Category Archives: Feminism

Let’s Rip into Ripper Street

I will have to confess now that I only watched the first episode of the BBC’s Victorian crime drama Ripper Street, but I’m fairly confident that my criticisms will stand for episodes two and three. And for the first series that I also missed.

I know, questionable grounds to hold an opinion, but please don’t make me watch them all.

uktv-ripper-street-promo-cast-shot

BBC/Tiger Aspect (digitalspy.co.uk)

Frankly, I’m astonished that they made a second series, but apparently not everyone is so bothered by the following small niggles:

  • The female characters are all prostitutes
  • Except for one loving wife
  • But they’re all hot totty with very few lines
  • The men get to be dashing and complicated(ish), like actual real people
  • The only non-beautiful character is actually THE ELEPHANT MAN
  • None of this is as fun as it sounds, so that’s no justification

It’s pretty boring to have to cover those points yet again, since they apply to almost all TV and films, like, ever made and have been pointed out quite a number of times. But if the BBC haven’t yet noticed that this is a problem requiring action, then I guess it does need to be said.

After all, it wouldn’t have been that hard to develop some female characters who bear some resemblance to human beings, especially since women actually were people in the Victorian era, who had a whole variety of thoughts, conversations, roles and wardrobes, despite the best efforts of history and pop culture to convince us that they were all either tightly corseted wives or tightly corseted whores. It is no longer convincing to represent women in this ridiculous cartoon way, whatever period the TV drama/film/book is set in, because we know that women. are. people.

Matthew Macfadyen, you have been Mr Darcy. If Jane Austen could write proper female characters in 1813, why are we still not getting it?

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A Hairy Issue

natalia-vodianova-reveals-hairy-legs-at-harpers-bazaar-party-stylelist-1

If Natalia Vodianova can do it… (moda.thestars.com.ua)

People are very angry on Twitter. Of course they are. But today one of the things they are angry about is #NoShaveNovember.

Apparently this was created so that men could go a month without bothering to shave, but now those pesky feminists have hijacked it as an excuse not to shave their disgusting lady hair.

I know, how dare they? The objections to ladies getting involved with #NoShaveNovember go something like this:

  • Ew, gross
  • #NoShaveNovember is for guys
  • No one wants to shag a hairy woman
  • I wouldn’t want to shag you, so you all better keep shaving
  • Ew, gross
  • Ew, gross

And some of these come from ladies.

What I find strange is how angry people get by the mere idea of women not shaving legs and armpits – getting so worked up by hypothetical hair. Why should they care about the hair of people they will never meet? Besides, anyone who has been in a long-term relationship is probably aware that a bit of lady fuzz really doesn’t matter. In that sense, many of us are more progressive in this matter than would appear on Twitter.

However, those who don’t mind their boyfriend encountering their leg hair are unlikely to display this hair in public, precisely because they would get the kind of reactions noted above. It seems that we have a collective image of all women as sexily hair-free, and we feel the need to maintain this image even while being less bothered by it in our personal lives. We know it’s an ideal, and an unrealistic one, but we can’t quite let it go. Why not?

Perhaps our understanding of beauty, sexiness and gender are fundamentally challenged by the prospect of luscious lady hair. This would be disappointing and slightly dull – I mean, as if those huge concepts can be defined by body hair. But what this possibility does show up is that our ideas of beauty, sexiness and gender are built on some very silly and untrue foundations. We do know that beauty is more than hairless legs. So let’s shake those foundations a bit, we’re already halfway there.

I’m off to start some arguments on Twitter. Do join me.

 


“Oh my God, my eyebrows need plucking…”

**The Armpit Song** by Siwan Clark is a most welcome antidote to Ms Cyrus and her twerking this week – thanks to Tamsin for the link.

plucking_eyebrow-1024x682

essentialstyleformen.com

However, I reckon there are more parts to the process of beautifying than Siwan could fit in her song, so I have taken it upon myself to write some extra verses:

Oh my God, I’ve plucked my brows unevenly,
I’ve coloured them back in and now I look like
Cara Delevigne Liam Gallagher;
And Oh my God, my face needs serum and
Essence and primer now there’s
Superprimer too, and I don’t know
What these things are,
But they’re £50 a jar,
And then they’re covered with foundation
And with setting spray and powder to
Make sure you cannot see my face at all…

Oh my God, my face needs contouring,
Which means inventing cheekbones with
Three shades of powder, a
Bronzer and a blusher and
Illuminator too;
And Oh my God, I need five shades
Of eyeshadow, two sets of
Fake lashes and some very scary glue;
And Oh my God, my eye is full of
Liquid eyeliner, it’s really not
A feline flick
at all…

But at least you cannot see my face at all.

And as Siwan says, who is brave enough to take a stand against this on their own? I took a stand against plucking my eyebrows. Just one thing, but it was easier than I expected, so that’s something.

Armpits, though?


Femen and Semen

It is certainly an exciting scoop to discover that the Ukraine-based feminist organisation Femen is run by a man, but that is no excuse for the media (and especially for the Guardian and the Independent) to engage in hysterical sensationalism without actually discussing the implications.

Femen_à_Paris_4

Femen protestors (commons.wikimedia.org)

Fair enough that the Independent article is primarily just reporting the story, but Bim Adewunmi and Suzanne Moore at the Guardian are in the opinion business, and neither have really sung for their supper this week.

The revelation is made in Kitty Green’s film Ukraine is not a Brothel, which has just been screened at the Venice Film Festival. In this documentary following a year in the life of Femen, Victor Svyatski – previously described by Femen as a ‘consultant’ – is outed as the founder and controller of the organisation, who are known for their topless protests.

Suzanne Moore takes this as a (legitimate) opportunity to discuss the role of men in feminism, saying that of course they should be part of it, but not so much running the show. I am not convinced that this is actually a self-evident truth: sure, it makes no sense to have a man running a feminist group dictator-style, as Svyatski is described, since you can’t really challenge the patriarchy using… patriarchy. But feminism and its proponents need to make clear that we don’t assume all men will attempt to take over feminism if we give them a chance to get involved. We need men to get involved, because we are all part of patriarchal structures and can only change things by working in collaboration. I am a great fan of Moore’s writing, but in this case she seems to miss the point, continuing with a lament that any feminist criticism of men or sexism is shouted down with accusations of man-hating. This is a perfectly good debate, but not the one we need to have about Femen.

Bim Adewunmi, on the other hand, says, well, nothing really.

The discussion we need to have is connected to beauty, and its social and political uses. The Independent quotes Kitty Green as saying of Svyatski:

“It’s his movement and he hand-picked the girls. He hand-picked the prettiest girls because the prettiest girls sell more papers. The prettiest girls get on the front page… that became their image, that became the way they sold the brand.”

This is standard practice for advertising, but for feminism? If this is true, then Femen’s vaunted campaign – for women’s bodies to be their own, not subject to political or religious oppression, not sexually objectified – is null and void. You wouldn’t run a healthy food campaign by bribing people in with chocolate.

Chocolate-Bath-at-Home-1024x640

globalcool.org

And I’m pretty sure the problem here is not that a man founded Femen, but that he seems to run it based on very anti-feminist principles. This would equally be a problem if a woman ran the organisation in that way, though the issue would not be loaded with quite the same issues.

Svyatski himself seems quite keen to display his total lack of understanding regarding feminism, when he says of the Femen activists in Green’s film:

“They don’t have the strength of character. They don’t even have the desire to be strong. Instead, they show submissiveness, spinelessness, lack of punctuality, and many other factors which prevent them from becoming political activists. These are qualities which it was essential to teach them.”

So they, er, need a Man to educate them out of their weak Womanly ways. Would this be so enraging if it had been said by a woman? Imagine if someone formidable like Anna Wintour was pulling the Femen strings and said this: we might call her a dictator but I don’t think it would create a fundamental contradiction at the heart of Femen. It would, however, do so if Ms Wintour was hand-picking pretty girls to strip off for publicity. That would not be OK.

Incidentally, that is exactly what she does at Vogue. That is also exactly what organisations like Femen are supposed to be challenging. Unfortunately that’s a bit long to spell out on my breasts.