Tag Archives: life

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

Reunions, unicorns and wake-up calls.

Dear Alex,

Despite not living next to each other, we are still very much in sync, because I couldn’t agree more about Twitter and actually the blog I wrote over the course of last week, follows on with a very similar topic.

So last weekend was my five-year school reunion. We left school five years ago. FIVE. I’m not sure how this much time has passed, whilst at the same time, the feeling

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Spoiler: people are better in real life

of returning to school felt daunting.

Like most people, I’m sure, I had goals or ideas about where I would be when I attended the event at 23 – an age that at 18 felt mature and adult. I looked at 23 year olds and thought how grown up they were. They had their lives sorted, they were successful, happy and ticking all the boxes society tells us we should have done by the time we’re 23 (degree, job, boyfriend, your own flat, the list goes on). Boxes, that are all the more painfully obvious we haven’t met because of social media. I couldn’t feel further from a grown up – perhaps because I’m still calling adults ‘grown-ups’, when real ones of couMjAxMi1hY2NmNGQ4NDQyZTA2Y2Fk.pngrse, don’t call themselves a ‘grown-up’.

My point is, is that when I thought of the concept of being 23 it was of someone who was ‘sorted’ and ‘together’ and a lot of the time, I feel like I am neither. The worst part about growing up in our world today is that you can’t escape what looks like evidence to prove that you are the only one feeling this inadequacy. On social media, my peers seem to be far closer to the idea of what I thought 23 would be than I am.

Nowadays, there are more ways for us to connect to people, to communicate, to share – there are many positives. But there are also far too many opportunities for us to compare ourselves to others and in doing so feel worse about ourselves. The constant inescapable presence of others happiness, or a Lo-Fi filtered, brightened, colour tinted, staged happiness in our faces when we don’t feel the same, is doing nothing for people’s mental health.

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Clever.

Seeing people in real life as opposed to the happy, together and sorted version I saw on social media, was a wake-up call. A wake-up call to how inaccurate of a picture it can produce. People were talking about how unhappy they were, their arguments with friends or the jobs they hated when it would have been impossible to gauge any of this from their social media presence. Obviously I have always known the potentially misleading culture of the online world – it’s like a unicorn, you know it’s not real but you can’t help thinking how pretty or magical it looks and wishing that you could own one. If at 23, and pretty secure in myself, I can still be influenced by these misleading portrayals of people, what hope is there for young adults today?

Talking to old teachers, they told me about the suicide attempts and self-harming that is more commonplace in education now than there ever was even when we were at school five years ago. Of which, they largely accounted it to social media. If true, it’s a frightening reality.

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CNN’s graphic summing it up perfectly.

I worry that the technology we are so proud of, is also hurting us, and hurting a younger generation the most.We are not only, or solely, happy and I doubt many people feel ‘sorted’ or ‘together’ at any age. Not one of us is perfect, and we have made it harder for people to see this, to separate illusion from reality.

 

Nowadays we live in two worlds, but for teenagers it’s harder. They live in limbo between these worlds, perhaps at the cost of never being themselves, feeling complete, or figuring out who they are, in either. It’s something that weighs, and has been weighing, on my mind more so than ever. All because of a school reunion.

Love T xx

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

Can it.

Dear Alex,

I am continuing your very British last blog on the ‘Great British Bake-off’, and its future *chokes back sob*, with an equally British topic: the unassuming cup of tea.

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Yesterday was the 358th anniversary of tea in the U.K, an event so important Google informed us of it.

I am stereotypically British in my love of tea. It is a trait that makes me incredibly proud and I have no idea why. Perhaps because there are only certain things that make me feel proud or patriotic to be British. The Olympics (I don’t know if you got the fact that I love the Olympics from my last blog, but just so you really know, I do), the national anthem, but most of all is when people use tea as a way to conquer any uneasy situation – boredom, sadness, anger, tiredness, unpredictable weather. Well, actually just weather in general.

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Pinterest gets it.

The British can put the world to rights over a cup of tea and I strongly believe tea can conquer anything. At times of uncertainty the simple act of putting a tea bag in a cup, adding hot water and stirring, is a therapeutic enough task for me to gain perspective and calmness. It’s like magic – exclusive magic reserved just for hot beverages.

 

So this is why I was so upset when I found out last week that a company, with bold claims of innovation, has made tea…in a spray can.

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Yum Cha Drinks’ new innovation ‘No More Tea Bags’, a useful invention for…I can’t think of who.

Now I know when the teabag came in all hell broke loose. I have a friend whose family still refuses to use a teabag, loose leaf all the way in their household. But they are distinct as far as I am concerned and amongst the general population, the teabag is THE way to make tea.

So was there even any kind of demand for this spray-can-tea madness? Were we ignorantly avoiding our tea-making destiny? I’m sceptical.

THEY claim that it says goodbye to the hassle of dirty, messy tea bags you have to throw away, not like any other form of household rubbish then. Please can someone make carrots in a can so I don’t have to peel them anymore and go through the hassle of putting the peelings in the bin? That would be foolish surely.

They also condescendingly note that it will result in:

“Properly brewed better tasting tea”.

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This must be what happiness looks like.

Clearly they have no idea who they are dealing with. As if the British have ignorantly been drinking under brewed, bad tasting tea for decades. A realistic possibility, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not incensed by the madness of tea in a can. Now we know how infuriated the Italians felt when they found out you could buy tinned ravioli.

I’m all for progress, but this just seems unnecessary and expensive. With a starting price of £3.99 for 20 cups of tea, who can afford the sci-fi nonsense of tea in can when you can periodically buy 480 teabags for £5, from a supermarket that “makes it”.

Once upon a time we were a country who loved watching a programme where normal (and sometimes loveably slightly odd) people made cakes on a channel that epitomises being British. All with a cup of tea we made with a teabag.

Now who are we? I don’t know, but I hope to God we don’t become a nation of tea-sprayers.

Love T xx

Olympicspiration

Dear Alex,

When we started this blog, I was excited for many reasons. It seemed like a cool idea, a chance to communicate with you when our lives today are so separate and also because I love writing.

Since I’ve been back from Spain – Almost two months ago! How did that happen? My life as a professional job searcher has resumed. I eat, sleep and breathe cover letter writing and CV-tweaking and with it my appetite for writing for fun has been lacking. There is nothing like job hunting to make you feel a little bit like your soul is dying. That will be the first and last dramatic comment, I swear.

But hopefully that partly explains why I have been on an extreme blogging hiatus, and I do apologise for my absence. However, I have returned! Never to be gone for so long again (hopefully).

I fully intended to be back blogging a couple of weeks ago but a certain event that only comes around every four years has proven to be a major distraction. I love the Olympics. For all the debates about whether Rio de Janeiro should be allowed to host the games in the first place, nothing takes away from the sheer excellence that takes place wherever the games may be. I have loved every second of watching Michael Phelps, Adam Peaty, Helen Glover & Heather Stanning, The Brownlee brothers – athletes who are just so far and away the best in their field and worked immeasurably hard  to get there. Needless to say I will be gutted when the games end this weekend.

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My love for the Olympics is probably not a huge surprise to you, given that my love of sport was anything but concealed when we lived together. However, seeing people give everything for the prestige of being the best in the world and a medal around their necks is infinitely inspirational to me at a time when I feel I need a bit of inspiration. Don’t get me wrong; the amount of teenagers winning Olympic Medals before they’ve even finished school is amazing to me, and slightly depressing at the same time. I could barely make a decision for myself at sixteen, and these ones are winning Olympic medals. But the Olympics are proof that working hard pays off, a truth that sometimes feels like a big conspiracy and once, every now and again, it’s nice to be reminded of the fact that its not.

Mostly however, the Olympics have made me miss rowing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really been proud of and the only evidence I have that proves I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Before rowing, I never knew I could. I yearn for the feeling of pushing myself and slowly but surely seeing results, of hard work, of learning something new about the sport and myself.

ekp_file_0__team-gb-logo-600x600_1463414384Not only have the Olympics restored the pride (2nd on the medal leaderboard!)
I had and, given recent events in our country, lost for GB,
but they have also reignited my motivation. So I have made lists, got organised and persisted on with my cover letters and CV’s, because right now a job is my aim. It’s definitely not as exciting as the Olympics, a country load of people won’t be cheering for me and I obviously know that this is not a big deal in comparison to actual Olympians. My point is persistence and anyone can be persistent. So I’ll settle on my persistence in getting a job being my medal for now.

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Under Armour brought out a fantastic addition to their ‘Rule Yourself’ campaign, starring Michael Phelps in the build up to the Olympics. The campaign focused on the struggle that goes into being an athlete – early mornings, weights, workouts and failures; all with the slogan:

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They may have been talking about Olympians, but it made me think that anyone can take this message away. With any luck at some point all our hard work, in whatever we do, will ‘put [us] in the light’.

 

Love T xxx

P.S I never watched Love Island – I’m very sorry.

P.P.S Can’t wait to hear all your news – your Instagram looks like something out of a gorgeous travel brochure – hope you’re having an amazing time 🙂

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