talatyaq

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

Archive for the tag “girls”

2013; The Good, The Bad, The Change Making

Well, somehow we have got to the end of 2013, and it’s time to reflect and consider how on earth the last 12 months went by so quickly, particularly without the rage finally getting to me and ending in throwing my laptop out the window, feminist rock star style.

The purpose of this blog was originally a place for me to get angry after the BBC’s 2011 list of top women, and was meant to be a one off, but since has become a much bigger part of my life as it has since become a place to write about the feminist conversations with my nieces – which I adore, and apprarently some of you do too – so thanks for your comments, tweets and posts.

sandwichBut let’s look back and see what happened in 2o13,

I’m going to write you a sh*t sandwich….

The Good; Feminist excellence that has given us hope and strengthened the movement:

Malala: I don’t need write much of an introduction; but from 2012 local campaigning to allow girls to be educated in Pakistan lead to her being hunted and shot by the Taliban, Malala came to be operated on in the UK and started her education there. Throughout the last year, she continued to campaign for girls rights, was nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, addressed the United Nations, had her biography launched and casually went on a speaking tour with Gordon Brown. She is 16. (Just for the record, I managed to get up AND got to work…so we’re all achievers….sigh)

Wendy Davis:  became a hero in my feminist history by staging a filibuster in the senate house lasting a phenomenal 11 hours. She was staging a protest to prevent the passing of a bill that would see almost 90% of the abortion clinics be shut down in the name of “protecting women and children” read as “interfering in a woman’s body, because that’s exactly where a government should be, in your lady bits” 

Caroline Lucas: Aside from being an excellent MP, Caroline Lucas led a debate on removing The Sun from the House of Commons whilst it published it’s degrading Page 3, took on grumpy old men who know nothing about women’s liberation and equality and did it all whilst wearing a “No More Page 3” t-shirt, breaking a whole lot of boring rules, and making Westminster debates a lot more exciting.

Next Year’s Oscars: We had “We saw your boobs” in this year’s Oscars where Seth McFarlane decided to degrade the talent of women actors to their breasts. Nice work, you cheap -shot- shooting, comedy- lacking prat. However the silver lining being that Oscar big bosses are considering going in the Golden Globe direction and having an all women hosting panel form 2014 (the first ever in 86 years)

Chime for Change: So I can’t say that the event didn’t cause me turmoil – its a mixed message to talk about empowerment and on the same stage sexualise women artists, but let’s just take it at face value, because on paper, we had Beyone, Madonna, John Legend and Florence and the Machine, coming together to campaign and raise funds for health, education and empowerment of girls and women. That’s pretty damn cool.

Doc Brown: (swoon) rapper and entertainer extraordinaire, takes on the feminist fight to remove Page 3 and misogyny- He loves boobs, just not in The Sun – cheers pal

Banknotes: For some the campaign wasn’t the right issue, it was too small, to insignificant, a waste of time. Well it was a campaign that got the headline, got women and their role in history on front pages, made feminism more mainstream and took on the Bank of England…and won. I’d say it was worth it.

Dubai Women Drivers: Dubai women stuck their fingers up to one of the most oppressive and sexist governments of our time and decided to get behind the wheel to protest the driving ban, which seeks to ban their movement and freedom and prevents them from going anywhere without a male chaperon

One Billion Rising: It caused a campaigner like me some angst, What were we changing? Who were we asking? But it got people talking about violence against women in a non victim blaming way, in a way that was mainstream and a way that made people who normally walked around with their eyes shut, have them open. Mainly because the dancing would have been pretty difficult. And i have to endorse anything that gave me the opportunity to dance to Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT outside parliament.

Bollywood takes a feminist tone: Having grown up with Bollywood, it is about as far away from feminism as Robin Thicke is from being a decent human being. But an actress took on the fight when she was asked about the status of women in India, calling the country regressive and was criticized by a journalist for being negative. She shouted down the journo with facts, passion and determination. Pretty damn awesome.

The bad; the bits of 2013 that reignited the rage and reminded us why feminism matters (you can read a version of this here)

The Coalition Government, in amongst targeting the most vulnerable in society and dis-proportionally damaging the lives of women, they also had a reshuffle. We went from the dizzy heights of five, to four women in cabinet. Bravo.

Julia and Hillary. This year we saw Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton reduced to…chicken. Whether on a badge or a menu, powerful women were described as “2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts and left wing” by their male opponents.

Twitter and Facebook: Twitter became an unsafe space for women who were simply expressing an opinion. We had Caroline Cairo Perez and Stella Creasy MP, threatened with assault, rape and death, for using their 140 characters to galvanise support for women’s rights. The irony was lost on the twitter trolls. Along with this, Facebook decided that rape jokes, revenge pictures of ex girlfriends and slut shaming websites, didn’t contravene their terms and conditions. Apparently, social media is run by the oblivious.

Victim Blaming: As every year, this was a feature of 2013, we had A Barrister use the term “predator” to describe a 13 year old abuse victim, the start of a twitter #Ibelieveher to combat the constant stream of victim blaming, and rape apology throughout the media just because the perpetrator was rich, powerful, famous, or just a man.

Robin Thicke; he made a come back that we all wished he hadn’t. He described making his video as “a pleasure to degrade women” and why wouldn’t you when the lyrics are calling women “good girls” that he “knows they want it” and that he would like to “Tear that ass in two”. He then tried to call himself a feminist. No pal, just no.

Those UNI LADS: Stirling Universities Sports Club ended up on youtube after it decided to provide the public with some entertainment on a bus singing about rape, miscarriages and sexual abuse, then there’s Glasgow University’s debating society that heckled sexist comments at women debaters and then did nothing about it. University, the place where people broaden their horizons and apparently, get an opportunity to give oxygen to their ingrained misogyny. But that’s ok, it’s just a laugh.

Wimbledon – sometimes we forget out ingrained sexism is in our society and especially in sport. Well, it became perfectly clear when the Wimbledon Women’s Champion, Marion Bartoli, was described by the BBC commentator John Inverdale, as someone who was “never going to be a looker”. I was hoping she would take her title winning racket and smack Inverdale with it.

Nottingham Police revealed just how far we have to go to erase victim blaming in their Christmas safety campaign, by focusing on the drunkenness of women and trivializing rape in a poem.  I can imagine all the women who will feel safe after this.

Saatchi – That’s right the headline starts with the perpetrator not the victim. We had bystanders ignoring Nigella Lawson being chocked, we had Saatchi blame his abuse on her drug use and the Daily Mail giving us tips on how to get Nigella’s court look

The remains of the Arab Spring. Whilst there was a fight for freedom, apparently women’s rights were not part of that agenda. In 2013, in Egypt, women had to be surrounded by a safe zone to protect them from frequent sexual assaults from the very men protesting for freedom and UNICEF estimated that a staggering 91% of the female population had been subjected to Female Genital Mutation. In Libya, there have been significant increases in kidnapping, random arrests and abuse of women.

Mainstream Media; Where to start?! Adverts where women are objects, films where women are objects, videos where women are…objects. Well, Miss Representation takes care of that here

*leaves laptop to take a long walk and consider life*

I’m back. And that’s not because I have reduced my levels of rage, but because there is a place to take action with it and change the status quo:

The Change Making: Without campaigning for change, we wouldn’t have even got this far, we’ve still got a long way to go, but we can do it, provided we keep trying, here’s a few places you can do that:

Rewind Reframe – A campaign for young women to take on Music videos sexism and mainstream music industry

No More Page 3: Taking on the fight against The Sun and it’s “traditional” misogyny

End Victim Blaming: An online campaign to fight the victim blaming culture in news and media

Lose the Lads Mags: UK Feminista and Object are working together to get Lads Mags away from Supermarkets

Counting Dead Women: An online petition to pressure the Home Office to publish the reality of gendered abuse and the causes of death of the estimated 2 women a week who die at the hands of a current or ex partner

Let Toys be Toys: UK wide campaign to end gender segregation of toys in stores, limiting the imagination of children and creating sexist minds.

Female Genital Mutilation – Daughters of Eve is petitioning the Home Office to implement a strategy to eradicate FGM, which it is estimated 66,000 women in the UK have been subjected to.

Everyday Sexism – Social Media campaign collecting the stories of women experiencing the “normalised” sexism of our society

Because I am a Girl – Plan UK’s campaign to get the 65 million girls out of school back into education and empowered.

So there you have it, a review of sexism and feminism in 2013 (although, there are things I have missed, so please feel free to add ones you think should have been on the list below). xmas-card

Feminism has been in the spotlight a lot this year, we’ve campaigned for change, but for the first time in a long time, it’s actually made the headlines and created momentum. The problem with that being, that it’s creating momentum in a patriarchal society, one which knows a trend that is worth jumping onto and creating an helpful PR spin with. It’s a subtle enemy feminism needs to be aware of, mainstreaming it is fine, provided it’s women campaigners leading it wherever it goes. Just because the noise making got some attention, now is certainly not the time to let our voices become any quieter – the fight hasn’t been won yet.

But for now, watch your Christmas telly, pull on your questionable Christmas jumpers and spend time with the family you will no doubt argue with.

See you in 2014.

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Warped Feminism: The No.1 Hit Single

So unless you live under a rock, you will have seen, heard of, or read something on Lily Allen’s latest single.

Rather than start a conversation with my niece (and by conversation I mean I rant and ask her if she’s got anything to add after a 20 minute monologue) I simply put the music video on and asked what she thought. Here it is:

“I think I get what she’s trying to say, but she kind of ruins it with the video, it’s not really feminism is it? She’s just doing what men do, how is that right? And I don’t want to be called a bitch. Why did she make that the chorus, that ruins the whole thing. I don’t think she even gets what she’s doing”

And my work here is done. 16 years old and more feminist intelligence than Lily Allen and her entire music industry team. Well, I’m not sure that says much, but my point is my niece is awesome.

See, Lily told us that her latest musical journey was all about empowerment. Cheers Lily, but I’ll be the judge of that. So let’s start.

Let’s just do a little analysis of the lyrics first:

I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinkingNo, last time i checked, I wasn’t keen on calling my gender something derogetory. Reclaiming bitch is not on my feminist agenda. 
You’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchenWomen who are in the kitchen are not less than you, feminism is about real choice, Lily, if you like I can recommend some reading for you? 
I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains
Don’t need to shake my ass for you ’cause I’ve got a brain – So we’re now hating on other women? Way to push the cause, pal.

If I told you ’bout my sex life, you’d call me a slutYou’re fine here, I’m on board, well done. 
When boys be talking about their bitches, no one’s making a fuss
There’s a glass ceiling to break, uh-huh, there’s money to make
And now it’s time to speed it up ’cause I can’t move at this paceRubbish Rhyming, nothing to do with feminism, it’s just pants.

[Bridge]
Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to say
I’ll go ahead and say them anyway
Forget your balls and grow a pair of tits

[Chorus]
It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard out here for a bitchWe’re WOMEN, Lily, WOMEN.

It’s hard, for a bitch (for a bitch)

For a bitch, it’s hard
It’s hard out here for a bitch
It’s hard, for a bitch (for a bitch)
For a bitch, it’s hard
It’s hard out here

You’re not a size six, and you’re not good looking
Well, you better be rich, or be real good at cooking – Because patriarchy sucks, yep got it.
You should probably lose some weight
‘Cause we can’t see your bones
You should probably fix your face or you’ll end up on your own

Don’t you want to have somebody who objectifies you?
Have you thought about your butt? Who’s gonna tear it in two? reference mocking Robin Thicke, loving your work, Lily.
We’ve never had it so good, uh-huh, we’re out of the woods All fine, you’re on a winner, keep going pal. 
And if you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood

So, looking at the lyrics, she got a fair bit wrong, but I’m willing to say that the bar for feminism in the music industry is so low, that I would maybe still applaud this. I’ll give it a 6/10

BUT HOLD THE PHONE. There’s a video, and here I lose faith in faith itself.

Lily decides to bring what she defines as “satire” to the stage. But the reality is, Lily brings confusion and objectification with a side of racism. In one very foul swoop she manages to drown any empowerment she was attempting to create.

The video begins with Lily being advised on surgery to get herself back in shape and a male manager, tell her to “cut more there” and that it’s “disgusting that women leave themselves like this”. This is the only scene that could remotely be related to satire. Because after this, the video resembles every music video on the telly. The difference being that Lily takes on the place of 50 cent, Snoop Dogg or Robin Thicke; Fully clothed whilst semi naked women writhe around and she gets to spank them. Satire? No. Confused objectification? Yes.

If Lily is trying to turn popular culture on it’s head, why not have men around her, or better yet, how about nobody gets demeaned and the video producers just try a little harder, I don’t know, maybe a mini film about inequality. Yeah, alright, maybe not.

But here’s the icing on the cake of this utter wreckage of empowerment; all the women around her are black. As if urban culture hasn’t done that enough, Lily takes black women and turns them into bits of sexualised bodies and props. Because hey, if we’ve learnt anything, it’s that what Lily is talking about, all that glass ceiling shizz, that’s for white women, black women, they’re still awesome at “shaking their arses without having brains”. Lily may have been impersonating the objectifying rappers and performers of today to show how ridiculous they are, but when has a point ever been made, by becoming all that you are trying to rid the world of? – Read more about Lily’s feminist racism in this excellent article.

There are many who are congratulating Lily’s bravery and edgy ways, but in truth, Lily has done with feminism what, ironically Rupert Murdoch does to women’s breasts. Use it as a means of selling. Here’s the reality check, whilst I would love to embrace a new feminism through the medium of popular culture, don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s arrived. Feminism is a trendy bandwagon here that is all. Lily has jumped aboard and taken this route to create a comeback hit, in the same way Miley uses riding a wrecking ball naked. Some PR heroes have said “let’s use this feminism thing to be “different”, women will love you and you’ll be back in the charts.” That’s why I wouldn’t hold my breath for Lily to suddenly educate herself on what feminism actually is and be the kind of empowering we were all quietly hoping for. At least not whilst sexism still sells. This here, is “almost but no cigar” feminism, the bits that appeal, the bits that sell, and the bits that offend, but only as far as to get YouTube hits, not offend and change thinking.

There is yearning space in pop music culture for a feminist fight back and perhaps Lily was attempting it here, but she took too many steers wrong and ended up in a bit of a ditch; but Lily, you could still do it, I’m happy to become your PR team, give me a call.

It’s hard out here, for a feminist.  

Sexy or Slutty? Halloween Decisions

It’s that time of year again. When we make a poor attempt at being fun (and/or frightening), where stores sell the exact same thing at higher prices by adding “Spooky” or “scary”; Spooky Sardines….Scary Satsumas?! Who knows, It’s usually a pretty tedious link.

The Halloween season isn’t complete with a school halloween party. I remember mine, Mother dressed me as a pumpkin, and made me an orange dress that she stuffed with pillows and then stuck leaves to my head…School was a tough time.

It won’t be difficult to see the link between this and Feminist Fridays…My niece came into the room this week and asked “How can you dress up as combat Barbie?” SHUDDER.

I reply with, “How do you think you would dress up as combat Barbie?” She replied with “Like some kind of army outfit, loads of make up and heels?” Yes, that’s exactly how you would dress in combat, that’s right up there in being as practical as Lara Crofts unrealistically large boobs and Wonder Woman’s corset.

SIGH. I asked why she wanted to go as Combat Barbie, and she said she couldn’t think of anything else that works, it’s all cats and witches…Indeed, even Sex in the City got it:

“1.45m Miranda: There are only two choices for women; witch or sexy kitten. Carrie: You just said a mouthful there sister” (admittedly, you have to ignore a fair bit in this movie to find feminist points)

So I asked my niece for other suggestions about what she might like to go as, or get her to think about how she would like to create a combat Barbie. Don’t get me wrong, if she looked happy about “loads of make up and heels” I would have told her to go for it, it’s the fact that she explained it as if, it was what was expected of her, in a tone of “obviously cause I’m a girl who’s dressing up,so that’s got to be there”.

I’ve always viewed fancy dress a different way. An opportunity to turn things on their head, I’m assaulted with messages of “make up and heels” on a daily basis, when you read “fancy dress”, social protocol changes and I can go out looking like I please, and to be fair, that usually resembles something pretty frightening anyway.

Then, my niece and I made the mistake of googling fancy dress. Much like googling symptoms of a health condition, the internet provided us with things we never asked for or wanted to know.

The most striking was when we looked for women characters and found GI Jane. On the left is GI Jane character in the film, on the right the costume interpretation:

gijane

I, and I am sure neither you, are particularly surprised by this. Google costumes for women. Seriously go do it, I’ll give you a minute….

Done? What did you find? Disney princess…made sexy, Women heroes…made sexy, animals…made sexy.

Google even gives you a handy quick to use category guide: Homemade, sexy, cute, witch, pirate.

Google men’s costumes and you get categories such as women, cool, 2012 and Zombie. To be fair, sexy also comes up, as a fireman and a man dressed as some kind of vending machine…whatever floats your boat.

I’m not being prudish, this isn’t a call to shut down costume stores. It’s about choice and yet again, the narrow pick we have to choose from. Almost all campaigning in feminism is about pulling away expectations, providing more social, economic and political power and CHOICES for women. Equal pay is about giving women the economic power for them to make choices, pushing for the vote was about women having their choices considered in how their country should be governed, encouraging women into STEM subjects is about them having real choice about their future career prospects, being pro-choice is about women having real choice about what they do with their reproductive systems.

It’s not a big thing to, in 2013, ask for choice in bloody Halloween costumes. You want to look sexy great, but if you don’t want to, why is it the only choice you have? Why can’t you easily buy the whole GI Jane outfit (either kind), if I wanted to do that today, I would have to buy the men’s size, with the man on the front, in the men’s section…reaffirming at every turn, that it’s not aimed at me, it’s not about me and it’s not what society expects of me.

Well, suck it costume makers, I’m getting the pumpkin costume back out again.

This just in: whilst writing this piece I came across the Ana Rexia costume. (been around since 2011, apparently) Yes, it’s a costume that allows you mock a severe mental health condition as well as society’s ongoing obsession with making women feel inferior and self conscious about how they look. You see it’s not enough that we ridicule your physical appearance, we would also like to ridicule the mental and emotional well being of women too. Just when I think the state of society can’t shock me, here I am with my head in my hands.

Back to the conversation, After this google searching, my niece, rolled her eyes and said to me “Ugh! Why can’t you just say; Combat Barbie, sounds great, here’s a lipstick to go with it, now I hate that idea.”

Yes, welcome to the burden of knowledge, also welcome to having an uncool feminist aunt. SCARY BEANS.

You know what’s really scary folks: STRUCTURAL INEQUALITY AND PATRIARCHY. Yeah, that’s right.

Happy Halloween for next week.

Day of the (stereotyped) Girl

What do you think when someone says to you it’s international day of the girl?

If it’s “Oh I should go and buy something pink and sparkly for the little cute girls in my life” You’ve probably stumbled upon this by accident, whilst googling “unicorn and princess costumes to gender stereotype girls to the point of nausea” or something along those lines.

The International Day of the Girl is not really recognised as widely as it could be (it was only declared a “day” in 2011), but it’s a day for girls (note: this is not a general term for women, i actually mean girls as in under 16) to raise their voices and be counted, for campaigners to push their agenda whether it is to prevent child brides, campaign for education for girls, end child trafficking and abuse, or simply to make girls, and the excellent things they do, something to be talked about (which is rare unless it is a beauty pageant).

I support many charities, campaigns and organisations which work tirelessly to make the world a better and more socially just place for women and girls – and this is a day where I get to say you are all bloody brilliant. In particular, I support Plan UK which works to empower and educate girls in developing countries (take a look and help them out).

This day of the girl however, I have been surrounded by all the bits of “girl” that have not been defined by the endless things a girls can be, but the commercial limitations of what a girl should be. Earlier this week I was confronted by something, that may seem trivial, but as I have written about before, actually isn’t.

A beloved part of my childhood Kinder Surprise has gone gender bias. Gone are the days where all, regardless of our gender definition, ate the chocolate in one breathe (oh, that was just me? ok.) and got to the little orange plastic box inside to find 3 pieces of a toy for us to piece together, a monkey hanging from a tree, a plane, a car or something none of us could actually decipher, but gave us endless joy. Well, by endless joy, I mean about 5 minutes until it was lost behind the sofa, only to be found again in the vacuum bag.

But now they have jumped the gender stereotyping bandwagon and helped all parents out by labeling their eggs blue or pink. I can just imagine before this, parent stumbling around their local asda, some of them in the foetal position, wondering which god forsaken toy would emerge from the chocolate egg and make their child too feminine or masculine. I bet it plagued their lives.

GAH!

GAH!

But it’s not only Kinder Surprise, it’s also Muller Yogurt too, and countless others. THANK YOU FOR COMING TO MY RESCUE. Thus far I may have been buying XY diary products.

It might seem trivial but it’s not. When we define children by colours, symbols, toys and now food stuff, we aren’t catering to their needs, we are limiting their imaginations which later limits what they think they can be. Why are women more likely to be in caring, catering and cashier jobs? Shall we ask if the majority of them had baby dolls, easy bake ovens and were told to go shopping as teens? Why are men more likely to be in highly skilled, outdoors or scientific jobs? Were they playing with science kits, encouraged to play sports?

But there is also a darker part of gender stereotyping, the part that encourages girls to be nice (read; submissive) and boys to be powerful (read; aggressive), this can (but not always) play into a false dichotomy of what men and women should be towards each other.

If you think this is far fetched, nothing illustrated it better to me, than when a friend pointed me in this direction:

"Hey babe"

“Hey babe”

That’s right. It’s a cat calling lego sticker. Shouting “Hey babe” at passing women as he works on the site. Seriously. (not sure how this passed me by!). “Hey kids, cat calling and street harassment is fun, why not try it in the playground?!”

The link between toys targeted at boys, teaching them what being masculine is and then their attitude towards women, suddenly becomes much clearer, yes? (note: lego no longer stock this, but they did, and it had to get passed several designers, printers, managers and marketing bods that thought it was ok to give the green light to…)

This International Day of the Girl, why not swap it around a little? Buy something (or don’t feed “the man” and use something at home!) targeted at boys for a girl, and buy something targeted at girls for a boy. It’s just a colour and it’s just a toy. Lets be a little more ambitious for the girls in our lives.

I’ve bought my younger nieces a science kit, where we get to play with gunge. I am pretty sure I will regret it.

 

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