Via The F-Word, a dispiriting post that starts with the question: “Ever wondered what we’d get if “two of Britain’s most outspoken feminists” (Julies Bindel and Burchill) had a conversation in The Guardian’s G2? Let’s see…


As it happens, I wasn’t aware that Julie Burchill actually identified as feminist – or anything like it, for that matter. Certainly, when I lived at home and snuck away with Mum’s issue of the Guardian at the weekend, I never noticed anything that suggested that she did.

And on the subject of Julie Bindel, I know a little. I know she’s on Facebook; I know she’s been embroiled in a large and wide-ranging argument on the subject of trans people’s rights, which, as far as I can tell, she doesn’t really care about; I know she does care about lesbian rights, although she’s been reported to have said that lesbianism is “a choice”; and, bizarrely, I know that she’s been recently “made up” by an Avon representative. Like you do.

I got this information – all of which I’d already gained from other sources – from the first page of a Google search.

After my 10-minute foray into the wilds of Julie Bindel’s unofficial Google biography, what I’ve gained is shock that she didn’t manage to say anything worse in this latest Guardian article. She certainly doesn’t have a good track record.

I’d love to say that I wouldn’t normally criticize somebody without their knowledge, but that is clearly a lie. I do it all the time, usually with BBC reports, and, by implication, the reporters. And if they can get the special “Rachel” treatment, I see no reason not to extend that honour to her, too.

You know, I read somewhere once (and wish I’d made a note of it) that feminism, at least in the academic sense, stopped being relevant to one woman when she could no longer talk to her mother about it. And I think this is something that ought to be added to my list of Things Feminists Often Get Wrong: academia has its place. And that place is in libraries, looking smug. Out in the real world, real women are affected by real things that real people do and say. And it’s all too easy for a privileged group to think of the issues of a nonprivileged group in terms of theories, or camps, or controversies, or whatever the buzzword of the year is. But when you try to apply theories to the real world, they often don’t fit. Even I know this, and I’m a mathematician. I live in an academic swamp of theories and corollaries and even laws, but when it comes to things like mechanics, these get handed down to me with the disclaimer that sometimes this isn’t true.

For example: one thing you learn is that a feather and a rock should, in theory, fall at the same rate, and hit the ground at the same time if dropped from the same height. This is fine, if you’re on the moon. But here on Earth, there is air resistance, which means that the law, although technically true, is not actually very helpful, and if you were of a gambling disposition, you would have just lost money. Unless we were on the moon.

All of this is a slightly lengthly way of shoehorning a mathematical analogy into a post that didn’t need to include one. But it’s also a way to point out that at the end of the day, theories are all well and good, but if the people you’re theorising about tell you that you’re wrong, and be damned the problems it might cause your worldview, it tends to be a good idea to listen to them. Yes, even if they’ve just damned your faulty worldview. As it turns out, I don’t much care about that either. If the theory breaks when applied to real life, it’s either not a good theory at all, or something vital is missing from it, and that’s your problem. Clearly, it is not the feather’s fault that it doesn’t match up. And I wouldn’t expect the feather to care.

And all of this is an even longer way of saying that reputations live on. Like I said, it was the first page of a Google search. And if you can pick up reputations by association, this is one association I will happily – and determinedly – choose to live without.

Given all this, and if I lived in happyland where unicorns farted rainbows, I might be a little surprised that the Guardian had picked Julie Bindel to represent feminism. As it happens, though, I’m not at all surprised. Disappointed, but not surprised. Which brings me rather neatly back to the title, and means that I should probably stop writing!

Yes, it’s that time again; I’ve managed to carve some free time into my weekend (slightly extending the definition of “weekend”) and what better way to spend it than to cast a beady eye over this week’s stalwart BBC reporting?


First off, lest we forget that marriage has a long and unsavoury history with legally sanctioned rape, there are two stories from Northern Ireland which caught my eye: a teenage boy (link is to a video report; transcript under cut) who violently raped an American woman in a park in Belfast has been sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, while a 29-year-old Polish man from Derry was given 5.5 years for raping and threatening to kill his then wife. I should also point out that the second man was deemed to pose a high risk of reoffending. To have been given a significantly lower sentence than the first seems somewhat surprising.


Another news story with a somewhat tenuous link to Northern Ireland is this report on research that has been condensed down to “female binge drink rates double”.

That makes for an interesting headline, but, as you might expect, doesn’t actually pick up on much of the study. What they’ve said on the subject is this:

Although there is no standard definition of binge drinking, it is typically defined as drinking more than twice the recommended daily limit on any one day. This corresponds to more than eight units of alcohol in men and more than six units in women.

Ladies, be warned. If you drink more than three double JD&cokes on a night out, you’ve binged! In fact, “revised methods for calculating a unit of alcohol have been introduced recently… [This] effectively doubles the units of alcohol calculated for a glass of wine“, which by my count means that two glasses of wine send you over the binge limit, too. Of course, that’s only because of the “trend for using larger sizes of wine glasses“. I’m now reminded of that greetings card featuring a woman in her 30s curled up on a sofa, holding a wine glass as big as her head, with the caption saying something along the lines of being “good” and “cutting down to one glass a night”.

And, of course, nobody wants to be reminded that “women are less likely than men to drink and women who do drink consume less than men.” That would be far too boring, and besides, why ever would we chastise men for their drinking habits? I myself consider it mere laddish larking about when I hear the sounds of men vomiting and fighting outside my window, whereas the sounds of women giggling – well! That is clearly not the kind of behaviour suitable for a respectable young lady to be party to!

In fact, what has happened, in general, over the last 15 – 20 years, is that ” the drinking behaviour of women that has increased toward that of men“. Apparently,

This might be interpreted as one expression of the historically recent emancipation of women in Western society, the pressure of positive advertising and also the increased financial security and independence of women.

I am shocked. In fact, I may swoon. So, there are two things going on here. Firstly, our glorious tradition of rampant capitalism means that alcohol companies have discovered that, in fact, women are quite capable of drinking, and that, therefore, there is money to be made. You can also see this being played out with the increasing number of Manly Cosmetics For Men (TM), which are packaged in blue, black, white and silver in order that women, who can only see pink (possibly because of berries in a forest) will not buy them, and also so that men (who see in black and white, possibly because of hunting zebra in the savannah) will want to hunt them down and take them to the checkout, just as in days of old they would have taken them to the fire. Or something. Secondly, the studies have noted that the behaviour of women has “increased toward that of men“, and This might be interpreted as one expression of … the increased financial security and independence of women”. This is also not surprising. If men drink more than women and women’s drinking increases, where else would women’s drinking increase towards? These studies don’t allow for identifying outside of the gender binary, which means you’re a bit stuck for anywhere else to go. And indeed, you might find that women with more money and more independence, in a culture which is more accepting of women’s presence – unaccompanied by men – in bars, might be drinking more.

An interesting question might then be, in this age that finds a barrage of articles every summer proclaiming that “feminism is dead” (which to my mind gives it more lives than a very lucky cat), why is it that women are not drinking as much as men? Can it all be attributed to women’s lower tolerance of alcohol, or are there other social factors still in play? Discuss.


In other news, Harriet Harman has been talking to The Fawcett Society about the Equalities Bill. So that’s nice. Somewhat annoying that it’s described as “controversial new legislation“. Because, as I’ve said before, “when you have a white male director general of five male executive directors being quoted in a serious publication on the subject of inequality, of course it’s fucking necessary.” And also, it shouldn’t be*cough*womenstilldon’thaveequality*cough*controversial. Can I mention those “feminism is dead” articles again yet?


Lest this post goes on forever, I shall stop here. Pausing only to mention that a male contraceptive injection that “could be as effective at preventing pregnancies as the female pill” could become available in five years or so. Which would mean that those men who believe that women exist solely to steal their sperm, have their children and then drain their bank accounts and/ or marry them, divorce them and take exactly half of everything including half of the tv using a chainsaw would finally be able to make sure it doesn’t happen. Of course, they would have to be injected. With needles. And it might be, you know, effort. And they then might not be fully fertile for a whole six months afterwards. Which would be a blow to their manly manly identity, which rests on virility. But I’m sure they’ll welcome it, nevertheless!


Possibly the most stupid question asked about feminism in good faith:


“so… do you think I’d be able to pick up women if I went to a feminist meeting?”


No. No I don’t.

A feminist meeting is a space for feminists to talk about things that matter to them. This includes, but is not limited to, the myriad of ways in which men in general reduce women in general to their physical appearance and/ or “sexiness”.

Do you see where you went wrong?


As it happens, my actual answer also included these words:

“We are very, very used to this kind of thing. We will understand immediately that you don’t give a flying fuck about feminism, and at that point, all hell will break loose. For the good of your ego, which I understand is valuable to you, never, ever try this. It will all end in tears. Your tears. You will be harassed mercilessly, and you will not like it. Also, nobody will find it attractive, because it’s not clever. So you won’t get any.”

Does anybody have anything else to add?!

The Observer today had a really interesting section on women in 2008. There was a couple of interesting interviews, analysis of how far women have come in various areas of society (such as politics, the city etc etc etc), and an overview of the last 80 years in terms of feminist developments.

Great! It’s about time women and feminist issues got more press.

Shame they couldn’t get one basic fact right isn’t it?
In the overview section, they do in fact call the 70’s “the decade of bra burning”.

*bangs head on desk*

Let’s get this straight… No feminists ever burnt bras!!!

The full explanation for this stupid myth is here but in short, at the 1968 Miss World pageant, feminists threw some of the trappings of femininity in to a bin, but never set it on fire.

So, no feminists have ever burnt their bras. And probably none ever will. The next person to mention it to me may however be set on fire themselves.

-Alex