Category Archives: Rants

Hey, Beauty Industry! I am not a cash cow!

Hey there Beauty Industry! Just thought I’d let you know, Milk Chocolate Hobnobs are currently half price in Sainsburys. 87p. I know this because yesterday I bought some. About half way through the packet, my boyfriend turned to me and asked “don’t you think we should stop now? This is not good for us.” I paused, mid mouthful. That fleeting comment, said out of care rather than out of malice, ripped open a barely healed wound. I am not overweight by any standard but like many women I am incredibly concious of my tummy. Through the tears and hysterical cries of “Why would you say that?! Do you think I’m fat?!” I realised how completely ridiculous I was being – how completely ridiculous the whole situation was.

Bliss magazine ran a survey in 2004 that looked at teenage body image amongst its readers. In 2004 I was 12 years old. Their findings were damning – of the 2000 girls they surveyed only 19% were clinically overweight. However, 67% thought they needed to lose weight. 2 out of 3 of those under 13 years old had already put themselves on a diet. I was one of those girls. It has become clear to me that my generation (and probably the generation before us, although of course I have no first hand experience of this) have a massively warped self image problem. This video, entitled Onslaught, perfectly summarises the issue.

Although the fact this is produced by Unilever (also responsible for those heinous Lynx adverts that do nothing but perpetuate the problem they claim to highlight here) is hypocritical at best, the point I’m making stands. I can very clearly remember sitting in my primary school canteen deliberating whether or not to eat the Jam Roly Poly in front of me. The dinner lady asked me whether I was finished. I sighed in that way that only a 10 year old girl can and said “Yes. I’m on a diet.” It was years until I realised how completely fucking ridiculous that was – not only of the 10 year old me to say no to Jam Roly Poly – the fact that the 10 year old me was already conditioned to feel that she was too fat. I also felt I was too tall (I was the second tallest in my year), that my hair was too curly, that my feet were too small. Of course it transpired I was just an early bloomer. I’m still slightly taller than average but of course, the problem does not lie with my 10 year old form. It lies with an industry that systematically pulls apart the confidence of young women by making them feel they are inferior before they’ve even stopped growing.

To this very day, what with Hobnobgate this morning and the squeezing in to size 10 jeans so I don’t have to admit I’m a 12, I am plagued by a chronic sense of inadequacy. Why is this? It is because from the word go, young people are plagued by advertising and media that paints being fat as a hideously terrible thing, aging as a sign of weakness, imperfections as disgusting. Don’t get me wrong: I love a bit of make up and have been dying my hair for years. But I know and acknowledge that the beauty industry is an evil one where companies point out women’s imperfections and make them feel like shit about them in order to sell a product. Let’s not delude ourselves. Women are being treated like cash cows. Stupid ones too. I for one have had enough of it. Beauty is a social construction, women need to learn to love ourselves a little more and care what others think a little less. You, beauty industry, need to give us a break. Go and bother the blokes for a while. How about a ridiculously patronising campaign for them, full of male stereotypes and buzzwords. Fatigue smashing super energizer quattro stab sex cream or something along those lines. I am off to have another Hobnob. Laters, you fucking arseholes.

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New Years Resolutions

There are a lot of blogs and vlogs and articles floating around the internet about New Years Resolutions at the moment.
Generally, I don’t think New Years Resolutions are particularly helpful. I don’t think I’ve ever actually succeeded in any in my life. I can see the positives in thinking them up – self improvement can only ever be a good thing, really. However, I’m alarmed by the pressure to think of one. If I had a penny for the amount of times I’ve been asked what my resolutions are I’d have… at least 50p. I’ve been thinking about it and I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a big year for me for several reasons. I will (hopefully!) graduate this summer so with any luck by this time next year I’ll be in some sort of full time employment and/or training. My mothers illness will probably have claimed her life so I’ll have to deal with that at some point. My boyfriend will have taken his Grade 8 and hopefully be a fully fledged instrumental teacher so there’s a possibility between the two of us we’ll be able to afford to start looking at moving in together (although I’m not holding my breath).

My problem at the moment is that what I want to do with my life post graduation will be extremely difficult. I would love to become a journalist and hope one day to be writing a regular column for a large readership. However, my degree is in Geography. Not exactly related. So, what New Years Resolutions can I make that will benefit me in the long run? I don’t see how pledging to shift 6lbs will help me,  or anybody for that matter, unless you’re genuinely overweight. Even if you are, if you’re happy that way then that’s fine by me! As far as I’m concerned the whole dieting and weight loss industry promotes negative feelings about yourself and your body and perpetuates a culture in which fat shaming is prevalent and people are more concerned with looking fit than they are with being happy, healthy individuals. Healthy both physically and mentally. No, I want my resolutions to really, truly help me and be achievable. I want them to be things that I would resolve to do at any time of year, not just because it’s new year and people are pressuring me in to it.

So far, I’ve come up with the following:

1) Write more
Every day, write something. Proof read. Research. Become a better writer!
Gain exposure, through Twitter and blogging and through writing for other blogs and magazines.
This can be applied to anybody, not necessarily writers. Do more of the things you enjoy and that you think will benefit you. If you enjoy painting, paint. If you enjoy reading, read. If you enjoy running, run! You catch my drift. Do something that will improve your wellbeing!

2) Grab opportunities by the horns
Stop being such a wimp, don’t consider jacking it in and getting a nice cushty job that pays reasonably but won’t make me happy. Pursue what I actually want to do with my life.
If you get offered a job but you’re frightened by the prospect of change, I want you to seriously consider whether you’re going to regret not doing it in a years time. If you get the opportunity to travel and meet new people or branch out from your comfort zone in a way that you think will benefit you, for God’s sake do it! Enrich your life with fulfilling experiences!

3) Gain a new skill
I have two in mind: improving my harmonica playing and taking self defence classes. Neither will be really feasible until I graduate. I’ll probably be unemployed for a while so I’ll have plenty of time then. Ha.
This time next year I intend to be well on the way to being a Big Mama Thornton/Jackie Chan hybrid. Kicking baddie’s asses with a gob iron in hand.

I hope that through reading this I have helped at least one person to reassess their resolution to simply lose weight. Magazines and television programmes love to convince us that we’re inadequate and perpetuate a feeling of self loathing. Be the best version of you that you can be – and that doesn’t necessarily equate to being the slimmest. Think of resolutions that you can sincerely commit to and think will benefit you in the long term, not just until mid February.  I have seen too many people crumble in the second week of January at the sight of the left over Christmas chocolate.

For more from me, follow @nitramarual on Twitter!

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You’re probably a feminist too. [LTAF3]

My newest hobby (call me pathetic and obsessed if you must) is typing the words “I’m not a feminist but” in to the search bar on Twitter and depressing myself with the sheer number of young women who have completely misunderstood what feminism is. I’ve come across some frankly upsetting statistics during these searches. Netmums recently surveyed 1,300 women of a range of ages and found that only 1 in 7 of those surveyed would describe themselves as a feminist – only 8% of 20 – 25 year olds.

As a 21 year old feminist I find this very very upsetting. Personally, I think that a large part of the problem is the stain on the word feminism in recent years that seems to have given it negative connotations.When people find out I’m a feminist, there are often raised eyebrows. People assume I hate men. I don’t hate men. People assume I hate women who chose to stay at home with their children. I don’t.

What I DO hate is going to a restaurant with my other half and while he is addressed as “Sir”, I am addressed as “darlin'” “sweetie” and even one particularly heinous occasion “sweet cheeks”. I hate the fact that he is automatically given the card machine when it comes to settling up and the surprised look on the face of the waiter when I calmly take it from him and enter my PIN. I also hate waiting for the bus on the way home and having leering men stare at my legs and shout inappropriate things at me. I hate that people assume I’m a slut because I dare to bare skin. I’m not. I hate that men can brag about their sexual exploits and be dubbed a “lad” where as a woman is dubbed as easy. I hate the double standards. I hate Page 3. It is not news that women have breasts and we are not meat to be leered over. If you want that, buy a porno not a newspaper. I hate that women are so grossly under represented in the House of Commons and on the boards of FTSE companies (16.5%! Shameful!) I hate that if a woman chooses to pursue her career she comes up against the glass ceiling and poor promotion prospects but if she chooses to stay at home with her family she is looked down on – that is not feminism, that is arseholery. I hate that Moira Stuart got shafted for looking too old but Jeremy Clarkson is still by some horrible twist of fate being broadcast. How!?

Now listen up ladies – if even two or three of these things bother you then I hate to tell you but you my friend are a feminist whether you choose to label yourself one of not. And while I have your attention, what exactly is it about feminism that you DON’T fancy?! The right to vote? Or be able to wear jeggings if you so wish? Pursue your career? Not be owned by the man you marry? Seperate from an abusive partner? Own your own home? Have control of your own money? Did all that good shit just annoy you?! I’m failing to see WHY you would use that horrid term “I’m not a feminist but.” Sorry. If you agree with equality, you’re a feminist. Come to terms with it. Move on.

For more on perceptions of feminism, I recommend following @YouAreFeminst and @EverydaySexism. And me (@nitramarual) while you’re at it 😉

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Am I over sensitive? Or is every body else blind? [LTAF2]

Over the past few weeks I’ve managed to get a bit of a reputation. I’ve made a bit of a scene, caused a few arguments and at one point walked out of a lecture to stop myself making a complete spectacle of myself. It’s left me wondering – am I over sensitive? Or is everybody else just blind?

In keeping with my last post, this blog is about feminism. I have always been an advocate of feminist ideals but it wasn’t until about two or three weeks ago (roughly the time I published Lets Talk About Feminism part 1) that I started openly describing myself as a feminist. I hadn’t liked the perceptions held by many people. I love men, I wear a bra, I am not hairy. Then something inside me just exploded and I decided I couldn’t give a flying fuck any more. I hoisted my feminist flag and made it very bloody clear that I wasn’t going to tolerate this bullcrap that everyone else seemed so content to just sit there and allow.

It didn’t take me long to realise that when you start to openly call yourself a feminist people will raise eyebrows. My first big battle was that of the monstrous ASDA advert. I, like many people, was appalled. I assumed that everybody would be. I was wrong. Despite the clearly outdated portrayals of gender roles within the family unit and frankly offensive portrayal of the husband in not only the ASDA advert but also Morrisons and Tesco while we’re at it, lots of people I spoke to couldn’t see a problem. “That’s just Christmas in my house” I was told on more than one occasion. That’s fine, it really is. I believe one of the keys of feminism is that a woman has the choice – if you chose to dedicate yourself to your family then that is very admirable! My mum did the same. I was told that sexism in adverts is nothing more than a reflection of society. Well. If you can’t see the problem with that I can’t help you. Clearly that means that society is inherently sexist. That is not a justification.

I was told chill out. Clearly Laura, I was told, your problem with these adverts is a very personal one.   You’re being over sensitive. It’s only an advert. Move on. Get over it.
For a while, I wondered whether these people were right. My main issue with these adverts is that it is completely unhelpful with regards to the issue of womens empowerment. How are we ever going to be viewed as equals when these adverts clearly do not show us to be? I think that these small cases of underlying sexism perpetuate the problem, rather than helping it and that if we allow this sort of thing to pass unremarked upon that we are going to make more brazen examples of sexist behaviour (such as the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling and the RyanAir Charity Calender) more acceptable. We need a zero tolerance policy if things are ever going to change.

Maybe they’re right and I am being over sensitive but I don’t think so. I’m not going to shut up about it. Spreading some FemLove ❤

[Psst! While you’re here if you’re a twitterer, follow me (@nitramarual) the Everyday Sexism project (@EverydaySexism) and YouAreFeminist (@YouAreFeminist)! We’re all great I promise.]

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Stop ruining Christmas – an open letter to DFS, Next, House of Fraser and all other culprits.

Dear Sir/Madam.

I’d like you to cast your mind back to Christmas’s past. I don’t know about you but I used to get so excited about Christmas I’d be begging my Dad to go and get the Christmas tree for weeks! The first ones would go up in early December. The lights would be just visible through peoples net curtains, the wreaths would be hung on the doors. You couldn’t get your tree too early lest all the needles would fall off before boxing day, the dog would choke on them and it would be a disaster. Every year I’d worry that Santa wouldn’t be able to get in because we lived in a 1940’s terrace house with no chimney but my Mum would assure me he was magic, he had his ways. There would be a mad rush starting on about December 12th as people realised “Bugger! Christmas is soon!” Then for the entirety of January we’d be using Safeways own brand 1 ply toilet roll and couldn’t afford proper Cornflakes because so much had been spent in December on Tracey Islands and novelty singing ties and silly trinket boxes that were too small to actually keep anything in for distant aunties. There would be great excitement when the Coca-cola advert came on, usually during the ad break of Supermarket Sweep or some other quality prime time show at some point in early December. At that moment Christmas had officially started!*

Today is October 23rd 2012. It is not even Halloween yet. This time in 1998 the shops were full of ghosties, plastic vampire fangs, pumpkin carving kits, Scooby-Doo Halloween Special video cassettes and other  crap.** Would somebody PLEASE tell me WHY exactly there are Christmas decorations up in certain stores. Mentioning no names NEXT and HOUSE OF FRASER. Would somebody please tell me WHY there are elves in festive jumpers frolicking around my TV screen eating flaming Christmas puddings DFS?!

You are ruining Christmas. I no longer feel a pang of excitement at seeing that first lonesome Christmas tree because it is standing in all its plastic glory in the Oxford Street branch of Next in between the Scandinavian-esque cardigans and faux fur gilets. No more does that first Christmas advert send me in to spasms of joy because it is not even bonfire night yet. Maybe I’m missing something here. I am aware that this is a capitalist society and that companies want to maximise their profits by dragging out their Christmas marketing for as long as possible. I am aware that since the invention of the plastic Christmas tree we are no longer constrained by not wanting to get pine needles in Grannies slippers. However, my point is this – you are ruining the joy of Christmas. I don’t mind the arrival of charity Christmas cards – I’m not a monster. I just don’t want elves on my screen before we’ve even set fire to a effigy of Guy Fawkes. Go away and come back in about a month and a half.

Regards,
Laura Martin

*The Coca-cola advert first being played is still the official start of Christmas.
** There is still Halloween themed crap in shops.

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Quarter life crisis

I’d like you all to think back to when you were a little person, sitting  crosslegged on the carpet of your classroom at school. Do this properly: the smell of Crayola in the air, the itch of the carpet on the side of your legs, the enormous jumper you mum bought you that you would “grow in too” etc. Your teacher asks the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
There were two ways you could respond to this question. Either a) throwing your hand up in the air with great enthusiasm to tell everybody about your dream career as a vet/astronaut/police officer etc or b) keeping your head down and your hand firmly by your side with absolutely no idea. I definitely fell in to the latter category. I did at one point entertain the idea of becoming the sixth Spice Girl or one of Charlies Angels but I’ve never really had a realistic ambition to aspire towards. Really, my ambition is to have a nice quiet life with a continual stream of tea and biscuits.

I have now hit a snag. At 21 years old and only a matter of months from graduating I still have my eyes to the ground and my hand firmly in my school cardigan pocket without the foggiest what I want to do with my life. I’m going through what I like to call “an existential quarter life crisis”. According to Wikipedia, a quarter life crisis is “a period of life following the major changes of adolescence, usually ranging from the late teens to the early thirties, in which a person begins to feel doubtful about their own lives, brought on by the stress of becoming an adult.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Every time I turn on my TV there’s a new story about out of work graduates getting rejected by McDonalds or some such horror. What I’ve realised is this: I am only 21 years old. I’m probably (hopefully) only a quarter of the way through lifes journey. What I chose to do now does not dictate what I will be doing by the time I retire. What I find comfort in is the fact I am certainly not alone. Speaking to friends and peers I’ve discovered that quite a lot of the “just-about-to-enter-the-real-world” demographic are scared shitless by the idea. Perversely what I’m most afraid of is going to a school reunion in 20 years time and meeting an old acquaintance who’s done fantastically well, being asked what I’m up too these days and being laughed at when I answer. Take solace: If this happens, that person is clearly a wanker. Chins up friends. We’ll be alright.

GOOD DEED OF THE DAY: To the kind man who lent me a tissue when my foundation exploded all over my belongings – thank you

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For the disgruntled dieter.

An impromptu poem for the fellow calorie lovers trying to aschew them in search of a better figure. Essentially, I love biscuits.

Custard Creams
The stuff of dreams
A dieting atrocity.
Sugar is the enemy.
But they go so nice with a cuppa tea.
So who gives a damn?

Chocolate cake
A big mistake
Adding inches around the waist.
My health kick yet again disgraced.
But who gives a damn?

This is a poem for my second love
I’m sorry darlings.
But when push comes to shove
For my health sake you’ll have to go.
The scales will groan.
Actually, who gives a damn?

– Laura Martin, 2012

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