A very UN-glossy look at popular culture... and whatever else takes my fancy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Oh darling, don't worry about shoving needles and toxins in your skin! It happens to us all at some point!"

Have you seen that Olay advert where they describe the product as being "for women who are not yet ready for cosmetic injections"? As if surgery is some kind of inevitable rite-of-passge for women, like the menopause or that first grey hair.

Although, after watching Nicky Hamblingham-Wotsit on that god-awful "Burn Your Skin Off and Rip Your Teeth Out and Then You Might Look 2 Years Younger Than Your Real Age But Never Actually a Whole 10 Years, Even Though We Called This Programme 10 Years Younger" and the way they throw surgical procedures at women with no discussion on the physical dangers or moral issues, much like a child throwing bird feed to pigeons, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is the case already.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Because women can't be trusted to look after their own bodies...

The pill is now available to buy over the internet. Brilliant - now women can pick up their supply when they can't get to their GP on time, are on holiday or away from work. And what's more, it gives us greater control over our reproductive health and our bodies without having to run to the doctor for permission, as it were.

But, as was to be expected, The Daily Mail ran the headline 'Fears for girls as the pill is sold online' and proceeded to wring its hands over the possibility that teenage girls could, yes, get hold of the contraceptive pill in emergency situations where they were potentially going to run out of their supply and run the risk of getting pregnant.

We all know how much The Mail hates single mothers, especially teenage ones. They drain good honest hard-working taxpayers money with their scrounging ways and are responsible for the epidemic of youth crime making many of our streets in to no-go areas, after all. So you would assume the news that steps are being taken to help young women stop themselves getting pregnant would be music to their ears, but apparently not.

I think this tells us all we need to know. The Mail would much prefer it if young women stopped behaving like silly slappers and stayed at home with their legs shut. God forbid they decide for themselves what's right for their bodies and their reproductive health. Nope, those bastions of modern morality are here to tell the little girls exactly what they should do.

So another day, another example of this paper's rampant misogyny. It is so ridiculous I would laugh, if it were not for the fact that it has very high circulation figures and a huge readership reach. Yes, people actually hand over money every day to read this shit.

Be afraid, be very afraid.

(PS. I am not going to link to Daily Mail articles. Ever. Working in online media I know that linking to sites gives them higher search engine rankings and pushes up their traffic figures and therefore gets them more ad inventory to sell. Basically, it makes them more money. And I don't want to contribute to that.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dave has all the answers.....?

Daily, it seems, we see and hear more and more about Britain's 'out-of-control knife crime', how our streets are unsafe and our lost yoof are falling victime to gang cultur and violence. Our, ermm, 'wonderful' new Mayor, Boris, has been vowing to make tackling this his number one priority and has started bringing in plenty of effective, hard-line zero tolerance policies which will no doubt knock this 'epidemic' on the head. Such as banning us from drinking cans of beer on the tube.

Ok, I probably shouldn't joke about or belittle the subject too much. When 15 teenagers have been murdered so far this year in London, there is clearly something going terribly wrong here. It is a tragic waste of life and demands that we take a look at ourselves and what kind of society we have built where this is able to go on so regularly. But I just can't take politician's supposed cares seriously when they seem to merely be putting together superficial plans that may temporarily paint over the symptoms of the problem but refuse to even glance at their deep-rooted, underlying causes.

For starters, it's hardly a surprise that at the same time as hearing how instances of knife crime and teenage violence are rising, we are seeing statistics that show how poverty, inequality and social mobility are worsening too. I'm not even going to start on the links between poverty and violent crime. They are proven beyond reasonable doubt and the evidence is there for anyone to find if they wish.

Whilst our politicians harp on about the breakdown of the family, they are embracing free trade full throttle, even to the point when David Milliband is going to The States to lecture their politicians on its virtues. How can I even begin to take seriously any bleatings about tax cuts for married parents or talk of metal detectors in schools when they are so far in bed with the system that creates these social problems that they are practically woven into its mattress?

Coupled with an economic structure that creates and sustains mass poverty whilst keeping the select few dripping with diamonds, we have rampant indivdualism and its ugly offspring - celebrity-worship. Fame was once a by-product of doing something important, significant or noticebale. Now it is not even fame, but infamy and notoriety that are held up throughout the media as what the young should be aspiring to. Coleen McLoughlin and Paris Hilton are seen as 'shrewd business women' despite doing nothing other than sleep with other celebrities and wear expensive dresses. And let's not even discuss Big Brother.

What we appear to have created is an underclass of poverty-stricken young people devoid of the traditional dream of working hard and gradually 'making something' of yourself. The top rung of society seems so far away it may as well be on the moon - something that won't be helped by the fact that, in a few years, both the prime minister and the mayor of London will be men who passed through both Eton and Oxford together. There are no examples held up for them of people from their communities who have worked hard or done something of value to society. They're not the ones who get the local notoriety and the national column inches - it's those involved in crime or gangs that are famed and revered.

For those who don't see much prospect for themselves or hope for what life might give them, crime is a warped way of 'making' something of yourself, forming an identity and gaining celebrity. We can't hope to fight this unless we address the values we currently hold ourselves - where striving fame and self-involvement are de rigour rather than encouraging and praising those who work to give something to to others and to their communities, and until we live in a society where every young person feels they can 'make something' of themselves the traditional way, that the higher rungs of life are not totally out of their reach.

Until then, we'll see if the Mayor and future Prime Minister manage much through banning alcohol on buses and paying people to live together. All I know is, I'm bloody pissed off without my can of kronenberg on the 8.35 pm bus to east London on friday nights......

Monday, June 02, 2008

Apparel-ently it's 'all in the cut'....

Not too long ago, I was on a date with a guy and going through the usual trite getting-to-know-you, haven’t-quite-drunk-enough-yet-for-the-words-to-really-flow-properly type conversation when the subject moved onto clothes. After complimenting my cardie and asking where I brought it, he informed me that everything he wore was from American Apparel and that he had only ever once stepped foot in H&M, the place where I’d purchased the bulk of my outfit.

I work right by Carnaby Street, which has a rather large American Apparel store, but at this point I’d never actually stepped foot in the place. I knew it was supposedly “cool’n’trendy” and had seen many well-groomed young shorditchians mincing about with their carrier bags firmly in their hands, but the clothes in the window always looked dull as a rainy monday, badly made and in terrible colours. I knew that they're ethically made, but (call me cynical if you wish) I don't have enough faith in the fashionable elite of London town to believe that this alone would make them rush out and snap up the whole store. After explaining to my date that I couldn’t really see the fuss about plain T-shirts that you can buy on Dalston market ten-for-a-fiver, I was swiftly corrected that a) it was all in the cut b) they’re a ‘cult’ thing and that when you see someone else wearing AA you always ‘clock’ each other, and b) it’s really ‘indie’ because they advertise on the back of Vice magazine. He then lamented the fact that they had opened a flagship store on Oxford Street, I suppose because it meant that mere uninitiated peasants would now be able to get in on his ‘cult’ discovery.

On my lunchbreak the next day I decided to wander over and check out what AA had to offer myself, to find out if its rails really were bursting with garments cut in heaven by God’s personal tailor, if their magical cotton would transform me into a member of this elite primary-coloured club the moment it brushed against my skin, and if the window display was actually a deterrent to keep unworthy riff-raff like myself out of the cool kids crew. In I breezed, passing between the racks of elasticated-waists, v-necks and varying-length hems, between the cotton and the nylon and the PVC. I stroked my hand across many of the garments, held a few up to me, even took a couple to the changing room to slip into myself. I gazed at my reflection in the cotton vest and knee-length skirt, then glanced across to the model sprayed on the wall opposite. She was bambi-eyed, lips parted, tousled hair just this side of ‘had a good hard fucking from behind 5 minutes ago.’ The photographer’s harsh lighting and sharp focus gave her that raw, ‘edgy’ feel so du jour in fashion photography. I looked absolutely nothing like her.

I came to the same conclusion that I had every single other time I looked in AA’s window – the plain, block-coloured clothing is no different to anything sold in countless other outlets up and down the country. Yet higher price tags, cannily placed stores, trendy photographers and a breath-takingly large marketing budget that will allow you to buy the back page of Vice magazine every issue for a year can sure-as-hell give these same boring old clothes ‘cult’ label status. It’s fair to say that American Apparel is basically the clothing equivalent of Carling – the beer that tastes of dog-piss-scented stagnant water yet tricks thousands into drinking it through their constant in-you-face-to-the-point-of-suffocation ‘cool’ music sponsorship and other such silly marketing faff. They are both boring as hell and even somewhat rancid, but the magic marketing fairies waved their wands and – puff! – in a cloud of sparkly dust the spell of “cool’n’trendy” was cast over the pile of rubbish for all eternity. Or at least until the budget ran out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

As if you didn't need another reason not to read free papers...

Flipping through a copy of The London Paper on the tube the other day (I know, I know I’m asking for it! But it was such a long journey and it was discarded so temptingly on the seat next to me!) I came across something that irked me somewhat. Turning to ‘The London Love’ section (yep, definitely doubly asking for it), I found the problem page column displaying a letter from ‘Jodi’ of Sratford. “I have found pornographic material on my boyfriend’s computer. I hate it….” She states, before asking “what can I do to make him get rid of it?”

A selection of readers (and journalists’) answers go like this: “You can’t and you shouldn’t”, “Nobody should feel ashamed of sex”, “Boys are visual creatures… and so often need an outlet”, “Accept that you’re in a minority of one, drop the control freakery and move on.”. In short, they tell her to accept it, that she can’t change it, that she is the one in the wrong for snooping and feeling paranoid and that maybe she should try watch it with him and force herself to like it.

Now, I am a female who is both bisexual and visually aroused, and thus have seen plenty of erotic images and film that turned me on hugely. But this doesn’t escape the fact that I find a vast amount of pornographic material hugely misogynistic and upsetting. How would this boyfriend feel, I wonder, if he were to be confronted with a video of a young man being banged over a pool table by 10 hairy gorillas as they laugh, hoot and tell him to “take it like a dirty whore” whilst the camera closed in on the expression of physical pain on his face and his battered and sore genitalia? Would he agree if he was told that he was being silly and a control freak for not finding it all harmless fun, and would he be expected to join in and watch it with his partner?

Why does it seem to be almost taboo to discuss the fact that pornography can be degrading and disgusting? Why is it fashionable to welcome it with open arms, and dismiss those who raise questions about it as silly, prudish censors? But really, who are the real censors here – the ones expressing their genuine feelings of discomfort? Or the ones telling us to just accept it and shouting down any debate and discussion on the subject?

Surely the right to have the freedom to express our thoughts and feelings is equal to, if not greater than, the right to make and consume the “art” we choose?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Violence Schedules?

Jessica Valenti of is interviewed here where she talks, on the second page, about how all women live on a 'rape schedule'. That is, we are constantly thinking ahead, planning ways to stay safe when getting from A to B, whether it's pre-booking a taxi, getting someone to walk you to the bus stop, carrying a personal alarm or taking the longer but better-lit route.

Predicatably, many people (in the 'letters' section) responded, stating that this way of life is not just exclusive to women - men fear attacks in public too and plan their routes with just as much paranoia. One person states that this is part and parcel of living in an urban environment. Not that I wish to belittle men's fears, I think that the way some men even try and compare them to womens' fears of sexual attack it just demonstrates what litte understanding they have of what we have to experience. When a man is attacked on the street, the motivation is usually economic - he will be mugged for his wallet or phone, and probably experience some nasty violence. But it lacks the sexual element present in the fear and intimidation that it part of most women's lives. They are targetted for their money, not for their gender. I have been mugged and pickpocketed, I have also had cars trawl me, men follow me home and more than my fair share of catcalls and intimidating sexual comments. They are different - they have a different motivation, take a different form and ellicit a different response in you.

When discussing this issue with my boyfriend, who lives in a pretty grim area of London, he pointed out that some attacks on men ARE related to their gender - those guys you see out binge-drinking and picking fights with everyone, they will target men in order to prove their 'manliness'. Beating up another guy shows just how macho you are. This is a good point, and just goes to show how restrictive and damaging gender roles, stereotypes and perceived notions of 'masculinity' and 'femininity' are to every one of us.

Although, steering away from gender issues, perhaps we should be asking ourselves exactly why we all feel so scared in public every day, why we constantly look over our shoulders at the cashpoint and the bus stop, why we fork out that extra tenner for a taxi that we really can't afford. Statistically, chances of attack are low, and when you think of those living in war zones with none of the luxuries we enjoy, it almost seems laughable. Who does it benefit for us to be this fearful, exactly? Certainly not ourselves. How about those above us - after all, how much easier is it to coerce and control people through fear than anything else?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Living the small-town cliche

I come from a town with a missing genration. When everyone hits 18 they up and leave. Sometimes they return, debt-ridden and with their tails between their legs, after graduation for a few years, where they skulk about, moan about how nothing happens round here then speed away again as soon as they've cleared the credit card. Of course you get a few who never leave, who stay in their little childhood clique forever and think that moving out of home at 25 is, like, sooo young. They also work awful, mind-numbing jobs thanks to the lack of creative industry and graduate opportunities round here.

I am one of those people who was forced to come home after graduating. I work in an office pushing paper around in a job that I am far too over-qualified for, where everyone my age seems to to have getting a mortgage as their main priority in life and has a live-in 'partner', and just love to gloat at how I'm a graduate in the same job as them ('look where your degree get you!'). I also work for satan's nephew - my boss is possibly one of the rudest and most repulsive men I've ever met, and I spend enough time complaining about him anyway so I shouldn't really start typing about it in my evenings.

But despite this test of strength, I have been trying my damndest to make it slightly more bearable. I work on a local arts magazine where I try to scope out local talented creative types (guess what? there's not many) and write what I hope to be inspiring articles, urging the local yoof to get up off their arses and make something interesting happen here. I brought women's rights to the locals attention with our Reclaim the Night march. And now, along with my significant other, have started trying to promote some experimental electronic nights. But, unsurprisingly, people just don't want to know. No venue owners want to take risks in putting us on, and most punters shy away from anything that's not the same tried'n'tested formula. Even the local so-called 'alternative' shops wouldn't put up our posters and flyers, probably as they weren't advertising bland emo/ nu-metal shite. The fact is, when you try to do something different and creative here, you just find yourself up against a brick wall. Anyone who wants to pursue anything interesting heads to london pretty quick, leaving the rest of us hicks with our six-fingered friends and plenty of tumble weed.

All I can say is - thank fuck I'm leaving this hell hole for good in a month's time.