Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain

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I did not go to university to find a man

London Mayor Boris Johnson recently came out with the golden nugget of knowledge that women go to university to find a man. At first I thought it was some kind of mistake but after a little looking around realised that those words had actually come out of Mr Johnson’s mouth.

At a press conference he joked that women had to go to university because “they’ve got to find men to marry”. The Mayor of London is often making inappropriate jokes and I understand if people were not to take the comment seriously, but it dismissive ‘jokes’ like this that make my blood boil.

I went to university and did not go to find a man. The possibility of finding a man was never something that even entered my mind. I wanted to go to university to learn, to get a degree and to have that experience. I wanted to go to university to study something I love, to delve into the subject deeper than I had at A Levels and GCSE and to inspire me.

I did not go to find a man. It implies a woman only goes into higher education to get hitched. It implies that women are not capable of furthering their education because they want to but instead because they have to find a man. It implies that fulfilment comes from being in a relationship rather than by doing things that you want to do. It implies, yet again, that women cannot be women without a man by their side.

A person like Boris Johnson, a public figure, need to watch their words. They are far more powerful than people often realise and this power doesn’t diminish in any way because the words spoken were a ‘joke’.

Once when I was in a club at university with my girlfriends, I headed to the toilets by myself. As I came back to meet my group, a boy groped me. I turned around and told him to get off. He told me I was sexy and asked if I wanted to go home with him. I pushed him away and told him to F*@% off. He called me a slag, told me I was frigid and then said he was ‘joking’. As if, because it was a joke, it forgives everything.

I see people be rude to each other, offensive in a way that crosses the line and when the other party is hurt, the word ‘joke’ and ‘banter’ is thrown around like it’s a soother. A cure that will heal all wrong-doings. It is like this, through the ‘jokes’ and the ‘banter’ that we take a small step back for every step forward.

Sexism is still a huge part of our lives, especially as women. They may be small acts of sexism that were all part of a ‘joke’ or ‘messing around’ but they accumulate to a wider thinking. They make that person, who is the target of your jokes, uncomfortable, angry, fearful or upset or all of those things. They dismiss a woman as a human being and Boris Johnson’s own ‘joke’ adds a little more fuel to that incessant fire.

Finding a man is not the ultimate task. Marriage is not what defines a woman. We can be fulfilled, happy, successful and confident without a ring on our finger and a man by our side. This has all been said before, it is essentially old news with a fresh coat of paint and yet, it continues to happen. Sexism is still prevalent – and sometimes, often, dismissed. It is still an issue for plenty of women in the UK and millions of women across the world. It is still a problem which is why jokes like Boris Johnson’s will continue being part of that problem. A joke is not an excuse to be dismissive towards half the population. A joke does not validate sexism. It is rude, it is derogatory and it is part of a continuing, long-standing problem.


You are not entitled

A Facebook post complaining about the incompetence of the Job Seekers’ Allowance and several other benefits infuriated me today. It infuriated me because the individual complaining about JSA had no real right to in the sense that he should have seen such a benefit as a gift, a lucky token at the fact that he is too damn uptight to get a job “below him”.

JSA is intended as a short-term solution. To help those in the most desperate need who have no other alternative unless they are to live on the street and starve. It sounds extreme but it should be. Benefits are not an entitlement just because the jobs available do not take your fancy. It is for an emergency and it is people that do not treat it as so that give all those claiming benefits a bad name.

After I finish my NCTJ after graduation, I was fully prepared to work for free at any newspaper or magazine that would take me. This meant I would need money and I was fully prepared to work nights wherever I could get work: be that in a supermarket, a warehouse or a bar. It didn’t really matter as long as I had money coming in to support me.

I sound judging but this savvy social media user is consistently posting status in regards to the apparent stupidity of those working in the job’s centres and those in charge of giving him his benefits. He also continually posts statuses stating his disbelief and dismay at the fact that the job centre doesn’t understand why he won’t take up a ‘menial’ minimum-wage job. So what if you’re a graduate? So what if you have experience? The job market is as competitive as ever and not everyone can get those awesome start-up jobs that they want. That’s the way the world works. Even for the people that are truly incredible at whatever it is they do.

The fact that there are jobs open to someone and they have refused them because they think they are not good enough shows what is wrong with this society. This sense of entitlement that we deserve more. We do not. We are lucky in the UK to get what we do, and though it isn’t perfect, it is better than many other countries across this planet. You were lucky to be born into a family in the UK. That’s all it is. Luck – not entitlement.

If there are jobs available, no matter how menial you deem them to be, you take it. You take it because it’s better than nothing and you take it because it is better than the JSA. Especially when you are someone who has no outgoing expenses or other people relying on you like children or someone you must care for. When you are in a situation where you are basically free from constraints and responsibilities (you live at home with your parents, you do not have children, you do not have bills, you do not have rent to pay, you do not own a car, the list goes on) then you take any job you can because JSA for you is not an emergency, it is an excuse not to try as hard.

Just because you went to university, and just because you feel you are too smart for a job does not mean you are above it. You are no better than the person next to you in that job centre, or the person on the bus going to work. If you are not desperate or if your situation is not so difficult that you are actually in crisis then you do not deserve that JSA. It sounds harsh but I speak to a lot of people.

I have met people who deserve those benefits because it’s their last choice: either down to disability or to the fact that without it they can’t afford to feed their families or themselves while they are between work or because they can’t afford their rent without it. Truly difficult situations that nobody would wish themselves in. I see people who refuse JSA and other such benefits because they do not think they are struggling enough yet, because they know they haven’t exhausted every option.

And then I see things like those Facebook statuses and I talk to people who feel entitled, not because they deserve it, but because they refuse to take options that they feel are not suited to them.That is unfair. That is unfair to all those people who do need JSA and other benefits like it. That is playing the system and complaining that it’s not good enough even though you aren’t trying hard enough.

You are not owed anything. You are just like the rest of us and sometimes it is necessary to swallow your pride and get over yourself a little. If there’s a job, take it. You can look for another while you work. Don’t make excuses or cover the fact that you’re not trying hard enough with the difficulty of the system.

JSA is a safety net for those who are falling, it is not a cushion for you to weep in because you feel you’re not getting what you are due.


No excuse for racism

The attack in Woolwich, London is horrific. If you haven’t heard, read or seen the reports, a solider (confirmed by the area’s local MP) has been killed – apparently beheaded by machete (yet to be confirmed by police) by two men. It’s a horrific, and disgustingly violent incident and my thoughts are with the victim’s family, friends and those living in Woolwich.

However, what is just as disgusting is the amount of worryingly open racism that is now being aired on social media.

The two attackers have been dubbed by the BBC as “looking and talking like muslims”. How can someone look like a certain religion? Anyone can be a muslim, a christian, a buddhist; there is no certain look or type or feature that can distinguish if someone is a part of a certain religion. The BBC were wrong to claim those two men were muslims without having it confirmed. As a news source that is expected to be reliable and unbiased (obviously this is not a perfect world), this is simply not good enough. Rule number one is to not assume anything.

I know racism stems from a lack of education and a whole load of ignorance but it is simply unacceptable for people to promote messages of hate. One person does not represent a whole religious sector. If this is a terrorist attack, which news sources are reporting it is – though it does not seem to have been confirmed by any police or government officials – then promoting hate and acts of violence against a group of people is just as bad as the act of violence itself.

Every religions fundamental message is one of peace, happiness, faith and hope. Extremists twist a religion to make their actions acceptable for them. It is stupid, and cruel to stereotype in this way. Exclaiming on Facebook or Twitter that “all muslims need to go back to their country” or that we “should bomb them all” makes me so angry that I see red.

By this stupid, irrational and ignorant thought process, then every single person on this planet would be dead. Christians would be dead for the actions of Christian governments, Catholics would be dead due to the immoral actions of a few priests, those who practice Islam would be dead due to a few extremists, white people would be dead due to the slavery trade – I could go on.

A crime is committed by a person, not a religion. A crime is committed by an individual, not a group. Blame the human, not the religion and before you decide to promote your ignorant, vile views on a public medium do think twice. Spreading hate is not the way to spread unity. Hate only destroys and spreading racist, hate-filled messages makes you just as bad as those who actually carry them out.

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Please stop selling me body confidence

To all companies and media outlets trying to sell me a beauty product,

I am in my twenties and have been told my various outlets that I must be skinny to be beautiful, have sexy curves, and be confident in the body I have – even though on the next page of your magazine or in another advertisement, you tell me I don’t have the right body.

You are trying to tell me that I am not good enough. That I should be skinny because it photographs well or because it looks good. You try to tell me you care when all you are doing is selling a product.

Please stop trying to sell me body confidence. It would be a far better marketing concept if you were honest. I know this is hard because you are selling the exact same product as your competitors but it would be better than lying that you care. It doesn’t make sense to tell me that I should be happy in my body and then tell me to buy your product so that I can do that. It also doesn’t make sense that you would pay thousands of pounds to have your advertisement selling “body confidence” (though you only show a certain kind of type and look in your adverts) in a magazine that tells us how to lose weight, dress so that we are sexy and look skinny and remind us exactly what is wrong with the way we look.

It seems pretty hypocritical to me that you tell me I should love my skin and then only show models that are typically beautiful in some way, be it in the face, body or both. They fit into all the moulds that you apparently dismiss.

I am just like everyone else and you try to break me with unrealistic or hypocritical and apparently inspiring body messages and then build me back up so I will buy your mediocre product and conform to whatever shape I have to be, to be someone who buys your product.

If you want me to buy from you, then just use all those wonderfully crazy science words and tell me what the product does. Just please stop selling me body confidence when you are part of the industry, and usually part of the same brand, who are telling me that I should be ashamed of it because there is just so much to improve.

Stop treating me like an idiot. Though you may only see me as a body – as a physical entity and nothing more. I have a brain – thoughts, ambitions and opinions. I am not defined by my body but by my actions, like choosing not to buy your product. So please stop selling me body confidence. It isn’t fooling anyone.

From a lost customer.


Screw beauty

I am sick of people trying to impose ideals of beauty on people – both men and women. I am sick of adverts pretending to be about ‘real women’ only featuring white, young females that are skinny enough to have never eaten bread in their lives. I am sick of magazines screaming at me about a new celebrity having lost or gained weight. I am sick of being told that I beauty is the key to happiness. Screw these damn ideologies of beauty.

I am not bitter, quite the opposite, in fact – it saddens me that people put so much value in their beauty. It infuriates me that this society has made us judge our outer shells so harshly when it plays such little significance to the actual type of people we are.

Men’s beauty is not even discussed in mainstream media, men are either expected to be crazy toned with abs that you could use to grate cheese to go over your baked beans on toast or they are seen as fat, bald and hairy. And speaking of hair – when did that become something so gross? Why does every young human on this planet think it is a good idea to wax everything off? We are not dolls and we’re not made of plastic. The hair industry has grown in financial success every year for too many years. In America, laser hair removal alone is worth £244m. That’s a hell of a lot of money to ensure that you look ‘clean.’ Just wash yourself, it would be cheaper.

Saying that I do shave, mainly because I want to and also because I feel slightly obligated. Which is wrong but I can’t help it. But I do wonder who made up all these rules on the ideal beauty.

Who the hell decided that long hair on women is best? Who came up with the genius idea that women to be defined as sexy should have the waist they had when they were 9-years-old? Who thought that women needed to be so damn perfect?

Recently, and I use that word loosely, thin has been directly linked with beauty. As though if you pass a size 10 you are a) no longer a woman and b) no longer attractive which in turn creates c) you are no longer happy. Advertisements use the word health to disguise an unhealthy message that thin is best, and that you are never thin enough. This is unhealthy for so many reasons I could write another blog post entirely on that. This is why people aren’t happy, this is why insecurity is as common as blinking. We are constantly trying to achieve a beauty that we haven’t even given ourselves a chance to consider.

We accept this ideology of beauty straight away. Digest it happily and then beat ourselves up for not achieving what wonderful cameras, good editing and great photoshop skills can do. There’s a reason we cannot achieve that ideal and it’s because it doesn’t exist.

Physical beauty is only skin deep and although it’s important to feel beautiful, it is not the most important thing. It is not the only thing. You are more than beautiful. If that is all there is to you, then you’re selling yourself short. A person is loved and admired because of their actions, their words, their relationships, their personality. Everyone close to you is beautiful to you – that’s more than likely because of their personalities and your relationship with them (not calling your friends and family ugly but you get what I mean).

To tell someone they are beautiful is lovely, and I enjoy getting the compliment as much as the next person. But I would rather be known for my mind, my thoughts, my writing, my work and for how I treat the people I love than for the way my face and body conforms to that tiny cut-out woman shape that the beauty, cosmetic, entertainment and advertising industries persuade us to force ourselves through in order to make us happy.

Trying to conform is not happiness. People are consistently trying to fight stereotypes and being the same through their words and their actions but when it comes to looks everyone seems to want to fit the same template. That isn’t a beautiful way to live life. It’s a way to consistently feel disappointed for falling short of an impossibly high bar.

You are more than beautiful.


A rant on a stupid image

Stupid QuoteI saw this image on Piccsy.com about three days ago and it annoyed me so much that I have had to write a blog post on it. Reading it, you may not see where my anger lies and my annoyance may say more about me than it does about the damn image but I need to get this off my chest before it makes me yell at someone who doesn’t deserve it.

My issue comes with the second line. The first line is fine: ‘don’t ignore your dreams’ – a beautiful sentiment and one I fully support but the second line makes a judgement on those dreams. ‘Don’t work too much’ sums up in four lovely words what is wrong with so much in today’s world.

Firstly, it indicates that work cannot be a dream. That your dreams can not surround the working world or any sort of professional accomplishment because, after all, to achieve said professional accomplishment working hard is exactly what you need to do.This then ties in to the mentality that work is crap and you only do it for the money. This may be true for many people, but it removes aspiration and inspiration. It means a person will never want to grow professionally because they feel it is just means to an end. But the truth is that you spend most of your adult life working, if you can’t be happy at work and feel like you can grow then you won’t be happy at work and you won’t do as well. It means you won’t progress and that mood will affect your personal life. It means happiness can never be properly attained because you don’t feel properly fulfilled. Basically, in my opinion, it’s a ridiculous way to live.

To rule out work as a means to an end is the same as ruling out living in a home because you spend more time out of it. Sounds stupid right?

To finish this pointless quote with ‘Be Happy’ further tries to push the point that to be happy you should spend your life playing around, being so outspoken you’re classed as rude and spending time with your friends. Happiness is a lot of things and work should not be dismissed as something that can make people happy. Doing this just enforces a lazy culture of wanting something for nothing and that the easy road is the best one.

Work does not have to be tiresome, boring and a dark tunnel. Work can be stimulating, enjoyable and fulfilling. It can be the cause of happiness and for some people, there reason for happiness.

Many people already see work as a chore when they should see it as an opportunity to be better, get better and do better. Stupid, pointless, ridiculous quotes like this subliminally enforce the message and that is why this picture has infuriated me so. It is not inspiring, and just because a few short sentences are placed prettily on top of a beautiful background does not make them so, especially when the best you can do is ‘Be Happy’ – aw thanks genius – I wasn’t sure what to do with my life until I saw this.



A little bit of hope

Today a very obvious conclusion settled atop my head. Do not laugh when you hear what I have to say, we all have to learn different lessons at different paces.

My lightbulb moment is this: money is not what makes the world go round, hope is. Hope is what is consistently sold to us, hope is what makes us keep going and what keeps the world ticking over.

It is hope that makes people buy lottery tickets every single week even though their chances of winning are a million to one. It is hope that keeps people (though not as many as it should be) voting for a better country. It is hope that makes people buy that exercise video or those new clothes the mannequin is wearing.

A little bit of hope goes a long way and it is enough, even a flash of it, to help people carry on. Without hope, there is a sense of pointlessness. Hope is all it takes to help people get up in the morning and carry on their day. The hope of a better tomorrow is all it needs.

But there has to be more than hope for happiness. Hope is an emotion that looks to the future and forgets the present. It dismisses it as not being good enough which does not bode well for a healthy mentality.

A little bit of hope is good and a boost to the mind. If hope is all you have though, then you’re not really living, you’re just waiting for something better to come along.