Feminist Friday: What feminism means to me.

The first time I remember properly classifying myself as a feminist was during a sociology seminar in my first year of university. You might be thinking this is incredibly late, which I suppose it is. However, while I may not have attached the label to my identity until then, I have always been what I’d deem a ‘feminist in progress’ or an ‘unknowing feminist’ and I work on it every day and I try to be better for myself and for the movement.

Feminism is defined in simple terms as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. This definition can be extended and elaborated on in that the movement simply aims for equality of all people, regardless of gender identification, physical sex or binary.

In the time I’ve spent reflecting on feminism and the label I have assigned myself, my views have altered and adapted. When I first announced that I thought of myself as a feminist, as well as feeling liberated, uplifted and exuberant, I felt nerves. My naive and relatively  uneducated self had always considered feminism to be something for highly intelligent, academic women who could form an argument, exuded power and strength and who broke the glass ceiling every day. Emma Watson, for example. Maya Angelou. Caitlin Moran. Germaine Greer. Michelle Obama. All the amazing women. They were feminists who had DONE STUFF. They understood the word, wore the word, added meaning to it, plastered it over Twitter bios and YouTube videos. I doubted myself in many ways…was I really a feminist, or just someone who observed and supported the feminist movement from the sidelines, waving a flag or some witty and punny sign that showed my dedication and respect without having anything relevant to add or contribute? I wasn’t sure what to classify myself as or what I could add to the discussion. Did I qualify? Was I too privileged? What was the deal?

After study, reading and learning a little about what was going on, I realised that the questions I was asking myself were redundant. The very idea of feminism is, like I said, equality for all. It is a universal struggle of all people and all women, arguing for equal respect and treatment of all. Intelligence, poignancy and eloquence, or indeed ‘qualifying’ don’t come into it even slightly. The way I see it according to those ideologies, is that if you believe in any of the above, you couldn’t possibly be anything OTHER than a feminist. Feminism is for everyone and anyone. Anyone who has a vagina, anyone who doesn’t. Anyone who identifies as female, anyone who doesn’t. Feminism was for me. A way for me to congregate under a collective title with all other supporters of equal rights, in an attempt to not just smash the glass ceiling, but completely and utterly annihilate it.

Feminism to me is something I am extremely proud to classify myself under. While I wish it didn’t need to exist, there is a need for it and therefore I want to be involved. I haven’t figured out exactly how yet, but for now these blog posts will give me a chance to voice my thoughts. They may not be overly poignant or groundbreaking and will probably have been voiced by people before me, but I am in on a discussion and I like it.


Kendall Jenner, the Daily Mail and beauty standards.

The media can be a tricky business.  Xenophobic and”pussy grabbing” animals in charge of countries, humanitarian conflicts and refugee crises, Brexit aftermath, natural disasters and terrorist attacks are but a few reasons as to why keeping yourself informed through the media can be exhausting and thankless. If you’re anything like me however, despite the inner turmoil I feel every time I read another article about Donald Trump, or watch another news piece on Facebook about the breakdowns within the British government, I still make it my responsibility to be up to date with the goings on in the world, as I believe we all should. However, there is media that is a necessary evil, that is simply conveying messages to the world, and then there is the mind numbing, detrimental, trashy forms of media which REALLY make my blood boil.

For any Snapchat users out there, you may feel the same distaste that I do every day when I check my Snapchat app and see the Daily Mail’s Snapchat story. Ah…the Daily Mail; a hot bed of gossip, misinformation, judgemental journalism and a perpetuation of gender stereotypes. I am not a fan of the Daily Mail, in fact I make a point of avoiding it at all costs. However, last week I couldn’t stop myself from reading an article from their Snapchat story which filled me with a mixture of feelings, mainly outrage at its existence and its presence on the main page of a popular social media platform:

Now I don’t know a lot about the Kardashian/ Jenner family, and I lack an interest or desire to involve myself in their world through their TV shows or social media presence. However, with that being said I am not someone who thinks that they are undeserving of privacy or respect, and I happily acknowledge that they are strong and successful business women and public characters. Even with my little knowledge of them, I find the constant scrutiny that (particularly the woman in) their family endure, critiquing things as trivial as a small cluster of blemishes to be simply outrageous.

My first gripe with this article is that it is completely and utterly unnecessary and intrusive. We live in a world where people are too invested and informed about the lives of their favourite celebrities. At what point did it become a necessity for fans to be able to find out exactly where a person was, what they wearing, and exactly how many spots are present on their face?  Furthermore, why is this of interest to anyone? While I acknowledge that celebrities are inevitably going to face intrusion to their personal life and this is a side effect of their fame, it does not mean it is useful or worthwhile. I recognise that we as a society idolise celebrities, which is something that has happened throughout history, but there is absolutely no need for such constant, relentless and meaningless information. This sort of mind numbing and thoughtless news concerns me in that it distracts from real issues. It upsets me that more people may be aware of things as small as a breakout on a celebrity’s face than are aware of an avalanche that killed several people in Italy in the same month.

This sort of news also unconsciously adds to gender biases and stereotypes in the media in several ways. If we consider Kendall Jenner as an example, a successful super model who has established somewhat of a prosperous career for herself out with of her famous family, who in comparison with her reality TV star siblings shies away from being at the centre of things, this article becomes even more irritating. Regardless of what or how people feel about Jenner’s beginnings or about her suitability as a role model, an article like this which attacks the trivial  and very normal reality of having a few spots on your face acts as a way of diminishing and belittling her successes, reducing who she is and what she achieves to less important than how she happens to look when caught off guard. Articles like these circulate the idea that women need to look perfect at all times, and also circulates the idea that it is appearance which is most important over other things. While I hate to state the obvious, it is rare that a prosperous and successful man would be judged on their appearance first, actions second. However for women this is an unfortunate catch.

Celebrities such as Kendall Jenner are oftentimes considered as role models. This is to be expected whenever a celebrity has a mass following or attention. I think that role models can be extremely worthwhile and a positive thing for people (especially young women) to have. However, I also feel that role models can become problematic when they are idolised to the extreme, and I worry that those who idolise certain celebrities, such as Kendall Jenner may read articles like this regarding her appearance and that this may fuel their insecurities about themselves. I saw several tweets the day this article was on Snapchat’s main page, of people comparing themselves to Kendall and comparing her small breakout to the acne they have been bullied for and that they resent and it seemed extremely damaging to me. This is one of the countless ways the media subtly infiltrates people’s perceptions of others and themselves, lowering their self esteem and effecting their happiness.

In addition, while this article and others that are published by the Daily Mail and trashy media outlets similar use their influence to critique (mainly female) celebrities on their appearance, this does little except perpetuate beauty standards. Viewers, readers and consumers are constantly faced with some of the most conventionally attractive women, already in awe of a body type or hair look or fashion choice which is unattainable to them. Then in addition, the media takes these very same women and starts picking them apart and showcasing their flaws; a few spots on their makeupless face, dark circles, frizzy hair etc. Instead of making celebrities, and in turn consumers feel ashamed of the natural aspects of their appearance and the individual things which make them a well rounded, normal and beautiful person, the media would be better used as a mechanism to normalise the things that people feel insecure about. Instead of titling an article “Kendall’s acne nightmare’, is it that difficult to simply acknowledge she is a normal 21 year old who does not look perfect all the time, and that that is totally okay?

This post has been extremely ranty, however this article really angered me and made me feel frustrated. With all that is going on in the world right now, this kind of news is irrelevant and uncalled for. We need to preserve our strengths to deal with the times to come, we do not need to be being fuelled with reasons to feel insecure, or with attacks on our self esteem. In short, the Daily Mail can get in the bin, and can leave Kendall alone.