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Sisterhood is global: stop UK corporations profiting from the misery of Saharawi women

13 Aug

I am sad to have deserted this blog in recent months. Lately, all of my writing energy has been expended in my PhD thesis, leaving little left over to dedicate to other projects. Nevertheless, I hope here to combine my PhD research with feminism, albeit feminist nationalism (although I am, for this post, temporarily abandoning my sarcasm).

My PhD focuses on the resistance of Saharawi women (and how feminism can further the mobilisation of mass resistance to dictatorships), who (along with Saharawi men) resist the occupation of their country, Western Sahara, and campaign for independence, at great personal risk.

minurso_map

The official UN map of Western Sahara. Such a map – the officially correct one according to every country apart from Morocco –  is prohibited in Morocco, which is why your Lonely Planet guide shows a different cartographic story. Nevertheless, check your Atlas or globe at home and you should see Western Sahara as above.

Western Sahara

Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony. Since 1975, when the colonial power Spain effectively sold off its former colony to the highest bidder, the majority of the North African territory has been occupied by neighbouring Morocco in flagrant violation of international law. The latter nation claims that before being colonized in the late nineteenth century by the Spanish, Western Sahara was part of a Greater Morocco (which also includes, according to Morocco, parts of Mauretania, Algeria and Mali). Nevertheless, the International Court of Justice has rejected such claims and called for the territory’s decolonization and a self-determination referendum for the people of the territory: the Saharawis. Hundreds of UN Resolutions back this view, and, since 1991, when it brokered a ceasefire between Morocco and the POLISARIO (the Saharawi guerrilla front and now government of the Saharawi state-in-exile) the UN has attempted to oversee a self-determination referendum for the Saharawi people. But Morocco won’t let this referendum take place, and the UN, restrained by Morocco’s powerful allies (US and France), is unwilling to impose sanctions.

The Moroccan-built and Saudi, French and US-funded wall that surrounds the occupied part of Western Sahara. It is the longest active military wall in the world, is manned by around 100,000 soldiers and is heavily fortified by landmines. Nevertheless, many Saharawi activists that fear death and imprisonment have tried to cross it in order to get to the camps. Some have done so successfully. Others have lost limbs and life.

The Moroccan-built and Saudi, French and US-funded wall that surrounds the occupied part of Western Sahara. It is the longest active military wall in the world, is manned by around 100,000 soldiers and is heavily fortified by landmines. Many Saharawi activists that are hunted by Moroccan police have tried to cross this wall in order to get to the camps. Some have done so successfully. Others have lost limbs and life.

Two Saharawi children off to school in the refugee camps of Algeria. These camps face the harshest climate of the entire Sahara desert, with temperatures reaching the highest on record in summer and dropping to freezing in winter.

Two Saharawi children off to school in the refugee camps of Algeria. These camps face the harshest climate of the entire Sahara desert, with temperatures reaching the highest on record for the world in summer and dropping to freezing in winter. Photo from @agailita

While the diplomatic stalemate continues, the Saharawi people suffer. Since escaping the Moroccan bombs of napalm and white phosphorus in 1975, up to 165,000 Saharawi refugees have lived in camps of tents and adobe constructions in the driest corner of the Algerian Sahara. These camps also form the headquarters of the POLISARIO Front, the representatives of the Saharawi people vis-à-vis UN negotiations. Meanwhile, on the other side of a military wall built by Morocco  during its war with the POLISARIO, a Saharawi minority lives amongst Moroccan settlers under a violent occupation. Here, repression of pro-independence Saharawis is brutal. Indeed, Freedom House has listed the territory as amongst “the worst of the worst” in terms of political rights and civil liberties, whilst Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN have all noted the use of sexual violence, torture, beatings and arbitrary imprisonment of those that fight peacefully for Saharawi rights. Nevertheless, every April, thanks to the power of veto wielded by Morocco’s close ally, France, the UN votes against the inclusion of human rights monitoring in the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission (called MINURSO) stationed in Western Sahara’s capital, El Aaiún. As such, MINURSO is the only peacekeeping mission in the world not to monitor human rights. Its staff are paid to do literally nothing, even when Saharawis are beaten in plain view in the square in front of the UN building. I’m not sure how they sleep at night.

Here is a shot of Saharawi prisoners sleeping inside the so-called "Black Prison" of Western Sahara

Here is a shot of Saharawi prisoners sleeping inside the so-called “Black Prison” of Western Sahara

Saharawi women who you might have read about in the British press

Aminatou

Nobel Peace Prize nominee Aminatou Haidar is the unofficial leader of the Saharawi non-violent resistance movement. She was first disappeared, along with hundreds of other Saharawis, in 1987. She spent four years blindfolded in a cell, subject to the usual kinds of Moroccan torture (these include the release of savage dogs into prisoners’ cells, electrocution, rape – which is used on Saharawi men as well as women – being tied up and suspended from poles for beatings, throwing acid in faces, insertion of bleach-soaked cloths into mouths etc.). She was disappeared for a second time in 2005 for seven months. In 2009 she attracted international media attention when she initiated a hunger strike in Lanzarote airport.

marian hassan

Mariam Hassan was born in Western Sahara, but fled to the refugee camps in Algeria during the Moroccan invasion. She worked there as a nurse before becoming a revolutionary singer. Her latest album, El Aaiun on Fire, is dedicated to the non-violent uprisings of Saharawis in Western Sahara’s capital. Here she is giving grief to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their complicity in Morocco’s destruction of a 18,000-strong Saharawi protest camp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRAVVRViDhg

Aziza Brahim

Aziza is a musician born in the refugee camps of Algeria. She spent most of her formative years in Cuba, after winning a scholarship to study there. Her music lyrics are often inspired by the work of her grandmother, Al Khadra, who is one of the great Saharawi revolutionary poets. Aziza recently appeared on Jools Holland.

Resources

There is one main reason why Morocco continues to occupy Western Sahara: money.

Western Sahara is the biggest source of phosphates (needed in agricultural fertilizers) in the world. It has incredibly rich fisheries, huge greenhouses for fruit and vegetables, is a kite-surfing hotspot for unscrupulous tourists and a source of solar and wind energy (thanks SIEMENS). Of course, it’s illegal for Morocco to be taking advantage of these resources. Doing so constitutes the war crime of plunder. But no one stops it. Corporations and governments that buy these resources are also committing plunder, but they do so anyway. If these governments and corporations stopped buying stolen resources from Morocco, Morocco would be much more likely to negotiate an end to the conflict and the Saharawis’ misery. Nevertheless, it’s almost too late to stop them. In October, even though the UN has expressedly declared this illegal, two foreign oil companies – American Kosmos and UK Cairn – will drill for oil. If they strike lucky, the result will be so unbelievably lucrative for Morocco that it might never give up its occupation.

Saharawis who protest against these corporations and governments are punished violently for doing so. My friend Shaykh has been imprisoned and tortured several times and his sister was beaten in the street for protesting against Kosmos. Sultana Khaya, the founder of a Saharawi NGO for protection of the Sahara’s natural resources, had her eye removed and is currently in a specialist hospital in Barcelona following significant injuries to her stomach inflicted during a torture session. Sidahmed Lemjayed, my organisation’s (Western Sahara Resource Watch) key contact, has been imprisoned for life in relation to his work against the likes of Cairn and Kosmos. Sidi Mohamed Aloat, a disabled headmaster of a special school, was sliced with razor blades whilst protesting in the street against Kosmos.

Western Sahara Resource Watch works with Saharawis like Shaykh, Sultana, Sidahmed and Sidi to fight the corporations that fund the Moroccan occupation. We have had significant successes: over the last decade with regards to oil companies alone, we have forced the divestment of Total, TGS-Nopes, Fugro, Wessex Exploration, Thor offshore, Kerr McGee and Pioneer Natural Resources. With your help, we hope to do the same with Cairn and Kosmos.

Donate?

I have been volunteering with Saharawi solidarity organisations for about seven years now and I am currently Treasurer of Western Sahara Resource Watch. We campaign against organisations that plunder Western Sahara and show complicity in human rights violations against the Saharawi people. Since our work is political, we can’t register as a charity. This severely limits the funding pots that we are eligible to apply for. Hence, public donations are all the more important.

You can donate safely and easily on the Western Sahara Resource Watch webpage and pay through the PayPal mechanism: donate here.

Friends, I appreciate your right to not give money to a cause that may not be your first choice. I understand that you may not be financially able to donate for everyone, or indeed, anyone, who asks, that you may give quietly and anonymously to your own chosen causes, that you may spend a significant amount of your free time working voluntarily for other causes, or indeed that you may find the whole guilt-trip innuendo and self-promotion of this blogpost (and other “please sponsor me” messages from people doing various activities for charities) plain annoying. In any case, thank you for taking the time to read this.

Take action?

Perhaps you might consider boycotting plundered products (in the UK, the Co-op is the only major supermarket chain that now – post a campaign by Western Sahara Campaign UK [WSC] – refuses to sell stolen Saharawi goods. In other supermarkets, look out for tinned fish and tomatoes labelled as “Morocco” – they aren’t Moroccan, they are Saharawi, and WSC is currently working on forcing a change in how these are labelled) or writing to the likes of Cairn Energy and SIEMENS to remind them that plunder is a war crime. You could also raise this issue with your MP, and ask them to consider joining the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Western Sahara. Or find out more about what is happening in Western Sahara, which isn’t as simple as it sounds, as it is hard for journalists (and activists – last time I tried, I was deported within one hour) to enter the territory and therefore it is never in the media. I recommend the documentary “El Problema,” subtitled in English. You can see the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVVViujjRaA

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A lesson in the non-apology from Slimming World

1 Nov

The fauxapology, also known as the if-apology, is a technique commonly employed by politicians and PR Executives (and, in my experience, by sexists, racists, snobs and ex-romantic interests) to deny any responsibility for the statement, grievance, misdeed or behaviour displayed.

The non-apology merely shows that the non-apologiser is sorry that the aggrieved is requesting an apology, demanding compensation, or threatening retaliation. The non-apologiser shows no contrition, remorse or meaningful expression of regret for their actions. S/he admits nothing. Indeed, the non-apology is often employed to shift blame to the aggrieved, by implying that s/he has misunderstood the incident, is acting in an over-dramatic fashion, has no sense of humour or is over-sensitive. It is basically a way of saying FUCK OFF without saying fuck off.

Consider the following:

•    “I am sorry if you feel that way”
•    “I’m sorry if you are upset”
•    “I’m sorry if you can’t take a joke but most people think my antiquated racial slurs are hilarious”
•    “I’m sorry that your arse got in the way of my hand”
•    “I’m sorry that you interpreted my touchy-feely nature as groping”
•    The non-apology of Maria Kang (she of social media fame due to her mother-shaming “what’s your excuse?” photography, which went viral on facebook last week).

If you need a more in-depth case study in order to better understand the art of faux-apology, please find below Slimming World’s response to my complaint at their hideous mother-shaming marketing strategy:

Dear Joanna
 
Thanks for getting in touch regarding the Slimming World leaflet that you received. We’re really sorry to hear that you feel so upset by it, it’s certainly not meant to cause offence in any way.
 
We use our real members in our campaigns to genuinely reflect the positive changes that losing weight makes to their lives. Sara, the member who you refer to on our leaflet has genuinely said that she feels much happier, more confident and able to be the mum she always wanted to be. By losing weight, she says that she feels fitter and more able to run around and play with her children and that she’s also passing her healthier lifestyle on to her family.
 
At Slimming World we absolutely believe that your worth is not in your weight. It’s our goal to help people who wish to lose weight achieve the weight they want to be – our members choose their own target weight, and we support them to achieve it. Sara has now reached her target weight, which means that she is able to attend her Slimming World group free of charge to help her maintain her weight loss for life.
 
Once again, we’re sorry that you feel upset by our materials and thank you for taking the time to get in touch.
 
With best regards

Re-blog: Cosmo for Latinas: Are You FIESTY, CURVY, and HOT-BLOODED Enough to Try It?

11 Oct

I’m not sure how to re-blog from a site hosted on a platform other than wordpress, so I’m copy-pasted the blog I wrote for Vagenda (http://vagendamag.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/cosmo-for-latinas-are-you-fiesty-curvy.html):

The quality of my daily internet procrastination time has just been shat on by the discovery of Cosmo Latina, which reaches new pits of unintentional hilarity, extreme patronisation and eye-watering levels of facepalm, even by Cosmo’s scraping-out-the-portaloo-cistern standards. Give it a read and you’ll be wallowing up to your chocho* in racismo and machismo quicker than you can shriek Devious Maids in a Mejicano accent. As one of our Twitter followers put it after coming across an article entitled ‘Find out what makes the hombres tick!’: WTF? Are the people at Old El Paso making magazines now?

Before we start, a note on language: Cosmo Latina (I will call it C-La for short) is written mainly in English but is peppered, at random, with Spanish words. I like to call this strange-speak Cospañol. I will use Cospañol throughout this article so that you too can experience its full horror without having to go near C-La yourself.

Image

First stop: I salsaed over to the beauty section, or “bronze belleza”, as C-La likes to call it. The first feature, “Four Ways Your Phone is Ruining Your Skin,” is accompanied with a photograph of a woman gleefully toothbrushing her own face with what looks like bubblebath. Presumably (although it’s not explained anywhere in the text, so perhaps it’s just another odd variation on the weird and baffling world of Cosmo sex tips), this is a suggested method for ridding your face of the adverse effects of using a phone, which, according to C-La, include “early wrinkles”, “crows feet”, “dark spots”, “acne” in the “phone zone” of your face (that’s the danger area from “your temple to your chin,” apparently) and – new portmanteau of the year… wait for it – “Text Neck.” Are you actually fucking joking me, C-La? Text Neck???

“Admit it, whether you’re walking, sitting, or laying down you’re usually staring down at your phone. According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, constantly looking down causes the collagen in your neck to break down, leaving that turkey-looking neck.”

No Cosmo Latina (I’m calling you by your full name because you’ve been very naughty), funnily enough I don’t need to admit that the majority of my life is spent “staring down at my phone” because my default position is slouching my shoulders and either smiling or frowning, depending on whether or not I’m having a Latina-style feisty day. When I lay down, it tends to be with the intention of inducing sleep, and if I’m staring down whilst walking, that’s usually to avoid stepping in a turd. As for “that turkey-looking neck,” could your drop the knowing “that” please? In fact could you drop the whole paranoia-enducing, shaming reference to women’s bodies looking like turkeys? And maybe tell your “Cosmetic Dermatologist” (aka professional face-butcher who likes to wield his little body-hate knife around the necks of victims of The Patriarchy) to crawl back into the misogynist arsehole from whence he came? Cheers.

Let’s turn to the highlights of the gossip column, ingeniously entitled “Qué está pasando?” or, for the non-Cospañol speakers, “What is Happening?” First up: congratulations are in order for Victoria’s Secret model Adriana Lima, who managed to, in C-La’s soothsaying words, “save herself,” until marriage. ¡Ole Adriana! ¡A tequila for you! Says C-La, “We really respect that a hot woman like that can ward off all the sucio men out there to wait for Mr. Right.” I don’t know what to do first: wipe off the vomit that I’ve just projected over all the slut-shaming that’s inhabiting my screen as I read this article, or ask, would C-La consider it less of an achievement for a non-“hot” woman to maintain her “purity”? There are so many issues with this quote that I’m going to stop analysing it and instead perform the headdesk move of desperation.

In other news, in stories so boring that I actually cried a bit, Paulina Rubio “makes fun of Simon Cowell’s Moobs,” and Shakira wins a price for sexiest curves, but doesn’t attend “probs because she was spending time with her beauty baby Milan.” Her beauty baby. Moobs. And, just so you know, C-Latina women are “fun and feisty” females, rather than their “fun and fearless” regular (implicitly non-latina) Cosmo counterparts, cos latinas are more quick-tempered and irrational than white Cosmo readers, obv.

Adios to the gossip section.

Despite the repeated assertion throughout the magazine that all Latina women are curvy (actual quotes: “you don’t want to be skinny”, “in Colombia everybody’s very voluptuous, and you’re supposed to be”), the section dubiously dubbed “Fashion” seems to be devoted to ways to cover up your curvas, including top ten dresses for disguising your implicitly unsightly “panchito”*, and ways to get around the – quote – “tough” feat of looking nice if you “have junk in the trunk” (that’s “a large bottom” in normal speak). Are you comfortable in your body? Do you like the way it looks in clothes? Well you shouldn’t. Move over, gordita*.

The next fashion feature is on dressing for the office. This can’t go too wrong, right? Wrong. The article begins with the tale of a banker who was sacked for being “too sexy” after having been forbidden by her employers (Citibank) from wearing turtlenecks, pencil skirts, heels, or fitted suits, as her colleagues, reportedly, could not concentrate on their work. I expected the article to continue in an outraged fashion calling out sexism and discrimination in the workplace, providing useful advice on how to deal with such issues and information on legal rights (OK, I didn’t. But if the context had been anything other than a Cosmo magazine, I would have) but sadly, C-La decides to side with Citibank on this one, and decides to offer some tips for other women “with curves” who work in offices and don’t want to be sacked because their colleagues are pervertidos:

“you want to blend in”

“If you have to, go up a size” with the sympathetic caveat “we know how daunting it can be to have to go up a size–especially if you’re already feeling some sort of way about the size you typically wear”

“When it comes to pants, a wider leg can be more flattering particularly for those of us with lovely lady lumps. Save anything remotely tight for after 5 drinks or on the weekend.”

“in the case of hemlines, always err on having the hem as close to the knee (or longer) as possible.”

“Under no circumstances should there be any cleavage in a conservative work environment.”

C-La, this victim-blaming path you are going down is a dark, dangerous and turd-ridden one. Tears are falling on my un-moisturised hands as I write. I’m crying because this article was written IN 2013. IN A WOMEN’S MAGAZINE. FOR WOMEN. NOT FOR SELF-JUSTIFYING OFFICE PERVERTS. And C-La, for the record, I have what you would probably call curvy boobs and bum, and actually the “some sort of way” I feel about my body is that I like it. That’s despite all your hard work to make me hate it. Soz.

Over to the “Love and Sex” section. (Corgasmo! See what I did there?!) As hard as it was to resist headlines such as “The Best Position for his Sign”, “Should You Break Up if your Suegra* is a Bitch?” and “The Absolute Best Ugly Cries in History” (complete with a devastated Britney Spears looking “ugly” whilst sobbing her heart out), it was the How to Seduce Men feature that drew me in. Having a Latino partner myself, I thought I could do with a few tips on how to keep him interested:

“Style in stilettos: High heels always rate number one on men’s fave accessory—and this is a look we Latinas can pull off while running to the grocery store. Forgo comfy flats and trainers, as every Latina worth her salt should have one pair of killer take-this tacones ready to go. These fun multi-colored snakeskin pair from Carlos Santana are super fun and boner producing ($78.99, carlosshoes.com).”

Funny that: I never knew that (Carlos Santana-designed?) stilettos were the keystone of Latina identity (wait, what’s that faint rumbling? Ah, sorry – just Frida Kahlo turning in her grave). Anyway, when I’m getting ready to go to the supermarket I often stop to ponder what the best footwear option would be. But, like a true Cosmo girl, my choice always comes down to that one crucial factor: no, not comfort, not that. When going to the supermarket, I always ensure that my shoes are “boner producing.” Cos what every real (latina) lady wants is a man getting una ereción whilst perving on her in the meat aisle.

“Whisper papi in his ear: The next time your man is lost in his computer, sidle up behind him and softly ask, “You seem stressed, can I help you with anything, papi?” Ears are super erogenous zones, so his motor will be running. Plus, hearing such a familiar term delivered in a naughty way is total turn on.”

Despite my better judgement, I decided to road test this one. Turns out that light references to incest whilst playing internet chess is not a turn on for my hombre (if it is for you and your partner, then great, I just wish Cosmo would include a tip based on ask your partner what s/he likes amongst their monthly smorgasbord of sexy advice, and that they wouldn’t depict their advice as guaranteed to work. Not everyone likes the same thing, and by implying that they do, Cosmo also implies that you are a sexual failure if their “fullproof” tips don’t work for you).

“Show some skin: Gorgeous Cubana Eva Mendes, who’s dating Hollywood’s hottest actor, Ryan Gosling, shows off her tanned glowing cuerpo every chance she gets, saying, “I’m not at all ashamed or frightened about showing my body.” Choose a strapless dress, one-shouldered number, sexy shorts, or rock a mini to drive him wild.”

I’ve been trying to digest this one. I keep on trying, but it won’t go down. It just keeps coming back up soaked in the bile of hypocrisy. Perhaps if we hadn’t been exposed to women’s mags, with their monthly doses of body dismorphia-enducing weight-loss tips, air-brushed, white-washed models, cosmetic surgery adverts, and tips on how to look better, dress better, be less fat, be more man-pleasing and be less everything-that-we-are-naturally, many women would be less ashamed of their bodies.

After returning from the kitchen where I stood next to the open fridge door for 5 minutes until the burning anger in my head had calmed down, I attempted to lighten things up by reading the sex horoscope. Mine says:

“Nothing like a little danger to heighten your senses, which is why you’ll want to hit up seedier pursuits to find your orgasm now. Yes, toys, swinger parties and porn will be all ways to explore your sexuality, as it’ll be the great unknown that you’ll want to come for.

Single: Straight-up and pure lust is addicting now. Let it be a habit you want more of.

Hooked-up: If your man gets too pushy, push back even harder. Tension is your aphrodisiac now.”

That last bit. I can’t… I just can’t… It’s too much. All I’ll say is that men pushing their partners to do things that they don’t want to (including things they perceive as dangerous, swinger parties or “seedier pursuits,” whatever that’s supposed to mean) = good reason to end your relationship/massive consent fail/possible sexual assault rather than a reason to “play your aphrodisiac card and withhold sex”

Next up: The Best Places to Have Public Sex without Getting Caught (Note to C-La: “public sex” (dogging?) has a rather different connotation to “sex in public places,” (not necessarily dogging?) but anyway…)

“At the park: The park is common place—it’s as sexy as doing it in the wild but eliminates the risk of getting bitten in the a** by something weird. Just make sure the timing is right. Go into the gazebo or a shady area by a tree that’s blocked off from street view. The last thing you want is a little kid to catch you mid-act.”

Getting bitten in the ass by something weird… you’ve underestimated my partner C-La. I’m baffled by the almost philosophical-sounding observation that “the park is a common place,” (is that a Yoda quote?) and what is meant by “the wild”? If they mean the countryside, then their readers should beware angry farmers in lambing season. The thought of sex in my local park “in a shady area by a tree” just makes me sad and brings to mind teenagers and supermarket own-brand cider. Surely this is not spicy, sassy and caliente enough for sexy latinas? On the other hand, I’m pleased C-La reminded its audience that sex in front of child strangers is not advisable.

“in a utility closet: people almost never go in those old utility closets. We believe they were strictly put there for people to um, bone. Just be careful for all the dust mites that are probably floating around in there. You’ll want to make this one a quickie.”

Actually C-La, I think utility closets were strictly put there for cleaners (you know, those people who do one of the most socially useful jobs but get paid a poverty wage, who you might have seen cleaning up your mess when you stayed late at the office that time?) to store their cleaning stuff. Just sayin’.

Sorry, but I’ve had to skip the rest of the content, which, besides from the sexism and racismo (check out the they must be joking …oh god… they’re not joking are they, could-they-be-more-racially-stereotyped recipes sponsored by Unilever, the wonderful makers of Fair and Lovely skin lightening cream: two types of enchiladas, two varieties of salsa, Mexicano casserole and … get ready for it… TEQUILA salmon) has the charisma-black-hole effect most often associated with the character of Sergeant Brody’s wife in Homeland. Besides, I need to go and get my bikini line brasileñoed before my macho gets home.

C-La seems no different to standard Cosmo: it’s the same old heterosexist rag convincing women of all their flaws and providing them with the (pricey) “solutions,” but with added use of racist clichés of the sexy, sensual, curvy Latina, who is a slave to her “fierce”, uncontrollable temper. Why does Cosmo feel it has the right to assign these traits to an entire group of women? Why does Cosmo assume that Latina is a homogenous group? Why did Hearst (the owners of Cosmo) decide to create this spin-off targeting a specific ethnic group? Did they feel bad that their standard mag is generally white-washed? If so, would it have been preferable to have tried to address the racism and white-centrism within the initial magazine instead of creating a patronising offshoot? Who knows. At the end of the day, this new magazine is just another attempt by Hearst to sell shit to what they see as an emerging and lucrative market.

Oh well. Back it is to regular Cosmo, welcoming me with open arms and 16 “ovary-tickling” pictures of “DILFS and their cute babies”. Fuck it. I’m suffering from overexposure to racist exoticism and The Patriarchy. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the recovery position in my clamshell.

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* vagina
* belly
* fatty
*mother-in-law

For more delicious cosmocking try the dedicated thread on the Pervocracy blog

What your favourite crisp flavour says about your bedroom personality

11 Sep
Hello, I’m a feminazi and my hobbies do not include women’s magazines. Here are my top five reasons why:

1) They made puberty about 100% worse than it had to be
2) They create insecurities in readers in order to  sell them the useless, expensive “must-have” “solutions”. Their enormous readership of women deserve better.
3) Their covers (and the models inside too) are generally white-washed,  air-brushed, soaked in make-up and digitally “improved” with computer-aided artistry.
4) The content is designed to reinforce sexist but classic stereotypes of (white, capitalist, able-bodied and minded, heterosexual, middle-class) women such as the bitchy, jealous girlfriend who constantly compares herself to other bitchy, jealous, power-and-male-approval-hungry women, the high-powered, sex-and-the-city-style thirty-something obsessed with Gucci handbags and £1k shoes, or the ultra-feminine angel who has a secret “sexy, sassy” side to her personality, which can be evidenced by the shape of her bikini line. In short, they present an ideal for women which is white, material-rich, cosmetically enhanced  and centred around man-pleasing (by which I mean being sexy for men, cleaning up after them and making them feel “manly”) and imply we are failing if we do not fit within these ideals.
5) They are so boring that people have been known to weep by the time they reach the second page.

As Jezebel have pointed out, one of the most hilarious aspects of women’s magazines are the monthly quizzes, which consistently  reiterate sexist stereotypes and tired clichés. Below is a quiz created by me for your pleasure and personal growth. I have used a list of quizzes and “personality tests” available at the time of writing on Cosmopolitan’s website (http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sitemap/section_5339) as a muse.

Are you female enough to entrap a man?/What does your favourite crisp flavour say about your bedroom style?/Is your sock choice sending him mixed signals?/What’s your leg hair personality?

1) Body Dilemma! It’s that time of the month. Disgusting!!! Cringe! What do you do???

A) You disguise your tampons as sweets and hide in your room, wallowing in shame, until your womb has finished menstruating. God forbid you ask him to buy you some tampons, since, according to Cosmo, this will make him feel emasculated and he will most likely dump you.
B) You tell him all his faults and demand that he take you shoe shopping/turn into a mad, irrational shewolf and howl at the moon
C) You choose a sexy, sassy tampon to match your personality such as a Tampax Pearl with its own cute mini skirt, scented sanitary pads and/or a girly sanitary-ware holder with a totes hilaire logo such as “If only two wrongs made a Mr Right”
D) You wonder why it’s blue

ImageImage
 Via hellogiggles.com
2) What’s your ideal job?

A) Unpaid Domestic Labourer
B) A PR Executive/Glossy Mag Editor/Interior Designer/Online Vintage Jewellery Emporium Owner/Pejazzle Consultant
C) Doctor’s Assistant (no.4 best job in the world “for women”, according to Cosmo)
D) A Cat

3) What makes you feel euphoric?

A) Wearing pink/buying shoes. Shoes!!!!!!!!
B) Eating probiotic yoghurt
C) Being skinnier than your best friend/Slimming World
D) Fantasizing about the Miliband twins

4) What will be top of your cosmetic surgery wish-list when you snag your dream job (see question 2) and become a shemillionairess?

A) Bigger breasts
B) Cellulite reduction
C) Botox-face
D) I want a My Little Pony tail of pink and purple and sparkly glitter/enough surgery to become an actual sexy centaur

5) Dating Dilemma! You’re going on a date and the guy is really hot. You might be tempted to sleep with him but don’t want to as he will then know what a total skank you are. What do you do?

A) Follow Cosmo’s advice and wear a “fake chastity belt”
B) Don’t wax your bikini line/Wear granny pants. If the worst comes to the worst and the slut inside you overrules your good sense and you go back to his place, do as Cosmo says and hide the pants “under his bath mat” lest he sees the big pants and recoils in horror
C) “Holding out” will definitely make a man commit, and prevents shameful additions to your “sex number”, so if you feel the urge, just think: “his wang could be gross
D) You only date gay men

6) (This question is sponsored by Helena Frith Powell) At home with your man, you do the majority of the housework because

A) of cavemen. Evolution blah blah. Whilst man (more specifically your white, middle-class boyfriend) is better suited to the higher-paid, socially useless professions and having free time when he is not at work, woman prefers and is well-adapted to unpaid (but useful) tedium. Besides, you are the Chief Executive of the house
B) Men are necessary but stupid. They have specific disabilities that prevent them from realising domestic activities
C) You love to clean surfaces. The pleasant scent of your cleaning products make them fun to use and eliminating odours is your hobby. You feel that the cleanliness of your surfaces – in particular your skirting boards and kitchen island with its faux-marble worktop – is a personal statement about you and your personality. You tend to view women with unclean surfaces in a negative light.
D) You sacked your maid. You now do all the housework yourself whilst dressed in a varied array of Ann Summers outfits.

7) What’s your worst personality flaw?
A) You are tight-fisted, buying only supermarket own-brand creams to correct your aging face
B) You are lazy. You probably only shave your legs in summer and don’t remove your eye make-up properly
C) Your breasts are different sizes
D) You’re not human. You’re a playboy bunny rabbit and have no flaws to speak of.

8) Dinner Party Dilemma! You’ve heard there’s a crisis in Syria, but you don’t have any views ready for tonight’s social occasion. What do you consult to inform your opinion-development?
A) Kim Kardashian’s twitter-feed
B) Justin Bieber’s T-shirt
C) Nothing: it is unladylike to voice opinions on international geopolitics, so you pursue your latest Bag-Crush via Ebay instead
D) Whatever. You think the late Osama Bin Laden may have been hot if he’d have shaved his beard (See September 2013 UK Glamour magazine for more celebrities you should secretly fancy)

9) Totes fashion nightmare! On the way home from town on the peasant waggon, some benefit scrounging, teenage mother’s vile offspring vommed in the bag containing your best frenemy’s new dress. It’s  her work “Winter Festival” party tonight, and although she has plenty of other dresses, they’ve all been worn before. What do you advise your frenemy to do?
A) You offer to lend her a dress, which you know will be far too small for her. She’ll look totes trashy and it will be a major fashion-fail so you high five your inner green monster 😉
B) Tell her not to go: nothing’s worth the risk of being tagged in the same Facebook-look twice.
C) Advise that she uses the money she’d been saving up for a flat deposit to purchase the latest haute-couture look featured in this month’s Grazia
D) You create her a Gok-Wan-inspired high-end look, by fashioning a dress from lavender-scented bin liners and the sanitary towels left over from the periods you are pretending you’ve never had (see question 1).

What your answers reveal about your secret bubbly personality

If your answered mostly As, you could potentially bag a guy if you lose some weight and go on a spa day.

If you answered mostly Bs, your favourite crisp flavour is salt and vinegar and your shoe personality is kitten heels, but bear in mind that eating too much protein is resulting in unattractive acne all over your forehead: try MaxFactor Ageless Elixir Beige Foundation to cover it up if you are thinking of leaving the house.

If you answered mostly Cs, you are probably a lesbian and your celebrity personality match is Karl Lagerfeld’s Chihuahua. You are destined to professional and romantic failure unless you devote more of your budget to fashion and beauty.

If you answered mostly Ds, you are clearly insane and should seek medical help. You probably do your own DIY and your ideal age for marriage is 26.

If you answered mostly As but one D, you are a Pisces who enjoys long walks with dogs and bikram yoga. Burlesque is your recommended sexercise, and the patterns of Uranus say your boyfriend is probably cheating on you because you ate more than your share of cheese fondue.

#deardave

23 Aug

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your patronising note to Sarah.

Reading your email to her, I had assumed that Sarah was a 9-year-old girl guide who had sent you a postcard from the Costa del Sol. Then I read her open letter to you, and realised she was a campaigns professional inviting you to a meeting. She wasn’t on holiday. She was at a conference.

I would imagine that Sarah, her colleagues and their supporters do not see their twitter activism as “enjoyable banter.” This is because they have to live with the consequences of the constant sexual objectification of women in the media every day. Your extremely condescending and rather Victorian response to Sarah – addressing her as if she were a small child and dismissing her questions entirely – illustrates the intrinsically sexist way in which you view women.

I’m sorry that the pillar of your “newspaper” is the image of a topless teenager dolled-up and presented for the male gaze (alongside fully-clothed men doing useful activities). But then again, your whole “newspaper” is a pillar for misogynism, racism and homophobia.

I hope you will get rid of page 3, but I’d rather your whole “newspaper” just disappeared. Until then, I will continue to judge people who buy it when I pass them in WHSmith 🙂

Regards

Joanna

From http://nomorepage3.org/news/letters-to-the-editor-part-1/:

“20 August 2013

Hi Sarah

Thanks for your note. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for holidays here! I’m glad you had a good weekend. I am a fan of the Guides – I was a Scout myself. To save you any further effort, I won’t be changing my stance on Page 3. It is a pillar of the paper, the readers (both male and female) like it and I do not for one moment believe it is the basis of all evil. There are, I believe, many much more worthy targets you could be turning your admirable attentions to. I will continue to enjoy the Twitter banter. Regards David. david.dinsmore@news.co.uk

From http://nomorepage3.org/news/dear-dave-an-open-letter-to-dave-dinsmore-about-girl-guidinggirl-scouting/:

“20 August 2013

Dear Dave

I wanted to write to fill you in on the amazing experience that I have had at the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) European Conference. I was there on behalf of No More Page 3 as one of the key note speakers. That’s right; it’s not just Girl Guiding UK that is showing an interest in our campaign, it’s the whole European organisation. The reason that we were invited is because they are an organisation that works hard to create a safe space for young women and girls to be themselves, to grow and develop in a wonderful bubble of support and respect. They talk a lot about their members becoming “change agents” who work to improve the world around them. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that they feel very strongly that the pressure on girls these days to look or be a certain way is having a negative impact on their ability to become the powerful young women they ought to be.

I was planning on giving you all the details of my presentation and what the media is doing to make the lives of young women and girls so much harder. But you know what, I’m not going waste your time with that when really all I want to know is, will you meet with a couple of the Guiding UK Advocates and listen to their stories? I want you to sit opposite some of these incredible young women and hear how Page 3 impacts them and the lives of the girls and young women they represent.

After listening to them, do you think that you would be able to look them in the eye and tell them that it’s just about money? That the damage done to young women’s body image and perception in society as sexualised, ultra perfect beings is less important than selling newspapers?

Can you even prove that your sales would drop? Have you asked your readers? What happened when your predecessor dropped Page 3 in favour of Help for Heroes t-shirts? Did the sales tailspin into single figures because people didn’t know where to turn for their boobs?

Your argument is disingenuous and unproven. Talk to some Guides Dave, be a change agent yourself and make this world a little bit better for all of us.

Kind regards,

Sarah
No More Page 3”

Letter to Robin Thicke

21 Aug

Dear Mr Thicke,

I am writing to you out of a very real concern for your health. Following, via the media, your behaviour of late, I have reason to believe that you suffer from the relatively rare condition of Thickism. Please see the excerpt below from my Oxford Handbook of Medicine for more information on the ailment.

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There are a few recent incidents in particular that have alerted me to the possibility that you may have contracted Thickism:

1) You publicly acknowledged that your song, Blurred Lines, sounds and feels a lot like Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give it Up. You then, earlier this week, began proceedings to sue the Gaye estate in order to force them to announce that you did not, in fact, copy elements of their deceased relative’s work. This behaviour shows typical Thickist elements: your actions in raising the lawsuit are antithetical to the assertion made in your previous public statement. They also display misplaced arrogance (your song, undoubtedly, could not have been so catchy without the Marvin Gaye hooks, yet you decide to sue his family).

2) You announced in a media interview “what a pleasure it (was) to degrade women” in the video and lyrics of your misogynistic rape song Blurred Lines. Then, when called out globally for promoting rape and violence against women, you, antithetically to your first statement, announced that the song was “actually a feminist movement within itself.” This assertion, or mansplaination, shows Thickist levels of delusion.

Robin. Lets make this clear. Your song and video are not “a feminist movement.”

Blurred Lines: a song in which you and your buddies attempt to “liberate” a “good girl” by telling her that she wants “crazy, wild sex.” However, she is not asking for this. You repeat the lyrics “I know you want it” and “do it like it hurt” whilst your musical partner occasionally mentions “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.”

Then we come to the video. Three young, naked women prancing in an infantilised manner around three older, fully-clothed, predatory-looking men, who tail, bite, pull the hair of, and blow smoke in the faces of said women. Just a bit of “degrading”, “fun” (your words not mine). Violence against, and sexual objectification of, women. Is this any different to all the other examples of sexist portrayal of women we see in the media every day? No. Does that make it OK? No.

Your song lyrics– about a man in a bar who “knows” a young girl really wants “crazy, wild” sex with him but won’t say so – puts the all too common occurrence of men claiming that they thought no meant yes (the so-called but non-existent blurred lines of consent) as their excuse for raping someone. Sorry Robin. Such men are not feminists. They are rapists.

It’s not that I can’t take a sexist joke (actually I can’t), but your sexist bit of fun is damaging. Your idea that sexual consent is a blurred concept is, unfortunately, deeply ingrained in the way our society treats sexual assault. As Elizabeth Plank points out, the concept is what drives many to doubt the veracity of rape allegations. It’s why most victims never report their rape. It’s, as she says, the reason why 97% of rapists will never see a day in prison.

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Robin Thicke: feminisn’t

On another note, your sense of entitlement to the “hottest bitch in this place” (whatever the place is) shows elements of Thickist misplaced arrogance. You are not hot. Your creepy half-smirk, dark sunglasses and sinister tailing of naked young girls whilst in your full suit make you look like a perverted pantomime villain stroke sex pest. Maybe just go and put a modesty bag over your head.

Your retort to those who say your song is sexist is also a sign of Thickest arrogance and mansplaination. You say that we can’t deal with nudity and hate the human body. Please don’t patronise me Robin. My problem is not with the nude female form but with sexual objectification and songs misconstruing the meaning of sexual consent, both of which contribute to Rape Culture.

3) You directed the young naked girls in your Blurred Lines video to hold balloons carrying the slogan Robin Thicke Has A Massive Dick. My experience tells me that men who feel the need to announce in public that their manhood is sizable usually do so due to psychological complexes caused by their small penises. Again, announcing the opposite of the truth is a clear sign of Thickism. If you do have a small penis, which I strongly suspect you do, it is almost sure that you are suffering from the aforementioned condition and I suggest you seek medical help immediately.

As a form of treatment, I suggest you read The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir and perhaps donate some of the money you made from your song to your local rape crisis centre.

Sincerely,

Your feminist GP

What kind of rape apologist are you?

4 Jun

TRIGGER WARNING: The following contains descriptions that may serve as triggers for survivors of sexual violence

So you’ve done the Marie Claire, What Shoe Heel Are you most Like? quiz,  Glamour’s questionnaire has confirmed that – congratulations – you are ‘Ana’ enough to date Christian Grey, and you know which which romantic comedy cliché you are (that last quiz is genious, btw), but you still don’t know who you really are? Well laydeez and gentleman, don’t stress! Our quiz this week will take you one step further on your exciting journey of self-discovery through ridiculous monthly magazine quizzes as you find out, are you a rape apologist, and if so, what kind?

1) When is it ok to have sex with someone without her/his consent?

a) When they are unconscious

b) When they are asleep

c) When you perceive them to be “really fit” and a bit “slutty”

d) When they look older than 13

e) When they are drunk and/or high on drugs

f) Never

If you answered f), go straight to the “Results” section below

2) In cases of alleged rape, the accuser is obviously lying/the accuser shouldn’t have justice if the accused is…

a) Really, really good at football

b) A Left-wing, anti-corporate hero

c) A “Uni Lad” partaking in hilarious “banter”

d) A famous, arty, well-connected director

e) Her boyfriend

3) If one accuses someone else of rape apology, this is most likely because one is…

a) Lacking in compassion. Many young lives are ruined when rapists who are minors are punished for their (natural) sexual misconduct, apparently

b) A raving republican involved in a complot against wikileaks

c) A “dyke”

d) Like one of the baddies in Les Miserables

e) Confused about what rape is. “Rape isn’t always rape”

Results

If you answered mostly a), you are probably…

A CNN Style Rape Apologist!

You think it is super sad when rapists are caught 😦 If they are young (like the young star football players from Steubenville who repeatedly gang raped a girl and circulated their films of the incidents via social media) being on the sex-offenders list means they might have trouble getting a job in the future 😦

If you answered mostly b) you are probably…

A “Free Assange”-style Rape Apologist!

Along with John Pilger, Ken Loach, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky and many more high profile, respectable leftie fellahs, you probably feel really sad about wikileaks founder Julian Assange being cooped up in the Ecuadorian embassy. If a gal consents to sex once, surely it’s not rape if you roll on top of her again and start going at it when she’s sleeping. And if a girl says she won’t have sex unless you wear a condom, if you don’t bother putting one on and force her legs open a bit, that’s not rape, is it? You’re with George Galloway: it’s just “bad sexual etiquette.”

If you answered mostly c), you are probably…

A Uni Lad Rape Apologist!

You think rape is hilaire!!! And, as your fave magazine (Uni Lad is voted number one lads mag for male UK university students, apparently!) has noted, 85% of rapes go unreported, so you’ll probably get away with it! Hilarious! If any “bitch” tells you that this isn’t funny, just tell her that’s she’s a “dyke” (she’s probs just bitter cos she’s ugly and no1 wants to do her!) It’s all about the bantaaaaaah! Just remember to say “surprise”!

If you answered mostly d), you are probably…

A Hollywood A-Lister  or French Foreign Minister-style Rape Apologist!

So a famous film director rapes a 13 year-old girl. So he did something that was wrong. So he sought exile in France to avoiding having to go to prison after being charged with, and pleading guilty to, unlawful sex with a minor. But, do we really have to keep on hounding the poor guy? He’s getting old now and his films are so beautiful. Plus, Polanski’s a stickler for old-fashioned romance!

If you answered mostly e), you are probably…

Nick Ross, ex-Crimewatch presenter famous for his interesting retort against Miriam O’Reilly’s complaint of BBC ageism/sexism, “I’ve never worked with a minger”! Ross rightfully points out that many victims “tend to feel dirty, embarrassed, racked with revulsion and self-blame after their rape”, and therefore suggests that we give the victims a voice in these cases and acknowledge that their rape wasn’t really rape (it would be patronising not to, says Nick), especially if the perpetrator was their boyfriend, or if the victim was drunk or high on drugs. Thanks Nick. You and Kenneth Clark, who finds date rape confusing and not always that serious, probably get on well.

If you are an aspiring Nick Ross-style rape apologist, Gloss Watch’s brilliant style-guide may help you.

If you answered f) to the first question…

I’m sorry you have to share this earth with human beings that fall into categories a) to e).

Liebster

2 Jun

Thank you to Kastiyos and Liz Terry for nominating me this week for a Liebster and Very Inspiring Blogger Award respectively. I am very honoured.

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At first, I wondered whether or not to take part. The Awards involve sharing facts and answering questions about oneself. Whilst this suits perfectly blogs written in a diary format, and, as the 60s feminists said, the personal is political, I wondered if readers of this blog would appreciate it, given my usual style of sarcastic articles and angry letters. I would therefore like to thank Louise Mensch for inspiring my rethink.

Mensch, in her tirade against British feminism in Friday’s Guardian, claims that UK feminists are too busy in-fighting to get anything done, and that we frighten away male would-be feminists with our tiring, over-complicating attention to giving a platform to the voices of feminists who are not rich, white, heterosexual, able-bodied and capitalist.

Since joining the “online feminist community” around a year ago, I have found the vast majority of dialogues with other feminists educational and inspiring. By connecting with other bloggers who share similar feminist values, I have gained confidence and ambition in my campaigning through their support and encouragement. Therefore, in line with the requirements of the Liebster Award* and to counteract Mensch’s assertion that online feminism is vicious, divisive and disconnected from “reality”, I will nominate some blogs that I enjoy and – I hope – that others may find enriching, relevant and “real”.

The 11 blogs I nominate:

11 facts about myself:

  • When I grow up, I want to star in the British sketch show Smack the Pony
  • I drink too much and I never stand straight
  • The older I get, the more content I am in my own skin
  • My enjoyment of Have I Got News For You is severely tarnished when there are no women panelists
  • I cannot understand why Made in Chelsea has not yet sparked a proletariat revolution
  • I find apathy unnerving
  • The Coop aside, I hate the big supermarket chains, and hate myself even more for being too disorganised and lazy to boycott them
  • I have never been waxed. Yet I have inadvertently used the sticky side of a sanitary towel to remove pubic hair
  • I once trimmed my eyebrows with nail scissors
  • On the rare occasion that I make it through a woman’s magazine without defacing or burning it, (by “woman’s magazine” I mean the likes of Grazia, Cosmo etc.) I feel my self-confidence ebb away at the same speed as my urge to buy useless crap grows
  • I hope to have a child or plural one day. If I have a daughter, I will not be following a Conservative government “info-pamphlet”  in order to bring her up.

Below are the answers to the questions put to me by my nominator Kastiyos:

1. What is your favorite part about blogging?

I am sick of BBC-Braindead. There is an alternative to the mainstream media. We are the media.

2. If you could change anything about blogging, what would it be?

The most marginalized people are also those least likely to have access to blogging as a tool for making their voices heard.

3. If you could have any animal as a pet, which one would you choose?

Boris Johnson

4. List three words to describe yourself?

I’m happy today

5. If a genie granted you 3 wishes, what would you wish for?

Peace, happiness, equality.

6. Name someone you truly admire and why?

Aminatou Haidar for her relentless courage and determination

7. What would you do if you were to win the lottery today?

Shamefully spend on ridiculous excesses (including a house and traveling the world), get bored, then invest in a non-charitable foundation providing funding for advocacy-focused, social justice activities.

8. If you were to participate in a talent show, what would your talent be?

Sadly I have no “show-talents” so to speak, but I can twist my hand 360° around my wrist.

9. What is your dream car?

I’m a terrible driver and have little interest in cars. Ideally, I would have a car that ran on human waste.

10. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

A free and independent Western Sahara

11. If you could invent anything you want, what would it be?

A full-proof mechanism for achieving the answers to question 5.

My questions for my nominees:

1)   What do you want to be when you grow up?

2)   What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

3)   Are you a feminist? Why (not)?

4)   What’s the most humbling experience you’ve had in your life?

5)   Which woman do you most admire?

6)   Why did you start blogging?

7)   Do any of your favourite films pass the Bechdel Test?

8)   Please recommend some comedians

9)   Which sexist, racist, ableist or otherwise bigoted aspect of popular culture would you most like to see mocked?

10) In your opinion, which beauty product is the most useless?

11)  In your opinion, which current governmental policy in your country is even more useless than your answer to point 10, and what can we do about it?

*Since the Liebster and Very Inspiring Blogger Award rules are very similar, it seems futile to do both. I have picked Liebster since I received this one first. The rules: answer 11 questions posed to you by your nominator; state 11 facts about yourself; nominate 11 other blogs, and; create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

Response to letter regarding Sun’s request

13 May

I was grateful to receive a response from Charity Comms this morning to my letter (https://yourdaughterswillbenext.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/in-response-to-suns-request-for-a-naked-photoshoot/) regarding a request from a The Sun journalist, which was circulated by the Charity Comms service on Friday. I promised to publish any responses, so please find the message below:

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In response to Sun’s request for a naked photoshoot

10 May

Dear Matthew,

I am writing to you in response to the request that popped up in my inbox earlier this afternoon. I have also copied in Charity Comms, which deemed your request as relevant to charities that fall into the “women’s group”, “children” or “family welfare” categories. I do hope that you receive several replies from “women’s groups” and that said “women’s groups” tell you exactly what they think of you.

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Let me recount for you a memory from my childhood. I recall a day out with my father in which we passed a man on a bench staring fixatedly at the highly sexualised image of a bare-breasted young woman in a newspaper. I remember how this sight provoked a feeling of surprise, disgust and anger but, given my young age, I could not articulate why. When my father and I returned home, I found my mother breastfeeding my younger sister. My immediate reaction was to fetch a tea towel to cover her bare chest, lest a stranger should ogle at her body in the style of that same repulsive man in the street. I think that is the day that I became a feminist. I wanted my mother, my sister and indeed women and girls in general to be seen by all as more than objects, mere pieces of meat, for men’s sexual gratification. Your newspaper, filled with men in clothes doing “useful” things, a single giant image of a girl in her pants, and, apparently, as of Tuesday, naked Real Women TM in “nude thongs” who can only “get happier” when men rate their bodies favourably, is, therefore, not one of my favourite publications. Just so you know.

Your request implies that women have psychological problems and that we are “overly negative” on ourselves when we “needn’t be.” I completely agree that many women have a much lower sense of self-worth than they should have. We are plagued by body dismorphia, eating disorders, shame and crippling insecurities. However, I would argue that having men publicly rate the sexual attractiveness of naked women does little to improve women’s self-confidence and self-worth. Rather, it does the exact opposite. Why do women, generally speaking, have such low body confidence? Because we are taught, you might even say brainwashed, from birth by the mainstream media, fairytales, toys, films, advertisements, adults, peers and so on that our worth is inextricably tied-up with male approval and that male approval is dependant on being beautiful, attractive and sexually available. We can escape this, not by having Sun Readers, Gok Wan, Dove or Boots tell us that we possess Real Beauty TM, but by severing the ties between our self-worth and our perceived sexual attractiveness. The “health feature” you plan for Tuesday’s edition of The Sun, on the other hand, reaffirms for many women that their very happiness and psychological wellbeing should be based on male perceptions of their naked bodies.

I would like to end my letter in a civilised fashion. However, I’ve had a long day at work, which was made longer by my outrage at receiving your shitty request. So, I’m just going to bid you farewell immaturely and, in a petty fashion, wish that someone who is more technically savvy than me photoshops a picture of you (and perhaps also Rupert Murdoch and your other misogynist colleagues) so that you appear naked but for a “nude thong”, ready to be rated by millions. I wonder if a Sun psychologist will tell you that this is an empowering experience and that you will “get happier” as a result. I think not.

Joanna