Questions other than “Am I bikini body ready?” to ask yourself this summer

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by Zainab Boladale

As women, we are expected to have body confidence issues and while it is true that a lot of us do, what about those of us who actually don’t? Why are we being told that we should? It’s obvious that we are perceived as “the weaker fragile sex” by society and are expected to strive for perfection. It seems that society cares about us so much that there will always be someone ready to point out our supposed “problem areas”. The number one offender being, that’s right you’ve guessed it, the media with their “oh so brilliant” strategic marketing. What I mean by this is that in the last few years, companies targeting female customers are using different techniques to sell us their products. Rather than selling the product for what it does, they are selling it as a product that will actually help us improve our problem areas by pointing out that it should be a problem area. These adverts subtly instil the feeling of body shame when in fact there should be no reason to feel ashamed about what your body naturally does or looks like. I get really annoyed when I see adverts that display a healthy size 16 woman going to a size 8, despite the fact that she was perfectly fine at her initial size. Or the recent “Are you beach body ready?” advert by protein world that suggest that all our bodies should look like the woman in the poster, otherwise it shouldn’t be shown.

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As for women who actually show or feel confident in their bodies, we are quickly branded as “vain”or “stuck up bitches”. Personally, I 90% feel confident in my body. Of course, there are days where I criticise certain aspect of my body, like my far from iron flat stomach or my kit kat bar chunky thighs but there are days, weeks, months even where I can appreciate that all of these things add to my unique shape and I have no desire to lose an insane amount of weight or volunteer my body for the hunger games just because I don’t look like a Victoria Secrets model. If anything, i’m happy looking like I know all of Betty Crocker’s secret recipes. Body love is something that every woman needs and it genuinely makes me mad that magazines and adverts target our insecurities not because they care about our “health” or want to make us love our bodies more than we already do. There are so many natural, unique and beautiful body shapes in the world so it’s crazy to think that there is one standardized perception of what is considered beautiful. Being aware of two cultural ideas of beauty, Africans seeing perfection in a rounder woman, and Europeans seeing beauty in a slender women, has made me realise that no matter how you look you will always be judged. Body love is an important thing and I think as long as you love your body and know how to work all your best features, then what anyone else thinks shouldn’t matter. So girls, this summer instead of asking ourselves “Am I bikini body ready?” ask yourselves “Is that bikini ready for your body?”.

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How social media affects our self image

by Bronwyn O’Neill

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Social media plays a huge part in our lives, especially in our teenage years and into our early twenties. I decided to look at how social media controls our self-esteem because of a famous confession revealed last week.

Kylie Jenner, one of the world’s most fashionable teenagers, has admitted to getting lip fillers. Although it was probably one of the worst kept secrets out there, it does raise the issue of how social media can affect us. In the latest episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kylie discusses her own self-consciousness, an issue that has only been heightened due to social media attention.

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So, if one of the most influential teenagers can be affected so badly be social media, how can us regular plebs not be?

Everyone, male and female, has insecurities. Whether it be weight, height, scars, noses or lips, I highly doubt anyone wakes up and thinks “perfection.” (Except maybe Beyoncé because she did in fact wake up like that.)

On a serious note, there hasn’t been a year when we hear about another suicide because of social media. Of course there are bullies attached to these deaths but the problem may also be that we put our most “perfect” self online. Every image is scrutinised, edited and filtered before we make it our profile picture on any social media site. The fear when we receive a notification saying someone has tagged you in pictures stems from wanting to seem flawless online. Due to this, cyber bullying is such a huge issue and such an attack on our self-esteem. If our ideal self is called fat and ugly then what are we really?

Teenagers look too much at unrealistic body images, photos that are photoshopped and edited to make the celebrity look perfect. Even when the images aren’t edited to such an intense standard, most celebrities take pictures in full make-up and hair, done by professionals that we can never stand up to.

This is not just a female issue, men also have to measure up to a certain body image. Men fall under just as much scrutiny and also suffer from negative body issues. We are all victims to this. We all put too much thought into how many likes our pictures get on instagram or how many followers we have on twitter. We feed into it and because of that, so many people face eating disorders and mental health issues.

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I think it’s time we embrace our insecurities and learn to love them. Easier said than done, I suppose.

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The Dress Debate: What happened when girls were kicked out of prom for what they were wearing

by Rebecca Lumley

The prom, or debs/grad here in Ireland, is a rite of passage for school leavers and generally a lively topic of conversation for months in advance. Whether you’ve been dreaming of the dress you’d wear since first year (guilty) or just looking forward to a night out with your friends, it’s a big social occasion and something to look forward to amongst the stress of exams.

However, 2015 has seen a number of young ladies turned away from their prom because of what they were wearing. The last night of fun with their classmates was ripped away from these girls, all because the dresses they had chosen were deemed “too revealing”. When the cases were challenged by the students and parents affected, the schools refused to discuss the matter. You might be surprised by the offending dresses in  question.

Case 1: Mireya Briceno

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This gorgeous Michegan 18 year old was sent home after just one hour from her prom because the backless dress she wore was “inappropriate”. The school’s dress code stated that dresses showing skin “around the midriff” were forbidden, but had no such rule concerning backless dresses.The school principal, Brad Perkins, originally defended the decision but is now saying the dress code will be “reviewed” in the Autumn. Probably because of the internet storm the decision has caused.

Case 2: Alexus Miller-Wigfall

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This Pennsylvania teen wasn’t turned away from her actual prom, but issued a day’s school suspension after the event. This came as a complete shock to Alexus and her mother, who believes the targeting is weight related. The school’s dress code requires that “all body parts are covered”, including breasts. Alexus’ mother maintains that as Alexus has bigger boobs than several other students, she was punished over girls who were wearing more revealing clothing. To add insult to injury, her mother had emailed several photos of the dress to the school for their approval prior to the prom. “I don’t see anything wrong with that dress. What do they want her to wear, a turtleneck?” her mother said.

Case 3: Shelton High School

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This is perhaps the worst case of all as dozens of students have been affected and not just a few select individuals. Shelton High, a school in Connecticut, created an extensive list of dress code violations and have warned students that breaking the rules will see you denied entry from prom. The problem? They announced these rules a mere eight days before the event was set to take place. This late change in policy has naturally caused a wave of distress amongst students and parents, with many finding their pricey and often non-returnable dresses in violation. Above are two of the dresses rejected by the school. Determined to fight the unfair regulations, the students launched a petition that has gone viral in the last few days. They point out that:

“It takes a long time to pick out a dress or have one custom made, even longer for any necessary alterations to be made; it is unfair to release the dress guidelines eight days before the dance and expect every person to have a dress that follows them.”

The students also articulately  tackled the wider issue of double standards in the school.

“There is a sexist and backwards logic that girls must cover up so that boys are not distracted or tempted to behave inappropriately. If a girl wears a pair of shorts and a boy takes that as an invitation to touch her, who really needs to be told to control themselves? Don’t teach girls to hide their bodies; teach boys self control and that they aren’t entitled to a girl’s body just because she dressed in a way that made her feel beautiful or just didn’t want to get overheated.”

“There is no reason why the boys at Mr. Student Body should have been allowed to parade around the stage in nothing but their boxers but a girl can’t wear a backless dress to prom. This selective enforcement of school dress code is unacceptable.”

Read the full petition here.

The issue that the students of Shelton High so brilliantly address here is the crux of all of the prom debacles we’ve seen.

While prom is a school event and the school are entitled to ask for decent dress, the instances we have seen have gone too far. Is an exposed back really so “inappropriate” when women wear backless gowns getting married every day? Is a 1cm sliver of midriff really so offensive? Are people unaware of the fact that girls have boobs and are therefore startled when they see them in a v-neck dress? Is it reasonable to demand that ALL BODY PARTS be covered, as in the case of Alexus’ high school?

The idea these cases perpetuate is that it is unacceptable for women to show their bodies. These rules tell girls that it is their responsibility to cover up so boys aren’t distracted in class. They say girls should dress a certain way to avoid wolf whistles on the street or leering gazes in a nightclub. They tell people that there is something wrong with exposing skin. They place the blame on women for the way men react to womens’ bodies.

This often unrecognized attitude is an important mark of inequality in modern society. It shows society is still placing the blame on women for sexual harassment and even sexual assault because the inherrent attitude that women should cover up still exists. Is it fair for teenage girls to be banned from wearing sleeveless tops and shorts in school so the boys “aren’t distracted”? Is it fair that police still ask a woman what she was wearing in a case of sexual assault? Is it fair that girls were denied their prom because of the archaic idea that it is women’s duty to cover their skin?

The school administrations that are enforcing unfair rules clearly need to shift their focus. It is not the fault of the boys in a school, or men in general that such policies are being enforced but it is the fault of the policy makers. Instead of turning girls away from prom, maybe they should be teaching students that bare skin is never an invitation, that the female form is neither something to be feared nor overtly sexualised.

Take the blame off women as a whole for the actions of a few select men who believe certain clothes grant them entitlements. This is a minority mindset and one that must be done away with through education. As these girls have realised, this is about much more than missing out on prom.

A Story of Body Acceptance

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by Bronwyn O’Neill

Since I was around twelve or thirteen, I realised my body would never fit the stick figure body type. It wasn’t something I was over excited about. In my eyes, tall, skinny girls were the most beautiful things ever. However being five foot three, I knew I would never reach the tall part of my dream girl.

I struggled with being curvy when every “pretty” girl I knew was so tiny. To me, that body standard was the norm. And that was the only figure that meant anything. They were the beautiful ones and I would never reach that.

One of the prettiest girls I knew was a tiny size six, with an A-cup bra size. By the time I was thirteen I was wearing a D-cup bra. I used to get so nervous before going to get a bra fitting. What if I had gone up in size? The usual answer was yes.

I would get so upset when the lady who measured me told me my new size. Afterwards, I would have to trawl through ugly, beige bras. Every time I went shopping in my early teens, I would look at the gorgeous bras that were aimed towards A and B cups. Envy would make my blood boil. Why couldn’t they make them three or four sizes bigger?

The larger bra size did not cater towards young girls. They were either too maternal or too sexy. Neither of which I felt at the age of thirteen. So, I donned my beige bra and glared enviously at the pretty floral bras.

Having a fuller bust made it difficult to do PE. Sports bras barely fit over my chest, so I tended to get moody around the time of exercise. For five out of the six years of my secondary school life, my PE teacher was male. So, they would never understand my pain at holding my boobs while jogging the length of the gym.

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Another thing that made me uncomfortable about having a fuller figure was the leering looks. At the age of fifteen I ventured into the big city of Dublin for my Transition Year work experience. I was wearing a blouse or something professional for my first day of “work”. I innocently asked the gruff bus driver for a child’s ticket into the city centre. His gaze dropped from my face to my breasts and asked me what age I was.

My whole face drained of colour and I had never been so nervous whilst I replied with a dry mouth my age. He shrugged and gave me my ticket. But I was still shaken until I arrived at the building where I was to work for five days. Yes, I was fifteen and yes I had boobs and hips. My top wasn’t inappropriate, a problem I had with most tops. It was not low cut but still my boobs were brought into question.

Of course, I thought that if I was smaller this would never happen. If I fitted that beautiful model body, I would never get unwanted attention like that. Only boys my own age would think I was stunning. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

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Another part of having a “curvy” body type, are wide hips. These are still a challenge whilst trying to squeeze into seats in lecture halls. However, the first time I really noticed this was on a swing. Yes, I was on a swing. I was visiting my little cousins and I was playing outside with them. I tried to fit into the swing seat, a seat I had fitted comfortably into only a few months prior. My hips were squeezed into the now narrow seat.

So, my hips had widened and how I had to face it. In school, trying to squeeze into narrow desks was a struggle. At times I would hit tables with my hips or my ass and try to play it off. I could fake joke about it, except I didn’t find it funny. Still everyone was so tiny and skinny, no boobs, no hips. It was still the perfect body to me.

It wasn’t until around a year ago when I finally got comfortable with my body. Unfortunately, it took me this long because in my opinion popular culture doesn’t promote curvy women. In any tv show or film, the main character is a stunning stick figure girl. Any curvy women, like Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian, are mostly ridiculed for their body type. Maybe because they are sexualised in the public eye. I don’t know. However, I felt this negative view from a young age.

Getting into a positive mind set about my body was difficult. However I now am more comfortable with my curves. Of course, I still think that the skinny, model figure is the most beautiful body type. Although, now I am happy that I don’t fit into that body type. My curves make me who I am, they make me unique.

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Now we need to make the curvy, fuller sized girl a positive thing. Not a sexualised body type, especially for young girls. And to end on a cheesy note, to  all the young girls out there struggling with their body image, whether it be you feel too skinny or too heavy, you are still beautiful and you need to love yourself no matter what.

Is Ireland Failing Its Homeless People?

by Zainab Boladale

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Is the rising number of homeless young people in Ireland due to the failure of government initiative to provide adequate shelters?

According to Focus Ireland, an organisation dedicated to providing support, accommodation and raising awareness on the issue of homelessness, there has been a failure by successive governments to provide the housing required to end homelessness. The economic crisis we’ve faced has seen capital spending on social housing in Ireland cut by 72%, from €1.38 billion to €390 million, between 2008 and 2012. As a result there is an increase in the amount of people without a home.

How does this affect young people?

Youth homelessness refers to young people who are not only under 18 but also in their 20s.Focus Ireland estimated that up to 5,000 people at any one time are homeless in Ireland but it is difficult to estimate the exact amount of young people that make up this proportion. Between the lack of accommodation and short term and long term housing facilities across the country, it’s easy to see how young people are ending up on the streets. The word homelessness is one we are all familiar with. For me, the words ‘homeless person’ conjures up the image of an elderly raggedy helpless individual begging for money and this is due to the fact that this is what I am accustomed to seeing at least once a week in my home town, Ennis, Clare.

‘Homeless’ and ‘young people’ are not words that are often put together.

In recent times these two words have become one and these ‘Homeless young people’ have been embodied by the increasing amount of young people that can be found on the streets of Dublin and across Ireland. It was not until I moved to Dublin that I realized the extremity of the situation. On average while walking aimlessly in the City Centre, I would see at least 5 homeless people on the streets, pleading for spare change. Most were unsuccessful in even gaining the attention of passers-by.

It’s easy to see the competition for our attention increasing. I recently saw a young man sitting on the footpath on O’Connell Street where he held up a sign which read ‘I’m not an alcoholic or a drug addict, I just need change for my next meal’.

Whilst on Abbey Street I saw another young man who seemed to be in his early 20s holding his dog close to his chest, perhaps for comfort or for warmth. It was as though the dog was the last thing in this world he could call his own. I imagined there was a time things were different for him. I can only assume that his idea of luxury would be to have a roof over his head while for most of us it would be to win a trip across Europe.

How do young people find themselves homeless?

There are various reasons many young people find themselves homeless. It is often due to lack of care from family, violence, abuse, drug or alcohol addiction. When seeing a homeless person on the street we are often so wrapped up in our busy lives that we react to them by not reacting at all, We are often guilty of not even taking a moment to give them some change. I’m sure many people walk past these helpless youths daily without realizing.

As a country that claims to be welcoming and caring, why is it that the most fragile people in our society are the ones being ignored? We need to stop pretending that these people are merely an obstruction in our way. I myself have been guilty of this on many occasions.

How can I help?

If you are interested in helping Focus Ireland in their attempt to keep people off the street you can donate on their website Focus Ireland.ie, which also provides information about homelessness, the work they do and other ways in which you can contribute.

Love Letters on Mother’s Day

Let’s be honest, mums are pretty amazing. Not only do they lug you around for nine months, but they stick around afterwards to clean up your sick and look after you when you’re not feeling the best – whether that’s when you’re a baby suffering from colic, or a teenager who’s had one too many is besides the point.

This Mother’s Day, a few of us here at The Ink Ladies decided to take the opportunity to write a little letter of appreciation to our mums. We hope you enjoy, and make sure to show your mum some love this Mother’s Day!

Emily Crowley

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Here’s Mama Crowley pictured with her FAVOURITE child on my Debs day in 2014.

Like most mothers of my fellow colleagues, my mother always wanted me to do well and wanted me to do what made me happy. She wanted me to always try my best in school, which I did, but unlike the other girls who write for The Ink Ladies, my mom was sitting at the other side of the teacher’s desk in school. Having a teacher mom had its downsides, believe me – NO ONE wants their mom to explain the reproductive system in graphic detail to their classmates. NO ONE. However, she always helped me out along the way and consequently got two of my best Leaving Cert results out of me. Who would have thought? Mom did all the worrying for me too; she was the one that cringed at the sight of the maths theorems when she saw me writing them out, she was the one praying the exams would be over sooner, and she was the one that couldn’t sleep the night before results. All in all, it was pretty cool having her near me at school and at home. No one could’ve looked after me any more than she could and it’s kind of weird not being home for Mother’s Day this year.

I’ve always said the being a mother is undoubtedly one of the most special jobs – anyone one can be a parent, but it takes someone special to be a Mom. So I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge everything that my Mom has done over the past 19 years, and here’s to many more years with her! Mom, thanks for everything, love you lots and always. Happy Mother’s Day.

Hannah Kelly

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Selfies with my lovely mam

As mother’s day approached this year, I found myself thinking about just how amazing my mam is. She has always been an inspiring woman to me and has helped shape me into the woman I am today. I look up to her so much and have always considered her a great role model.

Some of the fondest memories I have with my mam were when I started attending Pieta House about 2 years ago and we would make the journey to Lucan together every Thursday. It seems like a trivial thing, but those car journeys meant a lot to me. We got to know each other more, and learned to understand where the other was coming from.

It meant a lot to me that during that time my mam’s attention was fully focused on me, and mine on her. I felt her love and support without her having to say anything, it was a beautiful thing. We didn’t always discuss anything serious; most of the time it was just how school was going, what my plans for the weekend were, and what homework I had. It didn’t matter what we talked about, what mattered was that she was there for me.

I know I haven’t always been the easiest daughter to deal with – I’ve had my problems and I’ve taken my time to figure myself out. But, I have always appreciated what my mam did and continues to do for me. She’s always on my side, never judges me, and always shows her love for me no matter what I say to her.

More than anything I just want to thank her, and want her to know that I realise what an amazing woman she is. If I could be half the woman she is, I would be happy.

Ciara Moran

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Sharing the love with Therese

My mam is not just my mother, she’s also my friend. Like friends, we can argue over things like how long I take to get ready or how she lets my older sister get away with everything (pretty sure that’s typical younger child syndrome). But I can also trust my mam with anything and know that she will always tell me the truth – from letting me know that those trousers look dreadful on me, to how I really need to start job hunting or else I’ll be broke. I am guilty of not telling and showing my mam appreciation for everything she does, such as the weekly shop, collecting me from places and making dinner for the four of us every day. Thank you, mam.

She has been through everything with me. She may as well have sat my Leaving Cert alongside me, going by how much stress I put her through! She can sometimes be funny (emphasis on the sometimes), but always loving and caring. For example, I love the way she puts my pyjamas on the radiator and clears my bed of makeup and clothes for when I come in from a night out. I love how she treats my dog as if she were human. I love how she insists on having an hour nap every day after work. I love her. Plus she makes a killer chicken curry.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mam !  x

Keava O’Loan

“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”

– Marguerite Duras

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Me with my mum and sisters after a few too many Long Island Iced Teas in Cyprus last Summer

I have always been a daddy’s girl. I know that’s a strange way to start a Mother’s Day piece, but it’s true. For years, I didn’t appreciate everything my mum does for me and just how incredibly cool she is. Yes, she has her embarrassing moments, but what parent doesn’t? In fact, now that I’m past those awkward teen years where you cringe at absolutely everything your parents do, I’ve come to realise that she’s never really been that embarrassing at all. The way she mixes up phrases and mispronounces pretty much everything? Provided some of the funniest moments ever. The fact that she’s a massive oversharer? Means that no topic – periods/sex/‘Embarrassing Bodies’ type questions – has ever been off limits. The electric blue suede and faux fur coat? Borrowed it over Christmas. Being weirdly over involved with my friends? She’s been there for some of them when they couldn’t confide in their own parents. In fact, I’ve been told by more than one of my friends that they think of her as their second mum.

While I’m lucky enough to have grown up surrounded by a lot of strong women, my mum has always lead the pack. If anything, she’s too ballsy. She’s also a chronic overspender, can’t handle her wine, and is obsessed with her friends. These are all traits I have inherited from her. Not all of them are useful, but it means that every time I buy something just because it’s on sale, injure myself on a drunken night out, or gush about how amazing my friends are, it’s a bit like she’s right there beside me.

It’s hard to sum up why you love someone – all I can come up with is a series of random memories and silly little things that are special about that person. When I think of my mum, I think of Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (has to be the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell version), Eau Dynamisante by Clarins, fish pie, spending a night drunkenly locked outside in the rain with just a fur coat for shelter from the elements, and the best laugh in the world.

This Mother’s Day, I can’t wait to crack open a bottle of wine with my mum and raise a glass to the lady herself. Nora, you’re some woman for one woman.

Mother Knows Best: Merits of a Mom

by Bronwyn O’Neill

Mother’s day is fast approaching. A day to celebrate the most important woman in your life and dote on her.The woman who gave you life and then puts up with you for the remaining years until you get a house of your own. Although, most people never stop relying on their mother. For most girls especially mothers are the most important person in their life.

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Your mom is your first best friend. You can tell them anything and they’ll listen. Even though they may seem seriously annoying and overbearing sometimes, your mother always knows best. She is always a shoulder to cry on and someone who will listen to your crap.

Mother’s always seem to have a magic sense to know when someone is bad news. This can range from boyfriends to friends. If your mother doesn’t like a person you associate with there is a 90% chance that person is bad news. However, in five month’s time when you’re sobbing to your mom about how horrible the person was, she won’t say “I told you so.”

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Even if sometimes your mom can be a bit embarrassing around your friends, trying to relieve their youth, they always mean well. Deep, deep down. Moms just want to be part of your life and make sure you’re being safe. And this can lead to loads of awkward conversations though, they do mean their best (I have to remember this).

Moms are seriously the best people. They will tell you when your dress is horrible and they always seem to know what clothes will suit you. Yes, they may be a bit cruel when they say stuff, but at least they want you to look well. Moms are also the best people to watch girly shows and films with, followed by discussions of the plot, characters and especially the main actor.

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Who else would have taught you how to do make-up and hair? Especially when you were a little girl, dressing up in Mommy’s clothes and shoes. Moms also manage to be the best cuddlers and teamakers. It is a known fact. Luckily for all girls, moms are there to get us through our first period and make us hot water bottles. Whilst dads and brothers cringe at the topic, you know your mom has always got your back.

Mothers are literally the best creatures in the entire world. So, they definitely deserved to be treated right on Sunday. Give them one day when they are not juggling twenty-two jobs. I know my mom certainly needs it. So maybe don’t shout at your mom for one day, I know it’s hard, but let’s try.

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Body Image- Not A Gender Specific Subject

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by Rebecca Lumley

The modern world is a polarized place. For the past few years, ideas concerning body image have been changing rapidly and the spectrum of what is beautiful and what is desirable has broadened exponentially. On the one hand, there’s the fashion industry, who still tell us that tall, skinny models possess the ideal bodies. On the other, there’s the wave of protein fuelled, Instagram- loving gym bunnies who want muscles of steel. On the third hand (because you’re an octopus), we have the plus size bloggers campaigning for body acceptance, an end to fat shaming and for less weight related discrimination.

Those are just a few examples from the Western World.

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I say the world is polarized because never before has there been such an impassioned universal debate on what beauty is or such an emphasis on acceptance- no matter what size or shape you are. It was 2015 when Tess Holiday, at a size 22, became the world’s largest and most praised plus size model. It was 2015 when her hashtag #effyourbeautystandards, got the internet talking about self acceptance and diversity. This year, brands like Dove and No.7 are using “real women” in their beauty campaigns.  This year is when the spectrum continues to broaden and in doing so, creates a more tolerant, less image conscious world.

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There’s only one problem- all this is aimed at women.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and like women all over the world, I loved the chance to celebrate feminism and verbalise the importance of gender equality. I was, however, struck by an inequality I hadn’t even noticed until recently- that men are under as much pressure as women to conform to a certain image, an issue not given any importance or recognition in society.

Dubbed the “Geordie Shore effect” by the Irish Independent last week, this year has seen a massive increase in the number of men joining gyms and taking supplements in hopes of attaining a thick, muscular physique. The popularity of this look has grown massively in recent times and men are going further and further to achieve it, turning to protein powder, weight gain supplements and impossibly heavy weights. Size, not fitness, is everything.

Talking to the Independent, a Cork native by the name of Mark describes his motivations.

“Myself I wanted to be big beyond belief. I wanted to be that man, the one that people look at and go ‘Jesus, he’s something else’.”    

According to the ESRI, almost half of gym users in the country are men, a massive increase from six years ago when it was just a quarter. This trend is undoubtedly impacted by the media glorification of the muscular male.

“Guys are looking for approval from others. They are comparing themselves to other athletes and actors because they desperately want to fit into one of the categories that we now identified as manly, attractive, or ideal,” Mark says.

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What I find unequal about this turn of events is not the actual pressure being placed on men (because all humans are subjected to a myriad of pressures from external sources every day) – but the societal intolerance when it comes to men’s ability to talk about such issues.

“You don’t see guys post on Facebook complaining about how fat they look or how they don’t match up with the Hollywood movie star image,” Mark says.

“You don’t see this because, men still can’t talk openly about their insecurities because when you do so, you get told to ‘man up. I’ve been there myself and seen it, there are quite a few men out there who are suffering in silence.”

These double standards applied to dialogue concerning body image are having real effects on men all over the world and need to be changed.

Since humans first roamed the earth, men were the hunters and women the gatherers. Men have been typecast since the dawn of time as providers, biologically stronger and taller and expected to protect their families. Because of the leadership role nature placed upon them, an expectation has grown that men should not be emotional, should have a thick skin and should be “strong” in all situations. Luckily, we’re not in the Stone Age anymore and women can now fend for themselves. We have slowly raised ourselves from the gatherers to the hunters of our own lives. We are re-defining gender roles and though there’s still a lot to do, it’s happening.

If women are allowed to re-define gender roles- why not men?

As we strive for equality, we must recognize the oppression that men face in certain areas of their lives and strive to eradicate that. We must treat men like they have feelings and allow them to express them without the fear of judgement. We must realize that as body image in the media can affect women, it can also affect men. We must realize that men have the capacity to hate what they see in the mirror just as women do.

Equality means equality.

Eating disorders in men have increased by 25% since 2000. The average age for a man with an eating disorder is 24. Whether concerned with bulking up or slimming down, men feel the same pressures women do.

As Emma Watson pointed out in her UN speech, feminism does not concern only women- it is a male issue too. Only when we are truly equal will women and men have equal freedom, respect and rights. That includes the freedom for men to be able to talk about their insecurities, their fears and their ambitions as freely as women do.

Negative body image is not a gender- specific problem and the emphasis placed on physical perfection in the media doesn’t only affect women.

Equality means equality.

Beyoncé: a feminist icon

By Hannah Kelly

So today is International Women’s day. A day dedicated to promoting greater awareness for women’s equality, but also, I believe, a great chance to celebrate strong female role models. Anyone who knows me will know there is one celebrity that I worship. Not only is she beautiful, strong and talented but she is also an amazing advocate for feminism. She’s the one and only Sasha Fierce/Queen B/Foxy Cleopatra. She is Beyoncé.

On top of slaying every performance and being pretty much the most fabulous human on this earth, Beyoncé has contributed a lot to the feminist movement. I’ve heard a lot of people use the argument that “Oh, but she dances around in skimpy clothes, so she’s kind of a contradiction to feminism, isn’t she?”

I think those people need to sit down and look up the definition of feminism.

In fact, why don’t you just listen to Beyoncé’s song “Flawless”, where samples of Chimamanda Ngozi’s TedX speech are featured?

“Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”

Plain and simple. This has nothing to do with how you dress or how you look.

‘So what exactly has Beyoncé done that’s so great?’, some might ask.  Well, here’s just five of the many amazing contributions that Yoncé has made to the movement:

1. She donated to the Women’s Fund for Scotland charity that seeks to help women facing all different types of challenges including disability, single parenthood, and domestic abuse.

2. She tours with her all-girl band, Suga Mama. This includes bassists, drummers, guitarists, horn players, keyboardists and percussionists and background singers.

3. She is the co-founder of the Chime For Change organisation, which seeks to get education, health and justice for women all over the world, including rape victims, young mothers, human trafficking victims, and girls that can’t pay for education.

4. She opened a cosmetology centre, Phoenix House, which helps women who are coming out of drug and alcohol rehab to get their license.

5. She is the CEO of her own company, Parkwood Entertainment, where the majority of her employees are female.

Beyoncé is an inspiring woman who works hard, and is good at what she does. I strongly believe that she is a great role model for young women like myself. So, continue to win at life, Beyoncé. You truly are Flawless!

Fighting Back Against Gender Based Violence

by Keava O’Loan

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Gloria Steinem

#internationalwomensday

Last year, a campaign called Women Against Feminism gathered steam. It was originally set up in July 2013 by women who rejected the label of ‘feminist’. These women would upload a selfie to Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platforms where they held up a sign beginning with ‘I don’t need feminism because…’, followed by their reason. Some of these included: ‘because only the weak-minded buy into cults’, ‘because I’m not a man-hater’, ‘because I already have the same rights as men’. It seems that when the cause needs support more than ever, more and more people are rejecting feminism; reluctant to identify themselves with the movement. It is so easy for people in the Western world to argue that because women in our societies now have the vote/can go to university and obtain a degree/do not need to quit their job  as soon as they marry, that we now have equality. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Not even close.

 Think of the last time you walked home alone; maybe late at night or through a secluded area. Were you constantly looking over your shoulder, listening out for footsteps? Did you cross the road if there was a man walking towards you? Were you on the phone to make sure someone knew exactly where you were, and so they could hear if something happened to you? Did you have your keys clutched in your fist, ready to use them in self defence if someone attacked you? If you are female, you probably answered yes to at least one of these questions.

Gender based violence is ranked as the top public health crisis for women today. Females aged between 15 and 45 are more likely to be maimed or killed as a result of male violence than they are from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. In fact, more girls have been killed worldwide in the past fifty years, simply because of their gender, than men were killed in every war during the twentieth century.

Gender based violence can take many forms, and unfortunately, there seems to be no limit to the ugly creativity put into punishing women. Acid attacks, honour killings, female genital mutilation, bride burnings… women worldwide are suffering in ways more brutal and grotesque than we ever thought possible, and it’s not stopping. In fact, it’s on the rise. It is estimated that over 135 million girls and women alive today have undergone genital mutilation, a painful procedure known to be carried out on babies as young as five months old, which carries huge risks of infertility, HIV, and a host of mental health implications such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is, of course, if you are lucky enough to survive the procedure in the first place. Around three million more girls are at risk of genital mutilation every single year. 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not outlawed. A staggering 2.6 billion live in countries where rape within marriage is not a crime. In Afghanistan, a woman can be imprisoned for being raped. In the time it took someone to write out the reason they don’t need feminism, take a selfie, choose a pretty filter, and upload it (around four minutes), four women died while giving birth; eight little girls were trafficked for sexual exploitation; nearly 100 women in America alone were abused.

Sometimes these acts of violence and sexism can seem so far away – because we don’t know anyone who has been a victim to one of these attacks, or because we simply can’t imagine it ever happening to us, the statistics don’t quite hit home. To try and make it more relatable, I set up a survey about sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape, which I shared with my friends on Facebook. Everyone who took part is from the UK or Ireland, and the majority of participants are aged 18 to 25. These are the type of girls and women who are your friends, your girlfriends, your sisters. The results showed that 93% of them have experienced sexism. Almost 65% have been sexually harassed. 21% have been sexually assaulted or raped. To think that this is happening to girls I personally know – girls whose homes I have been welcomed into, who I have gone to school with, who I have grown up with – was so upsetting. The fact that there is such a stigma attached to this type of harassment and violence, that so many suffer in silence, made it worse. We live in a society where it is considered more humiliating and shameful to be raped than to be a rapist. This has to change.

The world we live in treats women differently to men. You only need to glance at the YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter, where users share stories of misogyny and violence against women, or The Everyday Sexism Project to see that something is drastically wrong with the way women are treated in society. You only need to see the data showing that when it comes to online dating, women’s greatest fear is being matched with a serial killer. Men’s greatest fear is that their date will be fat. We teach girls how not to be raped, instead of teaching boys not to rape. We ask women why they stayed with an abusive partner, instead of asking why that person was able to be abusive for so long. It is crystal clear that there is still a huge gap between the sexes, and it needs to be closed. At best, females are treated unfairly; at worst, they are killed. This is not a world I want for my friends, my family, myself. I don’t want to raise a daughter in a world that dictates she is a second class citizen. I don’t want to raise a son in a world that teaches him superiority and entitlement. I don’t want that world for anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These tweets may be eye-opening to men. They are very familiar to most women.

This International Women’s Day, the theme is Make It Happen. It hopes to encourage action to advance women’s causes; recognising not only the struggles that women have overcome, but the progress that still has to be made. The first step is to remove the negative connotations associated with the term ‘feminist’. I don’t think we need to rebrand feminism or give it a new name. I think we just need to better educate people as to what it actually stands for – equality between the sexes. When girls and women everywhere are no longer viewed as less important because of their gender; when we are no longer vulnerable to becoming the victims of gender based violence and everyday sexism; when feminism becomes a global way of life instead of a movement, we can truly celebrate. Until then, those of us who have a platform, who have a voice, must continue to speak out on behalf of those who cannot. Until then, we need to keep trying to #MakeItHappen.

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