Hilary Devey’s Women on Top

I watched exactly ten minutes of Hilary Devey’s Women on Top. The premise is interesting: a successful British business woman who didn’t understand the gendered barriers to women’s equality within capitalism traveled to Norway to investigate their practise of quotas of women’s participation in employment. 

I stopped watching after they said women in Norway “embrace their feminine side” with 1 years maternity pay. Because women in business must have babies otherwise they aren’t actually women. Or, something equally stupid. 

Perhaps, the BBC might want to actually think about gender stereotypes before embarking on these types of programs and don’t reinforce the same misogynistic bullshit that they claim to be “investigating”.

My Christmas Books for #readingonlybookswrittenbywomen

These are the lovely books I got for Christmas:

Rose Tremain’s The Colour

Rose Tremain’s The Way I Found Her

Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Jennifer Donnelly’s A Gathering Light

Carol J. Adams’ The Pornography of Meat

Jewly Hight’s Right By Her Roots: American Women and Their Songs

Camilla Lackberg’s The Hidden Child

Jennifer Worth’s Call the Midwife

Cecilia Ahern’s Thanks for the Memories

Liza Dalby’s The Tale of Murasaki

bell hooks’ belonging: a culture of place

Kim Edwards’s The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales

Hannah Richell’s Secret of the Tides

Jane Mendelsohn’s I was Amelia Earhart

Jean Kilbourne’s Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising

(The benefits of living near 3 brilliant second-hand bookstores)

The Bechdel Test

I just love this: 

A Flasher (trigger warning)

The poet is Christine Bartlett. She wrote this in early 1970s. The background to the poem is the response of the police to Bartlett’s reporting a flasher who targeted her and a friend just after dropping off their children at school. The police blamed them for instigating the sexual assault: it must have been something they did or something they were wearing.

 A flasher is a man who’s simply quite outside the law
He’ll expose himself for all the world its true,
But if you report a flasher, you will very
You will very quickly find
That the press will say the guilty one is you

They’ll ask you…

What were you wearing when you saw this man?
Did you invite him to expose his tan?
Smile in passing, leave your coat undone?
You mean to say that sundress, dear, was just for catching sun…

You say “I wore jeans and T-shirt,”
They say “what a sexy sight”
you say “He was wearing NOTHING”
But the press say “thats alright”
we’re certain he gave no offence that you did not invite
and we think the guilty one is you!

When you’ve just been raped at knifepoint
by a very nasty man
who broke down your door to have his evil way
Though your future lies in ruins, just ignore it if you can,
As otherwise you’ll hear reporters say,

Now tell me…

What did you wear when he broke down your door?

What did you wear when he broke down your door?
Did you lie quietly on the bathroom floor?
Unprotesting! What, he had a knife!
D’you mean to say you’d rather have been raped than lose your life?!?

Now we do believe your story, its not one that you’d invent
BUt we’re quite convinced that his attack was very kindly meant,
By your failure to resist him, he thought he had your consent,
and We think the guilty one is you!!

Jimmy Savile Did Not "Groom the Nation"

I thought this was obvious. I didn’t think it was something that feminists would have to start shouting from the rooftops:

Met Commander Peter Spindler was correct when he called Savile a “predatory, serial sex offender”.

Spindler was wrong about Savile ‘grooming the nation”.

Jimmy Savile did NOT groom the nation.

Millions of people had no idea he was predatory, serial sex offender.

But, people did know.

We know they knew because Savile was not allowed to be involved in Children in Need.

We know people knew because they have been telling us they knew.

We know the police and CPS were aware because people told them.

Jimmy Savile did not groom the nation. He was allowed to continue abusing because he was a ‘celebrity’. Pretending that he “groomed the nation” allows those who knew to minimise and obfuscate their guilt. Those who knew and did nothing are guilty of helping Savile in sexually assaulting hundreds of children and adults. I say hundreds but we will never know how many.

The term “grooming the nation” only serves to silence victims. It serves those predatory, serial sex offenders who are still harming people. It makes Jimmy Savile a one-off case that will never be repeated. 

But, Jimmy Savile isn’t the only one. He will never be the only one. 

“Grooming the Nation” is about making bystanders feel better about having done absolutely nothing to protect vulnerable children and adults from a serial sex offender.

It not only absolved bystanders of responsibility; it gives them a space to be feted and petted in the press by journalists unwilling to look too closely at their own responsibility for reinforcing rape culture.

Jimmy Savile was a predatory, serial sex offender because people stood by and did nothing to stop him

How many other men are there today harming children and other adults safe in the knowledge that those around know and will do nothing to stop them?

(A longer version of this piece has been published by the Huffington Post)

My Birthday Books for #ReadingOnlyBooksWrittenByWomen

These are all the lovely books I got for my birthday:

Vandana Shiva‘ Soil Not Oil: Climate Change, Peak Oil and Food Insecurity

Carol Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory

Elaine Showalter‘ The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture 1830-1980

Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers

Karen Boyle’s Everyday Pornography

Phyllis Chesler‘ Women and Madness

Susan Sontag‘ Regarding the Pain of Others

Carole Pateman’ The Sexual Contract

The Radical Women Manifesto: Socialist-Feminist Theory, Program and Organisational Structure

Another Man not held accountable for Child Rape.

This week, I read yet another story of an adult male who wasn’t held accountable for child rape. Technically, Steven Pollock was convicted of sex with a minor but he only received a community service and “the stipulation that he attend a sex offenders’ programme.” According to Kaye Adams in the Daily Record : “(t)he original charge was rape but prosecutors weren’t confident of convincing a jury that the girl did not consent and so they reduced the charge.” Steven Pollock put his penis into the body of a 13 year old girl. Even if she was sober, a 13 year old girl isn’t capable of consenting to sex. The fact that Lord Turnbull thinks that “the offence arises out of consensual conduct rather than any form of force, grooming or manipulation” demonstrates just how pervasive and destructive rape culture is.  We need to keep repeating these messages until men start listening: a 13 year old girl is not capable of consenting to sex. 

An adult woman who is extremely intoxicated is not capable of consenting to sex.

A child is never capable of consenting to sexual activity. 

The judge’s summation is a disgrace.

Steven Pollock’s sentence is a disgrace. 

Helping Girls in Kenya Go To School

This is reblogged with permission from SaltandCaramel
Kenyan girls don’t go to school because they don’t have access to sanitary protection.
When I first read that, I thought there must be some mistake. Something that we take for granted, a basic necessity, hinders girls getting an education. I had asked a Kenyan based blogger for ideas on gifts to take to the families we would be visiting, and besides small toys, pencils and note paper, this was one of her suggestions. I wrote about this on the Gates Foundation blog Impatient Optimists last year.
While there are great projects running in East Africa, and elsewhere to provide menstrual cups or washable san pro, I wanted to send a small gift to the girls I met last year. Later this month, I will send a box of san pro and underwear to the girls in the Laikipia district.
If you would like to contribute, you can send me san pro to send on, or donate money so that I can buy san pro. Please use the JumpMag paypal account (scroll down to the bottom of the page). Thank you

Another Day, Another Man Minimising Rape.

This week it’s Ryan Gilbey, the film critic for the New Statesman, who seeks to minimise Polanski’s responsibility for raping a child because Polanski makes ‘great films’. I suppose we should be grateful that Gilbey actually mentions the fact that Polanski raped a child. The British Film Institute managed to forget that piece of information when planning their retrospective on Polanski’s work. They also tried to claim it was irrelevant when challenged on the issue

Now, I’m sure Polanski’s films are brilliant. I’ve only seen the Piano so I can’t really comment on  his artistic merit, however making good films does not negate the fact that Polanski drugged a 13 year old child and then sodomised her. A child of 13 is not competent to consent to sex. They have never been competent to consent to sex. 

An adult man who puts his penis in the body of a 13 year old is a rapist. 

But, Gilbey would like everyone to forget the fact that Polanski raped a child, or at the very least, seeks to minimise it by suggesting it was “historic” and “ambiguous”:

He also spent a spell in prison and then under house arrest in 2009 and 2010 on historic rape charges  dating back to 1977. A thorough documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, examines the case and its ambiguities.

There is no “ambiguity” to what Polanski did: he raped a child

The fact that the justice system in the US, as with everywhere, is incapable of dealing with the rape of children effectively does not make rape “ambiguous”. It means we live in a Patriarchal-Misogynistic culture which privileges the male right to put their penis wherever they like without consequence.

Polanski drugged and raped a child.  

Those who seek to minimise Polanski’s act of rape are just as guilty as those who ignored Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuse of children.

Those who seek to minimise Polanski’s act of rape are guilty of perpetrating and perpetuating rape culture

You are the problem.

Ryan Gilbey, you are part of the problem. 

So, Playboy, Definitely Art. And, other Dubious Statements

Hugh Hefner’s 21 year old second son from his second marriage is apparently lining up to take over the company. When he finishes school. Obviously. This rather creepy article in the Independent, which is attempting to pass for news, would like everyone to know that Hef Jr definitely thinks Playboy is art and not pornography. 

I’d like to believe the article’s other claim that the Playboy is only a “marginal” brand now but, let’s be honest, they aren’t making their money from the magazine. Instead, they have been capitalising on ole’ Hugh’s penchant for sexual violence in reality TV programs like The Girls Next Door. The Playboy Club TV program may have been cancelled in its first season but the Playboy clubs are coming back [and are the focus of some brilliant feminist activism]. Sales of Playboy Magazine itself are falling but Playboy brand merchandising is everywhere. For reasons I genuinely don’t get, parents are buying their children Playboy branded duvet covers and notebooks. Playboy merchandise is flaming everywhere and that’s without getting into the “sexy” Playboy dress-up clothes.

Ranting about Playboy merchandising on children aside [and I judge parents who buy 6 year olds jeans with Playboy bunnies on their arse or t-shirts which say ‘Future Porn Star’. It’s not funny or clever. It’s just creepy], Cooper Hefner’s attempts to rewrite Playboy’s past and label their magazines ‘art’ rather than porn demonstrates some serious cognitive dissonance. Or, nincompoopery. Probably both. Whatever it is, Cooper is just not the brightest of sparks when he’s comparing nude art with Playboy centerfolds insofar as he misses the whole freaking debate. Because, there is feminist debate about this and there is recognition that much of the art we admire is of questionable value morally and ethically. Hell, there’s a whole lot of recognition that some of the artists whose work we admire are nothing more than sexual predators. Pretending that Playboy is ‘art’ isn’t participating in that debate. It’s the intellectual equivalent of running about with Darth Vader helmet back to front on one’s head.

As for Cooper’s discussion on the Bunny Girls and “empowerment”, well, it’s nice he’s giving us permission to decide for ourselves but, really, when is Cooper going to participate in an activity which “empowers” him? Because, I’d really like to hear someone use that word on an activity men are required to participate in to be considered valuable.

And, honestly, how do you even unpack the following twaddle:

“There are many domestic issues in the US that bother me, such as gay rights or fighting for the legalisation of marijuana. But as we go global we need to stand for more important issues internationally. Women’s rights in the Middle East and internet censorship in China are two things we can stand for and have an influence in, especially when we’re coming into these emerging markets like India and we’re faced with the challenge of opening up Playboy clubs where the bunnies can’t even wear bunny outfits. You have these countries which are in a very similar place sexually – especially when it comes to gender roles – where the US was when my dad first started.”

“Faced with the challenge” of opening in markets where women aren’t allowed to wear Bunny outfits? I genuinely don’t what to stay except that’s a whole load of  nincompoopery which is seriously missing the point, not to mention just a teensy bit of orientalist discourse. That’s without mentioning the whole issue of women’s rights currently being destroyed in the US with access to abortion being curtailed everywhere and gang-rapes like that in Steubenville being a whole lot more common than many would like to believe. Or, that internet censorship isn’t only in China. Why is it important for women in other countries to have the right to dress in Bunny outfits when American women wearing Bunny outfits are slut-shamed? How is expanding the Playboy empire going to help women? What has the legalisation of marijuana got to do with large swathes of the planet not having basic human rights like access to clean water? 

Being raised in the Playboy mansion [and the house next door where his mother lived] can’t have been a healthy place for two young boys to grow up. I don’t think its all that surprising that Cooper’s brother Marston has a recent conviction for domestic violence. Whatever your opinion of porn, it isn’t ever appropriate for children and the two boys would have been exposed during Playboy “parties”, photo shoots and the filming of the Girls Next Door. These would not have been simply nude women. The Playboy empire is built on porn.

Christie Hefner, Cooper’s older sister, ran the company until 2009 when she stepped down. She oversaw the expansion of the empire out of the magazine industry and she put an end to some of Hugh’s more egregious behaviours, at least ones financially supported by the company. Cooper may not want to wear his father’s pyjamas but neither he nor his brother Marsten come across as well-rounded men with a respect for women and women’s sexuality. I don’t agree with many of Christie Hefner’s expansion policies, and I certainly find the show Girls Next Door deeply creepy, but I’m quite certain that Christie Hefner wanted to run a business. I’m not sure that’s what Cooper or Marston are looking for.