Male “Guardians” in Saudi Arabia 0

 

By Amy Callaghanurl Male Guardians in Saudi Arabia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work Experience at The Sun 0

folded newspapers Work Experience at The Sun

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

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

Until 10.07am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

We Support No More Page 3

We support No More Page 3. As an organisation that seeks to empower young women through writing and activism, we feel that Page 3 undermines all the incredible work that young women are doing. We live in a society where young women’s voices have been left to fight for space in a corner on the Internet, but young women’s bodies are readily available for consumption every day in a newspaper. Page 3 has made each of us – at some point – feel uncomfortable, disrespected and powerless. We want women to be represented for what they do rather than what they look like. We want to live in a society where young women’s words hold more importance than the shape and size of our breasts. 

Page 3 is an unnecessary part of The Sun that does little to increase sales (if anything it decreases them) as well as causing many people, including myself, to feel uncomfortable. What does it add to the newspaper? Surely it cannot be considered to be news? And the amount of occasions where it is blatantly out of place such as after headlines about child abuse or rape! It is wrong and must go. – Chloe, 18

A newspaper is widely considered a household item, part of everyday life. Therefore, Page 3 makes naked women seem like part of everyday life, too. As a result, it becomes ingrained into people from a young age that this is normal and expected; women bare their breasts for men, and that is the end of it. This is hugely damaging in many ways- for example, it can lead to pressure if a woman doesn’t want to do what a man wants, and it gives a false image on both sides as to what the female body should and should not look like. These negativities should not be such an accepted part of life. It’s time to move on- it’s time to get rid of Page 3. – Becky, 17

Seeing women presented as sexual objects alongside men presented as politicians, high achievers and world leaders has a massive effect on how society sees women, particularly young girls, who begin to believe a woman’s only purpose is as a sexual object. Page 3 perpetuates this belief and is also hugely detrimental to the self-esteem of girls and young women. Page 3 is an archaic practice that is holding back our society from erasing sexism. – Amy, 16

The Sun is supposed to be a family newspaper. But no families I know buy it. Why? Because they don’t want their children to learn that sexualisation of a woman is normal. That women are just their bodies, simply objects. Page 3 is disgusting misogyny, and it doesn’t do much for The Sun’s sales anymore, so why have it? – Sophia, 17

I support NMP3 because the idea of women’s breasts being entertainment in a newspaper perpetuates the idea that women are there to entertain men. Glamour modelling has no place in a newspaper and quite simply, boobs aren’t news. – Jess, 16

I support NMP3 because every time I feel like society is making a little step further towards an England where women aren’t sexual objects, I’m reminded that Page 3 exists and all hope is lost. It’s shocking and like a sharp kick to the stomach. Whilst some may feel this ‘news’ is harmless, I can promise you, it isn’t. 1 in 5 women will experience some form of sexual violence In England and Wales, and I, as well as many others, believe that the day Page 3 doesn’t exist will be the day people will begin to view women more as human beings that deserve respect, not sexual toys to provoke and abuse. I support NMP3 because I don’t want to live in a world where people are so ready to critique a woman for presenting her body sexually in public, yet believe it’s okay when the Sun does the exact same thing for profit. If the exploitation of women’s breasts for profit is ‘just the way it is’ then I’m scared to be a woman, and that shouldn’t be okay. – Gemma, 18

The convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women dictates that states must ‘take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women by any person, organisation or enterprise’. Factually speaking, the UK government partakes in this movement; a fact that seems almost laughable considering the complete lack of enforcement when it comes to women in the media. I wish to question as to why the shocking discrimination against women perpetuated by Page 3 continues to thrive and prosper on newspaper stands and shelves. Why is an image equivalent to those found in ‘lad mags’ available at child’s-eye level? If the government’s own research has shown a link between the portrayal of women as sex objects in the media and greater acceptance of sexual harassment and violence against women, why does the government refuse to ban Page 3? The answer, ashamedly, is that we live in a society where the media is written by men for men; a culture that propels and perpetuates the view that women are commodities for male consumption and entertainment. I contend that these pornographic, derogatory images are not harmless, nor are they just ‘banter’. They compound on real women’s wellbeing, safety, behavior and education. They are feeding our young boys that this is the purpose of women; this is how young women should be viewed, used, abused, exploited and treated. They are feeding our young girls the notion that sex sells and is the only solution to achieving success in a male-dominated world. Why are these ideologies still prevalent in 2014? If a naked woman’s body can be used as such a vital component to media consumption, it is about time that a woman’s voice can become the vital component to eradicate the former. – Olivia, 21

Please sign the petition: change.org/nomorepage3

For more information about the campaign, visit their website, nomorepage3.org

Youtube and Sexual Abuse

images Youtube and Sexual Abuse

By Anna Hill

Recently, I have noticed certain disgusting behaviour of some prominent and successful male Youtubers has come out of the woodwork of the Internet.  The whole situation has been handled badly, and honestly I, along with many others, am very upset about it. As a part of the Youtube community (as both a Fangirl – or a consumer of media – and a content creator), I believe it is our job – those who are part of the website – to continue to talk about this and ensure that it never happens again. The pervasive abuse from “Youtube celebrities” is not being tackled properly, and this is a huge issue because it means that many are completely unaware of the situation, therefore continue to support the abusers’ content.

One of the reasons this is all so scary is because people aren’t speaking up. I’ve seen just one video explicitly naming those that should not be endorsed in any shape or form, instead of watching, and thus supporting their work, read up on the master post of all of the abusers and the victim’s stories: http://unpleasantmyles.tumblr.com/post/79455706244/tom-milsom-hexachordal-heres-the-post-olga although obviously some trigger warnings apply (such as emotional manipulation, rape, sexual abuse)) which is infinitely important, but that was the only video. We must be vigilant and open and ensure everyone is educated to make the right decisions about the content they watch and which they therefore support. (here’s the explicit video by Lindsay or Pottermoosh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pAQDoLeNIk )

It’s also a huge issue because those who are mostly in danger of being preyed upon by older, emotionally manipulative men are the large demographic of 13-17 year old girls that use the website. These are the same girls that we are continually told are “ruining” Youtube due to their fangirlishness when they are actually the ones who are most vulnerable and most in danger.

Frighteningly, one of the main culprits of some hideous behaviour, Ed Blann (Edplant on youtube), tried to come back to Youtube after having a three-month break and then attempted to claim it was all a mistake and people should forgive him. If this sounds like I am being too cruel to him, then let me explain:

  • Abusers need to accept that sometimes they cannot be forgiven.
  • Going back to a platform, which you used to abuse and even rape girls, is not the way to prove how much of a changed man you are.
  • You can’t treat this situation as if the benefit of the victims’ suffering is that you learned something and are a better person. That is not good enough and that’s not a solution.
  • We cannot trust abusers.

In the case of Ed Blann, whose come back video (a song supposedly explaining how much of a changed man he was) was well received by all too many people, he continued to prove that he does not deserve the ears or eyes of all the wonderful women who watch him by deleting actual comments from the main woman who he abused about her feelings towards his return (see here: http://that-teen-witch.tumblr.com/post/88175226722/lions-and-snails-i-commented-on-eds-video ).

Ann, or TheGeekyBlonde, is a fantastic Youtuber and has made a great video about the situation and how we can deal with it and move forward. She outlines some of the ways we can help combat and move on from this experience:

  1. Amputate – This means we have to cut abusers out of EVERYTHING, we cannot allow them to turn up to events/be on Youtube/etc. etc. No endorsement and no publicity
  2. Vaccinate – TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT. Write blog posts/ have discussions, let the community know and make sure the community knows that behaviour won’t be tolerated. Stand with victims.
  3. Elevate – Value the work of women and teenagers rather than phasing out or neglecting their work! Big up women, and women on Youtube. Listen to them, believe them, support them.
  4. Exfoliate – This is about responding to irl/online creepiness: do NOT do nothing: stop them, talk to them, confront them. If you are too scared to talk to those that are being abusive or dodgy try to help the victim, ask them if they need help, compliment their shoes. Just try to give them a way out of talking to them or engaging with them.

Ann’s Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Uc5eNNG60o

Consent videos are all very well but the viewers don’t need consent videos, the prominent Youtubers who suck do! There have been about four videos defining consent (which is important and useful, don’t get me wrong) but it is not enough – we need real change. A recent example of a consent video falling short is Jack and Dean’s (or omfgitsjackanddean) consent song which ultimately does nothing to rectify the situation, although many celebrate them as being really great people, even when they describe the sexual abuse as a “hullabaloo” and refuse to say that the song was a response to the behaviour of Youtubers.

If you’re aware of Youtube then you’ll be aware of the Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green. Their position as de facto leaders of the Youtube community (through their creation of events like Vidcon) means their lack of a real stance and inadequate to no discussion of the situation is reprehensible.  Such behaviour, or lack of any real analysis or response makes them somewhat complicit in the actions of the youtubers that are abusers. (John Green even went as far as welcoming Ed Blann back to twitter after the allegations came out! http://i-burn-i-pine-i-perish.tumblr.com/post/89193450074/eddplant-returned-to-twitter-back-in-february-and-john). The lack of support that John and Hank Green gave to survivors means that not only do a large portion of viewers know absolutely nothing about this, but that they have let down a large percentage of the community – their failure to speak up has meant that this community no longer seems to listen to or care about the very people that allow it and, by association, them to have so much power.

If you are not protecting women and girls from this kind of treatment then you are allowing it to happen. No public discourse, no actual change.

 

Women in Film

women in film infographic 156x300 Women in Film

Emily Zhang

21st Century Fox, the large film corporation, is launching a mentorship program for women directors. This is incredibly exciting news, because Hollywood has a historically disproportionate number of women working in the executive departments of film.

Less than five percent of directors are women. The film industry (on a large scale) seems ridiculously unwelcoming to people who aren’t men. That makes me apprehensive and angry, because it means that there is a severe lack of diverse perspective, often leading to blatant objectification of women in movies. There’s the feeling that film isn’t for “everyone,” in the production or the viewing of it, and that we are forced to accept one “mold” of the female character in which there’s little complexity and much misrepresentation. (Maybe this is also a tangent, but what annoys me most is when women who are not young or skinny or “societally attractive” have their appearances used as punchlines in comedies).

But then something wonderful happened in response. The Twitter hashtag #hirethesewomen was created, and so were lists of women directors and screenwriters. I love how intuitively (and almost effortlessly) social media was used here to increase the presence of female filmmakers. Maybe a film exec will be on twitter. Maybe a film exec will see one of the tweets. But even if they don’t, the issue has now become more accessible to the public and the pressure is on. Like with the Indiewire graphic, people know about the underrepresentation of women in film, but also amazing women directors and screenwriters to support. Their work receives more attention from everyone.

And then there’s the mentorship program! According to Variety, the total period of instruction will be a little bit under a year for the twenty members who will also be able to produce a short film at the end. That’s great, because that means more opportunity for women and more women-directed projects.

I hope this is a sign that things are getting better. Generally, the Internet and television programs seem more open to women as directors/producers/writers (I hope I’m not grossly generalizing). There’s Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which also explores intersectionality. There’s the other “equalizing” effect of the Internet, in which people don’t need agents or contracts or whatever else to share their work. And on television (ok maybe I’m grossly generalizing) there’s Lena Dunham’s Girls. But film is important and people watch films and discuss them too.

I don’t think there’s a neat way for me to end this blog post, so I’ll make a mini list of female directors and screenwriters I love.

Sofia Coppola! Lisa Cholodenko! Mary Harron! Elizabeth Sarnoff! And Ava DuVernay!

gender//queer// free

il 340x270.451740677 dt25 300x238 gender//queer// free

By Anna Hill

My name is Anna, my sexuality is Queer and my gender is Genderqueer. I like they/them pronouns and she/her ones too. It’s lovely to meet you.

Because there are a lot of definitions of the above words, I only recently discovered I was. And, as I think particularly for us gqs (genderqueers), visibility is really important. So, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts and feelings about my gender and sexual orientation (And to reassure anyone else who feels similarly!).

I found “Queer” before I found “Genderqueer”, and when I think about why I love the word so much it’s because to me queer is free. This is an example of where definitions can actually be beneficial to lots of things: to self esteem, friendships, love affairs and confidence. I realized this about six months ago.

Since then, I’ve got my LGBTQ+ pride on and have enjoyed all sorts of wonderful things (such as rainbows and many great books about all the letters!!). I’ve found some wonderful queer people on Tumblr and have also kept some of my very wonderful, supportive friends. It’s been a lovely experience! (Unfortunately I am lucky in the context of the way queers are treated in the world).

I found this quote that summed it up for me: “Not like Queer as in gay. Queer like escaping definition” -Brandon Went

The obvious thing that I haven’t specifically talked about is the actual sex part of the “queer is my sexuality” thing. Personally, I define Queer as not straight, and although I dislike defining non-hegemonic ideas, concepts, genders or sexualities from what they are not, for the purpose of clarity this is easier. This can manifest in a lot of ways: being queer is being bisexual, is being gay, is being pansexual; it’s pretty much being whatever you like. Being queer is also about reclaiming loving yourself and not only WHO you love, but HOW you love, too – being Queer is challenging and futuristic and it does not coexist peacefully with the silly old fashioned, dusty gender binary.

More recently, I have uncovered my genderqueerness (now I sound like a gender detective, which isn’t something you should be! Respect people and respect their pronouns, whether they are kitten, her, xe, nym or muffin-top-potato). My questioning snowballed from Queer really, and this incredible exhibition called Most Important Ugly (http://arabellesicardi.com/tagged/most-important-ugly), which showcases beauty/ugliness from a wide range of people who ultimately define as a whole bunch of different and similar genders. It opened my eyes to possibilities in many of the interviews I read and it also presented me with the ability and exciting prospect of further exploring my own gender identity. This is something that I then did. I thus, I discovered how freeing (are you noticing a pattern here??) they/them pronouns were, and how they seemed to fit me on some days.

I found the word Enby (which is from the words non-binary, and are the equivalent of boy/girl), which I think is not only a cute word, but also very useful. Enby, or non-binary people are basically those that do not fit into the constructs we have of “boy/man” and “girl/woman”. They are outside that binary, and are a “third gender”, or a on a spectrum somewhere, or simply floating around in space (which is how I often feel). Non-Binary though, can also be a mix of all those feelings in one person at one time, or a combination of feeling like a boy sometimes and like out of that gender sometimes too. I am Enby, and I am happy to be. It has been quite confusing and complicated at times, because I felt a little lost, and had hardly any experience or anyone to talk to about it. But with a little help from my Tumblr friends, I pulled through and I feel happier and hazier and freer than ever.

Now I do still struggle sometimes and it can be confusing for me – for example some days I feel pretty certain I am a girl and I want she/hers please, and then some days were I continually question myself, like What am I? Shall I introduce myself with they/them pronouns? Why is this sooo confusing??!

But then I remember; my gender is important and unimportant. I am me, and ultimately that’s all I really need to survive. If you are still confused here: Sometimes I am a girl, sometimes I am not a girl. I am not a boy though, just a not-quite-really-at-all-in-the-middle-but-kinda-floating-about-on-a-cloud-of-chocolate-and-glitter Enby person.

Are we clear??

Anti-Feminism on Tumblr

By Kara Chyung

hashtag1 Anti Feminism on Tumblr

As a member of PBG’s fabulous Tumblr team, I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently searching through all of our saved tags, such as body image, sexism, and even Gloria Steinem. However, I’ve been avoiding the feminist tag recently due to all of the anti-feminist content that gets posted there. Some of the content attempts to be diplomatic, but some of it is just appalling. It can be offensive to see someone call something that you believe in useless, and it makes me a little sad to see that some people view feminism in such a negative way.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions about feminism that I have seen on Tumblr. Some of them refer to specific posts, and others I’ve seen many times.

1. Feminists hate men and believe that they are better than them.

Many people confuse feminism with misandry, but feminism is about equality, not superiority. Some people make the assumption that since feminists want to empower women, that means that they therefore want to suppress men. I support feminism because I believe that female gender inequality is more prevalent, but I also believe that men suffer from gender inequality and that these issues should be addressed along with women’s issues.

2. Feminism is a movement for the privileged.

I saw one particularly disparaging YouTube video about this topic. Basically, the maker of the video claimed that it was pointless and useless to spend energy advocating positive body image and reproductive rights while women in other countries are forced into marriage, banned from receiving an education, and raped on a regular basis. Of course female genocide is a more urgent and serious matter than objectification of women by the media. But both are their own breeds of bad, and it’s silly to suggest that one cannot be an advocate against both.

3. If you try to argue with feminists, they’ll just call you stupid and insult you.

There are probably feminists who refuse to listen to others’ points of view and maybe go a bit too far when trying to prove a point. But guess what? There are people who dismiss any opinion that isn’t their own in every movement, and feminism is not supported by a disproportionate number of them. To claim that an entire group of people with the same beliefs is by definition uncompromising (and rude) would be both unjust and incorrect.

4. Feminists are ugly women who can’t get laid

This is a reference to one awful post that I saw. According to this person, the problem is not the tremendous pressure that women face to be attractive, but the fact that some women are not attractive by society’s standards. Not only does this post belittle the importance of feminism in our culture, it also trivializes women’s experiences with gender inequality by labeling feminism as a way for women to justify their hurt feelings. That’s not to mention the glaring problem of attempting to set standards of beauty for women. Grr.

I’m not saying that the feminist movement is flawless or that women who don’t call themselves feminists are horrible people. But I wish that more people would see the strengths of feminism, because ultimately feminism does not only advocate for the rights of women. Feminism is a movement that is founded on the belief that no one should be discriminated against for who and what they are. And that is something we should all get behind.

Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

By Elli Wilson

newspapers 0 Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

Ladies, I have some not-so-shocking news for y’all; in the eyes of our largely sexist and often misogynistic mainstream media, you can never win. Some of you have no doubt already reached this conclusion but it took me almost 18 years to come to the realisation that no matter how long I spend trying to ‘fix’ myself, there will always be another ‘problem area’ which is just crying out for a good wax/work out/cellulite-reducing massage (delete as appropriate). I now know that I can never look like the models in the hyper-sexualised adverts that have become the wallpaper to our lives because they are so heavily photoshopped and airbrushed that they don’t even look like themselves. I’m also aware that if I dare to be successful, I will receive less media coverage than men and if I do receive any it is far more likely to be negative and/or focused on my appearance. Yep, in 21st century Britain the representation and portrayal of women in the media still isn’t looking too great.

We live in a society in which the media is incredibly hostile to women, their bodies and their achievements. Nothing we do is ever good enough. We are either too pretty, too ugly, too thin, too fat, too successful, too unsuccessful, too career-oriented, too family-oriented, too prudish, too slutty, too uptight or too slobby. This list could pretty much continue ad nauseam. Whenever a women is in the public eye you can bet your bottom dollar that she will receive gendered comments about her appearance, her family or lack thereof, and her credibility that no man ever would. Think of the ridiculous commentary about whether Hilary Clinton can be both a presidential candidate and a grandmother, or the way Jennifer Aniston has often been depicted as sad and lonely since her relationship with Brad Pitt ended. And such treatment is not just reserved for individual women but for our entire gender. The behaviour of girls and women is frequently blamed for all manner of ills, from badly behaved children to the perceived crisis of masculinity. The media doesn’t just criticise and belittle us; it also polices our behaviour.

So let us be clear; media sexism is real and it has real consequences. The media’s obsession with women’s appearance – from Page 3 to talk of female politicians’ clothing – tells us that our looks are our most valuable asset. The way that certain newspapers talk about rape victims perpetuates our victim blaming culture where the victim is often held as accountable as the perpetrator. The near total lack of representation of women of colour, disabled women and LGBTQ+ women is a travesty that furthers the restrictive heteronormative, white nature of the society in which we live. As a woman, the mainstream media does not represent me or treat me with respect.

In fact, the mainstream media doesn’t represent or respect many people at all apart from a gilded elite who happen to be largely wealthy, white, heterosexual cisgendered men. This is a total joke and something that I hope the people-powered, accessible nature of the Internet can start to address. Online initiatives such as this one and the hundreds of others like it are working to redress the bias and underrepresentation of traditional media. It’s high time to make a change. If you don’t like what you see, do something about it; our voices and our words are powerful and we can make a difference.

The Unspeakable Things Have Been Spoken

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

unspeakable The Unspeakable Things Have Been Spoken

Laurie Penny. If you’ve not heard the name before, it’s about time you paid attention. I’m a little biased perhaps, as Penny is nothing short of a hero to me. But honestly, she’s great. She’s recently released a book in the U.K., to be released in the U.S. in September. It’s called ‘Unspeakable Things’, and hell, she talks about exactly what girls are told not to. If you’re looking for an easy going, ‘yes you can be a feminist, love pink, wear false eyelashes and shave your legs’ book, this is not for you. Laurie Penny in general, is probably not for you. She is not interested in sugar-coating this movement, making it appealing to the masses. In her eyes, its appeal should just be a given. Frankly, she thinks this kind of lipstick feminism is rather silly. For her, it’s about the nitty-gritty, the things that nobody likes to talk about. But she’s talking about them, and she certainly won’t be silenced any time soon.

Penny interlinks serious analysis of a range of issues, with the ways in which she has personally been affected, making for a very interesting and thought-provoking read. However, the personal side is no sob story – it’s a cold, slightly bitter narrative, at times, relaying the harsh truths of eating disorders, rape culture, and more. There’s no sugar coating, it’s completely honest. And yet, she’s not claiming to speak for everyone, which is an irritatingly common mistake in discussion of these topics. In fact, she regularly stresses otherwise, pointing out that she is a white, middle-class woman; therefore privileged, and unable to tell every woman’s point of view. It is often assumed that feminist texts speak for all women, and often writers assume this ‘voice of the people’ stance. It is incredibly refreshing that Laurie Penny openly refutes this.

The book is in many ways a rant. It is an intense outlet of anger about the world; about neoliberal capitalism; about patriarchal constraints; about transphobia; about white/male/heterosexual/cis-gender/middle-class privileges – you name it, Penny is probably pissed off about it. But it’s still very eloquently written, aside from the regular effing and blinding. She covers ground such as mental illness, single motherhood and abortion. It’s true, these are all topics covered before, but here is the view of a young woman – a view from someone of this generation. However, more importantly, she attacks things barely touched upon before like issues with modern feminism, cybersexism, and uniquely, men’s issues. But it’s not what you think. The chapter on guys is actually the best part of the book. If you only read one part when you pick it up in the bookshop, make it the ‘Lost Boys’ chapter. It’s genuinely eye-opening, and you won’t regret it.

Her unrelenting wit and her ingenious prose style make this book brilliant. Though it was a moving and engrossing read, there were moments when I found myself laughing out loud, because, yes, Laurie Penny kicks patriarchal ass. It is full of dry humour – fitting for the mood of the book and the nature of the issues discussed. Highlights include; “those who are so eager for women and girls to go back to the kitchen might think again… you can plan a lot of damage from a kitchen. It’s also where the knives are kept” and “Having it all now means having a career, kids, a husband, a decent blow-dry – and that’s it.” And that’s only in the introduction.

I’m not saying I agree with every little detail in the book. In fact, there were several points made that I frowned at and found myself strongly disagreeing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t value what’s said – quite the opposite. It’s a reminder that we don’t all have to agree on everything. It’s a necessary aspect of this movement – differing opinions, challenging others and being challenged, that’s how the Suffragettes arose! What matters is that, at the very core, we are united in ideas and are willing to fight for social change. This is how we will make equality a reality.

Cabinet Reshuffle, Same Sexism

By Jessica Hayden

dailyfail2 Cabinet Reshuffle, Same Sexism

The cabinet reshuffle promised to be a great day for women in politics. Women were promoted, such as now Minister of State for Employment, Esther McVey. Campaigns such as 50/50 parliament – which seek for a more equal male/female number of MPs – rejoiced at the news that the future may hold a cabinet that isn’t exclusively male and “fat, balding Tory, Home Counties, upper-middle class twits ” as Bridget Jones so wonderfully puts it.

However the media’s response to what was supposed to be a triumph for women was disgustingly sexist, to say the very least. The words “child care” and “school run” were used too often when talking about how on earth the women could possibly handle being politicians and also juggle their “mothering responsibilities”. Of course no reference was made to David Cameron’s ability to juggle being a father of three and being Prime Minister, despite him forgetting how many children he has and leaving one in a pub toilet back in 2012. The idea that a woman should focus only on their children and not have a career belittles women and encourages the belief that women should only ever be stay-at-home mums, which is dangerously old-fashioned in a “modern” society.

The Daily Mail, as always, did their absolute best to patronize and insult women, calling the reshuffle a “catwalk”, describing Esther McVey as “The Queen of the Downing Street Catwalk” and a “thigh flashing vision”. Once again, The Daily Mail cared more about what women look like than what talents they may have. The Mail went as far to say “She needs to tone it down a little for attending Cabinet meetings.” As her “bust-emphasising” dress was just too much for the paper, which homes the infamous “side-bar of shame” which tells women they are too fat, too thin, show too much skin but not nearly enough skin, all at the same time. Women are never going to be respected in The Mail, but this article still infuriated me, feminists all around… and Nick Clegg, apparently.

Clegg responded to The Daily Mail article, saying he thinks “it’s demeaning, old-fashioned and most people would just think it’s completely out-of-step with modern Britain.” It’s brilliant that a recognised man in politics has noticed the blatant sexism of the media. However some of his comments, such as it being “out-of-step with modern Britain” were ambitious.

Unfortunately, this attitude to women in politics IS modern Britain and more needs to be done to establish women in politics and present them in a fairer way, like discussing their jobs, rather than their skirt-length.

dailyfail1 Cabinet Reshuffle, Same Sexism