New website gets off to a shaky start: Feminist Times provokes huge row with forced sterilisation article

Editor Charlotte Raven pulls controversial piece, admitting 'we got it wrong'

The founder of a new pro-women’s website has found out what it was like to live in feminist times after an article on forced sterilisation provoked a huge row, dividing its nascent readership.

Barely an hour before Feminist Times pulled the piece, Charlotte Raven, its editor, told The Independent that removing it would be a “bad idea”, insisting that upsetting some people is “what happens if you’re trying to voice uncomfortable truths”.

But she backtracked almost immediately, admitting “we got it wrong” as the article was taken down.

Raven sees the website, and eventual bi-monthly magazine version, as an antidote to glossy women’s titles and even daily newspapers that “airbrush people’s emotions” as well as their bodies.

She had hoped that pieces like the one on sterilising women, which was written by an unnamed contributor under the heading “Taboo Corner”, would provide scope for “honesty” lacking elsewhere.

The incident served to underline the minefield that is modern feminism, which remains as divided today as in its 1970s heyday. Raven herself even joined in, taking a mini-swipe at the best-selling author Caitlin Moran. “When I read [Moran’s book] How to Be a Woman it made me feel like we needed female voices who were being more honest.” She said the memoir had used “feminism as an alibi”.

David Cameron and glossy magazines like Cosmopolitan were also accused of “all using feminism as an alibi, as a marketing tool”, Raven said, adding that the Prime Minister was not entitled to call himself a feminist. “Men can be, but not him, because he isn’t [one].”

She also took issue with the new breed of liberal feminists, attacking campaigns such as “This is what a feminist looks like”, which was stamped across T-shirts, for their exclusivity. “The iteration only works if it’s on a very normal looking person wearing make-up, not a hairy feminist. Liberal feminism that seems inclusive is exactly the opposite.”

Anyone hoping to provoke a Twitter storm with Raven over her views will be disappointed, however, because she intends to avoid the social media site. “I’ve been absolutely tormented by the idea I have to use Twitter. I’m scared. I don’t want to be slagged off,” she said.

Feminist Times has been dogged by controversy ever since Raven disclosed the project six months ago, most notably after a legal threat forced her to abandon her original plan of reviving the iconic feminist title Spare Rib, which was edited by Rosie Boycott and Marsha Rowe.

She pledged that Feminist Times would represent diverse views, particularly those held by trans women such as the playwright Jo Clifford, who is on the website’s editorial board. She added that the venture would not just represent white middle-class women.

Flora MacInnes, editor of rival online feminist website Femusings, which launched two months ago, called Raven's decision to publish the “Sterilise Her” piece was “poor as it alienated a number of people”. But she said she didn't want to berate Raven's venture.

“Feminism is a complex, multi-faceted, disparate thing and so it's vital to make it intersectional and inclusive, not to sideline other cultures and groups, to listen to one's audience, which is difficult to get right but certainly possible.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before