I was 13 years old 0

Trigger Warning

I was thirteen years old when I had sex for the first time. I was in my first proper relationship and felt overwhelmed with the attention and love that he showed for me. I had people saying ‘you are too young to love’ constantly and yet, I felt these people were wrong as I fell into an intense, overwhelming relationship. As a couple of months went by, I felt a pressure not only from him, but from his male friends, to ‘prove’ my love for him by having sex. At this age, many girls had yet to have their first kiss and I felt ashamed that I was already so far ahead. When it finally happened, after much persuasion, I stumbled home in pain and kept it a secret. I gave in to his demands as I was flattered by his attention and felt that I would lose him if I did not give myself to him. I didn’t tell my friends or my family, but as little as two weeks later, I had boys coming up to me asking if it was true and the word ‘slag’ was thrown around. I ignored these daily torments and kept my head up, wrongly convincing myself that my boyfriend had not told anyone.

We continued our relationship for almost a year. A year in which I began to lose friends and I hardly saw my family because I was spending all my time wrapped up in this relationship dream world. We drank together and then he would ask me to do things I didn’t feel comfortable doing. Later on, I realised that it had only been me drinking, thinking of it as a social thing when it was really a way to get what he wanted from me. From the outside, my friends were convinced that I was in a perfect relationship and kept telling me how lucky I was, yet they didn’t have a clue what was going on because I was too frightened to admit it.

Girls and very occasionally boys, are told through religion, media, the internet and friends, that keeping your ‘virginity’ intact is important as it means others will respect you and you are still ‘complete’ and ‘pure’. Many girls are told that they must wait until they find that special person to give everything they have to and that if they are no longer a virgin, they are dirty and damaged in some way. I remember feeling as if I had no one who would understand me, because I was confused and I felt angry with myself. I searched ‘losing your virginity at age 13’ into google, and phrases like ‘have some self-respect’ and ‘disgusting’ hit me in the face. By this time, my boyfriend was being praised for ‘doing the deed’ whereas I was disappearing into myself and losing my confidence.

Three years after the end of the relationship, aged 17 and severely depressed, I broke down in front of my mum and told her everything. After being fearful for a long time of what anyone might say, I was relieved that she took me in her arms and cried, telling me that she did not judge me and that I was not spoiled or filthy, like I’d told myself I was for four years. Many young girls are shamed and teased for being sexually active yet can easily be pressured into it. A year after I had sex, we were taught sex education for the first time and I felt angry that we had not been taught earlier. I knew everything that they told us but not once were we told that it is okay to say ‘no’ in a relationship and not once were the boys told that it is deeply wrong to pressure someone into something they are uncomfortable with. I wanted to write this piece as although I regret my decision that I made at such a young age, I now no longer hate myself for not waiting. I am still whole, I’m still alive and I still have so much more to experience. I am not shattered or broken with a piece missing.

 

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

 

A Body Is Just A Body 0

 

By Alice Koski

blob A Body Is Just A Body

A body is just a body. There is nothing inherently ‘wrong’, ‘naughty’ or ‘offensive’ about that. However, when it comes to women’s bodies being shown in the media, these are the kinds of words that get used. Our view of women’s bodies has been so confused and twisted that we hardly know what to think when a woman decides to show herself naked in the media. Is she brave, empowered and confident, or has she just degraded herself? 

When the nude photos of Kim Kardashian for Paper Magazine were released late last year, it was all I saw on Twitter for about a week. And although a few people shared positive opinions of the photos, the majority of tweeters and commenters reacted negatively and nastily to Kim’s decision to bare all. Many called her trashy and said that a nude shoot was unsuitable because she’s a mum. 

Calling Kim’s photos ‘trashy’ or ‘classless’ just because she’s naked in them shows people’s attitudes towards women’s nudity – a woman who shows her body is immediately judged as having no self-respect or self-worth. It’s also alarming that people think Kim shouldn’t be posing nude just because she’s a now a mum. How Kim wishes to present herself and her body is up to her and no one else – motherhood doesn’t change that. Mothers are scrutinised so much more than fathers in the media and pressured to appear ‘respectable’. Where are the people telling David Beckham to cover up his abs in those underwear ads? He’s got three kids! Oh right… it doesn’t apply to men.

I’m not claiming that tblob 1 A Body Is Just A Bodyhese photos of Kim Kardashian are completely unproblematic. It’s just that it’s not her nudity that’s the problem. It’s the fact that she is portrayed in an unrealistic, sexualised way. Naked women are automatically sexualised and Kim hasn’t tried to avoid this – if you haven’t seen the photos, she’s covered in baby oil (which lead to comparisons of her to a glazed donut – insulting and commodifying). Furthermore, the images are digitally manipulated (the magazine editor admitted to this), which is damaging as it presents an unrealistic body type. So whilst I don’t think that Kim Kardashian should be shamed for her decision to pose nude, I don’t think we should look to her as the perfect example of how it should be done.

In a similar vein, Keira Knightly posed topless for Interview magazine’s September 2014 issue. She decided to pose topless only if the images were to remain unmodified, as a way to protest against “the media’s damaging attitude towards body image”. In the interview for the piece, she says “Women’s bodies are a battle ground and photography is partly to blame.” I admire Keira for taking a stand and showing off her body, knowing that she would inevitably be criticised by some. She received some negative opinions and comments of course, but generally the response to the photos was positive. She was clearly in control of how her body was being presented, and she showed it truthfully. 

A body is just a body and seeing a bum and some boobs shouldn’t be something to get upset over. Nudity can be powerful, and when done for the right reasons, can be a way to break stereotypes and change people’s unhealthy attitudes towards women’s bodies.

 

The Skin I’m In

By Anna Hill

IMG 5743 The Skin Im In

Trigger Warning – Self Harm

Since I was born I’ve had eczema – a skin condition I still can’t spell, that leaves me with itchy, red, dry patches of skin in various different areas. When I was younger it was much worse, more of my skin was covered in the bumpy patches – behind my knees, my ears, the inside of my elbows and so on. The constant scratching and obvious red areas made me very shy of showing my body in any capacity, and I would hate specifically showing my arms. The skin between my forearm and my upper arm was the worst, particularly in summer. I would often scratch until I bled and the whole cycle made me feel ashamed. The eczema sometimes got so bad that I would have matching bumpy red, bleeding skin behind my knees and my elbows, all at the same time.

It was so obvious my skin was angry, it was writhing with anger, just under the surface. It was so evident inside me, around me, irritating me. I had so much restless energy, which ultimately led to more itching. My itching was never commented on explicitly but it was always present, implicit in the glances and the stares of my teachers, classmates and adults who I came into contact with. The feeling I got after I had itched – namely pain, after some satisfaction at first, forced me to be anchored to my body, and so did the glances at the patches on my skin. Not only is it dull, but it is very tough to be present, only so far as the confines of your body, to the landscape of our physical selves rather than the present where the world exists both internally and externally.

One of the reasons why eczema made me feel so insecure, was that it was not discrete. Whilst I felt my friends were growing up daintily (which in hindsight is not true), and had pretty skin (to me they always looked nice even when it was dotted with spots), I imagined myself as a tomato. The redness of my skin wasn’t helped either by the fact that I too am a blusher. My whole body was red, it was a walking wound sometimes and I felt like my weeping skin took up too much space.

After a while I started to see that my skin became alive with that itching feeling – you know the one, that little tickle starts and once you give in you’re gone – especially when I was stressed. During my G.C.S.Es not only was I very stressed but I also itched a lot, and then I realised that my skin was more raw (because I made it that way – even when I was sleeping) during that time I made the connection.

It went further than just stress being a trigger for it though later on, and although it took a while, I excavated my pain and my pressure in a way that made sense on my skin. It’s difficult when you have a skin condition that actually shows those around you your feelings. My anger and my stress all come through on my skin, and undoubtedly they still will, because I have a diagnosed skin condition. But it is what the stress and the anger are directed at is what I want to change. The further I went into my ruins the more I understood that a lot of the reason I continued to itch was to punish myself. It was to show myself that I was angry, angry at the world that hurt me and told me being queer was wrong, and also at myself for failing to live up to my impossible standards in life and school. I felt guilty for all these things. I felt my anger was not allowed – I was a girl, I was supposed to be pretty, sweet, kind and mostly importantly have soft skin. I wasn’t supposed to be covered in red scars and full of a yearning to burst out of my skin. To peel away all the bad skin and be shiny and new born.

When I itch now I recall all that itching that I did when I was angry and frustrated at life and myself. I recall all those times I did it to inflict pain, or to inflict any type of feeling on myself. The repetitive action of itching is very difficult to get away from and when I look at my body now I often feel like I look like a wound, my body is a visible reminder that I hurt, that I felt pain, that I damaged myself. That my trauma bleeds out of me, visible to everyone that looks at me.

But is this thinking helpful to me now? My skin will always be bumpy and itchy, so is it helpful to talk about it in the context of self-harm? Does the way I talk about it reinforce the pain, and the cycle of tearing at my skin? Leslie Jamison, in The Empathy Exams, wrote that “[her] feelings were also made of the way [she] spoke them”. It is a constant balance between the “state of submission” to feelings and thoughts and the “process of constructing” them.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to approach not only my eczema but my whole body with more compassion, with more understanding. I could completely accept my interpretation of my actions – that they stem from a place of hatred, but then it would be too easy for me to continue to hate, to continue to despair at myself, and thus punish myself when I fail all the more. Instead I want to make a home for myself in my self. Regardless of how aesthetically pleasing my body is, it is mine. It is the only constant home I will ever have and it will be with me my whole life. It’s presence facilitates a lot of what I do – my fingers typing these words for example – and so my goal is not to be perfect in treating my body, it is to be kinder to it. My body is not just made of scars and it is easier to remember that when I attempt to be kind, in little ways and big ways. I aim to be less angry at myself and at my red bumps, to be less frustrated when I fail to reach an academic goal, to be kinder when I do mess up. I aim to accept the skin I’m in rather than revolt against it.

 

IMG 5747 The Skin Im In

 

If you are interested in hearing more about self harm from a young person, go here.

If you want to know more about self-harm, go here.

Let’s Talk About Sexual Assault.

By Issy McConville

blog picture Lets Talk About Sexual Assault.

Trigger Warning

So we’ve reached January. That month that feels like an endless Monday – it’s cold, it’s dark, and aside from the few extra pounds gained purely from Turkey consumption, Christmas feels like a distant memory. But there’s one memory in particular I want to talk about. Christmas is a truly unique period – perhaps it’s the glint of the tinsel dazzling your eyes, or perhaps it’s those ill-advised 2 for 1 Wetherspoons pitchers – but inevitably, your reunion with your school friends in the pub ends up on the sweaty dance floor of the same terrible club you used to sneak into underage.

Sadly for me this year, despite the promise of reliving the fantastic memories of the Hippodrome Foam Party 2012, my return to this particular club was a marred experience. There I was, throwing some shapes to the Spice Girls in the cheese room (no regrets) when I felt someone touch me. And this happened 3 times in this night alone. I’m not proud to admit that eventually I snapped – I turned around and slapped a man as he laughed with his friends. I know that violence was not the answer. And I also know that wine makes me a little aggressive. But this should never have happened to me. I should be able to go out with my friends without having strangers touch me as they walk by.

Last night’s shocking episode of Big Brother saw Jeremy Jackson removed from the show after inappropriately touching Chloe Goodman. Trying to explain his actions, he stated that he was ‘drunk’ and it wasn’t an ‘aggressive’ move. But what could be more aggressive than a complete violation of her body, of her personal space? He said he thought she was flirting – but she was just a woman helping him as he got sick. This isn’t flirting. The fact that this could happen on live television, and the fact that so many on Twitter jumped to Jackson’s defense is revealing of the damaging attitudes that exist. Groping someone when you’re sober IS sexual assault. Groping someone after a few too many drinks IS STILL sexual assault. This image of sexual assault as the creeping stranger down a dark alleyway needs to be dispelled for good, because it means that too many of us don’t recognise assault when it does happen. Being felt up in a club is an experience that is almost too common that we’ve become immune to it – but we need to stop letting these things slide. If a man touches me in a club, he should be removed, just as Jackson was removed from the Big Brother house. Watching Chloe’s distress was very upsetting, and this is happening to girls every single day. The response of Channel 5 was pretty questionable, as they still aired the footage, and advertised it as ‘explosive drama’ – making Chloe’s assault into some kind of entertainment for viewers.

Despite this, I am glad Big Brother took action in removing Jeremy Jackson. But let’s build on this example. Let’s stop our acceptance of regular incidences of assault, just because it’s easy. Let’s have better structures in place in bars and nightclubs, so women never feel afraid to report. Let’s challenge this sense of entitlement towards a woman’s body. It is a strange facet of humanity that we enjoy gathering in a small dark room to move around to some electronic beats for hours – but we really do. And when we do, we should all be able to feel safe.

 

 

Pop Culture of 2014

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

A week into the new year, let’s look back on all of the things  that have happened in the worlds of music, film and fashion in 2014, and hope for a year of awesome things ahead.

Some of 2014 has been truly awful and problematic (Meghan Trainor’s skinny-shaming in All About That Bass, and her subsequent comments on eating disorders, for example!), but we have also had some wonderful things come out of 2014. Of course we must examine the bad in order to overcome it, but it’s always nice to reflect on the positive, so here’s a round-up of some of the highlights…

celebfeminists Pop Culture of 2014

 

  • The brilliant Ellen Page came out, with bravery and grace. A world of feminist queer girls cheered – partially in support and solidarity of this wonderful woman, partially in utter delight. In all seriousness, it was a very moving speech, leaving us all bursting with pride, and gave many a fresh wave of courage.
  • Beyoncé released a music video for Pretty Hurts, which is obviously everyone’s favourite song on her latest album. It sends out a powerful message against beauty standards and perfection, critiquing beauty pageants in particular for pitting women against each other in the name of homogenous beauty.
  • Many popular women’s magazines began to take on the ‘feminist’ label. They still have a long way to go, quite frankly – they’re still airbrushing photos, keeping adverts which perpetuate the hyper-sexualisation of women’s bodies etc. etc. However, they are including some pieces on important issues and featuring strong women (and allowing them to talk about more than their make-up routines!). I’ve seen spreads on the dangers of diet pills, sexual harassment, discussions on abortion laws, and heaps of coverage of incredible things done by incredible women! It’s a very big step forward.
  • The greatest independent British film ever happened. PRIDE! Based on the real action of a London-based LGBT group supporting striking miners from a village in Wales, Pride embraces stereotypes and simultaneously smashes them. It’s very feel-good, whilst also being incredibly moving and will bring you to tears in several instances. If you’re not cracking up five minutes after choking up and vice-versa, you’re watching the wrong film.
  • Amazing actress Emma Watson turned activist! In September, Emma gave a very emotive speech to introduce the brilliant He For She campaign. Having such a prominent figure openly denounce the feminism vs. man myth has done wonders for the movement, as can be seen in the influx of support worldwide – including more famous faces to spread the word…
  • Taylor Swift became queen of the whole world (she’s always been queen of my personal world, but hey, the wider world has woken up). The release of 1989 signifies a massive change of tone in Taylor’s music. The singles Shake It Off and Blank Space (although the music videos of each single have been controversial) are total anthems, sending the message that this girl does not care what people think of her anymore, and as a listener, empower you to feel the same. Alongside the songs, Taylor has been vocal about the inequality within the music industry, how she has experienced backlash for writing about relationships and heartache, whilst male musicians do the same thing, but are simply praised for the quality of their song writing. Every criticism this girl has had over the years, she’s just shakin’ it off, because haters gon’ hate, and Taylor’s gon’ slay.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt. 1 was released, and with all the action and emotion came a total reversal of stereotypical gender roles in film! Whilst Katniss is, as ever, our badass heroine, Peeta is the damsel in distress, as the hostage of the Capitol. It makes a refreshing change.

A more personal highlight for me has been joining Powered By Girl – and I am honestly not just saying that! I feel so fortunate to be a part of this, and to know these wonderful girls, some of whom have swiftly become some of my best friends. You all continue to inspire me, make me smile, and make me proud, every single day. Here’s to more feminist adventures in 2015!

A Christmas Wrapped In Rape Culture

By Jess Hayden

Trigger Warning

Christmas shopping. Love it or loathe it, it’s an activity which most of us will be partaking in this Christmas. The annual dilemma resurfaces – what to buy the sister who’s hard to find gifts for? Will Dad appreciate another pair of socks? Does Mum even like scented candles? Many companies will lure you in with unique gifts for your loved ones, but one website in particular has left me shocked and offended. There’s no easy way to say this, Cafepress.com has a range of Christmas themed presents, designed by members of the public, with “rape” written on them.

My first thought was, who would even buy it? Is there honestly a market for pro-rape merchandise? And then I realised, it’s all a bit of a joke to them. The designers, and the customers, all find this a bit amusing. This isn’t about wearing a T-shirt to offend p
eople – I honestly don’t think anybody would seriously wear one outside the house. Instead I think these are Secret Santa presents, novelty joke gifts which are meant to be amusing.

Well personally, I don’t buy it. I don’t think it is ethically right to trivialise rape to the extent of a “today I feel raped” bumper sticker, as if rape is somehow synonymous with a feeling like “tired,” or even a baby-grow with the word “rape” written on it.

If these T-shirts are so funny and light-hearted that I get told I’m over-reacting for tweeting about how much this has offended me, then we are defending rape-culture. We live in a society where many people will happily declare they just “raped” their friend at FIFA, or could “rape a full English”, yet as soon as a victim says they’ve been raped, you’ll find many of the same people shouting “over-reaction” and “liar”.

rape baby clothes A Christmas Wrapped In Rape CultureI’m not linking these products with an increase in rape, but when in England and Wales a woman is raped every 6 minutes, I think it is far beyond a joke to trivialise such a violent crime. It mocks the victims, encourages shame and is just completely ethically wrong.

Here at Powered by Girl, we decide to stand up for what we think is right and we encourage other young people to do the same. Therefore, we have just launched a petition – asking Cafepress to censor what they sell before selling it. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is something Cafepress are still not doing. I had to send them images of some of the rape-glorifying merchandise for them to delete, and to be fair to them, they did delete the content almost instantly. However, we believe strongly that these products shouldn’t have been on the website in the first place, and Cafepress should censor the products before they appear on their website.

So we ask you to please sign our petition and share it with your friends.

Thank you.

https://www.change.org/p/fred-durham-stop-glorifying-rape-and-violence-abide-by-your-content-usage-policy-by-moderating-content-before-it-goes-live-on-your-site

Self-Care: A PBG Masterpost

By Sophia Siman-Bashall

Screen shot 2014 12 09 at 17.25.33 Self Care: A PBG Masterpost

Self-care is a really important thing. It is a necessary part of living a happy and healthy life, and yet it is all too easy to neglect it. It is easier to beat yourself up than big yourself up. It is easier to focus on others than focus on yourself. But this is not sustainable. You have to be your top priority, you have to be kind to yourself. If you really struggle with it, consider this post as permission to love yourself.

Keeping your mental and physical wellness in check doesn’t have to be especially radical. Here are a few suggestions for making day-to-day life better for you:

  • Take social media breaks. This is something that a lot of us find really difficult – it’s a link to our friends, our family, to musicians/comedians/actors/writers etc. For many of us, social media is what makes everyday activism possible. But the constant information can be overwhelming, particularly when a lot of it is negative (as unfortunately, it usually is, due to the sorry state of politics, and the world…). It can be really beneficial to distance yourself from it all sometimes. Whether it’s one day a week, or a week every month, or even just that you only use it when commuting, but not at home or anywhere else! Not only does your brain get a rest, but you’ll probably find yourself with more free time to do things you REALLY want to do…
  • Don’t be working all the time. Again, this can be tough. When there’s so much to get done, for school/college/uni/work, it’s difficult to ignore it. But taking a day off – and I mean entirely – is really beneficial. It clears your mind, and when you go back to what needs doing, you will feel so refreshed, and more prepared to tackle your workload. Think about it: a day with no guilt that you *only* made some notes, or *only* wrote one essay, or *only* sorted out one problem. A day when you don’t even think about work, because it’s simply not on your agenda. Make a day that’s yours, do what you want with it. It’s so freeing.
  • Radiate gratitude. A positive outlook on life is not an easy thing to adopt, but the more you train your brain to it, the more natural it will become. Write at the end of the day, listing what made you smile, and what you’re feeling thankful for – a smile from a stranger, walking in the sunshine, eating a really delicious apple. It is far better to go to sleep thinking of these things than what may not have been so good about your day. You should also try to write what YOU did well, what you are proud of achieving that day. Be grateful to yourself for existing.
  • Eat well. I am not going to prescribe a way to do this, because frankly, that’s irritating, rude, and not helpful. Different things work for different people. Find what works for you. On a general level, fruits and vegetables should feature regularly. As should chocolate.
  • Be active. You don’t have to go for a 10 mile run or a high-intensity workout at the gym. If that’s what floats your boat, by all means, go for it. But for many, it might be something else. Here at PBG, we have runners, horse-riders, swimmers, gym-goers, and people who just like to dance around their room to Beyoncé/Taylor Swift. For me, it’s a combination – although I would always choose to ride, if I could. Again, it’s a question of finding what works for you –you should enjoy it, it should make you feel good, empowered, strong. Don’t force yourself into something that you dread.

For me, these are the basics of self-care. Doing these things help keep me mentally and physically well, for the most part. But looking after yourself is more than this, it’s also about having fun, about knowing how to soothe yourself when you are sad, or scared, or overwhelmed. So as a team, PBG have pooled together our favourite acts of self-care, and we hope you find some of them help you too!

  • Draw. Paint. Do colouring in. It’s calming, it can be an outlet for emotions, and it boosts your self-esteem, because you are producing something.
  • Talk to people. Whether in person or over the phone/video chat, having a conversation with someone who you love and who loves you is always a nice thing. It stops you from being stuck in your own head.
  • Get outside! SUNSHINE! OR AT THE VERY LEAST FRESH AIR! OR EVEN JUST A CHANGE OF SCENE!
  • Write lists! Lists are great, for some unexplicable reason. Write lists of people who inspire you/things that make you smile/things you like about yourself/places you’d like to visit in your lifetime/your favourite positive songs… the possibilities are endless! Look up ‘Listography’ for some pretty unique (often silly and hilarious!) ideas!
  • Run yourself a bubble bath, put in bath bombs/salts or essential oils (lavender is particularly calming). Lie in it and relaaaaaaaaax.
  • Paint your nails. Paint them different colours, make them glittery, try making designs on your fingernails – although be prepared that when attempting intricate designs, it will go wrong, and your fingers will NOT look like those in the pictures on Pinterest…
  • Go for a walk in the park or through city streets, depending on what you feel like. In the dark, city lights can be a really beautiful sight. Equally, walking past the ducks in the pond is a pleasant feeling.
  • Cover your face in make-up (this can be really exciting, as Anna and Alice discussed!)
  • Bake bake bake bake! Baking is fun, and you get a wonderful product out of it! That is, if you can refrain from eating most of the mix before it goes in the oven…
  • Play fast/upbeat/positive/your favourite music and DANCE – it’s not about looking cool, it’s about having fun and feeling free! Bonus points for singing along too, the more off-key the better!
  • Read a great book! Whether it be crime fiction, YA romance, dystopian, a classic, poetry, a biography, or a great feminist book like Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things – whatever takes your fancy, whatever will keep you engaged, read it! Reading is a great way to occupy your mind without feeling trapped – quite the opposite, you get to escape into another world!
  • Look back on fond memories – photos, tickets, postcards, messages, they’re all great reminders that when you are feeling low, that feeling will not last forever, and more good things will come your way.
  • Eat something that comforts you – peanut butter, ice-cream, chocolate…
  • Watch a film – a comedy is usually best, tear-jerkers are great, but not when you want to boost your mood!
  • Yoga. Yoga is always a good thing.
  • Write down everything you are feeling – LET IT OUT!

Putting together a ‘toolkit’ for self-care is potentially a big help – have handy a few felt-tips, a colouring book, some delicious recipes, favourite photos, a little bottle of essential oil, brightly-coloured nail polish, a pen and a notebook to write in… know when you need to utilise these things, and pick something at random out of the box, if you can’t make the decision. Look after yourself, it’s the most important thing you will ever do.

 

Sexual Violence in Advertising

By Elli Wilson

Trigger Warning

Another day, another dozen stories about violence against women and girls. Often complete with sensationalised headline and a hyper-sexualised photo of an objectified female body. The forms this violence takes are myriad – sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, FGM, childhood sexual abuse, ‘honour’ crimes – but it is all rooted in a deep societal misogyny that people are loathe to confront on an individual and an institutional level. For myself, and countless others, these stories are not just statistics or isolated incidents that can be forgotten by turning the page and shrugging off the uncomfortable thoughts that they provoke. This is our lived experience. It’s the guy groping you in a club, or harassing you when you dare to go out and be a woman in public. It’s the boyfriend who doesn’t think no means no, and the pupils at your school who shove their hands down your tights and then laugh.

And then suddenly it’s the advert making a joke of the sexual violence that you have suffered. Whether it is the coffee company using groping to sell their product or the female model surrounded by men in what looks suspiciously like a ‘fashionable’ gang rape, for a survivor of sexual violence, it is repulsive to see it used as a tool to maximise profit. This is capitalist misogyny at its extreme; women’s bodies are used to sell products and so is their abuse. This is what rape culture looks like and it has got to stop.

coffee Sexual Violence in Advertising

 

I Knew Taylor Swift Was Trouble When She Walked In

By Christiana Paradis

It’s never been a secret: I dislike Taylor Swift. Unfortunately, in a world where it appears everyone loves her, I for the most part, keep quiet because it really isn’t worth the fight. However, her latest video, which was brought to my attention by a wonderful friend, has infuriated me to the point where I need to say something. And “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” about that — and quite frankly I don’t care.

Swift I Knew Taylor Swift Was Trouble When She Walked In

Regularly in the media domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault is presented and normalized (Has anyone seen the new Maroon 5 video?). It is seen more as a given and normalcy in our society than an atrocity.

Often when this happens we see a male perpetrator of domestic violence and a female victim. Working in the domestic violence field, very rarely do we talk about female perpetrators and male victims because our statistics don’t support that it happens very often. 85% of domestic violence victims are women (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003). But it is important to remember that statistics are only as good as what is reported and quite often, cases of domestic violence against men, when the perpetrator is female, are not reported. The reason for this is simple: gender stereotypes are still very prevalent in our society. Not many men feel comfortable reporting to the police, hospital or domestic violence shelter saying “my significant other hit me,” because to say that is presumed emasculating.

This has to stop. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and anyone can be a perpetrator. We need a society where everyone feels safe to report regardless of gender.

The same as domestic violence against women has become normalized in the media, domestic violence against men has become comical. (Remember the social experiment of domestic violence of men versus women in public?) Taylor Swift’s new video for “Blank Space” is no different.

The video begins depicting a very common theme in domestic violence relationships – the honeymoon phase – where everything is wonderful and the person expresses a lot of love early on in the relationship. In this video the victim has found Princess Charming, aka Taylor Swift. However, this relationship quickly turns unhealthy as some domestic violence relationships do when a perpetrator may accuse a victim of cheating with little to no evidence. This is apparent in the video when Taylor sees Sean texting someone else and automatically assumes it is another female. She even expresses this excessive jealousy as she screams (emotional abuse), hits, and pushes (physical abuse) Sean in fury. We then see Taylor throw his cell phone in a fountain, cut up his clothing, and destroy his car — all things that are done to intimidate, threaten, and embarrass the victim. Frequently working in the field of domestic violence, I see cell phones are destroyed because it makes it impossible for the victim to call for help and destroying property in an effort to threaten and terrorize the victim are signs of further emotional abuse.

Taylor’s messed up world and perceptions are evident not only in this video, but in the song lyrics themselves —“boys only love it if it’s torture.” First, this statement is extremely emasculating towards men; similarly to when men call all women girls, in an attempt to infantilize us. This statement emasculates all men into boys and makes a sweeping judgment about what men like and don’t like. Let me clear this up for you, Taylor. NO ONE likes torture. NO ONE likes to be made to feel less of a person by another person, no matter what your gender identify. Maybe I am over rationalizing? You were just trying to make a statement about men liking relationships that are difficult. Guess what? I still don’t buy it. What frustrates me further is that this video came from someone who recently proclaimed to the world that she was a feminist. Perhaps I should explain that feminism is about gender equality. We do not achieve gender equality by emasculating men, but thank you for furthering that stereotype.

We see the cycle begin all over again at the end of the video as a new victim comes to Taylor. I don’t care if you’re Taylor Swift or a person just sitting at home on their computer watching Taylor Swift, we need to stop presenting domestic violence against men as funny or less serious than violence against women. Violence against anyone is not okay.

An Open Letter to Time Magazine

 

Dear Time Magazine,

While I don’t appreciate the fact that the word  feminist is on your word banishment poll, among turnt, obvi and yaaassss, I’m grateful that you’ve since apologized.

I think this entire incident, however, brings up an interesting question, perhaps relating to your original reason for including the word on the poll: is the nuance of the word feminist lost?

You cited annoyance at its overuse, saying that hearing the word would make you “seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids,” and asking “but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party?”

What I don’t understand, however, is what makes this terrible. Politicians declare parties to show that they are a part of those political parties. In your same example, celebrities say they are feminists to show that they are feminists. Why is it annoying to hear people supporting gender equality? Where else should we talk about feminism? Were you saying we shouldn’t?

Perhaps, if the term itself were made “obsolete” by everyone embracing gender equality, these declarations would be unnecessary (and then I would be able to understand if they annoyed some people). But the problem is that it’s not, and we still need feminism. We can stop using the term when there’s no more barring of access to education, or street harassment, or wage gap, widespread violence, or objectification. While banning the word wouldn’t erase its meaning, feminism is still relevant as a term.

time An Open Letter to Time Magazine

What I think originally bothered me the most about this poll is that feminism has just started gaining traction in popular media and culture. This isn’t to say that feminism hasn’t always had influence, or even presence. Rather, less people are declaring that they-don’t-hate-men-therefore-they-aren’t feminists, cringing at the f-word itself, or complaining about how all feminists are overly didactic.

You’re a magazine with an incredible readership and amount of influence, and the inclusion of feminist on that poll curbs its movement and dwindles its importance as an issue. I think it’s great that you’ve apologized —“throwing this label” around isn’t what’s diluting its value, because the spread of the label itself means that more people are accepting the term. If feminism’s should promote one thing, it’s definitely not exclusivity. I hope this brings us one step closer to the equality and justice that you mentioned.

Sincerely,

Emily