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Women’s Bodies

Kim Kardashian and the Right to Bare All

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By Amy Callaghan

It seems like we have a new Kardashian social media blowout every few days. From Kanye’s debt to rumours of Kourtney’s romantic attachment to Justin Bieber, the media can’t leave everyone’s favourite love-to-hate family alone. Typing the word ‘Kardashian’ into Google garners around 206 million results. But this isn’t another article preaching about the degeneration of media or questioning why, exactly, the Kardashians are famous. I want to discuss the latest Kardashian ‘scandal’–Kim’s naked selfie—and what exactly the fuss is about.

It’s almost impossible to have missed the photo or the backlash. If you haven’t seen the image itself, you’ve certainly heard about it, thanks not only to the usual anonymous trolls but to numerous high-profile celebrities who have made their contempt public news. Bette Midler for example, wants us to know that we’ve seen it all before. ‘If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen, she’s gonna have to swallow the camera’, Midler jokes, referring to the infamous 2003 sex tape, leaked without Kim’s consent. US actress and model, Chloe Grace Moretz, argues that Kim should be using her platform as a celebrity to show young women that women are more than just their bodies.

In different ways, Midler and Moretz exemplify the very toxic misogynistic issue at the heart of this debate. Midler said later that she was not trying to slut-shame Kim, but it certainly sounds like slut-shaming to me. Moretz implies that a woman who is empowered by her sexuality and her body cannot be a good role model to girls and young women– both a problematic message and objectively untrue.

There’s clearly a double standard at play here. When Kim’s sex tape was leaked non-consensually thirteen years ago, it was hugely popular and it’s still watched today, despite the fact that Kim did not want it to be shared or seen by anyone. Yet when a confident and sexy Kim makes the decision to post a selfie, suddenly no one wants to see any more of Kim Kardashian.

Criticism of the Kardashians is nothing new, but I think what really bothers people is the fact that Kim is an empowered and self-assured women unafraid to share her pride and confidence in her body with the world. Women’s bodies are big business. Young celebrities like Emma Watson, like so many other girls and women, are threatened and intimidated by “revenge porn” from former partners. Unauthorized sex tapes become big news and big business. Yet when women take ownership of their bodies and post scantily clad pictures or selfies they are subject to vile, hateful insults.

Clearly there’s a huge issue with the way in which women’s bodies are viewed. As long as they are saleable and pleasurable and controlled by others they are acceptable, but if women give even a hint of being confident, of taking back that control, then she’s the problem. What’s alarmingly apparent is that these sorts of images and videos are sexier, more pleasurable, more attractive, if they are nonconsensual, if the woman in question is a victim.

Kim wrote an inspiring essay on her website in which she argued that she feels empowered posting pictures of her body when she feels good, owning her flaws, and showing her confidence to the world. This does not make her any less of a role model, particularly from a business perspective (she makes millions of dollars from her apps, clothing lines, and most obviously her reality television franchise). Kim has proven that she can be a successful businesswoman as well as front woman for a massive dynastic franchise, while still owning her sexuality and feeling powerful and confident in her body. She has shown that even in the face of malicious and toxic backlash from the media and others, she remains secure in herself. This is, in my view, a much more inspiring and powerful message than that put forward by those who judge and ridicule her. Not once does Kim say that a woman is required to be sexy in order to be successful – just that she should allowed to be sexy and successful, and show this off to the world if she wants to.

Kim closed her essay with a powerful statement: ‘I am a mother. I am a wife, a sister, a daughter, an entrepreneur and I am allowed to be sexy.’ As a young woman, I find this message inspiring. Kim doesn’t care what others think of her – she’s going to continue being herself and being proud of it. Regardless of the hate and insults, she is confident and unafraid. She is, as she defiantly captioned a photo after the backlash she received, #liberated.

 

A Body Is Just A Body

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By Alice Koski

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A body is just a body. There is nothing inherently ‘wrong’, ‘naughty’ or ‘offensive’ about that. However, when it comes to women’s bodies being shown in the media, these are the kinds of words that get used. Our view of women’s bodies has been so confused and twisted that we hardly know what to think when a woman decides to show herself naked in the media. Is she brave, empowered and confident, or has she just degraded herself? 

When the nude photos of Kim Kardashian for Paper Magazine were released late last year, it was all I saw on Twitter for about a week. And although a few people shared positive opinions of the photos, the majority of tweeters and commenters reacted negatively and nastily to Kim’s decision to bare all. Many called her trashy and said that a nude shoot was unsuitable because she’s a mum. 

Calling Kim’s photos ‘trashy’ or ‘classless’ just because she’s naked in them shows people’s attitudes towards women’s nudity – a woman who shows her body is immediately judged as having no self-respect or self-worth. It’s also alarming that people think Kim shouldn’t be posing nude just because she’s a now a mum. How Kim wishes to present herself and her body is up to her and no one else – motherhood doesn’t change that. Mothers are scrutinised so much more than fathers in the media and pressured to appear ‘respectable’. Where are the people telling David Beckham to cover up his abs in those underwear ads? He’s got three kids! Oh right… it doesn’t apply to men.

I’m not claiming that tblob (1)hese photos of Kim Kardashian are completely unproblematic. It’s just that it’s not her nudity that’s the problem. It’s the fact that she is portrayed in an unrealistic, sexualised way. Naked women are automatically sexualised and Kim hasn’t tried to avoid this – if you haven’t seen the photos, she’s covered in baby oil (which lead to comparisons of her to a glazed donut – insulting and commodifying). Furthermore, the images are digitally manipulated (the magazine editor admitted to this), which is damaging as it presents an unrealistic body type. So whilst I don’t think that Kim Kardashian should be shamed for her decision to pose nude, I don’t think we should look to her as the perfect example of how it should be done.

In a similar vein, Keira Knightly posed topless for Interview magazine’s September 2014 issue. She decided to pose topless only if the images were to remain unmodified, as a way to protest against “the media’s damaging attitude towards body image”. In the interview for the piece, she says “Women’s bodies are a battle ground and photography is partly to blame.” I admire Keira for taking a stand and showing off her body, knowing that she would inevitably be criticised by some. She received some negative opinions and comments of course, but generally the response to the photos was positive. She was clearly in control of how her body was being presented, and she showed it truthfully. 

A body is just a body and seeing a bum and some boobs shouldn’t be something to get upset over. Nudity can be powerful, and when done for the right reasons, can be a way to break stereotypes and change people’s unhealthy attitudes towards women’s bodies.

 

My Body My Rights

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By Chloe Hutchinson

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It should be a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. It is a deeply personal decision that she should be able to make irrespective of the opinions of the government or the Church. Unfortunately, this right, which many of us take for granted, is not given in many parts of the world, including to our neighbours across the sea in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Whilst it is part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has a devolved government that has control over many things, including reproductive rights of its citizens. This means that Northern Ireland is not included in the 1967 Abortion Act meaning that it still follows the laws in the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act – passed in the Victorian era! It is illegal for both women to administer, and for others (like doctors) to supply, drugs with the intent to cause an abortion. Breaking this law – as stated in the 2013 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act – is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

Even though it is a criminal offence to have, or aid, in an abortion or causing a miscarriage, this law is rarely enforced. In fact in March 2013 the Alliance for Choice published an open letter signed by 100 men and women admitting to obtaining or taking abortion pills which are illegal in the region. None have been arrested. This just shows how outdated this law is and how public opinion (and to some extent government opinion) is behind more progressive reform.

One of the most problematic parts of Irish abortion legislation is the 1983 Constitutional Amendment, which actually takes the law backwards from 1861 rather than forward. It states that the right to life of the unborn child and the mother are to be treated as equal by law. This reduces the woman to no more than a vessel.

Under current legislation, last updated in 2013, abortion is only legal in two cases: 1) when there is a real and substantial risk to the woman’s life through both physical complications and the threat of suicide (but not in cases where the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest) and 2) when she can afford to travel to England where the operation is carried out (and it is in accordance with our laws). In 2012 around 4,000 Irish women travelled to England to have an abortion, 124 of whom were under the age of 18. Furthermore post-abortion care is provided for by the state in Ireland. This is hypocrisy and essentially says that abortion is acceptable if you are rich thus reinforcing the class gap. Women with money travel, women without money have children.

Whilst economic barriers are in place for many of these women, all of them face the cultural and social stigma surrounding abortion. It carries a very heavy stigma and many live in fear of discrimination and exclusion from neighbours, work colleagues, friends and even family that may discover that a woman has had an abortion. Religion is incredibly important in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where 84% and 43% of the population is Catholic. The link between the state and the Church is a key reason for the pro-life policies even when the public are calling for pro-choice.

Just because it is legal to have an abortion does not mean that anyone has to have one. It merely gives the opportunity to women who want to. The decision is incredibly personal and affects the individual more than anyone else, therefore their choice should be the most important factor to take into account. It is the choice of the individual, not of the Church.

In gaining access to an abortion on the grounds that her pregnancy is a real and substantial risk to her life (whatever that actually means), women are forced to share their decision again and again, perhaps with up to 7 GPs and doctors. Obviously this takes time; surely action should be taken as quickly as possible when there is a significant risk to life?

This lack of access to free, safe and legal abortions often forces women to take horrific action into their own hands in desperate attempts to cause a miscarriage. Starvation, throwing themselves down the stairs, coat hangers – just some of the things that are tried.

In 1992 a 14 year old, who had been raped by her neighbour, was prevented from travelling to Britain for an abortion after the family asked if the DNA could be used in the trial against her rapist. In 2012, a miscarrying woman was refused a potentially lifesaving abortion because “Ireland is a Catholic country.”

I think we can agree that these laws are outdated, in fact almost medieval! But what can we do?

  1. Continue to campaign for comprehensive, factually correct sex and relationship education across the whole of the UK, not just for England.
  2. Put pressure on your local MP to bring it up in Westminster – whilst the policy is not made in Westminster their influence can have an outstanding impact, especially as there is a public consultation ongoing at the moment until the 17th January 2015
  3. Educate yourselves and others about current legislation and options available – share information.
  4. Get involved in Amnesty International’s “My Body My Rights” campaign – #MyBodyMyRights
  5. Directly support organisations like the Abortion Support Network through donations or volunteering (if possible).

Authors note:

This blog post was inspired by the phenomenal talk on the “My Body My Rights” campaign at Amnesty International Student Conference at the start of this month.

 

 

Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery

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By Sophia Simon-Bashall

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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…

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

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