In the Media: 14th December 2014

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

This week there’s been a lot written about rape and the culture which surrounds it due to a piece published in Rolling Stone magazine about a gang rape at The University of Virginia. Responses came from Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker, Emily Yoffe on SlateMaya Dusenbery on FeministingRhiannon Cosslett of The Vagenda in TimeSalamishah Tillet in The Nation and Sarah Ditum in The New Statesman; Deb Rox wrote about working at a rape crisis program in ‘Truth Is a Fire I Couldn’t Hold‘ on The Butter; Lena Dunham wrote about her own experience of speaking out on Buzzfeed; Katie McDonough comment on Salon in a piece titled, ‘The right’s Lena Dunham delusion: Anger, misogyny and the dangers of business as usual‘, and Caitlin Moran wrote about the Ched Evans’ case in the UK. While from a story focus, Kathleen Founds wrote about Vonnegut and rape culture on Buzzfeed and Sarah Hughes wrote about ‘Rape on TV‘ in The Guardian.

It’s also been another week where #readwomen2014 has been highlighted. Creator Joanna Walsh reflected on the year in The Guardian; Lauren Aimee Curtis wrote about her year of reading women in Meanjin; Lorraine Meads wrote about creating the first Feminist Library in Nottingham on Dawn of the Unread; Rebecca Mascull wrote about her reading year on her blog, and @hashughes began a Women’s Writing Calendar – send her forthcoming events you’re involved in/are aware of so we can share in the goodness. Meanwhile, Nicola Sheppey at The Vagenda wrote ‘Why Women Need to Read Books By Men‘.

And the other big story was Vlogger Zoella’s novel. The fasting selling debut since records began was ghostwritten, it was revealed last Sunday. You can read the story in The Telegraph. Keren David wrote her thoughts about it on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure; Matt Haig defended her in The Guardian; thirteen-year-old Zoella fan Julia Brookes commented on Girl Online, and on Thursday, Siobhan Curham, the ghost writer involved, commented on her own blog.

The best of the rest articles/essays:

The interviews:

If you want some fiction or poetry to read:

Or some non-fiction:

And the lists:

Closed Doors – Lisa O'Donnell

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Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

I’ve decided to review Lisa O’Donnell’s second novel Closed Doors as part of Feminist Sundays for reasons that should become very obvious as you read on…

It’s the 1980s and Michael Murray, aged 11, and his family – Ma, Rosemary; Da, Brian, and Granny, Shirley – live on the Isle of Bute in western Scotland. Da is unemployed and Ma works as a cleaner at the local school. They supplement Ma’s income with the money Grandpa Jake, Granny’s husband, left Da when he died.

Everyone says Ma is very smart and could have gone to university or something like it, but she was too in love with my da and mad for the island, even though people here gossip all the time and want to know all your business. It makes my granny crazy even though she gossips all the time and wants to know everyone’s business…

‘She looks like a prostitute,’ says Ma.

‘And drinks like a fish,’ says Granny.

Da tells Granny to be quiet and mind her business, but Granny can’t. She loves to talk about other people and their business, it’s her favourite thing in the whole world, and so she waits till Da is out of the room and calls Mrs Connor a slut. Then she whispers a story to Ma. I can’t hear them but Ma nods and tuts and sighs.

‘Disgusting,’ Ma says to Granny.

Granny nods. ‘I told you. A regular wee hussy,’ spits Granny.

Michael’s problems involve the local girls, Alice McFadden and Marianne Cameron. He’s at an age when he’s started to notice them but doesn’t know how to behave around them and vice versa. They taunt him, Alice in particular, and he wants to punch her in the arm but knows that if he does, she’ll tell her older brother who’ll tell his mum and then he’ll be made to apologise.

Things begin to change one night when Michael is woken by screaming and talking. He tries to find out why his mum is crying but is sent back to bed.

I wait five minutes until a new commotion begins downstairs. It’s like they can’t stop themselves. I decide I’ve had enough and go downstairs. I am very careful to avoid the creaky step this time. I make it to the kitchen door and no one has heard me. I’m quite pleased with myself and lean against the door.

Although the word is never mentioned, it’s evident to the adult reader from what follows that Michael’s ma has been raped. Not wanting to share this with an 11-year-old boy, when Michael’s da finds him at the door again, Granny tells him ‘Ma has seen a flasher’.

‘Why is there all this blood, Da?’ I ask. It’s making me scared and I think I might cry.

‘Ma fell over, son. She ran away from the bad man and then she fell, don’t worry, son, away to bed now,’ says Da.

Not telling her young son is one thing, but Rosemary also refuses to go to the police fearing the local gossip:

‘People would understand this wasn’t her fault,’ says Granny.

‘Would you understand, Ma?’

‘Of course I would. What do you take me for?’

‘What about Bridie Forsyth?’

‘Bride Forsyth couldn’t keep her knickers on and Peter Hughes is a good man who goes to chapel every Sunday. He’s very good-looking. He wouldn’t hurt a soul.’

‘You don’t know the first thing about Peter Hughes. He’s a fucking drunk and a mean one at that. No woman would make a thing like that up. She had to leave the fucking island with the gossiping.’

‘You know how Bridie was. She was looking for it if you ask me!’

The book goes on to deal with the aftermath of the rape: of Rosemary’s refusal to report it and the consequences that has for herself, her husband and the local community, and for Michael, dealing with the adult world for the first time – his feelings for girls, his and his friends’ discovery of porn, and, once he does work out what’s going on, how he deals with knowing that his mother was raped.

Closed Doors isn’t an easy read – be warned, reading it in public may result in you sobbing in cafes – but I do think it’s a great book. Tackling rape through the eyes of a pre-teen boy highlighted the attitudes of the adults around him towards the victims (interestingly it’s his da who has the most feminist attitude) and whether the education we provide teenagers with around the subject is sufficient. (Considering the literature produced by some police forces aimed at women during the festive season, I’d suggest not.)

 

 

Thanks to William Heinemann for the review copy.