David Thompson


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February 16, 2013



You can try to avert your eyes as you head for the fruit and veg but if you look back once – sneak even the slightest glance – all this can send you straight to the cake counter for yet another miserable pre-starvation-diet binge.

In forty years that has never happened to me. I must be special.


In forty years that has never happened to me. I must be special.

It’s quite odd that Ms Smith, a self-described feminist, should display her radical insights by telling us how helplessly conformist she is. Specifically, that she finds herself unable to resist the tat aimed at the bored, the vain and the mentally ill-equipped. Maybe her problem isn’t that such things can be found in her local Sainsbury’s, but that she feels obliged to give them such importance in her life.


I must be made of sterner stuff than her - just in from Tesco and there's not a single copy of 'Heat', 'Hello' or 'Lifestlyes Of The Rich And Shameless' in the shopping bag!

So that's at least two of us, Joan! :)

Oh. Wait. I do have some fresh cream eclairs. #fail

Patrick Brown

Well, feminists do like to blow up the slightest inconvenience to them individually into a worldwide campaign of oppression against the female sex. It's pretty much their raison d'etre. The recent characterisation in the States of a debate over whether contraception should be compulsorily covered by occupational health insurance as a "war on women" was a good one.


The very existence of these things can mess with your head.

What's the betting her head was messed up long before she saw a trashy magazine?


Some people will make amazingly roundabout excuses for their own choices, dispositions and shortcomings. For instance, Tanya Gold, a former alcoholic and Guardian regular, t0ld us that “to develop alcoholism you have to drink heavily. You have to put the hours in at the pub.” And that therefore – yes, therefore – her woes are all the fault of capitalism, supermarkets, nightclubs and, er, Heat magazine.

Sam Duncan

Well, hold on. She admits to having been anorexic in her teenage years. Having suffered (different) psychological difficulties myself, I can relate to her description of being unable to avoid the covers of these magazines, being drawn to them against her better judgement, and wishing they'd just go away so that life would be easier.

But that's her problem, not everyone else's. I don't demand that the rest of the world changes its behaviour to accomodate my mental peculiarities. Why are hers so much more important? (Although if you look into Marx's life, that's exactly what he was doing - a bankrupt and a divorcé, it was everyone else who was wrong, not him - so maybe it's no surprise that a Guardianista follows in his footsteps.)


Ms. Smith overestimates how prone the average person is to anorexia (not very) but, in fairness, someone who is vulnerable to or in the grip of eating disorders might find it almost impossible to breeze on up the aisle. If you can imagine being an alcoholic and seeing a big poster that says "MY BEER HEAVEN" - it's kind of like that.

Which is not to say that anybody should be forced to cater to the needs of the mentally ill but that there is no shame in taking time out of one's day to call the editors scumbags when they howl at actresses for being slightly more than emaciated.


I don’t demand that the rest of the world changes its behaviour to accommodate my mental peculiarities.

That’s why you wouldn’t be suited to a job as a Guardian columnist. And yes, some people are unwell. But the world won’t revolve around the anxieties and hang-ups of people like Ms Smith or Ms Gold. And if the ladies feel so terribly oppressed by the celebrity tattle in Heat magazine, perhaps they should find something else to fixate on. If it’s all so trashy and mean, and it is, why would you want to identify with it or assign it any value as a yardstick of self-worth?


Reminds me of the reaction of feminist professor Nancy Hopkins to Harvard President Lawrence Summers' suggestion that the disproportionate ratio of men to women in science and maths disciplines might be due to innate differences. Ms Hopkins chose to display her irrepressible, empowered womynhood by declaring Summers' suggestion made her feel like she "was going to be sick", and "my heart was pounding and my breath was shallow," and she had to flee the room as "I would've either blacked out or thrown up."

Followed by a string of grovelling apologies from Summers and his resignation, of course.

Sometimes you get the impression that fainting couches have gone out of fashion amongst feminists because they require just too much inner strength and mental fortitude to use.


as a normal person with normal responses to cultural messages, I also think, "Aaaargh! I'm so much fatter than the celebrity fat – AKA "curvy" – people!"

Er, I'm not so sure that is a normal response. I don't look at Heat magazine and start screaming in my head.

Dr Cromarty

Funny, because in a different context, men not exercising sexual restraint in the face of the tantalising sight of female flesh, feminists demand self-discipline, ascesis and repentance.


Damn, Dr. Cromarty beat me to it. Exactly. Perhaps that's why God made her a woman. She wouldn't have the self-discipline to make it in this world as a man. I mean, if you believe such things.


This womyn is not the only one that faces challenges to their problems on a daily basis. Imagine the frustration of recovering crackheads as they navigate our city sidewalks,oh the horror.

Sam Duncan

Hah! Well said, Dr. C.


Why can't a woman be more like a man?
Why does every one do what the others do?
Can't a woman learn to use her head?
Why do they do everything their mothers do?
Why don't they grow up, well, like their father instead?

John D

It’s quite odd that Ms Smith, a self-described feminist, should display her radical insights by telling us how helplessly conformist she is.

That's the benefit of conformism: it (whatever it is) isn't her fault. It's society, capitalism etc.


There is not a single phrase in the article that indicates this woman takes any responsibility whatsoever for her own behaviour. Therein lies the entire problem.


That’s the benefit of conformism: it (whatever it is) isn’t her fault. It’s society, capitalism etc.

It reminds me of the Labour MP Dianne Abbott, who seems to believe that capitalism made her fat and the state can make her thin. And it reminds me of the Guardian’s Theo Hobson, who regards James Bond as “a deeply malign cultural presence,” one that “oppresses” women and, thanks to “vile peer pressure,” “does real harm to the male psyche.”

I can’t help thinking there’s an awful lot of displacement going on.


Reminds me of a one legged online feminist (she was) here, she was intrigued by the goings on of the Big Brother household and how they related to some theoretical framework. I always suspected she just liked to watch the the show, but no, there was thinking attached. All those hours of research involving staying up to 3AM to catch the uncensored versions.

Always with the higher learning as a means of generating insight and yet, inescapably, the domain these acute analytical units operate in leads to utter banalities of outcome.

Alternatively, perhaps being a feminist means that you can do girly shit with a veneer of something else that inoculates you against the charge of being preoccupied with girly shit? The same game the hipsters play with their redefined version of irony. If so it would be a typically female trait — they would hate that.


Poor Ms. Smith, practically assaulted by celeb-mags lurking with sinister purpose on public magazine racks!

Now, here in Obama's Amerika, we have Ms. Sarah Fentem offended by the word panties and wanting people to stop using it.


No, no, no! You don't understand. It's your fault that I have no self-control.


"And yet many of the Guardian’s supposedly sophisticated and freethinking columnists - feminists, even - find not being interested inexplicably difficult"

If they were able to ignore, there would be no angst at the commonplace objectification and subjugation that pervades every single facet of everyday life...and no hand-wringing articles for us to enjoy.

All this faux-outrage is of course a pretext for priggish authoritarians to crank up the bossiness and satisfy their urge to control the choices and behaviour of others...

Did you know, MEN!, that the way you place yourselves on public transport might just be part of the "normalized expression of power" and the "symbolic and active recreation not just of power, but of a stereotypical form of masculinity" and, even worse, "is part and parcel of the kind of oppression that leads to women being raped, getting lower salaries, and being exposed to violence in relationships".

O.M.G. I had no idea! I really need to be more aware of my responsibility in perpetuating hegemonic masculinity when I next take the bus. In order to make us blokes sit in a non-oppressive, feminist compliant manner, what's needed is some proper shaming. Fortunately, hardcore feminists (of the Swedish variety anyway) are rather adept at this.


One of the commenters on the article is fully on board with 'the new rules for MEN!'. She really knows her stuff, and wants everyone to know that she really knows her stuff. It's all there...patriarchal constructs, hegemonic masculinity, intersectionality??...blah blah blah.


Her best 'argument' is a wonderful example of conveniently circular non-logic...
"The best evidence of the patriarchy is the continued denial of the patriarchy."
Bingo! A feedback loop of bullshit. I detect an expensive university education in this one.

MEN! - just look at them! How they sit and subjugate with such impunity! Bastards.



You might be strong and smart enough to rise above it; many others (myself included) are not.

Hear her roar.


Hear her roar.

Quite. As yet no Guardian reader has asked why it is Ms Smith thinks it’s a matter of willpower, as if one had to grunt and make a constipated face to resist the forces allegedly being exerted by the mere existence of a downmarket magazine. And so again the question arises. If it’s all so trashy and mean, why would you want to identify with it or assign it any value as a yardstick of self-worth? And if she doesn’t want to and does it anyway, who’s in charge of her brain?

One of the things I hope I’ve illustrated here over the years is how leftist thinking often leads to, or excuses, neoteny.


I had thought that one very important part of feminism was to imbue women with the desire and ability to stand up for themselves, and deal with situations without assistance from others, so that they would no longer be dependent on the evil patriarchy to protect them. I guess that it is really about imbuing them with the desire and ability to whine incessantly about anything they don't like, and coerce everyone to behave the way they want them to behave, because all that "anti-social behavior" hurts their feelings. It seems to me that they haven't really given up on the need for protection - it has just changed form. They still very much want to be protected by the government from anti-social behavior, by giving them the right to veto anything they deem anti-social. Very progressive...


re: "the everyday body hatred" she imagines.

One theme here is this use of the passive voice again. So much talk in the Graun of people being 'sexualised' and 'victimised'. Now this 'hatred' that is floating about - that she is almost helpless to 'defend herself' against.

It's a subtle point, but this use of the passive is often a good way of representing one's own subjective fears and angst as victimisation by other people - letting us fill in the blanks as to who or how.

This sort of language is used a lot, and carelessly, by and about people who don't have the problems this woman had. With her it's more understandable, but it's not what you'd call dispassionate analysis either here, or when everyone else joins in.


Just noticed that the Typepad spam filter is still a little twitchy. If anyone has trouble with their comments not appearing, email me and I’ll dislodge anything that’s snarled in the works.

Simen Thoresen

I'll recommend the Swedish site for anyone interested in (possibly) faux- candid shots of male groins.
As pr rule 34, I believe this site may be attracting a global viewership that is not be what the owners aimed for.



this site may be attracting a global viewership that is not what the owners aimed for.

It does look a little like specialist pornography.


Maybe we could start similarly demanding women with boobs cover them up and press them as flat as possible to their chest...

If it's OK to demand men squish their nuts when they sit then it will be perfectly fine to demand the same from women "oppressing" public transport users and the extra audacity is that it's nearer eye-height.


Oh BTW Iceland copies the Taliban


Iceland is a country that wants to allow you to post anything you like (unless it annoys feminists).


What, besides the capitalization, is the difference between WEIGHT TORMENT (New! magazine), OUR BODY WARS (Star), BODY PANICS! (Heat), and body hatred (Guardian)? If you were told that the opening of an article titled "WEIGHT TORMENT" (or "OUR BODY WARS", or "BODY PANICS!") was, "As a teen anorexic, I found diet yoghurt ads hard enough. I don’t know how I’d defend myself from the everyday body hatred now", would you be the least bit surprised? This woman is angry at other magazine writers for thinking the same way she does!


You're being unfair these magazines are scummy trash.


You’re being unfair these magazines are scummy trash.

The magazines may well be trash – I’m pretty sure they are - but I don’t think I’m being at all unfair. Ms Smith is following a pattern we’ve seen many times before, one that’s unrealistic and rather dishonest. There’s the hyperbolical use of the term “hate,” for instance. Or the way she tells us that “most adults understand the language of [these] magazines,” i.e., they understand that they’re “spiteful and petty” - yet she also claims to be helplessly enthralled and thereby victimised. Her mind is not her own, it seems. Or the way Ms Smith conflates her own bizarre reactions with those of other people. “We” this, “we” that. How readily she speaks for others. Hers, apparently, are the “normal responses” of “a normal person” to such “cultural messages.” Which, as Anna pointed out, implies that the rest of us need only catch a glimpse of Heat to start wolfing down pastries while screaming in our heads.

Not the most watertight logic in printed history.

But then, stoicism and a sense of proportion aren’t the most obvious Guardian traits. Remember this little drama?

And we mustn’t forget Charlie Porter’s incredibly distressing manbag episode.

Dr Cromarty

You're being unfair these magazines are scummy trash.

It's really quite simple. Don't read them.

Jane Boags

Is there even a question or answer here, wasn't it all just a mind game or party talk trick from a few decades ago?

sackcloth and ashes

'This evening, shopping at Sainsbury’s, I was greeted by the following headlines, in bold capitals and at eye level, as I entered the store: WEIGHT TORMENT (New! magazine), OUR BODY WARS (Star), BODY PANICS! (Heat)… The very existence of these things can mess with your head. You can try to avert your eyes as you head for the fruit and veg but if you look back once – sneak even the slightest glance – all this can send you straight to the cake counter for yet another miserable pre-starvation-diet binge'.

I've just received a message from a Millicent Fawcett for you, Smith. It says 'Stop letting the side down, and stop being so fucking pathetic'.


TypePad’s spam filter is still acting up. If your comment doesn’t materialise, let me know and I’ll poke the thing with a broom handle.

Dr Cromarty

Compare and contrast:
You can try to avert your eyes as you head for the fruit and veg but if you look back once – sneak even the slightest glance – all this can send you straight to the cake counter for yet another miserable pre-starvation-diet binge'.
VJD Smith

And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
Genesis 3:13

Modern feminists aping Eve. How very empowering.


"This evening, shopping at Sainsbury’s"



By the way, Ms Smith, if you want genuine "body hatred", check out the readers' comments in your rag on the subject of obesity.


'By the way, Ms Smith, if you want genuine "body hatred", check out the readers' comments in your rag on the subject of obesity'

What? Hatred? In the Graun?

The sidebar to Cif usually contains 4 mugshots of their journalists scowling out at the world - the other day we had Barbara Ellen, whose countenance could be said to tally with the titles of her pieces ("'Smile love…' Not if you're a leery, sex-obsessed snivelling creep" and "'Postnatally depressed' dads? Give me a break" are two that brim with compassion)

Next up was Charlie Brooker, whose expression in his photo needs no further comment from me or anyone else. Then Slavoj Žižek looking bedraggled and holding forth on "Capitalism" (guess what he said..) Alas Victoria Coren let the side down by smiling in the fourth.

Those mugshots frequently exude, if not hatred, then at least surly disdain, an attitude taken by many of those commenting below the line there, at the expense of well-argued debate, which I'd enjoy.


If a person feels obliged to pay these magazines any mind at all, it may help to think of them as a kind of trashy soap opera or stylised drama, in which larger-than-life characters adopt pre-scripted roles and fret about their appearance while being bitched about at length. Taking such things seriously and basing one’s expectations on them – things that might as well be fiction - suggests that one is a bit too invested in the idea of conformity and peer pressure, and that one’s peers are complete idiots. But Ms Smith wants us to believe that she, like the rest of us, is utterly helpless in the face of “cultural messages.”

Well, I quite like watching Game of Thrones and ploughed through the first two seasons in a week or so. It’s a good yarn with lots of plotting and scheming (and quite a bit of wenching and hacking and unspeakable goings-on). It’s very entertaining, as “cultural messages” go, and only a little more lurid and fanciful than the contents of Heat. But I don’t feel obliged to base my values and aspirations on those of its characters. Fan though I am, I don’t spend my days poisoning my enemies or plotting to overthrow Parliament, or feeling that I should in order to be liked by people with mental health issues.

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