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Talking About Men

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By Livvy Murphy

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Sexism is a term used when someone is discriminated against because of their gender.

So, if a boy is told to ‘man up’ and ‘stop behaving like a girl’, that is sexist.

If a boy is treated differently, or considered ‘odd’ because he wants to wear eyeliner is that sexist? Of course it is.

If a father fails to secure that promotion from his boss at work because he chose to take paternity leave and care for his newborn alongside his wife, is that sexist? Hell yeah.

And for the record, eating disorders or the ‘slimmers’ disease’ doesn’t just affect girls. They affect all genders.

These examples emphasise that men’s issues have one common denominator: the patriarchy – the perception, treatment and behaviour towards women. A combination of tradition, lack of evolution and lad culture is discriminating against both boys and girls. This is why I wish to stress: it is not a men vs women issue; it’s about people vs prejudice.

Let me explain myself. As an example, the #fitforsummer #summerbod trends affect not just us girls, but our men and boys too. With billboards of David Beckham stripped down to his briefs, David Gandy swimming seductively in his next-to-nothing swimmers for a Davidoff advert and Channing Tatum exposing his toned torso more times than not in his film ‘Magic Mike’, it is unsurprising that gym membership statistics are at their highest ever. Want to look like ‘The Rock’? Then be prepared to consume 4000 calories of lean protein and endure three rigorous workouts a day. If you fail to do so you are just not good enough.

It is this sort of pressure that is stimulated, perpetuated and fuelled by ‘lad culture’. For example, alcohol consumption (or at least the amount of ‘alcohol stamina’ one can take) gives boys massive ‘lad points.’ Such messages are prolific in the media nowadays; take reality show ‘Geordie Shore’ for example. By day the boys are in the gym ‘getting massive’, by evening they drink as much alcohol as possible without ‘getting mortal’, and by night the real success depends on whether a ‘lucky lass’ (or two, or three or four) will be staying for a sleepover. Bonus points if you ‘take one for the team’ and get with the ‘ugliest’ girl in the club.

It is this normalised misogyny that must change, and we must never underestimate the influence of societal expectation. Perhaps we should stop segregating the world into two genders and just see ourselves as ‘people’. Sexism affects all sexes and is instigated by all too. Yet, if we are so similar, why do we continue to feel the anger and desperation of men who feel it is their fundamental right to be superior to women? Ashamedly, I have been on the receiving end of comments such as: ‘if you had just stuck to the kitchen, none of this shit would have happened’. I feel it is about time that such backward thinking is abolished.

As I emphasised in my previous blog post, feminists are not man-haters. It is a particular shame that many men’s rights -activists are guilty of this misconception too, despite having so much in common with us. I feel that the majority of men feel threatened by feminism, setting themselves in stubborn and angry opposition to us, when really we could work towards equality together by sharing our stories and finding a mutual appreciation and love for one another.

Unfortunately, there is a fear that ‘male privileges’ are at risk of being taken away. The thought of abolishing page 3 for example, means abolishing a male tradition that the majority of men feel is rightfully theirs. But we should not be too quick to judge this reluctance to change. Why? Because we are conditioned to behave in ways that cohere with society. Male and female individuals adhere to societal convention to essentially ‘fit in’. I wish to increase the awareness of learned behaviours, because I believe the majority of men and women who are occasionally sexist do not do it deliberately. We must not blame these people, but the rules, traditions and conventions that govern our world. Our patriarchal culture influences all sexist behaviour, therefore in most cases sexist behaviour is not intentional. The solution is to be bold enough to challenge concrete expectations and norms, for if we don’t challenge, we will never change. We are all in this together, therefore we must work towards re-educating and reconstructing society, to make a new world where all genders are mutually respected, harmonious, and protected. Only then may we be able to truly live life to the fullest, and fulfill our potential as human beings.

*Note: This is Livvy’s last blog for PBG. We’ve been honoured to have her as a member of the team and wish her all the love and luck for the future

We Support No More Page 3

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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

Bikini Body Folly

Author:

By Olivia Murphy

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It’s summertime again. That’s code for ‘buff beach bod’ time. A time where muffin tops are a sweet, sugary no-no, and barely-there bikini’s become the necessary garment for your ‘designer vagina’; a place that must be transformed from ‘muff madness’ into ‘pornstar pussy perfection’. Should I St. Tropez or Fake Bake to banish my plain, pasty paleness (God forbid an English Rose should de-robe au naturale on the beach amidst bronzed Brazilian babes)? In fact, should my regular wicked waxing sessions bypass the Brazilian and go head on for Hollywood? Perhaps if I deny every natural bodily process and biological function I might achieve the unachievable? Is that what it takes to be perfect? Will I be happy?

My mind filters these thoughts instinctively as I prepare for my holiday to Brazil. The line between ‘banging babe’ and ‘beauty blooper’ is unfeasibly thin, and my fate lies in the lap of the media-gods. Rule one: colour your skin a dark shade of fake tan, but tangoed hands, mud-like build up and streaky bacon legs are a school girl error. Rule two: the more expensive, exclusive designer sunglasses the better (in fact, the more ‘bug-eyed’ the better; covering up your face is probably a blessing to the public), but remember ‘panda eyes from sunbathing’ is a serious epic fail. Rule three: never over-pluck your eyebrows, but if you infringe on the ‘Scouse-brow’, ‘tatoo-brow’ and ‘monobrow’, then forget leaving the house altogether. How can one keep up with such inconsistent trends? What is permitted and what is forbidden? Brazilian booty? Ha, my skinny ass couldn’t do enough squats in a lifetime to achieve the perfect ‘belfie’. The closest I’m ever going to get to J-Lo is Livvy from the block.

So why is the anxiety of bikini body perfection so infectious; a vicious cycle of relentless bitching, glorifying, then more bitching? Do we hate or hanker for the unhealthy size-zero fad? Why do we fervently invest in the trashy body-obsession produced by the media? Are we not educated; knowing full well that adverts are airbrushed, models malnourished, and ‘cutting-edge’ cosmetics are a con? You know as well as I do that these facts are true, yet we persist to invest in such a culture despite our opinions and awareness. If I take up Pilates, will I really get ‘Brazilian legs’ like Gisele Bundchen? If I take up boxing will I get ‘Brazilian arms’ like Adriana Lima? If I do a yoga class twice a day will I achieve the ‘Brazilian composure’ of Raquel Zimmerman? If I refuse to consume anything but stewed spinach and kale smoothies will I achieve glossy, ‘Brazilian locks’ like Ana Carolina Reston?

We praise curvier figures for being ‘real’ women role models, yet this is just a front to disguise our true desire to be perfect; our need to be anything but ‘real’. We attack ourselves physically, verbally, psychologically and emotionally. Chicken wings, thunder thighs, sausage fingers – the cruel glossary of image-obsessive terms is endless. Stomachs and breasts that have carried and nourished babies are rewarded with ‘repulsive’ stretch marks and saggy skin. Cover up that skin damaged décolletage! Cover up that flat, deflated chest and bum! Cover up that crepey knee skin! Are you really entertaining legs of cellulite? Is your vagina too loose? Such terminology is so extreme I find it comical, but the fact it is so dehumanising makes the matter anything but funny.

Imagine that the beauty and body ideologies are goalposts. I fear the rate at which these goalposts constantly change; getting narrower and narrower at a faster rate than our shrinking waistlines. If we don’t stay firm, what will become of reality? My culture encourages lighter-skinned girls to tan their skin and darker-skinned women to lighten their skin. Why does our image-obsessed world wish us to deny our true selves? I fear living in a world where expectations are so skewed and perverse that body hair on women is considered monstrous and eyelashes, nails, breasts, hair, bottoms and lips are either fake, implanted or lifted to deny the laws of physics, biology and chemistry. Shopping, dressing up and make-up should be fun, shouldn’t it? Fact of the matter is, what used to be a source of enjoyment and self-confidence is quickly becoming the stimulus of intense female angst and insecurity. Is it really realistic to live your life caked in expensive tanning agents and cosmetics, tottering on skyscraper stripper-stilettos with that itsy-bitzy Agent Provocateur thong that is so far up your bum god forbid you should take a trip to the restroom (it’s ok though, girls don’t poo right?)? What happened to the time when clothes reflected our personalities, identities and unique body shapes? Are we trying to convey our characters and individuality? Are we trying to celebrate or exploit our womanly assets? Or are we simply trying to conceal our imperfections and conform to an unrealistic ideal?

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Come on girls. You know we have more important things to worry about. You know we can make a serious contribution to science, politics and the arts. This will never transpire if we continue to use our time and money consuming, investing and propelling our image-crazy world. I know that we are serious about our lives and our careers. I know we are.

As my suitcase lays open and I debate whether I include my F+F Sundress or my Kaftan from Accessorise, I know that neither will transform me into Victoria’s Secret model, Alessandra Ambrosia. My nail colour will not be a bright yellow to reflect my ‘inner Brazilian radiance’, nor will I invest in a red lipstick to boost my chances of seducing Mr. Brazilian-Fifa-World-Cup-knob cheese -Charming. My image is an expression of my personal taste, and no one else’s. I love a floral dress. I love my Mac eye shadows. I curl my hair. My new, fluorescent court heels are so gorgeous they stop traffic (quite literally). And why should I deny myself? They make me feel great. Feminism is not the rejection of femininity, but having the strength to express the real, unique you. Perfection is undefinable and beauty is subjective therefore there is certainly no such thing as the ‘perfect body’ or the ‘perfect female face’. I don’t believe that anyone has ‘problem areas’, ‘fat armpits’ or ‘mosquito-bite nipples’ – these terms are cruel inventions. For heaven’s sake, have your cake and eat it! Fight back against covering and concealing your true self; for I fear we are at risk of disappearing altogether.

In a nutshell, I beg you to listen to your own voice, your own soul, your own heart. No one has the right to dictate what you should or shouldn’t do, or how you should or shouldn’t look. Confidence is strength, strength is empowerment, and empowerment is peace. You can succeed in anything if you put your mind to it; the real challenge is to permit yourself to reach those goals. We must stop the bitching, the loathing, the envy and the competition. We must listen to our sisters and be supportive, not fault-finding. If Kate Moss gained a few stone, would we praise her for rejecting her previous mantra: ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny’? Or, would we invest in headlines such as ‘Miserable Moss Mirrors a Mountain’? More importantly, why do we care? Someone else should not make us feel threatened or inadequate. We must stop manifesting in our own insecurities and criticising other women for their supposed ‘flaws’. What does criticism achieve? Does this really make you feel better about yourself long-term?

Of course it is not simple, but I have faith in our generation. Only we can choose to change the way we think and talk about ourselves and others. Only we have the power to regain control over those ever-adjusting goalposts. So what are you waiting for? It is time to find something more fulfilling and worthwhile – and for god’s sake more exciting – than achieving the ‘perfect’ bikini bod. I’m coming for you, Rio de Janeiro, skinny ass and all.

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