Review: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

The Beauty Myth
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I imagine in the early nineties, this book would be revolutionary and I can see how it has became a feminist classic. In the context of 2016 though, the generalisations and the often cringe-worthy over the top language is a major let down.

I’d definitely recommend that every person gives this book a skim through (reading it too in-depth may excercise your cringe muscles a little too much) as the basic concept is interesting and still applicable to feminism and general marketing today. I enjoyed how Wolf also emphasised how this wasn’t a men vs women issue but a people vs media/institutions issue and explained how she believed the beauty myth negatively impacted men and women alike. It would’ve been interesting to also see how she believes it impacts children, though I suspect that is a much more modern phenomena, it’s frightening to see how the current trends of Snapchat filters and elaborate make-up routines are affecting children’s self-image. For me personally, that is becoming the stem of the problem and I think it will lead to difficult challenges for the generations growing up in a world of social media where everything is recorded and displayed as perfectly as editing and self-censorship will alow.
If anyone can point me in the direction of a book that covers that I’d be very interested to read it.

As for Wolf’s ‘The Beauty Myth’, the final chapter resonated the most with me. The idea that women should be allies with one another and not competitors is still a struggling message to get across in society. I know very few women personally who do not resent other women for their beauty in some way or who can confidently say they believe themselves to be beautiful. Though there is a gradual shift in this practice, particularly in feminist circles and in the ‘self-love’ movement, it does not seem to be reaching enough women and its message is often mocked or lost in translation by radical feminists. It can often be patronising and feel overblown – as if people are cheerleading a person’s successes/positive attributes rather than recognising/supporting them.
In my view this is a significant obstacle and can only be overcome by a universal acceptance that it is more beneficial allround to have a tolerant and appreciative attitude towards other women’s choices (as Wolf puts it herself) rather than dramatically celebratory or critical attitude. I look forward to being part of the generation that, with some persistence and honesty, will achieve that.

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How to Bust Your Brexit Blues

Is Brexit still getting you down?
Do you find yourself reminiscing about the good old days when idle chitchat with Marge from next door was full of exciting things like the weather, stamps and arthritis?
Do you fear the end is nigh and all we can do now is politely twiddle our thumbs and queue for the sweet, sweet release of death?

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Never fear oh fellow miserable one!

Here’s a list of great things you can do to distract yourself from the dismal picture that is the British political system right now and indulge in a little loving self-care:

• Go to Work
This way you can multi-task by avoiding all contact with the social world beyond office small talk and you can start putting pennies in the save box to go to that all-important future migration to anywhere else that isn’t the UK.*

• Listen to Brilliant Podcasts
An easy way to distract yourself from the upcoming apocalypse is to listen to podcasts that were recorded in the past and/or that have a slightly nihilistic yet hilarious view on life.
‘Dear Hank and John’ is my highest contender for this criteria, go and have a listen!

• Practise Your Survival Skills
You’ve seen the Walking Dead right? No?
What about 28 Days Later?
Bear Grylls?
Have you even played the Sims?

Well now you have a somewhat solid excuse to binge-watch/play every survival-esque thing you can think of, no matter how tenuous the link. Use your time wisely to make sure you know what to do when the Brexiters come for you!**

• Try Not to Think About the Future

• Go for a Stroll
Little is more relaxing than a leisurely stroll across a racially segregated neighbourhood where everyone fears going out after sundown. Why not fit in some mood-boosting cardio by strapping a ‘refugees welcome’ sticker to your face? You’re sure to be chased to ‘back where you come from’ in no time by kindly youths, David Cameron’s ‘Hug a Hoodie’ campaign certainly did a lot to bridge the generational gap.

• Get in Touch With Old Friends
Especially if they’re European nationals who are currently stuck in a limbo of belonging and according to the media are being hounded by racists. Make sure you’re extra friendly to them so you can bag a sofa to sleep on when you inevitably try to escape an island of Tories.

• Take up a New Hobby
One I’d recommend is collecting St. George’s flags to display proudly around your house for all to see, that way it makes it much easier for people to figure out which windows to throw bricks through.

• Spend Time With a Pet
They say an old dog can’t learn new tricks but that doesn’t mean you should give up on teaching Fluffy how to hunt rabbits for you. It might just be a somewhat weird trick to show off at parties now but who knows, in six months, little Fluffy’s hunting gifts could be replacing ASDA supermarkets near you!

• Don’t Let the Existential Dread Set In

• Write a Diary
It’s probably going to be an incoherent scribble of self-pitying nonsense but look on the bright side, after the apocalypse, your diary could be a budding historian’s a key clue figuring out where humanity went wrong! And just in case we don’t quite get that far, it can always double up as toilet paper should you find yourself in a pinch.

• Have a Clear Out
With discontentment floating in the summer breeze, now is a great time to have yourself a clear out. Get rid of most of your possessions now to make migration less of a chore, future-you will thank you!

• Have a Screen-Free Day
Take some time to recharge your spiritual batteries by switching off all of your screens for a day. It’s a great way to avoid all of your social responsibilities while at the same time, preparing for the inevitable wipeout of 21st century communication devices. Plus, it gives the Illuminati and the US government something to do because you’re a teeny tiny bit harder to track – job satisfaction for everyone.

• Have a Family Day Out
After all, there won’t be many opportunities to breathe in the sweet, polluted city air once you’re all hiding out in a nuclear bunker. Take Fluffy with you so you can both figuratively and literally learn how to kill two birds with one stone – happy hunting.
If you’ve still got a bad case of the Brexit blues then take some comfort that we’re now in the safe hands of our Prime Minister Theresa May who is armed with our expensive nukes and an endearing gang of Tories.
*Almost anywhere that is…let us not forget the wonderful politically free paradise that is N. Korea

**Farage is watching.***

***He may have ‘resigned’ but rest assured, he’s still watching.

The EU Referendum: You’re Tired of Hearing About it but There’s One Last Thing You Should Know

Recently everywhere I look has been taken over by a very big question – is Britain going to leave the EU?
This is partly because I choose to surround myself with politics, heck I’m a history student, being a politics nerd pretty much comes with the territory. However, the EU Referendum is something special.

Unlike most politics, this has went well beyond the heady realm of the elite bigwigs in government and is now an issue that is crossing the social and political boundaries of generations, class, race, and regions with a fiercely passionate edge.

But despite this, there is still one major problem that I just can’t iron out of the argument no matter what I read or who I listen to.

I respect everyone’s right to their own political views but I’m finding it hard to see any logic in anyone whatsoever voting Leave when I’m yet to find a single solid argument of how it would be a positive decision on a global scale. That’s right, global.

I’ve followed the debate for months looking at both sides and this is still something I can’t get my head around no matter how impartial I try to be or how much research I do.

There is literally nothing to gain by Britain leaving the EU that cannot be answered for by the wealth of benefits Britain reaps from its membership.

Furthermore, if you are not a British citizen/you detach yourself from that status for a minute, just ask yourself – is a breakdown in the European Union, which is a very real possibility if Britain leaves, going to have a positive impact on a global scale?

Is a future of a divided Europe really the legacy you want your vote to have?

And what about the past?
Has political disengagement and isolationism ever really benefitted political relations?

Think about war, think about terrorism, think about technological and medical advancement, space exploration, civil and human rights progress, international relations, education, ethics, religions.

Think about the big stuff and just ask yourself – are we better off exploring and addressing these issues as a united front or should Britain turn away from all of this and cast itself aloof from these problems by disengaging with the very union that was created to solve them?

I urge everyone to deeply consider this before they cast their vote. This referendum isn’t some political protest, a patriotic takeback of ‘England for the English’, some working class revolt or a fingers up to the EU.

Now, you could be right in sitting there scratching your head and wondering why I’m asking you to think about your vote on such a big scale. It seems silly right? Arrogant even, to think that Britain could have such an impact on the enormously broad and complex issues I’ve mentioned above, let alone where you put the all-important cross on that scrap of paper.
But what if it isn’t?

Can you really justify running the risk of taking it any less seriously?

Will the generations after us be proud of our efforts to consider each argument both carefully and seriously or will they look back in amguish at the shambolic media campaigns (both leave and remain) that have taken over our screens in recent months?

As almost every student who takes history in an English comprehensive knows (alongside hopefully many more people!), it took just one spark to set alight the events leading to World War One.
I’m not saying that World War Three is on the brink here but just consider how these brief moments in history can then become the spark that sets the world on fire.

Can anyone confidently say the EU referendum is a light or easy decision with this in mind?

The EU referendum is a pivotal moment in modern history that can either divide us or bring us closer together in the name of progress.

I’m voting remain, that much is obvious.
This post however, isn’t about talking you round to my opinion. It’s to provoke you into thinking further about the impact of your vote and what’s at stake here. If you vote Leave then that is completely acceptable. You are not racist or a bigot or uneducated or any of the other entirely undemocratic slurs that are being bandied about as a result of that decision. You have your reasons and so long as you can rationally justify them on a bigger scale then no one has any right to think negatively of you because of that. That isn’t what democracy is about.

However, you have a responsibility to yourself and to everyone around you both past, present and future. That responsibility is to not take the EU referendum lightly or be swayed by the media’s statistical spin that tries to make you and your interests the heart of this issue.

Please, whatever you box you do decide to make your mark on, strongly consider the bigger picture and the impact your vote will have on the future and indeed, the history books in generations to come.

This decision has to be bigger than us as individuals, families, our small local communities or even our children’s futures.
We all must pause here to think deeply and broadly of the bigger global picture and not of ourselves.

Above all, think.

Why THAT scene of Game of Thrones’ ‘Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken’ is necessary (SPOILERS)

The following article contains rape and sexual abuse triggers.

SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen episode 6, season 5 of the HBO Game of Thrones series, if you have or you’re not that bothered, by all means continue.
In the episode ‘Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken’, we face the distressing scene of Sansa Stark being raped by Ramsay Bolton on their wedding night while Theon Greyjoy is forced to watch. Many took to their keyboards to complain about it, including a lot of feminists. Why? There are a few reasons that keep cropping up, the core one seems to be that it wasn’t included in the books therefore it’s just being used as shock-impact TV without dutifully respecting the sensitivity of the issue, another was that it ruined the character arc of Sansa. There was also the argument that it was oppressing women by normalising violence and sexual assault towards them. Some feminist websites such as the Mary Sue have said that this scene was the final straw and that they will no longer be doing any coverage of Game of Thrones which is understandable and we must respect the need for safe places on the internet to exist. Today I’m going to tackle the third reason for the uproar over this episode and offer my views as to why rape is okay, if not necessary, to include in Game of Thrones.

So let’s have a quick recap of some of the other horrors we have seen in Game of Thrones so far. There has been the stabbing of a pregnant woman in the abdomen front of her husband and mother-in-law, we have had multiple cases of incest which have often featured the rape of women. There have been many graphic torture scenes and such an abundance of grisly deaths that it has become a running joke. In the very same episode we saw Sansa’s rape, we also saw Arya on the floor being whipped by an older man. Bear in mind that each of these issues will personally upset people to different degrees since everyone has a background of different experiences, fears and sensitivities.

By no means am I saying this trivialises Sansa’s rape scene or trying to place it on some fictional hierarchy of horrific events but what I am saying is that of all these sinister scenes, Sansa’s rape is one of the most commonplace and realistic occurrences in our society. The fact that there has been such a strong reaction to it by those for and against the inclusion of the scene alike just shows how uncomfortable we still are as a society acknowledging that this does happen. To put this in some perspective let’s not forget that marital rape in the United Kingdom was only made illegal in 1994.

It has been long argued that using rape as a creative plot device in fiction is inherently a wrong thing to do but I believe the alternative, acting like it does not happen, is far worse. If the scene makes the viewer uncomfortable then in my opinion, good. Seeing the violation and distress of it in a fictional setting emphasises that this is a very real problem to those that feel unaffected by it. Many will read a headline about rape in the newspaper and pass over it with little thought. If two minutes of intense discomfort watching actors play out a case of marital rape in a fictional TV show results in more people being able to get a greater sense of the seriousness of what rape actually is then I will endure the inclusion of rape scene after rape scene in mainstream TV and fiction so long as it is handled sensitively and with the gravitas it deserves.

That being said, for many, scenes like these bring back the distressing memories of their own experiences, particularly when they’re shown in a very graphic and realistic fashion. The solution to this is not to censor anything that could trigger a person but instead, to ensure that there is adequate forewarning of what may be shown so a person can choose to avoid viewing a harrowing rape scene. Unfortunately, a system of doing this that works effectively and is used universally without giving away plot spoilers is far from being perfected.

To its credit, scenes of rape and sexual assault in Game of Thrones have never (to my knowledge) been glamorised. They have always shown the chilling horror to some extent and, excluding the scene in the sept between Cersei and Jaime (which is a complete exception to this post as that scene WAS unnecessary), they have always been perpetrated by characters we are meant to hate.

The rape of Sansa made people talk about the issue, it forcefully made itself linger in almost every viewer’s mind long after the scene cut to black. How many more people will now pause before making a rape joke or trivialising ‘just some drunk chick crying rape’ and realise the true gravitas of rape just because that scene happened?
For this reason, I am grateful that yet another rape scene was included in Game of Thrones even though it made me want to physically be sick.

It is terrifying and unfortunately, it is very much a real and frequent occurrence in our world.  It should not be left solely to the victims to face the realities of what rape is alone.