13 articles Articles posted in Feminism

Role Models for Girls

The 2012 Olympics was a fantastic event which really hailed some positive changes in the UK. As a mother to (almost) two girls, I’m pleased with the coverage that female athletes received and that names like Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton and Katherine Grainger are now known to many. Of course, there are plenty of highly successful female athletes out there but with football, rugby, cricket, and golf dominating the TV coverage, it’s easy to think that sports are for men only.

Two of my Husband’s cousins are female and in their tweens. Both are excellent at football, though they couldn’t be more different in other ways. The eldest is into girlie stuff and loves nothing more than clothes, make-up and having her hair and nails done. The youngest…well, I think the last time I saw her in a skirt was when she was a bridesmaid for my sister-in-law in 2007, but either way, they’re promising little sportswomen. There seems to be a preconception though, that ‘girlie girls’ can’t be sporty and that anyone who’s sporty has to be a total tomboy, which is rubbish – did any of you see Jessica Ennis is that dress?!

Jessica Ennis Red Dress

For one of Husband’s cousins, we decided that we’d start the indoctrination early and get her a Liverpool FC shirt for Christmas. We didn’t have time to do it in the end, but we had planned to get ‘Bonner’ printed on the back – Gemma Bonner is currently the captain of Liverpool Ladies team, and we’re also proud to say, part of the Senior England Women’s Team. Aged just 21, she captained Liverpool to the 2013 FA WSL title, which is an incredible achievement for a woman of her age.

I’m so much happier for my daughters and female relatives to be looking up to sportswomen and people with genuine talent than the type of so-called “role-models” we see churned out of the X-Factor machine every year, or on the pages of fashion magazines with their hideous messages about body image.

All I’m saying is, next time you write a girl off as a ‘Tom Boy’ or think that girls should be ‘girlie’, try and bear in mind the example that our sportswomen are setting, think about the fact that it’s more than possible to be both accomplished and radiant, like our Jessica, and think about letting our girls be exactly who they want to be. When I was little, I was constantly told that I couldn’t do certain things – I wanted to do drama at University and was told what a waste it would be because I was ‘too intelligent’ to waste my brain on a creative subject (let’s not mention that the vast majority of British actors started at Oxford or Cambridge…). As an adult, I wish I’d done exactly what I wanted because I’m now without any higher qualifications at all and have no real idea of what I should be doing. I’m happy, but I wish I’d been allowed to follow my own ideas.

It’s not just our girls who are benefiting from seeing strong women in the media, either. When boys see women as strong, successful and capable, it adjusts their perceptions too and will hopefully mean a progression towards women being taken more seriously on all platforms.

What do you think? Who do your kids look up to? What does ‘strong woman’ mean to them and you?

Shrink It and Pink It

Being a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I was around when Meccano was going through a period of popularity and I vividly remember thinking how awesome it looked, and how I wished I was a boy so that I could play with it. The marketing was entirely masculine and I’m pretty sure that I was discouraged from asking Father Christmas to bring me some because it was ‘a boys toy’. Girls didn’t play with Meccano and I thought I must have been really weird for wanting to play with it, when all of my female friends wanted to play with Barbies.

Just recently, Husband and I toyed with the idea of getting a NERF Blaster for Sausage (I’m not going to get into a debate about kids playing with guns here, it’s personal choice, mmmkay?) and although we opted for something else (mostly because they’re pretty expensive and we’d already spent an arm and a leg on presents!), it never occurred to us to not buy her one because they’re marketed at boys.

Just recently, we noticed a new range of NERF products available, their ‘Rebelle’ range. Husband astutely commented that they’d probably been made off the back of The Hunger Games, as they’re kind of ‘bow and arrow’ style NERF guns, but I was actually pretty annoyed at the whole thing. NERF has obviously decided it wants to expand its appeal to girls, so this is what they’ve done:

Nerf Rebelle

I’m more than a little bit sick of the ‘shrink it and pink it’ attitude that toy companies and marketers apply to anything that’s aimed at girls – not only is it massively patronising, it’s perpetuating the myth that some toys are for girls and some toys are for boys. Surely a toy is a toy and if a child wants to play with it, gender is inconsequential? Also, by making the Rebelle range, are NERF saying that boys should reject anything pink? Just as there will be girly girls who love pink and overtly masculine boys who’d reject anything that isn’t boyish enough, there will be girls who don’t give a toss about pretty pink things and boys who gravitate towards them.

If Sausage happens to ask for something for Christmas, I certainly wouldn’t stop her from having it if it’s something that’s been deemed ‘boys only’ by the adverts, nor will I stop the new baby, should it be a boy, from playing of any of Sausage’s pink things. Male/female stereotypes are wildly outdated now – when my grandparents were little, it was fair to say that the majority of women stayed at home and did the cooking while the men worked, tinkered with cars, etc, so in those days toys for girls would have been dolls, ironing boards, toy food, so that little girls could emulate their Mums and boys would get cars and fire engines, to be like their Dads. These days, I know many men who consider themselves ‘foodies’ and the best mechanic I know is Husband’s Aunt.

It’s a real chicken and egg situation – Sausage loves pink thinks, but is that because she actually loves pink things, or that those are the things which are marketed directly at her? Surely, the only way we’re going to get around this gender stereotyping and division is if we start showing girls playing with Meccano (and NOT the pink sets of Meccano that they’ve made, either…) and boys pushing prams. Perhaps if kids were to see these things, there would be more acceptance of the interchangeable nature of gender and roles in the 21st century – perhaps then, girls who wanted to play with cars wouldn’t automatically be branded ‘tom boys’ and little boys who wanted to play with a dolly wouldn’t be automatically assumed to be girly, or gay, or any other ridiculous label.

The best way to make change in society is to normalise things to children – it wouldn’t occur to children to question which toys they should be playing with if they see play with all kinds of toys as normal or gender neutral. It could give children the freedom to be themselves and express themselves through play however they damn well want to, and I genuinely believe this could help them grow into well-rounded adults in the process. I’m not, for one second, saying that we should take Barbie away from girls and give them to boys, and vice versa, but I think there should be a choice, and not a choice that’s influenced or dictated by what kids are told that they’re supposed to like.

What do you think? Do your kids play with only gender-specific toys and if so, why? Do you think it’s a positive thing to market girls versions of things in pink, or should toys be accessible to all? Most of all, do you think that it’s important to define gender and set boundaries accordingly? Let me know.

What Men Want – International Edition

I was looking at a website recently which makes magazines available for download, issues from far flung lands that you wouldn’t be able to buy on British shelves and a certain percentage of those magazines are what you’d call ‘Lad’s Mags’. Whilst I’m in full support of the ‘No More Page 3‘ campaign, as I feel that bare boobs have no place in a mainstream newspaper, my feeling is that there’s a time and a place for topless modelling and a magazine aimed at 16-35 year old men is definitely it.

But I digress.

As I was scrolling through the pages of the website, I noticed that there was a distinct difference in what is considered ‘beautiful’ in different parts of the world. It got me thinking about how perceptions change when you factor in cultural influence and how it affects people’s attitudes, especially towards women. I also wonder if culture has more to do with it in the respect of what passes for common decency and what people will display on their shelves.

England

What do you see when you look at these covers? BOOOOOBS!

There’s clearly a trend in the UK at the moment for large breasts, full, pouty lips, a shit-load of make-up and long locks cascading over shoulders. Meh, what’s new? But what I do find alarming (and call me a hairy-armpitted feminist if you like) is the fact that the woman on the cover of the Summer Special doesn’t even have a face. The message that sends to me is “It doesn’t matter what her face is like, as long as she has tits like over-inflated zeppelins”. In fact, it’s not even that it doesn’t matter if she has a face, it’s that she patently doesn’t NEED one (although they do let you see just enough to ascertain that she has massive lips).

India

Here, we see something completely different. Both women are more demurely covered and clearly have natural breasts and lips. They both look like normal-sized women and are wearing fairly minimalist make-up. The woman in the orange exudes strength and is wearing shorts rather than skimpy knickers, while the woman in white looks rather more innocent.

Far East 

The covers in this section come from Japan and the Philippines and show something else altogether. I ummed and ahhed about including Esquire as it’s a slightly different class of magazine, but it still features a woman on the front who’s an example of desirability. The FHM cover is not wholly dissimilar to an FHM cover that you’d see in the UK, except it features Asian woman. Now, (and excuse the sweeping generalisation here) Asian woman often have a smaller frame than us Western gals and in turn have smaller breasts, so it’s interesting to see that none of the women here appear to have breast augmentations, or if they do they’re extremely subtle and certainly not out of keeping with their actual frames.

Last year, The Guardian reported that in 2011, over 10,000 women went under the knife in the UK to have breast implants, and although Japan ranked 6th in the world for cosmetic proceedures, most of them are liposuction or non-surgical proceedures. It’s also worth noting that British women have the largest breasts in Europe a well as the highest obesity rate.

There seems to be an element of dehumanisation with the UK covers – the women have been chopped and augmented to fit a certain ideal and they’re held up as faceless objects, rather than people to be admired. Both magazines fixate on breasts, or breast size more accurately, leaving little wonder as to why so many young girls feel the need to have implants. If this is what they see on our shelves, touting itself as an authority on what young men find attractive, what chance to us girls have?

The Indian and Far Eastern covers aren’t afraid to show women as they are (although there’s obviously the obligatory airbrushing) and whilst I’m not saying that either place is without it’s issues when it comes to the treatment of women, I do wonder how much damage this obsession with ‘unnatural’ beauty is doing to us as a nation?

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. What do you see when you look at these photos?