gender

Can we please talk about male entitlement?

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News flash: no one owes you anything. Image via Everyday Feminism.

Last Friday night reminded me of why I avoid going out: men. And no, not all men—just a certain type of men. The one who prowls clubs looking for a partner to do the dirty with. The one who thinks he’s entitled to your attention. The one who’s shocked to find out he’s not.

But that’s what it’s like when you go out in a small town.

It was karaoke night—and there were only around 20 patrons in the entire club. It was the first time I’d gone out in months—with my mum and best friend, no less. But of course, when there’s a woman, there will be a man thinking he’s entitled to her attention.

A random guy came up and put his hand on my back.

“Come on, come up and dance. Support my buddy,” he said.

Firstly, no. Take your hands off me. You have no right to touch me—even if it is just my back. The location isn’t important: the lack of consent is.

“No thanks!” I replied. Because dancing in front of some random dude who thinks that’s a sign i’ll go home with him is probably the last thing I want to do.

“No?” he was shocked I’d refused—and with no excuse either!

“No,” I responded, smiling and waving my wine glass.

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Yes, I am happy with my wine. No, I don’t need your attention. Image via Inside Amy Schumer.

With that, he left, shaking his head. What a shock that must have been! A simple “no”, rather than an excuse. I didn’t tell him I wasn’t drunk enough to go dance, I didn’t tell him I had a boyfriend, I didn’t tell him I wasn’t at all interested: I just told him no—and that’s how it should be.

Ladies and gentlemen: you don’t owe anyone anything. It’s not bitchy to refuse. It’s not rude to refuse. It’s your right. Just because a member of the opposite sex happens to smile at you doesn’t mean you have to do anything. You don’t owe him anything. Women do not exist to pump up Male egos.

I’ll repeat that: women do not exist to pump up male egos.

And really, if your ego can be shattered by a person saying no, you probably weren’t all that good to begin with.

Zoe is a journalist with a passion for all things wacky and strange. Like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter for more!

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I don’t want children. But my stretch marks are still beautiful.

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Image via Instagram, @LoveYourLines.

Stretch marks. Those tiny and sometimes not so tiny pink lightning bolts that adorn most of our bodies. They signify life. They signify change. And often, they signify you’ve created. We have all seen those posts praising women for their post-baby bodies, proudly showcasing their stretch marks and soft bellies—and that’s absolutely fantastic. I am utterly ecstatic for them—they’ve done something absolutely phenomenal, and have the courage to tell society to eff its standards of womanhood: that idea of a skinny, yet big-breasted, yet curvy woman with perfect skin, long hair and a sweet, meek smile. We see posts about women openly declaring love for their bodies, stretch marks and all, saying phrases like “my body created life” and loving it more because of that.

While this is so fantastic and awesome, I can’t help but think it creates a dichotomy between two kinds of women—a divide—between those who have and want children, and those who don’t or can’t.

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Image via Facebook.

Is this just another way we women have been conditioned to pit ourselves against each other?

I haven’t given birth—nor do I want to. And like most women, I have stretch marks too—around my thighs, around my hips, and around my breasts. It’s inevitable. It’s a part of life, growing and changing. And as I age, I come to love my body more and more—even if it isn’t supermodel skinny, even if my belly is soft, even if my thighs touch, and a whole lot of other things that happen. But why can’t my stretch marks and soft belly be celebrated as “beautiful”, even if I haven’t given birth to achieve them? They’re a fact of life. And I think emphasis needs to be taken off celebrating bodies based on what they have or haven’t done.

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There’s already a significant stigma against women who don’t want children. That oh, you’ll change your mind or your life isn’t complete until you’ve had kids or you don’t know happiness until you’ve heard your child’s laugh or worse: you’re still young. You’ll realise how great having kids is.

Thanks. I didn’t realise my life, my worth and my value revolved around popping out miniature versions of me and my partner (gosh, that would be trouble). I’m perfectly happy not going through that experience, thank you very much.

As a social community, we adore and stand behind women who’ve had children and choose to wear bikinis in public. We stand behind these mothers, and we call them brave (which they are). But should we really be teaching and continuing this idea that we can only love ourselves entirely if we’ve borne children? Is this really the message we want to send to young girls? “Your life isn’t complete until you’ve had a baby”.

We should all be proud of our bodies, and proud of our tiger stripes. And if we continue to praise women for their soft bellies, stretch marks and so on, only if they’ve had children, we continue to perpetuate this way we differentiate and place value upon different choices. We continue to perpetuate the idea that children complete your life—which is obviously a terrible notion for women who don’t want children, and women (including trans women) who can’t. Just because my body hasn’t been through a miraculous experience like giving birth does not mean I am any less deserving of celebration. I shouldn’t have to go through that to be comfortable with my lack of a thigh gap, with my stretch marks, with my comfy belly. I am a happy, healthy human being: isn’t that enough?

We need to celebrate our bodies, not for what they have or haven’t done, but for the simple fact that we are human—and all humans deserve to be able to celebrate their bodies: and be supported and cheered for doing so. There’s so much negativity in the media about women: please, ladies: can we just love our bodies for how they are?

Zoe is a journalist with a passion for all things wacky and strange. You check out more of her work on Facebook and Twitter.

Stop telling me I “don’t look like a gamer”.

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Accurate. Image via Big Bang Theory.

I don’t feel comfortable. Maybe it’s my anxiety, but I’m not so sure. My palms are sweaty. My breathing escalates. I feel their eyes on me. You don’t belong here, they snicker.

I pause. Well . . . Why don’t I belong here?

I’m talking about my recent visits to various comic book and gaming stores. Now, I love gaming. I’ve loved it ever since Sonic the Hedgehog came out on Sega, followed by the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games on PlayStation1, various PlayStation 2 games, and now my PlayStation 4. I’ve gleefully wasted countless hours of my life mashing buttons and yelling with glee at the screen. I’ve finished my favourite games multiple times, and if I’m ever not responding to Facebook messages, it’s probably because I’m gaming—can’t talk, killing zombies. But for some reason, whenever I visit a nerdy store—filled with things I love dearly and would gladly spend my money on—the eyes of other patrons tell me I don’t belong.

Is it because I’m a woman?

Is it because I don’t “look like a gamer”?

Is it because I wear pretty floral dresses and bright red lipstick?

Is it because I wing my eyeliner sharp enough to cut the haters, have my nails done and carry cute handbags?

Whenever I go into these stores, I feel like I have to justify myself. I have to prove I like these things. I have to prove I’m not a poser. Because obviously, my appearance is directly linked to what things I can and can’t enjoy, and how good I am at said things.

It is not posing when a female enjoys games, anime, comic books or other like things. Believe it or not, we’re not trying to act cool to impress boys (or girls). Here’s a crazy idea: maybe we enjoy it—just like you.

Instead of judging and hating each other, we should be promoting acceptance, love, and mutual enjoyment of cool and quirky things. After all, aren’t we the same geeks that were (most likely) picked on in school? Teased for liking things that weren’t the norm? Stereotyped as nerds and weirdos?

I am a nerd. I am a geek. I’m a weirdo. And I’m a girly girl. But you know what? I’m proud of that. I love these things, and I can’t wait to experience more. And if you’re ever tempted to judge someone else, maybe you should take a good hard look at yourself. Stop looking at me with those eyes. I do belong here—F off. I can’t hear you over the sound of me winning, anyway.

Stop telling me I can’t wear heels to uni.

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Image via Medical Daily.

There seems to be a stigma attached to women who wear high heels to uni—or anywhere casual, really. People say: why would you do that? That’s really silly. Don’t your feet hurt? Your feet look like they hurt.

News flash: if I wear heels, it’s because I want to—not to please you. Do my feet hurt? Probably. But at least I feel confident and pretty. Besides, it’s not like I always wear heels. I rarely do. Please, stop judging and be on your merry way. There are actually a lot of benefits I think people don’t realise—particularly in the colder months.

They look fabulous.

Now, I don’t think of myself as a vain person—but looking down at my feet or catching a glimpse of my shoes in the reflection of a window or glass door makes me feel confident and sophisticated. To me, wearing heels can signify professionalism. When I’m in the city or interning at a magazine in the city, all I can think about is how fantastic and confident they seem. While I have worn huge and gorgeous heels in the city (and yes, they do kill), I can’t help but feel it’s worth it. Besides, you can always pack flats: the best of both worlds.

They give you height.

I’ll admit, I’m a short ass—just below five foot three. Actually being able to see the top shelf, or over the sea of people is awesome. Plus, when you wear heels, you’re less likely to step in puddles and have to walk around with soaked converse or ballet flats. Winning.

Shoes, glorious shoes. Image via Express.

They make you work more.

It’s no secret that it does take more effort to wear heels—but, something I noticed today, is that it has the effect of making you feel warmer. Which makes sense—you’re exerting more energy in moving. The result: warmth. Fantastic for the upcoming winter months.

Because I want to.

But seriously, I don’t need your validation. I am not conforming to some kind of stereotype of women needing to wear damaging and painful heels. I’m doing it because I want to, and because it makes me happy. And if it makes me happy to occasionally don some heeled boots or a pair of pumps, then that is exactly what I’ll do.

Love yourself—all of yourself—no matter what your style.

The Intern: Break the Expectations

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Starring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, this film far exceeded my expectations. It’s inspiring, uplifting, with the perfect amount of heartbreak and humour. It’s been three days since I saw the film, and I’m still reeling from the emotional rollercoaster I was put through.

De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a retired 70-year-old looking to spice up his monotonous life with something new. That spice just so happens to be a senior’s intern program for an up-and-coming online clothing business, headed by the awe-inspiring Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway).

Since Ben is an actual senior (citizen), a lot of the typical intern questions don’t really work out, such as “where do you see yourself in ten years?”, and “what was your major?” followed by “do you remember?” Ben, however, handles himself at all times with pride, respect, patience and concern—just what the doctor ordered for Jules.

Jules, by the way, is a ground-breaking character. She’s a pillar of dedication, strength and determination, as well as kindness and concern for her employees and customers, truly going above and beyond. In the first nine months of creating her business, she met her five-year goal, and went from 25 to over 200 staff members. She also tends to ride a bicycle through her office—complete with a cup holder for coffee: a brilliant idea. And she hates it when people don’t blink. Or when they talk slow. Jules Ostin is truly a quirky inspiration, who isn’t afraid to smash glass ceilings. Go, Anne Hathaway! Girl power!

I hope i’m successful enough to ride a bike through my office some day.

That is, until the misogynistic and sexist investors want to replace Jules as CEO in favour for someone a little more “seasoned”. In order words, an older man. They convince her she’s doing too much, and as a woman, should let a man handle the business world. And at first, she believes them. But then Ben Whittaker saves the day with his old-world charm, and kind, caring demeanour. And he always encourages everyone to do the right thing—even if it’s hard. From Jules’s drunk chauffeur, to co-workers with lady problems, to cheating husbands: Ben can fix it all. His best tips? Breathe deeply. Take some me-time. Talk to people in person, and talk to them honestly, but most importantly: believe in yourself—because no one knows you as well as you.

Robert De Niro makes everything better.

The Intern also tackles some pretty complicated themes, from the invisibility of the elderly who still have music left inside them and a wealth of knowledge, to working mothers.

“It’s 2015, are we really still critical of working mums?” Ben asks. Indeed, we are. Jules, when not being a superstar businesswoman, is also a mum to her young daughter, Paige. Her husband, Matt, quit his job in marketing in order to be a stay-at-home dad. And on the surface, this works. Well, until Matt cheats repeatedly with a woman from Paige’s school. Matt eventually confesses, apologises profusely, saying he lost himself, but now he’s ready to be a real man—as if that was a valid excuse. Is this particular man so emasculated by his badass, bread-winning wife that he has to sleep around in order to validate his manhood? Please. Talk about toxic masculinity. And the worst part about all this: she takes him back. SHE TAKES HIM BACK. It’s not like it was a one-time thing—he was cheating on her for months, knowing it was wrong, and still did it anyway. But oh, throw a few compliments and lovey-dovey words in there, and everything is fine and dandy. Matt, you’re a jerk face.

Did I mention Ben is a criminal? Yeah, they save Jules’s ass by breaking into her mother’s house and deleting a rather inflammatory email. And oh, hey there Bumper from Pitch Perfect!

But even in the face of heart ache, even in the face of intense adversity, Jules does not give up. And that’s definitely something to commend. Ben is the perfect Robin to Jules’s Batman, and while I was still pissed off about that jerk-off Matthew, it was hard to not be inspired by the pair. You go guys, don’t be defined by societal opinions of age and gender. Smash those expectations. I believe in you.

Overall, it was a great movie—it left me wanting more. So I guess the writers did their job. The movie has also earned $107.8 million at the Box Office, so they must be doing something right. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking and it’s inspiring—and you won’t regret watching it.

Note: this article was originally published by me for Re-Views Magazine.

Petition against Indian sister’s rape punishment exceeds 220,000 signatures

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Two Indian women face rape threats after brother’s elopement with a married woman. Source: Faisil Magray, Cover Asia Press

It’s been two days since Amnesty International launched its petition to save two young Indian women from the punishment of rape for their brother’s alleged “crimes”, and already, it has received over 220,000 signatures.

On July 30, 23-year-olrd Meenakshi Kumari and her 15-year-old sister were given the sentence by an unelected, all-male local council in Baghpat, India, which included being paraded with blackened faces through their village for their brother’s “crime”—he eloped with a married woman of a higher caste.

Since then, the Kumari sisters—of the underprivileged Dalit caste, have fled with their family to a secret location in New Delhi. They are in the process of appealing their case to India’s Supreme Court.

According to Amnesty International:

“Nothing could justify this abhorrent punishment. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s against the law.”

These women now live in constant fear for their safety.

Meenakshi–the eldest of the pair facing rape punishment. Source: Faisil Magray, Cover Asia Press

“How will we ever return home or to our village? If we ever return, they will harm us or rape us. If not today, then in the future,” one of the sister’s told reporters.

The petition has been circulated widely on social media, and is only 30,000 signatures away from its 250,000 goal.

Senate launches gender inequality inquiry into superannuation

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The Australian Senate approved a motion to launch an inquiry into gender inequality of the superannuation system. The motion, approved on Monday, was backed by Labor Senator Jenny McAllister, Liberal Senator Sean Edwards and Greens Senator Larissa Waters, spurred by recent ANZ study, which revealed that women are, on average, retiring on half as much as men.

The 2015 ANZ Women’s Report indicated numerous alarming figures regarding gender inequality within the workforce. For instance, despite the fact that 42% of women aged 25-29 hold a university degree, compared to 31% of men, women are still paid, on average, 18.8% less. Women who work full-time, therefore, earn on average $295 per week less than their male counterparts—simply due to gender. In a year, this amounts to a $15,000 difference, and in a lifetime, $700,000.

ANZ CEO Joyce Phillips said globally, women earn up to 36% less than their male counterparts; this report merely confirms the financial disadvantage all women face.

“This research also confirms what’s really restricting the financial future of women is the inherent structural bias in the way the workplace, education, social and legal systems are established,” she said.

Industry Super deputy chief executive Robbie Campo welcomes the review.

“Industry super Australia’s modelling shows that even with super, pension payments and other savings combined, 63% of single women will still not be retiring comfortably by 2055 unless we act now to restructure our retirement income system,” she said.

The Greens Senator Larissa Walters attributes the growing homelessness of older women to this inequality.

“It’s timely for the Senate to examine the structural inequalities which are seeing women retire in poverty.”

“We hope the tri-partisan nature of this inquiry will lead to real outcomes to address the alarming gender retirement income gap.”