Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category


There is a cop who is both prowler and father:
he comes from your block, grew up with your brothers,
had certain ideals.
You hardly know him in his boots and silver badge,
on horseback, one hand touching his gun.

You hardly know him but you have to get to know him:
he has access to machinery that could kill you.
He and his stallion clop like warlords among the trash,
his ideals stand in the air, a frozen cloud
from between his unsmiling lips.

And so, when the time comes, you have to turn to him,
the maniac’s sperm still greasing your thighs,
your mind whirling like crazy. You have to confess
to him, you are guilty of the crime
of having been forced.

And you see his blue eyes, the blue eyes of all the family
whom you used to know, grow narrow and glisten,
his hand types out the details
and he wants them all
but the hysteria in your voice pleases him best.

You hardly know him but now he thinks he knows you:
he has taken down your worst moment
on a machine and filed it in a file.
He knows, or thinks he knows, how much you imagined;
he knows, or thinks he knows, what you secretly wanted.

He has access to machinery that could get you put away;
and if, in the sickening light of the precinct,
and if, in the sickening light of the precinct,
your details sound like a portrait of your confessor,
will you swallow, will you deny them, will you lie your way home?

— Adrienne Rich

I just found a Collected Poems of Adrienne Rich second hand today. This one is depressingly topical right now.

Plus, the best piece I’ve read on DSK: Rebecca Solnit at Guernica Magazine.


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Women's lib demonstration

“… for the disproportionate fear that the statistically and historically minimal group of women who were both angry and had hairy legs have inculcated both in their detractors and in their wannabe-successors, we should salute them as often as possible” — Nina Power, One Dimensional Woman

“[Baumgardner and Richards’] Manifesta authors offer a more confident vision of feminism than that of their immediate predecessors—less brittle, more welcoming of dissent and secure in its ability to integrate popular culture. But for all that, it’s a remarkably cloistered, orderly vision, totally lacking in imaginative scope. There is no anarchy here; each cry of rebellion is quickly quieted by the need for consensus. We keep hearing that feminists don’t hate men. Shouldn’t some of them hate men? Doesn’t the world have room for a man-hating feminist faction?” Kerry Howley

As my other half would put it: quite so.

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This is a terrific study, full of science! But what’s missing from the news report on it, the Today interview with one of the researchers, and the Institute of Child Health press release about it? Could it be the word ‘father’? Are these people really studying the effects on children when their mothers work, or are they studying the effects on children when both parents work? They don’t seem to have looked at the scenario where the mother works and the father stays at home preventing his children from drinking sugary drinks and watching telly. Or, you know, the scenario where one mother stays at home and the other mother goes to work. Who designed this study? Betty Draper from Mad Men?

Slap her! That's the only way to treat these pesky working mothers

Slap her! That's the only way to treat these pesky working mothers

PS. I like the way that the Today interviewee admits that working mothers can bring benefits to the family, like ‘increased income’. Er… yes.

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Hazel Dickens (who also has a song called Will Jesus wash the bloodstains from your hands? Cool!) singing a song written by Joe Hill – song starts at about 1 min 8 sec.

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My dear sister writing fine good sense on Sarko’s threat to ban the burqa in France.

Going off on a slight tangent, Hadley Freeman with an excellent piece on confessional journalism from the likes of the very insane Liz Jones (but specifically prompted by this car-crash piece on breast implants by another woman in the Daily Mail). Shapely Prose discuss that here, and Jezebel talk about confessional journalism here, including this very good piece of advice, which I completely agree with: 

One of the best pieces of feminist advice I’ve ever gotten is not to insult my own body in front of others. It perpetuates the idea that women should hate our bodies — that our inevitable physical flaws are worth valuable brain-space and conversational time.

Jill Parkin wrote a piece a while ago on the pressure on young female journalists to write this kind of breast-beating, soul-searching nonsense. I think one of the people she might be referring to is Tanya Gold, who writes the most horrible, pointless pieces in the Guardian about her past disastrous love life.

It’s interesting that a type of journalism which started out as liberating for women is now oppressive to them. In the sixties and seventies, there was a spate of new columns about how the authors were failing to live up to the shiny perfection of 1950s portrayals of family life (the disintegration of the post-war ideal of family life is dealt with nicely in Mad Men). Katharine Whitehorn (Have you ever taken something out of the clothes hamper because it had become, relatively, the cleanest thing?’) was one of the first of these. At that level – friendly, gossipy, light-hearted, matter-of-fact – that kind of writing is liberating, freeing women from having to pretend that everything was perfect.

But the self-indulgent wallowings of Liz Jones are not only a million miles from Katharine Whitehorn’s breezy style, they’re also something that oppresses women, constantly reminding us that our bodies are seen as the most important thing about us, validating self-hatred, and representing women’s concerns and interests as purely vacuous and self-obsessed.

Furthermore, there’s a class element to the stories on offer. How many people have the money to have three breast alteration operations at £6,000 a pop? Liz Jones is constantly reminding us of either her marvellous big house or her expensive clothes. Obviously it’s not remotely new or interesting to point out how middle-class the world of mainstream journalism is, and how out of touch most ‘lifestyle’ columnists are with most people’s concerns, but even so you have to wonder what editors are thinking when their take on women’s issues is about someone agonising over whether she should have a fourth boob job.

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Nice to see that Nadine Dorries thinks a house that’s paid for with taxpayers’ money should be part of her private life, but what I do with my personal uterus should be something the state should be involved in.

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Jessica Valenti in the Observer

Nice interview with Jessica Valenti of Feministing in yesterday’s Observer. I like her anecdote about Naomi Wolf. Although the interviewer seems to completely miss the point here:

With the rise of federally funded abstinence education, the ever-imminent overturning of the right to have an abortion, and the general promotion of the virtues of virginity, Valenti wants to, as she puts it, “outline a new way for us to think about young women as moral actors, one that doesn’t include their bodies”. This is a laudable aim, though one that might appear to be at odds with the declaration that feminism makes you better in bed; certainly Valenti’s oeuvre so far has not exactly made women’s bodies seem irrelevant.

The point is, body and sex as indicator of morality. There’s nothing wrong with sex or bodies; in fact I think it’s difficult to talk about feminism and leave them out, but what people do privately with their bodies – having sex, having an abortion – has very little to do with whether they are good people.

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Excellent article in today’s Guardian on contemporary American women novelists. I love Elaine Showalter, and she really makes me want to read some of these writers. I haven’t read much American literature at all, although I do love Annie Proulx and her country-and-western narratives set in the rural west. I’ve also been meaning to read Marilynne Robinson for a while, from various people’s recommendations.

Another american woman novelist, Marilyn French, died last week (the Guardian obituary is here). I love The women’s room and am actually in the process of re-reading it at the moment: it’s dated, like a lot of the great sixties feminist novels, but still very good. I love all those angry, personal novels of self-discovery of the second-wave feminist movement: it’s good to be reminded how far we’ve come and how intense and amazing an effect feminism has had on so many people’s lives.

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