Shoes which require surgery to wear are a harmful cultural practise

The UN has been discussing gendered violence and harmful cultural practices for years. I like this definition:

By harmful practices, we mean all practices done deliberately by men on the body or the psyche of other human beings for no therapeutic purpose, but rather for cultural or socio-conventional motives and which have harmful consequences on the health and the rights of the victims. As such, these practices do negatively impact often irreversibly on the life of the girl, the spouse, the mother, the husband or their family members; it is therefore a societal phenomenon.

There are very obvious forms of gendered violence which are internationally recognised such as forced marriage, FGM, forced feeding, corrective rape, foot-binding, and breast ironing, yet the two biggest forms of gendered violence aren’t generally written about as harmful cultural practices. We discuss FGM as a harmful cultural practise with ease because it happens “over there”*. Yet, we ignore the reality of vaginoplasty being undertaken by young women here in the UK despite their being no medical need. We other the victims and perpetrators of FGM so that we don’t need to examine the fact that domestic and sexual violence and abuse are harmful cultural practises which occur in the “West” by “educated” people on a daily basis. We don’t talk about the brutal murder to two women a week by an abusive current or former partner as a harmful cultural practise despite the fact that it clearly is.

Gendered violence by men against women and girls, in all its forms, are cultural practises. They do not exist outside of our culture and they are not ‘anomalies” or “isolated incidents”. We focus on practises committed elsewhere because we do not want to acknowledge the reality of misogyny, racism, classism, and homophobia. We live in a white supremacist culture which defines violence against women in “non-Western” as cultural, yet we refuse to acknowledge the same violence within our own culture in a similar manner.

This week, the New York Times published an article on the increase in foot surgery among wealthy women in New York so the women can wear shoes created by Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik. We know that high heels cause permanent damage to women’s bodies, which are exactly the same as the damage caused by foot-binding. We know this, yet we pretend that having surgery to be able to wear designer shoes is a “choice” women make – that women do so out with any cultural pressure.

If we are serious about ending violence against women and girls across the world, we need to stop pretending that harmful cultural practises are things which only happen to “other” women from “over there”. We need to start examining the rise in plastic surgery in the “West” as a harmful cultural practise. We need to start examining the fashion-beauty complex as part of these practises: from shoes to make-up to surgery to fit an idealised version of female beauty which is young, white, thin, and utterly unattainable.

We need to recognise that gendered violence does not exist in isolation. We need to recognise that domestic and sexual violence and abuse are harmful cultural practises regardless of where they occur. And, we need to recognise that a culture which bases women’s value on their physical body and ability to pass the patriarchal fuckability test is harmful.


* All of the terms in quotation marks are clearly problematic and inherently racist.

Yet, More Offensive Advertising from Dove: The Beauty Patch

Anyone familiar with my rants, knows how much I detest Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaigns aimed at making women feel better about no longer having prepubescent bodies in their 40s whilst flogging them over-priced moisturisers and face creams which certainly don’t do what they are advertised to do and are made from animal by-products. And, this is without getting into the whole Dove is owned by Unilever who also flog women Slim-Fast because they are simultaneously “real” and fat, as well Fair & Lovely & White Beauty skin lightening products – the racism of which is self-evident.  They also produce the hyper-sexualised Lynx ads which treat women as fuck objects for men’s pleasure incapable of making rational decisions because of a man’s smell.

Dove have hit a whole new level of hypocrisy with their new Beauty patch ad which is part of their “Campaign for Real Beauty”.

This was the opening advertisement for the move Spiderman that I took my youngest, super-hero obsessed daughter to see. I sat for the first few minutes trying to decide if Dove were marketing a real product or not. And, this is the problem.

Dove think the “Beauty Patch” is an interesting new advertising gimmick when it’s just the same old body-shaming bullshit dressed to make women feel stupid about not believing they are beautiful so they go out and buy the entirety of Dove’s range of products.  And, not only do Dove imply women are stupid, they are actively propagating the myth that women are too stupid to know that a patch on your arm can’t make you feel beautiful when you are living in a culture which is predicated on body-shaming women into buying unnecessary products fuelling the capitalist economy.

Dove isn’t interested in women feeling beautiful and powerful. If we did, there would be no need for their campaign.  We need to start examining these advertisement campaigns under the UN definition of “harmful cultural practises”.  This term is usually reserved for things other people do somewhere else to women over there and is inherently racist because it assumes western women are enlightened and empowered and are not subject to cultural practises which are harmful to their physical and emotional well-being. It ignores the reality of eating disorders, body dysmorphia and the increase in plastic surgery on everything from breasts, thighs and tummies to vaginas and anuses being deemed imperfect.

Our culture raises women to be nothing more than fucktoys. This is a harmful cultural practise and Dove, and Unilever, are complicit in perpetuating this harm to make money.

Because all this is is a way to make more women hate their bodies so they will spend all of their income buying products to make their bodies fit the checklist of the patriarchal fuckability test.

Frankly, Unliver can just fuck right off.


The Obsession with perfection is violence against women

I love Jean Kilbourne. I can’t even remember when I first saw her work. I think it was in high school on a field trip to Toronto when we saw one of her recorded speeches. It does matter how many times I read her or watch her videos online.

The Obsession with perfection is violence against women: it is part of a continuum of male violence which teaches women that we simply aren’t good enough unless we pass the patriarchal fuckability test, which is impossible.

It’s well worth checking out some of her other videos:

Killing us Softly 3:



And, If you haven’t seen Miss Representation yet, do so now: