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Another Advice Column.

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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.)

Alice and Anna Discuss Make Up

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By Alice Koski and Anna Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anna – I don’t really have a daily or conventional make up routine. I actually own very little make up, BUT I do have a kind of self-care routine that involves putting on make up. It’s a little bit bizarre I suppose but I like to view this routine as a kind of therapy! Basically, when I feel really sad, or just sort of lost, or any negative emotion, or creatively sapped, I paint my face with lipstick and/or use turquoise eyeliner to make myself have freckles and experiment with contouring and bizarre shapes and strange lip colours. anna1It’s really fun and it helps me to survive really awful weeks, or it can just be a way to remind myself that my body is my own and I can do with it what I want – it doesn’t have to look pretty or cute – it can be ugly, weird, eye-catching, sparkling, childish, alien, robotic, butch, magical and any number of other things. So my “make up routine” is a really intense one and only happens about once a month. It’s really refreshing and I would 800% recommend it! Just throw caution (and colour) to the wind and put stuff onto your face!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you/don’t you wear make up?

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

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

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

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

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

Anna – I do feel different! I think part of that is because it’s quite rare for me to wear makeup and because of various issues with my skin I’ve never felt comfortable putting on make up, so when I wear makeup I wear MAKE UP (with flashing lights and bold colours), rather than the: “I woke up like this with a flawless face and most men can’t tell that I am wearing makeup at all” look”. So I guess I must get judged by people who think I dress/am alive to please them, BUT I do not care for that. I enjoy confusing people though, for example once I sat on the tube and I had some turquoise freckles for confidence and strength and also fun (I was going to a Beyonce concert!!!), and these two guys opposite me were clearly SO CONFUSED by it all. I enjoyed screwing with their perceptions. I think I like doing that sort of thing because of my identity too – as a Queer person I often feel like media only represents me when it subverts what is seen as “normal,” so now I claim subversion as my “thing.” anna2I’ve also gotten used to people judging my “look” because I have body hair which I don’t really cover up (leg hair is so effective at keeping me warm in the winter!), so I like to play with those stereotypes when I wear make up too – i.e if you don’t shave you are dirty and lazy, but then if I don’t shave and look really well put together, I’m proving them wrong and hopefully making them question those judgments.

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

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

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

Has make up helped you, and if so how?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youtube and Sexual Abuse

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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

Author:

women in film infographic

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!

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