10 of the best from 2014

2014 has been a pretty good year for me and writing. There are three reasons for that. First, I’ve had the attentions of an outstanding editorial team – Helen Lewis and Caroline Crampton at the New Statesman, who say yes bravely and no wisely and whose suggestions often turn into my best ideas. Second, I’ve been able to do a lot of reading, and there’s nothing like spending time in other people’s heads to sharpen up your own.

Third, I’ve had feminism – proper feminism, in the form of a group of loving, fierce, intelligent women who constantly provoke and inspire. Michaele Ferguson writes about the importance of taking “pleasure in politics”, and now I know what she means, and I know she’s right.

I think a lot of people who come across my work assume I write full-time. I don’t. Writing is my third shift – after a full-time job and a family. I share my life with the kindest and cleverest person I know, who also happens to be an exceptional writer and one of the very few people I will permit to sass me about grammar. I can’t give him special credit for this year, because he’s always been there, but I know that without him, I wouldn’t be anywhere. Thank you, Nath.

Here are the 10 things I wrote this year that I like best.

Decent of you to allow that I may be a real person after all

The idea that he might be an object in someone else’s subjectivity upturns Mark’s sense of his importance, so he belittles Marianne and attacks her abilities. It is not tolerable to him that she should be the authority in this world of which he is a part, so he proclaims that her sex makes it impossible for her to have such powers. Nor is he alone as a male disturbed by the force of female imagination.

How come male literary geniuses are allowed to get away with being so lousy at writing women?

Against cool girl feminism

I wouldn’t deny any man the pleasures of porn culture, or make any awkward announcements about male violence, or ask for any rights really but the right to make oneself as pleasing as one could choose to be in a patriarchal world I treated as inevitable. What I was doing was what I think of now as Cool Girl Feminism.

I was the May Queen, you know. I think it was a metaphor for something.

The left is addicted to smartarse debunking. But arguments are won by telling human stories

Rallying accurate information is important, but there is a danger that we have become so absorbed in displaying our own liberal cleverness against the flattering backdrop of stupid racism, we forget the people we are supposed to be arguing on behalf of.

Winning hearts > winning minds.

Be that you are: on gender as class

But the destined livery of women is too often violently imposed. Forced marriage, domestic violence, FGM, rape, sexual harassment, the denial of abortion, the compulsion to sacrifice oneself to the care of others – these things are not imposed on women because we are feminine, they are imposed because we are female.

Shakespeare as radfem.

The whole damn literary canon needs a trigger warning

There is nothing exceptional about this content. Wanting to be warned that it is coming is like wanting to be warned that there may be some exhaust fumes in the air you breathe. Well of course there will be – what do you want to do, live on a Hebridean smallholding in isolated purity, breathing in a clean, cultureless atmosphere?

Trigger warnings will not save us, but we might need them all the same.

Hilary Mantel’s Thatcher story: this author is no innocent in need of defence from right-wing critics

It’s hard to reject the suspicion that Glover has been mislead by his subject’s sex into a ascribing her a sensitive constitution that she simply doesn’t have. Mantel, in novel after novel, has demonstrated one thing: an intimate affinity for violence and power.

Let’s kill Thatcher (fictionally)!

I didn’t fully understand what it means to be pro-choice … until I decided not to have an abortion

Before that conversation with my GP, I had no concrete idea what it meant to be pro-choice, although that’s what I called myself. But by giving me that choice, my doctor gave me my life back when I felt it had just been taken from me irrevocably.

When I was 20, I had an unplanned pregancy. This is what happened.

“No platform” was once reserved for violent fascists. Now it’s being used to silence debate

The no platform of now doesn’t target groups such as the National Front or the EDL – instead, it’s aimed at individuals who certainly do not trail the organised muscle of a thug army behind them.

How a zeal for no-platforming is killing debate.

Why we shouldn’t rebrand prostitution as “sex work”

When we talk about “sex work”, we endorse the idea that sex is labour for women and leisure for men – men who have the social and economic power to act as a boss class in the matter of intercourse.

Ding ding! Round number infinity for the bout between freedom from (patriarchy, for women) and freedom to (buy sex, exercised by men).

My body, my choice: from now on, abortion rights must be fought for from first principles

But giving away a bagful of gore or a chunk of liver that you’re not using because you’re dead is trivial compared to what is asked of the pregnant woman. For at least nine months, she must dedicate her body to the sustenance of another.

Actually, I’m not interested in meeting anyone halfway when it comes to what happens in my body.

See you for more in 2015.