Looking for Something?
Posts Tagged for

Sophia Simon-Bashall

Pop Culture of 2014

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

A week into the new year, let’s look back on all of the things  that have happened in the worlds of music, film and fashion in 2014, and hope for a year of awesome things ahead.

Some of 2014 has been truly awful and problematic (Meghan Trainor’s skinny-shaming in All About That Bass, and her subsequent comments on eating disorders, for example!), but we have also had some wonderful things come out of 2014. Of course we must examine the bad in order to overcome it, but it’s always nice to reflect on the positive, so here’s a round-up of some of the highlights…

celebfeminists

 

  • The brilliant Ellen Page came out, with bravery and grace. A world of feminist queer girls cheered – partially in support and solidarity of this wonderful woman, partially in utter delight. In all seriousness, it was a very moving speech, leaving us all bursting with pride, and gave many a fresh wave of courage.
  • Beyoncé released a music video for Pretty Hurts, which is obviously everyone’s favourite song on her latest album. It sends out a powerful message against beauty standards and perfection, critiquing beauty pageants in particular for pitting women against each other in the name of homogenous beauty.
  • Many popular women’s magazines began to take on the ‘feminist’ label. They still have a long way to go, quite frankly – they’re still airbrushing photos, keeping adverts which perpetuate the hyper-sexualisation of women’s bodies etc. etc. However, they are including some pieces on important issues and featuring strong women (and allowing them to talk about more than their make-up routines!). I’ve seen spreads on the dangers of diet pills, sexual harassment, discussions on abortion laws, and heaps of coverage of incredible things done by incredible women! It’s a very big step forward.
  • The greatest independent British film ever happened. PRIDE! Based on the real action of a London-based LGBT group supporting striking miners from a village in Wales, Pride embraces stereotypes and simultaneously smashes them. It’s very feel-good, whilst also being incredibly moving and will bring you to tears in several instances. If you’re not cracking up five minutes after choking up and vice-versa, you’re watching the wrong film.
  • Amazing actress Emma Watson turned activist! In September, Emma gave a very emotive speech to introduce the brilliant He For She campaign. Having such a prominent figure openly denounce the feminism vs. man myth has done wonders for the movement, as can be seen in the influx of support worldwide – including more famous faces to spread the word…
  • Taylor Swift became queen of the whole world (she’s always been queen of my personal world, but hey, the wider world has woken up). The release of 1989 signifies a massive change of tone in Taylor’s music. The singles Shake It Off and Blank Space (although the music videos of each single have been controversial) are total anthems, sending the message that this girl does not care what people think of her anymore, and as a listener, empower you to feel the same. Alongside the songs, Taylor has been vocal about the inequality within the music industry, how she has experienced backlash for writing about relationships and heartache, whilst male musicians do the same thing, but are simply praised for the quality of their song writing. Every criticism this girl has had over the years, she’s just shakin’ it off, because haters gon’ hate, and Taylor’s gon’ slay.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt. 1 was released, and with all the action and emotion came a total reversal of stereotypical gender roles in film! Whilst Katniss is, as ever, our badass heroine, Peeta is the damsel in distress, as the hostage of the Capitol. It makes a refreshing change.

A more personal highlight for me has been joining Powered By Girl – and I am honestly not just saying that! I feel so fortunate to be a part of this, and to know these wonderful girls, some of whom have swiftly become some of my best friends. You all continue to inspire me, make me smile, and make me proud, every single day. Here’s to more feminist adventures in 2015!

Self-Care: A PBG Masterpost

Author:

By Sophia Siman-Bashall

Screen shot 2014-12-09 at 17.25.33

Self-care is a really important thing. It is a necessary part of living a happy and healthy life, and yet it is all too easy to neglect it. It is easier to beat yourself up than big yourself up. It is easier to focus on others than focus on yourself. But this is not sustainable. You have to be your top priority, you have to be kind to yourself. If you really struggle with it, consider this post as permission to love yourself.

Keeping your mental and physical wellness in check doesn’t have to be especially radical. Here are a few suggestions for making day-to-day life better for you:

  • Take social media breaks. This is something that a lot of us find really difficult – it’s a link to our friends, our family, to musicians/comedians/actors/writers etc. For many of us, social media is what makes everyday activism possible. But the constant information can be overwhelming, particularly when a lot of it is negative (as unfortunately, it usually is, due to the sorry state of politics, and the world…). It can be really beneficial to distance yourself from it all sometimes. Whether it’s one day a week, or a week every month, or even just that you only use it when commuting, but not at home or anywhere else! Not only does your brain get a rest, but you’ll probably find yourself with more free time to do things you REALLY want to do…
  • Don’t be working all the time. Again, this can be tough. When there’s so much to get done, for school/college/uni/work, it’s difficult to ignore it. But taking a day off – and I mean entirely – is really beneficial. It clears your mind, and when you go back to what needs doing, you will feel so refreshed, and more prepared to tackle your workload. Think about it: a day with no guilt that you *only* made some notes, or *only* wrote one essay, or *only* sorted out one problem. A day when you don’t even think about work, because it’s simply not on your agenda. Make a day that’s yours, do what you want with it. It’s so freeing.
  • Radiate gratitude. A positive outlook on life is not an easy thing to adopt, but the more you train your brain to it, the more natural it will become. Write at the end of the day, listing what made you smile, and what you’re feeling thankful for – a smile from a stranger, walking in the sunshine, eating a really delicious apple. It is far better to go to sleep thinking of these things than what may not have been so good about your day. You should also try to write what YOU did well, what you are proud of achieving that day. Be grateful to yourself for existing.
  • Eat well. I am not going to prescribe a way to do this, because frankly, that’s irritating, rude, and not helpful. Different things work for different people. Find what works for you. On a general level, fruits and vegetables should feature regularly. As should chocolate.
  • Be active. You don’t have to go for a 10 mile run or a high-intensity workout at the gym. If that’s what floats your boat, by all means, go for it. But for many, it might be something else. Here at PBG, we have runners, horse-riders, swimmers, gym-goers, and people who just like to dance around their room to Beyoncé/Taylor Swift. For me, it’s a combination – although I would always choose to ride, if I could. Again, it’s a question of finding what works for you –you should enjoy it, it should make you feel good, empowered, strong. Don’t force yourself into something that you dread.

For me, these are the basics of self-care. Doing these things help keep me mentally and physically well, for the most part. But looking after yourself is more than this, it’s also about having fun, about knowing how to soothe yourself when you are sad, or scared, or overwhelmed. So as a team, PBG have pooled together our favourite acts of self-care, and we hope you find some of them help you too!

  • Draw. Paint. Do colouring in. It’s calming, it can be an outlet for emotions, and it boosts your self-esteem, because you are producing something.
  • Talk to people. Whether in person or over the phone/video chat, having a conversation with someone who you love and who loves you is always a nice thing. It stops you from being stuck in your own head.
  • Get outside! SUNSHINE! OR AT THE VERY LEAST FRESH AIR! OR EVEN JUST A CHANGE OF SCENE!
  • Write lists! Lists are great, for some unexplicable reason. Write lists of people who inspire you/things that make you smile/things you like about yourself/places you’d like to visit in your lifetime/your favourite positive songs… the possibilities are endless! Look up ‘Listography’ for some pretty unique (often silly and hilarious!) ideas!
  • Run yourself a bubble bath, put in bath bombs/salts or essential oils (lavender is particularly calming). Lie in it and relaaaaaaaaax.
  • Paint your nails. Paint them different colours, make them glittery, try making designs on your fingernails – although be prepared that when attempting intricate designs, it will go wrong, and your fingers will NOT look like those in the pictures on Pinterest…
  • Go for a walk in the park or through city streets, depending on what you feel like. In the dark, city lights can be a really beautiful sight. Equally, walking past the ducks in the pond is a pleasant feeling.
  • Cover your face in make-up (this can be really exciting, as Anna and Alice discussed!)
  • Bake bake bake bake! Baking is fun, and you get a wonderful product out of it! That is, if you can refrain from eating most of the mix before it goes in the oven…
  • Play fast/upbeat/positive/your favourite music and DANCE – it’s not about looking cool, it’s about having fun and feeling free! Bonus points for singing along too, the more off-key the better!
  • Read a great book! Whether it be crime fiction, YA romance, dystopian, a classic, poetry, a biography, or a great feminist book like Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things – whatever takes your fancy, whatever will keep you engaged, read it! Reading is a great way to occupy your mind without feeling trapped – quite the opposite, you get to escape into another world!
  • Look back on fond memories – photos, tickets, postcards, messages, they’re all great reminders that when you are feeling low, that feeling will not last forever, and more good things will come your way.
  • Eat something that comforts you – peanut butter, ice-cream, chocolate…
  • Watch a film – a comedy is usually best, tear-jerkers are great, but not when you want to boost your mood!
  • Yoga. Yoga is always a good thing.
  • Write down everything you are feeling – LET IT OUT!

Putting together a ‘toolkit’ for self-care is potentially a big help – have handy a few felt-tips, a colouring book, some delicious recipes, favourite photos, a little bottle of essential oil, brightly-coloured nail polish, a pen and a notebook to write in… know when you need to utilise these things, and pick something at random out of the box, if you can’t make the decision. Look after yourself, it’s the most important thing you will ever do.

 

Why Self-Care Matters in Activism

Author:

selfcare

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I tend not to think of myself as an activist. I’m involved with movements and do a lot of little things in my daily life to effect change, but I don’t do anything I consider particularly big and spectacular. I’ve never been on a protest, partaken in public speaking, started a petition, or anything along those lines. But lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I’ve come to the conclusion that I am wrong in not identifying as an activist. I am wrong because the little things DO count, they ARE important, and I AM helping to make a difference. I write for Powered by Girl, I sign petitions, I use social media to spread awareness of issues, and I argue with people on a regular basis about why the things they have said and done are problematic. Yet when I think most deeply about it, the most significant thing I do is something that nobody sees the political value of. I look after myself.

Most likely, you’re wondering how on earth that counts as activism. But trust me, self-care is vital. It’s something that I strongly believe everyone can and should partake in. I’m sure most people would agree that it’s important to be good to yourself, but what’s the link with activism, you ask? WELL…

What does the patriarchy rely on? The collective self-loathing of women.

It simply would not do if we all loved ourselves. If we did, we’d do things like take more ‘man’ jobs; positions of power. If we loved ourselves, we’d demand more autonomy, more sexual freedom, more respect for who we are. We would ask to be treated like human beings, and like equals to the men around us. That, obviously, would just be terrible.

Whilst we fight for these things and more, the patriarchy concentrates its efforts at keeping us down in different ways. It does a pretty thorough job of it, too.

The diet industry, the cosmetic industry, the fashion industry – they’re all tools used to remind us of our inferiority, to amplify our every insecurity and make sure we are feeling bad about ourselves, all the time.

If our concentration is on our flabby thighs, we’ll buy the fat binding pills, the weight watchers meals, the slimming world memberships. If we’re focused on superficial ‘flaws’ we will feed the capitalist system and we will have less energy to put into advocating equal opportunities, campaigning for new media guidelines and standing up for ourselves.

The more we hate ourselves, the tighter the constraints on us get. The more we feed the negative voices, the more comfortable those in power become. The less we value ourselves, the easier oppression becomes.

So, if you’re thinking that you “don’t have time” for self-care, think again. Because caring for yourself is exactly what you MUST spend time on. Improving your own life will indirectly improve others, too.

Go on, tuck into that bar of chocolate and defy the manipulative diet industry. Have a good swim, and refute the mythological weakness that is supposedly in your female genes. Sleep in late instead of going to work one day, because you don’t live to please others, you live for yourself. Read a book you’ve been wanting to read, stimulate your mind, and disprove that your intelligence is inferior to a guy’s. Go bare-faced when you’re running late in the morning, because you love the skin that you’re in, and you’ve got places to be and people to see, more important things than looking ‘flawless’. Experiment with make-up, take selfies and bask in the light of your beauty and your abundant energy. Do what makes you feel good, and laugh in the face of the patriarchy.

Self-care also aids the rest of your activism – taking care of your physical and emotional health allows you to give so much more to writing, to campaigning, to educating. You cannot fight for the rights and equality of the masses when you are fighting with yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish, self-care is essential.

In the words of the great Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.”

Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

breakingfree

I read this book recently and I feel compelled to share it with everyone. Why? Because it deserves to be read. And people deserve to read it.

“Breaking Free” is a collection of women’s stories – how they became part of, endured, and lived past human trafficking. Within, there are myths dispelled and facts set straight and a guide to how to talk about the topic, sensitively and knowledgably. It is inspirational and incredibly informative, but so accessible, despite being a painful read at times, due to the nature of the issue.

I do however have to give this book a TRIGGER WARNING, as it is not exactly beat around the bush. These are frank accounts of real experiences of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. It may provide hope for victims, but it may be too difficult a read for someone who is familiar with the situations written about.

What I think is unique about Breaking Free is the diversity. The stories are not all from women of developing countries, continuing the myth that all sold in sexual slavery are far from the Western World. Neither does it ignore these women. The stories are about women who experienced similar horrors, in different ways, from differing backgrounds.

Maria Suarez went from Mexico to America at fifteen years old. On a job interview to be a maid, her ‘new employer’ locked the door, and informed her that from that moment, she belonged to him.

Minh Dang was born in California. From the outside her house was beautiful, and they were a ‘white-picket-fence and rose-bushes’ household. Behind closed doors, her parents abused and raped her, from the age of three years old. As she grew older, they began to sell her body to neighbours and strange men.

These women are individuals. They are not especially alike. It is a powerful reminder that victim blaming is ridiculous – there’s nothing that each of them did to cause what happened to them. They were unfortunate. Taken advantage of. They were not asking for it. What unites them is their strength and courage, that they took what they knew about this world, and have set out, effecting change.

Now activists in the anti-trafficking movement, Maria and Minh are out creating petitions, speaking to people in power, building safe-houses, removing the stigma. They are rebuilding their own lives as well as millions of others.

The book also features the story of Somaly Mam, which is an issue. I have been shocked to discover that she fabricated her story. It is a very confusing thing. It has been a significant setback for the movement as a whole, as it discredits others stories, the vast majority of which are wholly true. But we must remain in solidarity with the poor girls who have honestly experienced these horrors. I know that I would rather believe a few false claims, than turn away from millions of real victims, who desperately need to be listened to and heard.

Don’t underestimate the power you can have. You can help so many people. There are so many ways in which to support the anti-trafficking movement. Here are just a few:
-READ ABOUT IT. Read this book. Read other books too. Here’s a list.
-BUY ITEMS MADE BY SURVIVORS. Instead of supporting unethical trades, support those who need it. International Sanctuary and Made by Survivors are great places to start, with beautiful jewellery and other gifts created by women learning new skills, building up their lives.
-DONATE TO IMPORTANT ORGANISATIONS. Send money to those who run safe houses, teach survivors new skills, provide counselling for victims, rehabilitate millions. The majority of the organisations listed here accept financial donations, some also accept the donation of your time. Volunteer at a local organisation, hold a fundraiser, become a social media intern for a charity. The possibilities are endless…

The Unspeakable Things Have Been Spoken

Author:

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

unspeakable

Laurie Penny. If you’ve not heard the name before, it’s about time you paid attention. I’m a little biased perhaps, as Penny is nothing short of a hero to me. But honestly, she’s great. She’s recently released a book in the U.K., to be released in the U.S. in September. It’s called ‘Unspeakable Things’, and hell, she talks about exactly what girls are told not to. If you’re looking for an easy going, ‘yes you can be a feminist, love pink, wear false eyelashes and shave your legs’ book, this is not for you. Laurie Penny in general, is probably not for you. She is not interested in sugar-coating this movement, making it appealing to the masses. In her eyes, its appeal should just be a given. Frankly, she thinks this kind of lipstick feminism is rather silly. For her, it’s about the nitty-gritty, the things that nobody likes to talk about. But she’s talking about them, and she certainly won’t be silenced any time soon.

Penny interlinks serious analysis of a range of issues, with the ways in which she has personally been affected, making for a very interesting and thought-provoking read. However, the personal side is no sob story – it’s a cold, slightly bitter narrative, at times, relaying the harsh truths of eating disorders, rape culture, and more. There’s no sugar coating, it’s completely honest. And yet, she’s not claiming to speak for everyone, which is an irritatingly common mistake in discussion of these topics. In fact, she regularly stresses otherwise, pointing out that she is a white, middle-class woman; therefore privileged, and unable to tell every woman’s point of view. It is often assumed that feminist texts speak for all women, and often writers assume this ‘voice of the people’ stance. It is incredibly refreshing that Laurie Penny openly refutes this.

The book is in many ways a rant. It is an intense outlet of anger about the world; about neoliberal capitalism; about patriarchal constraints; about transphobia; about white/male/heterosexual/cis-gender/middle-class privileges – you name it, Penny is probably pissed off about it. But it’s still very eloquently written, aside from the regular effing and blinding. She covers ground such as mental illness, single motherhood and abortion. It’s true, these are all topics covered before, but here is the view of a young woman – a view from someone of this generation. However, more importantly, she attacks things barely touched upon before like issues with modern feminism, cybersexism, and uniquely, men’s issues. But it’s not what you think. The chapter on guys is actually the best part of the book. If you only read one part when you pick it up in the bookshop, make it the ‘Lost Boys’ chapter. It’s genuinely eye-opening, and you won’t regret it.

Her unrelenting wit and her ingenious prose style make this book brilliant. Though it was a moving and engrossing read, there were moments when I found myself laughing out loud, because, yes, Laurie Penny kicks patriarchal ass. It is full of dry humour – fitting for the mood of the book and the nature of the issues discussed. Highlights include; “those who are so eager for women and girls to go back to the kitchen might think again… you can plan a lot of damage from a kitchen. It’s also where the knives are kept” and “Having it all now means having a career, kids, a husband, a decent blow-dry – and that’s it.” And that’s only in the introduction.

I’m not saying I agree with every little detail in the book. In fact, there were several points made that I frowned at and found myself strongly disagreeing. But that doesn’t mean I don’t value what’s said – quite the opposite. It’s a reminder that we don’t all have to agree on everything. It’s a necessary aspect of this movement – differing opinions, challenging others and being challenged, that’s how the Suffragettes arose! What matters is that, at the very core, we are united in ideas and are willing to fight for social change. This is how we will make equality a reality.

Hey there!

We are Powered By Girl. We're young women who write for young women. We do it because we're fed up of media sexism, racism, transphobia and discrimination in all its forms. We create the alternative content that we want to see. Please have a look at our stuff, and join us!

Sign up to get our blogs in your inbox!