Sunday, 5 August 2012

Outdated victim blaming - will the police ever learn?

Worcester police force last month distributed hundreds of these posters around towns in the West Midlands. The posters tell women they can prevent rape or "regretful sex" by not drinking or wearing a dress. The woman in the photo seems to be both drunk and wearing a dress, so she was really asking for it.

Thankfully, due to anti-rape campaigners, the police have issued an 'apology' but why did the police force, in 2012, approve this campaign in the first place. Our attitudes are still not close to blaming who should be blamed.

Another thing that pisses me off about this poster is that the phrase rape and "regretful sex" are used together - which is a really dangerous thing to do. Are they suggesting that when women say that they are raped that it could just be "regret" (they lied because they changed their mind when they woke up and are lying bitches and whores.) Or - are they saying that regretting consensual sex is rape? This message is wholly confusing. These two terms should not be used together; people already accuse victims of lying or exaggerating enough without this bollocks poster advertising a load of bollocks beliefs.

The second thing that stands out to me is the phrase "get home safely." Women are constantly taught to live in fear of what might happen to them when they're out in public - especially at night time while wearing skirts or dresses or when they're drunk. But women get sexually assaulted all the time in day light, when they're fully dressed and completely sober. We rarely teach them the truth - that the most dangerous place for them to be is at home. This hypothetical lady lying there on the floor probably would have been safer going out than staying at home. So when she listens to things like this and stays at home, she's confused and doesn't know what to call it when someone beats her up in her house. Or rapes her. She followed all the rules, she didn't get drunk or dress like a 'slut' but she is still blamed anyway. Because victims are always blamed no matter what they do or how they are raped.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

L'Oreal bot reaches new height of stupidity

I wrote about L'Oreal's animal testing procedures a while ago. It wasn't the testing I was shocked about though, it was L'Oreal's blatant ploy to purposefully deceive it's customers into believing that they don't test on animals. When curious Facebook fans ask about their testing policies, L'Oreal Paris UK assert that they "do not test our finished products" on animals and haven't done for some time - how noble of them. What they don't tell you about this cleverly worded reply however is that they continue to test the ingredients that go into said finished products, on, you guessed it - animals. Their copy-pasted stock responses seem to be enough to fool the majority of their Facebook fans, until one lady cottoned onto their stock-response pasting routine.
They pasted the anticipated response anyway. Proving that "L'Oreal" don't even read their customers queries on animal testing but simply fob them off with deceiving copy-pasted nonsense. Oh and L'Oreal are the worlds most profitable cosmetics company, smaller companies like The Co-Op and Superdrug manage to create their own BUAV approved home brand products, so L'Oreal sure as hell can afford to follow suit.

Facebook sexism double-standard continues.

The Wipeout Sexism group on Facebook have just updated their list of pro-rape and pro-violence Facebook pages. I'm not surprised to find that the list is still long after an arduous campaign in which Facebook responded simply by implementing a 'humour' tag and ignoring their hypocrisy. This tag excuses groups whose sole aim is to mock women, violence and rape under the ancient guise of "I'm just joking". Hey, comedians, you know who else finds rape jokes funny? rapists do.
Still no sexism option, because it doesn't exist/ doesn't matter. In a world where we are increasingly taking the serious problem of internet racism seriously, we are not taking the serious problem of internet or real life sexism seriously. It's just not seen as a serious issue, unlike racist hate speech, it is legal and acceptable to exert sexist hate speech and encourage large groups to laugh about drugging and raping women ... because women have equality now? because rape isn't a real problem in our society? Wrong. I hear the word 'rape' being thrown around in a similar way as the word 'gay' used to be thrown around. The latest experience of mine was hearing a young man comparing being charged an extra 50 pence for a drink with being raped - if only, I thought, if only that were like being raped.

 So, what is it? why do most people realise racism isn't okay in the form of a "joke" but sexism is perfectly fine? Is it because for many of us, racism is a distanced issue but admitting to sexism would mean admitting we've been discriminating against 50% of the people we know? I know most men and women see this as a personal attack on their morals and therefore immediately defend their sexist behaviour. I don't think that rape joke makers are bad people, they're just naive and often stubborn. What's wrong with listening to another point of view and admitting that maybe you were wrong?

 I went to see Germaine Greer give a talk last month. While she didn't talk about this topic, she said "we need to think of ways of playfully taking revenge...and then say, 'Only joking!'" I'd probably take out the "playfully" in this situation.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The fight against Spousal rape

Four years ago, Crystal Pretzer Harris was repeatedly assaulted and raped at home by her own husband while her two young children were in the house. Although her husband has now been convicted and is serving jail time for his horrendous crimes, Crystal illustrates that it is extremely difficult for victims of rape to receive the justice they deserve. She is currently continuing to fight against the law and court system which has ordered her to pay the legal fees and spousal support to the man who abused and raped her.

While she was trapped in the abusive relationship, Crystal was afraid of what her husband would do if she tried to leave him. She realised that a restraining order would not provide enough protection from her husband who was violent and proclaiming frequent death threats. She considered buying a gun but there was a 20 day waiting period in the state of Califorina, where she lives. As a result, she opted for buying a tape recorder to collect evidence of her husband’s threats. Instead of receiving the death threats as she expected, that day Crystal recorded her husband raping her. “I knew for sure that I would need that tape if I wanted to have evidence in a criminal courtroom”, she explains. “The exact thought going through my head as it was happening was, ‘a horrific crime is happening to me; how can I make sure to document that it is happening to me?’” Crystal’s quick thinking during the attack is what she believes lead to her husband’s conviction. Even with her husband’s violent background, without the tape recorder being at hand and her bravery in using it, she states that her husband would never have been prosecuted. Crystal describes that her husband was only convicted for one of the three criminal charges brought against him; “it shows how hard it is to convict in marital rape cases. I had a frickin tape of his crime, two of them on tape, and the jury convicted him on only one charge. That should show you how difficult it is.”

Although Crystal lives in America, there are low conviction rates for rape all around the world. In the UK, government reports estimate that only 20% of victims report their rape and of those, only 6% are ever convicted. Crystal may owe her life to that tape recording, but for millions of others who were not able to record their assault, they are extremely unlikely to receive the justice they deserve. Victims in the UK are told it has to be demonstrated beforehand that they’ll receive a ‘guilty’ verdict before they’re even given a chance at trial. Strong evidence such as a signed confession and some forensic evidence have been considered “not enough evidence” to proceed to court.

Crystal illustrates the on-going victimisation she feels at the hands of the law; “A Judge ordered me to pay my husband's family court attorney fees of $47,000 as well as $1000 a month in spousal support while we awaited trial. Once he is released, if the law doesn't change, I will be subject to paying the spousal support again.” Currently she is fighting against this and has just passed the first hurdle in changing the law. “I think the law has perhaps not taken marital rape seriously enough in the past. But I believe attitudes are changing about it. I do not want any other woman, or man, to suffer the way I have had to.”

Thank you Crystal for the interview and for continuing the fight.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Why telling women to smile is sexist.

I'm not a happy smiley-smiley person, I'm just not. You're more likely to find me deep in thought and frowning because that seems to be the natural way my face decides to rest. So maybe I've been affected by this much more than other women but quite often I'll just be walking along, or standing along - in a public place and a complete stranger will whiz past and instruct me to "give us a smile" or simply "smile!". This happens only when I'm alone, the stranger is always male and he usually finishes off his demand with a "love". The most annoying part is that there's never enough time to roll out a satisfying comeback.

The obvious problem is that the shitty smile stranger knows nothing about you or what might have just happened to you. Secondly, being strangers their intentions can never be genuine worry about your unhappiness. Thirdly, since when has demanding an unhappy person to smile ever made them suddenly stop being unhappy? So I must question - why? and why do men, specifically, feel they have the right to tell women to smile. Why do they expect women to do what they want them to, just because they said so. The smile benefits them, they can see it not us. It's not for our benefit - so it must be for theirs.

I interviewed a young woman recently about female beauty standards. She seemed to me like quite a happy person, maybe even one of those 'smiley-smiley' people yet I learned that she too was fed up of people, predominantly men, demanding her to flash them a smile. It's not just me then, with my perma-frowned face. Maybe part of it is related to our age; the false perception that young people should be thoroughly enjoying and sucking the nourishment out of every second of their day because being young is so much fun and nothing can ever go wrong for us. I got fired from a job two years ago for not being "bubbly and out there enough", I was told I was "young and attractive and have everything going for you" as if my age and gender placed this expectation on me to act "bubbly" every second of the day.

So maybe it's the age thing. I think mostly though it's because we're women and we're expected to look pretty and happy and there for other people to look at to use for their own visual pleasure. Not just for men actually, some women expect it too and can be just as sexist as men with their expectations of gender stereotypes. At work I tried to conform to looking conventionally attractive and 'feminine' through make-up and clothing but the one thing I couldn't fake was the lack of carbonated bubble in my personality - I could not look good enough.

See article: Victoria Beckham doesn't smile, gets called shit names for it. Would the same judgement be directed at a man who didn't look particularly grumpy, but just didn't smile?

Are you 'male', is being told to smile a problem for you? let me know, I'm interested.

Oh and if you hadn't noticed, my smile is turned upside down to show that my lips naturally curve to create a 'downwards smile'.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Rape myths exposed in Trishna.

Note: Major 'spoiler' warning.

The most common perpetrators of rape in the UK are partners, so it's about bloody time British film started showing the realities of rape rather than the stranger-in-dark-alley-with-knife stereotype. Indeed it was the reinforcement of this stereotype for me which led me to believe that it was simply impossible for anyone other than a stranger to rape me. So when it happened, I wasn't sure what it even was, never mind how to react. That's why it's really important for acquaintance rapes, which make up 92% of all rapes, to be depicted in the media so both survivors and members of the ever judgemental public can understand that this is real, it's just as serious as stranger-in-the-alley-way and in fact it's much more common than stranger-in-the-alley-way rape.

That's why I 'liked' the depiction of rape in the British film Trishna (2012) which illustrates the abuse and rape of a young Indian woman Trishna (Freida Pinto) at the hands of her British-Indian boyfriend Jay (Riz Ahmed).

I 'liked' it because the relationship started off well - they seemed to love each other and make each other very happy. He seemed to be a good guy, early on in the film he even rescues her from a possible attack from strangers-in-the-alley-way. So good for her, she was saved from those strangers who she was rightly wary of but she didn't realise she should be wary of the person closest to her, her loving boyfriend Jay. This shit is real, guys who seem nice on the outside and start off being so loving do end up being abusive. Eddie in another British film Tyrannosaur (2011) is outwardly presented as the perfect husband. The photograph of Eddie and wife Olivia smiling happily hangs in their living room where Eddie gruesomely abuses his wife on a regular basis. Outwardly nice guys do rape their girlfriends and the last person their girlfriends expect this abuse to come from is from someone so close to them.

Audiences aren't quite recognising partner rape as 'real rape' though (you know because there's no bushes, alleyways or knives). The New Statesman says that "Does Jay rape Trishna... or does he merely take advantage of her gratitude and vulnerability? We can't be certain." The Telegraph says it "might even be considered rape". Film 4 seems to be confused too: "viewers are left to guess whether a consensual kiss led to sexual abuse".

Erm... guys? Trishna was shown to be treated like a slave and a whore by her boyfriend. She is forced by her boyfriend and keeps her mouth closed when he kisses her, rejecting any participation. She is reluctant to dance provocatively for him but he repeatedly and aggressively demands it of her. She repeatedly sobs and grimaces during sex, even making noises of pain and trying to pull her body away from him while they're having 'sex'. She 'lets him' rape her because she's scared of him. She stays with him because she's scared of him, does that mean it's not rape then? seriously?. I've often heard the public question rape victims "If it was that bad then why didn't she leave?". There are always many reasons why, fear, intimidation, lack of alternatives. These people are being abused, they're in no fit state to tell the abuser, "you know what, I'm not going to let you abuse me any more". Do they really expect the abuser's just going to say "Oh, alright then"?.

This is a problem with the UK law too. While rape is defined as sex without consent (Trishna definitely meets this definition) there was no physical force as such. Currently the UK law only recognises physical violence as force, which is common in stranger rape cases however ignores the fact that in acquaintance and particularly partner rape cases other types of force are extremely commonly and used as part of a complex series of ongoing domestic abuses. Rape doesn't have to occur at knife-point, it is common for other types of threats and abuse to be used to control and force, such as psychological and emotional coercion (outlined by Eastel and McOrmond-Plummer, 2006) Within acquaintance and partner rape, sexual intercourse can be forced on the victim in many complex, non-physical ways. This is generally not understood and sometimes not considered rape even though it is force and abuse all the same. This is because most people tend to think of rape through stranger scenarios where the victim is often physically forced with a weapon.

For Trishna, the possibility of telling someone about the abuse was non existent. She knew that she was being controlled by this man and that nobody could help her. The only way to stop the abuse was to stab her boyfriend to death then return to her family home where again she couldn't even tell her own mother or father. This again is strongly realistic because victims are often so ashamed and confused by their abuser that they suffer in silence. What I loved about this film is the unsaid understanding that Trishna was aggressively raped and abused, even though she never vocally describes how she feels or what happened to her. I certainly felt the audience understood her rape all the same. I heard a couple at the cinema declare that "he deserved it", but at the same time I knew that if these same people had heard a similar real-life story, they'd probably be doubting the victim by raising the usual questions like: was it 'real' rape? is she lying about it? But he looks like a nice guy? Maybe they accept that rape happens in other countries and cultures but are unaware of our own rape culture, that 1 in 20 women in their own country are raped. That's why films like this are really important; it's not possible to describe this sort of rape to a member of the public and expect them to understand. They either have to have been there, or you have to show them.

With nobody at all aware of the abuse she went through, for Trishna the only way out is to kill herself. She knows nobody will understand and she will only continue to suffer if she tells the authorities. Olivia in Tyrannosaur also stabs her rapist because apparently in film this is the thing to do but in reality 98% of rapists would just get away with it. Olivia however reports her crime and is jailed. Two very sad endings for these two women, who just so happened to be paired up with a rapist arsehole for a boyfriend. That doesn't make them weak characters, that makes them very strong and their stories very powerful.

[All statistics from the UK Home Office Report. Alan, J and Myhill, A.]

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The truth behind L’Oreal’s ‘glamorous’ exterior

L’Oreal have recently announced that they have donated $1.2 million to the Environmental Protection Agency towards research in alternatives to animal testing. Now while this seems to be good news for animals, are L’Oreal donating this money because they really care about animals or is it a media stunt to distract their customers away from their current cruel animal testing practices? Major national anti-testing charity, Uncaged, states that “In 2009, 3,619,450 million experiments took place in British labs, an decrease of 36,540 on 2008” illustrating that over time, animal testing in this country is on the increase rather than decrease.

According to Stephanie Watson (2009) some companies today claim that their products are not tested on animals yet the ingredients they use or the companies they buy from still test on animals on their behalf. In L’Oreal’s sustainability report (2010) they claim that they “support the aim to eliminate animal testing” making it clear for those who can read between the lines that they only aim to eliminate animal testing in the future. However they also state that they have not “used laboratory animals for the testing of its finished cosmetic products for 20 years”. This cleverly worded and confusing statement that their “finished products” are not animal tested is often repeated through their Facebook page when curious customers ask them about their testing practices. More often than not, the customer will be quite happy with this response and not ask for further clarity, I however decided to ask them myself whether they test their ingredients, rather than finished products, on animals. Bemused by their reluctance to answer my question and stating only that their “finished products” are not tested, I decided to email them at Immediately I received a reply, again asserting that their “finished products” are not tested on animals but without directly answering my question. When I asked for a clear answer on whether they test their ingredients on animals, rather than the finished products, strangely their email system must not have been working that day as well as their Facebook page, because two months later despite a reminder, they still haven’t replied to me.

Joel Bonner, 18, who is boycotting L’Oreal asked them this question himself on their Facebook page. He found that the replies he received were the same cleverly worded statements which he feels are intended to deceive customers into thinking L’Oreal is completely cruelty free. He said "The way L’Oreal names charities in their Facebook comments every time someone asks about animal testing is just so they can try and cover themselves from any opposing argument, also so they can avoid answering the question that was given to them." Philip Flight, 27, who is also boycotting the company said "I find it unbelievable how an enormous organisation such as L'Oreal can possibly be stuck in the dark ages when it comes to animal testing, and on top of that feel they have the right to con people into thinking they are buying from a morally responsible company. I sincerely hope that more people become aware of their atrocious treatment of innocent animals for the sake of satisfying other peoples' vanity and making billions from it."

This is not the first time L’Oreal have been accused of deceiving it’s customers, with heavily airbrushed adverts for anti-ageing products being banned last year for presenting strongly unrealistic results. Perhaps as an effort to reverse these connotations of false advertising, this year L’Oreal have released a mascara declaring proudly that false lashes have not been used in the advertisement. Despite this, heavy airbrushing and possibly CGI has still been used instead, which for some people renders their ethics questionable.

A Wordpress website ( which is committed to investigating L’Oreal’s animal testing practices as well as their deceiving labelling and advertisements describes L’Oreal as “the single biggest obstacle to ending cosmetic testing on animals within the United States and the European Union.” Indeed L’Oreal are the worlds biggest cosmetics company, reportedly taking in over €19 billion every year. Some people may argue that animal testing is a necessary evil to ensure products are safe for human consumption. However, many less profitable companies such as Superdrug and The Cooperative Group have completely stopped testing on animals. These companies who have been BUAV approved as cruelty-free demonstrate that animal testing is not necessary for testing the safety of their products; there are alternatives such as human and computer testing as well as clinical trials. Nor are these alternative methods too expensive for less profitable companies to employ. So why are many multi-billion dollar companies such as L’Oreal (Maybelline, The Body Shop) and Procter and Gamble (Max Factor, Pantene, Gillette) still listed as cruel companies by national anti-testing charities, such as Uncaged and PETA? Greed for fatter profit is surely the most viable explanation. In regards to L’Oreal’s donation to the Environmental Protection Agency, what is $1 million when they earn billions every single year? The way I see it, any praise they may receive for the donation would be the equivalent of me donating a few pence to a vegetarian society while continuing to eat meat then expecting to be applauded for my vegetarianism.

Have you received any successful replies from L’Oreal? Let me know at

For a list of cruelty-free companies, log on to or check out my cruelty-free cosmetics reviews at

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Jealous women.

Jealousy is a trait which is much more widely accepted as a ‘natural’ female trait rather than male. Although the false report rate for rape is no higher than for any other crime, the finger of jealousy is often automatically pointed at rape victims. We, along with some members of the police force, are still using a phrase derived from a fictional play written in the 1600s as an explanation of women’s ‘natural’ disposition to be vengeful. "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned” is now fact. Law. Science. We can’t really have been raped, we can’t really dislike celebrity culture or pornography. Women can’t really be honest or have our own opinions - we all must just be jealous. You’re jealous, so we can ignore all of your problems now.

Even from an early age the jealousy of women is drilled into us through the form of a ‘moral’ educational tale. Cinderella’s ugly old step mother and sisters (remember that ugly is synonymous with evil) are so jealous of Cindy’s beauty, that they bully her into the life of a slave. The wicked old step mother of Snow White, upon learning she is no longer “the fairest of them all” is enraged with jealousy. She would rather kill her daughter than be ugly, since there is absolutely nothing worse than being ugly. If you’re female.

If you’re a male tramp however, you’re free to go and find a lady without being evil or jealous. If you’re a beast, a beauty will still woo you. If you’re hunch-backed, you needn’t worry either. So that's the immoral of the tale; women are either beautiful and good, or ugly-evil (synonymous) and jealous.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I'm a big fan of this trilogy. Over a year ago I read all of the books and have watched all of the Swedish films. I'm not sure what I think of this remake though - although I haven't seen it.

I think I'm against seeing it on principle seeing that the original Swedish movie was only released 2 years before this Hollywood version. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was barely out of cinemas when this version came along. It's clearly a remake for the sake of Hollywood-ising it (a la Psycho which was scene-for-scene remade). Shove in an American actress and James Bond and you've got yourself a much higher production value and draw a wider audience who maybe rejected the original film because of the subtitles and wanted to watch some celebrity actors they already recognised. Cashing in on the success of the trilogy before the original hype dies down? Almost certainly.
I think I just liked the original films so much that I don't see the point in watching a re-make two years later, before any changes in culture or history can mark any significant changes on its interpretation.

I love Lisbeth Salander, she's a real feminist heronie although it looks like the fact this book in Swedish was entitled Men who hate women, is a bit lost on the new audience. Just compare the two promotional posters for a start. I want to keep Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth in my mind - but by all means do try to persuade me based on the differences between the versions if anyone here has seen both of them?

(and if not, I question why?)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Uni Lad misogyny is just "banter"

So I just heard about Uni Lad which is a misogynistic magazine and website for university "lads" teaching them to treat women (who they call "sluts") as sex objects. Usual articles for them consist of advice on how to hunt "vulnerable" students down for sex. They have just shut down their website due to complaints about a severely pro-rape article.

In the 'cleverly' titled article 'Sexual Mathematics' we are told that 75% of women are sluts, implying that women are automatically going to sleep with you. However if you're unlucky enough to meet one of those rare non-sluts the Uni Lad's are told to "think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported...That seems fairly good odds". They add a very funny 'joke' at the end just to make sure we know it's just 'banter' and that none of it's 79,000 Facebook fans are actually going to rape anyone: "Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying surprise".


Apart from that statistically, amongst those 79,000 fans there are going to be rapists. They might not even be aware they're rapists because of articles like this that are allowed to be printed through the rape myth that it's not 'real' rape unless you're attacked by a stranger at knife point in a dark alley. This myth encourages men to see acquaintance rape more as "convincing" women to sleep with them rather than real serious rape. Some of those Uni Lad fans will therefore think it's not really rape to get a woman drunk and force themselves on her, some of them will take this article seriously. Considering 1 in 6 women in the U.S are raped, each of those members statistically know several victims themselves.

A Twitter member (Sazza_Jay) complained on Uni Lad's Twitter page about the article and was asked in reply whether she was a "dyke". The official 'apology' from Uni Lad originally claimed that the article was intended as "banter". It's hard to take their 'apology' sincerely when they respond like this:

Facebook fans since have been posting misogynistic defences, victim -blaming and pro-rape 'jokes' in response. Rape apologists are citing "freedom of speech" which would not make racist or homophobic hate speech acceptable but somehow means sexist hate speech is fine. This reflects cultural beliefs that openly encourage and accept sexism. Racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic hate speech is illegal but sexist hate speech is not. Regurgitating Uni Lad's claim, anyone who objects to their misogynistic article must just be a "dyke" or "gay" with a "small dick". These ridiculous claims further enforce the expectation of men to go along with the 'joke' in order to be accepted by their peers. Through fear that they may not be a real 'bloke' otherwise. This completely disregards the fact that many rape victims are also male of course, another rape myth they're enforcing.

Link to Facebook comments.

But yeah, misogyny in the media doesn't really exist, it's just lads being lads. After all, they're programmed to be sex-obsessed so can't help themselves. It's just the way things are.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The femme fetale in modern film.

The femme fetale archetype featured prominently in the 40’s and 50’s classical genre of film noir. The fatal woman was the ‘love interest’ of the protagonist whose beauty and sexuality bestowed power over the male characters, often to a dangerous end. In Gilda (1946) the eponymous heroine (Rita Hayworth) uses her glamorous looks and sexuality for revenge; she publicly dances and flirts with other men to make Johnny (Glenn Ford) jealous. On the surface, Gilda’s sexuality bestows her with immense power which is able to affect the actions of the male characters. However, Gilda demonstrates that she can only use her appearance rather than intellect or physical power; she is dominated by male characters who physically punish her. The femme fetale’s power is signified as dangerous in film noir, it must be broken by the finale of the film through either repentance or death. At the end of Gilda, her display of sexuality is described by another character as “just an act” as Gilda’s return to her ‘innocent’ form is symbolised through her change of clothing and rejection of sexuality. In The Lady From Shanghai (1947), femme fatale Elsa (again Rita Hayworth) is shot dead during the ending sequence, as a punishment for her killing Grisby (Glenn Anders). The classical sexually ‘empowered’ woman therefore was seen as sinful, their sexual power taken away from them by the end of the film.

Laura Mulvey describes that in classical film, female characters are “the one, or rather the love or feat she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest importance.” Despite the film being entitled Gilda, her importance lies in how she causes the men to act; Ballin fakes his own death because of her cheating while Johnny marries her for revenge. Mulvey demonstrates that the narrative structure of classical film is always controlled by a male protagonist who acts to forward the story, females as a result are given passive roles. Johnny is clearly presented as the protagonist from the first scene of the film which sets up his narrative goal, voice-over narration is also presented from his point-of-view. In contrast, very little information is communicated about Gilda, she is introduced merely as Ballin’s wife and described as his “property”. Gilda exerts her power through sexual displays; performing a strip tease and character traits such as flicking her hair. However these also function to present Gilda as an object of Mulvey’s “male gaze”. Her body is objectified through clothing, fragmentation and close-ups which are presented from the male characters point-of-view.

In modern film another interpretation of the femme fetale, the ‘sex goddess’, also appears. In Lara Croft: The Cradle of Life, (Bont, 2003) the female heroine is a similarly sexual, dangerous woman who uses her appearance for her own needs. She teases Terry (Gerard Butler) by kissing him to lure him into a feeling of security, allowing her to chain him up and interrogate him for information. However, in contrast to the classical femme fetale, Lara also uses her intellect to acquire information to find the hidden treasure; her dialogue details her extensive knowledge of Pharaohs and treasure maps which she uses to seek the treasure. Gilda wears typically ‘feminine’ clothing and lacks physical power but in contrast, Lara displays physical power, fighting using typically ‘masculine’ machine guns. Lara’s heavy use of guns indicates phallic undertones, escaping submission by metaphorically becoming the typical male hero. Lara rejects traditional female clothing such as lightly coloured dresses and skirts, opting for dark shorts or trousers that reveal her body, rejecting femininity while simultaneously symbolising her sexuality. The indication from both Cradle of Life and Gilda is that women who look and act feminine are submissive and lack power. In order to gain control, they must reject feminine norms and metaphorically become male through costume and characterisation.

Richard Gray describes that “in the first decade of the new millennium, representations of technology, pleasure and sexuality have intersected in films with female superheroes” (2011: 80). Here he describes that in modern films, female characters are sexualised but they can also be heroes. Although Gilda and Lara both use their sexuality for their own goals, in the modern film Cradle of Life Lara uses both ‘beauty and brains’ which reflects the cultural change of women’s independence between the 1940s ‘femme fetale’ and the 2000s ‘sex goddess’ superheroes. Similar representations of physically strong, sexualised ‘superhero’ women can be found in many modern films such as Charlie’s Angels (Nichol, 2000), Resident Evil (Anderson, 2002) Catwoman (Pitof, 2004), Aeon Flux (Kusama, 2005) and Elektra (Bowman, 2005.) Not only do the women of these films exert their sexual power like the classical femme fetale, but they are also smart and physically strong - rejecting typically ‘feminine’ traits which restrain the femme fetale. Additionally, Mulvey’s theory of a male character controlled narrative is disputed; the clear protagonists of these films are all women, however Richard Gray argues that this is for male audiences who like to watch sexualised 'unattainable' women rather than for female audiences who want to watch independent women. Like in classical film, Mulvey’s “male gaze” remains constant throughout modern film. Changes in censorship means that modern female characters are more overtly sexually objectified. As an addition to cinematographic techniques such as fragmentation that are used in both Gilda and Cradle of Life, Lara’s nude body is exposed in a sex scene and shower scene which are used as spectacle rather than for narrative importance.

The protagonists of modern ‘superheroine’ films all possess strikingly similar physical characteristics, wearing dark, tight and revealing costumes to strongly signify their ‘dangerous’ sexuality. Women’s success and power in film is still dependant on their appearance. While modern heroines are arguably more ‘empowered’ their success cannot be based purely on their merits and intellect. They have to possess sex appeal to gain physical power. The message here is that a woman’s worth still lies in her beauty and for both the classical femme fetale and modern sex goddess, only beautiful women can hold any power.

Adapted from a university dissertation written by Laura Connett, copyright 2011.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Mrs She's Too Big, Now She's Too Thin

The term ‘size zero’ gets flung around a lot, but the truth is that there are next to no major celebrities with a size zero frame. This article, however made me realise quite how ridiculous the slim ideal is. Models are required to be under a UK size 8. If they’re any bigger, they’re classed as “plus sized”. As a size 8 myself, that means I’d be considered plus sized which is ridiculous considering the average dress size in the UK is 14-16. Models and body ideals that are shoved in women’s faces are always extremely far from the norm, that’s because what is considered to be the most beautiful at any given time in history is usually what is the most difficult to achieve. Take the trend of pale skin and heavy body weights a hundred years ago while poor workers had to work long hours outside in the sunshine. Being able to avoid average appearances signified wealth and health. This ideal has turned around so quickly simply so money can be made out of selling women cosmetics, diet schemes and surgery they really don’t need. Now we’re expected to be unnaturally tanned and unnaturally slim. The slim beauty ideal clearly presents many self-esteem problems as well as disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but the message is clear; beauty ideals, no matter what they are, are always homogenised and leave no room for manoeuvre. If women don’t fit in with the very tight idea of beauty that culture presents to us, they are marginalised. Ideals are not the norm so that they make women with normal and average bodies feel bad about themselves.

Recently however I’ve noticed a particular beauty ideal dominating western culture. “Curvy” celebrities such as Christina Hendrix, Kelly Brook, Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian are today's role models women want to look like and men want to look at. Gone are the days of the skinny and flat chested Kate Moss ideal and in are womanly “curves”. Now while I think it’s great that other body types are being accepted, it comes at a price; homogenisation, marginalisation of any other body type. These types of images are cropping up all over social media websites:

This picture is objectifying, marginalising and judgemental of women’s bodies. I can’t believe some feminists think this is a positive thing!

I understand the good intention behind images like this, I really do. It’s a backlash against the diet industry and conditions like anorexia and bulimia which are a real problem. But isn’t it hypocritical to imply acceptance of women’s bodies at the same time as rating one body type as better than the other. No matter which way around the images are switched, it's body judging just the same. We should be accepting all body shapes and sizes, not picking out what women should and should not look like. Celebrating "curvy" women is being confused with celebrating the bodies of normal, heavier women but these "curvy" women all weight much less than the average woman. As much as the lower pictures of women arguably possess healthier body weights, they were still exceptionally beautiful - they weren’t the norm and they don’t signify the average woman’s figure. We have to remember that the “curvy” beauty ideal is a beauty ideal all the same which does not reflect the norm can be just as harmful to women’s self-esteem as the slim ideal. The lower row of images signify a beauty ideal which is just as unattainable as the beauty ideal which is denounced in the upper images. They have slim waists yet un-proportionately large breasts and hips which does not reflect the average woman's figure. It isn’t any more ‘normal’ or achievable than the slim ideal.

I am small framed and have always been naturally slim. I’ve hated my body and had self esteem issues since I was a child, yet people have repeatedly told me I’m too slim and I “need” to put on weight. I’m 5’5 and weight 8 and a half stone which puts my BMI in the ‘healthy’ weight category. I’ve never purposefully tried to be slim, I eat whatever I like and have struggled for a long time to put weight on, yet people assume that because I’m slim they have the right to judge me for it. People generally realise it’s not acceptable to tell someone that they “need” to lose weight so why is it okay the other way around. Just like the picture above, women's bodies are being judged and it's no more acceptable whether the woman is fat or thin. It's increasingly become acceptable in the media to declare a celebrity "too thin" - not through any worry about their personal health but purely so they can scrutinise the way they look. Maybe this is down to the "Curvy” ideal or rejection of the older slim idea, but whatever the reason for this, women should never be judged for their natural body shapes, whatever that happens to be. It’s happening no matter whether women are skinny, slim, normal, heavy, fat, pretty, ugly, tall, short, black, white, old, young, poor, rich… It’s happening because we all share one thing in common. We’re women and our bodies are public property.

Women and men’s magazines have been declaring proudly that they accept and love “curvy” bodies like they are finally accepting normal, natural body types. What they usually mean by “curvy” however is not plus sized models or women with average size 14 bodies, but women who have slim waists and un-proportionately large “curves” on their breasts, bottoms and/or hips. The truth is that very few women naturally have tiny waists and big breasts. The chances are that if you are female and you are reading this article that you will fit into one of two types: If you do manage to have large breasts and bum, your tummy is also curvy so you’re labelled too fat. If you do manage to have a small waist you probably don’t have big breasts so you’re labelled too skinny and un-womanly. Of course there are those lucky few who do manage to get the ‘best of both worlds‘, but they are the exceptions not the norm, they are the ideal.

Angelina Jolie is described as curvy because of her large breasts, despite having a very thin waist. It’s a similar deal with Kim Kardashian and Kelly Brook who are described as “curvy” for being slim while remaining extraordinarily big breasted. Christina Hendrix, declared by Britain’s equality minister as someone “ all women should aspire” to look like, is actually a slim size 10 with a typical models dimensions. The result? Women with average body types are striving to look like her so much that they’re resorting to breast surgery. Even Marilyn Monroe wasn’t nearly as big as most people assume, her waist was about as small as Kate Moss’, the difference is that Kate Moss has average sized breasts for her weight while Monroe’s proportions and perfect hourglass figure were highly unusual, hence why she was such a beauty icon. Monroe is currently often cited as a symbol of the 'empowered' woman whose heavier-than-usual weight and curvy body shape makes her the attainable role model for women. However what people tend to forget is that she was sexually objectified in exactly the same way as current celebrities are, she posed nude for the first Playboy cover and her worth was based on her "sex siren" act and looks. She ended up being a very sad, depressed person, as did Bettie Page who also became severely depressed. According to Bette Davis, Monroe "didn't like sex or men all that much, because she was tired of men always trying to get her into bed." She was a 'sex siren' for everyone, to the whole world, to detriment of her own sexuality.

People don’t seem to realise that people like Marilyn Monroe were objectified and used in exactly the same was as modern celebrities! The picture you posted is objectifying, marginalising and judgemental of women’s bodies. I can’t believe some feminists think this is a positive thing!

Ruben's The Three Graces is probably the nearest we will ever get to an average attainable 'curvy' body type. Painted in the 1600s, Ruben's depicted the beauty ideal of his time, before heavy homogenisation through the media.

These women with rare body shapes are repeatedly described as “real women”. Now it’s great that they love their body shapes and are being accepted for them, but as a result other body shapes are seen as inferior. Are slim women with small breasts or larger women with round tummies not “real women” too, should they not also be proud of their bodies? The skinny ideal threatens self-esteem issues and body disorders, the curvy ideal threatens self-esteem issues and cosmetic surgery. No matter what we look like, women are always going to be judged for either being too fat or too thin. Ideals are all just as destructive as each other. Isn’t the solution to reject ideals and embrace variation rather to favour one body type over the other?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

This is what a feminist looks like.

People who know me have called me: Open minded, Louis Lane, funny, articulate, talented, natural, brave, inpatient, creative, clever, ugly, pretty, feminist, bitch, slut.

People who don't know me have called me: Femi-nazi, jealous, liar, bitch, fugly bitch, slut, ugly, fat, lesbian, feminist, old, smelly, bored, housewife, hairy, idiot, man hater, closed minded, pretty, brave.

Send your pictures to to be added here.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Paper-mache Princess.

Work starts at nine.
Not enough light to blend this illusion,
Not enough time.

I blend just enough to be effortless,
But not so much that I’m revealed.
My pale skin hiding beneath the layers,
Waiting to be accepted, not to be concealed.

I live as these other people,
Laminated, polished and frozen.
But somehow something tells me,
They’re really all broken.

They asked me at school what I would like to be,
Now I just want to be a celebrity.
The mask I won’t do without, it is my shield.
You’ll never get close enough for it to be healed.

Someone else’s hair has become glued to mine.
Stripped of all meaning, bleached of all desire.
Glowing layers of paint sprayed onto my skin,
Adhesive nails are already wearing thin.

I work for the weekend, gyrate like on T.V,
Like magazines my legs are smooth and glossy.
Makeup, hair and nails my weekly salary,
Of someone famous I must become married.

Swarms of people drawn to this culture,
From possessing no hobbies they become vultures.
I see them lured, captivated, and pacified,
But something vacant still lingers in their eyes.

I’m a paper-mache princess,
A real life doll.
Disposable, I’ll break,
Replaced with a remake.

Laura Connett.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Believing what you want to believe.

As a rape survivor who, like most others did not receive justice, this sort of reporting (which happens frequently) severely pisses me off:


The article is about actor Michael Le Vell. Now while I am impartial to his situation and don't care to speculate whether he is guilty of anything or not, the article suggests he has been found innocent while actually he has not.

First part of the article:
"Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell has told his family of his joy at being cleared of child rape allegations."

Later part of the article:
"Following enquiries by Greater Manchester Police I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to put before a court."

Being "cleared" of a crime means going through the courts and being found 'not guilty', or being found not guilty in preliminary investigations. In his situation, the case will not be brought to court because the law will not even allow a trial unless there is a high chance of a ‘guilty’ verdict. Because rape is usually committed in private, the high amount of evidence required by law usually does not exist. Evidence usually required includes witnesses and CCTV recordings - which is ridiculous considering the most common place to be raped is in your own home.

Only 6% of reported rapes end in conviction because the vast majority of them do not even reach court. This is because the law is tailored towards ‘stranger rape’ scenarios where there will be CCTV evidence, witnesses and severe physical assault. However only 8% of rapes are committed by strangers and possibly may even happen this way, so most rape cases do not possess the required evidence to even get a trial.

Now, as a feminist who has encountered the same thing happening to me, I'm not even suggesting that we should believe the alleged victim must be telling the truth. The fact is that since there has been no legal finding one way or the other, we should remain impartial. That is unless we have access to the evidence in the CPS report, which we don't. My point is that people are far too ready to believe the woman must be lying. Even though it's not been proven one way or the other, they'll be on the side of the accused being innocent and the woman being a liar. Based on absolutely nothing at all.

From Twitter.

Now looking through the comments under the article, the vast majority of readers have wrongly deduced that the alleged perpetrator has been found not guilty and are outraged for the poor man that he has been “falsely accused”! So if, like 94% of rape survivors, you don’t get a chance in court to receive justice (because you didn’t film your ex-partner raping you and he didn't invite a witness to watch!) you are often seen as a liar. I'd like to add here that in my case, a signed confession and emails to the same effect, which he admitted to writing, were not deemed enough evidence to take him to trial.

Notice the amount of people who agree (green arrow) and disagree (red arrow).

Most rapists don't reach court because the law is flawed, this does not mean they have been found 'not guilty' and are falsely accused. For more on how the law is biased towards 'stranger rapes' see my petition here.

I still wish I had a bloody camcorder.

[All statistics from the UK Home Office Report. Alan, J and Myhill, A.]