Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Why is Chris Brown back in the charts?

Last week while casually procrastinating on the internet I discovered that Chris Brown was number 1 in the UK album charts, and in the top 5 of the singles chart. This is just so unbelievably depressing.

Three years ago Chris brown violently beat his then girlfriend Rihanna and threatened to kill her. Three years ago Radio 1 (and many other radio stations) stopped playing Chris Brown’s music because of his attack on her. Two years ago the UK refused to give Chris Brown a working visa and therefore entry into the country due to a “serious criminal offence” so he had to postpone his UK tour. Two years ago Chris Brown posted a video message begging his fans to buy his music still. I’m just confused to how we got to the point where the UK forgot all of this, and started buying his music again.

It’s almost like the UK is sending out the message that as a country it condemns domestic violence, but only directly afterward it happens, and then it’s all forgive and forget.  It is wrong to ‘move on’ from Chris Brown’s domestic violence as this sends a message out to society, and to young girls particularly, that domestic violence is socially acceptable. Sure, you’ll get a slap round the wrist, have to apologise, but then everyone will forget and you’ll be popular again. This is so completely wrong.  1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime and on average 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner, killed. Nothing should ever suggest this is socially acceptable, even if it is indirectly suggesting this.

What if a teenage girl is hit by her boyfriend, and then he says he’s sorry, that he’ll never do it again and that he’s changed (like Chris Brown) and then she accepts the apology? Then he hits her again, this time harder. He apologises, she accepts. This is the beginning of the cycle of abuse. The music industry, and society as a whole, had the chance to take a stand against domestic abuse. They could have potentially prevented others falling into the same cycle of abuse by suggesting to these women and girls it is okay to forgive an abuser if they say they are sorry. They could have taken steps towards this by condemning Chris Brown. His current chart position shows that they failed miserably.

Then again, these tweets show that as a society on the whole, we are failing pretty miserably. Violence is not a compliment. We’ve got an incredibly long and complicated way to go to stop tweets (or thoughts) like this happening, but boycotting Chris Brown’s music would be a good place to start.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Question of Having it All

Increasingly we live in a society that tells women that not only can they ‘have it all’ but that they absolutely should. It has almost become an expectation that young women today should aspire to have a high power career, a fantastic relationship with a romantic partner, a large social circle and active social life, a string of hobbies and interests, to be attractive, fit and in shape, a clean and tidy house and to juggle all of this with having children. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

As much as society seems to be telling women they should be ‘having it all’, it doesn’t seem to be making it any easier for women to achieve this. Currently female unemployment in the UK is at a 25 year high and increasingly middle aged women are the first to be made redundant, and the last to be hired. Women still do the majority of the domestic labour and on average the amount of cooking, cleaning and childcare done by men has changed little since the 80s. The cost of childcare continues to rise even though wages do not. This isn’t just about facts and statistics; it’s about real life experiences.

This week at work one of my male colleagues finished at 3 on Friday (our office hours are until 5.30) to go and pick his daughter up from school because he wanted to spend some time with her and take her to the park and he was widely praised for being a fantastic dad. Now I’m by no means saying that he isn’t a great parent as I’m sure he is, but there are lots of women in the company who work flexible hours so they can do the school run every day and to spend time with their children when they finish school and to my knowledge no one has ever called them a fantastic parent because they pick their children up from the school gates.  It’s because it is expected from women, in a way it isn’t from men. I’m in no way saying that this is true for everyone, I know many men are stay at home dads, and many do the most of the childcare, but this isn’t the case for the majority of people.  We need to stop expecting women to be superheroes, and to expect more from men when it comes to childcare.

I’ve also experienced women who choose not to have children being called selfish. Whether a woman decides she doesn’t want a baby because of her career, because she values her sleep or because she’d rather not be tied down, I can’t see how this is a selfish decision. Again, I’ve never heard a man be called selfish if he doesn’t have children and doesn’t want to. If anything, having lots of children when the planet has such overpopulation issues can be considered a selfish decision, but it’s very rarely that this will be brought up. Society believes that all women want, and should have children, and any that don’t aren’t ‘normal’.

As a feminist I strongly believe in choice. If a woman wants to and is able to be a stay at home mum, then she should completely do so, and her contribution to society should be valued much higher as raising children is incredibly difficult. If a woman wants to have children and a career, then society should be structured in a way that no only allows this to happen, but actually makes it easier to combine both. If a woman doesn’t want children then she should never be criticised, and she should never be seen as less of a woman because of it, I know plenty of people who believe that having a child is the mark of womanhood, and this is wrong. There are lots of amazing things in life, and having children is only one of them.

It shouldn’t just be a question of having it all and how to achieve that, but also a question of “is having it all right for everyone?” I think for a lot of women, it isn’t, and that is okay. Feminism is about having the freedom to choose, and being supported in that decision.

What about you? How do you feel about having it all?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

To "frape", or not to "frape"

Although by no means a new term, something that has been particularly bothering me this week has been the amount of times the word ‘frape’ or ‘Facebook rape’ has come up on my news feed. For anyone not familiar with the term, it is when someone updates a status on someone else’s Facebook account as a joke, they then the person whose account it is quickly points out to everyone on their news feed that they didn’t post that status and that they have been ‘fraped’. Sure, when this happens it can be annoying, or potentially embarrassing, depending on what is written, but it is in no way comparable to being raped. Being raped is a horrific and violent crime; that can leave physical, emotional and psychological scars that last a life time.  Completely not the same as your friend playing a joke on you.

Normally when I speak out about this, people tell me frape is just a word, and it’s nothing to get upset about and that I should really stop overreacting. They are wrong, it isn’t just a word, and I’m not overreacting. It’s a constant reminder and symbol that we not only live in a society that rape even happens in the first place, but that we live in a society that values women so little that one of the worse crimes imaginable can be turned into a joke. It is an insult to millions of female and male survivors of rape every time it is used.

It also massively bothers me that many people do not consider at all that using the word frape on Facebook so casually could potentially be extremely distressing and traumatic  for someone they are friends with, as statistically 1 in 10 British women will experience rape or sexual violence in their lifetime. It is completely possible that someone they know has been raped or sexually assaulted and they are making light of everything that friend has experienced by using the word to describe an untrue Facebook status. It’s disgusting. Even if this isn’t the case, even if no one they are friends with has been raped or sexually assaulted, by using the word it is perpetuating the message that rape is something to laugh about, that it is a joke, that it isn’t a serious crime and that in society women’s rights aren’t important.

We need people to not only stop using this horrible (and completely inaccurate) word, but to also confront every person they see use it. Simply not using the word frape isn’t enough, we need to challenge anyone that seems to hold the view that rape is a laughing matter.

What about you, do you find the word problematic? Or are there any other words you take offence to?

Friday, 29 June 2012

Wise Words

The King blues are one of my very favourite bands, and their lyrics always resonate with me. I’ve always been a bit of a lotions and potions fan, and whilst I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that I will always be much more than what is on the outside. So I thought I’d share <3 

The first time I heard this poem live, I got shivers. Here’s an extract, but click on here to hear the rest.

“I ain't afraid to say 
I think that women are beautiful and strong 
Too fat, too thin that's just media spin 
You look best when you're comfortable in your own skin 
So I'm sorry if you feel undue 
If the truth be known I'm in awe of you 
You're a giver of life and a warrior too 
So do you really need five different bottles of shampoo?”

What do you think?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

On not being the Fun Police

I hate wolf whistling, and random strangers shouting “alright love” or similar comments at me in the street makes me feel very uncomfortable. I've been told before that I need to learn how to take a compliment, and I should be pleased that men find me attractive, but actually I’m very good at taking compliments, when they are genuine, and actually I don’t believe these comments have anything to do with my looks. It’s street harassment, plain and simple.

People are probably going to disagree, and for a while I thought there was something wrong with me for not liking ‘compliments’, so I understand. I changed my mind a few years ago when I was walking home and a man walking in the opposite direction said “give us a kiss beautiful” as he walked past me. Thankfully he kept walking, but for the rest of my walk home I thought about the comment.

His comment made me a little bit scared, and a little bit angry, and I tried to work out why. Surely a man wanting to kiss me must be a good thing? But then I really thought about it, and decided it seemed unlikely any woman would have received that comment and decided, yeah alright, I want to snog this strange man in the street, it just wasn’t going to happen. He clearly knew this, or he would have at least stopped on the pavement, expectantly waiting for my reply. The comment had nothing to do with attraction, and everything to do with power. He was asserting his power in a situation where he knew I would feel uneasy, I didn’t keep walking thinking “yay a stranger thinks I’m pretty!” I walked a little bit faster, and kept checking behind me as I walked home. If he had wanted to make me feel positive about myself, a simple smile would have done, and I believe he knew that and chose to make the comment regardless.

When I speak out about this, and every situation like it, people look at me like I’m the fun police, and I’m against flirting. All I can say is if your flirting is confused for harassment, you are definitely doing it wrong. But then again, anything vaguely suggesting that male behaviour should be altered, particularly displays of heterosexual masculinity, generally aren’t received very well. 

The sad thing is that many women I know just think street harassment (even if they don’t call it that) is just an inevitable part of life. It isn’t, or at least it shouldn't be. It happens because women’s bodies are still, in part, considered public property, it happens because some men feel they can assert their masculinity by making women feel powerless. It’s something we all need to challenge, whether it’s a man touching your bum in a club, which is only ever acceptable if you want his hand there, and I know too many women that just pretend it isn’t happening because they don’t know what else to do, or someone making comments that make you uncomfortable. It needs to stop, because flirting and harassment are never the same, and the first step is standing up to it, even if that step is just talking openly about the difference between the two. Flirting involves mutual consent, harassment doesn't. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The First Myth

Last week I posted about my feelings on young women rejecting the label of feminist, you can read it here. I said I’d look at the myths and realities of being a young feminist (or not being), so here goes.

In my experience, young women today seem to have a particular problem with feminists, and the idea of being called one, to the point where many are quick to deny  any need for such a thing: “Oh no, I mean feminism was good when it got us the vote and equal pay, but it’s fine now, everything’s sorted, we are equal, if feminists push any more, women will be more than equal to men, and that’s unfair on men, we can’t have that, that would be TOO far.” One of the many reasons for this rejection is because of the First Myth of Feminism: ‘Feminists are ugly’. 

The general view seems to be feminists are ugly, hairy and are just angry because they can’t get boyfriends. Or at least that’s what the stereotyping would lead you to believe. It’s not that there is anything wrong with being these things, hell I have hairy legs now and that isn’t a protest against the razor and capitalist beauty standards (however more on this another time), it’s a mark of my laziness and the fact this morning I chose five minutes extra in my snuggly bed over the faff of shaving my legs, but alas we live in a superficial world, and no one wants to be labelled ugly. This myth is ridiculous on two counts. Firstly it’s a lie, of course feminists are beautiful, and secondly the fact the label ‘ugly’ bothers women so much clearly shows we are in need a good bit of feminism.

The problem is, ugly is a really powerful label. When I was 14 a boy who sat in front of me in lessons and who I totally fancied, turned around and told me I could be quite pretty if I wasn’t so lanky and spotty. As any teenager will tell you, the absence of being called pretty is being called ugly. From that moment on I wasted hours of my life staring at myself in the mirror willing myself to be less gangly and for the offending spots to bugger off, I just wanted to be ‘pretty’. The stupid thing is, if I’d spent all of those pointless hours hating how I looked doing my school work instead, I’d be a frik’in genius right about now.

This is why the label ugly works so well at keeping women away from feminism, it’s the easiest way to dismiss someone and her options, “don’t bother listening to her, she’s just pissy because she’s ugly”. It’s insane logic, no normal person would ever not listen to or believe, for example, their doctor because the doctor was ugly, yet calling a feminist ugly seems to discredit their option, and in one fell swoop stop anyone else wanting to identify as feminist for fear of the ‘U’ word. Crazy.

But then, maybe it’s not so crazy. We live in a society that tells a girl her self-worth should come from how aesthetically pleasing a boy finds her appearance, just turn on your television and pay attention if you don’t believe me. So for a girl to be told by a boy she is ugly, can be crushing. Right from birth girls are fed messages that the most important thing she can do with her life is be pretty, and gender stereotyping is everywhere. Even on cards. I swear if I have a child and I get a card like these, I’m going to scream. My baby will be brilliant AND beautiful and their gender will have nothing to do with this.

What we really need is for girls to grow up being taught that being themselves and doing what makes them happy is the most important thing in life, and what genuinely makes them happy, not what they think should. We need them to be told every day that beautiful is a kind heart and a curious mind, not physical appearance.

 I read somewhere a while ago that children learn to recognise their reflection in the mirror around the age of two, by about two and a half little girls are starting to dislike what they see, little boys do not. I wish I could remember where I read this, because it provoked such a strong reaction in me, I hate the thought that we live in a society that is teaching little girls to hate the way they look, and teaching them that looks are more important than anything else. I hate that we live in a society that grown women are so scared of the word ugly that they won’t identify as a feminist and join together to fight this crap. 

All women everywhere are beautiful, inside and out, and we need to start telling each other, and ourselves, more. We need to learn to value our intelligence, personality and creativity, over our looks, so others do the same. We could conquer the world, just as soon as we stop reading those nasty “get a HOT bikini body, in only two weeks” articles in glossy magazines and staring in the mirror dreaming of a tummy tuck/boob/nose job. We need feminism, and we need to talk about it loud and proud before anything can change. Even if it means some idiot calls you ugly for it.

And besides, if a person judges you, it says more about them, than it does about you.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

"I'm not a Feminist, but..."

My name is Sam, and I am a Feminist. I couldn’t be happier about that too. One of my least favourite things is hearing the casual comment “I’m not a Feminist, but…” followed by a totally feminist comment. To which I think, hang on, you’re not a feminist but you just have the opinions of one? Madness. From this I have to conclude, people clearly don’t know what feminism is, and whatever they think it might be, they sure as hell don’t want to be associated with it.

Now I could write all day about what I think feminism is, but to keep it short and sweet I’ll go with: Feminism is the belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. That doesn’t sound too bad does it? Didn’t think so.

This is the point where I get all confused, I don’t understand how anyone can say “Equality?...Nah, that just isn’t for me. Sure, I’m totally cool with the fact tampons are taxed as a ‘luxury’ item, and it doesn’t bother me at all that if a woman is raped it’s her fault, not the rapists, and I think it’s great that just recently an MP tried to pass abstinence sex education,  for girls only, because all a girl needs to be taught at school about sex is not to do it, that will solve everything!”, because every time someone says I’m not a feminist, that is exactly what they are saying.

I refuse to believe that people I talk to don’t believe there should be equality, so either people simply don’t realise what feminism is, in which case maybe I should write it in big letters on one of those sandwich boards and wear it around town, or there is something else other than the definition of feminism that is turning people off. To me it feels like a growing number of young women just don’t want to be associated with feminism, which makes me sad as feminism is a constant source of joy and strength to me, and I hate the thought that others are missing out on the fun. The best people I know are feminists.  

So I’m going to take a stab at trying to tackle the myths and the realities of being a young feminist, in the hope a few more women (or men!) want to stand on their chair and proclaim to the world: “I AM a Feminist, and I’ve never felt better!”. Everything is better when you say it standing on a chair, fact.