Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley.

This is a collection of essays on various topics including the election of Donald Trump, transgender rights and rape culture. As ever Penny is witty and darkly humorous as well as deadly serious. You may not always agree with what she says but you can’t help examining your own thoughts on any subject she chooses to attack.

She is not afraid of attacking the status quo and asking why things are as they are and why they can’t be different. I was particularly interested in the essays which discussed the way women are treated online. How behaviour which is generally deplored when exhibited by migrants for example, is suddenly acceptable if directed against women who dare to question the rights of white males.

The author exposes the widespread misogyny on the internet and in real life. It certainly made me angry and reminded me of various discussions I have had on the internet with the supposedly more rational sex. If you think equal rights is alive and kicking, read this book and realise how much more work still needs to be done even in the Western world.

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Their Angry Creed: The shocking history of feminism, and how it is destroying our way of life

I always like to read more than one point of view on controversial subjects and I was pleased when I came across this book.  Unfortunately it isn’t what I was looking for – which is a calm, rational critique of feminism.  This is an angry and at times a vitriolic book. I finished reading it with the overwhelming idea that women frighten the author – especially women daring to express an opinion which doesn’t agree with his own view of what life should be like.

There are many inconsistences and inaccuracies in this book.  On one page the author says all feminists express the same views and a few pages later he says feminism is an amorphous collection of opinions and it is impossible to find a definitive list of feminist beliefs.  This is because while there are broad areas of agreement between feminists, no one agrees on the details.

The author seems to think that feminism is about hating men – it isn’t.  There was great anger and some extreme views expressed by feminists such as Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer.  Greer especially expressed herself in extreme language to get people talking.   There were also more extreme writers than those two but mainstream feminism was never about hating men and nor are all feminists lesbians as the author suggests more than once in this book.

This book isn’t all bad and the author does deal well with the history of feminism.  Where I part company with him is over his comments about rape and about the so-called rape culture and on his constant denigrating of feminist writers and thinkers as all being mentally ill – as though to even think about  upsetting the status quo means that person must be insane. I do agree that all violence – whoever is the perpetrator – is abhorrent but here the author needs to look to his own gender for the vast majority of the violence.  I also don’t agree that flashing really isn’t a crime if it happens in front of a mature woman who should be able to deal with such things.

I think a woman’s sexual history shouldn’t be brought up in a rape trial because rape is still rape even if a woman has a chequered sexual history. If, as the author suggests, this should be admissible in court then so should the sexual history of the accused.  I also think – though this isn’t a popular view – that neither accused nor defendant should be anonymous. I didn’t like the suggestion that unless a victim fights back it can’t be rape.  This fails to take into account the way the human body can freeze in a dangerous situation and nor does it take into account the usual advice of not trying to fight someone who has greater physical strength than you have.  Presumably the author thinks the only good rape victim is a dead rape victim?

To me – and I grew up when Germaine Greer was first popular – feminism is about giving both men and women choices about their lives.  The nuclear family need not be the only version of the family – with breadwinner father, stay at home mother and two point four children.  By suggesting that other versions of the family may just be viable feminists aren’t advocating abolishing men.

Patriarchy – for want of a better description – is a straightjacket for men just as much as it is for women.  It ought to be possible for men to stay at home and bring up the children and for women to be the breadwinner without men screaming that it is undermining the fabric of society.

This book is worth reading but you need to constantly check the statements the author makes all too often – ‘everyone knows . . .’; ‘everyone agrees . . .’  No Mr Purdy – not everyone shares your views and that doesn’t make those who don’t agree mentally unstable. Nor is feminism a synonym for lesbianism or Marxism.

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Pimp State: Sex, Money and the Future of Equality

I found this book thought provoking, and it has actually changed my own views on prostitution and pornography.  The book is primarily about the sex trade and how it harms the women involved in it.  There are plenty of  quotes from people who have been – or still are – involved in prostitution.  I have always thought women mainly became involved in selling their bodies for money because they were drug addicts.  Of course I was aware of the trafficking of women for prostitution but had always thought this was a small part of the trade.

This book has made me examine my preconceptions. The book shows that women mainly start taking drugs to deal with their horrific lives in prostitution, instead of turning to prostitution to fund their drug habits.  They risk violence and often have no control over their own lives because of the activities of pimps and brothels.  The book looks at the ways various countries have tackled the sex trade. I found it interesting that Sweden’s approach – criminalising the buying of sex and not the selling of it has radically reduced the number of prostitutes in the country.  It has also changed society’s attitude to paying for sex and it is no longer acceptable.

It seems that decriminalising the sex trade has the opposite effect from the one intended.  It actually increases the violence against the women involved rather than decreases it.  This book made me question whether the sex trade is acceptable in a society which considers itself civilised.  Prostitution is abuse of women.  ‘Customers’ can do what they want with the women whose bodies they purchase for a period of time.  There is no control over their actions.

There are movements to get prostitution accepted as just another job but if you follow that through to its logical conclusion employment law would apply as well as  health and safety.  How on earth could anyone apply health and safety regulations in practice?  How would customers react to giving names and addresses, being filmed on CCTV, being made to stick to rules and regulations?

There is evidence that pornography and the acceptance of establishments such as lap dancing clubs as well as tacit acceptance of prostitution all affect the attitudes of men and boys towards women in the real world. Most pornography abuses women in the making of it as interviews with former porn stars show all too graphically.  The women involved may have contracts saying what they will and won’t do but in practice they can’t enforce these and they end up being subjected to assaults which in any other context would be assault and rape.

This is an angry book and needs to be read with an open mind.  Prostitution and pornographic films are abuse of women.  It is possible to change society – as Sweden has demonstrated – to make paying for sex illegal and thus change people’s attitudes to it in less than a generation.  Being anti-prostitution and pornography doesn’t make anyone anti-sex, whatever people who hold opposite views might tell you.  Accepting prostitution and pornography is accepting that men have needs which they find impossible to control – is that really true?  Do men want to be seen as having no self control?

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Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays

This is a collection of essays on the place of women in the world today.  The title essay shows a situation with which any reasonably well educated woman is all too familiar.  A man explains something to you, even if, as in the author’s case she has actually written a book about it – the very book that the man is recommending as being the best book on that subject.  As the author says, not all men are like that but rather too many seem unable to believe that woman can be educated and intelligent.

The essays make some thought provoking points about several of the world headlines in the last few years.  The court case involving the former head of the IMF:  the rapes on public transport in India; the misogyny which is rife on the internet and which deters many women from playing an active part on many websites and the air brushing out of history of the activities of many influential groups of women.

I was struck yet again by the all the too common advice to women on how to keep themselves safe from murderers and rapists – stay at home, only go out in groups or with a man.  Maybe men ought to be told that attacking women isn’t acceptable.  Maybe men should be told to say at home so that women can go out unmolested.  In the twenty first century women should no longer be held responsible for preventing attacks on themselves. This is a book for anyone who thinks women have equality across the world and are treated as human beings with rights. Read this book and think again.

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Targeted and Trolled: The Reality of Being a Woman Online (An original digital short)

This short book looks at the ever present problem of the abuse women receive online on a daily or even hourly basis.  It highlights recent cases which have resulted in prosecutions and also successful ways women have banded together to confront their abusers and shame them into stopping the abuse.

It is easy to tell people who are being abused online to switch their computers off and walk away or to just ignore the abuse but that isn’t the answer.  It should be possible for women to have an online presence which doesn’t make them the target of abuse. For many people the internet is where they work and conduct at least some of their social lives.  They should be free to do this without going in fear of their lives for expressing opinions which may be unpopular with some people.

This thought provoking book isn’t saying men don’t receive abuse online but it does point out that women are the main recipients of sexualised abuse threatening them with rape as well as death. In general men might be told they’re stupid for holding the views they express but they won’t find the person who disagrees with them also telling them that they will be raped or killed.

My own experience is that abusers often target your perceived lack of ability to attract men as though that is the be-all and end-all of a woman’s life.  I dared to suggest to someone on a forum that perhaps if they used different search terms they might get more of the results they wanted and he immediately came back with a comment about how he was sure I lived alone and had never been married!  I cannot imagine a man receiving that type of comment in response to an innocuous suggestion.  A man would have been more likely to have been thanked for their help.

This is a subject which everyone who uses the internet should be concerned about as it threatens to drive women off the internet altogether.


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Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution

The book is described by its author as a polemic.  It isn’t only about women it is about bigotry and prejudice and about how those affect everyone in their daily lives.  It is about rigid gender roles and how they affect the choices of everyone.  Rigid roles affect those men who want to be nurses and carers just as much as they affect women who want to be engineers and airline pilots or computer programmers.  Rigid gender definitions of qualities and aptitudes stop people taking on the roles they as individuals are best suited for.

The book talks about issues which many people hesitate to voice and it talks about people being individuals first and foremost before they are either gender – or somewhere in between.  It talks about cyberbullying, trolling and stalking and how it seeks to shut women up on the internet.  Women should not speak out about anything and need to be silenced because good women and girls – rather like children – should be seen and not heard.  To say you disagree with someone is to invite a tirade of abuse.  Freedom of speech is fine for everyone except women because if they exercise their right to free speech they are ‘mouthy c . . s or whining women always moaning about something’.  Or there’s nothing wrong with them which plenty of sex wouldn’t cure. This sort of treatment on the internet – you rarely meet it in real life – makes my blood boil and it clearly does the same to the author.  Freedom of speech is a right but with it goes the responsibility not to abuse, insult or denigrate others.

The book covers subjects such as the beauty industry and the celebrity culture and how it tries to impose certain rigid parameters on the appearance women and girls present to the world.  I must admit that having grown up in the 1950s and 1960s I realise I would hate to be growing up now.  There seems to be so much pressure on young women to look and behave in certain ways.  I wasn’t conscious of this at all when I was growing up and differences were welcomed or at least tolerated far more than they are today.

As well as focussing on women- she also looks at how men and boys are treated these days and finds they are not served well by stereotypes imposed on them.  Not all men want to be into violence and what tend to be thought of as traditional masculine stereotypes – real men don’t cry and real men definitely don’t do the housework.  Some men enjoy the housework and want to give vent to their feelings by crying. We need to be less rigid in our expected gender roles – in fact why have gender roles?  What is wrong with looking at people as individuals?

I think for me one of the most frightening chapters was about sex and the internet and the way violent pornography is so much a part of it.  There are plenty of men in real life who are not interested in being violent towards women and yet so much of pornography contains violence towards women.

This is an angry book as you might expect but it also contains plenty of references to other sources – comprehensive notes on each chapter and a bibliography.  It contains rather more uses of the F word than I am quite comfortable with but that is a personal preference.

I think the sentence which made most impression on me is this one from close to the end of the book:

‘Feminism and radical politics are about demanding more than a choice between one type of servitude and another’

That pretty well sums it up for me.

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Feminism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)


This is a useful overview of the history of feminism.  It doesn’t go into the rights and wrongs of feminism at any point in history it simply relates information about people who wrote on the subject or were involved in the various groups set up to change the way women were treated and perceived.

The book mainly looks at Britain with some digressions to the US and to Europe and brief information about feminism in the Third World.  I found the pre-nineteenth century chapters of great interest as I was not familiar with many of the names mentioned.

The book is written in a low-key style with plenty of quotations form sources as well as notes on chapters and a reading list and index.  If you’re looking for a simple overview of the subject you could do worse than read this as it can act as a starting off point for further reading.

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