This meeting was concerned with the future structure of the group. The phrase women-only has been used to refer to all self-defined women. Trans women are, as they have always been, welcome to attend.

We discussed  in particular the issue of providing women-only space. After a lengthy discussion, where we looked at the aims of the group and several different options for the group, including staying as we were (open to all), being women-only, alternating between women-only and open to all, we have decided that from now on Sheffield Fems will be primarily a women-only group, with one mixed (open to all) event around once a month. The open to all event will be either a social meeting, a discussion, a campaign or some other event, and may not always be on a Tuesday. It will be decided on an event by event basis, after consultation with members at meetings.

We talked extensively about the pros and cons of all the suggestions made and tried to find the most inclusive solution that meets the needs of as many as possible, so for example staying as we were is putting off some people who are looking for a women-only group. However, a solely women-only group also excludes a number of men who are very interested in participating in campaigns and events. We felt that becoming a primarily women-only group, with specific times for the inclusion and participation of men offers the best solution to these problems.

We are also hoping that as a result of this change a ‘Friends of Fems’ group could be developed for men and anyone else who want to take a more active role in feminism and feminist activity and support our work, while working on projects of their own. At present this is just an idea, but hopefully it will be developed further in the coming weeks, in conjunction with our meetings that are open to all. If anyone would like more information about this, send us and email and we’ll let you know what’s going on.


It’s Carnival time!

Over on A Second Thought (hey, we’re all good with gratuitous self-reference here!) I tend to refer to the place as my own, virtual pub, with myself as sole proprietor – which is great, because that means that for the first Carnival of Feminists of 2009, the virtual drinks can be on me! Happy January everybody, and thanks to everybody that sent in reccomended reading.

I’m not the most organised of people, and didn’t specify any particular themes. Which meant that I got a whole host of great, wide-ranging submissions, and had to try to classify them. And, of course, I did this in the most logical and least time-wasting way possible… with the cunning use of lolcats!

Roughly speaking, we’re talking Science here, which means we range from articles that are actually about science to ones which merely go crazy with the number-crunching:

Veronica at Girl With Pen writes eloquently on Why We Need a Scientifically Literate Citizenry.

“Science is portrayed as the only field that uses big words… and thus intimidates many to think one needs to be a rocket scientist to be well, a scientist.”

Greg Laden in his eponymous blog talks in great length about  The Natural Basis For Gender Inequality.

Barry Leiba at Staring At Empty Pages does the number-crunching in Women, millitary academies, and sexual assualt.

What we worship, how we worship it. With a little social commentary thrown in, for good measure.

Lindsay from Female Impersonator writes about  Gendered Language and Early Christian Thinkers in part 4 of an ongoing series.

The Professor from Professor, What If…? asks herself: What If You Could Buy Social Justice (part 4 – the Church of Disney).

Jender, writing at Feminist Philosophers, provides the only social commentary entirely unrelated to worship here: On Tomboys.

Yep, some feminists get angry. And looking at the posts below, you can see why.

Genevieve from Une Femme Plus Courageuse gives us a Question Based On Usual Blog Patterns

Steph sends in a post from …Or Could Be Again about one guy’s opening words: I Don’t Mean To Be Weird Or Gross But…

Jane Doe from Written On The Body tells us Alanis in OK Magazine: Hopefully this is all a misunderstanding

Brianna J at Fourth Wave Feminism posts about  Male Authenticity

On parenthood, and who gets what share of the dirty work.

Renee at Womanist Musings writes about The Easy Bake Oven In My Vagina: The Role Of The Good Mother

Bad Mom, Good Mom posts about Virginia Woolf in You Call That A Feminist Icon?

And finally, a Feminism 101 category!

Renee from Womanist Musings is back, and on the subject of  The Illegal Hijab

Nandita sends in a post from Cold SnapDragon about A Guard At Kotla Ferozshah. I’m using my host’s perogative to also reccomend the latest post, A Rape-Defense World, because it goes very well with:

Marcella’s post at abyss2hope on Understanding and Misunderstanding Genuine Consent

Lindsay from Female Impersonator appears again to point out that Fashion Is Not Political News, part 3 – Catty Bitch Edition

Lastly, I had a late submission from Robin Reed from the National Women’s Law Center. It’s a video post by Melanie Ross Levin, one of her colleagues, which I didn’t want to include without a transcript, but luckily, it’s short, interesting, and she sent me a nice email about it!

“Hi, I’m Melanie Ross Levin with the National Women’s Law Center and I’m so, so happy to report that the House of Representatives just passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This is huge news that we should all celebrate! Now the ball’s in the Senate’s court to do the right thing by women and pass both of these important peices of pay equity legislation very quickly so that President Elect obama can sign them in his first few days in office. Take a moment to write to your senators to make sure that they know that these acts are important to you. Information on how to do that is available on our website. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done so far to help pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. I can’t wait until they’re signed by President-elect Obama and we can really celebrate!”

And that concludes the Carnival for this time. There’s been so many good posts to read, I can only assume that you’ve all decided that I don’t really need to pass my exams!

Submit an article to the next Carnival of Feminists using the Carnival Submission Form, and check out past editions and future hosts here.

This from the BBC:

“To help get boys reading we need a boys’ bookshelf in every secondary school library in the country, containing positive, modern, relevant role models for working class boys.” – Alan Johnson, Education Secretary


Well, I know my school was a girls’ school, and I’m biased, but you know what?

I think boys can have their own, special bookshelves when they put an LGBTQ section in too. Until then, they’ll just have to lump it, the poor things.

And when I think that virtually every computer game I’ve come across is made to be played from a male perspective, when I remember the stories that said that J.K. Rowling used her initials because publishers said that no boy would read anything written by a woman*, when I remember how male was – is – the default in just about everything – newspapers, history textbooks, cartoons… – I don’t think the problem here is with boys being under-represented. Perhaps, just perhaps, we should be looking at the culture we’re living in, that teaches boys not to develop their attention span, not to sit quietly and read, but to expect to see themselves represented everywhere, immediately, to the exclusion of all others. And to immediately switch off, if the book they are given is obviously written by a woman. Perhaps that, and the assumption that “boys” means “white, able-bodied, straight boys”, is what we should be working to change. Because I can’t think of a single disabled boy that I’ve found in all the years I’ve been reading fiction, and the number of gay  or ethinic-minority boys was pretty damned limited, too.

*Links here and here to articles mentioning the intent of the publishers, and a quote here from J K Rowling herself.

Good tidings from the BBC are sorely lacking, I have to say. And the news seems to be that, if you happen to have been assigned “woman” as your gender, no matter what you’re doing, UR DOIN IT RONG!!!

To start with, the happy happy news that:

Females are less physically active at both ends of life than their male counterparts, two studies suggest.

Joys. The article starts off (rather sensibly) by describing the study that focussed on 10-11 year old children. These would be the children in the last year of primary school, and here they find – shock horror! – justification for those tired old stereotypes about what boys and girls like doing. Aparently, it can be broken down into Girls=Talking; Boys=Football.

As an aside, my seven year old brother is actually quite aggrieved at the moment, because the girls in his school “get their own time in the football cage and the boys aren’t allowed in.”

I’m extrapolating wildly, of course, but could it possibly be that children of both genders generally make it socially unacceptable for the girls to play football when the boys are there? I know when I was in primary school (the same one, in fact), the entire class knew that there was only one girl who was “allowed” to play football with the boys. And that was only because she’d proved she was really, really good.

Back to the studies, and at the other end of the scale is the study that focusses on physical activity in the over-70s. Not surprisingly, nobody over 70 is particularly active, and in general, the women have been found to “do more lower intensity activity which probably represents daily tasks around the house.”

What can I say? Apart from the fact that, as always, I’m suspicious of any study that attempts to find differences between the genders, I have to say I feel like the Department of the Bleedin’ Obvious has come calling.

To be fair to the researchers, their conclusions – that excercise tends to be good for you, and that no woman wants to get osteoporosis later in life – are fairly reasonable. You’d think that schools might have picked up on it already, like my brother’s school has, but never mind.

On the other hand, I’m not sure what the photograph of the woman in her fifties playing tennis is supposed to illustrate, given that she represents neither of the age groups studied. It wasn’t so long back, remember, that the BBC published an article about the invisibility of older women in the media…

The second story has already been covered by the good ladies of Shapely Prose, but have it again here. Oh, and before I wade in, congratulations to Kate Harding and Al, who got married in Vegas over Christmas – like you do!

Dieting at this time of year could impair your body’s ability to fight the flu virus, a study warns.

But! But but but!!! Don’t think that this means you can just go and eat! That would be silly!

In a rather wonderful example of Double-Think, we see that although the “research shows that having a body ready to fight a virus will lead to a faster recovery and less-severe effects than if it is calorically restricted”, “The study… should not be seen as a carte blanche to avoid dieting all year, but to reserve weight control to the eight months of the year when flu is not so virulent. “

I’ll say it again, but slower, and with less syllables. There is a binary system in place; either you have “a body ready to fight a virus”, or you have a body that is “calorically restricted” – i.e, a body that is not being given enough energy, since that is what a calorie (or rather a kilocalorie, since individual calories are actually mind-numbingly small measurements) is – a unit of energy.

Therefore, the implication given is that a body that is not being given enough energy is not a body ready to fight a virus.

However, this is only a problem for the four months of the year in which the flu viruses are prevalent. For all other months of the year, it is fine to have a body that is not ready to fight a virus.

For an extra bonus point, don’t you just love the way that “restricting calories” and “weight control” are conflated? Given that they’re really not the same thing at all?

Last things last, the cheerful headline “Period Problems Split Us Up“.

More joys. The story goes that Marie Seward had God-awful PMS for 17 years, didn’t realise that it was anything out of the ordinary (and don’t we all get it rammed down our throats that “the curse” is just something we have to Put Up And Shut Up about?) and so only started getting help after “her long suffering husband, John walked out after 17 years of marriage”.

Fucking hell. I’m sure it must be hard being the partner in that situation, but it wasn’t him that had the PMS, for fuck’s sake!

More to the point, it’s not as though doctors are always sympathetic or understanding. Take the other story that popped up on the subject – “I Pleaded To Have My Ovaries Removed“.

In that story, Ann Wilkinson had PMS so bad that she vomited each month because of it. She eventually had to have a hysterectomy privately.

“Her symptoms became so unbearable that at just 38, she took the decision to have her ovaries removed. Few doctors were willing to consider Ann’s surgery as she was deemed to be too young and had not had children.”

I wish I were more surprised by this.

I know our society has a special level of hell reserved for women that don’t breed, but can we put this into perspective here? My mother got pregnant aged 39, and her doctors were concerned that her age would make the pregnancy and birth more difficult and dangerous.

Ms. Wilkinson was 38. Not “just” 38. Actually 38. How exactly is that “too young” to decide that you don’t want to spawn? And how is that “too young” to make an informed decision to have a medical procedure that seems in this case to have vastly enhanced her quality of life. (I don’t tend to like the idea of hysterectomies. But I like the idea of vomiting for two weeks out of four even less, actually.)

Let this be a lesson to us all, that in our society’s eyes, we as women are never adult. Except when society requires us to be over the age of consent. And then puts us in school uniform.

What do we think to this article?

Is it more bad than good, or more good than bad?

At the moment, I’m ambivalent. And that’s because it seems to go, roughly speaking, Good Quote – Bad Quote – Good Quote – Bad Quote. And so on.

For example, taking one paragraph straight from the article:

Good Quote – “Afterwards, I wonder whether my disgust with my denuded body signified a deeper discomfort with the transformation itself.”

Bad Quote – “Is a man chasing a heightened feminity, I ask myself, actually draining himself of his essential juices?”

Good Quote* “Or maybe it has to do with the fact that, whichever way you dice it, I am a ginger and my skin was not designed to be exposed.”

It is not as offensive as it could be. I don’t think it’s entirely inoffensive either, however. I did think that this quote was worth mentioning, though, so that’s what I’m going to leave you with:

“I understand that [flamboyant drag] is also an attempt to tell the world of your aspirations. Quite whether those aspirations could ever match up to reality is another matter, especially when this feminine ideal is one created entirely by men.”
Emphasis mine.

* It’s a Good Quote there in the sense that he redeems himself slightly for being a bloody fool by being foolish in a way that tries to negate the previous (more serious) foolery. Not because I have anything against ginger people!

A warning here – this is one of my personal peeves.

The conflating of the two terms “girls” and “women” really bothers me. Perhaps it because I tend towards pedantry, or perhaps I’m just easily annoyed. Either could be accurate.

It’s bothered me ever since my (female) friends and I were asked by a pub bouncer: “can I see your ID, please, girls?”

Now, this part is pedantic, but I personally feel that there are two logical options; either I am a girl, and therefore not adult, and therefore will not have ID  – or I am a woman, and adult, and will have ID. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to be addressed appropriately.

It bothered me when I watched The Apprentice back in April.

It bothered me when I couldn’t avoid watching the olympics – although that bothered me for other reasons too.

And I got angry with it again today because the BBC reports the following:

“Conjoined twins born to teenager

An 18-year-old woman gives birth to conjoined twin girls named Faith and Hope at a London hospital.”

Come on! Surely it’s not that difficult – you pick the way you want to refer to her, and you stick to it. Is she a “teenager”, or is she a “woman”?

Yes, I know that technically she can be (and is) both, but it frustrates me. I think because of the wording. When the birth is in the passive voice – when the birth is something that happens to her – she’s described as being a “teenager”. As soon as it becomes active – when it’s something that she does – she becomes a “woman”.

Is it a coincidence, this… infantilisation? I don’t know what else to call it, to get my point across. Too often, women, adult women, are described in ways that make them something other, something less. “Babes”, for example, or “little ladies” or “chicks” or “honeyz”.

I’ve never, ever understood that last one, by the way. Is it meant to mean that women are cloying, sweet and sticky? All the time? The mind boggles.

Fairly often, this happens when the women in question are presented more as objects than as people. FHM is a particularly odious example of this; counting all of the words I can find without moving from their front page, “girls” appears 12 times, “honeys” appears 6 times, and “women” just twice. Incidentally, the phrase “Ladyland” also appears twice; I’m not sure what this means, but it must mean something!

So, actually, I’m going to continue to have a problem with this particular usage of the word “girl”. Partly because I have a deep and abiding loathing of FHM, but mostly because of what it signifies. Because it feels so much that I am being disregarded. Because if a male 20-year-old was referred to as a “boy”, it would be a very deliberate insult. Because I am a fully formed adult, and I wish to be addressed as such, thank you. I would start talking about the way people lose my goodwill when they write to me as “miss”, but I fear this post would go on for ever!

Oh, and also – if we take this to its extremes, we get extreme nastiness, especially from the heterosexual-male-“unbiased”-viewpoint:

“I will not differentiate between the term ‘girl’ and ‘woman’. Thus, in my mind, the two terms are equal; ‘girl’ is equivalent to ‘woman’ and vice versa.

I am attracted to, and may objectify, women, and the media and my society will provide opportunities for me to do so.

Therefore, I am attracted to, and may objectify, girls, and the media and my society will provide opportunities for me to do so.

Right, now separate the terms ‘girl’ and ‘woman’. One now means ‘female child’, the other means ‘female adult’. See where the ick factor comes in?

News from the meeting:

  • We would like the stop violence against women action in the city centre to be an annual thing and will hopefully link up with Sheffield Domestic Abuse Forum next year.
  • The Christmas Social will be Dec 12th at Affinity on Campo Lane, please let us know if you can make it!
  • We are keeping a eye out for the finalised date of the Million Women Rise, which will be some time around the 8th March, so that we can arrange to go.
  • On 3rd Feb we will be having a discussion about women only space and the meetings.
  • We are looking for a new charity for the coming year, if you have any ideas, please let us know.

We had a lengthy discussion about trans issues and feminism, which didn’t really get minuted, but was very interesting.