Wednesday, 25 November 2015

"Rape-y" Songs...

So, I was in the car, happily driving to Uni when Chris Brown's latest tune "Back To Sleep" comes on the radio. Cue inspiration for a blog post.

Before I start talking about songs that advocate rape, let me just run some of the lyrics by you. 
The main chorus goes something like this:

"Just let me rock, fuck you back to sleep girl
Don't say a word no, don't you talk
Just hold on tight to me girl"

This is bad enough for me because it implies that women don't need to say a word; because after all, sex is entirely about male pleasure right? 

I really hope you understand sarcasm people, because this post is going to be dripping with it.

But alas, back to the song which actually gets worse if that's even possible:

"I know you're almost half asleep but you know I might need ya
Girl I need ya, oh"

Oh right, sorry Chris, if you need me that's OK then. It doesn't matter that I'm half asleep, of course not, why would it?
I don't know about you, but I always thought it was more fun for both parties when a woman was actually conscious during sex. Maybe that's just me? 

Then it just gets plain stalkerish:

"But if you keep the door unlocked, be ready, oh
I know you got work pretty early, I'll be around by 3:30
Usually you're done by one, so baby when I wake you up..."

Ladies, be warned: Chris knows your entire daily routine so if you leave your door unlocked, be ready... even though you'll most likely be asleep. But fear not, Chris is here to "fuck you back to sleep, ohhh".  

Okay so let's just draw a line under all this sarcasm and get to the point, which is serious I promise.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sorry before the serious bit, can we all just laugh at Chris Brown's cover photo for the single. Let's just take a moment to crease at his silly pose and jacket. 


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So onto that serious note.

The thing is, I just don't understand why music like this is allowed to be produced when the rape references are so explicit. I think part of the problem is that songs are often sold to people by the tune. This is exactly what happened to me with Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams' "Blurred Lines". It is undeniable that the tune is catchy. So much so, I found myself singing along to it for days when it was first released; until I saw all the controversy. It's only then, when you break down the song and see the lyrics for what they are, that you realise through music you're advocating an act which is absolutely abhorrent in any other context. 

This story has been covered a lot but to refresh your memory; the chorus of "Blurred Lines" consists of the following lines, repeated over and over again as if to drum in the message:

"I hate these blurred lines 
I know you want it"

Which is later followed by lines like:

"I'll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two"


So we all know that shit like this is not okay, no matter how catchy the tune.


One of my main worries is for young girls listening to songs like "Blurred Lines" or "Back To Sleep", because songs like this promote a concerning attitude to sexual relationships and the issue of consent. 
The really sinister thing about Chris Brown's song is that the woman in it isn't even conscious. This has horrible connotations of the suffering women endure through date rape drugs; I can't even imagine how it must feel to know you have been sexually assaulted but not remember. So to make a song about half-asleep women being "fucked" is worrying to say the least. 
Songs like "Blurred Lines" trivialise the issue of consent. No means no and there's nothing else to say on that.

People might argue that by discussing Chris Brown and his terrible song that I'm drawing attention to it, promoting it even, but I believe that until we start talking about this issue, nothing will change. Rape isn't going to go away but maybe by discussing it, some of the bad attitudes towards it will. Maybe more women will feel like they will be "believed" when they report a sexual assault. Maybe more women will feel confident enough to recognise what has happened to them was wrong and the perpetrator should be punished for it. 

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that rape is rape; there are no "Blurred Lines". 

So let's start singing about that. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Suffragette


"Never surrender, never give up the fight"


This weekend I went to see the film Suffragette. I'm sure most of you have heard of it or at least have some idea of what it's about, but for those of you that don't; the film depicts the early suffrage movement of the 1910's involving a group of working class women. The plot centres on Maud Watts, a fictional character who embodies the hardships a majority of women at the time had to endure. The film focuses on a number of important issues including the plight of working class women, female rights over their children at the time and it also alludes to the issue of sexual abuse. I don't actually want to go too much into the film because I think it's so brilliant you should just go and see it for yourself and I'm not aiming for this to be a film review - I want this to be more a collection of thoughts and feelings on the film and where women stand today.



 I'd been looking forward to the film's release for a long time, because learning about the suffrage movement of the early 20th century when I was in high school was where my interest in feminism and gender equality began. I knew I'd love the film and that it would be an incredibly moving and powerful story, but I wasn't expecting the reaction I actually had to it which was a very emotional one. I can't even tell you how many times I teared up during the film and by the end of it the tears were streaming down my face.

 I think what was so striking about the story was the portrayal of  just how hard women's lives were in comparison to today. I'm not saying we've reached absolute gender equality worldwide, but I can't help feel so incredibly blessed that I am alive in Britain in 2015 and not 1915.

I am a young woman that has control of my own money. I am being educated at a university where my views are respected as equal to my male classmates. Next year I will graduate and be able to apply to any job I desire. I can live on my own (well, perhaps with a cat or two). I'm not being forced by my father to marry and have children at a young age. 

Above all else, I have a say in what happens politically; I have the right to vote. 
Watching women like Maud Watts (played by Carey Mulligan) imprisoned, force fed and beaten during their quest to secure the vote, something which is today considered a basic human right, was both disturbing and humbling for me. That I believe is part of the film's magic; this film is a reminder of what women endured so we could vote today and that is what makes it such an incredibly powerful experience, because sadly we often take our right to vote for granted today.

I remember just after the UK election earlier this year I was in a seminar class where we were discussing the outcome of the election and one girl in the class said she "didn't get all this politics stuff", that she had no interest in it at all and that she hadn't voted. I never want to come across as being harsh on someone, especially another woman, but I do vividly remember feeling really sad for her. I think I felt so strongly because I knew she wasn't the only young woman, or man for that matter, that felt disillusioned with today's politics. The channel e4 actually shut down on voting day to encourage its viewers, primarily young adults, to go and vote.

Whether people didn't vote because they couldn't be bothered, they didn't think it would change anything or because this man/plonker told them not to...


Seeing this film only strengthened my opinion that even if it doesn't go your way, at least you've had your say. I do feel our voting system needs a lot of change but by voting your voice is heard. My right to vote is one of the most powerful rights I feel I have and I am eternally grateful to those women for what they went through to get it. Of course their achievement runs so much deeper than attaining the right to vote; it changed the way women were seen in the world. It ensured women were not just seen as wives or mothers, but human beings in their own right. 



I am well aware that I am lucky: I'm lucky to have been born into a democratic country, with access to education and to have been raised by parents who encouraged and supported me and my sisters. I say this because not only does "Suffragette" make you grateful to be alive today, it also reminds us that there are still places in the world where many women do not have the freedom I am blessed with. After the final scene of the film, a timeline is shown of when different countries gave women the right to vote. Shockingly there are countries in the world where women didn't get the vote until recently and there's some countries where women are still struggling for this right. 

There are women in this world that are still being forced to marry men they don't know or even their rapist to avoid "family shame", there are women that can't leave the house without a male chaperone, women that can't hold a driving license or even choose what they wear. 


I think that's what it all comes down to; choiceI am lucky in that I choose a great deal of what happens in my life and that choice feels so incredibly valuable to me after watching this film. But until every woman in this world has that power to choose, the job started by the women's suffrage movement is not yet finished. 

"The Cause" goes on. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Seven things that are good for the soul!

So exams are finally over and that's my second year of university all finished which is really exciting, but also really scary thinking that this time next year I'll finally be graduating. Then it's going to be all about job hunting in that big, bad, adult world. Scary stuff.

Anyway, enough of the serious talk. Today I wanted to write a really light hearted post about self-care. Self-care is basically a term for doing things that make you feel good; things that are "good for the soul" or just keep you plain sane in times of stress (i.e. revising for exams). It's so important to look after yourself so you're less likely to turn to unhealthy habits to soothe any discomfort. Making the time to do little things for yourself each day can really add up and improve your mindset. 

With that said, here are seven of my favourite things I to do to look after myself:


1. Cook a New Meal
I'm not sure if it's just because I personally enjoy cooking and baking, but I really do think there's nothing more satisfying than cooking a new meal from scratch. There's something so rewarding about going out, acquiring the ingredients, following a recipe and creating an entirely new taste experience. It can take up as much or as little time as you want and the same of course goes for cost. You can cook for yourself, for your partner or your entire family, whatever you fancy. 
I've spent so much time in Greece I like to think of myself as an honorary Greek citizen and that of course means I love Greek food. This weekend I went to an amazing Greek restaurant with my entire family for a Greek banquet and the food was absolutely amazing! I've attempted a few dishes previously but have never made Beef Stifado, which is one of may favourites "When in Rome Greece" and it's now on the top of my hit list to cook next.



2. Tea
It might be a British thing, but the comforting feeling a hot cup of tea gives you can't be denied. Whether it's your typical English Breakfast tea or something more exotic; green tea, vanilla tea, peppermint tea etc. It really is like a hug in a mug. Put it in a pretty cup and saucer or your favourite mug and enjoy!
 Mine is a standard English tea, with lots of milk and a pinch (yes a pinch) of sugar, please. Oh and I'll have a chocolate Hob Nob with it if you're offering.



3. Do something that makes you feel good about your appearance
Of course I know that appearances aren't everything, but things like a bright shade of lipstick or a dress you feel amazing in can really brighten your day. Or even something like wearing beautiful underwear in the most humdrum, everyday-life situations. There's nothing more uplifting and slightly amusing than sitting in a lecture or at work knowing you're wearing the most spectacular underwear. No one is going to see it but that doesn't matter. It's not for a man or for anyone else, it's solely for you. Only you will know how exquisite you look underneath your clothes and that's enough to leave a little smile on your face and a spring in your step. Trust me and try it ladies. 



4. Reading 
It's hardly surprising this is one made the list with me being an English student, but I don't really sit around reading Shakespeare in my spare time...
I recommend that you find a genre you love and completely devour it. If for example you like Romance books, look on Amazon top sellers, buy three or four books and really get into them. I love books and always have because stories are such powerful things. They have the ability to take you to another world, but they also open your mind up to how other people think which is a valuable life skill.
I personally enjoy books on body image, women in the media and anything on "New Feminism". I've just started a book by Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project. The book itself is called "Everyday Sexism" and I'm only two chapters in but I really recommend it. This woman talks a lot of sense and I think that I'm slightly in love with her. I'm also thinking of writing a post about my favourite books on body image, eating disorders, anti-diets etc. so keep a look out for that.



5. Have an amazing bath, with bubbles, candles and music
 This can seem like a bit of an effort when you're short on time but make the time and make the effort, because you deserve it. Pick your favourite music, a scented candle, settle down and relax. 
I love Yankee candles and my favourite bath products are basically anything from Lush, because they're natural and most importantly they don't test on animals. If you haven't bought anything from Lush before I suggest a bubble bar!
If you have the time, turn that bath into a pamper session. After a bath I love smothering myself head to toe in moisturiser. I'm not talking about a light lotion here people, I'm talking about that rich body butter in a tub that leaves you so slippery you feel like a wet seal sliding around your bed. No really.



6. Take on a new challenge
As I write this, I've just got back from my first ever driving lesson. I figured at the ripe old age of 22 it was about time I started learning to drive. It was so scary but so exciting and it's all I can think about now. Starting a completely new challenge can be so refreshing and really give you focus. It can be anything you fancy, learning to drive, starting a blog, learning a new language, learning to cook etc. Just choose something you've always wanted to do, but is also fairly realistic, and get stuck in because you never know where it may lead.



7. Family, friends and pets
Now this is a cheesy one, but nothing makes you feel better than spending time with your loved ones. I don't care if you don't have a "nuclear" family, if you consider your friends to be your only family, or even if it's just you and your cat against the world. Spend time with those people (+fur babies) and cherish them. We live in such a fast paced world we're all guilty of putting other things before our loved ones but it's never too late to start appreciating others. When I'm a bit down or stressed having a good laugh with my family and friends is the best thing in the world.


 Also I'm sure you've guessed by now that I have cats. The number depends on if we've taken another stray into our make shift cat rescue centre, but that number stands at seven right now. 
This little man below is possibly the love of my life. His name is Teddy Bear in case you were wondering, but he goes by the name of Ted to those who know him best.



And that's a wrap.

I hope you guys enjoyed these tips. I wanted to include some more personal information about my life and the things I like to do because I don't want this blog to feel anonymous. I mean I'm discussing some pretty serious and personal stuff, like eating disorders and body image, and I want you to feel like you know a bit more about who I am.

With regards to future posts now I'm exam free (did I mention I've finished my exams?) I've got so many exciting ideas. I want to write articles about so called "plus-size" models, disparity in clothing sizes, books reviews and a lot more so stay tuned!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sorry!

Hi guys, this is just a really quick post to explain my absence these past few weeks!

I have two weeks left before the end of my Uni exams and I'm currently in revision hell. I'm a hermit: A dressing gown wearing, chipped nailed, greasy haired, stressed and slobby hermit.

I finish on June 2nd and I promise after that I'm all yours. I have so many ideas for posts and I just can't wait to write them, so watch this space!

H x




Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Are You Beach Body Ready?

So April has been a fairly interesting month for those of you interested in body image in the media. One particular advertisement really got my blood boiling, so much so I am now writing this blog post when I should be writing a 4000 word essay on Virginia Woolf for Uni (naughty). However I'm sure Virginia, being the legendary feminist she was, would totally understand...

Okay so the advertisement by "Protein World" was placed in underground stations across London. The image shows a woman in a bikini asking:
"ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?"



Now it's not just me that has been outraged by this advertisement, there has been a number of protests and there are more in the pipeline, all with the aim to get these ads taken down. A lot of these protesters are claiming that this particular model and these advertisements as a whole promote an unrealistic and "unhealthy body image" (Guardian). However I think that's a bit extreme because for me personally it borders on "skinny shaming". I don't think we should shame any woman's body, even the model in this advert. She is a beautiful woman and I honestly think no less of her than I would of a "plus-size" model.
 I think these ads should be taken down because it's putting the message out there that only this particular body type is acceptable for all women. It also presents women with the ridiculous notion that you have to look exactly like this to go to the beach... For the record, anyone of any shape or size can go to the beach and wear a bikini. Just sayin'.

Below are some gems I found on the internet  of people opposing this advert.




The next image is my absolute favourite. Two young female bloggers, Fiona Longmuir and Tara Costellofelt so strongly about this image they stripped down to their bikinis in the middle of a London tube station.


All I can possibly say is well done ladies, you are truly inspirational.
Yes, these girls' bodies are different from the model but their bodies are also different from each other. That is the exact point. No two women are the same and that is something to celebrate. 

If you've been following my blog posts you'll know I have always been honest about how much my mindset has changed regarding body image over the years: When I was a 16 year old girl I probably would have seen this image and viewed it as "Thinspo" or inspiration to "get skinny". I now sit here typing this article as a 22 year old woman that truly loves her body. We all have off days and little moments of insecurity because that is human nature, but 99% of the time I love my bodyI love my body in a dress, in a bikini and shock horror, I love my naked body. I don't say that because I'm arrogant, big headed or whatever you want to call it, I say it because I made the decision a few years ago that I would not spend my entire existence hating the beautiful and incredible machine that will carry me through all my life. 

Going forward, I really hope these ads gets taken down, but sadly I don't think it is the last body shaming media campaign I will ever write about. 

With that said, here's my advice on how to get beach body ready:

Put a bikini on your body and go to the beach. Simples.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

10 Reasons to Stop Dieting Today

For those of you living in Britain, you'll know the weather has been pretty nice recently. The hint of sunshine has got me thinking about the summer to come. More specifically how women will soon face the "Shape Up for Summer" adverts and articles: AKA encouragement so start yet another diet, but as we all know - diets don't work. For those of you who are still on the diet/binge/hating your body merry go round, here's 10 reasons to stop dieting today.

1. Diets don't work
I've covered this topic a fair bit in previous posts, so won't go into it in a huge amount of detail again. That said, I think the following statistic speaks for itself: 97% of people gain back any weight that they lost (and then some) within three years after a diet. That's if you can even manage losing the weight to begin with because as I'm sure you know by now, diets are nearly always impossible to stick to. This leads me nicely onto reason number two on why you should ditch the diets.



2. Food is amazing
Come on let's face it, being on a diet is a complete bore because food is simply incredible. There is so much more to food than it just being a source of fuel for your body. Whether it's a tasty pub lunch, a slice of home-made cake or a very lovely full fat vanilla latte picked up on your way to a lecture - food is a hugely enjoyable part of life. At least it should be. 
Have you also thought about how big a part food plays in our lives. We celebrate the birth of our children with Christenings, usually followed by a party and lots of food and drink. When a loved one dies we offer food at the wake as a part of the mourning process. In-between the beginning and the end of a life we celebrate weddings, birthdays and anniversaries; all with food (specifically cake). To deprive yourself of food on such occasions is to deprive yourself a full life, of feeling; both the good and bad. We can eat to live, and live to eat simultaneously, despite what those crazy thinspo slogans tell you.

Baked by yours truly


3. You will stop binge-eating
When you give yourself permission to eat foods you consider "bad" or "naughty", basically anything that you consider to be off limits, all food becomes equal. Therefore foods you used to go crazy for lose a lot of their appeal. Let's use that story about naughty Eve in the Garden of Eden as an example; she only wanted the apple because she wasn't allowed to eat it. The same way you only want those Oreos because you don't allow yourself to have them on a regular basis. Then you go crazy and eat a whole pack because you know your diet will start again tomorrow and it's your last chance to eat them. So the cycle continues...


4. You will love your body
You diet because you want to lose weight which means you diet in order to change your body; essentially to change yourself. By dieting you are doing something with the aim to change who you are, not just what you look like. What this says is that you are not okay now, exactly as you are. For the record ladies, you are more than okay. You are amazing, right now, not 20 pounds from now.




5. You will realise other people love your body
I debated including this one as I'm a firm believer that the only opinion that matters regarding your body, is of course your own. However I recently saw a statistic that 4 out of 10 women are embarrassed to be seen naked by their partner and that makes me so incredibly sad. Your sexual partner, whether that be your husband or someone you're only seeing casually, should be someone who respects you entirely. Therefore being intimate with them should feel both comfortable and natural. Sex is one of the few free things in life that is there to simply be enjoyed. So ladies, please start enjoying your bodies... and all of that physical exercise.




6. You will be more fun and have more fun
Everyone knows that incredibly boring person who is forever on a diet. If they're not explaining how this new diet works or why it's different from all the other diets they've done previously, they're snubbing tasty food and making you feel guilty for eating it around them. Chances are that if you're reading this, you could indeed be that person. I was that person and can honestly say that I have a lot more fun and actually enjoy my life, now that I am no longer constrained by dieting. Going for a tasty meal and plenty of cocktails with a friend is what life's all about. Believe me, letting your hair down feels good.






7. You will realise being thin won't change your life
When I'm thin I'll change my job. When I'm thin I'll feel sexy. When I'm thin that guy will finally fancy me... And so the list goes on. The thing is, the only person who's stopping you living the life you want to live today, is in fact you. Women of all different shapes are considered sexy, successful, clever, funny, beautiful. Despite what you have been led to believe, size actually has very little to do with other peoples perception of you. You can be the person you want to be today, not when you hit your ideal weight.
Hands up. I used to be so guilty of this one. Since I've accepted myself entirely I feel more confident, beautiful, capable and excited about life than ever before. I think letting go of the "When I'm Thin" myth is the most important thing you can do to heal your body image. A lot of the time, thin is a word that's interchangeable with happy
What changes do you need to make to your life to in order for you to feel happy? When you have identified what it's going to take to make your life one you want to be living, make those changes, today. 



8. You will focus more on present relationships 
Diets are the ultimate distraction from life. Adding up all those calories, points, syns and working out what you can and can't eat takes up a lot of time. That's half the point of dieting; filling your mind with how much you can and can't eat distracts you not only from major problems in your life, such as the fact you may hate your job, but also your relationships with others. Ordering cake with your coffee might be a pleasant distraction from someone who's company you don't enjoy. However such distractions stop you from questioning why it is you don't enjoy that person's company. Is every person in your life someone that values you, as much as you do them?
Also, think about how much time it takes you to input those calories into myfitnesspal. Are you missing out on your children playing, your friend's laughter, your Dad's bad jokes. Are you missing out on those seemingly insignificant moments in the pursuit of perfection? They may seem unimportant when you're main goal is to get to your ideal weight, but I bet that at the end of your life you would give anything to experience those little moments with loved ones again, not staying under your calorie allowance for 4 days on the trot in 2010.



9. You will question what you truly want out of life
I despise the "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"question, but just think about all the things you have promised to give yourself when you reach your ideal weight. What do you think would happen if you went for everything you wanted out of life, not when you're "thin" but right now? I know the answer to that: Your life would be amazing.
 How do I know that you may ask? I know the answer because I have walked the walk and talked the talk. Letting go of the "When I'm Thin" myth allowed me to identify what I wanted out of life. Before I did this my only hobby was dieting, my life goal was to be thin, my entire existence revolved around a dream. Letting go a few years back of this unhealthy obsession allowed me to identify what I want out of life. I have gained so much more from self acceptance than I ever have when I've reached my goal weight. So I dare you, do something today you have ever only dreamed about in your "When I'm Thin" dreams!


10. Life is too short.
Enough said.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Unwanted Male Attention

Unwanted male attention. It's something that pretty much every woman on the planet will have experienced at some point in their life. It's uncomfortable, it's awkward and it can even get scary. We can all differentiate between men approaching after you've maybe given out "the signals" and guys that enjoy your squirming as their eyes bore a very deep hole into your chest. I was lucky enough (please enjoy the sarcasm) to experience one of these situations last week and it got me thinking a lot about those unwelcome advances from the opposite sex.

Before I begin, I will say that this is not exclusive to men approaching women. It goes for women "creeping" on men and of course extends into homosexual relations. I'm just writing about men approaching women because that is something I have experienced and can relate to. Regardless of your sexual preferences or gender, it still comes down to the fact that no one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable and cross certain boundaries without your permission.

So with that said, I ask you to picture the following: 
It was Monday evening, I'd been at university all day and was happily strolling through a deserted campus, excited to get home to my warm house and a hearty fish pie waiting for me in the oven, when I hear "EXCUSE ME, EXCUSE ME!!!". 
I turn around to see a man approaching me and the conversation between us went a little something like this:


Guy: Excuse me... I like your look.
Me: Erm, sorry?
Guy: I like your look... You look like Cleopatra.
Me: Erm, thank you? 
Guy: Are you Persian?
Me: Erm, no.
Guy: Arabic.
Me: No.
Guy: So what's your heritage? Where are you from? 
Me: I'm from round here... (Thinking: Where is this conversation going? and I really can't be bothered to explain the breakdown of my Manx/Irish/Scottish/English heritage.)
Guy: Oh right, what are you studying?
Me: English and Communications, erm, and you?
Guy: I don't study here, I'm a pharmacist though.
Me: Oh right... Cool... (Thinking: Why are you on campus if you don't study here?) 
Guy: How old are you?
Me: 22... 
Guy: I'm 30.
Me: Oh right... (Thinking: Why are you on campus if you're 30, obviously not a lecturer and don't even study here?!) 
Guy: Can I take your number and take you for drinks some time?
Me: Erm... 


So let's pause there. 
I could have said a million things, whether they were true or not. I could have said "I have a boyfriend/Sorry but I've got to dash/Thanks but I'm not interested" etc. The thing is however, I wanted to be polite to this man because I didn't want him to feel uncomfortable. Yes the situation was a bit odd but I like to think of myself as a nice, friendly person and didn't want this man to take offence. 

It was only when he started to close in on me, blocking my way that I assessed the situation. His mobile was shoved in my face, ready for me to type my number in. As I looked around, it was getting dark, there were a couple of people about but the edge of campus where we were was getting a bit empty for my liking. I decided on giving a fake number and getting away ASAP when "slightly forceful guy" turned plain threatening.

Guy: I'm going to ring you now to check you've not given me a fake number. Ha!

Except there was absolutely nothing funny about it. 

I typed my number in, accepted his call and made my excuses to get away, reassuring myself with the fact I could block his number as soon as I was out of sight. Walking away from him, I was so angry at myself for not being firm and for not setting my boundaries. As I've already said, I didn't want to make another person feel uncomfortable but it was only afterwards I realised that this man did not extend the same courtesy to me.

My mum often says I'm too polite for my own good and she's right. I think it's something a lot of women struggle with in these situations. What kind of situations do I mean? I'm talking about the builder's wolf whistle, the drunken leery guy at a bar, the stranger sat opposite who's overtly staring at your legs. Where do you cross the line from a polite refusal to just being rude to someone?

 As women we're conditioned by society to believe we should accept this attention happily, that we should even be grateful for it. This encounter with the man who took my number, without even asking my name, got me thinking about how other females feel about attention from men they do not know. The responses I got from women I know were a mixed bag of opinions; some love it, some hate it.


So why is that? Why do some women enjoy sexual advances from men who know nothing about them other than how they look? Is it because we live in such an image conscious society that some women now seek approval that their physical appearance is socially acceptable. In a way, a wolf whistle says a lot. It almost says:

Well done. You are acceptable to society because you are a sexually attractive and therefore fulfilling your role as a woman.

I sit on the other side of the fence however, in that these encounters make me shrink into myself. I'm not saying I'm any Christina Hendricks, Kelly brook, or Nigella Lawson (insert your idea of an attractive woman here) but I've had my fair share of these experiences like most women and they have never made me feel "good" about myself. If anything they have made me feel incredibly self concious.


Whether male attention peps you up for the day or makes you feel mortified, I think a large part of a woman's reaction lies in both her personality and the severity of the advance. 

A wolf whistle would perhaps make me blush but I wouldn't feel particularly offended by it. A man old enough to be my grandfather touching my legs on a train journey whilst calling me "gorgeous girl" is another issue entirely (True Story Bro). 

Some people might say  "lighten up, you should be flattered if someone approaches you" but I have a huge problem with this sort of attitude. Why should women be grateful that a man approves of your "look" without knowing anything about who you truly are? This goes back to one of the biggest problems in our society, that too much of a persons worth is based on their appearance. For anyone that has ever been in a serious relationship, or enjoyed a long term friendship - you'll know that personality is without a doubt the most important thing about that person and your compatibility with their personality is the foundation of a good relationship.  


So with all that "The problem with society today..." stuff aside, lets get to the crux of the matter: As I pointed out at the beginning of this article, I am under no illusion that it is only females that fall "victim" to unwanted advances. I absolutely know that there are women out there who have intimidated a man they find sexually attractive, and consequently made him feel uncomfortable and awkward. I have seen it in practice and can safely say it is equally as wrong. Ultimately, what it comes down to whether you're a male or female in this sort of situation, is that nobody has the right to make you feel uncomfortable and nobody has the right to invade your personal boundaries. You have the right at any time to say politely but firmly, please stop that or to simply walk away as I should have done... and certainly will do next time. 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

"Because I'm fifty shades of fucked-up, Anastasia"

With the much anticipated release of the film adaptation of E L James' erotic "romance" novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, I knew I would end up writing something about it. I wasn't entirely sure what exactly but this all changed when I saw the "edited" versions of the promotional poster for the film. These altered adverts use the same image, but have swapped the "Mr. Grey will see you now" line for direct quotes from the book itself.  It was this much needed marketing makeover that inspired me to get on my soapbox. 

I'm pretty sure almost everybody has heard of the Fifty Shades trilogy even if you haven't read the books, but for those of you that haven't... The books tell the story of 21 year old college student Anastasia Steele and her relationship with the wealthy entrepreneur Christian Grey. It became famous for it's inclusion of explicit and erotic sex scenes, specifically BDSM practices.

Below is an image of the official cinema poster released by Universal Pictures:



Here are a couple of the photo-shopped images currently being circulated in the media:



These posters made me remember my experience of reading the book. Not just that that it was a terribly written book I somehow managed to finish. More specifically, my experience reading this as a young, admittedly naive and unworldly, girl. To put it simply, the book made me feel uncomfortable. I had just turned 18 when I read Fifty Shades of Grey and it was an unpleasant experience for me, not because of the poorly described sex scenes or even the "kinky" bits, but because it was a story of depraved abuse sold to me and many other women as a love story.

It has been about 4 years since I read the book and  to be frank, I couldn't bring myself to read it fully again, but I did dip into a few extracts for the purpose of this article. The text below is taken from the S&M "contract" in Chapter 11 between the Dominant, Christian and the Submissive, Anastasia. In this chapter we learn the rules which Anastasia must obey.


APPENDIX 1
RULES
Obedience:
The Submissive will obey any instructions given by the Dominant immediately without hesitation or reservation and in an expeditious manner. The Submissive will agree to any sexual activity deemed fit and pleasurable by the Dominant excepting those activities which are outlined in hard limits (Appendix 2). She will do so eagerly and without hesitation.
Sleep:
The Submissive will ensure she achieves a minimum of eight hours sleep a night when she is not with the Dominant.
Food:
The Submissive will eat regularly to maintain her health and wellbeing from a prescribed list of foods (Appendix 4). The Submissive will not snack between meals, with the exception of fruit.
Clothes:
During the Term the Submissive will wear clothing only approved by the Dominant. The Dominant will provide a clothing budget for the Submissive, which the Submissive shall utilize. The Dominant shall accompany the Submissive to purchase clothing on an ad hoc basis. If the Dominant so requires the Submissive shall during the Term wear adornments the Dominant shall require, in the presence of the Dominant and any other time the Dominant deems fit.
Exercise:
The Dominant shall provide the Submissive with a personal trainer four times a week in hour-long sessions at times to be mutually agreed between the personal trainer and the Submissive. The personal trainer will report to the Dominant on the Submissive’s progress.
Personal Hygiene/Beauty:
The Submissive will keep herself clean and shaved and/or waxed at all times. The Submissive will visit a beauty salon of the Dominant’s choosing at times to be decided by the Dominant, and undergo whatever treatments the Dominant sees fit. All costs will be met by the Dominant .

I'm guessing a relationship with a man that tells you what to eat, how much to exercise and what to wear isn't the fairytale you dreamed about growing up. Would you ever stay in a relationship with a control freak, a stalker, a man that continues to force himself on you when you beg him to stop? That then threatens to restrain and gag you?
Of course the only answer to this question is no. Unfortunately it is not that simple for so many women who stay in such relationships for various reasons, often beyond their control.
I class myself as a strong young woman, but I know that abuse has nothing to do with strength; anyone can break another person's spirit through constant physical and/or mental abuse. This is my problem with Fifty Shades of Grey - in that it essentially glorifies abusive relationships.

Here is another one of the "anti-fan" edited posters:



I mean words fail me. Almost
This quote is pretty  disturbing. When did someone beating "seven shades of shit" out of you become sexy?  Oh no that's right - it isn't, it's "depressing". I mean I'm no prude; different strokes for different folks and all that, but this doesn't even relate to specific sexual tastes. These carefully selected quotes stress the dominant role not that Christian Grey plays, but of everything he represents: Abuse, control and degradation.

So this Valentines Day, whether you spend it with your other half or your cat, whatever you do please don't go see Fifty Shades of Grey and give this film your money.
If you can why not make a donation to Refuge, a UK charity supporting women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

 https://www.refuge.org.uk/single-online-donation/