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At all.


This is my essay for our study of Mythologies, by Roland Barthes. We had to choose an everyday ‘myth’ (read ‘Myth Today’ by Roland Barthes if you want a full understanding of how he defines myths – it’s pretty complex, and, I must confess, confuses me) and analyse it in the style of Barthes’ essays. Enjoy!

When Women Rule The World

What would happen if, by some strange twist of fate, women ended up in charge? What would occur if men were deemed the weaker sex, and women became dominant? Would women handle the task better than the men of the past? When Women Rule The World, a series on Channel Four, claims to ask (and, perhaps more importantly, answer) these questions. It takes 8 women and 10 men and puts them on a desert island. The women are given dominance; the men must work for them and bend to their every wish. Here, then, is the perfect gender experiment – what does happen when women are in charge?

One is frequently reminded, when watching this programme, that this is an experiment to show ‘how women cope with power’, and ‘how men cope with being the weaker sex’. Instantly, the assumption that women are not in positions of power in our modern society, that this is an example of an alternate reality, is put forward as truth. Equally, one is expected to accept without question the idea of men taking on the role of ‘the weaker sex’, with its implication that this goes against the natural order of things and that women are, in reality, the weaker of the sexes. For a supposed gender study, then, this programme fails at the first base. Instead of using gender neutral terms, and approaching the ‘experiment’ with a view to gaining real results, When Women Rule The World has only one aim: good television. For this reason, the women and men chosen are not representative of society, but handpicked ‘strong’ women (where ‘strong’ here means loud or stubborn) and ‘anti-feminist’ or arrogant men. The desire to cause hostility between the sexes in order to make good tv should be clear, yet it is disregarded by the public as they are spoon fed the idea of a ‘social experiment’ by an equally easily led presenter.

Steve Jones, who claims that When Women Rule The World is ‘all about the journey’, ignoring the large cash prize given to the winning man, throws a spanner in the works by his presence alone. Having a male presenter, who gives the women tasks to give the men, who tells the women when to call council and who calls the weekly sacrifice, undermines the idea of a matriarchy. Instead, one is presented with a group of women who take orders from one man, who in turn takes his orders from a television crew who will be, at the very least, a combination of women and men, if not entirely men. This crew aims to make television that will sell, which means that it needs to be something which will appeal to the masses. In effect, the crew takes its orders from the society it works within, a society which is perceived to be male-dominated. How, then, can one legitimately claim that this is a fair representation of how women would fare if our society were a matriarchy? Clearly, one cannot.

When Women Rule The World reinforces the gender divide through the prejudices that run throughout the programme. In one episode the viewer is reminded that women are emotional, whereas men are intelligent, that women really should be in the kitchen, that men cannot follow orders, that women cannot draw or understand maps and that ultimately, women need men to tell them what to do. Instead of presenting a ‘social experiment’, this seems to be a veiled attempt to broadcast negative gender stereotypes to the masses as though they have been proven by psychological experimentation.

When Women Rule The World also raises issues of identification. This experiment does not build up a faux-city, with women as figures of authority, nor does it even create a village setting. Instead, it creates a tribal setting, on an unnamed desert island. The contestants wear very little clothing, and what is worn is simple enough to conform to the idea of ‘primitive’ living. Added to this aesthetic ‘tribe’, comes the idea of a weekly sacrifice. The women choose one man who is to leave the group, and his dismissal is declared by each woman painting a line of red paint, reminiscent of blood, across said man’s bare chest. This places the idea of a matriarchy in a realm of ‘otherness’, a society unlike our own, and demeans the tribal societies which still exist today by portraying the society as dysfunctional and oppressive. In a similar vein, though initially called servants, the men are often called the women’s ‘slaves’. The very use of a word as emotionally, historically and morally loaded as ‘slave’ in a context of light hearted reality television undermines its power, and belittles the sufferings of slaves by coining the term in reference to men in a game show. Much like the sacrifice seems to mock religious sacrifices, be they to a god or goddess, calling contestants slaves mocks the history of an entire people, justified under the all encompassing explanation: ‘it’s a social experiment’.

Not only does When Women Rule The World deprive the black race of its history, it twists the terms of feminism to fit its own agenda. Feminism, a belief that all people should be treated equally, becomes something altogether different when associated with this programme. By claiming feminism as its own, it reinforces the negative attitudes in society towards feminism, which claim that it is about female superiority rather than equality. By tying feminism to a show which can be seen to advocate female superiority, the myth of man-hating feminists is perpetuated. To tie it with a show which reveals female leadership to be a shambles, as this programme seems to claim, is to both perpetuate the myth and mock feminism because of it.

The myth that When Women Rule The World is merely a social experiment conceals something much deeper. As well as inoculating people to gender stereotyping by presenting it under the guise of a psychological experiment, it presents history in its own light by attaching the idea of feminism to something directly opposed to it. This is no bid for equality, nor is it an attempt to show that women are capable of leadership – it is simply a reality television show with delusions of grandeur.

who has an issue with the way this has been reported?

I know by now I should be used to the victim-blaming of our media, but yet again I am left speechless. The headline and first few paragraphs of this news item seem to blame Funke Sobo for her ‘lie’ provoking Crampton’s ‘angry reaction’. With a headline like

Lie sparked slaughter of family

can one possibly question who they see as to blame?

Follow this with

“Desperate to get him out of her life, Funke Sobo, 36, told him she was seeing another man.

It was a fatal mistake, as her unbalanced ex-partner claimed he was driven by “extreme possessiveness.””

and you have the perfect recipe for a victim blaming article. Sobo’s attempt to get a deeply troubled and dangerous man out of her life was, apparently, ‘a fatal mistake’.

Honestly, if these women would just stop lying to these murderers everything would be just fine.

[EDIT: In fact, the BBC have reported on this in a different manner, with a much more suitable headline and tone. Which leads you to question – why write an entire new article with the blame focused upon Sobo?]

This just in from The F-Word:

In Argentina, journalists have adopted a ten point list of commandments for reporting on sexual violence. It’s something the UK could do with adopting too, here’s the list:

  1. The following terms are correct usage: violence against women, gender-based violence and sexist violence.
  2. Gender-based violence is a crime insofar as it is illegal behavior that must be prevented and punished, a social problem, an assault on the right to life, dignity, and physical and psychological integrity of women, and an issue that concerns the defense of human rights.
  3. We will uproot from our work the term “crime of passion” to refer to murders of women who are victims of gender violence. Crimes of passion do not exist.
  4. It is of the utmost importance to protect the identity of the victim, rather than that of the aggressor. Make it clear who is the aggressor and who is the victim, and indicate what attitudes and situations may put women in violent relationships at risk, to help raise their awareness about their situation.
  5. Some information can harm the victims and their families. It is not always a good idea to identify the victim. It is offensive to refer to victims by diminutives, short forms of proper names, nicknames, and so on.
  6. We will never look for justifications or “motives” (alcohol, drugs, arguments, jealousy, a couple’s separation, infidelity, and so on) that only distract attention from the central issue: violence. The cause of gender-based violence is the control and domination that certain men exercise over women.
  7. It is essential to check the facts, especially from official sources.
  8. Keep the subject on the agenda by denouncing violence in all its forms: psychological, economic, and emotional, without waiting for women to be killed. Tell the story taking into account the uniqueness of each event, but also the elements that each has in common with other cases. This will help us avoid the use of expressions like “once again” or “yet another case of,” and prevent a dulling of sensitivities.
  9. Be particularly careful with the photographs and images illustrating the article. Respect the victims and their families, and avoid sexism, sensationalism and obscenity. Never steal images or audio material from a victim. When using a musical background, do not select motifs that inspire terror, or lyrics that talk about “love-sickness” or jealousy.
  10. Our articles will always include a free telephone helpline number for victims, and any other information that may be useful for them.

The post it’s from has some other interesting bits and pieces from the news – check it out!

On Friday I went to Debating Society. The motion? This House would vote McCain/Palin.

So we went in knowing that we were going to have a blast.

Now, Exeter has a very Conservative student population (*weeps*), so we were expecting the majority of the audience to vote McC/P, so we were pleasantly surprised when the majority either voted Obama/Biden or abstained. It soon became clear that their reasoning was simple: McCain could be the most incredible candidate, but with Sarah Palin standing beside him nothing can make him vote-able. Which is, of course, fantastic (I only wish that reasoning was more prominent in America too).

So they had two speakers for the proposition, a lecturer and the head of the Exeter Young Conservatives (*shudder*), and two for the opposition, a history lecturer and a student member of the debating society. Sadly, none of the speakers were that brilliant – in fact, the best speaker was the most inexperienced, the student on the opposition. I was sitting there praying that the speakers would be good against McC, and then the first speaker (the lecturer) stood up and said this:

“Now, I would say that we have two incredible people running for the presidency. Indeed, were we talking McCain vs Bush, I think McCain was a very strong candidate, and I’d have voted for him. Obama is a man who can lead the people, but McCain is also great. He is a great MAN. However, Sarah Palin is not, and with McCain being unlikely to live for the full time as President, we would most likely end up with that woman in charge of America.”
I mean, where to begin? Clearly he didn’t really think that Obama was the way forward. He basically argued that McCain was better, more experienced, just old. Clearly he thought that being male was necessary for being a good President. Clearly he thought that older people are less capable of doing a good job. clearly he didn’t give a shit that he was meant to be on the opposition.

This, as you may have noticed, annoyed me somewhat.

So the proposition lays into Obama for the whole of their first speech. Not one mention of McCain’s policies. They declare Obama’s change to be ‘dangerous’, and complain about his refusal to use public money to fund his campaign. They even dare to suggest that Obama has been following a more aggressive and condemnatory campaign against them than they against him. Then the opposition basically says that McCain is dandy but Palin is the problem. In a very long winded, I’ve-written-87-books-in-my-time kind of way. Then the proposition pretty much repeated their first speech, throwing in a few points about how McCain was all for change (contradiction, much?) and that he’s not at all chummy with Bush. The opposition then made the only good speech, talking about Obama’s policies for the economy, for war etc etc. He made the mistake of using the phrase ‘whiter than white’ once or twice, which resulted in a sharp intake of breath from the audience each time until he finally corrected himself, but generally made some quite good points.

…THEN it got fun. They opened up questions to the floor. Some people picked at Obama’s lack of experience. Some picked at McCain’s age. Many picked at Sarah Palin. Matt asked why the proposition felt it necessary to follow in the American campaign’s footsteps and bash Obama without once mentioning their own policies, which they twisted into ‘you are mean about Obama, why?’ and ranted about how Obama is a bigger meanie, he is he is say he is or I’ll hit you.

Then, as questions began running out and fewer and fewer hands were raised, the Chair was forced to let me ask a question. It has been decided by my fellow debating friends that The Chair doesn’t like me much. She tends to ignore me, even if no one else seems to have a question. This time she had to let me ask.

So I ranted and raged in a suprisingly coherent manner. One debater said later that my method of questioning was remenicent of a warrior bearing down on the proposition with various sharp and deadly weapons. I like that 🙂

So here’s what I asked:

“This to the Proposition. Could you please explain to me how you believe any right-minded person could vote for a party which do belittles the rights of women, be it in denying their right to choose, in making them pay for rape kits, as Palin did, or in putting the words women’s health in inverted commas?”
There was a super long pause, and then everyone began clapping *beams* It makes me happy now, but at the time I couldn’t have sunk lower into my chair if I tried, I was so embarrassed. Anyway the proposition were lost for words for a bit. They had no answer, because there is no answer other than ‘I guess we can’t believe that. Damn’.

In the end their answer ended up being all about Palin. Isn’t it great that a woman would be powerful. I don’t know what you feminists have to complain about, she’s a brilliant role model who has children but works and she’s a mother with children. Look at Obama and Biden, they’re so male. We’re so great with our woman. She’s brilliant. And a mother. Did we mention she has children, too? (It was really like that)
Me shouting out ‘yeah, a woman who disregards women’s rights’ was shh-ed by the Chair, heh.

So the final vote was once again for Obama, which was pleasing, although two of our party voted McCain/Palin, so we’ll be having serious words. Claire’s reasoning? I don’t like the was Obama calls women ‘sweetie’. *Sigh* Honey, that is the LEAST of our problems.

The debate was fascinating, and some of the questions were so good. I only hope that our vote is a sign of things to come on the 4th…

He can still teach? He is still allowed near young women?

*Is sick*


There are a lot of things that I happily give up my time to think about. There are a lot of people who I think about, a lot of films I consider, music I listen to. Keira Knightly, however, does not often occupy my mind. Indeed, I have a confession. Something of which I am not proud. I was not a Keira Knightly fan. I really, really didn’t like her.

What’s wrong with that, you may ask. Don’t most women hate Keira Knightly? We saw what Tanya Gold said

If you want to befriend a woman, ask her the question, “What do you think of Keira Knightley?” In the resulting torrent of bile and loathing, you will bond. She will say, “I hate Keira Knightley. She’s such a terrible actress. She looks like a stoat. And those teeth! She makes my fists itch!” It is a Pavlovian response. Hatred of Keira is like menstruation; all women share it. At work, we sit in rows doing Keira Knightley impersonations. You stick out your teeth, and make claws with your hands, pretend they are paws, and pretend to dig.

Isn’t that true?? Even if it’s not, what’s the problem with you not liking some actress? Big deal.

Okay so I’m being pretty patronising, I know. But this is something which has really bothered me – so much modern media and so many modern women dislike this woman for no real, legitimate reason, and I have found myself following them purely because…well, actually, for no reason. I just did.

As I said, this wasn’t something I spent time thinking about. It never really bothered me, until now. In the last week I’ve read two interviews with Ms Knightly, one in The Guardian and one in The Big Issue, and it got me thinking. What exactly is it I don’t like about this woman? I honestly cannot answer that question sufficiently. Yes, she can be quite pouty. Yes, sometimes her acting is a bit flat. But that such things can cause so many women to hate her is very saddening. Here is a strong, independent woman. She is clever, sarcastic and loyal (refusing to speak about her friends/family/relationships publicly). She is a good actor, and she is a beautiful woman. She is also very quick witted – her response to women’s unanimous so-called ‘hatred’ of her was praiseworthy:

“Well, I’m doing a good thing for women all over the country, then,” she says. “I think that’s a very positive thing.”

Yet she is faced with the hatred and subsequent abuse from the public. It does make me wonder what it is she’s really doing wrong. Making people jealous, perhaps, with her looks and her wealth and her opportunities to kiss various much-loved actors *coughJohnnyDeppcough*. Or perhaps it’s simply because she’s a woman.

The attitudes towards her are perpetuating the view that strong women are to be feared, despised even. It is because of this widespread acceptance that such women are a threat that it becomes difficult for women to get by as independent and powerful in their own right. It is because of the perpetuation of these beliefs that the women who are in the spotlight so often lose it, some resorting to harming their body in order to satisfy the public’s idea of the ideal woman, some literally losing their grip altogether, like Britney, while the others are forced to accept that they will have to face the irrational judgement of the public in order to do the job that they love. Ms Knightly falls into the latter category, accepting the views of the public as inevitable but simultaneously avoiding it by not reading what is written about her.

But just because she is strong enough to take it does not make it acceptable. We need to stop this, now. I am not saying we cannot dislike other women, far from it. But we mustn’t victimise women, we mustn’t follow the media blindly, we must stop. We must think. We must justify, to ourselves, why we view these women in the way that we do. For how can feminism ever get anywhere when women hate other women just because they are strong? If we can’t get past the hatred of strength that we learn from our backward society, how can we ever progress?

I am ashamed that I accepted dislike of Keira Knightly as a given. I am ashamed that I didn’t stop to ask myself why.

I have learnt my lesson. Please, learn from it too. We need to learn to love women for who they are, regardless of shape, size, age and colour, and one of the first steps to that is surely to address the very opposite – our hatred of our own kind.

And as Inga Muscio says in Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, we learn to hate other women through the unwritten rules of society, but the only way to truly be free of such a hatred is first to understand that much of the hate is our own insecurities projected onto celebrity – and then to acknowledge these ‘weaknesses’ in ourselves, accept them, and love ourselves.

So please, for me, for you, for women everywhere, love yourself and lose the hatred. The world will be brighter, your step will be lighter, and we’ll be ever so slightly closer to truly being free.

Read this

Not only is this a horrible piece of news, but I found the way in which it was written/the attitudes conveyed quite sickening. There seems to be an implication that it is surprising that ‘Summers had no regard for the law’, and the suggestion that he ‘couldn’t be stopped’ is such a cop out – instead of accepting the responsibility of the police and MAPPA and acknowledging that Summers ought to have been imprisoned or at the very least watched more closely and taken more seriously, they imply that he was an unstoppable force.

How on the Goddess’ sweet green Earth are we meant to progress in catching criminals and preventing crime when ‘official reports’ claim said criminals are ‘unstoppable’??

So we all know that adverts for sanitary towels are kind of ridiculous. The day one of us gets a blue period will be a weird one, that’s for sure, but if these adverts are anything to go by then one would assume that was the norm…

Sometimes, of course, they are so bad they are funny. But every so often you get one that really grates. The new Always adverts do just that. Alas, I cannot find them on Youtubz (if you can, link me up!) but they all carry the tagline ‘Have a happy period’.

Um…did they think this one through?

Anyway, the reason for me sharing this with you, other than my general annoyance, was this incredible letter which my friend showed me recently in response to said adverts’ tagline.

Read it. It is awesome 🙂

I always struggle with this one, though. My periods can be pretty debilitating, but this is often used as a reason for women being seen as less suited for jobs than men (often joined with the idea that these womenfolk have babymaking powers, which can get mighty troublesome *sigh*), so acknowledging how much it affects me seems to legitimise these prejudices. Ultimately, though, it simply legitimises the claim that one’s menstrual cycle isn’t a bundle of laughs. It does not legitimise the idea that women are therefore in some way inferior, or less able. Hell, you could argue we’re stronger for it – it’s not often you come across men who have a regular, crippling pain which they work on ignoring, and who try to continue living normally despite it.

Which brings me to another point. If men suffered a monthly pain and knew what it was caused by, do you think they’d have found some way of easing the pain by now? (They being scientists etc, rather than men as a whole, of course). Do you think there’d have been a focus on relieving men of period pains, constant attempts and tests, scientific research and the likes, in the way that there doesn’t seem to be for our pain? In the same way that illnesses like endometriosis are under-researched, cures for period pain are few and those that do exist aren’t consistent. The most highly recommended help for such pain that I’ve received is The Pill – but to stop one’s period altogether is surely just ignoring the problem? And it’s messing with one’s insides in a way which I’m sure could be avoided. That said, it helped my mother when she used to faint monthly (when she was my age, 18. She’s now in her 40s, and there’s been no progress.) and has helped several of my other friends. The main problem for me with The Pill is that it means that you can’t get pregnant, obviously – but why should a woman have to exchange the ability to reproduce with the suffering that is caused by menstruation? Surely there is a way of easing the pain without ending the menstrual cycle? Other than The Pill, my doctor gave me meds which didn’t work, and there’s feminax, which I find works sometimes. Nurofen Meltlets (I can’t take tablets) are also quite good, but they aren’t specifically for period pain and, again, are unpredictable. So there’s a plethora of painkillers for general pain which can be used, but there’s little in the way of medication specifically for ‘women troubles’, and even less which works.



This needs to be addressed!

So many great blogs to choose from…hmm…

  • Feministe has an interesting blog on Christian Bale and the accusations against him

  • Unapologetically Female asks: does advertising show us men want breasts, or not?

  • And posts this awesome video:

  • Brownfemipower looks at the plans for a new Disney film

  • Courtney Martin assesses the idea of marriage

  • Today’s Big Thing has a video of some women kicking the girls-are-bad-at-sports stereotype where it hurts

  • And feministing has made my life complete by introducing me to this wonderful, wonderful woman:

  • Flickr Photos