Seven women

I thoroughly enjoyed Halbwelt Kultur at the Jermyn Street Theatre but I was disappointed by the lack of information about the women portrayed by the seven fine performers. The official website mentions who plays who but there isn’t any biographical detail. So I thought I would pull together a decent link for each of them along with a photograph.

Anita Berber was a dancer and drug addict who died aged 29.

Marlene Dietrich was an actress and a bit of a legend.

Blandine Ebinger was a chanteuse and actress.

Valeska Gert was a performance artist.

Rosa Luxemburg was a revolutionary and feminist murdered in 1919.

Gabriele Tergit was a journalist and writer.

Claire Waldoff was a singer and lesbian.

Not NaNoWriMo #8

I read an excellent post about gender and music magazines over at the quite frankly superb collective blog, the Anti-Room and a few music related thoughts came to mind.

If the readership of music magazines is mainly men why is this readership apparently not interested in music by women?


I complained to Word magazine several years ago about the lack of women on their front covers and their reply was that when they had put a woman on the cover (they didn’t say who it was) their sales were lower. I wasn’t really impressed with that as an answer. On a side note, if there isn’t a woman on the cover (she doesn’t even need to be the featured artist, just a mention will do), I won’t buy the magazine. I bet I have really dented their sales.


One other thing I have observed is that when a chance to feature a woman arrives, it is not taken. When Kate Bush released Aerial in 2005 (by any standards a major event), only Mojo put her on the cover. 


Last Wednesday, while making bread I listened to an hour of Huey Morgan on 6 Music and he played no female artists, today he got to the 45 minute mark until he managed to play the Staple Singers. Goodness knows, I'm not asking for silly things like gender parity but no women worth playing?

Not NaNoWriMo #5


This article about Amanda Redman over at the Hathor Legacy made me realise just how good we have it on British TV in some ways; how we do have a fine variety of individual and, dare I say, normal looking women on our screens at all time. I watched the first few episodes of Parenthood and all the women are slender with no imperfections (not even glasses) and, sadly, Bonnie Bedelia doesn't look her age (though, actually, she does look her age…), and that is symptomatic of all US series.

The casting of Miracle Laurie in Dollhouse was a miracle and yet over here we had the two successive leading women in Jonathan Creek and neither of them, Caroline Quentin and Julia Sawalha, would get leading roles on US TV because they are both overweight.

Would Denise Black with her deformed hand get the same number of prominent roles in the States?

Our soaps are full of fabulous women of all shapes and sizes with women who look their age but it's not perfect in GB TV land because outside drama and comedy, older and fatter women are invisible. The current tribunal involving Miriam O'Reilly and Countryfile is a perfect example of this. Along with Charlotte Smith or Juliet Morris, there was no way these middle aged woman was going to be on prime time TV. Obviously, if a show needs a shake up you're not going to get rid of the fascinating blokes like John Craven and Adam Henson, are you? 

Not NaNoWriMo #4

Is it feminist tochange your name when you get married?

No, it isn’t but then I don’t think it is feminist to get married at all.

I was horrified when I rather belatedly realised that our marriage certificate asks about our fathers but doesn’t give a toss about our mothers. I got married primarily to make an explicit statement about my relationship to Andy and I got married in a registry office because I am an atheist but also because I thought a registry office ceremony would be devoid of sexism. I obviously didn’t think hard enough.

The list over at Shakesville is quite thought provoking but also has some poor excuses:

6. Because her maiden name was her father’s name and keeping it did not feel like any more a rejection of the patriarchy than taking her husband’s name did, and she liked her husband’s name better.

My surname is my father’s surname but more importantly to me it is also my surname: the moment my mum and dad decided to call me Hazel Alma Ruby Simpson it became my name and my name is extremely important to me even though I had no choice in the matter. I had a choice to stop the patriarchal tradition of taking a man’s name when I got married*. [Also, I would find it almost impossible to think of a new name for me.] I also think that final comment is a bit of a non sequitur.

7. Because her maiden name was her father’s name, and she likes her husband a lot more than her father.

This one makes me go “eh?”. I love my dad a lot, I love my husband a lot but that that has bugger all to do with me keeping the name I have had for 45 years (or 33 years when we got married) and it assumes the two choices are of equal weight: there is no choice in having your father’s name but taking your husband’s name is a choice.

I am not criticising anybody who changes their name because I’m not them and even the reason because “I wanted to” is good enough but a little part of me cringes, sighs and deflates when a woman changes her name.

Finally, one commentator on another site made the observation that as a history student it saddened her that some women’s history is lost because their name changes have rendered them invisible.

*Not that I really made that choice because if I had ever thought of getting married before I did, I had never had any intention of changing my name.

“mums aren’t good at being funny”

Don’t ask why but I recently watched an edition of The One Show (broadcast on 22nd July 2009) with Hugh Dennis as the studio guest.

The presenters asked him about the lack of women on such shows as Mock the Week (Dennis is one of the team captains) and he responds that although there are “lots of very, very, very funny women but I guess they don’t tend to be, you know, stand ups” which is why they aren’t on the show. Anyway. They moved on to a clip from the special Outnumbered produced for Comic Relief (13th March 2009) to illustrate that women aren’t funny. Dennis (as the dad) does an impression of Eric Morecambe catching an imaginary pebble in a bag and the children laugh heartily. Claire Skinner (as the mum) also does an impersonation of Eric Morecambe by poking her head around the door and being dragged out of sight by her own hand. The children don’t laugh and when she asks why not, the boy says that “…mums aren’t good at being funny”. This is a link to the first part of the whole thing and apparently mums are good at tidying, nagging and saying no.

Back in The One Show studio, Dennis says that in reality “it worked the other way round completely. I did that thing and neither of them laughed. And Claire did her thing and they both laughed”. I think he then says “so it’s cheating”.

Fabulous stuff from Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin that doesn’t at all reinforce stereotypes. And thanks to The One Show for digging out a clip to illustrate something that isn’t true. And look here!


I am quite taken with Vanessa Engle’s work. Her series Jews was fascinating and insightful and understated. She lets her subjects do the talking while she asks seemingly innocuous questions off-screen.

Her earlier series Lefties featured a programme devoted to radical feminists (“Angry Wimmin“) like Julie Bindel and Sheila Jeffreys. I liked it a lot. I could understand some of the rather extreme attitudes from a time when the Yorkshire Ripper was abroad and women were being asked to stay off the streets while men were not, even though no woman was perpetrating the crimes.

Anyway, I rather excited that Vanessa Engle is revisiting the subject of feminism in a new series for my favourite TV channel, BBC Four. The series is called Women and there is more information here.

In addition, I am also excited to think of Helena Bonham Carter playing Enid Blyton and Jane Horrocks playing Gracie Fields.

Call me kooky-pants

Angel – “Apocalpyse, Nowish” (Steven S. DeKnight)

Angel - Apocalypse Nowish


I have been struggling to find a reason just why Angel just doesn’t engage me in the way that Buffy does. I have some idea: in “Apocalypse, Nowish”,  Angel, Gunn, Wesley and Lorne are trying to decipher the papers from Wolfram & Hart in order to prevent the Apocalypse meanwhile Cordelia and Fred are absent; they are not there as part of the team. OK, Cordelia has a good reason to be missing but Fred is in a café moping about the men in her life and what they did for her.

Angel - Apocalypse Nowish - four males

However, I don’t really mind that Cordelia and Fred aren’t there; it’s more that there aren’t any other women on the show who could be there. The men are in the majority. Of the seven main characters in S4, five are men and two are women.

The question that then popped into my head was, does everything I watch have to be about women? Erm, let’s examine the evidence by considering my favourite recent shows, Mad Men, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Battlestar Galactica.

Mad Men and BSG have more male cast members than female but women are central to how much I enjoy the series. Without Betty and Peggy and Joan and Starbuck and Six and D’Anna, I really wouldn’t be interested.

[I wonder how often I use the word “really”.]

I am bored by John and Derek in T:TSCC while I love Sarah and Cameron. I also liked Riley and Jesse (but only after I got used to Stephanie Jacobsen’s nasal voice and after they were linked together.

Okay, I definitely prefer to watch things with women in prominent and active roles and, if you are like me, I heartily recommend Torchwood: Children of Earth and, no, you don’t need to have seen the previous series (it didn’t stop Andy and I liking it).

Do you think that any men ever wonder at any point why the majority of things they watch are about men? “Oh, my favourite films are Apocalypse Now, The Shawshank Redemption and 12 Angry Men, just why do I like watching films about men all the time?” These two IMDb lists are interesting. No room on the male list for Amelie and To Kill a Mockingbird and no room on the female list for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Goodfellas. I feel a post coming on.

So I do know why I like Angel less than Buffy but it most certainly isn’t the only reason. Angel has clunky dialogue, poor line readings, and character dynamics that I don’t care about because I don’t believe in them due to their contrivance. This list makes me cringe:

* Wesley/Lilah
* Angel/Lilah
* Fred/Gunn
* Fred/Wesley
* Angel/Cordelia

while I only care about Angel/Connor and Cordelia/Connor (spot the connection).

On to the episode: Lilah as Fred was disturbing particularly since at first I thought she was supposed to be a schoolgirl. And having her hair done up in plaits caused Lilah’s hair to be tremendously bouffant later on.

Angel - Apocalypse Nowish - Lilah

Chocodiles are a real thing!

Satan was rather immobile except when he Springheel Jacked over the rooftops. I don’t dislike slow motion except when it is used in a hackneyed way or to serve no purpose except to prolong a scene and that’s exactly how it was used here.

A bright spot was Lilah (despite her relationship with Wesley) because she gets to call Fred a “Texas twig” (although part of me thinks that is mean to Amy Acker) and summarizes this audience member’s feelings when she says “so let’s say we skip the usual two-step, you threaten me, I threaten you, yadda, yadda, yawn”.

I’m not sure what to think of Cordelia and Connor having sex but I do know that in the Buffyverse sex can only lead to bad things happening. And, by bad, I mean worse than the Apocalypse.

Angel - Apocalypse Nowish - Connor and Cordelia

Sigh. Why do I continue to watch it? The obvious reason is that I have watched Angel and Cordelia over seven seasons of Buffy and Angel and I do want to see the end of their journey. And the DVDs are cheap. And there are occasional crossovers with Buffy. And I like Cordelia Chase/Charisma Carpenter. And I like Lorne. And I like Vincent Kartheiser (even if I do have to check how to spell his surname every single time I type it). It isn’t hard or difficult to watch. Finally, I want to work out why Amy Acker can’t sell Fred to me but can do so with her portrayal of Dr Saunders in Dollhouse.

People I admire (and who happen to be left-handed) #4

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson has been part of my life for over twenty years. In fact, the Thompson family has been part of my life since the day I watched The Magic Roundabout on TV. Not only is she an excellent actress and a great presence but she is also an excellent person. I was going to write a lot of stuff on just why she’s a top person but I thought this list would say it better:

  • Action Aid ambassador
  • her work against sex trafficking for the Helen Bamber Foundation – I won’t directly link to the video I am Elena because it really upset me
  • her support for the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS
  • her support for Alone in London
  • her willingness to portray herself as a lesbian and an Ohioan in Ellen
  • her support for actresses and eating
  • naming her daughter Gaia
  • she usually sports a short hair style
  • writing the best big screen adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility
  • being in two of my favourite TV series from the 80s, Tutti Frutti and Fortunes of War
  • being absolutely the only redeeming thing in Love, Actually

Emma Thompson comes out on Ellen (lefthanded)

What happens to actresses who come out - Emma Thompson on Ellen (left handed)