First thing’s first: I am a girl. I like boys. I also like girls. Both sexes have their merits and both have their downfalls. Girls, for example, are amazing, but we often have a really annoying habit of over-analysing situations and reading way too far into things. Boys are also amazing, but they sometimes smell worse than they need to. The point is, I like both genders pretty much equally. And that’s what feminism is about: equality.
Seems pretty simple! But unfortunately, being a young feminist in the 21st century can be tricky. It’s impossible to visit the Mail Online without being inundated with pictures of women ‘flashing their pins’, ‘flaunting post-baby weight’ and showing off their ‘taut torso and pert posterior.’ The tragedy is that these are genuine examples I just pulled from the site. And yet, this is the number 1 most visited online news site in the UK, with a demographic most likely to be young women (I haven’t done any research, just guessing.) So how can we remain feminists in a technological, online world? A world in which the Mail Online’s ‘Sidebar of Shame’ tells us that some female celebs are ‘worryingly thin,’ whilst others are ‘piling on the pounds.’ In a world of such hypocrisy, it’s hard to know where we stand.
Of course, I have no definitive answers. Here are just a few examples of dilemmas in which feminism can prevail.
1) Miley Cyrus (role models)
Young Miley’s actions are the subject of much debate. From the infamous twerking against Robin Thicke, to Instagram shots of her smoking a spliff, she’s shocked many the tight-lipped Daily Mail reader (can you tell I don’t like this publication?) From a feminist perspective, she’s a complex figure. On the one hand, Miley’s image is based around wearing very little and giving overtly sexualised performances (often to a young audience.) I would certainly feel uncomfortable if I had a young daughter aiming to emulate her. On the other hand, why shouldn’t she feel comfortable enough to show off her body (which is pretty damn fine.) And who said she wants to be a role model? Having gone through the excruciating years as Hannah Montana, Miley’s clearly trying to shake every last scrap of the Disney image. In this sense, she’s no doubt succeeded. And if she’s showing girls one thing, it’s that she feels confident and sexy in her own body. Having said that, the drug-taking and performances in which she touches herself with a foam finger are not the best influences for her young fans. The only sensible way around this is for parents and women to discourage girls from idolising pop stars. For years, women in the music industry have been encouraged to remove clothing in order to sell records. It works! And it can be incredibly sexy! But it’s definitely not the best thing for girls to aspire to. It would be naive to assume we can control what girls see – the presence of the internet is undefeatable. Trying to prevent them from seeing things will only make them want to see them more. So, instead of banning the idolisation of pop stars, we can counter it. Girls need to learn that the entertainment industry is not reality; the body images projected are not images to aspire towards. Whilst we can learn from Miley’s no-nonsense attitude, Rihanna’s confidence and Beyonce’s all-round sass, we need to show girls strong women who are making a difference through their words and actions (not just their bums and boobies.) Women like Lena Dunham and Caitlin Moran, changing the way we think about feminism through writing and television. Women like Amal Alamuddin and Michele Obama – both equally as impressive as their more-famous husbands. And women in real life, like mothers and grandmothers, making a difference to young girls’ lives through their love and strength. These are the women we should encourage our girls to look up to.
2) Page Three
Another dilemma for feminists, and a dilemma for me. When the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign started, I was fully supportive. It was so refreshing to think that the rich old men in charge of our newspapers may finally be pressurised to stop objectifying women in order to sell copies. And in this aim, Page 3 was successful: sex (specifically, big tits) sells. I’m in no way prudish, but when you oversee someone ogling The Sun’s third page it’s hard not to feel uncomfortable – they may as well go the whole hog and just whip out a porno. And seeing as there’s no male equivalent (where are the shirtless hunks???) Page 3 is down right unfair. However, as the campaign to ban it got under way, I heard a few interviews with Page 3 models on the radio. They were rightly saying that it was their own choice to pursue this career, and they genuinely seemed happy with it. Which got me thinking – why shouldn’t they be happy? The money’s good, and they’re happy with their bodies, so it’s their choice to show them off to the world. Nevertheless, it’s the placing of these girls in a national newspaper that bothers me. Not only are they widely available for children to see, it’s the fact that this normalises such blatant objectification of women in mainstream media. There’s a time and a place for looking at glamour models: it’s not on the bus home from work. And shockingly, until 2003 many of these models were just 16 years old. The Sun is full of pictures of men going about their business and running the country (FULLY CLOTHED) and yet the first real focus on women are those showing their tits. The main issue for me is that women are not represented equally to men. Furthermore, if the next page features a story about rape or sexual violence, it’s hard to take it seriously when the newspaper itself is openly sexualising women.
It’s a shame, because the female body is amazing. Boobs are amazing: they just don’t belong in a family newspaper. Instead, we can appreciate the female form in a more appropriate context. Guys (and girls): instead of buying The Sun for Page 3, pay more attention to your wife / girlfriend! Tell her she’s got amazing boobs!
From the years of puberty, sex is a big part of most people’s lives. But is there a ‘feminist’ way of having sex? I don’t think so! The point of feminism is equality and choice. So if you’re happy, if you want it…do it (as long as the other person does too, obviously.) There’s a common misconception that men want sex more than women: not necessarily true. It’s normal and shouldn’t be frowned upon for women to want it too. And it doesn’t make you a slut for going out and getting it. As long as you’re having sex because you want to, and doing it safely, it’s a wonderful, natural thing to do. (I hope this isn’t too cringey – I’m slightly cringing as I write. Bear with…) Basically, what I’m trying to say is that both men and women are sexual creatures. It’s okay for girls to want sex – it’s natural. Doesn’t make us hoes.
…and that’s all! I’ve been majorly procrastinating by writing this, as I’ve got loooooads of university work to do. Feminism is just something I’m really interested in. I don’t use it as a strict framework or a structure to live by, it just helps me to make better decisions. Obviously I’ve made (and will make) plenty of awful ones too, but that’s what being young is all about.