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Ready for Hillary?

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By Issy McConville

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton announced that she was running for President. And so of course, yesterday also saw many unsavoury characters emerge from the dark regions of the internet and manifest their opinions on Twitter; most especially under the Republican-led hashtag ‘Stop Hillary’. (more…)

The Grey Area of 50 Shades of Grey

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By Issy McConville

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So, the day before Valentine’s Day I did what a lot of people have done recently, I went to go and see ’50 Shades of Grey’. Due to some confusion with the Dutch cinema website I almost booked to go and watch it the day before my friends, which would have been a disaster because I needed emotional support to get through what I can only describe as a TERRIBLE film. (more…)

Let’s Talk About Sexual Assault.

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By Issy McConville

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Trigger Warning

So we’ve reached January. That month that feels like an endless Monday – it’s cold, it’s dark, and aside from the few extra pounds gained purely from Turkey consumption, Christmas feels like a distant memory. But there’s one memory in particular I want to talk about. Christmas is a truly unique period – perhaps it’s the glint of the tinsel dazzling your eyes, or perhaps it’s those ill-advised 2 for 1 Wetherspoons pitchers – but inevitably, your reunion with your school friends in the pub ends up on the sweaty dance floor of the same terrible club you used to sneak into underage.

Sadly for me this year, despite the promise of reliving the fantastic memories of the Hippodrome Foam Party 2012, my return to this particular club was a marred experience. There I was, throwing some shapes to the Spice Girls in the cheese room (no regrets) when I felt someone touch me. And this happened 3 times in this night alone. I’m not proud to admit that eventually I snapped – I turned around and slapped a man as he laughed with his friends. I know that violence was not the answer. And I also know that wine makes me a little aggressive. But this should never have happened to me. I should be able to go out with my friends without having strangers touch me as they walk by.

Last night’s shocking episode of Big Brother saw Jeremy Jackson removed from the show after inappropriately touching Chloe Goodman. Trying to explain his actions, he stated that he was ‘drunk’ and it wasn’t an ‘aggressive’ move. But what could be more aggressive than a complete violation of her body, of her personal space? He said he thought she was flirting – but she was just a woman helping him as he got sick. This isn’t flirting. The fact that this could happen on live television, and the fact that so many on Twitter jumped to Jackson’s defense is revealing of the damaging attitudes that exist. Groping someone when you’re sober IS sexual assault. Groping someone after a few too many drinks IS STILL sexual assault. This image of sexual assault as the creeping stranger down a dark alleyway needs to be dispelled for good, because it means that too many of us don’t recognise assault when it does happen. Being felt up in a club is an experience that is almost too common that we’ve become immune to it – but we need to stop letting these things slide. If a man touches me in a club, he should be removed, just as Jackson was removed from the Big Brother house. Watching Chloe’s distress was very upsetting, and this is happening to girls every single day. The response of Channel 5 was pretty questionable, as they still aired the footage, and advertised it as ‘explosive drama’ – making Chloe’s assault into some kind of entertainment for viewers.

Despite this, I am glad Big Brother took action in removing Jeremy Jackson. But let’s build on this example. Let’s stop our acceptance of regular incidences of assault, just because it’s easy. Let’s have better structures in place in bars and nightclubs, so women never feel afraid to report. Let’s challenge this sense of entitlement towards a woman’s body. It is a strange facet of humanity that we enjoy gathering in a small dark room to move around to some electronic beats for hours – but we really do. And when we do, we should all be able to feel safe.

 

 

Emma Watson and the Buzzfeed Backlash

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By Issy McConville

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I have a soft spot for Buzzfeed. It’s always there for a bit of light relief. We’ve all been there, at 3pm on a really slow day at work, when it suddenly becomes really fascinating to take a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which kind of ceremonial hat best fits our personality. But this week, Buzzfeed really let me down.

There I am, ignoring my Excel spreadsheet, reading about a lamb born with two heads, when I stumble across an article called, 23 Times Emma Watson Made Everyone Around Her Look Painfully Average. Emma Watson is currently trending everywhere, after her speech at the UN, launching the ‘HeForShe’ campaign, calling on men to become advocates for ending gender inequality. Wherever you stand on this campaign – and its focus on male allies to the feminist movement – I think it’s fair to say that Emma Watson’s speech was an important moment – having such a high profile figure, on a world stage, strongly proclaim herself as a feminist is very powerful, ‘I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me’. And this speech has really got people talking. Only this week, Taylor Swift spoke of Emma Watson’s inspiration, and said that she would have ‘proudly claimed’ to be a feminist when she was younger if she’d had such a role model. The video of the speech of the ‘HeForShe’ Youtube channel has received over one million views, and a letter from a 15 year old British schoolboy to the Guardian newspaper, supporting Watson’s message, has gone viral on social media.

But back to Buzzfeed. Considering the media explosion Emma Watson’s speech caused, I can be forgiven for thinking that the aforementioned article might be related to it. Maybe I hoped for too much and ignored the warning signs. Look at the title – what kind of uneven number is 23 for a list? But more importantly, let’s talk about what this list of 23 contained – which, basically, was absolutely nothing relevant. It’s just 23 pictures of her wearing different outfits with embarrassingly desperate captions about how flawless she looks. Buzzfeed have clearly missed the ENTIRE point of Emma’s UN speech. Here, she calls for a move towards greater gender equality – ‘I think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body’. Buzzfeed are doing the exact opposite – completely ignoring her political statements and just praising her for her smooth skin. Yes, to an extent I am impressed that she can fit in a comprehensive exfoliating regime alongside her huge professional achievements. Last year I lived without a bathroom light for 6 months and showered in the dark because I was too busy (lazy) to change it, and I definitely did not have the responsibility of a UN Goodwill ambassador. But I am not defined by my dimly-lit bathroom, and nor is Emma Watson defined by what she wears. She is defined by her actions and by her beliefs, the beliefs which she spoke of proudly at the UN.

My distaste for this list increases as I continue to read. In fact, if I was Emma Watson I’d be keeping a considerable distance from the author of this article, whose captions begin to err on the side of creepy stalker, ‘Then there was the time when this man in a grey suit tried to touch her back, and we were like, ‘Get your hands off our queen. You do not have those privileges.’ Most depressingly, we manage to move down to only Number 2 on the list before male validation creeps in– ‘Here are lots of men wearing suits and gazing longingly at Emma’ – because without a man to fancy you, really what is the point??

There have been some poor reactions to Emma’s speech. Most notably, from 4Chan users, threatening to release her naked pictures onto the internet in backlash against her feminist proclamations. This is a lot more malicious than Buzzfeed and it’s misguided objectification, but the thread of misogyny can still be seen. The very misogyny that Emma Watson was seeking to challenge with the ‘HeForShe’ campaign. So, Buzzfeed, you’ve really let me down – a message as important as gender equality doesn’t deserve to be made into light relief.

We Deserve #SREnow

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Powered by Girl is a girl-driven activist movement. Many of our team are young women living all over the UK. As a group who have been directly affected by the UK government’s inaction on Sex and Relationships Education, we’re here to speak out. We’re victims of a sexist, derogatory and dangerous culture of sex. As young women, we feel it’s vital that gender-based violence and information about consent is made available to every child and every teenager. That’s why we support the End Violence Against Women and Everyday Sexism Project’s petition for ‪#‎SREnow‬. Here are just some of our reasons:

Healthy relationships develop through understanding – not only about healthcare, but also about mental care. There is too much ignorance surrounding issues of consent and sexual orientation, and the best way to tackle this is by education. This is why we must support the campaign to make SRE statutory in UK schools – so everyone can enjoy happy and safe relationships – Issy, 20

Sex and relationships can be one of the most exciting things about growing up. Unfortunately it can also be one of the most dangerous. Young people need to be educated not just in safe sex, but on safe relationships, in order to equip this most vulnerable group in society to deal with these issues – information for everyone, no matter their sexuality – Amy, 16

At a time when children and young people are bombarded relentlessly by so many confusing and potentially dangerous messages about sex and relationships, comprehensive and in-depth SRE is vital. Biology does not suffice- exploring relationships and sexuality are often key aspects of adolescence and young adulthood- however, as we hear more and more of these experiences being negative ones, tackling the relevant issues through education is of paramount importance. By introducing SRE as compulsory, we can build fantastic foundations for not just adolescence, but for a lifetime of happy and healthy relationships – Cora, 16

It is vital that young people across the UK receive a decent SRE covering all key areas. Merely focusing on STIs, as was my one term of sex ed, is not sufficient. Consent should be central to SRE however schools are not required to teach it. When it comes to consent there are no ‘blurred lines’ and that needs to be clear. A 17 year old should not be learning about consent through discussion online before being taught about it in SRE or PSHE. Statutory SRE should teach responsibility and respect for people of all genders and sexual orientations and provide a safe environment to do so. We need to improve SRE and we need to do it now – Chloe, 18

With every minute that passes, roughly one incident of domestic abuse is reported to the police. That’s 60 incidents per hour; 1440 per day. Over a year, this amounts to around 525600 incidents- and those are the reported ones. It’s believed that far far more cases of domestic abuse go unreported. These are really shocking figures, yet they’re rarely talked about. School sex education lessons- even those titled ‘sex and relationships’- choose to focus on the biology of reproduction and ways of preventing pregnancy and/or infections. Whilst not saying these issues aren’t important, there is far more to ‘sex and relationships’ than this. There is little or no education delivered around consent, or sexuality, or happy and safe relationships. Young men and women are let down by this; they’re lead to believe that there is no choice but to go along with unacceptable behaviour, lead to believe that it’s not okay to be different or to speak up. This leads to so many problems further down the line that could be reduced with some basic education. If nothing else, the message could be delivered that it is okay to talk about these things. We no longer live in an age where we can pretend this isn’t happening, and transfer the problems to someone else. We need to act, to lay down the correct building blocks in the formation of happy, healthy adults, engaging in happy, healthy relationships. Legislation around this would be a hugely important step – Becky, 17

You can get involved by Tweeting using the hashtag #SREnow, and signing the petition here :)

SREnowpetition

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