WELCOME TO THE GUEST BLOG SECTION – HOORAH
Here, you will find a selection of amazing blogs from some of the most funny, feisty and at times, controversial bloggers in town.
These are women and men who have something to say, something that they want to fight for, stand up for, or just get off thier chest.
All the opinions expressed are those of our bloggers.
So, sit back, put your feet up and take a look. If you strongly agree or furiously disagree, get commenting.
All our bloggers are happy to engage in a good old debate.
Are you a brilliant blogger and have something to add? Submit your own guest blog here: firstname.lastname@example.org
CAITLIN MORAN on building GIRLS, BOOKS and REVOLUTIONS
Here’s what happened.
Check out Leena’s guest vlog and blog here
Sanne Vliegenthart, also known as booksandquills is a London-based YouTuber from the Netherlands.
In 2011 she won YouTube NextUp. And with over 100,000 subscribers she is the most successful UK-based YouTuber who talks about books.
Beautifully shot and delivered, her videos are extremely creative, compelling, fun, and informative. Other than books her channel focuses on subjects including travel, social media, language, and lifestyle. She shares another channel derpinaMODE with MarionHoney.
In 2014 curated the first ever panel about the book community on YouTube at the London Book Fair
By day Sanne develops video and online content as Digital Coordinator of Hot Key Books, specializes in Middle-Grade and Young Adult literature; by night she is booksandquills.
YOU KNOW MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU DO
I hate the term digital native. It sounds like this whole generation was born with an iPad attached to their arm. I am 25 and even though I remember being intrigued (and possibly a little confused) when we started using floppy disks for the first time when I was in high school, I feel like I grew up with the Internet.
I remember the first time I went to a website to look something up for a homework assignment. My parents (yes, both of them) helped me find the right page and then we immediately shut down the connection. Couldn’t run the risk of missing any phone calls. Ahh, the good old days. It was probably the same day that I discovered my first Harry Potter fansite, and the rest is history.
In 2009 I watched a video by Hank Green (who started the YouTube channel Vlogbrothers with his brother John Green). The video is called ‘A Message to the Class of 2009’ and it’s his graduation speech to everyone who was about to go out into the big, bad world. “The advantage you have, is a whole new world just got discovered, and you grew up there! … You have a completely different perception of how the world works.” And that was in two-thousand-freaking-nine.
At the time it definitely hit me that he was so right. But I was still in my second year of university (with another three to go) and graduation was a far and distant dream. I completely forgot about the video and its message, until I made the same realisation on my own, just over a year ago.
We are a new generation that has the opportunity to be friends with people all over the world. We build massive communities online and set up our own projects. We have the Internet, and that is all that you need to start something new. No one needs to give us permission. We make up the rules as we go along. In the same way, the most valuable things you have to offer might not be the things you learned at school or university.
When I moved to London almost two years ago and jumped into months and months of interning and job hunting, I slowly started realising some things I’d never thought about before. You can’t really understand how companies work until you’re inside one of them. Some of them are super efficient, others aren’t. You might not know what your strengths are until you see a gap that you could neatly fit into. Of course things don’t always go that way, so you might have to think outside the box a little bit. But the things that you can contribute might not be the things you originally thought about when writing your CV.
I always knew I wanted to work in publishing, or as my clueless, not-quite-graduated self would say when asked: ‘I want to work with books’. Easier said than done. After moving from the Netherlands to London straight after graduation I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I studied English Literature, but had no practical experience to speak of… or so I thought.
I’ve been part of various online communities ever since I first discovered the Internet and without realising it I’d been soaking up information. In my first year of university I decided I wanted to fall down the rabbit hole a little bit further and I started posting videos on my own YouTube channel. Fast forward to 2014 and I have posted over 500 videos on YouTube and have somehow managed to gather almost 100K subscribers. I’ve chatted with hundreds of people on Twitter, set up reading projects and know how to navigate Tumblr (you’d be surprised how valuable a skill that can be). These are the things that landed me my dream job working at Hot Key books, a London based publishing company, where I run the social media.
I can’t believe how much time it took for me to realise where my strengths were and that I was already an expert, just in a completely different field than I thought I needed to be. So I guess that’s my message. Be ready to go and shake things up. Trust me, you know more than you think you do.
Leena Normington is an influential 24-year-old vlogger from Coventry who is based in London. She has over 19,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 863,700 views on her channel, JustKissMyFrog.
Leena vlogs about feminism and gender politics (her 25 videos on the subject have amassed over 100,000 views ). She also makes videos about books, life and other things, all in a humorous, insightful and idiosyncratic style.
How to Be a Woman is one of her favourite books and she included it as being the most influential book she had read in her response to ‘The Ladies Survey 2013’ (a viral video survey people take on YouTube which is about women and the internet created by Rosianna Halse Rojas).
By day Leena works as Publicity & Digital Sales Executive at Icon Books; by night she is JustKissMyFrog.
Click below to watch the accompanying vlog to this blog post.
In which I debate the difference between being BEHIND a cause and BEING a cause. And what the possible implications of that could be as we go forward.
Lately we’ve been lucky enough to witness the beginnings of feminism becoming fashionable. The resurgence has seen the rise of stellar TV shows showcasing complex female leads (Orange is the New Black and Lena Dunham’s Girls to name but two), a flurry of excitement around Riot Grrl music (thanks Kate Nash, high-fives for you!) and big brands like Nike and Always using ad campaigns to raise awareness and generally curb-kick misogynistic ‘meanies’. Magazines that 10 years ago were busy warping my tiny 14-year-old mind with fraught dissatisfaction are now rallying girls around campfires to talk serious sexual revolution – all be it a little basically. I can now slather my body in Dove Shower Cream and hear the tiny pellets of soap cry you are beautiful, just as you are! as I scrub muck out of my orifices on a Monday morning. Its like Jones’ Mark Darcy is now sold in a bottle.
But what would be better than it becoming hip-de-dip and super Shorditch would it eventually becoming normal.
I’m a terrible stickler for failing to live in the present. I get excited not only about what is happening now, but where this flurry of feathers – as hens everywhere leave the roost to disco dance on tables, get elected in to parliament and walk the night – will take us.
How long will the word feminist last us? And more importantly how do we keep hitting home to people what it actually means. My attitude to feminism is: the bigger the club, the better it will be, the more will get done, the sooner we can all call it a day and get to the pub!
So how do we recruit more people into our band of gender-bandits? Well, surely like everyone does in these end times: with some good new fashioned advertising…
Here are some I made earlier. And probably should have never made.
So. Recap. Caroline Criado-Perez runs a campaign to make sure that the forthcoming redesign of British banknotes includes at least one British woman. However, around the time the Bank of England announce that they will, indeed, include Jane Austen on the new tenner, Criado-Perez became the target of a group of Twitter-users, who started sending her messages, threatening to rape her – sometimes numbering up to fifty an hour.
At the time of writing, this has now been going on for six days – despite a 21-year-old man in Manchester being arrested after sending Criado-Perez a threatening Tweet.
I think it would be good to show here the kind of messages Criado-Perez has been getting, as there are those that have discussed these kind of messages as part of “the rough and tumble” of the internet – suggesting women just need to toughen up a bit, and deal with the unpleasantness of the “real world.”
“Everybody jump on the rape train – @CCriadoPerez is conductor.” “I love it when the hate machine swarms.” “Rape rape rape rape rape rape.” “Everyone report @CriadoPerez for rape and murder threats and also being a cunt #malemasterrace.” “Wouldn’t mind tying this bitch to my stove. Hey sweetheart – give me a shout when you’re ready to be put in your place.” “HEY GIRL – WANNA THROW THAT PUSSY TOWARDS THE BLACK MESSIAH?” “Rape threats? Don’t flatter yourself. Call the cops. We’ll rape them too. YOU BITCH! YO PUSSY STANK!”
So that’s fifty of those an hour. For a week now.
In the last 24 hours, these rape-threats have expanded to include MP Stella Creasy, who has been vocal in both defending Criado-Perez, and calling for changes in the way Twitter is run, and Creasy – along with the Independent TV critic Grace Dent and Guardian fashion columnist Hadley Freeman – have received bomb-threats. Again, this is all after an arrest has been made for abuse on Twitter. After.
Many commentators have suggested that, when women – or, indeed, anyone – gets abuse like this on the internet, that the only and best solution is for them to simply “block” the abusers, and get on with their lives.
But consider the logistics of this. If a woman is getting fifty of these messages an hour, blocking all the abusers becomes something of a thankless, full-time job.
By the time a woman has finished defending herself for her abusers, and actually gets around to doing what she came on Twitter to do – to talk, to communicate – she’s already exhausted. And, also, a little more angry, paranoid, defensive and, frankly, rattled than the non-abused people her Tweets appear next to. There’s nothing quite like being repeatedly told you’re violatable and worthless to send you to bed anxious and unhappy.
On top of this, there’s something that would offend most people’s notion of how we want a society to function in the idea that if groups of people – in this case, women – are being regularly attacked, and their voices shut down in public, that – when they ask for help – we shrug, and say, “Sorry. Every woman must deal with this on her own.”
I don’t think most people would want someone they loved to be told to deal with this on their own. And I’m pretty sure most people would agree that this would be a better world if women did not get besieged with threats of rape and death after running a genteel campaign to have a picture of Jane Austen on a bank-note, or reviewing a restaurant or dress.
So: some solutions were suggested. Maybe Twitter could have a “Report Abuse” button? Maybe Twitter could run algorithms, to spot the traits of multi-account-opening trolls? Perhaps, for 24 hours, supporters of Criado-Perez could quit Twitter, to show solidarity – and focus Twitter’s minds on coming up with some solutions of their own?
No-one really had a definitive answer, but there was a “Report Abuse Button” petition – currently signed by 104,000 people – and a general debate on how Criado-Perez, and anyone else like her, shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of thing on their own.
But within 24 hours of this quiet debate starting up, a whole slew of columns and blogs appeared, firmly rejecting the idea of there ever being any curbs on “freedom of speech” on the internet.
“This isn’t a technology issue – this is a societal issue” a Telegraph blogger said – adding, in a later blog, that people who wished for better regulation on Twitter were behaving “like Mary Whitehouse,” and that this was a simple matter of censorship. “This is a curtailment of freedom of speech” was a very popular refrain.
Handily, this neatly abutted with what has, over the years, proven to be a fairly infallible rule: that anyone who says “Hey, guys – what about freedom of speech!” hasn’t the faintest idea what “freedom of speech” actually means.
There is no such thing as “freedom of speech” in this country. Since 1998, we’ve had Article 10 of the European Convention on “freedom of expression”, but that still outlaws – amongst many things – obscenity, sedition, glorifying terrorism, incitement of racial hatred, sending articles which are indecent or grossly offensive with an intent to cause anxiety or distress, and threatening, abusive or insulting words like to cause harassment, alarm or distress.
As you can see, if you are suggesting that you are allowed to threaten someone on Twitter with rape or death under “freedom of speech”, then you do not – as predicted – have any idea what “freedom of speech” means. Because it’s prosecutable.
Anyway, let’s move on – for if we got upset with bloggers and columnists who chucked around portentous-sounding phrases they’d heard on Legally Blonde without really knowing what they meant, we’d be here all day. The key thing here is the odd, underlying attitude that has permeated so much of this debate about women being harassed – to the point of paranoia and exhaustion – on social media. There is an air about this that is bizarrely … exhausted, and cynical.
Currently, an air of jaded world-weariness drives the debate about what we want the internet to be – an affectedly sardonic edge, which the practitioners seem to wear as if it were a black biker jacket, or an edgy nasal piercing.
Wielding what amounts to a massive cynicism boners, these people are adamant when they say, “NOTHING CAN CHANGE. THE INTERNET JUST IS WHAT IT IS!”
People who, in 2013, who say, with utter certainty, “nothing can change!” are one of the more discombobulating developments of recent years. I’ll be frank – it does my head in to see someone who lives in a democracy, wears artificial fibers, drives a car, has a wife who can vote and children whom it is illegal to send to work up a chimney, saying, on the internet – invented in 1971!!!! – “NOTHING CAN CHANGE!”
Dude, everyone in the Western world lives an existence wholly defined by constant change. – change that was brought about by people going, “I tire of people dying young. That sucks. I will invent antibiotics,” or “I have thought of a marvellous thing – global communication, via a glorified typewriter!”
It is a particular quirk of egotism/a lack of any sense of history or perspective to say, confidently and crushingly, “Things cannot change.” What someone who says “Things cannot change” means, more often that not, is “I do not want things to change.”
There is a neat squaring of the circle when you notice that, on this issue, those who say “Things cannot change” are, in the overwhelming majority, men – and that the people they are trying to shut down who are saying, repeatedly, “Things must change,” are women.
And this is all particularly inappropriate when the conversation is about how, of all things, it is the internet that cannot change. The internet, which was invented, within our lifetimes, by hippies. Tim Berners-Lee, who gave away the coding for free, with the words “This is for everyone” – the sentence that was so astonishing and inspiring when it lit up the stadium at the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
In short, the internet was invented, very recently, for people, by people, and founded in optimism and idealism.
For this odd new groundswell of commentators to start claiming that the internet is inherently dark, cruel and cynical is a gross misappropriation of one of the wonders of the modern age. It misunderstands what it was, is and, most importantly, could be.
Shame on anyone whose argument basically boils down to saying that “The thing about the internet is, it’s a place where hundreds of anonymous men can threaten to rape women – and that is how it will always be.”
That is in an odd, dark denial of the fundamental decency of human nature and the law. It is illegal to act in this manner on the internet, and the social networking sites on which it happens need to be reminded of that unambiguously. As Andy Trotter said on Monday, of internet platform providers, such as Twitter, “ You can’t just set them up, and then walk away.”
I’m pro the mooted 24-hour walk-out on 4th of August, because not only is it a symbolic act of solidarity – which are my favourite kinds of symbolic acts – but because it will also focus minds at Twitter to come up with their own solution to the abuses of their private company.
You know – the popularity of social networking sites waxes and wanes with ferocious rapidity. Twitter might currently be the hot thing – but it only takes a couple of bad months for it to become the new Friends Reunited, the new MySpace, the new Bebo. Another ghost-town, left empty when women, and their good male friends, tired of this horrible clown caravel of rape and death and threat and blocking and antagonism and cynicism and the shrugging insistence that this is how is will always be.
If 52% of Twitters customers – women – see other women being repeatedly left to deal with abuse on their own, then when a new social networking site appears that has addressed this issue appears, then I suspect they will drain away from Twitter in a way that makes a 24-hour walk-out look like a mere bagatelle.
The main compass to steer by, as this whole thing rages on, doubtless for some months to come, is this: to maintain the spirit that the internet was conceived and born in – one of absolute optimism that the future will be better than the past. And that the future will be better than the past because internet is the best shot we’ve had yet for billions of people to communicate equally, and peacefully, and with the additional ability to post pictures of thatched houses that look “surprised.”
….asked one magazine this week. “Is she leaving him?” quizzed another.
In light of the recent Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi abuse case all eyes and questions have turned to Nigella.
These questions aren’t uncommon. The world winces at such high profile cases and we find ourselves asking; why does ‘she’ stay? Why is ‘she’ putting up with this? Is she MAD?
Even the most enlightened publishers, writers and broadcasters will jump to question the woman’s motives. Each time the woman eventually just becomes a victim. Her individuality lost as we label her the abused wife or girlfriend. The reality is that with every high profile case of domestic abuse, the media turns the lens on women in general and abused women in particular.
I endorse the support and the need to raise awareness through popular culture and the media. However, we systematically ignore the abuser. The man.
In turn the abuser simply becomes a baddie. The ‘bad man’ women should be hiding from and that’s it. We never seem to probe further and ask why did he do it?
It’s a strange elephant-in-the-room situation. Women everywhere, myself included, can’t comprehend returning to an abusive partner. But that’s because we haven’t been abused, yet we are hungry to understand why and find ways of helping women look to themselves to make sure they don’t ‘choose’ these men.
I get it. I know we need to communicate this too but making women better at picking ‘em isn’t going to change things on its own.
After the initial story goes public the man suddenly becomes distanced from the conversation and thus absent from the big picture. That is what I am talking about, the bigger picture. The reaction to an incident of abuse and the next steps usually focus on the woman. Yes, this is a solution to a problem but what does prevention look like?
We dissect the life of the likes of ‘poor Nigella’ to understand what went wrong and then wonder why women feel like they are to blame or why they feel patronized as the labelled victim?
I think amongst the wonder we should be trying to understand these abusers too. Why they are doing this? What has happened in their life? Why is it so common? What messages are we sending our young men? Because if abused women are societies problem, then so are the abusers.
Verity Johnson’s Mum was once told that women were scientifically less intelligent that men because they have smaller brains. Ridiculous maybe, but its still happening…
I’ve never been good with science. The closest I get to understanding elements is when I forget to wear a jacket outside.
My scientific, numerical and technological illiteracy meant that until recently if you can prove something ‘scientifically’ then I’m persuaded.
But reaching the end of the teenage years has taught me two things. One, fishnets aren’t attractive. Two, a lot of people have explanations for why men and women are different.
The ones that make me scrape the walls in anger are the ones that involve science.
Yes, there are gender differences based on genes that I’m fine with. Like Men having more upper body strength. Sure. You only have to watch me doing a push up (well, belly flop) to see that.
But some of these ‘biological’ explanations for gender differences make me want to pour bleach in my eyes.
Take humour. The belief that ‘evolutionary’ reasons meant that men are funnier than women. Being young means that a lot of older guys think they’ve a right to tell you your opinion. I remember the first time I was told that women aren’t as funny as men.
The guy patiently explained that humour had evolved as an evolutionary trick to help men seduce women. Men were funnier because it helped them in the competition to win a woman who would rear their offspring.
Apparently the high male to female ratio of comedians proves this.
That’s like saying that there are far fewer female surgeons because women are less capable than men at operating on people.
Ratios don’t reflect gender talent. They show that comedy is traditionally seen as a ‘male’ business that women are beginning to break the monopoly on. Just as with the rise of female doctors and lawyers – traditionally ‘male’ roles.
Plus, ahem, Kristen Wiig?
“Just an isolated example.”
Melissa McCarthy? Dawn French? Jennifer Saunders? Joanna Lumley? Joan Rivers? Emma Chambers?
Still isolated examples. Hmmm.
And have you heard the one about female ambition? I’ve been told repeatedly that women are less ambitious than men due to hormonal differences.
John Gray, the ‘Men Are From Mars’ guy argues in his new book on working women that women are less ambitious and hence less successful in business. Why? Because they have less testosterone than men do.
But ambition is a social product too.
Ambition is hugely related to how much we are encouraged. If girls aren’t encouraged to be ambitious by society then it’s not likely we will be.
Moderately bright, middle class girls like me dream of becoming big in the business world. But with only 3 companies in the FTSE 100 having female CEOs it’s hardly encouraging. A lot of girls just look at that and think “well, it’s obviously a male world, what’s the point in trying?”
That doesn’t mean they lack ambition. It’s just a bloody scary picture to look at. You’d have to be a fool (or Beyoncé) to think that your dream, as one 18 year old girl, can take on the entire corporate world.
See how these biological arguments are dangerous?
When behaviour becomes a question of hormones and genes it suddenly becomes ‘natural’. This makes it incredibly hard to protest against. It’s seen as the way-it-should-be and therefore challenging the belief is challenging nature.
This isn’t very useful when it comes to topics like female ambition. To us teenager girls, being told it’s unnatural for us to want powerful careers makes us almost ashamed. We’re going against God’s genetic game plan…
Then there’s the fact that anything with science-y words in it sounds so…authoritative.
We just end up accepting these biologically based differences because apparently science says so. And when a belief has ‘scientific backing’ it becomes much harder to change people’s minds on it. This means the stereotypes become ingrained and the whole sodding process grinds on.
Plus it means that other explanations are side lined.
Like in the ‘men are funnier’ argument has any ever thought that maybe women are largely just being polite when they laugh at a guy’s jokes? Most of my male friends couldn’t even laugh their way into me giving them a post-date coffee. Let alone my ovaries.
If someone asked me today what I wanted when I am all grown up I’d have to say this. I want a world where women and our abilities aren’t defined away by ‘genetics.’
Guest blogger Sarah Whatnall tells the story of a young pregnancy that happened decades ago and how it makes her reflect positively on today’s society. More from sarah? Visit her blog.
Yes world, we teenagers have a confession to make. The rumours are true: underage British binge drinking is very much our frenzied ally – EVERYONE’S AT IT. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is bad – instead think of it as the cuisine of our people, just like how paella is to Spain or escargots are to France. In the supermarket, amongst all of the Italian wine you will find our section filled with vibrant bottles of WKD and Schnapps. None of us see any problem with this, but in truth it shows how times have changed for young women since an era not so long ago – the 1950s – and today.
At eighteen years old my Gran had a secretarial job in a northern UK city, administrating papers having left school at fourteen as many young girls did back then. The 1950s was generally an optimistic time for women: after the war equal pay was introduced for women teachers and Rosa Parkes made history refusing a white man her seat on the bus in the apartheid-dom. Nevertheless, society was different and when my Gran was raped by her boss at work, she assumed marriage and a good future were out of the question in her shockingly faultless yet impure state, as an unmarried woman who had had a child. Thinking about the reasoning of these times, they seem completely ancient, although in reality, this is not the case. The abortion act of 1967 was still years away.
What followed seems horrific to us now, particularly as the 1950s seems so feminine and jolly, with cheerful poster girls portraying the supposed general consensus. Having a child as an unmarried woman was deemed disgusting although abortion was even more frowned upon, so she was sent away to a religious centre in Manchester, hundreds of miles from home, to stay in secluded care.
Imagining the solitude, the fear, the shame, the lack of acceptance suffered is abhorrent in this day and age. What I find so appalling is that upon delivering her baby, the authorities (yes, authorities) stole him away in a kind of legal disappearance to put him into adoption. She was left with only a photograph, which her own mother snatched off of her with a quick, ‘You won’t be needing that, will you?’, throwing it into the fire to combust into groaning scrolls of ash. Just a metaphorical dunce hat remained along with no hope for marriage or a future.
For decades, my Gran thought her maternal relationship with this child had been terminated the day he was taken from her at birth. For decades, her knowledge of what became of her disapproved product remained a mystery to her until 1990, when contact eventually and unexpectedly arrived. (CLIFF HANGER ALERT! If only I could insert the tense Eastenders ‘dun-dun-DUN-dununununa’ in here somehow)…
FORTY YEARS! That’s forty years until a private investigator paired the two together at a kind of hilariously late meeting: a child not knowing his real mother and a mother not knowing her child. During this time things actually had turned around: she’d started a family and a business
This story fascinates me as a sixteen year old in 2013 due to how much we in the enclosed, menial and freezing snow globe that is Britain have changed to become people who are actually KNOWN for teenage pregnancy and the freedom that comes with it. I’m not saying having a child before you are completely independent should necessarily be encouraged – each one so moral that they all deserve the whole biblical host of frankincense, gold and myrrh. I just believe it is so much better that the right people, women in particular, now get the respect they deserve in the case of being a victim especially.
UK justice has switched from war path to the right path where families no longer betray rape victims and abortion sufferers, as once was common. Anne Frank’s wartime hiding heading towards the unfair road to Auschwitz manages to change paths in this case, in the age of today.
I’m just glad that this series of unfortunate events has a happy ending. And hopefully our generation of WKD-wankered loonies (and proud) don’t all end up in confined institutions either.
I’m sorry to shatter millions of illusions built up by advertising over the years in one fell swoop. But it needs to be said.
Recently I have found myself becoming more and more annoyed at advertising aimed at women, it seems that after a brief period of ‘girl power’ which involved turning the tables on the sexes and watching women drool over the diet coke man et al, the rise of social media has forced women back into their domestic box. Scenarios in which women are featured in ads are largely domestic, or surrounded by other groups of prattling women who seem to fall into two camps, dieting miserable faced shrews or cheeky snack-stealing ‘funny friends’.
I like to laugh, and not in an aww-look-at-that-kitten-lol way or even a Miranda-fainting-every-time-she-sees-a-cute-man way but in an observational, rude, juvenile, silly, nonsensical, clever or anything else kind of way. Simply, the same sense of humour as a man. But if advertising is to be believed, I am a tiny majority. Women aren’t rude, they’re homely, heavily bonded with other females and only laugh about ridiculous clichés like having your skirt tucked in your knickers (minor tangent – since writing this, I managed to walk down Oxford Street complete with said seemingly impossible and mortifying cliché. A woman stopped me. She didn’t laugh; she discretely pointed it out, smiled and went on her way. I have never felt more proud to have had a moment of sisterly solidarity.)
I totally understand why stereotypes are used, a quick jump for the mind in order to cram a plotline into 30 seconds. And I know they’re used in every ad, aimed at both men and women, it’s just that our ones always make us come out that little bit worse… nagging, dieting, cross, self obsessed man eaters. And whilst, I’m more than happy to hang out of a window whistling at a passing semi naked man whilst cramming a cereal bar down my throat and hating myself for leaving the kids at home and wondering what I’m going to wear tonight, it’s not something I do every day.
Maybe it’s something to do with my age or location. Having my ‘girlfriends’ huddle together in my kitchen is nigh on impossible in a 2-bedroom flat in south London. But even if I did choose to have the girls round, I’d like to think I’m not the kind of person to put out snacks for my friends and then berate them when (oh horror of horrors) they eat said snacks.
If the ads are to be believed we have snack brands to thank for this country’s current obesity epidemic – apparently women just lose all self control around them and resort to… wait for it… snacking on the snacks that were put out as a snack for them to snack on!
But perhaps it’s just the kind of girl I am. I am not the type to discuss passing stools whilst drinking margaritas nor meeting friends for a coffee just to chat about my weak bladder.
We Brits are often accused of keeping our cards too close to our chests and yet if British advertising is to be believed, we just can’t help but spill our most intimate physical and emotional secrets over a yoghurt.
Personally, I can’t wait until I have children because then it seems the real fun begins: this is the time of my life when I am required by law to objectify men, and trivialize their input in society to my heart’s content.
I can join my ‘girlfriends’ in collectively rolling our eyes at all men everywhere. I can also sexualize men, safe if the knowledge that if they tried to do the same to us, there would be a string of complaints made to the ASA.
Not that I have a problem believing these women exist. I too have my fair share of Facebook mums who litter my feed with a mind numbing amount of photos of their children whilst simultaneously snorting in derision at anyone having any matter of personal problem with their self styled ‘you-don’t-know what- (insert common parental complaint here)- is-until-you’ve-had-children.
What I’m basically getting at is that I can’t recognise any of the women I see in ads these days and (assuming they exist) this small percentage of simpering bitchy women that are being over-portrayed in UK advertising at the moment is making me hate my sex.
The thought process seems so glaringly lazy. This is a product aimed at women… we open on a kitchen. Seriously? There are plenty of occasions in which a group of women get together and yet, in my 28 years I have never, and will never invite three of my closest confidants into my kitchen for yoghurt. Whether it’s fat free or not.
There’s a sense that media normality has been interrupted by the actions of Ingrid Loyau-Kennett and Amanda Donnelly and her daughter, Gemini Donnelly-Martin.
Like many others, I was impressed and moved watching how the three women responded when the soldier Lee Rigby was murdered close to his barracks in Woolwich in London last month. Their actions have prompted over 70,000 people to sign an online petition calling on the defence secretary, Philip Hammond, to honour their actions with a George medal.
Rev Jesse van der Valk, the rector of the two Anglican churches in Woolwich who organised the petition, wrote: “The fact that no other bystander was hurt in the incident is testament to the courageous actions of these women. As the people of Woolwich come to terms with what happened here – coming together to honour the heroines of that day will send a positive message of unity and peace.”
I don’t disagree that they acted heroically, but it also seems necessary to recognise that calmness, kindness and courage in the face of terrible situations, or even a more vocal, bolshy response when it’s all kicking off, shows us what human beings – including women – are like at their best.
We can’t always rely on the media to tell us about them, because somehow the idea has stuck that women are only good as case studies or victims. On the other hand, most of the authoritative voices, the experts, as well as the heroes, we hear on radio or see on TV are men.
Of course, it’s good when women are recognised. It’s the underlying notion that courageous, determined women with a sense of their own agency are a rarity that bothers me.
It’s hardly surprising that women who took part in protests across the Middle East and North Africa, and were shot at and tear-gassed, got pretty fed up answering questions about the fact that they were women.
It’s not that women aren’t doing remarkable and courageous things around the world, it’s just that what they do is rarely seen. At a screening of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a Liberian woman pointed out she had never even heard the story about the women who took on the President Charles Taylor and all the warring factions and forced them to agree a peace deal.
In The Terror Dream, Susan Faludi chronicles how the stories of female rescue workers following the attacks on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001 were completely ignored by the media. The police lieutenant who dug in the rubble and helped rescue 100 people with a chunk of cement in her skull just didn’t fit the media’s preference for a heroic “Brotherhood” rescuing swooning, grateful women.
Whatever the media makes of “the three brave angels” Ingrid Loyau-Kennett Amanda Donnelly and Gemini Donnelly-Martin, I hope we recognise them as representing something that all of us are capable of. Their actions should be a reminder that we all can make a difference if when faced with something terrible we decide to act in the best way we know how.