Category Archives: Reviews

Blow up? Or blow dry?

Stop thinking about cleavage. Disgraceful. Here's a picture of a kitten instead.

“Take the men if you’re going in that dress and hat,” Rebecca Dew had advised. “I’ve had a good bit of experience in canvassing in my day and it all went to show that the better-dressed and better-looking you are the more money . . . or promise of it . . . you’ll get, if it’s the men you have to tackle. But if it’s the women, put on the oldest and ugliest things you have.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Windy Willows

Ok, it’s another post involving gratuitous references to boobs. (Boobs and Anne Shirley in the same post?! Mind. Blown.) This one, though, is written by popular demand. I recently linked to an interesting article on my Facebook page, relating to the recent publication of Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital by LSE academic Catherine Hakim. Reduced to essentials, the book basically argues for the contentious idea that it’s acceptable – even desirable – for women to use their physical and sexual attractiveness to get ahead in life and in the workplace. This blog is prompted by the flurry* of comments posted on my page in response to the article, debating the failings and merits of the argument within a framework of feminist principle vs. ‘real-world’ pragmatism. It strongly resembled a Socratic dialogue, if Socrates and Plato had been able to ‘Like’ each other’s comments.

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Filed under Feminism, Reviews

One Sexy Day In London Town

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the earliest recorded use of the word ‘slut’ in English to 1402, when the poet Thomas Hoccleve complained of ‘ye foulest slutte of al a tovne’. 609 years later, the term is still being used as a sexual epithet against women, with the additional insult of the word’s alternative connotations of dirt and squalor. A notable example of this came from the mouth of a Canadian police officer in January – addressing a safety meeting at a Toronto university, he responded to a question on how to steer clear of sexual harassment with:

‘Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.’

Not only did this dispel the myth that all Canadian police are essentially replicas of Benton Fraser in Due South. It also pissed a lot of people off. And rightly so. The officer’s comment played upon two of the nastiest stereotypes surrounding female sexuality. Firstly, that it is essentially shameful and perverse – the ‘dirty slut’ trope – and secondly, that unwanted sexual attention is the responsibility of the (female) recipient, rather than the (male) aggressor. In response, SlutWalk was born – a series of protest marches and rallies calling attention to the iniquity of the double standard in sexual autonomy, and the hugely problematic issue of rape culture. It started in Toronto… it spread around the world… and last Saturday, it ended up in London (on the same day as the International Naked Bike Ride!).

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You will meet a tall dark stranger…

I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly skeptical person – after all, it’s my job as a researcher to treat things as having value only when that value can be proven (or reasonably deduced). So I was surprised at myself when I agreed to undergo a tarot reading recently; because abrogating my tendency towards self-analysis, in favour of what I would normally regard as an arbitrary pseudo-science, is not something that fits in with my desire to find logical, ‘correct’ answers to life’s problems.

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Throwing the Book!

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for returning to our scheduled programming. I have a long list of Seriously Serious Subjects to post about in the near future, but I’m embracing a bit of levity tonight – as in, good cheer, not floating (sadly) – because I’ve got a bar of chocolate and some colouring books. So, I’m treating you all to one of my famous and somewhat arbitrary lists… keep your hands off my chocolate! Tonight’s topic, inspired by the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of fiction lately, is: literature’s most annoying characters. Not the villains, necessarily, or the most hateful; but the ones who make you want to throw the book across the room in sheer frustration at their stupidity, stubbornness and/or ignorance. Presenting, in no particular order,  Fiction’s Most Peevish Protagonists…

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On Miró and Meaning: A Review

Blue II - Joan Miró (1961) © Successió Miró

I recently saw the new Miró retrospective at the Tate Modern in London (for free, thanks to a friend who works there – thank you S!). Despite the exhibition focusing on an artist whose work – 20th century Surrealism – couldn’t be further from my own research on 18th century engravings, I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that Miró’s oeuvre essentially raises the same questions that I am trying to work through in my thesis. Namely, from where or what the ‘meaning’ in an image is derived, and how does the process of interpreting that meaning work for the individual viewer?

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Filed under Art, PhD, Reviews