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.

What Men can do to destroy the Patriarchy

I am rather bored by all the men who claim that the only way to be feminists is to be allowed into every possible women-only space and mansplain’ where feminists went wrong. It’s an unbelievably obnoxious silencing technique and an amazing display of white, male privilege. [Yeah, I’m looking at that sub-section of whiny-arsed men on Mumsnet who insist on telling women that birth trauma doesn’t exist because they’ve seen their wives give birth and it was all fine.]

This is a partial list of organisations that men can be involved with to help defeat the patriarchy, either through activism or financial support:

The White Ribbon Campaign: run by men to end male violence against women.. They organise marches on December 6th to raise awareness of violence against women. I notice the whiners who demand the right to march on women-organised Reclaim the Night marches are never committed to helping organise men-only marches. Too much like hard work?

Object: runs campaigns against the sexual objectification of women. They fought to have lap dancing clubs rezoned under English law as sex establishments and not cafes. They are currently running campaigns to end Page 3 in the Sun and challenging the demand for prostitution which is, basically, rape.

Stop Porn Culture: Make Love, Not Porn

UK Feminista: A Movement of Ordinary Women and Men campaigning for Gender Equality

SCASE: Scottish Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation

Fawcett Society

Organisations that men can help financially support to destroy the Patriarchy:

Rape Crisis (England/Wales)

Rape Crisis (Scotland)
Women’s Aid (Scotland)
Womankind Worldwide

Women’s Environmental Network
Or, and this here is just a wee suggestion, men can stop raping women, physically assaulting women, raping prostitutes and using porn. Challenge any misogynistic, racist, disabilist and homophobic language. All of which will help to destroy the patriarchy.

The Story the Media isn’t covering: The Scottish Cup Final

Today is the Scottish Cup Final. Apparently, it’s the Hibs and the Hearts playing. I don’t follow football and I actually don’t care all that much. At least, I don’t care about who actually wins the Scottish Cup. What I do care about is the consequences of the game on women. All sporting events bring an increase in domestic violence, rape and the abuse and trafficking of prostitutes. In 2010, the Association of Chief Police Officers made public warnings about the increase in domestic violence during the World Cup. The Washington Post covered the increased risk of sex trafficking during the Super Bowl. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics was accompanied by the highly successful “Buying Sex is not a Sport” campaign. There is very real media coverage of the increase in violence but it isn’t targeting that group of men who will use their victory/defeat as an excuse to hurt women. We need more athletes, especially professional footballers, to stand up and start taking responsibility for the consequences of the hyper-masculine culture which they inhabit. After all, I didn’t see huge swathes of footballers calling Ched Evans a rapist, even after he was convicted. It isn’t just athletes who can stop violence against women. Everyone needs to step up and take responsibility for the safety of women around them.

These are the statistics on domestic violence in “normal” situations:
  • A victim can suffer from 35 attacks before the abuse is reported to the police.
  • In the UK on average two women per week are killed by a current or former male partner.
  • Domestic abuse accounts for 15 per cent of all violent incidents.
  • One in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime with women at greater risk of repeat victimisation and serious injury.
  • 89 per cent of those suffering four or more incidents are women.
  • One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute
The 2006 World Cup campaign saw an average increase of 25% in terms of domestic violence calls. By 2010, research by Manchester police was suggesting an average of 30% higher than normal; this research was confirmed by the Home Office. That is for domestic violence alone.  It does not cover rape, sexual violence or the abuse of prostitutes. 

Dr Catherine Palmer, of Durham University, was tasked with reviewing all the literature which could demonstrate a link between violence against women and sport after the World Cup in 2010. The report is available here via the End Violence Against Women Coalition. These are the themes raised in the report: 

• there are clear links between expressions and enactments of masculinity and sport- related violence against women;
• sport-related violence against women occurs in a range of settings and contexts, including homes, pubs and clubs, hotel rooms, brothels, the street and other public spaces;
• sport-related violence against women is perpetrated by both male athletes and by male fans or consumers of sport and sporting events, as well as by coaches of female athletes;
• human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation remains difficult to quantify, with the research evidence frequently being contradictory, but literature suggests that events such as London 2012 may well provide a context in which women and girls could be trafficked;
• the literature suggests that the influx of tourists, site workers and contractors, the media, and indeed the athletes themselves, at major sporting events creates a particular environment that may have an impact on women’s safety;
• the literature suggests the increased population in the UK for the Olympic Games and Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games may create a greater demand for on and off street prostitution;
• events such as the 2010 World Cup have highlighted the connections between sports spectatorship and intimate partner violence, and the need for police, authorities and services to be aware of this when planning sporting events;
• excessive alcohol consumption is a contributing factor in the above;
• the literature suggests that there is sufficient evidence for agencies and authorities to be concerned about a potential increase in trafficking, prostitution, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and harassment, and intimate partner violence. There is a need to act now in order to respond to and prepare for London 2012, Glasgow 2014 and other major sporting events.

These statistics are horrifying and we, as a society, are simply not taking the responsibility for changing the patriarchal structures which consider it normal to abuse women’s bodies as a reaction to how their team performed. 

Today, everyone needs to take responsibility for the safety of women. 
Witnessing violence without phoning the police is condoning violence.
Men who “buy” prostitutes are committing sexual violence.
Sex trafficking includes moving women within a city.

Dial 999

or


Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247
Rape Crisis Scotland: 08088 010 302 

Breastfeeding, SIDS and Women-Blaming Culture

This article published in The Australian is currently doing the rounds on Facebook. Basically, a research and advocacy group called sids and kids has added breastfeeding to the list of things which statistically decrease the chances of an infant dying of SIDS. This isn’t new research and the links between SIDS and breastfeeding have been reported here previously. Scientific research has demonstrated time and time again that breast milk is best for babies and the World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then up to 2 years. I posted a link on my FB wall. The first two comments suggested that the publication of the research was designed specifically to make women feel like shit.

I don’t think anyone can argue with the research but what comes up, time and time again, is the idea that somehow promoting this research is done only to “punish” women who formula feed. Now, I’m usually at the head of the queue at the woman-blaming culture protests and am a firm believer that the Patriarchy deliberately and maliciously sets women up to police other women’s behaviour to the detriment of all women. The Patriarchy punishes women in a million and one ways. I just don’t think the issue of breastfeeding and SIDS is about women-blaming culture or, at least, it shouldn’t be. It should be about what has the best outcomes for infants and mothers. Breastfeeding has health benefits for both the mother and the infant and very few women are physically incapable of breastfeeding. Statistically, the number of women who physically can’t breastfeed is insignificant in the face of the number of women who “can’t” for cultural reasons. The reason many women “can’t” breastfeed is because of structural inequalities in employment and home life, lack of support, and the constant misinformation spouted by so-called professionals like Dr. Christian Jessen and Gina Ford. Ford, at least, has the excuse of not being a medical doctor. Dr. Christian is just a misogynistic tool.

Breast-feeding is normal. This doesn’t mean that women who choose not to or who can’t breast feed are bad mothers. It simply means that breast milk fits the needs of babies in terms of their immune systems and long-term health as a result of millions of years of evolution. What we need to do is separate the emotion from the science. Breast feeding, like putting a baby on their back to sleep, statistically decreases the chance of an infant dying of SIDS. It doesn’t prevent SIDS nor does it mean a mother who loses a child to SIDS and who didn’t breastfeed is responsible for her child dying. That would be women-blaming [not to mention vile, disgusting, evil and utterly lacking in humanity]. It is totally reasonable to kick anyone who said such a despicable thing viciously in the shins.

We need to support women who want to breastfeed better and we need to tackle the misinformation about formula which actively puts babies at risk: like how to prepare formula properly. We also need to challenge the myths of breastfeeding like the fact that breastfeeding doesn’t change the shape of your breasts: pregnancy does that. And, really, who the fuck cares that your breasts have changed shape because of pregnancy? Bodies change. That doesn’t change who you are; nor does it make you less sexual if you do. Frankly, if your partner finds you less sexy because your body has changed shaped after birthing his child, then you need to kick his pathetic, judgemental, whiny-arse to the curb. Because real men don’t think like that.

We need to ensure that every woman has access to real information about breastfeeding and formula feeding in order for each woman to make the best choice for herself and her child. We need to respect the decision of each individual woman whilst exploring the structural inequalities which force women to make “choices” which are not appropriate for them. What we can not do is refuse to publish information that might make some women upset because they did not breastfeed. Preventing all women from accessing real information because a few women might get upset is precisely how the Patriarchy victimises women: by withholding information and pitting women against women.

Dear Dunfermline Abbey: Racism isn’t the best way to advertise

So, this has nothing to do with feminism or women. But, it fucked me off as a historian. It’s racist, ahistorical and just all kinds of stupid.

Dunfermline Abbey, in it’s official, tourist description says this:

Having only around 200 hundred years of history of their own, Americans and Australians find it particularly hard to grasp that just by going through the door of the Church into the Nave, they are travelling back from 1818 when the new Church was begun to 1072 when Queen Margaret`s Church was begun.

And, yes, I had to read that at least three times to understand that which ever tool wrote that blurb and the other nincompoops who approved it don’t believe that North America or Australia have a history more than 200 years old. Even if you were so unbelievably stupid and you went with the White Supremacists version of history, white people have been running about the North American continent continuously since the 1490’s. Hell, the first public school opened in Boston in 1635 which is just slightly more than 200 years old. There is even evidence of a Norse settlement in L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland Canada which dates to about 1000 A.D. But, that’s only if you’re a white supremacist and stupid.

Those of us that aren’t clinically stupid may have heard of these people called the Indigenous Americans, the Inuit, Inuvialuit and numerous First Nations people who have definitely been strolling about North America for roughly 10 000 years. Australia too, funnily enough, was inhabited by non-white people for a rather longer period of time than white people have been there. I don’t know who wrote that blurb but they shouldn’t be allowed to write such racist shite. It’s embarrassing , arrogant and unrelentingly stupid. FFS, a semi-literate 6 year old with access to google could tell them they were wrong. How a group of adults got together and decided that was okay to print boggles my mind.

Not to mention, the whole insulting your customers isn’t the best way to encourage business. But, mostly, I’m pissed about the racism. And, before I get any white supremacist apologists leaving stupid comments, erasing the very real history and culture of First Nations is racism.
UPDATE: Dunfermline Abbey seems to have changed the link. Here is a link to the original post:
The full text is here:The tomb of King Robert the Bruce with many other royal and historical associations attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year. The Abbey Shop has a fine selection of Scottish visitor collectables.Each year approximately 30,000 to 35,000 visitors make their way into the Abbey Church and there are a variety of reasons why they do so.

Some visitors come to ask about the history of the Church and its connection with St Margaret, some are keen to know about Robert the Bruce or one of the other seven Kings of Scotland who are buried in the Abbey.

Having only around 200 hundred years of history of their own, Americans and Australians find it particularly hard to grasp that just by going through the door of the Church into the Nave, they are travelling back from 1818 when the new Church was begun to 1072 when Queen Margaret`s Church was begun.

Visitors who are especially interested in stained glass also come to admire the magnificent windows, each by a different artist and from different dates. Each window has a story or a little secret hidden in it, remember to look for the tiny Bruce spider and try to find the Crown of Scotland hidden in a half open cupboard. Should you come to look at them remember to bring binoculars and you will be amazed at what you see.

The pulpit is a wonderful example of the craftsman`s art and it is much admired. Visitors marvel at the story that it tells and the quality of the workmanship. It is hard to believe that it cost £270 in 1889. Every once in a while a visitor can be found wandering around it looking longingly up – we can now tell when a visitor is a Minister nine times out of ten.

Occasionally, the interest is in the graveyard helping someone to look for a member of their family and it is wonderful when they are successful in locating a headstone or a plaque in the memorial chapel to someone they know. In 2008 visitors contributed to our Church the sum of £4,500 via the donation boxes and this is excluding the money they spend in the shop.

We always try to give our visitors a warm welcome to the Abbey Church and regularly the same people return and bring their families with them, even from as far as Australia.

 

The original wording is still listed here: http://www.exploringscotland.co.uk/printer_friendly.php?id=3685

Why Legalising Prostitution Does NOT Protect Women: Greece Arrests and Publicly Shames HIV+ Prostitutes

I first heard of this case via @AlexpolisTigers. Frankly, it’s exactly why I think “legalising” prostitution is nothing more than a pretence at caring about women and is really just about protecting men’s rights and access to women’s bodies whenever and wherever they want. This particular case covers the whole gamut of abuse of women’s bodily autonomy, right to privacy and basic human rights. These 17 women have been accused of “intentionally causing serious bodily harm;” 12 of these women suffered the further indignity of having their names and photographs published on the Greek Police website. What is that if not a disbelief in the basic humanity of women? It is not yet clear that these women even knew they were HIV+ before being arrested. It’s also pretty clear that this “crackdown” on the possible transmission sources due to the increase in HIV infection in Greece is only targeting the “bad”: that would be female prostitutes and IV drug users. Who, precisely, the Athens police think are infecting these women with HIV is clearly open to debate since it’s obviously not the misogynists who believe they are entitled to purchase women’s bodies to abuse. It’s also not in the least bit surprising that the women being arrested are women from Eastern Europe, most of whom will have been victims of sex trafficking [no doubt by the same criminal organisation responsible for the availability of illegal narcotics]. It’s that lovely combination of race, sex and class rearing its head. Again.

I am not sure what we can do to help these particular women but this is precisely why we need to fight against the normalisation and legalisation of prostitution. Legalisation does not “help” the women involved; it does not increase their protection and, frankly, it just ignores the structural inequalities of poverty, physical and sexual abuse, substance misuse and mental health problems that result in women ending up prostitution. After all, prostitution is legal in Greece and these 17 women were all arrested working in “illegal brothels” which far outweigh the number of “legal brothels”. If we gave a shit about these women, we wouldn’t be legalising prostitution. We would be building a real safety net to protect all vulnerable people: like the one the lying, despicable ConDems have just eradicated. 

Prostitution is torture and we need to stop pretending it isn’t.

UPDATE: PETITION FOR GREEK PRIME MINISTER

Some resources on the harm caused by prostitution:

Rebecca Mott: The Men Inside of Me

Not For Sale: Survivors in Revolt Blog

Our Voices Matter Blog

Feminism in London Website

Helena Kennedy: Eve Was Framed’s Women and British Justice [2005, 1992]

Christine Stark & Rebecca Whisnant’s Not For Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography [2004]

Trine Rogg Korsvik & Ane Sto’s The Nordic Approach [2011]

‘Fun Feminism’: In Defence of Radical Feminism

I love Julie Bindel. I don’t always agree with everything she says but she makes me think which is a precious gift in a society driven by Patriarchal media-soundbites which erase the voices of those who don’t conform and labels them stupid to boot. Bindel, along with Bidisha, Cath Elliot, and Samira Ahmed are some of my favourite journalists because they don’t play the Handmaiden game.

Not everyone feels quite the same love I do as evidenced by this article in the New Stateman making the rounds on Twitter. Again. It is simply a brief outline of the difference between Second Wave Radical Feminism and the, unfortunately, increasingly popular “fun feminism”, otherwise known as Third Wave Feminism. The difference being, according to Bindel, that the former is a:

A political movement to overthrow male supremacy, according to us radicals. These days, however, young women (and men) are increasingly fed the line from “fun feminists” that it is about individual power, rather than a collective movement.

Radical Feminism is anti-porn not anti-sex as the Third Wavers dismissively suggest. We do not believe that women’s liberation is about “choice” and that individual “choices” must be respected irregardless of the harm they cause other women. The “choice” to do Burlesque only exists if you have the education and status to be “risque”. Burlesque isn’t a “risque” activity though. It is one that clearly has negative consequences for women who work in the sex industry due to poverty, addiction, and lack of alternate possibilities. Radical Feminism is about freeing women from male oppression and violence. Lap-dancing isn’t a route to women’s liberation; neither is prostitution. These are lies perpetuated by The Patriarchy. We are not man-haters. If anything, Radical Feminists are the ones who believe that men are actually capable of empathy and humanity and aren’t just animals ruled by their cocks.

“Fun Feminism” is why Terri White wound up as an assistant editor at Nuts magazine rating young women, barely into adulthood, on their breasts without any consideration to the harm she was perpetuating. “Fun Feminism” is why Caitlin Moran can claim, without even the barest hint of irony, that “beauty regimes” and housework aren’t Feminist issues. “Fun Feminism” is the reason why we are required to preface any discussion of violence against women with the statement “obviously all men aren’t rapists or abusers or porn-users” [although, considering porn is the most financially successful industry in the world, a seriously large number of men have to be consuming it to make it profitable]. “Fun Feminism” is why ageing female journalists are slowly being erased from the media. “Fun Feminism” is the reason our daughter’s are being taught that the only power they have is their sexuality and that being physically attractive is the most important thing in the world. Ever. We need more Radical Feminists like Julie Bindel being controversial and being heard. We need more Radical Feminists asking questions and demanding real answers and not the minimising bullshit the BBC comes out with when questioned why their children’s programming features more boys than girls than any of the commercial channels manage. We need more Radical Feminist voices loudly critiquing the “Sex-industry” and challenging pornographers and those who deny the damage done by prostitution.

UPDATE: Bindel on Brooke Magnati’s new book in the Guardian and here on the Myth of the Violent Lesbian.


UPDATE 2: Bindel’s article spawned quite a large discussion on Mumsnet. My dear friend KRITIQ had some quite interesting things to say about labelling movements. I’m going to copy some of those statements here since they pushed me out of my comfort zone in a positive manner [which is a particularly lovely gift KRITIQ has]:

[l] don’t like the term “fun fem” and still think there’s a risk it can be used just to dismiss and silence those who don’t meet some arbitrary standard of feminist values. I’d rather see arguments against the perpetuation of specific beliefs and practices rather than a list of “things that aren’t really feminist,” which will probably get lots of things tacked on the end and there will never be any agreement on. 

For what it’s worth, discussion of sexual oppression IS going to be scary, regardless of how it’s done. It’s impossible to keep the political from being personal and vice versa, so people will have strong feelings and use strong language in articulating these. Perhaps one needs a strong stomach to engage in discussions here and elsewhere on feminism. Being just a textual medium, perhaps we would all benefit from remembering how easy it is to misunderstand and be misunderstood. But, I would never want folks to feel they need to sanitise their experience or views to be more palatable. The experience of being at the sharp end of misogyny, whether individually or collectively, isn’t something that should be sugar-coated, imho. … 

Regardless of the origins of the term “fun fem,” … I still don’t think it’s a helpful term. That was the point I was making. It’s too porous to have a useful definition and like “politically correct” can be easily used as or experienced as just a throw away “slur.” I’d prefer to get beyond what could be seen as just name calling to actually challenging and questioning people about those specific points about prostitution, sexualisation of children, pornography, collusion with rape, etc.
Equally, I despise the term “sex positive feminism.” It suggests that those who don’t think prostitution, porn, stripping, etc. are tickity boo are “negative” about sex, which ain’t the case. Similarly, I don’t like the term “pro life” for those who oppose a woman’s right to choose. Advocates of reproductive rights and choice aren’t anti-life, fgs

These are some of my favourite Radical Feminist blogs, websites and organisations [well, not all will identify as Radical Feminist but they are all women who actively challenge The Patriarchy and are people whose work I admire tremendously]:

Julie Bindel

Bidisha

Andrea Dworkin

Stop Porn Culture

Kate Smurthwaite

RadFem Hub

RadFem Reader

Feminist Reprise

Sisterhood is Powerful


Rebecca Mott

Finn Mackay and her reprint of Sheila Jeffrey’s speech: The need for Revolutionary Feminism.

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.