Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 09.16.07Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl is part of Vintage Hogarth Shakespeare 400th anniversary series, which sees modern writers reinterpreting Shakespeare. Generally, I’m not a fan of Shakespeare finding the desperation to name him the greatest writer ever deeply tedious with an unpleasant under current of nationalism, racism, misogyny and classism. I only came across the series when I read Jeannette Winterson’s retelling of a Winter’s Tale (Gap of Time), which is excellent. I had never read Tyler, but had high hopes based on this description: 

Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.

Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.

When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?”

It was a complete let-down.


Continue reading Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl

So, “sex workers” are propping up the Patriarchy. All by themselves.

I believe the sex industry perpetuates violence against women and children: from prostitution to lap dancing to gonzo porn: it is an industry built on the abuse of the bodies of women and children. There are a small number of women working within the sex industry who do so by choice, however limited those choses are within a capitalist-patriarchy where the majority of labour of women remains unpaid despite the entire economy requiring wifework and childcare  to function. This group of women aren’t representative of the lives of the vast majority of women and children within the sex industry. As long as we live within a capitalist-patriarchy, I support the Nordic model of decriminalising those who sell sex (usually women and children) and criminalises the purchasing of sex (pretty much always men). The model requires proper implementation with support for housing, education, healthcare and childcare (among a multitude of other supports) but I do not believe that legalising sex work will help liberate women, as a class, from male violence and rape culture.

That said, I’m incredibly fucked off by Women’s Hours dismissive treatment of the sex workers interviewed . When a woman tells you they’ve experienced sexual harassment whilst working as a waitress, the proper response is not to state it’s less problematic than sex work. Sexual harassment on the job, any job, is a crime and we need to treat it as such. Women working as waitresses should not expect to be “chatted” or “felt up” by customers as a matter of course. It is precisely this kind of arrogance which perpetuates rape culture and puts women, within the service industry, at risk. Yes, the potential for violence is higher for women within the sex industry, but this does not mean that the women working within it deserves to experience violence.

Sex workers are living in the patriarchy, just like every other woman on the planet which the workers interviewed made very clear. And, we need to deal with this. The capitalist-patriarchy is only beneficial for a limited number of women. Most of us are living the best we can within the limited options we have. Women in all forms of employment deal with sexual harassment, abuse and shit. The capitalist-patriarchy is harmful to women in all industries and pretending this isn’t true harms women.

This said, I really, really object to Jane Garvey saying this to a group of sex workers: “couldn’t be doing anything that perpetuates the patriarchy more than sex work.” It is so lacking in feminist analysis  that I don’t know where to start. I am so fucking angry by this statement. People who are perpetuating the patriarchy are Terry Richardson: world-famous fashion photographer and sexual predator. The people hiring Richardson are perpetuating the patriarchy. Women trying to pay their bills are women trying to pay their bills. Suggesting that they are somehow upholding the patriarchy all by themselves is disgraceful.

Not to mention the fact that it’s fucking Women’s Hour saying it: a program which supports the Patriarchy on a daily basis by dismissing women’s concerns and inviting men to speak on behalf of women. the hypocrisy is astounding.

Welcome to the Patriarchy where dogs are more important than women

Welcome to the Patriarchy where the brutal murder of two women are insignificant in the face of the death of four dogs. At least, according to The Mirror who responded to the murders of  Christine Lee, 66, and daughter Lucy, 40,  with a chat to the RSPCA.

Granted the death of 4 dogs isn’t something to celebrate but I’m going to go ahead  and suggest that brutal murder of two women by a male member of their family is (a) not an isolated incident but rather part of systemic male violence against women and (b) more worrying than the death of four dogs. I’m sure I’m going to get a pile full of hate mail for this stance but I really don’t care.

Christine Lee and her daughter Lucy were brutally murdered.  Men who kill women who are known to them almost always have a history of domestic violence. Yes, John Lowe, 82, has a documented history of animal abuse and had been give a 5 year ban on breeding dogs by the local council but this is important because animal abuse can be a warning sign of domestic violence.

Lets focus on what is important here: another man violently killing women. A full history of his abuse of animals is not necessary. What is important is investigating whether or not he has a documented history of violence against women, which I’m fairly sure it will.

This is the story of the murder of Christine and Lucy.

Their family deserves our consideration and support.

Christine and Lucy deserve our collective will to end violence against women.


Thank you to Counting Dead Women for raising this disgraceful example of misogyny.



Proud to be a Man-Hating Lesbian: On Patriachal Approved Feminism

Technically, I’m not a lesbian but I’m a RadFem which, apparently, makes me a man-hating, anti-sex lesbian by default. You know, as opposed to those other feminists who have to go around telling people they aren’t “that kind” of feminist: the lesbians who hate men and wear dungarees.

So, once and for all, if your feminism involves stereotyping other feminists, you need to work on knowledge of Feminism 101. I get that Andrew Verrijdt genuinely thought he was trying to help women and the feminist movement by proclaiming his support but what he’s actually done is reinforce a fallacious dichotomy between “good” feminists and “bad” feminists: bad feminists being the man-hating lesbian variety. “Good” feminists are the ones that men want to fuck. “Bad” feminists are ugly, man-hating lesbians.

We need to loose this discourse between bad and good feminists and stop buying into the Patriarchy’s definition of Acceptable Feminism, which is those feminists men still deem fuckable. I’m a feminist because I want nothing less than the liberation of all women from the capitalist-patriarchy. I do not need some middle class white guy telling me whether or not I count as a “good” feminist, even if the rest of his article is actually quite good.

Claiming that your feminism is different from those “man-hating, dungaree wearing lesbian feminists” just reinforces lies about feminism. Feminists need to stop stating stereotypes about other feminists and otherwise you might just be reinforcing a heteronormative construction of feminism which denigrates lesbian feminists.

You Too Can be a Model or a Pop Star: Living the Barbie Dream

Remember when Barbie was President of the United States? A vet? An entrepreneur with a string of high street stores? An astronaut? A paraolympian? A jockey?

Remember when Barbie’s body measurements were hateful but Barbie herself could do anything and be anything?

I do.

It’s unlikely my kids will remember Barbie this way since Barbie is now either a model, pop star or actress. It’s not that Barbie can’t be President of the United States since a limited edition Barbie for President 2012 doll was produced or that Barbie the Vet is no more, it’s simply that the most easily available versions of Barbie for sale on the high street are fairies, mermaids, princesses, models and popstars; all of which are tied into films and all of that subsequent merchandising. 

To be fair, I also had Pop Star Barbie; mine owned a record company, spoke 6 languages and had a PhD in archaeology. It’s probably fair to say I was a nerd. It’s not also that I think girls today lack the imaginations to make their Barbie mermaids into something; my small has made her Barbie mermaid into a superhero but Barbie used to be every girl [even with the ridiculous figure]. Now, even with the new more “realistic” bodies, Barbie is actually more 
limited in terms of careers and adventures.

The Barbie films may be predicated on the notion of girl power and female friendships, heck Barbie and the 3 Musketeers is practically Germaine Greer-approved, but they are reinforcing an even more narrow version of femininity that is inherently harmful for girls. The opening of the first life-sized Barbie Dreamhouse in Berlin is just further reinforcing the idea of Barbie-as-Object rather than Barbie-the-Adventure-Girl of my childhood. 

Barbie-of-the-Dreamhouse only allows two careers: model or pop star. Girls can pretend to bake cupcakes in her fake kitchen and rifle through her wardrobe. There is no evidence of President Barbie or Barbie The Musketeer or Barbie the Vet here. It’s just the plastic pink version of femininity that Barbie has been criticised for more than 40 years. At this point, I’d love a return to Malibu Barbie and Stacey who hang out at the beach surfing. At least they were athletes. Barbie-of-the-Dreamhouse doesn’t do adventures and I’m not entirely sure when she works as a model or pop star when she seems to spend all her time baking cupcakes and dressing up.

Barbie had an opportunity to change into something really quite radical with the return of President Barbie. Instead, Mattel has returned to the pink princess twaddle. 

And, don’t even get me started on Barbie the TV series which is available on youtube. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to post-modern irony or the brainchild of someone deeply stupid but it is well past creepy.

Don’ cha Wish Your Girlfriend: Reinforcing the Patriarchal Fuckability Test

I loathe the PussyCat Dolls’ “Dontcha Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me”. Lyrically, it’s a master-class in woman-blaming culture and passing the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. This just got retweeted into my TL and I love it:

Pony Pony Tangerina‏@ColeyTangerina: DONTCHA WISH YOUR GIRLFRIEND WAS uninterested in competitive beauty standards that undermine the solidarity women need to end patriarchy.

Blondie are the same. The lyrics of some of their biggest hits are about being desperate for a man; especially a man in a relationship with another woman. There is nothing powerful or liberating about hurting another woman and the lyrics in these types of songs both encourage the myth that women need a man all the time and that the only way for women to have any value is if a man wants to fuck them. 

The Patriarchal Fuckability Test is dangerous for all women. The “you need a man to be complete” is equally dangerous. We need to stop purchasing music which encourages these myths, even if they are sung by women.

The lyrics are below: 

Don’t Cha”
(feat. Busta Rhymes)

[Busta Rhymes]
OK (ahh)
Yeah (ahh)
Oh, we about to get it just a lil hot and sweaty in this mu’fucka (oh, baby)
Ladies let’s go (uhh)
Soldiers let’s go (dolls)
Let me talk to y’all and just you know
Give you a little situation… listen (fellas)

[Buster Rhymes]
Pussycat Dolls
Ya see this shit get hot
Everytime I come through when I step up in the spot (are you ready)
Make the place sizzle like a summertime cookout
Prowl for the best chick
Yes I’m on the lookout (let’s dance)
Slow banging shorty like a belly dancer with it
Smell good, pretty skin, so gangsta with it (oh, baby)
No tricks only diamonds under my sleeve
Gimme the number
But make sure you call before you leave

[Pussycat Dolls]
I know you like me (I know you like me)
I know you do (I know you do)
That’s why whenever I come around
She’s all over you (she’s all over you)
I know you want it (I know you want it)
It’s easy to see (it’s easy to see)
And in the back of your mind
I know you should be on with me (babe)

Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?
Don’t cha?
Don’t cha?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me?
Don’t cha?
Don’t cha?

Fight the feeling (fight the feeling)
Leave it alone (leave it alone)
‘Cause if it ain’t love
It just ain’t enough to leave my happy home (my happy home)
Let’s keep it friendly (let’s keep it friendly)
You have to play fair (you have to play fair)
See I don’t care
But I know she ain’t gonna wanna share

Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?
Don’t cha?
Don’t cha?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me?
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me?
Don’t cha?
Don’t cha?

[Busta Rhymes]
OK, I see how it’s goin’ down (ahh, don’t cha)
Seems like shorty wanna little menage pop off or something (let’s go)
Well let me get straight to it
Every broad wan watch a nigga when I come through it
It’s the god almighty, looking all brand new
If shorty wanna jump in my ass then vanquish
Looking at me all like she really wanna do it
Tryna put it on me till my balls black an blueish
Ya wanna play wit ah playa girl then play on
Strip out the Chanel
And leave the lingerie on
Watch me and I’mma watch you at the same time
Looking at ya wan break my back
You’re the very reason why I keep a pack ah the Magnum
An wit the wagon hit chu in the back of tha magnum
For the record, don’t think it was something you did
Shorty all on me cause it’s hard to resist the kid
I got a idea that’s dope for y’all
As y’all could get so I could hit the both of y’all

[Pussycat Dolls] 
I know she loves you (I know she loves you) 
I understand (I understand) 
I’d probably be just as crazy about you 
If you were my own man 
Maybe next lifetime (maybe next lifetime) 
Possibly (possibly) 
Until then old friend 
Your secret is safe with me 

Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? 
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me? 
Don’t cha? 
Don’t cha? 
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was raw like me? 
Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was fun like me? 

#StopBiggestLoser: The Myth of Parental Consent

Anyone who reads this blog will not be surprised by my stance on reality television. I think its the 21st century version of the 19th century freak show. Our main source of entertainment is the deliberate and malicious humiliation of vulnerable people. I have no interest in any kind of reality television from X-Factor to Dancing with the Stars to Celebrity Big Brother to anything featuring Gok Wan. They have no value except in their exploitation of people for the entertainment of others. I genuinely don’t understand why people watch them; or why people think it’s acceptable to make snide and offensive remarks about the physical appearance of the contestants.

Reality television is cruel when it’s X-Factor; The Biggest Loser takes it to a whole new level of violence. The fat-shaming is indefensible and inhumane. That is without getting into the quite serious health consequences of crash dieting. Yoni Freedhoof MD has written eloquently on the physical and emotional harm caused by The Biggest Loser in the Huffington Post linking to a study which “demonstrated that watching even a single episode of The Biggest Loser dramatically increased hateful weight bias among viewers — an effect that was heightened among non-overweight viewers”. The Biggest Loser buys into the worst kind of hateful choice rhetoric which blames individuals for their “poor choices” without acknowledging the political, social and personal structures within which their “choices” are made.

The Biggest Loser is hateful, fat-shaming misogyny at its most insidious; dressed up as entertainment for bullies.

This season’s The Biggest Loser has taken the bullying a step further and allowed three children to “participate” in the program: two of whom are only 13. They are 13 years old and their parents have consented to their public humiliation and bullying.

There are a few things which parents should be legally prohibited from consenting to on behalf of their children and participation in reality television is one of those things. No child should be placed in a position wherein the outcome would be their public humiliation and that includes MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen to Toddlers and Tiaras and it’s spin-off Honey Boo Boo. Children deserve the right to grow up safe and secure. Placing them in front of cameras and labelling them fat or spoilt or stupid is not allowing children to be children. It is adults profiting from the emotional and physical abuse of children. No parent should have the legal right to put their child in this position.

Children are not possessions and we do them tremendous harm when we treat them as such.

We need to stop treating our children as possessions and we need to stop pretending that parental consent trumps all (and that’s without getting into the whole your baby, your choice or a happy mamma = a happy baby twaddle which is used to excuse all manner of nincompoopery). There are already many things in which parental consent is invalidated due to state laws. We need to expand this to prohibit the appearance of children on reality television.

Parental consent is not a get-out clause. It is a myth. Parents should not have the legal right to make decisions on behalf of their children which will cause them imminent harm. Appearing on reality television is harmful. Allowing our children to be bullied and humiliated for “entertainment” is harmful.

But, this isn’t just about the parents who consent to “allowing” their children to appear on reality television. As I have said in the Huffington Post: “(b)efore we start blaming others, we need to check our own behaviour, examine our own privilege, and stop financially supporting an industry based on the abject humiliation of others”. We need to prohibit the appearance of children on reality television but we also need to stop allowing children to watch reality television. 

We need to stop exposing our children to “entertainment” which gives them permission to verbally abusive to others.

We need to stop exposing our children to “entertainment” which tells them that fat-shaming and slut-shaming are acceptable behaviours.

We need to stop exposing our children to “entertainment” which tells them that they deserve to be publicly humiliated for being “different”.

We need to stop telling our children that being a “celebrity” is more important than their emotional well-being.

Our reality television culture obsession needs to end.

Our children deserve better.

And, parental consent is not an excuse.