just get back to advertising documentaries as documentaries not soft-porn. I only watched the program to see if it was as dire as the trailer. If I hadn’t been so annoyed [and there was nothing else on television], I would have missed something that I really enjoyed.


Harlots, Houswives and Heroines: A 17th Century History for Girls?

Apparently, there were only 3 categories of “girls” in the 17th century. God only knows what they did with women but “girls” got to be either a harlot, housewife or heroine. Probably, they could have had more options if they got to be women but, the BBC is pretty sure they were all “girls”. I would have gritted my teeth, ignored the sexism and just watched the program but the first time I came across it was an advertisement featuring a woman’s breasts. That she was powdering. Seriously.

Who comes up with this twaddle? And, who, seriously, is the intended audience of this program? Because the historian in me is pretty pissed about this. Harlots, Houswives and Heroines is supposed to be an historical program examining the role of women in Restoration England. Yet, it’s being advertised with breasts; not a woman’s body. Just a woman’s breasts. Do we really need to advertise academic programs with soft-porn? Using women’s breasts to flog a show whose audience base will be women with an interest in women’s history and not soft-porn is stupid; regardless of what Hugh Hefner thinks. Does the BBC genuinely think its audience is incapable of watching a program about women without focussing on their breasts?

This is the official BBC write-up:

In this new three-part series historian and Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces Dr Lucy Worsley immerses herself in the world of Restoration England, exploring the captivating lives of the women of the period. 

The years after the Civil War and the Restoration of Charles II marked the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the modern age. These were exciting times for women, some of whom displayed remarkably modern attitudes and ambitions, achieving wealth, celebrity and power in ways that still look outstanding by 21st century standards. But these women also faced a world that was predominantly male, misogynistic and medieval in its outlook.

In the first episode Lucy investigates the lives of women at the top: the King’s mistresses at the Royal Court. When Charles and his entourage returned from exile they came back with a host of continental ideas, and as a result some of the women at court rose to prominence as never before, gaining unprecedented political influence and independence. 

Amongst a fascinating cast of female characters, the most astonishing were Charles II’s own mistresses: the Royalist, Barbara Villiers, the French spy Louise de Keroualle and the infamous Cockney actress, Nell Gwynn. 

Lucy examines the lives of these women, discovering how their fortunes were shaped by the Restoration and how their stories reflect the atmosphere of these extraordinary years. As she discovers, these women were key Restoration players, but as mistresses were truly in charge of their own destinies – or simply part of the world’s oldest profession?

Where the frig do we start with this? Because it made me #facepalm. Ignoring the teleology and the idea that we somehow live in a non-misogynistic society now which is, erm, somewhat goofy. It may have been “exciting times” for some rich women but the Restoration of Charles II didn’t lead to exciting changes in the lives of most women who remained, for the most part, illiterate and poor with no real legal rights. Using the case studies of a few women, whose lives were simply not within the norms of the period, doesn’t make it “exciting for women”. Hell, it doesn’t even make it exciting for those substrata of wealthy women who managed to carve, for themselves, newish forms of power. And, let’s be crystal clear about this, using your body and sexuality isn’t a new “power” for women. Manipulating sexuality is frequently the only way women can carve themselves a safe space. Being a mistress didn’t make one powerful; nor, really, did being a wife. Mistresses, as with wives, were still dependent on the goodwill of the Patriarchy to survive. They could quite easily be dismissed and destroyed. Indeed, many were.

And, FFS, can we stop with this “the world’s oldest profession” bullshit. Prostitution is a violent, degrading act forced on women’s bodies because of the structural inequalities within the capitalist-patriarchy. It is not a “profession”. It is the abuse of women and children who have no other option. It is about poverty and constructing women’s bodies as less-human. The women in this documentary may have wielded power in a structurally constrained way but they did not hold “power”. That remained with men.

I am still going to watch the program, what with the whole being a history nerd thing. I’m just going to be cross whilst doing so. There will, no doubt, be angry tweeting tonight.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: Those Stupid Bounty Ads


I have never liked these. The “putting men in dresses to do housework” schtick has been around for a while. It’s never been funny. It will never be funny. It’s a lazy marketing technique lacking all attempts at creative or critical thinking.

I also think they are completely misogynistic twaddle designed only to reinforce the fallacious (and deliberate) assumption that men are somehow physically and psychologically incapable of housework. Since this theory is usually accompanied by the idea that men need porn because they are more “visual” than women, I’ve always thought it was either serious cognitive dissonance or outright stupidity. You can’t have it both ways. That way lies hypocrisy.

I also think these commercials buy into some fairly transphobic constructions of gender, femininity and masculinity. Since the ASA declared this ad transphobic, I would expect that the Bounty ads will be pulled. Not that I have any faith in the ASA. They seem to work in fairy land for the most part.

So, I’m adding Bounty to my boycott list [not that I buy paper towels what with the whole environmental impact issue] but now officially boycotting for misogyny and transphobia rather than just because of the environment.