The Book Club: Girl Power

by Keava O’Loan

2014 was hailed by many as the ‘the year of feminism’. With The Guardian listing its most inspiring young females, Huffington Post rhyming off the reasons why it was a great year for feminism, The Telegraph explaining how pop culture made the ‘F-word’ cool, and Buzzfeed chipping in with their countdown of ‘22 Powerful Moments That Made You Proud to Be a Feminist in 2014’, there’s certainly no shortage of articles you can read to reminisce about the feminist highlights of last year. However, with many still on the fence (or even worse, completely in the dark) about what it means to be a feminist, we here at The Ink Ladies thought it was time to do some research. If, like us, you are completely swamped by your module reading lists, fear not! To save you the hassle of reading everything from the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ‘feminism’ to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (although both are recommended reads), we rounded up some of our favourite feminist books. Not only do these texts make feminism funny, relatable and accessible, we guarantee that whether you’re male or female, they’ll open your eyes to what it means to be a woman in today’s society.

‘How to Be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran

Moran, a writer and broadcaster, is known by many as a media personality – one of those people who is prolific on Twitter, regularly appears on panel shows, and shares her opinions with the nation in her column at The Times. ‘How to Be a Woman’ charts her journey from girl to woman, starting on her thirteenth birthday. Covering topics such as puberty, porn, motherhood, abortion, strip clubs, and many more, Moran’s witty, friendly voice makes potentially heavy subject matter easy reading.

“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”

‘The Vagenda’  by Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

As students, Baxter and Cosslett spent a lot of money on women’s magazines, and a lot of time laughing at articles entitled things like ‘50 Sex Tips to Please Your Man’, ‘Get That Beach Body FAST!’, and ‘Preparing For Your First Vajazzle’. When they stopped laughing, they started to feel uneasy. They launched a blog named The Vagenda, which aimed to shine a critical light on women’s media; exposing the ludicrous, manipulative, and often damaging ulterior motives at play. Their book of the same title tackles these same issues, with chapters such as ‘Body Politics’, ‘Sex in Magazineland’, and ‘Let Us Eat Cake’. Essentially, it cuts through the media bullshit you’ve been fed since you picked up your first copy of Mizz.

“If Page Three is the sexist builder hollering at you in the street, then Grazia and Cosmo are the frenemies who smile to your face and bitch behind your back. It worried us that women such as us, reared on a diet beginning with problem-page questions about tampons in Bliss magazine and graduating on to Company, weren’t being offered any of the necessary tools to deal with increasingly sinister content. There comes a certain point (probably around the time that you’ve picked up your tenth issue of Cosmopolitan) when your brain is encased in such a large volume of fluffy bullshit that you switch off and start thinking, ‘My elbows are fat.’”

‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxanne Gay

Roxanne Gay’s book charts her conflicting views on what it’s like to move through the modern world as a woman. She blasts rap music as she drives to work every morning, even though she finds the lyrics deeply offensive. She loves anything pink, although for a while she pretended her favourite colour was black – it just seemed cooler. She reads Vogue, and not in an ironic way. She occasionally fakes her orgasms, even though she is certain the sisterhood wouldn’t approve. She is not entirely sure who the sisterhood are.

“The more I write, the more I put myself out into the world as a bad feminist but, I hope, a good woman… Like most people, I’m full of contradictions, but I also don’t want to be treated like shit for being a woman. I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”

‘Bossypants’  by Tina Fey

Whether you know her from SNL, 30 Rock, or Mean Girls, you know Tina Fey. Fey’s book is similar in style to Moran’s ‘How to Be a Woman’, recounting her development from girl to woman. Although not as explicitly feminist as the other books listed, every topic discussed is shaped by the theme of female empowerment. Just the fact that it’s the story of a female achieving insane levels of success in a predominantly-male dominated industry makes this a very inspiring, necessary read, in our minds. Included are anecdotes about her first trip to the gynaecologist (where she passed out), starting out as a female comedian, and what she has learned from reading fairy tales to her daughter.

“I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”

Dig into one of these books (or all of them!) and get involved. Whether it’s something as simple as joining the #AllWomen or #HeForShe Twitter campaigns, or doing something big to show your support for this year’s International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, every act of support counts. Feminism has come a long way since Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragette movement, but there is still a long way to go. We’re almost a quarter of the way through 2015 – let’s make sure this year is even more empowering, progressive, and feminist than the last.

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The F Word

by Bronwyn O’Neill

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When most people hear the word feminist they cringe in fear. They picture a towering tall, masculine, unshaved woman. However I’m here to destroy that stereotype. I’m a tiny, blonde female who enjoys wearing dresses and jamming to Taylor Swift. And I am a feminist! I most certainly do not hate men. We need to destroy the idea of “feminazis”.

So firstly let’s discuss what feminism is. The definition of feminism is the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Yes, equality. The whole idea wishes for men and women to be equal. Therefore, as a feminist, I don’t just preach about women’s rights, I also am a firm believer in promoting men’s rights.

I do not hate men!!! I do not know how many times I had to explain that feminists do not hate men. Quite the opposite really. If you’re asking what male rights are, that is a fair question. Feminists fight for men to be able to speak out about rape and abolish the concept that men cannot get raped. It is one of the more difficult topics that we deal with. However it must be said.

So, are you getting a better idea of what feminists are?

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Another concept that gets to me is the idea that only certain women can be feminists. False! This is a serious problem, even within the feminist community. Just because you are feminine does not mean you are not a feminist.

Why do we hate on females you enjoy wine and fruity drinks? Who like singing Taylor Swift into a hairbrush? Girls who like to wear leggings and Uggs? Honestly, I am guilty of all of these. Does that make me any less of a feminist?

Do you have to do a certain test to get into feminism? I don’t think so. Being girly does not make you any less qualified to be a feminist. It shouldn’t matter if you are “slutty” or a “prude”. If you believe in equal rights for the sexes then you are indeed a feminist. This may be a shock for some of you.

Being a feminist does not mean you have to give up your femininity. In my opinion, it means you should embrace it more. Trust me, I will get equality wearing red lipstick and sipping a vodka and coke, whilst walking over the old ideas in killer heels.

Also, we cannot forget- men can be feminists too. What??? Yes, dear reader. You do not have to possess a vagina to want equality. I know several male feminists, and a dozen more who have no idea they are feminists.

Please stop the hatred of feminism. Please become more informed on the topic before deciding you are not one. We are not a man hating cult, I swear.

Equality for all.

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A Tale of Two Bras: Big Boobs vs Small Boobs

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Big Boob Problems

By Bronwyn O’Neill

Big boobs are great, I hear you cry in disdain. “I wish my boobs were that size!” Really? I’m here to tell you that you certainly do not want to be a busty girl. Here are my top ten reasons why having big boobs is a serious burden.

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1. Eye contact

My eyes are up here you creep. Even if you’re wearing a polo neck, everyone is going to stare at them.

2. Swimsuits

If you’re like me and cannot pull off a bikini body, then you have no way of wearing a one-piece. Your boobs have no support and are frankly horrible. Woe is me!

3.Exercise

Running is a big no. You can’t do it because you’re terrified of giving yourself a black eye. So you’re pretty much stuck with being fat. Great! Even going downstairs is a struggle, hold onto them if you want to be safe.

4. Sports bras

In case you look at number 3 and say “BUY A SPORTS BRA!” Well I can’t if I want to breathe.  And I’d prefer to breathe than be skinny. Sports bras are physically impossible to buy in the right size. It’s like wearing a corset!

5. Going braless

Simply not an option. I’m sorry, but it cannot be done. Unless you wish to cause injuries to yourself and people around you.

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 6. Food

Food will fall down your top and find a new home in your cleavage. There is nothing worse than having to root for that pesky popcorn at the cinema. Well, perhaps when you take your bra off and find it there. Ew.

7. Quad boob

So you get a bra! YAY! However, the bra squeezes your boobs so tight that it makes it look like you actually have four breasts. Great! So, you keep having to readjust your bra and look like a complete twat.

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8. Clothes

Oh you like button up shirts? No you do not. You can’t wear them without the fear of them exploding at any moment. You can’t wear any low cut top because your breasts physically assault people. Great! Not to mention wearing any kind of strapless dress is out of the question.

9. Bra choice

Go into Penneys and they promise they have cup sizes DD-F. Sure they do. In about three bras and they probably won’t have anything your precise size. So a bra for under €20 is off the table. So you tottle over to a more expensive shop to spend over €30 on a nude bra that looks like something an OAP would wear. Sigh.

10. Back Pain

It’s like you’re eighty not eighteen. You bend over to pick up something on the floor and you might as well just lie down there and die. Even if you sit down wrong it hurts. Add period cramps into this and you’re basically the anti- Christ to anyone who tries to speak to you.

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With all that being said, I don’t think I’d change them for the world.

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Small Boob Problems

by Laura Horan

Anyone with small boobs will understand the daily struggle of not waking up to a pair of beautiful big breasts!! Here are just some of the many problems with small boobs that busty girls just don’t understand.

1. Small boobs can make you feel so masculine!! Sometimes I wonder if I went swimming in a pair of boys trunks and topless would anyone notice that I am actually a woman. I might as well go the gym and build big muscles and tell people I’m a man!

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2. The pain we go through from wearing tight bras is unbelievable! I want to wear my new low cut top without people making the mistake of thinking my chest is an ironing board! So I wear a smaller size bra and tighten the straps to make some sort of cleavage and later discover I have sore red lines all over my back and shoulders… not nice.

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3. I don’t think clothing manufacturers understand that small breasted woman wear sports bras too and that it also hurts us when were jogging. Every sports bra I have tried does not support my boobies- small boobs need support also!

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4. When you have small boobs and you start to gain weight on your stomach you can look so much bigger then what you really are because your boobs don’t go over your stomach! You feel like you need to lose weight when really you’re a perfectly normal size.

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5. The awkward moment when your partner tries to squeeze your boobs and he’s struggling to get a grip because there’s nothing there to grab… PLEASE STOP!

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6. When your friend’s boobs are so much bigger than yours and it’s selfie time but their boobs take over the picture and you can barely see you in it.

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7. Constantly getting called `no tits` `pancake boobs` or what my little cousin calls me `golf ball boobs`. Yes fun times…

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8. The constant problem of going into a shop and seeing a beautiful dress then picking it up and realising it’s backless. For me, the thought of going braless scares me to death!! All I can think about is everyone staring and judging my small boobs! No thank you, I’ll pass on that.

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9. BIKINIS! Firstly why can you not change bottom and top sizes in most shops! Sorry my small boobs don’t match my big bum but do you really have to call the manager because I’m trying to buy a size 6 bra with a size 12 bottoms!! Secondly, why is there not a selection of padded bikinis ranging from slightly padded to extremely padded? There’s only no padding or maxi padding. No padding: everyone stares at my flat chest. Maxi padding: everyone stares at my extremely padded breasts thinking `who is she trying to fool? `.

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10. The scary moment when it’s time for your partner to see your boobs! They have only ever seen you in clothes with a maxi bra underneath and his expectations have been deceived. PLEASE DON’T HATE MY SMALL BOOBS!!

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11. Wondering if you will be able to breast feed a child…

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12. Your mom telling you every year since you were 13 that they will grow when you’re older and every birthday measuring your boobs. Then BOOM, you’re 18 and they still haven’t grown.

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13. When your friends with bigger boobs complain about their boobs and tell you you’re so lucky and you just want to cut their boobs off and put them on yours.

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14. When you go through the stuffing your bra phase and your chicken fillet falls out and all the boys laugh at you…

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But then you realise that even with these problems you’re still fabulous and rock the no boobs look!

Equality for All

by Keava O’Loan

With the Marriage Equality referendum set to take place on May 22nd, LGBT rights have never been more at the forefront of public attention. Unfortunately, as the Republic of Ireland seems to be taking a step forward, the opposite is true North of the border.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland has proposed a motion to add an ‘anti-gay clause’ to equality laws, allowing businesses to refuse service to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, simply on the basis of their sexual orientation.

DUP MLA Paul Givan proposed the motion after a lawsuit involving Ashers Bakery was brought to public attention. The owners of the bakery, devout Christians Colin and Karen McArthur, refused to bake a cake for Queerspace, a gay rights campaign group. The McArthurs said that the cake, which was to be iced with the message ‘Support Gay Marriage’, opposed their religious beliefs. The Equality Commission, which has taken the case against the business on behalf of Queerspace, alleges that the bakery’s stance is in breach of equality legislation. Givan said he believes this is wrong and wants the law to be ‘rebalanced’.

The ‘conscience clause’, as the DUP have named it, has gained the support of the Catholic Church. Although the relationship between the strongly Unionist DUP and the Catholic Church has been famously tumultuous, the two groups have become unlikely allies; both strongly opposing gay marriage and abortion. Givan is currently carrying out a public consultation into a Private Member’s Bill, before they bring the conscience clause into debate at Stormont. This consultation welcomes feedback from the public on the draft bill, with responses to be submitted no later than 5pm, Friday 27th of February.

Sinn Féin have said they would use a petition of concern – essentially a vote which requires that the bill has cross-community support before it can be passed – to halt the proposed amendment as soon as it is brought before the Assembly. A petition of concern requires the support of at least thirty MLAs; and with Sinn Féin’s twenty-eight MLAs, plus the additional support of the Green Party’s Steven Agnew and Basil McCrea of NI21, they have reached the number required to halt the conscience clause bill.

Although the bill is effectively dead in the water, it will still go to vote. A greater public response could be the push needed to ensure more Assembly Members vote for equality, and to prevent the future proposition of anti-gay legislation. A petition has been started to show public opposition to the bill. If you believe in equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation, please sign the petition.

It’s Time We Saw The Reality Of Photoshop

by Keava O’Loan

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This week marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of Photoshop. It is also, coincidentally, the week which saw the release of unretouched images of Cindy Crawford in a spread for Marie Claire magazine, and over two-hundred unretouched photos of Beyoncé from a 2013 L’Oreal campaign. The most shocking thing about these images was not the fact that, like every other human on the planet, Beyoncé gets blemishes/has laughter lines/is in possession of pores, or that Crawford, at the age of 48, has wrinkles/has cellulite/has abs which are not quite as rock-solid as they were before she had two children. No, the most shocking thing was the public reaction – people are so accustomed to seeing edited and perfected images that we are now shocked by reality.

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Obviously we are aware of reality. We see ourselves every day in the mirror; we see our friends and family at both their best and worst. It is very rare, however, that we see a bare-faced, unretouched, totally true to life image of a celebrity. When these types of photos are available, there is a kind of public crucifixion: magazines circle blemishes and under-eye bags in their ‘hoop of horror’, the pictures go viral on the internet. Celebrities are meant to look perfect 24/7 because that’s the image they sell us. When the smokescreens and expert lighting come down, when we are ‘subjected’ to Beyoncé’s blemishes or Cindy Crawford’s cellulite, we’re disgusted. This wasn’t what we signed up for! We want escapism, glamour. We want to be able to believe that perfection is possible.

Thomas Knoll, the inventor of Photoshop, recently expressed concerns about the overuse of his program when discussing Photoshop with the press, saying: “Photoshop is a tool and like any tool it can be abused. A lot of stuff I’m not really happy with … especially the body image issues that it creates for a lot of women.” This is a sentiment that is shared by many, celebs included. Kate Winslet said of her heavily edited GQ cover in 2003: “The retouching is excessive. I do not look like that, and more importantly, I don’t desire to look like that.” Model Coco Rocha echoed this, saying:

“You see a model walk down the street and she’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup, her hair down, and she looks like a regular girl. For me just to look ‘natural’ in a photo takes two hours of hair and makeup, good lighting, styling, and Photoshop – and six hours later, you have the picture. But when I go home, it’s just me with no makeup, pimples, and a pair of baggy pants. That’s life — the rest is fantasy.”

Crawford herself famously said: “Even I don’t look like Cindy Crawford when I wake up!” However, others are strongly in favour of the software. Jennifer Lawrence proclaimed her love for the editing tool when she spoke about her Dior campaign: “I love Photoshop more than anything in the world. Of course it’s Photoshop, people don’t look like that!” To a degree, Lawrence is right: when we live in a world so saturated with pictures that have been tweaked and perfected, of course we are aware that digital manipulation is at play. However, it is the oversaturation of these images in our society that causes the problem – when photos of people appearing in their natural state are considered to be grotesque, abnormal, or even brave, it conditions us to believe that perfection is the norm. Young girls shouldn’t grow up thinking that something is wrong with them if they have stretchmarks. Boys shouldn’t grow up believing that women don’t have body hair. They say the camera never lies, but it seems that has never been less true.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to the leaking of these photos: it has opened up a public debate about the manipulation of the images we see daily. It gives us a chance to realise that an unretouched image doesn’t show us an ugly person; it just shows us a person. It gives us the chance to open our eyes to the media’s overuse of Photoshop and realise that nobody is flawless, not even Queen Bey. And that’s okay.

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Why the death of David Carr is a sad day for journalism and tenacity in general

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by Rebecca Lumley

David Carr, one of the New York Times’ most successful and respected journalists died yesterday in the Times’ offices, Manhattan. The 58 year old was found shortly before 9pm and was taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His cause of death has not yet been disclosed.

Carr’s death, unlike the death of many public figures, is an event that warrants more than fleeting sadness. It is a sad day for The New York Times readers, staff and journalism as a whole. The characteristics that Carr embodied, ferocious tenacity, unfailing intelligence and a paradoxical mix of bluntness and kindness, are rarely seen. Carr’s determined, almost dogged spirit is the traditional hallmark of a great journalist and though there are many great journalists, there are few who warrant as much respect as Carr did. It is perhaps the colourful life he led, rich in depth and experience, that moulded such a distinct personality. And what a fascinating life it was.

David Carr was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota. He majored in journalism and psychology. Carr did not, however, slip easily into the life of success and admiration that he has enjoyed in recent years. Throughout the 1980s he found himself addicted to cocain and alcohol. He lived with a woman who was a drug dealer and would go on to be the father of two twin girls who, he admitted, he was severely ill prepared to care for. After a string of lows, Carr booked himself into a rehab facility, got sober, became the single father of his twin girls, married and had another daughter.

This troubled and dark period of his life is documented in his 2008 memoirs, titled “The Night of The Gun”. Displaying his keen analytical spirit and a grit that few possess, Carr conducted 60 interviews with friends, family and drug addicts as a way to verify his own memories. In his own words, “it would prove to be an enlightening and sickening enterprise- a new frontier in the annals of self-involvement.” Carr refused to gloss over any of what was the most difficult time in his life and mercilessly traced all the shameful and regrettable actions of his youth. As well as being a personal record of all that had happened to him, it was an exercise in combatting the distortions of memory and in finding genuine self-truth. It takes a tough spirit to embark on a project like that.

Carr began his career at the New York Times in 2002 as a business reporter and quickly become one of the most distinctive by-lines of the paper. In more recent times he wrote for Carpetbagger, The Times’ culture blog.

Carr is credited with launching the career of Lena Dunham, star and creator of HBO show “Girls” and author of “Not That Kind of Girl” (also personal hero but that’s pretty irrelevant). In a 1,000 word article on her film “Tiny Furniture”, that ultimately put her on the map, he described her perfectly as “a keen writer, creating quietly weaponized dialogue that her characters use to maim one another”. Not only was Carr good at telling his own story, he could spot talent in writers such as Dunham to do the same.

Carr’s unbelievably blunt, yet always astute way of speaking made him the breakout figure of the 2011 documentary, “Page One: Inside the New York Times” and is perhaps exactly why he was so popular. He was not afraid to say what he thought, do what was right and above all, search doggedly and devotedly for the truth. In short, he was a pretty cool guy and in the words of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr, publisher and chairman of The Times, was an “irreplaceable talent”.

So, in honour of that, here’s a video of him tearing apart some Vice guys who insult the Times in only the way that he could.