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On Essex girls

A quick question: just how hard can tweets such as the following fuck off out of my Twitter timeline for good?

“There are far scarier things on the loose in Essex than the escaped lion. We ran in terror from these beasts last night

The answer, I hope, is ‘very fucking hard indeed.’

There is (or, more realistically, there probably isn’t) a lion on the loose in Essex right now. The police are on the hunt and Twitter’s crawling with jokes about lions. I can cope with wardrobes and circuses and puns about ‘lion around’, but what I’m not particularly pleased with are the numerous jokes about how all Essex women are fake, ugly, desperate slags.

Haterz gotta hate

I know there are some shockingly awful people on the internet – one of the fantastic things about certain parts of it (Twitter for instance) is that you can pick and choose whether to follow them. I choose not to – I try and select people who are liberal, interesting and funny. In short: I follow people who aren’t cunts.

But unfortunately these people who aren’t cunts have massively let me down. In the last 24 hours or so I’ve seen numerous retweets of jokes like the one above. Hilarious descriptions of ‘beasts’ wandering nightclubs sprayed orange or side-splitting gags telling the police not to ‘vajazzle the pussy.’

These have been tweeted and retweeted by people I like. People who think they’re liberal. People who think they’re unjudgmental. People who sip lattes and worry about human rights and wonder what kind of political activism will have the biggest impact. Most pertinently, they’ve been retweeted by the sort of people who respect a woman’s right to bodily autonomy – to wear dungarees and a cardigan covered in soup stains if she feels like it, her right to not shave her armpits or have plastic surgery.

My problem is not with the jokes themselves – they’re annoying and cunty, sure. I’m the sort of girl who’ll twitch if people in pubs make reference to ‘2am slags’ or ‘the hot girl’s fat mate’, but I realise there’s not much point in tackling the arseholes who believe they’re mining a rich seam of comedy gold. My worry is that these jokes aren’t being made by arseholes I’m overhearing in a Wetherspoons, they’re being made by people I admire. People I usually think are funny. People who would previously have retweeted blogs I’ve written about self-confidence and body image.

Seriously, liberal people – feminists FFS – how fucking dare you do this now?

Vajazzle the fuck out of your cunt

I don’t want a vajazzle. I don’t want a spray tan. I don’t want extensions. I expect – because I am not a fucking idiot – that not all the women in Essex want these things either. But some of them do. And you don’t have to be from Essex either – quite a few women want to strut the streets wearing skimpy clothes and fake tan and padded bras and false eyelashes and a fuck of a lot of other stuff that liberal hipsters like me wouldn’t be seen dead in. And good on them.

If you want to agree with me that a woman has every right to not shave her fucking armpits, then you need to be consistent. You can’t support a woman’s right to physical autonomy if you subsequently mock and spit upon those who pick a look that you find unarousing or gross.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid’, and why it was such a hateful programme. She pointed out that although they occasionally let goths and punk girls off the hook (because, apparently, they have a ‘unique style’) fortunately they do sort out the women who ‘just look like an awful mess.’ Because black lipstick and ripped fishnets is a ‘style’ but fake tan and hair extensions is ‘a mess.’

Sorry, but you don’t get to do that. You just don’t. If you’re going to champion women’s right to pick a ‘style’ and select clothes that they feel comfortable in – clothes that make them feel good and that they enjoy wearing – you can’t subsequently declare certain styles to be out of bounds.

Pick your sides, people. 

I’m standing here in my scruffy jeans, with legs I haven’t shaved for a week and piercings you wouldn’t wear to a job interview, next to hot muscular girls in dungarees and boxer shorts, and all the other types of women there are. Some are wearing floral summer dresses and subtle, how-does-she-achieve-that-look makeup. There are punks and goths and hipsters and – yes – there are scantily-clad bleach-blonde women dolled up to go to a nightclub. I don’t care who you fancy, or who you identify with, because it’s not about that. It’s about having respect for people’s choices, even when those choices don’t fit your personal worldview.

You’re either with us or against us, but you can’t just be with some of us.

Update: The police have now called off the search for the lion. World reacts with a total lack of surprise.


  • Julia Rosa says:


  • T says:

    It’s a stereotype. That’s what happens with stereotypes. Get over it, especially since you and your blog do nothing to go against the typical ‘Essex girl’ stereotype.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Yeah, I guess I should probably ‘get over it’. After all, what are stereotypes but pathetic, unfunny, miserable, damaging statements that do no good to anyone?

      Am not sure what you mean about my blog doing nothing to go against ‘Essex girl’ stereotypes. I’m not from Essex.

  • chloemiriam says:

    As a girl from Liverpool (Essex of the north?) I applaud you. I don’t dress in the ‘scouse’ style but I have nothing against those who do and I am disgusted at the misogynist, classist hate I hear from supposedly progressive and non discriminatory folk. Erg.

  • You have successfully convinced me to move to Essex. I’m phoning Ryder and Dutton tomorrow.

  • missnutt says:

    I could clap you right now. And cheer you. And hold you up on my shoulders, just to celebrate how right you are! I find my self repeating phrases such as ‘each to their own’ and ‘whatever floats their boat’ till I feel like a broken record. So, I don’t like it, I think it looks awful, I think it buys into to terribly shallow and mysogonistic attitude that seems to be so popular which resigns women to being revered for being pretty arm candy rather than interesting or intelligent. But you know what – I know that not everyone holds the same view. And I know that some people like it. And I’m not stupid enough to judge somebody because they choose to look that way. I’m also not stupid enough to use my dislike of something to make cheap, snide jokes at someone elses expense, especially ones which are likely tp upset that person. Thank you for writing this. I think I love you a little bit for doing so!!

  • Charlemagne says:

    What a load of faux outrage. Simple fact is that some men – as well as a whole lot of women, judging by Twitter – like to exercise their own bodily autonomy in choosing to write opinions on female styles which, by most standards, are aesthetically displeasing. No-one’s denying the stereotypical Essex girl the right to go about looking like a 3/4-peeled orange. But acknowledging that right doesn’t mean we have to consider it a good look, or refrain from reacting to it.

    Do you get this upset when Twitter erupts with jokes about Eric Pickles’ girth, as it invariably does whenever he appears on Question Time? Do you think the people making such jokes are denying Mr Pickles the right to stuff his face to his heart’s content? Quite.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Hey, I’m guessing we’re not going to be able to come to a rational consensus on this, as you seem very angry about this blog. But for what it’s worth, here’s my response:

      I think you’re a bit confused about what ‘bodily autonomy’ is. People who bitch about other people’s looks aren’t expressing bodily autonomy, they’re expressing opinions. They have the right to express those opinions – I’m not the thought police. However, I have the right to find those opinions mean and offensive.

      My main issue with this is not specifically with the opinions themselves (although for the record, as I mentioned above, they are pretty shitty) but the hypocrisy of the subset of people who would say ‘oh my God Essex girls what a fucking state’ then five minutes later saying ‘a woman has the right to dress and look how she wants to without being judged.’ Regardless of whether you agree with either of those opinions, I hope you can see why that’s a contradiction.

      Finally – Eric Pickles. I haven’t seen much of this in my timeline, but I have seen blogs/articles/updates occasionally that have made a dig at the guy because he’s fat. I think you might have expected to have caught me out and shown me to be a knee-jerk, unthoughtful hypocrite myself but I’m afraid that – on this subject, at least – I’m not. Making fatuous jokes about Eric Pickles’ weight is also a pretty shitty thing to do. I don’t think it falls into the same category, so isn’t a directly comparable example, but nevertheless, it’s unnecessary and judgmental. Christ knows there are enough relevant things one can criticise Pickles for without needing to make half-arsed fat jokes.

      Finally I’m not saying I never make poor decisions and say things that are bad or judgmental about people – I do, and I have done on many occasions. But I’d hope that in those situations people would call me out on it, go ‘hang on, isn’t that a bit hypocritical/cunty?’ and I’d respond with ‘shit, yes. Sorry. Lesson learned.’

  • Shroud says:

    Firstly, people making fun out of stereotypes doesn’t offend me, and this is what this is. To be honest, nothing does offend me that isn’t malicious directed at me or those I care about.

    What is interesting to me is the fact that society and media seems to want to portray the male population as wanting women to look a specific way, and that appears to be why so many women dress similarly, wear fake tan, nails, eyelashes and makeup. I definitely fall into the category of ‘man who couldn’t care less’. If I want to fuck you, it isn’t because of hair extensions or tans, it’s because I think you’re sexy.

    I’ve had women who, whilst you’re getting down to it will apologise for not having shaved their legs for a while, or if they think their a bit sweaty. You know what? I couldn’t care less. Is it going to stop me wanting to fuck you? No. I’ve never bothered about wanting women I’m with to look a certain way (unless it’s something like lingerie I bought for you, that’s because I want to rip it off you), if you’re comfortable and happy, that’ll probably make me want to fuck you more, whether that be sloppy jeans and an old t-shirt, or a little black dress and stockings. If you’re happy and comfortable, you’re better company, and I’m more likely to want to fuck you. End of.

    I’ve had several arguments with mates etc. about this, and am always quite vitriolic with them when they ask their women to get ‘dolled up’ etc. Just baffles me is all.

  • grizzlybaz says:

    I’ve been married to an Essex girl for 14 years, and the stereotype is getting so old and tired now that I don’t even raise an eyebrow at it any more. Whilst you’re bang on about the hypocrisy of the sentiments coming from people who supposedly argue for women’s rights, I can’t pontificate because I’ve made similar judgements in my time. In truth, I think it speaks volumes about a society that doesn’t see the blatant double standards involved in this scenario, and that we get our kicks from making crass judgements about other people to make ourselves feel better about who we are.

  • Joanne says:

    Thank you for pointing out this hypocrisy. There are too many people who only believe in clothing/body size acceptance when it’s the kind that suits them.

    I used to work with someone who was overweight and always going on about size acceptance and how dare anyone make fun of her for being fat etc… And yet she would still end conversations with “But I wouldn’t want to be as short as you.”

  • Stephen Hero says:

    What about burkas? (A genuine question, not an attempt at a rhetorical rebuttal)

    • Girl on the net says:

      A bloody good question, at that. I have absolutely no idea what the answer is, though, I’m afraid. It’s something that I’ve thought about a lot, especially as the idea of a burkha ban gets floated more regularly. Should we ban anyone from choosing to wear specific items of clothing? I don’t think we should, no. However, the fact is that in many (by no means all) situations, people who wear the burkha are not being given a genuine choice.

      Sigh. I honestly and truly don’t know. In a world where things were simple (and in my relatively narrow world things luckily *are* quite simple – hence why it’s easy to point out the hypocrisy of condemning girls for wearing fake tan but applauding those who don’t) I’d say that we shouldn’t ban the burkha. But the world we live in isn’t even close to that simple, so I understand the arguments of those who think we should.

      Answers on a postcard, please, because I’m fucked if I know.

  • Dan says:

    There is a tremendous difference, (that you don’t seem to grasp in this post,) between personal and political opinions.

    You can be totally for the right of women to not shave their arm pits, and to organise groups where they encourage such behaviour, and still personally find it yucky. You’re not suddenly illiberal politically for finding specific personal traits or behaviours bad, or gross, or whatever.

    For instance, I’d imagine you’re perfectly content with people’s right to form groups/associations that are quite right-wing and (from a liberal perspective) backwards. And yet, just because you personally find some (or many) of their views reprehensible does not make you illiberal. Similarly, I support the rights of women to promote not shaving arm pits, but I (for whatever reason) find it gross; I just do. I know I’m changing the example dramatically, but I’m not twisting the point. I’m highlighting an identical underlying distinction between political and personal beliefs. Once you get this distinction, people don’t have to seem such contradictory assholes all the time.

    Another example I’m mentioning because I’m going to link a clip I find funny and true: You can be completely pro-gay rights personally, and still find particular “types” of gay people, or traits, funny, and joke about them. Even though on the personal principle of homosexuality, and certainly on the political right to be homosexual, you can be very pro-gay at the same time.

    Lighten up.

    • Girl on the net says:

      “Lighten up”? Really? Your comment seemed intelligent, as if you wanted to add something interesting to the discussion, and I think you do yourself a disservice by signing off with a classic teenage putdown. Still, here goes with my response:

      I’m not conflating personal and political opinions, and I fully appreciate your point that, while you can advocate that no woman should have to shave her armpits you reserve the right to personally find it unattractive. I’m with you there, and I wouldn’t ever tell someone that they *should* find something attractive purely on the basis that it’s more politically correct to do so. The world doesn’t work like that and we’re not easily programmable sex-robots.

      However, there’s a vast gulf of difference between having a personal sexual preference and broadcasting that preference as if it’s a solid-gold fact that people *have* to be this way, and if they’re not they’re disgusting. Making shit jokes, snide remarks, and rude statements about people who don’t conform to your preference is very different to simply finding A more attractive than B. What you’re doing there is contributing to a culture which goes against your professed belief (“women shouldn’t have to shave their armpits”). Because what do you think women will think when they hear enough people making jokes, comments, etc, about them not shaving their armpits? That’s right – they think that they *have* to in order to appear attractive or normal to everyone. When, in fact, they only have to in order to appear attractive to you.

      So no, I’m not failing to grasp the difference between personal and political opinion. On the contrary, I think I understand fairly well how politics and society is unduly influenced by the outspoken views of the majority. So sure, there’s nothing wrong with a personal preference for shaven armpits, but if you then go and make loud public statements about how ‘yucky’ it is, then I’m afraid you’re not exactly waving the flag for sexual diversity and bodily autonomy.

  • Jon says:

    Love the opening to this! That tweet is a classic.

    Personally I think Essex has just had a tough time and got a reputation because of it.

    There’s nothing wrong with looking good – or having a day off!

  • Lee says:

    I read all this stuff then imagined what I might say to my teenaged nice before she went out dressed in the style depicted in the picture.

    *blink* “Gosh, that’s a really bold look. Are you sure you’ve put on the mental armour that you’ll need to go with it?”

    “What? Why would I need that?”

    “Because some people are too dumb not to judge you by what they see on the surface” *grin*

    Not that I want her to go change. It’s her night out, after all. I just don’t want some random twat hurting her by being a jerk.

    *pointed glower at the tweets author*


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