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.


What is beautiful?

I was watching the new series of America’s Next Top Model yesterday. A show that focuses on the outer beauty of very skinny, young women but tries to dress itself (see what I did there?) as something a little more profound and deeper than the superficiality of modelling. A model is essentially a clothes hanger, a walking advert; it’s all about outer beauty.

Tyra Banks: you’re wonderful but you’re not kidding anyone.

Anyway, the episode I watched had a pretty touching segment where the girls were required to make a video with some children about what beauty and beautiful means to them.

It’s not a new question, in fact, it’s pretty old debate but it is one that will never die. Mainly because our ideals f beauty change as our society evolves. This essentially means we are always finding ways of ensuring that there’s another sense of ‘perfection,’ another ideal that is pretty damn hard to achieve.

In the Tudor era when King Henry VII was in charge of this little island, the fuller woman with pale skin was seen to be the most attractive type of female. This was because her full figure showed she was able to afford lots of food to eat and her pale skin meant she did not spend her time outside, working. It was all about wealth.

Wealth is still very much linked to beauty though the entertainment industry pretend that they are linking beauty to health. Which, frankly, is a little more than a white lie (especially when you consider than Beyonce who is consistently sold to us as the ‘bigger’ woman is a UK size 6/8).

Now for women anyway, beauty seems to be defined by a California tan, long hair (on your head), skinny waist, hairless like a Barbie and abs that could grate the cheese I like on my beans on toast. Again, it has nothing to do with health: you don’t need to have a six pack or a tan to be healthy. It is all to do with wealth. A tan shows you can afford a holiday, a good, toned physique shows you have time and money to join a gym and work out, the lack of hair on any other part of your body is not natural – you’ve had to pay for that.

The ideal will change again. It will either become so ridiculous that people would need to sign up to therapy if they believed that type of ‘beauty’ could be attained or will implode and people will go the opposite way as they realise that the majority of images shown to us in newspapers and magazines are edited and photoshopped to look cleaner, much like the articles they decorate.

The definition of beautiful in the dictionary is: having qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about etc. This changes all the time just like the clothes you like, the things that you find interesting or what makes you happy. It is not a concrete look or object.

Beautiful right now to me is my bed, pyjamas and The Shadow in the Wind. A beautiful human at this current moment in time to me is completely different to what I thought beautiful was when I was a child. It will probably be different to me when I’m older.

The physical beauty quickly becomes obsolete once you learn more about a person. Although it is overused, I find those I know more or less beautiful depending on how they are behaving or talking to me in that moment of time.

Physical beauty is a wonderful thing that is different to different people. It also changes. But to answer the title question, beautiful is a feeling, a mood, a desire. It is more of a sentiment. A perfect, unblemished moment.


Religion and women

Yesterday it was announced that the introduction of women bishops was rejected by the Church of England. Although many officials used all the right words like ‘sad’ and ‘disappointed’ and ‘a missed opportunity’ but frankly it’s not good enough.

I fully believe and appreciate that a religion should be allowed to practice freely as long as it does not pervert the justice of the country, which a religion usually does not do. However I do feel that religions should be forced to at least enforce equality in their higher level positions.

I do not claim to be religious but I have read the bible and only a few extracts of the Qua’ran so my knowledge of all religions is of course limited in terms of their holy texts. However, I do believe that certain things should evolve along with the century the religion is trying to survive in.

Equality amongst the genders is a taboo that is trying to be eradicated in modern society, how well that’s going is another issue entirely, but the whole gender equality seems to be ignored in religion. As if it is an area of society and people’s lives that is untouchable.

This isn’t only ludicrous but unfair. What makes a man’s faith stronger than a woman’s? What makes the way a woman prays and teaches what is in the holy text of her religion worse than the way a man does it?

The truth is that although a religion may be old and dating back to stories from 2000 years ago, 5000 years ago or 10,000 years ago it does not mean that the religion cannot adapt without losing sense of it’s fundamental meanings and teachings.

As much as it is argued all religious texts have a message of love, faith, loyalty, peace, patience and virtue at its core. They may have different named Gods, different beings and different events but these are the messages they try to convey.

This should go so far as to extend to women being equals. I understand that religion is deeply rooted with tradition but the church of England is at risk of alienating future generations by not allowing women to become bishops.

Many articles have stated officials and other important people in the church agreeing that women will become bishops, one day. But those are just words. In this instance, actions speak louder and the fact that the introduction of women bishops was rejected shouts a lot louder than the fact that many people have said that women bishops will appear in their lifetime. So what was the problem with today? Why are women forced to wait another few years?

If the Church of England wants to remain relevant and continue to function in a modern society it needs to adapt to the changing times. A religion’s fundamental wants for its people and the world do not change with the introduction of women into higher ranking roles. In fact, it helps better the ideology and message that a religion wants to spread of love, and fairness.

It seems a little silly to pick and choose when equality is a good thing and when it should be ignored. The phrase practice what you preach springs to mind.


Yes, I’m a feminist

I’ve been debating the idea of what it means to be a feminist for a little while now. It started when I read an article on The Vagenda blog. I can’t actually remember the exact article but it was about name changes after marriage. I’d never given it much thought apart from the fact that I liked my name. Anyway, I’m only 21 – marriage isn’t at the forefront of any of my concerns or wants in life right now.

But it got me thinking.

I realised if I did marry, I would not take my husband to be’s name. My compromise would be to double-barrell it, on the condition that he did the same. After all, it seems a little silly that a marriage would start with double standards. Talking to my boyfriend, he agreed; he let me argue the whole thing at least three times and each time agreed. I like to be thorough though but he didn’t see anything strange in the fact that if I changed my name, he would too. This is logical for us, but the important thing is that it’s a choice. Not an expectation.

I then started to think about all the other ‘stereotypical’ things expected of women that I didn’t agree with or/and abide by. Things that I felt should be a shared responsibility between both genders. Things such as maternity and paternity rights being equal rather than a woman’s much longer than a man’s. Things such as the price gap and that a man is more likely to be employed over a woman in certain career paths and vice versa in others.

Things such as the majority of society’s expectations on women being wholly unrealistic and an impossible thing for any normal human (Superman and Wonder Woman can ignore this sentence) to achieve. The sexualisation of women in the media; yes it’s done to men but nowhere near the same scale. The simplification of women and the fact that women’s magazines seem more targeted on helping women be attractive and good, sex obsessed partners to their male counterparts.

Things such as sexual harassment on a daily basis includes whistling and in appropriate approximate to me on public transport. It’s allowing a woman to sleep with who she wants, when she wants without being deemed shunned unlike a man who does the same thing and it’s deemed normal. It’s not having dismissive comments like: ‘oh it’s a woman driver’ or ‘oh, she’s just a girl’ be considered inoffensive. It’s things such as the need to always have two powerful women fighting rather than getting on because apparently nobody loves anything better than a cat fight.

So yes, I’m a feminist. Always have been and have never felt to label it. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be burning my bras anytime soon, or ever for that matter. This is for two reasons: firstly because I like my bras, they’re pretty and they cost me money and I don’t like to burn money and secondly because that is not what a feminist entails.

For me, feminism is a want for equality between the genders. It is a want for women to be viewed in the same way as men by society as a whole. It is to remove the traditional, patriarchal views of what a man and a woman should be; views that are ancient and were written in a time when women were to be seen and not heard. They were a product, a stock, a piece of art, furniture: they weren’t considered human. This is not the case anymore because as a society we aim to realise that humans are equal. Okay society doesn’t actually apply this ethos into the running of the actual country but progression, slow progression, is being made. It still isn’t enough but it should be acknowledged. I digress. Women are not seen as objects anymore, at least in the UK yet there is still a clear divide between men and women (and I’m not talking about the differences in between our legs).

Another thing that I think is important is that a feminist doesn’t just have to be someone with a vagina. Men can be feminists too. The important thing about feminism is that it is a movement striving for equal rights. For women to be seen with the same eyes as men and not as a gender slightly less than them. It’s about no longer being a passive, historical typecast but a active, educated, modern woman.

I’m a feminist but it doesn’t mean that I don’t shave my armpits or my legs. Although I’m pretty lax with the whole leg hair thing. It doesn’t mean I hate men; in fact, I have a boyfriend whom I love very much and who I have put with (as he has put up with me) for almost two years. It doesn’t mean that I only wear baggy clothes with sarcastic slogans on them. In fact, I have even wore body-con (God knows why, that stuff only really looks good on people that have been photoshopped).

A feminist is just a woman, or a man, that believes women are equal to men. A person that believes that society’s views of women are still not where they should be. It’s either an exaggeration of positive discrimination or too much negative discrimination: people don’t seem to grasp the middle ground, that, or they don’t like standing on it.

I’m a feminist and I’m proud to be so. I’ve had the raised eyebrows when I’ve claimed such a thing but I can’t see why. I mean, I’m a woman so I have a personal interest in the topic anyway. And I’m a stifler for justice and fairness, so it makes sense. You can’t fight logic like that can you?

See, men can be feminists too 🙂