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Some Politicians Have Boobs. Deal With It.

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By Amy Callaghan

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

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

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that women have only achieved anything because they can use their bodies and sexuality is so astonishingly sexist and outdated.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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Kim Kardashian and the Right to Bare All

Author:
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By Amy Callaghan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tonight Alive are Limitless

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By Sophia Simon-Bashall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queer Grrrl Lit

Author:
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by Sophia Simon-Bashall

I have been an avid reader of Young Adult fiction since I was 12 and read Sophie McKenzie’s Girl, Missing, for the first time. From that point onward, I devoured these stories. I lived inside them. I befriended the characters, went on adventures, got angry with them, fell in love. I liked that these stories were about people my age, and that they didn’t look down on me or talk down to me – they recognised that I, as a young woman, was an intelligent and thoughtful person. That was invaluable.

However, there was a disconnect. I was queer, and the characters that I was meeting were not, except for the occasional boy. I didn’t see myself reflected anywhere. There was no proof that I existed outside of myself, that my feelings about girls were anything other than hideously wrong, an anomaly.

It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to realise that I, as a queer girl, was not wrong. That I, in that identity, was real and valid and okay. Much of that was about growth, and about the people I surrounded myself with. But it was also about the books I read. I did my digging, and I found that there were books about girls who, like me, were Not Straight. It felt like nothing short of a miracle.

I have found so much value in reading YA about queer girls. I have found so much comfort and validation and joy. Representation matters, without a doubt. I thought I would share, in case you are looking:

(FAVOURITE) Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCourEverything Leads
I have been enchanted by few YA novels as much as this one. LaCour has a beautiful writing style, the imagery is so vivid and emotive, the characters feel so familiar and honest, the story feels both magical and real. Reading this makes you feel the way you feel when you meet the eyes of a cute girl in a bookshop, when you talk to her and grab a hot chocolate together and you are crushing so hard. Reading this gives you butterflies. Guaranteed.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
beautyQueensThis is such a kick-ass, grrrl power book! It is the epitome of awesome! It shows teenage girls as intelligent, resourceful, complex human beings! What a revelation! AND THE REPRESENTATION!!! Amongst the girls are African-Americans, girls of Indian heritage, bisexuals, lesbians, girls who are transgender … it’s like Libba Bray actually looked at society rather than painted the normative picture – can you believe it?

Lunaside by J.L. DouglasLunaside
I very recently read this book, because I am a sucker for cute summer camp stories and I needed to escape into that world. I was pleasantly surprised by how mature it felt, and by how the story turned out – I worried that there was a manic pixie dream girl element, but all was resolved. I think the best part for me was that one of the secondary characters was asexual. AN ASEXUAL CHARACTER!!! WHOSE ASEXUALITY IS ACKNOWLEDGED!!! BUT IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL!!! IT’S NOT THE FOCUS!!! IT’S JUST A PART OF HER!!! Amazing.

Read Me Like a Book by Liz KesslerReadMeLikea Book
My friend, Anna and I went to the book launch for this last year, and it was wonderful. Rainbow cake and adult queer women, women who were comfortable in who they were and not brought down by the homophobia that they have fought and fought against. It was a very affirming and assuring atmosphere for both of us to be in. The novel is very much about coming to terms with being Not Straight, an invaluable read for those in such a situation. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, as I am perhaps a little bored of ‘coming out’ –esque stories; however, I didn’t feel at all bored reading this. I didn’t feel like I’d heard it all before, and I didn’t feel beyond it. It was written with honesty, and I think that goes a long with way with such stories.

I Love This Part by Tillie Walden
I Love This Part - Preview-page-001This is a graphic novel and it is so beautiful. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so beautiful and fills you with so many feelings. SO. MANY. FEELINGS. It’s simultaneously immensely satisfying and deeply unsatisfying – you will want more, but you also know that it closes where it should, the way it should. To be able to do that to your readers is quite a skill.

The following are books I have not yet read, but are on my list. I have heard so many great things about them that I could not leave them out:

  • Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash – a graphic memoir
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe – bisexual representation!
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
  • If You Could Be Mine + Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Another Advice Column.

Author:

 

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My name is Fee (yes, it’s short for something, it’s a german name, I’m from Germany) and I really like talking about sex. My origin story is very telling: I went to a feminist event where someone did a talk on heteronormativity and why it needs to burn and when I asked the person what they did for a living they said “sex educator” and my whole world lit up. That is a job? You can do that? You can be the person that makes people have a more wholesome, healthy, fulfilling experience with sex and their sexuality? And you can further the feminist and queer agenda while doing so? The only tricky thing was that I was, what society likes to call, ~a virgin~. (Virginity isn’t real.) I also was and am fat, mentally ill, covered in self harm scars and queer so not exactly what is usually deemed “fuckable”. Plus, I wasn’t ready to have sex. So that was a struggle because I felt my passionate interest in sex came across like I was overcompensating not getting fucked. But here’s the thing: Sex ed is not about having sex. Well, not entirely. It’s about gender stereotypes, sexualized violence, consent, feminism, queerness, body positivity, ableism, reproductive health, gender, mental health, racism, media literacy, (trans)misogyny, empowerment and basically everything you have ever thought about.
This is where I should tell you that I’m not a professional. I did intern with a sexual health charity and I spend almost all my waking hours thinking and learning about sexuality but I have not been trained as a sex educator, I have never attended a human sexuality class at a university. Let’s also talk about my privileges: I’m white, ablebodied ad (kinda) middle class (again). If you want to talk to someone about sex who isn’t all that, I can probably recommend someone.
But if you need a bisexual, fat, mentally ill, hella queer and hella feminist babe that knows stuff about being in a (long distance) relationship with an asexual mega babe, intersectional analysis of oppression, is confused about their own gender* and has a passion for sex toys, queer porn and making the world safe for everyone and their sexuality, hit me up. Because that’s what this is: A call for you to ask me your questions about sexuality, relationships, gender, everything. Of course, you can stay anonymous and if you don’t want it published on Powered by Girl, I’ll send you a private email.
Let’s talk, yeah?
You can reach me via my tumblr ask box or on the pbg facebook page.
(*For clarification: I am currently questioning my gender.)

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