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Boybands are the best

Author:
Zeyn

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

(DISCLAIMER: I use the term ‘boyband’ loosely. I do not think of 5 Seconds of Summer as a boyband in the same way that I see One Direction as one. However, I believe that many of the objections to this labelling of them stem from a problematic place. I do not use it derogatorily – to me, there is nothing derogatory about the term ‘boyband’.)

I used to think of myself as too cool for school – or rather, too punk rock for ‘meaningless, mind-numbing’ chart music. I had special disdain for fangirls, for people who loved particular pop artists with any degree of intensity. I believed that my devotion to my favourite bands was different – superior even – because the bands that I loved wrote their own songs, and their songs MEANT something. I laugh at the irony of that now, considering my favourite band has written songs with the titles Poppin’ Champagne and Stella – the latter of which is indeed a song about beer. OH THE DEPTH. Alas, when I saw groups of girls wearing their JLS hoodies, I scoffed and rolled my eyes. I told anyone who would listen that those girls were zombies with no opinions of their own, that they were completely brainwashed. I said that these artists were not in fact artists, that their music was not ‘real’ music. Oh yes, I was one of those people.

Fast forward a few years, and you’d have a hard time believing that was ever me.

I am someone who sobbed for hours on the day that Zayn left One Direction, someone who was highly sensitive to the terrible ‘Two Directions’ joke that seemingly everyone came out with in the weeks following. I am someone who has read a considerable amount of Larry Stylinson fan fiction. I have even written a little. I am someone who goes to see 5 Seconds of Summer concerts and takes 100 blurry pictures, and later captions every single one with HEARTACHE ON THE BIG SCREEN. I am someone who’s lock screen is of Michael Clifford, someone who stares lovingly at said image periodically throughout the day. I am someone who thinks about Michael Clifford constantly, someone who frets over his sleeping patterns and stress levels, as if I am his mother. Oh yes, I am one of THOSE people.

Once upon a time, I despised boyband fangirls. Now, not only am I one myself, but I love the others immensely. I actually think one of my favourite things about being a fan of these artists is the other fans. I recently went to see 5SOS on the UK leg of their Sounds Live, Feels Live tour, and it was amazing. The boys themselves were, of course, fantastic, but it was the way that they connected me to the thousands of people – predominantly teenage girls – in the room that made the night so special. The New Broken Scene is no empty sentiment; it’s real – in our screams and joy and boundless passion, we were united. I had never met the girls next to me before, but we danced to Hey Everybody together, and delightedly screamed “OH MY GOD” in each other’s faces whenever our faves did something OMG worthy. (FYI, OMG worthy actions include breathing. Have you even lived if you haven’t witnessed Michael Clifford breathing IRL though???)

Band

 

It’s funny to me that having a fanbase of predominantly young girls is deemed a kind of condemnation – surely, by now, the history of pop music has taught us that teenage girls are the most powerful people on the planet. It is teenage girls who launch musicians into success, even into icon status. If you’re a middle-aged man dismissing 5SOS because they attract excitable and emotional teenage girls, you might want to remember who made the Beatles’ career.

With the rest of the world’s disdain for teenage girls, the boys of boybands are a relief – they understand how incredible we are, they appreciate us, and they remind us constantly of how awesome we are. Their affirmation of our existence and worth is significant to us – it’s nice to have someone who doesn’t treat you with scorn. It’s also nice to have somebody with power advocating for you – another rarity. The action/1D campaign was arguably the best thing of all time, because the values and opinions of teenage girls were respected and listened to on a big scale, rather than undermined or dismissed.

More recently, Ashton Irwin of 5 Seconds of Summer proved that he was, quite frankly, better than everybody else. The band were asked in an interview about fan fiction. People in the spotlight are always either uncomfortable with this topic, or ridiculing of it. 5SOS, refreshingly, made jokes entirely at their own expense, complaining only that the romantic standards typically present in these fan creations made them look bad. They didn’t mock the creators, they mocked themselves. This in itself was astonishing to me, but when Ashton continued to discuss it, I was seriously amazed. He said that he thinks it’s cool that young people are creating things, and he loves that fan fiction is a window into our minds – it is a way of understanding what we think about, and the way we think. This was the first time that I’ve ever heard a famous person acknowledge the value of this form, the first time it has been understood. As someone deeply invested in fan fiction, this mattered a lot to me – so much that I may have even shed a tear or two. It was through fan fiction that I finally discovered last year that there is a name for the way I experience sexuality; that I am not defective; that there are other people like me; that I am whole. It was in fan fiction that I found my voice again after losing it, that I was able to let loose creatively, and it is fan fiction that I turn to again and again when I am struggling to write fiction but feel a desperate need to. Fan fiction is a huge part of fandom for me, a huge part of life in general. I am deeply touched that Ashton appreciates this thing that matters to me so immensely.

In summary: boybands are the best thing in the whole world. Other than teenage girls. But boybands definitely come in a very close second. There is no shame in loving them – in fact, I believe that it is something to be proud of. Your passion is beautiful, and it is a part of something big, something extremely powerful. Embrace it.

Why We Need The Istanbul Convention

Author:
istanbul-petition

By Anna Hill

Trigger Warning: sexual violence

The Istanbul Convention is a document that sets out a legal framework to tackling violence against women and girls. It sets minimum standards for the government to meet when tackling this issue and will ensure that governments prevent violence, protect those that experience or could experience that violence and prosecute perpetrators. Many countries have ratified [i.e. accepted into law] the convention already such as: Denmark, France, Italy, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and Albania. To read more check out this page.

I asked fellow PBG writers why we need the Istanbul Convention so badly:

We need the Istanbul Convention because we are simply not doing enough to protect victims of sexual violence, educate the general public on this issue, and punish the perpetrators of such acts. I support the ratification of the Istanbul Convention because as a survivor of child molestation I need support and security I need the assurance that there will be less people like me – less people who suffer from flashbacks and panic attacks due to those events and whose lives are affected by the violence they have faced. – Anon

I could list off a lot of statistics about gender based violence. The fact that 1 in 5 women in the UK will experience sexual assault in her lifetime; that over 20,000 girls under 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation each year; that one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute. I could tell you that 1 in 3 school girls experience unwanted sexual touching; that 85,000 women are raped each year; and that 2 women a week in the UK alone are killed by a current or former partner. The numbers are shocking, and they’re a big part of the reason why we need the Istanbul Convention. But these are not just numbers- behind every number is a person. That Some of these people are people I love, people you love. One of those people is me and it might be you. The fact is that I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t know someone who has suffered from gender-based violence, or is a survivor of it themselves. We need to do something about this. This is why we need the Istanbul Convention. – Yas

The Istanbul Convention was signed by the UK government on 8 June 2012. Since then, the government has supposedly taken steps to facilitate the ratification of the Convention – such as creating legislation on forced marriage and FGM – yet continues to stall fully ratifying the Convention into UK law. Why is the government hesitating in creating a safer country for women across the UK? Every 30 seconds, the police receive a call related to domestic violence. Each year, up to 3 million women experience violence in the UK. In ratifying the Istanbul Convention, the government would be committing to implementing measures to ensure that the UK is a safe place for women. The measures within the Istanbul Convention form a structure under which violence against women would be prevented and women and girls would be protected, with prosecution of violence. It would implement safe spaces and refuges for survivors, allowing women to thrive rather than live in fear. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention in the UK is long overdue – countries such as Italy, Spain and France have already ratified the Convention. We all have the right to a life free of violence and fear. The Istanbul Convention facilitates the measures necessary for this, and its time the UK government responded to its commitment to ratify this. – Amy
Check out the petition, website and twitter for more info and ways to get involved!

Some Politicians Have Boobs. Deal With It.

Author:
unnamed

By Amy Callaghan

It should really come as no surprise that, yet again, the Daily Mail has published a shockingly sexist portrayal of female politicians. As if the hugely patronising ‘Downing Street Catwalk’ article in September 2014 wasn’t enough, the Mail has decided to undermine the value and importance of female politicians once again. This time, however, the Mail have managed to reach even more sickening and misogynistic heights, actually claiming that female politicians intentionally use their bodies and their ‘curves’ to make political advances. In their article, published in print and online on the 18th of March 2016, the Mail claims female politicians know that ‘moving a hemline up or a neckline down can be a powerful political tool’. The article cited 11 specific examples of female politicians – from current Home Secretary Theresa May to Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South – who have apparently dressed provocatively and subsequently seen political advancement. The Mail provides a rundown of what exactly the politicians wore, what body parts were specifically exposed, and the ‘resulting’ promotions or political gains achieved.

I find it unbelievable that in the year 2016 one of the most widely read newspapers in the country is publishing this toxic and sexist garbage. Female MPs occupy just 151 of 650 seats in the House of Commons, and this kind of vitriolic misrepresentation is perhaps one of the reasons why we still don’t have equality in Parliament. As a young woman studying International Relations and interested in politics as a career, seeing female politicians portrayed in this way is nothing short of discouraging – clearly, their achievements and political merits are not taken seriously. In fact, we’re led to believe that anything they have managed to achieve is because they’ve flashed a bit of thigh to the right crowd. This is so demeaning, both to these clearly very accomplished politicians, and to women everywhere whose achievements are belittled and written off in this debasing way.

Sure, the Mail article is an extreme example and the assumption that women have only achieved anything because they can use their bodies and sexuality is so astonishingly sexist and outdated. People may argue that it shouldn’t affect how female politicians actually do their jobs – and it likely doesn’t, as they are professionals. It’s also true that publications such as the Daily Mail and the Sun, which persist in this ridiculous representation of women, are frequently called out on it and are of course not taken seriously by everyone. Yet it is something we see all too often and this toxic portrayal of women no doubt permeates the minds of a wide readership.

It is ridiculous enough that the number of male MPs in the House of Commons at the moment outnumbers the total number of female MPs in history. Only seven cabinet ministers out of a total of twenty-two are female. Women are clearly underrepresented in politics, and it’s no wonder. Not only are women likely discouraged thanks to ridiculous stereotypes perpetuated by institutions such as the Mail, but superiors and those in positions of power – statistically, more likely to be male – may subconsciously be influenced by this image of women and thus not take them as seriously as their male counterparts.

This blatant example of sexism towards female politicians in the media points to a much deeper and long-lasting problem. Girlguiding, a charity focused on and driven by girls and young women, carried out some research in 2015 proving that young women are put off by the portrayal of women in the media. Fifty-five % of 11 to 21-year-old girls said that in the past week they had seen the media talk about a woman’s appearance before her achievements or job. It is evident that the media’s often sexist portrayal of women is obvious even to younger girls, and may influence the way they view themselves and other women. If female politicians, some of the most successful and powerful people in the country, can’t escape this appearance-based scrutiny, then girls might wonder, what are the chances we can?

The Mail’s article is a disgusting and extreme example of the sexism women face from the media, but it is by no means the only example. This kind of toxic and misogynistic ‘journalism’ has to stop. Has there ever been an article that equates male politicians’ attire and their resultant political successes? Why do we insist on treating our male and female politicians so differently, when they hold the same merit and do the same incredibly difficult job equally well? It’s archaic, sickening and it has to stop, if we ever want to see a truly equal society. Stop discouraging women from going into politics with this repulsive nonsense. And stop belittling them and degrading them when they get there.

 

 

 

Kim Kardashian and the Right to Bare All

Author:
Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 5.56.37 PM

By Amy Callaghan

It seems like we have a new Kardashian social media blowout every few days. From Kanye’s debt to rumours of Kourtney’s romantic attachment to Justin Bieber, the media can’t leave everyone’s favourite love-to-hate family alone. Typing the word ‘Kardashian’ into Google garners around 206 million results. But this isn’t another article preaching about the degeneration of media or questioning why, exactly, the Kardashians are famous. I want to discuss the latest Kardashian ‘scandal’–Kim’s naked selfie—and what exactly the fuss is about.

It’s almost impossible to have missed the photo or the backlash. If you haven’t seen the image itself, you’ve certainly heard about it, thanks not only to the usual anonymous trolls but to numerous high-profile celebrities who have made their contempt public news. Bette Midler for example, wants us to know that we’ve seen it all before. ‘If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera’, Midler jokes, referring to the infamous 2003 sex tape, leaked without Kim’s consent. US actress and model, Chloe Grace Moretz, argues that Kim should be using her platform as a celebrity to show young women that women are more than just their bodies.

In different ways, Midler and Moretz exemplify the very toxic misogynistic issue at the heart of this debate. Midler said later that she was not trying to slut-shame Kim, but it certainly sounds like slut-shaming to me. Moretz implies that a woman who is empowered by her sexuality and her body cannot be a good role model to girls and young women– both a problematic message and objectively untrue.

There’s clearly a double standard at play here. When Kim’s sex tape was leaked non-consensually thirteen years ago, it was hugely popular and it’s still watched today, despite the fact that Kim did not want it to be shared or seen by anyone. Yet when a confident and sexy Kim makes the decision to post a selfie, suddenly no one wants to see any more of Kim Kardashian.

Criticism of the Kardashians is nothing new, but I think what really bothers people is the fact that Kim is an empowered and self-assured women unafraid to share her pride and confidence in her body with the world. Women’s bodies are big business. Young celebrities like Emma Watson, like so many other girls and women, are threatened and intimidated by “revenge porn” from former partners. Unauthorized sex tapes become big news and big business. Yet when women take ownership of their bodies and post scantily clad pictures or selfies they are subject to vile, hateful insults.

Clearly there’s a huge issue with the way in which women’s bodies are viewed. As long as they are saleable and pleasurable and controlled by others they are acceptable, but if women give even a hint of being confident, of taking back that control, then she’s the problem. What’s alarmingly apparent is that these sorts of images and videos are sexier, more pleasurable, more attractive, if they are nonconsensual, if the woman in question is a victim.

Kim wrote an inspiring essay on her website in which she argued that she feels empowered posting pictures of her body when she feels good, owning her flaws, and showing her confidence to the world. This does not make her any less of a role model, particularly from a business perspective (she makes millions of dollars from her apps, clothing lines, and most obviously her reality television franchise). Kim has proven that she can be a successful businesswoman as well as front woman for a massive dynastic franchise, while still owning her sexuality and feeling powerful and confident in her body. She has shown that even in the face of malicious and toxic backlash from the media and others, she remains secure in herself. This is, in my view, a much more inspiring and powerful message than that put forward by those who judge and ridicule her. Not once does Kim say that a woman is required to be sexy in order to be successful – just that she should allowed to be sexy and successful, and show this off to the world if she wants to.

Kim closed her essay with a powerful statement: ‘I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an entrepreneur and I am allowed to be sexy.’ As a young woman, I find this message inspiring. Kim doesn’t care what others think of her – she’s going to continue being herself and being proud of it. Regardless of the hate and insults, she is confident and unafraid. She is, as she defiantly captioned a photo after the backlash she received, #liberated.

 

Tonight Alive are Limitless

Author:
Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.16.47 PM

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

It’s no secret that I love Tonight Alive. If asked to name just one woman who inspires me, Jenna McDougall would be the name on my lips, without a doubt. I could write endless essays on her – and the band’s – significance to me; I have found so much empowerment in listening to them talk, listening to their songs, watching them perform, watching them interact. There’s a special energy about this band, there’s something about them that makes them so much more than a band. Tonight Alive are a movement.

I saw them at the Birmingham Institute recently, introducing their new album Limitless. The moment that they walked on stage, and the first verse of To Be Free – my current ‘power boost’ song – began, I felt a shift in my body. My smile widened, and with it, my entire being expanded. Throughout that show, I grew and grew. This band take me to spiritual places that I struggle to access otherwise.

That is the undeniable power of Tonight Alive. They don’t just encourage growth, they demand it. You don’t go to a Tonight Alive show without leaving with questions, with new ideas, with hope. They expose uncomfortable truths, they make you want to be better. They show you that it is possible to be free, and they remind you that “you always have a say”. They ask you what you are so scared of, and convince you that there is no need to be – after all, you have oceans inside of you, you can take on anything.

Their last album, The Other Side, is everything to me – I feel every second of every song 100%. When it came out, it felt like Jenna understood me, which was incredibly important at the time. And I am certain that nothing will ever matter more than hearing the song Hell & Back live – that song is my happiest place. TOS allowed me to grow and heal and I am endlessly grateful that it exists.

I did not believe that TOS could be matched, let alone surpassed.

But Limitless has come at me with force and screams I AM THE GREATEST. Literally.

I’ve always thought of Tonight Alive as a pop-punk band. But this isn’t a pop-punk album. And I’m not sorry about that at all. The band has grown, and I respect that. I love that, in fact. Pop-punk is a genre of a strange mixture – parties and complaining – and it is not one that fits the ethos of this band. This is a band with a vision, a purpose, and the epic proportions of this album correlates to that.

Jenna’s voice soars above everything, and is the strongest I have ever heard of. It’s stunning. It’s powerful and confident. On The Other Side, she pleads for respect, she begs to be heard, as with Say Please. Here, the respect and validation comes from within. This is a young woman who knows herself, is comfortable, and doesn’t need external forces to solidify that. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Limitless is bursting with affirmations, and I have already cried screaming them into my pillow approximately 50 times. They are things that I have needed to hear, and am desperately trying to believe. The stand out track, for me, is Power of One, which opens with “I exist with a fierce intention”, and closes with “The one thing I’ve learned, it all made me who I am”. It’s this album’s Hell & Back, it’s the song that I need more than anything right now. Tonight Alive always seem to do that – be exactly what I need at any given moment. I am so grateful to have had them over the past five years of my life. I am so excited to grow and heal even more with them, as I know I will. That’s what Limitless is all about, what Tonight Alive are all about.

This album will wake you up, if only you let it.

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