Saturday, May 30, 2009

Food, Gloriously Gendered Food!

Re-posted from The F-Word, as discussed elsewhere.

I was asked earlier today (as were other writers on The F-Word) if I was interested in commenting on gendering of food through advertising. And I thought it was quite an interesting subject. Here are my thoughts:

I have a real problem with "gendering" food at all. From the "women like chocolate more than sex" stereotype to the notion that certain products will sell better to men if you describe them as "not for girls". At best it's unnecessary and at worst it's directly promoting gender prejudice.

In particular what is a problem is that as soon as food is deemed suitable for women, it will almost certainly be a lower-calorie version of the original food. The inference that women are or should be dieting all the time is noxious in a world where eating disorders affect a huge proportion of teenage girls and adult women and are on the rise. At the same time the "real men don't diet" message makes it harder for men to choose to eat healthily and is certainly a contributory factor in the sky-high (relative to what it could be) levels of heart disease, stroke, etc seen among men in the UK. This imbalance also plays into the notion that men do or should do tougher physical jobs (fire-fighting, military roles, etc) and play sport in their free time while women are seen as weak and in need of a "strong" man to look after them. These are all notions which do nothing for our society except to act as drivers for sexism, stereotyping and discrimination.

If food manufacturers want to sell me their food - they should make better quality food. Organic, traditionally and locally farmed, free from additives and excessive packaging and without those kind of bulking-out products that have become so commonplace on the modern food shelf - "exotic" fruit juice that's mostly grape, "meat" pies that are mostly onion. Real food, real value, and real concern for the environment will appeal to me - not patronising out-dated gender stereotypes.

Twittering Twits

Re-posted from the F-Word, as explained elsewhere.

Difficult to know how much to read into a few (hundred) posts on twitter. First I should briefly explain a concept to unfamiliar readers:

Members of Twitter (and there are loads) post up short messages about themselves or general stuff which appear next to their name. My name on the system is "Cruella1" so for instance I might "tweet" about what I'm doing:

(1) Cruella1 has just finished her lunch and is thinking about going to the park.

or about something I'm trying to draw attention to

(2) Cruella1 has just written a blog post #feminism

or I might reply to someone else's Tweet

(3) Cruella1 @jester thanks for the advice!

or I might join in a discussion already happening on Twitter

(4) Cruella1 #cornypickuplines do you work in subway? cos you've got me a foot long...

Now I need to explain a bit of etiquette - the @jester in (3) means I'm talking to someone (jester - that's Jess McCabe who edits The F-Word), and the #feminism in (2) and #cornypickuplines (4) are basically search terms. So I know people will go on Twitter looking for info about feminism and I want to direct them to my blog via (2). Also I notice other people I know are having a general chat about corny pick-up lines and I want to join in (4). You can click on these #-terms to see all "tweets" that mention them.

Anyway right now there is very popular #-search term with hundreds of "tweets" including it called #liesgirlstell. And I guess I should warn you that some of these comments might be triggering for some people. I won't name and shame who made these "tweets" but I was quite shocked at the level of disdain and hatred for women revealed...

#liesgirlstell: I'm not a slut, I juss like sex
#liesgirlstell "I don't f*ck on the first date"
#liesgirlstell im a virgin
#liesgirlstell I am low maintenance
#liesgirlstell I didn't get pregnant so you would marry me
#liesgirlstell "I'm strippin to pay for college" (b!tch you are 49!! Your turn is OVER!)
#liesgirlstell "i'm on my period"
#liesgirlstell i am capable of having an intellegent conversation with another human being
#liesgirlstell "i dont want your money"
#liesgirlstell I'm not a hoe
#liesgirlstell Kobe raped me.

I don't know what I'm more horrified by - is it:

1) The fact that there are thousands of people happily joining in this debate as though it's normal and funny to make jokes about women being prone to dishonesty (look at all the politicians, most men, lying about everything from war to duck islands!),
2) The repeated suggestion that women who have and enjoy sex are bad/evil/disgusting
3) That bizarre comment in the middle about women not being able to hold intelligent conversations where the author himself can't even spell "intelligent"...!
4) The disgusting rape denier at the end.

But suffice as to say sadly that is the world we all live in. And to think some people think we don't need feminism!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Truth About Antenatal Classes

Re-posted from The F-Word where I am currently guest-blogging.

A report out from Sweden says that attending classes teaching breathing techniques and relaxation methods has exactly no effect on your likelihood of needing an epidural. And no impact on your likelihood of needing a C-Section. And no impact on your overall satisfaction with the birth.

Now that's not to say that there aren't some worthwhile things to be taught to expecting parents. To get the low-down I spoke to my sister (Lynda) who had a baby almost a year ago and attended both NHS and NCT (National Childbirth Trust) classes before the birth. She said neither even mentioned breathing techniques or relaxation as discussed in the Swedish report. But she did have some good points about several aspects of them. Here is what she had to say:

1) NHS classes: free but a total waste of time. Around 40 individuals and couples in a theatre-style auditorium. During question and answer sessions she couldn't really hear what other participants were saying and they ran out of handouts. Pain relief methods were discussed briefly as more or less a list of options.

2) NCT classes: £140 for 2 days and one evening, much more useful. Eight individuals and couples with practical opportunities to try things, etc. The most useful thing was the focus on the emotions around birth and new babies, for instance talking about how the mother's partner might feel coming home to find the house a mess and the mother exhausted and desperate to hand the baby over. Provided lots of useful advice for the birth itself - such as bringing along glucose sweets for energy and a kneeling cushion if you wanted to try a kneeling position. Probably much of this is available in books on maternity but also in this class friends were made and a support network accumulated.

As far as pain relief was concerned she was expecting there to be real pressure on women to reject pain relief. In the event there was a run-through of different options with participants asked to make a list of the pros and cons of each type. This might sound even-handed but in fact the "cons" is a long list of unlikely medical complications while the "pros" is one single item "reduces pain" which applies in most cases. Drawing the list like this gives the impression that one pro equals one con when in reality cons like "baby may be sleepy for first hour after birth" may well be pretty trivial against the pain thing.

Worryingly they were told that using the pain-reliever pethidine gives your child a greater risk of becoming a drug addict later in life. Both Lynda and I doubt this statement - though there may be a correlation between hospitals in underprivileged areas who dish out pethidine when they don't really have enough midwives around to cope with all the women in labour and the hospitals where kids turn up eighteen years later with a drug problem. In any case the information is nothing more than a scare tactic unless it says how much the risk increases and where the data is from.

3) Pain. No class can prepare you for the pain. To quote Lynda directly "The only way they could explain to you in a class what the pain is like is if they made you stand barefoot on upturned drawing pins while they loaded you with heavy sandbag after heavy sandbag to weight you down and the only way to make it stop was to shout 'EPIDURAL'!". ...and I am supposed to be the comedienne in the family!

4) Reality. The one thing no class really told despite asking repeatedly at the NHS one was what the most likely outcome was - what percentage of women manage without pain relief, etc and what percentage of pain relief interventions lead to problems, and what type of problems. In the end of five women Lynda is still in touch with, including herself, there were two without epidural and three with epidural. In all three of the latter cases there were complications associated with the epidural (one didn't work - the pain continued, one the needle kept coming out and having to be refitted and one woman was left on crutches for several months with a small baby to look after!). Of course without access to the relevant data we just can't know how much of that is to be expected from an epidural and how much is down to bad luck or overworked staff, etc.

5) Birth plans. Apparently the NCT went on and on about how important it was for women to write a "birth plan" to take with them to hospital. Now it's understandable that women would want to have a document in hand to tell nurses what they want in different scenarios, to avoid having procedures they didn't want forced upon them when they are in too much pain to discuss things. However of those in the group who made a "birth plan" (Lynda refused despite repeated demands by class instructors) 100% ended up not sticking to it and then feeling they had somehow "failed" to have the birth they wanted. In any case who would write a birth plan that says "experience extreme pain, demand an epidural, discover it's too late, baby's heart rate slows, rushed in for emergency cesarean". Everyone writes "no pain relief, baby slips out in 2 minutes, I look stunning", and then nobody lives up to it. So sure take in some notes about particular things you're worried about seems to be good advice, but stay open minded about what happens - don't make too many plans!

6) What they don't mention. There were a few things that didn't seem to get mentioned. Particularly some of the graphic details. Like for instance "you will definitely sh!t yourself at some point". Not to freak women out but so that when it happens they know not to be surprised or embarrassed. Maybe just reading out a few accounts from women who have had babies recently would help.

So in conclusion, there seem to be some real positives from a supportive class covering what to expect throughout maternity, birth and the first year or so of a child's life, although clearly such classes should be available freely (although the NCT does offer discounted classes if mothers have financial difficulties). Information on pain relief doesn't seem to be getting through so well. What is needed in this area is accurate information about all the options and how likely the various outcomes are both nationally and by hospital and clinic so that women can make a considered choice. What is not needed is a load of piffle about trying to relax while you're in excruciating pain.

Footnote: The moment I put this up someone messaged me on Facebook to say they read it. This friend of mine said she had a planned cesarean because of problems identified earlier in the pregnancy. When they told her this she felt ... relieved. What a shame that a woman can't just decide she wants a planned cesarean and discuss that with her antenatal teacher. What's so bad about not wanting to go through a lot of pain? Give women all the information and let them choose what they want for themselves.

(By the way there is a response to this post by another feminist here).

More Free Tampons

Re-posted from The F-Word where I am currently guest-blogging.

Lil-Lets have out-done themselves now. After last week's "Free Tampons" offer, they are now offering a free box of tampons with some free sample packs to give to your friends. But this offer breaks new ground in also offering a do-it-yourself "dip test" - their brand and a rival brand of tampons with two test tubes and some suspicious-looking blue liquid for you to recreate the thrills and spills of being in a sanitary product advert! Really! I suggest take the freebee and use the test tubes as shot glasses!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Try Not To Enjoy This Too Much...

...oh ok, go on then!! At the risk of shocking some readers I think I would have to admit that I enjoyed this story so much I may have to go change into clean underwear!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tesco and Me

Re-posted from The F-Word where I am currently guest-blogging.

Somehow or another I have failed to tick a box somewhere online and I have been added to a mailing list run by Tesco. Today their marketing director Kendra Banks has written me with some recommendations. Her first pick for me is Eminem's new album "Relapse".

This album's title track includes some interesting lyrics, like this one:

"he stuck the bitch with the pitchfork with the long prongs"

I wonder how this fits with Tesco's fancily worded policy on diversity and inclusion: gender?

But maybe lyrics about killing women pale into insignificance next to some of the other things he says in the very same song. Such as these:

"Slice you up and cook you after you`re murdered by strangulation
That`s bacon souffle you makin`, ain`t you? well, thank you jason
There goes one more coma
Due to blunt force trauma"

"The medication is making my hands a little shakier
Hand me the 18 month old baby, come shake `em up
It`ll only take me a second to choke his trachea
Breakin` his neck in eightysome places"

Maybe someone could print out the above stanza and put it in Tesco stores next to the nappies and baby food? Or maybe Kendra Banks should double check what is being sent out to Tesco customers with her name on the bottom!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Free Tampons

Re-posted from The F-Word where I am currently guest blogging.

It hardly needs saying that I am a big advocate of alternative menstrual hygiene products* - moon cup, sea sponge tampons, washable pads, etc but of course these don't suit everybody all of the time. So I thought I would mention for the benefit of those interested that Lil-Lets are currently giving away free samples of their new applicator (yes, I know, the waste!) tampons. You have to register but you can opt for not joining the mailing list (or join and then barrage them with messages demanding they switch to recyclable products) to get the free sample here.

*What a stupid term - I mean period products!

The Trouble With Cruella

Re-posted from The F-Word, where I am currently guest-blogging.

As some readers will have noticed, I was interviewed for a BBC Two documentary about working women called "The Trouble With Working Women" which was shown this evening. You can see the whole thing here on the BBC iPlayer. And if you just want to see my bit - it starts at 37 minutes in, so you can scroll it along.

I've just finished watching the whole thing and I thought it was quite interesting, they do speak to a range of people on the subject. I had a few notes though.

They talk a lot about the extent to which having children holds women back but they never stop to ask whether that in itself is a result of sexism. I mean if having children made you a bad employee we would assume that the small number of women who do get to the top would all be women without children. Surprise - not true! Margaret Thatcher has two children, Segolene Royal four children, Hillary Clinton one child. And the most successful women in business: Dame Marjorie Scardino has three children, Dorothy Thompson two children, Linda Cook three children. There is no evidence to suggest mothers make less valuable employees. What we do know is that female bosses, regardless of the number of children they have, work an average three hours more per week than their male counterparts.

Later they gravely warn that one in four women with a degree is "childless at forty" - something they should probably mention to the noxious woman complaining she wouldn't hire a woman of child-bearing age. Note to any female readers currently navigating the credit crunch job market - why not consider a career-enhancing hysterectomy... oh that's right because it's totally screwed up and sickening.

Even so the one in four figure is useless information without telling us what percentage of men with degrees are childless at the same age - among my college friends most of the women have children but almost none of the guys. And anyway one in five women overall do not have children in their lifetimes so it seems like the degree might not be the main factor. Plus what percentage of these women wanted children in the first place? Maybe getting a degree opened them up to other things that they enjoy more. Maybe they're thrilled to be without children and able to focus their free time on travel and artistic pursuits (as a friend said to me the other day "Oh God Kate I wouldn't have had children if I'd know I was creative!"). Maybe they would prefer to be described with the term "child free".

They then say that 30% of mothers stay at home full time but that two-thirds of working mothers said they did so out of necessity. For me there's a gap there where they should be asking what can be done to support mothers who want to spend more time with kids and why the benefit system forces women back to work so quickly after they have children. There is a lot of talk about women making tough choices but the reality for many women is clearly that it's not a choice at all.

But also I'd like to know what percentage of stay at home mothers do so at least partly because their job prospects are so hampered by sexism - certainly true of all the stay-at-home mums I know.

As so often with these things they seem to get totally sidelined into the motherhood thing and away from the real issue - sexism. Amazing when you consider they actually interview guys who say "women shouldn't be allowed to work", "women aren't put on this earth to work". And then you're telling me it's my choices that are holding my career back? No - it's these assholes!

So where is the documentary asking how so many men manage to "juggle" a career with playing golf and downloading internet porn? Whoops, forgot to make that one!

The notion that women having children explains everything from the pay gap to sexual harassment is totally sexist because only women can be "women having children"! I honestly believe if women rather than men grew the vast majority of beards the government would announce they were unhygienic and we wouldn't be allowed to work in the food industry which would overnight become the best paid industry in the country. And if men had the children they'd be automatically promoted every time they squeezed one out because they were demonstrating an ability to shoulder more responsibility...

We're not victims of biology - we're victims of misogyny.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Boris's Big Plans

Re-posted from The F-Word, where I am currently resident guest blogger!

Well I figured it was about time I went online and filled in the survey on the Mayor of London's "consultation" on his violence against women strategy. I was just trundling through, ticking boxes and adding comments when I realised I was experiencing a growing sense of unease over the whole thing.

I mean for instance I'm ticking a box to say that I agree that a priority should be to:

"4. Respond to the needs of at risk and marginalised women."


"3.Respond to the needs of children and young people experiencing violence."


"2. Clamping down on traffickers"

They are seriously asking me whether or not these issues should be a priority. Did anyone log on and tick "no - don't bother to help children", "no - leave the traffickers alone"?

And here's the thing - no-one would ever EVER do a survey asking Londoners what types of terrorism the Metropolitan police should be focusing on. Tick this box if you think we should try to prevent bombs on the tube, and this box if you're opposed to terrorists spreading anthrax. The strategy has always quite rightly been to do everything possible to prevent all types of terrorism.

Domestic violence kills two women in the UK every week. Rape is so poorly dealt with by police and in courts that it might as well be legal most of the time. What Boris Johnson's violence against women strategy should do is every single thing in its power to end violence against women. Obviously and immediately. A three month long "consultation" consisting of an online survey to find out whether or not Londoners think "at risk and marginalised women" should be protected is a waste of time and an insult to both the intelligence of people of London and more importantly the women suffering rape, violence, intimidation and harassment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wrong Wrong Wrong

Today's horrifying must-read link is over at Feministe.

Looking for Inspiration?

Re-posted from The F-Word where I am guest-blogging at the moment.

Great news - on Monday night the award ceremony was held for the Inspirational Women of the Year Awards. Like any keen-to-be-inspired young woman I rushed straight to the media to soak up the positive vibes.

The first thing I found was that The Daily Telegraph had a feature encouragingly titled "Inspirational Women of the year awards". I've put the link there as exhibit A but if you'd like to save the bother here's what the article holds, this is the full list:

A picture of Sarah Brown in a large necklace.
Three paragraphs about Helen Mirren's hair.
One paragraph about Helen Mirren's outfit.
Two paragraphs about Sarah Brown's outfit.
A paragraph describing the event, it's location and sponsor.
A list of other female celebrities who attended.

And that's it. No mention is made or photograph shown of the women nominated for or winning the awards. In fact to the untrained eye it appears Helen Mirren won after the judges ruled she had better hair than Gordon Brown's wife!

Some more digging turned up a second article. No, not in The Times or The Guardian, in Hello Magazine. And they actually (not that it was hard) did a better job than The Telegraph.

The photos were of Helen Mirren and Rachel Stevens in glamourous outfits but the article's five paragraphs included only one about the outfits worn by the various celebs in attendance and a whole paragraph and a half naming the winner and describing her achievements.

The Daily Mail also ran a piece, which they really had to given that their readers were the ones who had been voting for the winners (before you ask - yes all the candidates were predictably white and able-bodied). They provided a very long piece which described in depth the achievements of the winner interspersed with a huge number of photos of the celebrity attendees in glamorous outfits.

I really fail to see how this is going to inspire young women to do anything other than buy fancy shoes.

But in case you were wondering... the winner was Sylvie Silver whose achievements we are told include:

"Serving as a wing commander in charge of 1,300 teen air cadets in the London Air Training Corps, working with children and adults with learning difficulties, helping in a nursing home and acting as a director of a charity for older people."

Well done Sylvie.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Frying High

At last a sensible comment on the MPs expenses debacle! Thank you Stephen Fry.

When I see that an MP has expensed a few pounds on dog food or chocolate or shampoo I don't think I could never vote for that person again.

I think firstly that as an MP you can and should be allowed to charge for the reasonable costs of doing your job and I can't really tell which things fall into that category and which don't. What doesn't seem reasonable is the notion in the papers that the cost of an MPs office is in some way an addition to his or her salary. No-one running a florists in Swindon considers the cost of renting their premises a part of their income. MPs need offices. As for the other things - "reasonable" is a term that means different things to all of us, if you're entitled to expense for food then what I think is a moderate restaurant might seem extravagant to another person who only buys sandwiches and inadequate to another who has grown up with fine dining.

Secondly I think I don't want to vote for someone who spends six hours a day going through old receipts making sure that everything has been carefully accounted for and filed under the right heading.

I'm sure there are plenty of MPs who have shelled out from their own pocket to pay for snacks or coffees for a meeting and then realised they didn't ask for a receipt and effectively paid for something that technically the taxpayer should have paid for. These are trivial amounts of money compared to the cost of for instance the totally pointless war we're still engaged in. MPs should be getting on with sorting out poverty, inequality, injustice, crime, healthcare, education and international affairs. And the media should get on with chasing politicians over these things and stop blowing up a story that isn't really a story.

Feminism, Still Relevant 217 Years Later

Re-posted from the F-Word where I am guest-blogging for a few weeks.

The Independent has a rather poorly thought-out piece about how hip reading left-wing books is this season...? I guess since the realms of history is the only place you see any real socialism any more. One thing that annoyed me though was their dismissive remark about Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women. They say "Her central argument that women are as capable of reasoning as men, and have the same right to be educated is not controversial any more".

Now this riles me no end because not a week goes by that some idiot at a comedy club decides fourteen pints is about the right level of inebriation he needs to stumble over and treat me to a fifteen minute discourse on why women just aren't funny. On a good night he's just the member of the audience who loudly left announcing "It's a bird, good time to go to the bar" as I walked onstage. On a bad night, he's the promoter. Either way it feels to me as though that's my powers of reasoning being called into question on the basis of my gender.

Meanwhile in other news a Saudi Arabian Judge has just said women are partly to blame for domestic violence if they are rude to their husbands or frivolous when shopping for a full-length black abaya (which they are obliged to wear at all times under the draconian Saudi laws).

Maybe someone should mention to Andy McSmith, author of the piece in The Independent, that the battle for the vindication of the rights of women isn't actually over yet. In some places it has hardly begun.

Monday, May 11, 2009

All My Daughters

Thanks (not) to the Male-y Telegraph for annoying me a great deal at Sidcup station this morning... A giant version of the above poster which helpfully lets us know that a working class background needn't hold us back. So long as we are white, straight, male, able-bodied, etc...

In fact it's doubly offensive because it marvels at how well they did despite the "lowly" status of their fathers (not that I personally see anything lowly about coal miners, ship stewards or traveling salesmen, but that is clearly the inference of the advert) but no mention is made of their mothers.

In fact Bill Clinton's travelling salesman father died before Bill was born. A much bigger influence on him was his mother who trained as a nurse while he was small and then married the owner of a car dealership who was physically abusive to her.

In fairness there are two other adverts - one about where big companies (Nokia, Lambourghini, IBM) started and one about first venues worked at for three more guys (Jimi Hendrix, Barack Obama and Richard Branson) of whom in fairness only one is white though all are male, straight and able-bodied. The three companies mentioned are all overwhelmingly governed by white men.

But it seems the Daily Telegraph is a men's paper about men, written by men and marketed to men.... to which I can only say "Fuck Off".

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Feminism In London '09

Yes the conference is back again this year and already there is quite a line-up of speakers planned, including one Ms Kate Smurthwaite... I hosted the conference last year and they have asked me to come and do it again. Save the date 10th Oct.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Review: Jessica Valenti: Studs and Sluts and Virgins and Myths

Jessica Valenti, in an effort to make us all feel like we should get up earlier, has not one but two new books out. Both are released in the UK on May 7th (tomorrow).

He's a Stud, She's a Slut (And 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know) looks like one of those rather meaningless "gift books" that you buy for friends when you can't think of anything else they'd like or you've only just remembered that it's birthday drinks you're heading to when you get to the train station with two minutes to spare.

But we know Valenti better than to expect anything so simple. The "fluff" appearance of the book, no doubt soon to be appearing on every thinking woman's toilet shelf, is part of it's brilliance. You really could give it as a fun little inexpensive (£7.99 in the UK) gift to someone who'd never thought about women's rights before. Inside, chopped into sassy bite-sized chunks Valenti presents an overwhelmingly compelling case for the existence of a double standard for women in every branch of society.

The focus is on both the media and public attitudes, as she dissects why women politicians are so over-scrutinised for their appearance and why praise is heaped on men who make the slightest effort to involve themselves in the lives of their children while mothers doing the same are at best taken for granted and at worst left out of a job. The tone is witty and sassy and it comes with lashings of true stories from Valenti's own life from the toys she had as a child to her early relationships and recent media appearances.

The one place where the sass starts to grate for me is in the So... What To Do? sections which follow each mini-chapter. On the one hand I think it's admirable to offer practical suggestions for tackling sexism, on the other hand these become repetitive because what is there to do about sexist stereotyping and discriminatory media coverage? Make a point when you hear someone use it, write to your local paper and if you want to then do the things that society is telling you you're not supposed to. And I'm never one for advising people to shut up and ignore prejudice but if you really called out every time you heard one of the double standards in this book, you'd never get past the end of your road in the mornings!

Still for the uninitiated in matters of women's equality, this easy-to-read entertaining little book will serve as an eye-opener on the inherent injustice of attitudes we have all been brought up with and often ourselves accept unquestioningly. For the long term women's rights supporter of course the fun of the book is very different. Instinctively you find yourself trying to come up with more examples of double standards to add to Valenti's fifty. Here's the best three I could think of:

1) He's had unlucky with women, she goes for "bad guys". Have you heard this? A guy dates a string of women who dump him or stand him up and the reaction is "Women eh?", a woman gets beaten up by one guy, robbed by the next and emotionally abused by the third and the conclusion is "Why does she always go for bad guys?".

2) He's fit and healthy, she should go for regular tests. I'm not knocking a regular visit to the doctors for a check-up if you want to. However there does seem to be a whole pink-coloured industry devoted to letting women know that our bodies are weak and frail and liable to let us down at any moment. Of course there's no denying that it is us women getting the lion's share of the breast cancer and the cervical cancer and other specific womb-related issues. What seems to have been forgotten though is: women live considerably longer than men. Whatever it is that's killing us is doing it later, slower and less often than it does for you guys. There's nothing wrong with Ronan Keating releasing a fund-raising record in aid of breast cancer research in his mother's name but where is the female starlet belting out a teary ballad for sufferers of prostate cancer?

3) He's a lawyer, she's a female lawyer. Seems like certain jobs (good, well-paid jobs) belong to men so very specifically that any woman who dares do them will live forever with the unofficial job title FEMALE doctor, FEMALE MP and, in my line of work, FEMALE comedian. The only time the tables are turned of course is for lower-paid, lower-status jobs, MALE nurse, MALE secretary and MALE cleaner - who is probably given the better title janitor or caretaker and paid a fair bit more than the women doing the same job.

Feel free to add your own once you've checked out Valenti's list!

The Purity Myth (How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women) is a much more serious piece, though certainly not stodgy or academic. It's a systematic critique of the increasing obsession with purity and virginity in modern America and the impact this is having on young women the country over (Valenti even includes a specific section at the end on discussing the issues raised with young people - about as direct an attack on the abstinence schools programme as she could make). These groups have in recent years made minor inroads into the markedly more secular UK but their reach has so far been thankfully limited.

Nonetheless there is no doubt that we do as a nation continue to subscribe to some very old-fashioned notions of purity relating to young women's sexuality. Anyone with half an eye open recently will have seen the scandal involving Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross making unpleasant phone calls to the actor Andrew Sachs. The furore which exploded afterwards centred on the offense caused to Sachs. No-one seemed to be asking why exactly a man should be upset to discover that his own granddaughter, who is well over the age of consent and living her own independent life, has had sex. And no-one seemed to be wondering what exactly it was about said sex that somehow sullied the woman in question - Georgina Baillie - but didn't do anything to damage the reputation of Brand.

These are exactly the attitudes that this book does a wonderful job of myth-busting. Starting with the fact that virginity has no meaningful medical definition. Valenti addresses the sinister nature of the abstinence-only lobby in the US but also tackles the fallout from this for women who choose not to remain "daddy's little virgin" and are suddenly considered "immoral" and "fallen" women regardless of their hard work, their studies, their volunteer work, their political activism, their ability to care for others and countless other contributions they make to the world.

She also discusses how the attitude of contempt for women who choose to have sex hampers our ability to deal with real problems in society like teenage pregnancy, STIs, rape and the abuses that go on within the sex industry. So as long as our distinguishing line is between disgusting women who have sex and pure women who don't we cannot progress to seeing the nuances of what kind of sex women are having - is it satisfying, is it safe and is it consensual? And while we dismiss those who have sex as dirty it is also impossible to objectively tackle the abuse of women in the sex industry.

On this final point Valenti and I disagree somewhat. In fairness she doesn't reach a conclusion on the subject, she merely says that attention needs to be paid to the issue and suggests that in dealing with it it is important to listen to the voices of the women who work in the industry rather than marching in with ready-made solutions that may not fit the problems. On this I agree, but worry that the issue is more complicated than it may at first seem.

In Britain many groups exist claiming to speak for the thousands of women working as lap dancers, prostitutes, escorts, and so on. The problem is that many appear to be astroturf campaigns (i.e. grass roots campaigns, only fake) run by the club owners, agency managers and pimps promoting an agenda which largely ignores the horrors of the industry - rape, violence, abuse, addiction and human trafficking and instead demands only continued liberalisation in the hunt for ever-soaring profits. We need to be sure that we are hearing the real voices of women working in all areas of the sex industry. Maybe it is less of an issue in the US, but in the UK there is probably a need for a disclaimer on that chapter.

The rest though is bang on and will undoubtedly become compulsory reading for the next generation of pro-sex feminists.