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

The problem with this book is that it is just one book. It should be nine separate books: the eight singer-songwriters that Hight adores so much:
And, Jewly Hight herself; because Hight might claim to be writing the stories of these eight women singers-songwriters and their examination of “their geographical, cultural, familial, and religious roots in their music” but Hight’s actually written herself into the text. I want to know more about the 8 female artists and Hight.  A longer book would have allowed the inclusion of more of the lyrics by these talented women but also more of Hight herself. Right by Her Roots is a love affair with these talented women singer-songwriters and it’s love-affair that just isn’t long enough.

It’s all fascinating but at 200 pages, there simply isn’t enough space to really examine these issues and fully explore the back catalogues of the music of these women. I want to know more about all 8 women but equally I want to know about Hight. I want to know about how Hight traces her roots and I want more of Hight’s personal responses to these women.

I definitely recommend this book but with fingers crossed that Hight writes more in-depth books about these women (and herself).


Barbara Black Koltuv’s The Book of Lilith

I’m in two minds about Barbara Black Koltuv’s The Book of Lilith. I found the history of the myths surrounding Lilith, and her previous incarnations in other cultural traditions, utterly fascinating. This is a history of women and myth that I knew nothing about. Koltuv’s choice to quote large sections of original text were of immense value. On the other hand, I was less fond of Koltuv’s use of psychoanalysis because I felt it involved an essentialist construction of women as being either Eve or Lilith. This is obviously an odd criticism considering Koltuv is a well-respected psychoanalyst but the constant reference to the power of modern women’s sexuality detracted from the origin myths of Lilith. 

Prior to reading this, I knew nothing of Lilith and I will have to reread this book as there is just so much information packed into such a short text that I feel I have missed out on pieces of Lilith’s story.  I knew Lilith was the first woman in one version of the Christian tradition but I did not know about Lilith’s construction within Jewish texts. I certainly did not know that Lilith is purported to be one of the two “mothers” of the infant in the Biblical story the Judgement of Solomon. I want to know more but I found myself distracted by Koltuv’s inclusion of her current patients. Koltuv’s use of psychoanalysis to read the stories of Lilith throughout history was really powerful and riveting but the references to her modern practise were simply not. 

Lilith’s rewriting as mother and whore, as the moon but also a deity fascinates me. So, if anyone has any excellent recommendations to read on the story of Lilith [and written by women!], please let me know.

Bristol Women’s Literature Festival: Or, Where Stewie Would Rather Be this Weekend.

(Image from here)

Anyone who is familiar with this blog will know why I’d rather be at the Women’s Literature Festival this weekend. A whole weekend dedicated to celebrating women writers and combatting cultural femicide: what’s not to love? Unfortunately, and after consulting several maps, I am led to believe that Bristol is located not only nowhere near my house but also not on a single non-environmentally destructive form of public transport. (sulks)

Anyway, for those of you lucky enough to live in Bristol or within traveling distance, do check it out. The whole weekend looks fabulous.

The information below is taken directly from the Women’s Literature Festival website:

Bristol Women’s Literature Festival brings together the country’s best women writers, academics and feminist commentators to the Watershed for a weekend of thought-provoking discussion, debate and activity.
Buy your tickets for the festival today.
The festival has three aims:
1. To celebrate the diversity and creativity of women writers
2. To counter the male dominance of literature and cultural festival line-ups
3. To promote women’s writing and literary history
Across the weekend of 16th-17th March, we’ll be hosting three panel discussions at the Watershed, along with a talk and film screening:
Out of the Ivory Tower: writing feminism for a non-academic audience
Women’s Writing today: contemporary women writers discuss their fiction
Bluestockings and Muses: a history of women’s writing
Bringing women’s issues to a mainstream TV audience + film
The Bristol Women’s Literature festival is entirely unfunded. If you would like to support this event, then please donate to us via the PayPal donate button.

Tickets still available!

Tickets have been going as fast as hot cakes and as a result Watershed has moved Saturday’s talks to a bigger room. Isn’t that great news? So if you’ve been worrying about getting tickets worry no more. We advise booking in advance to avoid disappointment but you are still probably fine to buy on the door. 

You can book your tickets by calling 0117 927 5100 or going online to Watershed
So, what will you be booking?
A weekend ticket is available if you want to catch all four fascinating talks – to order yours just call  Watershed on 0117 927 5100 or go directly to the Box Office.
If you would like to hear renowned screenwriter Emilia di Girolamo talk about her career writing for Law and Order:UK and dramas like The Poison Tree, and how she brings women’s issues to a primetime audience you can book online now. Her talk takes place on 16 March, 11am along with a screening of Line Up.
To hear Stella Duffy, Helen Dunmore, Beatrice Hitchman and Selma Dabbagh read from their work and talk about Women Writing Today with Bidisha, you can book online now. They’ll be on at 3.30pm on Saturday 16th March.
Then, there’s Sunday. To book your tickets to discover the fascinating and often hidden history of women’s literature with Kate Williams, Dr Charlotte Crofts, Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Professor Joan Adim-Addo and Professor Helen Taylor, you can go online now. This talk is happening at 2pm on Sunday 17 March.
And the festival finishes with a discussion on how writers today are bringing feminism to a new audience with Kristin Aune, Debi Withers and Josephine Tsui. Book your ticket now for 4pm on Sunday 17 March.
Individual tickets are £7/£6 and weekend tickets are £25/20. You can book via Watershed website or by calling the Box Office on 0117 927 5100

#DickHeadDetox : Tom Sizemore’s History of Domestic Violence

Tom Sizemore has a long history of domestic violence and substance misuse. Below is a select list of some of his arrests and convictions for domestic violence and drug misuse.

2010: Arrested for domestic violence
2009: Arrested for an outstanding narcotics warrant
        : Sued for outstanding child support owed for twin sons born in 2005   
2007: Jailed for violating his probation in a drug case
2004: Sued for sexual harassment
          Drug conviction and numerous stints in rehab
2003: Found guilty of domestic violence, criminal threats, vandalism and
         making obscene and harassing phone calls against then partner Heidi
         Fleiss. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison, rehab and anger   
         management classes. 
2002: Arrested for alleged battery 

When will male violence and its relationship to drug abuse start being taken seriously? Substance misuse is frequently involved in violence against women and, yet, it is always the substance misuse which is considered most important. Prison may not be the best place for those with substance misuse problems but when it comes down to one violent man versus the safety of women, I’m always going to be on the side of prison despite believing that prison is not the best solution to the problem.

Until we start taking male violence seriously, I am always going to put the safety of women and children first. A radical reform of the entire judicial system is necessary, as is a complete restructuring of prisons. After all, Sizemore only received 6 months in jail for his serious assault on then-partner Heidi Fleiss and the subsequent harassment and stalking. Perhaps if that had been taken seriously, then his years of substance misuse and VAW would not have happened.

#Dickhead Detox: Jonathon Togo

Jonathon Togo, an actor best known for his appearance on CSI: Miami was arrested in December 2009 for domestic violence. As ever, media coverage extends mostly to his arrest with the usual minimisation of his behaviour. Togo was booked and released with $50 000 US in bail provided but I haven’t discovered whether or not he was convicted or if it was pled down to a misdemeanour. I’m assuming he wasn’t convicted though. And, even if he was, it’s not done his career any harm.

Another violent man.

Another name in the #DickheadDetox

Women’s Prize Longlist: Or, Stewie’s Other Favourite Day of the Year

My other favourite day after International Women’s Day and my children’s birthdays. Obviously. 

Today, the long list for the Women’s Prize for Fiction was released and not only have I not read a single book on this list yet, it is full of authors I haven’t read at all. This makes me a rather happy bunny.

I’ve added all the books below to my wish list: 

These are previous Women’s Prize nominees which I’ve loved

  • Lyrics Alley by Leila Aboulela
  • Room by Emma Donoghue 
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan 
  • The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
  • Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson
  • The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The White Women on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
  • Half a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Fugitive Pieces by Anne Micheals.
  • Property by Valerie Martin
  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue 
  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan 

So, The BBC is still confused about Rape Myths:

I awoke this morning to discover my Twitter timeline in an absolute uproar over a BBC Newsbeat article, written by Declan Harvey and Anisa Subedar, on prosecutions for false rape. I genuinely can not believe that the BBC thought it was appropriate to run a story which is so full of factual inaccuracies and that fundamentally misrepresents what Keir Starmer, head of CPP, said about the incidences of false rape convictions in the UK. 

I have been trying to write a formal letter of complaint to the BBC but I’ve been struggling with just how unbearable the article is. I just can’t quite articulate how damaging and destructive I found the hateful article to be. Others, more articulate than have written responses notably this piece in the Huffington Post, Glosswitch and the F-Word.

The End Violence Against Coalition have written a formal letter of complaint which is available here
Dear BBC Heads of News, 

We are writing to complain about the BBC Newsbeat report on today’s (13 March) CPS report on false allegations of rape and domestic violence. 

We represent more than 60 specialist organisations working to end violence against women and girls in all its forms, and a national network of Rape Crisis centres who work directly with survivors of sexual violence. 

The news report by Declan Harvey and Anisa Subedar, which at time of writing is still on the Newsbeat website and the main BBC news website, is an appalling misrepresentation of the CPS report and fails to reach very basic standards of good journalism. It comprehensively misrepresents the findings of the new CPS report, which is particularly disturbing as Newsbeat is a news outlet for younger people and young women are subject to particularly high rates of sexual violence – victims considering whether or not to report will be among your readers and listeners. 

The BBC report says in its first paragraph the figures on false allegations “…show how common the problem is…” which is precisely what the CPS report (and DPP Keir Starmer when interviewed on the Today Programme this morning) do not say. In commenting on the report Keir Starmer says, “This report shows that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are very rare… From the cases we have analysed, the indication is that it is therefore extremely rare that a suspect deliberately makes a false allegation of rape or domestic violence purely out of malice. It is within this context that the issue should be viewed, so that myths and stereotypes around these cases are not able to take hold.” 

 The BBC report says that some have called for anonymity for those accused of sexual offences but says the government has ruled this out – but it fails to say why the government ruled this out, which is in fact that a consideration of the proposal in 2010 found “insufficient reliable empirical evidence” on which to base such a change (House of Commons Library Note, February 2012). 

Your reporters meanwhile go on to include a case study of a woman prosecuted for a false allegation, “…jailed for two years after accusing three men of raping her. Police say she made the claim because she was embarrassed she’d slept with them in one night.” Whereas the CPS report finds that in a large proportion of cases of false allegations, “…a significant number of these cases involved young, often vulnerable people, and sometimes even children. Around half of the cases involved people aged 21 and under, and some involved people with mental health difficulties.” Your reporters’ choice and description of this case study instead reinforces a dangerous myth about rape – that women make it up after regretting consensual sex. The evidence conclusively does not show this. The fact is that the majority of actual rapes go unreported – not least due to the perpetuation of myths about rape and women’s and girls’ fears that they will not be believed. 

Your reporters go on to make a point about allegations staying on a police record for some months, but again, like the anonymity point above, they fail to say why this is. Allegations remain on a police file, which is not a criminal record and does not show up in record checks (also not clarified), because in the past when allegations have been made against men like Ian Huntley and Jimmy Savile among others, police officers handling further separate allegations were unable to find this information and potentially detect a pattern. 

Your news reporting does BBC journalistic standards a great disservice – it reads as if the reporters read the CPS press release quickly and arbitrarily chose what story they felt like writing, disregarding the actual findings of an authoritative report which is part of ongoing CPS work to improve convictions rates for rape and other forms of violence against women. 

The BBC is still under a spotlight for its failings with regard to Jimmy Savile and a culture of sexism and sexual harassment, and not least the editorial decisions that were made at Newsnight when evidence based on testimony from “just the women” (Peter Rippon) was dismissed as inadequate. We hope that all your news staff are receiving comprehensive training on myths around abuse of women and girls and also how the media’s perpetuation of rape myths is believed to contribute to low reporting rates (Alison Saunders, CPS). A joint report by several of the signatories of this letter published last November, ‘Just the Women’, highlights with examples how poor news reporting on abuse of women and girls contributes to a climate of victims not being believed and not getting justice – it is available on all our websites. 

We want to see your news article comprehensively amended or removed soon. We hope the reporters and editor concerned will receive some training on myths and facts about violence against women and girls. 

We look forward to your reply. 

Yours sincerely, 

End Violence Against Women CoalitionRape Crisis England & WalesEavesEquality NowObject

#DickheadDetox : Lane Garrison and that Small Issue of Domestic Violence

Lane Garrison is another actor I’ve never heard of until I read he wasn’t going to prison for domestic violence despite being on probation for vehicular manslaughter when he assaulted his girlfriend. Since when is physical assault not an automatic violation of probation? Not to mention the measly fact that he assaulted a woman which is supposedly a crime in and of itself.

The poor wee poppet is not going to jail for domestic violence for his assault on his former partner Ashley Mattingly. Instead, Garrison has been required to attend 52 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, 52 domestic violence classes, given 36 months of unsupervised probation, a restraining order and ordered to complete EIGHT hours of community service. All because he plead guilty. Ignoring the fact that domestic violence classes frequently aren’t worth the paper they’re suggested on, what the hell kind of punishment is eight hours of community service? 8000 hours maybe but not eight.

If this were Garrison’s first offense, I might be willing to concede this was an appropriate punishment but it wasn’t. In December 2006, Garrison pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter, drunk driving and providing alcohol to a minor. Garrison was partying with high school kids and tested positive for cocaine when he killed 17 year old Vahagn Setian  in the crash and injured two 15 year old girls. 

Garrison is just another violent man with a history of alcohol and drug abuse for the #DickheadDetox

(And, erm, WTF was he doing partying with teenage girls? Could we at least pretend that is creepy too?)

International Women’s Day Annual Playlist

(Image from Here)

Last year, I started #buyingmusiconlybywomen*, I’ve discovered some brilliant new women artists like Leela Gilday, The Raincoats, Isobel Campbell, Alix Dobkin, Imelda May and Heather Nova. I tweeted it yesterday and got some new (and some old!) suggestions for my Annual International Women’s Day Playlist.   

As ever, I haven’t actually compiled my annual playlist yet but I’m always looking for more suggestions like the lovely ones below tweeted at me by @planetpavs and @BackgroundSpin

Melissa Etheridge
Tracy Chapman
Indigo Girls!
Judy Collins
Jennifer Warnes
K.D. lang
Alix Dobkin
Carly Simon
Barbra Streisand
Ani Difranco
Alison Moyet
Aretha Franklin
Kirsty MaColl
Tracy Chapman
Joni Mitchell
Jen Foster
Emily Barker
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Nancy Griffith
Lucinda Williams
Kitty Barber

* Okay, I admit it. I did buy the new Red Hot Chili Peppers Singles but, other than them, only music by women. I swear. 

Petronella Wyatt: Demonstrating what Child Grooming Really Looks Like

The Daily Mail is running yet another of its victim-blaming stories claiming that teenage girls are responsible for their sexual abuse by being “temptresses”. This article, penned by Petronella Wyatt, is basically nothing more than rape myths held together by stories of Wyatt’s own experiences of sexual violence. The fact that Wyatt doesn’t see these events as sexual violence is the problem. I read the article expecting to be angered and outraged; instead, I find myself saddened that Wyatt was raised by a father who clearly viewed her as nothing more than a playtoy and who clearly put her in vulnerable situations with powerful men.

Wyatt may have thought she was writing an expose on “predatory teenage girls” but she’s actually written a catalogue of her own sexual violence; sexual violence that she groomed for by her father.

The whole article broke my heart. What are we doing to our daughters if we are raising them to believe this normal?

The full Daily Mail article is reproduced below:

As the sun beat down on the Mediterranean villa, I found myself dazzled not by the brightness of the day but by the fame of the elderly man sitting beside me.
The legendary actor Laurence Olivier was an acquaintance of my father’s, who had rented a holiday house not far from where Olivier was staying. 

My father and I had been invited to lunch that day. The others had gone swimming, leaving Olivier and I alone. He asked me how old I was, and I told him I was 15.
‘ “San Quentin quail” as they used to say in Hollywood,’ he replied.
‘What’s that?’ I asked, puzzled, blissfully ignorant of his reference to the notorious jail.
‘Forbidden fruit, my dear. What a pity. You have such a lovely little figure.’
It is true that I was very curvaceous, and often passed for 18. 

Olivier was undaunted. ‘Come and sit on my lap,’ he instructed. Awestruck, it did not occur to me not to comply. 

Once I was perched on his lap, Olivier planted a wet kiss on my lips. It was not a pleasant experience, since his breath smelt like a starving coyote’s. He complimented me on my breasts, touching one of them with his hand. Then he sighed and released me, thanking me for being ‘kind to an old man’. 

No doubt many people will be offended by this, arguing that as Olivier had suborned me, he might have suborned others. They will assume I was traumatised, my innocence lost. How full of righteous vengeance must my father — the politician and journalist Woodrow Wyatt — have felt, his precious child having been violated.In fact, I had never felt more flattered in my life and, on the journey home, I burst out gleefully: ‘He groped me! Laurence Olivier groped me!’ 

Did my father choke on my words and threaten vengeance? No, he laughed.
‘The old devil! Did he do anything else?’ 

When I said Olivier had also kissed me, my father asked: ‘Did you enjoy it?’ Many will argue that my father should have been thrown into jail with Olivier. But when I was growing up, so many of my father’s friends made passes at me that if I had sued each one, I would still be in court to this day. 

As well as Olivier, there was broadcaster Robin Day, the actor Albert Finney and Lord Lambton, the notorious Conservative minister who was secretly photographed smoking cannabis in bed with two prostitutes.

There were other politicians, too, and members of the peerage, who are still alive as I write
Rightly or wrongly, I was brought up to believe that this sort of thing was simply a part of life. If a man found a young girl pretty, it was in his genes to want to make a pass at her.
Last week, Professor Linda Merrick, of the Royal Northern College of Music, said teachers were no longer willing to give pupils traditional one-to-one lessons for fear of being accused of sexual abuse. Failure to act against such men, she warned, could lead to a witch hunt. 

I agree with the professor — it is time all of us grew up. What is wrong with the occasional wistful pass made by a man whose youth has faded?

The Duke of Wellington did it, as did the great Prime Ministers, Lords Melbourne and Palmerston. Lloyd George was known as ‘the old goat’. 

Today, their peccadilloes would render these men ineligible for office. Furthermore, some of our greatest intellects would have been hounded and vilified.
Take the late genius Robin Day, who was one of my father’s closest friends. Sir Robin took an enthusiastic interest in the female sex — and took an interest in me from an early age after discovering I enjoyed singing his favourite songs from the Forties.
When I was 17, he invited me to dinner at an expensive restaurant. I was dressed to the nines in an outfit borrowed from my mother, who fully approved of my rendezvous with an esteemed friend of my father’s. 

After we had eaten, Day invited me back to his flat to listen to some of his records. As the music played, he began to dance with me. His hand moved from my back down to my bottom. I extricated myself and sat on the sofa. Day sat down beside me.
‘Don’t you want to be held in a man’s arms?’ he asked. 

He put one of his arms around me. There was something of a minor tussle, and I said I had to go home. He found me a taxi, and helped me into it. 

Once again, I was not in the least distressed. In fact, I felt rather sorry for the old bird. Though Day tried unsuccessfully to seduce me again on numerous occasions, we remained friends until his death. 

Then there was the film star Albert Finney. He was a keen race-goer, and at the time we met, my father was chairman of the Tote.
Finney often lunched in our private room at various race courses. I was 15, but looked older, when he turned to me over the chablis and began to pay me extravagant compliments. 

‘You look like the young Liza Minnelli. She was a very sexy woman,’ he told me on one occasion, then, possibly inadvertently, placed his hand on my thigh.
‘May I take you out during your school half-term?’ he asked.
‘Yes, please,’ I gushed. 

My fury knew no bounds when I told my mother about the invitation and she forbade any such meeting on the grounds that Finney had a regular girlfriend, the actress Diana Quick. Shortly after, my disappointment was assuaged by my introduction to the notorious Tony (Lord) Lambton. Lambton, who had resigned as a Tory minister after a sex scandal, spent most of the year in a magnificent villa near Sienna. 

‘In the scheme of things, a grope or a fondle is hardly worthy of legal censure, yet has come to be regarded as akin to attempted murder. Sexual overtures to a young person who has not yet reached puberty are, of course, unforgivable in a civilised society. But never once was I subjected to physical force, intimidation or child abuse’

There was a smaller house on his estate that my father decided to rent, having known and liked Lambton for many years. It was summer when we drove to Lambton’s villa for lunch. 

‘You are now going to meet a wicked earl,’ my father said.
He was right. Lambton, who always wore dark glasses, was one of the most famous lotharios of the last century. 

By then he must have been in his late 60s, but his libido seemed not to have waned. He pronounced me ‘a great beauty, like a lily drenched with dew’.
His swimming trunks, meanwhile, were slipping off his bottom. 

‘Are you a virgin?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I answered, disconcerted. Fortunately, this line of conversation was brought to an abrupt halt when a house guest arrived and I was able to make a quick exit.
My father was greatly amused when I described this encounter to him later, and the following day sent me down to the villa with some books he thought Lambton might like to read. 

No one seemed to be about, so I wandered up to the first floor, calling his name.

‘I’m in my bedroom,’ Lord Lambton shouted back, and with that he flung open the door.
I found myself staring at his stark-naked body. It was not an edifying sight: I thrust the books at him and left. 

Far from being embarrassed, however, he continued to flirt with me on subsequent occasions when we met, often attempting to make me tipsy, because, he said, I was much more pliable when I was drunk. From the age of 13, I was encouraged by my father to drink red wine and quickly became inebriated. 

Equally shameless was a married member of the House of Lords who invited my parents and I to stay at his country house. 

He kissed me while showing me his greenhouse one day. On another occasion, he rang my father at our London home and, after discussing the political situation, asked to speak to me. 

‘It’s your admirer on the phone,’ my father said, amused. ‘I think he wants to ask you for a date.’ I asked if I should go. My admirer, though in his 50s, still had the form and face of a Greek statue, and a brain as sharp as a laser. 

‘Yes,’ my father replied. ‘Why not? He’s a man of taste. It’ll be good for your ego and you might even learn something. Of course, he’ll want you to go to bed with him, but I wouldn’t go that far.’ 

I did learn something. I learned to accept men as they are — fallible, vain and driven by their sexual organs. My admirer, when I turned down his offer of sex, complained that he hadn’t had intercourse for three weeks and could no longer stand this privation.
Far from feeling angry, I commiserated with his forlorn admission and suggested he contact an escort agency. ‘I can’t,’ he wailed. ‘I’m a politician.’ Many people would regard these anecdotes as depressingly illustrative of inappropriate male behaviour, but I say how dull life would be without these improprieties. 

In the scheme of things, a grope or a fondle is hardly worthy of legal censure, yet has come to be regarded as akin to attempted murder. Sexual overtures to a young person who has not yet reached puberty are, of course, unforgivable in a civilised society. But never once was I subjected to physical force, intimidation or child abuse.
I am not convinced that we should penalise those in a position of trust for falling from grace occasionally, nor should we forget how manipulative teenage girls can be.
Whenever our English drama teacher took the class to see a play outside school, we would fight each other to sit beside him. 

One girl in particular, who already had breasts like the Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield, would rub herself up against our teacher, much to his delight. 

That many teenage girls are simply not to be trusted around attractive older men is a fact that appears to be all too often ignored — but it is high time we reminded ourselves of it.
Speaking for myself, from the age of 13 I was an incorrigible flirt. I still feel guilty about my deplorable behaviour towards an elderly Italian count our family used to visit every summer. 

Piqued that he was not taking sufficient notice of my presence, I was utterly determined that I would seduce him into kissing me. I was 17, and he didn’t stand a chance.
My bedroom was next to the room where he watched television after dinner. One night, I made my entrance. After half an hour I had extracted the desired kiss. To his great distress, I then dropped him. 

So you cannot blame me for thinking that it is often precocious and predatory girls who should be arrested, and not the men who show an opportunistic interest in them. 

After all, it was Eve who tempted Adam.