Sex work: thoughts on ‘selling your body’

Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while will know that I’m firmly against the criminalisation of sex work. I call it sex work because the term recognises that, as with any other form of work, there should be terms of sale and workers’ rights and safe working conditions. Besides, sex workers pay tax.

But this post is less about the actual work than the language we use to talk about it. Specifically, it’s about the huge problem I have with the phrase ‘selling your body’.
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Naked Amanda Palmer 1, Daily Mail 0

Last Friday at the Roundhouse in London, Amanda Palmer (otherwise known as Amanda Fucking Palmer) delivered an open letter to the Daily Mail in the form of a song. ‘Dear Daily Mail’ was a response to an article (and I use that term loosely) about her performance at Glastonbury festival, during which her breast “escaped” from her bra. It goes like this:

I think it’s brilliant. It’s scathing and gleeful and brilliantly witty, and denies the Daily Mail any power over Palmer or her sense of self worth.
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Bow Down to Beyoncé, feminist icon

My latest for Indy Voices on why people should stop either praising Beyoncé for being a feminist icon or shouting at her for letting the side down:

Admire Beyoncé for her music, not her feminist credentials

Beyoncé’s apparent reluctance to label herself should come as no surprise. Aside from a slightly tepid admission in 2010 – “I think I am a feminist in a way” – there are few recorded instances of her associating herself with the movement. Yet it seems to me that people have been determined to shoehorn Beyoncé into the role of feminist icon for several years. It strikes me as an odd thing to do, given that she rarely uses the word about herself.

Read the whole thing here.

Steubenville, CNN and the language of rape

Steubenville rape case rally - Anonymous

Last week I wrote a piece about Steubenville, victim blaming and rape culture for Indy Voices. I thought I’d cross-post since it’s likely to appeal to this blog’s audience:

‘Who is to blame for sexual assault?’ The language of rape

It’s a seemingly very simple question – and yet it generates heated debate any time rape hits the news.

When a guru claimed that an Indian student was partially responsible for being raped and murdered, his comments were reviled as backward and repulsive; no doubt there will be a similar reaction to police telling a Swiss tourist who was gang raped in India that she must bear some responsibilityfor the attack. Yet however strong the backlash, these opinions are pervasive – not just in India, but also in the West. In every high-profile rape case, there seem to be a crowd of people rushing to find anyone to blame but the perpetrator, be it the victim or society at large.

Who suffers as the result of sexual assault? A slightly less simple question, whose answer is even more widely contested than that of the first. The victim? The community? The attackers?

Over the last few months, the name of a small town in Ohio has become synonymous with a rape case which gained infamy after video footage of the incident was distributed online. Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, two teenage football players from Steubenville, were convicted on Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl at a series of parties in August. The case has been steeped in controversy since it began, and the trial and its outcome have been the subject of international scrutiny…

Read the whole thing here.

Image: marsmet523 on Flickr.

Japanese pop star sleeps with boyfriend, shaves head

I wrote a piece for Indy Voices on the AKB48 singer who shaved her head as self-inflicted punishment for sleeping with another pop star. Turns out doing a Japanese degree does sometimes come in useful!

Shocked at the Japanese pop star who shaved her head for having a boyfriend and betraying band rules? Look around you

Minami Minegishi’s band AKB48 embody the disturbing schoolgirl fantasy: naïve and submissive, yet unattainable – and the hypocrisy isn’t unique to Japanese culture

When a video emerged last week of a Japanese popstar’s heart-wrenching apology for betraying the rules of her band, the British reaction was predictably dramatic.

It was difficult to fathom why a 20-year-old would go to the lengths of shaving her head in order to communicate the depth of her shame for having spent the night with a boyfriend. The offence was barely newsworthy. Although a traditional form of repentance in Japan, the self-inflicted punishment hardly seemed to fit the crime.

Yet Minami Minegishi’s response is perhaps less shocking in the context of idol culture in Japan. Minegishi, who was photographed leaving boyband dancer Alan Shirahama’s apartment, is part of the phenomenally successful girl band AKB48. Tickets to the band’s nightly shows are so sought-after they are allocated through a lottery. The band is divided into three teams, allowing them to perform in different locations, or even different countries, at any one time, and they are a powerful export. In 2011, AKB48 opened a café in Singapore: a replica of their own venue in Akihabara, the electronics district of Tokyo after which they are named…

 

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‘Us lowly natural-born women’: not in my name, Burchill

Content warning: this post contains discussion of transphobia, trans-misogyny and hate speech, including direct quotations of the above. Links do not constitute endorsements.

“It’s never a good idea for those who feel oppressed to start bullying others in turn”. So ran the sub-heading for Julie Burchill’s Observer article about the supposed victimisation of Suzanne Moore by the “trans lobby” entitled ‘Transsexuals should cut it out’. It is a response to a saga which began a week or so ago with an article on female anger from Moore reprinted in the New Statesman which made a passing and ill-chosen reference to Brazilian transsexuals.
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Cosmo removes ‘Wolf Whistles Motivate Us to Exercise’ article

Cosmo magazine website

Yesterday I published this post about an article in Cosmo which encouraged women to use street sexual harassment as motivation to lose weight. In the intervening hours Cosmo have removed the offending article, presumably in response to the number of negative comments they received about it. There were about 9 comments on the article itself when I looked, all of them reprimanding the editors for publishing the article. It’s good to see that people have been listened to!
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