Sarah Catt: Reinforcing My Pro-Choice Stance

I’ve written and erased this blogpost several times now. I’ve followed the case in the media but I don’t feel competent or qualified to comment. As Glosswitch said “I didn’t attend her trial, don’t live in her head and have no idea, in the grand scheme of things, how harshly she deserves to be judged.” The case is disturbing and, frankly, asks more questions that I feel comfortable with trying to answer for myself. But, I do think 8 years is an incredibly harsh sentence. It may be that Catt is just a woman who didn’t want to be pregnant but I suspect there is more to the case than has been released publicly [or assumed by the men moralising about her behaviour]. I doubt very much a man whose violence towards a pregnant partner resulted in the death of the fetus would have gotten 8 years. Hell, I doubt he would have gotten 6 months. 

I’m still struggling to adequately express my misgivings about this case but it has reinforced my belief that women should have the right to choose an abortion at any point without qualification or artificial hierarchy of “good” versus “bad” abortions. [I also believe that poverty should not be the reason a woman chooses to have an abortion. We should have a welfare state that would support her, regardless of that choice. Obviously, I’m away with the fairies on this one too]. Below is the information about a pro-choice rally on Saturday September 29th in London. Money permitting, I will be there to support women’s right to choose so that no other woman ends up in prison for 8 years like Sarah Catt for aborting a pregnancy they did not want.

It’s time for Action on Abortion!

coathanger fistRights for Northern Ireland
Global decriminalisation of abortion
An end to harassment at abortion clinics
What? Demo for Action on Abortion
When? Saturday 29th September, 2.00 – 4.00 pm
Where? Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament
The summer is just about over and that means the next round of ‘vigils’ outside abortion clinics is almost upon us. This autumn, the start of 40 Days for Life’s anti-choice campaign coincides with the events to mark the International Day for the Decriminalisation of Abortion – which we’ll be marking with calls for rights for women in Northern Ireland and full decriminalisation in the UK. So now’s the time to raise our voices on all these crucial issues.
What’s the problem?
  • Abortion in Northern Ireland is outlawed in almost all circumstances. Women who want to terminate a pregnancy must travel to the UK or abroad to access services at great emotional and financial cost.
    Women in Northern Ireland need abortion rights.
  • Abortion law in England, Scotland and Wales is outdated. Although we have high quality abortion services, there is no ‘right’ to abortion. The consent of two doctors is required and each abortion must fit certain grounds.
    We need full decriminalisation and abortion on request.
  • There are 20 million unsafe abortions around the world every year – most of them in countries where abortion is criminalised or restricted. At least 47,000 women will die as a result and thousands more will suffer ill health.
    We need worldwide decriminalisation of abortion & safe reproductive healthcare for all.
  • Anti-choice campaigners are increasingly protesting outside abortion clinics – targeting individual women, causing distress and intimidation and sometimes even filming them.
    Women need privacy and safety when accessing abortions. The government must commit to stopping clinic harassment.

The Offensive Product One

This rocked up on my FB news feed via the group Feminism! [who are definitely worth following. Just so you get the privilege of seeing this image with your coffee first thing.] I’m not sure what I can say about this that Feminists haven’t already said in the comments section but, seriously, what kind of sick fuck buys shit like this? Because, I’m struggling to see how anyone who isn’t a sociopath or a rapist would find this funny. 

The only possible benefit would be to spot a misogynist at 500 yards but I’d rather go with not triggering victims of sexualised violence at the luggage carousel. Maybe that’s just the weird feminist in me: the whole not doing anything to deliberately hurt others thing. But, this, this is why free speech is only the privilege of already privileged men. No one who actually cared about the right to free speech for everyone who defend this shit.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: Vagenda Knocks Them Down

These images are taken from a blogpost on Vagenda. I think they’ve brilliantly deconstructed the misogyny. But, sometimes, you just need to look at the images a second time to fully understand the WTF?  bit. [Or, a third time in this case].*


*Between, Kookai definitely don’t sell yogurt. I googled just in case there were two companies called Kookai. There aren’t.
**Surely, PETA should be starting a campaign against French Connection now. That way, we can admire the misogyny squared.
*** Pot Noodle: The Lynx Effect of Food. Only eat them if you have a penis and are stupid****

****Not everyone with a penis is stupid so please don’t bother posting that level of nincompoopery as a comment.

#EverydaySexism : The Economist is a Men’s Interest Magazine

According to Tescos, The Economist is a “men’s interest” magazine. Obviously, women aren’t interested in or capable of understanding politics; what with having female brains. Or, something.

*Apparently, Tescos have acknowledged that these signs are sexist and will be removing them.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: Estee Lauder

Sophie Barnes has already written an excellent critique of the unrelenting stupidity and just all around arrogance of this product in the New Statesman. Estee Lauder’s new Advanced Night Repair comes with the tagline: “The revolutionary repair formulas millions of women can’t live without.” As Barnes says:

Turns out the one thing that women require as a basic need the world over is anti-aging cream. No, not clean running water or access to electricity. Not even the oxygen we breathe is as crucial or as life-sustaining as holding off those wrinkles, ladies. This isn’t just that we’d quite like healthy, younger-looking skin – no, it’s not that flippant. We NEED a youthful, bouncy complexion – our very lives depend on it. 

Who knew? Women could actually die from having wrinkles. I’m so glad Estee Lauder has brought this to my attention. Now, I know the secret to eternal life is some over-priced anti-aging cream. All those centuries alchemists spent looking for the Philosopher’s stone trying to turn base metals into gold and live forever were wasted. All we need is some anti-aging cream because being old is, well, practically a crime. Next thing, women with wrinkles will be imprisoned for failing the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. 

So, I’m adding Estee Lauder to the boycott list for being offensive, stupid and totally lacking in an understanding of the real problems we face as humans.

"My Elegant Gathering of White Pussies"

This appears to be quite a popular search term for my blog. I don’t want to disappoint my readers so here are some images of white pussies for your enjoyment: 

Publishing Nude Photos Without Consent is Sexualised Violence

I’ve said this before and I’m sure I’ll be saying it again shortly: Publishing nude photos of someone without their consent is sexualised violence. It doesn’t matter if its Prince Harry, Kate Middleton or Paris Hilton. This is an issue of consent not free speechFreedom of speech is not the right to be a jackass. It is not the right to do something just because you can. We need to stop buying into the discourse that free speech is more important than anything else. Supporting free speech in this manner only serves to perpetuate rape culture. 

This is what I wrote when this same discussion came up several weeks ago but with Prince Harry as the object:

Publishing photos of people either naked or in other sexually compromising positions is sexualised violence. This should apply as equally to bucketheaded princes as it does to vulnerable 17 year olds. And, the media aren’t the only ones responsible for perpetuating this sexualised violence. Every time ordinary people google these images, they are buying into and feeding the sexual exploitation industry and helping to increase the number of sexually exploited people. The whole reality television and “celeb” magazines industry need to die. Today. People need to stop financially supporting the sexualised violence of others. This serves only to feed rape culture.

Whilst I think Prince Harry was a victim of sexualised violence, I do think there is something qualitatively different about publishing the photos of Kate Middleton’s breasts. We live in a rape culture which objectifies women’s bodies as fucktoys. Prince Harry’s photos were celebrated as evidence of his cheekiness. Kate Middleton is already been blamed for having the temerity of taking off her shirt in private [and this thread on Mumsnet is disgraceful. Such vicious victim-blaming horseshit]. Publishing nude photos of a woman without their consent just reinforces the very specific gendered vulnerability of women. It just demonstrates how little value women really have in rape culture.

The people who take these images are perpetuating rape culture.

The magazines which publish these photos are perpetuating rape culture.

The people who buy these celebrity magazines are perpetuating rape culture.

The people who google these images are perpetuating rape culture.

The people who think it’s part of being a celebrity are perpetuating rape culture.

Kate Middleton married a man. She didn’t sign up to be sexually assaulted. Her wedding vows did not include the end to her privacy. The person who took the photo should be prosecuted. The magazine that published the photo should be prosecuted. 

As much as I dislike the Royal Family, I hope they sue.

Naomi Wolf: The One Where I Wear A Tin Hat

I have already written about Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina three times now; despite not actually having read the book. Well, technically, two blogs were about Vagina; the other was about Wolf’s utterly hypocritical and perplexing stance on Assange. But, that’s not quite the point. Normally, I’d be the first to yell “foul” at a critic who hasn’t actually read the book they are critiquing but there are always exceptions to the rules. And, Vagina is one of them. There have been some excellent analyses of the book published recently, notably by Ariel Levy in The New Yorker. Others have veered into unnecessary sexist discourse; there are enough problems with the book that need to be addressed, Wolf’s physical appearance isn’t one of them. 

Of course, Wolf isn’t exactly helping herself with her appearance on Mumsnet or with this article in the Guardian [deconstructed by Glosswatch here]. In general, I have serious problems with Wolf’s research and I think evolutionary psychology is just a bunch of teleological horseshit pretending to be academic. It’s not. It’s just bupkis. But, increasingly, I am beginning to feel that Naomi Wolf is the American academic version of Liz Jones: ostensibly the quintessential handmaiden. Like Jones, I think Wolf is being deliberately set up as an object of mockery. The attacks on Wolf as a person, rather than on the book itself, are simply further evidence of woman-blaming culture. Yes, the book itself deserves ridicule for trying to pass off a personal story as science but the fault for that doesn’t lie with Wolf alone, although her obvious inability to see outwith her own very narrow definition of truth is quite distressing.

If Vagina were an academic text, it would have been peer-reviewed. Any academic publisher with an ounce of sense would have sent proofs to academics involved in research in the field of neuroscience [and evolutionary psychology but I think they make it up as they go along so I wouldn’t have put too much credence into their stance]. The problem is that Vagina isn’t an academic text even though Wolf herself is an academic [yes, one without a PhD but that’s hardly shocking considering the misogyny which inhabits academia; technically, I could class myself as an academic despite not having a PhD so I’m hardly going to hold that against Wolf]. Vagina wasn’t properly peer-reviewed because for the publishers a text by Naomi Wolf isn’t valuable for its scholarship so much as for its eccentricity; she is marketable not as a serious female academic but rather as a somewhat out-there celebrity woman. In other words, they knew they would sell more copies of the book by setting her up for ridicule than they would by presenting it as an academic text on emerging research into neuroscience, sex, sexuality and gender. Wolf is known as a celebrity, not as an academic. Her reputation is that of someone eccentric; a little bit off of centre. She is the acceptable face of feminism in the Patriarchy: kooky and apologetic. But, she’s also a middle aged woman and middle aged women are supposed to be invisible and frigid simultaneously. We aren’t supposed to be talking about our vaginas. Wolf’s publishers went for pulp fiction under the disguise of academic research because they knew it would sell and not because they were interested in changing discourse around sexuality and feminism. They published it because it was a middle aged white woman talking about her vagina. Not just any white woman though. A celebrity. They published it because of Wolf’s celebrity but also to spite it.

And, this is the problem. Vagina is being given consideration as if it were an academic publication when, in reality, it is within the self-help genre of literature. Alright, I dislike the self-help genre but that’s a personal thing. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with self-help books unless they perpetuate victim-blaming myths and misogyny; like that ridiculous quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “no one can make you feel inferiour without your consent”. Instead, Vagina is being advertised as blurring the boundaries between self-help and academic books. This isn’t to say that academic books are morally superiour. I’ve read some seriously awful misogynistic and racist shite published by academics. Academia doesn’t have the best reputation for supporting research about non-white, non-dead men written by non-white men. Really, in terms of hypocrisy, academic texts are frequently in a class all to themselves. The problem with the blurring in this case is that it has taken something subjective and insisted on objectivity. Most academics understand that objectivity isn’t exactly an achievable goal. So, why does Vagina claim it is?

Vagina is only a feminist text in the way that Caitlyn Moran’s How To Be A Woman is one. That is to say they were both advertised as feminist texts when they were really memoirs that also discuss feminism. They are books written by celebrities about being celebrities. They occupy that weird position between celebrity and news. But, they aren’t feminist texts and, therefore, aren’t really worthy of the scrutiny they have been given as feminist texts. It’s rather like taking the biography of Victoria Beckham as representative of the experience of all mothers in their 30s.* 

The real strength in Moran’s book is the discussions it spawned rather than its feminist analysis. Sometimes the conversations spawned are more important than the text which spawned them. I think Vagina is one of those texts because the discussions around women’s sexuality, reputation, race, neuroscience and feminist theory have already kicked off. It’s just incredibly sad that Naomi Wolf’s reputation is being ground into the dust. I think this is where we should have seen real feminist sister solidarity: most women would talk their friends out of publishing such a book without being more aware of the science behind it. A real sister would have counselled against taking a personal experience and universalising it as truth. A real sister would have asked questions about the cult of celebrity and ask why the Patriarchy would publish a book like this to such fanfare.

But, that’s the real answer. The Patriarchy wouldn’t want a serious book on neuroscience, sex, gender and sexuality published which questioned PIV, pornography and heterosexuality. Because, as white and heteronormative as Wolf is, she has challenged the pornography industry in a way that many other feminists haven’t just by dint of her celebrity status.** Whether or not, we manage to change the conversation away from Wolf’s yoni and into a more mainstream critique of porn remains to be seen. I may buy the book for that reason alone, although the evo psych/yoni crap will annoy me. There are important discussions to be had about this text, in spite of all its failings. But, we need to get out of the trap of insulting Wolf because of her actual vagina.

*I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Ms Beckham. I dislike the hysterical hatred which surrounds her. 

** For a better challenge to porn culture see: Gail Dines, Melinda Tankard-Reist, Robert Jensen, Rebecca Whisnant or here

This week I’ve Been Mostly Reading About Other Women’s Vaginas

Naomi Wolf’s got a new book out about her vagina. I’m not a fan of Wolf to begin with as I think she’s an essentialist who confuses sex and gender under the guise of “feminism”. And, that was even before she started in on the “Assange is the Second Coming and therefore can’t be a rapist” shite. The kindest thing I can think to say of Wolf is that she’s a great self-publicist; although having read her book on motherhood it’s not really a kind statement to make. But, how can you be nice about someone who writes a book about what its really like to give birth in the US but who doesn’t get that their experience as a privileged white woman WITH HEALTHCARE is completely different to huge swathes of American women. Wolf just doesn’t get how unrepresentative her experience is and doesn’t get how foolish she sounds when making up shite about archaeology and neuroscience. The fact that Esquire thinks she’s “out-of-touch” just demonstrates how utterly ridiculous Wolf is. Even the MRAs think she’s a joke.*

I haven’t even read Wolf’s book [and have no intention to as I still want back the 3 hours it took me to read Misconceptions] but this discussion about her vagina has come out at the same time as I’ve been reading Monique Roffey’s With the Kisses of His Mouth: A Memoir. I loved Roffey’s The White Woman on the Green Bicycle. I am not loving her memoir. It started off as a brilliant discussion of the destruction of her relationship following her partner’s affair and the beginning of her new life. I’m only half way through it and its veered off into support of tantric sex. This obsession with the male penis validating women’s sexuality is just depressing.

The vitriol with which Wolf is being attacked is partly because of the bad science but it’s also because the book is about female sexuality. If there is one thing the Patriarchy loathes, it’s women discussing their bodies and their sexuality [both in theory and practise]. Women having honest conversations with one another about how they achieve orgasm or whether or not they masturbate or even if they have ever had an orgasm shifts the Overton Window. It makes the pornographication of society more evident. We need more women speaking about sexuality, both personally and theoretically. Unfortunately, Wolf chooses to universalise her experience and try to validate it under some very suspect science. Roffey’s memoir is far more honest since it is her personal journey. I just wish her journey involved loving herself more than it does about finding sex. Or, maybe that’s what bothers me so much about it. I will finish Roffey’s With The Kisses Of His Mouth but first I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s Moral Disorder. Sometimes, Atwood is the answer to every question. And, right now, I’m questioning a lot of things which I took as read even three months ago.

* Here, I am being maliciously unkind to a purpose. Actually, I think the very valid criticisms of Wolf’s book have been buried under a load of misogynistic twaddle but more about that later.

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: Eurostar’s Tedious Twaddle

These are some of Eurostar’s Post-Olympic ads which “invite customers to bring a little something back” with them. Granted, these aren’t quite as horrific as the MyCheck ad starring Bar Rafaeli but they are so utterly tedious with the monotonous sexism. The second one definitely comes with an undercurrent of slut-shaming; just to be extra exciting.