What do our clothes say about us?

 Lately, I’ve been realising more and more just how much what we wear affects how we are judged as women. I think all young women, and men, are aware of the power clothes have over their image – but I’m concerned about exactly what it is women’s clothes insinuate. I am disgusted at how men appear to think they can belittle and insult women because of their clothing choices. As a result, their offensive slurs often result in paranoia and insecurity which lead on to refuelling the oppressive, controlling fire the modern young woman is sadly still exposed to. It’s a difficult one; I for one, enjoy wearing a variety of different clothes and exploring different styles – many women do. On one level, I see our wide range of fashion choices as liberating for women – we have such a wide spectrum of different shapes and textures to explore it would be impossible not to see the freedom in fashion; and this freedom can act as empowerment for women. Unfortunately, however, I am sadly realising more and more the opinion men seem to feel they are entitled to on our fashion choices. Obviously, everyone is entitled to an opinion – if a boy doesn’t like the colour of my dress, doesn’t like my choice of trainers, I think that is perfectly acceptable. It is when the opinion becomes sexist and derogatory that I have an issue with. I can’t stress enough that I am not by any means placing all men in one sexist boat – I know many of the male species have more than one brain cell, and understandably appreciate the female form in a more accepted and dignified way; they refrain from sticking their hands up your crotch or shouting an obscene comment, for one.  

  It infuriates me immensely that if a woman wears a ‘sexy’ outfit (which is usually something short and tight, it seems) they are open to comments from both men – and women, sadly – that she is a slut or ‘easy’. As a result we become pieces of meat which men seem to think they can touch. When I choose to wear a short dress or tight shorts, I’m not trying to give thick, sexist men a right to touch or make comments at me – and no, warped ‘compliments’  such as “Sit on my face” shouted at me by a degenerate little twerp are not flattering, more vomit inducing, and definitely count as sexual harassment. 

 I am absolutely sick of seeing so many men, some of which I consider to be sound-minded friends, thinking they have a right to have a say about what a girl wears. Comments on Facebook along the lines of ‘Girls walking home in their bare feet after a night out, don’t you realise how dirty you look’ enrage me – since when should a young woman have to think about whether she looks ‘dirty’ or not walking barefoot after a long night out after having worn uncomfortable shoes?! Don’t men realise how appalling they make themselves look by assuming to believe that a woman should be considering how attractive they appear to them all day, everyday? No, I certainly don’t think they do realise that, especially with articles such as ‘The Worst People You See At Every Summer Music Festival’, written by a man of course, whose opinion on the popular high waisted leggings which many females choose to wear is particularly interesting. He writes ‘We can only imagine what kind of swamp-ass nightmare is festering beneath that Spandex cameltoe…’ – sorry, but since when was mine or anyone else’s vagina and what animal foot you identify it as any of your business? The worst thing is, a male friend of mine posted this on his Facebook and the amount of ‘likes’ and comments from other young men was disappointingly high. One of the most ironic things about this, is that most of these boys who scoff at this wouldn’t think twice about chatting up a girl in high-waisted leggings, if they thought they were in with a chance of having sex with her – despite their ideas on her ‘swamp-ass nightmare’ genitalia… So, on one hand, males think they can comment on what we wear, take the piss and make us feel paranoid about it, and on the other hand they think they can then come on to us when we are wearing the ‘offensive’ fashion pieces – equally shocking and appalling on both levels. Again, I am not trying to state that no man can have an opinion on what a woman wears – if they think you look good in what you’re wearing, great, that’s definitely not sexist. Groping and making sexual comments, however, is sexist. Disliking a certain style, look or item of clothing isn’t an offence; judging and making derogatory comments is an offence. It really is that simple.

-Annie 

Women at work and at home

At school, I was taught that the feminist movement took off in the late 19th Century, with women campaigning for equal rights against the social barriers that confined them to the home. It was a turning point in history. So what has it achieved?

Women have since won the right to vote, to own their own property and have gradually advanced into the world of work. My grandmother was a mechanic in WWII, one amongst thousands of women who showed that they were fully capable of taking on the mostly labour-intensive jobs the men had left behind in order to enlist. Now, all the women in my family have been employed.

Recent employment statistics show that women make up 42% of the country’s workforce. Clearly, the feminist movement has achieved something… or has it?

Another look at the statistics shows that when it comes to positions of power, only 22% of MPs and peers are women and just 15% of FTSE 100 company directors are women. Women may be ‘deemed worthy’ to be employed, but they are not ‘worthy enough’ to hold high-ranking jobs.

That being said, what about those women today who do stay at home with their children, and are happy? Is it right that they should be seen as weak for not going out to work? Of course there are women who work and have a family, yet it is ironic that at the same time that stay-at-home mothers are asked ‘Why aren’t you working?’, working mothers are asked ‘How do you do it?’ In both cases, the abilities of women are being questioned.

In fact, a recent report shows that 75% of new mothers would prefer to stay at home to bring up their child. Some have managed to achieve that by working from home. However, for the vast majority, they need to go out and work to support their family, more so now with the economic difficulties.

For years, it is a woman’s maternal, ‘emotional side’ that has seemingly pushed her to the ‘backseat’.  To me, this has subsequently impelled some women to feel that the only way of upholding the ideas of equality in feminism, is to adopt a masculine demeanour of cold professionalism – the stereotypical image of the strong working woman.

Personally, I think that feminism is not just about women being able to work. It is about women having the right to freely choose what they want to do and not be criticised for it, be it a working woman, a working mother or a stay-at-home mother. Women should not have to be pressurised by the need to prove themselves in the workplace, nor by old-fashioned attitudes which still exist today that a woman’s place is at home.

Evidently, those lessons I learnt at school still have yet to be learnt by society and until women are confident in their choices and society respects them for it, then I feel that the feminist movement can finally be regarded as a success.

– Catherine

Role Models; An Endangered Species?

“I’m not anorexic. I’m from Texas. Are there people from Texas that are anorexic? I’ve never heard of one. And that includes me.”
-Jessica Simpson
“My mother taught me to treat women respectfully”

-Chris Brown

“I think it’s kinda crazy that a woman is running, because I think that women deal with a lot of
emotions and menopause and PMS and stuff like that…I’m so moody all the time, I know I couldn’t be able to run a country, cause I’d be crying one day and yelling at people the next.”
-Brooke Hogan

Really? Okay so here we have Jessica Simpson declaring a concerning degree of ignorance, Chris Brown clearly confused by the meaning of the word ‘respect’ and Brooke Hogan blissfully unaware of her attempt to un-do the entirety of the feminist movement. If this is what the world accepts as today’s role models then our generation and those subsequent are living in a pretty uninspiring world.

For the sake of argument, let’s take a crude comparison of the role models we used to know, and those that we see regularly shoved on our TV screens.

The 18th Century; Author Jane Austen writes the likes of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Emma’, helping to pave the way for female writers in a time that over-looks women who write. Later on Harriet Beecher Stowe devotes her life to campaigning against slavery. The 19th Century; FLorence Nightingale serves in the Crimean war and alters the perception of the nursing profession, gaining well deserved admiration whilst improving the treatment of wounded soldiers. Later still, Emmeline Pankhurst dedicates her life to promoting women’s rights.

Bringing us now to the 21st Century, the media prints pictures of well-know super model Kate Moss snorting ’40 lines of white powder in five minutes.’ In 2012, Lindsay Lohan is charged with lying to the police, obstructing an officer and reckless driving. In 2007, Kim Kardashian gains notoriety through the leaking of her home-made sex-tape. 1996; Katie Price gains 32FF boobs. February 1981, Paris Hilton is born. God help us all.

Of course I’m being slightly harsh here- clearly not everyone in previous centuries could claim to be shining examples of human existence, and yes there are those in today’s society that still manage to inspire. Lets take Joanna Lumley for example, perhaps most memorable is her ass-kicking support for the justice and settling of Gurkhas in the UK. But scratching yet deeper beneath the surface are our nurses and midwives who work around the clock, omitting their breaks and even forgetting to empty their bladder all in the name of caring for those who need it most.

The world is full of amazing people, however, the question that does need raising is why do we focus so much more on those that quite frankly don’t need recognition, rather than those who truly do have something to say. Just take a look at today’s popular magazines; success comes in the form of managing to lose a stone or two, or looking good in a bikini. With the power to influence readers weekly, why not try to evoke, empower and show some passion- rather than yet another photo of Britney Spears failing to step out of a taxi with dignity- or underwear to be more specific.
So, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

 

 

-Mary

Today’s Pop Culture: Are we lyrically insane?

‘Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby, let me know. Girl I’m gonna show you how to do it and we start real slow. You just put your lips together and you come real close’

‘She like that freaky stuff, two in the oh and one in the ah…put them fingers in your mouth uh open up your blouse and pull that G-string down low’

I don’t have children, but if I did I can’t even begin to imagine how I would feel knowing that they were listening to these lyrics, time and time again. I think we can safely assume that Flo-rida is not talking about a ‘whistle’ whilst Pitbull’s use of ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ leave little to be desired. I have two young adolescent step-sisters; one of which came to me asking for help with her English homework. The idea was to choose a song and analyse the lyrics. I stared rather blankly at the page:

‘Sex in the air, I love the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.’

Okay, perhaps let’s try a different song?

Yes it is fair to say that these are the songs that sell, these are the lyrics that our nation chooses to listen to- I’m not saying that all songs should be about saving the polar bears or gender equality, because, well, let’s face it they would be pretty rubbish. But do we have to be so obvious about it? Yes, we can clearly hear that Rihanna occassionally favours a spot of S&M in her spare time and Flo-rida has a penchant for instructing on fallatio- but do we need an entire song describing it- subsequently listened to by millions of young people? Whatever happened to the word ‘subtle’?

I am however relieved to say that some recent artists are providing us with somewhat more meaningful lyrics- an example being the likes of Emile Sande. And as an added bonus their music videos are not scattered with scantily-clad women who are clearly having an awesome time whilst being perved on by some rappers singing empowering lyrics: ‘Bitches ain’t shit’- thanks Dr.Dre Lifts the soul, doesn’t it?

So to answer the question, yes I think today’s pop culture is lyrically insane, lyrically disempowering, lyrically disengaged and lyrically distanced from what really matters.

 

-Mary

The Female Form: Why aren’t we celebrating?

“A woman’s body and it’s functions places her closer to nature” Sherry Ortner, 1974.

She has carried her child for nine long months, at first it was a ball of cells, now it has arms, legs, lungs, a beating heart. Her body has solely fed her child, she has provided everything necessary to sustain life from her own body. Everything. Now she sways back and forth as she prepares to demonstrate unimaginable tolerance and stamina. Her strength is unquestionable, her capability is astounding. She is ready to birth her baby.

The sheer power of a woman’s body is clear- has been clear from the start of time, and will always be clear.

So I’m just wondering then why its being plastered half naked on page three of the Sun? Why do I find myself staring at a woman in her underwear explaining her recent romp with Ashley Cole over my morning coffee? And why am I being told by the intellectuals at ‘UniLad’ that I’m nothing more than a quick fuck with the light off?

I have a lot of questions: whatever happened to worshiping a woman’s body and its abilities? How have we gone from a matriarchal society in which the female form was highly respected to ‘Get your tits out for the lads’? Instead of acknowledging a woman’s beauty and power, today’s popular magazines tell us how our bodies should look- more specifically how other people think our bodies should look- more specifically how men think we should look.

Is this really all we care about now? Widely read magazine ‘Cosmopolitan’ seems to think so, revealed in their recent article:

‘What makes a girl really hot?’ Two hundred males were questioned, their answers included:

‘The first thing a guy see’s is how a girl looks…She shouldn’t have too much attitude!’
‘Simple, cleavage’

Well it seems I have much to aspire to.
The female form has always been something to celebrate whether it’s a full-figured woman
in a nineteenth Century painting, or a flat-chested flapper from the ’20s- women’s bodies will always be commented on no matter what- but isn’t it time we stopped trying to change them? Isn’t it time we started accepting that a woman’s body, in all forms, is capable something amazing- why don’t we focus on our power and strength- we’re not just sexual objects, we are women.

‘At the lowest, darkest stage of human existence mother-child love was the only light in the moral darkness. Raising her young, the woman learns…to extend her loving care beyond the limits of the ego to another creature. Woman at this stage is the repository of all culture, of all benevolence, of all devotion, of all concern for the living and grief for the dead.’ J.J Bachofen

Well Cosmo, if my body can do this, then it can look however the hell it wants.

-Mary

Unattractive?

Sick. Sick to the back teeth. I am livid at men, and unfortunately some women as well. As far as I know – and I am judging by my limited knowledge in science here, that you are not born sexist. It doesn’t come wired into the brain. So why an earth do most men find it so natural to be so down right sexist?

Clearly, many men aren’t; but I know a whole load of them who are – and I hadn’t even realised it before. They are sly about it, and as I mentioned before it appears to come so natural to be so derogatory toward women. And, sadly, so many women seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. I’ve no idea why – although I’m guessing it has large amounts to do with how attractive they want to appear towards men.

I’ve met and spoken to women who cringe at the term feminist, who ‘hate’ feminists. And for what reason? One which I’ve been proffered in the past is their hatred for men, and because some – and emphasis on the ‘some’ – have extremist opinions such as men and women living separately, or that all men should be castrated. I don’t know much about the technicalities of feminism, neither do I claim to, and I don’t for a minute think that all men should be castrated or made to live segregated from women – but these are extremist views.  Every theory and movement has extremists; I would’ve assumed everybody knew that. But these are normal, intelligent women and girls I’m talking about – females who, as far as I’m concerned, should know better.

However, it is worth remembering that if we didn’t have the women who believed strongly in women’s rights then we wouldn’t be where we are today.

I have met many boys and men in my time and unfortunately, the majority appear to be the same – you speak an opinion and you’re a loudmouthed bitch. You’re passionate about something and it’s scoffed at. A strong political view, a strong moral view and you’re made to feel like an idiot or less of a person. A woman sleeps around and she’s a slut. A woman, is a sexual object. Bar the sleeping around and being called a slut, all of these instances have happened to me, and other women I know.

I know a girl who is very strong-minded, strong-willed and the type of person who will stick up for what she believes in; every boy I’ve spoken to about her hasn’t admired her spirit, enjoyed her debate or at the very least respected or understood her actions; they’ve laughed at her. One even said something along the lines of her being the most disgusting person they’d ever met. What’s that about? I’m pretty sure, in fact almost one hundred percent, that any boy or man with the same attributes as the girl I have mentioned bears, would be admired, and maybe even envied by one of two of the more spineless beings.

From my own experience, having a strong opinion or being particularly passionate about things has resulted in boys trying to belittle me and my opinions; the same with many of my friends. Instead of coming back at me with a thought-out intelligent response, jumping to conclusions and insulting us all on other personal levels seems to be all the rage. Since when did having an opinion become so ‘ugly’? I wrote proudly on my personal statement for university that I was an ‘..opinionated person who enjoys debate, conversation and am not afraid to express how I feel when appropriate..”. In an interview with one of my chosen universities I expressed an opinion and was pulled up on my statement, asked in a somewhat mocking way, “So this is what you mean by saying you’re opinionated…”. I was made to feel embarrassed. The worst thing was, this was a woman interviewer. Why an earth should I be made to feel small because I’m not afraid to express my opinion? It’s not as if I preach at people, enforce how I feel on them without any consent or interest expressed – and presumably the majority of other women aren’t like that either.

And since when has it been okay for a man to grope a women without her consent? It is insane that I feel this paragraph will be the one most girls, and men – but for different reasons – will associate with. I for one have been pinched, stroked, and groped randomly in clubs, bars, even as young as when I went to youth club and at secondary school by boys – and as I’ve grown older, men. How shocking and disgusting is that? Probably not very much to many girls unfortunately. And even if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid wandering hands, then I’m sure you will have been beeped or whistled at, even stared at to the point where it becomes inappropriate. I think the worst thing is, I always feel like the idiot, the one to blame after these instances – and having spoken to others, I know I’m not alone in this.

For instance, my friend was in college (yes, in college, an educational institute) when some bright spark who was sat with his group of friends decided it would be okay to grab her bum. She was so shocked and felt so mortified that she just scuttled past, head down. As we entered the classroom seconds later, she told me what happened. So I went outside and asked them outright what they thought they were doing. I was confronted with not only feeling mildly intimidated, but also childish denial (“It wasn’t me, it was him” etc) until a female tutor came out. We both explained to her what happened and she thankfully took it very seriously. The boys in question, however, complained and whined at us both; causing both me and my friend who had, quite frankly, been violated to feel embarrassed and ashamed of making such a big deal about it. How appalling is that? We were the ones who felt like idiots because a boy couldn’t keep his hands to himself. And it happens in clubs all the time, even male friends still think they have the right to have a little feel now and again; I’m pretty sure that I am not currently sexually involved with any of them, neither am I suggestive towards them. Yet again, the word appalling, as well as disgusting springs to mind.

Again, I haven’t got much extensive knowledge on the subject, but I’m sure even the most academically limited could do the maths: I know 0 girls who randomly grope men in clubs and bars, and I bet if you asked them they couldn’t think of a time where they know someone who’s done so. I am pretty sure I could ask any girl to list 5 instances where they’ve had something done to them or have had men who have touched them inappropriately and they’d be able to reel off a list as naturally as a man feels he can touch a woman like they are an object.

Unfortunately it’s taken me up until now to really see clearly about how I am allowed an opinion, and I should be perfectly entitled to ask a man what it is he thinks he’s doing if he gropes me. I don’t understand, and don’t think I ever will, why strong women are so mocked in the media. A woman speaks up for something she believes in, and her appearance, words and mind are mocked. She is labelled a lesbian, or a feminist – as if it’s an insult. A man does the same thing and he is admired, and talked about as if he is a superhero, or at the very least he is respected.

It has taken me until now to see how single minded many people can be. I want to highlight that I am not saying that men shouldn’t be allowed an opinion, everybody is entitled to their opinion whether they agree with what is being said or don’t. I want to emphasise that I don’t hate all men, and that I hope there will be many boys and men who are none of what I’ve just discussed. Same goes for women – although I do know many women who aren’t like the ones I’ve described, who don’t cringe at the term feminist, who don’t want to be seen as sexual objects. Sadly, I don’t know all that many men who don’t possess at least one of the ugly characteristics I’ve talked of.

And I’ll say it again, because I think it’s important: Since when has having an opinion been so ‘ugly’?

-Annie

FEMINISM – STILL A THING OF THE FUTURE?

One might begin by saying that feminism is a concept not to be acknowledged by the faint hearted. Many women have the tendency to use the term in a rather vague and ambiguous way with views which seem to be pro-feminist of which are followed by an  insistent belief that they are not defined in any way by the label ‘feminist’. This could be the result of the negative stigma surrounding the term which suggests that those who are feminists are nothing but man-haters, set on getting their own way. Thus, only those who truly believe that equality in all sectors in the fight to abolish the persistent superiority and domination of men, should drop this term into conversation and be entirely prepared for immediate retaliation from those men who see this concept as a direct attack on what has always been, and what should always remain, so to speak.

The term ‘feminism’ is a powerful term concerning the need for women to affirm the equality of both sexes in social, economic and political matters. It is important to point out that this term can be a conversation starter but inevitably a breaker, lurking behind the curtain, waiting to pounce on the unexpected male who will quite happily bestow his manly views on the power of male opinions but undoubtedly would be cast down by the ever determined female who likes nothing more than to torture a male about the continuing independence and recognition of women in the twenty-first century, but also their struggle for total equality.  Therefore one can pose the question: is feminism still a thing of the future? One might argue yes, it is, and it will continue that way until women have their way with equality in every division. On the other hand it could be viewed that the extent to which this battle of the sexes could ever be solved is utterly limiting, suggesting that the power divide will continue and the uproar feminists pose on politicians will only get stronger. The yearn for gender equality in the workplace is one of the most significant battles feminists have with society, with many women being passed over on promotion in favour of a male colleague, who is unlikely to suddenly announce they are pregnant and take up to a year’s statutory maternity leave of which they are entitled to.

However, the number of domesticated men who take on the traditional roles of women is increasing, suggesting that perhaps this is the answer to what all feminists’ desire. Yet one cannot ignore the underlying fact that by defying tradition, we are taking away the traditional methods of life and instead replacing them with an alternative. This, in itself, could be seen as a form of feminist movement, with the world becoming more advanced and modern ideas and views becoming more widely accepted, there is perhaps great hope for female enterprise and equality and less demand for the stereotypical businessman in a black suit.

-Olivia