Words about Women

By Holly Peacock

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Are women ever allowed to say they are attractive?

Since Samantha Bricks shock article regarding her own attractiveness, the question ‘Are women ever allowed to say they are attractive?’ has been bouncing from cover to cover across the newsstands.

Before trying to join this debate I want to wave my flag at the question all together.

Saying you are attractive when directly asked is, in my opinion, fine. It’s like looking through every single one of your facebook pictures consecutively. It’s ok to admit to when asked but don’t do it in front of people.

However, setting out to tell people ‘HEY GUYS I’M REALLY FIT!’ is just crass and simply not in keeping with what is considered polite in Britain. Ruthless ambition, self promotion and vanity of either gender are not considered virtuous. They are in fact, quite rightly attributed to the opposing truth of being deeply insecure. The good old advice of ‘if you aren’t confident, fake it until you are’ quickly becomes translucent if over used.

In Samantha Bricks case yes, she was saying she was attractive (as she has done many times in her career) but what made Britain wail was that she claimed that because of her good looks she was a threat to other women.

This then alluded to her stating that her beauty is why she has no female pals.

I simply will not comment on her levels of attractiveness as that only gives fuel to her argument but I will say this…

She said she isn’t a threat to the women she encounters but she writes articles entitled ‘I use my sex appeal to get ahead at work… and so does ANY woman with any sense’ and openly claims that women can be “too ugly for TV”

Oh Samantha. Women don’t like you because you are a constant whirl of needy, acceptance-seeking sadness and you will quite happily knock those around you to get ahead.

This reminds me. My mum, still to this day, applies the following philosophy to everything I do not achieve. If I don’t get a job, someone doesn’t like me or someone goes out of their way to hurt me, she simply says ‘they are just jealous’

This jealous theory is sometimes true but mostly the truth is; I wasn’t good enough, I kicked their chair from beneath their desk or they were selfish psychopaths. Jealousy is not usually a factor but when my mum says it I am comforted by the fact that the negativity around me can be blanketed by an ironic suggestion that it’s actually because I’m brill!

Another Brick-classic article reads ‘I’ll always be that fat girl’ with a sub line claiming ‘Samantha Brick has always obsessed about her weight… all because she was a chubby child’

So… she was fat, she feels like the fat girl even though she isn’t and to cover up her mangled esteem she just shouts ‘YOU ARE ALL JEALOUS!’ Point proven I think.

Many critics have claimed she is a vulnerable woman, shoehorned into a cruel trap by the Daily Mail. Others are pretty miffed asking, ‘GOD! Are we EVER allowed to say we are attractive’

Well yes, we are but we must apply some etiquette. I OBVIOUSLY (see previous blog posts regarding fanny’s) am not the epitome of English decorum but I can still recognize that putting others down to elevate your own esteem, telling other women they are too ugly for TV and reinforcing the risky belief that you should use your boobs to get ahead is pretty ugly.

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Words about Women BOOK CLUB: Fifty Shades of Grey

Each month I review a book (without giving too much away) and if you like the sound of it all you have to do is email me (hollyapeacock@hotmail.co.uk) and it’s yours! The only catch is that you have to send me one you have read too.

This month I have read the first in the trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James.

Already banned from libraries in the Florida district this boundary pushing novel tells the story of a young woman drawn to a rich businessman. Their relationship is sparked through a ying and yang attraction of innocence and experience. As the tale develops the female protagonist Anastasia allows the reader in honestly with her running narrative that is both amusing and refreshing.

Not for the faint hearted this story will having you possessed and devouring every page. A word to the wise, you might not want to read it when someone is peeking over your shoulder!


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Some people are Gay. Get over it!

Has anyone else been watching open mouthed as the London Stonewall Vs Anglican Mainstream gay bus ad debate has been washing its laundry in public?

This is a ludicrous situation, where one side invests hopefully in promoting peace and acceptance of gay people whilst the other uses this very platform to display misinformation reflective of an archaic, uneducated and dangerous belief.

Let me first say, as it’s my blog and hell I have an opinion, that the suggestion that being homosexual is an illness is UTTER SHITE and I was both mortified and genuinely upset by the suggestion.

Ah, that feels better.

I could quite merrily dissect and verbally destroy this viewpoint but I think that because of this debate there are important issues to focus on.

Although this is a terrible thing to for the public to witness, thank god it has.

It has come to light that after years of seemingly achieved tolerance of others sexual preferences, we are now uncovering the reality that there is still a huge prejudice in the UK.

I feel I have been naive in believing that real homophobic beliefs are minimal in society because it doesn’t directly affect me. As I am considered ‘straight’ (doesn’t this word now seem laced with implication?) I perhaps haven’t considered that there are real prejudices in our society that need to be addressed urgently if we are to consider ourselves tolerant and forward thinking.

The thing is sexuality isn’t a thing for us to accept or not. It isn’t something we should be debating. It simply is.

Love manifests itself in many forms and that we accept.

Sexuality is too often attributed to selfish desire and therefore, choice. A choice we can choose not to have.

Now put love and sexuality together and people freak the hell out because they don’t believe both can exist independently (and if they do. they shouldn’t) or that either can be controlled by our want to construct a widespread normality.

Now what is the real fear here? Sex between same sexes (I say ‘same sex’ but is it just gay men that need to be cured? It wouldn’t surprise me if the viewpoint extends further back to a time where lesbians weren’t even acknowledged) or is it the relationships they disagree with? Would we all be able to enjoy each other’s bodies if we promised only to be in hetro, long term relationships?

The only thing we have the right to control is any situation that subjects actual harm onto others. And it is my opinion that sexual pleasure of consenting adults in any human combination whether is for love or pleasure, harms absolutely no one.

So I ask to the people of the Anglican Mainstream, the Daily Mail reporters and anyone else…

Can I love who I choose and have sex with whomever I like, is that OK with you? 

Actually, don’t answer. Because it’s none of your bloody business!

 

Stonewall says: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/quick_links/education_resources/4007.asp

Anglican Mainstream says:

http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/2012/04/12/london-bus-campaign-challenges-stonewalls-claim-that-gay-is-innate/

Daily Mail say: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2129340/Gay-cure-bus-advert-Homosexuality-IS-departure-norm.html


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London gangs and girls

The growing statistics in gang related crime in London has finally shone a light on the abuse girls suffer as a result of gang association.

Last month, BBC News London reported that the government has pledged £1.2m to help girls who are raped and assaulted by male gang members.

Speaking to the BBC, Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said “It’s quite clear that everyone would be entirely shocked by the level of violence girls and young women have to experience if they get involved with gangs and it has been a very hidden issue.”

Although ‘hidden’ from the news this type of abuse is somewhat glorified in popular culture through the likes of commercial Rap and hip hop music. As it dominates the English music and video charts it sends out the message that this type of behavior is socially accepted.

Rapper TYGA who is currently topping the UK charts with his song ‘Rack City Bitch’ openly refers to women as “bitches” and raps about using women as a source of income. He sings: Tell That Bitch Hop Out, Walk The Boulevard,I Need My Money Pronto”. The accompanying video to this song sees nearly naked women stripping whilst the rapper chucks money at them.  ( or fans it close to their naked bodies)

Some argue that this music is not reflective of reality but it is unavoidable not to attribute some of the influences of this abuse to this type of mainstream, popular music and videos that openly portray women as possessions and tools to be used in gaining respect, money and status.

With multiple strip clubs littered across the streets of London and society accepting this type of music as the norm, it becomes a challenging task to then reinstate that women are not possessions for sale.

Writer and author Alan White published an article on The Guardian website titled ‘Catch the gang members, end the rapes? It’s not that simple.’ In his article White claims that it’s not just a case of criminalising gang members who abuse women but a investing in a multitude of social changes.

He claims that these issues are “symptoms of far bigger social problems: what we’re tackling here is the rise of hypermasculinity in certain areas of the inner city.”

Although acknowledging that several factors contribute to the abuse girls suffer at the hands of gang culture, White claims the issues that need to be challenged are simply the “little things that don’t create a single headline, but work” such as “balanced economic growth“ and  “greater financing for education starting in the classroom”.  

This is undoubtedly true and the intent for this type of education was reiterated by Mark Townsend, Home Affairs Editor at The Guardian. Townsend reported that Metropolitan Detective Chief Inspector, Petrina Cribb, who is responsible for protecting vulnerable young women from falling into gang culture, plans to educate young women of the dangers of getting involved in gangs from primary school age.

However vital these attempts by government services and charities, we only set to undermined and challenge them by our own acceptance of the representation of women in popular culture.

Objectifying women in music, on screen and even on our own communities serves only to reinforce hypermasculinity and the sexualisation of women, aiding in the reasoning of abuse adopted by gangs and even, mainstream society.

It seems that although we need to continue our work towards supporting victims, education and economic growth, we cannot silently condone this type of hypocritical social acceptance through popular culture if we are to make a real change.

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Feminism, Freedom and the Hijab

For many the Hijab is a powerful symbol. Be it a symbol of oppression or religious faith, the Hijab packs a punch. It speaks volumes to a judgmental society who watch on, intrigued.

Some claim they use the Hijab to protect their modesty where as others say it is something they are forced to wear.

I’m going to be brutally honest about my opinion here because I want to join the debate and provide a viewpoint.

When I see women in Hijabs I don’t pity them, fear them nor view it as a symbol of oppression because I can see their faces. I view it as a symbol of their religious faith. A faith I do not follow but none the less it is their choice and I would never want to interfere with a woman’s right to choose. I consider also, that this may not be a faith they have chosen nor wish to express through garments but as I consider it, I don’t feel offended by it as a feminist. I am however, intrigued.

When I see a Burka or a similar garment covering all but the eyes of a woman, a chill washes over me. I can’t see their eyes or their smile. I rarely hear them speak. They are often draped in shapeless, matching, dark garments which simultaneously make the women stand out but appear as unidentifiable objects.

In this, I can’t see religion. I can’t see faith or choice. I see oppression, control and subordination.

But does it matter what I see?

Say I campaigned to outlaw the Burka, what would I achieve? Ok women wouldn’t wear it and I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable when I saw them in the streets but all of the issues that I associate with it would remain. In addition, in reality, do these associated issues manifest themselves as a Burka? I think not but it IS right there in my face, so wrongly it becomes something I can direct my fears towards.

Perhaps that in its self is the problem. Those freedom fighters amongst us want to SEE freedom but by doing it we can often project the same objectification we oppose onto women and the things they wear. This only reinforces that a woman should be and is, judged on her appearance.

As I recall, thousands upon thousands of women worldwide hit the streets to protest in the SlutWalk protests. The protesters were saying ‘don’t judge me by what I wear!’ and I was empowered. GO LADIES!

To the same point, when it comes to Burkas, shouldn’t we be saying the same thing? Wouldn’t it have been amazing if amongst those at the SlutWalks were women in Burkas, holding up the same banners telling the world that no matter what garments a woman wears it doesn’t dictate or reflect which freedoms and rights she is entitled to.

Society needs to move past our obsession with the appearance of women. We give so much power to the visualization of women that we reinforce the stereotype that women are there to be looked at. On both sides we attach power and control to how much skin we show. Either, we associate freedom into wearing revealing clothes or we claim to preserve modesty and remove the temptations of men by covering ourselves head to toe.

In my opinion, Feminism should not be associated with clothes at all, in lacking or in abundance.

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Can you be a feminist and vajazzle?

This month at the Women of the World festival at London’s Southbank Centre, I sat back and listened to the debate ‘Am I a Feminist- Can I Vajazzle?’  Here sat Louise Court the Editor of Cosmopolitan, Broadcaster Dawn Porter, renowned feminist activist Kate Smurthwaite and academic sociologist Dr Kristin Aune.

These women, each of whom is an inspiring figure head for feminism, discussed whether we could be feminists and prettify our pubic hair.

Obviously, this tongue and cheek debate was intended to light heartedly demonstrate the separation of popular culture’s approach to what it is to be a feminist but as each member of the audience shouted out another question I couldn’t help but think. ‘No wonder everyone is confused!’

Here we were trying to get young women to RECLAIM feminism and although it was supposed to be a metaphor for the discussion we actually talked a lot about brazillians, vajazzles and our vaginas in general. One member of the audience stood up and declared ‘you are all naive if you shave your pubic hair as it is clearly a manifestation of society’s obsession with prepubescent girls.’

Of course I didn’t agree with this in its entirety and it caused uproar amongst the group but she had a point…or rather the beginnings of one.

The point I wanted to make was WHY ARE WE OBJECTIFYING OURSELVES? Does feminism equally fanny? To reclaim the control over my own sexuality do I have to grow my pubic hair? Or, if I want to shave it, do I need to add jewels to make it into an ironic statement of ‘I am woman; I am fanny, look how individual I am’ Bollocks to that, or to be PC, Vulva to that!

Looking back to the second wave of feminism we reclaimed our sexuality and used it as a symbol of freedom. Today, society has taken this a full circle thus producing an over sexualised culture. This is something that many women are now giving strength too. We pole dance for exercise and glorify prostitution to the masses through the celebration of the Belle De Jours of the media world. We allow our children to listen to music which openly talks about abusing women and then gasp open mouthed when we see them dance like the cast of ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’.

How pray tell, can we then cringe in horror at the 6% rape conviction rate but then expect our generation not to believe women are for sale?

As I view it, the construction of the patriarchy and female subordination all derives from the objectification of women as some THING to either possess or control. It is my belief therefore; that we do not need to simply reclaim feminism for each generation nor hail our vaginas as THE symbol of Feminism because believe it or not females are not all about fannies.

Feminism is no different to racial equality and I doubt each generation seeks to re-establish the concept like feminists do.

We are all sexual beings and have genitals- now what else have we got talk about? I’m all for preventing the pornification of our bodies but I’m trying not to channel everything it means to be a woman via my sexual organs.

All around the world society lives in fear of the almighty clitoris and genital mutilation is a fact of life for so many women. All that we are is not embodied in our vagina and I can’t help but think that that is the message we are sending out if all we have got, when we get all of these inspirational women together, is fanny chat.

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The Grey Area Of Domestic Violence

The world winces as high profile domestic violence cases are reported in the media but the reality of the presence of domestic violence in the UK is hidden behind closed doors, muddied by misguided social acceptance.

At least 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and 2 women die each week in the UK as a consequence. Yet most cases of domestic violence go unreported to authorities whilst charities and help lines are inundated with victims seeking support.

In his recent interview on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories (which airs next month on ITV) Dennis Waterman made some rather shocking and frank admissions in regard to his abusive relationship with his ex-wife, Rula Lenska.

Although his admissions are shocking and laced with naivety, his frank confessions in a program which he knows will air to the nation adds evidence to the argument that domestic violence is often seen as a ‘grey area’ in society and highlights some of the reasons why domestic violence is still rife in the UK.

Waterman’s own opinion that although his ex- wife was hit “she certainly wasn’t a beaten wife” as “that’s different” highlights the detachment some abusers create to justify their actions. He goes on to reveal the following statements which only emphasise that he still has yet to accept the reality that he abused his wife:

·         “The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue, well. And if there is a time where you can’t get a word in … and I … I lashed out. I couldn’t end the argument.”

·         “Something must have brought it on. When frustration builds up and you can’t think of a way out … It happened and I’m very, very ashamed of it.”

·         “I’d never done it before or since. But if a woman is determined to put you down, and if you’re not bright enough to do it with words, it can happen, and it did happen in my case.”

Through his confessions we are able to see why some men and women feel unable to identify when they are victims of domestic violence and equally when they have become abusive.

Government cuts are only set to aggravate the issue reducing funding to the support sectors by local authorities. News reporter for the Guardian Alexandra Topping, revealed that last year on an average day 230 women were turned away by Women’s Aid and around 9% of those were seeking refuge. Due to lack of space the organisation had no option but to turn these women and children away back into the dangerous environments they tried to escape from.

These horrific figures are baffling. Making cuts in these sectors does not seem appropriate as they further risk the welfare of victims who are already representing unacceptable statistics. Couple this with the social grey area of domestic violence and we can do no more than sit back and watch these statistics grow.

Or can we?

Red Magazine and domestic violence charity Refuge are taking the debate to the House of Commons by launching the Speak Up, Save A Life campaign. The aim of the campaign is to ask that every police force in the country works alongside an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate in its work to prevent domestic violence and save lives.

To get this to the House of Commons they need 100,000 signatures. To show your support please sign the petition via the link below:

http://www.redonline.co.uk/savealife

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Do men do it?

I was recently chosen to be one of Caitlin Moran’s guest bloggers discussing a topic inspired her latest book ‘How to be a Woman’. Here is what I wrote:

I am a Feminist, it’s been my life time mantra; I am a Feminist BIG TIME, trust me!

Then I read ‘How to be a Woman’ and BAM. I’m not sure if I can state that as the fact I believed it to be.

I realised that as much as I profess to be a Feminist I must recognise that I am also a woman who, since the age of 14, has never had more than a two inch surface area of pubic hair and if there is a pole within half a mile radius, I will be most definitely getting a leg up from my boyfriend to slide down it. Most likely to some misogynistic, top 20, hip hop song.

‘How to be a Woman’ has acted as a much needed, modern day check-up for women. It asks, then answers, the daily questions we are torn by. Are we being empowered by this action or are we letting ourselves down?

So I’ve grown my pubic hair, been able to back up my dislike for strip clubs and I no longer feel the need to dutty wine to songs about ‘hoes’.

But what, pray tell, happens when you get to the end of the book and more issues arise that aren’t covered by Catlin Moran? Shall I email her directly from my iPhone at 3am when the rest of my friends are beckoning me to the pole?

After fretting about this issue for some time I realised, that the answer is hidden within the book.

If you can’t decide how you feel about something that could endanger your Feminist title then ask yourself, do men do it?

I’ve ALWAYS maintained that Feminism has nothing to do with a view on men be it loving or hating them and I still stand by that. However, I believe that this question can save us the soul searching when quick fire decision’s need to be made. Standing at the door of a strip club or standing at the bar waiting to be bought a drink ask yourself, do men do it? And if they answer is no, ask why not?

Now if it’s giving birth, using tampons or doing the splits your answer will always be, they can’t, and you can get on with your day. However, I believe this mantra can assist you in exploring these situations with the same approach as ‘How to be a Woman’ (without protesting outside Caitlin Morans house begging for ‘Volume 2’)

It certainly helped me. Looking at a particular friend,  I always felt uncomfortable and unfeminine in my flat, comfy shoes or my love affair with pencil skirls over her Louboutins and glittery mini’s but then I asked myself; do men do it?

Suddenly my insecurities of not being as feminine or sexy fell away. I realised that walking like Bambi and stapling Rapunzel-esk extensions to your head, resulting in pattern baldness, was neither desirable nor empowering and I began to feel happier in my flats.

So there was my new theology in practice. Do men do it? Well unless they are having a wildly hilarious shindig amongst the gay bars of Soho then I don’t think they do.  And why don’t they do it? Because they are uncomfortable, cold and don’t want to look like Barbies. Easy, decision made. Flats it is. Thanks Caitlin!

http://www.caitlinmoran.co.uk/index.php/2012/03/do-men-do-it/

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Why I don’t weigh myself.

I bet you have pondered this question many a time. Why does Holly Peacock not weigh herself? Where are her scales, is she MAD?

Well I’ll tell you.

I can’t think of ONE positive reason to own scales.  

Scales end up becoming an unsustainable tool we use to measure our self worth unrealistically with outrageous conclusions. Much of which is based on weighing yourself before and after you have a Poo and congratulating yourself on the achievement of getting rid of half pound through such effort.

It’s been pointed out by many women that they only weigh themselves when they are unhappy. This then leads to insane behavior where we attempt to control everything in our day to day life. How many steps do I have to take to burn off my cereal? How many calories are in a green tea? Suddenly all normal perspective is lost.

This seems crazy but it’s true and impossible to ignore. It’s then only fuelled by diet products saturating the food market encouraging impressionable people to opt for what I like to call ‘Non foods’. Basically these are diet products laced with chemicals and “food replacement” ….shall we say…..supplements?

I AM AN IMPRESSIONABLE PERSON. I realised this over Christmas when my sister told me margarine is actually black before it is coloured to replicate butter. *vomits in mouth*

Weighing ourselves is one of the many things we do and don’t actually THINK about why.

In my opinion those of us not morbidly obese shouldn’t really care what the scales say.

Have you ever heard either sex describe anyone in any of the following ways?

‘Wow he/she is so LIGHT’

‘Look at that 6 and a half stone adult don’t they look GREAT?’


No.

There is a reason. In fact there are many.

If you plan on dieting in an effort to be healthier surely eating healthy foods and endorphins from exercise will make you feel better? Perhaps you’re carrying a bit of extra holiday weight and when you remove your fav jeans you are imprinted with what I like to call ‘flesh jeggings’. If that’s the case then forget the diet products and calorie counter on the treadmill and go for a run, play sport or DANCE!

Any measure of success solely based on calories burnt/consumed is totally boring, all consuming and shit.

Conclusion? We should simply move more, eat real butter and the only thing we should be concerned about burning is diet coke and SCALES!

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Rap music and Feminism

From the age of about 16 I have been rather fond of R&B and Rap music. My love of this genre of music began around the same time as I bleached the word ‘Suffragette’ into a pink t-shirt.

This now seems a tad ironic.

I remember listening to Eminem graphically kill his ‘bitch’ of an ex-wife on his album when I was 17.

She was gurgling away when my Dad walked into my bedroom, looked at me with utter confusion and said ‘I do not know how you can call yourself a feminist and listen to this crap!’. I couldn’t quite hear the rest of what he said as I was too busy listening to the song Mentally ill from Amityville. Do you remember the Lyrics? I do:

‘For a gift I had ten of my boys take her virginity,
And bitches know me as a horny ass freak,
Their mother wasn’t raped, I ate her pussy while she was ‘sleep’

Poetic.

‘Oh silly Dad’ I remember thinking. ‘You don’t GET IT. Eminem is controversial. He doesn’t actually mean what he says it’s metaphorical. Plus, he’s white.’

7 years on we are at a place where female artists are referring to themselves as ‘bitches’ and domestic violence coupled with sexually degrading lyrics seem to be the standard theme in the Hip Hop genre.

My generation has been saturated with everything from Destiny’s Child to Nas and although there are some positive uplifting lyrics I’m afraid to say that isn’t the norm.

I’m not preaching, I have just been bopping away to Tyga’s Rack City Bitch on Kiss FM. SHAME!

My boyfriend who looks at me like I’m leading the third wave of Feminism is utterly perplexed when I start singing a rap lyric as nonchalantly as though I was humming a classic love song aloud.

Ah, I think I may have missed my Dad’s point 7 years ago.

Fortunately things may soon change. On the arrival of Jay-Z’s baby girl he promises never again to refer to a woman as a ‘bitch’ in his music. Well that’s a good start?

Here is an article written by Tricia Rose for the Guardian explaining why that just isn’t enough.

http://bit.ly/zejK7f