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A little bit of lippy does you good

Wearing makeup is a sin against feminism, according to Julie Bindel. Get a life, say I

I've been meaning to comment for some time about this article I read in the Guardian a while ago.

I don't know why I bother reading Julie Bindel at all, actually. She's one of those tedious women who think that being lesbian makes them better feminists than the rest of us, and that being feminist makes them better lesbians. The object of her scorn in this article, however, is makeup, and by extension the women who wear it. 

We all know, surely, that makeup isn't necessary to one's happiness, but really it's a bit cheeky to treat anyone who wears it as if they're some sort of unliberated, downtrodden stooge to the patriarchy.This is such an OLD argument now that women really should be yards past it and on to worrying about more serious issues like equal pay or universal free childcare.

Makeup can be fun, especially when you're young. It can create a new identity, cheer you up when you're feeling down, make the change from day to night. In this respect it is no different than clothes. One wonders if Bindel would prefer us all to walk around in black boilersuits - pretty clothes also being entirely 'unnecessary' in the grand scheme of things. However, IMHO, constant drab practicality is hardly what the average woman desires in her life - or the average man, either.

The question about makeup, it seems to me, is balance. If you daren't leave the house without your makeup, you've got issues. But if you think that wearing even a scrap of it makes you a bad feminist, frankly you've also got issues. I never saw Simone de Beauvoir without her slap - or without her haute couture either - and I think her feminist creds are better than Bindel's.

"I became a lesbian aged 15 and therefore have never experienced the 'need' to dress for boys or men" says Bindel proudly. Leaving aside the issue of whether one 'becomes' a lesbian as if it was a lifestyle choice, what makes her think any woman 'needs' to dress for boys or men? Most women who are heterosexual WANT to dress for boys or men. At least when they're on the pull they do. That is what BEING on the pull is actually about, doh. And it is, incidentally, why most women have a different face for home and for work and for going out clubbing, just as they have different clothes for work and for jogging in the park. I would hazard a guess there aren't many women who put on a full face of slap to sit at home on their tod.

"We are so scrutinised by men, and often other women, that it has become unacceptable for us to display naked faces. Every single inch of us is supposed to be plucked, coloured and hidden beneath cosmetics," continues Bindel, living in some sort of dream world that frankly, I don't recognise. Most women I know don't wear make up much, if at all, and never did, even in the gender-bending era of the 1980s. Back then, one of my boyfriends wore more makeup than I did and we regularly borrowed each other's mascara. Quite which streets Bindel is walking down, falling over women who are scared to go out without their inch-thick slap, I don't know.

"I suppose a full face of makeup on a woman helps define the difference between the sexes, making it easier for men to assert their masculinity," she adds, as if this idea has only just occurred to her. But does the corollary ever occur to her? That women do it to assert their femininity? Makeup generally makes your eyes look bigger and darker, and your lips redder - those are both sexual signals, and the larger, darker eyes are also something seen universally in mammalian young - designed to appeal, to engender protection in the viewer. We are, like it or not, programmed to respond to this. 

What bothers me about her statement is this rather snide insinuation that there's something morally wrong in a woman wanting to look attractive to the opposite sex. This is bollocks. Sex is the way the human race reproduces itself. It might be a problem if sex is your only objective in life, but most of us, I feel, enjoy being thought attractive, by the right person(s), at the right time, in the right place. It adds a little savour to the day. The late, great Jill Tweedie hit the nail on the head I think, when she said that it was not that feminists did not want to be sex objects, but that sex objects was not ALL they wanted to be. 

From my mid-40s standpoint, also, I have to confess that my immediate reaction to the Bindel piece also has a weary tinge to it - that of: wait till you're my age, love. There goes someone without thread veins or rosacea or eye bags or jowls, someone whose eyelashes aren't thinning. There goes someone who, when she doesn't wear slap, doesn't get passed by people who say: "Cheer up, love - it might never happen," or is asked repeatedly whether or not she's ill. Someone who's found that in her 40s or 50s, her 'natural' face is sheet-white or blotchy or sun-damaged, or has morphed into the face of someone who looks pissed off or constantly tired. 

Personally, I like to feel that I am not a slave to make-up. In fact I wear it maybe a couple of times a week. But I'm also honest enough to admit that I do know that I look better with it, just as I'm honest enough to admit that Keira Knightly is a lot better looking than I ever will be or was. The sad truth is, I look more vibrant and happier with makeup. I get more compliments, just as I get more compliments when I'm dressed neatly rather than schlepping around in a sack, however comfortable that sack may be.

I wish it were not the case. I wish I had naturally pink lips rather than lips so pale I look like a heart-disease victim. I wish I had naturally dark lashes instead of lashes so pale that when I lose one in my eye, I can't find it. My natural colour is ashen, and if anyone ever says I look healthy you can bet one of two things - either I am wearing blusher (which I find indispensible as I get older), or I am running a temperature.  

And so, when I go to the supermarket, or pop out to see friends, just as I often put on a jacket that I wouldn't wear in the house, I often put on a dab of mascara and a touch of lip gloss. Is that unfeminist of me? Sad? Or just making a bit of an effort?

Whether a woman wants to wear makeup or doesn't, the choice should be hers - after all, from recollection, the last people to actively ban makeup were the Taliban and the Nazi government. Interesting, that, don't you think? 

You can see the vociferous responses to Bindel's nonsense here. 


A so-called feminist wedding

Is this radical? I thought it was par for the course.

I read this article about a so-called feminist wedding the other day in the Guardian and frankly found it a bit depressing that the author feels she's being cutting edge.

Have we really achieved so little in the past 20 or 30 years that this is considered feminist? Shock horror, the dress isn't white and they're going to hyphenate their surnames.I thought this was just normal nowadays.

The DH and I have been married for a while now - I can never remember how long, but there was this big ark, with animals going in two by two...

Here are some of thing we didn't have:

* a 'proposal' (Steve just asked me if I'd marry him on the way back from an antique fair because he knew I'd be in a good mood - going down on one knee was kind of out of the question, given that he was driving at the time)

* an engagement (we'd been living together for years, so that would've been a bit daft)

* a ring (six month's salary for a fucking rock? You've got to be joking. Anyway, I have a history of losing jewellery and I have never once seen an engagement ring I like. It took me years to get used to wearing even a wedding ring)

* a church (we're atheists)

* a cake (there were only four of us, so who would eat it?)

* family (seen the Royal Tennenbaums?)

* some to 'give me away' (my dad had been dead a long time, and anyway, he wouldn't have been invited)

* 'obey' (pass the sickbag)

* a 'ceremony' (for our non-existent audience) 

* wedding vows (the self-written kind give me the absolute willies) 

* speeches (to whom?)

* bridesmaids (a friend acted as witness)

* flower girls (pass more sickbags)

* pageboys (...and yet more...)

* a best man (Doug did our photos while acting as witness)

* wedding favours

* a reception (for whom?)  

* a honeymoon (couldn't afford it).

We got hitched in a registry office, had a great meal at a great restaurant, crashed out at the hotel and then went out for the evening. We took the next day off and then went back to work. Selah.

After marriage we hyphenated our names, mostly because I wasn't sure if I'd remember that Mansfield meant me, not because I had any great attachment to my family name. The Devines are mostly a waste of space from way back. We chose Mansfield-Devine because Devine-Mansfield sounded a bit weird. Most of our friends did something similar as a mark of their new, conjoined status.

I still have trouble remembering my wedding anniversary, not being the romantic sort, and also have trouble remembering the DH's birthday. Nevertheless we haven't killed each other yet...

But the thing is, we didn't think our wedding was in any way radical. Most of our friends didn't have 'traditional' weddings - they married in recessions, with only parents present and then maybe a walk on the beach afterwards: the full-monty white dress, white cake affair was out of the question for most of us in the late 80s. One couple (married 18 years? 20 years?) just went to the pub with their mates. One couple married only for tax reasons, after 17 happy years living together - she still doesn't like to admit to being a wife. Most of us girls chose a pretty dress that we could wear for evening - something that was a tradition for centuries before the advent of the 'wedding dress'.

It is very depressing if a whole new generation of women feels they're being radical just for not having matching napkins, or the wrong kind of flowers - God help us. It must be the rampant consumerism of the past decade with its collagen-plumped lips and fake breasts that makes women feel they're making some sort of statement just by not wearing white. Do we not have more important things to think about? Equal pay, for instance?

I have nothing against marriage - as Erica Jong said, it's good to have a friend in a cruel world - but in this day and age, it's not a goal for a girl to ASPIRE to, surely? Why make such a fuss about it?


Women's rights activist to be given full police protection

The EU has finally given Europe-wide police protection to Ayaan Hirsi Ali - and about time too.

Really, she should be given a medal.

Hirsi Ali, born a Somali Muslim, has suffered death threats since 2003 when she and her colleague Theo Van Gogh made Submission, a film that revealed the extend of violence against women within Islam.

Van Gogh was murdered in 2004 in Amsterdam (while he was cycling to work) and there are many extremists who would like to see Ali follow him. Van Gogh's murderer even left a declaration to that effect pinned to his victim's chest with a knife.

Ali has after all, commited the ultimate sin. She is an apostate - one who has lost her faith - which is punishable in Islam by death and nothing less.

Ali, who was forcibly circumcised as a child, escaped a forced marriage in Somalia for a freer life in Holland and eventually became a member of the Dutch parliament. But she was shamefully betrayed by her adopted country when she drew attention to the subjugation of Muslim women taking place in the Muslim ghettos of their own country. Not one to shy away from a difficult issue, she was outspoken and critical of liberal multi-culturalist attitudes that permitted the virtual enslavement of women and practices such as female genital mutilation within the heart of the European Union itself.

Now Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice and home affairs, has told the UK's Guardian newspaper that "Hirsi Ali and any other persons facing threats to their lives because of their opinions or writings, would be guaranteed protection wherever they went in Europe and that the host country would bear the expense".

Although no new laws were required to set up this agreement it's an important step and sends an important message to extremists - that the West values freedom of speech - including the freedom to offend.

We should be proud of Ali and women like her, who speak out on behalf of downtrodden women everywhere and face the prospect of death for simply daring to think differently. And perhaps finally we can be proud of the European Parliament.

Ali's books: Infidel, and The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam are available from the Second Cherry bookshops at and


Way to go, Hillary

Great to see Hillary Clinton making a 'comeback' in the primaries

blog imageI can't believe the crap this woman has to put up with. It's not enough for her to be intelligent, experienced, competent, committed and ambitious (not generally considered a fault in the male of the species), she has to field bloody silly questions like: "How do you feel about people not liking you?"

Well, big whoop. Do they really expect her to care? I loved her reply of: "Well, that hurts my feelings," said with a slight smile that will doubtless incense the banjo-pickin' God-botherers of the flyover states.

I loathed Thatcher, but I can't imagine anyone asking that old battleaxe such a mind-numbingly patronising question. To start with, no-one would have dared. Nor Angela Merkel. Nor Indira Ghandi. Americans prefer their female politicians more cuddly and fluffy than this and it looks like Hill's surge in popularity may well be due to a well-timed tear in the eye when talking about the future of the country. Gee, you mean, she has feelings too?

When Bill Clinton was campaigning to be president, Hillary got inveigled into baking cookies on prime-time telly just to prove she was really a woman under it all. Under what all? She certainly has a womb and ovaries, unless she gestated Chelsea in a box - in my book the possession of a double-x chromosome is pretty good qualifying criteria for femalehood. So why is the concept of her also being one of THE most successful lawyers in the US such a threat? We all know she's wealthy enough to buy store-bought cookies, so why does anyone feel the need to pretend that she really knows where the kitchen is? Do Americans really have nothing better to worry about than this?

The whole of the US political process is a crock of shit, with the evangelicals hijacking entire caucuses and people who should be on the same side - not even natural adversaries in a normal world - being forced to compete as if they were the worst of enemies. The victory usually belongs to those with the biggest wallets. Luckily, Hill's is bigger than most.

Ye gods.

Anyway, let's hope she can keep her act together and become the first female president of the United States. If that benighted country finally takes its head out of its backside, it might finally end up with - y'know - stuff that we've had in Europe for 50 years: like a national health service, and a functioning social security system, and a judicial process that doesn't execute its own citizens.


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