The Quail Pipe

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while:
I recently wrote an article for the Quail Pipe, which, if you haven’t heard of it, is an amazing new online feminist magazine which quite frankly everyone should read. And not just because they let me write for them!

So I thought I’d start by writing about my own experiences of feminism, and the shall we say ‘interesting’ reactions I’ve garnered. So if anyone’s interested, here’s the link:
Don’t Knock It Till You’ve Tried It

Anyway, the magazine is great, and the editors couldn’t be more lovely (and patient. Very, very patient), so definitely give it a read!

Zine Part I: The Dream Lady

A few weeks ago I began a zine project, starting with myself, and the little blank booklet is currently being sent on to six other people to transform it into a view of today’s feminism. I’ve decided to post my page of it here, and an explanation, and hopefully get a few more of the people involved to talk about theirs too.

 
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For mine, I decided to focus on the ‘perfect woman’, and the ideals we are supposed to possess or at the very least crave. I was faced with the daunting prospect of the empty zine and, having realised my page would form the front cover, I did panic slightly. So the result is a little more toned down than I’d originally intended, but it hopefully still conveys the same message. We’ll see!

I’ve become increasingly frustrated at the anonymity of the women we are presented with. Not only models in an advert, which is a little more understandable (but don’t get me started on the body image issues), but with the fact that magazines and newspapers, aimed at both genders, feel it is acceptable and usual to adorn their articles with attractive young women completely unrelated to the topic.

‘Thinking of buying a house?’
Look at this nice female accountant leaning over you in her low cut top!

‘It’s almost Christmas!’
And look at this lovely young lady in her revealing Santa outfit!

‘The economy reaches its lowest GDP since 1934′
Umm…we’re not sure…. – here, just have some boobs. Boobs make everything better!

There’s nothing wrong with anyone wearing anything like that, and I’m definitely not objecting to women being shown in what are generally considered ‘men’s jobs’, but what I hate about this is that it perpetuates the notion that women are only adornments, that they have no identity or personality of their own, and are stripped down (no pun intended!) to jut their appearance and body. And I hate too, that this is rubbing off into the real world. That men are expecting a woman to be an empty shell. A empty shell with large breasts and long legs that is. Because when was the last time you saw an unnamed, unexplained man decorating an article? In fact why do articles even need this excess decoration? If i was one of those journalists I would be worried about my competence as I writer if I had to resort to that.

So that’s the first point that I wanted to make with my page. The second is our old friend body image. The magazine I got the image from was, and I cringe as I say it, a ‘bikini body special’. At no point was there an article about self-confidence, or bikinis for different body types or anything constructive whatsoever. There was, however, a five page spread on how to get the ‘perfect’ curves. It seems, apparently, that unless you’ve achieved your tiny waist and voluptuous bum, the bikini will actually run screaming from your normal hideous body, and physically refuse to be worn. Or so I’ve been told.

I could go on about body image for pages and pages and bore you all to death, but there are many people out there who’ve written about this far better than me, and I really recommend reading some amazing articles on it. Or alternatively, just put on a bikini and serve as a walking middle finger to the patriarchy.

So, that’s what I wanted to use my page for, to challenge the notion that the perfect woman is a personality deprived sex-bomb, or that there even is such a thing as a perfect person anyway. And finally, to all the people who believe she exists – I have a message: mate, the perfect woman doesn’t exist. She’s the ‘dream lady’ and I’m pretty sure it’s in your dreams she’s going to stay.

Zine Time!

Hello there!

I have a plan – but a plan that requires seven of you lovely people reading this post:

I only discovered ‘Internet feminism’ a little while ago and it’s genuinely brilliant. But I’m guessing you already know that. However, I have found there’s been such a wide range of views held on what exactly feminism is and what it does and doesn’t encapsulate. This isn’t a bad thing – we’re all different, so there are inevitably things we feel more passionate about, or different role models we admire.

So what I would love to do is compile something. Something that shows each participants’ personal interpretations and the span that feminism can hold today. What you feel is most important. What you think needs to change. And maybe just what you think is great.

My plan, and the challenge (if you choose to accept it) is to create a simple zine. Eight pages. This allows for eight entirely different messages and eight entirely different styles, but all in one place and all sharing the same underlying hopes. I would start, creating my one page, and send it on to the next person, who, after creating their page too, would send it on to the next awesome person. And then, fingers crossed, by the end we’ll have a wonderful collection of masterpieces.

Don’t be afraid! There’s no need to be able to draw or paint (I can attach a drawing of mine if you want, to make even the worst drawer feel better). You just need to have a little creativity, some scissors and glue, or pen and pencil, and patience to put up with my organisational skills*. If you are interested, please email me and I’ll send you some details. If not, but you think there’s some potential here, please share this! I’d love to meet more people interested in feminism and you’ll get a lovely copy of a unique feminist zine when it’s done. And who knows? Maybe one of us will become a world renowned artist one day, and your copy will be worth millions!

Unfortunately, due to my extreme lack of funding, I’d have to limit it to people in the UK for now, for various postage reasons, but please, if you’re at all interested, get in contact! I’d love to hear from you, and I’ll happily answer any questions too.

Thanks for reading!

Ruby x

Email: rubyosman@hotmail.com
Twitter: @alices_dreams

* My organisational skills aren’t too bad. I promise…

#periodgate

I’m starting to have suspicions that my uterus may be trying to kill me.

I really would like to claim solidarity with my body. Honestly. For the most part I can: my heart pumps, my lungs breathe, my organs are generally amicable to me. And in return I don’t swear manically at them and try to blitz the pain they cause with paracetamol and hot water bottles. It’s a fair deal.

But no. Inevitably, once a month, I end up curled up in bed cursing my luck in having a vagina. I lie there and strategically rearrange everything I have planned for the next five days. I try to forget that there’s going to be at least another thirty or so years of this. I dig out all my boring underwear. And then I drag myself up and carry on with life.

Some women have it worse than others. I know people who breeze through, with barely a blink of an eye, and others who are forced to retreat to bed with crippling cramps and back pains. But that doesn’t change the fact it still happens to almost every single woman. Everywhere. So why then, do we not constantly hear about periods? If its alright to say ‘oh, I’m coming down with a cold, why can’t I say that I’m having horrible PMS?

Period.

It’s a taboo word. It’s fine to make jokes about rape. To loudly talk about porn. But somewhere along the line it became wrong for pretty little girls to talk about such a natural dirty thing. We’re expected to suffer in silence, shove sanitary towels up our sleeves when we go to the bathroom – lest it disgust a male, of course. I have to admit, at first I was like this. But you know what, when it feels like someone is stabbing your insides, is it really that crazy to want to talk about it?

I think the main problem stems from ignorance. I was terrified when I first started my period. There was a little voice inside of my going ‘I think this is your period, but then again, you could be dying’. It’s even worse in men – especially teenage boys. From conversations I’ve had about it, I’ve learnt they mostly know two things: a string of vulgar and derogatory names for periods, and absolutely fuck all. Oh and stereotypes. They know periods make you angry and sensitive and bitchy and fat and hungry and aggressive and emotional. The fact that I quite possibly (and unfortunately) fit into all of these stereotypes doesn’t prove them as fact. I’m only one of three and a half billion women.

All I really wish was that it was talked about. That young girls knew what was coming. That you knew you were free to ask anyone to borrow supplies. And it’s not as if other women find the subject disgusting. You only have to mutter under your breath ‘I’m having horrible cramps’ to immediately gain the empathy of every woman in the room; and the confusion of every man.
Once someone takes that brave step to introduce the topic, weeks of angst and opinion just comes gushing out.

That’s why #periodgate is amazing. It may not quite be saying it out loud, but its just as good and inclusive and lovely, and it’s countless times better than keeping your pain (or joy) locked away. You get terrible people who’ll unfollow you, but they just can’t handle the awesome and the comfort in your own body.

So I’m starting mine now:

I hurt. And if someone doesn’t bring me cake soon I will start breaking things.

An awesome periodgate post from the awesome Lili: http://jellyandlilipop.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/periodgate/

The EDL

This isn’t really a post about feminism. It’s about racism, the EDL and plain common sense.

A few weeks ago, a British solider was murdered in Woolwich. This, on its own, is a terrible thing. Surely the proper, human thing to do would be to pay our respects, and work on preventing things like this happening in the future?

Ah, but here’s the problem. Extremism. The murder was committed by two Muslim extremists. In fact, just by two extremists. It is unfair to attribute one such terrible act to a whole religion.

But even then, it gets worse:

Every child gets taught two wrongs don’t make a right. So how has this escaped the minds of tens of thousands of British adults? At some point someone has had the bright idea ‘Lets counteract this horrible act, which we condemn completely, with our own brand of much more widespread xenophobia and extremism!’ And unfortunately, so many others have agreed with this point. And now, we have the EDL.

I’m going to try my best not to stereotype them. Because, in its way, the EDL is quite diverse in its tiny slice of hate. Not everyone is uneducated, or male, and some aren’t fat as we’re normally told. Everyone is accepted (as long as you’re not multicultural, homosexual, liberal or foreign). But extremism is not a straight line. You cannot balance out these things. It’s more like a circle, where you can go in either direction, but you will eventually reach the same place.

And what is this place? What is the ideal? Is it white supremacy? Have we really managed to leap so far back in history. The problem is, the message is so mixed from so many different sources. They do all maintain one thing: they’re not racist. But if that is not racism, then what is? Have we entered some Orwell dystopia where the word is just being eradicated so we can pretend we live in an egalitarian society but underneath simmering with hate? This is something we cannot let happen – and it isn’t.

Recently, the EDL decided to protest in Cambridge. Approximately 30/40 turned up, decked in English flags and sporting large volumes of alcohol. To face them, were 800 anti-fascist protesters. And this is brilliant. For each EDL member the town offered 20 people who knew this was wrong, and who took the time to stand up and express this.

And we need to keep doing this! Because there are more than 800 people in Cambridge who oppose this fascism. And the EDL, however small, are getting their voices heard. So we need to stand up, and make sure we never disregard it, because it is making an impact – to younger, or restless generations, and we need to make sure our voice is being heard too, and being heard bigger and louder so that we can all feel safe, and not only safe but equal too.

So next time you see the EDL, let it make you angry. Yell at the TV. Tweet angrily. Join a march. But be fair in your anger, don’t fall to their standards of hate. And then, as an act of closure, remember that they’re no longer the ‘English Defence League’. To you, they can be the ‘English Disco Lovers’ and you can imagine them in their disco pants complete with an afro. And you’ll feel better. I promise.

Barbie and Maths

I like maths. I don’t like objectification. So I’ve found a way to consolidate these two opinions into one, simple rant:

I had dolls when I was younger. Never many, and they weren’t played with that often, but I had just a few who would sit there and observe from my shelf. As much as I felt that internal desire to cut their hair, or cover them in wild tattoos, I could never quite bring myself to do it. They were just too perfect.

I would come home with hair knotted and tangled, but a single strand was never out of place in Barbie’s peroxide hair.

I would worry about my weight, as we all do, but Barbie would sit, unaffected, in her corset-like outfits.

And I would come back from school, distressed by whatever falling out there had been, to see Barbie, who reminded me how perfect I should be.

Now this isn’t to say I hate Barbie. In fact, I genuinely think she’s done a lot of good. I’d like to think the main message any girl would get is that if she wants to be like Barbie, she can also aspire to her jobs as well. Because Barbie is not a housewife. She’s not a salad eating shopaholic, funded by Ken’s money. For fifty years she’s been a professional. She’s been an astronaut, a computer engineer and a doctor at times when less than 1 in 20 women went to university. Surely this should’ve had some impact? She has, admittedly, also been Miss America and a stewardess, but, at the end of the day, its better than nothing. You can be a beauty queen, but you can also be an academic at the same time. Anything’s possible.

However (and this is where the lovely maths comes in), these dolls are just implausible. If we could see that real life Barbie, unable to support her own head and forced to crawl on all fours, would our perceptions of her beauty still be the same? Would young children aspire to (or demand of their partner) to be this unearthly figure? Looking at her measurements, I only have one that matches, and it would be just as easy to have none. As soon as you look at having two matching proportions, the numbers become mind-boggling. And as much as I appreciate the fact its just a doll, it really wouldn’t be too hard to give her a natural waist – or, even more easy, to give her ankles that could actually support the human body.

This is what I really object to. From the age of three or so, girls are already being introduced to ‘the perfect body’. But it doesn’t work. Not only is it unrealistic to expect women to look like this – it is genuinely anatomically impossible. And it doesn’t stop there; from the second we are born we are bombarded with this unachievable ideal. It’s everywhere: adverts, TV, magazines, shops. Recently, H&M came under fire for the models they were using in their adverts. It wasn’t just their figures. It wasn’t a ridiculous waist, or unfeasible legs. It wasn’t the flawless skin or plastic-surgery scandals.

These models had been computer generated.

So is this it now? The ideal has been stretched so far that it is genuinely impossible for any human being to possess it. Well that’s brilliant isn’t it? Disney princesses are being converted into sex symbols. Primark are selling padded bikinis. There’s so much that needs to be changed.  But what I really want to see, more than anything, is a doll that the younger me would be comfortable drawing tattoos on. One that looked like the women I saw around me. The sort of women I should actually aspire to be.

 

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This is amazing, and also horrible report on eating disorders: dying to be Barbie

And also, this is amazing: dolls without make-up

A Love Letter To Samantha Brick

The following article is written in sarcasm…

Thank you, Samantha Brick, for reinforcing the point that my body is not okay. For I now remember that it’s a shame to be different.

And thank you, Samantha Brick, for reminding me that having an eating disorder at 14 is good. I’ll work on that for you.

And how could I forget? My success in life is measured solely by the male attention I gather – silly me, thinking comfort in my self was important. Or is it? I don’t know, I’ll just go check with the nearest man.

Again, thank you Page 3, because being informed in politics and just the world in general, isn’t going to get me a husband, is it? No, that potential page of news is put to much better use in teaching me angle my boobs look best at.

Thank you to countless adverts, for showing me I, and any other woman, belong in the kitchen.

And thank you to diet food and cereal bars, who show me that if I don’t lose weight, how else will I enjoy my summer?

So it’s to you, Ms. Brick, and your objectifying cohorts, that I offer a sincere fuck you, as I tuck into my third slice of cake.

It turns out, I know who you are better than you, because I watch TV:

I have never burnt a bra.
I don’t hate men.
I both own and wear dresses.

Surely, if everything we are led to believe is true, then I can’t be a feminist?
But then again, I can’t cook, I hate cleaning, and I rather enjoy having my own personal liberties.
So I can’t be a woman either.
Then am I a man?
But where are my bulging muscles and my damsel in distress?

So does this leave me somewhere in the middle, stranded between any gender, or any personality trait for that matter?
No. Because I know I’m a woman. I know I’m a feminist. I know I’m British. I know my hair is brown. I know countless things about myself, things that I will still be whatever I’m being told they are.

This is the problem with stereotypes. In the simplest way: they’re wrong. I’m sure at some point there was a dumb blonde, an unfunny woman, a fat American. Possibly even two, maybe three. In fact, maybe in some cases there are 40% of people who are like this. But, what so many people forget, the other 60% aren’t.

Feminism in particular, I’ve found, has some ugly connotations. Some are clear: the wild, hairy, hippie woman surfaces her head often, along with the man-hating spinster. But others are far more subtle. I’ve only really noticed them when properly discussing the subject. They’re engrained into our subconscious, and only make themselves apparent when called upon, but they’re there all the same.

Useless, and annoying, are views I’ve had thrust upon me. Women can vote, they can go to school, there’s some law or other that means they can get paid. What more can these women want? But think about it this way: you have long lovely blonde hair – you look great, by the way (see- happy feminist)- and you are not dumb.. Stress that point. Not. Dumb. But everywhere you go, you’re judged. At job interviews, you’ll be presumed to be dumb, but it’s alright cause you’ll supposedly get your tits out on cue. But that’s not you.
So don’t you wish people will dig just a little deeper?

Try it. Think about it. Think about all those things you are. And think about all those things they supposedly make you.

You cannot be simplified into a few key traits. You can’t be shepherded into a ugly, grunting group of thousands of people who don’t quite belong. So next time I don’t shave my legs, I’m still a woman.

Me: The Closet Feminist

I wrote, before I knew women had to write under pseudonyms to get their books published.

And I rode my bike, without knowing in some countries the ban on women doing so has only just been lifted.

I was a feminist before I knew of the stigma that comes with it.

I recently discovered I’d been a closet feminist my whole life. Not hiding from embarrassment or shame, but from a lack of motivation. Without the feeling I could actually change something. It hadn’t occurred to me that what I considered just to be me being overly opinionated, and a tendency to never shut my mouth, could potentially do some good. And it turned out I wasn’t the only one objecting to rape jokes, or to ‘lad’ culture, and there were others doing it with much louder voices, and there were even more who were beginning to sit up and take notice.

My savior came in the form of my mum, armed with a copy of the Guardian.

It was International Women’s Day and I’d been reading on Twitter -feeling slightly depressed there was still a need for this day, rather than just a celebration, but more importantly at that time, procrastinating from revision.

“There’s a girl in the newspaper, about your age. She’s been using Twitter for feminism. This sounds like your sort of thing”

That was my mum, and the girl was @lilinaz_evans, with the amazing Twitter Youth Feminist Army. Within an hour I was fully immersed in the world of online feminism, from an infrequent, and slightly technology-impaired Twitter user, I jumped into a domain of egalitarianism and openness. A world where it is alright that I’d much rather wear waterproof trousers than shorts.

Now I’m a member of TYFA. I’ve spoken to brilliant feminists from across the world. I’ve read horrifying statistics and personal accounts that remind me, this is not a grey area, this is not something that can be debated against. And it doesn’t matter if no-one reads this blog, or even if its attacked by misogynistic idiots. Because I’ve seen what can be done, and I’ve seen what’s still to be done. So now I’m proud to say, irrelevant of whatever stick I may get from it, that I am a feminist.