Category Archives: Feminist Thoughts

The Importance of Emma Watson’s 10x10x10 Campaign

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The importance of the launch of Emma Watson’s HeForShe campaign and then subsequently the IMPACT 10x10x10 Initiative at the World Economic Forum at Davos should not be underestimated. For so long Feminism has received a bad rep. Not only is it made out to be for hairy man hating lesbians that shout and scream and like to throw peanuts at male toddlers, but it has been ostracised to the fringes of society rather than taking center stage. Often equal pay, sexual harassment, rape, domestic abuse, body image and countless other issues are deemed as not important enough, that there are other more pressing issues to be dealt with.

However, why should the presence of other issues detract from these issues? As humans should we not try and make every aspect of our lives and others lives better? Are we not capable of thinking of more than one thing at once? Surely if something is affecting half of our society then that is something worth talking about; an issue for all of us?

Here is where the HeForShe campaign steps in. It encouraged feminist issues to be men’s issues also. Yes this is not a new rhetoric, but Emma Watson acting as its figurehead and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, with her popularity and vitality, mean that this message can really and truly break through.

Feminism has for the most part been a struggle for equality for women, by women. But HeForShe encourages men to join in and stand up against the inequalities and discrimination faced by women. This is vital. Feminism is not for the superiority of women, it is for EQUALITY. And how can we achieve equality without the equal participation of all sexes? The answer is we cannot. Thus by encouraging men to care, to join in and speak out we can exact real and lasting change for ALL of humanity.

And as is often the case, we sign the petition, we decide in our heads we support a campaign, but then what? What more can we do to make a change? At Davos, Emma Watson highlighted the fact that men and women can be feminists and fight for equality every single damn day, through doing the smallest of actions. Even simply by talking about it to your colleagues, friends and family. That is the pebble that may ripple out and out until waves of change affect the entire ocean.

Feminism and equality start at home. It’s a global issue, unlike a lot of others, where we as individuals can actually make a real difference. That way we can stand with governments, corporations and even whole countries to work together to build a better future for everyone. Let’s all be part of the change.

Renée Zellweger and What Went Wrong?

The whole outcry that occurred on Tuesday over Renee Zellweger’s re-appearance in public saddened me greatly. However, this was not due to the general public consensus that seemed to be emerging. My sadness comes not from the fact that some say she looks older, or because others are saying she no longer looks attractive or even because she has had surgery at all. But rather it stems from the fact that she succumbed to peer pressure instead of loving herself.

A few articles that I came across attacked those that expressed their shock at her transformation, labelling it as misogyny and sexism. However it is my personal belief that this is not a feminist issue. It is not the issue of the sexist industry she finds herself in. And it most certainly is not an ageist issue. The issue is that she looks so startlingly DIFFERENT. Any person that is in the public eye, who disappears for a while and then returns looking like a wholly different person is bound to garner widespread attention (see Bruce Jenner).

How can it be an ageist issue when she is only 45 years old? Haven’t we been told for years now that the 40’s are the new 30’s, and how fantastic women look these days at that age (and this is not just celebrities but ordinary women too). Perhaps in her industry there was pressure for her to appear younger but not so drastically and not so early on. She didn’t have to try and look so different. Photos of her at 43 were glowing, yet now at 45 she doesn’t look younger she just looks like another woman (if anything more her age than she did before). So why did she bother in the first place? To look younger or rather because she just didn’t like how she looked at all?

Ultimately I believe that’s the wrong message to give young girls. It’s sad that she felt she needed to go to such lengths to compete in her industry. Perhaps her desired effect was to end up looking so different and that is of course her choice, but I personally do not believe that that was the case. I believe she had body image issues (as seen by her drastic loss of weight so quickly after the Bridget Jones films) that have probably plagued her her whole life. There is pressure for women to bounce back as quickly as possible after pregnancy, weight gain, etc. (and that needs to be addressed) but there was no pressure on her to change her face.

Perhaps she blamed her appearance on getting less work recently, but that can’t be down to age as she did not look old at all. She changed because she didn’t love how she naturally looked and that’s a great shame. We should accept ourselves as who we are rather than trying to change everything about ourselves to fit into a perceived stereotype, no matter the industry you find yourself in. Women should be empowered at any age in any industry. If you love yourself the industry won’t matter and if you love yourself you’ll only make changes for the right reasons.

We should endeavour to question the extreme plastic surgery that seems to be integrating itself within our culture. Sure some people must make changes to be happy, but let’s not encourage changes based on insecurities that ultimately would remain present regardless.

I read further articles shaming people for having a problem with her ‘daring to age’. She isn’t becoming old. She was just unhappy. She doesn’t look younger, she just looks different. These articles claim that the public condemns ageing but I personally would never judge a woman for having cellulite or wrinkles. I want to live in a world where I can be allowed to be imperfect and so must everyone. But I do not want to live in a world where I can’t just be, where I have to take drastic actions to change who I am to ‘fit in’. It’s not about being pretty enough. She was pretty enough already, as are all women. Yet she seems to have not thought so. And that’s the issues we must address. Why are women not encouraged to love themselves and be happy? How can we address our insecurities and how can we find the source for them? Is it the media? Is it men? Is it our work environment? Is it coming from other women?

An article in the Guardian stated sarcastically, ‘Pity the woman so brazen as to pull back the curtain on these expectations by letting herself be seen in public past a certain age – with or without the help of the medical community’ (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/21/renee-zellweger-face-nothing-wrong). That’s fine, be in public when you’re older but god damn it hold your head high while you’re at it and love yourself.

She was a unique and beautiful actress who unfortunately now conforms to Hollywood standards by looking just like everyone else instead of actively trying to defy them. I don’t believe the public only supports attractive older women, I think in general we support women who embrace their looks and only try to enhance them. Not shy away from them. Some plastic surgery here and there maybe, a healthy diet, exercise, lots of sleep; work with what you got. Don’t despise it. Love it.

It’s sad and I feel sorry for her but it is definitely not a good example for women to follow or tout as anti-feminist. It’s not out of condemnation, only surprise. Beauty standards are an issue but not in this case, at least not in the way the media is making out. Getting older is normal, let’s make that known. Especially outside Hollywood. However Renee clearly didn’t see herself as the public did, as don’t many women unfortunately, so let’s fight to change that. Let’s fight to embrace our uniqueness. Not celebrating women’s diverse beauty and not addressing the reasons why women feel so insecure after a certain age is what is really anti-feminist. Women should have full control over their bodies, but let’s try and make that positive and inspiring control.

‘Fake’ Geek Girls or Blatant Hypocrisy?

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I’ve recently read a lot of rather angry articles about what is deemed to be ‘fake geek girls’. To summarise, these voices shouting into the oblivion that is the Internet, are criticising what they deem to be girls who have so called ‘geeky’ interests in so far as only to get attention from guys and have no real interest in the actual lore and depth of the culture. Now I have never described myself as a geek personally, but I have had this term leveled at me quite a lot so here’s my two cents.

I’m all for groups of people defining themselves in order to bring people closer together and with the wonder of the Internet it means communities are created where you can share and discuss and feel part of something, especially if those around you don’t really follow your passions with the same zeal as you do. However, who is anyone to label what a ‘real geek’ is or a ‘fake’ one is, when the term itself is so broad and all encompassing. Geeks used to be the ones that were shunned from society so why would you fall into the trap of doing the same to others, when you finally have become the ones with the ‘cool factor’. The hypocrisy and sexism of it all is limitless.

You complain about being bullied and misunderstood yet then bully and misunderstand others, especially girls when they don’t have exactly the same interests as you or do not meet the high knowledge criteria that you expect from them. The enforced intellectual competition on your peers is ludicrous. You are essentially turning your bitterness at being marginalised into defensive bitterness and marginalisation. And these geeky men can avoid the label of being called sexist, as they can invoke a kind of meritocracy, in that ‘I’m not judging them for being female but rather for not knowing as much as us geeky men’. It’s falling into the trap of needing an ‘other’ to feel superior to and desiring, at any cost, to continue being the minority within society.

In terms of being a female ‘geek’, I have never found that to get me any extra attention from guys. I have faced 3 different scenarios. The first group of guys will judge and exclude me for not having the same interests and then call me out for being attention seeking, whilst patting me on the head like an ill informed child. This group I would not look at twice and would suggest that if you want to get laid and impress a girl, try being NICE for a change, instead of attacking her for being ‘easy’ or a ‘cock tease’ fake geek. It’s an easy way for these men to dismiss their insecurities about the opposite sex and societal pressures of having to find an attractive female without actually trying, due to the fact that ‘attractive females do not understand them’.

The second group of guys have gotten me on a date, they are charming and attractive, yet when I start banging on about anime or something along those lines, they look at me like I might as well be speaking Chinese and am slightly insane (so in this case being a geek has not helped in the slightest either). And the third group are nice guys, who do have similar interests but are accepting of other people’s obsessions and are willing to learn and try new ones, and they are the ones who you become friends with and even date. Unfortunately, to me, that group seems to be the smallest.

Furthermore, I lament the fact that women feel the need to bash other women for their interests and call them out as fake. I’m not sure if it’s jealousy or wanting to be the minority and somehow special, or simply being pretentious and ‘hipstery’ about it all, but it seems to me that there is enough female bashing in day to day life, from slut shaming to how women should behave in the work environment, etc. Why not allow a culture where people have been humiliated and mocked for so long, to be a place where anyone with any interests can be accepted and educated and loved?

Within geek culture girls have far more to prove. Especially attractive ones. Goal posts are moved and expectations are different. Instead of assuming their interests are a product of attention seeking, give them the benefit of the doubt. Celebrate female geeks. And in doing so maybe we can make ‘geek’ culture more female friendly and less male centric and maybe, just maybe we can create more geek culture targeted towards women or instead simply include strong, realistic female characters within already established fandoms. Geek culture should bring any and all people together no matter what you’re into. Let us be forward-thinking, celebrate our similarities AND differences and establish ‘geek’ culture as here to stay.

Dissertation Proposal Extract: Gender and the Novel in 19th Century Britain.

Charlotte Brontë, idealiserat porträtt, 1873, efter skiss av George Richmond, 1850

Brief extract of my proposed dissertation topic. Very much a work in progress:

The topic I wish to focus on for my dissertation is the changing attitudes and portrayal of women and men by female authors in Britain during the 19th Century. The way I wish to go about my dissertation is by reading a number of novels by famous British female authors such as: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Mary Elizabeth Brandon, Anne Bronte and George Eliot. Using these novels I will attempt to look at the changing gender attitudes of men towards women and women towards women. This will explore women’s ideas of the self and sensibility, how they saw themselves within society, how they saw themselves in terms of having relationships with men and their personal ideas on their own sexuality and self-worth. I will also set these novels within the context of the author’s own views and life. From this I will set these portrayals within the wider context of Victorian society and try and reveal how much this tells us about women’s place politically and historically and try and connect it to the periods immediately before and after.

The reason I wish to focus only on female authors is because it was a time when women went from using male pseudonym’s to using their own names, actually earned money from literature and became an extremely popular source of entertainment within British society. Furthermore, many of these novels were not only very controversial at a time when gender attitudes had reverted back to being extremely conservative, but they also reveal a lot about women’s changing perspectives towards sex and power within the home. This was a weighty form of feminism as it masqueraded as entertainment, but had a powerful effect on readers and allowed women to write about strong and often flawed females, a topic largely ignored at the time. Culturally novels had never been so popular, so it is a very revealing lens through which to explore historical attitudes towards gender and women. Furthermore, as women had little influence within the political and social spheres, representing themselves though the cultural medium was the only way women really had of getting their changing views across to a wider audience. However, even this was set within the male dominated world of publishing, which in itself constricted female authors.

I wish to go about this ideally by splitting each author into a separate chapter and within each chapter discussing the historical context and the reception and debate they generated. This will also tie in with any feminist activity occurring at the time. I will not only study those novels, but I will also read widely on Victorian society as a whole and look into feminist movements that were taking place within Britain.

To Short Skirt or Not To Short Skirt?

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Earlier on today I was trying to decide what to wear for University tomorrow as I’d have an early start and deciding beforehand would save time. I decided on a 60’s type dress with boots and then thought skin coloured tights would work best with it.

And that’s when I was filled with dread.

I realised I’d be coming home late at night and even though I’d be wearing a long coat, skin coloured tights seemed a bit too revealing to be walking around quiet streets. I then decided to scrap the whole idea and just wear jeans.

Then it struck me. Why does the idea of wearing a short skirt or tights that look like my bare legs fill me with such fear? Why do I always feel the need to cover myself up with a coat even if it’s summer outside? Why do I have to change the way I look because I’m afraid if I look a certain way I’ll be attacked? And even though I hate to admit it, why do I subconsciously feel that if I dress a certain way and something happens, dare I say it, it’s my fault? Now this is not something I like to admit, but my thought process inadvertently always ends up following the line of how can I LOOK to prevent myself from being attacked?

Obviously, there are things women and men should do to try and keep safe, but in terms of how I dress I find myself always resorting to jeans out of fear of what could happen. I’m terrified that if I dress a certain way I’ll be a walking target. But it shouldn’t be like that. It shouldn’t be how can I dress to prevent myself from being attacked, but what can we do to ensure potential rapists either don’t ever act on it, or what can we do to make the streets safer, or, worst case scenario, how can we guarantee that no one gets away with it if they do do something.

Within our society there are countless accounts of attackers being let free or pardoned or forgiven by those around them because they claim a girl was ‘asking for it’ by flirting, or drinking too much, or dressing in a certain way. And as women we actually believe it. Deep down, without realising, we think that way also. We fear that our actions may lead to us being raped. But it’s never our actions. It’s always their actions that commit the rape.

A clear loud yes should mean ‘yeah go for it, let’s have fun’ and if there’s any doubt it always means no.

I would love to say that I will make a stand and dress how I want because it’s my body and if I want to look and feel good I should be able to do so, but unfortunately we live in a twisted world that still has a long way to go. And this is my safety (and even life) so, for now at least, I’m choosing jeans.