Alice and Anna Discuss Make Up 0

By Alice Koski and Anna Hill

 Alice and Anna Discuss Make Up

For many women, make up is a normal part of everyday life; in fact, the average woman in the UK wears make up for 341 day of the year. And whilst make up certainly seems like a positive force – for giving women confidence, for being an art, for giving us control over our image – it is definitely not without its problems. The double standards it creates, the pressure it puts on women to look perfect, the industry itself… to name just a few.

With this in mind, we’re tackling the subject of make up by answering and discussing the following five questions together. Here we go!

How were you introduced to make up? When did you start wearing it?

Alice – I was a complete tomboy from the ages of about 7 to 12, and had never wanted anything to do with makeup. It wasn’t until my second year of secondary school that I started to take an interest. My introduction to make up began with a cheap eyeliner from Boots, my mum’s old mascara and a lot of mistakes! Myself and my friends bonded over make up – there were many experiments and many disasters (I’m remembering like the time a fake eyelash got stuck on my real ones!). Make up was one of the things we learnt about together and I definitely count it as a good (bar the false eyelash incident!) experience.

Anna – That’s really cool! I had a similar experience, particularly with the whole tomboy thing at the beginning, and then in Year Seven when I changed friendship groups and I “got into” make up. It was fine, although I think I went with it more to fit in than because I actually enjoyed wearing it, and I still have no real understanding of make up so maybe that’s why. I also actually remember being sort of bullied by these girls who wanted to give me a “makeover” and then tried to make me look like a panda, and I didn’t know how to take it off, so I felt really humiliated. Luckily my now best friend helped me to get it off, but after that I stopped hanging out with them or wearing much make up.

Alice – That sounds awful! Year 7 is a weird time because it’s such a big transition.

Anna – Year seven 7 was a very very tough year for me! I think it must have scared me off make up, but I’m actually pretty comfortable with being a total rookie at it now.

Alice – I can’t remember whether I was genuinely interested in discovering make up or whether I felt like I should be interested.

Anna- I think a lot of girls feel like that! Maybe that’s why we all turn to make up, as a way of coping with the change and the new “grownupness”.

Alice – That’s a really interesting idea. I remember that same sort of time being pretty tough because of having to cope with all the ‘growing up’.

Anna – It makes me wanna ask everyone when they got into makeup to see if it was around the same time. Growing up as a girl is so hard! You’re thrown in at the deep end – expected to be really good at make up immediately and to have a great fashion sense.

Alice – Yes! And it’s all at once – that 12-14 age range. Quite a lot to cope with.

What is your daily make up routine if you have one?

Anna – I don’t really have a daily or conventional make up routine. I actually own very little make up, BUT I do have a kind of self-care routine that involves putting on make up. It’s a little bit bizarre I suppose but I like to view this routine as a kind of therapy! Basically, when I feel really sad, or just sort of lost, or any negative emotion, or creatively sapped, I paint my face with lipstick and/or use turquoise eyeliner to make myself have freckles and experiment with contouring and bizarre shapes and strange lip colours. anna1 225x300 Alice and Anna Discuss Make UpIt’s really fun and it helps me to survive really awful weeks, or it can just be a way to remind myself that my body is my own and I can do with it what I want – it doesn’t have to look pretty or cute – it can be ugly, weird, eye-catching, sparkling, childish, alien, robotic, butch, magical and any number of other things. So my “make up routine” is a really intense one and only happens about once a month. It’s really refreshing and I would 800% recommend it! Just throw caution (and colour) to the wind and put stuff onto your face!

Alice – That’s really cool! Sometimes I forget that make up can be arty. Some would say it’s a form of art!

Anna – I’m not sure if it is or isn’t really, but I don’t mind – it’s purpose for me isn’t art ,it’s just a way of helping me access strength or confidence or happiness. But then I think selfies can be art, so if I take a selfie with the makeup maybe I’ve made it INTO some kind of art piece?

Alice – Yeah, why not? There should be a gallery set up for selfies!

Anna – I would so go to that!! And hope my selfies made it in! What about you? What’s your kind of routine with makeup?

Alice -– My routine is nowhere near as interesting as yours! I don’t own a lot of make up and I tend to keep things quite simple. But I’ve developed a make up routine in the order that I apply things – concealer first, then foundation, then eyebrows, then eyes, then lips. I like doing my eyes best, and I’m a fan of big eyeliner flicks! If I want to keep things more casual, I’ll not put as much on, but if I’m going somewhere where I want to impress, I’ll do more.

Anna – Oh that’s interesting! So if you are dressing to impress do you wear more obvious make up rather than natural- looking stuff?

Alice – Yeah, like if I’m going to a party, I’ll put on lots of eyeliner and probably lipstick, but if I’m meeting friends in the day or going to school I won’t bother.

Anna – This might sound a bit like a therapy question, but do you enjoy putting the makeup on? Like is it a nice part of your day?

Alice – I kinda do actually, especially if I’m with a friend and we’re going somewhere, it’s fun to share make up and help each other. I also quite like seeing the ‘transformation’ of it too.

Anna – Yeah! A mutual and often girly shared experience. And watching your face change, it’s cool. It’s pretty impressive what people who can do make up can do – like contouring is so impressive.

Alice – Exactly! I’ve never tried it but it’s pretty amazing how people can completely change the shape of their face!

Anna – I think this type of stuff is seriously underrated because it is considered girly, and girly ALWAYS equals vapid, stupid, bad, pointless.

Alice – I’ve also seen lot of guys saying that girls who wear make up are ‘lying’ to everyone, which pisses me off.

Anna – I think though they react like that because they don’t really understand makeup – not to be patronising.

Alice – They set a double standard as well by saying that girls who wear make up are fake/liars, but girls who don’t are ugly/aren’t making any effort!

Anna – I think that’s why it’s just important to really think about WHO you are wearing makeup for. It’s okay to want to look pretty and impress people, but make sure that YOU think you look pretty.

Why do you/don’t you wear make up?

Alice – I wear make up most days, as I’m either going to school/university or seeing friends. There are a lot of reasons why I do this, the main one being that make up makes me feel more confident in myself, and that gives me a boost. Another reason is that, after having worn make up for a few years now, it feels almost like a necessity. If I go out ‘bare-faced’ I feel a bit naked. I would never judge another girl for not wearing make up, but there is a certain standard I set for myself – if I’m going to be seeing certain people or if I’m going somewhere where I know I’ll get my photo taken, then I feel like I should wear make up.

Anna – That’s really interesting because I go out bare faced the majority of the time, but I do USE makeup in a similar way to you – sometimes I wear it to feel confident. I’m much less interested in looking pretty than I used to be. Now I care about looking like myself, being feminine, being interesting, being confident through the makeup I use. I also really like TRYING to look ugly - it’s so much fun and it takes all the pressure off!

Alice – These ‘expectations’ that I have for myself cause me to feel like I need to wear make up, but if I stopped wearing make up, what’s the worst thing that could happen!? Your attitude is great though, I definitely feel like I have to try and look pretty. Trying to look ugly is not something that’s ever crossed my mind!

Anna – Unfortunately it does take a lot of strength to shun those expectations, so you know, baby steps – not to be patronising! It’s fun, you should definitely try it some time.

Do you feel different when wearing makeup or more judged by others?

Anna – I do feel different! I think part of that is because it’s quite rare for me to wear makeup and because of various issues with my skin I’ve never felt comfortable putting on make up, so when I wear makeup I wear MAKE UP (with flashing lights and bold colours), rather than the: “I woke up like this with a flawless face and most men can’t tell that I am wearing makeup at all” look”. So I guess I must get judged by people who think I dress/am alive to please them, BUT I do not care for that. I enjoy confusing people though, for example once I sat on the tube and I had some turquoise freckles for confidence and strength and also fun (I was going to a Beyonce concert!!!), and these two guys opposite me were clearly SO CONFUSED by it all. I enjoyed screwing with their perceptions. I think I like doing that sort of thing because of my identity too – as a Queer person I often feel like media only represents me when it subverts what is seen as “normal,” so now I claim subversion as my “thing.”  Alice and Anna Discuss Make UpI’ve also gotten used to people judging my “look” because I have body hair which I don’t really cover up (leg hair is so effective at keeping me warm in the winter!), so I like to play with those stereotypes when I wear make up too – i.e if you don’t shave you are dirty and lazy, but then if I don’t shave and look really well put together, I’m proving them wrong and hopefully making them question those judgments.

To get back to the question properly, I do often wear makeup and it makes me feel feminine and powerful which I like. The red lipstick I wear sometimes is so full of obviousness and vivacity so that’s great for confidence and making me feel unashamed to be here, to be taking up space.

Alice – Wow, super interesting. My response is that I suppose I feel a bit of both. Different, because make up makes me feel confident, more attractive, and more powerful like you said! But on the flip side, I do often feel judged for my make up choices. If I go without make up, I feel like people (especially girls) may judge me to be lazy or not making an effort. However, when I do wear make up, although it makes me feel confident, I feel like people make assumptions about me too. In particular, I’ve often encountered guys who see me wearing make up, ‘fashionable clothes’ (and not to mention I have the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype to live up to) and judge me to be ditzy/vapid/slutty, which is not true, and something I wouldn’t want to pin onto any girl.

Anna – No! It sucks. It’s basically like anything a teenage girl does is stupid. It’s one of those things that is SO difficult to sort out, because you don’t need to spend your life trying to show them how complicated and clever you are – and it’s not your job to educate them, but those stereotypes can be really harmful and REALLY hurt girls’ self esteem.

Has make up helped you, and if so how?

Alice – I feel like make up has helped me – with my confidence, with making friends, with growing up. But when I think about it – I didn’t need make up for any of those things. I’ve always enjoyed doing my make up and I enjoy wearing it, but I can’t tell if it’s for the right reasons.

Anna – This one is difficult. I think agree, but because I basically like to paint my face a lot, it’s helped me personally –  but I’m not using it in the same way that most women do.

Alice – I can’t really justify that make up HELPS women. Maybe it does at surface level, but on a deeper level I think it’s maybe quite a damaging thing. I don’t know!

Anna- I guess it’s not the actual ACT of putting on make up, it’s the context of our situation. The kyriarchy/the patriarchy MAKE make up problematic, but the activity itself isn’t really a problem at all. It’s difficult because I never want to be the type of person to be like “women you cannot do a thing you like to do,”  but there are definitely issues with make up and it can quite easily be used as a tool to manipulate and subjugate women. Which is not cool.

Alice- Totally agree… maybe it’s not that we stop using it, it’s that we change our attitudes towards it?

If make up is a problem, can it be solved? Is it more of a bad thing than a good thing? Can we change attitudes and prejudices towards it? We feel almost more confused now than we did before our discussion! However, hearing about each other’s experiences and points of view was both interesting and enlightening. We encourage you to have your own discussions about make up with friends (you can use the questions from here if you like!). We guarantee you’ll come out of it a little confused and a little enlightened…and if anyone comes to any definite conclusions, let us know!

Chasing Rupert Murdoch (and bumping into Boris)! 0

Guest Post by Eva O’Flynn

10593029 815815108439019 3082685626983810100 n Chasing Rupert Murdoch (and bumping into Boris)!

Today I felt powerful. Strategically placed between The Shard and Sun HQ, we, three teenage girls, sat and ate chocolate biscuits. Intimidating, I know. At least, The Sun’s security seemed to think so! They scowled, pointed and, when the shifts changed, warned each other of the threat that we were clearly posing. To make matters more hilarious, we are a relatively short group (see photo.) You couldn’t even see our t-shirts for all the jumpers we were wearing (until Stephanie ambled over, her tee quite literally glowing. Brilliant.)

At that point, the two police officers who were manning the area joined us. They arrived beaming and, as soon as they heard that we intended to be peaceful, our friendship was confirmed. We chatted about everything, from why they supported the campaign to the worst arrests they’d made and they even dispelled some of the more interesting rumours that we’d heard. They were brilliant, brilliant people. Even one of the security guards was friendly!

From our biscuit-filled perch, we caught sight of a shade of glowing blonde combined with the ridiculous amble that could only belong to Boris Johnson. He was walking away and we were about to lose what we saw as a brilliant opportunity for a comment. So we ran, capturing some brilliant selfies on the way. We were so exhilarated at the prospect of capturing the mayor in a shot with our NMP3 tees that, in the photos, we are beaming. Oh how I regret my facial expression and wish my disgust were visible.

10696184 815810078439522 5458110195254016690 n Chasing Rupert Murdoch (and bumping into Boris)!

“What do you think of Page 3?” we probed, “Page 3 of the Daily Telegraph?” he responded pompously. “No actually, I read the Guardian. But come on, what do you think of Page 3?” At this point, his assistant began irritatingly babbling in the background, attempting to be clever. I somehow found myself telling our (buffoon of a) mayor in a tone dripping with irony my opinion of the Daily Telegraph’s Page 3. “I think it’s a pretty important page, you know? It’s the first thing you see when you open the paper, it’s right there in front of you, really sets the tone, don’t you think? Do you think that The Sun should potentially change theirs? Maybe, just maybe, boobs shouldn’t be the first thing you see?” Pathetically and unsurprisingly, he didn’t respond. We left him galumphing away to do whatever Tories do.

The big moment arrived. Murdoch was coming. Our two police officers fulfilled their duty, laughing, and the ridiculous number of body guards, less amusingly, attempted to hold us back. We shouted to Murdoch, showed him our tees, but the doors of the car soon shut. Before I could even gather my thoughts, Yas was in front of the car (quite literally in front) and they were rolling slowly towards her. She moved to the side with Stephanie and began to run, Rosa and I sprinting after as the car picked up speed. We were soon surrounding them, forcing the car to stop. We, four smiley, innocent women, stopped Rupert Murdoch’s car.

Today, although it may have been small, I felt like I made a difference. Today, four peaceful women disrupted The Sun. Today, I can say that I personally pissed off some powerful people. It feels amazing.

Read Eva’s original post, and more of her writing, here.

Drops of Hope 0

By Christiana Paradis

Being a third wave feminist can be draining. For days on end you work tirelessly to effect change or alter gender stereotypes only to be cheered on by the same 15-20 feminists that continue to read your blogs or share your posts on various social media sites, but you rarely reach a wider audience. It becomes downright excruciatingly exhausting some days, and the more exhausted you get, the angrier you get. You stay up late at night and question: Why don’t other people care about these things? Why don’t my OWN female friends care about these things? Is everyone crazy or just me? HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO EXPLAIN THAT SEX AND GENDER ARE NOT. THE. SAME. THING!?!?!

Over the last couple of months I’ve felt this anger more than I should, but every now and then something happens, something remarkable. Maybe it’s something big or small depending on who you are or where you are in the world. This something for me this past week was the release of Ray Rice from the Baltimore Ravens due to an additional video surfacing regarding a previous domestic violence issue. Why was this so remarkable, you may ask?

Back when I was a wee blogger at PBG, around 3 years ago to be exact, I wrote a blog about the ways in which the National Football League (NFL) continuously downplayed domestic violence and sexual assault allegations. At the time I cited a recent murder-suicide of a Kansas City Chief’s player, the sexual harassment of a female NFL reporter, and the recent domestic violence allegations of a Miami Dolphins player. I was disgusted that despite different teams calling out the behavior, there was no general outcry or any official statements made by the NFL, and as a result this invalidated and dismissed female football fans. Once a boys club always a boys club, right?

nfl Drops of Hope

Fast forward to 2014: In February Ray Rice was seen dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator, the NFL decided to suspend Rice for two games and the Baltimore Ravens took no additional actions regarding Rice’s behavior. All of a sudden public outcry begins and memes pop up all over social media sites questioning a yearlong suspension for marijuana use vs. a two game suspension for domestic violence.

Feeling pressured the NFL decided to determine new sanctions for players accused of domestic violence. These new sanctions include a 6 month suspension for a first offense and banned for life for a second offense. Additionally, after a second video emerged from the February incident involving Rice, the NFL decided to ban Ray Rice indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens made a decision to release him. Though some of these changes came much later than I would have preferred, the fact that teenagers, men, women, and current and/or former NFL players stood up together and challenged the NFL regarding this issue, exhibits remarkable change in opinion and culture. Three years ago a murder-suicide ignited little outrage, but today a two game suspension for domestic violence created a fire storm. That is change. It is a change so big that it forced an organization as large and powerful as the NFL to act, and that gives me hope.

It means that as a society we have become much more educated and more aware of the many implications of domestic violence, it means as bystanders we will not allow this behavior to continue to exist and be rewarded. It means that though we can’t always see it on a daily basis, things are changing and standing together we continue to be drops of hope in a very large bucket that is defining the third wave feminist movement.

hope Drops of Hope

 

Thoughts From Latitude – Feminism, Class Politics, and Checking Your Privilege 0

By Cora Morris

latitude Thoughts From Latitude – Feminism, Class Politics, and Checking Your Privilege

British feminism has a class problem.

When I’d looked into going to Latitude in Suffolk earlier this summer I’d been pleasantly surprised to note the number of women performing at the festival. The stand-up comedy line-up at Latitude was almost two-thirds female – suggesting brilliant progression within an industry that is known to be (more than occasionally) sexist. Musical acts ranged from Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders to Lily Allen (who we all undoubtedly have opinions about) and Haim, the trio of Californian sisters who’s lyrics I’m yet to find too much feminist fault in. There was cabaret, theatre, and even an appearance from the English National Ballet. The poetry area was a favourite, with Hollie Mcnish’s spoken word stealing the show entirely. It was safe to say I was catered for – I felt incredibly lucky to be in a place where so many of the arts came together in a way that was of such a high quality, and where female performers were not dismissed or looked down upon in the slightest.

It is pointless to deny that Latitude is anything but a very stereotypically middle-class festival, and this is clear from the sheer scale of variety throughout the acts and attractions – are literary stages and quinoa stands really abundant in other festivals? We, as crowds, were referred to as ‘Latitude Lefties’ several times and ‘Guardian Readers’ at least twice – the privileged lives of many of the festival-goers was obvious. I’m not sure where the association between academia and class formed but it seems to be a false attitude in England which we supposedly can’t quite get away from. The problem is, feminism gets added into the equation too by way of being wrongly perceived as academic in its subject matter.

Awaiting a panel with Laura Bates (of The Everyday Sexism Project), Laurie Penny (PBG Blogger Sophia reviewed her new book, Unspeakable Things, last month) and Zoe Pilger (whose new novel, Eat My Heart Out, is becoming a personal favourite) regarding feminist fiction I look around to see who I’m sharing the literature tent with, and who is sticking around for a talk that I thought would have been one of the less popular of the schedule. I’m met by the unsurprising sight of mainly middle-aged women, a selection of younger, artsy looking types and a scattering of men – boyfriends, maybe, though I’m glad to see a few raise their hands when and we are asked who in the crowd identifies as a feminist. Some of them scurry away hilariously when Penny begins criticising Facebook page The LAD Bible, followed by her sniggering that ‘Maybe they run it… we’re scaring away the men, everyone!” Naturally, we all laugh. The talk continues and I begin to consider whether this evermore middle-class seeming crowd reflects the limited demographic feminism reaches out to and engages in Britain. Yes – the answer is yes.

I think the examples speak for themselves – to quote Marianne Wright-Eldman, ‘You cannot be what you cannot see’. The fact that significant numbers of this country’s most prolific feminists appear frequently as writers for newspapers such as the Guardian – a wonderful and insightful left-leaning publication, but one that undeniably primarily appeals/sells to Britain’s (if only slightly) privileged – says a considerable amount.

We do not have voices in this country at present that are speaking to everyone else. Not prolific ones, at least. Feminism is becoming almost trendy amongst the middle classes whereas it is much less so elsewhere. Intersectionality is so key – the ways we are increasingly considering the oppression of everyone is vital to the progression and expansion of feminism and its values. However, as I find myself being told more and more frequently that I’m ‘a privileged white girl with nothing to complain about’, thus ‘pretending men are causing problems because they’re easy targets’, I am wondering whether awareness of feminism’s modern form is really being reflected as what we’re all about. It has become a movement that strives for intersectionality, and space in the conversation for people other than ‘privileged white girls’. The problem is that in the public eye, we are represented by what are as a majority people who fall into this ‘category’ (so to speak). I don’t think that we can expect to engage a majority if we are being solely represented by a relative minority.

I am not by any means suggesting that the voices are not there. They are. They are all over Tumblr and Twitter and WordPress and LiveJournal. They are writing papers and reports. They are posting blogs, and getting angry with MRAs, and scanning zines they’ve drawn into their computers. Lots of them have been oppressed in different ways. Lots of them are angry. They are angry because their invaluable voices which make up substantial proportions of the population are not being heard in the public eye. Why are they not represented by our media? They are essential voices in this brilliant and potentially revolutionary conversation we are having, and to an extent, they are probably bored of being spoken for rather than doing the speaking themselves.

There is a great deal to say for checking privilege. A good number of feminist journalists in the public eye are semi-militant about this, with Laurie Penny claiming that she is “constantly checking” her privilege “in the manner of an anxious homemaker constantly checking that the gas is off’”. However, when Caitlin Moran says she “literally could not give a shit” about the representation of people of colour in Lena Dunham’s show Girls - well, that statement speaks for itself.

I think Caitlin Moran is brilliant – really, I do. She has done a lot for the cause in this country and elsewhere, which makes her inspirational by default. Besides, as Penny also mentions – “It’s easy to fuck up, especially when you live in a world that tells you, repeatedly and often, that as a white, straight middle-class woman, yours is the only story about women worth articulating.” But, again, it means we are getting representation that is presumed to speak for the majority and yet does not do much more inclusive opinions any justice.

We are not different species. Class shouldn’t be an issue. The idea of it probably shouldn’t exist. But unfortunately, it does. In Britain, it means a great deal to some, as I’m certain it does elsewhere. I use it as a means of acknowledging my privilege, though I’m always conscious of coming across as snobbish. It is there, albeit as another way of putting all of us into boxes by those who wish to do so.

Feminism is valuable for all of us, in all of the boxes. It is just as valuable for the CEO that raised her hand in the Q&A in that literature tent complaining that she was not listened to in the office as it is for the millions that are not in similarly highly paid positions. Again, there are different kinds of oppression – some of those might affect particular boxes more than others. All of the voices are there, and they are all speaking. But at present, not all of them are being amplified quite as loudly as others.

Girls Matter.

By Amy Callaghan

Advocate Team Shot Girls Matter.

Today marks the launch of an exciting new project from Girlguiding, the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women. The project is called Girls Matter, and it details the changes girls and young women would like to see in the future. We’re releasing it in the run up to the 2015 General Election, in order to encourage political parties to listen, and pledge to make these changes happen in the next parliamentary term.

As a member of Advocate, a panel of Girlguiding members aged 14-25 from all over the UK, I’ve been really involved in the project. It’s been the most amazing experience and opportunity, especially knowing how important this project could prove to be.

I mean, it is a politically (and historically) significant project. It’s the first time girls in guiding have made a direct call to politicians. Girlguiding has asked members aged 7-25 what they care about most and think needs to change. There have been consultations, workshops, and sessions about the projects with Brownies aged 7-9, Guides aged 10-14 and members of The Senior Section aged 14-25 across the country. As an Advocate, I’ve been right at the heart of what we’ve found out. I’ve had my say on what I think are the most important issues affecting girls today. And we’ve devised eight calls for change that we ask the government to listen to and commit to act on.

These calls are:

  1. Listen to girls and young women, take them seriously and make sure their voices count.
  2. Demand that schools take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment.
  3. Call on all schools to teach body confidence and gender equality.
  4. Make girls’ rights a priority in the UK’s approach to international development.
  5. Stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content in mainstream media.
  6. Empower girls and young women to speak out and to be heard on the impact of media sexism and stereotyping.
  7. Modernise Sex and Relationships Education so all young people can make informed decisions and stay safe.
  8. Guarantee that women will be equally represented in Parliament

This is so important. These eight calls represent exactly what girls and young women want from a government. They want action on these things. They want something to be done. They’re saying – we’re saying – ‘This is what’s wrong. This is what we want you to do to make it better.’ Girlguiding research reveals that over half of girls aged 11-21 feel that politicians don’t listen to their views enough. But isn’t that exactly what a government is for? To listen to its people? To make sure their voices are heard and recognised?

Having been so involved with the project, I know how important these issues are. I mean, obviously I am a young woman myself so I know how important the issues are to me, and to the rest of the Advocate panel. But the response from our members on these issues was absolutely overwhelming – these are the issues they care about, that affect their lives. I’ve had a Brownie getting more and more frustrated as she told me how awful it was that someone might feel bad about their appearance because of the way women look in magazines. 87% of girls aged 11-21 feel that they are judged more on looks than ability. No wonder they feel such enormous pressure to live up to the images of women presented in the media! I’ve heard girls as young as 8 saying that lots of people think girls don’t matter as much as boys. That’s right; an 8 year old has already realised that girls are treated differently from boys. Something is clearly wrong with this. And Girls Matter seeks to recognise and change this.

One of the most important calls for me is the last, the one asking that women be equally represented in Parliament. I mean, for goodness’ sake, is it really too much to ask that there be a number of women in Parliament proportionate to the number of women in the population? Seems pretty sensible to me. That way, women’s views will hopefully get represented more equally.

It is so hugely important that politicians realise the significance of this. We need them to pledge to act in order to affect the change girls are asking for. Come on, guys. It’s your responsibility now to show that you’re listening to us and taking us seriously. It’s time for you to do something about it. It’s time to act.

Find out more about Girls Matter and take the online pledge here.

Read blog posts from Girlguiding members about why they think these calls are important here.

Abuse Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum: Rotherham Is Not About Race

By Elli Wilson

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Alexis Jay’s report on the abuse of over 1400 children over a 16 year period in Rotherham, and the “collective” failings of the police, social care and the local authority makes for tragic, uncomfortable reading. Unfortunately, whilst the scale and extent of the victims’ suffering and the authorities’ failures were certainly shocking, they did not surprise me. Britain today is still a deeply prejudiced country in which sexism and classism run deep, social services are underfunded and overstretched and young, underprivileged victims are likely to be dismissed as ‘unreliable’ or even complicit in their own abuse. In such conditions, it is hardly astonishing that vulnerable children and young people are abused and then failed by those meant to help and protect them.

With so much public anger and disgust over what happened in Rotherham, there would seem to be no better time than the present to start a national conversation about what causes rape and sexual abuse and how it can be prevented. However, in a depressingly predictable state of affairs, much of the coverage of the horrific abuse has focused on the fact that the perpetrators were predominantly British Pakistani and most of the known victims were white working-class girls.

In reality, perpetrators of sexual crimes in Britain are predominantly white. The only trait that almost all perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse share is their maleness. Sexual violence is not a crime committed by one ethnicity against another; it is a crime of male violence against women and children. Alongside class, gender is the overriding factor in the Rotherham abuse case, as with all other incidents of sexual violence.

By focusing on the ethnicity of the perpetrators in Rotherham, there is a danger that the threat of rape and sexual abuse will be othered and obscured. It is far easier and more comforting to think that such horrifying crimes are only a problem for certain sections of society, than to face the fact that in 21st century Britain children – primarily girls – are abused and exploited across all socio-economic groups and by men of all races. This is not a problem that we can safely categorise as belonging to one section of society whilst shaking our heads disapprovingly; the causes are deeply rooted in our attitudes and our establishment.

This is not to deny that different communities have different challenges in the fight to tackle abuse. For instance, Ruzwana Bashir eloquently described the culture of shame that can make it difficult for British Asian victims of abuse to seek help and justice. However, it is not as if survivors from all backgrounds don’t encounter disbelief and victim blaming attitudes. This is precisely the problem with the media’s fixation with ethnicity in relation to systemic sexual abuse; it hides the fact that the factors which contributed to the Rotherham scandal are not specific to a certain sub-culture but rather permeate all levels of society.

The scale of the abuse in Rotherham unmasks the toxic misogyny and classism that intersect to create an environment in which underprivileged girls can be raped, and then held in contempt by those meant to help them. Whilst the details of the Rotherham scandal may be particularly shocking it is important to remember that such abuse does not exist in a vacuum. If we do not engage in serious work to change attitudes of the public and those in power, and to end misogyny and victim blaming, then many other girls will be the damage of society’s collective failure.

Why Are We So afraid of the F-Word?

By Gemma Garner
‘I think men and women should be treated equally… but I’m not a feminist!’
At the ripe age of 14, I liked to seem controversial, smart and in the know. ‘I don’t get feminists,’ I’d say ‘why not just be a humanist?’. Of course, I was blissfully unaware that humanism was already, in fact, a thing. Still, I’d feel quite satisfied with myself and my new word, and continue on with my day, making sexist, racist, and homophobic remarks in order to fit in. Because I was a ‘humanist’, of course.
In the 4 years it took me to truly understand what feminism is about, I came across people who were on the same journey as me. And yet, no matter how far they got in understanding the injustices women face on a regular basis in our society, they still struggled to really cross the finish line and gladly call themselves ‘a feminist’.
What does this mean? Mostly good things, actually. The majority of young women are beginning to take the time to understand their rights and have a voice, have independence, and speak up. Despite their hesitance to label themselves as a dreaded ‘feminist’, I still find myself overcome with joy when I see women everywhere take a stand and defend women worldwide. There’s hope!
I’ve heard many, many reasons as to why women and men can’t be associated with feminism. It still shocks me when I see women in the spotlight further create misconceptions about feminism… whilst still being incredible role models. Shailene Woodley, for example, is a very powerful, independent, confident woman, who’s taken a stand for women everywhere with her own little (undeclared) forms of activism. She proves that beauty does not have to be accentuated with makeup, by baring her makeup-less face on the red carpet on a regular basis. But still she insists that she is not a feminist, because she ‘loves men’ and thinks we ‘need balance’. Oh, Shailene. What you’re thinking of is misandry, not feminism. By believing in equality you aren’t required to hate men, or to believe women should be the superior gender… that’s an entirely different matter.
I know feminism can be complex, and not all feminists have the same opinion on certain things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist you’re proud of. So, to all out there who believe in equality, even those who insist they aren’t a feminist (I’m talking to you, Shailene), I give you this, the ‘Am I the F word?’ quiz. You’re welcome.
Feminism Quiz Why Are We So afraid of the F Word?

Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

breakingfree Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery

I read this book recently and I feel compelled to share it with everyone. Why? Because it deserves to be read. And people deserve to read it.

“Breaking Free” is a collection of women’s stories – how they became part of, endured, and lived past human trafficking. Within, there are myths dispelled and facts set straight and a guide to how to talk about the topic, sensitively and knowledgably. It is inspirational and incredibly informative, but so accessible, despite being a painful read at times, due to the nature of the issue.

I do however have to give this book a TRIGGER WARNING, as it is not exactly beat around the bush. These are frank accounts of real experiences of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. It may provide hope for victims, but it may be too difficult a read for someone who is familiar with the situations written about.

What I think is unique about Breaking Free is the diversity. The stories are not all from women of developing countries, continuing the myth that all sold in sexual slavery are far from the Western World. Neither does it ignore these women. The stories are about women who experienced similar horrors, in different ways, from differing backgrounds.

Maria Suarez went from Mexico to America at fifteen years old. On a job interview to be a maid, her ‘new employer’ locked the door, and informed her that from that moment, she belonged to him.

Minh Dang was born in California. From the outside her house was beautiful, and they were a ‘white-picket-fence and rose-bushes’ household. Behind closed doors, her parents abused and raped her, from the age of three years old. As she grew older, they began to sell her body to neighbours and strange men.

These women are individuals. They are not especially alike. It is a powerful reminder that victim blaming is ridiculous – there’s nothing that each of them did to cause what happened to them. They were unfortunate. Taken advantage of. They were not asking for it. What unites them is their strength and courage, that they took what they knew about this world, and have set out, effecting change.

Now activists in the anti-trafficking movement, Maria and Minh are out creating petitions, speaking to people in power, building safe-houses, removing the stigma. They are rebuilding their own lives as well as millions of others.

The book also features the story of Somaly Mam, which is an issue. I have been shocked to discover that she fabricated her story. It is a very confusing thing. It has been a significant setback for the movement as a whole, as it discredits others stories, the vast majority of which are wholly true. But we must remain in solidarity with the poor girls who have honestly experienced these horrors. I know that I would rather believe a few false claims, than turn away from millions of real victims, who desperately need to be listened to and heard.

Don’t underestimate the power you can have. You can help so many people. There are so many ways in which to support the anti-trafficking movement. Here are just a few:
-READ ABOUT IT. Read this book. Read other books too. Here’s a list.
-BUY ITEMS MADE BY SURVIVORS. Instead of supporting unethical trades, support those who need it. International Sanctuary and Made by Survivors are great places to start, with beautiful jewellery and other gifts created by women learning new skills, building up their lives.
-DONATE TO IMPORTANT ORGANISATIONS. Send money to those who run safe houses, teach survivors new skills, provide counselling for victims, rehabilitate millions. The majority of the organisations listed here accept financial donations, some also accept the donation of your time. Volunteer at a local organisation, hold a fundraiser, become a social media intern for a charity. The possibilities are endless…

Male “Guardians” in Saudi Arabia

 

By Amy Callaghanurl Male Guardians in Saudi Arabia

There are issues with women’s rights everywhere. These issues include, but are certainly not limited to; the ever-present wage gap, the continued effect of sexism encountered by women in their day to day lives, and, of course, the fact that in Saudi Arabia women still need the permission of their male guardian to do pretty much anything.

It’s a fact that women’s rights in places like Saudi Arabia are horrific. We hear shocking news stories all the time, most often about the driving ban, which is perhaps the most well known issue in the UK and US. But the human rights issue goes far beyond that. The guardian system means that  women are assigned a male ‘guardian’- usually their father, brother or husband – and this ‘guardian’ basically has total control over the woman’s life. Women can’t study, work, travel, even go to the doctor without the permission of their guardian. Good grief. It all sounds a bit Victorian, doesn’t it?

My question, though, is about the cultural restraints on women. Sure, there is legislation in place regarding the guardian system, and the driving ban, and we know Saudi Arabia is not hesitant to punish harshly for breaches. But does a cultural aspect play into it at all? Even if the legislation was slackened, would women feel comfortable making the most of new freedoms?

The answer, according to the wife of a Saudi journalist, is no.

In June, in one of my classes at school, I got the opportunity to listen to a Saudi man – a journalist. He worked for a magazine – talking about issues in Saudi Arabia. At first glance, he seemed reasonably progressive. He spoke about how he wished women’s rights were more like how they are in the UK, where he apparently spends a lot of time. Yet scratch the surface and his answers to certain questions seemed slightly evasive and indirect. And one of the things he said which surprised me most was about his wife.

He seems like a nice husband, don’t get me wrong. His wife travels with him to the UK, and when in the UK seems to enjoy all the freedoms of a UK woman, like being allowed to drive, for example. Yet her husband told us that she had said, despite being perfectly happy to drive in the UK, that she wouldn’t drive in Saudi Arabia even if it was legal – and even if, 5 years after it became legal, it was a widely accepted practice.

Hmmm. That just doesn’t fly with me. I’m sure, of course, that there are women who wouldn’t feel comfortable, initially, driving. But after it became commonly accepted, I’m pretty sure women would gladly be driving about, enjoying their new (and overdue) freedom. In addition, the prolific campaign Women2Drive which asks that the ban on women driving be lifted (started by Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman and activist) has garnered a lot of public support, not only overseas but, more tellingly, in the Saudi community, with many women driving cars in towns in Saudi Arabia in protest of the ban. So clearly, Saudi women do want to drive.

Another statistic reflecting the relative progressiveness of women in Saudi Arabia is the fact that 60% of university graduates in Saudi Arabia are Saudi women. That’s right, 60%. Saudi women make up the majority of graduates – showing a keen thirst for learning and knowledge, and the gaining of skills – yet they only constitute 18.6% of the nation’s workforce (as of 2011). What happens between graduating and a career? Where do all the intelligent, capable, eager Saudi women go? The most likely answer is, their male guardian won’t let them work – they’ve had their chance to go and study, and now they should be satisfied with staying in the home where they belong.

Yet even the fact that they want to study shows that Saudi women want to progress. They don’t want to stay locked in the same rights-restricting jam. Give them the freedom to do these things themselves – no male permission needed – and they will. And the country will be better for it.

Work Experience at The Sun

folded newspapers Work Experience at The Sun

The author of this piece has asked to be kept anonymous.

It was 8.55am and I was relieved to have arrived at reception with five minutes to spare. I felt feelings of excitement and trepidation; with budding aspirations to be a writer and journalist, securing work experience at the biggest read family newspaper in the country was a massive deal – especially as my previous journalistic endeavours had remained in my local Essex Chronicle. As I smoothed out my newly pressed trouser suit and pinned back my flyaway hairs, I felt the image of professionalism, ready to start my first day of work. The receptionist assured me that a Reporter was on his way to collect me. With that I waited.

Until 10.07am

‘Hello love, sorry for keeping… my Christ, aren’t you a pretty little thing? Can I offer you a drink?’ Considering the fact that I had already had four lattes to pass the time, I thanked him and declined.

As we got into the lift, a series of standard questions ensued. He seemed surprised that I wanted a degree from King’s College London: ‘I doubt a Russell Group university would offer a hairdressing degree,’ but I was quick to correct him that English Literature was my chosen subject. Of course, he didn’t mean it (or that’s what he assured me); I should learn to have a sense of humour rather than being so sensitive, he said.

It was when I admitted that I was born and raised in Essex that his eyes returned to their previous, opportunistic readiness: ‘Wheyyyyy we have an Essex gal in the office? Shame, I expected you to be caked in fake tan and eye lashes. You don’t even sound like you’re from Essex! Regardless, you will fit in perfectly on the Showbiz desk. Rewrite this Cheryl Cole interview in Heat if you will. Make it seem as if we did the interview. Thanks love.’

Simultaneously flustered and disheartened at my position, I asked if I could tour the other departments – a choice that did little to salvage my enthusiasm. Sport seemed full of boisterous footy fans, the News Desk yielded such basic grammar that my own sixteen-year-old intelligence felt insulted and finally… we came to Page 3.

I could not believe my eyes at the room of ‘journalists’ enlarging, shaping, and photo-shopping the topless glamour model photos to portray a picture of sexuality and seduction. I remember thinking for a split second how unusual it was that I could not hear more vulgar, derogatory comments being made about the images – I suppose that if your job was to airbrush and edit a woman’s naked body every day, all day, the novelty wears off in time.

Needless to say, my judgement had been made too soon. Sure enough, a voice hollered: ‘Her tits are bigger than melons’ and ‘Who hired her? Her face looks like a horse. Can we edit out her face?’ My fears had been confirmed.

‘Whose that?’ questioned one of the reporters, turning to me. ‘Just the work experience girl,’ replied my mentor, ‘She’s from Essex you know.’ Why my birthplace was of such amusement continued to baffle me. ‘Wheyyyyy an Essex girl!’ was the unsurprising response as he persisted: ‘Well, I hope you enjoy your time. When you decide it’s time to get a boob job then don’t forget to contact us… just joking love! Got to have some work banter to pass the time in the office!’

BANTER. A JOKE. Of course it was. I should learn to get a sense of humour right? It’s only harmless! That’s when I went to the loo and cried.

It was then and there that it dawned on me. Until that point I had been a naïve sixteen year old believing that sexism was a thing of the past. I now had experienced first-hand that the media is dictated for and consumed by men. We breed a culture that thrives on propelling the view that women are commodities for male entertainment. It was no wonder that The Sun was one of the most widely read newspapers in the country – it was certainly not relying on its grammar or news coverage, but its vulgar headlines and naked women. Why is an image equivalent to those found in ‘lad mags’ available at child’s-eye level? An image that feeds our young boys that this is women’s purpose: to be a man’s play-thing and object. An image that feeds our young girls false ideologies that sex sells and is a wise move if one wants to be successful in a culture of patriarchal hierarchy. As I contemplated these harsh truths, I wanted to shout at my colleagues that these pornographic, derogatory images are not harmless, nor are they just ‘banter’. I wanted to answer back to the room of misogynistic men that I did have a sense of humour, but there is quite frankly nothing hilarious about the exploitation of my gender. These images compound on real women’s wellbeing, safety, behaviour and education. I wanted to question why these ideologies were still prevalent in the 21st Century. I wanted to say all of this, but felt powerless to do so at the age I was.

I finished my work experience in silence and walked out the door vowing never to return. Five years on, nothing has changed: The Sun continues to be produced with the Page 3 image. This is the first time I have spoken about my experience, in hope that someone will listen. If a naked woman’s body can be used as such a vital component to media consumption, it is about time that a woman’s voice should become the vital component to stamp out media sexism. That’s why I am shouting back and supporting the @NoMorePage3 campaign. Its #TimeForChange don’t you think?

 

To read PBG’s statement of support for the No More Page 3 campaign, click here.

To sign the No More Page 3 petition, click here.