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Alopecia, TV & Me

Author:
woman

By Gemma Garner

I remember the day I found my first bald patch. I was around 14, in the middle of getting my hair cut. I was getting a trim, nothing more, nothing less. My mum always insisted that I should get a bob, or a pixie cut, but losing THAT much hair seemed too drastic for me. What if I looked ‘like a man?’ What if I wasn’t pretty?

I was always so excited to go to the hairdressers. It seemed like something that would change my entire appearance. Style gurus in television programmes like ‘10 years younger’ taught me that hair is such a crucial part of my appearance. All of my favourite kids TV programmes that I grew up on had at some point used the ‘oh-no-she-got-gum-in-her-hair-and-now-she-has-to-rip-out-a-chunk-of-it-how-embarrassing’ trope that caused the otherwise powerful leading ladies to become centrepieces of ridicule. This taught me how important my hair truly was. Don’t fuck it up, TV said. You’ll be ugly, TV said.

My hairdresser was separating my hair to cut it, when my mum, who at the time had recently been diagnosed with alopecia, stopped her. ‘What’s that?’ she asked, gently. My hairdresser, a friend of my mum’s who knew of her alopecia, became silent. ‘What? What is it?’ I asked. I felt the tension grow in the room. My mum let me know about the small bald patch on the middle of the back of my head. My stomach dropped, my heart shattered, my world stopped. From that moment on, my life was different. My future was different. I went home after that haircut and cried. I cried and cried, and cried. Not just for days, but for weeks and even months. Who’s going to love me? I thought. Who will I tell? How much more will fall out? I began to feel everything spin out of control. My beautiful, curly auburn locks were no longer something that I felt proud of. I no longer looked forward to getting my hair cut. I no longer felt loveable.

Before me, my mother had already been diagnosed with alopecia, after an accident caused her to temporarily lose the ability to walk. She lost most of her hair, and developed an underactive thyroid that caused her to gain a lot of weight. This lead to a deep depression. It was the first time I ever saw my mum weak, hopeless and lost. Now, she is stronger because of it, and tells every woman she meets about how empowering it was to be fat, bald, and disabled; three things that our society deems the ugliest.

Now, I realize that some may be thinking it’s rather dramatic to talk about alopecia as if it were a terminal, life threatening disease. I would agree with those people. However, statistics prove that when people, especially women, suffer from hair loss, they would give up everything just to have hair again.

Eventually that little patch would grow, and make me lose one third of my hair on the back of my head. This led me to believe that it would eventually all go, and I would lose my entire head. Luckily, it stopped there. I was able to conceal it with hairgrips, and hats. I avoided sitting in the front of class, thinking everyone would laugh if they saw I was bald underneath. I told no-one, in fear that they would find it too disgusting. In hindsight, this was ridiculous. But at the age of 14, with my mental state slowly deteriorating and my sense of self confidence essentially gone, there wasn’t a rational bone in my body.

This was one of the worst times in my life. I had never felt uglier, more worthless, and more unlovable. The alopecia caused me to isolate myself, giving me more time to feed my ever growing habit of self-pity and self-loathing. Though forums full of young women who felt the same made me feel a little less alone, it was still dark, scary and lonely. Eventually my mum got better, stronger, and became her bracing, wondrous self again. She still had alopecia, but she was OK with it. She got me counselling, and my family and friends, as I opened up to them, were incredibly supportive. Although my alopecia was still going strong (and was also being very inconvenient with where it chose to show up) (how the fuck do you hide a bald patch on your natural cow’s lick?), It never showed up like it did when I first got it. I got steroid injections in my head on a regular basis which caused the patches to get smaller and easier to handle.

Now, here I am today. Stronger, happier, with a high self-esteem and a level of openness to the point that most people have to ask me NOT to share too much. I rarely get bald patches and if I do, it doesn’t particularly bother me.

It’s important to note that I’ve been incredibly lucky with my alopecia. It thankfully didn’t develop too much. For some people, however, it does. To prove how traumatic it can really feel, I decided to reach out to some women on twitter who also suffer from alopecia, and ask them for their experience.

‘My alopecia started when I was 11. I was devastated. I felt like I wasn’t a proper girl anymore. It was just heart-breaking for me. I was so jealous of other girls with lovely long hair. I felt so alone. I had no one to talk to about it. My alopecia gets worse when I am stressed. I was bullied quite badly throughout secondary school and this made my stress levels worse and my hair fell out more. It was a never ending cycle. I’m 28 now and I’ve worn wigs for the past 7 years as I was no longer able to hide the bald spots. I recently went 3 months with no wig but my hair fell out again and I felt the same way I did when I was a wee girl. Just devastated. It’s something I’ve just had to accept. I’ll never have lovely hair and I’ll always feel like I lost some of my femininity.’ –Amy Tucker, 28

‘Getting diagnosed with Alopecia was absolutely soul destroying – you’re losing something that essentially forms so much of your identity, so it changes the way you see yourself, and rattles and shakes up the way you saw yourself in the future. Plus, there are also so many unknowns – when will it stop? How will people treat you? What’s next?’ –Katie Hale, 23

‘Losing my hair was a frightening experience. Women without hair weren’t classed as pretty, apart from seven of nine in Star Trek and I certainly didn’t have her figure. I dealt with it as I was a strong women in her thirties with a loving family. After a while I shaved my remaining hair off, I didn’t want to carry on having it fall out bit by bit. So I took control of it. When my teenage daughter also got Alopecia that was much harder to take. Peer pressure at that age is so hard. As she went on her own personal journey of acceptance I was so proud of her and her inner strength. She started to own it and take back control of her life. Alopecia taught me that I am more than my appearance.’–Samantha Garner, 47 (a.k.a. My mum)

I’m sorry, dear readers, to ramble on so passionately about something you may not even understand. I don’t blame you, either. I had no understanding of alopecia when I discovered my bald patch. There are three types of alopecia; Areata, Totalis, and Universalis. Areata is where your hair falls out in patches, Totalis is when you lose all of the hair on your head, and Universalis is when you lose all of the hair on your body and head. Each are caused by different things. Areata and totalis are autoimmune disorders in which your own immune system begins to attack your hair follicles as if they were intruders. Universalis, however, is the rarest form of alopecia. It is caused by a genetic mutation that is present from birth, but may not show up until much later in someone’s life. The hardest thing about alopecia is that most of the time, all kinds of alopecia start out looking like alopecia areata. The first patch is certainly the one that causes the most anxiety. Where will it go? What more will fall out? Is this the start, or the end? There is no cure, only things that MAY help. You do them anyway. You have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

For most people my age, growing up, TV was the best time of the day. As soon as I got through the door from school, I would lounge on the sofa watching my favourite shows on CBBC, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel. It’s impossible to argue that the shows I watched regularly at this age didn’t have some kind of influence on me; it’s all I consumed at that time. Television programmes have always been a deep reflection of society at the time that they’re shown. By looking at the societal and cultural themes that run through a programme, we can gain quite a large understanding of how people felt about life at that time. This is even true with seemingly innocent children’s television programmes. An example of this is in an episode of the sassy, progressive and incredibly popular Disney Channel show That’s So Raven that aired on February the 4th 2005, named ‘True Colours’.

In this episode Raven and her friend Chelsea apply for a job at the same upscale clothing store. Though Chelsea’s resume is far less impressive that Raven’s, she ends up getting the job. Why? Raven is black, and Chelsea is white. Raven, hurt and angered, continues to try and ‘out’ the store and make their blatant racism a public matter by getting the store owner to admit to it on camera, ultimately ruining their reputation. When I watched this show as a kid, I didn’t really think about it that much. But when I think about it now, this episode was incredibly controversial and the fact that it even aired at all says a lot about society as it was at the time. To this day, that episode is still incredibly relevant, as racism is still a huge issue, especially in the supposed ‘Post-Racial’ America.

So, if Television is really a reflection of what’s happening and what is and isn’t acceptable in society, then where do we stand with hair? This is a question I struggled to answer when I began to write this article. It’s almost impossible to create a substantial debate when there’s hardly anything to reference. Most women on television have gorgeous, long hair. No questions asked. The only female television personality who’s bald in real life is Gayle Porter, who before alopecia was a sex symbol, a fun ladette for men to view in their lad mags. Now post alopecia, she is only depicted as mentally ill, broken and rarely looked up to as a feminine figure. It’s just the way that it is.

But then I began to think; is that just the way that it is? I began to look at the things I saw around me. I think about the countless amount of times I’ve seen a beautiful young woman write ‘Should I cut my hair short?’ on Facebook. This woman, more often than not, knows that she wants to cut her hair, but needs approval first. She needs that validation. And let me tell you, she’ll never get it. My heart sinks when I begin to read the comments of these incredibly common statuses. With almost no positive responses in sight, all I see is ‘Don’t do it! You have beautiful gorgeous long hair!’, and ‘Your hair is amazing as it is. No.’. This makes it clear to me; hair is very, very important as a status symbol for women.

Why is it that we ask for permission to cut our hair? Why is it such a daunting thing to do? Why do people seem to think that short hair cannot be equally as gorgeous as long hair? And don’t even try to tell me it’s because long hair takes ages to grow. When we see men with long hair – unless they look like Brad Pitt, or Jake Gyllenhaal – we consider them gross, lazy and dirty. So it’s obviously not the hair itself. It’s what that hair does to the woman attached.

Ultimately, there are very few representations of baldness on television. Because of this, I’m going to look at both bald women, and women with short, ‘boyish’ hair. Both equally demonstrate how important hair is to us in society today. My first case study is a character from Friends. One of Phoebe’s friends, Bonnie, goes on a date with Ross. Phoebe describes her as bald before they go on their date. However, when they meet, Bonnie has a full head of hair, and they end up dating. Eventually Rachel persuades her to shave it all off again, and in response to her baldness, Ross is creeped out, disgusted, and doesn’t know what to do with this woman he once found beautiful. Although this plot line is done for humour, his disgust genuinely reflects a truth in society today. Another example of this is in Americas Next Top Model season 6, when all of the girls have to wear bald caps for a photoshoot. This is shown to be a statement, something that is difficult to pull off. This representation makes me wonder, when my mother’s hair fell out, and she decided to go bald, did she pull it off? Did she make a fashion statement? She sure as hell wasn’t trying.

Now I’m going to look at women with short hair in television. There are various examples of this and ultimately, they all are also making a statement about their character. Short hair on a woman in television represents masculinity, toughness, aggression and a lack of vanity. An example of this is when we look at Arya from Game of Thrones. She’s a strong, masculine character that hates most feminine traits. She notoriously slags off other women when asked why she isn’t a typical girl. Another example of this is in Supernatural, where Meg, a demon, after possessing a vessel, cuts her long hair. This is used to show how horrible it is when humans are possessed by demons, making a statement.

It’s important to note that long hair, however, is used to portray sexuality, innocence, beauty and even normality. Ultimately, it is the pinnacle of femininity, and it is mostly all that we see.

All of these examples show us something about society that explains why those with alopecia suffer like they do; hair is considered the be all and end all of a woman’s appearance. Because of how hair is shown in television, film and other mediums, from a very young age, we understand that hair changes how other people see us. It’s because I was bombarded with images of women with long, luscious locks growing up, that I eventually saw it as the norm, meaning that when there was a possibility my hair could all fall out, it was the end of the world for me.

Hair is one of the most important things in determining society’s rigid and limited gender roles. When I was losing my hair, I didn’t want to make a statement. I didn’t want to be aggressive, tough, and masculine. I wanted to be feminine. Although I am more than happy to have short hair and baldness be portrayed by some badass women, I want there to be variety. I want it to be a norm. I want all hair/lack thereof to be seen as beautiful AND badass. I want to see more bald and short haired women on screen. Maybe then, beautiful bald ladies will feel better off screen. At the end of the day, it’s just hair. Why can’t we treat it that way?

[i] http://www.popsugar.com/celebrity/photo-gallery/33327231/image/33327276/Jake-long-hair-slicked-back-Qamp

[ii] http://weheartit.com/entry/group/17062843

Fatphobia and food: A review of the improbability of love

Author:
improbability of love

By Anna Hill

Content note: anorexia [breifly], fatphobia, racial stereotyping, very brief mention of rape

The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild is a novel ostensibly about the transformative power of art and as such has been shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year. The novel follows a woman named Annie who stumbles across a masterful painting in a junk shop, and the consequences of her purchasing it. She is plunged into the art world full of salacious gossip and billionaires and a potential new lover.

I will be up front with you – I didn’t think this should have been shortlisted; it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it at all (for example, some chapters where written from the paintings perspective which was fun), I just felt like any kind of authenticity or innovation was missing. Not only was it structurally and linguistically dull, but it also employed tropes and traits that are actively harmful, repeated everywhere in media.

In some novels it doesn’t matter if the characters are two-dimensional because you are reading for the plot, but with The Improbability of Love, neither the characters nor the plot where interesting enough to really propel the story. Even the main character Annie is fairly simplistic and more disturbingly there are racialized caricatures throughout the novel. For example “Filipino servants”, who are only ever mentioned in connection to their race (and never say a word) and the wealthy Arabs; The Emir of Alwabbi and his domineering wife Sheika Midora who supposedly have links with Al-Qaeda. Add to the racist stereotyping an incredibly stereotypical representation of queerness, and more lazy and uninteresting writing occurs. There is one token queer person in the book – Barty is a socially mobile, white cisgender gay man who, unlike the majority of the other characters is left with no relationship and is seemingly only motivated by what he should wear to the next ridiculously extravagant art world event.

The book, as you might assume, features descriptions of art, but almost more intensely describes food – Annie works as a chef so we often hear about her love of food and her work in creating banquets for rich art dealers, collectors and historians. As a self-confessed food lover (I will consume as much chocolate as humanely possible in my life time!!) I tend to enjoy great descriptions of food that revel in the sensuality and vibrancy and fun of food and eating, like how Ruby Tandoh waxes lyrical about fast food in her vice column Dirty Eating, or how much I enjoy anyone talking to me about the pleasures of butter. Unfortunately though I have some major issues with Rothschild’s descriptions. Firstly a lot of the descriptions are incredibly contrived with clichéd phrases such as “each variety of vegetable suggested a story” or moments when Annie asks herself: “how could anyone think of an aubergine in such a disparaging way?”. And secondly, they are harmful in the simultaneous elevating of slim people who enjoy food and denigrating of fat people who do the same.

The fatphobia of the Improbability of love first comes to light with the overweight and lonely art historian Delores. Described in unfavourable terms and often supposed to provide comic relief, because, for example, she has leftover food on her face or clothing, Rothschild plays into the hegemonic idea that fat people and especially fat women are jokes and are not deserving of respect. Delores’ size is remarked on multiple times and in a lot of ways her fat body is seen as something to consume, something to watch, to point at. At her birthday banquet Annie describes her as “a vast animated sea anemone shimmying across the floor”, whilst all the other (slim) guests’ outfits are described in detail and without immediate judgement or animalisation. The representation of Annie’s love and obsession with food is palatable and serious only because she is slim; if a fat woman were to describe food at the length Annie does it would be comedic. When Annie gets a bit of food on her face Jesse (the love interest) finds it charming, but on a fat body it is repugnant, unattractive, gross. Annie herself is described in incredibly anorexic terms, for Jesse, the main love interest, “she had an ethereal dreamy quality, as if she wasn’t quite grounded but floating above earthly matters”. In other words it looks like she was light, thin, not heavy and full, the opposite of fat.

The other, even more worrying representation of fatness, comes in the form of Delia – a textbook example of fatphobic assumptions; Delia knows the TV schedule off by heart, is uncaring, eats too much food (according to her husband, “you…eat enough for nine”), is unintelligent (when she asks what a word means she is met with silence) and is jealous of the conventionally attractive slim women she sees on TV. In a really disgusting moment Delia says “he might have been a rapist” of Jesse when she refuses to let him in the house and her husband replies, disgustingly; “in your dreams woman, in your dreams.”.

When we consume media about food, particularly those that celebrate the creation and consumption of it, we need to keep questioning who is palatable and who isn’t. Fat characters and fat people are mistreated and affected negatively in most texts that focus on the pleasures of eating (and even those that don’t, such as the Harry Potter series). And this affects fat people’s quality of life. Fat people are more likely to struggle with employment and bullying/death threats or being told that the one way to solve any kind of illness or disability is to lose weight. Next time Hannah Rothschild writes a novel I hope she radically deconstructs her views on fatness and desirability instead of regurgitating tired, boring and harmful views.

Being an MP is not for me

Author:

By Becky Dudley

meninparliament

Parliament: it’s a man’s world. To be more specific, it’s a straight, white, middle class man’s world. For something that’s meant to be representing our society as a whole, it’s doing a pretty awful job. What we need, more than anything, is far more people who aren’t straight, white, middle class and male to be in Parliament, representing all those currently lost in the sea of identical faces. However, with the way things stand, I, for one, will not be one of them. Despite wanting to prove a point and do what we’re not ‘meant’ to, I do not want to work in Parliament. I’m here to tell you why.

Firstly, let’s look at some statistics. In the last election, 650 people became Members of Parliament. 147 of these were women. That’s around 23% –  hardly representative of the UK population, which is 51% female. The statistics for ethnicity and class are just as bad (if not worse), and each are deserving of their own post; I could rant for hours on any of these. For now, however, I’m going to stick to looking at the statistic for women.

To try and rectify the obvious inequalities, quotas were introduced. To my mind, quotas are like Marmite – you either love them or you hate them. Like Marmite, I’ve not yet decided which side I’m on. However, what the quotas have done is given rise to new terminology – for example, ‘Blair’s Babes’ and ‘Cameron’s Cuties’. Both of these terms – which refer to the group of women working for the relevant Prime Minister – make me feel genuinely sick. They are demoralising, demeaning and downright disgusting. The use of the surname and possessive apostrophe signifies that all the women in these groups belong to the Prime Minister – playing into the ever-present objectification of women. Meanwhile, the use of ‘Babes’ and ‘Cuties’ reduces the women to pretty faces, to sex symbols. These women are all there on their own merit – they are far more deserving than these descriptions make them seem.

This is not the only problem that these women are facing. For women in Parliament, there is no way of being right. When they appear in the media, their clothing and appearance choices are far more likely to be commented on than anything else. There’s a plethora of negative stories, with each female Member of Parliament having faced their own equally awful battles, revolving around sexist comments, unfair media representation, and even discrimination based on their having children – regardless of the fact that men, too, have children and childcare responsibilities.

Even the physical representation inside Parliament is hugely biased. Whilst walking around on a recent tour, we noticed one female statue: that of Margaret Thatcher. We also played a ‘game’ of ‘Spot the Women’ with a painting of the House of Commons in session. It was far harder than the average game of ‘Where’s Wally?’.

But these all come into effect later on, once you’ve gained your votes and got the right to your bum on a seat. There are perils to face beforehand, too. To get in to Parliament, it seems that you must do two things: know the right people, and take up social drinking. Both of these are pretty exclusionary. For a start, how many average members of society have the necessary connections to get them into – or even near – Parliament? A quick survey of the eleven people I am sat with finds that no-one has these connections. Moreover, it follows that if connections are needed, then there’s likely to be a ‘sort’ of person who has them, a theory as close as proven by a look at the current government.

To look at the second option, social drinking, it’s clear that there are fundamental flaws here too. In 2009, it was found that around 15% of people in England are tee-total – they abstain from drinking alcohol, for religious, personal or other reasons. This means that 15% of the population wouldn’t be able to follow this route at all. Even for those who do drink, it’s a pretty dismal concept. What it’s saying is that, to gain a job in Parliament, you must firstly become just like every other person in Parliament. In short, you must become ‘one of the guys’.

With all of this in mind, the only conclusion I can find is one I would much rather not come to: Parliament is unrepresentative, and it’s unrepresentative for a reason. If it’s not hard enough for women to get in in the first place, life gets even harder once they’re there. I take my hat off to each and every woman working in Parliament – I couldn’t do it. It’s no wonder that the statistics are so awful. We need this to change, and we need it urgently. However, this can’t be a small change – every new woman in Parliament is a success for us all, but we need more. We need a huge, drastic change. We need 51% of the Members of Parliament to be women – something that the 50:50 Parliament campaign is currently fighting to achieve. We need to have our statues, our pictures, of women. We need the media to report on what we’re actually doing, not on what we’re wearing or looking like. In short, we have yet more need to start the revolution.

Girls Matter.

Author:

By Amy Callaghan

Advocate_Team_Shot

Today marks the launch of an exciting new project from Girlguiding, the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women. The project is called Girls Matter, and it details the changes girls and young women would like to see in the future. We’re releasing it in the run up to the 2015 General Election, in order to encourage political parties to listen, and pledge to make these changes happen in the next parliamentary term.

As a member of Advocate, a panel of Girlguiding members aged 14-25 from all over the UK, I’ve been really involved in the project. It’s been the most amazing experience and opportunity, especially knowing how important this project could prove to be.

I mean, it is a politically (and historically) significant project. It’s the first time girls in guiding have made a direct call to politicians. Girlguiding has asked members aged 7-25 what they care about most and think needs to change. There have been consultations, workshops, and sessions about the projects with Brownies aged 7-9, Guides aged 10-14 and members of The Senior Section aged 14-25 across the country. As an Advocate, I’ve been right at the heart of what we’ve found out. I’ve had my say on what I think are the most important issues affecting girls today. And we’ve devised eight calls for change that we ask the government to listen to and commit to act on.

These calls are:

  1. Listen to girls and young women, take them seriously and make sure their voices count.
  2. Demand that schools take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual bullying and harassment.
  3. Call on all schools to teach body confidence and gender equality.
  4. Make girls’ rights a priority in the UK’s approach to international development.
  5. Stop children’s exposure to harmful sexualised content in mainstream media.
  6. Empower girls and young women to speak out and to be heard on the impact of media sexism and stereotyping.
  7. Modernise Sex and Relationships Education so all young people can make informed decisions and stay safe.
  8. Guarantee that women will be equally represented in Parliament

This is so important. These eight calls represent exactly what girls and young women want from a government. They want action on these things. They want something to be done. They’re saying – we’re saying – ‘This is what’s wrong. This is what we want you to do to make it better.’ Girlguiding research reveals that over half of girls aged 11-21 feel that politicians don’t listen to their views enough. But isn’t that exactly what a government is for? To listen to its people? To make sure their voices are heard and recognised?

Having been so involved with the project, I know how important these issues are. I mean, obviously I am a young woman myself so I know how important the issues are to me, and to the rest of the Advocate panel. But the response from our members on these issues was absolutely overwhelming – these are the issues they care about, that affect their lives. I’ve had a Brownie getting more and more frustrated as she told me how awful it was that someone might feel bad about their appearance because of the way women look in magazines. 87% of girls aged 11-21 feel that they are judged more on looks than ability. No wonder they feel such enormous pressure to live up to the images of women presented in the media! I’ve heard girls as young as 8 saying that lots of people think girls don’t matter as much as boys. That’s right; an 8 year old has already realised that girls are treated differently from boys. Something is clearly wrong with this. And Girls Matter seeks to recognise and change this.

One of the most important calls for me is the last, the one asking that women be equally represented in Parliament. I mean, for goodness’ sake, is it really too much to ask that there be a number of women in Parliament proportionate to the number of women in the population? Seems pretty sensible to me. That way, women’s views will hopefully get represented more equally.

It is so hugely important that politicians realise the significance of this. We need them to pledge to act in order to affect the change girls are asking for. Come on, guys. It’s your responsibility now to show that you’re listening to us and taking us seriously. It’s time for you to do something about it. It’s time to act.

Find out more about Girls Matter and take the online pledge here.

Read blog posts from Girlguiding members about why they think these calls are important here.

Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

Author:

By Elli Wilson

newspapers_0

Ladies, I have some not-so-shocking news for y’all; in the eyes of our largely sexist and often misogynistic mainstream media, you can never win. Some of you have no doubt already reached this conclusion but it took me almost 18 years to come to the realisation that no matter how long I spend trying to ‘fix’ myself, there will always be another ‘problem area’ which is just crying out for a good wax/work out/cellulite-reducing massage (delete as appropriate). I now know that I can never look like the models in the hyper-sexualised adverts that have become the wallpaper to our lives because they are so heavily photoshopped and airbrushed that they don’t even look like themselves. I’m also aware that if I dare to be successful, I will receive less media coverage than men and if I do receive any it is far more likely to be negative and/or focused on my appearance. Yep, in 21st century Britain the representation and portrayal of women in the media still isn’t looking too great.

We live in a society in which the media is incredibly hostile to women, their bodies and their achievements. Nothing we do is ever good enough. We are either too pretty, too ugly, too thin, too fat, too successful, too unsuccessful, too career-oriented, too family-oriented, too prudish, too slutty, too uptight or too slobby. This list could pretty much continue ad nauseam. Whenever a women is in the public eye you can bet your bottom dollar that she will receive gendered comments about her appearance, her family or lack thereof, and her credibility that no man ever would. Think of the ridiculous commentary about whether Hilary Clinton can be both a presidential candidate and a grandmother, or the way Jennifer Aniston has often been depicted as sad and lonely since her relationship with Brad Pitt ended. And such treatment is not just reserved for individual women but for our entire gender. The behaviour of girls and women is frequently blamed for all manner of ills, from badly behaved children to the perceived crisis of masculinity. The media doesn’t just criticise and belittle us; it also polices our behaviour.

So let us be clear; media sexism is real and it has real consequences. The media’s obsession with women’s appearance – from Page 3 to talk of female politicians’ clothing – tells us that our looks are our most valuable asset. The way that certain newspapers talk about rape victims perpetuates our victim blaming culture where the victim is often held as accountable as the perpetrator. The near total lack of representation of women of colour, disabled women and LGBTQ+ women is a travesty that furthers the restrictive heteronormative, white nature of the society in which we live. As a woman, the mainstream media does not represent me or treat me with respect.

In fact, the mainstream media doesn’t represent or respect many people at all apart from a gilded elite who happen to be largely wealthy, white, heterosexual cisgendered men. This is a total joke and something that I hope the people-powered, accessible nature of the Internet can start to address. Online initiatives such as this one and the hundreds of others like it are working to redress the bias and underrepresentation of traditional media. It’s high time to make a change. If you don’t like what you see, do something about it; our voices and our words are powerful and we can make a difference.

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