Friday, June 29, 2007

Virginity on the Blog-O-Sphere

I love the blog-o-sphere, especially when someone puts in a lot hard work and digs up a big pile of unpleasant truth that the mainstream media has totally bypassed. Give this one - about the UK schoolgirl who is going to the High Court to challenge a ban on wearing a virginity ring to school - a good read and pass it on.

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My Least Favourite Movie Of All Time

Over at Alternet Katha Pollitt seems to have found a real stinker.

Personally my nomination is:

(SHOW ME THE ATROCIOUS SCRIPT!!) Jerry Maguire

I actually left a first date with a guy I quite liked just to get out of the cinema to avoid watching any more of this awful film. In it Tom Cruise leaves his confident business-woman fiance who is bisexual (eww!) and offers him a threesome (guys hate threesomes apparently!) and sets up with his single-mum secretary (don't worry she's widowed, not divorced! Unlike Renee Zellweger who plays her...) who lives with her sister (childless, divorced and super-miserable). There's a scene where Tom and the secretary are out on the town and you see the divorced sister at a "divorced women's club" (are there such things? I find none on Google, possibly because divorced women are able to participate in normal society and don't need a special club) sat around complaining about their ex-husbands (if there were such clubs would they do this? couldn't they go drinking or join salsa classes?) and then sat alone smoking (evil! evil!) in a darkened kitchen while ms. widowed laughs with TC in the driveway.

Any more nominations?

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Brain Scan

Stumbled across this fascinating article that asks the question - can bigotry be classified as a mental illness? The author ultimately concludes - probably not. But there are some good arguments in favour of the idea. I have long thought that we probably send to prison a large number of people who actually need psychiatric treatment and for whom prison will probably serve as little more than an incubator for existing problems.

I also think that we cannot rule out the possibility that just because a large percentage of the population believe something, that belief is somehow sane. For instance in our scientific age - isn't believing in God symptomatic of a refusal to face dazzling reality? If you plucked out your child's eyebrows because you thought The Flying Spaghetti Monster and his Noodly Appendage (all hail) willed it so, you would be convicted of child cruelty and either locked up or referred for treatment. No-one would conclude you were sane. If you cut off some of the skin on your child's genitals (yes genitals) because God wanted you to ... oh, that's normal, carry on.
Which brings me to another question - could misogyny be defined as a mental illness?
mental illness n. Any of various conditions characterized by impairment of an individual's normal cognitive, emotional, or behavioral functioning, and caused by social, psychological, biochemical, genetic, or other factors, such as infection or head trauma.
So if in fact women are not trying to "trap" you into a loveless marriage or control your life or ruin your career or bankrupt your company, or any of the other things you hear from the uber-misogynist camp, and you believe they are - can I have you sectioned? Someone better tell Gordon Brown to build a LOT more hospitals...

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

If Women Ruled The World!

Well maybe it wouldn't be that different...



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Feminist Love-In Alert!

Phwoar, hot feminist-on-feminist action here... The Huffington Post, no less, is talking about Cru-blog and it's mistress (that's me). Thanks for the mention and the link!

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Lice Up Yer Spife!

Don't worry - not a post about infestations of phthirus pubis crabs. I was on BBC Leeds this morning as their resident expert on - The Spice Girls. Yes, I know, not my usual type of thing but interesting none the less. A reunion tour is apparently on the way. And the question is: was "girl power" any good?

Musically, obviously, there wasn't much (anything) there. And as a genre I'd say girl- and boy-bands have very little to offer society as a whole. However, if we accept that they're here and here to stay, I have to say that of all the girl bands out there, the Spice Girls for me are one of the best. Which is to say one of the least offensive.

Ok so there wasn't a cardiologist spice or a corporate CEO spice, that would have been too much to ask. There was a sporty spice though - one that participated in sports(!) With the exception of posh, they weren't as ridiculously thin as most of the groups. They were all different from each other, they celebrated being (albeit two-dimensional) individuals. And they actually did make money out of their fame - which puts them streets ahead intellecually of most of the other groups who only made money for their managers. And GIRL POWER...? Not a bad thing to believe in when you're seven or eight, think we could all use a bit more of it now and again.

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Into The Mix

Seems I'm not the only one who doesn't think much of Jezebel and their barrage of personal attacks on my beautifully well-reasoned critique of their rubbish web-site...!! Those nice ladies over at Dollymix have something to say on the subject too! Thanks Cate!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Ten-Year-Old 'Was Asking For It'

Does that sound like the most ridiculous and revolting headline you've ever read? If so you may want to pour yourself a stiff coffee before reading this article from the BBC.

Let's clarify: A 10-year-old girl meets two guys - Keith Fenn, 24, removes her clothes and rapes her, then Darren Wright, 34, takes her home and sexually assaults her. No-one, not even the defence, is suggesting that the girl consented. No, the defence's case rests on the fact that she was "dressed provocatively"and "appeared to be 16". And the jury accept it and hand down sentences that will mean Wright walks free today and Fenn in four months.

Did I miss a meeting when the law was changed to say it's ok to rape a 16-year-old? Or that wearing nice clothes counted as consent? It it really exposes how much is wrong with our legal system and also how deep rooted these horrible offensive attitudes are in our society.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Taking It Personally

I love it when I write something and it gets a big reaction! A few weeks back I was asked to review the new "women's interest" website Jezebel and, to put it bluntly, it stank and I said so. You can see my review here on Cru-blog or over here on The F-Word who commissioned it. We had a ton of feedback, some here, some over on The F-Word (comments for the whole of May are compiled into one article so you will have to scroll down to find them) and most of all, I have just discovered, on Jezebel itself.

A lot of these comments are pretty obviously from workers at Jezebel and related sites and their set-up mates. Some even started with "I don't work for Jezebel but..." which methinks doth protest too much.

I've responded to the ones on here and the ones on the F-Word appropriately. They are mostly saying "But Jezebel is supposed to be funny", to which I can only say I find misogyny about as funny as, oooh, racism and homophobia, I look forward to their corresponding "hilarious" sites on those subjects.

The comments on Jezebel itself though are altogether different, much more in keeping with the theme and indeed quality of the site itself (Both F-Word editor Jess McCabe and myself would instantly remove comments that appeared to be personal attacks). Try these for size though:

"Could we get Ms. Smurthwaite a side of 'sense of humor' to go with that stick up her butt she's so clearly enjoying with gusto?"

"Feminism without a sense of humour is probably about as fun as sex with Smurfette."

"Did someone tell you you were ugly when you were little? Did the man in your life tell you to take yourself seriously? Still mad about missing that nosejob? Or was it the frustration of noting the lack of a size 12 at the Kate Moss Top Shop sample sale?"

"If your last name were Smurthwaite, wouldn't you be humorless and cranky too?"

"I keep reading it as Smurf-twat."

"Har dee har. Kate needs to get laid, that'll fix it"

"These UK feminists need some pokey."

So they claim to be if not a feminist site, at least a women-positive site and then they complain not about my writing or my points or my angle on their website, but with personal insults, the usual you're-ugly/ you-don't-get-laid-much/ you're-fat stuff. And brilliantly the definition of fat in their seriously messed-up world is a size 12...?!

There is also one post, which I won't repeat, which references Anne Heche and the mental breakdown she suffered after years of horrific abuse that I actually think is offensive to Ms Heche and to sufferers of mental health problems and childhood abuse everywhere.

Well good, I'm glad they don't like me complaining about them. They weren't supposed to. And just glancing over there now to see the headline "Angelina Jolie: A Jealous Bitch Just Like The Rest Of Us", I can't help thinking that if they want to confess to all being "jealous bitches", I won't bother stopping them this time...

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Starter's Orders

Very interesting post on Alternet about how the US administration is actively encouraging people to eat unhealthy food by subsidising the very things they advise against eating. I thought I would see what help is on offer to people in the UK who are struggling to feed healthy food to their families.

The good news is that the NHS-sponsored Healthy Start programme offers vouchers for milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins. But I wanted to find out however how much help they could offer - so I filled in the online questionnaire making myself sound as needy as possible. And this is the hilarious outcome on the website:

***************************************
Based on the information you have provided:
  • You are 16 weeks pregnant
  • You are under 18 years old
  • You have 4 children under the age of four
You should get:

1 voucher(s) a week worth £2.80 until your circumstances change.

***************************************

That's right £2.80 to feed fruit, veg, milk and vitamins to my under-18 pregnant self and my four under-4 children. What will that buy? I headed over to Abel and Cole - organic and ethical food delivery company (wouldn't want to feed my innumerable children rubbish now, and I'm hardly going to have time to get out of the house and round the shops myself) and tried to decide between a melon at £2.95, 500g of peaches at £2.50 and 2 grapefruits at £2.10.

It's not a lot of help is it?

And what are they doing for big food corporates?

"since 1998 the Sainsbury Laboratory has received 6 Government grants, worth £1.1 million, from the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC). The BBSRC is part of the Government Office of Science and Technology, which answers to [former Sainsbury's chairman Lord] Sainsbury as Science Minister and has won an extra £50 million in funding since he became Minister". Just the tip of the iceberg according to Corporate Watch.

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Making-Up The Numbers

The F-Word reports on the horrifying news that women who wear make-up could be absorbing up to 5lb of the stuff a year! Which reminds me of a time when I lived in Japan and was the only woman in my office to come to work bare-faced. When we talked about it one day the other women said "You're so lucky - you have good skin, you don't need to wear make-up". Which of course poses a question over the definition of "need", whether the desire for people not to see your "bad" skin constitutes a "need". More importantly, as I told them maybe it is more like BECAUSE I don't wear make-up, I have good skin.

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The R-Word

Rape. Shhhh. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it... and unsurprisingly yet more men are being given a golden opportunity to get away with it too. At least the UK government is vaguely looking into doing something, albeit totally half-hearted, about it.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Smoke Without Fire

The smoking ban in public enclosed spaces and workplaces is just a few days away here in England and I must say I am in favour of it. I consider myself a non-smoker (having given up a couple of years ago) but once in a while after really too many beers I suddenly find myself lighting up and then regretting it and feeling awful the next day. I'm hoping that when the ban comes in I won't find it so hard to resist the urge. I also spend a lot of my time working in clubs and bars and I must admit I love being in Edinburgh and Dublin where the rooms aren't smoky and I don't have to wash my clothes and hair every single day.

That said I am very much NOT in favour of the proposals by the Fostering Network that smokers be restricted from fostering children. Now I understand that such a move may be in the best interests of children with respiratory difficulties, etc. However firstly there is a shortfall of 10,000 foster parents in this country. How is this measure going to help close that. Secondly I think people are well aware of the dangers of exposing children to secondhand smoke, and I would expect foster parent and regular parents to take care to smoke outside and away from the home. Thirdly - are we going to start putting contraceptive hormones into cigarettes? If children need protecting from adults who smoke, surely ALL children need protecting, not just those who are in the fostering system.

Of course what is really going on is a bit of panic-button paranoia... they are really trying "to avoid any risk of legal action from children whose health is damaged by smoking while in care". Hmm.. which begs the question - if children can sue the fostering agency for putting them with smoking foster parents, can children sue their own parents for smoking while they were young? And in fact can children in general sue their parents if they did a rubbish job of raising them? I know a few people who stand to end up very rich.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The True Colours of Lad Mags

If you think that Nuts, Zoo, FHM, Loaded, etc are just about harmless fun and great tits, read this post from CharlieGrrl. Made me so angry.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Anyone else see the holes in this?

Looking at the headline from the Guardian, you would be forgiven for thinking the government was actually addressing the woefully low conviction rate for rape. Actually the bill has been watered down ofer and over again. Here's what we're (possibly) getting:

1) Expert witnesses allowed to explain in general terms about rape victims and their common behaviour patterns.

2) An automatic right to use the alleged victim's videotaped interview with the police in place of her main evidence at the trial.

3) Allowing the jury to be told of any occasions when the woman confided in someone else about the rape .

Now (1) might do minimal good if the right well-trained experts are called as witnesses, in practice it'll probably just start up a market for phoney "expert" witnesses. What's the better the rape "experts" will be guys? (2) is presumably intended to deal with victims who later retract their accusations, a problem which would arise much less if victims were believed and given support. (3) Is actually not a law change, that already stands as of a ruling last year.

Maybe we shouldn't be ungrateful but it's way short of what is really needed to address the situation:

1) Specialist rape trauma centres in all decent-sized policce stations nationwide, staffed by women out of uniform who have had extensive training in dealing with that and equipped with medical equipment necessary for preparing physical evidence.

2) A major advertising campaign to let people know these centres have been set up.

3) Training in dealing with rape reports and sensitive referral where appropriate for all police.

4) Clarification of the existing law that says the defence need to prove consent and NOT vice versa. Judges who counsel otherwise should be thrown out.

5) Jurors should be screened and rejected if they believe that women can be responsible for their own rapes if they dress provocatively/flirt/engage in preliminary sexual behaviour/carry condoms/have a history of promiscuity/get drunk.

6) Jurors receive training explaining that none of those things affect whether or not a rape can have taken place. Judges who do not back up this message are thrown out.

7) A public information campaign that emphasises how rare false accusations of rape are, that reminds men that it is their responsibility to ensure they have consent and that a big new clampdown is underway.

Instead there is much moaning that there should be a level of intoxication beyond which it is assumed consent cannot be given. This might solve a few cases but for me it would be a weird rule to have and would probably lead to the "she wasn't drunk so i can't have raped her" defence proliferating.

What does anyone else think?

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(Not) Working for the Man

Being self-employed in the loosest possible sense - being paid to muck about in public and be silly - I never really miss the days when I worked for big companies. I miss some of the people I worked with, but then I see them, they exist outside the office (who knew?!). And I sure don't miss the feeling that I'm helping the wheels of giant business go round (which seriously over-estimates how much "help" I was to those companies, mostly I just played cricket round the desks with an old clip-board and a ball of rubber bands...).

The UK recently passed up an opportunity to make some really strong corporate manslaughter laws, that would really have meant a tidal shift in the way companies looked at risk.

The situation is now totally out of hand, corporations can get away with anything. Kids drinking shandy on a street corner can expect an ASBO leading to probation, fines and even jail. Corporations can murder people with total impunity. If you don't believe me - read this. If you do - read it anyway; it's one of the most compelling things I've read in ages.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Why is the Cru-Blog advertising Boob Jobs?

Ok first of all go take a look at the advert by clicking here. You'll have to click the link and then click download to see the pdf of the advert (sorry about that, if anyone knows how I can make it easier, please let me know). Anyway give the advert a quick read, see if you can spot anything odd about it at all.

Then when you're done explain to me what this is supposed to be.

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Sick as a Hellcat

There is a lot wrong with the NHS. Waiting list and drugs they won't approve because they cost "too much" and MRSA and a massive shortage of midwives and local hospitals being closed down, not to mention run-down buildings, disgusting food and unhelpful staff (not all of them I am sure but the last time I dropped by St Thomas's this was a big problem). There's always somebody worse off than yourself though. And it's America. Seems like Michael Moore's new film is long overdue.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Who's The Daddy?

The government is off on yet another morality crusade, this time they are annoucing that they are going to make registration of father's names on birth certificates compulsory. Now you would think that this move would be so that they can ensure that fathers are contributing financially to supporting their families, to reduce mother's dependence on benefits. Not a bad idea as such (although if you really cared about that sort of thing though you would be working on strengthening the powers of the CSA (Child Support Agency) to chase up money from absent fathers - currently only 15 percent of lone parents on Income Support receive any child support) but you have to think that women who say they don't know who the father of their child is must be saying that for one of two reasons:

1) There is some kind of problem. They were raped and don't want the rapist to have rights and access to the child. They were a victim of incest and don't want the child to have that on their permanent record. The father has threatened them with violence or abuse if they "grass him up". They fear that an ex-partner or members of the family may attack or even murder the father if he is named.

2) They genuinely don't know who the father is. They had a one night stand and didn't get in touch afterwards or left false contact details. Or they may have been having simultaneous relationships with several men and not know which caused the pregnancy.

In either case who are they going to prosecute under the new laws? A new mother, baby under one arm, sat there either terrified or just quite honestly unaware of who the father of her child is? That doesn't seem very resonable. And how can they prosecute the father? They don't know who he is!

The quotes from Kate Stanley at The Institute of Public Policy Research are frighteningly out of touch with the realities of the kind of people who might be affected by this legislation:

"Everyone should know who to send a card to on Father's Day." Presumably newsagents are going to start selling 'Happy Father's Day - thanks for nothing!' cards shortly?

"Most people will be thanking their fathers tomorrow but many will be wondering who their father is and why they have not helped support their family." Does anyone really believe that writing the name of the man who abused and raped you on a birth certificate is going to result in that man coming round every other weekend to take your child out to the park and dressing up as santa on Christmas eve? And does anybody actually want their rapist round their house hanging out with their kids anyway?

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Remember Democracy?

Do you remember the good old days when you went out and voted for the candidate whose policies seemed the most sensible to you? Voting on it's own however isn't good enough any more. Apparently American women need to contribute financially to the campaigns of their favoured candidates too!


It's difficult to know what to suggset - I can understand that politics has become so heavily a money game that people feel the only way to win it is to get our own money out. Trouble is that if we accept a totally money-based game we will then ultimately lose to the group with the most money - the multi-national corporates. In fact this is already happening, remember when MoveOn.org finally raised enough money to put an anti-Bush advert on during the superbowl? The TV companies refused to put it on because even though the money had been raised (a) they knew that future revenue would be greater from the big corporates and it was more important to keep them happy and (b) they were afraid of what the current administration would do to them if they showed the advert.

And remember every penny/cent we spend on these media activities ends up as an extra penny/cent in the pockets of the people who run the adverts - big corporates whose interests end up getting put ahead of those of ordinary people.

If women are involved in the political process but are refusing to pay for candidates air-time, that's ok with me.

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Beauty Kit for Little Girls

Really clever spoof adverts for, well, watch and see, creepy and disturbing but not all that far from the messages children are receiving these days. Also watch in wonder/amazement as I successfully embed a video clip...

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Messed Up World

There's a website been set up - called myfreeimplants - where women can post up sexy pictures of themselves and men donate money towards buying a boob job, presumably for the one they judge to be most in "need"!? Of course we've seen this before more or less. Remember this one? To go with this there was a documentary on TV tonight about teenagers having boob jobs - many of them long before their breasts are going to have stopped growing.

But then if you look at the most successful women we see regularly on TV and film - a high percentage of them have had boob jobs. So is it any surprise young girls aspire to be like them? Of course media coverage doesn't seem to cover the risk of DEATH from surgery, loss of sensation and ability to breastfeed. And heaven forbid the media should ever imply that women could be valued for something more than their physical appearance - or their attractiveness to men pawing over their photos on a truly repulsive website like the one mentioned. Maybe they should change the name to www.choose-which-girl-gets-cut.com Puke...

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Spot The Intelligence

I guess they call them intelligence services for a reason, and I'm expected to blindly accept that along with everything they say. You'd have to forgive me for wondering though when Jamil el-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi went to Gambia to set up a peanut processing factory, what exactly made MI5 think they were plotting to engage in terrorism. Whatever it was*, evidently it was pretty compelling because now Mr el-Banna is now being released from Guantanamo Bay without charge. [Well of course in a bout of frightening double-speak he has been "cleared for release", which is the new way of letting inmates go without charge without admitting you had no reason to lock them up in the first place!]

The Home Office has responded by pointing out that because he was away for more than two years, he has forfeitted his visa to stay in the UK where his wife and five (British citizen) children live.** Mr el-Banna's ten year old son Anas has written a letter to Gordon Brown, pointing out "My Dad was only out of the country because he was locked up over there." Now that is definitely intelligence.

On the upside Harriet Harman, the Cru-blog's on-going candidate of choice for the deputy leadership (from those running that is) is campaigning for Britain to raise the long-overdue issue of Guantanamo at the UN Security Council.

*If you're really wondering it was a battery charger the men bought from Argos.

**Oh and if you really want to know why they don't want him back in the country it may just be an attempt to hush up the horrific story of how badly MI5 mis-handled the case throughout.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Carnival!

Cru-blog (that's me) is delighted to announce that it will be hosting the 42nd Carnival of the Feminists. This means that if you plan to write something deeply insightful and thought-provoking, or even something fun and women-related anytime in the first half of July, you could be featured in the carnival. Thinking caps on please!

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Herd Instinct

I spent last weekend at the Kilkenny Comedy Festival. It was my best mate from uni's hen do and she currently lives in Dublin so seemed like a good excuse for a trip. Shappi Khorsandi and Reginald D Hunter were fantastic and a great time was had by all. It was a relatively modest hen do by modern standards. We had a meal, drinks and danced a bit in a local pub but there were no strippers, no accosting of strangers, no dares or sprints around the streets in our undies.

Not so Stephen Mallone who took his stag party to Slovakia where he proceeded to get arrested dancing naked in a fountain. The media coverage seems to have focussed on his future wife ("a former carnival queen" - oh please BBC, your reporters can do better than that) and her distress at the prospect of postponing the wedding while he serves time in Bratislava's local prison. Even the local MP has jumped in and appears now to have secured Mallone's release.

Personally I am in favour of locking him up. Not because naked fountain-dancing bothers me all that much (though I can imagine it was intimidating to some). But because I think taking your stag do overseas and then totally ignoring local traditions and behaving loutishly sucks. I've been to Prague twice in my life, once in 1996 when I was struck by the beauty and historical charm of the place, and once in 2005 when I was horrified to see street after street of strip clubs catering exclusively to English stag do tourists, many still roaming the streets shouting at nine or ten in the morning, clearly having been out all night.

I don't see Czecks and Slovaks (nor Poles, Estonians, etc) chasing round the streets of London demanding more beer and access to cheap lap-dancing clubs. At best it's totally unfair that we should force the very worst elements of British customs onto unsuspecting foreigners. At worst it's abusive sexual tourism.

I'd like to think my local MP spends their time following up genuine miscarriages of justice and figuring out how to address real issues like healthcare and education. And I think we should leave Stephen Mallone to rot in jail for a couple of months as an example to the others.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Big Sister

Some of you will remember I had a preview copy of Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism. This was my quick same-day review. My full frontal review is now up on the F-Word here, and I also slag off Big Brother too!

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