Sunday, 25 September 2011

In a general internet surf, I came across this delightful post containing some creepy and downright strange vintage adverts. My favourite one is this one:

Personally, I think it's a good thing we've got more sensitive about calling people fat if the alternative is this sort of casual abuse. Plus, as the author of the original blog points out, the girl in the picture isn't chubby at all.

I guess it's all proof that the industry has always had a casual hatred of women (see #9 where the woman is being hit by her husband for not trying coffee before she buys it, #7 where the husband has locked his wife out of their room because she hasn't used the latest feminine hygiene product, and #4, asking the timeless question "Is it always illegal to kill a woman" for apparently no reason whatsoever), and, indeed, men and children.

This post is really nothing but me writing about the other blog post I found - sorry.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

For readers with brains

I don't know if I said already that I'm studying an MSc in Publishing at Napier University. Well today (after a lot of confusion and delay) we had an exercise to make up our own magazine, thinking about the design, target audience, price, subject, tagline and title etc. I really liked the one our group came up with - it was called Real, and we never agreed on a tagline - my suggestion of "for women with brains" was deemed a bit too brutal. It was aimed at professional/career women in their 20s to 30s, and it was an anti women's-magazine magazine (i.e. against the mindless fashion obsession that most women's magazines focus on). It was about being happy with who you are, not about being aspirational. Somebody suggested that there was a gap in the market for younger women who want to read magazines that have substance, like Psychologies, but feel that those magazines are aimed at older women. To be honest, I would love to make this magazine a reality. We had all sorts of great ideas about what should go in it, such as having a policy of only using 'real' women who aren't airbrushed as the models, perhaps even using the readers (although we'd have to have some first). I suggested having articles on charity-shop fashion and upcycling, thrifty ways of making things unique, although that is a vested interest of mine, so of course I would suggest that. I don't know how appealing that would be to the general public. Other great suggestions were having a hard-hitting analysis of the news and current affairs, articles on new technologies, which are normally presumed to only interest men, articles aimed at addressing the culture of self-hatred that women's magazines engender, such as an article on enjoying your own company as well as relationship advice, a culture review section on the latest films, books, tv programmes and music, and an advice page with detailed response to letters. Overall, we wanted this magazine to have in-depth articles and features - we don't want it to be just another brainless fashion promotion. We thought about having adverts from affordable high-street shops like H&M, New Look and Zara. I don't know how ethical Zara is, however, and somebody suggested Primark too which I suppose might be inevitable, although I wouldn't be happy with that. If this was my magazine I think I would like to focus it on being ethical. The trouble is I don't know how many women would be interested in that. Anyway, we also thought it might be a good idea to have Lush advertise in it, as their cosmetics have such an emphasis placed on being 'real', organic, homemade, fresh and good for you. We came across a little problem with the adverts, though - would you have a policy that they couldn't be photoshopped either? Could companies deal with that? Pretty much everything is done in photoshop now, even if it's not airbrushing. That could be problematic.

I've just had the idea that you could do something similar to the thing they do in the innocent smoothies emails, where they include links to funny websites and weird videos. Pointing out websites like cakewrecks could be quite fun, and a good way of getting people to use the magazine's forums and extra video content it would have online. I'm actually amazingly excited about this magazine and quite put out that it's not going to become a reality.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Welcome to the World's Biggest Arms Fair

 Oh wait guys, it's alright, it turns out that we've all been overreacting about the arms trade, and that selling weapons actually promotes peace:

A representative from Pakistan's exhibit, Major Ali Asghar Mushtaq, says his country is here selling weapons to help bring about a more peaceful world.

"The aim of Pakistan's army is that everything manufactured and sold should not be for killing and terror activities," he says. "It should bring peace on the whole world, not wars." Does he really believe manufacturing arms en masse will help bring about peace? "It's obvious," he says. "Once one country and the other country both have weapons, no one is going to use the weapons against each other. So there will be more stability.  

The chances are, if you're over five years old you might have spotted a little flaw in that argument. Nevertheless, arms traders and those who profit from them continue to delue themselves that what they are doing is not only necessary, but good. Take a look at this video, where a journalist from Amnesty International informs an employee of RBS that they are investing in the companies that make cluster bombs.

"How do you think you get paid your benefits or whatever? Your university or your healthcare. How do you think the banks make money?"

Is this the only way that banks can make money? Surely that's a flawed system. If the only way our banks can make money is by investing in a trade that relies on killing off people, then why are we still supporting them? I know I may sound like an idealist, but I believe that it is possible to invest in ethical causes to generate the income necessary for the welfare state, and to support people through university (which sadly looks like it's a thing of the past, but is completely necessary for a country that wants to make any steps toward progress). Why must we rely on wars in other countries to support our banks? That means that banks and businesses in this country will always have a vested interest in promoting conflict abroad, or else their business will run out.


Seneca said that he who profits by a crime commits it. That means that if I put my money in a bank that invests in the arms trade, I am profiting from the arms trade, I am gaining from the deaths of others and I am complicit in that crime. I don't want that to be my only option. I want to be able have the choice to invest ethically (ethically here means 'something that does not involve hurting or killing others). I just don't know what to do about it. The whole thing is so entrenched and corrupt and so big. How can you hold a bank or a company to account when others don't agree that people's lives should come first, and that instead, they 'have a duty to their shareholders'?

Friday, 16 September 2011

The end of men

I'm aware that all I seem to blog about here is feminism, but this is just too brilliant not to share:

"What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order. But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?"

An article from 2010 about the position of women in society shifting since they seem to be more suited than men to do the kind of jobs that are around. Well worth a read, and it's by somebody who shares my name. It can only be good.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Rory and Doctor Who

Wow. I had just about given up on watching Doctor Who after that River Song/Melody Pond episode at the end of the series break, but I got back into watching it after some people on my course mentioned it - they love Stephen Moffatt up in Scotland. The last two episodes have just been amazing - to me, anyway. I know they're silly, and that's part of the point of them. That's just what you expect from Doctor Who. Especially as they're aimed at children.

I'm not aiming to be anything like as amusing as Red Scharlach, who (whom?) I hear was recently snapped up to write for the Doctor Who Magazine, and so I won't be able to read any of her reviews of the new series without buying a geeky children's magazine, which I'm not going to do. Anyway, this week's episode made me realise two things. One: I love Rory. He's just great. When was the last time you saw a truly nice male character where they weren't presented as a total dweeb (alright, I know they make Rory a little bit of a dweeb, but it only makes him more lovable). Two: I love post-apocalyptic future stories. Now, I don't know the reason for this. Generally, I tend to prefer stories with happy endings. Somebody once said you can tell the difference between a good story and a bad story because a good story has a happy ending. But I find the possibility of a new and different future endlessly exciting, even if they all generally turn out to be quite similar - i.e., sinister.

By the way, how did I know as soon as Rory put on those glasses that there would be a boob joke? HOW? This was probably the only part of the episode I guessed (apart from the inevitable happy-ish ending) and that's a little bit worrying. I had the thought halfway through that they should make an adult version of Doctor Who, because then at least they wouldn't have to be so coy with all their dirty jokes, and the monsters could be far scarier. Then I realised that they already made it: it was Torchwood, and it was shit. (I'm sorry, that show is inexcusable. It's one of the worst-written, stupidest (even sillier than Doctor Who), most pointless, senseless, boring and gratuitous things I have ever sat through. Actually, every subtle shade of meaning of the word 'gratuitous' can accurately be used to describe every facet of Torchwood. The word could have been made for it. My time was "given without receiving any return value", and the show itself is "without apparent reason, cause, or justification". And Russell T Davies loves putting exposition in dialogue despite ranting against it in all his interviews. Everything about the show is irritating and nothing about the show is redeeming.)

But anyway, that's another story for another time. What I really wanted to praise this episode for was for the way it swaps round traditional gender roles with the characters of Amy and Rory. So Amy can be the tough one who has learnt to survive in a post-apocalyptic future by herself, and Rory is the caring one who wants to rescue her but isn't especially good at looking after himself and often ends up relying on her to stop him getting killed. Forgive me for getting boring and thoughtful, but I think that having a storyline where the man in the couple rescues the woman is excusable, because she would do (and has done, multiple times) the same for him. And it even twists round the traditional guy rescuing girl story, by making Amy the one responsible for rescuing herself, even though Rory set off to try to rescue her in the first place.

I think, in this age, we have forgotten that in a couple, you are both meant to look after each other, rather than exclusively the woman cooking and cleaning for the husband, or exclusively the husband providing for and protecting the wife. You're both meant to do both, it's just that somewhere along the line we forgot and assigned limited 'traditional' roles to each that then stuck. If it was true that only women were 'naturally' inclined to cook, any man who ever lived on his own, or without any women, would die from starvation.

Oh dear, I think I've digressed a little more than I meant to. What I really meant to say was that I love the character of Rory, perhaps because he's how I'd like to be. He's a bit shy and not all that physically strong, but who cares? He's caring and loyal and kind, and even though he's shy he sticks up for himself and for Amy, and will always fight for what's important to him, even though he doesn't really know how to. I want to aspire to be like that, because it takes guts to be brave when you're that shy.

Monday, 5 September 2011


A sensible and interesting blog post that sums up many things I have tried to express before:

I don't know how to be a woman

My boyfriend lent me Caitlin Moran's new book, 'How to be a Woman'. So far, everyone I've mentioned that fact to has asked why he bought it. It is, after all, a book about feminism. Perhaps this confusion points to why a book on feminism is still so necessary.

It's easy to dismiss anything to do with feminism as unnecessary, or boring. I did myself before I went to university, and met people who showed me that it was very much relevant and necessary in tackling issues such as rape and domestic abuse, issues which are still tainted by sexism. The recent 'slutwalks', sparked by the remark of a Canadian policeman that "Women should avoid dressing like sluts to avoid being raped" have shown that society still has a tendancy to blame the victim rather than the attacker. It would also be easy to mouth off on a moral crusade about why you're so much better than everybody else because you're into feminism. Well, you could do that, but it wouldn't help much. But there is still the assumption that the word 'feminist' means 'man-hating', even amongst the most enlightened people.

Caitlin Moran is a little weird, which is good. I remember coming across a copy of the book she wrote when she was 16 when I was clearing through the books in the store room in Oxfam, and it had a quote from Terry Pratchett on the back saying how amazing it was, and how surprising it was that someone so young could have written it. I also knew that she had a column for The Times, I think, although it might be the Guardian. Either way, she writes and makes a lot of money from it and is famous. The one column I've read by her was about how she wanted unique hair all her life, and she has now, finally, got it -- black hair with a silver streak down the front. Amazing.

And I found it really fun reading her book. It was hilarious (who says women can't be funny?) as well as addressing so many issues in a logical way. I think I'm inclined to agree with her when she says that high heeled shoes are absolutely pointless -- "No one can walk in them, not even the models" laughs a photoshoot photographer she once came across. So why do we wear them? Just because we think that everyone else is, and that is what is normal. We don't want to be strange. Well, we don't want to be THAT strange, although we do like to think that we're a little different, a little unusual, a little unique. But not TOO unique.