Feminism: My Perspective

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Background photo with a model wearing a t-shirt which says ‘We should all be Feminists’

 

‘I am 20 years old, in the middle of my degree with the realisation that I will leave university next year and face a world on my own, where women are seen by some as lesser than men; Incapable because they are women – not measured by ability but by gender.’

The quote above was written by myself and I uploaded it on my Instagram on 25th January, a few days after the Women’s March and the day I finished by first semester university exams. I had been dipping into the news of the reaction to the Women’s March during my revision and the end of my exams was my chance to fully absorb what was happening to our world. I suddenly felt overwhelmed and defeated. Then I realised I needed to get my voice out, I needed to say something.

In 2014 Emma Watson stated in her speech for the launch of HeForShe with the UN: ‘If not me, who. If not now, when.’ I turned 20 at the beginning of this year; a year that began with Donald Trump’s electoral win which felt like hope for gender equality had plummeted. But it also started with the Women’s March and recently the Women’s Strike.

Feminism is more important than ever before. The sheer fact that we need to ask such basic questions as ‘Why are women sexualised in the workplace?’ and ‘Why is there still catcalling?’ is shocking. I have grown up in a society where equality legislation has been in place since the mid-1970s and yet we still have to fight the same battles – I find this baffling for a society which appears to champion individuality. What changes have been made? It certainly feels like there has been progress with the apparent increase of women progressing in the workplace and more men choosing to be stay at home parents, so why are we still talking about the need for equality?

At 17 when I started my second year of college the HeForShe campaign kicked off with Emma Watson’s empowering speech on feminism. For the first time I was told that equal rights was a human rights issue. Men needed equality too. I started to discuss this with people around me, asking questions such as ‘Why are men told nursing is a female career?’, ‘Why is being a full-time dad by some deemed feminine?’

Gender stereotyping from my own experience seems to be ingrained into children from a young age. A significant moment for me was when at age 14 I walked over to the Topman tills with my parents. I was buying a jumper. The woman on the till asked me ‘Is this a present?’ My mum just replied ‘No it’s for my daughter’. The look on the woman’s face was surprise. I remember feeling conflicted. Why was it assumed that a 14 year old girl could not wear a man’s jumper? From this point I began questioning gender stereotypes.

Still aged 14 I started the school year with a leather black and white box shaped sports bag; the new trend in my high school. But there was a colour divide. The girls would have pink, green, blue and yellow. You know, colourful. The boys would have black, white or grey. My black and white bag received some funny looks and my girlfriends were confused. They would say ‘Why have you got a boys bag?’ Or the outright, ‘Your bag is so boyish’.

My parents did not push me to be more feminine because I was a girl. They let me make my own assumptions about what my sexuality means. Therefore it was my outside influences that were telling me that I couldn’t dress in a masculine way, revealing to me the gendered stereotypes.

I have many interesting conversations about gender stereotyping with my friends. One time a friend and I went out for a run and we started talking about why running as a young woman feels so empowering. One of the reasons we came up with was that traditionally sports are deemed masculine, especially running. But in the last decade or so more and more women are running or taking on these ‘masculine’ sports. We wondered whether we felt empowered because we were doing something rebellious, you know, against the patriarchy. This makes sense when women regularly get catcalled – because women obviously need men honking on their horns when driving past?? We hear stories all the time of women getting catcalled for wearing tight jeans or a short skirt but a friend once told me that she got catcalled for wearing joggers and a baggy t-shirt…so we get catcalled because we are purely women, it’s not just because of what we wear. It is so objectifying, we should be allowed to wear what we want without feeling self-conscious that we’ll get a ‘hey beautiful’, a honk of a car horn, or a pathetic whistle. But then we thought, if sports hadn’t been stereotyped as masculine, we would still feel empowered because running just feels so freeing and clears your head. The conversation ended with just feeling like these masculine and feminine stereotypes are so confusing and are hindering progression for gender equality.

Last week I got the role of PR Officer/Radio Co-ordinator for the University of Liverpool Feminist society. I am so excited to work with an amazing group of people to spread awareness of the need for gender equality. With the election of Trump , but with an increase in women in government and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau making his cabinet ‘equally balanced between men and women’( https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/04/canada-cabinet-gender-diversity-justin-trudeau), it is such a crucial time to be pushing the discussion of feminism. However, still ‘Globally, there are 38 states in which women account for less than 10 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, as of June 2016, including 4 chambers with no women at all’ (http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures). We have a long way to go but progress is being made which is something we need to celebrate.

So on reflection, despite the need to keep on fighting for gender equality, we have come a long way, especially in the last 50 years or so. I am currently reading Gloria Steinem’s ‘My Life on the Road’ and ‘The Feminine Mystique’ by Betty Friedan, as well as some feminist writers for my academic study. It is heart-breaking to read about the sheer amount of oppression women experienced, but it also makes me feel so grateful to be a young woman in 2017, a time when progress is really being made and where I am able to have a career and make my own choices with greater freedom than ever before.

Joan Whedon powerfully and brilliantly stated: “Equality is not a concept. It’s not something we should be striving for. It’s a necessity. Equality is like gravity. We need it to stand on this earth as men and women, and the misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who’s confronted with it. We need equality. Kind of now.” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/155424-equality-is-not-a-concept-it-s-not-something-we-should).

Lets Talk Social Media

Lets Talk Social Media

Simple fact – social media is addictive.

I find that when I wake up I am instantly on my phone, checking instagram, twitter, you name it. Have you watched the the youtube video ‘Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace’? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU). A friend sent it to me and it basically made me re-think my whole attitude towards social media. For a while my housemate and I had been talking about the socially damaging affects of it. For example it is so easy to appear brave and confident online, but in person could be painfully shy. We can put a mask on who we are…it seems almost unnatural? I often find I reach for my phone for no apparent reason but to start scrolling through instagram without purpose. Sometimes I would come across images of women who looked amazing, they seemed to have the perfect life, but no one can be perfect. We see glimpses of their day, not every second, not every emotion they felt or experience they had.The Guardian published an article called ‘Is social media bad for young people’s mental health?’ which mentions David Baker, ‘a trainee clinical psychologist at Lancaster University’ who stated that ‘people who compared themselves with others online were more likely to feel depressed’ (https://www.theguardian.com/mental-health-research-matters/2017/jan/20/is-social-media-bad-for-young-peoples-mental-health). I remember uploading a particular image of myself revising in a coffee shop once and it seemed relaxing, fun. Clearly I had had a great day?  But I had actually had a day filled with anxiety over an exam and was in tears by the evening. Social media can be a great tool but also very deceiving if we lead ourselves to believe that it can tell us everything about someone.

The same friend I were in a coffee shop once and we were talking about how you can be sat in a restaurant and see people on their phones, not talking to the person they came out for lunch or coffee with. That moment we both realised we had our phones on the table, lighting up with notifications….guilty as charged.

I’m not saying social media is bad as it provides endless possibilities for communication etc. My Dad lives abroad and so having tools like Instagram and WhatsApp is a very easy and extreme useful way to keep in touch. The same article by The Guardian also presents social media in its positive light by mentioning Ashleigh Ponder, a 17 year old girl who had anorexia. From this experience  Ponder created an Instagram page called ‘balanced not clean’ (https://www.instagram.com/balancednotclean/?hl=en) which promotes how to eat a healthy, balanced diet. At the time of publication, The Guardian stated that Ponder had 23,000 followers on Instagram (now 24,000), showing that social media can be used to help others and connect with people across the globe. (https://www.theguardian.com/mental-health-research-matters/2017/jan/20/is-social-media-bad-for-young-peoples-mental-health). I also love Instagram pages like SimplicityCity (https://www.instagram.com/simplicitycity/?hl=en) as I learn a lot about fashion history and style. This provides me with endless inspiration for the Fashion / Art Reviews section of this website (you can find a review of SimplicityCity in this section).

But, the fact still lies that social media can be used in the wrong way which can be hurtful and can damage real life conversation. The first rule I gave myself was to not check my phone on a morning before I had said hi to at least one of my housemates. I haven’t always followed this rule but it has made the initial wake up feel more refreshing – it definitely clears a lot of headspace.

So, 2017 is my year to be more in touch with the world, learning more about it, but not just through social media – instead through developing relationships, having experiences that I don’t feel I need to document every second of.

I’ll be writing another post in a few months to update you on this social media cleanse 💫

De-gluing my phone from my hand right now 😉

A New Direction

Last week I finished my exams, thank goodness! I have still been active on Instagram, trying to keep online in the midst of stress and all the inevitable feelings exams bring. I had been on and off with my blog since last September until I re-created it over Christmas – during exam revision (slight procrastination?) But I’m back now in full swing and looking forward to getting into a routine. Before I get into the details of when I will be posting, I would like to explain my plans for the moment about where I would like to see this blog going.

With the inauguration of Trump and the Women’s March, I have realised that I have been trying to fit the role of a style blogger and forgetting that my writing needs to reflect more of myself and therefore the passions who make me who I am. Now of course I love styling and fashion photography, it’s why I created this blog. However, my passion for feminism and my interest in culture and society needs to become a part of it. I posted this on Instagram last Wednesday;

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‘I believe in equal rights for men and women. I believe this is a human right. I am a feminist. I am 20 years old, in the middle of my degree with the realisation that I will leave university next year and face a world on my own, where women are seen by some as lesser than men; Incapable because they are women – not measured by ability but by gender. I want to be treated as an equal. I want gender equality.’

I had been trying to keep up with the news about the Women’s March whilst revising for my literature exam. During my first evening of exam freedom (which was a lifetime coming), I started to properly read the signs people were carrying in the march such as a sign which said ‘I can’t believe I still have to carry a sign!’

Furthermore, a group of 26 women learnt the song ‘can’t keep quiet’ through Skype and had never met before the day of the march. In addition, young children, both boys and girls were fighting for gender equality; showing that generations to come are concerned for their future.

I was feeling very low thinking about what society is becoming, why we still have a misogynistic attitude, why the political world appears to be crumbling around us. I admit I am very naive when it comes to discussing politics, but I do know that change needs to be made and I want to, as a young person, make myself more informed about the issues which are going to affect our future.

So my blog will now include an opinions section whereby I will be sharing what I am learning about feminism and spreading awareness of issues that I believe are important. However I don’t want to overload page with lots of different types of issues. For now I will limit it to feminism, the fashion industry and certain campaigns I want to spread awareness about. For example, last week a campaign was launched by MQ: Transforming Mental Health about spreading awareness of mental illness in young people. They are a new charity supporting research in mental health. I shared this on Instagram last Thursday;

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‘When I was 7 my mum had to hold my hands by my side so that I would stop obsessively washing them before I ate. When I was 13 it became more apparent that I had mild OCD. I would constantly repeat things such as walking in and out of a room because I felt I hadn’t done it ‘right’. I started to isolate myself from my friends and family. When I was 14 I saw a doctor because I was underweight from restricting my food. I was obsessed with how food looked and whether it was healthy enough. My habits were becoming physically noticeable and I couldn’t see it because I tried to normalise them. It feels like no one truly understands the ‘thoughts’ that tell you to repeat things. Fortunately I had extremely supportive family and friends but this isn’t the case for everyone. The anxiety and stress it causes is damaging. ¾ people don’t get the help they need. Let’s help spread awareness. Let’s fight mental illness. #WeSwear @mqmentalheath’

Mental illness is therefore something I suffered from and something that will always be a part of me. It’s something I have to control. The ¾ figure is astounding. I shared this on Instagram as I believe my experience during my early teenage years is one which I need not hide from. It is one which I want to share to help people know they are not alone and it is very common.

Last Thursday I also shared this on Instagram;

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‘So excited to read these books! Inspired by Emma Watson’s book club @oursharedself, and the millions of inspirational women who participated in the women’s march, I am starting to build a personal reading list of books centred around feminism. As a fashion and culture writer and someone who is passionate about gender equality, I feel this is really important for me to do and to translate the importance of feminism in modern society through my writing. Due to having a mum who is passionate about women leadership in her career, the importance of a woman’s independence has been something I have been constantly aware of growing up. This has translated into my love for literature and now as I am creating my own small space on the internet, I hope to be one of the millions of voices to spread the importance of feminism in a way which is personal to me.’

Consequently the last few days have been very challenging in terms of making me re-think what I want this blog to be about. The main features of the blog will therefore be:

News and Opinions – Feminism and spreading awareness of campaigns whether these be issues such as mental illness or within the fashion industry.

Culture – passion of independent coffee shops and bars.

Fashion – style, fashion photography, what is happening within the fashion industry including articles that have inspired me.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog and I would love to hear from you.

Georgia x