Monday, 6 April 2009

You look lovely when you smile...

I am so, so crashingly bored and depressed by the endless, endless fucking G20 coverage of the Many Dresses of Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni. Not just because it doesn't matter, but because, in a perverted way, it does: it's a way of saying to the entire world, this is what women are for. They're here to stand behind their men and be well dressed, and quiet, and smile, and look beautiful. It doesn't matter how accomplished Cherie Blair happened to be - she's less stylish than Sarah Brown (or, according to the odious Rowan Pelling, less ladylike), so she is worth less. Compare the coverage of Michelle Obama's fantastic speech to the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College to the coverage of the choice of coat she happened to wear that day. Seriously, just google 'Michelle Obama G20' and have a look at the first 10 hits. For weeks, we've had it rubbed in until it bleeds that even the most politically aware women in the world are there to be scrutinised, first and foremost, on their looks.

For days, I’ve wanted to talk about women, and anger, and the way we present. But I haven’t. I’ve written furtively, in notebooks and when I’m too tired to see the screen, because a great deal of me is frightened that, given everything that’s going on, feminism isn’t important anymore. Women aren’t important anymore – men, and the decisions they make, and the violence they may or may not commit, are important. The death of Ian Tomlinson, possibly at police hands, is important. What Barack Obama thinks today is important.

But every time I try to write about these things in a detatched way, I keep coming back to women’s anger. The proactive rage of the feminist groups who organised the weekend vigil for Tomlinson. The bloodied young women on the frontline of the demos, throwing themselves at the cops in a world which still tells women to sit down and shut up. The middle-aged women marching for the first time in their lives because they don’t want their child benefits cut. The young paramedic who bravely posted about being targeted by police on Wednesday. These are our politics too, and this is our anger too, and we need to be able to own it and express it fully if we are to reshape the world the way we know it needs to be.

There's a problem there, though, isn't there? Women aren't supposed to be angry.

There are lots of things we are supposed to be. We're supposed to be beautiful, and good, and helpful, and selfless, and loving. We're allowed to express devotion, and fear, and exhaustion, and hurt, and love, and even desire, as long as it's desire for cock and lipstick and shiny things, and not contraception, equal pay or social justice.

The world can cope with angry young men, but angry young women are anachronism to a stable society. In film and literature, angry, passionate men are heroes, soldiers, maverick detectives, rebels, leaders, artists; angry, passionate young women are, invariably the villains, and almost always end up destroying themselves or being destroyed, like O-Ren Ishii, like Joss Whedon's Faith, like Catherine Tramell, like every evil queen and wicked witch in every storybook ever written. Angry, accomplished women are frightening, especially if they are powerful. The only way society knows how to cope with angry women is to stereotype them as deranged, ridiculous and, worst of all, ugly - just as it did last month when feminist comrades across London gathered to protest against the Miss Uni 2009 beauty pageant.

David Crepaz-Keay of the Mental Health Foundation told me last week that 'women expressing anger are seen as displaying deviant behaviour - both within and outside the psychiatric arena.' Exploring this theme, Seaneen Molloy of Mentally Interesting, incidentally one of the most inspiring young writers out there, has a fantastic piece this week about the pathology of expressiong emotion - 'It's Alright To Be Angry'.

You need to read that post, and when you've read it, remember that it really wasn't so very long ago that women expressing too much anger, desire or other strength of feeling were imprisoned as lunatics, beaten and tortured in the name of healing and subjected to forcible electroconvulsive treatment. Remember that even now, women are far more likely to be given diagnoses of stigmatised conditions such as Borderline Personality Disorder, conditions in which the sufferer is deemed 'excessively quarrelsome' (DSMV criteria).

I'm often told of my writing, as I have been told my whole life, you're too angry. Why are you so angry? Chill out! Put on some make up on and give us a smile. You look lovely when you smile.

I have now been working in politics and in journalism for just over a year, and it cuts very deep to know that for every editor who's noticed that I can string a sentence together, for every person higher up the chain who has encouraged me, there have been two who have hired me because...because I look lovely when I smile. Because I've got a cute, petite little figure, because I'm curvy but not too curvy, because I'm small and shy, because I've got sparkly eyes and a pretty face. My appearance was the most important thing about me when I was an acne-plastered, train-track-toothed teenager, and it's still the most important thing about me now that I'm easier on the eye, whatever I wear, wherever I go. And don't think for a second that that's me being coy. Given the choice, I'm glad that, whatever I think of my looks, other people find me reasonably pretty, but I'd frankly rather it didn't matter at all. I'm sick of it mattering so fucking much that I'm pretty. This is the reason I periodically do a Britney and shave my head: hey presto! Underneath all these curves, behind this made-up face, I'm actually a person, and I'll still be one when I'm fifty! Who'da thunk?

Another still small voice of rage and reason inspiring me this week is Julia Indelicate, one-half of The Indelicates – a band introduced to me by a squealing fanboy with the words ‘you’ll like her. She’s angry’. Julia wrote ‘Our Daughters Will Never be Free’, a version of which you can hear playing on the link – it’s the best feminist pop song I’ve ever heard, and it drips with sarcasm and bile. This week, Julia writes for Indieoma about how for female musicians, as for so many of us, what we look like is more important than what we do - and how women, too, betray their creative, emotional and intellectual selfhood for a squashed-down image of acceptable femininity:

Talent in women is still for the most part a reference to harmonic and aesthetically appealing vocals and/ or rough edged vocals conjoined in brand with a sexy demeanour, and this is, for the most part, what most successful women in music do: Have a lovely pair of Talents......Men have always fucked women over. But to play the same game: to betray feminism by admitting defeat and retreating into vain variations on the ubiquitous sex and beauty aesthetic is traitorous and despicable. For this reason I find myself wishing I was male. To be able to have as standard a history of writing, to not have to be outside of it, and to not have to be aware of the femaleness of my performance would be an incredible relief.

I think we are often afraid, as women, of our own anger, our own intellect, our own personal and political potential. We are afraid that if we express any of it, we won't be liked and accepted and, unfortunately, we learn to internalise that fear just at the age when being liked and accepted is what we want most in the world.

That fear is founded on fact. What we have learned is both true and self-perpetuating, exemplified by the G20 coverage: the world's most high profile women are portrayed as beautiful and good, rather than intellectual and impassioned; they are judged on their style, not their substance. Young girls grow up knowing that passion, emotion, intellect and politics are not what they are for. They're there to look good and be helpful, to sit down and shut up. And
even if we try to fight it, we know that wherever we're likely to end up we can expect to be judged on our looks, our clothes and how well we play the game long before we open our mouths.

Except when we write.

I write because I'm not ashamed of my anger, because I want to own my anger; I write because I want people to be looking at my words, not at my tits. I write because it's the only thing that I'm good at that involves giving of myself, rather than selling myself. I want the right to be judged on what I say, and on what I feel, and on how decently I behave, rather than how I cute I look and how sweet I am. That might not seem like much for a lot of people reading this, but for women right down the centuries, that power - the power to be yourself in text - has meant the whole world.

I write because when I'm behind a keyboard, it doesn't matter if I'm smiling, or if I've done my hair, or if I'm sitting here wearing a dustbin, covered in shit and eating fistfuls of pilchards from a jar. I write because it's a way of taking power back. So I'm going to echo Julia: maybe I do look lovely when I smile. Maybe Carla Bruni and Michelle Obama are absolutely fabulous in couture coats. But that's not, that's never been the issue. Up and down the country, across the G20 nations, women are angry - and when we own our anger, when we can finally stand up and unashamedly live with and from our rage, when we finally realise that whatever they say, what we do is always more important than what we look like, then the whole world's gonna tremble.

62 comments:

  1. btw, michelle obama; during the campaign, she was (per the right-wing media) "an angry black woman", giving kickass speeches, that actually adressed things, instead of simply preaching hope'n'change, which was obviously bad, but thankfully, her dude tamed her, and now shes totally nice looking.

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  2. That was a kickass piece of writing - I'll say first of all, as a newb to your blog.

    Your impassioned words stirred up a twinge of guilt in me, that I'm obviously so wrapped up in the drudgery of my day to day life that I've lost sight of bigger issues. I guess my problem is that like you, I'm a very angry person - but I can't be angry at everything that affects me, I'd explode. As a journalist, one of the hardest professions to break into (I have a friend who is breaking into it at the moment and the amount of work she does is astounding) these issues would be may more in your face than they are in mine.

    I work in an office. I am no one ;)

    That's not to say that feminist issues, when they come to my notice, don't raise my ire, if I feel them to be unfair. I just tend to see people as people at the end of the day, and separate them into "Arses" and "Dudes" instead of men and women.

    If I was someone who some kind of clout, maybe that viewpoint could help people. As it is, I'm on my own.

    I enjoyed your writing!

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  3. SO much in agreement, I could pop. (Or maybe that's from all the jam and clotted cream I just consumed at a teahouse). I was widely accused of being "ugly" and "a boy in a wig" by all the little brutes on the playground from kindy thru about eighth grade, then somewhere between growing boobs and reaching a model-esque stature I'm suddenly worthy and should like the attention of same brutes, now grown up, but shut up about all those weird ideas those ugly chicks put in your head.

    Whatever my parents may have done wrong, at least they emphasized the importance of intelligence and achievement the whole time, so I clung to that regardless of looks. I admit that my looks certainly piqued my husband's interest in the first place, but I maintained that interest with the rest of it, and I kind of can't wait til I'm in my 50s and 60s and no longer held responsible for looking pretty to the public at large.

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  4. felflowne: Thank you for your lovely comments. But please, you are NOT no-one! I forgot to mention on here that the other reason I write is that my anxiety disorder means I can currently only cope with working in an office on an extremely part-time basis.

    You are not noone. Anger is valid wherever it is, however it is expressed. I hope you'll come back and comment on this blog more!

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  5. corardens: ta :). Well, precisely. The trouble is that the whole thing is hyped up so much that it's difficult to even say, 'yes, I'm pretty. So what? Please listen to what I have to say!'. The implication is that, if you happened to be born with a socially acceptable face and figure, you should be so fucking grateful for that that you spend the rest of your life buying overpriced facecreams and cleaning someone's house. We're supposed to accept that being pretty is the best thing that can possibly happen to a woman - we have to fight to get it, fight to keep it, and if by some fluke of genes and fashion we've got it, we should keep very quiet about it, and certainly not tell anyone how fulfiled it doesn't make us.

    Quite a lot of this post was inspired by a conversation with my 17-year-old-sister, who has the same problems only more so, because she's got the family dark features with the kind of slender frame, height and thick bouncy gorgeous hair that mean she can't walk down the street without being talent scouted for some model agency or other. She's also a brilliant kid with more personal integrity than I could dream of, and she desperately wants to be taken seriously. Bloody teenage boys, &c...

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  6. I'm not sure where you got your G20 coverage but all I read was about the protests and then the agreement. I suggest if you're getting stuff that is so vapid then you're not on the right channels - maybe as I guy I don't pick this stuff up, and I'm not saying anyone should ignore the effect of this type of coverage on young women, but if it makes you so angry it might be best for your health to ignore it. Never EVER take the "most read" stories on any news site as an indication of what real people care about, or let it get to you.

    One exception to what you're highlighting: Merkel. No one says stuff like "she's frumpy" or "she isn't lady like" - they view her as a leader in the same way they view Sarkozy, just another leader. Her gender is irrelevant. It is not that she is androgynous or man-like; she's just a leader, and she happens to be a woman. The problem with Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni's depiction as women who wear nice dresses (my significant other doesn't think M.Obama dresses all that well) is that the role of a President is a singular one and anyone else around them is politically irrelevant. If Michelle was the President then we would get all these stories about Barack's dress code.

    Michelle would make a great President - it's just a shame that her husband got there first, and I don't believe in political dynasties.

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  7. Merkel gets a free pass on the whole looks thing because she's a rightwing leader and is old enough not to have to be glamorous/sexy anymore. Just like Thatcher or Golda Meir or even Indira Gandhi. But Helmut Kohl never had to put up with a backrub by Reagan...

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  8. Thank you. Just... thank you. :-)

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  9. This is an awesome post :D I've been incensed by the coverage of Michelle Obama - when she's been doing things like making that wonderful speech at the school and time and time again it comes back to what she wore to do it. Apart from that though, i agree with all of this.

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  10. One of your best Laurie. Could barely agree more.

    Interestingly, as I read through the first time I really wanted to disagree with you, but didn't know why. On second read I realised it was because I got a sense of us versus them - and as one of 'them' ie men I instinctively go on the defensive - 'We're not all like that... think you might be overstating the point, etc' - but I think that's probably a little churlish of me as the point I guess is not that particularly about individual males or even males as a collective but more about a society that accepts the old misogynistic norms. Or maybe I'm just trying to avoid the guilty struggle of realising I like seeing pretty women and then trying to forget what they look like when they talk to you. Dunno.

    "The implication is that, if you happened to be born with a socially acceptable face and figure, you should be so fucking grateful for that that you spend the rest of your life buying overpriced facecreams and cleaning someone's house." Brilliant.

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  11. Interesting stuff.

    What is even more interesting, though, is that by and large men don't give a fuck about what coat Michelle Obama was wearing; I truly think that Women judge each other's looks & style far more critically than men (excepting, perhaps, everyone's favourite these days, the mincing 'metro-mea')

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  12. @Anonymous
    The g20 coverage was all pretty much women's fashion and protests with the odd "what did the men get up to?" stories. Or at least, that's been the content of my Guardian rss feed for the g20...

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  13. "The young paramedic who bravely posted about being targeted by police on Wednesday." Sound interesting, do you have a link?

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  14. Absolutely Penny! As per usual, the media (particularly the Daily Male - quelle suprise) have been utterly obsessed over what the women are wearing rather than anything else.

    dreamtothesky: that may be partly true, but we also have to accept that the editorial gatekeeping of many newspapers are still 'by men, for men'.

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  15. Mean't to add, such male editors usually think that their female audience are more interested in make-up and fashion than politics or current affairs - just take a look at the women's supplements that come with most newspapers - utter dross - even the Guardian's 'Woman' is still pretty dissapointing, although better than most.

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  16. I'm quite partial to pilchards om toast ...

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  17. Jule - The paramedic published her story at this blog: http://g20police.wordpress.com. Friends are contributing their stories of the after-dark violence at Climate Camp - if anyone was there, please, please contribute.

    Michelle would make a great President - it's just a shame that her husband got there first, and I don't believe in political dynasties.

    In one of his books Barack explains that she would have made a much better President than him - she was his mentor in law school and he's always looked up to her. But realistically, they didn't think a black woman stood a chance, whereas a black man might; and more importantly, she had no desire to be President, actively didn't want to do it. So there you go. Nothing to do with "her husband getting there first."

    The "G20 wives" coverage has made me ITCH. Oh, the leaders discuss important world affairs over port and cigars while their wives visit schools and have tea and cakes. If there was a Mr Merkel, what would he have done? The whole gendered nature of the leader + partner social arrangement is sickeningly out-dated.

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  18. Steph:

    Trouble is, a lot of Women appear to enjoy reading that crap (they certainly keep paying money to get more of it). I die a little every time I go home to see my folks and and find a copy of 'Heat' or 'OK Magazine' on the living room table.

    I guess there is an enormous gulf between enlightened women like yourself and Miss. Penny, and Sharon on the Street. There might well be some credit to the argument that the state of affairs is perpetuated by Men in Charge, but I am somewhat dubious.

    Rather, I suspect that they are In Charge because they learnt how to make money out of your average woman's desire to judge each-other in this particular way.

    (That is not to say, by any means, that we the hairier sex don't have plenty of ways of judging each other just as cruelly)

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  19. re: anonymous' comment on Michelle Obama during the campaign. The media have realised that continuing to portray her as an angry black woman won't work, because people can see that she's a confident, empathetic, likeable person without airs or graces. So they try to make her irrelevant, by reducing her to what she's wearing instead.

    I don't think it's working, thankfully.

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  20. dreamtothesky: Sure, I do agree with you mostly, but at the same time, I don't think we can underestimate just how ingrained patriarchal culture and society has created such gendered expectations and norms (bit like the 'liking pink and dolls' argument - how many girls really like pink and dolls, are just heavily nurtured into liking them, and that society reacts by labelling a girl as a 'tomboy' if they don't?)

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  21. Shock horror - more than half the population have an IQ of 100 or less. Sorry to hear you're angry, but you're reading the wrong papers. The Economist isn't running pictures of Michelle's dress - they're running stories on Merkel's policies.

    Most people *are* for all practical purposes the "little people". They don't care about the real politics because they recognise it as realpolitik, in which they are Harry Lime's "ants" in "The Third Man". They feel they have no power over decision making, and they're usually correct. In a first-past-the-post system that is not going to change. and since a proportional system would create a BNP MP then the population are wise to be cautious of it, even though you might wish for more Green.

    The best hope is for the increasing power of all the bloggers, yourself included, even though I'd normally politically disagree with everything you type, including "is" and "the".
    Your posted picture today is the first one that links you to Mr Eugenides, on the far side of the political sphere; Your joint fury is essential. Fury is a prerequisite to fight the current three-party complacency.

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  22. Quite so... In addition - Who told us what Bill was wearing when Hilary Clinton was running? Apparently some sort of suit.

    Anonymous - "if it makes you so angry it might be best for your health to ignore it"

    Now, there's a recipe for New World Journos. Did you really think that through?

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  23. Maybe I'm just used to it, but I like women who get angry. If you're angry you don't care about how you think others want you to look and be, and say and do what you want.
    In my mind you don't know someone until you've had a fight, serious argument, or whatever you wanna call it. As long as you're pissed enough to shout and express it whiteout starting to throw punches, you're good.
    If you don't hate each other afterwards you might just have found yourself a really good friend.
    But like I said, maybe I'm used to it.
    Thanks mom! (That's not a joke, btw.)

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  24. Generally agree with the sentiments. The Indelicates are great.

    The question (or a question) is why most women are apparently not angry about these things - and in the case of publications such as the Daily Mail, are largely responsible for its success.

    Any ideas?

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  25. David, publications often betray their intended readership. this can be seen with the red tops etc - betrayal of the working class, get your audience to concentrate on the latest football results and page 3 tits rather than try and mobilise change. i'd like to expand further but stuck in work. that chomsky documentary manufacturing consent is 4 hours long though if you haven't seen it! thats my view on it , interested to read others.

    Laurie, really powerful words.

    Brendan

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  26. @Helen:

    In one of his books Barack explains that she would have made a much better President than him - she was his mentor in law school and he's always looked up to her. But realistically, they didn't think a black woman stood a chance

    Interesting. I think you may have missed something there; though I'm at work so I can't check Audacity of Hope right now. My memory of that passage is that he says she'd have made a much better President but had no interest in being a candidate: she didn't want that life for herself. I seem to recall him expressing gratitude that she accepted it so gracefully in him. Her activism has (like his early work as a community organiser) been on the practical end.

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  27. "David, publications often betray their intended readership. this can be seen with the red tops etc - betrayal of the working class, get your audience to concentrate on the latest football results and page 3 tits rather than try and mobilise change."

    Assuming we all accept that working class people who read the red tops (and women who read the Daily Mail) are sentient human beings, does Chomsky think they're betraying themselves?

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  28. Helen / John

    My memory is slightly different; that they both said she didn't have the patience to put up with all the bs you have to to stand in politics and not speak your mind. (I agree she'd make a fantastic politician & the fact he was married to her was one of the things that reassured me about Obama.)

    I'm sure we've got it right between the three of us!

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  29. This particular female
    - Does not wear makeup, high heels, short skirts or low cut tops in anything remotely work related, and rarely outside of work. Gets fewer twinkly smiles from upper management.
    - Frequently rants about politics and changes in society and chances for improvement to friends and co-workers, only to find (markedly amongst the co-workers, not so much amongst the friends) that the girls shrug and look away, more interested in soap operas and pretty shoes.

    We really should find some way of actually getting to the soap opera and pretty shoe demographic. One girl where I work didn't even have a rudimentary understanding of our party-political system. They've learnt to not care, learnt that they don't have to be involved because someone else will always make the decisions. They know that as long as they have an above-the-knee skirt and a reasonably tight top, they have a secure job. No need to be involved in the wider world.
    These girls don't even read enough news to notice Michelle Obama's pretty jackets, being too involved in Hollyoaks.

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  30. @ Red El

    I agree about getting to the soap opera and pretty shoe demographic but the problem is equally apparent amongst the football, beer and birds demographic. The problem there is not a feminist one - simply an apathy one.

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  31. Nothing wrong with football or beer!

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  32. Anger is important. I was recently on a management bullshit course where I was told anger wa sunhealthy... only ANGRY people change the world, and only ANGRY people want to make the world a better place. They may be pacifists, or whatever, but anger is in many forms. And it is often righteous, and beautiful.

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  33. "only ANGRY people change the world, and only ANGRY people want to make the world a better place."

    Sometimes they make it worse.

    "They know that as long as they have an above-the-knee skirt and a reasonably tight top, they have a secure job. No need to be involved in the wider world."

    Isn't that a legitimate choice for someone to make? If not, why not?

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  34. Well there are a few things being conflated. Is it legimitate for an individual to make a choice which benefits them from a set of bad options? Yes. Does that mean all the consequences of the choice are good? No. Is it good to use the fact that you have a secure job (if indeed you do, I'd dispute the original paradigm, perhaps more secure than if above-the-knee skirt and tight top are not worn) to not bother about the outside world? No.

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  35. Yes, sometimes they make it worse. But angry people are incentivised to improve the world, their world, and a desire to improve only comes from dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction at what appears to be an unjust world is anger.

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  36. The world like hotties!

    Get over it!

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  37. Would now be an inappropriate time to say I think you are really hot, Laurie, and that I have a secret crush on you? Not just cos of your looks but also cos of your fierce intellect and blogging passion

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  38. If you haven't got a vagina Anonymous... fuggetaboutit!

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  39. Penny -- you live in an interesting world. Most of the women I know and hang out with do anger, rage, bile, etc, etc, very well.

    Also you shouldn't underplay the importance of looks to men in the workplace either. It may not be as obvious but men are judged a hell of a lot on how they dress and what they look like.

    If you're good looking you should just view it as a bonus not some sort of mill stone.

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  40. Who cares what a woman looks like when she's horizontal?

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  41. Hm...

    As far as I'm aware none of the world leaders stormed around raging and waving a fist. Even Sarkozy and Berlusconi played it pretty cool. I don't think that the media would have been particularly impressed by people of either gender raging, and aren't you completely forgetting that Germany's premier is a female? And she formed a faction with Sarko that had the whole gathering by the balls, didn't she? That's a woman in power, is it not?

    Additionally: Michelle Obama is an intellectual woman who can give one mean speech. This may be something which had her negatively typecast as an "Angry black radical woman" by certain elements in the American right media, but as far as I can tell she's popular with the population as a whole. Here's a speech of hers:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/12/im-so-tired-of.html

    She even seems (dare I say it) pretty damn angry, right?

    And why wouldn't there be more attention paid to a business suit than to a dress? A dress allows for far more variety, so there's plenty more to comment on. Suits are only very rarely remarkable, the last one I can remember being worth commenting on was Arnie's at the 2004 Republican Convention when he wore a get-up costing multiple thousands which displayed that he truly had still-got-it. It was duly commented upon by the Time journalist in the crowd.

    & finally: "Women aren’t important anymore – men, and the decisions they make, and the violence they may or may not commit, are important. The death of Ian Tomlinson, possibly at police hands, is importa" It was a woman who decided to club Tomlinson in the back of the knee, wasn't it?

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  42. I read this and I thought of Andrea Dworkin: "What I would like to do is to scream: and in that scream I would have the screams of the raped, and the sobs of the battered; and even worse, in the center of that scream I would have the deafening sound of women's silence"

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  43. @ directionlessbones

    The only reason Andrea Dworkin says the stuff she says is because she is stomach-churningly ugly. Everybody knows when Dworkin has entered a room because the mice immediately start throwing themselves on the traps! Dworkin reminds me of some talentless non-entity stating that they're poor and unknown because they made a conscious decision not to be rich and famous - as if these latter possibilities were ever on the cards.

    Andrea could more profitably employed by Scotland's tourist industry to swim up and down Loch Ness to lure in hordes of sasenach visitors hoping to see the monster.

    And they wouldn't be disappointed!

    God! What a sight!

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  44. I think Gengis proves my point quite nicely.

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  45. Always pleased to help a lady... hmm... err... scratch that! Always pleased to help, Ms. Red.

    (If nothing else at least be honest enough to admit that you wouldn't actually be prepared to give Dworkin a sympathy fuck either!)

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  46. While I think Gengis goes too far in his sexist remarks I do think that behind the bluster he isn't completely wrong.

    Would Andrea Dworkin really be the person she is and say the things that she says if she had been born beautiful rather than ugly? The way we look profoundly affects the kind of people we are, are able to become and what chips we carry on our shoulders. If Andrea looked more like Shania Twain than Mark Twain, does anyone really believe she would have evolved/devolved into the person she is now?

    Personally, I don't think so.

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  47. Dworkin's dead, you fuckers.

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  48. Abigail; if that's true, I'm glad she didn't look like Shania Twain. Not that I've got anything against Shania Twain (other than her music being shit), but I think the world has benefited substantially more from Andrea Dworkin's insights than Shania Twain's.

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  49. Thanks Anonymous. You're right. Dworkin died in 2005. I didn't know that Dworkin had shuffled off this mortal coil but then, to my way of thinking, she had never been fully alive. Her change of state was consequently not that obvious to me personally. Odd. I can't recall seeing a single obituary for Dworkin published in any British newspaper.

    Anyone ever read her loathsome "Intercourse"?

    Come on! The woman was a sexist wingnut! Surely authors claiming to be writing non-fiction should be able to profess some knowledge as per the subjects that they're writing about? What did Dworkin know about heterosexual love or sex first hand? In ten or fifteen years her books will be forgotten and no one will remember that she ever wielded her untruthful, poisonous and malicious pen. What a dreadful old trout poor Dworkin was in life and yet I am genuinely sorry that she, through no fault of her own, was denied the opportunity to live a happy and fulfilling human life and to know what it is to love and be loved.

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  50. Atilla the Honey13 April 2009 at 12:13

    The truth of the matter is that Andrea Dworkin was a perverse and insane misanthrope who found a bandwagon to jump on, shout and make a living out of exhibiting her own aggressive delusions and complex psychopathology.

    "In everything men make, they hollow out a central place for death, let its rancid smell contaminate every dimension of whatever still survives. Men especially love murder. In art they celebrate it, and in life they commit it. They embrace murder as if life without it would be devoid of passion, meaning, and action, as if murder were solace, still their sobs as they mourn the emptiness and alienation of their lives."

    Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone, p 214.

    Is that true about you, timf! Are you obsessed with and in love with murder? God! What a creepy little creature you are to be sure! Obviously a serial killer in the making.

    "Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women"

    Andrea Dworkin (1987)

    Huh? I don't know about you, timf, but I love sex and women. So, assuming that you're sexually active and not gay, every time you have intercourse with and hopefully bring your partner to fruition, don't you think it's wrong to express your contempt for her in so obvious and physical a manner? I think you ought to stop disrespecting the opposite sex by becoming celibate herewith!

    Dworkin was a basket case.

    May she Rest In Pieces.

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  51. Truth comes in different forms. The statements of Dworkin's you quote do contain truth, even if they aren't the whole truth and even if her tone winds some men up who aren't patient enough to consider the value of her writing.

    Do you really think the conventions associated with sex (and even the ways sex is usually enacted) have no role to play in confirming/reinforcing power relations between men and women? That's not to say that individual men and women can't make a conscious attempt to subvert and challenge those dynamics, but let's be realistic - most don't, and I believe all attempts are doomed to failure (though better to try than not bother).

    And yes, I think the way men are socialised encourages us to be destructive. That includes self-destruction as well as dehumanising women we have relationships with. I wouldn't personally use the word "murder", but it's a useful word for Dworkin to communicate her meaning.

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  52. "assuming that you're sexually active and not gay"

    Why make these assumptions? If I was a woman you'd assume I was saying these things because I was too ugly to get a man and/or a lesbian. At least be consistent and say I'm probably gay and/or have a face like Rooney & a body like Mr Muscle.

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  53. Atilla the Honey13 April 2009 at 18:10

    @ timf

    Well, at least you gave me a good laugh!

    You are clearly a self-styled apologist for Dworkinsian lunacy. I am absolutely sure that if Dworkin had written "All men should be castrated without anesthetic!" you would excuse her by saying something like "Well, she wasn't talking about physical castration but indicating that men should face up to their faults, sexism and sexual foibles."

    I feel I have the right to put words into your mouth in the same way that you attribute actions to me without cause or justification, viz.,

    If I was a woman you'd assume I was saying these things because I was too ugly to get a man and/or a lesbian. At least be consistent and say I'm probably gay and/or have a face like Rooney & a body like Mr Muscle.

    What point would there be in me making an aside comparing your own sexual life with the latter Dworkin quote if you were sexually inactive or exclusively homosexual?

    Suppose we replace the words "man" with "Negro" and "men" with "Negroes" in any Dworkin opus. Would that be acceptable? Wouldn't she have been accused of being racialist under these circumstances? I say Dworkin was an insane misanthropic man-hating sexist who made no worthwhile cultural, political or feminist contribution in any of her fifty seven years on this planet.

    I personally KNOW that Dworkin is wrong because her description of men is completely and utterly alien to me. There is not one woman (or man) that has had any kind of association with me, erotic or platonic, who would agree that I fitted Dworkin's template in the least part. Intercourse to me is not the pure, sterile, formal expression of my contempt for women, but my wish to give them as much pleasure as I am capable of giving and taking as much pleasure from them as they are willing to give me. There is no contempt or cruelty involved. Not ever. Not once. Only fun, recreation, affection and sometimes even love.

    The more I think about it the sadder I fell for Andrea Dworkin. So bent out of shape; so riddled with anger and despite. Such a pity that anyone should pass their life so troubled and in such pain and anguish.

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  54. Hermes Trismigestus14 April 2009 at 08:18

    "...O-Ren Ishii, like Joss Whedon's Faith, like Catherine Tramell...Huh! Weren't these fictional women respectively a paid assassin, psychopathic super-slayer who plotted to bring about the end of the world and a serial killer guilty of sexual murder and the murder of her own parents? I think these characters came to sticky ends (bar Catherine Tramell, who ended up with Michael Douglas, a fate worse than death in my opinion) because the dramatic presentations they were portrayed in were trying to make the hackneyed moral point that villains always get their come-uppance. You inclusion of these fictional characters in the context of what you wrote seem, well, a little nuts to me I have to say.

    "We're supposed to be beautiful, and good, and helpful, and selfless, and loving. We're allowed to express devotion, and fear, and exhaustion, and hurt, and love, and even desire, as long as it's desire for cock and lipstick and shiny things, and not contraception, equal pay or social justice."Huh? Where did you get this idea? This ranting nonsense is unworthy of sensible consideration by anyone with any shred of self-determination whatsoever. Pull your socks up and try to do better than this. And at least try to be honest.

    Your posts lately have been very obstreperous and polemical. I think it would be best for all concerned if you refrained from writing when on the rag. I include this latter bit of sexism to give you a genuine reason to dislike me rather than the fact that I was born male, a situation outside of my control. I blame my parents.

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  55. Don't worry dear, you look plug ugly to me. Happy to help!

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  56. Ah, the old chestnut "if you replace feminist analysis with a racial slur it becomes racist, ergo it's all sexist".

    Not sure I can even be arsed to reply to that one. But I do like how because I happen to agree with someone, suddenly I'm "self-styled". I don't think I've ever been accused of having "style" before, so I'll take it as a compliment.

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  57. Atilla the Honey14 April 2009 at 16:01

    Well, timf, I think that when a human being accuses fifty percent of the human race - i.e., the 3,000,000,000 male souls or so which exist on surface of this planet - of loving and celebrating murder, violence, rape as well as committing or fantasising about these crimes habitually in daily life - well, I would consider a person espousing such toxic, insane and untruthful views to be completely and utterly deranged.

    Christ was a man:
    Buddha was a man:
    Gandhi was a man.

    Dworkin was a sad, bitter, twisted madwoman.

    And that is the truth.

    Look for the light in yourself and in other men who cross your path, my friend, and be more critical of those whom you judge champions of worthy causes you believe in. I wish you well.

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  58. Do you really think the conventions associated with sex (and even the ways sex is usually enacted) have no role to play in confirming/reinforcing power relations between men and women?Whether I do or do not is an irrelevance, since that isn't what Dworkin's argues. She argues that it is an expression of contempt. Not a tool of dominance.

    That's not to say that individual men and women can't make a conscious attempt to subvert and challenge those dynamics, but let's be realistic - most don't, and I believe all attempts are doomed to failure (though better to try than not bother).Wow, bad luck mate.

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  59. Could the hugh popularity of Michelle Obama be a sign of changing attitudes in the fashion industry? Vogue recently featured Mrs. Obama on its cover. Michelle Obama in particular has ushered in new era of style and entertaining.

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