Tag Archives: feminism

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On why you should date a boy who travels. Or not.

If you haven’t yet read it, you might want to see this article first: “Date a boy who travels”

Date a boy who travels. Date a boy who has an Oyster card or a car or one of those Segway things. Watch his face light up as he successfully navigates his way from A to B. Sigh blissfully at his ability to do things that you could only dream of.

Date a boy who treasures experience over toys. Who wouldn’t be seen dead in a Rolex. Date a boy who cares about memories, and this one time in Thailand when he and his mates got off their tits on mushrooms and cavorted wildly in the sea.

You might find this boy in a bookshop, a Starbucks, a back-alley, or somewhere on the internet. Offer to buy him a drink. Make sure it’s something unusual so that you can please him, while simultaneously pretending you’re just as interesting as he is.

His twitter account will be riotously colourful, and will make you feel stupid for not knowing what ‘chai’ is. He’ll study books and magazines that you probably don’t like, but his excitement for these things is a tangible reminder of just how much better he is than you.

Listen to his stories. He’ll have shitloads of them, and they’ll all be a thousand times better than anything you could say. Feel warm inside as he regales you with yet another tale of something incomprehensibly exciting. Cross your fingers and perhaps one day he’ll deign to let you join him.

Date a boy so that you can live vicariously through him. He will teach you what excitement feels like, his stories of risk-taking will throb powerfully through your veins, and every single thing he introduces you to will be new and fresh and good and superior. Date a boy who tells you how you feel. And know that he is right.

Wait for him to propose, which he’ll do if and only if you’ve proved that you’re capable of living the same life as him. You’ll get married on a beach somewhere, or in the middle of a crumbling temple, or while bungee-jumping into a pool of understandably terrified dolphins. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Let this magical traveling wonder-boy show you how to live your life.

Date a boy who travels. Or not.

Or don’t do any of this. Because although this article has been shared around the internet like it’s a template for The Happy Life Of A Straight Woman, straight women are in fact not all identikit man-hunting machines. Nor do we languish in a chrysalis-like state, with no ambition or desire of our own save the hope that one day – one day – our prince will come and shape us into more exciting human beings.

Date a boy who likes you. Date a boy you like. Date a boy who watches some of the same TV shows as you. Date a boy who hates your taste in music but smiles indulgently when you drag him to a karaoke night. Date a boy who values experiences, possessions, trips abroad, Rolex watches, food, drink, politics, or whatever. Date a boy who values you.

Date a boy who sees you as an individual rather than a bucket into which he can pour his own ideas. Date a boy who knows you’re not a piece of clay to be moulded and shaped by someone who knows better. Date a boy who is interested in your stories, who brings you on his adventures and wants you to bring him on yours.

Date a boy who travels, a boy who sings, a boy who cries, a boy who skateboards, a boy who shouts at the TV when Question Time is on. Date a boy who eats nachos like a pig, who is teetotal, who drinks like a fish, who is a domestic wizard or who never does the washing up. Date a boy who teaches reading to children, or watches Game of Thrones with one hand down his pants. Who calls you ‘princess’ and won’t fart in front of you, or a boy who laughs when you dribble yoghurt down your chin. Date a boy who couchsurfs, a boy who holidays at Butlins, or a boy whose idea of adventure is a trip to the 24-hour supermarket with a printed discount voucher.

Date a boy who likes you. Date a boy you like.

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On what is not wrong with you, part 6: having bodily functions

Let us discuss the word ‘ladylike.’ This word conjures the idea of demure high-society women nibbling on tiny sandwiches before patting daintily at their unsullied lips with napkins. Sorry, serviettes. Or whatever one calls them in order to avoid a terrible faux-pas.

The word ‘ladylike’ can, in my opinion, be applied to anyone – female or not. The key is ‘is your behaviour a type which the Victorians deemed acceptable for high-society ladies?’ These days we don’t expect anyone (male or female) to behave in the ways the Victorians deemed suitable for high-society ladies – we’d all be fainting and gagging for a pasty before you could say ‘I take my tea with lemon, Jeeves’. Hence why the word is useful, because it can be funny when applied to people who are being disgusting. Downed ten pints then puked in a gutter? Not very ladylike. Eaten an entire packet of Cadbury’s Twirl Bites then burped loud enough to disturb the neighbours? Unladylike. Shat your trousers on a rollercoaster? Likewise.

I don’t personally think the word ‘ladylike’ itself is necessarily misogynist – it’s just an outdated label that can be applied in various ways. So, as with all words – slippery little bastards at the best of times – I think a lot depends on context and intent.

Bodily functions

Unfortunately for the word ‘ladylike’, it is most frequently used in contexts which make me want to hurl large blunt objects at delightfully shattery china. It is often used for comedy, but more often used as a reminder to women that they shouldn’t admit to having any bodily functions at all.

There are two reasons I’m writing this blog. Firstly, because I overheard a conversation in a restaurant recently that went something like this:

Small girlchild: burp
Second small girlchild: giggle
Mother of aforementioned small children: Don’t do that, it’s disgusting.
Small child 1: Why?
Mother: We’re at the dinner table. Besides, it’s not very ladylike.

When I was a little girl I loved many things that I considered ‘ladylike’ – tiny china teasets, huge frilly dresses that I could spill Ribena down at parties, and (please stop laughing at the back) ballet pumps. But if someone had told me then that in order to maintain a veneer of ladylike charm I’d have to not just acquire these frilly things but also refrain from doing other things I liked – making mud pies, burping, running along the landing naked after a bath with a towel streaming behind me while I shouted “Der ner ner ner ner ner ner ner BATMAN” – I’d have hurled my cup of Ribena into their stupid narrow-minded face.

The second reason I felt compelled to mash wildly on my keyboard in barely-disguised and possibly excessive rage is that I read this interview. Take your time, have a read, and come back when you’ve reached the point that you think my head exploded.

Anyone who guessed ‘some time during the first question’ is correct. The woman being interviewed is a science writer. I’m not familiar with her work but it sounds brilliant, not least because she’s written a book about sexual arousal called ‘Bonk.’ However, rather than ask her something about all the fascinating things that she’s studied, or what drew her to the subject matter, the interviewer instead jokes that it’s not ‘ladylike’ for her to wonder what happens to the anus when it has a cellphone inside it.

I’m not saying the interviewer is an evil person and needs to be crushed, but were I to meet them in person I’d certainly be tempted to ask the startlingly obvious question: “would that have been your first question to a man?” Would the first thing they probed be whether the subject matter was a bit inappropriate or un-dainty? I doubt it.

It’s my body and I’ll piss out of it if I want to

I’ve frequently heard grown adults talking about women’s bodily functions in ways which imply that we, as women, have some sort of superhuman level of self-control which means we are never scruffy, pissed, obnoxious or irritably-bowelled. I’ve met girls who’d be horrified if they accidentally farted in front of a boyfriend, or boyfriends who would be disgusted to walk into the toilet post-shit and smell something other than roses.

Sure, burping might not be polite. Farting, swearing, talking loudly about getting fisted or accidentally pissing your knickers on the night bus: all of these things can certainly be considered rude, or gross, or inappropriate. But the idea that they’re more gross and inappropriate just because a woman is doing them is ridiculous.

Women are brilliant, I’ll grant you. But we’re no more skilled than men when it comes to being able to control our bodily functions. We’re disgusting and messy and we smell. We leak strange juices, burp when we’re windy, get rolls of fat when we sit down wearing tight jeans. We’re curious about what people put up their arses. We sweat and we swear and we get drunk and fall over. Occasionally we even shit in the woods.

So I think what I’m trying to say is that there are certain rules of politeness that I’m happy to adhere to: I won’t burp at the dinner table or do the Batman-towel thing in polite company. But I’ll only follow these rules if they apply to everyone. I’m not going to sit demurely in a corner stifling my farts if you’re allowed to trump with gay abandon in the seat next to me.

I am woman, hear me burp.

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On your ‘psycho’ ex girlfriend

I’ve been called some crappy things in my time, and I’ve hurled a good few insults myself. But there’s one word that, when I hear it, makes me boil with rage.

That word is ‘psycho.’

As in:

“When I dumped her, I realised she was a proper psycho.”
“He’s got a psycho ex girlfriend.”
“She’s been stalking him on facebook like a psycho.”

Why you’re not a ‘psycho’

Let’s begin by stating that applying the word ‘psycho’ to anyone is pretty offensive. Remember Hitchcock’s classic shower scene? That’s what you’re alluding to when you use this word. Whether you’re using it to belittle your ex or to try and humiliate people with mental health problems, it’s a nasty word to use in anger.

What’s more, it’s frequently used as a weapon to make women (and ex-girlfriends in particular) feel small. Not when they’ve done things that are dangerous or troubling – I’ve seen the word ‘psycho’ applied to people because they’ve done something as innocuous as:

  • asking an ex to talk to them about the reasons for a break up
  • crying in a public place because they were upset about a break up
  • texting someone when drunk to tell them they love them
  • looking at someone’s profile on Twitter or facebook

Compare these to the ‘shower scene’ – are they really ‘psychotic’ actions? Or are they, more realistically, natural things to do if you’re in a state of emotional turmoil?

I’m not talking about genuine stalker behaviour here – none of us want our bunnies boiled. None of us want ex-partners turning up at our workplace and screaming wildly on the street “why don’t you love me?! What did I do?!” I think we can all agree that actually being stalked by an ex is a terrible, frightening thing.

But labelling someone a ‘psycho’ because they’re visibly upset about the breakup of a relationship, serves to trivialise the idea of ‘stalking’ by lumping all of this behaviour in together. If your ex is sending you threatening messages, harassing you, and making you uncomfortable, that’s a very serious thing. If they’re looking at your publicly-available information and shedding a few tears over the good times you had when you were going out, that’s quite another.

‘Psychotic’ men

I’ve rarely heard the word ‘psycho’ applied to men who do similar things. That’s not because they don’t do them – men can be just as emotional about breakups as women, it’s just that their emotions are less frequently used as a weapon with which to humiliate them. Ex-boyfriends of mine who have cried over our lost (or, more realistically, mutually abandoned) love affairs have never been skewered by my friends saying ‘oh, I knew he was a psycho’ or ‘he texted you again? What a mental.’

Guys are shamed in other ways for emotional behaviour – being expected to keep a stiff-upper-lip when they’re being torn apart inside, for one. Being told that ‘boys don’t cry’ and invited to shake off their upset by rebound-fucking their way around town, as if their emotions and their erections are just two sides of the same coin. But that’s a discussion for another day.

There’s an entire minefield of shit surrounding the way we discuss people’s more extreme emotions surrounding break ups – sobbing gentlemen are obnoxiously induced to ‘man up’, and female despair is painted as something oddly sinister. Her justifiable sense of grief is framed as dangerous instability. Guys might shed a few tears or get drunk to dull the pain, but you’d better watch out for these ker-ay-zee women – with their wailing and their texting and their unreasonable sense of sadness.

The worst thing you could do

There are those who handle breakups badly – the ones who cut up their ex’s clothes, send increasingly alarming and desperate emails, show up at their house at 2 in the morning and wake the neighbours by banging on the door and demanding to be let in. I’ll stress again for those who might have missed it – these things are unacceptable, and often downright scary.

But most of the time when the ‘p’ word is applied, it’s to behaviour that is perfectly understandable and normal: crying or mooning over your ex, or wanting some form of closure at the end of a relationship. These aren’t ‘psychotic’ things to do, in fact if you’ve broken up with someone you love, even if the break up was mutual, it would be abnormal not to be emotional about it.

The very nature of love is that it’s a powerful emotion, and when we mess with powerful emotions we do strange things. I’ve done things that would justify a fair few  insults – from getting crying-drunk at parties to mentioning a new partner in front of the ex I’m not quite over.

I’m ashamed of and angry at myself for doing these things, and if you were to call me a ‘bitch’ or a ‘hypocrite’ or a ‘cold-hearted bastard’ you’d be bang on the money. But the word ‘psycho’ says so much more than that.

It says ‘you’re not normal’ in a way that is coldly calculating. It says ‘you’re hysterical, you’re overreacting, your pain is not significant as you think it is.’

Above all, the thing that makes me shudder and cringe: it tells someone that their affection is not only unwanted but repulsive. That the most unacceptable, horrific thing this person has done is to love you.

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On the 5 reasons for female infidelity

Why do women cheat? Well, that’s a bit like asking why they learn to drive – there are lots of different reasons for doing it, and some women prefer not to do it at all.

However, in a valiant step towards reducing all female sexual desire to some bizarre medical condition, a dude called Robert Weiss (who incidentally works at a place that aims to treat people who have a sex addiction – we’ll come onto this later), wrote an article entitled ‘5 reasons for female infidelity.’

That sounds fairly innocuous – I mean, if we’re just talking about 5 general reasons for female infidelity, then we could essentially list any reason whatsoever and as long as one woman is willing to cite that as the primary cause for cheating, it could make our list. But no. As he explains later in the article, these are the ‘most common’ reasons women cheat.

Why I cheated

I’ve cheated on boys before – I’ll leave the sordid details for something a bit more in-depth, where I’ll have a chance to make pathetic and inadequate excuses for all those hearts that I’ve broken. But right at the top of my ‘why I cheated’ list was this:

I was horny.

In the interests of full disclosure, there was another reason pretty high up on that list:

I was drunk.

There were other factors at work as well, depending on the particular cheating episode (and there have been more than a few, because of my aforementioned bastardry) – sometimes I wanted the challenge of sleeping with someone I never thought I’d get. Sometimes I was simply curious about how a particular guy would be. Other times I was planning on ditching my boyfriend but wanted to make sure I’d secured a nice back-up relationship to spring into afterwards. But ultimately my primary motivating factor was physical rather than emotional: lust.

Laying aside for a minute the fact that I am an amoral shit, there was a hell of a lot more sexual motivation going on here than in the list constructed by Weiss, who instead highlights reasons such as ‘women have intimacy disorders’ or ‘feel neglected’. Well, shit a brick. It turns out that rather than just being a horny slag with the willpower of a smack addict at a poppy farm, I am instead a damaged, blameless individual who requires either treatment or a cuddle.

Male vs female infidelity

Look, I’m not saying that women never cheat because they feel insecure – I am 100% sure that they do. I’m not saying that some people don’t have genuine troubles that mean they could do with the help of a relationship counsellor or sex therapist. As mentioned above, there are myriad reasons why women might stray from a relationship, and I expect Robert Weiss has correctly pinpointed some of them. But are these really the most common? Is it really more likely that you have an intimacy disorder than that you like having sex?

And more importantly, where is the research that actually backs up these ‘5 reasons for female infidelity’? Because as far as I can see, none of the links in the article go anywhere more substantial than a blog that’s over a year old which includes a slightly longer but no less speculative list, and a journalistic puff piece advertising a website for married people to have affairs. I cannot stress enough how much I want you to click those links: please do – see just how tenuous the cited ‘evidence’ is.

Is there a similar article in which Weiss dissects the 5 reasons for male infidelity? If it’s based on the same level of research, and skewed just as heavily to reflect society’s bias about gender and sexual drive, I suspect men would be asked to choose between statements such as  ‘my wife didn’t suck me off enough’, ‘I was horny’ and ‘she had really lovely tits. Wahey.’

What’s my motivation?

We all have different needs and desires, and consequently we all do different things for different reasons.

I, for instance, am writing this article because I am a sex blogger, opinionated arsehole, and all-round horny wench. I like having sex and I feel the need to challenge lazy, tired assumptions that women don’t enjoy sex for sex’s sake. Robert Weiss might have his own reasons for writing the original article, like perhaps the fact that he runs a sex addiction clinic. The women he has encountered (who have come to him for what they hope will be a cure) will probably be more likely to put a medical slant on their reasons for cheating. Or, and do stop me if this sounds a bit far-fetched, perhaps it’s because Mr Weiss has a vested interest in encouraging people to medicalise any instance of sexual activity that could be considered ‘excess’, so that they end up visiting his clinic.

You know, I’m just speculating.

But here’s the problem – if the ‘research’ in the article is anything to go by, the author is just speculating too. Weiss’s speculation, which presents women as feeble creatures incapable of having sexual desires that aren’t motivated by a deeper emotional need, is being presented as ‘fact’, when he’s presented no evidence to back that up.

This is exactly the sort of thing we have editors for: to identify facts, and sort them from self-interested waffle. Self-interested waffle: I’ve cheated on partners before but I don’t want you to think I’m an awful person. Facts: women get horny, grass is green, and the Huffington Post can utterly fuck off.

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On Julie Burchill, hatred, and a massive crisis of empathy

Update 2020: this post was written long ago, before I understood how Julie Burchill’s views really fed into the toxic debate on trans rights. I would not write the same thing today. 

What causes hate? Loads of situational things, of course. You might hate someone because they slept with your partner, because they blew up your car or used up the last bit of milk in the fridge and failed to replace it.

On a more significant and terrifying level you might hate someone because they’re different: blacker, gayer, differently-gendered, or because there’s some other quality about them that you just can’t get your head around. They’re different, and they do things differently to you and they’re swanning around this world just refusing to even make an effort to be a little bit the same as you, to fit in. How dare they.

At the root of it I think the vast majority of this hatred is caused by a failure to understand – to actually try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes and empathise with their situation. We’re suffering a massive fuckoff crisis of empathy, and it’s causing us to rip each other to shreds.

Let’s talk about privilege

I’m pretty bloody privileged: I’m a white, middle-class British girl with a job and a flat and shoes and a fridge full of Cadbury’s Twirl bites and at least four real-life friends. I’ve grown up with a family who are fucking spectacular and supportive and I’m more than aware that the shelter of my background and upbringing means I’ll never fully understand the troubles that other people, who haven’t been born with all the breaks I have, go through.

But I can try, yeah? I can give it a fucking go. I can listen to people’s stories and experiences and I can frown at the people who shout them down and I can try – try – to empathise. I may not be able to fully comprehend, because of my privilege. But I can listen, and I can try.

Let’s talk about words

I once wrote a blog post about female urinals that included the line ‘women don’t have penises’. As soon as I tweeted it someone tweeted back saying ‘hey, how about you cut out the nasty transphobia in your second paragraph, yeah?’

My reaction was a stunned, gobsmacked, horrified ‘what the fuck?!’ I re-read the blog and I couldn’t see anything that would lead people to think that I was phobic or hateful towards transgendered people. So you know what I did? Rather than call her a prick, or tell her to fuck off and leave me alone, I asked what she meant.

She explained: ‘some women, you know, do have penises. Gender vs sex.’ That made sense, so I asked her what I should change it to and she suggested ‘most women don’t have penises.’ The change wasn’t exactly a fucking revolution, but it made this person, and potentially others, a bit more comfortable with what I was writing, and also made me a bit more careful about the language I used from then on. I’m not asking for a medal, by the way – this is quite literally the least I can do to not be a dick.

In return, though, when I’d changed the piece, the lady in question apologised. Not for asking me to change it, but for her initial comment that had made it sound like I did it deliberately. Saying (and I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t have the tweet to hand) ‘sorry, I just see this stuff all the time, appreciate you changing it and realise you didn’t do it on purpose.’

And, pathetic though I sound, that made my sodding day. Her recognition that I’m not deliberately a bastard, just a clumsy arse, meant a lot.

Let’s talk about Julie Burchill

Earlier this week Suzanne Moore wrote an article that included an insensitive comment about ‘Brazilian transsexuals.’ Then some people picked her up on it. Then some more people hounded her for it. She defended her comments. They asked her to apologise. She left Twitter. Then professional controversialist Julie Burchill waded in with something so hateful that it made me wonder why the fuck any of us even bothers getting out of bed in the morning.

There are failures of empathy going on all over the place here – Moore’s initial lack of empathy and understanding for trans women who, you know, have enough shit to deal with without being casually mocked in the New Statesman. When she was picked up on her comments by people who tried to engage, and explain exactly what was wrong with the original comment, she failed to understand why they might be justifiably angry. Later on, some more vocal tweeters joined in, then seemed surprised that Moore might be upset at having had quite terrifying abuse hurled at her. Finally, Julie Burchill rounded the whole episode off neatly by demonstrating where a complete lack of empathy ultimately leads: to hatred.

Let’s just fucking talk, OK?

Privileged or not, we all have the capacity to understand and to try and empathise. But we cannot do that if we cannot talk to each other, and listen to what others have to say.

Sometimes I’ll say things you disagree with. Sometimes I’ll use words you don’t like. Sometimes (and this may be one of those times) you’ll want to hurl your laptop out of the window in frustration at the way I have callously dismissed or ignored something that’s precious to you.

But I promise you this: I will never deliberately say hateful, horrible things that ignore my privilege and make life harder for you. I will always try to empathise and – if you correct me – I’ll try to clarify what I’m saying, or apologise if I’m wrong. If you tell me about my mistakes I can correct and clarify. If you call me a hateful psycho bitch-whore, I’ll never fucking learn.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of an angry internet, asking you all to be a bit more understanding. That goes for the writers as well as the commenters and all of the people who retweet us and keep us afloat. Because as soon as we lose that capacity to understand, to try and empathise with other people’s feelings and troubles and mistakes, we’ll all turn into Julie fucking Burchill.