Leading Ladies of Television

In recent years it has seemed like television executives have finally acknowledged the existence of a female audience. And not in a Sex and the City kind of way. In a Jessica Jones bad-ass-women take on the world and it’s not about their heels and hair kind of way!

I have found myself enjoying many more TV series with female leads and have found more women in the film and television industry speaking out about the misogyny and pay inequality as an encouraging sign.

Last year I indulged in Good Girls Revolt, a series about a female revolution in the male-dominated world of journalism at the turn of the 70’s. I revelled in it, felt empowered by the story I hadn’t previously known of and couldn’t wait for more…until I read that Amazon bosses had cancelled the show. I was very disappointed by this and additionally felt that minimal effort had been pt in to promoting the show.

In a similar vein I am still sat here waiting for Jessica Jones season 2, apparently pushed back several times in favour of male led superhero series.

After the success and popularity of the recent adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies surely the top dogs need to take heed and see there is still room for more female led television, be it superhero (as we’ve seen the success of WonderWoman), be it older women or younger women there is half the world who would like to see this – we’re not all Carrie Bradshaws.

The other great part of this is the rise in TV shows with black female leads, Insecure being a personal favorite of mine (Issa Rae is incredible!) Empire and Scandal are the two other obvious mentions, incredible shows showing complex women. Give us more please rather than less!!


WhatsApp Sexism

There is much to be said (and much is said) about sexism and the internet, from revenge porn to trolling it is ever more blatant and evident. There is, however, much that is hidden from plain sight and one of these is private messaging.

In recent times I have found myself privy to a ‘lads’ WhatsApp group discussion. Initially this was to plan a trip, but as with many groups its usage has continued far beyond and developed from it’s original purpose – and in addition I never made it on the trip so I think they forget I am still in the group.
This group is myself and five grown men all aged late 20’s to early 30’s. One of them is a friend I have known for years, the others I do not know so well or have never met them. I’m going to call them a typical group of ‘blokes’; beer, football and women are the primary ‘activities’ in their lives. These are the topics that go around in the group, typically the latter is the most common.
It began when they were on the trip, like both guys and girls, when they were away they were playing on tinder and looking for hookups – natural for group of single people, we’ve all done it- my problem arose from the language they used and the attitude they showed towards these women. Pure and simple objectification and vulgarity – I scroll quickly through the messages and find an example very easily – “But you did fuck that big booty Colombian hoe”.
This language flows so easily for them, the graphics of it come off the tongue – sucking cocks, gagging, fucking the girl (never the girl fucking them, is this power play?), big tits, fat arse, she can take it, hoe, whore, bitch, slut, slag so on and so forth… It is the language of hardcore porn, not language you would use with someone you care about or even just have respect for. It’s objectification, these women they discuss or ‘banter’ with each other about are nothing more than holes for their pleasure.
I wonder if this is a dick-sizing competition, each of them playing the big ‘I am’ and the game of one-upmanship “You fucked her in the bathroom? Well she gave me blowy in the bar toilet earlier”. The worry with this is that it translates to actual life and generally disrespectful attitudes towards women, even my own messages relating to other topics have been met with scorn and harsh sarcasm.
Although it is their private space, and to my knowledge they do not use this language in person to person conversations, the worry is that it still exists. Never have I heard a woman, even those with the filthiest of minds and mouths, speak this way about a man. I scroll through my female only whatsapp groups and the only messages I find relating to men go along the lines of “Yeh, he’s well fit!” or “Bit of a dodgy haircut”.

‘Oh, you’re not a Feminazi are you?’

When I was growing up I recall having a very different feeling towards the word ‘Feminism’ than I do now. In my mind I associated it with an aggressive form of womanhood, I heard about the burning of bras and understood it as an anti-male sentiment. I was a child, it was before the more recent wave of feminism and since my teenage years I have embraced the word and am proud to call myself a Feminist as an adult.

My first real foray into ‘Feminism’ came when I was doing my French A-level and I decided to dive into the deep with the topic for my oral exam – I seem to always pick the challenges! I chose to talk about influential French women – from Simone Veil, the politician who fought to legalise abortion, to Simone de Beauvoir, the existential philosopher, and the women of modern French politics – Rachida Dati, Ségolène Royal etc. It was during my research for this exam that I was hooked and my understanding of the topic and it’s issues profoundly deepened.

Since my young, childhood naivety I have rarely encountered that view of feminism in my life, except of course on Twitter and a number of other online spaces. I have come to believe that most people are at least aware of the new wave of feminism and I always hope that it makes them think, I know many men and women who identify themselves with the term so I was recently surprised to be confronted otherwise.

The first occurrence was a Friday eve, enjoying a caña with friends after playing some basketball (very badly). I was discussing the fact that I am currently contemplating doing a masters in Gender Studies or something in that field with a Catalan friend, he made a comment along the lines of ‘Oh, you’re not a Feminazi are you?’. I was surprised at first that this was his reaction, I responded saying that I call myself a feminist and why is the term ‘feminazi’ the first thing he jumps to? He began to talk in the manner I had only really heard whisperings of before, feminism is women hating men, women thinking they’re better so on and so forth. I asked him if he believed in gender equality to which he responded yes, of course – I believe in equality for everyone, why can’t we just call it equality? His primary nuance was semantic, in Spanish the word for feminism is ‘feminismo’, the word for sexism/male chauvinism is ‘machismo’ – in his mind the word and therefore the idea relates to reverse sexism…I was too bewildered to even begin on the incorrect notion of reverse oppression.

My second encounter was with a student I give private English classes to. He was asking me about whether I will be staying on in the city after this school year and again I got talking about possible future plans. He asked, when I mentioned my masters thoughts ‘are a feminist?’, I said yes and he then asked ‘but equality, right?’ as if there was some other form of feminism. He questioned whether he had said it correctly as my face clearly showed confused, ‘Yes that’s correct and yes, equality obviously.’ He seemed relieved when he looked at his watch and realised the lesson was over.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised, I know currently everything is about ‘bursting your bubble’ but I couldn’t help feeling like a huge problem had just dawned on me. Is this simply two Spanish men? I know this country has a huge problem with machismo, with domestic abuse and murder. Or is it that most people haven’t grown out of the naivety I once had as a young child?


Adventures in Modern Russia

I went to London with half a bag of books, intending to offload some possessions to make my eventual move lighter. I returned, however, with half a bag of books having bought and borrowed more!

One of these borrowed books is Nothing is true and everything is possible; Adventures in Modern Russia by Peter Pomerantsev (I know, a break from my reading ladies mantra!)

I am only at the beginning and my mind is already amazed at the workings of the Federation in the 21st century. One of the early chapters looks at the lives of women who attend the so-called ‘Gold Diggers Academies’, this is seen as a genuine profession for young women (young as of course there is a sell by date) and I am amazed at what I read – I have to remind myself that this is not a piece of fiction. Once finished I will comment further but for now I shall leave you with this extract….


The War on Women

Never has a book had such a profound and immediate impact on me; my sense of the world, my knowledge and influence on my life path. The War on Women, a book written by former BBC video-journalist Sue Lloyd-Roberts, who very sadly passed away while writing, takes a look at stories from around the world relating to women’s rights.

In each chapter Sue recalls her journeys to investigate and reveal the various abuses women have faced and continue to face around the world. From the very first chapter Sue does not hold back. Although many of the stories are harrowing, difficult to read and occasionally brought me to tears they are counterbalanced with the wonderful and optimistic stories of the women who are fighting back.

The book begins with FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and the story of Maimouna’s escape from the Gambia in order to avoid having to take the role of the village cutter. Sue looks at the issue from all angles; the graphic reality of it, the reasons for it and how people are working to prevent it – both governments, individuals and organisations.

Every chapter of this book taught me something new. Be it whole episodes of history, such as Argentina’s Dirty War to a deeper understanding of issues such as Rape as Weapon of War. There were not only new facts but new perspectives that I had been unaware of previously. Overall, it showed me how much further, on a global scale, we have to go to achieve safety and security for women along with equal rights.

Sue was a brave woman and an honest reporter. Her work, in light of recent events, seems to me to be more important than ever. The book is one I keep returning to, one I will keep learning from, keep reflecting on and will keep inspiring me to help fight back. It is a book that I think all should read, and all would benefit from doing so.

Blazing Flames of Hope

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend a Women’s March yesterday but I spent most of my day in contact with friends attending, following Twitter and other live updates. I found it incredibly exciting.

For me, and many I know, we moved from 2016 to 2017 under a cloud of global negativity, dejection, grief, so on and so forth! Yesterday, however, was the day when the sun came out, the negativity turned positive and the dejection turned into a fighting hope.

Spending the past hour pouring over images of women, men and children marching together, marching in peace and projecting one loud and clear message of equality and hope has put a huge smile on my face!

It is something that will be said over and over, but we cannot allow the anger to dissipate. We have to hold onto this fire and march forward, the dialogue must be open, it must be understanding, it must be inclusive. Despite the events of 2016, the effects of which we are still yet to feel, we must hold our ground and not allow so much progress to be regressed!

A woman’s place is in the Resistance, and we must resist united!

Men confess what feminine things they’d do if stereotypes didn’t exist

It was refreshing to wake up this morning with a clear head, a rarity these days living in a regressed state teaching abroad in Spain. Anyway, with Fighting Talk on the radio, eating pancakes and sipping fresh coffee I set about on a morning internet surf…

I came across a great article titled as above, here is the link https://www.the-pool.com/news-views/opinion/2017/2/what-men-would-do-if-stereotypes-didnt-exist

The article discusses a recent Reddit post in which male contributors relay the things they would do if they weren’t deemed to be ‘too feminine’ by wider society, these ranged from sewing to yoga pants to buying flowers. The responses from other men were encouraging, supportive and friendly which in the world of Reddit is not always the case. It can be a dark place filled with all the bad -isms of the world and it was refreshing to see it in a different light.

There was, however, a sentence in the article that didn’t sit quite so well with me:

“Feminism has been working to break down the female stereotypes which, in turn, prop up the ideals of what a man should be.”

As a friend with whom I shared the article noted too, surely the breaking down of female stereotypes also serves to break down male stereotypes? Surely we don’t prop them up? I hope that this is not how it is perceived, if it is the case then we are doing something wrong.

The inclusion of men in the feminist debate is all-important. We need men to be able to express themselves as much as women too, the high numbers of young men with depression is something we need to discuss more in society as the knock-on effects this can have are all our problem.


Still Reading Ladies

I’m not very consistent with these posts, but I have been consistent with my 2016 New Year Resolution – reading female authors.

Besides two summer exceptions, which were definitely worth it – Yoga for people who can’t be bothered to do it by Geoff Dyer and The Tortilla Curtain by T.C Boyle – I read books by females all year.

As the year progressed more and more people around me became interested in the idea, requesting I share with them my list of books or inquiring as to what I had gained from the experience. In truth, when I read I get consumed by the story, I fall easily into the setting and the characters and this is the same for each book be it by a man or a woman.

It appears obvious to note that novels by female authors have predominately female protagonists, hence many of the characters, if not more relatable are at least more understandable. My intention in reading more female authors was innocently that of supporting females in literature who, like in many other industries, are often overshadowed by males.

As Christmas rolled around it felt natural, when asked what I wanted as a present, to ask for books. It turns out everyone caught wind of my foray into female lit and all in my family were regaled with female books, it was great to see!

A number of the books I was very lucky to receive are non-fiction, this is a first for me besides the endless essays and critiques I read during my degree. All are by women, and so here goes 2017’s Resolution – to begin my non-fiction female reading (not the whole year, I still need my story-time). To begin with I have The War on Women and the brave ones who fought back by the wonderful Sue Lloyd-Roberts.

Reading Ladies

Although not terribly late in the year, I am proud to say that my New Year Resolution is still in tact and growing stronger by the book – I didn’t choose to quit smoking (though I will one day soon), I most definitely couldn’t make it through January dry and the thought of joining a gym fills me fear and self-consciousness induced mild panic. Instead I resolved to read, not just to read more but read female.

I thought of my previous years literature and realised that the majority of it was written by male authors. My thoughts moved then to wondering which female authors I had a read as an adult, I knew many names but had not really delved into their books. As a child and teenager I had got the most joy from books by female authors – from the heart breaking stories in Marita Conlon-McKenna’s Children of the Famine trilogy, Jacqueline Wilson’s tumultuous family tales to Louise Rennison making my sides split with the teen tales of Georgia Nicolson and her really big knickers. I knew for sure then that this was my year for female literature.

I wouldn’t claim to be the best read person around by a long shot but it was while I was compiling my reading list that I realised how much I had been missing out on. Never had I intentionally avoided female writers, it is just the way it worked out – I can’t blame any outside influences either, I don’t think at least. Over the years, however, I have identified more and more with the feminist movement and was quite disgraced with myself by how little one of my biggest passions, reading, had taken this on board when it seemed such an obvious thing.

Anyway, so far I have read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tar Baby by Toni Morrison and am about to embark on some Virginia Woolf.

I have a extensive list but suggestions would be welcomed!