From the moment a girl is born, she is taught to compete, and the race we all run in is 100 times more difficult then the longest marathon. Our fight spans whole lives, whole continents, whole consciousnesses. From the moment a girl is born, she is taught to be a warrior; but not in a good way. She is not taught to be strong, brave, to handle conflict and weapons (be they verbally wielded or not) with ease… no. She is taught to destroy other women who society recommends should be considered her enemies, her rivals in her search for love, or for acceptance, or for popularity. We’re always trying to get the upper hand, to be the girl that everyone else wants to be, because we’re taught that only when other girls want to be like us that we are valuable.
This isn’t to say that this never happens to boys – it does, but not on the same systematic scale. Girls are literally pitted against each other in order to vie for male attention. Picture if you will, Ancient Rome. The coliseum seats are packed full of teenage boys. The emperor is representing the media. He (called He as the media is run almost exclusively by men) decides who lives or dies. On the coliseum battlefield, every girl you’ve ever known is waiting to kill the rest in order to win the affection of just one of the teenage boys. This (despite the obvious exaggeration) is our female reality.
This is why the phrase “I’m not like other girls” really annoys me. Why do you have to be different to other girls, and therefore in someway superior to other girls, in order for you to be attractive? Why must we set ourselves apart from the rest of the women in order for a man to really, truly see us? Why do we have to be better, and somehow destroy the rest of the girls, in order for a man to like us? Why can’t I just be a woman, like any other woman, who deserves love simply because everyone deserves it?
I can’t say I’m not guilty of hating another girl because of a boy. To be perfectly honest, it has happened numerous times, and only now am I questioning why I ever felt like that. That girl is just as deserving of that boy’s attention as I am. It is not her fault that he prefers her to me, it’s just an unfortunate occurrence, and although it may be difficult for me and I am jealous and therefore cold to this girl, I should not hate her. I should not hate him either, because you can’t help who you have feelings for.
I also can’t say I’m not guilty of ever feeling insecure due to other girls. I look at my friends and I think, I need to be more interesting, prettier, smarter, have a better figure, be nicer, be funnier, just be more than I right now, because they are more than I am now. To be perfectly honest once again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling insecure, because I will always want to be a bit more of this and a bit more of that. However, this doesn’t mean that I am not enough, just as I am. That doesn’t mean that if I became funnier, or prettier, or more interesting, then that boy would finally like me, or those girls would finally want to be like me, or my life would finally be better than it is now.
On to my main question. Why are girls taught to compete for male attention, and when will it stop? Our main goals in life shouldn’t be to impress that boy, or make that girl feel like shit because she spoke to your boyfriend one time in the hallway. Our main goal in life shouldn’t be to look better than everyone else 24/7 or strive to be the funniest, prettiest, overall most appealing. Girls don’t have to be sweet. Girls don’t have to be ladylike. Girls don’t need to be sugar-coated. Girls, a man doesn’t determine your value, you do.
I know there are a lot of women who do not identify with the word ‘feminist’ because of the negative stigma and controversy that surrounds the word, but I for one do not believe that you can believe in all that feminists believe in and not call yourself a feminist.
I hear a lot of people saying that the word feminism itself is sexist, because it implies that feminism is only for women. This has led to the argument that feminism needs to be changed; effectively, the movement needs to be called something that doesn’t scream the word “females” in order for it to be considered and taken seriously.
I don’t agree with this in the slightest. The word feminism is called feminism because even as the feminist movement focuses on making both sexes equal, the movement is trying to do this by elevating the current status of women in order to be level with the current status of men. The movement is called feminism because the oppressed group are the females. The movement is called feminism because it was first created by women, for women, considering women and their rights.
By changing the word, we’re only suggesting that we can’t possibly take this movement seriously while it is focusing on female oppression. We’re saying that in order to get more men and women to become feminists, we have to censor the blatant link to women in the title of the movement and make it something more ambiguous, something that people claim is working for equality but doesn’t require you to specify equality for who.
Another thing that bothers me about the stigma surrounding feminism is that many people think it should be tailored to appeal to men more. Whilst I agree that feminism needs to be made accessible to men and should take into account that men suffer as a result of the patriarchy too, I do not believe that the value of feminism should be based on it’s ability to appeal to men. This not only defeats the whole movement by demonstrating how sexism and the patriarchy have become so fundamental to everyday life that a movement created to obtain equality for the sexes can be only become valuable once it caters to men, it also shows that people don’t believe that a movement created specifically for women’s elevation can function and achieve viable and authentic change without a man’s approval.
I refuse to censor myself and my beliefs because it makes men uncomfortable. Continue to offend the boys by telling them you’re a feminist. Continue to show these #WomenAgainstFeminism that even though they are lucky to not feel like victims, so many girls around the world may never have the chance to experience safety and security.
Continue to tell people why feminism shouldn’t be changed to equalism just to make uncomfortable critics satisfied. Don’t be afraid to call yourself what you are.
Think for a moment about what the world would look like if the positions were reversed. What if women made up the majority of governments? What if women controlled modern culture, what we see, watch, hear and read? Would it really be so bad?
The reality is, we probably won’t ever know a world like that. We would probably find it alien, strange, dystopian… maybe. So how come we are living contently in a world dominated entirely by men?
Almost everything in modern Western culture today is run entirely by men. In the UK, only 1 in 4 MPs is a woman and women from minority ethnic groups make up only 1.2% of MPs yet comprise 4% of the UK population. How can we have a government that fully represents the people of the UK when there is clearly no equal representation within positions of power in the government? The fact that we’ve had one female prime minister doesn’t mean things are equal. In hundreds and hundreds of years of having a government, we have only ever had one female prime minister. Equality? Not quite.
The massive disparity in equality within the government, and the media, is what generates the biggest gender inequality problems as these are institutes which govern our entire lives. Our governments control what we learn in school and how much we are paid in relation to each other. And media… well, media runs everything from what we wear, to how we see each other, to how we look, what we watch and listen to, even what we buy. Media tells us everything. Media teaches society how we should behave, how our relationships should go, how our lives should eventually end up. In the US, women own only 5.8% of all television stations and 6% of radio stations. That means that women control barely 10% of things shown on television and talked about on radio stations. In 2011, women comprised 18% of all directors,executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. Whether this percentage has changed much in the last 4 years is difficult to tell, but even if it has, it most certainly will not be by much.
From these statistics, you can see just how much of the media we come into contact with every single day in controlled by men. We watch films about women and their lives that have been created and directed entirely by male production teams. We watch chick flicks that have story lines written by old white men, rather than actual women. We are constantly shoveling media down own throats which is created singularly by men, completely shrouded in ‘the male gaze’ which perpetuates an unrealistic idea of women and men in relation to what the particular director’s views on the world are. Almost everything we see is produced by men. Why do men get to choose what women should look, smell, feel, act, love, have sex like? Why do men define what a ‘real woman’ is? Why are men allowed to reject women because they are ‘too clingy’ without issue, whereas if a woman rejects a man this gives him justification to kill her? Why are men solely defining modern culture and development as if their opinions are the only ones that matter?
Why is this a problem?
It’s a problem because people continue to believe that what we see in magazines, in music videos, in mainstream media and in huge Hollywood box-office movies is what real life is like or can be like. We are taught that the images in these magazines, created by men, are what culture must be, exactly. Men do not know what it is like to be a woman, so we should stop awarding them the power to tell us how to live our lives happily as they will never know what living life as a woman is like. Women make up almost 80% of consumers, yet control 3% of all consumer businesses. Men control areas of our lives that they hardly even experience… they write columns about whether abortion should be made illegal or discussing whether women should be allowed maternity leave when they will never experience what it is like to have a child growing inside of you or what it is like to actually give birth. The most men will experience in terms of giving birth is their wife crushing their fingers as she squeezes their hand to help her get through the pain she is suffering to give birth to their child.
The problem is not that women are incapable of being strong, powerful and successful. Women have never been afraid to be on top. Men have always been afraid to let them.
For those who read my blog regularly, I’m sorry that I haven’t posted anything in a very long time. Things seem to always get in the way, and with a blog dealing with so many passionate issues, I just can’t write anything if I’m not in the mood to do it. Luckily, after such a lengthy hiatus, I’ve vowed to start posting more often. Don’t forget about this blog! It’s still here!! I promise!!
Moving on to the topic of this (hopefully much anticipated) blog post. I wanted to talk about the importance of education on feminism and other related issues.
It comes as no surprise to many that education within schools seems to be primarily focused on what I consider to be the ‘less important’ aspects of learning – maths, science and English. I highly doubt the amount of people who argue for the ‘importance’ of these subjects has changed over the many, many years of education within this country, and I also highly doubt that these subjects will be considered any less ‘important’ in the coming years. I definitely see the significance of these subjects – science teaches about the natural world, maths about logic and English about everything from how to write properly to how to enjoy novels. However, I do not believe in the amount of importance we place on doing well within these subjects.
My main point is that today we focus too much on subjects such as English and Maths, and perpetuate the idea that they are essential to success and development as people, and then we place almost no significance and importance on subjects that should help us explore ourselves as individuals. By this, I mean subjects such as Life Skills and PHSE. These subjects are the ones where we should be being taught about our sexuality, how to understand and relate to one another, how to determine whether we believe in a particular political or social movement. It is within these subjects, supposedly created to help our development in society, that we should be taught about feminism. It is within these subjects we should examine racism, homophobia, transphobia. It is in these lessons that children should be taught to remember Leelah Alcorn, or admire and respect Laverne Cox, or understand why slut-shaming is detrimental to females within society. Yet this isn’t happening, and nobody seems to mind.
The reason why education on these subjects (feminism, sexuality etc) is so important in school is that since we spend so much of our lives within educational institutions, this is where we do most of our developing into adults, and the time where we most need to be taught about important issues to help us form into well-rounded human beings. It is while we are in school, this clouded, hazy period between childhood and becoming an adult, that we are most susceptible to influence about important societal issues, yet the time where we are offered the least exposure to poignant contemporary social/political/economical issues. We learn more from the things we are exposed to in school than we would on our own. As we spend the most crucial period of our development during the secondary school period, it is only logical that we should be taught about subjects such as sexuality during this time, as it would only serve to help us in developing who we are.
Feminism needs to be talked about to young adults and children from a relatively young age so that they understand the concept of equality between the sexes and the concept of fighting for that equality. If more children were taught what feminism really means, from a young age, and repeatedly exposed to discussions about feminism and what it’s trying to achieve, I believe that feminism would not be subjected to so much negative stigma and controversy. The basic principle behind it is almost irrefutable, why would you not want equality between the sexes? However, due to the fact so many people did not grow up knowing exactly what feminism is really about, and therefore not understanding why it was so important, there is constantly an argument about whether it’s necessary or not. The more we educate children, the more information they have about it and therefore can form an educated opinion about feminism’s relevance and importance. The less you know about something, the less likely you are to care about it. The more we teach others about feminism, the harder it becomes to ignore.
We desperately need to be educated. I, for one, have had to discover feminism on my own. Not once, in my entire school career, have I ever been taught about feminism and what it means. Yes, I was briefly taught about the suffragettes, but the entirety of that lesson revolved around the shocking spectacle of women throwing themselves under horses, and not the principles and beliefs that they did it for. In fact, since I was not so enamored with the concept of feminism as I am now, I don’t think I even paid attention. Only now, since I have thrust myself into the fight, do I engage in proper discussions about it. If I didn’t know what feminism was, and had not exposed myself to it, I could quite happily go on throughout my life never knowing, and never coming into contact with the movement and what it signifies. This blog might not even exist. How terrifying.
I don’t want feminism to become blacklisted. I don’t want people to spit out the word like it’s milk gone sour. I want people to know what it truly means, and understand why we need it. I want everyone, from children in Year 7 to nearly-adults in Year 13 to know exactly what feminism is and to know why people want it. I want them to know what pansexuality is, to know why someone may suffer if they are transgender, and to want to put a stop to people who commit suicide due to harassment from people who refuse to let others be themselves. The only way we can achieve such a ‘revolution’ is if schools are encouraged to teach their children about poignant issues such as these, and that will not happen with the students being willing to hear.
Feminism is important, necessary, essential. Not enough people know it. Not enough people care. But they will, if only we try and educate people about issues they most often know nothing about.
“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
This post was inspired when some friends brought up the fact that (mainly) girls on twitter were doing a ‘body posi nude posting session.’ (“Posi” in this case means positive.) Despite the fact that I really admire the idea behind this movement; the idea that women shouldn’t be ashamed of their body and should show it off if they want to without having to feel insecure or be made to feel insecure by others, and also the fact that women’s value of their body and self shouldn’t come from a man telling them what they think of their body, but from what they themselves think. All of this is really good and shows the progress we as females are making today in claiming back our self-confidence and overcoming the idea that we live to be validated by men, but I can’t help but disagree that this is not the way we should be going about achieving self-confidence for all women around the world.
The problem I have with posting your nudes on twitter, even if they are in the name of body positivity (which is definitely something I advocate), is that these nudes can be saved by anyone around the world and possibly used for nefarious purposes. This is especially dangerous for underage girls, because of course, they are underage and posting sexually explicit pictures is actually illegal for underage people, and also the possibility that perhaps they don’t have any experience dealing with online perverts and the like, and are unaware what could actually be done with these pictures. I’m all for taking nude pictures and sending them to friends/boyfriends/girlfriends/partners of any sort, as long as you’re doing because you want to and not because someone else wants you to, but I don’t believe in posting them on Twitter where literally anyone could find them. However, I know this sounds very hypocritical, because if that’s what these women/girls want to do, who am I to stop them? It would not be feminist of me to criticise and demonise these women and their personal choices, so I won’t do that. I merely want to only express my concern about what might be done with their pictures. But, girls, you do you!
I also want to say that you do not have to post nudes to show people that you’re body positive or body confident. Being body positive isn’t all about feeling that you look good naked, even though that is definitely an important part of feeling self-confident and happy with your body. Body positivity, or body confidence, is about being satisfied with your appearance and body shape and physical capabilities and the way clothes fit you or the way you look in a swimsuit/bikini, how tall you are in high heels, the way rucksacks look when you wear them… just anything about your physical appearance. I definitely agree that it’s amazing and necessary for all women to be confident naked, but I do not want anyone to think that it’s all and only about that. I find today that a lot of things always seem to relate back to sex and sexual experiences.
The main point here, though, is why should we embrace body confidence?
And my answer to this is simple, you will never be happy if you don’t. If you’re constantly obsessing over how you look, or how other people think you look, you’ll never be satisfied, and living life unsatisfied is never going to be fun. We need to be body confident because our self worth shouldn’t be determined by how other people see us, because who cares what they think? Literally? Who actually cares if Brenda and Jorge were gossiping about your clothes? Cut them off if they don’t make you feel better about yourself. If they care more about what you’re wearing then you do, then employ them to write a blog about your fashion sense and put their unnecessary concern about your clothes to good use. Stop relying on other people to make you feel good about yourself, make yourself happy! Being body confident, and self-confident, guarantees you a happier life because more time is spent devoted to doing things you love rather than caring about what other people think of you. This whole last part of my post might sound totally cliché, but there’s a reason these phrases and messages are constantly repeated. It’s because they are the truth, and by making that change and dropping anyone who makes you feel like shit, you will be way better off in the future.
http://www.thedrum.com/news/2013/09/03/why-regulating-pornography-harder-it-sounds – Why regulating porn is harder than it sounds…
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8314648/Internet-porn-regulation-could-be-the-only-answer.html – Article about how/why porn should be regulated.
Pornography is probably one of the most searched, most watched and most engaged with thing on the internet today, and it has been around for so long most of us consider it to be a fundamental part of sex and sexual activity within young boys and girls and men and women today. However, can you ever have too much of a “good” thing?
Pornography, in my opinion, was probably created as a form of expression of sexual desire and pleasure. As with all ‘art’ forms, there is a need to express emotion and feeling through a visual nature as this is a stimulus that we, as humans, are most responsive too. (If you don’t believe me, just think about how many more people will watch the 50 Shades of Grey movie compared to reading the books) There is nothing wrong with this demonstration of sex, and it serves a legitimate purpose. In theory there is nothing wrong with pornography and in fact the idea behind it, the free expression of love, lust, desire and attraction between two people, is actually appealing too many. I understand both the attraction towards watching it and the reason why so many people do.
However, the main problems I have with pornography both demonstrate why the industry has become such an issue and why we need to do something about it. My first issue is the fact that porn is not real life sex, yet so many people rely on it so heavily as a guideline for all their sexual experiences. What we need to remember and remind ourselves is that the porn we are watching is not someone else’s home movie in most cases. These videos have been directed, the actors and actresses in them have been told what to do, how to do it and when. They are told how to look and dress, and how to act, and how rough or gentle to be with each other. We must remember that the people in the videos are being paid to do a job and that many people do not do this as a job because they’re nymphomaniacs (sex addicts), but simply because we as a society have made it such a lucrative business that people can make highly successful careers from it.
Not only does pornography perpetuate incorrect versions of what real sex is like, it also gives viewers false ideals of what men and women should look like naked, or how their sexual relationships should be dictated. Typically the content of porn is targeted at a male audience, therefore will focus on making the women within the videos the most appealing to men. This means they will most likely have large breasts, or bum, be completely hairless except for their head, and be willing to let the man do anything he wants to them whilst pretending that everything he does they are enjoying. I do not really have to tell you that this is not the case, as it is fairly obvious that in real life, more often than not, this is not what you will be experiencing during sex. And, it’s not just women, it’s men too. Pornography today teaches young men that they have to be in control, that sexual experiences should be catered mainly towards their own pleasure, and that they have to encapsulate the image of ‘hyper-masculinity’ by being muscly, rough and fairly emotionless.
These ideas are damaging enough in the central watered-down media, but in a business where everything is taboo and full of stigma, such stereotypes become even more darkly tempting. This brings me on to my second issue, which is the abundance of violent and graphic porn available to so many on the internet. The more we expose people to this type of porn, the more it becomes the norm. As with the amount of violence and graphic scenes in all media today, we no longer bat an eyelash when guts spill out all over the screen, and the amount of violence that there is isn’t regulated because the more of it there is, the more people want to watch it. We have to keep escalating the levels of violence and gore because people become number and number to initial shock of seeing it, and the same thing is happening in the porn industry. The sex we see becomes more and more violent, dominating, and graphic, because the shock that this inspires in people also inspire curiosity to mimic the actions to see what it would be like in real life. This is the stigma that surrounds the BDSM lifestyle, and the 50 Shades trilogy that perpetuates the idea that relationships incorporating that lifestyle are always dangerous, beautiful and intoxicating, which may be the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth. The reason why this side of porn needs to be regulated is because young children can so easily access it. It becomes easier and easier to lie about our ages online, and it becomes easier and easier for young children to view these types of sexual relationships with violence and gore, and think this is the norm because it is the first of these relationships that they see.
Mostly, we just need to remove that feeling that comes with sex, the idea that sex is somehow sinful or wrong, that it is dirty, seedy or sleazy. We need to stop over-sexualising the naked body, to stop being afraid of our own genitals. Sex is a simple biological need. Humans are the only species that have attached such baggage to sex, who treat it as the beginning and end of our whole worlds, who create such massive stigma around an act that is simply about pleasure and enjoyment. If we stopped treated it as something forbidden, if we chose to educate each other about it properly and if we talked about it openly, there would be such a massive demand for porn. Porn is created so we can indulge our fantasies in private, scared to tell other people what it is we want. If we could talk about it without having to feel as if we had committed some sort of great crime, we would be more comfortable with our sexual identities. Sex is not a secret, it is a shout.
I agree, to a certain extent, that we should not ban pornography. We all need some sort of platform to express and indulge in fantasy (whether that be a sexual fantasy or not), and if pornography is conducted in such a way that it does not promote intentional harm to sexual partners, and does not promote misogyny and unattainable stereotypes, I believe it could simply just be another enjoyable thing in the cauldron of modern day life. However, it does need to be regulated and I think that all violent/graphic porn should be eradicated from the internet. Even better, the making and perpetuating of that type of porn should be illegal as it poses a serious threat to the sanctity of our sexual relationships. However, my attitude towards the regulation of pornography is as such; trying to control it is like trying to control the flow of the tide, no matter how hard you try there will always be a wave that slips through.