Saturday, 14 March 2009

Britney and the Bedlamites: for Red Pepper

I've just got back from an internet activists' conference, which was all kinds of shiny. I shouted at Anonymous, who both looked and talked like rapists in their oh-so-scary masks, when they tried to explain me why they had a policy of using the term 'cumdumpster' to describe women. 'It's offensive. So it's funny. It's funny because it's offensive, yeah?'

Dear pointless cigar-smoking prick: you're an idiot. You ain't Rorsharch and if you were I'd still be laughing at you, not with you. Grow up, show us your bloody face and learn that bullying and activism do not equate.

Anyway. The following article was written for Red Pepper, but got elbowed out of the current issue. It's still going to be a great issue, and you should all buy it, but here, for your special Saturday night pleasure, a Penny Red exclusive: Britney and the Bedlamites.


The lunacy and redemption of Britney Jean Spears is a contemporary hagiography. The former teen pop sensation's appearance at the 2009 MTV awards, apparently sober, well-groomed and grinning like the waxwork which Mme Tussauds created to commemorate the event, signalled a return not only to health, but to virtue. Once again, Britney looks like all little girls are encouraged to grow up to look: pretty, compliant, obediently performative - the first signals of good mental health for women in and out of the public eye. The fact that the singer's very real and very chronic mental health problems cannot be cured with a decent spray-tan and hilights is irrelevant to the international celebrity press: in the eyes of the public, Britney Spears has been redeemed.

Two years earlier, Spears had shaved her head in an LA hairdressers’, and tabloids across the world screeched that the singer had lost her mind. The event catalysed a burgeoning fetish for feminine neurosis in Western pop culture, a fetish which seems to have achieved its squalid climax in the public ‘healing’ of Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse and their ilk. Open any magazine, turn on any tv station, and the message remains the same: women who are successful, or who don’t know their place, will go mad, and will require healing.

It's nothing new for women to be labelled insane if they display behaviour that diverges from received feminine norms of submissiveness, sexual and social discretion, purity and humility, and in today’s culture the trend is no different: bad-boy rockers are cool, racy ‘troublemakers’, whereas bad-girl rockers are ‘troubled’, and need to be saved from themselves. Self-destruction has always been part of rock and roll, but when it comes to male artists, their suffering is invariably portrayed as far less important than their genius, or even as an unfortunate, necessary part of it. Think of Jim Morrison. Think of Hendrix. Think of Kurt Cobain. Think of Heath Ledger, who has just got his very-much deserved posthumous Oscar for that screwy-beautiful performance in Dark Knight.

But the double standard kicks in when we remember Sylvia Plath, Marilyn Monroe, Britney, Amy and Kerry for their illness more than their art. All of these women suffered or suffer from bipolar disorder (manic depression) – a very real medical problem which affects about 1% of the adult population, and a significant percentage of creative, dynamic and high-achieving people - but it is women in the public eye who are defined, ane morally judged, on the basis of their mental health.

Female artists, with or without emotional problems, are treated not as suffering geniuses but as silly little girls who aren’t bright enough or mature enough to take care of themselves. On the pages of newspapers and magazines and websites across the country, women’s minds and especially women’s bodies are poked, prodded, pinched and squeezed like livestock at a cattle market, their flesh weighed and labelled and stretched on the slab of media scrutiny – and now it’s claimed to be for their own good. A pound lost or gained from the backside of a A-list artist is taken as evidence of impending breakdown, and whatever successes they may or may not attain is deemed futile if the papers declare that they are cracking under the stress, binge-artists, secret alcoholics or, worst of all, ‘starving for attention’.

The fantasy is seductive. In a Western world that still fosters a deep suspicion of successful women, the myth of feminine neurosis gives armchair misogynists of both sexes a happy explanation for the fact that unprecedented numbers of women are reaching the top of their game in the media and the arts. It’s reassuring to be reminded that women are fragile and flawed. It’s reassuring to be reminded that girls are deranged, deviant creatures who can’t cope with pressure. But we’ve seen all this before.

In the 19th century, women were deemed highly susceptible to becoming mentally ill, as they were seen to lack the mental fortitude of men; contemporary medical theory spoke of the uterus as a sponge that wandered around the body, sucking out the juices of reason, leading to ‘hysteria’. If they dared to enjoy sex they were deemed ‘nymphomaniac’, a disease treatable by solitary confinement, leeches and clitorectomy; if they were lesbians or chose to remain unmarried, they were ‘frigid’. The risk of insanity greatly increased if any woman attempted to better herself through education, work or too many activities. Many women, especially in the upper- and upper-middle classes, learned to suppress emotions for fear of being labelled as mad and sent to an asylum or confined to their rooms, a phenomenon vividly recounted in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.

In today’s supposedly progressive culture, women are still threatened with the spectre of being deemed insane if their behaviour deviates from socially circumscribed norms. On the cover of every magazine, young women are reminded of what happens if we let go of self-control: we will become fat and powerless and unloved, grotesque, overconsuming, stumbling out of taxis way past our bedtimes, flashing our knickerless crotches at unsuspecting paparazzi and returning home to grind what’s left of modern morals into a fine powder and stuff it up our disintegrating post-feminist nostrils. But the spectre of young women’s imagined loss of control both as mental illness and as cipher for social degeneration is a long established and tediously familiar one, echoing Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’ paintings of the 18th century. As early as 1712, the Spectator made explicit links between a number of ‘addictive’ substances and their dangerous effects on the female mind, warning its ‘fair Readers to be in a particular manner careful how they meddle with Chocolate, Novels and the like Inflamers; which I look upon as very dangerous to be made use of during this Carnival of Nature’.

Fast-forward three hundred years and success, emancipation or simple pleasure still gravely endangers the mental health of Britain’s female icons, out on the lash and the combined pill, vomiting helplessly into the gutters of modern decency as the distinction between mental illness and plain misbehaving becomes ever more irrelevant to the feminine equation.

Britney Spears’ very public breakdown in 2007-8 was a crucial flashpoint. Preened for stardom since babyhood, young Ms Spears spent a lifetime being pumped up, dolled up, sexed up and shoved onto every waiting stage: her first relationships and developing body were devoured by press attention, but despite the pressure and public scrutiny she somehow managed to produce four very fine studio albums, all of which were chart-toppers. When she finally began to show the strain, the outcry was instantaneous and horrific. The singer, who was a Rolling Stone cover girl at sixteen, began to be regularly caught out by the papparazi in the ultimate act of extreme insanity for a woman in the public eye: the consumption of a hamburger and fries. Eventually, Spears recreated with a borrowed buzz-cutter an act that has for centuries represented the supreme rejection of social feminisation, and hence the supreme demonstration of ‘insanity’. Plastic Britney dolls had been available since the singer turned seventeen; before long you could pick up bald ‘Britney Shears’ dollies, complete with tortured plastic grimaces and miniature straight-jackets.

This isn't the fourteenth century, and mental health is not a moral judgement. Britney's bipolar disorder is an ongoing medical condition - it isn't a moral lapse that can be purged as long as the sinner confesses the error of her ways to enough celebrity magazines and vows never to eat chips again. To imply otherwise is to do an extreme injustice to the millions of people across the world who are touched by mental ill health, as well as to slide into lazy misogyny: the idea that the mentally unwell and women in the public eye can be 'redeemed' with the right haircut and the right lighting is an insult on both fronts.

Women, including those of us with mental health difficulties, are socially and morally whole human beings, who do not require redeeming. What we require is respect; and we're coming to claim it. Squeal all the papers might, they cannot stop a new generation of female artists, singers, musicians, models, actors, writers and photographers hammering on the doors of privilege. These women want it all - fame, family, creative and personal fulfilment and oodles of cash - even if they have to get it whilst managing a mental health condition, as one in four of us do. Despite the bar of acceptable behaviour being set far higher for females in the arts and the media, despite flocks of paparazzi picking over their bodies like carrion birds after a battle, despite their every artistic, social and sexual transgression being seized on as evidence of blind insanity, the inheritors of 21st century pop culture are coming up punching, in control of their lives, their minds and their message, even if the message isn’t what patriarchal society had in mind.

(image by Withiel)


I hope you enjoyed that, my dears. Now, I'm going out to a sweaty goth club to drink cider and black and swish around like a fool. Y'all have a good one.


  1. I believe that many of Britney Spears' difficulties stem from her failure to make a successful transition from her innocent girly sexkitten pop princess kind of past to an experienced womanly alluring pop artist kind of present. Christina Aguliara has been able to make such a transition seamlessly and much more successfully than her former Mickey Mouse Club contemporary.

    The woman and mother of today cannot turn back the clock and recapture what she was as a girl and yet Ms. Spears seems unable or unwilling to invent and inhabit a maturer stage persona more appropriate to her as she is now.

    If Ms. Spears cannot make this transition she is doomed as a performing artist. She has already left it very late to pull the irons out of the fire as far as her career is concerned. Or perhaps Britney was always a one trick pony and the innocent girly sexkitten pop princess was all she was and all she could ever be as a performing artist within a fixed time span.

    This story isn't a new one but it can end sometimes as a tragic one. I hope that Britney Spears' story will have a happier ending even if she must retire to private life and remain there permanently.

    I really, really do.

  2. Interesting. I'd say that for Britney, growing up was the one thing she was never going to be allowed to do. For her, becoming an adult woman was not an option - her every parenting decision, her every relationship, her every personal development has been picked over and found wanting. The sin of growing up hangs heavy on her - as it does for a lot of women. Maturity is somehow seen not only as failure, but somehow even as disturbance.

  3. heya Penny, i m quite new to blogs and spent the night reading many of them relating to sexwork.
    Well i cant see how i can send you an email so i comment here instead ! hope thats ok

    i just wanted to let you know of the project i m organising, the Sexworker Open University in a couple of weeks...

    here is the link :

    check it out, you might find it interesting ..


  4. david brough (shrewsbury)15 March 2009 at 07:46

    Were the twats mentioned in the first two paragraphs libertarians, by any chance?

    Pathetic, pointless and losers in real life. Fits the bill perfectly.

  5. Hey! I ain't never called no woman a "cumbucket"! Chill out, Chikita! Gotta say Britney was a hot chick in her prime though - smokin' hot! - and I ain't lying. Her vids used to give me the bone every time and no mistake. And she looked like the kinda chick that might be willin' to hold it in her hand if you gave her a bag of plain crisps in a bus shelter as a reward.

    Anyway, stop kickin' people called Anonymous. We ain't done nobody no harm.


  6. I never understood why Britney Spears shaving all her hair off was seen as a sign of mental illness. I just saw it as a "change of image", which these starlet folks seem to do all the time. It was clearly just that this particular change of image was unapproved.

    It seemed to me that the mental health issues seemed to result from the media reaction to her change, rather than the image-change being a symptom of mental health issues. But of course, not knowing anything about Britney except what I have been unable to avoid seeing in the news, my opinion counts for nothing!

    It also occurs to me that male "troubled geniuses" are expected to burn out in a self-destructive blaze, but female "troubled geniuses" are expected to fade away, and go quietly mad.

  7. Maturity isn't a failure, Ms. Penny Red, it's a flowering. How else can any of us discover of what we were the seeds unless we bloom?

  8. "who both looked and talked like rapists in their oh-so-scary masks"

    Is that a word-rapist or a real rapist?

    Anyway I agree. Newspapers suck and the whole Britney Speers thing has been pretty sickening. They do however have similar stories on male celebrities (note Gazza), so i'm not convinced this is a gender thing, and i'm not convinced that a "patriachy" with nothing to do with gender, is a reasonable proposition.

  9. I still hope Britney will shave her hair off again and start a punk rock band.

  10. I'm on board with your overall argument, but I'm not too sure about your examples. For one, I don't think an accusation of sexism is particularly valid for a public who fails to recognise Kerry Katona for her art...

    You're pitching the most highly regarded rock stars of the 20th century against poets and pop stars. Plath's poetry is itself often depressive and dealt directly with her mental illness, so it's hardly surprising she'd be remembered for that. And I'm not sure it's fair to say Monroe isn't remembered for her talents. Whenever the life of Elvis is explored, his weight problems and drug addictions always come up. An example from Wikipedia: "Elvis Presley had [in 1977] become a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self... he was barely able to pull himself through his abbreviated concerts." Doesn't sound unlike some of the coverage of Winehouse.

    How's about Janis Joplin? How's about Karen Carpenter? Joplin went more or less the way of Morrison and Hendrix, and certainly lived her life in same lane. And Carpenter was anorexic, but we remember them both for their art above all else.

  11. I totally agree with your initial premise, and this is an interesting article, but I do take issue with creatives such as Plath being put in the same category as Katona - this is a bit like saying that Frank Bruno and Nick Cave have anything in common apart from their poor mental health!

    "Sylvia Plath, Marilyn Monroe, Britney, Amy and Kerry for their illness more than their art. All of these women suffered or suffer from bipolar disorder"

    I was not aware that they had all been diagnosed as bipolar, and I think that it is a bit irresponsible of you to state so categorically that this is fact, as I suspect that you have not been able to diagnose each of these womens medical conditions. Substance abuse and depression are not necessarily signs of bipolarity. I have read considerably about Plath for eg and would say that depression and not bipolarity was her condition (she was not known for manic states at all).

  12. As far as my research can turn up, all of those women actually were/are bipolar (or Manic Depressive, as Plath and Monroe would have been termed). This is the reason I didn't include eg. Karen Carpenter in that little list...

    I'm a mental health journalist in real life, I wouldn't presume to diagnose people!

  13. So you didn't include Joplin and Carpenter but did include Morrison and Hendrix? Did they have bipolar disorder too then?


  15. The thing that I have always found confusing about this issue in modern times is that the stories that appear in the media regarding these artists are consumed mostly by women themselves. While it may well be men writing them it is still written because women are buying the likes of Heat etc.

    Out of the writing and the consumption which is the cause and which is the effect?

  16. That's a link to Hendrix's hit 'manic depression', for those who can't be faffed!

    Hendrix had bipolar disorder. And sang about it, just like Plath wrote about hers. Nobody's really sure about Morrison, but he was most definitely a heroin addict...

  17. Nice diagnosis.

    "The song's name, Manic Depression, is an old name for bipolar disorder, a mental health disorder. There is no evidence that Hendrix ever suffered from bipolar disorder himself, but when he was doing a press conference in London his manager at the time, Chas Chandler, told him that he sounded like a manic depressive. So the next day Hendrix wrote this tune."

    Britney sings a song called Womanizer, but I think it's fair to say she's not one.

    You've stacked your argument with male artists who weren't bipolar, and didn't even have a history of mental illness.

    If you want to do justice to a feminist critique of popular culture, you might want to try being more even-handed.

  18. Like Plath and Penny I too am bipolar and a gifted writer. I worry that i shan't be remembered for my talent but my issues.

    But you have to consider that most of Plath's best work was about her depression and, although they shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence, Monroe was just a tranny prostitute- basically.

    Although it was painful she found it cathartic to write through her pain. I did the same in my debut novel, 'Me, Tim an my Quim'- about the kidnap and attempted murder of my psycho-sexual analyst.

  19. Sorry! Me again! I got quite emotional back there and didn't really make my point. Basically you can't really say that Plath is only remembered for her depression rather than her art: the two are the same.

    Virginia Woolf topped herself and she's a great writer, remembered for the invention of moderninsm (basically).

  20. I'm not sure you can prove most of your male examples are bipolar, though they certainly were addicts. But a lot of this, while arguing from a good premise is illustrated by spurious examples. Of course Plath is associated with her mental illness, her most famous work was about it. The parallel of her would surely be someone like Dylan Thomas who is most definitely remembered for his alcoholism, to the point of overshadowing his work?

    Britney is a popstar and working in a genre that tries to keep everyone young and clean, hence the vilification of madonna for not giving up. In terms of male mental instability the comparison is with figures like Michael Jackson, George Michael, Elton John, Boy George. None of whom have fully recovered from their illness in terms of the their public image. Janis Joplin is the perfect counterpoint to both Morrison and Hendrix, she was equally unstable, equally drug addicted and another member of the 27 club as well as being a contemporary and she is remembered for her art.

    Kerry Katona is not an artist. The way she has been treated is disgraceful but it cannot overshadow her art, she had none, she was a pretty girl who could more or less hit notes and dance and then went into reality TV.

    To my knowledge, Marilyn Monroe was never diagnosed as having manic-depression but having had an abusive childhood and lasting trauma relating to extreme stage fright which she medicated with increasingly excessive doses of barbiturates. She is also not remembered for her mental illness though the tragedy of her early death hangs over her.

    You also might want to bear in mind that Heath Ledger's family have taken legal action of allegation of mental illness and drug abuse, he suffered from insomnia and pneumonia and the combination of prescription pills killed him. While depression is possible it is not proved.

    You may not be willing to diagnose people but you are certainly willing to imply they have or had illnesses which you cannot necessarily prove, your ellipsis following Morrison is suggestive, nor can I find any corroborated mention of Hendrix being anything more than drug addicted. I think you do your argument no favour by making this suggestions rather than sticking to the facts of their destructive drug addictions which have nevertheless been celebrated as a necessary part of their genius, a dangerous association and one that is not equally treated in women.

  21. Posie Rider, I find your description of Monroe sexist, transphobic and fucking ignorant. Perhaps you mgith want to do some research into her life or how much of an acting talent she was regarded to be by her contemporaries before spewing bile

  22. Well said, Siân, on both counts.

  23. It's difficult to point to specific examples precisely because people don't tend to want to admit to mental illness or even get diagnosed because of the taboos surrounding it. But I think the general point about celebrating male tortured geniuses (geniuii?) and ridiculing off-the-rails women is fair, regardless of whether they have diagnosed mental illnesses or not. Contrast Layne Staley and Courtney Love. Both immensely talented heroin addicts who wrecked the lives of those around them. One excused, the other the object of derisory scorn.

    On Britney - I've never been a fan, but her earlier work seems contrived, forced and over-manufactured. The sexy-schoolgirl stuff creeped me out even when I was at school myself. Her more recent stuff is still obviously manufactured, but seems more self-confident & natural. Good luck to her.

  24. I certainly concede that general thrust of the argument, that deviating from social authorised behaviour is more tolerated in men than women. But I really and truly think the case is very complicated, especially by the issue of posterity. A lot of the male artists mentioned here are long dead while the women are misbehaving now and death can be a great rehabilitator. Amy Winehosue is condemned and followed around but is it any worse than the negative attention give to Pete Doherty at the height of his fame and drugs addiction? His talents were equally eclipsed, he behaved equally badly, got defended by a small number of fans and slated by the press for being an talentless corruptor of our youth.

    In terms of contemporary culture, our press slows to judge and throw stones at any train wreck they can find, particularly if it's the greta and good gone wrong. The main reason for it being Britney and Lindsay and Kerry with only Peter Doherty for the blokes, is that the pressure on women both artistically and how they present themselves is great therefore they are more likely to be broken by it.

  25. Oh - and in partial response to the first comment, with Britney I think it's not just a gender thing but there's also a class thing going on. Christina Aguilera clearly didn't have an easy upbringing, but it was more middle-class than Britney's. Britney is regularly attacked as trailer-trash and there's a language of whoredom that goes along with someone who's had her origins and her success. People are more willing to accept that Christina Aguilera can be a successful independent businesswoman because middle-class women are allowed to escape the good-girl/self-promoting whore paradigm to a greater extent than working-class women are.

  26. I wonder if the states the two are from feeds it? Class wise they don't seem that different to me. The Spears seem to have been pretty comfortably off but are from rural Louisiana with all the associated stereotypes where as Aguilera comes from divorced parents where the father was abusive but grew up in New York and Pennsylvania?

  27. Sian - agree with all of that. Another complicating factor is that bad behaviour is more tolerated in some genres of music than others. It's expected in old-school heavy metal, and just about obligatory in cock-rock - both genres where it's been very difficult for women to be taken seriously.

  28. In response to Sian's comment before my last comment (we keep cross-posting) - yes. In America the distinction between working-class and middle-class is even more confused than it's become in Britain. Middle-class in the US is almost always a sub-set of what we'd consider as working class and has a lot to do with geographical perceptions (I'm lazily assuming you're British and might be wrong). Hence the Obama campaign can get away with leaflets entitled "Who's best for the middle-class", whereas here the Labour Party are criticised for (supposedly) abandoning the working class.

  29. Well certainly. People including myself have been citing Janis Joplin as remembered more for her music than her problems but Joplin wasn't a pop star. Equally male pop stars have had their careers ruined over similar behaviour to Britney et al, but they've had the mercy of less tabloid fixation/doing it before the tabloid became quite so all encompassing.

  30. err excuse me Sian - internet or no there is NO need to use language like that.

    You have thoroghly offended my lady sensibilities. I once worked in the underwear department of Debenhams, so I know the score.

    However I must have offended you deeply to warrant such discourtesy and therefore i apologise. One might rephrase to say that IN COMPARISON to Plath Monroe is a tranny prostitute. i'm so sorry I really hope there's no hard feelings? Go sistas Go!

  31. Er excuse me Posie but there's no need to use language like 'tranny prostitute'. It's offensive and derogatory, not to mention inaccurate. Monroe was not transvestite, nor transexual, nor a prostitute.

    In comparison to Plath, MOnroe is an actress, not as talented sure, but your terminology is inappropriate. However having checked out your blog I'm not entirely sure to what degree you are serious and to what degree you are satirical.

  32. I've worked really hard for all I've acheived and for you to brandish my work 'a joke' really does take the biscuit.

    I could say that Britney is 'a joke' but no, she's not, she's a succssful recording artist. Lets separate the facts from the ideas. Two words gals: neo-liberalism.

  33. You misreading of me in quite impressive. I didn't say your writing was bad, merely I was unsure as to whether you were serious or satirical. Your attack on Penny Red;s guardian article,for example, surely you can;t mean all the things you said? It had a satiric element?

  34. I hated Sylvia Plath's work which I was forced to read in literature class in my late teens. (The only thing that persuaded me not to slit my wrists was the work of the Symbolists which I was exposed to in French class.) Plath. Ugh! What a miserable self-indulgent harpy this woman actually was. Only somebody born into a privileged upper middle class background - someone who never knew hardship or what it was like as a member of the "lower orders" to have to struggle to scrape together enough money to pay the rent or put a meal on the table - could afford to be so unalloyedly selfish, inward looking and self-absorbed. Living under The Bell Jar might protect you temporarily from the elements and unforeseeable dangers in the wild but it also consigns you to death by asphyxiation and slow suffocation as the life giving atmosphere around you little by little exhausts itself and drains away to leave you in a vacuum.

    Actually, I'm surprised you didn't contrast Sylvia Plath with her contemporary Robert Lowell but as you chose to link Plath's name with those of other greats, which names have already been carved on the slopes of Mount Parnassus by the jealous and envious gods, e.g., Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse and Kerry Katona et al, why include the name of a Pulitzer Prize winning poet amongst such an august assembly of artistic appellations?

    So I don't like Plath!

    So what?

    Want to make something of it?!

    BRING IT!!!

    (Is that a greased catheter and chamber pot I see before me? Something tells me that someone is trying to take the piss!)

  35. A few queries: "All of these women suffered or suffer from bipolar disorder (manic depression) – a very real medical problem which affects about 1% of the adult population, and a significant percentage of creative, dynamic and high-achieving people"

    What's this based on? I can't believe there are 600,000 people in the UK actually diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

    In addition to this, does Britney actually have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder that she's been having treatment for?

    If so, are you saying it's been caused by her celebrity or that it's been a challenge she's had to overcome throughout her career or neither of these things?

    Do we/you have any trustworthy information about Britney's mental health and how it has affected her beyond long-distance diagnosis by media experts?

    I'm not completely clear what you're claiming in terms of the relationship between Britney's mental health, her celebrity role and the moral judgments made about her.

    Are you saying that she's being judged for having a mental health condition?

    Actually, I've got some other queries but I need to get some dinner.

  36. The best thing to do is pay no attention to it, and try and see your daughters have better things to pay attention to.

  37. I don't really follow pop-culture or care about 90% of the celebrity population.

    So please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm sure you will...

    But is it not the case that most of the celebrity press is run by women for female consumption?

  38. Hey, Posie.

    Is your novel "Me, Tim and my Quim" illustrated by any chance? I'm sure I saw a copy of this tome on the remaindered shelf between "Colour Climax #253" and "Big Boobed Belgium Babes" in my local sex shop.

  39. Marilyn Monroe?

    I'd do her whether she was a tranny or not. Just dig up the mortal remains of the bleach-haired beeach and watch me set me to work.


  40. oh god, guys, you do depress me sometimes.

  41. No problem Pen.

  42. Donatien A. F. de Sade16 March 2009 at 17:03

    Mon Dieu! Marilyn Monroe doit sûrement valoir la fouille!

    "My God! Marilyn Monroe must surely be worth the dig!"

  43. I'm not so sure the issue is one of gender but rather society's views on mental health, and in particular mental health issues. The overwhelming narrative preferred by the media is one of redemption, and a recovery (if such a thing is truly possible) from mental health problems and/or addiction. Witness Pete Doherty - hated by the media when he had a crack problem, but beginning to get some grudging respect now he is (a little) cleaner.

    The same is true from others who have suffered from a mental health condition and/or addiction. Ian Curtis and Kurt Cobain - two people who almost certainly suffered from mental health problems - are now best remembered for their suicides as those mental health problems overwhelmed them, rather than their considerable talents. You could say the same for Nick Drake and also argue that the schizophrenia of Syb Barrett has swamped the public perception of him, and detracted from his considerable talent. These people are best remembered for being mentally ill.

    So my point is this; what society demands, regardless of gender, is some sort of conformity. Those who overcome illness and addiction are remembered for their redemption, not for their abilities and talents. Those who succumb are also remembered for their illnesses and uncoventional ways of living; not their talents. The problem isn't so much sexism, but rather the demands of society for conformity to a norm, and a failure to understand that mental health is far more common that is generally realised or accepted.

  44. Knocking Shop Stewart17 March 2009 at 22:39

    Let's leave the necrophilia jokes buried where they belong guys. They're dead boring in English and in French.

    Thank you and goodnight.

  45. Why on earth are so many stoopid comments, most likely from men, just not removed?

  46. You misreading of me in quite impressive. I didn't say your writing was bad, merely I was unsure as to whether you were serious or satirical. Your attack on Penny Red;s guardian article,for example, surely you can;t mean all the things you said? It had a satiric element?

    Well, judging by the fact that:

    (a) she writes like a Private Eye satirical columnist;

    (b) if you type the title of her novel, being made into a movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Cameron Diaz, all the search results go back to her blog, no one else has ever heard of it;

    (c) some of her 'vaginal' artwork is actually the eye of Sauron;

    I think we can assume that she's probably an elaborate troll. If that's the case: not bad, well done getting an article in the F-Word, though a little heavy on the effort.

    If she's a real person... er, well, let's not contemplate that possibility.

    Best way to find out would be to ask people from the London Feminist Network, say, if they've ever heard of her or met her in person?

  47. You seem to recoil from your conclusion, there is the faintest whiff of burning, or at least definitely should-not-read, book there. What exactly are you advocating people do with this? What is the critique FOR, other than your having fun writing the post buy facebook fans


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