Tag Archives: feminism

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On my most embarrassing fantasy

We’ve all got things that we fantasise about which, were they to happen in real life, would disgust or annoy us. Things that might get our genitals throbbing but which cause the moral part of our brains to rebel, and give us a post-fantasy stern talking to.

My most embarrassing fantasy isn’t sexual – it isn’t even exciting. But it’s the one I have spent the most time on in the last week. I close my eyes, block out all the things I should be thinking about, and spend a few minutes on my idle dream.

What’s my most embarrassing fantasy?

I dream of being saved. Not in a knight-in-shining-armour way: it’s far more tedious and practical than that.

I retreat to this shameful fantasy when I’ve had a bad week and everything seems to be going wrong. When I end every day miserable and exhausted and knowing that the next day will be the same. When I sit at my laptop, babbling nervously into a to-do list and panicking about all the things yet to be crossed off, I dream that – corny as it sounds – my prince will come.

He won’t marry me and whisk me away to a suburban idyll, he’ll just come to hold me, let me sob dramatically and unnecessarily on his shoulder, before making a few phone calls that melt all my troubles away.

When I’m down, and sad, I dream of a man who can do all the things I just don’t want to do. Ringing insurance companies, rewriting my CV, replying to emails that have languished unhappily at the bottom of my inbox. My prince: the pragmatic multi-tasker.

Because of all the things someone could ever give me – money, power, a nice thick cock and a regular eye-rolling fuck, the most valuable thing they could ever give me is time.

Why is this an embarrassing fantasy?

I am a capable, reasonable, competent human being. Honestly. Last year my boiler packed up and I managed to get a replacement without either

a) getting ripped off

b) leaving it so long I had to shower in freezing water or

c) sobbing wildly on my kitchen floor shouting “why won’t you just WORK you dogshit arsewipe pile of metal bollocks?!”

OK, maybe I did a teeny bit of c).

I’ve made it twenty nine years so far with only the occasional need of outside help – someone to show me where the stopcock is, the odd spider that I just can’t handle, that sort of thing. And yet despite my pathetic pride and determination to do nearly everything myself, I occasionally let my mind wander off into dreams of men who’ll do these things for me. Bleed radiators, clean kitchen cupboards, instruct solicitors and other such tedious bullshit.

I feel dirty and wrong for this, not because it’s sick or unusual in the way that many of my fantasies are. Not because it’s demeaning or degrading, but because I feel like this makes me a bad feminist. I mean, it’s not very independent, is it? The Suffragettes didn’t go through hell just so I could get a man to deal with my paperwork when I get too flustered. It goes against principles that mean a lot to me, and much of what I’ve worked for.

But still. When things get tricky, and I find myself wading through the mountain of DIY, admin and “please hold for an operator who can explain to you why we’ve suddenly doubled your gas bill” I’m not wishing for more internal strength, but for someone who’ll be strong on my behalf.

Fantasy vs reality

I’ve voiced this fantasy a few times – usually over a pint or two of gin and one of those terrifying crying attacks where your friends either cuddle you so no one can see the state you’re in or push you into the toilets to ‘get it out of your system.’

And occasionally, when I confess my fantasies of being saved, people have commented on the fact that it’s at direct odds with what I actually want in life. That if a guy came through for me on this kind of fantasy – if he cleared up my messes and cleaned my to-do list and took hold of the reins of my life, I would scream blue murder and banish him forever.

To which my reply is: of course. Of course. It’s a fantasy. Just as I don’t really want guys to beat me – I want them to spank me in a very specific way, with a very specific degree of pain, to the point where it’s hot and sexual but no further – I also want them to support me to just the right degree without ever taking away my own agency.

The most enjoyable thing about many fantasies is that if you really wanted to, you could make them come true: as with this one. But I haven’t made it come true – I just like to wallow in it. I like to sit and think and dream of my practical prince, while eschewing any kind of assistance that might make me look less than competent. So by thinking this I get to find out what my little heart actually desires – the difference between what I actually want and what I think I want.

He can still do the washing up though. There’s no shame in letting him do that.

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On ‘all feminists’

There’s a lot of bullshit spoken about lots of things, and never is the quantity of bullshit larger than when it comes swiftly behind a statement that ‘all’ people of a certain type are a certain way, or have certain problems. Sure, catch-all statements are often a handy shortcut, but the more you try to crowbar into that statement the greater the chance of it stinking like a dungheap.

So, in light of Some Things I Have Seen On The Internet Recently, I feel compelled to highlight a few things about feminists. Specifically, things that – while true of some of us – are categorically not true of all of us. Here are some things that ‘all feminists’ are not:

Subject to unrelenting abuse

Some people are showered with quite horrific and appalling abuse on the internet. One of the many things that ignites the ire of a miserable and hate-filled human is a woman who not only has some opinions but has the temerity to actually say them out loud. Why, it’s enough to make them want to commit a criminal offence on Twitter. This behaviour is, naturally, disgusting.

However, I’m worried that the total shitstorm of the last few days, while fantastic at highlighting what is a genuine problem for many people, has been painted by the media as a problem for ‘feminists’ (as evidenced by the fact that articles on the topic nearly all seem to refer to a ‘feminist journalist’ or ‘feminist MP’, as if a feminist is a surprising and unusual thing to be). People behaving appallingly to each other is not just a problem for feminists – it’s a problem for our entire society. Moreover, although many of the most prominent victims of Twitter threats are loudly and proudly feminist, there are many people who receive this kind of abuse who are not.

Additionally, I want to point out that although being a loud, stampy feminist might mean you’re more likely to be targeted by a subset of antisocial cockwipes, you aren’t guaranteed to get this treatment just because you are a feminist. Why is it important to say this? Two reasons:

– I don’t like the implication that you could make the abuse stop by just calming your feminist views down a bit, or shutting the hell up.

– I don’t want to think that there are people who’ll be too scared to talk about their opinions because a few unconscionable cunts fire all-caps hate-tweets at prominent women.

You might get shit: you might not. I just want you to know that it’s not guaranteed, and it’s not something you can prevent just by not having an opinion. On to the next thing ‘all feminists’ are not:


Some of my best feminist friends are men, and all that. More importantly, these feminist men fall into the same camps as the people in the previous category: some of them get awful abuse and threats on the internet, others don’t. There is no way of predicting or preventing this stuff on an individual basis. Whatever your views on how we, either technologically or as a society (or both) deal with the problem of online harassment, there’s never a way that you, as an individual, can prevent this.

Fighting all of the time

Another thing ‘all feminists’ aren’t doing. There’s a big discussion going on about how we deal with internet harassment. I’m undecided on the best solution because – as with most complex issues – there is nothing that leaps to the front of my mind and screams “BUT THIS IS SO OBVIOUS AND HAS LITERALLY NO DRAWBACKS.” Naturally, there’s debate – sometimes heated. However, it depresses me that the nuanced, carefully thought through arguments from a number of intelligent people have been boiled down into either ‘feminists are fighting with each other over a Twitter button’ or, even more worryingly ‘feminists are fighting everyone else over a Twitter button.’

It’s a fucking debate – we’re all supposed to be fighting. And I think, when this many people are involved, you can reliably say that this isn’t a ‘feminist’ issue – it’s a ‘people’ issue.

The same

As evidenced by the fact that a feminist can be male or female, pro- or anti-Twitter button, troll, trolled or indifferent, it’s fairly safe to say we’re not all the same. I appreciate that ‘feminist’ is a handy catch-all for some issues, but this definitely isn’t one of them.

It’s a people issue. It’s not a niche interest or campaign that we can cheer on from the sidelines but ultimately will never affect us: it’s about how we as a society behave towards each other, and we all – feminist or not – need to get stuck in.

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On shaving rash vs crotch hair

Summer’s come around, eventually. Time for us to run to the park to play cricket badly, burn things on barbecues while sipping lukewarm Fosters, and – if you’re me – growl with resentment at the fact that you have to show people your shaving rash if you want to go swimming.

I shave my crotch sometimes. Not all the time – in fact, one might say I’m reasonably lax about the removal of body hair. Ultimately, shaving things takes time and effort that I’d rather spend on having fun. However, I don’t mind the occasional shave because I like it when people come all over my cunt, and I get to rub it in. I’m gross like that.

So I have no problem with shaving, or hair removal, if it’s something people want to do. What pisses me off, though, are situations where I feel uncomfortable if I don’t. Situations in which I feel singularly incapable of channeling all of the angry liberal feminist rage I feel most of the time, and simply end up looking wistfully at my crotch and wondering why I give such a massive and disproportionate shit about how it looks. In this case, the thing that has made me angry is the prospect of swimming in the sea.

Caught between a rock and a hairy place

I understand that aesthetically some people prefer smooth thighs and a bald crotch, with no pubic hairs poking out of the sides of a swimming costume, but unfortunately for me (and, I suspect, a hell of a lot of other women too) this isn’t actually an option.

The choice for me is between a hairy crotch or an ugly shaving rash, ingrowing hairs, and a desire to scratch myself that’s likely to get me arrested in public places.

When I’ve confessed this to people before, their response has usually been ‘well, why don’t you wax?’ Great thinking, kids, but unfortunately waxing makes no discernible difference to whether my cunt turns bright red and causes me immeasurable discomfort for a week. What’s more, it hurts like… well… like a sadist ripping hairs out of your pudenda.

I got my crotch waxed once, so I know what it feels like. Anyone who suggests that I do this, in the same casual tone as they would if they were recommending a certain film, needs a quick, sharp lesson in empathy. Because my God, people, it hurts. A lot.

When I regaled my Mum with the horrible tale of my inaugural cunt-waxing, she summed up pretty much how I felt about the matter.

“I had it done once,” she said “and it hurt, but only slightly more than childbirth.”

I would probably have been less upset by the pain if it turned out there was a ‘gain’ from it afterwards, but unfortunately the very next day I was nursing bright red patches and itching again, still unable to wear a bikini in case people on the beach thought I was contagious.

How do you solve a problem like a hairy crotch?

I challenged myself to write this entry without recourse to my usual rage-fuelled bile-spitting about society’s expectations of presentation and body. Not because it’s unimportant (it’s very important) but simply because I recognise that no amount of raging and ranting and writing empowering blogs on the internet can magically stop someone being bothered about crotch hair.

If someone gives you an odd look when you stand on the beach, straggling pubes waving in the breeze, your discomfort won’t be lessened any by knowing that I wrote a feminist blog about it the week before. Knowing that I shouldn’t care about this stuff – that I’m intrinsically happy in my worth as a human being whether my crotch is bald or not – doesn’t make the slightest difference to my irrational, emotional insecurity about it.

When we arrive in Utopia, no one will ever have to worry about whether they have crotch hair, or a shaving rash, moles in unusual places or stretchmarks or cellulite or any of the other things that cause us to panic. We’ll all be far too busy swimming to give even the smallest flying fuck about anyone’s perceived imperfections.

But right now that’s not helpful or comforting. Right now I’m preparing for a holiday, staring mournfully at a bikini and dreading the moment I have to show it – and whatever state my crotch is in – to the world.

There’s no conclusion to this that’s in any way satisfying. In the short term I’m buying shorts. Long shorts. Swimming shorts. The really baggy ones that go down to my knees. Twinned with a bikini top and an angry stare, they should get me through this summer, at least.

And in the longer term, well. There’ll be more angry blog posts and rants about what is not wrong with you and why no one should feel compelled to shave their body hair. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we reach our Utopia before summer 2014, when this whole charade begins again.

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On every woman’s dream

Here are two apparently conflicting statements. I would like you to read both of them and decide which one is true:

  • Heterosexual women are incredibly complex and almost impossible for men to understand.
  • Heterosexual women all share an identical dream of the man they would like to be with.

Well done to anyone who said ‘neither’.

I don’t like dealing in absolutes. Unless we’re talking about pure mathematics, we’re pretty much bound to be wrong. All women are not X, and all men are not Y. Yes, we’re all pretty complex, but pretending that one particular gender is impossible to understand is like claiming we can never know what someone’s favourite colour is.

The only way you could go through life believing the opposite sex (or, indeed, any arbitrary subset of human beings) to be incomprehensible is if you refuse to ever speak to any of them.

So that’s number 1 dealt with. On to number 2 – the ‘ideal man’ scenario.

Every woman’s dream

Today the Sunday Times published a list entitled ‘Every woman’s dream‘ – a handy checklist for straight men on what sort of person they needed to be in order to proudly wear their ‘Mr Right’ badge. I should point out that the addition of words such as ‘straight’ and ‘heterosexual’ are mine, and added for clarity. According to this Sunday Times list, women who identify as anything other than ‘straight’ either don’t exist or were not consulted when their clearly thorough and painstaking research was conducted.

Here’s what the Sunday Times thinks ‘every woman’s dream’ man does:

“He has a well-developed protective instinct, as in the arm flung across the passenger seat in the event of a sudden stop.”

Protective? Or just a bit odd? If he was both protective and sensible he’d have checked that I was wearing a seatbelt in the first place. Moreover, I have survived for twenty nine years on this planet without men flinging their arms around me, shepherding me across the road, or cutting up my fish before I eat it lest I choke on a stray bone – I can protect myself fairly well, thanks.

“He can carry off fur trims, designer flip-flops, hair ties and hairbands, jewellery, cashmere hoodies and a man bag.”

There might be some women who dream of a man with a honed sense of fashion, but some of us couldn’t give a Fcuk. I’m happy if a boy is capable of putting his trousers on before we leave the house, and sensible enough to wear a coat if it looks like it might rain. And as for carrying a ‘man-bag’ – I despise the arbitrary inclusion of gender with this particular accessory. He does not eat with a ‘man-fork’ or wash in a special ‘man-bath’. My dream man just carries a ‘bag’.

“He is not scared to buy you underwear in M&S in an emergency – but will not step inside Farrow & Ball in any circs.”

I don’t know what Farrow & Ball is, but my dream man certainly doesn’t use the word ‘circs’.

“He considers the dustbins his department, but can also put flowers in a vase in a crisis.”

A man who considers the dustbins ‘his department’ is likely to be the sort of man who considers the hoovering to be ‘my department’, and is therefore probably an utter prick. My actual dream man considers all household chores to be a tedious waste of both of our time, but something we might as well do together to finish them quickly.

“He can buy presents without consulting his secretary/sister.”

Interesting. That’s true – my dream man is capable of doing that. But I wonder, dear readers, why the word ‘secretary’ was so casually thrown in here. Could it be possible that the author is assuming a) quite a few men have secretaries, because we are after all still living in the 1950s and b) all secretaries are women, hence why a man might turn to one in order to seek help with a gift?

In reality, men are perfectly capable of choosing gifts for people they know. Present-selection is a simple task, along the lines of ‘buying one’s own clothes’ and ‘paying the gas bill’ – it is not a rare skill possessed only by women and the crème de la crème of masculinity.

“He can look after three kids on his own.”

This, Sunday Times, is not ‘dream man’ material. This is ‘absolutely fucking basic’ material. If you have three children with someone and they are incapable of looking after them without you there to supervise, it’s not a shame: it’s an outright tragedy and one on which you should probably seek advice. Men are not bumbling, child-fearing buffoons – they are grown adults. And, like women, they produce and rear children.

“He drinks but never gets drunk.”

This dream man has a liver that surpasses our current expectations of human biology.

“He is open to yoga and meditation, Pilates and hypnotherapy…”

Because women are, naturally, obsessed with exercise techniques and borderline woo.

“He can do basic DIY and plumbing.”

Fair enough on this one, to be honest. My dream man can do this. But that’s because my dream man is a human, and I think it’s quite important that humans are capable of carrying out basic household tasks without crying in a corner.

“He finds strong women sexy.”

I’ll finish on this point, because it’s the most outrageously contradictory of the lot.

My own ‘dream man’, as it happens, does find strong women sexy. But then I’d bloody well hope he would because I am a strong woman, and if he didn’t find me sexy then he’d no more be my dream than he’d be a carton of cottage cheese. Clearly what this means is ‘your dream man should find you sexy’. A tautological statement if ever I heard one.

But if he finds strong women so sexy, why on earth is he insisting that the bins are ‘his department’? If he thinks I’m strong, he should realistically understand that I’m capable of emptying a dustbin without being permanently traumatised. I’ll be honest, Sunday Times, not only does the notion of a ‘dream man’ belong firmly in the dustbin that is ‘his department’, but the guy you’re describing sounds like an incomparable, inconsistent prick.

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On the army of unnamed writers behind The Vagenda

This blog is a bit of a meta-blog about blogging. If that’s not your thing, don’t worry. Normal posts on filth and angry feminism will resume shortly.

*Update* – Vagenda has responded to this and agreed to proactively ask for link backs. Still no guarantee of full name credit, but certainly much better than it was before.

The Vagenda, if you haven’t heard of it, is a blog written by a huge collection of people, and run by Rhiannon-Lucy Coslett and Holly Baxter. It’s a varied mix of really heartfelt stories, funny articles, feminist ranting, and almost anything else you could care to think of that’d fall under the category of ‘popular feminism’. It’s naturally a mixed bag, but I want to say up front that I like some of the stuff that’s published there. I even wrote for it once.

However, something about it really frustrates me: when I find an article that I like, I usually want to find out more about the author. I want to view their personal blog if they have one, or read other articles they’ve written. But I can’t.

Not because these writers are all anonymous (although some of them choose to be), or even because they never link through to their own blogs (occasionally they do), but because the Vagenda has a policy of never naming their writers. Unless you’re a famous journalist like Hadley Freeman, they will only credit you with initials. 

Who the hell is ‘JD’?

Don’t believe me? Take a look:

This is a great article on the morning after pill. It’s written by RW.
Here’s one on Chris Brown, by DB.
This one is credited to ‘MW’.
This one is credited to ‘RP’.

When I wrote for the Vagenda, I asked them to publish the post under my blog name – girlonthenet – they said they don’t do that, and instead published just the initials ‘GON’. They did include a link to my blog, though, so I still got referral traffic and probably picked up a few new readers, so it was a good thing for me to do.

But there are hundreds of writers who have blogged for Vagenda and seen no return whatsoever – no traffic to their blogs, no one googling their name and coming across their awesome piece then paying them to write something else, not the warm fuzzy feeling you inevitably get when you see your name on a popular website. If any of these people want to go into writing as a career, they can’t even use their Vagenda experience on a CV. Jane Doe has no way of proving that the article credited to ‘JD’ is hers, beyond pointing at it and saying “but it is! Honest!”

Pay versus promotion

There’s a huge debate about the ethics of not paying writers, and simply expecting them to write in order to gain ‘exposure’. I appreciate that if you’re not making money, you might not be able to pay people. I also think that if you are making money, not paying people is deeply unethical. If you expect writers to produce something of value for you, you have to give them something of value back. At the absolute least you should acknowledge that they’re a person with a name.

Recently The Vagenda began a Kickstarter with the aim of raising money to revamp their website and – if possible – pay their writers. This is a good aim – if their blog is making them money, paying their writers is the ethical thing to do.

But while they’re not paying cash, at the very least they can help talented writers gain the exposure that’s so important. On the Vagenda Kickstarter page they say:

“We already have a huge pool of awesome contributors from around the world and we’d really, really love to be able to pay them or shower them with gifts, even if it’s just a little, for their amazing work.”

Well, you can start by crediting them. You don’t even need a Kickstarter for that – it’s free. Offer your writers a byline, author bio, and link to their personal blog if they want it. If you don’t have any money yet, that’s an easy thing with which you can shower them.

Vagenda initials-only policy

I emailed Vagenda and put this issue to them (the full text of my email, and their reply, is below in the comments). Naïvely, I half expected them to reply by saying ‘blimey, you’re right. We should add credits.’ But instead they explained why they do this. I don’t think the explanation is good enough. Here are their reasons, and my thoughts:

Many of our writers would like to keep what they write separate from their work

Understandable, of course. But ‘many’ is not ‘all’. I’m 100% sure that some of their writers don’t want to keep their Vagenda articles separate from their other work. The choice to have your work properly acknowledged is being taken away from all writers because some writers might choose otherwise.

It also stops people pitching us puff pieces/PR stunts

Annoying though it is when people do this, it’s one of the hazards of running a popular blog. I suspect that the initials-only policy does little to stop people pitching anyway – I get emails from PRs all the time, despite never publishing the guest posts/sponsored links that they suggest.

It protects people when they’re writing personally/it prevents writers getting abused on Twitter

On the surface this seems like a nice reason – protecting the people who write for you from getting abuse. However, criticism is one of the potential hazards of writing, and it comes hand-in-hand with praise.

I fully understand why some writers might want to remain anonymous, but others might choose to take the rough with the smooth. The people who contribute to Vagenda are more than capable of making this choice for themselves. Warning writers that they might get abuse is one thing, refusing to credit them ‘for their own good’ is quite another.

It also sits at odds with this:

We link people when they ask

So they won’t add your name in case you get twitter abuse, but if you ask them nicely they’ll add a link to your blog. Vagenda – you’re either protecting people by keeping them all anonymous or you’re not. Which is it?

Moreover, do the authors know they have to ask for a link? Why aren’t they proactively offered the option? I think the right way to deal with guest blogs is to ask the author exactly how they want to be credited – what links they want included, which name they’d like to put to the piece, etc. Let’s not forget that the writer is doing more than being ‘given an amazing opportunity’, they are providing valuable content for free.

We also have an arrangement with the Guardian whereby, if they want to cross post anything from the Vagenda, the writer gets a byline and a picture on the Guardian website.

The Guardian credits its writers. It protects anonymity where people ask for it, but when they don’t, it will appropriately credit the person who wrote the piece. Which is exactly as it should be. The fact that Vagenda editors want to protect the women who write for them, except if their piece is popular enough to get picked up by the Guardian, seems odd. Presumably Vagenda writers can choose whether they want to be credited by the Guardian, so why can’t they choose to be credited on the article they wrote for Vagenda?

Finally, I should highlight – as Rhiannon did in the email she sent me on this issue – that neither of the editors claim author credit on the blogs they write. They’re only credited using their initials, like all the other Vagenda writers. This would be a good point if they were just as anonymous as the ‘RP’s and ‘JD’s of this world, but they’re not – they’re incredibly well known. And, ironically, they’re well known because their full names are credited on the articles they write for other publications – Guardian, New Statesman, etc. These other publications are acknowledging a truth that the editors themselves don’t seem to have grasped: that writers deserve credit for their work. They have names.

So what exactly is the point of this, GOTN?

I love some of the articles on the Vagenda, and I got a fair amount of blog traffic when I wrote for them. I know that the site itself invites mixed opinions, but I’m not in any way saying ‘Vagenda is awful oh God make it stop’. What I am very loudly and clearly saying is that it needs to rethink this ‘initials only’ crediting policy. Given that the blog wouldn’t exist without the army of writers who contribute to it, the very least the editors should offer them is the option to put a name to their work.

In the words of the Vagenda editors themselves, publishing just initials at the bottom of each article

“makes writers difficult to distinguish from one another”

So, a heartfelt plea: Vagenda, even if you can’t pay right now, could you at the very least give the talented, interesting and occasionally fucking superb people who write for you some credit? They have names.

Full text of the email exchange between me and Vagenda in the comments below. Feel free to tweet at The Vagenda editors (please keep it civil – they get a lot of shit on the internet and I’m hoping to persuade them to change their policy, rather than subject them to a torrent of unnecessary rage) and let them know if you think they should change the way they credit people.