My Weight and I

I have struggled with my weight my whole life. Literally, since junior infants I was chubby. I used to get bullied about it back then. As I got older, the bullying changed. It wasn’t direct insults, but it was shown in social exclusion and laughing/talking behind my back.
Santa

See that boy to the right wearing a tye dye tshirt and hideous… whatever those jackets are called?! That’s me, aged eight, perhaps.

A lot of my former friends poked fun at my weight, as I did too; a coping mechanism. Transitioning into teenage-hood I realised that teenage boys in particular liked to tease girls about their weight, especially quiet fat girls; and as I was one, this taunting from young men would continue into my young adulthood (17)…
Sometimes the “hoodies” would shout at me in the streets or call me names based on my weight. I never really got insults from women. I think a lot of young men see bigger women as a threat because they don’t initially feel power over them so they have to prove their superiority by being cruel (I am sure there’s better psychology behind it than that – but a psychologist I am not…)
I’m sure the fact that I am quiet in nature with strangers doesn’t help. I have never once stood up for myself against someone making fun of my weight.
I have online; but that’s different. You can hide behind a picture and feel safe defending yourself.
fat kid.jpg

Here I am trying to squash my small brother into nothingness it would seem. As you can imagine, I couldn’t get dresses in child sizes…

When I escaped the hell hole that was secondary school and teenage-hood, I thought the bullying would stop. But it didn’t. Even when I went to college other boys my age still poked fun at my weight. It even happens now, although less frequently.
As someone who suffers from depressive episodes, extreme stress and anxiety… I see bullying about my weight as essentially vocalizing my number one insecurity that I have always and will always have (even when I do succeed in losing weight)
my childhood

That’s me on the far left. Note to current day children: don’t tie your cardigan around your waist. It screams clueless pensioner. As does my ill looking face. How could a child who looks like that be anything other than miserable?! (It’s what’s on the inside that counts?!)

My fat child is a part of me and she would be even if I were now skinny. I indirectly learned at a young age that people didn’t like me because I was fat and weird. And so, my size, appearance and social awkwardness manifested into my worst enemies. Which translated into, of course, my worst enemy being myself.
I am not writing this post for sympathy. I am writing it to spread a message. And that is… people are normally fat for a reason.
In fact, of (almost) all of the overweight people I know, all have suffered with low self esteem, have been the victims of bullies, relationship abuse, manipulation, self harm, depression, anxiety…
Many (including myself at times) get extreme anxiety about eating in public (especially junk food) as it feels like everyone’s judging you. Look at their glare and you know what they’re thinking… “Fat bitch”. Then, if you’re on a diet and you’re eating healthy food, they’re thinking… “Who are you trying to kid, love?”
Thankfully, many strangers won’t vocalize their impression of you. But I guarantee you, they will think it. And they may let it known through a glance. How do I know they think it? Because I think it, too. I think it when I see another fat person. I judge them in one swift glance. Even though I am fat, too. We’re programmed to do this.
Fattie.jpg
We’re programmed to see fatties as lesser than skinnies. We’re programmed to see them as hopeless, lacking ambition, lacking any motivation or self control. We see them as ugly, unattractive, possibly even a danger. We judge them based on what they’re wearing. “She’s too big to be wearing that”…
If you’ve never been fat, it really is hard to understand. But I am writing this post to tell you that being fat isn’t necessarily down to being lazy and stupid. It can often be triggered by anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
A self harmer might binge eat instead of cut themselves. Does that make them “lazy” and “stupid”?
So I urge you… see fatties as human, not disgusting. I can guarantee you every fatty has a story behind why they got that way.

Feminist Myths Debunked

Myth #1 Feminists hate men.

Quite the contrary. You see, feminists strive for gender equality. This means that a proper feminist recognises the inequalities of both genders and discusses them to raise awareness and encourage progression. In fact, feminism is primarily about the issue of gender! Both, and all, genders! It has the word “feminine” in the word itself, so people shrug and scratch, and label feminism as a “women’s issue”.

It is a gender issue! Women in general suffer more inequality than men throughout the world, which is why we call it feminism. We of course recognise the male issues also and we focus on all issues! The right feminists do…

Myth #2 Feminists are angry or on their periods.

This goes back to the notion we all have, men and women, that females should be soft, delicate, reserved and… not very opinionated. Look pretty, girls, look pretty… It has become so normal for us to think of women as strictly either weak, sexual or potential mothers that we still have not gotten to the stage in the 21st century where we value a woman’s brain. Wow Aisling, what kind of people are you speaking to! Of course I value a woman’s brain! I’m sure you do. Wonderful! It would be helpful if the general, mainstream society did the same. #kthanksbye

Myth #3 Feminists think they are oppressed when they couldn’t possibly have any more entitlements.

Feminists themselves generally do not feel oppressed. They do however feel there are issues and restrictions regarding gender that may, possibly, I dunno, like, oppress ya. ‘Cause ya know, it’s only been happening a few hundred years and all that jazz. It’s like saying Irish Catholics think they are oppressed when they couldn’t possibly be less oppressed. Hello, culturally-mandatory-baptism-of-baby and condemnation-of-homosexuals, how ya doin’? You’re not feeling oppressed, are you? Are you???? Good, didn’t think so… #awks

Myth #4 Feminists are usually fat and ugly.

Fan girl moment, but have you seen Laci Green? #justsaying. Feminists can be, and are in actuality, of any shape and size…and level of physical attractiveness. In fact, my dearest male viewers, did you know that men can be feminists too? #shockhorror. I jest of course. The reason this myth exists is just another way of dismissing feminism as a valid movement. In other words, people spew out this myth as another way of deciding a woman’s personal happiness is, of course, determined by her physical attractiveness. Unfortunately, due to our sexist media, women will often judge themselves based primarily on physical appearance. But this is, of course, hugely damaging. It is also, of course, a subject for a totes different blog…

Myth #5 Male feminists are gay or womanly.

Do I even need to try and debunk this one? My IQ just dropped significantly (temporarily, I hope) from writing it, then reading it back over again. Phew, I’m feeling dizzy just glancing at it through my computer screen…

Again, we use this myth because a fem word is associated as being strictly feminine. (Whereas the word manager could apply to both genders… #justsayin

So yeah, anyone can be feminist, is what I was trying to say. Ya get me?!

Sex, Virginity & Gender Norms

I think we have many issues in the nature of sex and virginity in our current society.  As with any “feminist issue”, we are programmed to accept inequality and double standards as a natural part of life.  But, what if more of us spoke out?  Furthermore, what if more of us spoke out without the fear of being ridiculed or verbally attacked as a consequence?

Men and women are different.  We have different hormones, genitalia and in general, different ways of thinking.  Of course, there are many exceptions to this “rule of thumb”.  But what if we considered, for a moment, that men and women aren’t as different as we are programmed to believe they are?

man and woman

We live in a world that is constantly moving forward.  Once upon a time, women had virtually no rights.  They were in this world solely to service men through sexual satisfaction, to service the human race through reproduction and to service men through care and hospitality.  Women did not have the opportunities available to progress in terms of education, employment and leadership roles.  In short, women were in this world to be submissive to men.

We have come a long way throughout the years.  In the first world, women are now able to access education and advanced employment opportunities.  Women are now legally able to vote, drive cars and even wear trousers!  I would never for one second deny that women’s rights have progressed enormously.  And I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I now have as a consequence to the feminist protesting of the past.

protest feminism

But, with any movement, there is always room for improvement and progression.  Women are, in many ways, equal to men in our current, first world society.  But, there are still blatantly clear issues among us.  I have found however from my experience that even the most “blatantly clear issues” can become dangerously normalized and simply accepted as a natural part of life.

I don’t think that our future generations can remain in a world where men and women are still socially segregated to the extent that they are.  That is why I would like to speak out.  I know that in my lifetime, things mightn’t change as I would like to see them change.  And my voice alone may be small, but several voices are heard whereas one is not necessarily.  I think it’s time we all took more of an interest in our surroundings.  Without voice, without progression, humankind would not be able to lead the world effectively.

I would like to address the double standards that exist between men and women.  There are indeed numerous double standards, but today I would like to specify towards the double standards and social inequality that exists in terms of sex, virginity and sexuality in general.

gif sluts and whores

As children, we are defined by our genders on an unconscious level.  We are literally defined to such an extent that many of us are programmed to believe men and women are far more different to each other than they are in actuality.

A female child is encouraged to be pretty, well presented and reserved.  If a female child expresses seemingly “masculine traits”, she is referred to as a “tomboy”.  If a female child aspires to be a leader, she is deemed “bossy”.  If a female child chooses to reject feminine toys, and instead relates more with masculine toys, she is discouraged from doing so.  Once the gender of a female child is confirmed in pregnancy, many parents automatically assume that their daughter will be someone that she may not necessarily become.  It is assumed she will be caring.  It is assumed she will be fragile.  It is assumed she will be passive.  It is assumed that she will be a mother one day.  The list goes on.

toys

A male child is encouraged to have a strong presence.  We do this as a society by creating male-geared toys such as guns, building blocks, science sets.  We encourage our male children to take on leadership roles.  We encourage our male children to build things, to use logic and reason, to perform well scientifically and mathematically.  We encourage our male children to be physically strong.  We encourage our male children to take on the role of “protector” towards female children.  We encourage our male children to cover up emotion.  We both indirectly and very directly teach our male children that portraying emotion is negative and thus “weak”.

boy toys

The female child and the male child grow up believing that they are their gender.  But what if we lived in a world where strength vs weakness, emotional vs non-emotional, leader vs follower, and protector vs nurturer were, in fact, not defined by gender?

What if we lived in a world where boys became confident, emotionally expressive, caring, paternal young men, without the fear of being ridiculed or socially excluded as a consequence?

What if we lived in a world where girls became confident, expressive, opinionated, scientifically-minded, successful leaders without being referred to as a “bossy bitch” or “manly” for doing so?

You might be wondering at this point what all of this has got to do with sexuality and social double standards.  The answer is everything.

The female child grows up into the female teenager.  The female teenager is constantly aware of her body.  The female teenager feels inadequate and cripplingly under-confident socially, in expression, politically, in the workforce and in education.  The female teenager is taught that her personality will always come second to her physical attractiveness.  The female teenager feels that her voice is relevant to an extent; but becomes irrelevant when faced with the voice of a man.  The female teenager learns to value her personality, intelligence, capabilities, personal stamina, logical reasoning and lifetime achievements always second to her physical form.

We do this to our female teenagers by exposing them to various forms of media which were, and are, in fact created by powerful, heterosexual men.  This includes television programs, films, magazines, theater, and of course, advertisements.  We do this to such an extent, in fact, that female teenagers begin to associate the words “female” and “woman” with beauty secrets, losing weight, breast size, physical shape, makeup, hair, the colour pink, high heels, dresses and skirts.  We portray women as weak, indecisive, superficial, dependent and purely one-dimensional in many popular, mainstream films and television programs.  We then indirectly teach our female daughters that their looks and sexual appeal is in fact what they owe to society.  Not just to men, but to society in general.

body image

The male child grows up into the male teenager.  The male teenager is encouraged through the media to identify with his penis more than he identifies with his own brain.  We do this by portraying women as seductive, irresistible, physically appealing pieces of meat which are simply present to service and fulfill the sexual desires of a man.  We teach our teenage boys that it is healthy to masturbate, that it is normal.  But, in contrast, female masturbation is to this day a taboo and unspoken topic.  We teach teenage boys the value of earning money, more-so than we teach teenage girls the value of earning money.  We teach teenage boys that money/wealth equates to worth/entitlement.  Whereas, in contrast, we teach teenage girls that a sexually appealing exterior equates to worth/entitlement.

As much as we would all like to believe otherwise, all of this has to do with teenage and young adult sexuality.  The teenage girl is left expecting to be pursued by the teenage boy.  The teenage boy is left feeling it is his responsibility to claim a teenage girl/teenage girls as his own.  The teenage girl is left associating her own sexuality solely with the sexual gratification of teenage boys.  The teenage boy is left associating the girl’s sexuality as solely being present to service his own sexuality.

As our sons and daughters grow, so does their sexuality.  It is common in our current day for teenagers to have underage sex.  Teenage boys are programmed to believe that “losing their virginity” is possibly the most important part of growing up and “becoming a man”.  Teenage girls are taught to deny their own sexuality.  They are taught that they should only have sex when they are “in love” with the teenage boy.  They are taught that they “owe” their teenage boyfriends sexual activity in order to “keep” the teenage boyfriend.

What we are left with as a consequence to this is harmful underage sex.  Our sons and daughters are irresponsibly having sex, and dealing with social, physical and emotional consequences, potentially harming their development, and furthermore, harming their transition into adulthood.

Our teenage boy loses his virginity and he feels “like a man”.  How did it make him feel?  Amazing.  How long did he last?  Hours.  He’s a hero.  Other teenage boys see him as an idol, something to aspire to.  From the get-go, our teenage son’s first time receives such a social applause that he believes, as a consequence, that the more sexual encounters he partakes in, the more worth and popularity he is therefore entitled to.

jacket

Our teenage girl loses her virginity and she is socially criticized.  She is plagued with guilt from herself and her social group.  Did she “give it up too quick”?  Did she “truly love him?”  Was she, in fact, “too young”?  Was she dating him for an acceptable period of time?  Did he appreciate the “gift” she “gave him”?  Did she bleed?  Was it sore?  Socially, she is left answering these questions, both outright and indirectly.  She is certainly not celebrated for losing her virginity.  Other teenage boys may begin to lose interest in pursuing her because she’s “damaged goods”, a “slut” or “easy”.

I don’t think any good can come from teenagers having multiple sexual partners.  Therefore, I would be less inclined to say “men and women should have the freedom to have as many sexual partners as they choose!”  Of course they should.  But I would not recommend it for teenagers.

The problem is this: we praise our teenage daughters for virginity, but we do not praise our teenage sons for virginity.  But what if we praised both genders for virginity?  What if, instead of applying the motto that “boys will be boys”, we advise our boys to wait until they are 17-18 or older to engage in sexual activity?  What if we also teach our teenage boys to “respect their bodies”?  I have rarely if ever heard the term “respect your body” applied to a teenage boy.

Our teenage boys should not be taught to think with their penises.  They should be taught to think with their brains and with their emotions.  Our teenage girls should not be taught to go through their lives with sexual guilt.  I don’t recommend either gender think primarily with their genitals.  I recommend that all teenagers go into sex with caution.

There is a tremendous level of potential damage caused by labeling a teenage girl a “slut”.  As discussed, she is already taught that her sexual attractiveness equates to her level of worth.  But, if labeled a “slut”, her previous unconscious feelings on this are essentially confirmed.

I would love to see a world where both boys and girls are responsible and open-minded.  I do not feel that “losing your virginity” should ever be something that has social consequences at all.  In fact, “losing your virginity” is, in my opinion, not something to be “lost” at all, but something to be embraced, but with caution, preparation and emotional readiness.

teenagers

Men and women are different.  But, they’re not as different as we are lead to believe they are.  Both genders are capable of variable forms of intelligence, ambition, passion and emotion.  Both genders are capable of becoming leaders and protesters.  Both genders should have the opportunity to be functioning, intelligent human beings before they are ever functioning, intelligent men and women.

Men and women’s brains are not as different as we are lead to believe they are.  In fact, for instance, studies show that men succeed more than women in areas of science and maths.  But, have we ever considered that women simply do not attempt to succeed in these areas because they are programmed to believe that men are simply “better at it”?

male vs female brain

I would like to see a world that is not defined by gender, but instead defined by human ability.  Would you?

Why I’m A Feminist

Caution: contains some language as reference/quotes.

Gender Roles.

In society, females are born into a world that will constantly put pressure on them throughout their lifetime. Pressure to be beautiful, pressure to be sexy. Pressure to bear children, pressure to be emotional and maternal. Pressure to keep a good home, pressure to look after the men that surround them.

Equally, males are born with the expectation they will be “men”. Pressure to be dominant, successful, strong, independent, high-earning, emotionally-absent figures of authority.

When we try to challenge these gender roles that been involuntarily assigned to us, the people around us seem to think we’re crazy, weird or just “different”.

I am a feminist because I would prefer to live in a world where every human being, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation, can become whatever person they damn well want to be. Without being questioned or disliked for it.

Rape Culture

Both men and women are raped in this destructive world. But what is rape? It seems that through the media we are exposed to, the lines have become very blurred as to what rape or sexual assault is.

We are programmed to think that we are not actually being sexually assaulted at all if we’re not actually being raped. In fact, women in today’s world experience casual sexual harassment in their normal lives and don’t even question it, because it has become so normal to us.

All you have to do is watch some modern music videos from big artists to see some casual sexual harassment and objectification. The R’n’B genre particularly features dominant male leads singing about “hoes” and “bitches” and “fucking them”. We’ve become so numb to it that we don’t even question it anymore.

pic 1 why i'm a feminist

But the music video that particularly comes to mind of course is “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. I have never seen such blatant sexual objectification in mainstream music. In a nutshell, the lyrics and music video describe men chasing women to have sex with regardless of whether they have consent or not. “I know you want it” is repeatedly played throughout the pop song; a common opinion held in society, which ultimately contributes to rape culture like nothing else.

Any sexual activity between two parties must be consensual. This does not just refer to vaginal sex. This refers to any sexual contact. Otherwise, it’s sexual assault.

Mainstream media such as this is a big reason as to why I’m a feminist. I would love to see women being represented as equals in the media (men do not have to be dehumanized in the process to make this happen.)

3. Men and women in business

“European Commission statistics show that Irish women earn, on average, 14.4 per cent less than men.”

“In 2009, men in Ireland had an average income of €34,317 while the average for women was €25,103, or 73.1 per cent of men’s income.”

In the United States: “Today, women earn about 81 cents on the dollar compared to men — a gap that results in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages. For African-American women and Latinas, the pay gap is even greater.”

These statistics are worrying. Some will turn around and say that it is “the fault of women”, that “no-one is stopping them from progressing in their field”. But this is simply not the case.

It is a direct product of our upbringing and our society that women do not make the same numbers professionally as men do.

As women, we are taught to only have a certain amount of ambition. We are taught to be modest, silent. Men are taught that they should be as successful as they possibly can be, without feeling guilt or pressure in their personal/family lives. Women, on the other hand, are indirectly taught that their ultimate focus should be their family; that their career should always come second.

I am a feminist because I would like to see both women and men equally reaching the top of their profession in the modern world. Women aren’t making it to the top post in any field. I can’t just step back and accept that as being normal.

A world where both men and women are equally represented would be a better world.

Why am I a feminist? These reasons, and many more. I encounter casual sexism on a daily basis. Often, not towards me personally, but towards other women and indeed men. I see women being catcalled for just walking to and from class. I see men listen intently to other men but not to women. I see women being spoken to differently. I see other women treat other men like they’re messy, untidy etc without even knowing if they are or not.

I am about equality. I’m not a “feminazi” (whatever that term means.) I am a human being in a misogynist world.

I would like to be a feminist without having to put down men in the process. I do not hate men or disrespect them. But on the same token I do not hate or disrespect my fellow women; yet I still somehow see them being represented as inferior. Sexually inferior, professionally inferior, socially inferior.

I would like to live in a world where women could be taken seriously without being judged first and foremost by their appearance.

Would you?

We should all be feminists, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would argue.

feminist