Sunday, 22 March 2015

“Feminism vs. The Truth”-Christina Hoff Sommers REBUTTAL

(Video here:

Summary: Christina Hoff Sommers, the infamous right wing "feminist" presents a seemingly convincing video against the cornerstones of western feminist issues, set up very professionally and palateably; however, her arguments are nowhere near as strong as she’d like to believe, and some crucially backfire when used on her own claims and methods. I felt I had to write this rebuttal partly because she is just so worryingly convincing,but also to help people who knew it felt off, but could not put their finger on why. Enjoy!

My first major stand-out criticism of this video, is that it is set up from the start to be misleading. For one thing, Prager University “is not an accredited academic institution and does not offer certifications or diplomas”, but is instead a video subscription website, yet throughout the video, Christina is presented in a dark, gown-like outfit, clearly meant to be remniscent of actual academic authority, and no dislaimer for the fallacious use of the word university is visible the description.

The first major criticism made by Sommers in the video is the pay gap. Does she not even slightly wonder about why it is that “female” specialities are paid less??? The National Organisation for Women even addresses the “pink collar” problem on their site, but this accuracy doesn’t suit Sommer’s cherry-picking approach, and so of course, the site isn’t linked in the video description, and it isn’t mentioned in the video.

Secondly, there is more than internalised oppression/invisible barriers at play in women’s choices…if your husband can’t imagine taking off time for the kids, and your mother has always taught you to be better with childcare than surgery, that’s going to influence your choices in very real ways, which Sommer’s conveniently ignores. No woman is an island, as NOW fully explains on their website in the final point about the pay gap. The fact these are all on the same resource sheet just serves to further illustrate how selective and misleading Summer’s “research” truly is.

Sommers suffers from the illusion that because she is alright, that everyone else is. It’s not patronising to suggest that women are limited if it is true for large numbers of women! It’s not patronising to say you are drowning, not swimming, if you are actually drowning, you’d need the appropriate help, and women (feminists) do say this, that we want this! Of course, these women do not matter to Sommers, because they don’t suit the cherry-picking and isn’t this, in itself, rather patronising?

On another massively flawed point about the wage gap, Sommers continues to ignore the role of unfair promotions and subtle gendering of jobs in allowing gaps to sneak in, plus, ignores the fact that laws are not always enforced, especially around the taboo area of pay/wages, in order to make an incredibly shallow argument in the name of “common sense”; that truly cheap female labour would result in a flood of demand for female labour, hence, cheaper female labour does not exist. This common argument entirely ignores the roots and context of the wage gap: that women have been historically paid less (and still are) because of a perception of women’s work as inferior. This is what drives the differentiated wages, and why companies will pay more for men, because they are seen as superior, not substitutes. Even assuming genders were perfect substitutes, this universal labour market change would not result in any competitive advantage, let alone a “huge” one, though this misleading note makes her surface-level rebuttal sound even more persuasive.

At 4:35 she claims that american college women are “arguably the most fortunate, liberated beings on the planet”, in order to discredit western feminist theory. Obviously, in Sommers world, slut shaming is a complete myth, victim blaming’s not a thing, obviously the pay gap doesn’t exist, and thus, yes, when you ignore all that evidence, yes, women are just as liberated as men already are!

She then goes on to further hypocritically patronise women who hold different views to her, by first implying that no one is a feminist without a degree in “Women’s Studies”, and then discredit courses from accredited esteemed institutions as “propaganda”…because sure, your unofficial faux-university-endorsed video is certainly 100% legit, honest, educational material, right Sommers? Again, women who disagree with Summers, are being ruthlessly patronised and discredited, without a hint of irony or awareness.

She ends by begging us to end the “Women are from Venus, Men are from hell” storylines, but it’s worth asking what kind of person gets this from “The sexes are equal”? If becoming equal to women degrades men, then clearly the viewer held men above women to begin with, which explains why they spend so much time attempting to define all women’s lives through uninformed pseudo-logic, in order to mold them into sharing her own (privileged) perspective.
Of course, Sommers doesn’t investigate this massive incongruity, but continues by ending her video through patronisingly telling all women to reject patronising victim “propaganda”, beautifully finishing her very own polished and perfected propaganda video. Irony is clearly lost on these people.

Fenella Ginn
(Cross posted from personal blog at:

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Running for Survivors

One of our members, Alice Gill is running the Reading half marathon in March in order to fundraise for Rape Crisis (England and Wales). It is an incredibly important charity, providing a range of specialist services for women and girls who have been subjected to rape or any kind of sexual violence. Services like these are crucial for survivors, being able to talk to someone about what has happened, how to process it and cope will help a person slowly to be able to get back on the right track.

Alice Gill's just giving page:

Survivors of rape and sexual assault are often silenced through fear, shame and blame which prevents them receiving the help they deserve.
Too many survivors are let down by the justice system and receive little or no support.

Rates of reported assaults are increasing but convictions are not.

Being under 18, having mental illness, learning difficulties, alcohol and drug consumption are all factors which increase an individual's vulnerability to rape but also negatively impacts success in conviction:

Diminished faith in the police is also a pressing issue.

The fact which disturbs me the most is that rape culture normalises sexual crime thus inhibits protection of vulnerable individuals from abuse which reinforces victim blaming and empowers abusers.

When survivors do manage to seek support there isn't enough available because of a severe lack of funding.

Rape Crisis (England and Wales) are committed to providing services to survivors of rape and sexual abuse, as well as committed to dispelling myths, raising awareness and understanding of sexual violence. Their aim is to provide a safe environment for survivors to seek support and the justice they deserve.

*Please* join me in my activism against rape culture, and support survivors of rape and sexual assault.

Please donate, give what you can, to help her cause and support her in running the half marathon!!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


Many of you keen feminist readers who happen to have read “The Handmaid’s tale” by Margaret Atwood will have perchance come across these words. In the story, it is found scrawled inside the cupboard in the main character’s bedroom. It is understood to be a message of defiance – to inspire hope to those who encounter hardship. In the story, it carries extra symbolic value, since under the rule of the Republic of Gilead, no messages are allowed to be written on the walls, let alone one that actively promotes rebellion against the regime. It is therefore, by that fact alone, a controversial and forbidden message. One does not need to understand its “meaning” to see that it is one of defiance, and encouragement. Its taboo nature is observed and pondered by our character throughout numerous chapters of the book, even used as a prayer. But what exactly does it mean?

Supposedly it means “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” This would indeed inspire an air of confidence (there is a strange significance in saying a common aphorism or saying in a different language, it endows the speaker with an air of intellectual profundity and confidence unlike when spoken in common English). A common problem is however, that most people feel, when they speak in languages they know little about, they feel that they do not need to understand what is properly being said, because of a keen, effort-saving desire to accept it at face value. And if it sounds clever, then it probably is. Alas – this is where they are wrong. The truth is, it doesn’t mean that at all.

In fact, the saying itself doesn’t make any sense. As any Latin expert will tell you, “Carborundorum” is not an actual word. Even the Commander in the novel, who tells us the phrase’s intended meaning explains that it is actually a “joke”. The “joke” here lies in the fact that “carborundorum” supposedly resembles a genitive plural of “carborundum”. However “Carborundum” itself is not a Latin word – it is actually the name for a composite material consisting of Silicon carbide – a contraction of “Carbon” and “Corundum”. So it’s not an actual word. “Nolite” too is used incorrectly because while it is a negative imperative meaning “Do not...!”, it is one that takes the infinitive form of the verb. Not the gerundive. In short, this whole phrase is meaningless. Not real Latin at all.

For those of you who want to know how one would really say “Don’t let the bastards grind you down!”, then the correct way would be “Nolite permittere te bastardes opprimere”. That’s quite a mouthful, I know. Well, there are many different variations, but for those who insist on saying it correctly, just know that however noble you may find the slogan, you are not actually communicating the intended message. If you were to speak these words to real Romans, none of them would understand what you were saying. You may as well be saying to them “Don’t rub cheese in your hair!”
If you should wish to inspire real motivation in a person who is struggling against life and its hardships, or facing prejudice and derogatory sneers from their adversaries, do not say “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum”. Because what it really means, is that while you are trying to come across as cultured and intelligent, the truth is, you do not really understand Latin.

Benjamin Stevens.

Welcome to Feminism Society's official blog!

Hi All!
I'm writing this very aware of the late start, for which I must first apologise. This has been the first official year of Feminism Society at Reading, and so the lovely committee has been focusing most on making it an incredible experience for our new members, with plenty of socials and excellent sessions, instead of keeping this blog going. But with enhancement week over, and a routine settled into, I felt it was time to officially start working on keeping this updated!
The plan will be to keep the blog updated fortnightly with our activities as a society, including any photos and finished products. I'd also like to work on creating a resource of member submitted posts about current issues in feminism, but that depends on the supply of people wanting to write for us. Currently, our Facebook group is stuffed with articles that our brilliant and enthusiastic members share, I'd love to get a nice complete record of all these articles as well, but this does depend on how much time our lovely media reps have.

I'm also planning on having at least all of the committee members submit at least one post each, hopefully with a personal slant, so members have a chance to get to know us and our angles on feminism more personally.

Thanks for bearing with us, and watch this space for more updates of society activities past and upcoming events, which personally I can't wait for! Most notably, we've got the Reclaim the Night London trip coming up, and our Christmas Dinner social, which are bound to be incredibly exciting and hopefully we'll get loads of pictures to put up here!

And on a personal note, I'm honored to have such a brilliant committee and be part of such a fabulous and vibrant society, and I'm excited to see what lies in the future for our amazing society!

With Love,
Fenella Ginn, FemSoc President.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Why Does It Matter Who Is On Our Banknotes?

Money equals power. Money makes the world go round. The man who owns enough money can do just about anything he pleases with it (within the boundaries of physics). As much as we may detest this notion we cannot deny that a capitalist society thrives upon its ability to generate wealth. Currency has come to mean everything, right down to our basic survival. It is the greatest indicator of who has control in this country, and quite obviously that control still lies firmly in the hands of men alone.

“BUT,” you say “The Queen is on every bank note.” Queen Elizabeth was born into her role in society; she did not ask to be such a significant public figure and she certainly did not earn the right, unlike Charles Darwin (the esteemed English naturalist), Adam Smith (described as being one of the fathers of modern economics), Matthew Boulton and James Watt (whose advances in steam engine technology made a significant contribution to the progress of the Industrial Revolution), or Sir John Houblon (the first ever governor of the bank of England). Undoubtedly, our head of state has done a lot of good work for her subjects, but she is largely still a pawn in a patriarchal system, and has not contributed to the economic, scientific or political progression of British society. It’s like sticking Prince Charles on every note and saying it’s enough that he’s a bloke – the monarchy simply aren’t representative of all the people who built this country, because they mostly sat around and watched whilst everybody else made a fuss. And what if you happened to be really anti-monarchy? (That of course is a whole other very large and very complicated kettle of fish).

The real issue here is that women have contributed just as much to the British Empire as men have, and that fact is not being expressed anywhere, let alone on the backs of UK currency. Women’s history has been smothered by clandestine methods since the dawn of time – there’s a reason you don’t have knowledge of the female warriors who led armies into battles or the women who fought against all odds to lobby for vital changes in UK legislation. Did you know that those anonymously authored poems you have read were largely written by women? Did you even know that the first British person to go into space, Helen Sharman, was a woman?

Powerful, influential and successful women are derided by public opinion; they are measured by the virtue of how pleasing their appearances are and, inevitably, any outstanding contributions they make to society are succinctly diminished until their conquests barely existed at all.

And yes, to all of the naysayers and internet trolls (super cool individuals with full and gratifying lives), this is still happening: case-in-point, freelance journalist and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez who successfully campaigned against the almighty force that is the Bank of England and won women a place on the ten pound note, after they decided to remove social reformer Elizabeth Fry from the five pound note. It is not only a victory for the people but one of symbolic worth, seeing as though an everyday woman (i.e. not her royal Madge) had only made the cut for the lowest common denominator amongst bank notes before; doubling a woman’s value is a big promotion. Jane Austen, the prolific author of classics such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’, was added to the ranks of esteemed men deemed worthy of gracing the UK’s legal tender – but even she had to adopt a male name to achieve her virulent literary success.

What Caroline Criado-Perez did was revolutionary. She took on one the most ancient and powerful institutions in Great Britain and won. The response from many members of the public was congratulatory, but many others chose to attack an innocent woman in the wake of her success; at its peak, she received over fifty threats of violence, torture, rape and murder each day from internet trolls. These people may have been making empty threats, but what they really meant to say to Criado-Perez was this: “How dare you express your opinion? How dare you challenge a man’s authority? Stop making a fuss and shut up; nobody likes a woman with a big mouth. I’m a nasty little bully with nothing else better to do than to try and make you feel small. Oh, and BTW, you’re an ugly bitch, so what use are you to anybody?”

The plan was to degrade Criado-Perez to such an extent that she gave up campaigning, but the plan failed. We have to tiptoe around these cretinous people, maniacs who think it is okay to threaten to cut off a law abiding citizen’s head and breasts, amongst other grizzly things, just because they are sitting behind a computer screen. We do so out of a fear of being branded as misandrists or whiney bitches, but I for one believe that thousands of years of misogynist abuse is enough to warrant the arrest of a few socially decrepit individuals. It’s about time that society stood up against the harassment of women, not just online but in everyday life. Let’s face it, if this kind of thing happened in public we’d be worried about whether said internet trolls were up and coming serial killers, because truly, what sane person finds joy in such a pastime?

The absence of women from UK currency is just one of the countless examples whereby women are underrepresented; it is a tiny thread in a spider web of inequalities facing western women. The decision to take Elizabeth Fry off of the five pound note was just one of countless examples whereby the work of women is undervalued and overlooked; if we continue to let these apparently insignificant things slide women will continue to be the oppressed sex.

This time things will be different; Caroline Criado-Perez will be remembered for her good deeds and hailed as a pioneer for women’s equality. Let’s revel in her phenomenal achievement, celebrate all the wonderful men and women who contributed to her campaign, and look forward to many more future successes in the face of unfathomable adversity.

By Lora Jury

Saturday, 3 August 2013

It's A Troll's World

“Scary monsters are like Hula Hoops. They come in and out of fashion”-John Malkovich

Monsters are not really something we think about in daily life but it is fair to say that virtual trolling monster has become a harsh reality with the dawn of the new millennium. In line with the developments in feminism and the journey towards equality, opposition has grown hugely. Criticism of women was previously limited to tabloid newspapers and glossy magazines scrutinizing everything about women from their career choices to their bodies. We only have to take the recent ruthless criticism of Kim Kardashian’s weight gain-WHILST PREGNANT. Positively with the millennia advances in technology have made women suddenly more able to utilise accessible platforms to display their thoughts. Whilst overwhelmingly celebrated throughout society, the more visible opinions of influential women have led a small proportion, mostly men, quaking in their boots, desperate to silence the women fighting for equality. Named the faceless keyboard warriors, the ‘trolls’ as they have become commonly known, have prompted great debate.

Whilst trolling is not a new phenomenon, the regularity of it is. It hit the headlines of late, after the response of feminist writer Caroline Criado-Perez, whose three month campaign to see Jane Austen on the new £10 note was finally successful. The Bank of England conceded that it was of crucial importance that the faces on our money should reflect the faces in our society.Cue celebrations and dreams of ‘future banknotes featuring Mary Seacole and Rosalind Franklin’ swimming around in the minds of many in Britain. Things have taken a rather sinister with highly questionable individuals descending into the ‘twittersphere’ to vent violent abuse at Criado- Perez. Just two of the tweets read “this Perez one just needs a good smashing up the arse and she’ll be fine”, and “Everyone jump on the rape train > @CCriadoPerez is conductor”.

Even retyping these quotes makes me feel quite sick to my stomach. It worries me how many people feel that it is ok not only to disrespect women publicly but to threaten their safety, using physical sexual power over others as a threat. Whilst it could be said the most sensible solution would be to ignoring it , why should women or anybody for that matter have to accept it?The tweets threatening rape and violence did not even stop there, moving on to publishing her address on the micro-blogging site. This surely goes way beyond freedom of expression! What shocks me most about the case is that it wasn’t just one person but that so many were directing vitriol at women more generally throughout society. MP Stella Creasey was threatened, and columnist Grace Dent even received threats regarding a bomb that had allegedly been planted outside her home.

Legal action has been taken with two men in their twenties having subsequently been arrested for harassment. Scotland Yard has launched an inquiry and Tony Wang the general manager of Twitter UK is issuing personal apologies to the women affected. The actions are of both necessary and positive but it is essential that the real focus should be placed on how to prevent the problem in the future. have consequently spearheaded the petition for a report abuse button on twitter, stating that the current method of reporting abuse is ineffective and too time consuming. At the time of writing the number of signatures on the petition stood at 120,000.

Feminist writer Caitlin Moran (author of the excellent and thought provoking ‘How to be a woman’) has also subsequently called for a boycott of twitter on the 5th of August. Whilst solutions are pondered, we can all show our support by boycotting twitter on ‘trolliday’. As Owen Jones, writing recently in The Independent commented, “Trolls don’t run the internet; neither do abusive men who issue rape threats to get women to shut up. We are the majority. And if we stand firm, and shout back as one, we will win. I hope you’ll join me in shouting back.”

Yasmin Levy-Miller

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The F Word

There are many taboo words in society that for some reason or another we're afraid to say,the above is one of them,well what is the f word it I hear you cry?Feminism, the new F word is feminism.Last night I went to a talk about feminism and 'lad' culture and its place in our society,it was extremely interesting with 3 seasoned academics in gender studies speaking on the matter.These were Dr Madeleine Davies,Professor Grace Ioppolo and Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein. They all made very interesting points and spoke much better than I could ever dream of doing,first they acknowledged that it wasn't a new phenomenon, no 'lads' have been around since the dawn of time,but with advances in technology there are many more platforms the favourites being facebook and twitter.After they spoke it was opened up into a discussion where anyone could make a comment or ask a question.
At this point it is important to note several things,the room was full (although when you think of the thousands of students at Reading University it was barely a sprinkle).It was mainly girls with around seven or eight particularly brave boys who came along to fight their corner oh and there was free cake.The victoria sponge topped with strawberries was the nicest victoria sponge I have EVER tasted,but that's not really relevant.Girls are scared to come along to such events,even worse they are scared to label themselves feminists because of the connotations attached to it;lesbian,man hater,ugly,woman hater,bra burner the list goes on and on.There are many women who are feminists but just don't know it yet and others who truly believe that enough progress has been made so we can all stop talking about it.Later on that night I had an early hours of the morning,post night out conversation with one of my flatmates who had attended the talk with me and she said that the people holding women back are women.I can't help but in many cases agree,women are the harshest critics of women,when I go out I am much more worried about what girls will say about how I look than what boys will say,boys don't notice if a girl's mascara is lumpy or if her foundation isn't blended properly but it's girls that do and then we complain about low self esteem.Tina Fey's character in Mean Girls sums it up perfectly in the scene after the burn book gets released and all of the girls have been fighting.She says 'you've got to stop calling each other sluts and whores because it only makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores'.
There is an assumption in the Western World that women who sleep around are somehow trying to validate their existence,or that they can't get the guy or girl they really want but it's not always true some women just like to have a lot of sex with a lot of different people.Who says that's not ok?Women.It's ok for men to sleep around,they're labelled as a legend,a lad or a lothario. Therein lies the problem.One girl spoke about choice and how feminism is all about choice and I completely agree,don't all women or men that would call themselves a feminist believe in choice?The aforementioned flatmate later pointed out that the choice argument was age old and perpetually regurgitated in all feminist debates even though we all agree.The point she made is the acceptance of choice-I'd never really thought of it that way.One of the main things that holds women back is not the lack of choice but the lack of acceptance of that choice,whether that be to stay at home,or not to have children or sleep around.It is time to start accepting the choices that are made by others and respecting them because they are theirs,time to stop asserting that some choices are better than others and that some are right and others wrong.In my last example I refer to the first girl that put her hand up when the discussion was opened up,her initial points were well executed and informative but then she moved somewhere that I really didn't like.She criticised Beyonce Knowles Carter-better known as just Beyonce (at this point I must point out that although I am an avid fan my judgement is not clouded).She bemoaned Beyonce's labelling of herself as a feminist singing about independent women,I assume referring to the song 'Run the World' in which she sings 'Boy you know you love it how we smart enough to make these millions,strong enough to bear the children and then get back to business'.This woman, a 26 year old mature student stated that the message Beyonce was delivering was and I quote 'invalidated' by the lack of clothes that she wears whilst performing.I put my hand up a while later and strongly disagreed,this I felt summarised the issue of choice-Beyonce is immensely powerful as a performer and contributor to popular culture,she can do what she likes,she could go out dressed in a nun's habit and still look beautiful.So why does it matter?if the message is being delivered it is being delivered and it shouldn't ever matter in what package that message comes in.
I'll leave you with this,every woman should be proud to have feminist tatooed across her forehead for the world to see because as Kate Nash so eloquently stated "feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, and it does not mean you are a ‘bitch’ or a ‘dyke’, it means you believe in equality".Can any woman really sit back and say that she disagrees?I don't think so.
P.S.If you didn't like it and think I'm a crazy radical that's fine,I'm too busy burning my bra to care ;)

Yasmin Levy-Miller