If you can have your friend sit in your kitchen
with troubles piled, not knowing what to do
and ease her cares and help her just by listening
and know that she would do the same for you
If you can lend your voice to joy and laughter
and sing and dance to some old blissful song
but keep your wits when facing a disaster
and know when something's right and something's wrong.
If you can keep your head above the water
when everywhere the tides against you rise
If you can weep whenever tears are called for
but know that thought and action there applies
If you can put aside your own ambitions
and find the means, long after he is gone,
to feed and clothe and house your child or children
when you don't have the will to carry on.
If you can trust yourself and your decisions
but of your own mistakes you are aware
If you can walk with pride amidst derision
which seeks to put you down and keep you there
If you have taken blows and cuts and kickings
and struggled to maintain your self esteem
and rose to get out with your meagre pickings
and dared to be so bold as still to dream
If you can do six things in sixty seconds
and fix and build and organise and run
If you can light the torch when justice beckons
and fight until the fight is o'er and won
If you can summon all that you must summon
to pass a day in quiet dignity
Then, the chances are that you're a woman
and more that this no earthly form can be.
by Jean Cross
It is absolutely incongruous to champion TV3's late-night 'chatline' ads as signs of a new, sexually liberated era. By Clara Fischer
Last week, Fine Gael TD Derek Keating called for the banning
of late night adverts, shown on TV3, for what he described as “sexual entertainment services”. There appears to be some dispute about the exact nature of these advertisements, with ComReg purportedly calling the ads “chatline” or “partyline” services, rather than “sexual entertainment services”. Judging by the scantily clad women starring in these particular spots, though, that seems rather odd. Do women always chat and hold parties in their underwear? As a woman, this is news to me.
Keating went on to assert that they serve as a front for organised prostitution. This is a strong claim, and one Keating professes “given the information” he has. The question remains: what is that information, and is his claim true? The Government has dealt with the issue by referring the matter on to ComReg, the regulatory body for electronic communications; and Vincent Browne, whose show has become rather unfortunately embroiled in this debacle, has referred the matter on to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
It is indeed regrettable that ads objectifying women are broadcast during and after a political programme that regularly tackles issues of inequality, including gender inequality, and that includes more women contributors than most. As a keen fan of the show, I’ve felt aggrieved at these ads myself, and have responded to the problem by switching channels. If TV3 believe that the practice of broadcasting objectifying images of women is financially lucrative, I wish to deny this, as it simply encourages politically conscious viewers to not tune in. For other advertisers keen to show off their products during and after a very popular programme, this is also a loss-making strategy, as their adverts will not be viewed once the offending ad has been aired.
Many readers, at this stage, will, like the company in question
, assert that TV3’s ads are “entirely legal and popular”, or that criticism is “of another era”; after all, they’re just a bit of fun – but fun at whose expense? Research clearly shows us that women’s and girls’ exposure to sexually objectifying images entails harsh detrimental consequences in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. Depression, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and impaired cognitive ability result from the constant sexualisation women and girls now experience as a matter of course.
One study in a wider research report
on girls’ sexualisation by the American Psychological Association vividly illustrated this point. Young women were asked to complete a mathematical test wearing either a swimsuit or a jumper. When asked to wear the swimsuit, women’s ability to complete the test was significantly impaired, while for the male test subjects no differences were found. The APA concluded
that “thinking about the body and comparing it to sexualized cultural ideals disrupted mental capacity”, while “sexualization and objectification undermine confidence in and comfort with one’s own body”. Notably, such discomfort and its resultant outgrowths in terms of negative body image, feelings of inadequacy, and so forth, manifest themselves in girls “as well as in adult women”.
Given the evidence for the harmful effects of objectifying images, why should we still be subjected to them? Surely the State, the broadcaster, and the regulator have a responsibility to protect, or at least not to damage, the wellbeing of consumers of media. And yet, the ads were still being shown only last Tuesday evening shortly after 12 o’clock when this writer happened to turn on TV3.Would we be as tolerant of racist advertising being broadcast, and if not, then why are we so tolerant of sexist and objectifying advertising? The answer might lie in the common conflation of such ads with a kind of progressive, open-minded liberalism, which hides the financial drive to commodify women’s bodies behind high-handed claims to sexual freedom. As the lawyers for the company in question assert, criticisms of their adverts are from a bygone era, a relic of Ireland’s history of sexual repression.
While I am certain that few people want to return to an age where sexual mores were dictated by the Catholic Church, it is absolutely incongruous to champion such objectifying ads as signs of a new, sexually liberated era. Besides the fact that they are aired to make certain people a lot of money, they are expressive of a reductive interpretation of sexuality.
Rather than being progressive, such ads are regressive, as they limit more complex, joyful, desirous, pleasurable expressions of sexuality, while entrenching all of the negative effects women and girls experience as a result of objectification. Monolithic, reductive models of sexuality that are peddled for profit, and that are ultimately harmful to women and girls, are hardly the type of models the new, post-Catholic Consensus Ireland should aspire to and foster.
If the State truly has its citizens’ best interests at heart, then it must now take further steps with regard to these particular ads, and also with regard to any future advertising. We need a robust framework of regulation that views gender equality not as a side issue, to be addressed only when people complain, but as a central and desirable feature of our society.
Dr. Clara Fischer
Co-ordinator, Irish Feminist NetworkImage top: From That swimsuit becomes you: Sex differences in self-objectification, restrained eating, and math performance (Fredrickson et. al, 1998).Cross-posted from politico.ie, TUESDAY, 15 MAY 2012http://politico.ie/social-issues/8557-objectifying-ads-a-sign-of-a-regressive-ireland-.html
Cross-posted from Ms Spats's Sartorial Dispatches, 24th April 2012
Ms Spats has been preoccupied with her weight since she was eleven years of age, and estimates that she thinks about food and the width of her hips at least ten times a day. If you allow for at least 60 seconds per thought that means that she has effectively wasted 73,000 minutes of her life which works out at about 50.69 days, or at least a month and a half .
These are some of the diets that Ms Spats has been on, and the effects of same: The cabbage diet (,unattractively fragrant) the cigarette and diet coke diet (surprisingly giddy), the wine and chocolate diet (very good fun, at least in the short term), the bread and water diet (she fantasised she was in the female version of The Count of Monte Cristo), the no carb diet (bad breath making), the calorie counting diet (excellent for increasing numeracy skills), the pining diet (headwrecking), the pizza diet (calories consumed at one sitting, at the end of the day - nauseating ), the caffeine pill diet (palpitations), the raw food diet (very expensive) , the fruit diet (gassy), the liquid diet (either fruit juice, slimfast or water sugar and lemon), the body confounding diet-(where you over consume one day, underconsume the next, in an attempt to trick the body into continuing to lose weight); The South Beach Diet ( Atkins less cholesterol with a garnish of fruit) and plain old starvation.
And throughout it all, she fantasised about eating, constantly.
Food Porn is part and parcel of dieting. At the height of her weight obsession, Ms Spats would fantasise about chicken burgers: the soft floury bun, the creamy lashings of mayonnaise, the crunchiness of the breadcrumbs and the tenderness of chicken. She would imagine her lips moist with oil, and the sesame seeds catching in her teeth. She pictured the food sliding down the gullet, masticated, in a thick glutinous glob of calorific goo. And Ms Spats, naturally, dislikes fatty foods. She never had junk food growing up. She is programmed to like vegetables. But still the allure of bad and the forbidden beckoned her. The purity of her abstention beatified her, and when she inevitably binged, it would cripple her : Sin, guilt and redemption. The basis of religion is encapsulated in a chicken burger. Who knew?
And where has this left her ? Hungry and unsure of what a normal approach to food is like. It has taken a good fifteen years for Ms Spats to recognise that her body needs food to survive, that food is not the enemy, a dangerous substance that conspires to keep her fat, but rather that which keeps her alive and feeling good.
Ms Spats has never been overweight, ever. She has no idea in fact, of what her natural body shape is. Throughout years of self imposed starvation and the inevitable bingeing stage that follows, she has fluctuated between a UK size 8 and 14. At 6 foot tall, the upper size is more to her body type, but should she ever get that 'heavy' again she would struggle to leave the house. Her perception of her body has the power to dictate her day. She wakes up feeling fat, and the day can be a write off - she wakes up thin and the world is wonderful place. And in other respects she is quite normal. To meet her on the street you would not think that she is any way deranged. But clearly she is. She has spent years disliking her body when there was no need to. She is delusional. Cracked. A basket case.
Ironically, the time that Ms Spats has spent being consumed about her body is the amount of time that it takes - according to women's magazines - to transform the body. Six weeks is when an exercise programme is due to show results, when the muscles become toned and the body leaner. Perhaps more pertinently, behavioural psychologists tell us that this is the amount of time it takes us to form a new habit. And on a more esoteric, spiritual basis, it is also the length of time for religious period of Lent and the concept of metanoia,
or the transformation of the self. The time in fact, it takes to wrestle with our demons.
If Ms Spats had taken that time to revolutionise her thinking process rather than castigating herself, who knows where she would be today. Out of the house more, possibly. But she is formed and informed by today's culture. From a very young age females are taught that they have to conform to a certain type. Little girls grow up in the paradigm of pink. They are showered with stories about Princesses and Fairies-- the Feminine Archetype of the Good. They are encouraged to play with dolls, to nurture, to please and be pleasing. And when they grow up this must translate to being sexually attractive. While no woman ever wants her own daughter to carry this nonsensical idea through, society is raining it down on us from every possible angle. The phenomenon of Jordan is a case in point. She represents this crazy view, disconcertingly, in both the infant and mature form. She is a lad mag favourite (woman as sexual) and also the author of a story book franchise involving ponies and all things pink (woman as infant). Young girls cite her as a role model, which means that they are identifying (unconsciously) with the sexual element as good. And this means the body, and the fetishization of same.
And so pinkness translates to thinness. A recent survey by the Australian teen magazineGirlfriend
showed that 96% of those surveyed wanted to change their bodies in some way (the majority their stomachs), 76% believed that losing weight would help their self esteem, 45% have been on a diet, 56% have skipped meals, and almost 20% have thrown up after meals. And these are adolescents who have been brought up in an enlightened age. We know more now about the human body and the benefits of nutrition than at any time before, yet our relationship with food is getting ever worse. Reported incidences of eating disorders are on the rise. With the rise of the size zero, it is getting increasingly difficult to identify a woman suffering from an eating disorder. Is she starving or merely awe-inspiringly disciplined? The pressure is everywhere -Brides are resorting to feeding tubes in an attempt to look their best for the big day, the dieting industry is thriving on the premise that the majority of dieters will fail while women attempt to get back their pre-baby body in six weeks, or increasingly, to the pre-baby body they never had. Extremely thin women are celebrated as being incredibly successful, and celebrated women are extremely thin - you only have to look to women's magazine and the pro-Ana websites to verify this : Victoria Beckham, Teri Hatcher (actually 75% of the cast of Desperate Housewives) or Keira Knightley, to name a few. Even women who are celebrated for their 'curvaceous' bodies are subjected to unending pressure: A furore broke recently over leaked photos which showed that Jessica Alba's slim body had been digitally altered for an advertising campaign to look even thinner. The ideal has to be idealised further.
But what solutions are there? The oft touted backlash has yet to materialise, at least not in any popular form. It could be that what is required is a radical form of re-education. While Ms Spats would respect the freedom of the media, she would suggest that with this freedom comes responsibility. Ostensibly the media is about transmitting public opinion, but more and more it comes to shape it. It would be nice if this was used to the good. But, fundamentally, it comes down to women themselves, making the conscious decision to reject the pressures placed by advertising and the media. After all, as consumer, we can and should dictate how these operate. Although it will take a lot longer than six weeks to effect a metanoia in this instance. But at least we can begin.
Originally posted at: http://msspatsdispatches.blogspot.com/2012/04/i-could-have-been-rocket-scientist.html
We owe it to both young women and men to change media messages which repeatedly reinforce harmful norms of masculinity and femininity. By Clara Fischer
With the drama of the Oscars over for another year, it might be time for reflection on the messages the film industry, and particularly Hollywood, is conveying on a near-global scale. Messages in film? But surely the entertainment industry is simply about that: entertainment? Not so: research shows that what might seem like light-hearted comedy or action-packed drama
, is in fact increasingly gendered
– that is, it portrays women and men in pointedly stereotypical ways. Worryingly, this phenomenon is having extremely negative effects on women and girls. A recent report by the American Psychological Association
cited impaired cognitive ability, depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders as consequences of the sexualisation of women and ever-younger girls through the media.
While films constitute only one particular aspect of the onslaught of objectifying and sexualised images within the larger 24 hour media cycle, they give us a particular insight into the cartoonish nature women are assumed to hold, but also to accept as audience members. Women usually star as the love interest, the princess to be rescued, or as the general supporter of the male protagonist, lurking somewhere in the background as a Side-Show Berta. Alternatively, as we know from such movies as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, women are hyper-sexualised and dangerously assertive. This latter variation on the theme should not be confused with a kind of liberated and independent agency, but rather constitutes another example of the reductive and objectifying view described in the literature as the ‘male gaze.’ Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, as they say, but who is the beholder?Certainly the filmmakers, producers, and studio bosses are overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly white and upper/middle class. Is it any wonder, then, that their experiences and stories are told, while women’s fall to the wayside? Even when
women’s stories are told, though, they usually come in chick-flick form, which means they revolve around getting, keeping, or regaining a man – hardly a faithful depiction of the very complex lives we lead, yes, as partners, as mothers, as lovers, but also as workers, as leaders, as teachers, as writers, as politicians, and the myriad of other roles we may adopt in our daily lives.
A simple way of highlighting the lack of meaningful portrayal of women in movies is the Bechdel test
, developed by Alison Bechdel in her comic strip, The Rule.
According to the test, a film has to fulfil three criteria to pass: 1) the film has to have at least two women in it 2) these two women have to talk to each other 3) they have to talk to each other about something other than a man. This minimum of women’s relatively substantive inclusion in film is rarely achieved. Indeed, the majority of our most cherished movies fail to fulfil the principles of the Bechdel test. That is not to say that these movies can’t be good or inspiring pieces of cinema, but rather that the clear absence of women in film is a systemic problem. It is the sheer scale of women’s omission from movies, which makes the test so powerful and damning.
As noted, on those rare occasions where women do star in more sustained roles, perhaps even as the protagonist, those roles are increasingly stereotyped. Not only is this trend particularly damaging for younger female viewers, who adopt self-objectifying attitudes and behaviours, but it feeds into a larger raunch culture which ultimately disempowers women by promoting women’s sexual availability or physical appearance as the sole measure of our worth. The financial return for such a culture is of course handsome: the peddlers of beauty and slimming products, of unnecessary surgical procedures, and of dietary programmes and fads are indeed rewarded by the heightened anxiety women feel about their bodies, and ultimately, themselves.
And yet, there appears to be a weakness in this profit-driven model of women’s objectification: women might actually opt out. In a recent interview, Meryl Streep made this point by noting that the clichéd depictions of women in film might actually drive women away, thus leaving the profiteers minus a fairly large demographic. Films such as MissRepresentation
, which highlight the complex and often negative role the media plays with regard to women’s portrayal, have also met with a level of enthusiasm which clearly indicates a groundswell against the stereotyped images women are bombarded with on a continuous basis. It seems that the mainstream movie industry has confused the beholders of beauty, their female viewers, with the reductive cartoon characters they assume them to be, instead of recognising them as the critical, thinking human beings they really are.
While opting out and critically engaging with the media is a viable option for media-literate adult audiences, it is less so for those who are still developing a sense of themselves. We owe it to these young women and men – for gender-stereotyping similarly skews boys’ attitudes and identities – to change the media messages, which repeatedly reinforce harmful norms of masculinity and femininity. One way of doing this is by simply taking our purchasing power elsewhere, by withdrawing economic support from the culture of objectification. If we believe Simone de Beauvoir’s famous dictum that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”, we seriously have to question what kind of women, and men, our society is fostering.Dr. Clara Fischer IFN Co-ordinatorCross-posted from Politico.ie, THURSDAY, 05 APRIL 2012 14:01 CLARA FISCHER
Cross-posted from The Irish Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2012
OPINION: The exclusion of women from current affairs threatens democracy, writes CLARA FISCHER
LISTENING TO any of the Republic’s major current affairs radio programmes, one could be forgiven for thinking that women, by and large, are not interested in the news or have nothing interesting to say on the serious topics of our turbulent political times – nothing, at least, that cannot be said better by a man.
Male voices dominate the airwaves, be it as presenters or commentators, a fact many of us suspected but didn’t have proof of until now. The National Women’s Council recently published its submission to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It set out its recommendations in a consultation document for the “draft code on fairness, impartiality and accountability in news and current affairs”.
This contained research showing that women’s voices accounted for fewer than a quarter of all panellists, presenters and newsreaders in current affairs radio shows aired by the main stations of the State.
The phenomenon of the extensive exclusion of women in the media is not limited, though, to the airwaves. Print media and television programmes regularly reinforce the impression that women are, or should, be non- contributors and that the hard business of politics and current affairs is better left to our male counterparts.
While this regrettable state of affairs is undoubtedly informed by sexist norms of femininity and masculinity (how many times have we seen the token woman invited on to a panel as the “soft” voice on traditionally “feminine” topics?), it also reflects the reality that the majority of top media jobs are held by men.
That is not to say that male editors deliberately exclude women or that only women placed in top posts can empower other women, but rather to assert that women can bring with them different perspectives that are easily marginalised in male-dominated systems.
In the formal political sphere, we have admitted as much by introducing legislation mandating for a minimum of women candidates in general elections. Should we follow suit in the media?
This very question has sparked considerable debate in Germany, where a group of high-profile women journalists have sent an open letter to the editors and publishers of the country’s main media outlets. The ProQuote campaign cited the fact that only 2 per cent of all newspaper editors-in-chief are women, while just three of the 12 public broadcasting directors of Germany are women.
The letter called for the introduction of a 30 per cent quota in all top editor positions, to be achieved over the next five years – a measure already instituted by the financial paper, Das Handelsblatt. Since its inception in February, the campaign has gained significant traction and a sizeable number of men have joined the ranks.
Whether such a proposal would meet with similar support here may be questioned. However, the dire need for a redressing of the even more extreme gender imbalance prevalent in the Irish media is indisputable.
The reasons for this are manifold: women’s exclusion, particularly from current affairs programming, results in a skewed debate, where only men’s life experiences come to bear upon the issues in question.
Additionally, the overwhelming presence of men as contributors and presenters, but also as editors and publishers, is agenda-setting. The very issues discussed reflect men’s priorities.
The lack of women’s voices in the media render women, more generally, invisible in our societies, which further feeds into exclusion in virtually all top-tier positions – be it in politics, business or the Civil Service.
The omission of women from serious debate also has a negative impact upon younger women and girls, who are implicitly told that politics and affairs of the State are not properly their concern.
Most importantly though, denying women the chance to partake in public debate undermines our right, as members of this society, to influence political discourse, and thereby to influence political decision-making.
If recent history has taught us anything, surely it is that the capacity to influence political decision-making should not be concentrated in the hands of those few who are unrepresentative of the wider populace and who have always had greater arsenals of power.
Indeed, women’s exclusion from political debate in the media is mirrored by our relative incapacity to influence political decision-making more generally.
Is it conceivable that the now infamous golf game Brian Cowen shared with Seán FitzPatrick could just as easily have been shared with a woman?
Access to political power has always been limited for women, be it via the traditionally male- exclusive golf course or the exclusionary culture of party politics. If our democracy is to benefit from the “fairness, impartiality and accountability” sought by the BAI, it is time to reform the political decision-making structures of Ireland, including the media.
Clara Fischer is a co-ordinator of the Irish Feminist Network and holds a PhD in feminist and political theory.
Usually, when feminists talk about Twilight it’s not in a good way. But is there a favourable comparison between these films and modern Ireland?
***SPOILER ALERT*** In the latest instalment of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn: Part 1, Bella and Edward marry and go on honeymoon. Despite Jacob’s confidence that it won’t be a “real honeymoon”, they do have sex and Bella becomes pregnant. Unfortunately, the foetus is half human/half vampire, an unprecedented conception that nobody quite knows what to make of. Enter the superstitious Brazilian woman who feels Bella’s stomach and predicts ‘morte’, death. The foetus constitutes ‘a risk to the life of the pregnant woman’, making Bella a woman to whom the X case legislation (for which we are currently campaigning in Ireland) would apply.
Never mind, ‘Carlisle will get that thing out’, says Edward. He takes charge, accelerating their journey back to his doctor father. Meanwhile, Bella is soliciting support for the decision she has already made independently. Their family are shocked and appalled by her refusal to have an abortion. Rosalie, her new sister-in-law, is the only one to stand by Bella. Having long craved a child, we assume she is sympathetic to Bella’s feelings. Or is she hoping Bella will die, leaving her the baby? There’s no love lost between them after all.
As for the abortion debate, there isn’t much of it. Of course, the foetus isn’t necessarily human, but nevertheless, in the worst case scenario it would be 100% vampire. Then, it would presumably become part of Carlisle’s vegetarian vampire family. These vampires are seen to have a right to life equal to humans’ in the Twilight series. The abortion question in Breaking Dawn: part 1 is definitely understated, especially considering the film is based on a book written by a devout Mormon in a country with one of the most vocal and militant “pro-life” lobbies in the world.
While Twilight’s only hint of an abortion debate is disagreement over terminology, ‘baby’, ‘foetus’ or ‘thing’, the real conflict is between Bella and others who believe they know what’s best for her. Rosalie is supportive even if it’s for the wrong reasons, but everyone else continually tries to manipulate Bella into having an abortion. They ignore both her intuition, ‘everything’s going to be ok’ and her affirmation, ‘it’s not [Carlisle’s] decision, it’s not any of yours’.
The forces seeking to make the pregnant woman’s decision for her can be seen as patriarchal, from the over-protective husband Edward to the medically informed head of household, Carlisle. Does any of this sound familiar?
Of course, Bella’s situation is the opposite of that which Irish women seeking life-saving abortions find themselves in. Much as these women would like to receive life-saving medical treatment, patriarchal forces deny them this right. 20 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the X case, governments led by 4 successive male Irish Taoisigh have failed to implement the legislation that would give Irish women the choice.
Bella’s physical deterioration throughout Breaking Dawn: part 1 is heart-breaking. She becomes taut and bone-thin, constantly winces and struggles to move around. She is dying. While Bella’s nearest and dearest are appalled that she won’t have an abortion, viewers support her because they instinctively feel that it’s her decision. She has the right to choose to die. Meanwhile, we are appalled that real Irish women in Bella’s situation have no choice but to die.
Thus, we reach the crux of the current Action on X campaign: women must be empowered to make their own choices. This does not mean, and this should be a comfort to anti-abortionists, that if your pregnancy is a danger to your life you have to have an abortion. In fact, as a feminist, I am as appalled by that idea as I am by the current lack of access to that option. It means rather that Action on X is fighting for your right to make your own choices regarding your own body. This is where the term ‘pro-choice’ comes from. As a move consistent with supporting Bella’s right to die in the process of child-bearing, we must support Irish women’s right to choose life. We must legislate for the X case as soon as possible.
To join the campaign for life-saving abortion in Ireland, check out the Action on X Facebook page: www.facebook.com/actiononx2012
Having lived in Ireland for over a year now, I should know better than to let anything Kevin Myers writes get to me. Yet I felt the need to speak out about Myers’ piece in Friday’s Irish Independent (‘What is Going On Amongst the Female Sex that so Many of its Members are Prepared to Undergo Cosmetic Surgery?
’). In it, Myers uses scant anecdotal evidence to paint all women as looks-driven, celebrity-obsessed bimbos who take pleasure in mutilating our bodies to look beautiful.
There are several points that are grossly misinterpreted here. First of all, Myers attributes the behaviours of a handful of women to the entire female gender. He also takes the huge leap of equating highlighted hair and bikini waxes with excessive cosmetic surgery (dubbing the face-lift obsessed socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein a female role model made me spit out my coffee). Most egregiously though, Myers blames this pressure to look perennially youthful, slim, and sexually available squarely on ‘the feminist movement’.
While I wholeheartedly agree that the pressure on women to look perfect has resulted in distressing attitudes and behaviours, Myers’ charge that this was prompted by feminism is laughable. Women wouldn’t be getting boob jobs if society didn’t make us feel inadequate in the bodies we’re born with. The truth is that practically from birth, we are exposed to television, print, and Internet images that demonstrate how women should look, act, and dress. The media conglomerates that control this information are out to sell products, which they do by pigeonholing both genders, glorifying celebrities, and sowing self-doubt with the help of heavily Photoshopped images. Through all this exposure we are taught that a woman’s appearance is inseparable from her worth as a human being, regardless of what other accomplishments she has achieved. Those who don’t conform to the 21st century standard of female beauty (which is itself increasingly influenced by the mainstream porn industry) are made to feel worthless. Maybe the reason women like Brooke Shields and Melanie Griffth appear ‘so botoxed and collagened that they resembled the sewn-on faces of blow-up sex-dolls’ is because society’s attitude toward women over 40 is so derisive. Not so for Hollywood’s leading men.
The media fuels the fire by publishing re-touched photos and turning comments on a woman’s cellulite into ‘news’. Indeed one of Myers’ prime targets is the women’s magazine industry which is admittedly a primary arbiter of such content. But as someone who spent two years working at a pretty prominent fashion magazine, I can tell you that just because a woman is writing an article or editing a section doesn’t mean that she’s ultimately making the decisions on content. In my case that was left to my direct bosses, two men, whose own orders came from the CEO of the publishing company, a 60-something white male who let us all know in no uncertain terms what the magazine’s ‘message’ was to be. Any deviation would risk alienating advertisers and losing revenue. Therefore, Myers’ assertion that fashion magazines are ‘produced entirely by women’, and therefore we are the ones perpetuating beauty myths and eating disorders is false.
However, I’m determined to look on the bright side and be grateful that these issues are being discussed publicly; because identifying the problem is the only way we’re ever going to solve it. Happily, women’s representation in the media happens to be the very topic of the film ‘Miss Representation’, which the IFN is screening on February 22nd and March 11th. ‘Miss Representation’ articulates how media conglomerates, with the ultimate goal of making money, decide how women are represented in contemporary society. They get away with it by telling audiences that they are only providing what the public demands, thereby both guilting viewers into thinking that they are to blame, and creating the illusion that what they are seeing on TV is a reflection of reality.
It’s hard for women to win these days. If we don’t conform to society’s ideas about how we should present ourselves, we are overlooked and under-valued. The ones that do play the game are called bimbos. Try to look good and be successful at the same time and we’re accused of trying to have it all and then whining about it. Maybe, instead of pointing fingers like Kevin Myers we should concentrate on fixing the underlying problem. After all, at the heart of it, don’t we both agree that plastic surgery, eating disorders, and society’s obsession with dubious celebrity role models are a problem? Let’s change that then. As journalists, we can start by no longer picking women apart for their choices of clothing, hairstyles, and reading material, and stick to covering some actual news.
On March 11th the IFN will screen 'Miss Representation' (site article here
and FB event here
), which is a documentary specifically regarding the impact media has on society and women.
1 in 5 women
over the age of 18 experience physical, emotional and sexual abuse in Ireland and in a national survey on domestic abuse, almost 60%
of people who had experienced severe abuse in intimate relationships experienced the abuse for the first time under the age of 25.
Women’s Aid recently launched the second year of a national public awareness campaign highlighting dating violence. There is a myth in society that abuse only occurs in older and more established relationships. But we hear on our National Freephone Helpline that this is not the case.
In many 'going out' or 'dating' relationships, abuse is already a feature but is often not recognised as such by the young woman herself, or her friends.
campaign highlights unhealthy and abusive behaviours in a Relationship Health Check Quiz at www.2in2u.ie
, in the hope that young women, if informed, might get help before the relationship becomes more established, and it has become harder to leave or get support.
It also encourages young women to listen to their instincts with its strap line - 'If it feels wrong, it probably is.' The campaign is supported by Charlene McKenna, Irish actress and star of RTE Drama ‘Raw’.
The 2in2u campaign highlights the way the controlling boyfriend's attention can often be overwhelming at the early stages of the relationship, and encapsulates how it feels to be a young woman experiencing abuse. Again and again, we hear from women living with domestic violence that the signs that her partner was possessive and controlling were from the start. But to her and those around her, it appeared like he was just so into her.
The 2in2u campaign is a four week long radio, online, digital and poster advertising campaign targeting young women aged 18-25 years old. To listen to the Radio ad and for more information visit www.womensaid.ie/campaigns
. You can also request posters to be sent out to you from email@example.com
. Are you affected by dating abuse?
Dating abuse can happen to any woman at anytime and it means that your boyfriend does already/may try to:
- control what you wear and who you see
- isolate you from family and friends
- bombard you with texts, check all of your text messages, email or social networking accounts to keep tabs on you
- physically attack you including hitting, punching, spitting and throwing you against walls
- threaten to kill you or himself
- rape you or force you to do sexual things against your will
You may feel like you are 'walking on eggshells' and living in fear of his moods and temper. Dating abuse is wrong and no one deserves to be threatened, beaten or be in fear for their lives.How Women’s Aid can help
If you are anxious or worried about your relationship visit www.2in2u.ie
, for a relationship health check and contact the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900 to talk to someone in confidence, who can help you make sense of your situation.
This piece originally appeared on New Left Project as part on an international collaboration for May Day 2011.
You could be forgiven for thinking it was an elaborate April Fools' Day prank when British universities minister David Willetts announced earlier this month that feminism was to blame for the struggles of working-class men. During a briefing on the government's social mobility strategy, Willetts told journalists feminism had 'trumped egalitarianism
' over the past 40 years. Key feminist victories, such as the movement of women from the home into universities and workplaces, had been won at the expense of working-class men, he said.
Willetts demonstrates a spectacular misunderstanding of some major progress made in the 20th century. The feminist movement put us firmly on the road to a more equal society. More than that – feminists laid the paving stones and, as Duncan Robinson puts it
, feminism did not trump egalitarianism, feminism is egalitarianism.
Willetts' type of remark is not unique. Only days ago, a row erupted between the British Labour Party and the Tories when David Cameron told Labour MP Angela Eagle to 'calm down, dear
' during PMQs in the House of Commons. The comment was denounced as 'sexist, patronising and insulting' by the Labour Party.
Interestingly, these slights from members of the Conservative Party come at a time when nearly £6 billion
of the £8bn net revenue to be raised through cuts by 2014-2015 will come from women.
Willets's and Cameron's statements are symptomatic of a deeply damaging discourse that has gained more and more momentum as the global recession progresses. It has manifested itself in different ways across Europe and it is part and parcel of the neoliberal assault on women that European governments are unleashing in a cynical and misguided effort to resolve the crisis.
To be clear, this is not to say that men have been spared in the recession – expenditure cuts and tax increases have badly affected both sexes (albeit in different proportions), and the first area to be hit by mass unemployment was the male-dominated construction sector. As the recession progresses, however, traditionally female-dominated sectors such as retail and hospitality are likely to see further job losses.Read more >>>>>>>>>