talatyaq

Bringing you regular rage against the patriarchy, drenched in sarcasm and capslocks #FEMINISTFRIDAY

10 minutes (well 9 and a half)

So this is a bit of a cop out for a feminist Friday – but I am going to pretend that it counts. 

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to give a Tedx Talk. Now, when this first came about I, in an absent minded manner (with the support of an over enthusiastic friend) say yes, that sounds like a great idea. However, on the morning of it was a less great idea, particularly when I felt myself folding into the foetal position when someone said “mic check on stage”. It was a fascinating experience though, despite causing me the fear along with nausea. It was interesting to be giving a talk to people who are there for a whole host of reasons not necessarily because feminism was somewhere on the agenda. It was a day where feminism was spoken about along with sport, maths, health and corporate communications…pretty diverse. But also exactly where feminism should be – talking to people who aren’t necessarily already on board. I was on stage near the end of the day (so essentially rocked back and forth, back stage for about 7 hours (the volunteers kept checking up on me, pretty sure one had the ambulance on speed dial, bless him). But the warm welcome, the nodding of the heads of the women in the room who knew exactly what I was talking about and the pensive faces of the men, who knew this was important and wanted to listen. That’s worth all the nervousness (I mean, I’m not doing it any time again soon, but worth it…)

You can watch it here; 

In summary; it is the journey of a woman from birth to adulthood and the sexist hurdles she is forced to climb. 

It went online two days ago and it took one hour before a misogynistic troll decided that it was “feminist hate”, that I was a t*at, that feminists are man haters who should shut up and die, that men have problems too (cause I must have subliminally said “by talking about women’s rights, it means men shouldn’t have any-there’s not enough to go round)…and so followed the rest…beautifully illustrating patriarchy and, well making my point for me. Thanks trolling pals. You must have such a delightful life to be so easily rattled and so insecure by women standing up for themselves.

I particularly like the one that said “I’m siting back and watching feminism die with popcorn”. Oh yee of little faith, I’m not going anywhere, nor are any of my feminist sisterhood, dear little delusional women hater – We’re just getting started. If you do a little reading (try not to strain yourself) you’ll find most people are actually talking about a feminist resurgence, that’s right, I can only presume it’s the stuff of your nightmares, I guess it’ll be me sitting with the popcorn first. 

Thank you for reigniting my love of feminism and thank you for being so beyond the point of rationality that you are in fact almost a parody of misogyny. 

The story I tell includes pinkification of girls, street harassment, violence against women, victim blaming, media objectification, women in science, the pay gap and more. If you care about these issues like I do, get involved with those trying to change things:

Everyday Sexism

The Women’s Room

Everyday Victim Blaming

No More Page 3

Object

Let Toys Be Toys

End Online Misogyny 

We love feminism…now that it sells?

It’s the start of the summer holidays and whilst parent are putting together their plans for their kids now that there is no school and childcare is unavailable or ridiculously expensive (thought I’d drop that in there), I, as the dedicated Aunty that I am, have put together a spreadsheet of feminist lessons for summer. That cheer you hear in the background – That’s all my nieces. Fact.

The reason for having these discussions with my nieces is simply because nobody did it with me, and that had consequences. We are in a society where whilst we can be pleased with the progress we are making, much of this progress comes with a caveat of sexism – think the invention of twitter and consequential creation of trolls. We are in the juxtaposition of having more awareness of the issue, yet the issue of sexism increasing and evolving. The consequence being the normalisation of inequality.

Some of this juxtaposition can be seen in a little video that has been doing the social media rounds. Now I got through the first minute and I immediatelty thought – This is brilliant, this is exactly the problem, let’s talk to girls and boys about it. The video has young girls, young boys, men and women talking about what “like a girl” means, pointing out that we are using a word to describe 52% of the population as an insult. The last woman says “Why can’t run like a girl also mean win the race! AMAZING Right?!

yeah… but then my heart sinks because it’s to make you buy something. It’s not a public service announcement, it’s not just because it’s something that needs to be said. It’s to encourage you to buy Always sanitary towels. Sigh. feminist killjoy

You see, my problem isn’t with the product, perhaps it’s not even the fact that a feminist theme is being utilized to make you buy something (no, I lie, it is this, this pisses me off), it’s with the cognitive dissonance of using a feminist narrative alongside a painfully stereotypical marketing strategy.

Here’s a previous Always Ad which tells us “Even though it’s your period, you should still feel beautiful. Now this beauty doesn’t come from the inside, there are lipsticks and power brushes flying around. Because beauty means make up – just like a girl?

Here’s another which tells us that daily panty liners are “like a moisturizer, like lacy undies, like make up and like a dress” Just like a girl?

I don’t always want to be the kill joy. You know like that “friend” who you never invite to nights out, but somehow ends up there, and tell you the story of how wrong everything is around you? (I’m not that bad.) but the reality is,  if this is a direction Always and other retailers want to go in, GREAT, do it. but you’re going to have to leave the casual sexism behind. You cannot “rewrite the rules” whilst simultaneously endorsing patriarchy’s rules of women and advertising.

It’s similar to the way I feel about Dove and their “real beauty” campaign, which says hear us with out empowering message “women come in all shapes and sizes, young and old – that’s great and should be celebrated” *quiet voice* also buy our skin smoothing, wrinkle reducing, hair changing products…”

So maybe some PR geniuses have figured out that selling things by making women feel like crap isn’t working. GOOD, it’s shit, stop  doing it. But there’s a lot more to PR than an advert of the month – there’s an ethos – please re-write the rules to that, make it something I would happily say is “just like a girl”.

Now, I’m off to tell some kids santa isn’t real, the tooth fairy is their parent, and that the ending to Toy Story is a lie – all of your toys end up in that giant inferno. Feminist Kill Joy OUT.

Surprise! World cup sexism.

Have you ever considered just what happens around a table of marketing or advertising professionals? I can only assume that either everyone is asleep or that there is some form of time machine taking us back to a place where sexism was even more blatant and more readily excepted. Of course we can also assume that the people around the table are mainly men… It takes a certain level of arrogance or perhaps some form of cognitive dissonance to give the green light to blatant sexism and use the stage of the 2014 World Cup to do so. We’re only a week in and so far we have sexism overload. Just like…

1. Pringles

This is happening everywhere. It's an endemic of women nagging and yawning and men shouting at screens...

This is happening everywhere. It’s an endemic of women nagging and yawning and men shouting at screens…

Where men are being men, watch football and hiding it from their nagging wives or girlfriends. Obviously.

2. Mcdonalds

Where they almost got it by including a woman playing football…but she’s wearing heels and a little dress whilst on a night out…I think that might be the sole point.

3. River Island

Where it is acceptable to link gagging and domestic abuse to world cup watching…well it’s funny right? Cause women nag…this never gets old. (this has now been removed, but let’s just stop and think about how it was ever allowed to be there).

4. Currys

Who think that women want to watch gardening programmes, wildlife documentaries and dramas about castles so couldn’t possibly understand a man’s need for sport. (I laughed a little as I typed this).

5. The Sun

Well, given that this is about sexism, it would almost be unfair to not include the most sexist tabloid in British media (not an easy title to win). The Sun in its infinite wisdom took Page 3 out in their 2 million copy give away…apparently to cover more news. Well how about making it permanent, you know, with being a NEWSpaper and all, or perhaps it was a (very) quiet realisation that fewer people would be interested in a free copy of objectification. In the link above,  The Sun’s “how to guide” of World Cup watching includes the line “Grunt hello to the wife as she comes home and then ask her to take over barbecue duties”. Seriously.

6. The t-shirts…yes, all of them. 

There are few t-shirts you can buy of the World Cup which don’t objectify a woman or express general sexist commentary. This one in particular has had to be pulled but…after being made…after being sold…after it being pointed out by women. Then it was pulled.

7. Flags…apparently.

I never knew flags could be sexist. Actually that’s a lie, I did know that, everything can be made sexist, especially if patriarchy can help someone make money. You can have your very own world cup flag for the team you support. But who wants those boring regular flags which actually represent countries, how about one with boobs on it? Yours for only £15 plus postage and packaging. Buy now and we will throw in the demeaning of women for FREE!

There are so many reasons to be annoyed by it, from all quarters of life:

 

If you’re a woman;

Because sexism is everywhere and it’s pathetic and exhausting

Because hey, women might like watching football too.

Because you don’t nag

Because every time this happens on TV we are endorsing the ridiculing of women

If you’re a man;

Because maybe you don’t like football

Because maybe this is patriarchy backfiring on the backward expectations of men

Because maybe you look at that and think “hey that’s a really shit way to portray women”

If you’re a marketing expert/work in advertising;

Because this is REALLY lazy

Because sexism doesn’t actually sell

Because you have some responsibility of changing the status quo and the tired, outdated stereotypes it comes with

The World Cup is a world stage, it’s a shame we can’t use it to portray women positively.

Yes all women Vs Not all men

My nieces have finished their exams and look distinctly more human again, now that they have freedom from books and studying, what better way to use up their time than talk to them about feminism and current affairs. They were very happy about this (this may just be my interpretation of their facial expressions).

They are constantly on their phones and constantly online, I recently realised it wasn’t simply to follow One Direction on Twitter, it was also to follow Hillary Clinton and BBC news (remind me to never underestimate them again). Through the power of social media, they have the news at their finger tips constantly. This is good, generally. But it wasn’t this last week.

They read about Elliot Rodger in a 140 character tweets:

“Sexually Frustrated killer Elliot Rodger guns down victims”

“six dead in Virgin Killer rampage”

“I will kill all blonde s*uts says Virgin Killer”

“I don’t even remember being his friend, shock as virgin killer’s former schoolmate named as someone he hated”

Elliot Rodger was a 22 year old student who carried out a series of murders on his campus and in a shopping mall killing 3 men and 3 women. He intended to kill all women and blamed it on his lack of sexual contact and women who had rejected him. He believed they were wrong to ever reject him and that they need to be killed for their wrong doing. Now read the tweets again.

The media uses mental illness, his sexual status and his childhood to justify his murdering. Aside from this creating a whole lot of dangerous and uncalled for stereotyping, not even when the perpetrator outlines in a video manifesto of murder that he hates all women, does the media call it what it is; misogyny.
Here is an excerpt from his video manifesto script:

“I will slaughter every singly stuck up blonde slut I see inside there;

Girls, all I’ve ever wanted was to love you and to be loved by you, and wanted a girlfriend, and wanted sex, I wanted love, affection, adoration.

You think I’m unworthy of it, that’s a crime that can never be forgiven.

If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you. [laughs]

You denied me a happy life and in turn, I will deny all of you life, it’s only fair. I hate you, all of you.”

Understandably, my nieces were shocked by this, they were confused about how someone could do something, and they were confused about how someone could hate all women, to the point of wanting to see them all dead. My niece said, “I don’t think he was well” and she is right, I don’t think you can be well to do something like this, but I do think his illness was called misogyny. And it’s important we call it that.

It was a difficult, painful conversation and badly thought out news channel tweets didn’t help it. However it sparked something else on Twitter; #yesallwomen. Explaining how any misogyny impacts all women and how we need to desperately take this on and change our society. I pointed my nieces to this as the best education of the issue; from women directly and from the same source that had disturbed them so much. Of course this didn’t last long and instead was trolled by #notaallmen and #feminismiswrong…

It’s pretty pathetic to have to troll social media consciousness raising, because you are so insecure about what masculinity is. Every tweet on #notallmen is redundant. If any of those using it would have read just a few tweets or even done a quick Google search they would have had a simple query answered; Not all men are misogynist but ALL women suffer the consequences of misogyny, and the focus of feminism is the latter. Simple as that.

Irony was of course lost on the people of twitter, as a hashtag stating “not all men  are misogynist”, was using classic patriarchal methods to silence the solidarity and experiences of women. Kind of screwed up your own point there.

Starting the tag not all men, was purposefully created to derail women’s conversations, however it backfired. Massively. With both men and women explaining, ranting and often with fabulous wit, the absolute pointless and patronising endeavour of this social media stunt.
20140529-200759.jpg

Thankfully #yesallwomen has won the patriarchal social media battle (this week) as the hashtag is STILL going strong today and had been a source of education for many:

When mainstream media is unable to call a story of violence against women what it actually is, it is the job of social media and “ordinary people” to take forward and shout about it; and keep going in the face all the silencing and abuse, because, yes, all women, feel the consequences of.

Our Acceptance of Blurred Lines

Hey BBC, you did good.

I watched Kirsty Wark’s programme on sexism in 2014, and it was brilliant. It explored how deep rooted sexism is, how easily it can ignored. Most importantly it showed Kirsty’s disgust and the darkness that exists across our society when you stop to actually think about that joke, that lyric or that advert. It clearly made people uncomfortable and sexism should make people uncomfortable. The show analysed the sexism that happens every week after Question Time. Each time Stella Creasy, Mary Beard, Harriet Harman, or Ruth Davidson get asked on (which is rare enough) they are abused in the most abhorrently misogynistic way across social media. It is vitally important that this is highlighted and people are made to feel ashamed of their conduct. These are misogynists hiding behind anonymity, silencing women out of public life. Well done to the programme for revealing that this silencing of women is the responsibility of everyone and that just because it happens on Twitter, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in real life. 

You can watch it here.

The programme importantly highlighted how normalised sexism and misogyny is today, and what it reveled was that when you accept even one aspect of sexism, you are more likely to accept the next level of “up” of inequality. Go to 21.30 minutes and we hear from a psychologist who tells us that a man who holds some sexist views perceives sexual harassment or “humorous” sexism as acceptable and even empowering. These individuals were more likely to accept the under-representation of women in parliament, a decrease in women services and inequality in the sharing of household chores. Kirsty Wark excellently explains that when we laugh along, dismissing it as a joke, as bystanders, we endorse the sexist views some men hold and therefore reinforce it to be stronger. 

But there is another dimension. It isn’t just “some sexist attitudes” that we may be reinforcing, it is a sexist society we live in. Having some sexist views is the norm, in fact seeing everyone as equal and being free of prejudice is actually an abnormal mind to have. Because everyday we encounter sexist messaging; we are brought up in that environment and we are normalised to it. To divide people as definitely not sexist or definitely sexist and therefore more impressionable, is actually pretty disingenuous. 

The part that left me speechless (not an easy thing to do) was the longest standing editor of Loaded Magazine (yes, it’s hardly a surprise). He said that Loaded “celebrated” women (to which, much to my happiness Kirsty Wark shook her head and laughed), he then said he believed people were intelligent enough to decipher that the magazine is not endorsing objectifying women…right.

Kirsty Wark showed said editor the Blurred Lines video, to which he said “I don’t think that’s so bad”, when she showed him the “we saw your boobs” clip from last year’s oscars he responded “that’s not funny, that’s why that’s not ok”, He was shown a “I’m feeling rapey” t-shirt and said “that’s not funny, that is misogynistic” But here’s the problem, it’s not about how funny it is (aside from that being pretty subjective) it’s about what it says about women, whether someone laughs or not. 

The former editor of loaded magazine also goes on to say essentially poor men feel bad, that’s why it’s happening. Wholly missing the issue of why women are made to blame for that feeling or indeed why that feeling exists at all. 

There is a continuum here, which is a nuance missing from some of those objecting to the idea that sexism exists today. What is ok and what is not ok, in fact is essentially one in the same. All we are doing is increasing our tolerance to what is not ok. Let’s take a look at sexism according to that editor:

Loaded magazine – ok

Loaded magazine content – ok

Blurred lines video -ok

Blurred lines lyrics – ok

T-shirt with domestic abuse – ok

T-shirt with explicit rape joke – Not Ok

When you put it in a list like that, that definition of “ok” and “not ok” is pathetically redundant. Every single aspect of what comes before the “Not Ok” plays a role in developing a culture of tolerance to sexism and misogyny. From rape jokes by unimaginative comedians, to the latest music video, from rape threats on twitter to killing prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto; all of this contributes to a culture where the “not ok” is becoming further removed and more misogynistic every day. The tolerance level to sexism is already dangerously high and those blurred lines, when you think about it, are not actually all that blurry. 

Amazing work Kirsty Wark. Can we have a programme like this every week? Please?

 

Dear BBC Scotland…

Dear BBC Scotland,

I am writing to you at 22.05 after watching, nay, enduring, your program on “What Woman Want” which was supposedly an analysis of women’s views and the “gender gap” which has been identified. Latest polling showing that 67% of women intend to vote no in the Scottish Referendum. I, like many woman have made up my mind, I have analysed the situation, I have found my information, I have asked my questions and I will be voting no. This isn’t about how we are voting though, this is about how you patronised us. My sisters on the Yes or No side are not amused.

The program came with such promise. An hour, a whole hour, dedicated to talking to women and asking their political opinions, trust me this is unheard of. Given I still have to endure on a daily basis, all male panels and all male opinion makers on my screen, on my radio and in my newspaper, I was rather excited. But much like the parents of a rebellious teenager, I shook my head in disappointment; because you didn’t rebel, you stuck with the status quo of feminine clichés and patronising scripting.

We talked to women politicians in their kitchens and in cafes. We went to find women at the roller derby and at a wedding exhibition. Really? Today I was on a university campus, I was in an office, I was at the bank and later on a bus. Pretty gender neutral things, and other women were also there. Sometimes, we like to push out of patriarchy’s tight grip, sometimes we even do that with trousers on – I can only assume, this shocks you. Jackie Bird decided to visit a bridal shop where she said “women like to shop” (I don’t, actually), followed by “we take our time with decisions, whether picking a dress or a political system” (again, no, I have to say, the dress is bought if it fits and is on sale, the political system on the other hand I consider just a little longer…). Then we went to a shot of a neurosurgeon to remind us that men’s and women’s brains are not particularly different, it’s nurture not nature. What we could have said here was its sexism not biology, but it seems you were not looking to take this matter particularly seriously.

Credit to you, there were almost some rays of hope. When Jackie Bird pointed out the Yes campaign’s newspaper with Nicola Sturgeon in the Kitchen and pictures of babies, it was a cheap shot for women’s votes. When Johann Lamont talked about women not being reduced to a single cohort and being respected as a diverse set of minds, I eagerly nodded. We were educated on women suffrage and the women forgotten in history (and not taught in our schools), we got to applaud women comics, but on both occasions we drifted past the issue by saying “isn’t this bad?” rather than calling it out properly.

At one point, Jackie even mocked the idea of the cliché of women baking scones in a kitchen, but then decided to interview one of the top women politicians of Scotland, as she made a cup of tea, apparently continuity in scripting was not a priority here. Have we ever had Alex Salmond interviewed as he makes a cup of tea? If we are going for clichés, I presume the interview would take place at a men’s only golf club somewhere…

Then came the round table with real women voters; we ask them a couple of questions whilst nodding our heads “sooo what do you think, so of this stuff is super hard yeah?” (that might not have been what the presenter asked, my rage is getting the better of me). This lasted about 5 minutes, which is a shame as I thought, this was the entire point. Then the presenter finished with “the women seemed to not be occupied by the economy but the smaller, everyday things and what they cost” newsflash – that’s a pretty big part of the economy. Now I am not hating on the women presenters, no, no. They will have been asked to follow a format, yes? I thought so.

Well, at least it ended with the right commentary; Jackie explained that women come at this from a variety of angles, that they are not “risk averse”, that they make up the majority of the electorate and that considering options is a very rational thing to do. But why couldn’t that have been the mindset with which you recorded the programme. I left with a feeling that I and women are nothing more than clichés to you.

The reasons why women are not engaged is institutionalised sexism. The reason women are not at the forefront of the campaigning is institutionalised sexism. The way you decided to put this programme together is institutionalised sexism.

Let’s get women front and centre of the debate, let’s get their voices heard. But let’s not do this but reinstating clichés and patronising them along the way; respect them for the intelligent voters they are.

 

Yours sincerely,

A proud feminist, who will no doubt be writing to you again.

Silky, Smooth Sexism

It’s always the adverts. I would have a more balanced blood pressure level and a regular heart rate if those 30 second slots didn’t interrupt my watching of the rest of sexism on television.

Let’s think about those advert slots; 30 seconds times by around 4 adverts between each break in a programme, here’s what they us about women.

1. A car advert tells us that a woman is the equivalent of a hood ornament

2. A men’s fragrance tell us that if a woman gets a whiff of you, her clothes should come right off.

3. A supermarket reminds us that grocery shopping and cooking are, obviously, jobs only for women

4. The beauty industry tell us that a woman needs better hair, better skin, better eyelashes; they way you look when you wake up is grim for the rest of the world (in my case, this might be a little bit true, mainly the drool down my chin).

Sometimes there, something about PPI or claiming for injuries, but that’s about it.

That’s a lot of information in two minutes. That’s a lot of sexism in two minutes.

BUT wait, it gets better. The beauty industry is usually one that makes me bury my head in my hands with its constant preying on women’s self esteem and reinstating values that tell us that if we are to look attractive (which we can’t do without them) it better be to please a man – forget what you want in life, or what gender you actually want to be with. We are so normalised to it that we have a tendency to shake our heads and move on, but every so often, even our normalised sexism drops its jaw in the audacity of the marketing world.

This time its Veet, now usually veet falls under the “normalised sexism” category; yes it’s a pants, usually it tells us to hold ourselves up to beauty standards (standards being a rubbish word to use) that are unfair and a very narrow definition of the word beauty, but it has outdone even itself. DON’T RISK DUDENESS (also don’t invent words, Veet).

Yup. That just happened. You may be shocked into silence, perhaps confused as to who thought this was a good idea or looking into the abyss wondering what part of this angers you the most. Well, let pick this apart and find out:

1. If you don’t shave your legs, you are a man

2. If you don’t shave your legs, you are unattractive to men

3. Men, you should be horrified at a woman with hair

4. She shaved yesterday and there is already stubble -If anything Veet, that is you telling us it’s not worth it

5. Women, you should feel apologetic for being hairy

6. Women, you should feel apologetic for the horror that may be on the face of a disgustingly sexist man who has only a patriarchal definition beauty and is, by the sounds of it, pretty undeserving of touching your stubbly legs.

7. Feeling womanly is reserved to those who adhere to these beauty standards

8. That Veet is just a bit homophobic.

9. That hairiness is something you should be worrying about around the clock, like an impending doom or hairy zombie apocalypse

10. It’s kind of also offensive to men with a bit of a belly and a beard. Jump on the feminist bandwagon beardy men.

AND women it’s not just who you wake up next to that should be horrified at your disgusting natural body growth, what would the pedicures think of you?!!

Apparently, the taxi driver and the emergency medical staff would also be disgusted and make you feel ashamed, but I can’t seem to find those ads anywhere on the net. (fine with me!)

Thanks Veet, in 30 seconds you’ve been quite an education. You’ve reminded me and countless others (just take a look at my Twitter feed) that lazy sexism is the staple of the marketing world and one we need to constantly question, highlight and tackle. So with that in mind, you can complain here:

http://www.veet.co.uk/contact-us-form.php

Or leave them a passive aggressive message on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veet

Or let the company that owns Veet products know that this is all a little bit pathetic on Twitter: @discoverRB

I am off for a cup of tea and possibly some deep breaths.

Sexism, a PR dream.

What do you get when you cross a sexist company with a public relations team? The most disingenuous partnership in the history of all time. (ok, maybe not, but I like to be dramatic).

In the past two weeks it would seem that the patriarchy has over-dosed itself on “damage control” and is trying to recreate it’s image to the public by becoming charitable and health conscious. Laughs all round.

Let’s start with The Sun, that dearest newspaper that is has sexism so ingrained in it’s very design that it cannot muster the strength to realise that calling Page 3 a national treasure, is a disservice to the entire country and is so obnoxious that it can refuse the petitioning of some 180,000 people and stop belittling and objectifying women next to the most recent news of a footballer’s latest misdemeanor and a snappy pun about the benefits system. The Sun newspaper thought it would be an excellent idea to team up with a breast cancer charity and use Page 3 as a way of teaching people how to check their breasts and raise awareness of breast cancer, especially in younger women (well, of course younger women, the age range of page 3 is about 18-21 years, nobody wants to see real breasts that have been impacted by gravity over the years, right? Thanks.)

Now call me cynical, but this has to be the cheapest PR stunt I have seen in a while. Of course, I want women to check their breasts for early signs of cancer, of course it saves lives. But that’s not what this is about is it? No. If this was about women, about cancer and about saving lives, despite it being in The Sun, I would welcome it. This is about making Page 3 palatable and being able to say it serves a purpose other than providing men with kicks and profit margins. Let’s just think about it for a second. Somewhere in a meeting room, with what my experience tells me are probably only men, and if we are lucky one woman, they thought; “let’s use breast cancer to make us look better.” Lets USE breast cancer. Well The Sun, NO SALE, because most of us saw through it. In fact so much so, that the largest breast cancer charity, Breakthrough, had to release a press statement, explaining that they believe it “trivialises” breast cancer. That’s a whole lot politer than I would have been. Image

Those thinking that this is a serious feature or one that has depth, let’s ask The Sun a few questions:

1. Why is it about ascetically pleasing young women? Do older women not get breast cancer?

2. Why, if it is about breast cancer, and not objectification, are none of the women wearing any jeans?

3. Did you think through that maybe focusing on perky breasts is a bit of an insult to those who have had breast cancer or mastectomies?

4. Your largest readership is male (almost 60%), did that have any bearings on how this feature was put together? And if so, why, when it’s about women and their boobs, not men and their fancies?

Having gone the The Sun’s website. interestingly, I have to scroll down many pictures of breasts before I find a link to how I can actually “check em”. Once I click on the link, I then scroll down 2 more pictures of “Rosie” from Page 3 showing us how to do it, before any actual descriptions…But this is after I get told that I should “check em and then post em” (a picture on twitter) using the hashtag.

Breast cancer isn’t a profit making route, nor is it a way to create some good PR, The Sun, you have somehow made Page 3 more ridiculous to me. I didn’t know it was possible.

Onto the second company to stir rage. It’s a common theme in my life to switch on the television and be angry within, say 3 minutes, and Lynx is usually on the list of adverts to achieve this. But they have taken on a whole new image these days. It is normally a marketing campaign around women (literally) falling from the sky at men’s feet, crashing cars whilst being intoxicated by a man’s scent or having their clothes fall off. There is usually a general theme of women being there for sexual pleasure and that they are men’s entitlement, provided of course said men have sprayed themselves with lynx. What is not to like? That sure makes me want to buy it…women and men should be equally insulted (and no, this isn’t me not being able to take a joke, I enjoy having a laugh, I just don’t enjoy it being at women’s expense).

But now, they’ve taken on a political and charitable theme; It’s all about world peace, and how do we achieve world peace? By wearing new Lynx Peace and showing women (again, ascetically pleasing women) that you love them.

We have a soldier returning from war, a soldier in combat who decides to stop shooting and kiss a woman, what is meant to appear to be a dictator who instead uses his power to get his army to make a love heart and who we are (i assume) to think is a terrorist (yes, there’s elements of all kinds of prejudice thrown in) who instead presses a big red button to set off fireworks for his love rather than a weapon. The footnote of this is essentially, if we all loved women more, had a little sexy time with them and brought them grand gestures of love, war would end? Is that it? *head hits desk repeatedly*

Much like The Sun, this is pretty cynical stuff. Let’s bandwagon an important issue and make some profit over it and let’s make ourselves look good rather than objectifying, degrading and sexist. This is also an example of why campaigners and organisations need to be weary of who they partner with; Last year, the theme for Peace One Day was around domestic abuse and highlighting why this is an endemic across the world creating nothing short of a war against women. So much so, that Peace One Day has partnered with the likes of the UN and anti violence campaigners to create the Domestic violence coalition. It is a shame that some reflection hasn’t been done on why domestic abuse is an endemic, why it is prevalent across the world; ask any women’s rights campaigner and they will tell you; it’s because of a global, institutionalized inequality, which allows us to see women as “less” and men as dominators. It is this force of inequality that allows domestic abuse to exist and often go unnoticed, and Lynx’s sexist advertising plays a role in allowing this inequality and the “lesser than” perception of women to exist. Lynx repeatedly use women in their advertising campaigns as objects, as things to be captured and for the use of sex; does this not sit on the spectrum of institutionalised sexism which allows violence against women to fester in society?

By creating these partnerships, whether with The Sun or Lynx, are we not also condoning how they represent women?

Both Peace One Day and CoopaFeel are organisations very worthy of media and advertising attention. I just wish they had gone about it a different way.

Valentines; What’s a feminist to do?

It’s valentines day. Now, I probably didn’t need to point that out, given there is no way you have walked down a street without it being slapped in your face: “£5 roses bouquet” Can only imagine they are of the highest quality, nothing screams romance like budgeting and “champagne meals for 2″ Because the restaurant doesn’t want your scummy single custom this weekend.

Valentine’s Day is like 24 hours where the consumer world reflects a Sunday meal with my family. A giant heart shaped microscope on your life, judging your singleton ways and your double bed with a single pillow. It’s like every aunty I know has suddenly set up an aisle in Tesco, so much so, that when I go to get a loaf of bread, I worry  that at the end of the valentines aisle would be my aunt and the latest “eligible” Batchelor she’s found. shudder.

I’m not a fan, but equally I’m not a hater, especially when one of my younger nieces makes me a card with hearts and glitter (quite literally) falling off it. But my older nieces asked me- can you be a feminist and like valentines day? Immediately I wanted to say “of course” so normalised am I to coming to the defence of feminism and trying everything to make sure people get we are not what the Daily Mail told you we were. But actually, it’s a good question, and one that feminists haven’t quite worked out.

I asked my niece what she thought of it, and she said s0me of the girls (young women) at school were obsessed with knowing they had a date or boyfriend that day, so they knew they were getting gifts, which makes her think feminists can’t like it. There’s quite a lot to unpack there. Firstly, the obvious issue of “having to have a boyfriend” this is something that doesn’t just exist for 16 year olds, it follows many women throughout their lives. I can’t walk into a family event without someone tilting their head any asking me if I was struggling with not being married (little do they know I am often tilting my head and asking them why they bothered to marry). There is an acute pressure on women to be in romantic relationships, and on top of that for these relationships to fit
heteronormative rules and traditional gender roles. And Valentines Day obviously emphasises that. On top of this, I was taken by the part of her sentence that said “knew they were getting gifts”. Of course Valentine’s Day again emphasises this with it’s roses, chocolates, teddies and flowers. But this isn’t just reserved to Valentine’s Day, in fact young women and men are often told that their affection is equivalent to gifts and that empathy and love is an after thought. It doesn’t take much to go from thinking a relationship is about gift giving to thinking it is about getting something in return for those gifts, or thinking that the gift giving excuses any behaviour… the problems are pretty evident.

There is also a problem here about young women and self esteem, and that for some it is equated to boyfriends and gifts.

So ok, if you feel the need to run to find a man, Valentine’s Day is not so femtastic. But it doesn’t need to be, surely, in 2014 we can have a valentines that is about loving all those who are close to you, regardless of the romantic undertones (as if they are that subtle) of the day?? Apparently not. I started doing a little reading and there seem to be two extremes, neither of which I like:

1. You like Valentine’s; you capitalist anti feminist demon: So one of the first articles I came across told me to reject all things to do with love, romance and Valentine’s. It can only come in a patriarchal package and therefore love must be rejected in all forms for you to be considered a feminist. Now, I’m not keen on anyone telling me what box my feminism should fit into, given I am already trying to push my way out of the box patriarchy put me in, so this viewpoint can shove it.

2. Use Valentine’s to learn to love yourself; aside from the slight nausea this makes me feel, there is a point, take out the partner and make it about you and what you appreciate about yourself and your feminism. Aright, that’s fine. Until said article told me to write myself a love letter, or go on a feminist date to prove Valentine’s day wrong…I think we might be giving Valentine’s Day more importance this way, which was entirely the opposite aim. Also, I AM NOT WRITING MYSELF A LOVE LETTER. GEES.

I then realised that I was looking in all the wrong places and my niece can have her questions answered by the one and only bell hooks.

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bell hooks is the only feminist writer I have had the privilege of reading who talks about love and what it means as a feminist. I’m pretty sure bell hooks wouldn’t really mind valentines day (admittedly I have never actually talked to her…one day). Bell hooks explains love in the clearest and yet most sophisticated way; that love removed from the facade of romance needs to be based on equality, empathy and justice. Without these pillars it’s a lie. And for a feminist what better definition than that?

In her book All About Love, hooks describes how patriarchy has distorted our view of love and taught us, both men and women to lie, to appear powerful or powerless. May not sound like the pink fluffy treat you were hoping for on this day, but it’s a necessary read. By no means is hooks saying that love doesn’t exist or that love itself is a terrible thing, she is in fact, explaining that the dominance of power and patriarchy is a disservice to love and an injustice to women in all types of relationships.

So all the roses, the chocolates and the nauseating pink might be nice, but essentially they only count if they are based on justice and equality. Hooks goes further to say love should be worthy of this foundation in all aspects of our life:

To love well is the task in all meaningful relationships, not just romantic bonds.

How about dropping the roses (alright ok, give in and buy them) but why not gift wrap a copy of bell hooks’ All About love? That’s my kind of valentine’s day…I’ll await by the door for all your gifts…

To The Women That Never Were

It’s a brand new year, well it’s been a brand new year for 24 days, but lets say I was still recovering from the ‘holiday’ and attempting to get back into the real world. Admittedly I had to ease myself in by watching Mary Poppins and Elf twice a day for the first two weeks.

But I have entered the real world with a bang, and not a good one.

The purpose of these blogs is to create a feminist conversation by retelling the conversations I am having with my nieces, who range between the ages of 6 and 16 (there has been a lovely new addition recently, but I thought I would let her learn a few words first before I introduce her to feminism, although I’m hoping those words are ‘smash the patriarchy’).

There are many reasons why I decided to start this (2 years ago now!). Firstly, because schools don’t, secondly because of the conversations and feelings I heard them having and the things they were beginning to see in the world, and thirdly because of the culture they have inherited. Like me, they have all inherited parts of an Islamic culture.

So last week, this was the front page of The Independent.
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Que utter outrage and utter heartbreak from me. In Britain, in 2014, in a so called progressive society, we have unborn children being aborted for being girls. Let me make one thing very clear; This is not about abortions or reproductive rights. Anyone foolish enough to use this as an argument for “pro life” argument, fundamentally misunderstands social justice. This is about infanticide and misogyny.

Usually, if something has had such an effect I will talk about it to my nieces. But this one I found myself stumbling over. How do I explain to young women (lets not even try to get to my younger nieces) that has the been born to different families, they may never have been born at all, simply for being women. I have had many conversations with my nieces, difficult ones, explaining that society has prejudices against them and there are some in this society that hate them for their gender. We’ve talked about rape, we’ve talked about harassment, we’ve talked about racism. But this one I found painfully difficult.

It’s for a whole host of reasons. But perhaps to understand the main reason, you need to know a little more about my life. I am the youngest of a family of only daughters, that’s something I celebrate, but not everyone thinks I should. I am also from a Muslim background and culture, which it would be naïve of me not to recognise, as a factor in this. Whilst *some* progress has been made, within the Eastern cultures  (and in my case, specifically, Muslim culture) having a son is still more preferable than having a daughter. But, let’s not pretend that it’s isn’t an issue in all cultures, if it was a non issue, feminism would be much further progressed.

In Muslim culture, like most, having a son means having someone to carry on the family name, take over the family business, bring income and glory into the home. Forgetting of course, that I have an income, I can develop business skills and I can choose to keep my surname- but “its not the same”. When a daughter is born, a family may be happy but they won’t be publicly happy, when a son is born, it is expected you will give out boxes of sweets to your family and friends. That’s how vivid and ridiculous the distinction is. From birth. Your inequality and injustice starts from a box of sweets. This is gradually changing now, as generations move on, and thankfully every single one of my nieces births were celebrated.

Back to my situation, there are many daughters in my family, and of course, it’s probably due to the pressure on my parents to have a boy. I grew up with people asking my mother if she had any sons, after replying no, she would get a tilt of the head and a stabbing sentence: “well, I guess Allah didn’t have that planned for you”. No instead he “planned” for awesome, strong, intelligent daughters… sucks to be us…

Thankfully and rightly, this pressure didn’t cause what the front page of the Independent reports. At no point would it even have been a thought to not bother having a child if it turned out to be a girl. My heart breaks for the women that never were; the daughters, the sisters. The ones that could have been inventors, could have been public figures, could have made the world a better place just by being in it, but were denied the opportunity, simply for their sex. Equally, my heart breaks for the women who may be forced, often by men and misogyny to abort unwanted girls. The purpose of reproductive rights are choices for women, in cases such as these, the choice no longer exists and is abused by the very portion of society that would penalise them if they were to  make the choice to have an abortion under any other circumstance.

It’s enough to make you weep, to make you exhausted and to make you wonder if there is any point in changing things, when this is how deep rooted and hopeless things are. Given that the point of these conversations on feminism with my nieces are about giving them strength, and given that this broke a veteran feminist like me (in comparison) for a few days, I think I worried whether I should put them through feeling this sad.

But it is of course necessary to talk about and to change, and when I find the courage I will talk to my nieces in detail about it (but first they can read this and gather their own thoughts).

Feminism can become stronger in the face of this, because we need strength to continue to fight for the women that never were.

To those women; the fights for justice are in your honour too and in your memory for everything you could and should have been.

*It has been pointed out to me that the Independent article is flawed – and of course it is, it is not written in the interests of women and choice, it is written as a method of instigating moral panic – but equally, it would be wrong for our movement not to be strong enough to have this discussion, because it does happen. But we must always ensure that at all times women have true choice; whether that is to give birth to a girl or not. 

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