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About A Student Writes...

18 year-old student at Bristol University.

Being a young feminist in 2015

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!

3) Sex(!!!)

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.

 

(not so) Freshers’ Week!

After years of intense revision; what seemed like hundreds of personal statement redrafts; countless mental breakdowns…Finally, it was time to start university.

Saturday (moving day)

Such a huge build-up to this event led to enormous expectations. I dreamt in my head that leaving home would be an adventure: I would cross the water from my little island and arrive in Bristol to glorious sunshine, with a team of university staff greeting me with smiles, and striking instant friendships with the first people I met.

Of course, this didn’t happen. I left home bleary-eyed and stayed that way for the rest of the day (thanks for booking the 5.45am ferry, Dad.) There was no glorious sunshine: the weather was strange – gloomy, but hot; stuffy and oppressive. Now being a student of English Literature, every detail has significance. THE WEATHER HAD A DEEPER MEANING. Perhaps its unpleasantness signified the difficult reality of leaving safety – leaving everyone and everything I loved at home, to begin again, alone, in a huge new city. Perhaps the humidity and closeness represented the future stress and perils of university life: essays, deadlines, dissertations….
Or perhaps I should leave the pathetic fallacy for lecture theatres and seminars.

I clung onto my parents for as long as I could, but eventually they had to leave. And so, I was alone in a tiny room with a grubby carpet and a decidedly damp smell. Yay, Freshers’! I knew this was the time to start socialising, but all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and listen to Sam Smith. Unfortunately I’d forgotten to bring a duvet, so I made my way to the kitchen. And, lo and behold: people were nice! I’d definitely struck gold with my flatmates. Boringly, they are all really good people. Nobody with any weird habits (that I’ve noticed yet) or annoying quirks. They are nice people.

After a quick sobbing session in bed (once I’d purchased some bedding) and a nourishing bowl of spaghetti hoops, it was time for the first FRESHERS’ NIGHT OUT.
Expectation: Out all night, blazingly drunk, waking up on the floor of a club
Reality: Left club at 1am-ish, picked up by a group of kindly 3rd years*, returned home 4am-ish

*Mum & Dad, if you’re reading, don’t worry – they were good people and they walked me home

Looking back, the first night of Freshers’ Week was not the time to be leaving clubs alone and befriending Third Years (although they were great fun…)

Overall, though ‘Leaving Home’ had been far scarier and much less glorious than I’d hoped, it hadn’t been a disastrous first day.

Sunday

Woken up by church bells. Bleary-eyed, (again) I decided to explore Bristol. SOMEHOW I ended up outside the hugest Primark I’ve ever seen: the place was majestic, illuminated by the morning sunshine. I was overwhelmed and overawed – perhaps that’s why I spent more money than I thought was humanely possible in a place where a pair of pants cost just £1. Triumphantly wielding two bursting brown paper bags, I headed to the next revolutionary bargain shop: Wilkinsons, where I picked up a faux sheepskin rug. Who says university life can’t be luxurious?!

Sunday was an improvement on the sobbing front: much less, and more socialising. Which led to the second FRESHERS’ NIGHT OUT. Much of this is a blur, thanks to my chosen beverage combination of vodka and Becks. Sunday night was fun – I arrived home with my flatmates at 5am.

Monday

WOKEN AT 8.15am BY MAINTENANCE MEN LETTING THEMSELVES INTO MY ROOM AND REPLACING MY SINK. Bearing in mind, I had arrived home just 3 HOURS earlier. Still intoxicated with the lethal vodka and Becks combination, I remained in bed and covered my head with a pillow in an attempt to stifle the deafening banging coming from my bathroom. This was a weird start to the day.

Bleary-eyed once more, (this was becoming regular now) I went to an English Lunch. Once again, people were NICE. On this night, the girls from our flat decided to stay in; I was introduced to the world of Downton Abbey. It was good to see Maggie Smith, but otherwise I don’t really understand the hype….why would there be an exciting house fire if nobody dies?! And how bloody awful is that woman’s American accent?!!!

Rest of the Week

Unfortunately the rest of (not so) Freshers’ Week is a bit of a blur. This is partly due to excessive alcohol consumption, obviously, and partly due to the crazy nature of spending a week in a strange new place with people you’ve only just met.
Some things I do remember:

  • Having a Great British Bake Off night with biscuits and chocolate (Woo! Freshers’!)
  • Waking up one morning and realising I’d completely missed the bucket beside my bed. Bad start to the day.
  • Being woken up at 8.15am AGAIN by house wardens checking the maintenance men had replaced the sink. Once again, too intoxicated to understand anything.
  • Watching Wretch 32 and actually knowing his song lyrics despite not having one Wretch 32 song on my iPod
  • Answering ‘Nature’s Call’…outside…with my female flatmate friends.*

*Sorry again, Mum and Dad. Definitely not my classiest moment.

To summarise 

So…Freshers’ Week. It was definitely a week of emotional highs and lows. Despite the intense excitement of living in an amazing new place with amazing new people, it’s impossible to shake off the intense sadness of leaving behind much-loved friends and family. (And my beautiful bedroom with its clean carpet with no bars on the windows.) I’m still adjusting to student life, and thinking about home still brings serious pangs of melancholy. But I’m determined to keep looking forward, (bleary-eyed) and to focus on the next three years of intoxication, inebriation and insobriety.

Oh, and working really hard for my degree.

Two Weeks On Tinder

Too fat, too bald, too short, too old…

…And so it continues. Welcome to Tinder: the dating app that requires users to swipe left (no, thanks) or right (yes, please.) Though possible ‘matches’ are based on mutual interests, friends and location, the user’s picture is the main focus of the page. As a consequence, judgements are made primarily on appearance. Indeed, one poorly-angled selfie could be all that stands in the way of true love.

According to the app’s website, “Tinder is how people meet. It’s like real life, but better.” Having spent two weeks on Tinder, I can testify that none of these bold claims are true.

For a start, I met nobody from Tinder. That’s not to say I didn’t get offers (I’m not being boastful…men on Tinder all seem really, really keen.) But keen for what..? A companion? A girlfriend? A soul mate? Perhaps. If so, the majority show unusually little interest in their future spouse’s passions and aspirations. Some were, however, interested in seeing pictures of their prospective sweetheart in cheerleader outfits. Requests such as these are why I was not overly enthusiastic about meeting the people behind the screens.

Secondly, Tinder is not like real life. Imagine a world in which we actively avoided people who were not ‘aesthetically-pleasing.’ True, we may ignore the dribbling old man trying to catch our eye in the bus station. But if it was commonplace to avoid every person who couldn’t grace the cover of Vogue, the world would be a much sadder place. Indeed, I would never have spoken to the kind old lady with the hairy upper lip who frequents my bus stop. Nor would I have heard the stories of an amputee I once served at work. In fact, if being really, really, really ridiculously good looking was the route to acceptance, even my charming demeanour and immense wit would not compensate for my less-than-supermodel appearance. So I am thankful that most people, in reality, can look beyond appearance alone. And for those that can’t, it’s a shame there’s no ‘swipe left’ button.

Finally, as you may suspect, Tinder is definitely not better than real life. During my two weeks of judging, swiping and chatting, I never felt a ‘connection’ with anyone. This led me to conclude that finding somebody you like cannot be achieved by a judgement based upon looks and geographical location (the two most significant Tinder criteria.) Sometimes the most successful matches are forged from the most unlikely of pairings. Therefore, I decided to trust my abilities as a living, breathing human being to talk to other living, breathing human beings. It’s sometimes surprising what can be found by looking up from a screen.

To conclude…5 useful things I learnt from a fortnight on Tinder:

1) “What turns you on?” is not the opening sentence to a fruitful relationship.
2) Roughly 78% of men on Tinder claim to be lawyers with a passion for skiing. Statistically, this is improbable.
3) If somebody offers you a trip to the Caribbean, think about what they might want in return. Just as a friendly Zimbabwean banker may offer 5000 ZWD in return for a few little bank details, some things are too good to be true.
4) The ‘Moments’ feature on Tinder (allowing matches to share images with each other) is rarely used to post pictures of puppies.
5) Despite its success stories, Tinder is no match for genuine communication. Especially when every single conversation seems to begin: “Hey ;)”

The First Post

Brief personal profile: I’m eighteen years old and from the Isle of Wight (where I have lived all eighteen years.) However, in four days time I leave home to start reading English at Bristol University. I’m terrified.

The main reason I’ve started blogging is because I like writing. Hopefully I’ll write things people want to read, but at least I’ll have fun if nothing else. I’ll mainly be writing about things that interest or amuse me (this won’t include any ‘OOTD’ posts or videos of cats…I’ll usually be blogging in my pyjamas. And I don’t like cats.)

So, here goes…