Yearly Archives: 2010

Diana Leonard, 1941-2010 1

Diana Leonard, one of the founders of Trouble & Strife magazine, died on 27 November; her funeral takes place in London today.  Di was a member of the magazine’s original editorial collective, who also wrote for it (her work appears in the T&S Reader which was published last year) and supported it actively throughout its 20-year life as a printed publication.  Her friend and former colleague Miriam David (also a one-time contributor to T&S) has written an obituary which reminds us how much Di contributed to feminism both as an activist and an academic.  She will be greatly missed.

Gigantic timber-framed house in Labour’s eye 1

OMG!!! A Tory says it’s OK to not rent a room to gay people!!! Labour says this is BAD!!! Tories are EVVILL!!!

According to the Telegraph article:

Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said: “Chris Grayling is proposing that the Conservatives pass legislation allowing business people to discriminate against homosexuals. David Cameron should either back him on this or sack him.”

Because it is NOT RIGHT!! for religious fundamentalists or even moderate Christians to prevent gay people from renting a room in a B&B.

But apparently it’s OK to deny women their basic right to health care:

Pharmacists across the UK have been told they can continue to refuse to prescribe items that might clash with their personal religious beliefs.
A revised code of conduct from the new industry regulator will allow staff to opt out of providing items such as the morning-after pill and contraception.

If a woman has a prescription, pharmacists should be obliged to fill the prescription, and should not be allowed to impose their religious beliefs on their customers. If they can’t do this, they should leave the profession.

Get the fucking beam out of your eye, Labour, and do something about this travesty.

Gagging on WAGS 1

So, this morning’s news is ‘it’s Samantha (Cameron) versus Sarah (Brown)’: the new election strategy is to involve the party leaders’ wives.

This whole ‘first lady’ thing is hideous, like a throwback to some age we’d hoped was over when women were automatically just men’s appendages, helpmeets and decorative trophies. Though in other ways it’s very modern: a symptom of the celebrity culture which politics now inhabits just as much as football or pop music. 

Possibly the reason the campaign managers are encouraging it is partly because they think female voters are turned off by all the men in suits and would appreciate some kind of female presence in the campaign. And maybe that’s true. But who says that what women voters really want to hear is the WAGS of male politicians telling us how great their husbands are? Is this what the suffragettes chained themselves to the railings for–so we could vote for the man with the most adoring, most personable wife?

Then again, when a woman does get some press because she is herself a political candidate, it’s quite likely she will be newsworthy for the wrong reasons–perhaps she will be someone of the ilk of Anna Arrowsmith, the Lib Dem candidate who used to be a porn director. Cue saucy innuendos from the tabloids and a thundering sermon from Ann Widdecombe.

Anyone else out there thinking of taking to their bed and hiding under the covers until this celebrified, testosterone-driven electoral contest is over?

Libbers 8

I’m not quite sure what to make of tonight’s Libbers episode of the BBC Four programme Women.

I’m trying to figure out who the target audience is intended to be. For women familiar with the women’s liberation movement, there is potentially some interesting history and archive footage, but I can’t imagine what women unfamiliar with the politics and history of the movement might make of it.

As a history of the origins of the movement, it didn’t quite hit the mark, as it focussed on a few (famous, white, middle class) (mostly) writers: Robin Morgan, Kate Millett, Marilyn French, Germaine Greer, Sheila Rowbotham, Ann Oakley, Susan Brownmiller, and Lynn Alderson.

As an exploration of early influential feminist writings, it also didn’t quite work. For example, the programme gave varying amounts of background to Brownmiller’s Against Our Will, Greer’s The Female Eunuch and French’s The Women’s Room, but didn’t mention any of Rowbotham’s writings and gave short shrift to Millett’s Sexual Politics.

The writer/director Vanessa Engle seemed to have a checklist of things to question her subjects about, regardless of whether it arose naturally within the context of the interview — most bizarrely asking each of them if they had vaginal or clitoral orgasms. WTF?

Media watch–reviewing feminism 2

Last week BBC 2’s Friday night Review Show was entirely devoted to debating feminism: what was it, what did it achieve, is it dead and if so whose fault is that, you know the sort of thing. Doubtless we’ll be getting a lot more of this stuff in the media as we approach the 40th anniversary of the first British WLM conference, held at Ruskin College in Oxford in 1970. If this Review Show is a sign of things to come, I’m not sure how much more ‘celebration’ I can take.

The first rule of any media debate on feminism is that the participants should all be media celebrities and general-purpose pundits, with a maximum of one of them having any actual experience of or commitment to feminist politics. If there are three or more people on the panel then one should be male, and at least one (who may but need not be the token man) should hold provocatively anti-feminist views. On the Review Show the feminist slot was filled by Germaine Greer, the male/anti-feminist slot by Toby Young, and the other two guests were Rachel Johnson (editor of The Lady) and Zoe Margolis (who writes about sex from a female perspective). They reviewed Natasha Walter’s book Living Dolls, Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow (billed as a ‘feminist’ novel about the sexual/gender revolution, though the reviewers were sensibly not convinced), and a series of BBC 4 documentaries on women which will be shown during March (the clip they showed contained the astonishing revelation that men who describe their marital relationships as equal still don’t clean the bath).

The good news is that neither Rachel Johnson nor Zoe Margolis provided quite what one imagines the producers hoped they would (respectively a conservative and a sexual libertarian view). Zoe Margolis particularly impressed me by describing Martin Amis as ‘condescending’ and slapping down Toby Young when he suggested that since she wrote about sex, she must be in favour of promiscuity and porn. The not so good news is that the only person to offer any properly thought-out political analysis of anything was Germaine Greer. Actually, she was great. But her ability to make cogent arguments while her juniors floundered was slightly depressing: feminism, though not yet dead, appears to be travelling on a senior citizen’s bus pass.

Or maybe not. The only actual example of contemporary feminism with which this programme concerned itself was Natasha Walter’s book. And Natasha Walter’s book represents, among other things, a shift on the author’s part towards a more radical sexual politics than she espoused in her first book The New Feminism. Walter now believes that the liberal agenda she favoured in the past didn’t address some of the more unpalatable and less tractable aspects of unequal gender relations, like the sexual objectification and exploitation of women which is in many ways more intense now than it was 20 or indeed 40 years ago. Once the poster-girl for ‘the new feminism’, Walter is now saying things that sound a lot more like the old feminism; perhaps there is life in the old lady yet.

The less radical TV reviewers didn’t care for this thought. They found Living Dolls too bleak, too preachy or too man-hating. Two of them also dismissed Natasha Walter as a middle class snob expressing high-minded distaste for the culture of working class women—as if Nuts and Spearmint Rhino were (a) as authentically proletarian as whippet-racing and brass bands, and (b) part of the culture of women of any group.

The programme was, all in all, a sort of Cook’s Tour of all the stupid, lazy, uninformed things you can say about feminism in 2010. As we get closer to British second-wave feminism’s 40th the tenor of the media coverage is something worth keeping an eye on: I hope other users of this site will contribute to this ‘media watch’.

In New Orleans, prostitute = sex offender 4

Colorlines reports on a law in New Orleans that was originally intended to target child sex abusers that is being used instead against prostitutes.

A conviction on this charge is a more serious felony offense rather than a misdemeanour, carries a longer sentence, and requires the prostitute to register as a sex offender.

Of the 861 sex offenders currently registered in New Orleans, 483 were convicted of a crime against nature, according to Doug Cain, a spokesperson with the Louisiana State Police. And of those convicted of a crime against nature, 78 percent are Black and almost all are women.

It is a complete outrage that the victims of prostitution are being prosecuted and forced to register as sex offenders for the crime of “unnatural copulation” (anal or oral sex). The article does not mention if johns are also being charged with this offense as co-participants in the acts, but I suspect not.

I’m rather rusty on my Mary Daly, but I think she would have called this a Patriarchal Reversal.