Rage Against the Machine

Feminist/Humanist rants!

Reclaiming Space and how to deal with the Creepy Old Man at the bar

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If only it were always this easy. Credit: Matt Groaning, or something

They say that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Ho ho ho, he he he, what a lark. The saying clearly came about before women won the right to give their opinion, because for the second sex there is of course a third certainty: creepy old men.

The creepy old man’s origins are little-known, like Ska music or lenseless glasses (both are now presumed to have risen from the embers of hell). The first image of the creepy old man was etched on tablets in Egypt at around 3100 BC. Indeed, before Anthony swept Cleopatra out of her milk bath into his arms, the creepy old man sidled up to her in a dingy pub and asked her where she got her earrings, because they really accentuated her rack.

Most women have at least one horror story about unwanted, unwarranted male attention in the form of a creep. The word “creepy” is imperative to describing this archetype. This is not an intriguing, mysterious quiet don across the bar you’re trying to telepathically compel to offer to buy you a drink. This is quite a different animal altogether. He (and make no mistake, when you’re a woman, it is always a man who creeps up) manifests himself in numerous ways. Many experiences are different. But in my own experience, the progression of creepiness is thus:

  1. The Sidle: For there is not a move so slimy, so sweaty, so slick with ill intent and cheap aftershave than the sidle of the Creepy Old Man. Call it survival instinct; a woman senses his approach with a chill down her spine, then a hand on the small of her back. “What’re ye drinkin’?” The entire movement is scored by Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King.
  2. Best Friend Charade: The Creepy Old Man is not stupid: he knows that you know what he’s doing. So he wraps his performance in a thin veneer of faux-friendship, puts his arm around you and makes out like you’re just two pals, having a laugh. His hand is too low; his breath is unbearable; you cannot understand a word he says so you just smile wanly, wishing you were anywhere else. The Creepy Old Man also puts this charade on for onlookers, possible saviours – But for some reason you have to stay – waiting for a friend, watching live music, wanting to enjoy your night. But you soon find that was a fruitless endeavour.
  3. Showman: He feels your patience waning, you keep telling him to leave you alone and he needs to impress. So logically, he becomes the joke of the room, pulling “hilarious” dance moves while you and everyone else pretends not to notice and looks anywhere other than his figure, desperately gyrating out of time to the music as an attempt to stir something in you.
  4. Sad Drunk: The end of the night, the end of your patience. You’re leaving? So soon? he slurs, as you pay your tab and grip your mobile in your pocket. He stretches out his arms, presumably for an embrace, but you’re not a colossal idiot, so you swerve past him in a series of impressive serpentine motions, towards the door, which at the moment looks like the pearly gates of heaven, that beautiful green exit sign, a path to freedom, to a beautiful emancipation.

Oftentimes, recounting the tale will result in reactions of hilarity – people will respond to the story like it’s a madcap rollercoaster tale straight out of a Carry On. Sometimes it is – sometimes the encounter makes no impression other than a two-minute interlude to your night.

But more often than not there are dark, sinister undertones to the Creepy Old Man. There is a reason why he is called the Creepy Old Man, not the Endearing Auld Scamp or the Mischievous Chancer. Sometimes he isn’t even that old; sometimes he’s the same age, but make no mistake: still just as creepy.

It’s been said before, but women have historically been raised to be polite, most especially in the face of unwanted male attention. We have been taught to react with manners, even when the man in question clearly has none. We have been told to feel flattered; as if the idea that a man should be attracted to us is some kind of great unexpected honour that we must be appropriately grateful for, no matter how inappropriate the advances are. We must treat him like a lost dog – be kind, be understanding, be careful.

There are grave issues with this idea: not only the fact that politely declining advances almost never works in swatting away this particular insect, but that it contributes to skewing a woman’s perception of her own autonomy. It suggests that women should not feel entitled to their own space. That we owe it to the Creepy Old Man to be mannerly, to be grateful. That we do not deserve to have a conversation with a friend uninterrupted. That we should deal with the situation as if it’s a compliment.

Thankfully, modern feminism has championed the power of the middle finger. Nineties feminism had its problems, but post-punk feminist bands such as Bikini Kill and Le Tigre were loud and proud about women reclaiming their space. Bikini Kill’s infamous “Girls to the Front” line pointed out the unfair treatment of women in public spaces, especially live music venues. Nowadays, women have spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment – or even just unwanted attention – on social media, in part thanks to Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism. It’s being discussed openly in a public forum. But it still persists in public places today, most likely at your local pub.

It can feel like it’s been a long battle with a hard punch still to be swung. But for now, we can swing the fist of feminism in our own life, the next time we get that chill down our spine, the next time we notice the first signs of the Creepy Old Man rearing their ugly head. In my experience, there’s only one method that’s proven 100% successful. Look him square in the eye. You’re the black panther, he’s the witless warthog. Then say it, clear-cut and unflinching, right there and then:

“Fuck off.”

 

Useful links:

http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/creating-safe-public-spaces

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/discrimination/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/sexual-harassment/

https://twitter.com/EverydaySexism?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

 

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Grooming In Public

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Lately I’ve been musing that one of the less rewarding parts of “growing up” (look at me all grown-up, with my inverted commas) is learning social grace. Learning to assimilate oneself with the common people.

Oftentimes this means learning to conceal or eradicate one’s personal quirks. How sad that we have to un-learn things that we did while we were at our most carefree. For example, when I was younger, in my more innocent days, I would wear the weirdest, most out-there outfits I could put together just so that I was standing out from the crowd. People stared and whispered, but I cared not a jot. My theory was that people’s opinions shouldn’t affect how we behave.The idea that it should, made no sense to me. On some level, it still makes no sense to me. Why should we let petty judgement affect how we act?

In terms of social behaviour, what makes sense is never usually the point. We seem to adhere to a set of rules that go unquestioned. They are rarely mused upon because they seem insignificant, but consider the fact that these rules impact our everyday lives and yet they are followed without criticism?

One aspect of this is public grooming.

(I hope I didn’t make any typos there.)

Today I found myself with an empty can of deodorant. So while running various other errands, I picked up a can of deodorant at Boots. But a question: where to spray? I wanted to do it right then and there in the middle of Prince’s Street; I could smell myself after I rode my bike into the city centre and the scent wasnot an attractive one. So I would have preferred to fix the problem as soon as possible. What was stopping me? Social grace. I eventually cycled across the town and did it in the uni bathrooms. But what would have been so wrong about doing it then and there? Does it make others uncomfortable to see others in a state of…indignity? Is it undignified to deodorise oneself? Does it spoil my mysterious allure? Applying lipstick, brushing your hair, plucking your eyebrows – these all reside on a scale of what is and isn’t considered acceptable to do in a public space.

Is it a sort-of sexist thing too? Calm down, guys, just exploring a thought. Women generally have more gender-specific grooming options than men. Would we think twice about a man stopping in the street to use some anti-persiprant? Perhaps society would like to think women wake up in the morning with neat hair, neat eyebrows and all the while smelling good, despite running for the 8:30 bus, only for the driver to drive on despite you rapping you sweaty palms on the door?

The feminine mystique is a myth. Whether you groom every detail of your form or just stick to spraying on a bit of Sure when you wake up, few of us get up without considering ourselves. So why can’t we let anyone else in on the secret? The guy beside you on the 8:45 bus (I was 15 minutes late, thanks for asking) probably did something like you did this morning, whether it was plucking a stray chin hair or running a hand through his highlights, it was something. So stop being so bashful, blow away the smoke and whip out the mirrors to check your blush – and let it be from Benefit’s Dallas powder, not embarrassment.

Calling All Health Food Gurus: Please leave my party – and take your avocado brownies with you

Why the “wellness” craze is just as bad as the next fad diet – and probably that thing you smell.

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Recently, when Googling “brownie recipe”, one of the first recipes I was met with was one for “gluten-free avocado brownies.” A frown, step back and sigh. What fresh hell?

It’s not that I hate avocado. I actually quite like spreading some on a slice of Brennan’s brown with a squeeze of lemon and a perfectly poached egg. It appeals to my inner koala bear. The point it becomes an issue is when it tries to worm its way into my brownies.

Look: if I wanted green brownies, I’d ask my friend’s pothead boyfriend to make some for me. But avocado brownies don’t send me to heaven with a smile, they make me feel like I’ve made one of those terrible snack combinations you make when you’re just in from a massive bender and raiding the fridge for literally anything edible that you can smush in between two slices of wheaten.

When it comes to “bad food”, I’m a serious purist. I won’t tolerate alternatives to my food-related mischief. But today’s wellness brigade is telling me different. It’s an inescapable movement hellbent on making you spiralise courgettes like a madman, detract gluten from muffins and use almond milk (which is actually almond water), instead of regular milk in your bowl of Golden Nuggets, as if that’s going to make any difference. I’m eating Golden Nuggets, for God’s sake. I’m a lost cause.

These impossibly lively-looking, peppy, flicky-haired health gurus remind me of the Hare Krishnas that parade around the city centre once in a while, wearing dresses and deranged smiles, dancing around you and insisting that you will lead a better life just by reading their leaflet, listening to their CD and allowing God to come into your life. But whereas most of secular society know that having God in your life is more cumbersome than not having him in it, like a distant cousin crashing on your sofa for a month as they try to “catch a break”, modern society has grasped onto the Wellness Brigade’s parables like the second coming, with Deliciously Ella standing on the pedestal in her Free People off-white peasant dress and wicker sandals, telling of greener pastures and greener smoothies, healing the sick with gluten-free banana bread and putting the sinners on the better path with blueberry-quinoa puddings. It’s as if the entire Western world have turned into rabid wellness zombies, bingeing on kale chips like it’s going to turn them into Gwyneth bloody Paltrow, when in fact the kale probably lost all nutritional value through the cooking process and has been glazed with enough oil to make the chips taste semi-normal, so that they are probably just as fattening as a packet of good old fashioned cheese ‘n’ onion Kettle Chips. God, I’d love a Kettle Chip right about now.

You can’t enter the cookery section of a bookshop these days without a thousand titles screaming at you to just slice up some beetroot, glaze with Albanian linseed oil, season with rosemary plucked from the garden of a rich Mongolian widow, cook in an antique clay oven resurrected from the Roman Empire for forty days and forty nights, sprinkle with green Slovakian sea salt and it will be a hit for brunch with friends. Every single smiling maniac is telling you that you can eat pasta every day and still fit into those size eights, as long as you eat the pasta uncooked with no sauce, just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Purple pepper, only available from Thai monks. Price upon request, so good luck contacting the monastery.

I tried spiralising once with a “Kitchenmate” and was left, predictably, hungry and dissatisfied. Food should not make you feel like that. We deserve better. Kitchenmates are not your real mates. Or they’re the kind of mates that take picture of you while you throw up a veggie kebab on the street, or tell you that you can’t pull off high-waisted shorts because your bum’s too big. Kitchenmates are jealous of your jelly, they ain’t ready for it. They wish to make you weak as a courgette, so they may spiralise you into an anaemic wreck of curly vegetable slices.

Alright look, I might be exaggerating slightly. I’m sure there are some “health gurus” who actually believe the jargon they peddle relentlessly and want others to benefit from their life of enlightenment and permanent meditative state. But it seems that the wellness wagon is creaking under the weight of so many tagalongs, so many tourists looking to hop on while the going’s good (and the profits are high). It’s become a carnival of herbivorian insanity. It’s infiltrated our cookbook section, our supermarkets, our lunch spots. Where once there was the option of sausage in a bap or veggie sausage in a bap, there is now halloumi and courgette on rye and chickpea and cousous salad, served with artisanal brown bread (okay, admittedly, artisanal bread is actually rather tasty, if overpriced). Your ice creams are now frozen yoghurt, because the movement dictates that it tastes the same with half the fat, which is as ludicrous as suggesting you get one bowl of side chips instead of two. It’s shaving the layer of fat off the top of your life, leaving you with a watery liquid resembling what Oliver Twist wanted another bowl of in the orphanage.

I like sugar. I like gluten. I like carbohydrates and refined flour and all the beautiful preservatives that preside in my chocolate. Additionally, I’m not one of those mad addicts you see late at night on ITV2. I don’t casually eat massive blocks of cheese on the bus at every hour of the day.  I’m under no apprehensions that eating these foods in excess is good for me. But I know that eating it in moderation won’t do much harm either. There’s nothing wrong with eating gluten unless you really are intolerant of it and as long as you keep it within reason, which everyone was probably doing anyway, before they even knew what it was. Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t eat bad stuff all the time. Not the whole bottle of wine every day. Not the whole box of chocolates. Choke down a couple of salads now and again. Fruits and vegetables are good for you and your body. Cigarettes and cocaine, unfortunately, are not. But one or two full-fat, high-sugar brownies on the weekend won’t kill you.

Furthermore, adding avocado instead of eggs doesn’t mean you can eat more of them. It’s just that eating the avocado brownie won’t be as much fat, but will also taste worse. So my view is – if you’re going to be bad, be bad. Follow it through. Do it right. Life’s too short to mess around with one lovely sweet artificial-sugar-filled brownie, which is much more satisfying than three of Deliciously Ella’s no-gluten no-sugar high-fibre low-calorie avocado brownies. Doing an extra lap in the swimming pool is a small price to pay for having the thing that you like, the thing that puts a spring in your step during a hard day.

So I await in my chocolate palace for the inevitable backlash that usually follows trends like these. Once the wellness cookbooks disappear from the Bestsellers table, I anticipate the replacement to be titles such as Just Be Bad, Eat Sugar Be Happier, Fat’s okay in Moderation, Who Wants Abs Anyway?, et cetera. Look out for my own cookbook, out soon, called “Just Eat The Damn Brownie.”

Brexit Bores and Breakfast

So while I’m late to the game on covering the Brexit furore, I have some thoughts not on Brexit itself, but to those who voted (of which, by the way, I am one).

Whether you voted leave or remain, I think we all want to tell people who bring up Brexit at a party to leave – and to take their high horse with them before it takes a shite on the new carpet.

After the results, my Facebook newsfeed was like the ladies’ room at Hive – wet toilet roll on the floor, tears, sweat, hairspray and visceral arguments that make no sense whatsoever. But the stupidest voices are usually loudest, which became clear almost instantly.

Have your opinions. Express them vehemently if you feel it necessary. But those who express them at the Altar of Superiority and Intelligence are going to get their head chopped off someday. Is there anything more irksome than a student expressing their political views as if they’re the holy messiah and we are but their disciples, hanging on their every word in order to know which side to swing on?

I hate to generalise, but seeing as most of the people on my Facebook are students, they’re usually liberal lefties – the kind of lefties who post Buzzfeed articles about how crap Doanld Trump is and how they can’t believe that “nobody is talking about this!!!” eveen though they are and these people would know that if they spent time on any other news website. they share links upon links of opinion pieces which are handy ways of expressing their “opinions” without having to do anything as cumbersome as put it into their own words. They’re the people who post videos with headlines such as “This student had a problem with his teacher’s outfit. Their reaction is the best thing ever” (Sidenote: This video is never the best thing ever. It will illicit a chuckle or a nod of solidarity.  Gin and dogs will always be the best things ever).

You hear them before you see them at house parties. They simply cannot imagine why anyone could ever vote Leave. If they could, they conjure up an image of a grumpy old age pensioner waving a stick at young people, moaning about “the coloureds” with a swastika tattooed on their back. They can’t comprehend an opinion that doesn’t appeal to their notion of what a perfect ideology is. As they sob to the spirit of John Lennon that night in their bedrooms, they bemoan the decision of Leave, crying “How can people be so horrible and racist? I didn’t vote for this, so it’s not fair that we have to take it” Suddenly, they feel a cold hand on their shoulder. “It’s called democracy, you fucking hippie” John lennon’s ghost says in a calm voice. “it’s the very definition of fair.”

These are people throwing their toys out of the pram because they wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunchbox for Christmas but Mummy and Daddy got them the wrong sort and it’s just so unfair.

The media has played into the Brexit Bore’s hysteria – according to sources such as the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, the public is to blame for opening Pandora’s Box and letting a swarm of flies with the face of Boris Johnson fly around the UK, spreading poison upon innocent bystanders. Thesesa May is driving the spaceship about to land on UK soil and kill off unsuspecting locals who just popped outside for a fag and a casual whistling session.

There will always be the Politics Bores who seem to be permanently balanced on a pedestal of their own construction, but Brexit seems to have given them an excuse to shout about it even more. Most of the time, people are too scared to knock them off it. But all it takes is challenging their view to find that their pedestal is made entirely of salted caramel ice cream and the process of knocking them off it is incredibly easy, not to mention absolutely delicious.

A note to all you Brexit bores out there. Bringing it up at a party is not “stirring the political pot” or engaging conversation. It’s taking a shit in the pot and making everyone feel awkward about it for the rest of the night. Also, the smell will never truly go away.

It’s not just the Academy, it’s the entire damn system

 

 

Racism in the media is nothing new. With the media acting as a mirror to mainstream society (and vice versa), we can always see the dirty marks in our reflection that remind us that while we like to pretend prejudices have died and we have become a far more developed society, it’s never quite as simple as that. In this age where the media is inescapable, our problems are always right behind us. These days, more marginalised groups now have as much a voice as the wider, mainstream media, and they’re using that platform to point out some stuff.

With the Oscars nominations being announced last week and the winners being announced fairly soon, the Academy was going to be in for some social media scrutiny. Last year the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was used frequently by social media users in order to highlight the lack of racial diversity in the awards nominations, and when the nominations were announced this year, there was an outcry as people were disappointed once again for the lack of minority film workers recognised in the nominations. Actress Jada Pinkett-Smith posted an emotional and strident video online to lament her dissatisfaction with the Academy and announce that she would not be attending in protest. many applauded the motion on Twitter, and she was not alone in her thoughts as Best Actress nominee Brie Larson and George Clooney echoed her sentiments.

But are we pointing our fingers in the right direction? Yes, it’s true that there was a severe lack of racial minorities in the nominations this year (and previous years haven’t been much better) but I can’t think of many films made by people of colour or any performances by people of colour that deserved those nominations. True, it’s not as if I’ve seen all the films that were released this year; but there wasn’t some great injustice to the nominations leaving out someone whose performance had been applauded greatly and not given its due recognition.

The reason for this is the racism within the film industry itself. It’s because people of colour are shown the door at the big-budget Oscar film auditions. It’s because directors are mostly white and mostly male, and there’s not much room in that club for anyone else. For so long, stories have been told by the white, the male and the privileged. This is the root of the problem- movies aren’t casting people of colour out of fear that it will alienate audiences, not considering how they are effectively alienating talented actors and actresses, alienating potential to change the scope of the movie world.

For so long, stories have been told by the white, the male and the privileged. This is the root of the problem

Thing’s are changing, yes, but slowly; for every Steve McQueen, there’s ten Clint Eastwoods, for every Lupita Nyong’o, there’s twenty Julia Roberts. Clint Eastwood and Julia Roberts are very talented people, yes, but this doesn’t explain why there isn’t an equal ratio being represented. The only film this year I can think of that merited applause that included a great deal of people of colour was Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. biopic which many thought deserved more recognition. But that’s just one film.

So it strikes me as missing the point when people bemoan the lack of minorities represented in the Oscars. They can only do the best with what they have. When there’s a lack of films representing talented people of colour, that’s going to have a domino effect on the amount of awards recognising them.

So bemoan not the Oscars, but the people sitting in the red velvet seats, soaking up the glory of another box office and awards-season hit, the heads of film companies who seem disinterested in telling stories little-heard by the mainstream. There needs to be a conversation on why so many films are being white-washed by studios in order to…what? Make them more palatable to a racist audience? The shock casting of Rooney Mara in last year’s adaptation of Peter Pan as the Native American character Tiger Lily was just a drop in the ocean in comparison to the casting choices by Ridley Scott of Exodus: Gods and Kings, where characters of Egyptian ethnicity were played by mostly white actors. These are the problems that should have fallen out of fashion long ago.

It’s time for a conversation about racism in the film industry, yes, but make sure most of the vitriol is pointed in the right direction.

Stop Whinging about “Selfie Culture”, You Sound like a Prat

Another day, another stuffy left-wing columnist moaning about “the youth of today”. Every generation has one, but this generation’s joykiller seems to come in the form of an Australian social media star who has been announced as “revolutionary” for her comments on the downsides of visual social media and its impact on our society. Because obviously taking a couple of selfies is hindering social progress and is adding to the issue of global warming and child poverty in Central Africa and the Syrian conflict and basically the world will end when someone presses the fire emoji on their Blueberry or Raspberry or whatever.

In the 60s you had people moaning about hippies and children becoming satanists and reading too much J.D. Salinger (note: you can never read too much J.D. Salinger), in the 70s the hippies were still about, but now people were listening to FUNK MUSIC which would have obviously led to sexual intercourse outside marriage and other depravity. Then the 80s came about and suddenly there were kids wearing staples on their nipples and on their face and saying it was “punk” but was obviously a secret plot to take over the country and bring about an anarchist society. Then in the 90s everyone was smoking their granny’s life savings and making bongs out of 2-litre Coke bottles and wearing flannel and worshipping Che Guevara so basically becoming Stalinist rebels. The 2000s were silent because everyone was talking to their six lovers on their mobile flip-phone and wearing those trackies, daring to try to be comfortable. Now nobody talks on the phone anymore but instead tell their friend they hate their fringe over Whatsapp and then take pretty pictures of their city on the way to uni and when they think they look good they can get a mirror thing up on their phones and then take a picture of themselves looking into that mirror so THEY WILL KNOW WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE IN A PHOTO, so now you see, even though there were trends back then this trend thats happening right now is the worst of them all, because of the internet and such. Let’s ignore the fact that the internet has made expensive encyclopedias obsolete so now even poor people can go to a library and look up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for free. It’s now self-indulgent selfie culture is making our youth. Because it isn’t until now that young people have been so self-obsessed! Never before have young people been selfish and self-centered and superficial and obsessed with the aesthetic aspects of life. Let’s blame the downfall of civilisation on a phone app and call it all square. that seems like the right thing to do because Instagram is burning our children’s brains and-

Ach, feck off. Honestly. Don’t listen to any of these meaningless fusty-dusty diatribes on how taking a picture of yourself is destroying your brain cells. You know what destroys brain cells? Reading crap like that and believing it. Stupidity is a disease, and if you spend too much time around it, you’ll catch it too.
It’s your god-given right as a young person to be self-obsessed and like talking about makeup and trainers and forget to take the bins out and only floss your teeth when you have to Skype your parents and signing up for a blood donation and then sleeping in on the day because you had ten G&Ts and a curry chip last night so you’re knackered and you’re probably anaemic so your blood would be useless anyway. At this point in your life, if you can catch a lecture now and again, ring your mum on her birthday, know how to microwave baked beans and manage not to be too much of an arselick while doing it, then you’re doing a lot better than most people.

23 Things To Do Instead of “Getting Beach Body-Ready” This Summer

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Summer is approaching, which means it’s time to be bombarded with an onslaught of body-negative media disguised as health and fitness commercials, They will tell you that your current body is not “beach-ready”, that your bowels are slow and you’ve been eating too much. They will show you what you should be looking like. They will try and convince you that anything other than what this nameless model looks like is unacceptable, and it’s time for you to spend your hard-earned money on their product which will make you acceptable to the public.

Do not listen. They are the embodiment of that crappy ex-friend who tells you that you can’t “pull off” those shorts.

So sit back, relax. Eat the feckin’ digestive biscuit. You look fine. Do not buy into the body-shaming commercials. here are some far more productive things to do instead:

  1. Take a hike up a hill and watch the sun set after a sunny day. Nature is more satisfying than a “chocolate flavoured protein meal shake”.
  2. Take up flossing (YOUR TEETH. God).
  3. Make a “Getting Sh*t Done” motivational playlist to motivate you into getting sh*t done. Song suggestions: “Someday” by The Strokes, “Tighten Up” by The Black Keys and “Strict Machine” by Goldfrapp.
  4. Plan a festival weekend – Alt-J and The Libertines are playing at Reading, Paolo Nutini and First Aid Kit are playing at Isle of Wight and Charli XCX is doing Bestival. Rent or borrow a tent, buy some barbecue food and get gritty for a couple of days.
  5. Make a list of reasons why you’re awesome and deserve better from yourself. Do it seriously-sure you’ve got great hips and great hair, but you’re also a loyal friend and have a thoughtful mind. You just need a reminder.
  6. Take the dog for a walk and accidentally bump into another cute dog walker. Set up a date. Get freaky.
  7. Stop putting off the things you always meant to do or try.
  8. Take up a new sport.
  9. Do you really know your own city? Investigate events going on near you and get involved in some culture.
  10. Learn a recipe and make dinner for your parents one night. They raised you, dude.
  11. Go into a second-hand bookshop and ask the owner for a recommendation. Buy that book.
  12. Ring your best friend.
  13. It sounds really trite and overtly twee, but start a dream journal, Every morning, write down what you can remember from your dream. Look back at it a month later. What you find can actually be really interesting.
  14. Think about a public figure you admire and read their autobiography or a book about them.
  15. Find a free night and clean the bathroom from top to toe. Then run yourself a bath with all the candles, bath bombs and smelly soaps you can find and clean yourself from top to toe. Hair masks, face masks, body scrubs and massage oils aplenty.
  16. Stop Facebook-stalking him. You know exactly what I’m talking about, girl.
  17. Same goes for guys.
  18. When a friend starts putting themselves down, lift them back up and tell them to be kinder to themselves. Giving someone a compliment doesn’t mean you become any more or less powerful or beautiful. It makes you kinder.
  19. Start a blog. If you’re looking for inspiration, click here.
  20. Next time you go to a birthday party, bring a small gift. It could be anything. Just don’t come empty-handed.
  21. Buy a world map poster, put it up in your room, stick red pins in the places where you’ve been and yellow in the places you want to go
  22. When you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed, close your eyes,and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you’ve been in stressful situations before and have survived them. Nothing will ever be as bad as you think it will be, but even if it is, you can handle it.
  23. Listen to “A Little Respect” by Erasure. Trust me.

Pretty Hurts: Is Makeup Highlighting Our Power , or Just Concealing the Ugly Truth

Me and make-up haven’t always got along. When I was around 11 years old and in my faux-punk black everything phase, I rejected it as an activity only a “girly-girl” (the horror) would partake in. Fast-forward two years, and I had discovered the witchy, beautifully raccoon-like visage that too-light foundation and black kohl on my lower eye rim could offer. Fast forward three more years, and I was wearing tinted moisturiser and mascara sporadically, when I could be bothered in those slovenly school mornings. There was ventures into green eyeshadow, shaky liquid liner, and most regrettably, foundation as “natural-look” lipstick (thank the MAC gods I have since discovered Creme D’Nude). In my final years at school I had found my best eyeshadow colours, my favourite way to shape my eyes with liquid liner, and how to apply mascara without contracting self-induced conjunctivitis. But I balanced those days of wearing makeup with many days of a bare face. This is because I always seemed to have two different feminists on either of my shoulders – one who said that makeup was empowering, and one who said I was betraying myself and compromising my feminist ideals by pandering to the instructions of the patriarchy, to cover up supposed imperfections which they had deemed unacceptable. I have always been torn between what it really means to wear makeup.

There seems to be much conflict in the feminist community about this topic. Makeup falls under the category of external beauty, which, as we all know, is a topic feminism has covered very well. Photoshop used in fashion magazines has been widely criticised as creating an unreachable beauty standard for women. Diversity within the fashion world is better than ever, but that’s not saying much, as it still largely consists of UK size 4 white women under 25. So logically, the topic of makeup has also been critiqued and questioned. However, it was mostly the second wave feminists who began this critique and who were its loudest critics. They believed that makeup sent the message that a woman’s appearance was insufficient without cosmetic assistance, that their natural features weren’t good enough on their own. Meanwhile, men were free to be as old, ugly and spotty as they liked, because their superficial appearance was not what they were valued for. But then, the early 1990’s saw a shift in this opinion. Third wave feminism birthed “Lipstick Feminism”, introducing a brand of feminism which saw makeup as an empowering tool to be celebrated, largely using it to make themselves look even less like the ideal object of the male gaze, with loud red lipstick and garish black eyeliner, eschewing the powdery-pink, sugary-sweet makeup trends of the ’90s with a counterculture of “Riot Grrrls.” They were deliberately misusing makeup to counter the dictation of the patriarchy.

But was it a true victory?

Many feminists have covered the subject of female beauty ideals extensively-most prominently has been Naomi Wolf, whose fantastic feminist tome “The Beauty Myth” dealt with the impossible standards set by men via advertising and the media. She writes, “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” Her argument is that dictation of the female appearance is used to hinder women’s advancement in the world. “Bang on, Wolfy!” I thought as I read. Then, after a beat and a Victory Bite of a panini, I thought to myself, “Oh…” as I glanced down at my bulging makeup bag.

But I’m not necessarily conforming to any beauty ideal by painting on navy-blue eyeliner and dabbing on a dark berry lipstick just to look a little rad, am I? After all, David Bowie did it and though he had male privilege in truly choosing to do it, he looked pretty damn cool. He used makeup as self-expression, so why can’t we? It can’t be anti-feminist just to want to look a bit like David Bowie.

These days, in the era of “Fourth Wave Feminism” (or “Tumblr Feminism” as I like to call it), there is a strong argument for makeup as being synonymous with empowerment. Blog articles, think pieces and popular Tumblr posts alike have all supported the idea that wearing makeup doesn’t mean surrendering to the patriarchal agenda, “because we’re not wearing it for men. We’re wearing it for ourselves.”

Here lies my quibble. Are we really wearing it for ourselves? And if we are, does that mean it’s not conforming to the beauty ideal? Most beauty companies are still largely owned by men, and in those big advertising agencies, it is men who are deciding how to sell you products you don’t actually need. Does buying into it all not still mean that we’re deeming ourselves insufficient in our natural state?

This type of feminism is also the kind that irks me with how liberal and tolerant it is in terms of what women do. They argue the idea that feminism dictating what it is right for women to do with their bodies is counter-productive and sexist in itself.  However, I would counter that if we don’t challenge the rhyme and reason of our actions, then aren’t we letting ourselves off with an awful lot? Part of being a feminist is self-examination. As products of a patriarchal society, we often do sexist things every day without thinking. We often stab ourselves in our own proverbial backs without thinking, because we have been conditioned not to think about these things. Cutting ourselves a bit of slack when we do these things is good, because we, as feminists, are bound to mess up at some point. But completely absolving ourselves of responsibility for our actions just because we are products of the machine is self-victimising and proffers a very light, easy, fat-free kind of feminism I’m not interested in consuming.

I suppose my point is what I probably always knew deep down: that by concealing “flaws” that all humans have and that men do not feel the need to cover up, we are falling privy to the pressures of the beauty ideal. I should hold myself accountable for these missteps. Yet I also believe there’s no harm in painting on a dramatic eye or lip because it is really quite a lot of fun to do, and who am I to be the feminist killjoy?*

Confession: I quite like being the feminist killjoy.

MALIA 2014: PARTY ISLAND CULTURE, AND HOW EVEN THE MOST DETERMINED FEMINISTS CAN GET SUCKED IN

malia

Malia, Magaluf, Ayia Napa. Different names, same deal: complete and utter carnage. They are renowned hotspots for the young crazy kids to go and forget their troubles (and their names). Nobody goes there to take in the culture, visit a museum or sample the local cuisine. They go to get accosted by PR staff, get bad food and get four drinks, four shots and a fishbowl for five euro.

This year me and a couple of friends went to Malia with a common goal: get tanned and get trashed. Two of us had been to Magaluf the year before, so one would think we’d be pros by now. That we’d know all the pitfalls and be the “brains of the group”. Sadly, not so. The truth was that the second time around was much more ferocious, speaking for my own liver.

While the club scene in Belfast typically kicks off at around ten, it really only gets going in Malia at one o’clock in the morning. Streets transform from the fairly clean paths for quad bikes and hungover twentysomethings to the filthiest yellow brick road Dorothy never ventured on. Nearly everywhere you look, prepare to feel very uncomfortable as airbrushed billboards of women in bikinis vaguely resembling those on covers of video games will be advertising quad bikes and alcohol. There are televisions in the clubs playing either football or pornographic videos of women. Almost all your favourite childhood cartoons have been sexualised and put on a t-shirt (see: “Hello Titty”). After every horrible night, during your afternoon hangover, someone will come up and ask you, quite loudly, usually selling something, if you’re “READY TO PARTAY”. Plenty of groups of boys wearing LADS HOLIDAY shirts will look at you inappropriately and make you feel even more uncomfortable. Old men will grab you from the street, their cigarette burning your neck, and try to pull you into their club. Let loose on the vast expanse of drinking and debauchery, things were bound to get out of hand. And get out of hand they did, at least every night. But the alcohol wasn’t the biggest issue.

Malia, Magaluf and Ayia Napa alike are all well-known for their massive events, and this year didn’t disappoint; a pre-drinking party complete with games, competitions and (of course) cheap drinks was on the cards, and we complied to the debauchery with minimal fuss. But nothing really prepared me for what happened.

A competition arose where three girls and three guys had to get up on a platform and the girls had to slap the guys as hard as they could, right across the face. Encouraged partly by my friends but mostly by my own sense of fun and curiosity for the thrill of slapping a UniLad across his sunburnt bake, I ventured forth to the platform, where I barely got any sufficient slaps in before an English girl won the competition, possibly for nearly knocking someone unconscious with a fantastic slap.

I didn’t think anyone would bother me after it ended, but as I was passing by the bar a guy pulled me by the arm and told me his friend was desperate for a kiss. Looking at his (hardly lucid) friend, my intuition told me to ignore them. But for some reason, I kissed him lightly on the mouth. Then his friend told me to kiss him again, and I did, pulling away once I felt the dreaded Sambuca Tongue try and worm its way in. I ran away from the lads, and from whoever it was that allowed herself to obey a man’s orders despite her own intuition.

Later on, in typical sophisticated Malia fashion, there was a pole-dancing game in which two girls (but of course) had to out-dance each other. I watched in horror as one girl from Stoke proceeded to take off all her clothes until she was literally completely naked, swinging around the pole to the cheers of the (mostly male) crowd. I nearly cried as I saw a sexist cliche come to life; girls pressured to perform for the benefit of the male gaze, while perpetuating the sexist party island culture, with the clubs laughing all the way to the bank. It didn’t look like sexual liberation; it looked like the literal definition of female submission to the patriarchy. Of couse she won the competition by a landslide – that didn’t surprise me. Afterwards everyone got up on the poles and had a good time, including myself. I then expressed to my friend my disgust at what the girl had done, but moreso the competition provoking and encouraging it. The girl was seeking validation in the cheers of the male spectators; it was the ultimate example of the brainwashing powers of the patriarchy. But my friend retorted that I was doing the same thing by getting up on the pole myself. I shook away the reply indignantly – I was doing that for myself and for my own fun. But it rang in my mind.

…Was I?

I’m the kind of feminist who believes sexual liberation should not be shut down or restrained. That dancing “provocatively” is not anti-feminist or performing for the patriarchy, as long as you’re doing it to please yourself. The idea that feminists should have to wear straight sharp suits and a poker face to be taken seriously seems sexist in itself, as if a naked woman deserves less respect than a fully-clothed, reserved woman.

It brings to mind the feminist perspectives on the profession of pole dancing and stripping. On one hand, women taking their clothes off for men for money seems to be the epitome of sexism in society – but in arguing this, are we not victimising these women and in speaking for them, are we taking away their voice and thus being anti-feminist ourselves? Many argue that strippers enjoy stripping – but why? Is it because they feel genuinely free, being sexually liberated on a pole, exposing their body unashamedly, going against the oft-conservative restrains society seems to place almost exclusively on women? Or are they feeling that way because the patriarchy tells them that the approving male gaze is the only one that matters; and their minds are not nearly as important as their bodies? On a wider scale, what message does it send? That women should not be ashamed of their naked form or being sexually confident, or that the only time a woman is important and centre-stage is when she is naked and sexual?

Burlesque and stripping are different for many reasons – one of them being that strippers seem to have a sadness and a desperation about them that burlesque dancers don’t. This is because strippers rarely have the privilege to choose to take their clothes off for money – without attempting to speak for this group, it would appear that it is a last resort. Burlesque dancers do it for fun, for theatre.

So who am I, exactly, to emulate this profession when I am by no means in a desperate economic condition? I’m lucky enough to live in a nice house, with a nice family and go to a nice university where I get a nice education. I don’t need to be dancing on a pole, nor should I be. Whether I intend to or not, I perpetuate the degradation of women in society with all the privilege of a woman who doesn’t need to. My mother works, nose to the grindstone, every day, in order to be taken seriously by a world of male misogynists who frequently treat her differently because of her sex. Stripping on a pole with my friends is hardly completely to blame for this, but it doesn’t help. You can say I’m taking it too seriously and that it’s only a bit of banter, but that’s just an excuse that men use to make women feel bad about not participating in these things.

We do it all under the guise and the false assurance that it it’s just a bit of banter.

The entire culture in Malia pressures girls to do the most, to kiss the boys they don’t want to kiss and take off the clothes they may not want to take off so they can win the competition; cleverly disguising it as “craic” or “fun”. Even as my instincts told me not to, I surrendered to it, to the false form of validation that it brought me, and it all left me thinking what kind of feminist is this?

Needless to say, it’ll be my last party holiday.

If there’s one thing I learnt from my holiday, should you not get run over by a scrawny teen boy on a quad bike, it’s to trust your own instincts, and not to measure yourself by anyone’s yardstick but your own. You need to take care of yourself before anyone else, because it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, a veritable black hole of depravity that will suck you in, chew you up and spit you back out. You want to kiss the boy? Great! You want to kiss the girl? Do it! But make sure you’re not doing it for anyone other than yourself.