Why Self-Care Matters in Activism 0

selfcare Why Self Care Matters in Activism

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I tend not to think of myself as an activist. I’m involved with movements and do a lot of little things in my daily life to effect change, but I don’t do anything I consider particularly big and spectacular. I’ve never been on a protest, partaken in public speaking, started a petition, or anything along those lines. But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am wrong in not identifying as an activist. I am wrong because the little things DO count, they ARE important, and I AM helping to make a difference. I write for Powered by Girl, I sign petitions, I use social media to spread awareness of issues, and I argue with people on a regular basis about why the things they have said and done are problematic. Yet when I think most deeply about it, the most significant thing I do is something that nobody sees the political value of. I look after myself.

Most likely, you’re wondering how on earth that counts as activism. But trust me, self-care is vital. It’s something that I strongly believe everyone can and should partake in. I’m sure most people would agree that it’s important to be good to yourself, but what’s the link with activism, you ask? WELL…

What does the patriarchy rely on? The collective self-loathing of women.

It simply would not do if we all loved ourselves. If we did, we’d do things like take more ‘man’ jobs; positions of power. If we loved ourselves, we’d demand more autonomy, more sexual freedom, more respect for who we are. We would ask to be treated like human beings, and like equals to the men around us. That, obviously, would just be terrible.

Whilst we fight for these things and more, the patriarchy concentrates its efforts at keeping us down in different ways. It does a pretty thorough job of it, too.

The diet industry, the cosmetic industry, the fashion industry – they’re all tools used to remind us of our inferiority, to amplify our every insecurity and make sure we are feeling bad about ourselves, all the time.

If our concentration is on our flabby thighs, we’ll buy the fat binding pills, the weight watchers meals, the slimming world memberships. If we’re focused on superficial ‘flaws’ we will feed the capitalist system and we will have less energy to put into advocating equal opportunities, campaigning for new media guidelines and standing up for ourselves.

The more we hate ourselves, the tighter the constraints on us get. The more we feed the negative voices, the more comfortable those in power become. The less we value ourselves, the easier oppression becomes.

So, if you’re thinking that you “don’t have time” for self-care, think again. Because caring for yourself is exactly what you MUST spend time on. Improving your own life will indirectly improve others, too.

Go on, tuck into that bar of chocolate and defy the manipulative diet industry. Have a good swim, and refute the mythological weakness that is supposedly in your female genes. Sleep in late instead of going to work one day, because you don’t live to please others, you live for yourself. Read a book you’ve been wanting to read, stimulate your mind, and disprove that your intelligence is inferior to a guy’s. Go bare-faced when you’re running late in the morning, because you love the skin that you’re in, and you’ve got places to be and people to see, more important things than looking ‘flawless’. Experiment with make-up, take selfies and bask in the light of your beauty and your abundant energy. Do what makes you feel good, and laugh in the face of the patriarchy.

Self-care also aids the rest of your activism – taking care of your physical and emotional health allows you to give so much more to writing, to campaigning, to educating. You cannot fight for the rights and equality of the masses when you are fighting with yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish, self-care is essential.

In the words of the great Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

Lucy

 

lucy Lucy

By Hannah Barkhouche

A few weeks ago I went to see the film Lucy. As it was quite a spontaneous trip to the cinema I hadn’t built high expectations for the film, however I had seen the trailer and the concept did interest me. It’s basically about a new drug that allows the brain to use more than the average 10-20% cerebral capacity.

As a whole it was reasonably enjoyable and I did leave with a new found curiosity for the mind and its unknown capabilities as well as a respired awe for how far we have come as a species. But there were a few things that bugged me.

As a feminist in a patriarchal society I have grown accustom to many things – particularly the media – bugging me. Of course if I were to pick out every piece of misogyny or sexism I came across and anger myself over them then life would become unbearable. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be angry about these things just because there’s so much. No, we have a right to be angry and anger is after all necessary as it drives change and in turn fuels the ever closer revolution. Saying this, it is possible and sometimes even vital (for your own mental sanity) to allow for humour in the place of anger – something the inspirational Brigit Christie has mastered. 

The first thing that bugged me about Lucy was something easier to find entertaining than enraging at first. It was the fact that a woman nearing 100% cerebral capacity apparently void of all feelings and desires still found it rational to wear a bodycon dress, heels and makeup. Wearing such things isn’t irrational entirely, and it would be hypocritical of me to say otherwise, but surely Lucy would be above any social norms and expectations? Additionally, that attire is just impractical at the best of times but especially when killing almost everyone in your path, being chased by a mafia type group and boarding a long haul flight. But then again, I do only use a measly 10-20% of my brain and so maybe there’s something I’m missing. 

However, whilst I did have a little giggle at just how impractical the wardrobe choices were, I did think of the more sinister side. Not many people will have watched the movie and thought that there was anything odd about how the character Lucy dressed. And this is because there wasn’t, not in the movie world. We are used to seeing women and even young girls on the big screen modelled to the Barbie doll ideal. Whatever their roles or talents, female characters’ master statuses reside in how much they fit society’s idea of beauty with everything else being considered secondary. When a woman is a lead in a film such as Lucy, I wish I could rejoice but I feel disheartened when the importance of the role is belittled by crafting it to be nothing more than the prettiest doll on the shelf. And- I am reminded of the young girls growing up watching films and TV shows with the same emphasis on the female characters’ attraction who are made to feel that they are invaluable in society unless they mould and paint themselves to reach an impossible beauty standard. I know that as much as these girls will achieve, in this day and age they will still feel the crushing pressure to look perfect from the inescapable sexism in our media. 

The film Lucy cannot of course be blamed for all this. I understand that it is conforming to the expectations of the industry and the audience. Nevertheless,  it does not cease to be disappointing and I wish I could simply see women on TV and film who make practical choices (like wearing trainers when running for their lives) not just attractive choices, and who represent the beautiful diversity of our world’s female population.

There was also one line in the film I was surprised to find almost offensive. It is the point at which the scientist played by Freeman begins introducing Lucy to his colleges as “The first woman to…”. I was annoyed because Lucy’s gender had nothing to do with her accomplishment; she was the first person to use over 20% of her cerebral capacity. It was unnecessary to bring gender into it as she had achieved something that no one in the entire population had achieved before, not just something that no female had yet to achieve. I found that the line made her experience seem less remarkable, degrading it by making it seen as though she was the first out of 3, 500, 000,000 (the female population), rather than 7,000,000,000 (the entire population). Historically, men have achieved things before women, but we have moved on and reached a time in which this no longer has to be the case and we understand that women are as capable as men. Whilst a small line in a long film, I felt that it reinforced the idea that woman are always thought to be secondary men and I felt that she should have been celebrated simply as a human being.

Whilst not being a feminist topic on the surface, another thing which bugged me was Lucy’s loss of empathy and altruism throughout the film. As we evolve, I like to believe we collectively become a more moral species – a notion moral relativists would dispute. The thought that as our minds expand our care for others diminishes paints a rather ominous picture of the future. Although I don’t want to think that that is the future we have in store, the concept was thought provoking. When male leads come to obtain powers they usually gain a high sense of morality too and are hailed as heroes, for example Superman, and Spiderman. Whilst I do not want to dig for sexism where it may not be present, Lucy was an entirely selfish character and I understand that she made us contemplate but I cannot help but wish that she could have been a super-heroine. 

Admittedly, I have picked apart and exposed the more negative parts of the film because these were the points that I thought about the most, but I did not see the film as entirely negative.   On the topic of representation, it was pleasing to see a female lead in a story that wasn’t about a romantic pursuit, and to watch the immensely talented Morgan Freeman play the leading man. Even in the 21st century, it is still unfortunately mainly the white, male actors of the world who are the protagonists of the most successful films.

 

All in all, it presented a unique story and whilst the amount of killing and violence was a bit extreme for me, Lucy’s journey was a thrilling one to follow and raised many inciting questions about the past, present and future of humanity.

 

Emma Watson and the Buzzfeed Backlash

By Issy McConville

Emma Emma Watson and the Buzzfeed Backlash

I have a soft spot for Buzzfeed. It’s always there for a bit of light relief. We’ve all been there, at 3pm on a really slow day at work, when it suddenly becomes really fascinating to take a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which kind of ceremonial hat best fits our personality. But this week, Buzzfeed really let me down.

There I am, ignoring my Excel spreadsheet, reading about a lamb born with two heads, when I stumble across an article called, 23 Times Emma Watson Made Everyone Around Her Look Painfully Average. Emma Watson is currently trending everywhere, after her speech at the UN, launching the ‘HeForShe’ campaign, calling on men to become advocates for ending gender inequality. Wherever you stand on this campaign – and its focus on male allies to the feminist movement – I think it’s fair to say that Emma Watson’s speech was an important moment – having such a high profile figure, on a world stage, strongly proclaim herself as a feminist is very powerful, ‘I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me’. And this speech has really got people talking. Only this week, Taylor Swift spoke of Emma Watson’s inspiration, and said that she would have ‘proudly claimed’ to be a feminist when she was younger if she’d had such a role model. The video of the speech of the ‘HeForShe’ Youtube channel has received over one million views, and a letter from a 15 year old British schoolboy to the Guardian newspaper, supporting Watson’s message, has gone viral on social media.

But back to Buzzfeed. Considering the media explosion Emma Watson’s speech caused, I can be forgiven for thinking that the aforementioned article might be related to it. Maybe I hoped for too much and ignored the warning signs. Look at the title – what kind of uneven number is 23 for a list? But more importantly, let’s talk about what this list of 23 contained – which, basically, was absolutely nothing relevant. It’s just 23 pictures of her wearing different outfits with embarrassingly desperate captions about how flawless she looks. Buzzfeed have clearly missed the ENTIRE point of Emma’s UN speech. Here, she calls for a move towards greater gender equality – ‘I think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body’. Buzzfeed are doing the exact opposite – completely ignoring her political statements and just praising her for her smooth skin. Yes, to an extent I am impressed that she can fit in a comprehensive exfoliating regime alongside her huge professional achievements. Last year I lived without a bathroom light for 6 months and showered in the dark because I was too busy (lazy) to change it, and I definitely did not have the responsibility of a UN Goodwill ambassador. But I am not defined by my dimly-lit bathroom, and nor is Emma Watson defined by what she wears. She is defined by her actions and by her beliefs, the beliefs which she spoke of proudly at the UN.

My distaste for this list increases as I continue to read. In fact, if I was Emma Watson I’d be keeping a considerable distance from the author of this article, whose captions begin to err on the side of creepy stalker, ‘Then there was the time when this man in a grey suit tried to touch her back, and we were like, ‘Get your hands off our queen. You do not have those privileges.’ Most depressingly, we manage to move down to only Number 2 on the list before male validation creeps in– ‘Here are lots of men wearing suits and gazing longingly at Emma’ – because without a man to fancy you, really what is the point??

There have been some poor reactions to Emma’s speech. Most notably, from 4Chan users, threatening to release her naked pictures onto the internet in backlash against her feminist proclamations. This is a lot more malicious than Buzzfeed and it’s misguided objectification, but the thread of misogyny can still be seen. The very misogyny that Emma Watson was seeking to challenge with the ‘HeForShe’ campaign. So, Buzzfeed, you’ve really let me down – a message as important as gender equality doesn’t deserve to be made into light relief.

Pretty Brilliant

10423311 617103808406075 8487431623023760512 n Pretty Brilliant

There is nothing gendered about STEM careers. For some reason society and the media seems to think that there is. PBGer Lily Scott has started a project to encourage more young women to choose STEM careers. It’s about time that girls aren’t just called ‘pretty,’ but instead, ‘pretty brilliant.’

Visit Pretty Brilliant’s website here.

Like Pretty Brilliant on Facebook here.

Could this be the end of Page 3?

By Jess Hayden

Recently I chatted to a bunch of lovely women about the No More Page Three campaign. I was near the end, and was about to crack a great joke about John Snow telling the news topless, when I saw a hand rise in the fourth row. A woman, who I estimate was probably in her forties, said “I’m sorry, but what is page three?”

I was fairly shocked. I guess I had just assumed that everyone had seen it, or at least heard about it. It made for a great discussion though. I explained that Page Three was a feature in The Sun, a newspaper who label themselves “family friendly,” and is made so that the average 8 year old could read it, but also shows a woman with her boobs out on the third page. I reckon this woman’s reaction was the best part of the whole talk.

“Seriously? How long’s that been going on for?” she called from the audience.

“It started in the 70s,” I replied to her.

“That’s disgusting. I can’t believe that’s allowed in a paper,” was her response.

It was like I had paid her to ask the question, it gave me the perfect opportunity to highlight the ridiculousness of Page Three. It’s worth noting that the whole audience were quietly giggling and tutting at how completely stupid Page Three sounds when you explain it to someone who’s never seen it before.

It was not until a few days later when, on a train journey in to London, the very woman who had raised her hand Tweeted me to alert me of a Tweet sent by Murdoch.

Murdoch Tweet Could this be the end of Page 3?

I literally gasped for joy on the train and just wanted to tell someone, anyone, about is. I can’t explain what a great feeling it is to know that something is changing, and that I am a part of the reason why. Hours of writing, days of protesting, months of campaigning, years of hoping were finally paying off. I had this instinctive reaction of “this is it” and I really just wanted to cry. Page Three, the single thing that had succeeded in destroying my early teen years, was going to be no longer. Finally, there would be No More Page Three.

My excitement doubled when Alison Webster, the official Page Three photographer, tweeted this:

Sunphotographer Could this be the end of Page 3?

In the space of a night, it seemed the end was near. For some people Page Three might only be a page in a newspaper, something they’ve been lucky enough to be able to turn a blind eye on, but not for me. Not for 206,000 other men and women who have signed the petition. Not for the many ex page three models we have in our campaign. For us, and each for our own reason, this was the end of the suffering.

Page Three still exists though. The next morning, my hopes were somewhat dashed when I saw Kelly, 19, from Brighton stood in her knickers. I must point out that I don’t buy The Sun, but checked if the Page Three feature was there on this day. Somewhat naively, I had expected a revolution over night, but sadly this was not the case.

Help us defeat Page Three. Sign the petition. Have a conversation about it. We know people are talking about us since #nomorepagethree was the third biggest trending topic on Twitter the last month. You’d be surprised at how many people support us. Get involved, and join the only revolution where #pyjamaactivism is a key concept.

We are closer than ever. The time for change is now. And with your help, we’ll get there.

Talking About Men

By Livvy Murphy

photo Talking About Men

Sexism is a term used when someone is discriminated against because of their gender.

So, if a boy is told to ‘man up’ and ‘stop behaving like a girl’, that is sexist.

If a boy is treated differently, or considered ‘odd’ because he wants to wear eyeliner is that sexist? Of course it is.

If a father fails to secure that promotion from his boss at work because he chose to take paternity leave and care for his newborn alongside his wife, is that sexist? Hell yeah.

And for the record, eating disorders or the ‘slimmers’ disease’ doesn’t just affect girls. They affect all genders.

These examples emphasise that men’s issues have one common denominator: the patriarchy – the perception, treatment and behaviour towards women. A combination of tradition, lack of evolution and lad culture is discriminating against both boys and girls. This is why I wish to stress: it is not a men vs women issue; it’s about people vs prejudice.

Let me explain myself. As an example, the #fitforsummer #summerbod trends affect not just us girls, but our men and boys too. With billboards of David Beckham stripped down to his briefs, David Gandy swimming seductively in his next-to-nothing swimmers for a Davidoff advert and Channing Tatum exposing his toned torso more times than not in his film ‘Magic Mike’, it is unsurprising that gym membership statistics are at their highest ever. Want to look like ‘The Rock’? Then be prepared to consume 4000 calories of lean protein and endure three rigorous workouts a day. If you fail to do so you are just not good enough.

It is this sort of pressure that is stimulated, perpetuated and fuelled by ‘lad culture’. For example, alcohol consumption (or at least the amount of ‘alcohol stamina’ one can take) gives boys massive ‘lad points.’ Such messages are prolific in the media nowadays; take reality show ‘Geordie Shore’ for example. By day the boys are in the gym ‘getting massive’, by evening they drink as much alcohol as possible without ‘getting mortal’, and by night the real success depends on whether a ‘lucky lass’ (or two, or three or four) will be staying for a sleepover. Bonus points if you ‘take one for the team’ and get with the ‘ugliest’ girl in the club.

It is this normalised misogyny that must change, and we must never underestimate the influence of societal expectation. Perhaps we should stop segregating the world into two genders and just see ourselves as ‘people’. Sexism affects all sexes and is instigated by all too. Yet, if we are so similar, why do we continue to feel the anger and desperation of men who feel it is their fundamental right to be superior to women? Ashamedly, I have been on the receiving end of comments such as: ‘if you had just stuck to the kitchen, none of this shit would have happened’. I feel it is about time that such backward thinking is abolished.

As I emphasised in my previous blog post, feminists are not man-haters. It is a particular shame that many men’s rights -activists are guilty of this misconception too, despite having so much in common with us. I feel that the majority of men feel threatened by feminism, setting themselves in stubborn and angry opposition to us, when really we could work towards equality together by sharing our stories and finding a mutual appreciation and love for one another.

Unfortunately, there is a fear that ‘male privileges’ are at risk of being taken away. The thought of abolishing page 3 for example, means abolishing a male tradition that the majority of men feel is rightfully theirs. But we should not be too quick to judge this reluctance to change. Why? Because we are conditioned to behave in ways that cohere with society. Male and female individuals adhere to societal convention to essentially ‘fit in’. I wish to increase the awareness of learned behaviours, because I believe the majority of men and women who are occasionally sexist do not do it deliberately. We must not blame these people, but the rules, traditions and conventions that govern our world. Our patriarchal culture influences all sexist behaviour, therefore in most cases sexist behaviour is not intentional. The solution is to be bold enough to challenge concrete expectations and norms, for if we don’t challenge, we will never change. We are all in this together, therefore we must work towards re-educating and reconstructing society, to make a new world where all genders are mutually respected, harmonious, and protected. Only then may we be able to truly live life to the fullest, and fulfill our potential as human beings.

*Note: This is Livvy’s last blog for PBG. We’ve been honoured to have her as a member of the team and wish her all the love and luck for the future

Tampon Run

By Emily Zhang

Screen Shot 2014 10 04 at 15.53.34 Tampon Run

Two girls have just made one of the coolest games ever. It’s anti-gun violence, pro-talking about periods, and pro-women in STEM. I never thought these three topics could be cohesively connected, and yet Tampon Run is so stunningly simple.  With nostalgic arcade-game vibes, Tampon Run was created as a final project for Girls Who Code, and allows players to get enemies out of the way with tampons. Here, I ask Sophie and Andy some questions about their game:

EMILY: I love how this game points out that society has accepted violence in entertainment, but a lot of people still don’t like to talk about periods. Did you guys always plan to create a game like Tampon Run, or was the idea more of a whim? What were peoples’ general reactions? How do you think discussing menstruation could be made more accessible?

SOPHIE: Andy and I made Tampon Run as our final project for Girls Who Code. Andy wanted to make a video game that created some sort of social change. I liked the idea of using coding to make a social difference, so I joined her. While brainstorming, Ijokingly suggested that we could make a game where a girl threw tampons. As soon as I said it, we realized there was something there. Through our own experience and research, we know there truly is a menstrual taboo, and we were excited by the prospect of confronting it through the game. People, both men and women, all around the world have been so supportive and positive about Tampon Run. It’s incredible that this seemingly simple game has resonated with so many people. The game combines a serious subject with humor, which is why I think it’s so accessible.

ANDY: I didn’t really think of Tampon Run per se, but while I was at Girls Who Code I definitely brought up the idea of creating a video game with a social message and/or feminist twist. I was actually thinking more along the lines of hypersexualization of women in video games (which is a very legitimate issue and should still be addressed). I had made a game as an English project about the Odyssey, which pointed out how all the women in the epic just slept with Odysseus. Or were evil. Or both. I really had a great time doing it, and I wanted to go all out with another video game. Sophie joked about being able to throw tampons in our game, but as soon as she said it we knew that was the game we wanted to develop. People all over the world have been so supportive of the game! There’s been the occasional hate mail or hate post, but it’s completely overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback we’ve gotten. I think our game helps menstruation become more accessible, but we also hope to generate discussion about menstruation, and have people look into organizations which help women all over the world deal with menstruating.

Screen Shot 2014 10 04 at 15.53.52 Tampon Run

EMILY: I noticed that this game was created for a Girls Who Code project. How did you feel about the program in regards to getting more girls involved in STEM? Was it a mix of empowerment and coding lessons?

SOPHIE: Girls Who Code is an incredible program. I learned not only how to code, but I also became more confident, a better team player and a better public speaker. It was through learning to code that I learned those essential soft skills. It was empowering to build something from the ground up, and witness your code work (whether that meant watch the fish you programmed swim across the screen or playing a few rounds of Tampon Run). I also had to get up and present my code to the other girls in the program even when it didn’t work, even when I had “failed”. However, I learned that “failing” was not a bad thing in the least; instead it was an opportunity to learn and try again. I encourage every girl to learn to code, whether that be via a class at school, an online resource or a Girls Who Code club or summer program.

ANDY: Yes, it was a mix of the two! I’ve been coding for a while–I attended SummerTech Computer Camps for two years before applying to Girls Who Code. I was a bit skeptical and nervous about spending 7 weeks with 19 other girls, but it really has paid off. I primarily wanted to go to GWC for the networking opportunities, as there are incredible people who come into our class to speak, but I got so much more out of that. Especially in terms of developing my soft skills–my ability to market myself, my products, and become a lot more articulate and concise. Recently, all over the world, there’s been a big emphasis on the lack of girls in tech. I think this definitely needs to be addressed, in order to add more diversity and better the industry. But I also think we need to advertise how supportive and welcoming the existing community of women in tech is; maybe it will help encourage girls to take that first step.

 

The Emily Tree!

On Saturday 27th September, Anna, Becky and Cora went along to The Emily Tree‘s march and picnic. They had an amazing time, and wanted to share it all with PBG!

IMG 8010 The Emily Tree!

What is the Emily Tree and why is it a good group?

Becky – The Emily Tree is a group based in London that’s working to get more young women involved with politics.

Cora – I think what’s great about the Emily Tree is how open and accessible it is – it’s easy for young people to feel really removed from feminism for any number of reasons and the Emily Tree smashes them all!

Anna – Definitely, it’s non-academic, teenage girl based. It’s fun and exciting and creative and was created by two really inspiring funny women.

Becky – Yeah, it’s really, really inclusive as well, which is amazing – it’s feminism for everyone, not just for the privileged.

Anna – Which is SO NICE, because lots of organisations for teens can be patronising, or just don’t listen to us.

Becky – And the people who run it are two of the best people in the world ever.

Screen shot 2014 10 01 at 16.06.14 The Emily Tree!What happened during the day, and what were the best parts? 

Becky – It started off with a march, which we didn’t get to.

Anna – Very sad about that! But Cora got to go!! And she brought us sashes!!

Cora – The march was brilliant! We sang, laughed, and definitely caught the attention of quite a few passers-by. We even got a car horn beep!!

Becky – Oh wow! It sounds amazing, gutted to have missed it. But it was really cool to see you all walking towards us in the park, this sea of purple/green/white with signs! After we’d eaten, there were a ton of speakers, who were all very amazing and inspirational.

Anna – Definitely! And Becky and I were lucky enough to speak! Becky was amazing!!! And listening to all the other campaign leaders and young women was just fab!

Becky- Thank you so much Anna! You were super fab too. You made us very proud.

Anna – One of my fave moments was when Cora was walking towards Becky and I and we just ran and hugged her/squished her! I also enjoyed the fact that people came up and told me they found my speech good, because public speaking is a fear of mine and so I was really proud I did it! And then also just feeling incredibly inspired and happy about all the young women there!

Cora – I think for me the best part was the two of you speaking! I swelled up with pride honestly because I know it took a lot. You two are amazing.

Becky – Yeah, it was so good to see you both!! I really enjoyed getting to meet so many amazing people, and to hear some really powerful speeches. And I agree with you Anna, getting to speak was such a huge thing, I felt really proud to have had a chance to share my thoughts with the group. It also meant a lot that people told me they thought it was good and inspiring, as I was so inspired by everyone else. Anna and I agreed at the end it was like a circle of inspiration!!

Cora – There were so many incredible people- speakers and attendees generally, I left feeling super inspired!!

Anna – Yeah!! I also loved being INSIDE the Emily Tree. It was like I was a Dryad.

Why was the day important?Screen shot 2014 10 01 at 16.06.16 The Emily Tree!

Becky – Firstly, in a general way, because it was getting young women talking about feminism, and getting them to speak to people who are campaigning around important issues.

Cora – It really brought the issues to the public too, we did attract a lot of attention!

Becky – Yeah, the march was such a good idea.

Anna – I also think it was just so important to have a safe fun space to help rejuvenate everyone so we can go out and CHANGE THE WORLD.

Becky – Definitely!! Personally, I found it really moving and empowering- I have to admit that I was very near tears at points. It’s really easy to feel alone as a feminist (as I spoke about in my speech) and the whole day was a reminder that we are not alone at all.

Cora – It was a real reminder of both how much and how little has changed- so many of the suffragette values are still very relevant.

Becky – Completely agree with you Cora – everyone thinks that the suffragettes have come and gone, but yesterday was such a huge reminder that they haven’t – their legacy stays, and we are continuing their work. Emily matters!!

Anna – Yes!!!!

What would you say to other people who might have a chance to do a similar thing?

Becky – I would say definitely, definitely do it!! Even if it’s a three hour coach journey, it is so unbelievably worth it. Honestly.

Anna – Definitely agree!! And there is no pressure to speak or anything it’s just about celebrating girls as they are, and even if you are scared of people (like me!) I would recommend it! Maybe bring a friend though!

Cora – I think any chance to get involved in campaigning should be pursued – the sense of community and cohesion was great! It’s such a valuable experience to have had, we’re very lucky!

Screen shot 2014 10 01 at 16.06.06 The Emily Tree!

Are you planning to do anything as a result of it, either now or in the future?

Becky – Well, I’ve already contacted the 50:50 parliament campaign youth group, so I’m getting involved with that! And hopefully the No More Page 3 group as well. Would be great to link in with #emilymatters too.

Anna – Yeah! I just want to do all of the things!

Becky – Same here!!

Cora – For sure, keep on keeping on! This year’s been incredible so far, and every event like this I go to seems to offer another tonne of opportunities. It’s overwhelming really, in the best possible way.

Anna – I’m already so excited for next year!

Becky – Yeah, there’s loads planned, and it’s all very exciting.

Anna – I want to get more involved in the NMP3 stuff and just keep going strong as a PBG writer.

Becky – That’s great Anna!! It just generally helped empower me more, and kind of gave me a space to rejuvenate a bit, so I’m even more determined than ever. And yes!!!!! Totally agree with you there Anna, it’s made me want to do more of the talking stuff!!! As well as that I was really interested in what Jane Ellison, the MP, said about getting involved. I might write to my local MP and see if I can get an internship or opportunity of some kind.

Anna – Yeah! Talking to MPs is great and I didn’t realise it’s actually quite easy.

Cora – Definitely want to pursue that! It sounds much simpler to get in touch with MPs than I’d imagined, and it’s got the potential to be both useful and game-changing! Girls inside Parliament is brilliant as a statement in itself.

Being an MP is not for me

By Becky Dudley

meninparliament Being an MP is not for me

Parliament: it’s a man’s world. To be more specific, it’s a straight, white, middle class man’s world. For something that’s meant to be representing our society as a whole, it’s doing a pretty awful job. What we need, more than anything, is far more people who aren’t straight, white, middle class and male to be in Parliament, representing all those currently lost in the sea of identical faces. However, with the way things stand, I, for one, will not be one of them. Despite wanting to prove a point and do what we’re not ‘meant’ to, I do not want to work in Parliament. I’m here to tell you why.

Firstly, let’s look at some statistics. In the last election, 650 people became Members of Parliament. 147 of these were women. That’s around 23% –  hardly representative of the UK population, which is 51% female. The statistics for ethnicity and class are just as bad (if not worse), and each are deserving of their own post; I could rant for hours on any of these. For now, however, I’m going to stick to looking at the statistic for women.

To try and rectify the obvious inequalities, quotas were introduced. To my mind, quotas are like Marmite – you either love them or you hate them. Like Marmite, I’ve not yet decided which side I’m on. However, what the quotas have done is given rise to new terminology – for example, ‘Blair’s Babes’ and ‘Cameron’s Cuties’. Both of these terms – which refer to the group of women working for the relevant Prime Minister – make me feel genuinely sick. They are demoralising, demeaning and downright disgusting. The use of the surname and possessive apostrophe signifies that all the women in these groups belong to the Prime Minister – playing into the ever-present objectification of women. Meanwhile, the use of ‘Babes’ and ‘Cuties’ reduces the women to pretty faces, to sex symbols. These women are all there on their own merit – they are far more deserving than these descriptions make them seem.

This is not the only problem that these women are facing. For women in Parliament, there is no way of being right. When they appear in the media, their clothing and appearance choices are far more likely to be commented on than anything else. There’s a plethora of negative stories, with each female Member of Parliament having faced their own equally awful battles, revolving around sexist comments, unfair media representation, and even discrimination based on their having children – regardless of the fact that men, too, have children and childcare responsibilities.

Even the physical representation inside Parliament is hugely biased. Whilst walking around on a recent tour, we noticed one female statue: that of Margaret Thatcher. We also played a ‘game’ of ‘Spot the Women’ with a painting of the House of Commons in session. It was far harder than the average game of ‘Where’s Wally?’.

But these all come into effect later on, once you’ve gained your votes and got the right to your bum on a seat. There are perils to face beforehand, too. To get in to Parliament, it seems that you must do two things: know the right people, and take up social drinking. Both of these are pretty exclusionary. For a start, how many average members of society have the necessary connections to get them into – or even near - Parliament? A quick survey of the eleven people I am sat with finds that no-one has these connections. Moreover, it follows that if connections are needed, then there’s likely to be a ‘sort’ of person who has them, a theory as close as proven by a look at the current government.

To look at the second option, social drinking, it’s clear that there are fundamental flaws here too. In 2009, it was found that around 15% of people in England are tee-total – they abstain from drinking alcohol, for religious, personal or other reasons. This means that 15% of the population wouldn’t be able to follow this route at all. Even for those who do drink, it’s a pretty dismal concept. What it’s saying is that, to gain a job in Parliament, you must firstly become just like every other person in Parliament. In short, you must become ‘one of the guys’.

With all of this in mind, the only conclusion I can find is one I would much rather not come to: Parliament is unrepresentative, and it’s unrepresentative for a reason. If it’s not hard enough for women to get in in the first place, life gets even harder once they’re there. I take my hat off to each and every woman working in Parliament – I couldn’t do it. It’s no wonder that the statistics are so awful. We need this to change, and we need it urgently. However, this can’t be a small change – every new woman in Parliament is a success for us all, but we need more. We need a huge, drastic change. We need 51% of the Members of Parliament to be women – something that the 50:50 Parliament campaign is currently fighting to achieve. We need to have our statues, our pictures, of women. We need the media to report on what we’re actually doing, not on what we’re wearing or looking like. In short, we have yet more need to start the revolution.

“Can’t you take a compliment, love?”

By Lily Scott

tumblr static stopstreetharassment 2.jpg 1d861f354af6415a9deb4a71d549b387 Cant you take a compliment, love?

As a shy, easily embarrassed child, I used to hate it when my parents got involved with situations in public. Whether it was an argument on the street or a shopkeeper facing an abusive customer, they would surely step forward and speak their mind, often trying to help the victim. My brother and I would step back, mortified as they raised their voices and onlookers stared.

My attitude changed when I was on a bus home with both parents and we witnessed a young woman being harassed a few seats in front of us. Sat next to my Dad, I could feel him tense. Quickly, he got up and walked towards the woman, asking her in a loud voice if she’d like to move seats and sit near us. The man, who was distressing her, turned around with a sharp look and asked my Dad to go away as it was none of his business and he wanted to talk to her. He was trying to touch the woman’s leg and was trapping her in the window seat, by leaning in very close. My Dad claimed that the woman was his friend and asked the man politely to move out of the way so she could get out. This clearly made the man angry as he stood up and tried to intimidate my Dad into moving away. The woman quickly climbed out and was able to get off the bus, with a smile of gratitude towards us. Although the woman had managed to escape, the man was angrier than ever and gestured to his friend to stand with him and face my Dad. He started shouting abuse – ‘Why would you ruin that for me?’, ‘What is your problem?’ By this point, my mum and I had got up and were trying to pull my Dad back to sit with us as we felt scared for his safety. The friend of the man fumbled around in his pocket and threatened that he had a knife. By this time, I was in tears. Other passengers were watching the incident, with puzzled expressions as if wondering why my Dad would go to such an effort to protect a stranger on a bus. Many shuffled away awkwardly, not daring to get involved. Thankfully, the two men jumped off the bus moments after their threat of violence and ran away, shouting abuse.

As a teenager, who has been catcalled, pestered and worse, I look back on this event and realise how proud I am that my dad stood up to that man when every other person on the bus looked away in embarrassment. Too often, women are ashamed, scared or too shaken up to report street harassment or stand up to the harasser and sadly, bystanders don’t often feel comfortable to intervene. Many women have said that harassers becoming aggressive upon rejection is very common. ‘Why can’t you take a compliment? You’re fat anyway’, ‘I’ll rape you…’, ‘Don’t be so frigid’ are just some of the responses that women have had when standing up for themselves. One woman writing on Everyday Sexism, described being ‘followed by a car of teenage boys who then tried to reverse into me when I wouldn’t talk to them’. Street harassment makes the victim feel paranoid, vulnerable and objectified. Instead of confronting it, many choose to keep walking, look at the floor and end the situation as quickly as possible. What is often forgotten, is that street harassment is a form of sexual assault. It is easy for a catcall to escalate to violence and rape – allowing this misogynistic culture to exist normalises sexual assault and makes a victim think twice about reporting it.

Having support from passers-by, knowing somebody is there who witnessed the harassment or even just an ‘are you okay?’ can help someone to feel safer and less alone. If you notice someone feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable, don’t walk past and pretend you haven’t seen it. Sometimes it is too dangerous to directly confront the harasser but it is always possible to notify others nearby or even call the police – sexual harassment is assault and no one should have to face it alone. You can make sure they don’t.