Category Archives: Women

The problem with women’s magazines

Dear T

I’m sure you’ve seen this circulating social media circles in the recent weeks.

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I know what you’re thinking. How truly grim it is that this sort of discrimination is still a frequent occurrence? Definitely.

How scary the world is? Absolutely.

How inspiring this story is? Ye… wait. What?

The other day my friend Lucy sent me this:

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Inspiring. Inspiring. Is that what you would call it?

Like one of those videos that you see posted on Facebook about a dog freaking out when it sees its owner for the first time in years or a 9 year old boy giving his coat to a cold looking girl at a bus stop. Those things are always labelled ‘inspiring’.

But then again, there’s no racist graffiti plastered all over the subway in those videos.

Here’s how I imagine the meeting at Glamour HQ went down:

Writer: We need to talk about this story, but it’s pretty intense.

Editor: I agree.

Writer: Why don’t we sugar coat it by skimming the issue? Write about how inspiring it is that people cleaned off the anti-Semitic hate?

Editor: BINGO

It was during this meeting – presumably in a desperately sleep deprived state – that they came up with this really fitting and appropriate tagline to sell the story: ‘This will brighten up your Sunday!’

My friends and I discussed this over Whatsapp, where many of our deep conversations and debates (and what we’re going to wear on a night out) take place. My friend, Jess, said that she was all up for seeing positive in negative situations, but felt ‘like that just shits all over a horrific news story.’

Because at the end of the day, this news isn’t about the people who wiped off the Nazi symbolism (which in my eyes is pure human decency). No, it’s about how terrifying it is that this hate is still being scrawled over walls in 2017. And as Lucy pointed out, it ‘hasn’t brightened up anyone’s fucking Sunday.’

Buried underneath Glamour’s glitter and unicorn shit is a real issue.

I wondered how many other stories like this one get camoflaged everyday in women’s magazines.

That’s when I noticed it.

Women’s magazines are seriously behind the times when it comes to progression. Here’s a cute montage I made earlier:

From my research, the majority of women’s magazines contain most or all of these wise and thought-provoking articles:

  • How to have good sex, specifically with a man (Because apparently you can’t if you’re sleeping with a woman)
  • What clothes you should be wearing atm and will suit your figure (This is important for seducing the man that you might have sex with and conforming to the popular notion that appearances are there to be judged)
  • How to be happy (Man+sex and good clothes/body/hair xox)
  • Which celebrities look shit and why (Play close attention so you don’t make a fool out of yourself in front of men)
  • How to style your hair and do your make up right. I’m not even going to speak in brackets. I know about as much about make up as my brother. The magazine will tell me a) I’m brave for going ‘bare faced’ b) I should try a better moisturiser if I’m going to do that.

I’m not brave, just lazy. I like painting my nails. Sometimes I put concealer on my spots. Occasionally I wear lipstick. It’s not a hobby. I don’t know the brands or ‘what’s hot.’

Just like some girls like red wine and some don’t. Some dabble. Why not. Free country.

The point is: make up and hair doesn’t interest every girl. Neither does wine. Neither do Shane Meadows movies. There is no universal interest.

These common articles are not common articles of woman kind. These tropes are not defining of femininity. But they are in every women’s mag and I find that weird.

It’s weird that we can still be lumped into one model of culturally constructed femininity, a woman whose life revolves around fashion, beauty and sex. 50 years ago it was this.

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It’s weird that these magazines also preach their allegiance to feminism, like its a trend. Equality and all that, yeah. Stand up for what you believe in, but careful not to wear too much eyeliner because that’s a serious faux pas this season and no-one will take you seriously.

It’s fine to be a feminist and also want to have good hair. It’s also fine not to. The whole point of feminism is that you can be whoever you want to be without restriction. These magazines have codes and control.

Today these magazines should be brave. They should be without restriction.

But it might not sell.

Luckily, for us in 2017 everything is so accessible. We can pick and choose for ourselves what we want to read about, what each of us can specifically relate to. We can like, retweet, share. We are the creators of our own publications. And in a few years, physical copies of magazines will be dying out anyway. But wouldn’t it be nice if, before they do, the editors take a stand and make a real difference. Because soceity could really do with it, now more than ever.

What do you think? Reckon I’m being unreasonable?

Looking forward to a catch up soon

Alex xoxo

2017: The Year of Grit

Dear Alex,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and 2017 is your best year yet. I aim to make 2017 my best year yet, and have started the year with a string of resolutions, all which I feel are manageable and achievable – hopefully. One of these resolutions, is to do at least one productive thing a day that is just for me (i.e. work doesn’t count) and should hopefully mean by default, my blogging record is better than I ended 2016 with.

All my New Year’s Resolutions are based around the ideas of a truly great book I’ve just finished. This truly great book, is entitled: ‘Grit’ and is written by the psychologist Angela Duckworth, who has quickly been awarded a place on my list of idols and people I admire. Short of being a book that only people who are interested in Psychology will enjoy. Defined as a ‘special blend of persistence and potential’, a will to never give up and to overcome setbacks in the pursuit of long term goals; the cimages.jpgoncept of grit is something anyone can live by and is perhaps more relevant than ever today.

I have long believed that our focus in society on talent and intelligence is unhealthy and inaccurate. To me it seems that the suggestion is, that only the talented and intelligent can truly achieve. Therefore leaving everyone else in some grey area that will never match up to those who are ‘bright’ enough to achieve greatness, all because we weren’t born with a gift. It disregards so many other character traits that may in fact allow us all to achieve. In other words, according to Angela’s book, it disregards grit.

‘Grit’ is filled with case studies of gritty people who have achieved through pure hard work and an overwhelming attitude that they weren’t going to quit that is hugely admirable. What I’ve gained most from her book is that it is also achievable. The majority of people in her book credit their failures as the reason they are now a success. Failure and how they handled it, has allowed them to achieve.

Angela notes towards the end of the book, that so often the restrictions we see as barriers are not because we aren’t talented, clever, fit enough or whatever enough we’ve talked ourselvesimages-2.jpg around to believing is the reason we can’t be successful and happy, but instead are self-inflicted. Gritty people don’t impose limits on themselves and the best part of the whole concept of grit is that we can all learn to be gritty.

I love this idea. I have fallen culprit to the idea of talent and intelligence being the ‘be all and end all’ myself too many times. I have a sibling that has so often achieved more than what I have worked hard for, naturally. Whilst I want the best for him, I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes seeing someone achieve things you strive for easily is difficult.

But I also don’t think I would change it, because the achievements I’ve gained through hard work, the ones where grit has been the key reason for my success, are the best ones.

So this year, I’ve decided to be the grittiest I’ve ever been. Who knows, maybe it’ll lead to the most success I’ve had. But if not, I don’t think resolutions that are based on grit can be a bad thing.

Love T x

P.S Anyone who is interested can also test their own level of grittiness using the ‘Grit Scale’ created by Angela Duckworth (whom I admire – don’t know if you got that) and find out more about grit, on her website

The Problem with Twitter

Dear T

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about:

(I’m sure everyone is sick of me banging on about the Bake Off but this is just my starting point (and the source of all my ideas, apparently), so bear with me.)

Each week whilst watching GBBO I have become aware of something unsettling. Here’s some background: I am a keen Twitter user, a Tweeter I suppose. I’ll have Twitter open on my phone and will check it multiple times a day to keep me updated with all the important stuff. I’ll also absent-mindedly scroll through it when watching certain TV shows just to see what other people are saying. It’s a bad habit, I’ll admit, but I’m a millennial and this is what we do.

Anyway, so there I am, watching Mary and Paul judge a batch of cakes, when I notice a common theme on my Twitter feed. And I do not like what I see.

Wow Candice on GBBO is all kinds of annoying

Why is Candice baking in heels?! Gurl I hope you trip and your roulade smushes everywhere

Love it when Candice gets negative feedback!! Can’t stand her smug face

Candice’s jaw must ache with all that pouting she does.

And then it becomes more sinister:

How do Mary and Paul stand so close to Candice without slapping the shit out of her for that fucking pout

Cannot bear Candice on GBBO. And Paul needs to stop treating her with kid gloves cause he wants her buns

Swear Candice must be playing with Paul’s willy, can’t stand her.

These tweets weren’t hard to find and are just a cross section of the Candice-hatred. But why Candice? I ask myself. I don’t hate her. I don’t think she’s ‘smug.’ She isn’t rude or racist or conceited. She’s a good baker. So what’s the problem?

Then it hit me.

She’s young, she’s female. The dots begin to join up.

She’s attractive = she must be sleeping with Paul Hollywood.

She wears lipstick = the pout.

She’s good at what she does = smug.

These tweets aren’t about her skills, but her appearance. Candice isn’t the model of the Wholesome British Baker that we are used to and expect so she must be torn down.

I remember a few years ago the same treatment was given to Bake Off contestant Ruby Tandoh. She, too, was accused of sleeping with Paul Hollywood. Because of course, how else could she possibly progress through the competition otherwise? She’s young and attractive so she must use her body. I follow Ruby on Twitter and I have to say she is one of the most intelligent, witty, and outspoken (in the best possible way) public figures I can think of. She’s also gay; ‘p.s. for those who thought I fancied Paul Hollywood or that I’d ever bang him to get ahead – Joke’s on you, you massive shitting misogynists.’

It isn’t just the blatant sexism that bothers me here, but the creepy keyboard warriors who take part in the abuse. It’s become a normal part of life now. But when did it become ok for someone to receive death threats from strangers for wearing lipstick?

When Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint the other day, Tweeters were expressing their discontent that she wasn’t actually killed. I wonder what percentage of these people actually know Kim? As a friend, a mother, a sister? I’d bet none.

I see West End star Carrie Hope Fletcher as the victim of almost daily harassment against people who are miffed that she didn’t leave the theatre through the stage door or because she chose to cover a song which other people don’t think she should have covered. These people put all their energy into making her feel as small and remoseful as possible. And they succeed.

Twitter has become a dark place full of cyberbullies and trolls who use their computer screens to protect themselves. It’s scary and I wonder how far it will go. Does the world really need anymore hate?

Tom Clarke, the lead singer of The Enemy, sums it up perfectly. He quit Twitter two years ago and when asked why he said:

Our tour is selling exceptionally well in a difficult climate for our genre, and yet all I want to do is leave music, for the sake of my mental well-being, because of a few bullies, but also because of an entire industry’s complete unwillingness to challenge the behaviour of those people and hold them to account.

The sad thing is, whether you like my music or not, I can’t be the only one. How many musicians will we drive away by failing to recognise and deal with this abhorrent behaviour?”

I really hope that the problem is fixed before that happens, but in all honesty I’m not sure that it will be.

Lots of love

Alex xoxo

Love Island

Dear T

The last six months really have flown by. It feels like you were only settling into the Spanish way of life five minutes ago, yet here we are, already midway through June. Looking forward to hearing what’s next in store once your feet are firmly back on the ground in this neck of the (dreary) English woods.

While you’ve been cavorting about in the sun, I’ve been losing myself in Hampstead Heath, disposing of drowned squirrels (I don’t want to talk about it), and preparing for the long awaited Summer Vacation (details TBA).

However, there’s something else I’ve been doing. Something that I’m not particularly keen on admitting. Something that I’ve been devoting myself to for an hour each weeknight (and Sundays) for the last three weeks.

I am a Love Island addict.

The first step is acceptance.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not even ashamed. I love Caroline Flack, Iain the voiceover guy, the ridiculous tasks, the unnecessary drama, and the countless couplings/uncouplings. It’s an hour a day of mind-numbing, wonderful, outrageous filth.

I’m not going to pretend that I watch it for any other reason than for pure, uncomplicated enjoyment. (I have two Whatsapp groups with two different sets of friends dedicated solely to the discussion of Love Island.) However, surprisingly, it has given me a lot to think about. I know. Who’d have thought.

As you may be aware, one of the Love Island contestants this year, 20 year old Zara Holland, is the current Miss Great Britain. Or should I say was, because her naughty antics in the villa (she had sex. Just like everyone in the villa) have cost her the crown.

The big cheeses at Miss Great Britain announced this to the entire nation (before they told Zara, which I thought was a particularly cute move). Their statement said:

We pride ourselves on promoting the positivity of pageants in modern society and this includes the promotion of a strong, positive female role model in our winners.

The feedback we have received from pageant insiders and members of the general public is such that we cannot promote Zara as a positive role model moving forward.

So there we go. The pageant, which has no qualms in judging who looks sexiest in a bikini, have washed their hands of their winner because she had sex. Is it just me, or is this totally damaging a century of progress? It’s basically implying that it’s ok to objectify women for the male gaze, but it isn’t ok for her to do what she wants with her own body.

A hundred and fifty years ago, this kind of ‘misbehaviour’ would have resulted in electroshock therapy, brain surgery, a life sentence in a mental institution.

Now, I’m not saying the consequences today are at that same horrifying level. However, Miss GB’s reaction does promote a more subtle handling of the same message: a female taking control of her own body is shameful and punishable. Zara Holland was punished and humiliated, not just by those close to her but by Great Britain. One of the saddest parts about Zara’s dismissal is that actually, it was completely apparent that the Miss GB crown was Zara’s whole world. It’s more or less all she talked about. It was her identity.

Well, not anymore.

And why? Because she’s not a ‘strong, positive role model.’

A positive role model wouldn’t have sex because she knows better than to deviate from cultural expectation. A woman who doesn’t just have agency, but uses it for her own wants and desires is not a positive role model. If being a positive role model means living by oppressive rules to fit into some Victorian notion of femininity, then I’m glad not to be one. And I hope, now that she’s had time to process it all, Zara feels the same way.

Because of course, she is not a slag. She was not the only person in that villa to have sex. She is not the only woman in the world who has ever, and will ever have a one night stand. Why should she be showered with judgement while Alex (the man who she had sex with) gets a high five, a pat on the back, a ‘how was she, bro?’ Why did Zara’s friends in the villa shake their heads and tell her she ‘shouldn’t have done that’? Why isn’t Alex ‘slut shamed’ for doing exactly the same thing? Why are there numerous derogatory terms for a female who has sex – slag, whore, etc.- yet not a single male equivalent. (All I can come up with is ‘player’, which, for the boys in my sixth form was a tremendous compliment.) I think we all know the answer to those questions. Hint: inequality still exists.

Maybe I’m asking too much from society.

But I’m not. In fact, I can’t understand why I’m having to ask it at all.

Now I bet you didn’t think a blog entitled ‘Love Island’ would be so heavy! Looking forward to catching up soon. Enjoy Glastonbury, too!

Lots of love

Alex xoxo

ps. watch Love Island

Lemonade

 

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Screenshot from Lemonade Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB5zLq1zcdo

Dear T

Let’s talk about Beyonce for a second. Her name is everywhere right now. Why? Because when life gave her lemons, Beyonce made Lemonade (and made a real song and dance about it too).

Before I carry on I need to say something. I imagine I’m going to make myself a few enemies here. I will be banished from the Beyhive for eternity to infinity and beyond. But alas I will say it anyway.

I don’t love Beyonce.

I don’t hate her either, by the way. I just wouldn’t tweet a ‘What would Beyonce do?’ meme or *crown emoji**bee emoji*. I’ve never got the Queen B buzz (lol) and I don’t have time to try. I’m wary of the craze. But first…

The reason the world is so obsessed with Lemonade right now seems to be what it’s not so subtly saying about Beyonce’s marriage to Jay Z. One song – I didn’t (want to) listen to them all – titled ‘Sorry’ accuses Jay Z of an affair with ‘Becky with the good hair’. As soon as Lemonade was splashed all over the industry carpet the finger was pointed, and not even particularly at Mr Queen B, Jay Z. The first of the accused was fashion designer, Rachel Roy. Then everyone was up in Rita Ora’s face. As I’m typing this the media is claiming that ‘Becky’ is a composite of women Jay Z has cheated with. By the time this has posted we’ll probably be suspecting Mary Kate Olsen or Sarah Lou off of Coronation Street or Fiona Bruce. Who runs the world? Not girls, but the media and gender frameworks. *Blame the woman!!!*. Hey B maybe you should be careful about what you sing before some innocent lady gets their house egged or their face plastered all over the Daily Mail. (Obviously I don’t think this is Beyonce’s fault. She is just the face of a much larger problem.)

Speaking of the Daily Mail, Piers Morgan wrote a truly hilarious article about how Beyonce was ‘playing the race card’ in her new visual album. Morgan cleverly writes how he preferred Beyonce when she didn’t have a political voice and pretended to be white. “The New Beyoncé wants to be seen as a black woman” part was my favourite. She wants to be seen as a black woman. A black woman wanting to be seen as black. How ludicrous!! You’re right Piers, all black women should go back to wanting to be white again!!!! We should definitely wipe out the entirety of the world’s racial progress and Beyonce should get back in the kitchen and make Jay Z a sandwich. That guy is so funny.

Oh apart from this was a genuinely serious article; Morgan wasn’t trying to be funny and no-one is laughing. Everyone’s worst Loose Women panelist, Jamelia, certainly wasn’t laughing when she wrote this. She basically makes Morgan look like a prize racist idiot (who knew?):

You are a middle aged, British white man. You have no idea, I repeat: NO IDEA what it is like to be a black woman, and furthermore the sacrificial, struggle-filled, tongue-biting, mask-wearing fight it is to become a successful one.

Right on Jamelia, you’ve bumped yourself up into the top quartile of my Loose Women panelist rankings.

So now Lemonade isn’t B’s voice or artistry. Lemonade is about Becky with the good hair and the QueenB prototype of woman and whether or not Beyonce wants to be seen as black(?!). It questions why Jay Z decided to internationally expose himself as a love rat, whether he knew what he was signing up for or whether he’s using it as some form of career tactic. Despite all of this, for all the wrong reasons Lemonade puts Beyonce on an ever ascending pedestal that no amount of adultery or publicity can knock down. And I don’t mean Beyonce the person, I mean ‘Beyonce’ the brand.

My feelings about B aren’t informed by her music. Her songs are fine. I would sing my heart out to them in a club (although I would do the same to the Pokemon theme tune so that isn’t saying much.) My issue is with ‘Beyonce’. She isn’t a real person. She’s a creation of many minds, an image, a project, a worldwide symbol of what a woman should be. And I don’t buy it. However real Lemonade may be, Beyonce isn’t; she’s an ideal. She’s married with a child, she’s gorgeous, she donates millions to charity. But don’t forget she’s also Sasha Fierce: ‘sassy’ and strong and feisty. She seemingly never has a bad day; even when her sister punched her husband, ‘Beyonce’ was left virtually unscathed. The media constantly pushes her brand of femininity as a goal for all women. But hi, femininity isn’t real. It’s a totally made up thing that men projected onto women of olden times to make them behave subordinately. It’s scary that the person so many call ‘Queen’ isn’t a person at all, but a brand, a puppet. Beyonce shouldn’t be ‘goals’. You don’t have to be Beyonce. Even Beyonce isn’t Beyonce. Do what you want. Be who you want. You’ll never be Beyonce. I don’t blame Beyonce or her lemony fizzy goodness. After all, she’s just the face of a brand, the commodity used to sell the brand.

I blame her puppet master.

(Hope this wasn’t too intense and I hope I still have friends! Like I said, my issue isn’t with the lady herself, it’s the dishonesty/danger/delusion of mainstream media.)

Lots of love

Alex xoxo

 

HeForShe and Christmas Puddings

Dear T

Working on the 100 women season must’ve been amazing! It’s a tough line: celebrating people is definitely the dream. But would women get the recognition they deserve without a season dedicated specifically to their gender? Perhaps. Or maybe the list of inspirational people would be, like many of today’s industries, male dominated.

It’s interesting that you say you don’t see feminism as a dirty word – I don’t either as it goes. But I recently read that Emma Watson was discouraged by the UN Women organisation from using the term in her #HeforShe gender equality campaign. Apparently the word is ‘alienating’. Seems very strange not to use the word in a gender equality speech though (which you can watch again here). I thought Emma’s words were all the more powerful because she wasn’t afraid to use the word feminism:

I thought long and hard and ultimately felt that it was just the right thing to do. If women are terrified to use the word, how on earth are men supposed to start using it?

I wish I could say that I’ve been working on something as interesting as you (or Emma!); I’ve been spending most of my time working in a book shop in the run up to Christmas. I love the books. I don’t love being blamed every 20 minutes for the 5p bag law. Some customers clearly think I am an important power in this country. Not yet, customers, not yet.

Speaking of Christmas – I’ve been searching for a new Christmas pudding costume for Poppy. So if you (or any reader) know of any christmassy dog costumes let me know!!

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Poppy *now sadly too fat for current xmas pud costume*

I’ve also finally started learning to drive. About time I paid something back to the numerous people (including you) who have helped me out with their wheels over the years. Although in my first lesson I drove on the wrong side of the road without realising so you may be waiting a while. Also when I initially got the car to move I thought I was absolutely flying. I screamed at my instructor, ‘Woah I’m going SO FAST. How fast am I going??!!’

‘You’re going 10mph’ she replied.

Very good.

Alex xoxo

(Gossip Girl. Gossiping about Emma Watson and my own driving failures. So destructive!)

100people

Dear Alex,

I have all my fingers and toes crossed that one-day you will get to experience your book signing. I know I will be the first in line to have my copy signed.

I am thoroughly enjoying what I am doing at the moment. I’ve been working on Young Sports Personality of the Year. I’m loving it, but as I was probably one of the more sporty members of our uni house, that should come as no surprise to you.

Another thing I’ve been lucky enough to work on is FullSizeRendersome of the BBC’s 100 women season. It dedicates time to the inspiring women all around the world. Having helped on some of the department’s coverage today, I was asked to write down who inspired me. I drew a blank.  Don’t worry I thought of a few (with your help), so many women have done so many inspiring things. Heather Stanning – 2012 Olympic Champion and then served in Afghanistan, Jessica Ennis-Hill – World Champion six months after giving birth and Kris Hallenga, (neglected in the picture but by no means less inspiring) – founder of Coppa feel. It’s definitely not the case that no one inspires me, far from it. In fact I would say it’s because loads of people inspire me.
Note that I say people.

I vastly appreciate the 100 women season as a woman myself. There are so many issues that are central to women and that I feel passionate about: the gender pay gap, body image pressures and the tampon tax, to name a few. But the truth is, perhaps a reason as to why gender equality is such an issue is partly because there are these kinds of segregated celebrations for both men and women.

I think inspiring women should be celebrated every day, but I also think inspiring men should be. It is also not a criticism of the 100 women season. I think it’s brilliant, and really important. I just wonder if maybe it is an example of why it seems a younger generation are switching off when they hear about women’s issues exclusively.

I am a feminist, without a doubt – I don’t see it as a dirty word. I just believe in gender equality. Which is why I feel the need to query whether we in fact need a celebration of inspiring people instead.

Maybe you disagree. Either way stay tuned for a more light-hearted blog next time.

Love T xxx

P.S Btw I love the ‘xoxo’ at the end of your last message. Very Gossip Girl.