Tag Archives: Gender

Feminism: A Man’s Problem?

Recent tech developments have contributed to a third wave of feminism – noticeable this time for including the voices of young, switched on and pissed off women, who are carving new social space for themselves via the internet. But where are the men’s voices in the debate? And what does their relative absence tell us? Natalie Proctor looks at contemporary attitudes towards women and the confusing state of gender politics today…

I found myself drawn to the recent BBC documentary ‘Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes’, because it was set to address issues that plague modern society. I wanted to see what it made of the state of feminism and sexism today. The documentary discussed some very important questions, but gave very few answers. We are asked to consider whether sexism is in fact just as bad as it was some ninety years ago when women in the UK were still struggling for the right to vote, or whether we have developed into a more equal society. Perhaps what is more easily suggested, is that sexism towards women is in fact not better or worse, simply different.

The documentary looks at several areas that evoke ideas of the objectification of women on a daily basis – the internet being a primary culprit. Cases of women being harassed online, with the word ‘rape’ thrown around like it was no more than an emoticon, are sadly increasingly common. Equally, the use of derogatory images of women throughout the media enhances this idea of the woman as a body, and not a mind.

It is at this point however that I must make something clear. Women are used to sell things. Men are used to sell things. Women are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. Men are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. The point being that we cannot overlook the obvious fact that this form of advertising – whether in magazines or on billboards – is not selective when it comes to gender. A particular version of sexy really is what sells. Gender equality is a balancing act. Both women and men must learn to accept the fact that sex does not define who we are. Furthermore, this image presented by the media highlights an important issue for everyone, in that our society is fast becoming, if not already, one based on looks and not merit.

Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which
Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which

In the case of the documentary, this form of sexualisation is suggested to be only problematic for women. This is, as I have stated, not the case. However, it is clear that the female form is more present in the media than the male. At the same time, sexism towards women is also more common. I found myself infuriated by the suggestion that women need to “Man Up”, as the ever so sensitive editor of ‘Loaded’ magazine states in the documentary. Martin Daubney argued that the magazine celebrated women, and suggested that the images were far from sexist – no surprises there! Of course, who would think that a woman with her legs spread, pouting at the camera, wearing nothing but some see-through pants could ever be deemed overly-sexualised? This woman is on the cover for her “great personality” right?

The Loaded magazine 'Girls' section...
The Loaded magazine ‘Girls’ section…

Hypersexualised images of women are promoted by a laddish culture created by outlets like men’s mags that associate the ‘perfect’ man with the hairless, oily, breasty woman. We need to break down both our preconceptions of the ideal man and woman: they feed each other, and neither exist. Dangerously, whole industries are built on the foundations of these false principles.

There is an important point to be made here however about the women who take up jobs in these industries. Are they really slaves to a man’s world, or are they profiting from the inherent nature of base male desire? This was something brought into question by the Channel 4 documentary ‘Strippers’. The girls interviewed all seemed to project the idea that they were far from being exploited, but in fact exploiting the men who pay for their services. However, it was certainly apparent that some of the girls argued this more convincingly than others. On the other end of the spectrum, the men interviewed who frequented these clubs told the cameras they went for ‘company’ not for sexual pleasure. This was argued unconvincingly in all cases. The fact that even the men who pay for these services feel the need to dress them up as something else, proves lack of moral certainty. Obviously, as I have mentioned before, if women are freely choosing to take up such occupations, then I see no real issue. However, this is hard to guarantee. In the same way, as a woman, it is difficult for me to understand the attraction men have to paying for false affections. Don’t they know these women are only thinking about their wallets? But to each his own I suppose.

18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures - because she was stripping all night for cash...
18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures – because she was stripping all night for cash – which she needed to pay her way through uni…the cycle continues…

Is there gender equality in modern society? In many ways; yes, but it is not yet fully won. Aside from aspects of the media, everyday sexism occurs all the time. A woman knows that if she walks down the street next to a group of male builders, she will be shouted at. At a club, having your arse grabbed is old news. And let’s not forget the old chestnut of double standards when it comes to male and female promiscuity. Personally, I think that the only way we can move forward into a world where women are treated as women and not simply objects lies in two key steps. First, men should remember that women are their sisters, mothers, aunts and friends, not just pieces of meat. Second, women should continue to strive to break the stereotypes engrained in modern society. Human beings have come a long way in achieving status as a person beyond our gender, but we still have a way to go. Rather than a battle of sexes, we should be focusing on battling our own perceptions of what gender means. The problem is one for both men and women to address.

Ultimately then, equality relies on the strength of both men and women, to avoid stereotypes, victimisation, and discrimination. Currently, it looks as if women are generally further on this road of progress. Sadly, I think it will be some time before men are willing to let go of the macho image they have become so accustomed to. But, once they are ready to rid themselves of misogynistic tendencies, equality will truly be in sight. For now though, if men want to play video games with female characters that have breasts the size of space-hoppers then let them! Have faith in the fact that they will probably never experience the real thing.

 

–       Natalie Proctor

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An Introduction to… Spoken Word

Alex Webb discusses the rise and rise of spoken word as a poetic form, and introduces us to some key figures doing the speaking rounds on the internet…

For me, spoken word is the original way poetry was meant to be presented. Like I’ve said before, reading a love poem makes you understand the poet’s heartbreak, but hearing it brings the love affair into the room. To deprive yourself of this experience is to hide yourself away from the raw and intricate potential of our language.

Having reviewed Rudy Francisco’s Getting Stitches, I was inspired to write a dummy’s guide to spoken word poetry. Before going further I must note that spoken word is different for everyone, there are a huge variety of performers bringing different kinds of poetry and literature to the table. Finding your style in this relatively unknown genre is just an hour’s YouTube-ing away. For the mean time, however, I’ll introduce you to what can be best described as the political and love spoken word.

Some key names to get used to in this area are Sierra DeMulder, Alex Dang and the previously mentioned Rudy Francisco. These three artists are my main sources of inspiration when the proverbial “muse” has gone away for a few days. Alex Dang’s pieces are so powerful as they come directly from his personal experiences. He writes what he lives and this is a powerful tool in a spoken word artist’s kit. I found Dang through his ‘Times I’ve Been Mistaken for a Girl’, a heart-breaking commentary on gender roles and homophobia. Dang effortlessly gets into your head and makes you sympathise with his story, he is baring his life – and demands that you listen.

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On the theme of homophobia, Denice Frohman tackles the same issues from a lesbian’s point of view to much effect in her ‘Dear Straight People’. Whilst I am not a fan of her aggressive tone, Frohman’s powerful voice will make you re-consider your attitudes when she exclaims ‘I don’t like closets, but you made the living room an unshared space/and now I’m feeling like a guest in my own house’. But Frohman is not about telling people off: she speaks in order to discourage people from making ignorant remarks that can upset your gay friends and colleagues without you realising. When you listen to her words you can sense the years of oppression the LGBTQ community has faced and are continuing to make a stand against.

Sierra DeMulder is my personal favourite both in print and on stage, her ‘Paper Dolls’ is one of the most powerful spoken word pieces I have ever heard and offers something similar to Francisco’s ‘Monster’. DeMulder’s works include a variety of political poems that confront the skewed views of a society that does injustice to a lot of communities. In the aforementioned ‘Paper Dolls’, DeMulder evaluates the attitudes we have towards rape victims, noting that “the person who did this to you is broken/not you”. When she states that one in three girls will be sexually harassed in their lifetime, and that she is one of three daughters, you can feel the pain and fear in her voice. Listening to this piece makes clear that rape is something that can happen to anyone, it is everyone’s duty to fight against it. The contrast between DeMulder’s political pieces and her love poetry is shocking, my favourite poem of all time, her ‘Unrequited Love Poem’ will have you ready to cry as she preaches “I dream of you/more often than I don’t/my body is a dead language/and you pronounce/each word perfectly”. Her voice embodies empathy in this piece and, regardless of your relationship status, you become DeMulder in this piece. You wear her experiences as if they are your own and they become realities that most of us do not want to face.

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The final spoken word artist, Rudy Francisco, is by far the most talented of those discussed here. Last a few seconds into his videos and you will fall in love with his voice and be ready to spend hours listening to more. Francisco’s ‘Honest’, mentioned in my review of his collection, comes to life on stage and when he says “Dear hands, I know you like writing poetry/but you can’t bring a metaphor to a gun fight” you can see the weakness in his eyes. Francisco challenges a lot of assumptions, both in regards to politics and love and, even if it is just for a second, you will re-evaluate your opinions. In ‘Scars/To the New Boyfriend’, everyone who has been dumped and quickly replaced will hear this piece as gospel as he crawls into your head and captures your feelings perfectly. If you only listen to one poet mentioned here I beg you, make it Francisco. He’ll make you want more.

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If you are interested in seeing spoken word in the flesh, check out Manchester’s spoken word talent for yourself and head down to M20’s new Free Verse night every other Thursday. This night is focused on showing off the musically influenced side of spoken word and offers a fresh interpretation of spoken word as a whole.

Overall, spoken word is a beautiful art and has been underappreciated in recent years when it is so readily accessible. If you have read poetry and it has not taken your fancy give it one last chance when it is spoken to a crowd with the artists wearing their hearts on their sleeves. It is a phenomenon you will not want to miss.

-Alex Webb

Other brilliant spoken word performances and artists worth checking out:

Mike Rosen: ‘When God Happens’

Rachel Wiley: ’10 Honest Thoughts On Being Loved by a Skinny Boy’

Tonya Ingram & Venessa Marco: ‘Khaleesi’.

VIDEOS:

Alex Dang – ‘Time I’ve Been Mistaken for a Girl’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2i-i8k6AbQ

Sierra DeMulder – ‘Paper Dolls’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvxQnT9Luqk

Rudy Francisco – ‘Honest’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbgssX-uj4E

Denice Frohman – ‘Dear Straight People’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5frn8TAlew0

Mike Rosen – ‘When God Happens’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2Ks06Al8c0

Sierra DeMulder – ‘Unrequited Love Poem’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41rQ8SufgOU