Body Shaming and Endless Blaming

Before I begin, I would like to explain myself:

I am a 5 foot 3, 8 stone graduate who once had acne and wishes she had a slightly smaller nose. On the other side of the scale, I quite like my hair (long and frizzy, but each to their own, right?) and my bum isn’t too shabby either. What I mean to say, is that when it comes to appearance, we all have our good bits and our bad. Now you know mine, we can get on with the show – and hopefully what I have to say will become clear.

I was scrolling through Facebook today and came across something posted by Popcherry, a fairly teeny-pop clothing brand that’s super affordable and good with their social media presence… normally. The other day, however, I spotted an image that made me stop. I have attached to this article.

First it jokes ‘a balanced diet is chocolate in both hands’. Now I would like to stress that, in my books, this is fine – just so long as it’s a joke. So long as no one takes it as a serious piece of medical advice. So long as no one takes it seriously. Where I see the issue is Popcherry using it as an ethos or branding tool. Not only is it a little risky for a clothing company to be joking about food consumption (full stop, let alone to impressionable teens), considering the size and shape issues that seem to come hand in hand with the fashion industry (and considering most of them use tall, slender models to promote their clothing), but placed above the pictures of these tall, slender girls, it becomes something of a disgrace. Sorry. That last sentence got a bit long. I needed all the words for all the anger!

The women pictured by this clothing company represent the ‘typical’ models who weigh a massive amount less than ‘normal’ women – a statistic supported by the following quote from abc news: “Twenty years ago, the average fashion model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23 percent less”. Now, call me crazy, but I’d argue that promoting clothes using girls who only represent a tiny proportion of real women is something we’ve been discussing for long enough to know that it really shouldn’t be an issue any more. The long and short of it is, that we should be using every body type. Not just tall, thin, tanned. Equally, not just the taller girls with ‘curves in the right places’. I personally, would like to see some short models, models with pale skin, models without the entire contents of the Kardashians’ makeup bags on their faces. I for one know how frustrating it is seeing all of those taller girls wearing clothes that would simply drown me, not to mention wearing make up that covers up the sort of complexion imperfections I have battled my whole life.

I hasten to add that a tall girl is scientifically more able to put on a few pounds without anyone noticing, so they could probably eat a little of that aforementioned chocolate without causing too much damage. We shorter girls don’t have anywhere for the weight to go!! But that’s another story, for another day and I won’t bore you with it now.

What I really took issue with in this, was the website’s blatant lack of realistic #lifegoals. By that, I mean having a ‘balanced diet’ of chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate is incredibly unlikely to leave you looking like any of the girls who represent the company’s clothing lines.

And before anyone assumes I’m body shaming these models, I am not. I am a fairly slender person myself (naturally graced with a flat chest and thus branded ‘athletic’ by society) and so fully understand what it’s like to be shamed for being smaller. Not only have I been called a ‘skinny bitch’ (something I can live with, because it’s usually just people being jealous or simply not thinking) but I’ve also been told I’m ‘so lucky’ that I’m thin. This. This is what really gets to me.

I was sat eating a salad the other day and someone said ‘Oh God, you don’t need to be eating that, look at you!’… I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it’s not luck that keeps me thin. It’s a relatively careful diet of salad, fish, chicken, tea (and lots of it!) and the occasional roast dinner that keeps me at my ideal weight. Not to mention the three or four lots of exercise I try and fit in every week. I seethed for the rest of the day, desperate to tell someone that I worked hard to maintain my shape. Of course, I also understand it isn’t always that simple. Some are more naturally inclined to be larger. Others have medical conditions that leave them constantly fighting the weight. Some just embrace being a curvy women – which is also great, as long as you’re happy and healthy! The same applies at the other end of the spectrum too, for the slender girls. As long as you’re happy, you go for it! Body shape is not something that plays by the rules, and it certainly isn’t something you can label. It is as personal to each woman as her fingerprint. Even more so emotionally.

Still, this doesn’t stop people from calling us thin, fat, lanky, shrimpy, spotty, pale, frizzy, ginger, or any other name under the sun – some much, much worse. I need not delve into that now though. We’ve all been there ladies.

I don’t want to preach – to be the one to give you permission to love your body. That’s something only you can do, but I hope I can be that little voice in the big wide world of social media that helps even just one person embrace their body. That goes for all you guys out there too. You deserve to be happy and healthy, just like we women. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

In the meantime, have a great day, enjoy a square or two of chocolate, and don’t forget to smile!

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The Last Photo

That photo was the last one I had of all three of us, taken by a stranger on our Thanksgiving night out. We huddled to fit into the picture, cuddling hot chocolate to our chests. Smiling. Your teeth look whitest with the black and white filter, Jenna had told me. It was just before the fireworks started blasting up into the night sky; just before the million dollar display started masking the sound of gunfire.

Emma noticed it first. She’d seen the guy next to us fall, spotted the blood blossoming on his jacket. She grabbed my arm and screamed, her mouth open and illuminated by the bright lights, a mask of horror. She looked like Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Just the thought of it makes my blood run cold.

It had been Jenna though, who’d been the bravest. She’d fallen to her knees and rolled the guy over, pressing her hands to the wound. There had been so much blood. It spewed from between her fingers quickly. Too quickly.

Then others began to notice, some attempting to help, most herding backwards like cattle, swelling away from the scene, running for the exit as soon they understood the danger. That’s when another shot was fired, this one in the lull between fireworks. It whipped the crowd into a frenzy. There were people everywhere, kicking, screaming, trampling another man as he fell to the floor, blood spraying from his chest.

Jenna was screaming something, shaking me, but I couldn’t move. I just froze. That’s when it happened.

Hot liquid was slapped across my face, stinging my eyes. The smell of burning metal. The thud, thud, thud of my heart. Jenna, face down on the grass. Not breathing.

I moved then. Finally. Once it was too late.

I felt my hands close around her and drag her close, Emma on my other side, helping. We dragged her across the grass, completely limp. Lifeless.

I think even then we knew she was gone. We just couldn’t accept it. Couldn’t understand.

I don’t even know what happened to the other man. The one she’d tried to save. It was all too huge, too horrendous.

So I ask you, how many times does there have to be a fatal shooting before someone questions the Second Amendment? How many innocent people have to get killed before we realise that, in this day and age, the same rules cannot apply? That the right to bare arms is about as relevant as women not being able to vote, as gay marriage being illegal?

How many friends, families, loved ones have to cry over their last pictures together?

 

Written for Creative Writing Ink Prompt, November 4th http://www.creativewritingink.co.uk/resources/writing-prompts/

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Feminism, Disney, and why equality is key…

This is my list of ten fairy tale questions, facts, and figures to boggle the minds of feminists… And a little bit extra!

I need say no more, other than I hope you enjoy and feel free to let me know if you have any answers to these questions. My opinion isn’t the only one – and it is only opinion, so let me know if you disagree!

Now, on with the show…

 

  1. Is Disney more or less the reason we deem fairy tales ‘anti-feminist’?

There are the obvious, Cinderella and Snow White style clichés that make many of us scream ‘yes, Disney is a sexist, chauvinistic, money grabbing corporation who brainwash young girls into thinking that, if you find an abandoned cottage in the woods, the only logical step is to clean it’, but as the age of the Disney heroine follows us into the 21st century with films such as Frozen, are things beginning to change?

The claim that Frozen is the most ‘boldly feminist fairy tale yet’[1] is being made by avid feminists everywhere, but my brain instantly asks, how did Mulan save the whole of China and get virtually no recognition for it? In my view, she’s totally badass, which is only enforced by my first fact:

Mulan is based on an old legend about a woman who saved China[2]. She was probably alive in the 6th century, which, in my eyes, makes her the first ‘boldly feminist’ woman ever. Ever! Let alone the first feminist Disney character! Sorry Elsa, but you’re gonna have to sit back down for a while!

 

  1. Did The Little Mermaid really rise to royalty on those shiny new legs of hers?

Sorry ladies, but the answer is no. Hans Christian Anderson is the childhood-ruining beast who wrote The Little Mermaid, and I can tell you, you DON’T ever want to read it! Not if you want to keep your memories as they are. The long and short of it is that Prince Eric is a bit of a snake who falls in love with someone else. In a last-ditch attempt to save herself from a life of leggy silence, Ariel gets the chance to return to the sea… if she can stab him. Of course, she doesn’t want to, so ends up dead on a beach somewhere. But does this make her weak?

I think it makes her pretty awesome! Cue fact 2:

Ariel sacrificed herself so her prince could live a long and happy life with the woman he loved – even if he was a bit of a rat.

She was bigger than it.

 

  1. Is Snow White lame?

Yes, pretty much. In my opinion anyway. She sings like a chipmunk, runs from scary trees, and chooses, of her own free will, to clean any and all houses she happens to stumble across. Talk about hindering the cause, Snow! We’re trying to fight chauvinism here! On top of this, she gets married to the first man who thinks to kiss her awake and cooks whenever she isn’t cleaning. Not to say cooking and cleaning aren’t great, they are – and everyone loves a domestic goddess – but sometimes we need to show the men that we aren’t shackled to the kitchen sink. You never see the Evil Queen washing up, do you? No. This lack of domesticity is probably the reason most chauvinists hate her – sod the whole evil vendetta! If she doesn’t cook/clean, then she’s truly evil! Note sarcasm here!

Fact 3:

Snow White’s queen is called Queen Grimhilde[3], although not many people know it. Her namelessness adds to the notion that ALL unsexed, not-particularly-domestic women are evil, bra burning feminists.

 

  1. How does Disney make us hate the female antagonists?

Well, other than their unhealthy obsession with misery and eternal damnation, Disney makes most of the female villains pretty masculine, if you’ll excuse my rather one dimensional insight. Their voices are low, songs are sinister and they NEVER have ‘gold of sunshine in their hair’[4]. On top of this, you never see them cleaning or submitting to traditional gender roles such as marriage, so they must be bad, right?

Fact 4:

A female Disney villain has never been depicted as a domestic woman. The closest thing we have to that is Mother Gothel from Tangled treating Rapunzel as her own daughter – after some very illegal kidnapping takes place![5]

 

  1. How old was Pocahontas really?

I’m all for free love, as I’m sure many of us are – not just feminists – but there’s free love… and then there’s this:

Pocahontas, a young village girl falls in love with a thirty-seven-year-old man who subsequently risks her life and abandons her when he has to return home. So much for being a gentleman! But she does all she can to save him regardless. Another example, here, of a strong young woman doing what she must to save someone she loves. The mere fact that she acts out of love doesn’t take away from her extraordinary bravery. It also doesn’t make her any older though… see fact 5:

Pocahontas was only twelve or thirteen when she fell in love with John Smith[6].

 

  1. Do we have to hate Disney if we’re feminist?

In case you hadn’t already guessed, I’m a Disney fan. I like to try and see every action as a strong, feminist stand against the patriarchy, but sometimes, I just can’t. Like the villains all being unsexed females, suggesting all evil women are unmarried, genderless ones. Or the compulsive desire Snow White has, above all else, to cook and clean. Sadly, no matter how I paint it, I can’t make that one stick as anything other than ‘pathetic’.

Disney, however, has shown us some pretty awesome women. Pocahontas, as already explored, Elsa, who learns to thaw a frozen heart with no help from men, and Mulan, who saves the whole of China. Even Rapunzel, who peruses her dream relentlessly. There’s one problem, and that is that almost all of these women feel the need to marry to conclude their stories.

Not the villains though – so are they in fact more feminist? Despite their lack of gender, their blinding jealousy, their less than flattering attire, I think they’re pretty cool. In fact, the older I get, the more I associate with them. They never win, they fight against the tide, and they struggle with love. Sounds like most modern women, right?

Fact 6:

No female Disney villain has ever been shown getting ‘happily’ married… yet. (There’s still time!)

 

  1. Why does Merida have to fight for her own hand?

My first question here, is why doesn’t she already have her ‘own hand’, if you will? Surely Merida is an independent being and so shouldn’t need to fight for the right to make her own choices. The idea of ownership weights heavy here, and I would argue that Merida is owned by her father, to be handed over to another man. If the title of the movie tells us anything, she must be Brave to break from these social constraints. Merida is taught that she should not fire an arrow or play with her brother because ‘a lady enjoys elegant pursuits’[7], but still she remains loyal to her independence throughout the narrative.

Fact 7:

She is one of only a few Disney princesses who remains happily unmarried. Even Mulan ends up married in the sequel to her story, Mulan II.

 

  1. Does Disney really teach us about true love?

No. It teaches us that spells always last until midnight and that you should almost definitely marry a prince. The thing it does teach us about, is plain old love. Love for family, friends, and princes. Love and true love are two very different things. Remember that!

Fact(ish) 8: Spoiler alert! If you want to marry a prince, don’t marry one called Hans. Hint: he’ll probably let you freeze to death and try to steal your throne.

 

  1. Does Cinderella escape one form of slavery for another?

So, about feminism… Cinderella goes from doing one pile of laundry, to doing a different one, so what has she actually achieved, other than sexual subservience as well as domestic subservience?

Well, she chose this one. She chose Prince Charming over her step-family. AND, she has a name. Prince Charming is just a royal adjective. I’d say she doesn’t do too badly. Not compared to some of her fellow damsels. I mean, she’s no Mulan, but she can talk to mice. I’d take that.

Fact 9:

‘You should be free to make your own choice.’ – Aladdin[8]

 

  1. Does it even matter?

I, for one, would call myself feminist. No, I don’t burn bras, renounce men or celebrate my female freedom by turning into a giant dragon and fighting true love (see Sleeping Beauty for reference[9]), but I do support equality in whatever form it may come. If you want to clean and cook, you go for it. If you want to save China… well, you give it a good go. If you want, like me, to earn the same pay as men for the same job, then perhaps find a nice happy medium and fight for what you believe is right in the best way you think you can. If that’s teaching your kids about equality, then great. If it means taking a more academic route, fabulous! If it means cooking the soup for the army of women (and men) who protest for female freedom on the front line, then thank you. Keep it up!

Fact 10:

Feminism comes in many forms. Do not judge those who choose differently, think different things, or understand feminism in a different way to you. No. Just let us all fight together for equality, in whatever form it may come.

 

Disney princess or not, be the woman you want to be.

[1] https://cinesnark.com/2013/12/03/frozen-a-feminist-fairytale-for-everyone/

[2] http://ancientstandard.com/2011/06/17/the-real-story-of-mulan/

[3] http://www.disneyvillains.net/Queen.php

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V1CtkJcFek

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhSVreVsjJo

[6]http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/pocohontas/pocahontas_smith_letter.cfm

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEHWDA_6e3M

[8] https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/52635889365736932/

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmM-XX8atlQ

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Successful Submissions A.K.A ‘Lessons from Losers in Love’

So, I have recently had an article (more of a creative snippet really, but article sounds so professional!) of mine published in a book from American Professor, Dr Alonda Alloway. She is a social worker and educator who started this project in the hopes of sharing some valuable lessons from those who have loved, lost, and learned from their own mistakes. I think, it would be fair to say, she has achieved this with splendiferous good humour and class. But this is not why I am writing today. On the contrary, this is about achieving your dreams more than it is heart-break.

Now this is in no way me attempting to brag (although I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be proud, no matter how small the publication) but merely to tell every amateur writer out there to keep going.

Firstly, I would like to emphasise that this commission did not find me. Quite the opposite in fact. I spent three days solidly scouring the internet in the hopes of finding something to get me started. I wrote piece after shoddy piece in the hopes of coming up with something good – but I wasn’t passionate about any of them, and for me, that just isn’t how it works best.

In the end I messaged Alonda with an idea and vague draft about what I wanted to write, and awaited a response. Hers was the only one I got. Now after what felt like hundreds of hours spent composing my begging emails, this was a little disheartening.

However I seem to have forgotten each and every one of those failed pieces (from dodgy prose to even-worse poetry) because, you know what? It was entirely worth it. Because that one piece, golden amid the pile of hulking grey “no’s”, is my prize. It is my reward for all the hard work. It is my first published piece of work, and will always be so. Below, you can read a little introduction, just to give you the idea of what it’s about. If not, feel free to skip it and head over to my little motivational pep talk to all the dreamers out there.

 

“This little memoir of mine is less a story of being a loser in love, but a lesson of losers being in love. Brutal, perhaps? But you weren’t the one who had to endure it… trust me on this one.

So, it all kicked off just after Christmas – right when we lonely singles feel worst about ourselves. Not only have we had to endure couples mooning over minced pies and using whatever scraggy bit of foliage they can and labelling it ‘mistletoe’ just so they can linger on a kiss and make the rest of us feel awkward, oh no! We’ve also had to experience that horrendous thirty seconds on the brink of the New Year in which we turn from side to side for a friendly hug and a ‘happy New Year’ only to find everyone – and I mean everyone – in the arms of their partner, thus leaving us stranded and miserable right at the point in the year we’re told that the world is our oyster. At this point, we all make that New Years resolution:

I will find a man and get my happily ever after. This year is the year! And so is every year after that.

My worry with this, is that we’ll settle for just about anyone – or anything, if you’ve kissed enough frogs – purely so we don’t feel alone. Now I’m pretty sure I’ve never made this mistake, but it was a close call.”

 

My piece tells of a friend who was used, and a guy who pretty much sucked balls, but it also discusses reasons not to give up. In that case, on love. In this case, on pursuing your dreams, no matter what they are, or how out of reach they seem.

To achieve my own little dream, I found the following websites particularly helpful:

  1. http://www.problogger.com/jobs/
  2. http://www.beafreelanceblogger.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Ultimate-List-2015
  3. http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com

I hope this gives those of you who are, like me, trying to get some more experience in the big, bad world of writing a bit of a push in the right direction!

I always aimed to be published, and now I can say I have. It may not be the award-winning novel, or the weekly column in The Times or The Guardian, but it is a step in the right direction. After all, Rome wasn’t built-in a day, patience is a virtue, and life isn’t fair. All you have to do, is start building, try to be patient, and enjoy the good bits. Don’t let the “no’s” drag you down, when the “yes’s” could carry you that much closer to your dreams.

 

Good luck and goodbye until next time!

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Author Interview – Malcolm Rose

One great perk of being involved in the marketing and publicity of books here at Ransom, is that I have the opportunity to chat to authors. On top of being published (let me fan girl for a second h…

Source: Author Interview – Malcolm Rose

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Ransom Publishing – Connor’s Brain

Malcolm Rose has worked with Ransom for a few years, primarily producing the Outer Reaches series, beginning with Body Harvest and ending with Blood and Bone. These books, along with his crime thrillers written before Malcolm’s career with Ransom, have a scientific basis, aided by his time as a chemistry lecturer. His most recent release […]

via Connor’s Brain — Ransom Publishing Book Blog

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Ransom Publishing – The Secret Code Menace

Sara, Daniel and Jared (Sara’s little brother) have their own secret code. They use it to communicate in class, avoid the teachers and keep secrets from the rest of their classmates, but when one of the messages is tampered with, Sara finds herself in serious trouble. The three must fight to protect the content of […]

via The Secret Code Menace — Ransom Publishing Book Blog

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