Guest

Guest Post: Todd Lamming on finding Internet Feminism

“Feminist. A person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

I have been more involved in trying to fully understand what it means to be a feminist of late and if I believe that I am a feminist. Social media has been the main tool I have used to find out the information and ideals that I need to understand so I can truly use the word ‘feminism’ to its fullest capacity.

All I know, at the moment, is that I am passionate about the movement of gender equality and what it means to truly be a person and not be limited by what my gender defines me as: “male”. To me that is not enough.

The online campaigns that have been created by consequence of battle for gender equality have been bold and brave and executed iconically.

3 noteworthy online campaigns for the feminist movement have been:

“HeForShe” via this link:

http://www.heforshe.org/

He for she was brought to the publics attention via UN goodwill ambassador Emma Watson, Over 130,905 men from all over the globe have already committed and taken the pledge to gender equality using the website. I have also taken this pledge.

“If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive.

If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.

Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive.

Both men and women should feel free to be strong.

It is time that we all perceived gender on a spectrum instead of 2 sets of opposing ideals.” – Emma Watson

@heforshe

“No To Feminism” via this link:

https://twitter.com/NoToFeminism

@NoToFeminism is a twitter parody account that uses anti-feminist words, phrases and quotes, altering them to expose and undermine anti-feminist thinking. Even though this can be seen as dangerous territory they seem to have a normal response to such a controversial output.

https://twitter.com/NoToFeminism/status/515171170501419009

@NoToFeminism

Everyday Feminism is a purely online presence on twitter and facebook for educating, teaching and creating opportunities for everyone to be involved in feminism and helping it become a positive thing and being constant source of support for women online.

@EverydayFeminism

Sam Pepper is the name that feminist’s and social media advocates have been throwing into the burning hole to perish after a series of videos where the word “Prank” has been used to humourise sexual harassment and sexual assault with unsuspecting young women.

It took less than 48 hours to remove the video and suspend his account and on top of that an open letter to Sam Pepper gathered a gut wrenching number of signatures – created by Laci Green – to stop producing these kind of harmful videos, to take his platform on social media seriously and for him to recognise the impact he has on young impressionable viewers.=

I was part of the group who fought against Sam Pepper to remove his videos that went against YouTube’s terms and agreements. After the event had died down I was amazed at how much we had accomplished as a community of introverted feminists and self proclaimed feminist of the internet. We saw something that was wrong and instead of brushing it under the rug we acted upon it as a group and took it down with silent force.

This is the power of not just modern feminism but a strong community who have the same beliefs as the first wave of the movement in the early nineteenth and twentieth century.

People have said that the word feminism died with the birth of social media. To me the word did not die but has gained a lot more weight and support to its cause.

Women and men who are seen as passionate and forward about something, involving equal rights and gender equality, are labeled outspoken, fanatic and militant, something to be feared or “Anti peace”. It’s in fact the exact opposite; you need to be outspoken to create a wave of change. To think of something as controversial and then to not talk about it is wrong.

Social media is the crux of the matter and also the downfall of that change. With the ability and strength of social media to pull together thousands of feminist from all across the world with a single tweet or video it has become crucial in the fight for feminism and equal rights to be taken 100% seriously. But with the unknown reasoning behind the backlash of citizens who don’t want equal rights or are too lazy for change, social media is gonna be the catalyst for both sides.

Hopefully, one day I will be brave enough to call myself a feminist to others but right now I am happy and proud to be a social media advocate of feminism.

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Rants

Pictures of feminists are being photoshopped it’s giving antis free excuses to whinge

With a constant, underlying fear that I might perhaps be social media’s puppet, I spend quite a bit of my time scrolling through various newsfeeds these days. Aside from the odd Buzzfeed quiz unearthing revelational nuances of my character, Facebook tends to offer various opportunities to segue into a whole load of worthwhile reading and debate.  Last week, I came across this disturbing image:

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I’m used to feeling downcast and detached from what I believe in after stupidly letting myself browse the contents of MRA pages or after reading the comments on Laci Green’s videos, but this was literally the first time I’d confronted bad feminism. Feminism masquerading as feminism that wasn’t even feminism. I knew these were the kind of exceptions people against the movement cling to and perceive as the norm – and this was the first time I had ever discovered one. I was left feeling deflated, and immediately jumped to the movement’s defence.

Then, I discovered this:

patriarchyisntgoingtofuckitself

Yeah. This is the actual original photo. If you look closely, whatever genius edited the pic has cleverly reversed the image so as to ensure it looks like a different person. Plus, the writing on the first pic is a tad fuzzy around the edges.

What we have here is someone who is clearly terribly afraid of the notion that women might just be equally capable/intelligent/valid as men and has chosen to target a movement promoting equality of the sexes in order to ensure the ladyfolk strictly DO NOT end up with the same pay/rights/social position/success as men. Unfortunately, this poor anxious person couldn’t find enough evidence to support his theory that feminists are evil man haters, so the cunning little devil utilised his photo editing skills to create his own! If only he hadn’t used quite a popular photo (it was on the first page of Google Images), then he really would have gotten away with it!

Of course, a number of non-believers retaliated, claiming they “couldn’t see the difference” between the photos anyway. Well, I can reveal they are different, and not just because the text is in a different colour!

The patriarchy is a system by which men hold most of the power and women are in the main excluded from that power. The patriarchy denies women to be justly represented, denies women a voice and denies her choices. It turns being a woman into an insult. It decrees that her place is in the home and her jobs are cooking and childcare – if she must work, she can be a receptionist or something. Better still, a cleaner, and bring skills from home to the workplace!

Patriarchal society offers rigid roles for women, but also for men. The patriarchy tells men the money on which their family lives is their responsibility. It tells them earning money is more important than being a father, with ordinary paternity leave at 1-2 weeks in the UK. It is why, in Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism, a man reported people being “shocked [he] had custody”. It tells boys to suffer in silence rather than outwardly show their emotions. It tells them it’s perfectly okay for little girls to play with dolls and pushchairs, but questions a little boy playing daddy.

And yes, it is why men are supposedly expected to pay for our dinner. It is not feminism that asks that.

If you really want to attack feminism, at least put the effort into finding a real reason to attack it. If you can’t find one, ask yourself what it is you really have an issue with.

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Reviews

Representation in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Having heard positive things about BMAG, I took a fairly spontaneous trip to Birmingham this week. I made all manner of delightful discoveries in my short time in the city; the 99p baguette and the striking architecture (as well as the expansive shopping experience) of the Bullring to name a couple. However, the museum and gallery really was the icing on the cake with such a wealth of diverse exhibits and contributions from quite a lot of female artists which is always refreshing. The exhibit that ultimately caught my eye and has made a huge impression on me was the new photography from the Middle East. Taken in the last couple of decades, the pictures seek to challenge common perceptions of predominately women, as well as provide an expression and celebration of multiculturalisms that have arisen from trade and immigration.

Shadi Ghadiran, ‘Qajar’ (1998)

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Although the photographs in the Qajar series look archaic, the modern commodities featured in them establish their fairly recent composition. The pictures juxtapose the women’s public role (the historic aesthetic perhaps emphasising the ubiquitousness of equally historic traditions and propriety) with private aspirations. Here, the use of modern sunglasses and a ‘Vogue’ pose might challenge these traditional roles for women, as well as challenge the presentation and perception of women in the Middle East.

Similar themes are reflected in Hassan Hajjij’s ‘Jama Fna Angels’ (2000); the Moroccan women pictured are undeniably glamorous and look tall and powerful – indeed, the concrete walls surrounding them begin to crumble. Framing the picture are world renowned Western brands fused with Moroccan culture, representing the coming together of two cultures.

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Another exploration of multiculturalism is Youssef Nabil’s ‘The Yemeni Sailors of South Shields’ (2006)

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In this condensed example of the work, Nabil explores the settling of Yemeni sailors in South Shields in the early 1900s who made the first Muslim community in the UK. In the portraits, the men’s clothing unites traditional Muslim and 20th century English dress, as a celebratory expression of multiculturalism.

It was a real surprise to stumble across this extraordinary and thought provoking exhibition which continues to resonate. I would highly recommend investing a couple of hours in BMAG – this exhibition runs until 2nd November 2014.

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Personal

Lame Fresher Diaries: 10 things to do now first year is over

Alas, this is my final post exploring my life as a particularly boring student. As always, the year’s gone by faster than we could have imagined, but what a year it’s been! The year of Ocean Fridays, of the £5.10 mealcard, of glandular fever, of the £1 bus fare, of short term book loans, of never using the tram. This year I have established an open relationship with Hallward Library, paraded around campus with blue hair then shrivelled with despair as each new day brought a more minging shade of green, looked on in horror as six hours of work per day in the first term dwindled to six minutes in the third, and managed to attend classical concerts more times than I have attended Rock City. Needless to say, we’ve definitely all earned a break before shit gets absolutely real next year, so here are ten things to do to unwind and prepare for second year.

1) Go to a festival. This is a definitive essential for every student summer. Fake flower headbands and tie dye tees you’ll never wear again are strictly non optional

2) Start writing your novel. It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone has a story in there somewhere. Plus, this’ll definitely keep you occupied when the annual British monsoon puts all outdoor activities on hold for about a month.

3) Learn 5 basic recipes. This will guarantee you and your housemates gourmet cuisine until you all give up on cooking after about a week.

4) Take up a musical instrument with plans to start a douchey band on returning to uni. Nail about six chords on guitar and you can literally play any song in the known universe. Especially Wonderwall. 

5) Interrail. It’s always more expensive than you think it’s going to be but at least you can say you’ve been to a lot of countries.

6) Send a mass email to every family member/family friend who is likely to ask you how you found first year – it’ll save you a lot of time at family barbecues.

7) Get to know Aldi; unspecified German delicacies may be all we can afford next year.

8) Read a really really long book – I’m going for Clarissa. At 1,534 pages, it’s a great excuse to lay in the sun all day while you take on one of the heftiest classics.

9) Invest in some suncream because sometimes the sun comes out in Britain and when it does you should enjoy it responsibly

10) Work out what your ‘summer jam’ is going to be – useful for da club and car journeys.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading this year and have a great summer!

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Reviews

Maleficent: A brief, feminist glance

Be aware, this review WILL be LITTERED WITH **SPOILERS**, so avoid if you don’t want any of the plot revealing.

I approached Maleficent under the impression that it would manifest itself as the latest in a new Disney trend of alternative (though somewhat apologetic) retellings of fairytales to atone for the chauvinist twaddle of the 20th century. The film is akin to the likes of Princess and the FrogTangled and Frozen, all of which contain at least one female lead who maintains an active role throughout the plot in a bid to challenge her Disney original. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I was ready to have my socks knocked absolutely off by a tidal wave of subversive genius. And yes, in some ways the film utterly delivered; in others, there were shortcomings and missed opportunities.

There are many aspects of Maleficent that demand our praise. We are presented leading female characters whose presence monopolises the duration, and whose stories form the plot. Indeed, Disney artistically expresses its awareness of the damaging themes of their earlier fairytales by having Maleficent’s wings clipped by a man who lets his ambition rule him. Metaphorically, this suggests that the patriarchy figuratively clips the wings of women, stripping them of power, authority, independence and identity – an act performed symbolically in the majority of Disney classics. Equally, regaining her wings at the end of the film allows the restoration of all those qualities as well as the restoration of harmony in the world of the film, boldly stating that existence is healthier and just for us all when women are empowered.

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Disney dismisses the bonkers notion of “love at first sight” in the awakening of the princess Aurora. Having spent years acting as a distanced guardian to the child she’d cursed, Maleficent grows to love the princess, establishing a maternal relationship with her when Aurora reaches her teens. Consequently, only Maleficent can bestow “true love’s kiss” on Aurora to alleviate her own curse; it’s truly wonderful to witness Disney exploring the value of love which has had time to develop naturally and believably, rather than hammer home the fabricated “necessity” of idealised, heteronormative, young, romantic love.

Conversely, there are problems with the kiss. The young prince is reluctant to kiss Aurora; he acknowledges her beauty but asserts that love is impossible having only met her once. All the same, when urged by Aurora’s three failed guardians to kiss her and despite being very uncomfortable, he acts without her consent. For me, this is lad culture at work; being coerced into performing an evasive or disrespectful act in order to conform, avoid chastisement or attain a certain image. To a young audience, this legitimises force and being forced, especially since the intentions of the the prince and the guardians were basically good (although the guardians were more concerned with saving their own skins having failed to shield Aurora from the curse). In a modern context, Aurora is unconscious at a party and assaulted by an older man as a result of pressure from his friends – this is utterly inexcusable, so why isn’t this made clear in the film? Indeed, the scene would have been so much more powerful had the prince refused to kiss her.

One might also argue that Disney’s exclusive switch in focus from Aurora’s story to Maleficent perhaps wasn’t entirely just or necessary. In both versions, Maleficent is a active character, empowered both by her evil and her heroism. Unfortunately, Sleeping Beauty’s lot never really alters. Despite growing up outside the influences of patriarchal society, she is still a passive character haunted by an impending doom against which she cannot defend herself; she doesn’t save herself, she has no influence over the direction of the plot, she’s to some degree incarcerated and is embarrassingly naive. When comparing the Sleeping Beauty to Maleficent, it’s disheartening to witness no change in one important essential – though the active does remain active, so too does the passive remain passive. The film is subversive, just not subversive enough. Despite her fate being in the hands of Maleficent rather than the patriarchy, once again we witness a beautiful, powerless aristocrat with no control over her own destiny.

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Reviews

King Louis XIII’s face is the best thing about ‘The Musketeers’

The latest  Sunday drama to emerge onto our screens falls under the category of programming the BBC have always just seemed to be really good at. With legendary historical figures, wacky yet predictable plot lines and questionable costume, The Musketeers, for me, unearths memories of Merlin and Robin Hood: plots manipulated to appeal, Maid Marion’s spotted cardi which might have been from Cath Kidston and that unforgettable scene in which a character rocks up in modern cargo trousers and military boots. It’s easy to criticise the almost insultingly simple sequences of events, the frequent cliché and tendency to cast stereotypical roles (and man of ethnic minority in control of a criminal underworld? A tight-bodice-wearing, feisty housewife that doesn’t always need a man to rescue her except when it’s sexy? Come on, BBC) not to mention the less than stellar acting. However, Sundays still find me dropping everything to snuggle down and watch The Musketeers of a Sunday night, and not just because I am Beeb til I die…

  1. The show does not command my constant and unwavering attention. As much as I love the more complex, red herring ridden and fast paced story lines of shows like Sherlock, it’s not the kind of thing that chills me out before another week of study and lectures begins. What I’ve noticed with The Musketeers is that the storyline genuinely becomes absolutely clear after around ten minutes in, meaning you can get on with more important things during – replying to emails, catching up in some reading, finishing that piece of coursework that’s due in tomorrow – whilst still being able to enjoy frantic glances at pretty, heavily colour corrected moving images to make sure you’re still on the right lines.
  2. You can play a great number of games in the duration of the show. My personal favourites being how many times will the word “musketeer” be uttered in this episode? And how many characters will be subjected to superfluous deaths? Another good one is spotting deliberate focus on what appear to be throwaway shots of objects/people who will (inevitably) become significant later in the episode.
  3. Hilarious Costuming. It’s genuinely like throwback to 2006 and Robin Hood. Not hoodies this time, but weirdly strapped dresses which are startlingly modern, as well as hair loosely styled on Miley CyrusScreen Shot 2014-03-03 at 17.25.54
  4. King Louis – preened, petulant and pea-brained, this young man is a truly, hilariously, dreadful king. The upside is we can have a jolly good giggle at his policies, pitiful attempts at wit and endlessly expressive face.We have the thoroughly cheesed off Louis
    Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 17.39.42
    The I’ve-just-cracked-an-excellent-joke-about-melons-Louis
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    The weeping-pout Louis
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    The well-formed-conclusion-making Louis
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    And the fuck-you-I’M-France Louis
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    The Musketeers is by no means challenging telly, but I don’t think I would enjoy it half as much if it was. It doesn’t stress you out with awkward cliffhangers, nor does it make any bold or obscure statements about the world to leave you baffled or pensive before bedtime. Rather, it gives you a nice, clear, well-rounded narrative with a healthy dose of closure at the end. As well as a trailer from which the plot of the next instalment can be pretty well conjectured, so you’re not dithering about waiting for next week. The perfect recipe for a solid eight hours. Lovely.

    Bonus Louis: the you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do-screw-you-Cardinal-Richelieu-I’m-going-to-my-chamber
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Personal, Rants

Why do we need a women’s network?

When I told my friend I wanted to run for Women’s Network officer, he, naturally, had a few questions for me. Your standard why do you want to run? and what will your policies be? came up, which lead to our conversation segueing into questioning the Women’s Network itself.

Why do we even need a Women’s Network?” he asked me, “and why isn’t there a men’s one? Surely there should just be a Gender Equality Society or something?”

After arguing that, here at our university, we do indeed have a group concerned with gender equality in the form of UoN Feminists, I was left to reflect on his comments which clearly illuminate the exclusivity of the Women’s Network. It can’t be denied that certain events, initiatives and socials are solely for those who define themselves as women, which could be seen as potentially ostracising towards men, as well as hypocritical of women themselves. Weren’t some of us up in arms when men-only golf clubs such as Muirfield in Scotland found themselves in the headlines last summer?

The recent ‘Women in Leadership’ week, an inspiring and thought-provoking series of lectures organised by the Women’ Network for, surprise surprise, women, also came up in discussion. My friend was uneasy about the distinction. He said it was insulting to suggest women were less proficient than men in terms of the skills needed to lead, and the fact that they needed help was no less than patronising. But with just over one in five women in parliament1 and with only one female candidate running for president of our student’s union this year, there is definitely an issue here to be identified and reconciled. It’s clear that for a number of reasons, women have a tougher time getting to the top. So, if holding workshops for women in leadership is an active step to decreasing unequal candidate gender distribution, then I’m afraid I fail to see the negative.

I also think the value of the women’s-only space which the Network is able to offer is overlooked. We live in a society bombarded by lad culture, slut shaming, unrealistic expatiations of beauty amongst other discriminations such as the potent and prominent sexual objectification of women (just turn to page three – yes, it’s still a thing, we’re going to keep bringing it up until it’s gone). Our society offers self defining women little retreat from principles which harm, undermine and shatter body image, confidence and common humanity. I think it is therefore understandable that self defining women have a need to meet, socialise and express themselves in a space which exists outside these prevalent aspects of society. Here, the compulsion to impress visually, as well as the risk of being judged or discriminated against as a result of being blessed with a vagina, do not exist.

However, it is true that women themselves can be guilty of perpetuating lad culture, from women slut shaming women to demonising another woman because, horror of horrors, she has worn “too much” make up. In this way, a women’s-only space is important in addressing and eradicating the prejudices and destructive attitudes which self-defining women can find themselves heaping on each other, transforming the women’s-only space into a nurturing and liberal environment. How can we hope to address lad culture in the wider community if we find ourselves adhering, inadvertently or otherwise, to its principles?

womens_network

Although I have a lot of love for the women’s-only space and all the comfort and confidence it has brought me, I feel that it has made the Women’s Network quite an insular organisation. It’s great that we’re recognising lad culture exists, it’s great that we’ve abolished it in our small circle of self-defining women, it’s AWESOME that we have a @NottsSexism project, but we currently have no palpable dialogue concerning lad culture with the rest of the student body. I am calling for the establishment of relationships with other societies to try and engage the entirety of UoN in conversation about it. What about the harmful effect Lad Culture produces on people with disabilities, people who identify as racial minorities, LGBT, many of these at once, and even men themselves? I want to follow the example set by Durham University, where a college’s rugby society was overheard by members of the uni’s FemSoc playing a game called “It’s not rape if…”. I’m sure the boys thought of some jolly warped responses, yet the only real answer to that question is “when it’s between consent-giving indviduals”, isn’t it, really. After controversy was sparked and apologies written, the story has a very positive and inspiring ending: the head of St Cuthbert’s rugby soc actually expressed a wish to “initiate a relationship” between the fems and the ruggers, “not only”, commented the rugby soc’s president to the DUFemSoc, “to demonstrate our belief in the importance of the work you do but to help you do it, too.”2   

A pretty brief discussion of some of the reasons why I think we need a women’s network. I could go on, but I might still be sat here at my laptop next week, or perhaps next month, or someone might tap me on the shoulder and whisper to me that my degree is actually over now and I’ve been sat in the library for two and a half years and would I like a cup of tea and a calm down? I do feel like I’ve let my friend down a little since I couldn’t answer his question about UoN’s lack of a man’s network. But now that I’ve thought about it, I think there is no man’s network simply because men haven’t set one up. I can only assume that self-defining men at UoN feel as if they do not need one.

You can follow my and Emma’s campaign at @emmabeth2014, or like us on Facebook. Or both.

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