Archive for August, 2012

Shulamith Firestone,   radical feminist and author of Dialectic of Sex, died this week. And, it appears she died having lived her last years quite isolated and miserable.

The accounts of her death remind me of the latest film by Carol Morley, Dreams of A Life. More than a ‘true story’, Dreams… is a documentary about a British woman who, like Shulamith, was found dead in her flat. But not days or weeks after she died. This young woman was not discovered till THREE YEARS later.

Shulamith is part of a generation, which happens to be my parents’ generation, which is on its way out. My stepfather died eighteen months ago. My Dad goes to more funerals than weddings. I feel death hanging over me in a way I never did before.

And with the demise of this generation, comes the demise of its ideologies and politics. Shulamith joins a growing roster of ‘dead feminists’ that includes Marilyn French,  Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly.

These women were part of what we call ‘second wave’ feminism, which was at its peak in the late sixties, early seventies. I have a very strong, VERY ambivalent relationship with second wave feminism, because I was born into it. My mum did not go to yummy mummy cafes and pilates classes in her spare time when I was little, she went to Women’s Liberation conferences and ‘consciousness raising’ groups. I am still recovering, literally, from childhood trauma that I can’t separate in my psyche from that period of feminist history. And when I was still a feminist I was often lonely and isolated, even when surrounded by my ‘sisters’.  Shulamith’s life and death reminds me that feminism is not a ‘cure all’ or a guarantee of being  successfully integrated into a group who share an ideology. It isn’t a guarantee of anything at all.

I am not celebrating individual deaths. Unlike feminists such as Cath Elliott, who cheered when Sebastian Horsley, who she believed was a ‘misogynist’ died, I feel sad when anyone shuffles off this mortal coil. At the risk of mixing my quotes up too much, do not ask for whom the bell tolls and all that.

But I am glad that second wave feminism is a dying creed. The ‘sisters’ who in my view invented concepts such as ‘patriarchy’ and ‘all men are rapists’ and the idea that one solution to gender inequalities is eugenics, have a lot to answer for.

A couple of years ago I might have finished this piece on a positive note, saying that the new generation of ‘third wave’ feminists are changing things, and making feminism into a more positive, more diverse, less man-hating movement. But as most readers will know, I won’t do that now.

Third wave feminism in some ways, takes the basic, misandrous tenets of second wave feminism and turns them into ‘memes’. Any thought or philosophy is removed and all we are left with is a bunch of white women screaming ‘RAPE CULTURE!’ and STREET HARASSMENT! and ‘MISOGYNY’! Technologies producing social media sites such as facebook, twitter and tumblr have meant political campaigns become very simplified and do not allow for intellectual debate. All you have to show your support is press the ‘Like’ button. This ‘dumbing down’ of feminism makes it particularly crude and lacking in rigour.

On some particularly dark days I even miss Andrea Dworkin!

However there are positive aspects to our contemporary world, in which radical feminism is seen by many as a joke. It does not have quite the power it did when I was a kid. But its younger, more manicured, less well-read sisters are dangerous. And I am stuck with them till I die.

‘Make an example of me, hold me up to the light
If I don’t seem that strong, maybe there’s a strength implied.
Then take a medicine ball, throw it with all of your might,
Maybe it will put some wind back into these lungs of mine…

When I’m blind in pride and I won’t be bent
Though it seems unkind, I’m better for the punch of a friend.
When there’s no recourse, but the most direct
Though it seems unkind, I’m better for the punch of a friend’

– Punch Of A Friend, Duke Special

It is a very specific, exquisitely tortured kind of pain we feel when someone who we care for attempts to hurt us, and succeeds.

That medicine ball is a perfect image as I lie winded, and wounded on the floor.

Oh I will get up. I always do. But I can’t help but masochistically  give my ‘friend’ the sadistic satisfaction of knowing they achieved what they set out to do.

I’m better for the punch of a friend.

There is an interesting post by Paul Bernal, directed to the Labour Party, but with general relevance to our approach to freedom of speech in the digital age:

Paul writes:

‘In the current climate, there are regular calls to deal with such things as pornography and ‘trolling’ on the internet – but most of what is actually suggested amounts to little more than censorship. We need to be very careful about this indeed – the risks of censorship are highly significant.’

Chris Ashford ( @Lawandsexuality ) has endorsed all the points Paul makes:

However I do not know how sincerely or deeply Chris has engaged with the post. I have pointed out before how he has deliberately curtailed my ‘freedom of speech’ in the past:

My comment under Paul’s post is ‘awaiting moderation’. It says:


Good post.

I am passionate about free speech. but I find that many ‘liberals’ from whatever party allegiance tend to pay lip service to free speech whilst actively limiting it when it suits.

Chris ashford for example, who said he agreed with your post blocks me on twitter and only publishes some of my comments on his blog. He also calls me a ‘troll’ which serves to undermine trust in me as someone with anything worthwhile to say.

But then I always did think ‘hypocrisy’ was on every major party’s manifesto.


Apart from blocking me on twitter, calling me a ‘troll’, not publishing some of my comments on his blog, and telling his academic colleagues to ‘ignore’ me online, I now have discovered that Ashford has also ‘badmouthed’ me to individual academics he knows personally. I found out because we have friends and colleagues in common.

As I said on twitter before, some academics treat me as if I am completely separate from their ‘world’. All they need to do is to flick their wrists and I will be gone. No. I am part of their world, for better or for worse. I was BORN into it. My academic ‘credentials’ and lineage is stronger than most.  It is going to be difficult to get rid of me.

And that should be thought of as a good thing by Chris Ashford. He believes in freedom of speech, right? Even for trolls like me!

I have not read Grace Dent’s book: How To Leave Twitter. This is because a) she is a mean-spirited, ego-driven writer and tweeter. And b) relatedly, because she hasn’t left twitter. I guess it could be an ironic title, just as How To Give Up Booze and Stop Swearing by Keith Floyd might be ironic, or How To Live A Long and Happy Life by Princess Diana might be ironic. No. I expect Ms Dent’s book is just crap.

But I want to leave my lover of two and a half years. And I want to leave now.

So I am going to have to rely on other sources for advice.

According to Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey of cyborgology, social media is so embedded in our lives now, that even when we log off, leave social networks, even when we die, we are still connected to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc.

So I know that leaving Twitter is actually quite difficult. Do I delete my account and lose all my followers and connections in one fell swoop? Do I survive without a change of heart the 30 days that I am allowed to reinstate my profile?  Do I regret my decision and set up a new profile, a new twitter identity once the 30 days is up? Do I stay, even though I am not enjoying the twitter experience now, just to spite the people who wish I would go and jump in a lake? Do I jump in the lake?

I don’t know but I am going to make a decision in the next couple of days. If something that used to be fun isn’t fun anymore, I usually take the  approach that it is time to move on.

There must be 50 ways to leave twitter?


UPDATE: I have decided to not delete my account, but to just not use it for the time being. I hope this works for me and twitter!

I interrupt my blog break momentarily…

The latest series of Celebrity Big Brother is upon us in the UK. I am not watching, but I am getting the gist via twitter. I am kind of suprised anyone watches the granny of reality TV shows these days. With young bucks such as Geordie Shore and TOWIE having upgraded and spray-tanned the genre, the BB franchise is looking a bit old and tired.

So are some of its contestants. Julie Goodyear is an old dame of soap, but not really delivering the goods these days. And Julian Clary, another old dame, though still witty, is just not cutting it for me.

One comment by Clary quoted a number of times approvingly on twitter demonstrates clearly how out of touch he and his fans are. He asked Mikey The Situation Sorrentino,

‘What’s your function?’

Well, darling, it’s obvious! The Sitch, star of Jersey Shore, the  show that brought reality TV preening and plucking into the  ‘teenies’, and which spawned imitators like the orange-tastic Geordie Shore, has a very clear function. One that he carries out extremely successfully.

The Situation’s function is to get his tits out and look pretty.

As you can see in the photo above, from the opening night of CBB, he is performing his function to the letter.

One reason Julian Clary and those who still fawn at his middle aged, camp schtick, is behind nos jours, is that now, in metrosexual  culture, young, heterosexually -identified men can get away with being as camp as Christmas without having to be ‘gay’, or even considered ‘unmanly’ by their bros.

In a new book, entitled ominously ‘How To Be Gay’, the middle aged gay author David Halperin tries to save the dying swan that is ‘gay style’, and though I haven’t read it yet, seems to fail.

As this rather critical review  says:

‘Back in the 1960s, Susan Sontag – whose Notes on Camp articulated in a few fleet aphorisms most of what Halperin spends more than 500 pages paraphrasing – welcomed a new gay formalist style in criticism by declaring: “In place of a hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.”

Having trudged through Halperin’s tract, I have a proviso to add: what we definitely don’t need is an academics of Eros.’

I agree. Because Mikey Sorrentino and metrosexy young men are giving us all the ‘erotics’ and ‘style’ and ‘aesthetics’ we need in the 21st century. In HD.

This is the ‘end of gay’ and the continuation of metrosexuality.

And I am rooting for Mikey to win CBB. He already has won. Game Over.