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.