Laura Bates brings issues of harassment, assault and abuse of both men and women to light, after being deluged with submissions to her website and Tw
Laura Bates brings issues of harassment, assault and abuse of both men and women to light, after being deluged with submissions to her website and Twitter accounts. Seemingly small incidents of off-hand remarks can feel like the death of a thousand cuts when they happen everyday in every facet of your life. These sexist ouccrences happen so often and are so insidious and pervasive in Western society that they've become normalised to the point we feel silly for being upset about instances others brush off and disheartened when our complaints are ignored. All of this undermines confidence and erodes self-esteem. Even if we don't realise it, we've all witnessed sexism - on the street, in the media, at school and work, and now online with social media and comment forums. As Bates says, 'Enough is enough'.
Sexism is more socially acceptable than racism. Misogyny and misandry. Men get their own chapter but instances of misandry are sprinkled throughout. Bates doesn't just focus on the stereotypical, she points out that women can rape men, women can rape other women, and that men can be feminists.
Huh. Reading your post, I realise now that I experienced sexual harassment at 18 in my first office job - I've never thought of it as being that before. He was a 40-year-old client who publicly harassed me in front of my colleagues. I had no idea what to do because he was also a friend of my boss and almost everyday he would come in for an hour after he'd finished work, every time hitting on me and trying to shame me into submission because I was so young and inexperienced - I'd yet to have a proper boyfriend. This went on for months until my only female colleague told the boss, and suddenly the man didn't come in as much. I didn't tell any friends or family because I found it deeply embarrassing that I couldn't handle it.
As a result, I changed my behaviour towards men, practically fearful of them for years afterwards; making as little eye contact as possible in case I was encouraging any of them, and always making sure I wasn't showing flesh or wearing too much make-up. But I'd still attract the creepers. I look very young for my age - as in not legal - and every now and then an older man will approach me. The worst was when I was in the YA section of the library (I get approached there alot so I don't go in much now) where a man said he wanted to be "my friend". I had Pippi Longstocking-style plaits/braids at the time and was wearing teenage clothes precisely to deter attention.
But that's not all.
Age 12, holidaying in the Seychelles, a native reaches out to touch my left breast "They're coming in nicely," she says. Age 18, Freshers Week at uni saw a guy banging on my dorm room door for ten minutes shouting that my room used to be his and he wanted to see inside again. I didn't open the door. Age 19, being followed around a clothing store then out into the street. Quick thinking had me walk into the well-staffed John Lewis which he refused to enter, instead waiting for me outside. I left via another exit. Age 21, interviewed by a lecherous man who couldn't take his eyes off my chest. Was offered the job immediately. Despite the huge increase in salary and intriguing career-making job description, I turned it down.
Then there are the occasions when a man asks "where's that smile?" or "smile, might never happen" which somehow gave rise to 'bitchy resting face' which only appears to affect women. Hmm.
Sadly, as the majority of the perpetrators of the incidents that left the biggest impressions on me have been Pakistani and seemingly African immigrants (I live in a town with large communities of both), I'm wary of men from similar backgrounds.
83 per cent of Egyptian women report experiencing sexual harassment in the street. Egyptian Center for Women's Rights, 2008
More like 100%. I visited Sharm El-Sheik in November 2008. Worst. holiday. ever. I needed another holiday to get over the stress of that one. The Lonely Planet Egypt guide dedicated just a couple of sentences in the safety section on the street harassment of women so naively I believed it wouldn't be a problem. Nothing prepared me for what I experienced. I've very briefly talked about this before.
I travelled there with only my sister while in our early 20s. Big mistake. We were harassed every day. We didn't even have to leave our hotel room to witness it. We saw it from our balconies. Men clustered around the pool and the massage tables openly staring at women. Men calling after us in the street, trying to get us to follow them down dark alleys in that creepily cliched way we were warned of as children. They took every chance to touch us, to compliment us, to grill us about our marital status. A wedding ring or a husband standing by your side didn't necessarily protect you. (I was surprised the husbands tolerated the blatant disrespect of their wives, I kept hoping the offenders would receive a bloody nose or a black eye.)
I received multiple marriage proposals, me more so than my sister, we reasoned that was because she was gobby while I was quiet and observant, constantly looking out for grabby hands and other dangers. As for assault, my sister's breasts were manhandled. She tried to let it roll off her but I could tell it was starting to get to her. We decided to abandon our plans to visit Cairo and the pyramids - too risky. Would I ever go back? No. I don't want to feel like I need intimidating bodyguards to feel safe walking down the street or relaxing on the beach. No wonder native women didn't leave the house, the one or two I did see wore stiflingly hot burkas.
For awhile now I've held the belief that our deeply ingrained gendered stereotypes beaten into us as children and reinforced by society at large, are the main contributor to society's inability to accept the transgendered. Gender should be a matter of biology alone with none of the additional spurious and unequal social expectations, that if not met, leaves those 'failures' vulnerable to public disapproval and condemnation.
This is my new top 5 of non-fiction feminist reads:
Okay, so Everyday Sexism took me 3 weeks to read it because I had to pause for a mental swig of spirits every now and then when the rage overcame me, but I can assure you this is a 5-star read that I recommend to all.
Kira Cochrane provides an excellent introduction to feminism with this concise and up-to-date history covering the last 100 years in this 70-page exteKira Cochrane provides an excellent introduction to feminism with this concise and up-to-date history covering the last 100 years in this 70-page extended essay. She discusses rape culture, online feminism - including an intriguing David and Goliath battle with Facebook (I cheered at the outcome), the huge impact humour makes in highlighting feminist issues, and the importance of intersectionality and inclusion of all demographics as feminism is for everyone not just white, middle class women.
In the process, Cochrane refers to some very interesting organisations, projects and movements along the way. (Some of the names will make you smile):
Unconditional love and care for a child teaches him how to love, how to love his parent in return, and how to love his own child.
Case in point:
(ClickUnconditional love and care for a child teaches him how to love, how to love his parent in return, and how to love his own child.
Case in point:
(Click to enlarge)
My only criticism: When the mother visits her son's house in the middle of the night I expected an unknown, bleary-eyed woman screaming "Burglar!" lying next to him in bed. Possibly with smeared mascara and a strong whiff of tequila on her breath. Now that would've been realistic. And hilarious.
Thank you, Karen H., for recommending this heart-melting book to me....more
Besides the veritable buffet of Hollywood A-listers from various ethnic backgrounds providing narrations, there's beauDo not read this, listen to it.
Besides the veritable buffet of Hollywood A-listers from various ethnic backgrounds providing narrations, there's beautiful music and songs in the interludes between stories and in the stories themselves. I've derived much enjoyment from the imaginative and enthusiastic performances from the narrators, most of whom possess great skills with accents. Even if you don't recognise a couple of the narrators' names, odds are you'd recognise their faces.
Whoopi Goldberg and Hugh Jackman's performances were outstanding though most were above average.
Urban legends, origin stories, fables, parables, myths, magic, time travel, African versions of well-known fairy tales, clever and devious characters, and emotionally touching stories - what more could you want?
Well, the publisher has donated 100% of its takings from the audio to Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and Artists for New South Africa who work with children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Introduction - Desmond Tutu
★★★☆☆ The Ring of the King (Mythical African kingdom) - Alan Rickman Slightly iffy narration. Very clever story. I laughed at the end.
★★★★☆ Asmodeus and the Bottler of Djinns (South African English) - Whoopi Goldberg Excellent and highly enjoyable narration. Another clever story.
★★★★★ Mpipidi and the Motlopi Tree (Botswana) - Matt Damon Beautiful singing. Heartwarming story of a boy who finds and takes care of an abandoned baby girl.
★★★☆☆ Natiki (Namaqualand, South Africa) - Parminder Nagra An African version of Cinderella.
★★☆☆☆ The Mantis and the Moon (San, South Africa) - Forest Whitaker A mantis tries to capture the moon.
★★☆☆☆ How Hlakanyana Outwitted the Monster (Nguni, South Africa) - Sean Hayes How Hlakanyana outwitted the hare was more interesting than him outwitting the monster.
★★☆☆☆ The Message (Namibia) - Charlize Theron Greed leads to the garbling of a message of comfort and hope into one that compounds grief and desolation.
★★★☆☆ The Wolf Queen (Cape Malay) - Benjamin Bratt A girl requests a silver dress, then a gold one, then a diamond dress to put off having to reject the sultan's marriage proposal as she was already in love with another. She eventually shapeshifts with the help of a wolfskin.
★★★☆☆ The Snake Chief (West Africa/Zululand, South Africa) - Scarlet Johansson Never make bargains you don't intend to fulfil, especially if it involves gifting a family member to a stranger, the snake. Luckily it was a Frog Prince story - the snake turns into a human because a virtuous girl had accepted him.
★★★★☆ King Lion's Gifts (Khoi, Southern Africa) - Ricardo Chavira How the animals came to look and sound the way they do. The King Lion bestowed gifts such as suits and laughs upon them.
★★☆☆☆ Words As Sweet As Honey from Sankhambi (Venda, South Africa) - Debra Messing How monkeys gained their muscular physique.
★★★☆☆ Sakunaka, the Handsome Young Man (Zimbabwe) - LeTanya Richardson Jackson Great narrator. A selfish mother depriving her son of a wife for fear of losing him to another woman. Sad that the mother had to die. Why couldn't she live with or near her son after he'd married?
★★★★☆ Wolf and Jackal and the Barrel of Butter (Cape Dutch) - Hugh Jackman Awesome narration. Poor wolf didn't know he'd been hoodwinked by the Jackal.
★★★★☆ The Guardian of the Pool (Central Africa/Zululand, South Africa) - Gillian Anderson A daughter uses her mother's multiple sacrifices to keep her child alive to give her the strength to take a risk to save her mother's life. Another Frog Prince story.
★★★☆☆ Sannie Langtand and the Visitor (South African English) - C.C.H. Pounder Excellent narration. Time travel. Dragonflight. Flying carpets.
★★★★☆ The Sultan's Daughter (Cape Malay) - Blair Underwood Excellent narrator. Lovely story and moral; doing a kindness when there is no chance of reward.
★★★☆☆ Van Hunks and the Devil (Cape Dutch) - LeVar Burton Urban legend explaining why there's smoke around Table Mountain.
★★☆☆☆ The Clever Snake Charmer (Morocco) - Samuel L. Jackson Great narration. Not as clever as I'd hoped, except for the tiny donkey. He just gives vague answers to riddles and questions posed by the king.
★★☆☆☆ The Enchanting Song of the Magical Bird (Tanzania) - Jurnee Smullett Children sometimes see and hear truths where adults hear only lies.
★★☆☆☆ The Hare and the Tree Spirit (Xhosa, South Africa) - Sophie Okenado A girl is struck dumb after unknowingly she was cursed by an old woman who'd tripped over the girl's rubbish. A hare hoodwinks a man into providing him fresh green meals, until he feels guilty and makes good on the deal he made by helping the girl regain her voice.
★★★★☆ The Mother Who Turned to Dust (Malawi) - Helen Mirren A unique human origin story.
★★★★☆ Fesito Goes to Market (Uganda) - Don Cheadle Telling the difference between those who take advantage of you and those who genuinely need help, and overcoming great difficulty to succeed. Great narration.
Niggling downsides to the audio are: narrators are not introduced nor is the origin of the each tale, the stories are in a radically different order to the paperback and not all of the stories in the paperback are bundled into the audio. Ten are missing, five of which can be found on Audible for which I paid an extra £7:
★★★★☆ The Cat Who Came Indoors (Zimbabwe) - Helen Mirren Even if you're not a cat lover, you'll like this origin story of the cat-human relationship.
★★★★☆ The Lion, the Hare, and the Hyena (Kenya) - Alan Rickman Don't try to break up a relationship in order to befriend one of your victims, it could turn out badly for you.
★★★☆☆ Spider and the Crows (Nigeria) - Don Cheadle Greed can make friends into enemies and leave you rich but without allies.
★★★☆☆ Mmadipetsane (Lesotho) - Alfre Woodard Excellent narration. A disobedient girl dances with danger by encroaching on a monster's territory despite warnings from her mother, until her luck runs out.
★☆☆☆☆ The Cloud Princess (Swaziland) - Matt Damon Stockholm Syndrome. Princess wants to marry her captor. He follows her back to her kingdom where the king tries several times to have him murdered until he decides to return to his home. The princess follows and their gifted with a village of people who worship them.
The others found only in the paperback are:
➛ The Great Thirst (San, South Africa) ➛ Mmutla and Phiri (Botswana) ➛ Kamiyo of the River (Transkei, South Africa) ➛ The Snake with the Seven Heads (Xhosa, South Africa) ➛ The Hare's Revenge (Zambia)
*Read as part of The Dead Writers Society's Around the World challenge....more
Get ready to laugh your f*cking arse off. Actually "Sexy and I Know it" is the perfect soundtrack for this one. Brace yourself.
Cat and Mouse
Get ready to laugh your f*cking arse off. Actually "Sexy and I Know it" is the perfect soundtrack for this one. Brace yourself.
Cat and Mouse
An unconscious 30-year-old man was brought in to us by ambulance. His girlfriend had found him lying naked on the floor of his bathroom and called 999. Upon examination, he was found to have a large lump on his forehead and, strangely, several scratches on his scrotum. The lump was obviously from a fall of some kind, but we couldn’t work out the cause of the scratches until he’d woken up. He said he had been cleaning his bathtub while naked, kneeling on the floor beside the tub. His cat, apparently transfixed by the rhythmic swaying of his scrotum, lunged forward, sinking its claws into this deliciously pendulous target. The man wasn’t sure what had happened next, but clearly he’d jerked forward to protect his package and cracked his skull on the edge of the bath.
Chilli-filled vagina, unchoreographed slapstick, some harmless bestiality, many an ESA (Embarrassing Sexual Accident), fat nurse gets comeuppance, battered woman not actually battered... by a human - nothing is what it appears. You can't make this shit up.
One surgeon has removed from rectums: an unbroken lightbulb, a smashed champagne glass, a prosthetic arm, many toothbrushes, a large rubber ‘Hulk’ fist (and again, two years later), many eggs, and a stapler.
And I'm not sure why but losing an eel up the arse is more common than I'd originally thought.
(Click to see eel in human intestine story)
Also, penis augmentation - why?
An elderly male came in to the surgery with a steel cock ring stuck behind his scrotum and penis, both of which were swollen to four times their usual size (he told us with pride). I asked him how long he had been in this predicament, to which he replied, ‘Three days.’ I asked, ‘Why didn’t you come in sooner?’ His answer: ‘I could still pee, and the wife was happy...’
A warning to those that are sexually active and like a drink:
Rip it Up and Start Again
We were called to an attempted suicide in a student flat. A young couple had been drinking, had a fight, then made up, before falling into a deep sleep. The girlfriend had woken in the early hours, with the sensation that she was soaking wet. Turning on the bedside light and pulling back the covers, she was horrified to discover they were both drenched in blood, huge amounts of it.
She quickly worked out she was okay and it seemed her boyfriend had been driven to try and kill himself as a result of the fight the previous evening. He was unconscious. She called 999 immediately.
When we arrived she was hysterical. The bed was a mess. Like that scene in The Godfather. There was even blood on the walls. But something wasn’t right. We couldn’t find any incisions in his wrists or on his thighs. Although he was totally unconscious his pulse and breathing were normal.
After further examination, it appeared the source of the blood was around his groin area. But again no cuts. My colleague then had a brainwave. He peeled back the lad’s foreskin and sure enough, his frenulum (the piece of skin that runs between the foreskin and the head of the penis – also known by Paramedics as the banjo string) was completely ripped. There was a lovely gaping wound right up to the urethra. Believe it or not, a remarkably common injury when couples have sex drunk – caused by lack of lubrication.
You have been warned.
When the health professionals get to have a little fun:
A man was brought in with a bad case of concussion, which had resulted in extreme short-term memory loss. I’d walk into the room and tell him he had a concussion and he’d explain he had one when he was a kid. This was repeated every time I walked into the room. After about 10 times of doing this, I walked in and told him he had a concussion and he’d had one before when he was a kid. Mind blown. Priceless.
When you realise humanity is doomed:
I asked him if he’d been travelling overseas recently or eaten anything off or odd. This is what he told me: ‘Well, I was at a brothel last night and I may have swallowed some water in the communal spa they have there, would that count?’ And I had to treat this guy.
These two went viral a few years ago:
Fire in the Hole
‘In retrospect, lighting the match was my big mistake, but I was only trying to retrieve the hamster,’ Philip told colleagues in the Severe Burns Unit he’d been rushed to. Philip and his partner William had been admitted for emergency treatment after a felching session had gone seriously wrong. ‘I pushed a cardboard tube up his rectum and slipped Gerald, our Campbell’s hamster, in,’ he said. ‘As usual, Will shouted, “Apocalypse!” – our safe word that he’d had enough. I tried to retrieve Gerald, but he wouldn’t come out again, so I peered into the tube and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him.’ The match must have ignited a pocket of intestinal gas and a flame shot out of the tube, igniting Philip’s hair and severely burning his face. It also set fire to Gerald’s fur and whiskers, which in turn ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the intestinal tract, propelling the hamster out like a cannonball. Philip suffered second-degree burns and a suspected broken nose from the impact of the hamster, while William suffered first and second-degree burns to his anus and lower intestinal tract. I never heard what happened to Gerald the hamster.'
Burned to be Wild
A woman was cleaning up the mess left by her hairy biker husband after he’d decided to strip his motorcycle engine on the kitchen table before putting the parts back together and taking it for a spin. One of the things he was using was a bowl of petrol (apparently it is great for getting rid of grease). She took this bowl and, not knowing what to do with the contents, decided to pour them down the loo. Her husband came back, lit a cigarette and, happy with his bike, went to the bathroom. As he did a wee he threw his cigarette end into the loo. The explosion brought his wife running upstairs, where she found him crumpled against the wall, having been blown backwards through the door, his hair, beard, eyebrows and pubes burnt off and his clothes smouldering. She dialled 999 and we came and took care of him. Hopefully he’ll remember to clean up his own mess in the future...
Do you know how long it took me to write this review? I read this aloud on Christmas Day. Too many quotes I wanted to include; half the book was copied here, and I had to cut it down.
To all the firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, emergency call handlers, dentists and every other health professional, thank you for your service and your stories....more
I am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't foughtI am the product of MLK's "dream" as the daughter of a black mother and white father. Who knows, I might not be here if people like him hadn't fought for racial equality and against segregation.
Brilliant free BBC audio of "I Have A Dream" read by Maya Angelou, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ndileka Mandela (granddaughter of Nelson Mandela), Stevie Wonder, Doreen Lawrence (mother of murdered British teenager Stephen Lawrence), Malala Yousafzai (sixteen-year-old student from Swat in Pakistan, shot by the Taliban for going to school), and a few others.
Each reader seemed to have read a passage personally relevant to them, bringing new meaning to MLK's eloquent words from his impassioned speech delivered to hundreds of thousands of people in Washington 50 years ago, the anniversary of which was yesterday (28th August 2013).
1st read: 29th Aug 2013 of BBC audio 2nd read: 9th Sep 2013 of Paperback ...more
Sold is a lyrically beautiful and graphically descriptive story of an innocent 13-year-old Nepalese girl from the mountains, sold by her oppressive gaSold is a lyrically beautiful and graphically descriptive story of an innocent 13-year-old Nepalese girl from the mountains, sold by her oppressive gambling addict step-father and trafficked into India to become a prostitute in a brothel run by a woman with no morals. There, Lakshmi's body is sold for the price of a Coca-Cola - a luxury she'd once cherished as a poor country girl. When she'd left home, she'd believed she was to become a maid in a rich woman's household in the big city where she could save and send money home to her beloved mother and her baby brother. The reality is soul-crushing. She's told so many lies she doesn't know what to believe.
Justine Eyre's narration is wonderful. I truly believed she was from that part of the world, but it turns out she's just great with accents. I was transfixed by her voice. Lakshmi's pain and horror at her situation is palpable. What makes it worse: once a prostitute, always a prostitute. There's no going home to your family if you manage to escape. You'll be shunned for bringing shame and dishonour to them. The only way out is HIV and death. As Lakshmi's fellow prostitutes fall prey to these, she eventually becomes the one to have resided in the brothel the longest. She survives her sexually-transmitted disease and endures the daily humiliations in the hopes of one day being free.
My only criticism: that Americans were Lakshmi's saviours. The white man. Considering the Author's Note at the end, describing how ex-prostitutes patrol the Nepal-India border and the work of various organisations (like this one) who work with the governments of these nations, it would be much easier to infiltrate these despicable places if the 'rescuers' were Indian themselves.
I think the most unconventional family I've come across was in a documentary about a couple who were gay female-to-male transgendered. One of them had undergone gender reassignment surgery and the other used his uterus to have babies via a sperm donor. They had three or four children and were loving parents.
Love is love, and family is what you make it. If any child in a neglectful or abusive situation were to be offered a loving home with a gay couple, I'm sure they'd jump at the chance. As long as the children are loved, who really cares if their parents are gay, straight or transgendered?...more
The Sparrow is a huge improvement over its predecessor The First. Whereas The First serves as an introductio*Cross-posted on BookLikes and Wordpress.
The Sparrow is a huge improvement over its predecessor The First. Whereas The First serves as an introduction to a world where the dead suddenly return alive, The Sparrow delves into the moral issues that arise from it. Are the Returned human? Are they still the people they were when they died? How is this possible: Is it magic or can science explain it? And do we sacrifice our humanity in seeking the answers to these questions?
Married couple Heather and Matt face these questions when they discover Returned little girl Tatiana. Heather embraces the child, accepting and caring for her while husband Matt treats the Returnee as a thing to be exploited:
"These things aren't people. They're something else. And if there's a way for us to capitalize on this, then I'm all for that."
Heather is appalled at his reaction but replies with compassion, hoping to change his mind:
"If I could see my mother again... If my mother somehow shows up in all of this, if I get a call that she's been found in some far-off part of the world, I'd pray to God that the person who finds her would take care of her, that they would get her back to me, that they would have the decency to let me decide whether or not she was real, whether or not I could love her again."
Fear and uncertainty in the face of this bizarre phenomenon is to be expected, but the actions taken driven by these feelings have shown to be, in some cases, unaccountably violent and homicidal. In an attempt to understand Matt's rejection of Tatiana, Heather believes that since he's never experienced loss, he's unable to reconcile what the Returned can mean to those left behind in their grief:
'Heather was certain that Matt's problem with Tatiana stemmed from the fact that he had never lost anyone. Both of his parents were still alive. His brothers and sisters, even his grandparents, were all still alive. He had never known the loneliness of waking in the middle of the night from a dream of spending time with a mother who had been dead nearly a decade.'
The object of contention, Tatiana, is shown to be a normal human child and nothing indicates that she is otherwise. She possesses memories of her former life with loving parents, who took it in turns to make up bedtime stories to entertain her. Unfortunately her short life, and that of her mother's, was cut short when violence came to her home in what I assumed to be the Rwandan genocide in 1994, leaving her father bereft and alone (who was away at the time, helping those in need).
I'm definitely looking forward to the next installments of this series....more
The ultimate battle between entertainment devices: old versus new, low-tech versus high tech; pitching friends - a donkey and a monkey - against eachThe ultimate battle between entertainment devices: old versus new, low-tech versus high tech; pitching friends - a donkey and a monkey - against each other.
These days we're more likely to pick up a shiny and versatile iPad before we'd even look at the one-trick pony of a book, dismissing their simplicity by thinking it's synonymous with boring. Far from it! The simple things in life can be the most enjoyable.
I can imagine children having this exact conversation either among themselves or with an adult. It's a cute way to introduce children to the now old fashioned notion of holding and reading a physical book.
As soon as I was done fawning over this I passed it on to my sick mother who's been miserable of late and it produced a fit of laughter - a surprisingly happy sound I've been missing of late.
Beautifully illustrated with such an adorable and timely little story to perk up anyone's day, It's a Book... so awesome it should be on every child's bibliophile's bookshelf....more
Ever wanted to question the specifics of a villian's clichéd world domination plan? Call a villain out on the infantile nature of it, presenting the dEver wanted to question the specifics of a villian's clichéd world domination plan? Call a villain out on the infantile nature of it, presenting the difficulties he'll face in accomplishing such a feat, and then maintaining leadership should he succeed? Skullduggery Pleasant does all that and more with his quick, dry wit and that sharp, sarcastic tongue of his, and it's deliciously satisfying and rib-ticklingly funny. An excellent non-essential freebie.
Cynical people: it's worse than you can even imagine. Privacy infringements, systematic exploitation of children and African Americans, government corCynical people: it's worse than you can even imagine. Privacy infringements, systematic exploitation of children and African Americans, government corruption, and a willful disregard of consumers' health. Moss's three and a half years of investigative reporting for Salt Sugar Fat were well worth the effort, though his writing isn't concise, and boring when it came to describing the careers of food scientists he clearly admires, the points he makes are startling and incredibly important. Although America is the primary country talked about, the problems discussed are global issues.
Children and people of African descent are the most vulnerable when it comes to salt, sugar and fat, because they're more prone to acquiring a diet high in all those things, and the food industry has been quick to take advantage by adding more and more SSFs to out compete other brands by appealing to people's taste buds instead of their health, keeping an eye on their bottom lines and not their customers' waistlines.
Before reading, I believed it was your responsibility to eat healthily, but reading about America's neglectful and downright harmful governmental practices, allowing food companies to fudge the nutritional information on their products, stops the grocery shopper from making an informed decision about what they wish to put inside their bodies, and therefore food companies are indeed responsible for various serious health conditions, i.e. obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease (cholesterol), and cancers. 'The top contributors to weight gain included red meat and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and potatoes' in all its forms.
SSF addicts are referred to as "heavy users" by companies, though even their ex-presidents and CEOs (many of whom Moss personally interviewed) admit the harm they've caused, feel guilty about their part in it, and actively avoid consuming their own products. Jeffrey Dunn, ex-president of Coca-Cola, developed Dasani bottled water and stopped marketing in schools, but was ultimately fired, for which he was grateful, and now he only works with healthy foods.
Privacy infringements abound: Coke data-mined customer loyalty cards; General Foods 'had mass-mailing lists composed entirely of the names and addresses of children, in order to better target them with promotions.'
Insidious marketing strategies are plentiful: pushing comics like 'The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man' published by Marvel; multiple child-friendly websites pushing junk food; advertising to those who've over-indulged, targeting people with diabetes for their sugar-free products; adding vitamins or a smidgen of fruit for a false healthy image e.g. Capri Sun; or removing real ingredients that you'd think would be essential e.g. Cheez Whiz no longer contains real cheese.
Parallels are drawn with the tobacco industry and the health crises surrounding it, and it just so happens Philip Morris, having made its dough in tobacco, now owns a cadre of food brands. Our food is handled by large conglomerates controlling hundreds of brands, who pump potentially harmful artificial additives and who knows what else (oh, wait horsemeat) into our food. Maybe it's time we invested in the little guys going it alone again, where the people in control know exactly what's in their food, and the distance between the guy on the ground floor and the one in the big office on the top floor, is a lot shorter.
'Take more than a little salt, or sugar, or fat out of processed food, these experiments showed, and there is nothing left. Or, even worse, what is left are the inexorable consequences of food processing, repulsive tastes that are bitter, metallic, and astringent.'
Moss suggests taxing SSFs before they're added to processed foods, though companies will probably pass on that cost to consumers. He also advocates the use of more herbs and spices, but again, since salt is so cheap compared to alternatives, they'd rather stick with what they know than spend more on higher quality, healthier alternatives. Or, we as a society, need to go back to eating the standard three (fresh) meals a day when we ate SSFs in moderation instead of snacking on convenience foods.
Now it's becoming harder to peddle SSFs to the public in developed countries, they're despicably looking to exploit the Third World developing nations like India and Brazil.
I started my first official diet with the help of MyFitnessPal.com just before reading SSF, and it's made me acutely aware of what I'm eating. Now I read the back of every item while grocery shopping, before deciding to buy it. My nemesis are grain-based carbs, potatoes, orange juice, and butter. I don't have a problem with salt and my 'bliss point' for sugar dropped considerably in my late teens, which is the last time I drank soda.
Salt Sugar Fat is definitely a highly recommended read.
SUGAR (a methamphetamine)
✺ Cocaine acts on the brain in a similar way to sugar: '...researchers have conditioned rats to expect an electrical shock when they eat cheesecake, and they still lunge for it.' Drugs countering the effects of opiates curb the appeal of high fat, high sugar snacks. ✺ Nearly every food contains some amount of sugar, naturally occurring in fruit, veg, and milk, so we have no need for 'added sugar'. ✺ Sugar is an analgesic (a pain killer). ✺ Americans consume '22 teaspoons of sugar, per person, per day', yet 5 teaspoons are recommended -that's half a can of Coke. ✺ Fructose is sweeter than glucose and table sugar combined, and has been commercially available since the 1980s. ✺ Sugar has a 'bliss point' - a Goldilocks amount, that creates the most pleasure. ✺ Sweetened foods make you more hungry, not less. ✺ Sweet liquids bypass the body's controls preventing weight gain. Soda and fruit juice concentrates are liquid sugar. ✺ Cereals contain up to 70% sugar, and some believe cereals over 50% sugar should be sold as candy. ✺ The Cola War with Pepsi saw Coke inventing supersizing, endorsement deals, and combination deals (e.g. burger with fries), they even put Cokes into the hands of soldiers in WWII at a loss, all to encourage brand loyalty and addiction. ✺ Coke's biggest ingredient is water, followed by sugar, then caffeine. Hypertention and diabetes in a bottle - Mmm, healthy.
FAT (an opiate)
✺ 9 calories per gram, twice that of sugar or protein. ✺ Sugar masks and enhances the taste of fat, encouraging you to eat more. ✺ No 'bliss point' for fat, the more the better. ✺ Whole milk is only 3% fat. ✺ American eat up to 33 pounds of cheese per year (60,000 calories), triple the amount in 1970s. It's the biggest source of saturated fat in American diets, followed by red meat, then cakes and cookies. ✺ Industrialisation of cows bred indoors on a diet of corn and fat, has increased milk production but lowered the nutritious value of the milk. ✺ When Americans moved to low fat milk, the excess fat was converted to cheese, and the American government protected the dairy industry by ludicrously buying up the excess cheese and beef. Cheese-products were made: mac & cheese, meaty pizzas, etc. Even celeb chefs were asked to promote cheese in cookbooks. On behalf of producers, the government aggressively marketed cheese and beef to the American public (and in Mexico). ✺ "Chilled prepared foods" saw the introduction of Lunchables, containing a child's maximum daily allowance of saturated fat and salt, and more than a can of Coke's worth of sugar. ✺ The Department of Agriculture has ignored experts in its Center for Nutrition and has conspired to get the public to eat more. ✺ 'Lean meat' doesn't necessarily mean low fat. ✺ McDonald's was the first to remove "pink slime" from its burgers. ✺ When opening a package containing multiple servings, you're more likely to eat the whole thing.
✺ 'Sodium pulls fluids from the body's tissues and into the blood, which raises the blood volume and compels the heart to pump more forcefully.' This causes high blood pressure. ✺ The least addictive of the big three. ✺ We learn this addiction, it's not innate like sugar and fat. ✺ Low salt diets increase taste sensitivity to salt, so less is eaten. ✺ It's a preservative, masks bitterness, sweetens sugar, adds crunch to things like crackers. ✺ 2,300mg recommended maximum per day. ✺ England's Food Standards Agency set a limit on how much salt a product could contain and discouraged of salt substitute potassium chloride, effecting US-based companies the most. ✺ Processed meats contain added salt e.g. bacon. ✺ Cargill, one of the wealthiest privately-owned companies in the world, sells 17 types of sweeteners, 40 types of salt, 21 oils and shortenings.
The Horsemeat Scandal
The below paragraph shows me how easy it would be for the European horsemeat scandal to spread to the US:
'the Department of Agriculture is actually complicit in the meat industry's secrecy. [...] The burger that Stephanie [paralyzed by E.Coli] ate, made by Cargill, had been an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of the cow and from multiple slaughterhouses as far away as Uruguay. The meat industry, with the blessing of the federal government, was intentionally avoiding steps that could make their products safer for consumers. The E. Coli starts in the slaughterhouses, where feces tainted with the pathogen can contaminate the meat when the hides of cows are pulled off. Yet many of the biggest slaughterhouses would sell their meat only to hamburger makers like Cargill if they agreed not to test their meat for E. Coli until it was mixed together with shipments from other slaughterhouses. This insulated the slaughterhouses from costly recalls when the pathogen was found in ground beef, but it also prevented the government officials and the public from tracing the E. Coli back to its source. When it comes to pathogens in the meat industry, ignorance is financial bliss.'
"Vulnerability scares us, very deeply. To feel your body being forcibly penetrated by another human being is an experience of such utter, terrifying"Vulnerability scares us, very deeply. To feel your body being forcibly penetrated by another human being is an experience of such utter, terrifying vulnerability and helplessness that most people recoil from the thought. To overcome that resistance, to actually identify with the experience and the person who suffers it, is an act of profound empathy, and considerable courage. Most people, frankly, are not up to the challenge; certainly not without a lot of support..." ~ David Lisak
Rape is Rape successfully shines the light on widespread, harmful misconceptions about rape using detailed high profile cases of the likes of Julian Assange and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, emotive real-life victim accounts, and analysing the opinions and rulings of influential people.
Defining rape itself is the first major problem. Many have strict and narrow opinions on its meaning. Just checking the most widely used online dictionaries proves how restrictive, stereotypical and gendered official definitions are. Strangely, Wikipedia has one of the best:
'Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent.'
For more inclusive, realistic and acceptable definitions you have to look at criminal legislation. UK and US law cover different types of rape and the issue of consent.
The spreading of misinformation and the resulting confusion hurts victims because they're less likely to report a rape if they (a) are ignorant of the legal definition of rape and sexual assault, (b) ignorant of how to report it, (c) believe they lack proof, (d) are embarrassed and don't want anyone to know, (e) fear bad treatment by the police, (f) think the accused will be able to retaliate for reporting them, (g) don't see high profile rapists convicted, believing they'll have less chance of justice.
A CDC study concluded more than 1 in 10 American women aged 18+ are raped, 620,000 in the last year. In the UK, 1 in 20 women aged 16+ is raped (1 in 5 including other sexual offences), averaging 85,000 per year for women and 12,000 for men. University campus rape appears the most prevalent type no matter where you live. Disturbingly, one study on marital rape showed 5% of women 'said their partner has forced their children to participate in the rape, and 18% reported their children has witnessed an incident of marital rape at least once.'
"Rape is not about sex at all. This isn't just bad sex ... How could anyone think that? It isn't even sex. Sex is consensual and rape is not. This isn't sex. Is it sex for the rapist? I don't think rapists know sex as sex. This is using sex as a weapon."
Rape is the exertion of power and control to humiliate, possessively take ownership of the victim's body and treating it as less than worthless. 'Society's responses to rape further the rapists' humiliation of victims.'
Rape deniers attack statistics and studies, like that of Mary Koss, for using 'overbroad definitions' for what they perceive as 'bad sex' when those studies follow the legal definition. In effect, they're challenging the law itself. Feminists caught minimising the importance of rape, Raphael posits, are fearful of the reversal of women's liberation, sexual and otherwise, yet by not acknowledging the seriousness of this crime they're not supporting the majority of its victims: women, hurting the very people they wish to empower.
'Denying rape makes society unsafe for women and allows predators to go free.'
Perhaps those that deny and minimise rape should put themselves in a victim's shoes and look to feel the empathy Lisak speaks of in the opening paragraph of my review. After reading the personal accounts of victims' experiences of the rape and the journey afterwards, you can't fail to sympathise and gain some understanding of post-traumatic stress and problems with the institutional processes and practices victims encounter when reporting their attack, and the changes required to prevent further traumatization.
80-90% of victims know their attacker, quashing the notion of the much hyped and stereotyped 'stranger danger'. We strongly believe the people we trust the most aren't monsters and vehemently deny what very well may be the truth. Accepting we're not at fault for not knowing about the accused's behaviour and that being connected to them does not necessarily reflect badly on the type of person you are, are the first steps in working past the disbelief and seeking the facts.
The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women (my review) is referenced several times (which prompted me to pause my reading of Rape Is Rape to read that before continuing), Raphael whole-heartedly agreeing with Valenti's views on this subject. Anyone can be raped, not just women, and not just virgins. Both see the "All men are rapists" line is unnecessarily inflammatory, but it's possible the rapists believe this. Everyone has the potential to rape, that doesn't make everyone a rapist. Using men's testosterone-infused, cliched high sex drives as an excuse for rape belittles men and assumes they possess no self-control and don't know right from wrong.
In the same breath as alleviating the accused (i.e. men) of guilt, the victims (i.e. women) are blamed, and yet 'forgetting to set the antiburglary alarm or getting robbed despite "neighborhood watch" does not exculpate the thieves.' If we're not criticising them for their supposedly risky behaviour ('she was asking for it' responses for: the way the victim was dressed, being drunk, walking home alone at night, etc. part of the victim blamer's philosophy), we're subjecting them to polygraphs (unreliable as stress increases the chances of failing), scrutinise their sexual histories (slut shaming), carry out (sometimes gratuitous) rape exams with rape kits that are never analysed despite taking four hours in which one victim describes it as follows:
"After undressing in front of strangers, I was poked, prodded, scraped, swabbed, combed and photographed. I wouldn't wish it one anyone."
Then having those colour photos of their genitals passed around jurors and shown on television screens to the entire court. A judge threatening an amnesiac rape victim with jail for contempt of court for failing to agree to watch the footage of her own rape so she could be questioned about it, is evidence of harrassment and an attempt to humiliate the victim. 'That members of the community would blame an eleven-year-old child for her own rape shows the extent to which victim blaming has become accepted in our culture.' I completely understand why more don't come forward or decide to recant their statements when they're seemingly punished for being violated by a rapist.
If victims aren't blamed then their met with indifference or they're accused of lying, vindictively making false rape claims to punish a man. Women have been demonsied as seducers and liars since Eve was perceived to have corrupted Adam.
The media often publish more column inches and attribute more importance to false rape claims, sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of readers when presented with accusations, driving 'out compassion for real victims.' The media also tend to use euphemisms for rape rather than calling a spade a spade, deliberately confusing the issue, for example 'Paedophile, 25, had sex with girl, 12' should be 'Paedophile, 25, raped girl, 12.'
'A rape report cannot be considered false if the person describing the crime is unable to provide corroboration that it happened or if investigators decide it did not occur based on their own views of that person's credibility. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports Handbook, this is an inconclusive or unsubstantiated report and not a false one.'
Police are often criticised for failing to report accurate figures of rape, hiding cases or dismissing them as false. 'Institutions such as churches, schools and colleges, social organizations, and the military, among others, provide a steady source of victims for predators.' By ignoring or supporting the perpetrators, these institutions are validating and encouraging this behaviour by facilitating its continuance. They might want to keep in mind that failure to report the crime is illegal in some places. Failure to charge a perpetrator by a prosecutor for what they perceive to be a low chance of conviction or their own prejudices, denies victims a chance of justice and puts the larger community at risk by allowing a predator to prey on more individuals. Alternatively, if criminal prosecution doesn't work, civil litigation may scare a rapist enough to prevent further rapes.
"If you don't fight tooth and nail and be on the verge of death, it is simply unbelievable. Compare that with someone who goes to the police and says someone she met in a bar broke into her house to steal something. Under no circumstances would anyone question a victim who makes that type of report."
One victim account says she wished she could relive her rape so she could 'do it right' and fight back more or that she'd been killed so people would believe her. Not fighting or stopping resistance does not equal consent; it's another survival instinct -less chance of serious injury or death. Unfortunately, "society doesn't believe the woman until she takes a step to harm herself."
One study on the vulnerabilities of rape victims including: aged under 18, mental health issue(s), currently/previously intimate with offender, had consumed alcohol or drugs prior to the attack. 87% of victims had at least one vulnerability. This proves opportunism -rapists calculating how likely they are to succeed in raping their victim, and getting away with it. Of all of the factors noted, consuming alcohol or drugs are the only things a victim can control.
Ideally, I wished the following had been included:
✻ Male rape. Apart from the brief mentions of a rape victim's partner who'd been raped in the military, of prison rape, and one CDC study of child victims, male rape isn't discussed. Perhaps this is due to few studies on male rape and the low number of reported cases to the police and in the media. However, I don't see why the reasons for this and societal perceptions of male victims couldn't be examined. Why not look at prison rape? Prisoner-on-prisoner ('don't drop the soap') and guard-on-prisoner which is more prevalent than authorities like to admit.
✻ Children raping children. An intricate dynamic I'd have liked the author to have addressed. It's shocking how young some of the aggressors are, and their victims.
✻ Rape victims raped again. I believe rape victims are more likely than any other group to be raped again because the first rape compounded the vulnerabilities they original had beforehand, making them even easier prey. And again, this isn't discussed.
✻ Rape in entertainment. Raphael doesn't explore positive and negative depictions of rape in TV (e.g. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), movies, and books. Nor is rape fantasy, a highly controversial topic which I myself recently came to terms with after reading twoFeministing articles criticising Katie Roiphe's views on female fantasies of sexual submission.
While I wish a little more was included, what's in these pages is pure gold for unveiling the truth and prevalence of rape in the West and suggesting improvements to the way we perceive and report rape. It's imperative and supremely relevant that we pursue justice for victims and protect our more vulnerable members of society, and this is supported by recent global events.
My request for the ARC was accepted on the day a 23-year old gang rape victim died of her injuries in Delhi. Six men were arrested for raping and murdering her on a moving bus. Soutik Biswas responds with an article on How India Treats its Women, showing why it's the 'worst country in which to be a woman.' Sympathy is scarce for the accused after it was alleged "They were beaten most bruatally. They were forced to drink urine and from the toilet. They were sexually assaulted with sticks in their backside. Whatever statements they made were made under duress and worthless." While this has sparked anger at the victim blaming, Feminist Spring protests have been male dominated ironically due to the risk of rape, which was followed by another rape on an Indian bus and an Indian school. This prompted proposals for change.
'Savile got away with it because we let him, and he knew we would let him. He knew his victims would be trapped between horror and a twisted sense of privilege at being hit on by someone famous. He conferred chocolates on favoured victims to normalise his abuse, and he made resistance appear abnormal. If it came to his word against some starstruck minor's, he knew who would be believed. When, latterly, standards began to change, he counter-attacked with the threat of libel lawyers.' (Source)
*One Billion Rising is an annual global campaign for the one billion beaten and raped to protest on February 14.
Kudos to any author who can successfully leash a villainous character, harness his world-ending abilities for good, and elicit genuine sympathy for hiKudos to any author who can successfully leash a villainous character, harness his world-ending abilities for good, and elicit genuine sympathy for him by revealing a truly unique and horrific childhood.
Okay, all that sounds rather corny and generally off-putting, but I swear, it’s not. This long-awaited novel’s political backdrop is a game-changer. Be prepared for shock and awe. And the real identity of The Ghost....more
*Warning:Much violence described in this review. Not for those with weak stomachs. Seriously.
Weak and cowardly - that's what the people of this book*Warning:Much violence described in this review. Not for those with weak stomachs. Seriously.
Weak and cowardly - that's what the people of this book would believe of us in the developed world today. We'd call ourselves civilised and our forbears barbarians, but humanity's managed to survive through some exceptionally horrific times. Many lessons can certainly be learned from our history.
Some Survival Tips:
✻ Expedition of exploration is code for "suicide mission". ✻ If a relative or close friend is/could be in a position of power and authority, run far away and go into hiding. ✻ Never love anyone. They can be used against you or slaughtered in front of you. ✻ Never own anything worth killing for. ✻ When war breaks out, relocate from the warzone. ✻ Be willing to switch religion at a moment's notice. ✻ Any weapon you possess may be used against you. ✻ If you're an executioner, always keep your blade sharp. ✻ Hide all books in a fireproof place, behind lock and key.
Funny, informative and riveting. One Bloody Thing After Another reads like an adult version of Horrible Histories, divulging all the best bits and possibly the least well known parts of our bloody world history in an engrossing and funny manner. Illustrations and maps of territories belonging to different empires throughout the ages are included. All were perfectly rendered on my Kindle.
Events are covered up to 1900 and range from the natural disasters like plague, earthquake and volcanic eruption, to the man-made horrors of war, genocide, serial killers, assassinations, and the crazy inventive methods and devices of torture. Brief but detailed summaries of events are given in easily digestible chunks, each one taking up only a handful of paragraphs so it was hard to get bored. Origin stories of certain fictional works are described, for example, Gilles de Rais was the inspiration for Bluebeard by Charles Perrault.
The torture. Yikes. Be careful what you invent in the way of devices because someone might turn around and use it against you, as in the case of the Brazen Bull. I wouldn't mind if the Wall Street Bull was converted so we can roast a few fat cat bankers. I'll provide the marshmallows.
While we're on the subject, I'm calling shenanigans on the double standard regarding female torturers and serial killers receiving lame punishments when their male counterparts were tortured and killed for their crimes. Examples:
❶ Elizabeth Báthory had her servant girls 'beaten and their lips pierced with pins' and 'red-hot irons were pressed on to the feet and mouths'. 'Victims were dragged naked into the snow and had water poured onto them until they froze to death. One servant girl was stripped, covered with honey and left overnight to be stung and bitten by insects.' At age 44 her husband died (1604). New servant girls were acquired and 'daughters of the gentry were invited to live in her castle.' 'At least 300 girls and women, nobly born as well as commoners ... were put to death in an inhuman and cruel manner. She cut their flesh and made them grill it; afterwards she would make them eat bits of their own body.'
Punishment: 'Lifelong house arrest in the castle where she had committed her foul deeds.'
❷ Darya Saltykova in 1756 inherited 600 serfs from her husband and promptly started torturing them for pleasure. Several years and the unexplained disappearance of 138 girls later, she was found guilty of murdering 38 serfs.
Punishment: 1 hour in a pillory in Moscow and imprisoned in an underground cell in a convent where she experienced total darkness until death in 1801.
❸ Ranavalona proclaimed herself queen of Madagascar in 1828 and began torturing, crucifying and beheading Christians. 'Brigands, runaway slaves and rebels were flayed alive, sawn in half or had their testicles slowly crushed.' *winces* She also tested for treason in arbitrary ways similar to the identification of witches, one of which involved 'progressive amputation'. 'After each amputation, the victim was invited to confess their crimes.' Most died from shock and blood loss.
Punishment: In 1861 she died in her sleep. No punishment meted out.
Hardly justice for those that suffered at their soft, pampered hands. Perhaps being rich has its perks.
But successful innocent women were also suspicious. Poor Hypatia, 'head of the Platonist School in the city [Alexandria, Egypt] and possibly the first major female mathematician' was rumoured to practise witchcraft. Of course, she was. She was also vocally against the persecutions of Jews. What happened to her? Apprehended, taken to a church to be stripped and beaten to death. Charming.
Boudica and Joan of Arc also met violent ends, but they participated in and started wars so it was a hazard of the job. Surprisingly, there were methods of violence against women I had never considered, for instance the ripping out of foetuses and either killing them or sewing them to the mouths/breasts of their mothers. Sadistic. Breast mutilation and removal, also quite common. And now my mind is conceiving of methods not mentioned.
I apologise to friends and followers for my over-eager and excessive status updates for this 190-page book clogging up your feeds. Honestly, I tried to limit them in number and keep the most gruesome parts out to protect any weak stomachs.
Boring history is boring no longer with this book. Anyone even vaguely interested should give it a go, because I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Currently available for £1.09 in the UK Kindle Sale!...more
It took me by surprise how much I loved this classic and how eerily relevant and applicable it is considering today's politics, Britain's in particulaIt took me by surprise how much I loved this classic and how eerily relevant and applicable it is considering today's politics, Britain's in particular. The Arab Spring is also a good example of a modern day Animal Farm.
I highlighted this one to death. In pencil, of course. I'm not a barbarian....more
The cosy, old school hand-painted illustration of a book-cluttered hall in karen's review together with the title The Library enticed me to grab this,The cosy, old school hand-painted illustration of a book-cluttered hall in karen's review together with the title The Library enticed me to grab this, appropriately, from my local library. I'm so glad I did!
Yes, I'll grudgingly admit I'm not a child anymore, but I'm well aware of these new soulless block-colour, crisp-lined, computer-generated illustrations which frankly offend my senses, that seeing something lovingly created the old fashioned way warms my heart and fills me with child-like glee. I sound ancient with my When I was young..., I'm really not, though. Unless you think being in your twenties, old.
In simple rhyming rhythm the story is told of every seriously obsessive bibliophile [put your hand up if you are one - *waves*] named Elizabeth Brown. From birth it seems she loved books, and I mean loved them, as in addicted to buying them, storing them in every place she can, and reading every minute she can spare throughout every stage of her life.
The ending, I won't spoil it, in 1995 could be quite different now with the advent and popularity of e-readers, which is a shame. But it reminds me of the pledge made by Lionel Shriver in the adult essay compilation of a similar name, The Library Book.
There are more words in this review than there are in the book. You know what? I enjoyed this so much I. must. buy. it. Don't tell anyone, will you? I all ready have overflowing bookshelves myself, despite the Kindle by my bed.
Perhaps I should make a pledge of my very own. :D...more
Reactive Attachment Disorder is an incredibly sad thing because it's the hallmark of neglect, parental and otherwise, sometimes leading to 'excessive familiarity with relative strangers' to fulfil the all-consuming need for love, attention and affection they've never received. Witnessing Mandy forming unhealthy attachments to people she's just met is excruciating. Once you hear her story, you just want to pull her away from her old life and insecurities, give her a hug, take her home and take care of her and her unborn baby.
I felt for each and every one of the characters. They may not be the most likeable in the world but they're real, complicated and going through terrible times. I understood why each acted as they did: why Jill rejected the notion of her mother adopting a baby so soon after her dad died, why Robin (Jill's mother) wanted to do this and why she didn't go through legal channels to do so, and why Mandy lied so she could find a loving home for her baby to grow up in, thereby preventing her from suffering the same childhood she did and growing up to be like her or her mother.
I sympathised with Jill. Struggling with her identity, redefining herself after her dad's death and figuring out what she wants and who she wants to be is difficult enough, but then having to accept this new person into your life who'll provide you with a baby sister, puts on even more pressure to come to terms with her grief, with her future and the need to move on, embrace life and take risks again.
It's a deeply moving and depressing read, so much so that I was desperate for the predictable happily ever after. Thankfully, I got it. I would've been pretty mad if I hadn't. A new family and a new beginning is formed from the wreckage of four lives, bringing me to tears with the emotive subject matters of abuse, grief and fear for the future and the truly deep and realistic observations in the writing, together with fact that four lives, not one or two, are saved, make this a rare and favourite read....more
Did you know Barbie dolls were modelled after blonde German sex dolls called Bild Lilli? Disturbing to know I played with a sex doll as a child. o_O
CDid you know Barbie dolls were modelled after blonde German sex dolls called Bild Lilli? Disturbing to know I played with a sex doll as a child. o_O
Chapter One: Raunch Culture Published in 2006 one would assume Female Chauvinist Pigs would be fairly up-to-date, but it becomes obvious quite quickly that much has changed in the six years since this was written. Here, Levy focuses on the late nineties and early noughties, in the days of Sex and the City, Sexcetera, and Eurotrash, producing nauseating examples of raunch, harassment and coercion of women, exploiting them and their insecurities for entertainment and profit. Playboy's hypocrisy is maddening.
I could almost picture Levy's lips curling with distain and hear the disgust in her voice as she makes judgements about what women do with their own bodies. Framing her concerns in terms of self-respect and self-worth would encourage these strippers and porn stars she castigates, to listen to her arguments. Her angle seems to be to comment and complain rather than influence change to the status quo, therefore FCP appears at this stage only marketable to conservative types, or at least those that keep their private parts private.
Nevertheless, she does tell both sides of the story by using, as examples, the women who embrace, participate and perpetuate raunch culture, and Hugh Hefner and Playboy, letting their own words and actions speak for themselves. However, there is no mention of disadvantaged backgrounds or anything else that could lead them women to turn to raunch. [She rectifies this in Chapter 6.]
Chapter Two: The Future That Never Happened Less relevant to me as a non-American was the description of American feminist history, most of which was completely new and confusing to me, though, in the end, I grasped Levy's messages.
The ultimate (ideal) feminist goal:
“Women as a class have never subjugated another group; we have never marched off to wars of conquest in the name of the fatherland ... those are the games men play.We see it differently. We want to be neither oppressor nor the oppressed. The women’s revolution is the final revolution of them all. [...] The goals of liberation go beyond the simple concept of equality.”
Feminism diversified and splintered into the anti-porn feminists vs. sex-positive feminists, the former believing porn degrades women and feeds rape culture, while the latter thought porn empowering; evidence of sexual emancipation and freedom to pursue active sex lives, like that of men.
Raunch culture was pervasive, unrelenting. At its emergence, when it wasn't instantly rejected, it's subversive nature, working in the background until those you'd expect to denounce it embraced it instead, even feminists. That's when it became socially acceptable. The saying, 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile' comes to mind.
[Levy's thoroughly ruined "sexy" for me. She'd probably like that since we agree it's been co-opted as a slang term for "cool".]
Chapter Three: Female Chauvinist Pigs
'Why worry about disgusting or degrading when you could be giving - or getting - a lap dance yourself? Why try to beat them when you can join them?’
‘Them’ being men. Joining men meant taking part in male activities i.e. forgetting the feminist cause upheld by your forebears and participating in the un-sister-like behaviour of denigrating your fellow woman by acting like a man. In effect, they switch teams and start actively working against feminist goals and promote male ones. ‘FCPs don't bother to question the criteria on which women are judged, they are too busy judging other women themselves.’
In turning ‘traitor,’ FCPs can be interpreted as Uncle Toms. ‘An Uncle Tom is a person who deliberately upholds the stereotypes assigned to his or her marginalized group in the interest of getting ahead with the dominant group.’ Upholding sexist stereotypes and mimicking male behaviour by positioning themselves as the exception to the rule, setting themselves apart from other (inferior) women –‘the girly-girls’, ingratiates FCPs to men by showing them they share a similar mindset, thereby reinforcing anti-feminist views once the subject of them (women) accepts them.
So Levy theorises there are two types of FCP:
(1) ‘acting like a cartoon man-who drools over strippers, says things like "check out that ass," and brags about having the "biggest cock in the building"' (2) 'or acting like a cartoon woman, who has cartoon breasts, wears little cartoon outfits, and can only express her sexuality by spinning around a pole.’
Both involve pleasing and seeking the approval of others rather than being true to individual wants and needs.
Chapter Four: From Womyn to Bois Lesbianism and the transgendered are the examined in this chapter.
Butch (masculine lesbians) and femmes (feminine lesbians) I've heard of, bois is a new one on me. They seem to be characterised as behaving similar to teenage boys: unsophisticated, immature, letting their id control their actions.
[There is] 'another camp of bois who date femmes exclusively and follow a locker-room code of ethics referenced by the phrase "bros before hos" or "bros before bitches," which means they put the similarly masculine identified women they hang out with in a different, higher category than the feminine women they have sex with. This school of bois tends to adhere to almost comically unreconstructed fifties gender roles. They just reposition themselves as the ones who wear the pants-they take Feminist Chauvinist Piggery to a whole different level.'
I'm in complete agreement with Rosskum on finding 'the idea that there are two distinct genders and nothing in between constricting and close-minded.' Physically, genetically, hormonally and psychologically -One person can be a different gender in each of those categories (intersex). XX and XY are not the be all and end all to gender identification.
'Women are actually becoming men' and 'Elective cosmetic surgery - implants for straight women, mastectomies for FTMs (female-to-male transexuals) - is popular to the point of being faddish. Non-committal sex is widespread, and frequently prefigured by a public spectacle.'
Why so much body modification (or mutilation)? Genuine need for plastic surgery to aid reconstruction after injury or cancer, psychological requirement (e.g. gender dysphoria, severely impeding quality of life), or fear of dangerous situations (e.g. revirginization of girls worried about repercussions from religious community) -Those I understand, but to make possibly life-altering decisions when succumbing to peer pressure or to conform for acceptance is profoundly sad.
Almost exclusively focusing on specific subgroups of women in two metropolitan areas (San Francisco and New York City) of one country, such as the career woman, the stripper, masculine lesbians (butch and bois), FTMs, serves to highlight extremes among minorities some of which the global media may have made popular and as a result, socially acceptable, to the detriment of the feminist cause (i.e. equality with men) and the benefit of masculinism by reconfirming the superiority of men.
Unrepresentative of the larger population, these generalisations based on small groups aren’t necessarily indicative of a larger problem and treating them as such may hurt Levy’s message when some of us haven’t experienced or witnessed the examples given (but just because we've not encountered something doesn't mean it doesn't exist), and fail to see or understand the relationships between certain behaviours, causes and effects detailed.
Culturally speaking, on the whole, this is only directly applicable to metropolitan America, and to a lesser extent other developed countries, because feminism isn't always recognised or is oppressed in the developing world.
Chapter Five: Pigs in Training By far the best chapter, describing the feelings and actions of teenage girls, and the ineffectual sex education they receive.
A girl's self-worth is derived from the attention of boys, competition with other girls for a boy's attention results in dressing provocatively, flirting, the flashing of 'assets', performing oral sex on boys, intercourse and publicly documenting nudity or sexual acts and sharing them to increase one's popularity. Sadly, peer pressure seems to dictate when girls lose their virginity rather than thrill-seeking curiosity and the pursuit of pleasure.
At no point does it occur to these girls to request reciprocal oral sex, and have difficulty recognising, expressing and experiencing sexual desire, and sex education doesn't teach 'sexuality as a larger more complex, more fundamental part of being human.' Instead guilt-ridden Christian America has spent $1bn in ten years teaching abstinence while ignoring contraception or lying about its effectiveness. The message children receive is:
'Girls have to be hot. Girls who aren't hot probably need breast implants. Once a girl is hot, she should be as close to naked as possible all the time. Guys should like it. Don't have sex.'
Chapter Six: Shopping for Sex Levy's highly critical of Sex and the City, Carrie in particular, because she 'rarely evaluated her own happiness' and instead 'measur[ed] men's interest' which is a 'flawed guide to empowerment.' I loathed Carrie's unchecked materialist obsession with expensive shoes when she needed money to pay her rent. She regularly offended my practical sensibilities and her frequently 'complicated' love life because she made it so.
As a teenager I watched the show with fascination and surprise. It was a source of sex education, an insight into the fashionable American woman, and covered important subjects I'd never considered before, like abortion. Miranda and Charlotte were my favourite characters, though I respected Samantha's refusal to be embarrassed about anything sex-related, to her it was a fact of life, which it is.
I'd argue with Levy about Samantha's mannish approach to her sexual exploits as Levy emphasises FCP's requirement for quantity of sexual partners over quality, knowingly robbing themselves of satisfying sex, whereas Samantha made a concerted effort to get as much enjoyment and pleasure out of every conquest she could, exploring the different facets of sexuality along the way, without fear or judgement. She doesn't comfortably fit the mould Levy's created, though she does match a few of the criteria.
An underlying inferred theory for the reason women act like men by seeking unemotional, non-committal sex, is the possible prior rejection and hurt experienced after what turns out to be a one-night stand, encouraging women to take out emotion from the equation when they recover and decide to move on to the next man, and use sex as proof of future desirability to soothe the insecurities that arose from that injury to her pride.
Pornography is documented prostitution, and Levy argues stripping falls under this category as well, for the commodification of a naked body. She goes on to use successful porn star Jenna Jameson as an example of the damaging nature of porn:
'Jameson thinks that women outside the sex industry have internalized its spirit and model their sexuality on porn. [She] presents life in the industry as marked by violence and violation: She tells us she was beaten unconscious with a rock, gang-raped, and left for dead on a dirt road during her sophomore year of high school; she was life-threateningly addicted to drugs before she was twenty; she was beaten by her boyfriend and sexually assaulted by his friend. She also writes, "To this day, I still can't watch my own sex scenes."
Not once does she use the word 'pleasure' to describe her sexuality. 'Like most employees of the sex industry, [she] is not sexually uninhibited, she is sexually damaged.' Being a sex worker further damages these vulnerable people, and Levy suggests these inappropriate erotic role models are suffering PTSD from past sexual abuse, 'It's like using a bunch of shark attack victims as our lifeguards.'
Conclusion We've adopted and conformed to the sex industry's representation of sexuality, which dictates what's desirable and worthy of fantasy. 'We have to ask ourselves why we are so focused on silent girly-girls in G-strings faking lust,' must we also fake it to the detriment of our own personal tastes and sexual satisfaction?
'Why have we fallen sway to a kind of masculine mystique, determined that to be adventurous is to be like a man, and decided that the best thing we can possibly expect for women is hotness?’ The 'prevalence of raunch in the mainstream has diluted the effect of both sex radicals and feminists, who've seen their movement's images popularized while their ideals are forgotten.
‘Sexual power is only one very specific kind of power,' we should be looking at other types of power, breaking through the glass ceiling and pursuing higher female representation in politics and the boardrooms of big business for which previous generations’ feminists originally strived.
Men are all evil, sexist pigs! Well, no. They're not. As Levy shows men so unfavourably throughout, I do wish she'd included a caveat in her introduction stating that not all men act in negative, stereotypical ways. Kind and respectful men do exist, though you wouldn't think so from reading this book.
Occasionally, I was uncomfortable with taking Levy's chosen quotes from other people, whether from printed sources or her own personal interviews, as a truthful representation of that person's opinion. It would be so easy for Levy's bias to influence the way she edits and presents others' words. Although this was based on my own inexperience and naivety with regards to certain viewpoints, e.g. having had little knowledge of the ins and outs of lesbian and transgendered culture and communities, etc.
Warning: Don't read this book if you're easily offended, or partial to feeling shame or guilt for falling into one of the groups Levy criticises, it will only make you feel worse. Both Christianity and politics are also discussed and criticised....more
Gotta be honest; I don't like contemporary romance, but just look at my rating. And my shelving. Says it all, doesn't it?
What an emotional rollercoastGotta be honest; I don't like contemporary romance, but just look at my rating. And my shelving. Says it all, doesn't it?
What an emotional rollercoaster! For hero and heroine.
Jacqueline's a positive female role model, Lucas, a worthy tortured hero, together forming a healthy but not-without-problems relationship, which gradually develops after the hero saves the heroine from an attempted rape and helps her cope with the aftermath of both this and her prior breakup with her boyfriend of three years. Panic. Fear. Grief.
Every possible angle is covered on the topic of rape without lecturing readers, although not entirely free from cliché. By that, I reference Legally Blonde and say 'sorority sisters' and leave it at that. Standard reactions to rape included here were the common misconceptions, animosity, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and disbelief from the community, to unexpected support and genuine anger aimed squarely where it belongs -on the rapist. As it should. Message loud and clear. And happily received.
Jacqueline's growth and emerging strength and empowerment with the help of her roommate and Lucas see her attending self-defense classes and learning to squash down her panic in order to think clearly for long enough to protect herself. Knee that attacking rapist in the NUTSACK!
Along the way, she reevaluates her relationships and life path, realising the mistakes she's made, settling for an unhappy, stifling relationship with ex-boyfriend Kennedy, and decides she deserves better. She womans-up and gets on with pursuing a happier future. You go, girl!
But Jacqueline's not the only one with problems. Lucas has a devastating, harrowing event in his past he feels undeserved crippling guilt over, showing reasons for his behaviour, his multiple jobs -both paid and unpaid- the force with which he uses to protect Jacqueline. Heart-meltingly sad. Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry.
An unbelievably sweet and tender relationship forms between these two that had me on the edge of my seat, cheering for them, hoping for a happy ending. Every bump in the road was a painful one. If Easy had been a dead tree book nothing in the world would've stopped me from peeking at the ending. Luckily, it wasn't, and I'm glad I didn't spoil it for myself. It was totally worth waiting for.
Emotional ups and downs, fully developed characters, important themes and a clear message all should understand. It could be perceived as an anti-Twilight or anti-Beautiful Disaster. In any case, recommended reading for older teens and those in their early twenties, girls in particular....more