The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Quickie: What the Fucking Fuck edition

Seriously, NZ Herald? This is what passes for election coverage?

I was going to write a whole screed here, rant and rage and encourage people to write to you or boycott you or something. But actually, seriously, I give the fuck up.

Quickie: Men Tell Us Things

Following along from the piece we linked to in Saturday’s post about misogynist abuse online, my girlcrush Sady Doyle started the Twitter hashtag #mencallmethings.

It’s vaguely related to the whole Robyn Malcolm #evilrobyn Vitriolic Savaging thing, too, what with that also being about OH NOES A WOMAN SPOKE HER MIND!!1!

One of the things we have tried to do here at TLG is foster a supportive and open comments policy, what with all the talking about sex. If you’ve read the comments policy, you’ll know that what that means is we can take forthright and strident, but we won’t accept abusive and downright nasty. That’s meant a couple of bannings, and deleting some comments.

Anyway, the hashtag thread is triggering, but immensely powerful, so if you have the spoons, drop on by.

Also worth reading is Sady’s post, on why she started it.

[Update: I’ve been thinking about this a little more, and what is most annoying about this thread, and the number of articles and posts now associated with it, is the sheer predictability of the response. You get “all men aren’t like this, why are you saying we are?” “you should call the police” “you should just ignore it” “woman up”. All of which misses the point that abuse and threats are designed to silence us.]

I haven’t had nearly enough sleep for the Herald’s bullshit.

Splashed across the front page of the New Zealand Herald’s website right now is the headline Robyn Malcolm’s vitriolic PM attack.

So, as I see it, Robyn Malcolm, who has been prominent in the past year, politically, with the Hobbit debacle, and the anti-mining campaign, was the MC at the Green’s campaign launch. She was  political and forthright, and pretty funny.

…We have a leader who seems to be more interested in talking about his cats on the radio, being seen at the rugby and getting on the cover of the Women’s Weekly. I thought that was my job.

An unshakeable and abiding love of fossil fuels … and an inability to follow through on promises of any kind, but will make anything up for a Hollywood mogul should they happen to come down this way.

Gosh! Someone at a campaign launch criticised the man standing to lead this country! Less than three weeks out from the election. Someone had the temerity to joke about him appearing on the cover of trashy magazines.

But of course, she’s also a woman. So any criticism was of course “vitriolic” and “a savaging”.

Hey, Adam Bennett, you missed some words. Uppity. Shrill. Bitch. Shrew. Snippy. Harpy. Strident. Any combination thereof. I have some special words for you, too. Here at TLG, we actually welcome loud, outspoken women. And I just have one question for Robyn Malcolm – when you gonna stand yourself?



The 42nd Down Under Feminists Carnival is up at Pondering Postfeminism. Lots of good reading for your Sunday morning.

Sharing the love

Things we liked, or didn’t like, from around the internet this week:

A great article on online activism, whether it achieves anything, and how to fund it.

A republican presidential candidate accuses Planned Parenthood’s founder of racism: “Seventy-five percent of those facilities were built in the Black community. And Margaret Sanger’s own words– she didn’t use the word genocide but she did talk about preventing the– the increasing number of poor Blacks in this country by preventing Black babies from being born.” Brilliance ensues.

Sanger’s fundamental heresy was in claiming every woman’s right to experience her sexuality freely and bear only the number of children she desires. Following a first generation of educated women who had proudly forgone marriage in order to seek fulfillment outside the home, she offered birth control as a necessary condition to the resolution of a broad range of personal and professional frustrations.

(Though what’s depressing is that, decades later, we are still fighting for this.)

Have we had enough Clarisse Thorn? Of course we bloody haven’t. A Unified Theory of Orgasm.

Or enough Amanda Marcotte, Sady Doyle, Latoya Peterson, and Jessica Valenti? No. (Plus, Pg4 is a good round up of some of the bigger US feminist blogs.

Just don’t read the comments: sexist abuse online (Trigger warning for some fairly sexualised threats). The comments on that particular piece are OK, as far down as I read, providing you’re not offended by some epic Not Getting It. We’ve been fairly lucky here at TLG, as far as abuse goes. We’ve had some pretty nasty comments, but it isn’t hard to chuck them in the trash – the latest, “you must be on the rag…”. But I (Tallulah) can show you some fairly nasty threats from over the years of been online.

Time Magazine has an article about the chore wars. Don’t read it: just go straight to Blue Milk’s analysis – Before we call a truce on The Chore War.

I (Deb) forgot to link to this last week. In response to my piece in the Dom Post arguing in favour of gay marriage, Bob McCoskrie wrote a response, saying something along the lines that marriage is between a man and a woman and allowing anyone else to get married would lead to children getting married to goldfish. Or bestial unions. Gay community cannot redefine marriage. There’s some great comments, and some that are not so great, in fact down right nasty, so on balance I would advise you not to read them, but I was very taken by the one that referred to me as a “poisonous feminist”. Excellent! I rather like that.

In any case, if it is good enough for Clint….

And congratulations to Friend of TLG Robyn Gallagher, who is profiled in the Dom Post this morning: Everyone has an opinion – the Early Adopter. Pop on over to her place and read about what she has been up to lately, including eating this fabulous fried brioche with passionfruit curd.

Update: By kind permission of Robyn, her picture of the brioche:

Fried brioche with passionfruit curd

Being choosy

In last week’s Sharing The Love post, Deborah wrote this:

A post I (Deb) don’t agree with, for long and complicated reasons, but in the first instance because I think it creates a caricature to argue against. I’d be interested to hear what other people think about it. Why “Choice Feminism” is an Illusion (With Bonus “Lost” Analogy).

And I’ve been mulling it over for a week now. First of all, after that whole “birth control sucks LOl!” thing, I have a little trouble taking anything on xojane seriously.

I should point out that I have never defined my own personal brand of feminism as “choice feminism”, though people are often at pains to point out to me that’s what it is. I’m not going to go into what that means, except to say that if you try to tell me what to do/wear/shag, I will likely tell you to shut the hell up, regardless of your gender. If that’s choice feminism, then so be it. You can call it that, I’ll be over here glaring at you for taking away my right to define my own damn self.

I read this article, nodding along, letting it convince me, not putting in serious scrutiny. (It was Saturday morning, and I was reading it on my iphone, on the couch in my pyjamas.) I have a certain amount of sympathy for the argument, because I used to be one of those women. All “look, I can buy high heels because I WANT to, that makes me a feminist.” I’ve changed my thinking in the past couple of years. These days, I think calling yourself a feminist has to mean something more than “I am a woman who does things.” It doesn’t matter what it is informed by, what drives it, whether it is Camille Paglia or Buffy, but there has to be a structure to it. Feminism isn’t just “liking women”, it’s an ideology. An incredibly broad one, that means different things to different people, but nonetheless. It can be founded on a belief that you are a strong woman who does things because she wants to, but it’d be nice if some thought went into that.

So, I get what Jess Zimmerman is trying to say. Lauding your choice to wear heels and red lipstick and cleavage isn’t feminism. Oh. Except when it fucking well is.

And here’s where she falls down. Because it isn’t just about choice. It’s about informed choice. It’s about putting in the aforementioned thought. Emma and Megan know that by getting their tits out, they are, quite possibly, playing into patriarchal structures. They know that they are putting other women out in various ways. (Other women glare – I’ve seen it). They know that their boobs have apparently magical powers that turn men into slobbering predators, make other women feel shit and frighten small children. They (and I) don’t care. They do it, because it it their damn right to wear whatever the fuck they want, and anyone who doesn’t like it can go blow themselves.

What the article also fails to miss, in setting up the caricature Deborah rightly points out, is that it’s not an either/or choice. “Society” might like us to fall into a Madonna/Whore dichotomy, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Sun and Claire can have it both ways. The Patriarchy, that amorphous thing that is impossible to fight against, might like women to fulfill a certain role, whether it is homemaker or ballbreaker. But that doesn’t mean we have to. In fact, the best way to fight against it, is to make that choice constantly. Today, I feel like being quiet and dowdy and not making a fuss. Tomorrow, I may feel like donning my heels and most push-uppy bra and shouting at people who fuck me off. Both of those things are OK. It’s recognising that it’s not being a woman that gives you that choice, it’s being a person.

Or, my favourite feminist quote ever, from our very own Deborah, and I can no longer remember where she said it: “I’ll do my strumpetry my own way, thanks very much.”

Quickie: Every Fucking Time

Every election we get it. The ‘Meet the political WAGS’.

So many problems. So many issues. So much patriarchal and heteronormitive wankery.

And a bonus bit of shaming in the comments: “Interesting that it’s the Greens couple who don’t have enough committment to be married. It’s just something that stands out. Are they afraid or something?”

Ugh. I don’t care enough to write a long post, but I do now wish the campaign was over already.

Part of the Precipitate

People who know me will know how much I miss the Dux de Lux, and in particular the long conversations we used to have there. We would explore ideas, particularly about sex, in a way it’s often hard to do on line, where people are so intent on fighting their corner and only speaking from an already made-up mind.

So as an experiment, I want to try to do this here. It will involve people feeling safe about sharing their own experiences, and teasing out ideas they’re perhaps not sure of yet, so it will require patient reading.

What I want to talk about is sexual chemistry: the mythology we have around it as a society, and the way it’s actually played out in our lives. Because I know I have some experiences that don’t fit the narrative, and I’m thinking some of you do, too.

So let’s establish the story first. Chemistry (sexual or otherwise, actually) is immediate and instinctive. That obvious smack to the crotch is either there or it isn’t, straight away. You both feel it, and there’s nothing you can do about it, either its presence or its lack. Chemistry will lead, if you let it, to Sexual Awesomeness.

But chemistry is a function of newness. If you continue a relationship, then the chemistry will eventually fade away, it’s just a matter of time. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.

(Things worth noting about that article. Note the title in the tab: “Sexual Ignition ALWAYS Fails”. The headline, “Monogamy RARELY Works” is not what the column says, nor was it, obviously, the original headline. And that’s where Liz Conor falls down, because “monogamy always fails” is no less prescriptive, erasive and unhelpful than “monogamy always works”. Also I don’t think she realises that she’s describing an experience some people have simply never had. Although here we call that “Thumper Rabbit Foot”.)

So. Back to the Sexual Chemistry Mythology. Some anecdata.

Just before I got married, in my early twenties (alright, I was 21), I re-met the boyfriend I’d had between 13 and 15. And we still had some cracking sexual chemistry, despite (or because of) not having seen each other in years. He was my first experience of being completely out of control with desire. I’m still having conversations with people in their thirties or forties who are just having this happen for the first time, who are saying, “None of my other relationships were like this.” And I kind of wonder why, if you don’t have that, you bother having relationships. So that’s where I’m coming from, basically.

And the one time I decided to pursue a relationship with someone I felt no chemistry with, it was a complete disaster. (Here, also, Clarisse Thorn talks about having a chemistry-less sexual relationship.) My “decision” (and I use the word loosely) to pursue a relationship with someone I had nothing in common with BUT chemistry is still going pretty well.

And I’ve had chemistry fade in relationships, and it’s sad and awful. I’ve felt repelled by the touch of a hand that used to thrill me. Though generally, not for long.


Chemistry is mutual, right? It’s a sparking between two people. Except sometimes it’s obviously not. I’ve been the subject of genuinely unrequited desire, and my lack of enthusiasm met with total shock.

I’ve had chemistry slowly fade, and then suddenly return. “Time” is one of the list of things that are supposed to put me off sex that has simply failed to, and that list includes “childbirth”. In Outrageous Fortune, Cheryl describes having this experience with Wolf, that their chemistry simply never faded. Because, if as Liz Conor says it can take years, or a decade, then surely for some people it can take two decades, or three…

It did fade in my “first” marriage, and I accepted that this was just the way things went, that this always happened over time. There was nothing wrong with the relationship, that was just as good as things got. That took two years. I’ve been in my current relationship for eighteen.

I’ve had amazing sexual chemistry with someone, and when we’ve finally made it to bed, the sex has been awful, just awful. What gives? Fuck knows.

Also, sometimes chemistry isn’t immediate. There was a guy I’d known for seven years whom I quite suddenly one day found compellingly attractive. It was mutual, instant, and strong enough to be a problem for both of us. Yet surely, if that was going to happen, it’d had plenty of opportunity. So what gives? Fuck knows.

I also wonder what happens with “chemistry” and different levels of sex drive. If you’re genuinely just not that bothered, do you ever get that gut-punch feeling? Has anyone ever only experienced that feeling with just one person?

So. Pull up a chair, pick the smoking or non-smoking end of the table, get a Bookbinder or Three Boys in you, and let’s talk. What, from your experiences, fits the myth? What doesn’t? Can we re-make the theory so it fits the reality?