The F Word

Feminism. Although the intentions and thought behind it all aim at the same ideal, it means different things to different people. We all have our different variations and interpretations of it. Some think it’s become a bit of a ‘dirty’ word, with the term being overused and exaggerated beyond extremes. But ultimately, we all want the same thing.

Wikipedia defines it as;

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending a state of equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women.[1][2] This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.[3]

So, what does Feminism mean to me? Every time I ask myself this question I realise that there are so many points I’d like to make. All of the above. Appreciation. Equality. Justice. Mutual respect. Stereotype-free. Female empowerment. Acceptance of female sexuality without it being seen as pornographic or ‘inappropriate’.

In some ways we are light-years ahead when you think of where we were many years ago (I personally am very glad/lucky that I wasn’t born around the time that my Nana was, when women were still very much seen as inferior) but in others there is still a long way to go. It saddens me deeply that in some developing countries (and some that are considered ‘developed’) Female Genital Mutilation still happens. I was shown Desert Flower, a film about Somalian supermodel Waris Dirie and her experience with FGM in my sixth year at High School as part of my Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies Higher. Prior to viewing this movie, I had virtually no idea that this practice even existed. I can honestly say that I was left distraught. For at least a week I couldn’t sleep or think about anything else. I constantly felt sick. It broke my heart. Recently finding out that this sickening practice which completely strips a woman of a huge part of who she is – not to mention her human rights – was happening right on my doorstep, in Scotland, was horrifying. Discovering that no one was being prosecuted for it was more so. I’ll get off of this topic as it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Stereotyping is one of my personal bug bears when it comes to us women. I love music. I love all different genres and I like to watch the videos. I think you can tell a lot about an artist by what they create visually to accompany their music. A lot of the time though, I end up feeling very uninspired after watching a video for a song that I love. Music fans are often teased of a release date for singles/albums/videos and it’s all very exciting and impatient. ‘We want it now!’ but sometimes, when you get it, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Disappointing is often quite an overwhelming understatement. Of course, a lot of the time the artist themselves hasn’t had as much input into the creation of the video as we might have liked. It can take a long time of ‘gaining fame and status’ before the creative control is unclenched by the record companies and handed over to the actual person who recorded the song. Although sometimes when it is, it doesn’t get much better. If we were to believe that music videos actually portrayed real life though, we would be under the impression that women are nothing but objects of sexuality. That we have no other purpose than to be ‘mated with’, to please men and be fantasised about sexually by said men. That we live out our lives in six inch heels, have going-to-the-club-makeup on everyday, are incapable of dancing in a non sexual way (we want nothing more than to twerk up against you in our pants, don’t-you-know), that we work out in our underwear (for your benefit, of course), snog all of our girlfriends (our lives are just like a porno, y’know) and generally have nothing better to do than titillate the fantasies of guys. We don’t have jobs or hobbies or friends or self respect or ambition or lives. We’re also not all straight! And some of us just aren’t interested, love. Even if we were, we’re not about to bend over in front of you. We’re allowed to be fussy and have ‘types’. We don’t just fancy any man who’ll give us the time of day. The general consensus is that men don’t have to even show us their eyes and we will still find them attractive and want to pounce on them. We rarely even see their elbows and STILL the majority of ladies in music videos want to sit on their lap and let them feel them up. Women MUST be showing a considerable amount of bare flesh and writhe around in a somewhat grotesque manner before she is considered attractive. I say attractive when I really mean sexually desirable. Her brain, talents (other than ‘shaking that thang’), love, compassion, emotions, strength, individuality, ambissions, personality and creativity count for nothing.

Now. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with an empowered woman who is embracing her sexuality. After all, women have hormones too. We are sexual creatures, too. If we weren’t, the human race would’ve died out long ago. If men can sing about wanting a lady to shake her booty for him, why can’t a female artist sing about wanting a man to do whatever she fantasises about? Why is it seen as pornographic/inappropriate for a woman to sing about sex when we don’t even as much as bat an eyelash when a man does it? We need to change our attitudes towards female sexuality and stop seeing it as something shameful. Admittedly, it can be hard to distinguish whether a woman is being overtly sexual because she wants to be or because she has been instructed to be so by her record label. But personally, I don’t have an issue with it. Unless the lady in question is being something she doesn’t want to be. The female body is a work of art. Each one is so different. Beautiful. Strong. Amazing! Why not show it off if you feel brave enough? (In my humble opinion, we should all feel brave enough, but that’s another matter.) Why do we see female heterosexually as a threat? As something only to be seen behind closed doors? As taboo? That’s certainly not the way we see male heterosexuality. If you ask me, there’s nothing wrong with a woman wanting to be wanted by the man she has her sights set on. And if she wants to wear a skimpy outfit then why the hell not? I think we also need to get accustomed to ladies of all dress sizes, ages, ethnicities and shapes showing their sensual, sexual side too. Another thing that annoys me in music videos is that the dancers/models are all very young. You are allowed to embrace your sexy self at any age! There are times when it’s taken too far. Directors taking ‘Point of View’ shots of ladies bums for one is a bit jaw dropping to see on MTV at one in the afternoon, but again, so many artists don’t have control over what’s used in the final cut or not. And of course, some female artists think that they need to include shots like this in their videos to further their career which is very sad, I think. I also think that music channels need to take more responsibility over what is shown and when. It’s all well and good talking about sexuality being something to be embraced, but not when children are around. They’re sexualised early enough as it is. I also find it pretty laughable that they bleep out words like ‘period’ (Lily Allen) when they show some of the things they do.

When Beyoncé‘s Partition video was released, a lot of people were up in arms about it. This was definitely the sexiest we had ever seen her and it was a bit of a shock to some of us. There were talks about her feminist points being disregarded and that she ought to be ashamed. In the videos that she released on YouTube about the self titled album ‘BEYONCE‘ that Partition came from, she talks about the fact that she was very aware that she was showing her body and that she WANTED to show it. She says that she is proud of growing up and finding her sensuality and says that showing this side of her was important to her as she knows that there are lots of women who feel the same way after having a baby. She doesn’t have any shame in being sexual and doesn’t feel embarrassed or feel the need to protect that side of her anymore. She believes that sexuality is a power we all have. She also talks about the fact that she started out in Destiny’s Child when she was 9 and that their first album was released when she was 15. Now that she’s in her 30’s, the children who grew up listening to her have grown up and she now feels free of that the responsibility she once felt stifled by of being aware of children and their parents and that she has earned the right to express any and every side of herself. While it is admirable, I think, that she has been aware of young people, why should she feel that she has to earn the right to be a sexual being? It could of course be argued that performing in a costume the main point of which is a thong at the Grammy’s, a family show, is a bit inappropriate and that there are still young people around today that she needs to be aware of but I think she was trying to reinforce her point of; ‘I’m a woman, a mother, and I’m a sexual being too, so up yours.’ I think it’s also worth noting that in all of the videos and content relating to her latest album, it’s made very clear that it contains ‘Mature Content’. You can’t watch the ‘Partition’ video unless you login and are over 18.

I think that instead of ‘protecting’ young people (and by that I mean children over a certain age) we should be talking to them about what they see. Ridiculous, misogynistic music videos just shouldn’t be shown at certain times of the day. They just shouldn’t. But young people are curious. They’re going to hear things and look into it themselves. So, if and when they come across it, I think a good idea would be to just talk to them about it. Explain it, to a certain extent. Arm them with information about real life and what goes on. If they understand something they’re going to be less likely to take the wrong message from it, surely? When I took my Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies Higher it was a big eye opener for me as we studied the stereotyping of women and it really made me understand things. It helped me to realise that I didn’t have to behave in that way to get ahead in life.

I think all in all, my point is that there’s nothing wrong with a woman who wants to be open about her sexuality. She is free to express that sexuality in whatever way she sees fit. She shouldn’t be ridiculed or labelled a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore’ just for revealing a side of herself that isn’t ‘cute and innocent’. I do think that a level of responsibility falls on the music channels and other media outlets such as YouTube to moderate the levels of accessibility accordingly so that very young children don’t see things that they don’t need to. At the same time though, not all women WANT to express themselves in that way and they shouldn’t feel like they HAVE to! If a woman doesn’t want to get down to her underwear for a music video there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, either. And she shouldn’t be given silly labels like ‘frigid’ just because she wishes to choose another way of expressing herself. If we don’t want to talk about our sexuality in the first place, then what of it? There are thousands of different ways of expressing oneself and none of them are ‘wrong’.

Advertisements

About Leyah Shanks

Positive body image activist and advocate for mental health.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: