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

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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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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Rants

“Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits”: Thoughts on Lily Allen’s comeback single

Speaking as a strident Kate Nash fan, I properly advocate the riot grrrl punk pop movement. I love that Kate has grown up and found her true identity within her art form. It is true that her Girl Talk is worlds apart from her charty, ‘cutesy London girl’ debut album Made of Bricks and this has tended to put people off her; one grows accustomed to hearing various lamentations such as “why has she like, gone punk?” and “I don’t like her new shouting”. But I’ve simply adored following her over the years, charting her development and sort of feeling like I have grown with her as a feminist. I’ve always looked to her music for motivation in times of low confidence and dwindling self esteem – Kate’s music always seems to have the answer to typical, everyday psychological issues that are fairly universal and prevalent but aren’t necessarily recognised as feelings that shouldn’t ignored or stifled.
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The emergence of Lily Allen’s shiny-new-comeback-feminist-anthem sent me seriously giddy because THIS felt like British feminist music’s first real chance, as far as I’m aware, to finally seep into the charts and align itself with popular ditties, such as that misogynist atrocity ‘Blurred Lines’, in order to challenge and supersede them. It could perhaps even be graced with the massive and diverse audience that Radio One is capable of giving and hopefully start encouraging people to REALLY think about what their favourite tunes are actually saying to them, and whether or not they are messages we want to consider/be exposed to.

The song, Hard Out Here, certainly lives up to expectations. It is a very satisfying listen in that it is both catchy as they come since it conforms to the conventional structure of pop songs (which should get it shitloads of that all important reception). Though not so gnarly as Kate Nash’s brilliant, relevant and downright attitudinal Rap for Rejection and All Talk, Hard Out Here can boast some pretty straight talking as well as exploration of modern social taboo; I especially love the quasi-polite opening lyric “Well I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinking.” In fact, the term “bitch” is purposefully over-used throughout the song which kind of makes its use as a weapon redundant and transforms it into a word that is derogatorily defunct. I love the fact that Lily suggests that ANY woman boasting ANY kind of sex life can be labelled a slut in not disclosing her own – she simply sings “If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slut”, before asserting that when men boast about their multiple partners, or “bitches”, “no one’s making a fuss.”

There’s also a whole load in there about superficiality and pressurising women into having stereotypically desirable bodies: Lily adopts the voice of the patriarchy, suggesting that women who “aren’t a size six… should probably lose some weight”. This is particularly important since women can’t actually function unless they’re in a relationship or married, so all this face and body fixing must be completed pronto “or you’ll end up on your own”. She does offer a glimmer of hope for women who aren’t “good looking”, promising success is guaranteed if you’re “rich” or “real good at cooking” – essentially Mrs Bennet’s dream daughter. Sarcasm aside, though, Lily also challenges the school of thought that deems feminism futile in this day and age with the resounding middle eight phrase “Inequality promises that it’s here to stay, / Always trust the injustice ’cause it’s not going away”. And she’s got an awful lot of evidence to back it up.

The video, however, isn’t quite the patriarchy-smashing wonder the song portends. Some bits are undeniably fabulous in my opinion; having just had two babies, Lily lies on an operating table in the opening seconds with half a dozen plastic surgeons sculpting her body into something resembling a ‘desirable’ woman again – it’s sickening to think that when a woman choses to become a mother she can no longer transgress that role without having to be surgically reconstructed to some kind of perverted former glory. I also love the direct pisstake of Robin Thicke’s alleged “big dick”; Lily doesn’t need someone of the opposite sex to dance around her proclamations of a “baggy pussy” to promote/glorify it necessarily, she just galumphs around it in a sensible amount of clothing of her own accord as if to say “This is me and actually don’t give a shit.”

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However, I don’t think I’m alone in the qualms I have about the number of extremely scantily clad black woman who surround Lily throughout the video whilst performing highly sexualised dance routines. For one thing these women have obviously be valued by and selected for the video because they have desirable figures which are being exploited by the pointlessly skimpy outfits they’ve been told to wear. This seems to totally undermine what Lily was getting at in the song about the industry being unable to cope with the way motherhood has affected her body and basically writing her off because of it, a contempt which is alluded to at the operating table when her old, tubby, white, male manager asks, disgusted: “How can somebody let themselves get like this?”. If there were allusions to these women going beyond the success they enjoy from being slim and beautiful then there’d be grounds for Lily’s argument that she “don’t need to shake [her] arse for you / ’cause [she’s] got a brain”, ie a woman’s beauty and intelligence can co-exist. However there is none of this, the video portrays the stereotypical pop music spectacles of semi-naked women, alcohol, indefinite money and a gold plated kitchen. The inclusion of a token, white, larger women also holds absolutely no significance or moral/social stance since she’s only on the screen for about half a second, illustrating that even in a feminist video only physically perfect women are deemed worthy of representation. Popular, patriarchal culture still prevails, unfortunately.

I can appreciate that the video does attempt a satirical representation the treatment and perception of women in popular culture, but perhaps Lily is aware that details of her video are questionable, particularly as one of her lyrics is “If you can’t detect the sarcasm / you’ve misunderstood” – sounds to me like she’s trying to cover her own back…

You can watch the video for Hard Out Here by following this link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0CazRHB0so

Kate Nash’s Rap for Rejection:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw0Nvav6VRY

Kate Nash’s All Talk:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wj1sN9YxGew

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Personal, Rants, Reviews

Lame Fresher Diaries: Pole Dancing

It’s been a weird month for pole dancing: A week or so ago it emerged that Swansea University banned its Pole Dance Society from running any longer, claiming that it validated a career in sex work; furthermore, I have decided to master the art.

To expand upon the former: in a bid to eradicate sexist attitudes towards it, the University of Swansea’s decision to ban the Pole Dance Society, to me, seems utterly ridiculous. In banning the society, surely, the University have applied a negative connotation to pole dancing which will, now, inevitably filter through and damage people’s perspectives of the art form. Hence, the University could arguably create a sexist attitude which, perhaps, didn’t even exist initially. Furthermore, a more common name for the activity is “pole fitness”; is not the notion of banning something design to improve your core strength and physical well-being by using your body to make weird, wonderful, often muscle-pulling shapes totally ridiculous? It’s like banning gymnastics.

And the latter: as a bit of a feministy, wannabe eccentric with an enthusiastic Fresher Complex, it seemed apt to try it after the Swansea controversy. And at £2.50 for a taster which included a sure fire way to transform my body into a graceful, mysterious piece of empowering artwork (which is so far removed from the amateurish swinging on a greasy pole in a club with your knickers on show), I was well up for it.

So there we were, a merry band of woman adventurers dressed to impress in slobby gym wear and our sights set on throwing some epic pole shapes and bent on oozing some kind of sexy, freedom-fighting, self-owning, strong woman warrior kind of vibe thing – especially since some of my peers had attempted to chastise me for wanting to try it. They deemed it “unclassy”, “slutty” and intrinsically linked to sex work, to which I retorted “It’s pole FITNESS, and my body is UNATTAINABLE and BENDY” and promptly flounced off.

The studio, Twisted Pole, turned out to be very well hidden about four floors up in a sort of apartment block, which, admittedly, did kind of add to the sense that it was a slightly illicit and transgressive undertaking. Upshot: it was bloody exciting!

We arrived at the studio already quite red faced, sweating and heaving from clambering up about 500 or so spiralling stairs in heavy winter boots and found a fairly busy hive of activity in the studio itself. For someone like me – a total stranger to dance, lacking grace and the ability to move in time to music – being in a studio in the initial quarter of an hour was a fairly alien experience, particularly when confronted with a wall of mirrors depicting mercilessly the extent to which my bits of skin were bursting out of my skimpy pole shorts, but after growing accustomed to the unshakable presence of my flab it was a pretty relaxed environment. The instructor and experienced members of the society began to demonstrate some moves and we were all absolutely ASTOUNDED by how strong they all were being able to support themselves and sustain such complex, beautiful and awe inspiring routines, all on something so insubstantial as a rod of metal. On watching them, I found you quite forgot the pole and all the connotations imposed on it by the patriarchy, and just took in the art unfolding before your eyes – not to mention the burning desire to replicate the shapes yourself.

As it turns out, after an hour of launching myself at a rod of metal – and discovering I have no upper body strength and turning my inner thighs bright pink through vain attempts to grip – pole dancing is hard, man. Really hard. In fact, far from the sexy, empowered, you-don’t-own-me-bro image I was going for, I have never felt less sexy. The number of bruises I acquired is phenomenal, as were the aching I felt in various muscles the next morning. However, this did prove that pole dancing is an excellent and social way to tone. Plus, when I finally mastered the ‘fireman’ and the ‘sundial’, the sense of satisfaction and achievement was basically unparalleled.

Rather than being some kind of really serious, controversial, topical activity, it was just a huge laugh for all of us, and ignited a wave of determination within me to work at it until I am an impressive, amazing, watchable pole dancer. Watch this space.

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Personal

I am the world’s most uncool fresher.

It’s no excuse, but I really have been a little rushed off my feet of late, resulting in the, albeit temporary, abandonment of my shitty blog . I made the stupid mistake of signing up to an impossible number of societies and now am faced with the heart breaking decision as to which I should commit to, which not.

It’s amazing how quickly we’ve all adapted to brand new situations; we’ve all taken to lightheartedly joking that it feels like we were born here in Nottingham and, rather prematurely, planning the washing up rota for next year when we all move in together.

I myself have a very active and fulfilling study life. The library has become a sort of second home. For me the appeal is studying at night when all’s quiet, save the hypnotic, mechanical whirring of the multitude of printers, computers, coffee machines. It’s literally the most perfect environment for total focus almost effortless productivity, as long as you don’t succumb to the the typical flagship procrastination sites: Tickld, Facebook, YouTube to name but an obvious few.

The hues and undulations of the campus downs are the new focal point of my existence, and I find myself totally and seamlessly absorbed into Nottingham life. And it’s fucking fab.

Greatest achievements so far: joining the women’s network, making a failed doorstop owl, discovering chocomilk is in fact better than hot chocolate and not missing a single breakfast time.

#safe

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