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Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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30 Responses

  1. L-K
    L-K April 12, 2008 at 2:45 pm |

    Interesting section of articles, Jill. Although I’m not too sure why you are surprised that the geisha article does not mention sex, since geishas are not sex workers, contrary to popular belief here in the US. Actually, the first geishas were males.

  2. L-K
    L-K April 12, 2008 at 2:48 pm |

    Oops, I should have kept “geisha” as just “geisha,” not “geishas.” There’s no plural nouns in Japanese.

  3. exholt
    exholt April 12, 2008 at 2:56 pm |

    Speaking of dudes and dating, CNN has an article on Japanese “geisha guys,” who hang out with Japanese businesswomen and serve as pretty accessories. There is no mention of sex, which is weird — if the article were about female geishas, I’d imagine sex would come in. That said, I’m pretty sure the whole thing is just one more of those “Japan is so weird!!!” articles, which is why it’s light on actual reporting. Thanks to Fauzia for the link.

    Though I have not read enough about the history of the Geisha to know the veracity of either side, I have heard arguments in both my undergrad Japanese history courses and a lot of over-the-top manga/anime fans in school and at conventions that Geisha does not necessarily equal prostitute and associating with one does not necessarily mean one is out for sex.

    I am dubious of these claims myself, but I would prepare for the possible tirades from Japanophiles and manga/anime fans who will argue that associating sex with the Geisha is a common misinterpretation by non-Japanese, especially Westerners who misunderstand that aspect of Japanese society/culture through their Western gaze.

    My doubts about these claims is derived from the fact that everyone I’ve met who advanced such arguments tended to be White dudes who cannot tolerate anyone casting aspersions on their visualizations of a culture they are supposedly interested in.

  4. exholt
    exholt April 12, 2008 at 3:26 pm |

    Slut-shaming in two parts. First: Letting girls go to college — and not sequestering them away — is ruining society.

    The arguments cited above to discourage women from attending universities would have been laughed out of town in the Chinese/Taiwanese society my parents generation grew up in…dwindling number of rural traditionalists excepted. Due to the severe poverty and the perception of urgency due to the poor economic and technological state of their society in the ’40s to ’60s, nearly every family/student who felt they even had a remote chance at getting into college took it as it was not only a ticket out of poverty, but the best way to rapidly gain social status in a society where being educated was highly esteemed. Moreover, as admission was solely determined by passing the extremely competitive national college examination given by the Republic’s education department, untoward influence from wealth and political connections was severely curtailed.

  5. L-K
    L-K April 12, 2008 at 3:40 pm |

    Oops, noticed another error: “selection,” instead of “section.” Sh*t, that’s what I get for typing before coffee.

  6. Danakitty
    Danakitty April 12, 2008 at 4:23 pm |

    The last article about men and women cohabitating in apartments made me laugh. So am I in danger of “having my brains fall out” because I grew up with four brothers? Since my parents moved to a smaller house and I ended up sharing a bedroom with one of my brothers, am I in more danger of getting an STD?

    Even now, I prefer to live with guys over girls, and living with the BF has been the best experience I’ve ever had… and I’ve lived with three women, all alone, and of course, guys growing up.

    Easy solution: If someone doesn’t want to live with the opposite gender, let them check off a little box saying “same-sex only roommate(s).” No need for the conservatives to follow their kids to college and force everyone there to follow the same rules.

  7. ol cranky
    ol cranky April 12, 2008 at 4:23 pm |

    but parents in the USA would never have any reason for sex-selective abortion

    well, actually, some (albeit few) parents in the US may not only have a reason to consider sex-selective abortion, they may have a legitimate reason. There are some genetic disorders that are X linked and, if the mother was a carrier for a significant one, the couple may consider terminating a pregnancy for a male child. . .

  8. SoE
    SoE April 12, 2008 at 4:50 pm |

    Sure, gender-blind student accomodation is very common in Europe and has been for some time now. Probably explains why this continent is morally bancrupt… But then French women don’t shave and German men always wear white socks in sandals so no risk of having rampant sex there. (end of irony)

    To the pregnant male debate: Many people think vagina=woman and don’t even understand that removing ones reproductive organs is not a prerequisite for a legal sex change. While they might acknowledge that transsexual people exist they still cling to “born in the wrong body” which includes a full change. That someone might keep his vagina (or penis) and still feel like a real man (or woman) is apparently unbelievable. Also the wish to have your “own biological” children is probably seen as a privilege, a sex change requires you to give up.
    Just imagine what would happen if they split up…

  9. Lala
    Lala April 12, 2008 at 5:47 pm |

    Just chiming in to reiterate that geisha were/are not sex workers. Geisha means artist (loosely translated). The tradition of becoming geisha is actually kind of feminist – centuries ago, women in Japan were forbidden to participate in the theater arts. Becoming geisha was a way for women who wanted to be artists (playing shamisen, dancing, etc) to practice their craft legally. Geisha are entertainers, who are paid for their entertainment, not their sexual services. Sex should never be expected in return for patronage.
    The common belief in the West that geisha are prostitutes is usually attributed to the American occupation of Japan after WWII. Sex workers often dressed in kimono with white face paint like geisha do, and the servicemen didn’t know the difference between the two groups of women. So they called sex workers “geisha girls.”
    As for the article- the host club phenom is not so new. It follows in the much more ubiquitous wake of the hostess club. Salarymen have been going to hostess clubs and paying for women to flirt with them for years. Hostesses and hosts are different from geisha, though. They don’t go through the same training, and they don’t have the same skills or habits (ie, dress and makeup). Also plus, I’m pretty sure the $ in the article was supposed to be Yen. $50,000 a night is outrageous, but $5,000 a night makes sense.
    If you’re interested in Japan’s sex-for-sale culture, and host/hostess clubs, I recommend Pink Box – Inside Japan’s Sex Clubs. I read it and was pretty fascinated.
    So, that’s all from a female Japanophile, I guess. :)

  10. Lisa
    Lisa April 12, 2008 at 6:23 pm |

    The Girl Scouts are actually a totally separate organization from the Boy Scouts, although Juliette Gordon Low based them on the same principles as the Boy Scouts. And GSUSA has allowed and affirmed lesbian troop leaders and scouts at least since I joined over twenty years ago.

    My impression is that girls can have a really widely varying experience in the Scouts even within the same service unit (the smallest organization of Scouts over the troop level) – my troop, for example, was known for being into wilderness survival camping, hiking, and all that Scouting jazz that people imagine is just a Boy Scout thing, but there was another troop for girls my age in our service unit that was definitely all about crafts and cooking and so on, and I’ve heard stories from other women about wanting to camp and being taught to make doilies instead. The actual activities that every troop participates in are largely up to the leaders, so it can be sort of luck of the draw whether you find one that matches your own interests.

    The Girl Scouts do have a ton of great programs to encourage and mentor girls to be leaders, though – I tell all my friends with daughters to encourage them to sign up.

  11. harlemjd
    harlemjd April 12, 2008 at 6:29 pm |

    I also think that co-ed dorm rooms (as opposed to co-ed dorm buildings or co-ed suites) sound like a horrible idea, but because they seem likely to lead to an increase in sexual assault. I really couldn’t care less about consentual sex between roommates. I agree that GLBT students need safe living environments, but wouldn’t more suite-style dorms (individual bedrooms with shared common areas) be a better solution?

    SoE – I don’t know where you went to school, but dorms at my European school (U of Munich) were co-ed by suite, not by room. Each student had his or her own tiny bedroom with a lock on the door. That’s very different from what’s being described here.

  12. Calixti
    Calixti April 12, 2008 at 7:00 pm |

    I agree that GLBT students need safe living environments, but wouldn’t more suite-style dorms (individual bedrooms with shared common areas) be a better solution?


    At my school, at least, suites are only available to upperclassmen, and priority goes to fifth-years down. They’re also hideously expensive, and located so far away from all the academic buildings that you need a bus to get from suite to class. Furthermore, first-years are REQUIRED to live in the dorms, and while single rooms are an option, they’re limited in number, more expensive, and go to handicapped students first.

    Also, why are males and females rooming together more likely to increase the sexual assault rate, but not, say, homosexuals rooming with straight people? Furthermore, that argument is stupid if you’re not going to use it against mixed-sex floors too; what’s to stop someone bent on sexual assault to just walk into someone’s unlocked room and assault them while they’re doing homework?

    Personally, I’d RATHER room with a guy, because all the straight girls I’ve spoken to say they’d be “uncomfortable” rooming with me because I’m a lesbian. After my last roommate moved out (pre-op transguy, still legally female and required to room with a female because of that), Housing tried to room me with eleven different girls. Every one of them saw the rainbow bracelet on my wrist, asked about my sexuality, then decided their current situation was just fine, really.

    And what about students outside the gender binary? The Boston Globe article referenced is here:
    I linked a friend of mine to it (neutrois), and my friend cried after reading the article, because it tells of at least one school asking a student’s gender identity and what pronoun they prefer; this friend had previously despaired over their gender identity ever being recognised on any official level. What about my ex-roommate’s trans girlfriend, who’s rooming with a guy because she’s still legally male and has no choice, a guy who makes her extremely uncomfortable because of his total disregard for her identity? What about the trans candidate for student body vice-president, who is able to room with females because she’s legally female, but has to deal with her roommates being “uncomfortable” when they find out about her past? They have no other options, and even suites and apartments don’t give them a choice of roommates, so they’re stuck with who’s assigned the the same suite or apartment they are.

  13. C’mon ladies, you know you want a taste of the forbidden liberal fruit (in my pants) at

    […] Thanks to Jill, I now know just how wild and wicked I really am. The interview on dating she found with 6 rockin’ conservative chicks has taught me a lot about myself and just want makes me so damn cool. Turns out it’s all about liberalism, baby. […]

  14. exholt
    exholt April 12, 2008 at 8:32 pm |

    I also think that co-ed dorm rooms (as opposed to co-ed dorm buildings or co-ed suites) sound like a horrible idea, but because they seem likely to lead to an increase in sexual assault. I really couldn’t care less about consentual sex between roommates. I agree that GLBT students need safe living environments, but wouldn’t more suite-style dorms (individual bedrooms with shared common areas) be a better solution?

    Though my alma mater has had “co-ed dorm rooms” since at least the ’90s, those rooms are effectively split into two rooms with a wall and door with lock for the inner room and a second door to exit/enter the room. Moreover, we’ve also had co-ed bathrooms for about as long in many dorms.

    Contrary to the most horrifying parental fears, however, students have to voluntarily choose to have a co-ed roommate and live in dorms with “co-ed rooms”….and co-ed bathrooms do include the option for anyone who does not want anyone of the opposite gender in the bathroom at the same time to put up a ready made sign with a swiveling arrow to signify (Female only/Male only/co-ed).

    When I was in China in the late ’90s, dorms were gender segregated by building. There were “female” dorm buildings and “male” dorm buildings with security guards usually stationed to prevent students/anyone of the opposite gender from entering without prior approval from the school. In many ways, this along with heaping 6-8 students into one no frills bunk-straddled dorm room the size of a small American double is not too different from student life during my parents’ generation in the ’50s/’60s.

  15. exholt
    exholt April 12, 2008 at 8:47 pm |

    wouldn’t more suite-style dorms (individual bedrooms with shared common areas) be a better solution?

    Yes, they would be….but American colleges/universities are both too cheap and too taken with the idea that forcing multiple students to live/sleep in the same room is a great educational experience.* Though some schools have built up such dorms for certain upper-class/grad students, I would be shocked if they scrapped quad/triple/double dorms completely in favor of suite-style dorms.

    * Personally, this is a crock as I know of few instances outside of the military and some professional settings where a higher bureaucracy randomly assigns/forces adults to live together in the same room with little/no input from the individuals concerned.

  16. Cecily
    Cecily April 12, 2008 at 8:52 pm |

    I’m with you, exholt. The whole one-room two-people things needs to be scrapped. It made me feel like an animal in a zoo; I could never. Just. Be. Left. Alone.

  17. denelian
    denelian April 12, 2008 at 9:12 pm |

    ya know, i am kinda (theoretically) mad at the trans-man for getting rid of one my favorite arguments about abortion.*
    (to a guy who wants his significant other to keep a prgnancy) “You willing to carry it for 9 months and go through labor? if not, then shut the hell up”

    ah, well – now we have PROOF that a man can do it, and we can now make THEM carry all the babies if they love them so much!

    seriously, i do NOT understand why we still don’t have a viable way to gestate outside of the body yet…

    *this is very tongue in cheek. when i first saw the newsstory, like a week ago, all i could do was cheer and call my mom, who is an O.B. nurse practicioner, and would LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE to have his case… wish i could recommend them to each other, actually, but she’s in CA and isn’t able to practice much at the moment, she needs more back surgery. but, she would love it.

  18. exholt
    exholt April 12, 2008 at 9:32 pm |

    I’m with you, exholt. The whole one-room two-people things needs to be scrapped. It made me feel like an animal in a zoo; I could never. Just. Be. Left. Alone.

    You’ve got that right. With few exceptions, it seems housing offices at most universities/colleges my high school classmates and I ended up at went out of their way to pair up roommates who were so different in their personalities/lifestyles that personality conflicts were all but inevitable.

    *Hint*: Pairing up seriously studious students with a drug/alcohol addled party animal/connoisseur of blasted music, etc is a seriously bad idea.

  19. Official Blog » Blog Archive » They’re called “hosts”, tyvm

    […] Jill linked to an article on “geisha guys” in a recent link roundup, I thought to myself, “I bet they’re talking about hosts. I mean, what would an article […]

  20. mike
    mike April 12, 2008 at 10:36 pm |

    My mom worked for one of those pregnancy crisis centers, for a while, because she believed it was to help women – but they actually started to require her to attend church regularly, after a while, which needless to say puts their intentions in a suspicious light pretty much right away. It’s sick when organizations prey on and manipulate the most vulnerable under the guise of ‘helping’.

  21. ChrisR
    ChrisR April 12, 2008 at 11:15 pm |

    Top Bush advisers approved “enhanced interrogation” techniques. In other words, it was the guys at the top who sanctioned torture. Disgusting.

    Can we please have a war crimes trial?

    Aggressive war, torture, murder of civilians–what else do we need?

  22. prefer not to say
    prefer not to say April 13, 2008 at 12:02 am |

    The six conservative women on dating was very interesting. Thanks for including a piece that shows conservatives to be as varied in their personalities and approaches as feminists are.

  23. EoL
    EoL April 13, 2008 at 3:30 am |

    Hosts and hostesses (sorry to beat the dead horse, but–like geisha, they’re also not sex workers, just paid to flirt and talk and be pretty) aren’t a new thing. If I walk down to kabukicho I can see dozens of establishments with boards advertising their menus of men and women you can buy for the night. Generally at these establishments, any sex trade is strictly under the table. But it surprises me how many people get the wrong idea. A coworker of mine kept going on about how she and her sister were approached by “man-whores,” and she was sure that all hosts and hostesses were actually prostitutes. (Even after I told her many times that no, they’re not. At least, not in a strict money-for-sex sense.) Then she was convinced that they were only for gay men. (Nooooo …)

    I’ve been tempted to go to a host club just to see what it’s like, but I don’t really want to pay $50 to enter/join, plus drinks, plus whatever the prettyboy costs per hour …

  24. luzzleanne
    luzzleanne April 13, 2008 at 4:53 am |

    Seconding the statement about Girl Scout activities depending on the troop and on the limits set by the meeting place. My group in elementary school did focus a lot on crafts, cooking, and singing, largely because we were stationed in the school caffeteria and couldn’t do much else besides. The more permanent group in middle school, which was stationed in a church community center did a lot of volunteer work and, for some reason, almost extracurricular education: cultural studies, biology and anatomy, the kinds of things that would fit in with what you were learning at school, but wouldn’t necessarily be part of the curriculum. All of my camp experiences were pretty wilderness training intensive, regardless of the “theme” for that year (one of which was rock climbing, so take from that what you will).

    On an interesting side note, my mother rigorously refused to donate to the Boy Scouts as long as she lived, not out of any political principles, but simply because of the way they fundraised. It angered her to no end that when the Girl Scouts needed money they would sell the traditional candy and cookies, hold private bake sales, make crafts to sell, etc., and when the Boy Scouts needed money they asked for donations from parents and former members. It made her so mad that the girls had to work for their money while the boys essentially had theirs handed to them; I’d never seen her quite so peeved by the basic unfairness of anything else.

    Why yes, my mother is the reason I’m a feminist. Why do you ask?

  25. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth April 13, 2008 at 9:42 am |

    Re: Girl Scouts

    Girl Scouts of America does not (and I don’t think ever has) ban atheist or gay leaders or members. However, activities vary widely from troop to troop. The first troop I joined, all we did was color and watch “Just Say No To Drugs” videos. Then I moved to a different town and the troop was much more active. We did volunteer work, went to theater productions, went horseback riding, and were encouraged to look through the handbook and start our own projects for badges. There was a psychology/sociology one I was totally into. We also did some hiking and a camping trip.

  26. Katherine
    Katherine April 13, 2008 at 1:23 pm |

    God, the idea of sharing a room with someone at college is awful! I also think it is US specific. Any other Europeans care to chime in? In the UK at least, Halls of Residence (translation – dorms?) have individual bedrooms with shared kitchens and bathrooms usually, although each individual room will usually have its own washbasin. At my particular college, there were suites – i.e. two bedrooms and a shared living room, but they were only for third year students who had decided to share one.

  27. exholt
    exholt April 13, 2008 at 2:06 pm |

    God, the idea of sharing a room with someone at college is awful! I also think it is US specific.

    Not just in the US, I’m afraid. In the Republic of China(Taiwan) of the ’50s-’60s and mainland Chinese dorms at least in the late 90’s, 6-8 students would be piled into one bunk-straddled room with one table and a chest for each student to place his/her belongings. It is understandable in their case because nearly all universities are government sponsored/administered…and economic circumstances until recently would not permit them to provide students more space.

    Comparatively speaking, colleges/universities in the US cannot credibly claim poor economic circumstances to the same extent…especially the elite private institutions.

  28. Linda
    Linda April 13, 2008 at 4:40 pm |

    The Saudi “pamper your maid” link, by the way, doesn’t work.

  29. Lauredhel
    Lauredhel April 14, 2008 at 8:32 am |

    God, the idea of sharing a room with someone at college is awful! I also think it is US specific. Any other Europeans care to chime in?

    I’m not European, but in the Australian residential colleges I’ve been in, all the bedrooms are single, typically sharing a kitchenette/lounge area and bathrooms between 4-8 students.

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