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Breast Amnesia

Author:

By Jessica Hayden

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Breast Amnesia – forgetting that breasts are actually there to feed children and aren’t necessarily there solely for sexual pleasure…

How many of us suffer from this?

I recently read an article online about Ashley Clawson, a woman who was refused to breastfeed in Victoria Secret, a lingerie shop. My first reaction was wondering how I would respond if someone asked me if they could breastfeed in my hypothetical shop. I decided that the best solution would be to say yes, of course, and perhaps offer a more private area, purely for their comfort rather than my opinion on public breastfeeding. Then I considered why breastfeeding is encouraged to be such a private act whereas sexualising breasts is such a public act. You not only see women in their underwear in adverts and on the sides of buses, but breasts appear almost daily in your “family” newspaper. I started reading what other people thought and the response shocked me. The vast amount of replies were calling breastfeeding in public “wrong” and “embarrassing”. However, there was one woman’s response which left me completely baffled. She called breastfeeding in public “inappropriate”.

What kind of culture teaches that breastfeeding is inappropriate? How is it that our society has evolved in to one which calls a pair of sexualised breasts in a newspaper “tradition”, and vilifies anyone who dares protest against it (which has certainly been my experience when campaigning for No More Page Three, a campaign which seeks to remove glamour modelling from The Sun, a so-called “family newspaper” which has a page dedicated to sexualising women) yet dismisses a woman for having her breasts out in public in order to feed her child – which, let’s remember, is what her breasts are meant to do! Victoria Secret, far from celebrating women’s bodies, as they would so have you believe, have illuminated the cold misogyny which I have named “breast amnesia”.

If breast amnesia isn’t a sign of how our society is reducing women to being purely sexual beings, then I don’t know what is. It’s time we started discussing it.

#AskThicke

Author:

By Cora Morris

With the notorious Robin Thicke’s new album came controversy. And rightfully so – it is supposedly one huge attempt to ‘win back’ his (poor, poor) ex-wife Paula Patton in what is, to us, to be the most frightening, harassment-endorsing way possible – remember, nothing says ‘I love you’ like financial profit from emotional manipulation!

Two weeks ago, the music video was released for one single off the album, entitled ‘Get Her Back’. In this video, we see a selection of texts that ping backwards and forwards across the screen between him and the estranged Paula, wherein she stands her ground and he is relentless in his pathetic, stalker-esque manner. The final message from Patton reads ‘I have to go’. His response? ‘This is just the beginning.’ This suggesting not only that her ‘No’ is of no value to him whatsoever (deja-vu anyone?), but that he will endeavour to continue regardless.

After receiving widespread criticism from so many (not least every feminist ever), American cable channel VH1 had an idea. Someone, somewhere, in a tiny boardroom in New York, thought that hosting a twitter-based question-and-answer with Thicke was a good idea. The hashtag? #AskThicke. The rest of the world laughed hysterically- but in the most brilliant way possible. They laughed through Twitter.

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Non-Sexist, Totally Fantastic Summer Book Recommendations

Author:

By Anna Hill

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In light of Sophia’s great post about the dire, repetitive sexism that is often prevalent in so-called “summer reads”, we decided in response that the rest of the PBG team would collect some of our own favourite summer reads and share them with you! Now we can all be huge nerds together and fall in love with some great books this summer! As it is sometimes harder to find alternative and less problematic books, we to put together our fave reads in a list for your enjoyment! If you want to know why we might have chosen them (some may not be as conventionally “summery” and “light” as other recommended reads in mainstream media), then it’s due to a range of reasons. These books are any/all/some/one/none of the following: empowering, liberating, moving, thought-provoking, stereotype smashing, thrilling, enthralling, exciting, enjoyable.

Without further adieu, here is PBG’s list of non-sexist, totally fantastic summer book recommendations:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This is a magnificent YA book and it’s so unbelievably good, it waayyyy passes the Bechdel test and it has mostly female characters who are kickass and freaking incredible. Basically a bunch of Beauty Queens crash land on an island and have to survive!! There are Queer characters, a trans girl, some really fab women of colour. Some really annoying tropes/stereotypes of women are utterly subverted and it’s just great, and it’s so aware of it all as well, it’s a clever satire. I think about it a LOT. Lastly it’s good for summer reading because it’s set on a desert island so it’s really HOT (and you know, summer is hot….. just go read this ok).

Every Day by David Levithan

This is a beautiful beautiful book. The story is a romance, so if you like to read love stories then this would be fab for you, it is also a beautifully written book, and it contains such wonderful moments that you will fall in love with all of it over and over again, every sentence. The story is slightly strange but very clever, it follows the story of “A” an entity or person that has no proper physical form – every day they wake up in another’s body. And one day they meet Rhiannon! (who obvs they fall in love with!) It’s also great because it discusses ideas about gender and sexuality and the fluidness of those ideas/constructs/concepts.

Saga by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples

This is a comic book series, and there are three volumes out so far and I am ITCHING for the next instalment, because SO MUCH DRAMA AND ACTION AND EXCITEMENT! The story is a war story and a love/family journey too – it follows a couple who fall in love but are on the opposite sides of the ongoing war that just keeps killing and hurting, and they have a baby. They then have to try to survive. It’s got a kickass female lead, as well as my personal favourite, an amazing bisexual woman named Gwendolyn who is so stylish and lethal. As well as this the relationship between Marko and Alana – the two who are in love, is very sweet and realistic, and the art is really really beautiful too. It’s so enthralling and interesting and beautiful and funny and silly and the characters are A+ (There are some really cute gay, green journalists!). I would also definitely recommend this to people who are new to comics (I’m a newbie myself) as it’s super easy to read/see and get into.

— Anna

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is basically a book set post-zombie apocalypse in this tiny village surrounded by the undead, or “unconsecrated.” It’s super religious and they’re basically told that they are the last humans left in the entire world, they’re God’s village. All the men are told to guard the fences and the women must all marry and have lots of babies because their survival depends on it. The protagonist, Mary, basically questions everything and sees past the lies, and she wants to be with a different guy to the one chosen for her because of love, not “duty.” When they’re pushed into the forest she is literally the most determined person and she realises her dream to find the ocean is the most important thing to her, and just being with this dude who she loves isn’t enough. And I won’t say much more but it’s so good.

Sing You Home

This a brilliantly well-crafted novel that outlines some very important issues that same-sex couples are unjustly forced to face. It is about: a woman named Zoe who fails to have a child multiple times and then gives up her hopes of ever being a mother. Her husband then decides to leave and her world is shattered. Luckily for Zoe, she finds a friend in her colleague Vanessa and the more time the two spend together, the better she feels. Zoe then discovers that she wants to spend more and more time with her new friend… until she realizes that what she really wants is something much more than friendship.

With a convincing and believable plot, and characters that you just want to hug (!), the book is a definite must-read. Picoult’s writing is compelling, moving and thoroughly thought provoking. Both Zoe and Vanessa are two of the strongest, bravest and most wonderful women I have ever encountered in literature. They both have a courage and defiance that lifts them above their struggles. Two thoroughly determined, tough and intelligent women (and they don’t rely on men either!).

— Yas

Forbidden Lessons in a Kabul Guesthouse by Suraya Sadeed

This book isn’t fiction, it is a memoir, but the writer has done incredible things, and it is an astonishing read. It is painful and sad to read at many points, as she describes experiences in the heart of a terrible war, seeing extreme poverty, and a kind of inequality that we in the West cannot ever truly imagine. Despite all this, it is immensely hopeful and inspiring, as Suraya Sadeed tells readers of the aid she brought to Afghan communities, and of how hard she fought to do so. She is truly admirable, and a reminder that we can make a difference, if determined enough, as resolve is a powerful trait in people.

— Sophia

The House of Bernarda Alba by Lorca

This recommendation is not exactly up everyone’s street! All the speaking characters are women (only one male character). It has been described as a photographic documentary of 1920’s Spain. Simply, there are five daughters who are in 8 years mourning after the death of their father but one gets engaged and problems follow. The text provides a wonderful insight into 1920s rural Spain and it’s attitudes towards women. Some have more power than others but in the end do they really have any power? Clever symbolism and stylistic techniques highlight the key themes of freedom and repression in a tragic tale of a family of women in mourning. Despite being set almost a century ago parallels can still be found in aspects of today’s society. Great play to help you question the things we see in our world today and what it was like to live as a woman in this society. Original language or a good translation is best (there is also an incredibly accurate English film starring Glenda Jackson).

— Chloe

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is an absolute classic that follows the life of Jane, from when she is a little girl dealing with cruelty and hardship to when she grows into an independent and intelligent woman. It’s a great feminist book because it was written by a woman and is about a woman at a time when society completely dismissed the idea of women being able to think/act for themselves.

Diary of Anne Frank

Also a classic! This book is both inspiring and also very sad. The diary was written by Anne Frank whilst she was in hiding during WW2 because she was Jewish. Anne inspires me because of her bravery and her honesty – I think her voice really speaks out to all women and girls.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl is about a girl who’s not afraid to be different and true to herself, it’s very heartwarming and tells girls that it’s ok not to fit in with the crowd!! (It might be for slightly younger readers)

— Alice

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

If you haven’t read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I would highly recommend it, it’s an oldy but a goody. The book follows a girl’s life and family living in Brooklyn. Her family were Irish immigrates and very poor and they lived there during the time where that’s where immigrants would stay. It follows her becoming a woman, and it talks about the dynamics of her mother and father’s relationship. It’s spans over her life starting when she was about 8 and ending in her early 20s. It’s very well written although a tad slow in the beginning, you need to hold on until you get like 1/4 of the way through and it gets super good.

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice is very good, though over 900 pages if you’re looking for a longer read. The plot sounds weird but I promise if you get into it it’s so so good. The novel is about a family of witches that are all strikingly beautiful. It’s set in more modern times when they’re trying to figure out who the next witch is. It describes the history of the family line of witches throughout the book but its main focus is explaining what makes the most recent #1 witch unusually powerful. Of course there is some romance and such but the storyline is deeply complicated and very interesting. I don’t wanna say much more because it’s easy to give things away, just don’t read it if you’re squeamish about sexual themes, it’s an adult novel and I normally have to warn people beforehand because the book can get slightly graphic at times. Again it starts a bit slow and can be a tad confusing at times but I would highly recommend this book to everyone, even if you aren’t into fantasy

— Gracelyn

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A follow up to the highly acclaimed novel ‘The Kite Runner’, the book transports us into the life of Mariam, a young Afghan girl who is facing the daily struggle of living in a society that values women solely for their ability to reproduce. Though not light reading, Hossieni’s ability to make the harshest of abuse and discrimination readable subject matter is incredible, providing very valuable insight into the harsh lives of women in Afghanistan and beyond.

— Cora

Bedpans and Bobby Socks by Barbara Fox and Gwenda Gofton

Bedpans and Bobby Socks is set in the late 50’s. It’s about 5 British nurses who move to America to work for a while then go travelling in an old car all over the States. It’s a really fun summer read, especially if you like travel and roadtrip books, and the 5 nurses are all amazingly independent, adventurous women (it’s based on a true story, too!).

— Amy

Now go forth and READ!!!

The Unconventional Summer Reading List

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

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School is out – well, almost, in the U.K – and that means one thing… SUMMER! Summer means a lot of different things for different people; be it swimming in the sea; festivals; camping in the middle of nowhere; road trips; backpacking – usually something pretty cool. Sometimes, it’s just chilling out at the park or in the garden with ice-cream, homemade smoothies, barbecues, spending times with friends and family – which is equally wonderful, of course.

For me, though, the biggest appeal of Summer (and yes, I realise this makes me a huge nerd) is that I have plenty of free time… to read. In the year, I don’t get to read nearly as much as I’d like to, what with work, work, work, oh, and more work! But for two months, I can read a book a day if I want to, no problem! There’s absolutely no better way to relax!

I’m not the only one who thinks Summer is a time for reading, as magazines and newspapers begin to publish their lists of essential Summer reading around early June. Unfortunately, it would seem that I have the wrong idea with my mixture of the Brontës, John Green, and feminist manifestos. Because, each year, magazines’ lists are nothing like mine. Typically titled ‘beach reads for women’, ‘books for your beach bag’, ‘hot summer reads’ and so on, the lists compiled are beyond frustrating to see. Not only are the titles blatantly sexist, but the content tends to be, too. The message sent is that all women are the same – we like shopping, we’re obsessed with our looks, and WE JUST WANT A BOYFRIEND! This plays right into the kyriarchy, this idea that ‘real’ women are white, heterosexual, cisgendered, and of course, one-dimensional, dependent creatures.

It honestly really upsets me, the whole thing. But I’m not letting it get me down too much anymore. There is a way to combat this norm. There are always alternatives; you’ve just got to look a little harder sometimes. Here I’ve compiled a list of suggestions to start you off – Some are a little obvious perhaps, some you may not have even heard of. There’s a wide range of fiction, some young adult, and some adult. But be warned – whilst some are easy to read, these books are not necessarily all light. I like these books for precisely this reason – I have personally found them empowering, liberating, moving, thought-provoking, stereotype smashing, as well as simply enjoyable. I really hope you’ll find something in them too.

  • Matched – Ally Condie. ‘In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Yet for Cassia, the rules have changed.’ This Young Adult trilogy is astonishingly poetic in the way it is written, as well as being an exciting, emotional, compelling read. It is difficult not to find the characters endearing, with incredible development throughout the books. Cassia, the protagonist, is particularly interesting, as she begins as a standard ‘good girl’, complacent to the rules, but as the story goes on, she begins to really challenge the ways of the world around her, in spite of the consequences. It provokes intense political thought, whilst being very funny in places as well.
  • If You Find Me – Emily Murdoch. ‘A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen year-old Carey can remember. Suddenly taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.’ This book is beautifully written, and provides a critical narrative on our society, whilst reminding the reader to be grateful for what they have. It deals with several very sensitive issues, including childhood neglect and abuse, mental illness, and addiction, but does so very sensitively, and provides a lot of hope too, through the perspective of Carey. It is easy to relate to this girl – despite most readers living rather different lives from her, on the surface – as we recognise the outsider that is in ourselves, both highly sceptical, yet desperate to belong. A stunning debut.
  • A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly. ‘Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true.’ Exploring familial relationships, and friendships, as well as romantic love, to a backdrop of history and mystery, this book is incredible. The main character, Mattie, is intelligent and hard-working, but also rather cheeky, which makes her a very appealing character. She also adores of her teacher, who is pretty darn cool, and writes feminist poetry. A well-written story, which discusses the personal and universal together, A Gathering Light is a great read.
  • Chains – Laurie Halse Anderson. ‘As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom.’ If you don’t cry a little whilst reading this, I will be surprised. It appears to be historically accurate, meticulously researched, doing justice to those affected by slavery. It is moving, empowering, and as a reader you find yourself feeling fiercely protective of Isabel. It is impossible to put down until the very end, as quickly you become thoroughly attached.
  • Since You’ve Been Gone – Morgan Matson. ‘Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell. But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. Where can it lead?’ This is released just this Summer, and is a great, easy read for the beach. It’s fun, hilarious in places, and immensely enjoyable. The main character Emily is wonderful, she is so normal, it’s fantastic. Checking things off her list is an adventure, and the way it’s narrated makes it all seem very liberating, like she’s learning a lot about herself. It’s inspiring in the way that it’s made me want to go out and do things that I often feel too scared to do. But it also reminds you not to assume things about people, stop making judgements – you don’t know anyone like you may assume. Nobody is perfect, life isn’t perfect, and it’s a reminder that these are true, whilst reminding you that it’s still beautiful. It stresses the importance of friendship, and makes you really, really, really want to hug your best friend.
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett. ‘Three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town.’ Poignant, at times hysterically funny, thought-provoking, inspiring and hopeful. You would not expect an affluent white woman to be able to write accurately or sensitively about issues in the lives of black women in 1960s America, but this book is a real surprise. Everyone will take a lot away from The Help, about class, race, friendship, and more.
  • The Colour Purple – Alice Walker. ‘Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate.’ This book requires a TRIGGER WARNING, as the description of abuse is very graphic. However, I do believe it is an incredible book. It is such a powerful narrative, and an extremely emotional story throughout. It is also a great example of how female empowerment benefits society as a whole. The characters are multi-dimensional, you learn about their thinking, their beliefs, their reasoning. You see all sides of these people, the good and the bad – nothing is sugar-coated. This is a rare kind of book, and a brilliant one.

Happy reading girls!

So… This is progress??

Author:

By Gemma Garner

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‘The Miss England contest is not JUST a beauty contest . You have to be far more than just a pretty face to win the crown. It’s not just about looking good in a swimsuit anymore.’ – Miss England 2014
Pageantry has always been a backwards concept to me. Now that it’s 2014, our society insists that women are valued for far more than they used to be ‘back in the day'; and I agree. It’s undeniable that we’ve come far. However, the fact that beauty pageants are still acceptable tells me women are still seen as objects to be judged. Don’t get me wrong; I am in no way criticizing those who, in some sense, enjoy pageantry, or those who even take part in beauty pageants (however, I AM criticizing the many men who gain profit from the exploitation of women within pageantry. Boo to them.). Heck, I’m widely known for being a (guilty) sucker for Toddlers & Tiaras. But, regardless of where you stand, it’s important that we educate ourselves about the flaws and negative effects that come from the acceptance of Beauty Pageants, in order to (maybe one day) bring about change. Whenever I’ve expressed my heartbreak regarding beauty pageants, these are questions I’ve often been asked that I think are important to address.
‘If you disagree with beauty pageants, why partake in them?!’
Firstly, that’s just not how the world works. If we all turned a blind eye to blatantly problematic and oppressive traditions that actually, though not directly, affect us negatively in the grand scheme of things, how are things going to change? If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. But don’t tell me I shouldn’t.
‘Miss England is clearly not just about beauty! There are many rounds that allow women to be more than just a pretty face.’
Whilst I applaud Miss England for offering more than ‘Beauty, Swimsuit & Talent’, it still puts women in a box. Their box just has more labels. These include: charitable, loving, kind, warm, gentle, accepting, beautiful, feminine- which are all wonderful traits. But what about the women that aren’t charitable? That have trouble showing emotion? That have social anxiety? Mental illness? Physical deformities? What about trans women? What about the girls that aren’t gentle? Or accepting? What about the girls that aren’t ‘textbook’ beautiful? By picking out (undeniably stunning and talented) women and labeling them as the ultimate ‘Miss England’, they’re only representing a very small minority of women across England. Which means most of England’s ladies are left feeling small and not enough.
‘But that’s not directly Miss England’s fault; why are you attacking them? Many women haven’t heard of Miss England and still feel small!’
You’re exactly right. Miss England didn’t cause this. This is already a part of our culture. Women are generally made to feel this way. Every day is a battle for perfection. Miss England just do a perfect job at representing this. We gain acceptance. They gain crowns.
Pageantry actively supports the idea that women are objects and re-enforces an unattainable idea of perfection. If you disagree with me, I’ll direct you to an article I just read congratulating the gorgeous fifth-year undergraduate Cambridge student Carina Tyrell for winning Miss England 2014. The comment section is filled with hateful comments from men picking at her appearance, (‘Disgusting’, ‘skeleton needs a burger’, ‘Is this the best our country has to offer?’) telling her even THAT isn’t enough. We’re teaching people to view women as nothing more than an object to critique; especially within pageantry… And if that isn’t terribly damaging for both women, and men’s perception of them, I don’t know what is.
According to Miss England, in order to be the ultimate British woman you have to tick all the boxes on a long… long list. But… What if the ultimate, perfect, British woman is… you? What if YOU are perfection? How you are right now? What if pageants offered us acceptance? And self-love?
But, hey, Miss England are right. It’s not just about looking good in a swimsuit anymore. Apparently, it’s about being perfect wife material too. Charitable, sporty, kind and talented. It’s about being a role model. The ideal woman. An object. And to me, that sounds a lot like women ‘back in the day’. We need to let women know that, you know what? Being a human being is perfect enough. I don’t need a judge to tell me who Miss England is. Miss England is you and I.

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