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What comes with the wave

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A guest poem and video by Hollie Cooper

Perhaps I’m not like you at all.

Yes, most definitely not like you.

Definitely afraid of you.

I’m not here for beauty.

Nor for rules.

Just to be.

Not to get caught in a tiresome wind.

Not to dance like a kite but to fly away.

The waves crash.

The moment breathes.

The sun gazes.

Governed by her own accord, her rays here for no one.

To emulate her is to be free.

Fly me to the moon.

Let me live uncritised.

Do not label me.

I am energy running wild.

Running dark.

Running blood.

Running gold.

Running thin.

Running plentiful.

Running real.

Running in circles.

Not for no one.

But life itself.

You can read more of Hollie’s poetry here: https://www.holsnco.com/caught-in-the-riptide

Chasing Rupert Murdoch (and bumping into Boris)!

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Guest Post by Eva O’Flynn

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Today I felt powerful. Strategically placed between The Shard and Sun HQ, we, three teenage girls, sat and ate chocolate biscuits. Intimidating, I know. At least, The Sun’s security seemed to think so! They scowled, pointed and, when the shifts changed, warned each other of the threat that we were clearly posing. To make matters more hilarious, we are a relatively short group (see photo.) You couldn’t even see our t-shirts for all the jumpers we were wearing (until Stephanie ambled over, her tee quite literally glowing. Brilliant.)

At that point, the two police officers who were manning the area joined us. They arrived beaming and, as soon as they heard that we intended to be peaceful, our friendship was confirmed. We chatted about everything, from why they supported the campaign to the worst arrests they’d made and they even dispelled some of the more interesting rumours that we’d heard. They were brilliant, brilliant people. Even one of the security guards was friendly!

From our biscuit-filled perch, we caught sight of a shade of glowing blonde combined with the ridiculous amble that could only belong to Boris Johnson. He was walking away and we were about to lose what we saw as a brilliant opportunity for a comment. So we ran, capturing some brilliant selfies on the way. We were so exhilarated at the prospect of capturing the mayor in a shot with our NMP3 tees that, in the photos, we are beaming. Oh how I regret my facial expression and wish my disgust were visible.

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“What do you think of Page 3?” we probed, “Page 3 of the Daily Telegraph?” he responded pompously. “No actually, I read the Guardian. But come on, what do you think of Page 3?” At this point, his assistant began irritatingly babbling in the background, attempting to be clever. I somehow found myself telling our (buffoon of a) mayor in a tone dripping with irony my opinion of the Daily Telegraph’s Page 3. “I think it’s a pretty important page, you know? It’s the first thing you see when you open the paper, it’s right there in front of you, really sets the tone, don’t you think? Do you think that The Sun should potentially change theirs? Maybe, just maybe, boobs shouldn’t be the first thing you see?” Pathetically and unsurprisingly, he didn’t respond. We left him galumphing away to do whatever Tories do.

The big moment arrived. Murdoch was coming. Our two police officers fulfilled their duty, laughing, and the ridiculous number of body guards, less amusingly, attempted to hold us back. We shouted to Murdoch, showed him our tees, but the doors of the car soon shut. Before I could even gather my thoughts, Yas was in front of the car (quite literally in front) and they were rolling slowly towards her. She moved to the side with Stephanie and began to run, Rosa and I sprinting after as the car picked up speed. We were soon surrounding them, forcing the car to stop. We, four smiley, innocent women, stopped Rupert Murdoch’s car.

Today, although it may have been small, I felt like I made a difference. Today, four peaceful women disrupted The Sun. Today, I can say that I personally pissed off some powerful people. It feels amazing.

Read Eva’s original post, and more of her writing, here.

Beauty is in the Eye of the…Media?

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By Guest Blogger Aimee Polimeno

 

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People Magazine’s Epic Photoshop Fail of Lupita Nyong’o

It’s no secret that our media-driven culture values an extremely narrow and stereotypical version of beauty, usually represented by a Size 2, photoshopped model. Most people know that judging and media photoshopping any girl larger than a size 4 has a detrimental impact on girls’ body image, and so it’s an issue fought by activists on many fronts. However, what many of us tend to overlook is that our culturally biased ideal of beauty does not encompass only body size, but also race.

The lack of models of various races and ethnicities in media, not to even mention the tendency to photoshop lighter skin tones on those few models and artists who do make the covers of magazines, is one thing. The association in movies and TV between violence and skin color is another. We teach children that when race is visible at all, light is right and everything else is…well, wrong. Consider seemingly harmless animated films like The Lion King, where our main man Mufasa and his family are a lighter fur color, while the evil and calculating Scar is a darker shade. Think about all those dark-skinned evil queens in Disney films.

Multiple studies have been done in psychology and sociology dealing with this early priming of children to favor light over dark, and the results are heartbreaking. A recent study conducted with young children in Mexico featuring a white doll and a black doll found the same results as a famous U.S. study conducted in the 1930’s by Kenneth and Mamie Clark. “Which doll is good?” the children were asked. “Which doll is bad?” “Which doll is ugly?” Almost all of the children associate positive words like “good” and “pretty” with the white doll and words like “bad” and “ugly” with the darker skinned doll. When asked why they like the white doll better, the children aren’t entirely sure; they just know that it’s the better doll. And here’s the heart-breaking part: when asked which doll looks most like them, the children struggle, knowing they have darker skin too, knowing that choosing the darker skin doll forces them to associate themselves with being bad and ugly.

These children are not born with a preference for lighter skin and the lighter dolls; this value has been forced on them unknowingly by the images they see and the stories they are told. This damaging set of values is deeply rooted in our culture and media and, as a result, we as consumers support and perpetuate the problem. There are entire shelves in drugstores dedicated to skin-lightening creams and hair relaxants, but these would not exist without significant demand. It’s difficult to be a critical consumer when we’re constantly barraged by images and ads telling us how we should look and what it means to be beautiful. But the fight has to begin with each one of us.

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Shirley sings “I Love My Hair!”

There are some positive signs of change. In 2010, Sesame Street featured Shirley, an African-American puppet girl singing about all the reasons “I Love My Hair.” With over 5 million views to date, it’s clear how important (and rare) it is for young African-American girls to see a character representing them who believes her untreated hair is fun and gorgeous on its own.

Shirley and her message of self-love and acceptance became a sensation and an inspiration for young Black girls. If one puppet can make such an impact, why can’t we as a collective group follow Shirley’s lead? It starts with challenging what we are sold in the media and then looking in the mirror and within ourselves to realize that we are beautiful. I am beautiful, and you are beautiful. Together we can push back against the cookie-cutter image portrayed in our media so young girls of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities can open a magazine and see a beautiful women who look like them. Like Shirley, love your hair, but also love your eyes, your curves, and your mind, and let the world hear it.

Talking Sex

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By Guest Blogger Janie O’Halloran

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Can you remember a time in your life when you felt so incredibly uncomfortable and awkward? I sure can. I was sitting in my ninth grade health class during the sexual education unit. Our class was taught by Mr. H, the most feared and mysterious man who walked the halls of our high school. He was also the head coach for the varsity football team, and exactly the kind of man I wanted to go to for all of my burning questions about sex−not.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m sure that Mr. H was a quality guy, just not the guy I felt comfortable asking what it means to ‘pop one’s cherry’? So I didn’t ask, and no one else in my class did, either. I think all of us were scared that our curiosity would suggest we were either having sex or thinking about having sex− two things that none of us, boy or girl, wanted Mr. H to know about us. As you can imagine, a lot of the questions we had about sex remained as questions.

Like many schools in the U.S., our sex education stressed abstinence and the plethora of STDs we were bound to get if we did engage in sexual activity. There was so much missing in our health class conversations. Important stuff, like relationships, sexual pleasure, and desire. Nobody talked about these experiences and feelings so we weren’t sure they were okay. Any hint of desire was about adolescent boys —assumptions that they were innately inflicted with “sex on the brain.” They wanted it. They were naturally horny and they simply couldn’t help it. But what were we? Our desire was missing. We were passive, the cause and objects of boys’ desire. So we learned by our absence that if one of us engaged in sex it was not because we wanted to, but because of a boy’s unrelenting testosterone.

Fortunately for girls out there who are experiencing their own Mr. H, there’s a way to fill in this missing information about ourselves. Scarleteen.com is an online “sex education for the real world” that every girl should know about. This website provides a place where girls and young women can engage in a free and open discussion about sex, filling in all of the topics left out of traditional sex education classes, like girls’ sexual wants and desires. Scarleteen allows girls to ask questions about sex, take polls, and gives us an opportunity to share and read the sex testimonials of other girls.

Reading this amazing site makes me more certain then ever that we need a discourse of girls’ desire in our schools’ sex education classes, not only because there are still so many girls without access to the internet, but because this conversation is fundamental to what makes us human. Perhaps if I had known about Scarleteen when I was in Mr. H’s class, then I wouldn’t have gone through most of my teenage years thinking there was actually a “cherry” that I was terrified to pop.

Cheering at What Cost?

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Guest Blog by Molly Nash

Football is one of our favorite national past times. Whether it’s Friday night under the lights, Sunday afternoon at a tailgate, or Monday evening curled up next to the fireplace, football defines autumn for many Americans. And you can’t have football without cheerleaders. While little boys grow up dreaming of playing in the NFL, young girls idolize the beautiful smiles, sculpted bodies, and feminine curls that outwardly define the women on the sidelines. Cheering in the NFL is the ultimate pipe dream for millions of girls involved in the sport. Whether you find cheerleading a credible aspiration or not (in reality, it is a pretty demanding combination of gymnastics and dance), you’ll be astonished to know that NFL cheerleaders are routinely paid below minimum wage, if compensated at all. While their male counterparts on the football field are racking up millions, cheerleaders are literally sidelined by the $1,000-2,500 they take home at the end of each season.

This has been the case for decades, but Lacy T, an Oakland Raiders’ cheerleader, is finally bringing change to the crisp autumn air with the lawsuit she filed against the team last January, citing a take home pay of less than minimum wage for the hours she worked. The $1,250 salary initially agreed upon in her contract in no way covered the hours she spent on the field, in practice, or at press events. Furthermore, she was required to maintain nearly perfect hair (dyed and styled with 1.5 inch diameter curls at a team mandated salon!), painted toes and nails, bronzed skin, make up, tights, and a body weight of no more than four pounds over 103 lbs, at all times and on her own dime. The team paid for none of this and her salary, which she received at the end of the season, hardly covered the beauty regime, much less the hours she worked.

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Interestingly enough, this is pretty much the status quo for NFL cheerleaders. Teams throughout the league have maintained these practices by framing cheerleading as a sisterhood going back generations; women on the team, it seems, should be privileged just to be included. Cheerleaders are repeatedly reminded that they are dispensable and that thousands of girls will line up to take their place. In a strikingly cult-like manner, cheerleaders remain silent and loyal to the team. Needless to say, Lacy’s lawsuit rattled the Raiders and the entire industry. ESPN wrote a lengthy article about it, entitled ‘Just Cheer, Baby,’ and news media such as The Guardian and The LA Times have followed the case.

Still, the Raiders are doing everything in their power to combat the lawsuit and have shown no signs of remorse. This begs the question: How does such wage inequality still exists in our so-called  ‘post feminist’ society. Oh, that’s right.  We’re not there yet.  Because if we were, it would not be acceptable for a whole industry of women to be paid below minimum wage. Especially when they bring in millions of dollars for the teams they cheer for.

What do we tell young girls who dream of cheering professionally? Did someone say to little Lacy, “Keep at it, and after years of practices, private coaches, competitions, and workouts, you’ll grow up to earn less than a hundredth of what the professional football players make?”  Probably not. And while this crazy disparity in salary doesn’t exist in most careers, the young Lacys of the world need to know that women still only make 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. If they knew this, maybe more Lacys would file suit and maybe more of her ‘sisters’ would stand with her.

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