‘Rants’ Category

  1. Feminist Fairy Tales

    November 11, 2013 by alicehaswords

    image from www.medieval-castles.org

    image from www.medieval-castles.org

    My brother works in a primary school. As well as helping out with a particularly troubled/naughty little boy, he runs a weekly after-school storytelling club. This often involves discussing the week’s stories with me beforehand.

    This week he was planning to use a traditional Arthurian legend: Sir Somebody-or-other and the Hideous Hag. The story irked me. In it, King Arthur is put under a sleeping spell by an ogre, who promises to lift the spell if the Arthur’s knights can answer a riddle: what do all women want? The only way the knights are able to find the answer is by kissing a wise, but hideous, old hag. The answer she gives? ‘All women want their own way.’*

    We used to have a book of politically correct bedtime stories. Snow White and the seven people of small stature. Goldilocks and the three bears, in which Goldilocks rejects the condescending lumberjack’s offers of help and deals with the situation herself, thank you very much. That kind of thing.

    I suggested some changes to the story along these lines, to make it a bit less dreadfully sexist.

    1. The whole ‘hideous hag’ concept isn’t very original. In fact, almost all folk stories ever use three basic female character tropes: the virgin, the temptress, the crone. (See: most Disney films.) How’s about we make her a more rounded character, and avoid judging her on her age and appearance alone? Just because she’s old and not conventionally attractive doesn’t mean she should be treated with less respect.
    2. Why does the author assume that she’s so desperate for male attention that she’d blackmail the knight for a kiss? I’m guessing this story was originally written by a man, whose self-importance had been misguidedly inflated by the patriarchal society he was brought up in. See, it’s not healthy for any of us to exist in a social system that values one gender above others.
    3. Both the riddle and its answer are problematic. So here’s how I think the story should go…


    King Arthur is put in an enchanted sleep by an ogre. Not because ogres are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour than other magical creatures, but because this particular ogre has unresolved psychological issues which lead him to use his powers irresponsibly, to compensate for the lack of positive attention he received from his parents during childhood. The Knights (a diverse group, some of whom opt for shining armour, some of whom condemn violence in all forms and so avoid the use of its associated paraphernalia) are sent out to discover the answer to the ogre’s riddle.

    The knight who finds the wise old woman is called Sir Jane (- some of the knights, of course, are women). They have a nice sit down and a cup of tea in the old woman’s hovel; the roof is a bit leaky, so Sir Jane registers it on her list of homes for repair by the Knights’ Community Outreach Programme. They discuss how much the forest has changed since they cleared all those trees to build the big new castle; how it’s made the area much more prosperous and cosmopolitan but disrupted the local unicorn population, and whether the benefits will outweigh the losses in the long run. (Now the story passes the Bechdel test. Really not hard, is it?) They move on to the topic of the ogre’s riddle, and come to the conclusion that it’s a trick question; there is no one thing that all women want, because women are individuals with their own wishes and desires and can’t be lumped together as one faceless generalisation.

    Sir Jane returns home and informs the ogre that his riddle is based on sexist assumptions, hands him a reading list of key feminist texts and directs him to the nearest library. She then goes to King Arthur and wakes him up by throwing cold water on his face, because that always works in movies.

    THE END.

    I think my version is much better.

    Go forth, feminist parents, aunties, uncles, babysitters, storytellers generally! Tell feminist fairy tales to your kids. Teach your wee ones gender equality through the power of stories. May they grow up without preconception or prejudice, into confident, thoughtful young patriarchy smashers.


    *I may have entirely misremembered the story. But I think that’s more or less it.


    Alice finds it a bit strange talking about herself in the third person, somebody else usually does this bit. Um. She is generally a good egg. She likes making things. Cats like her. She tweets here: @alicehaswords

  2. Give It 2 U – an open letter to Robin Thicke

    October 2, 2013 by Betsy Powell

    Image from gowherehiphop.com

    Image from gowherehiphop.com

    Oh, Robin Thicke, you clever clever man. You’ve done it again. Once again I am bowled over by your lyrical tenderness and perspicacity.

    First off, and I think I speak for everyone when I say, thank you so much for saving us all three extra letters to write when we reference the title of your poetic genius – Give It 2 U. I, for one, find it very tiresome every time some pedantic spelling Nazis insists on using the full words ‘to’ and ‘you’. Geez; what killjoys!

    Next up, you’ve got a gift for me, you say? How delightful. A ‘big kiss’? Riiiight. Thanks. A ‘hit’? Hopefully not a physical one there, Robin. Lols. A ‘big dick’? Now you’re talking. I can’t wait for you to give me that big dick. Oooh, and a whip too? And your balls are hard as well? You charmer.

    And now you want to make everything I fantasise about come true? Do you know how much a lifetime’s supply of chocolate costs? Do you? I’m not sure you’ve thought this one through; run a budget past your accountant and then we’ll talk.

    Now what’s this? You want to put cheese on my face? Hmmmm. Melted? Because that might hurt, Robin. Although I am partial to some squidgy brie.

    It’s great that you hang out with such talented people as well; like that nice Kendrick Lamar, who lends his dulcet tones to your latest ditty, but, here’s the thing, I’m not sure I want to sit on his face as he so kindly requests, nor do I want his dick. And wowsers, I’m not comfortable being his cotton candy if he wants a ‘fistful’, but least his heart is in the right place though as he promises he won’t ejaculate inside me because he’s learned his lesson; bless.

    To be honest, Robin, I think you’re on to a winner here, pet. You’re speaking from the heart and your outpourings of deep emotional love are both riveting and highly erotic. I can’t wait for you to give it to me. No, really. Go on, get that big dick up there… Did I mention I always carry around an abnormal large pair of gardening shears?



    Betsy is a writer, bookworm, and editor of Excelle magazine. Follow her on Twitter.


  3. Three’s a crowd

    September 6, 2013 by Betsy Powell

    Image from http://mybreakuptomakeup.com/

    Image from http://mybreakuptomakeup.com/

    I was queuing up at my local shop today, clutching a bumper bag of plain flour, value sultanas and a small bottle of Navy Rum to one breast and the October issue of Elle resting upon the other, torn between baking banana bread when I should be working, or reading about the latest fashions when I should be working. It was a pleasant argument to mull over and I’d yet to come to a decision when I was called up to the counter and plonked my items down. As the cashier scanned away, I glanced at the coverlines on the glossy mag before scooting over the sultanas to get a better look. And there, just to the right of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s supremely model elbow in bold white caps, I read, “SHOULD YOU HAVE AN AFFAIR?”

    “Erm, well,” I thought to myself. “I suppose that’s a fair question. Wait. Hang on. What?”

    “Excuse me,” I said to the cashier. “Umm, I’ve actually decided to leave the magazine this time.”


    “Erm, I won’t be buying Elle now.”

    “Fine,” she said, pushing it to one side without a blink. “Would you like a bag?” I walked the five minutes home and popped the sultanas in a medium-sized pan to boil with the rum and ruminated. Why exactly had I reacted so strongly to such a headline? Not doubt it was chosen by the sub-editors as a catchy line to do precisely what it had done. I’m an editor myself; I know the power of good coverline.

    To be fair to the article in question, as I didn’t buy the magazine, I still don’t know how it was going to play out. Perhaps the very well reasoned answer is, “No. No, you should definitely not have an affair. And here’s why…” But I’ve noticed an alarming trend recently that suggests otherwise. Only the other day I was streaming a programme on my laptop for a pop-up window to appear advertising a dating website that dealt exclusively with those looking for an affair, only rather than asking if I should have an affair, its chosen tagline was “Life’s too short; have an affair”. No questions asked here, ladies and gentlemen.

    Now might be a good time to clarify that I don’t see myself as being a prude and I don’t come from a family with divorced parents, however, I have been cheated on, twice, both times leading to a breakdown of my mental health (which, admittedly, says as much about me, the cheatee, as it does the cheater), and am currently watching one very close friend having to deal with the effects of her father having an affair and the resulting messy, blame-riddled divorce.

    Affairs aren’t fun; they aren’t lighthearted, at least, not in the long run. They destroy lives. I imagine for some people my attitude is terribly bourgeois, and naïve, especially in a world in which Fifty Shades of Grey is a bestseller. Surely I should be strapping on a gimp mask, hog-tying myself and awaiting the arrival of my dangerous lover; right? Compared to that, affairs are nothing; small fry; sooooo last year, and yet, here I am, getting my knickers in a twist when I had a lovely wasteful afternoon of baking planned.

    Perhaps it’s the very casual nature of the ‘new breed’ of affairs that disturbs me; you’re not doing this because you’ve fallen in love with someone else, more that an extramarital fling is now the norm, or worse, that it will somehow be healthy for your current relationship. And then there’s the connotation that if you’re not ok with that, if you’re not blasé about affairs in general, then somehow you’re doing something wrong, you’re not down with the kids; you’re *gasp* old-fashioned. Affairs are the new bondage, peeps. Oh yeah. Whatever.

    Let’s stop beating about the bush and say it: affairs aren’t cool. They’re not the new bondage; they’re not the new black; in fact, they’re not the new anything. They’ve been around since the dawn of time. There’s nothing casual about letting someone get happy with your goodies. There’s nothing positive about cheating on your partner.

    Remember getting caught for cheating at school? You’d be punished for that. Now extrapolate. This isn’t about being enlightened. This isn’t about equalising sexuality. This is about popular media and culture trying to create a new buzz topic to sell products. This about condoning morally poor behaviour. “Should you steal from your flatmate?” No. “Should you rape that pretty girl over there with the short dress on?” No. “Should you kill your annoying co-worker?” No. Simple, really.

    So Lorraine Candy (Editor of Elle and married to husband, James, for more than a decade, with several children), “Should you have an affair?” No. Affairs create victims, and let’s face it, three is always a crowd.

    AWOT1.pngBetsy is a writer, bookworm, and editor of Excelle magazine. Follow her on Twitter.


  4. Going for a song

    June 20, 2013 by The Kraken

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Image from news.softpedia.com

    Dear Robin Thicke,

    (CCd to Pharrell and TI)

    Oh, Robin, you are a massively suppurating bowl of stool-water aren’t you? In fact I can now see where the name Thicke comes from. It’s not so much a moniker as a statement of your mental prowess, bless you and you underworked intellect.

    Now I’ve no doubt that you are chuffed to shit over the pop-picking hit you currently share with Pharrell and TI called Blurred Lines, or as it is called in our house Three Men Caterwauling As They Finger Their Own Foreskins. And I dare say that you’re almost (no, literally) creaming yourself over the accompanying video in which every woman is naked and letting her tits flap in the wind. It’s just that there’s a small problem with all of this, Robin, love. It’s that your video and song lyrics look like a rapist’s manifesto.

    Now you reckon that Blurred Lines is “throwaway fun” and that you and Pharrell have “a lot of respect for women”. You also claim that the tit-soup of a video isn’t sexist and that “If that’s sexism then so is everything inside the Louvre”. Jesus, Robin, Thicke really is the word of the day isn’t it?

    First, before I really start to kick the shit out of you, you need to know that you should never, ever compare yourself to anyone whose art hangs in the Louvre. See, that would be the equivalent of saying that if next door’s dog pissed into a test tube his efforts would be comparable with those of Stephen Hawking. They wouldn’t be and, artistically, neither are yours.

    Which brings me to your vomited lyrics. Now you reckon that you have respect for women. Problem is that your song doesn’t. In fact it has as much respect for women as an enraged Jim Davidson after hearing that his summer season slot has gone to a female comedian. You sing, “I know you want it” (as if you’re fucking telepathic), “I hate these blurred lines” (because for you “no” means “yes”), “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” (like the promise of raging constipation), “He don’t smack your ass and pull your hair for you” (well, I’d stab the bastard if he did) and “Baby, can you breathe?” (because a near death experience at the hands of a guy who refuses to stop is always a treat).

    Seriously, if that’s respect for women what in the fuck would you warble at a woman you didn’t like? I had no idea that the way to show a woman that you love her was by destroying her rectum and choking her with your knackersack. And there I was showing my female friends and relatives that I love them by buying them flowers. Next time I’ll nip into Soho for a ball-gag and a gallon drum of rohipnol.

    Oh, and before I sign off I have to also thank you for making the charts as accessible to kids as a sandpit loaded with fly-sprinkled cat turds. What I mean is that I’ll be buggered if my small daughter is going to get a whiff of the Top 40 after this. Now, Robin, I’m not suggesting that you write about fairies, monster trucks and Lego but I am suggesting that you get the hell away from the subject of rape. Really, at the age of five, my child does not need to be told that you’re going to screw her whether she likes it or not.

    Which means, Robin, that you can take your Blurred Lines and shove them up you own arse, hopefully tearing that in two as well. Oh, and you can treat Pharrell and TI to the same experience while you’re at it. No, you say? Well I don’t believe you. In the words of your own barf “I know you want it”.

    Lots of love

    The Kraken x

    The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here.

  5. What women want

    March 15, 2013 by SarahH

    Happy belated International Women’s Day folks. How was it for you? Did you spend your time getting warm fuzzy feelings from your feminist twitter feed? Did you sit and ponder how far the women’s movement has come… but how much work there is still to be done? Or, did you sit at home thanking God for your boyfriend who happily washes his own underpants and socks. Because according to a recent online dating survey it is in the area of love (I’m talking romantic hetero-normative here) in which the women’s movement had has it’s biggest successes, with romantic relationships still being the ultimate goal.

    The survey focuses on the distribution of domestic chores, illustrating just how much house work men are now willing to do and how shrinking numbers of women see their natural role in life as being wives and mothers. Er… Hello? Didn’t we know this already?

    In making a song and dance about traditional gender roles in relationships and how couples nowadays are happy to eschew them, this ‘research’ is a) stating the obvious b) alluding to the fact that if equality in the household has been secured, the work has been done, the goal has been achieved and c) subtly illustrating that on some level, to not prescribe to the traditional gender roles is a radical relationship to find yourself in. Obviously, this research has been conducted with a specific aim in mind (i.e. to get people to signup to their dating site) but still. The arguments and conclusions insinuated bug me for various reasons, some of which I’m going to share with you now. Are you sitting comfortably?

    Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man.

    Did you know that, according to this survey, only 11% of men think that it’s a woman’s natural role to be in the home? Did you realise that 84% of men would happily share cooking and household chores. Of course we did. It’s 2013- this is what we expect of everyone nowadays, male or female, right? Men don’t need a pat on the back for cleaning the loo once a week. I spent 6 years co-habiting with a man and on many occasions I was told (not by him) that I was lucky to have a boyfriend who cooked dinner 4 times a week and remembered to clean his poo marks out of the lav. I was to be thankful for the fact that he remembered to take out the recycling. Isn’t this type of distribution of domestic labour a given nowadays?

    Surveys like this do nothing but perpetuate the gendered binary which clearly defines certain chores as male and female. It suggests that if you have a man who is willing to take care of HIS OWN CHILDREN, you have an enlightened man, you are an incredibly lucky girl … better keep a hold of that one. Bullshit. You have man who is doing what he should do and he doesn’t deserve any extra praise for it. And, lemme tell you, you don’t have to sign up to a dating site to find one of these special men either… don’t waste your money… you’ll get nothing but cock shots (I’m speaking from experience here). Save your £30, better still go down the pub. I know plenty of websites where you can look at cocks FOR FREE

    The Power of Equality.

    If we’re led to believe that having a relationship which gives us the night off from cooking 3.5 times a week is the ultimate, where does this leave the wider issue? Does this lull us into thinking we have achieved equality? That it is in fact a woman’s world? I spoke with a friend of mine who is hesitant to call herself a Feminist because she believes her life is unaffected by the fact that she is female. Further probing revealed that she meant within the work place and she settled with calling herself ‘a part-time feminist’, but I don’t think this is an uncommon belief with regards to society as a whole. I know a few people, men and women, who do believe that we have equality. It is, in my opinion the biggest success of the patriarchy- that a large proportion of people don’t see there is a problem. Men and women alike are victims of this system but women more so. I thought I’d illustrate my point with a few titbits from my twitter feed in the last week:

    Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): An amazing article by @RosmundUrwin in the London Evening Standard on Friday 8th illustrated that ‘an estimated 66,000 women and girls in Britain have undergone FGM […] and that 30,000 girls are currently at risk’.*

    Take back the tube. On Friday 8th @elliecosgrove protested against sexual harassment on the tube after she was sexually assaulted and EJACULATED UPON by a random man.

    Violence Against women (@Vday) Did you know that one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime? One in three.**

    Women and Politics. ‘ Nuff said.

    Photo courtesy of @countingwomenin

    Photo courtesy of @countingwomenin

    Do any of these things suggest we live in a society which treats women and men equally…?

    All you need is love.

    So, what is it that women really want? Equal pay? Autonomy over their own body? The freedom to walk down the street without hearing such lovely stuff as ‘tits!’ or ‘bend over love, you want summa this’? What about not being shamed and blamed when they are the victims of sexual assault? Pppff. No, no, no- all of this is irrelevant… once you have a nice boyfriend who, when he does the dishes, washes, dries AND PUTS THE POTS AWAY, you have made it, my dear. You need not look any further. Yeah right! Excuse me while… *head desk*.

    Everyone knows that you cannot get all of your happiness from one single relationship. Being in love and being loved does not make everything in life ok; in some cases love is not enough. And being a single person doesn’t make you any less worthy or make your life a total shit heap, either. I am 31, I’m single, I have been single on and off since I ended a 7 year relationship, 3 years ago . I am sick and tired of having to explain why I’m ‘still’ single (FYI: IT’S COS I’M PICKY, OKAY!). It is as if singledom has some sort of expiry date, a sort temporary ‘resting place’ in between your romantic relationships. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? I am equally as annoyed with people making assumptions about my reproductive choices based upon my single status. If I hear one more person say ‘Ooh, you’re 31. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Better get a move on old girl’ I will vomit all over my rather fetching leopard print Converse (I love these trainers. I will be SO SAD if them get covered in puke).

    Truth be told, I’m not sure if I want children, and if I were in a relationship I’d still be unsure. What I’m trying to illustrate is that my single UNLOVED (ahem) status has nothing to my reproductive choices, it is no measure of my worth as a young woman, nor does it make me a ‘failure’ even though, this is what society would like us to think. It’s ok to be single, in fact in some ways, I actually prefer it. I think more people of my age should try being single.… preferably the hot skinny indie boy who lives at the end of my street (mwahahahahahaha). But, seriously, how many people are trapped in crap relationships because we’re bombarded with a sort of social propaganda which puts coupledom on a pedestal and perpetuates the idea that to be single is to be defunct. I certainly know a few people in this situation and I bet you do too.

    If the ‘equal’ partnership in the form of monogamous romantic love with a man is the ultimate prize for women where does these leave gay and lesbian relationships? Or polyamorous relationships? Our friendships? Our relationship with ourself? Aren’t these relationships important too? To all of this I say a big fat YESSSSSSSS! Such research findings may have been fluffed up to appear progressive but really they’re not. All these surveys do is further the idea that the worth of women and men is to be found within the traditional structure of domesticity, albeit through a smug liberal lens.

    * London Evening Standard
    ** 2003 UNIFEM report entitled “Not A Minute More: Ending Violence Against Women,” 2008, the UNITE To End Violence Against Women Campaign.

    Sarah (@sazbottle) is a grass roots feminist campaigner and is involved with groups including @femactioncam and @armpits4august. Sarah writes for various online magazines/blogs and is partial to a bit of blogging in her own right (obviously all her posts are her own views, and not necessarily the views of organisations she works for, or anything like that, for all you legal eagles out there). By day, Sarah works for an NGO which targets corporate malpractice and illegal marketing strategies. Sarah likes history, yoga, raspberry leaf tea, and loud music.

  6. A teen’s take on feminism and why we need it RIGHT NOW

    March 8, 2013 by @NotRollergirl

    Sophia Valentine is a talented 17 year old writer. She has recently discovered the power of feminism after realising that female sexuality is often expressed and discussed in a highly sexist way. Here are her views on what it’s like to grow up in an overly sexualised society.

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    Image from www.thecollegefix.com

    As a teenage girl growing up in Britain in 2013, it can be nearly impossible to negotiate the issue of sex. Under constant pressure from the media, society and your peers, the mixed messages you receive can seem overwhelming.

    Recently, my mother announced that sexting was “shocking. [It’s] so detrimental, and children are being sexualised so young” And yet, to many teenagers, there is no line between texting and sexting. It’s simply becoming the norm. Most of my friends have experienced sexting in some form or another, and I’ve seen the persistence of teenage boys who want a “photo” – many of them are willing to nag incessantly until they get what they want, or try to guilt trip my friends. They don’t understand the meaning of the word “no.” Our parents are the generation who grew up with Playboy at the extreme end of the scale – now any child with a smartphone can watch pornography with relative ease. And what is the effect of this? Too often, porn is seen as creating over-expectant adolescent boys, who expect all women to be as willing for sex as the porn stars they see.

    John Bishop has joked about using porn to instruct his son, claiming he told him: “Actually son, they’re not usually that up for it.” But what about the effect of porn on women? Teenage girls see porn stars behaving in a certain way and feel they must mimic it. We are not objects, to be used and discarded. For me, the idea that a partner’s expectations of me are determined by pornography is ridiculous – real women have feelings and needs, they are not here simply to satisfy but also expect to BE satisfied. And what about when a woman doesn’t meet a man’s sexual expectations?

    Rape. The idea that someone will not respect my wishes is terrifying. The idea that someone would deliberately ignore my request to stop, especially in a situation as intimate as sex, is frightening. When I say no, I mean no: it is not a request, it is a command. It means stop. Being aware that almost 80 per cent of rape victims knew their attacker makes me fearful about future relationships. And where are these rapists and prospective rapists learning to behave this way? It can only be because they see women as objects, and they have been taught to prioritise their sexual urges over anything else.

    Which situation is “better”, in the eyes of society: sexual assault by an unknown attacker, or by a partner? Is either “better” at all? When I put the question to my friends, they agreed that often, sexual assault by a partner could be perceived as “worse”: each day you must face the person who hurt you, and something previously intimate is now threatening and negative. For me, while I recognise that rape by an unknown attacker may lead to mistrust of strangers, rape by a partner causes something far more severe – mistrust of the ones you love. You cannot recover without the support of those you trust – and yet you cannot trust them either. 85% of rapes go unreported, and often sexual assault by a partner is dismissed by the victim, who may begin to blame themselves. Anyone on the outside of an abusive relationship might wonder why the abused doesn’t leave – but more often than not, the abuse itself has left them without the strength, space and spirit to be able to walk away.

    The term “rape” has become an almost empty threat. Often, it is made to seem like an unavoidable destination: “if you dress like a slut, you’ll get raped.” To me, this use of a serious criminal act with severe repercussions as an inevitable concept is shocking. Whilst teenager drivers are often warned not to drink and drive, they are not told “if you drive under the influence, you WILL die.” With all other crimes, there is a degree of possibility indicated in the warning. You might be attacked. It may have serious consequences. With rape, there is no indication of doubt indicated in the language surrounding it – women are taught it will happen.

    For my generation, what hope is there? Adults condemn our actions, yet they are the result of a society that is constantly finding new ways to exploit young people. Too often, teenagers feel suffocated by societal pressures. For many teenage girls, feminism is an unknown concept, a “dirty word.” As a friend stated, feminism is often drummed out of us by society or overexposure, until it becomes part of the background, hidden at the back of the social consciousness.

    Teenagers, especially young women, need to know that sexism and sexual violence is never OK – and that if they speak out against it, they will be encouraged and supported. We look to so many different sources of information in order to find out how to behave. Will women’s magazines tell us how to get a boyfriend? Will porn tell us how to make him happy? But feminism needs to infiltrate and frame every fact we get given, otherwise it’s irrelevant and dangerous. Finding feminism has filled me with hope for the future. It needs to infiltrate the mainstream so that other teens use it as a source of ideas, answers and comfort.


  7. We’ve Moved Out Already, Church, Let It Go

    March 4, 2013 by J9London

    Image from http://www.atheistmemebase.com/

    Image from http://www.atheistmemebase.com/

    I don’t normally go in for them political fandangos, due to the high rate of people getting shouty, but the equal marriage bill passed through the house of commons and that deserves a pretty big huzzah from ever one. Of course, there are still some people who are dragging their heels about the whole thing, like the good ol’ Archbish of Cant, so as my personal celebration of this excellent news, I’d like to tell him why he just needs to let it go.

    You see, the church* built the society we live in, however irrelevant it may seem to your own personal life. The church is like a parent, and under its sometimes too watchful, often hypocritical eye, we have grown into the strange and varied culture of the west. And just like all parents, it has to let go sometime.

    When you’re a toddler, you trust your parents completely. You have to. They’re the only people you know, and they know the power you have. So when you say “why can’t I chase my ball out into the street and put flaming trombones in my hair and swim in the sea with my pet manatee and no water wings?” they just say “because I said so” and have done with it. Or they go on to say “you are an infant and I am grown and as I have grown I have received wisdom which you have thus far had no access to and besides I have a whole big book on exactly why you shouldn’t do those things, but it’s in Latin and you can’t even read English, can you, tiny child, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say I can sum it all up into a neat bundle of ‘because I said so.’”

    But you don’t stay a toddler forever, and your parents can’t watch you all the time, so you’re probably going off and learning stuff behind their backs. And they know this and, even though they’re divorced now** and sometimes disagree on things, they still love you and want to raise you right. So when you say “but why can’t I go to that party on the other side of town with Tanya who just got her drivers licence and have fun with all the boys she says will be there because there won’t be any parents around and then next week go backpacking through Turkey and Israel and Iran with one of the boys I meet at the party tonight?” they sit down and explain it. And they say “look, there’s a lot of swell advice in this book I was talking about earlier that I’ve now translated into a strange and unlikely form of English and you’ve learned to read, so here, have a copy, although seriously there are a lot of weird analogies and contradictions so I’ll just tell you what it all means anyway.”

    But there comes a time when every child has to leave his or her parents protective bubble. Whether it’s to go to university, to move to a different city, to live with another human so you can get your junk all up in each other’s business without it being creepy because your mum and excessively flatulent stepdad are in the next room, or just because your, like, twenty seven, jeez, eventually it’ll just be time to go. So you’ll say “I’m moving out. I’ll be making my own decisions from now on. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the foundation in life you’ve given me. And although I may listen to people who oppose you in various areas, and although I may form opinions you disagree with, I’ll still come round for dinner and talk to you because you have interesting views, some of which are helpful, all of which are fun to debate. When we inevitably do disagree I hope we’re both smart enough to use that as an opportunity for discussion, rather than reasons to fight and ultimately hate each other. Please trust that you’ve instilled in me some generally good values and let me make the calls now, KTHNXBYE.”

    Whatever you believe, wherever you’re from, if you’re living in the west, you’re in a society that was parenting by the church. Or churches, I should say, for there are several. In general, we’ve moved out and on. We’ll visit, some of us every week, but we don’t belong to the church anymore. It’d just be nice if it’d keep the kettle on. For anyone who ever facies a cup of tea.


    *I mean the church as a general, meandering beastie; the corporate church, the global church; not a specific church, and certainly not God
    **And I’m sure that picture of Henry “douchebag” the Eighth with the caption about the Church of England respecting the sanctity of marriage just brings HELLA LOLZ, but there was way more going on with the reformation of the church than him having blue balls for that Anne girl, come on, guys, research, jeez

    Janina is addicted to dark chocolate and peppermint tea. She once made a burger so good she has a picture of the occasion on her bedroom wall. You can find out more about her at myrednotebook.com and follow her on twitter at @J9London.

  8. Suffragette Shitty

    February 21, 2013 by The Kraken

    Left, Nadine Dorries. Image from Rex. Right, a poster about the hunger strikes of suffragettes in prison, from http://brontehoroine.wordpress.com. Spliced together by AWOT.

    Left, Nadine Dorries. Image from Rex. Right, a poster about the hunger strikes of suffragettes in prison, from http://brontehoroine.wordpress.com. Spliced together by AWOT.

    Tell you what, you’ve just gotta love Nadine Dorries. She’s the gift that keeps on giving because just when I think she has run out of surprises she leaps out at me from any given nook with even more reason to take to this blog. Yesterday, though, she was particularly generous because she used a blog post to wail about how her being investigated by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority over alleged expenses irregularities is the same as the plight of the Suffragettes. OK. And breathe…

    What in the fuck is going on with Dorries? Has she been shooting up bong water? Well, she must have been because these suffragette-based comments are so despairing that they make me want to steal a horse and fucking well gallop over her myself. See, Dorries believes that the investigation into her expenses is a smear campaign because she appeared on I’m a Celebrity…Feed Me Koala Nads! And, get this, because she is a woman and a single mother.

    In fact, she bleated: “Because a woman died under the hooves of a horse in the quest of female emancipation and because IPSA impact upon every single parent who is or wants to be an MP and because I refuse to allow a money hungry quango to compromise my right to work, be a mother and a pet owner, I am not allowing IPSA to get away with this.”

    No, Dorries. Just no. Whatever the fuck else you do, comparing your skirmish with that of the Suffragette movement is like comparing a stubbed toe with the trials of a double leg amputee. Seriously, until the IPSA starts dragging you down the street by your ankles, tearing at your underskirts, locking you in a rat-infested cell and force feeding you by shoving a fat rubber tube down your throat you are about as far from the Suffragette movement as John McCririck on a stag night.

    Worse, Dorries is playing the gender card, like a true squirming MP. But if she’s being fingered by the IPSA it’s because there’s possible financial fuck-uppery, not because her body houses a uterus. And if she is being harassed after appearing on I’m a Sleb… it’s because she pissed off to the jungle for a month rather than doing what she is paid to do in her constituency, not because she’s familiar with the business end of a tampon.

    See, the unfair treatment she claims she is receiving is exactly what I’d expect her to receive, not as a woman but as an MP who abandoned her constituents and as a professional who may have cadged tax-payers’ money for personal expenses. And if she was a he I have no doubt that he’d get the same amount of suspicion and derision chucked at him too. If Dorries thinks she can run off with Ant n Dec to scoff bulging grubs on company time but then bark about equal rights when she gets called-out she can, quite frankly, go screw herself.

    When Dorries squawks about her rights as a woman she’s actually taking a mahoosive dump on every other woman in the country. Instantly she makes women who shout about genuine inequality look like shrieking harpees who will holler misogyny at any given opportunity. Yeah, yeah, I know the Commons and Lords are hotbeds of sexism but Dorries turning that to her advantage just because her own behaviour is biting her on the arse is offensive, not just to the women’s movement generally but to those women who fight sexism every bloody day.

    So until Dorries can prove that her gender lies at the heart of this kerfuffle, my mind will translate every word she says as utter bollocks. This isn’t about not listening to a woman who is genuinely struggling with misogyny. It’s about not listening to a woman who uses the struggles of others to cover her own arse. If Dorries thinks the Suffragettes fought for her to do that then the jungle is exactly where she belongs.

     The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here

  9. Why pink should be banned

    January 3, 2013 by Hayley Cross

    Before we get started, I should be clear about something. I am not talking about Pink the artist. I rather like Pink the artist, and have done since I was about 15 (in fact, I quoted her in my GCSE English Language exam). And I really like her in that relatively new video where she’s all buff and hangs about upside down a lot. This one:


    No, my beef is with pink the colour. Not that pink the colour is to blame, of course.

    This has been an issue on my mind for a little while, but it really came to light upon the birth of my niece in September. When visiting her for the first time, I was physically shocked (as in, I made a strange gasping noise involving a small amount of mucus that I think I successfully managed to disguise as a cough) at the sheer number of pink cards she had received congratulating her on her arrival on earth.

    ‘What’s wrong with this?’ you might cry.

    Everything is wrong with this.

    You see, poor little Lucy is being conditioned right from birth to be a poor little girl who likes pink. My own mother failed to see the significance of this. Her first retort was that, when Lucy is old enough, she will be able to make her own choices whether she wants to own / wear pink items. But a choice is exactly what she won’t have. She is going to spend the next few years being showered with pink presents, and before she even knows what a choice is, she’s going to believe she likes pink.

    Image from werewolvesandshotglasses.com

    Image from werewolvesandshotglasses.com

    Mother clearly didn’t have an argument against this, so she quickly changed tack and said that the reason it was important for Lucy to have / wear pink was so that when she is out and about people will know that she’s a girl. Why is it important, that, aged two weeks, random members of the public know that she is a girl? Mother’s claim was that people need to know what pronoun to use: i.e. to be able to say “Isn’t she lovely?”. I swiftly responded that the pronoun “they” could easily carry the same message (“Aren’t they lovely?”) or, perhaps revealing my own opinions on babies, “it” could suffice.

    Children aren’t born with a gender (a sociological term), they are born as a member of a sex (a biological term) – this is an important distinction. And there’s something in the eagerness to call Lucy “she” that is akin to dressing her in pink – it’s transforming her into a girl rather than merely a set of female chromosomes. I’m not suggesting that we only use gender neutral pronouns from now own, but what I am saying is that we need to think again about carelessly turning girls into girly girls.

    Not that I am saying there is anything wrong with being a girly girl. Provided you have had a choice in becoming one. A friend of mine offered a snippet of information to me recently: apparently blue used to be associated with femininity (reminiscent of the Virgin Mary), whilst red was the colour of masculinity (war, aggression etc.). I’m not quite sure why we need colours for boys and girls, but somewhere along the line, pink has become associated with femininity, and not in a powerful way. Pink is the colour of the Disney Princess range, those girls who famously need their Prince to come and rescue them. Pink is the colour of delicate flowers, that need tending and protecting from the weather. Pink is the colour of pigs, domesticated beasts only used for their body and tortured for their meat… OK, I’m getting carried away now. But ultimately, pink is watered down red; something weak, lacking power and blatantly pathetic.

    Normally, I wouldn’t suggest that jumping straight into banning something was a good idea: choice is clearly one of the benefits of a democratic society. But choice is exactly what young girls don’t have at the moment. Pink needs to be banned because, no matter how many more female CEO’s battle their way to the top of the business world (still a measly and insignificant number), the concept of feminine weakness is too ingrained in your average Briton’s mindset. As my Mother quite clearly illustrates, the older generation don’t understand this, and continue to exacerbate the problem by surrounding my niece with thousands of pink cards, so that when she gets old enough to make a choice, she’s already been brainwashed.

    Even as an adult woman, I find it tremendously difficult to avoid pink. I am currently sat typing this in a pair of pink fluffy slippers (which, incidentally, I think were a present from one of the aforementioned pink baby-card senders) and suffer regular angst at trying to find gym wear that doesn’t contain even a dash of pink. The only female razor available in the Tooting Sainsbury’s the other day was pink, and I received a pack of pink earplugs ‘for feminine ears’ this Christmas. Similarly, the ‘Bic for Her’ range of pink pens was suitably humiliated by reviewers earlier in the year (worth a read, if you haven’t seen it before: http://tinyurl.com/dxdh3d8), and yet they are still on sale. The problem is that most of us don’t see the humiliation and the restriction in the constant everyday alignment of pink with femininity.

    But the scary thing is, it’s not just the ‘oldies’ that are fuelling the issue. Having tested my theories on a trusted friend, I thought I was ready to start gently pushing my ideas on some pregnant women. It didn’t go well.

    A month or so ago, I had a conversation with a seemingly strong woman in relatively senior position at school. She is probably only 6-7 years older than me, and is currently pregnant with a baby girl. When I floated the idea that she could think about not dressing her future daughter in pink, she looked at me as if I had suggested we abort her baby from her womb, right there and then in the lunch hall. If successful women aren’t even prepared to consider rejecting pink for their daughters, then how are we ever going to escape our pink prison?

    So I guess what I’m saying is that, seeing as my words have very little sway with the government, and I’m not sure of the practicalities of banning a colour, we should all attempt to be a little more like Pink the artist and “Try” (yes, pun!) to give young girls a chance to be something, anything, more than a Disney princess.

    You can start by not sending any more pink greetings cards.


    You can find Hayley’s blog here, or her Twitter here

  10. X Factor: The Bubble Gum Pop Manufacturing Machine

    December 13, 2012 by LeanneLeveaux

    Image from wepluggoodmusic.com

    So this year’s X Factor saw James Arthur take the crown as 2012’s winner.

    Now whilst millions of people across the UK are rejoicing at Arthur being crowned the winner due to his ‘real talent’, and are ‘laughing in Simon Cowell’s face’, I wonder how many people remember 2010’s ‘real talent’ winner, Matt Cardle and what he’s doing now.

    Like Arthur, Cardle was tipped as the viewer’s favourite back in 2010 for his authentic style and originality, and was destined for big things.

    But here we are in 2012, and we haven’t heard a peep out of old Cardle, let alone any repeats on the airwaves of his cover of Biffy Clyro’s ‘Many of Horror’, retitled ‘When We Collide’ after the lyrics in the chorus, to make it more memorable for mother’s and grans wanting to buy his single.

    On the surface, it would appear that if you’re aiming for a bubblegum pop career, such as Little Mix or Olly Murs, X Factor really is the place for you.

    If, however, like James Arthur, you have any ounce of real song writing talent or musical skill, whilst X Factor could help you in terms of exposure, musically it’s all downhill from the moment you’re announced as the winner.

    Really, had Jahmene been announced as the winner, and James Arthur in second place, this would have put Arthur in a much better place to launch his career. Jahmene could have gone on to record and release an album of songs that your aunt would probably listen to whilst washing up, whilst Arthur would have had the creative reign to take his music in the direction he wanted to go, as he wouldn’t have been bundled into the X Factor winner’s manufacturing machine.

    We have already had a glimpse into how his first few singles are looking to sound just by listening to his winner’s single Impossible which is a cover of the original by Shontelle. It is an upbeat, catchy song that has been mixed and engineered to within an inch of its life.

    As well as following a pre-programmed framework for his music, I’m sure we will see the endearing qualities of Arthur’s appearance stripped away to fit the popular music artist model. Only today an article was released in which Arthur was ‘quoted’ as saying “I’m going to get my teeth sorted out. I’ve always thought I’m pretty ugly” – I’m seriously wondering whether this has come from the mouth of the puppeteer whose arm I’m sure is already firmly up his back.

    First it’ll be the teeth straightening, and whitening to a Simon Cowell level. Next will come the Topman/Grunge styling that isn’t really grunge at all, and will be followed by fixing whatever else is deemed ‘unacceptable’ for a celeb-figure to be seen with.

    How long will it be before James Arthur blends into the void of other forgotten X Factor contestants?

    It really is such a shame that in order to be successful, you now have to fit a mould that is seen as acceptable in the general public’s eyes. Judging by the reception Arthur was receiving on the X Factor, I’m pretty sure the screaming young girl’s like him just the way he is, and this mythical mould that Syco and other labels work to, seems to be completely irrelevant.

    So what does the future hold for this year’s young winner, James Arthur?

    He can be sure of 6 long months of manufactured songs pre-written by someone else under the watchful Syco eye and a UK tour consisting of multiple backing dancers and James Arthur miming his little heart out.

    All I can say is good luck to the guy, and I hope in 6 months’ time he has the opportunity to finally release something that he can call his own, and something that he is proud of.

    Let’s see which poor sucker gets spat out of the X Factor-Syco factory line next year.

    You can find @LeanneLeveaux on Twitter.

  11. Three’s A Crowd

    September 28, 2012 by The Kraken

    Image from http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dominic-mohan-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

    You know what? I’m still thinking about tits. Even though I’ve splashed my bile over the whole Kate Middleton debacle I still have baps on the brain. God knows why because I’ve had my very own pair for the last 41 years. Then again, it’s precisely because I have funbags of my own that I am obsessing over the subject. That and the No More Page Three campaign that’s making me want to lob burning tyres into any given newsagents.

    What is with The Sun’s page three? I’m comforted by the fact that thousands of other people have spluttered the same question as they signed the campaign petition, yet I get the raging vapours when I realise that right now, in 21st Century Britain, I can actually show my four year old daughter pictures of tits in a national newspaper. A newspaper. Not a wank mag. Not an anatomy text book. A newspaper.

    I just don’t get it, the whole notion of checking a paper for the news, a crossword or TV listsings just to be confronted by the norks of Chantelle from Chelmsford. In fact it makes me sick up into the back of my throat. The whole thing leaves me so bewildered that I swear to fuck someone’s been feeding me rohipnol. Quite possibly the type of someone who leers over page three in the first place.

    And as much as this offends me as a woman it sends my rage into space when I view it as the mother of a little girl. There I am showing four year old Kraken Junior that she’s strong, determined, intelligent, inventive and capable of changing the world while page three shows her that her value lies solely in the tits that she hasn’t even grown yet. What a delightful start to any little girl’s life. And there I was fretting over her wanting to be a princess. What I should be worrying about is whether she one day compares herself to these laughable examples of femininity and starts slashing at her own body with a knife just to relief herself of her thundering lack of belief and self-esteem. I’ll send the bill for her psychiatric treatment to editor Dominic Mohan shall I?

    Yet even if I never expected better of The Sun, you’d have thought that it would expect better of its own readers. You see, even though the paper thinks of itself as a rag that stands up for the common man it’s happy to piss all over the other half of the population. It’s also happy for the common man to one day see his own daughter gurning back at him from page three. What a lovely thought for all of those page three supporters, that one day their daughter may get her kit off and submissively stare out of a newspaper while some stranger gets a stiffy and splashes his spooge all over her picture before balling up the sodden page and chucking it into the bin. How’s that for respect for women? But then again I really don’t expect page three supporters to think that far ahead in the first place. Not when there’s a quick woody to hand.

    More than that, is this really what a newspaper wants to look like in modern Britain? Opening The Sun to page three is like setting a flux capacitor to 88 mph and finding yourself back in a workingmen’s club in 1971. It’s such a dated notion from such a dated age that you’d think that any decent editor would back off faster than David Cameron from a benefits claimant. So exactly what is The Sun trying to achieve by clinging onto it? Perhaps it’s actively trying to die out which it will when the last leering, 70′s-stuck, daughterless reader finally kicks the bucket and takes the entire paper’s readership with him.

    Which is why the NMPT campaign isn’t just women defending women. It’s also about women defending the daughters and wives and grandaughters and nieces of any given tit-ogler, although it’s a big shame that we’re having to do this for them. If you fancy being generous, though, you can sign the petition here or you can tweet or you can nip over to Facebook. Go on. Even if your day’s been a bastard here’s your chance to turn it around.

     The Kraken is a ‘furious and ranty ex-freelance journalist’. She has a wonderfully rage-filled blog, with the excellent title, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and you can find her on Twitter right here

  12. No More Page 3: been there, signed it, got the t-shirt

    September 18, 2012 by laurenbravo

    Image fromaristos.org

    It’s a pretty good rule of thumb, when wanting to test the sense of any life situation, to ask yourself: how would I explain this to a child? If you can’t communicate the logic of something in simple terms a kid can grasp, there’s a good chance it might be completely ridiculous. Extra light mayonnaise, for instance. Or why they let the contestants on Four in a Bed decide each other’s scores.

    Now, I’d like you to think about how you would explain the existence of Page 3 to a child who has never encountered it before. Go on – have the imaginary conversation in your head. I’ll wait.

    Tricky, isn’t it? Because when you stop to think about it, Page 3 is like an embarrassing old curtain pelmet from the 70s that everyone has somehow forgotten to take down. I like to think that when it finally ceases to be, just like smoking in restaurants, it’ll seem oddly incredible that it was ever A Thing in the first place.

    The explain-it-to-a-child reason is just one of many being currently given by people signing the No More Page 3 petition on change.org. At the time of writing, it has over 17,000 signatures. It gained 6,000 just today. The campaign, an open letter to The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan, was started by writer Lucy Anne Holmes when she noticed, flicking through its coverage of the Paralympics, that despite page after page of awesome achievements, the biggest image of a woman in the whole paper was still the semi-naked one.

    “George Alagiah doesn’t say, ‘And now let’s look at Courtney, 21, from Warrington’s bare breasts,’ in the middle of the 6 O’ Clock News, does he?” reasons Holmes. The petition isn’t about restricting the freedom of the press. It’s not about condemning glamour models, or the people who like to look at them. It’s simply about asking, nicely, that they be taken out of the newspaper – because in case we weren’t all clear on this, boobs aren’t news.

    Whether The Sun reports ‘news’ at all is a whole other debate, of course. But to write it off as an archaic, ignorant rag is to blithely ignore the influence it still has on a massive chunk of the population – not to mention anyone who ‘accidentally’ reads it on the bus. Page 3 is so entrenched a part of the mainstream media that loads of readers don’t even stop to question it. If we can’t change the whole paper, we can at least try to change this.

    And while it’s heartening how strong and swift the response to Lucy’s campaign has been, it’s also been fist-gnawingly infuriating how many idiots still think “you’re just jealous” is an adequate comeback.

    One argument commonly touted is empowerment. Or that the women who pose on Page 3 are actually exploiting the punters, as a sort of penance for being so easily pleased by a casual flash of mammary. Maybe they are. But rather than debate the endless intricacies of the power struggle, I want to ask: why does anyone have to exploit anyone? Can’t we just, y’know, take a break from all the exploiting for a while? If two wrongs don’t make a right, surely two exploitations don’t make a real advancement for either gender.

    “It’s just a bit of fun,” is another classic. Of course! Fun! Like a naughty seaside postcard! Where’s the harm? The harm is in yet another generation of humans growing up to believe a woman’s worth is measured by how good she looks in her scanties. The harm is in giving these women fake ‘novelty’ opinions, to remind us that, obviously, you can’t be sexy AND interested in the fiscal crisis. The harm is in objectification being sold like a jolly joke over our morning cereal, to people who either can’t or don’t want to recognise it. There’s the harm. LOOK, I’m pointing at it, like a less amusing Where’s Wally.

    Besides, isn’t it frankly insulting for a paper to think you only want to read the news if there’s a pair of bouncy breasts on the opposite page, like the proverbial spoonful of sugar, to take the taste away? If you want fun, folks, there are plenty of other places to find it. Go to a funfair. Have an ice cream. Or if you want, look at a publication that’s specially designed to have naked people in it. There are several out there, I’ve heard.

    Then let Courtney, 21 from Warrington, put her jumper back on, so we never have to explain to a confused child why she’s there.

    Lauren Bravo (yes that is her real name) is a professional funnylady for the Worthing Herald, and a top notch foodiewoman for Channel 4 Food. Check out her blog or follow the magical lady on Twitter. Or, come along to AWOT gatherings and nom her Oreo truffles – you will be transported to a magical truffly-orgasm land, promise.