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Volpato, Madonna, Weldon, The Snip, Brittain & Greer

August 30, 2009

chira volpatoChiara Volpato writes Italian Women Rise Up, in response to Berlusconi’s fascist and misogynist Italy:

The Italian media only exacerbate this bleak reality by presenting a picture of women that is incomprehensible to the rest of Europe. Private TV channels have started to broadcast images of women who are typically lightly dressed and silent beauties serving as decoration while older, fully dressed men are running the show. (It is worth noting here that Mr. Berlusconi owns the leading private television networks.)

The impact of years of brainwashing is plain to see: recent research demonstrated that the most popular ambition among female teenagers is to become a velina (basically a showgirl). Young women and girls are consistently taught that their bodies, rather than their abilities and their knowledge, are the key to success. At the same time, the sexism portrayed on TV reinforces chauvinistic ideas among the culturally weakest parts of the population. Researchers who study female body objectification need only look to Italy to witness the sad consequences of this phenomenon.

The portrayals of women bring to mind darker moments in our country’s past. During Italy’s Fascist era in the first half of the 20th century, there was no shortage of derogatory images of people from its colonies in Africa. Women were portrayed as sexual objects and the men as barbarian enemies. In recent years, as immigrants have been flocking to Italy, these kinds of crude stereotypes have been coming back. To give just one example: The leader of the Northern League Party, Umberto Bossi, has called immigrants “bingo bongos.” These attitudes in part reflect the feelings of economic and social insecurity that have only deepened over the past decade or so. The responses to this, namely sexism and racism, are just two sides of the same coin.

No mention of the Church though – is this good or bad?


MadonnaMadonna this week spoke out about wide-spread discrimination towards the Roma people.  For this she was booed by a Romanian audience, and denounced on the internet – see the comments!:

It has been brought to my attention … that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe,” she said. “It made me feel very sad.”

A few cheered when she added: “We don’t believe in discrimination … we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone.” But she got more boos when she mentioned discrimination against homosexuals and others.

Thousands booed and jeered her.

Please see The Roma Series for more on discrimination against the Roma in Greece.


Fay WeldonI particularly enjoyed an interview with Fay Weldon, in which she says:

The whole argument of the feminist movement was that there was no difference between a man and a woman, but Weldon believes it is time to accept that fundamentally, biologically, there are differences. There may be plenty of women who are perfectly happy without men, but if you want children and are putting it off for practical reasons then you should perhaps wake up and smell the coffee you have just brewed for your boyfriend.

“I think we should have more teenage pregnancies, and work afterwards. If you have children late you have no energy left for sex, and then men wander off to find someone else. The definition of a good man has become ridiculous. I just think that as long as you have a sort of semi-good looking, able-bodied, intelligent man, you should have his baby.”

Fay Weldon has written a new book, Chalcot Crescent, but obviously she was interviewed for the most part about being a woman, not about the book.  For typical unimaginative backlash against Weldon see here.   The Telegraph then asked a selection of women to comment on Weldon’s more outlandish comments which is just as good reading.  Joanna Trollope is spot on!  I just hope I will still be around at 78 so I can be just as outlandish.

I love Fay Weldon’s work, and it is hard to pick a favourite, but if I was pushed then I would have to highlight Praxis, which is an absolute gem of a book. 


Bryony Gordon finished the interview by stating “Feminism? I don’t know. But it’s certainly something to think about.”  Which leads me nicely into my next target, as it sums up very nicely.

vasectomy the movieThe Snip, picked up by Feministing contains the paragraphs:

I did have one question that I know wasn’t on the standard menu. “So my wife and I do a lot of BDSM, and squeezing and slapping testicles is a big part of our intimate conduct. How long until we can resume that activity?”

“BD …? I’m sorry, I don’t recognize the acronym you used …”

It was my turn to be surprised. This is New York — really, Doc? BDSM? Never heard of it? Okay. I explained.

I explained, because some day some other guy is going to be sitting in that chair. And he’s going to need to have a frank talk with this same surgeon about what he does with his penis and testicles. And he may not be as affluent or as educated, or straight or married or cis-sexual. He (or she or ze — lots of folks need to see a urologist) may be in a less privileged, more vulnerable position than I am in any number of ways. Or he may just not be as comfortable with what he does with his sex partners. Any way you slice it, I could just abstain from ball-smacking until I felt ready, but I’d rather have a straight answer from the doctor, and damnit, if he’s going to have to have an awkward conversation with some kinkster, let him do it the first time with me. I don’t bruise easily.

Anyone else get the image in their head of teenage boys boasting in the playground when reading the quote above?  I am almost certain Fay Weldon would! 

However, there were a couple of interesting points raised by this post: 

– The doctor asking if the wife was in agreement with the procedure was completely inappropriate, just as asking a woman if her husband approved!

– Responsibility for contraception lies with both parties.  Women are routinely blamed for being spongers and feckless for bringing up their children as lone parents.  Hardly ever do we hear a negative word said against the fathers of these children.


Victoria BrittainVictoria Brittain writes The moral challenge of the 21st Century, commenting on the work of Nicholas Kristof among others:

The Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s famous dictum that “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy” can be seen as a buttress for this argument. Educated women resist ignorant dictators who impoverish their countries.

But the change in women’s lot never came as so many of us thought it would, because women were not a priority, neither in their own societies, nor in ours. However there are now changes in the most unlikely places, invisible to most outsiders, and the New York Times has given us a glimpse of what is there to build on.

In recent years, Kristof has been the most consistent, hard-hitting reporter on the worst of women’s fates in societies where they are considered second-class citizens – and on the women who have fought back. Sex trafficking, brothels full of homesick young girls, mass rape, needless deaths in childbirth, forced marriage and untreated fistula are among the subjects he has forced onto his paper’s op-ed pageand filled pages of blog posts with.


Greer BBGermaine Greer writes Caster Semenya sex row: What makes a woman?  This article has been denounced all over the blogosphere, and one of the more balanced ones can be found on The F-Word

Greer also writes about the demise of Big Brother, including a lovely tribute to Jade Goody:

Jade Goody was both spontaneous and simple, in the best sense of the word. Big Brother taught us to sneer and jeer at her and finally to condemn her utterly. Even so, Jade’s career was the ultimate Big Brother success story. She was the one person who was famous for being famous. Then reality intervened. In Jade’s handling of her grim fate and the elegant and courageous manner of her dying, it became clear that she really was a star. She died in earnest.

I did watch  the 2002 show in which Jade Goody was a contestant, and she gave me many laughs and much enjoyment, along with her housemates.  I didn’t see the celebrity version on which she was derided.

But I did see the show in  2006 which showed George Galloway and Michael Barrymore  bullying Jodie Marsh without mercy – funny how that wasn’t a matter for public distress!  (Just in case you don’t click onto the Barrymore link above – then please do, as it is an article about the campaign that Terry Lubbock is forced to continue to get justice for the 2002 murder of his son in the house of Barrymore) 

I also watched the show in 2005 when Greer was a contestant, and spent much of it wondering where the Greer who wrote The Female Eunuch had gone?


NB – I have just seen Fay Weldon’s This Much I Know published today and I feel less then underwhelmed that she knows this:

No amount of sex education is going to help a young person not get pregnant. It just makes them feel even more sexy. And now girls have the state for fathers. Why are we surprised?

The state for fathers?!?!?  A novel twist on the nanny state I suppose.  I heard an interview with Ms. Dynamite years ago on Woman’s Hour where she emphatically explained why no father was a much better option than a bad father.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Polly permalink
    September 1, 2009 21:33

    No amount of sex education is going to help a young person not get pregnant.

    Really? I know someone who got pregnant with her first child because she though coitus interruptus was a reliable method of contraception. The fact that this didn’t happen until she was 23 is a minor miracle, although she did use the pill for some of the intervening time.

  2. September 2, 2009 01:53

    I know, I have a friend who thought she couldn’t get pregnant while breast-feeding so she obviously had two children within a year.

    Sex education is done at the wrong time though – it should start a lot sooner i.e. before pregnancy can occur!

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