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.


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.


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.


Ridiculous Gender Roles

The Great British Bake off has caused headlines today. Not because it’s a great show (I am known to like a good cooking show) but because the three finalists are male. How exciting right? Completely groundbreaking. Holy cow, men can bake.

How ridiculous that this would make news and reignite a debate on gender roles. It’s just baking and men, much like women, have arms a brain and the ability to turn on an oven. It is therefore fair to assume, that they have the capacity to bake. Why is this such a shock to the media and society as a whole?

Whoever can cook this for me: man, woman or bear, I will love forever. If the chocolate can be spread all over the cake then that’s even better.

I read a few articles about this astounding turn of events of having males instead of females in a bake off final and I’m still confused about what the big deal is. It seriously concerns me that this could still be news. The gender roles that many dubbed to be fading or non existent because women were becoming equals (a debate in itself), it seems never left.

It seems strange to me that these three men are deemed extraordinary enough to make news and restart an old debate. These men have made the news not because of being extremely talented or because they’ve achieved something incredible through their baking but because they are men and can make cakes.

These tired and dated gender roles existed in a society when women were expected to be seen and not heard. When women were dubbed ‘angels of the house’ and a man had to be strong, cold and powerful to be deemed a man. These gender stereotypes meant that people chose to conform rather than be ridiculed for not fitting into the ancient texts descriptions and ideals of a man and a woman.

We pride ourselves on being evolved and most humans on this planet think they are better and stronger than the other species on this planet. Yet if a final of a baking competition is all male then this seems worthy enough of news? What’s so special about it?

These gender roles may or may not be believed and adhered to by a large part of society but the newspapers shouldn’t deem it such a ‘crazy, new thing.’ People can do what they want regardless of their gender.

There is no secret to what makes a man and what makes a woman. Whatever is between your legs that determines whether you can tick the female or the male box on application and registration forms. It isn’t what job you have, or what you enjoy doing, or how you decorate your house, or what car you buy or what you wear. That makes a person. It shows you. It doesn’t determine if you’re a man or woman.

Once society works out this obviously very confusing society of vagina=woman, and penis=man; then gender roles can be thrown aside and laughed at for being so utterly stupid. Restricting ourselves because of our gender is just another barrier that has been put there by history, tradition and the inability to change.


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 🙂


Females according to the entertainment industry

Women make up approximately 50% of the population. If you’re not a woman, then through the process of elimination, it’s fair for me to assume you’re a man. I appreciate that some people do not consider themselves to belong to a certain gender. However, I’m not talking about those lovely people.

Women are every bit as complex as men. We’re humans, half the time we don’t know how we feel and we change our minds as often as we brush our teeth. In reality then we can all agree that women and men both reach the same levels of complexity because after all: we’re all people. But I’m confused because, according to the majority of the entertainment industry and a lot of women’s magazine (I don’t read enough men’s magazines to make a fair judgement) there are only a limited number of women. All seem to have been made to not seem ‘threatening’ to their female counterparts or ‘intimidating’ to their male ones.

Since my course doesn’t start until September and there’s only so many application forms you can fill before wanting to repeatedly bash your head against the wall until it, or you, breaks; I’ve been watching films. I like films. Films make me happy. The representation of women in films however, doesn’t make me as happy.

Females according to the entertainment industry are pretty one dimensional. Even if they have a ‘hidden’ side to them, it’s easily uncovered by a sexy male lead and a candlelit dinner.

So here are the females according to the entertainment industry, in particular rom-coms. If you believe you are completely like any of these women then stop selling yourself short. If any guys reading this believe that some of their female friends are exactly like the women I’m about to describe: don’t be ignorant and stop selling them short. Enjoy the list. Don’t let your brain explode with the frustration.

The teeny tiny woman who eats more than an obese man

This lady is skinnier than a healthy thirteen year old. Yet she is filmed in many of the films’s scenes stuffing her face. She’s usually eating something that would make Beyonce gain weight within a few minutes, even with the Single Ladies dance. You never see her actually finish a meal and you hear her family and friends mention her eating habits several times during the film; heaven forbid she should stop wearing children’s clothes. Anyway squealing ensues, she takes a big bite out of something, eats with her mouth open, and then the scene cuts and we go to the man that she will eventually kiss with her skinny lips as he wraps his arms around her super small, almost non existent, waist.

The best friend that would have a personality if she had her own life

Ah the best friend! She doesn’t have a life, has a hopeless love life and is more interested in the many dramas of the main female than her own life. She talks about sex, is always friggin’ hilarious with her brilliant one liners. She’s not as good as the main female character obviously, heaven forbid that women can be friends and equals. This Best Friend gives pretty good advice and yet, by a viewers calculations, her life is empty – as empty as her head.

The whimsical fairy type girl

Firstly I would like to point out that, in the real world, this girl does not exist. She only goes for obscenely boring and miserable male lead characters and shows them once again the beauty of a life. Like a child, only grown up so it’s not weird to fancy her. She is quirky and weird for weird’s sake. She’s like a fairytale character and decides to do spontaneous things on a whim. She is free, cannot be pinned down and apparently happy (although it’s just an assumption rather than actually implied). She doesn’t seem to have a home, a background or a family. But who cares? She’s only a woman. In real life she would be homeless, in a mental institution or a cartoon.

The workaholic 

This woman is very, very serious. After all, career women are very, very serious. She does not have a boyfriend because who would want someone that cared about her professional progression so much? She always has her hair tied up to make her look very, very serious. She does not smile and she’s a little bit socially awkward. Obviously the most important thing about the workaholic is that she is unsatisfied about her fabulous life. Why? Because she hasn’t found love. Duh! Oh and it is also important to remember that the workaholic does not know how to have fun.

The arty farty and child type

I’ve put these two in the same lovely bold heading because there’s not much to say about these two types of females. A lot of women in rom coms work in an art gallery or paint. When she actually talks about art, which is very little considering how much she loves it, you realise she (nor the person that wrote her script) understands anything about art. And that’s coming from someone who knows very little about art. The child type is the woman who teaches very little, cute but annoying children. The children all love her, mainly because she never gets to teach them. They’re either playing or when the lesson begins she’s interrupted by the main male character. These women are ALWAYS interrupted at work: not like they’re doing anything important anyway.

How my brain feels at seeing women portrayed as one dimensional dolls in films that are targeted at a female audience. What kind of sicko does that?