Friday, June 28, 2013

You're doing it wrong: sex negative/positive/neutral feminism and me.

I don't know if it's just my addled brain or the week that's been in it, but it seems that feminism is everywhere lately. I can't log into Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr without being bombarded with images, articles and news reports on feminist issues, be it Youth Defence's awful stunt yesterday, Wendy Davis' heroics in Texas or something as simple as a lad mag issue. Is it just me or is the idea of feminism hotting up again? Brilliant, I crow! I welcome you all to the feminist party! Take off your shoes and have some wine. This is, after all, one of the most inclusive movements out there, right?

Or not.

I get that feminism is divided into lots of different factions, because it has to be. "Just as there is no one woman, there can be no one feminism", if you will. (I didn't say that - it was a quote I came across studying for my exams but it's a brilliant one) I'm cool with these factions - I don't have the same feminism needs as someone who is LGBT, or from another country - but when I read this article earlier today I couldn't help wondering just what these "feminists" were getting at. The article interviewed two "radical feminists", who go on to question consent and sex positive feminism. In an article that begins with "how two young feminists are using radical feminism to change the world", certain elements of the article seem just a little backward. It's no doubt an interesting read, but nonethless, parts of it rubbed me up the wrong way - so rather than tear the article apart (which, let's face it, I'm not clever enough to do) I'm just going to offer my two cents on bits and pieces of "radical" feminism that have bothered me for a while now.

First of all: yeah, we live in a hyper-sexualised society. The recent outrage at Kraft's at for Philidelphia shows that the hyper-sexualisation doesn't exactly go both ways: by and large, it's women who are presented as sex objects, not men. Things like capitalism are intertwined with this issue and that's a bloody problem. The portrayal of women in the media is one of those things I can't talk about without choking on my own-rage tears, unable to construct a proper argument. It's something that angers me to the point of incoherency. While I do see that society's ideals of women need to change, I don't think "sex negativity" is the way to do it.

A small history lesson: "sex-negative" feminism sprang up in the 1970's when a bunch of women decided porn was wrong. Fair enough. But it's other elements of it I dislike - Andrea Dworkin, for example, wrote a book (that I ought to read) called Intercourse, which kind of kicked off the sex-negative movement.

"Intercourse is the pure, sterile, formal expression of men's contempt for women," - from "Intercourse"

From ideas like this, the idea of "consent" arises. Consent is important: durr. But some feminists would argue that consent is meaningless in a patriarchal society, which to me, sounds like undermining women in a huge way. From what I can gather from SNF, it seems to be arguing that sex is...well, bad  for women. I think the TC quote was said in quite general terms, but it's still a dangerous thing to say . It's here my own life philosophy comes in: not your body? Not your problem. Consent is a thing between two people - yes, it's violated sometimes and that's horrific but I don't think that it's constantly undermined by the patriarchy. I try to keep the patriarchy out of my knickers in so far as possible.

" Even the notion of consent, considered by so many to be a simple matter, is problematic — in a patriarchal society where women’s agency is circumscribed by male supremacy, how meaningful is consent? These issues are purposefully obscured by sex-positive feminists who believe that sex is an inherent good and that to feel otherwise is somehow aberrant, abnormal, a position that should be remedied." - from Thought Catalog's interview 

However, my real problem with sex-negative feminism is how problematic it is to an young Irish woman such as myself. It's adding to the double-standard that women have regarding sex. I'm not pretending to be an expert on anything in this area - I'm nineteen, for Christ's sake, and I've only identified as a feminist for about two years! Nonetheless, however, this idea makes me uncomfortable. Not only are Irish women dealing with slut-shaming, vague Catholic guilt and all those general worries about having sex, we're dealing with dissention from a movement that's supposed to be inclusive and safe for women. I'm beginning to view the anti-sex brigade as akin to the anti-choice brigade - I believe that the option to  have sex should be there. Or to not have sex. No one will judge you for either choice, because guess what?

  • What you do with your body is no one's problem but your own
The notion that sex is anti-feminist and anti-women is bullshit. Sex is not in a vacuum; of course it's influenced by what goes on around us. But that doesn't mean it's up to someone with different beliefs to tell you what/what not to do. I'm not allowing rape by having sex. I'm not allowing the patriarchy to exist. If anything, by being open about sex and not allowing slut-shaming to happen around me, I'm helping (in a tiny, pathetic way) to dismantle it. From what i've seen, sex-negative feminism implies that women who have sex with men are somehow letting the side down. The whole thing smacks of keeping women down and conforming to someone else's standards - isn't that what feminism is trying to get rid of?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm no expert. There's a lot of elements to Radical Feminism that I do not understand. But just a quick scroll through Tumblr's sex negative tag brings up some pretty worrying stuff.

In essence, I still feel that women's sexualities are trodden down - by both men and other women - on a day to day basis in various ways. It's being called a slut, posts on Facebook about how women should keep their legs closed, being told that hair isn't sexy, Youth Defence, hundreds of ads, airbrushing, having things shouted at you in the street, being told to stop talking about sex or the worst, scariest parts things - it's there, it's happening on a daily basis, and it's terrifying.  I am standing on a stool and shouting "I reject this!" because my sex life - and on that note, my body, my sexuality and my feelings - are not your problem. Just as yours isn't my problem.

Stop telling me what to do with my body, guys, you're acting like the patriarchy.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Going with your...not-gut.

There are numerous reasons why I didn't really blog for the last few months - largely because I was too busy trying to wrap my head around college. Anyone who tells you that it's easy to settle in in your first year is a liar: with the Leaving Cert., you have set goals, boxes to tick and a points system that is a simple as it is insufferable. it's all very Not so much. I spent most of the last term sleeping 'til midday and eating ridiculously overpriced pastries in cafés on Dawson Street. But such is life, onwards and upwards - if I had any time to do it, it was first year.  Or so I thought. Then - BAM - suddenly my last essays were handed in and exams...well, they were happening. I was convinced "I wouldn't know enough" --  or ANYTHING. That, as many of you very well know, is not a good feeling. The stress levels were sky high - so high that I couldn't study, really. Just eat chocolate-covered nuts, cry and sit in the library, trying to convince my hardworking friends to take a study break. Eventually I got over this - because that feminist literary theory ain't gon' learn itself - but it was difficult, and when I arrived in the RDS in May I couldn't have felt less ready.

The exams came and went: so it goes. I finished up after ten days and was left with nothing but a sore hand and a niggling feeling that I hadn't done quite as badly as I expected. Of course, as the days turned into weeks, I began to worry. Privately, I assumed the worst but hoped for the best. Trusting my own judgement led me down a somewhat negative path - and that's the point of my convoluted (and slightly gloating) story about my exams. Sometimes you shouldn't trust your own judgement.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying you should go home with the creepy, bearded guy making slightly off-colour jokes in a loud voice. I'm not saying you should eat that yoghurt that is ten days out of date. For the love of god, step away from the yogurt/creepy bearded guy! No, what I'm saying is based on the principle of human error: sometimes, we're wrong. In fact, I'd wager that 70% of the time we are wrong. And that's okay - we can't always make the right decision. Mentally, I mean. I make the wrong decisions all the time, but what if sometimes what we rely on -- our inner decision-maker, that weird core of ourselves that tells us what to do even if we don't know why -- is wrong? That nagging feeling that just won't quit can turn out to be bullshit, as I found out!

I truly believed I was going to do crap in my exams. I had dreams about low 40s, about repeats and I'd pretty much resigned myself to a summer of study. This is not to say that I have a negative personality, or that I wanted to sound shocking come results. It really is a case that my gut instinct was wrong. It's happened before and it will happen again -- I got two 2:1s in my exams and I'm single. You win some, you lose some, huh? It just goes to show that sometimes instinct is wrong and that one's natural mentality - in my case, one that's maybe a little pessimistic - can get in the way of the reality of things. The reality of things being that, as far as Trinity College is concerned, I did not get good exam results as a fluke. I got them....

I just really wanted an excuse to use that .gif. I'm sorry.

I suppose what I want to get across here is that sometimes we can't always trust our heads - or indeed, that weird feeling in our stomachs. They do lead us astray from time to time - giving us notions, implying we're fatter, or more arrogant, or stupider than we really are. The long and short of it is - try and hope for the best, because you can't trust your head, sometimes. Pro-tip, though: always, always run if you feel the need to. Always.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Review: Kate Moss' delicious lipstick

I've blogged about how much I love makeup before, but I'm a bit apprehensive about actually doing a "beauty blog" style review. For one, I'm bad at taking photos of these sorts of things - swatches are something of a foreign concept. I spent a solid half hour trying to get one right, but failed miserably. Who knew it was so hard to take a photo of a squiggle of lipstick on one's hand? But sure, I persevered, and I figured I may as well do this every so often to prevent this blog from becoming Shouty Feminism and Melancholia. So, behold, my first attempt at a make-up review: lipstick. My favourite kind: red.

Kate Moss for Rimmel - matte lipstick in #107

Well, for a start this lipstick doesn't have a name. Devastation. Lipstick names are one of my favourite things about lipsticks, largely because they're always so silly. I'd like to have a job naming lipsticks one day. But anyway. I bought this dark-red lipstick today after two of my friends recommended it to me. Actually, they both squealed about how good it was for quite a while, and Zoe produced the same shade from her yhandbag. So, you know, that's an endorsement.

What's it like, then? I'm somewhat suspicious of new lipsticks. I stick to my wonderful Catrice red most of the time, occasionally toning it down with NYC's glorious lip tints. I fell in love with this lipstick almost immediately though. For a start, it smells like cheap American sweets, reminding me of holidays. Like...Wonka Nerds, I think. The packaging is cute - I like Kate Moss' signature and the matte red. I'm a sucker for matte. Hence the lipstick, I guess...It's super-creamy to go on -- I'm used to Catrice's shiny, silky texture, so this was different! It's quite a heavy formula, but it doesn't feel gross to wear. On the contrary, for it's 7 euro price tag it feels quite expensive!

However, what really matters is how it looks on, am I right? Well, for a start, the colour is fab. It's a rich reddish-plum on me (it looks almost purple on my blonde friend Zoe) that's dramatic without being gothy. Obviously, if you don't like the dark look that I'm rocking below you can use it less -- I've piled it on for this photo. But yeah, the colour is gorgeous: it's great for people who are a little scared of purple lipstick but want something a little more intense than a straight-up red.

Aforementioned awful swatch. Can you see all the other lipsticks I tried on? :')

Now, one thing I will say about this lipstick is that it doesn't stay too well. I'm a divil for biting, rubbing and licking my lips, which doesn't help, but I still found it didn't stick as well as some of my other red lipsticks. It also bleeds, more than a little -- for those of you (like me) who don't quite "get" that concept, it means that your lipstick...wanders. It spreads to your cheeks, your chin, even your nose in a few unfortunate circumstances. Gross. To combat this, I would recommend buying a lil lipliner to go with this -- I picked up an Essence one for the princely sum of €1.49. It stops the lipstick from bleeding and makes it last much longer. Helpful for the price of it, no?

  • It smells yummy. I say sweets, Frances says apricots. Whatever. Definite plus.
  • It goes on nicely, and I've got awkward lips.
  • The colour is fab and buildable and rich, without being vampy.
  • BUT you ought to purchase a lipliner to go with it, cos it does tend to slip a bit. 
Overall? Yeah, I'll be wearing this regularly. It might not replace my usual scarleter-than-scarlet pout but it's definitely nice to mix it up. 8/10, yo! 

I tried to take a photo of just my lips, but after about ten up-my-nose shots and a load that just looked dopey, I gave up. Leanne Woodfull, I'm not... 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fuck you, Chuck Palahnuik

I was in my room, tidying out some of my old college/leaving cert./second class notes earlier today. So naturally I got all emotionally entangled in the crumpled bits of paper that make up my past. My past is full of paper – failed attempts at writing novels, piss-poor poetry and most of all, diaries. Countless diaries. Shitty two euro notebooks and thick, gorgeous Paperblanks. Tacky pads from the mid-2000s with cartoon sheep on them, written in daily in glittery — albeit smudged — gel pen. A lifetime-lite poured onto pages. So much boredom. So much angst. So many experiences crammed into ten years of pages. Yet still with the distinct feeling that something was about to get better– that the people splashed across the pages would be the ones to make the difference. A near-constant stream of boys whisked me across a flurry of pages. They came, they went, they were obsessed over for reams and reams of gilt-edged paper. Friends, too, came and went across these diaries – friends who seemed wonderful at the time, yet retrospect had me perched cross-legged on my bed, shaking my head at fifteen year old Áine. Self-harmers, extreme dieters and manipulative bitches. This makes my past sound extremely negative – it’s not. It certainly wasn’t at the time, either. My adventures across time and space — space being mostly Stephen’s Green and Clane — sent me, occasionally battered, to who I am today.
One thing I’ve always obsessed over my whole life has been the idea of the marks people leave on my life. I did it in the last paragraph without even thinking — my adventures with others made me who I am. It reminds me of that Chuck Palahnuik (I won’t lie, I have copypasted that name. My spelling is atrocious.) quote:

“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.”

Chuck, my dear, I loved Fight Club (well, I loved the movie) but I call bullshit. This idea is something I’ve thought about a lot – okay, I make faces like my ex-boyfriend and talk with the rapid-fire intensity of my best friend, but at my core, I am the combined efforts of me. My struggles, my feelings, my mistakes, my vomit-stained party dresses. No one else has much to do with it – other people are completely, wholly, hugely important — but they aren’t me.
Yet we affect one another. I am not the combined effort of everyone, but my own efforts in relation to other people. It’s cause and effect. My reactions to other people are what shape me. Everyone I have ever met is an ink stain on my diary – one that I’ve tried to rub out or edited into a smiley face, or a heart. You get me?

Probably not. This all makes sense in the fever of my sun-addled, pretentious Literature student brain. You see, you know what the magical part is? Everyone I’ve ever met is an inkblot. Yet I’ve been an inkblot for so many others, despite not even realizing it. We’re all ghosts, haunting one another.You find people’s leftovers and that’s how they leave their marks. A history essay, a forgotten DVD, a lighter. That sort of thing. They leave their marks through the weird feeling in your chest when you find a letter from them. Maybe we’re not the combined efforts of everyone we’ve ever known, but we’re certainly the efforts of ourselves trying to scrub people away. The thing is, I serve that purpose for other people. It's far too easy when you're pretentious and literary (two things I'd just love to be, of course) to assume you're the only person who wells up when you find a mix CD from 2010. Look at Sylvia Plath. Do you think she thought about Ted Hughes finding a forgotten pair of knickers or wondering if, just at the that moment, she was thinking about him? Probably not. She was too busy being a poetry writing, self-obsessed hun. We wreck and make other people's lives too, which is something I, personally, had forgotten about until recently.

I'm spread over time and space. Bits of me pervade the lives of anyone I've ever met in the most forgotten ways. I dated a guy once and I'm pretty sure I left a history essay on his USB key. A boy I dated for two years has my copy of a Neil Gaiman novel (if you're reading this, I want it back!) and I owe a girl I went to primary school with seven euro from when I bought a potted plant in Cobh, age eight. I left a sock in Mayo and my ID card in Portobello. Ooh, this is crying out for a "I left my heart in San Francisco" reference. There we go.

So, in short - I am not the combined efforts of everyone I've ever known, dammit. Having looked at ten years worth of writing, I am cause and effect. I am bruised. I am torn up and made again by me: other people are catalysts for what I do for myself. Also, diarying is unhealthy and makes me think too much.
This all came off a bit Sarah Jessica Parker voice over in the end of an episode of Sex and The City. Sorry…not sorry.

How do you get to Carnegie hall?

Between growing up with the word “gifted” thrown at my head every five minutes and having the vocabulary of an academic by the age of twelve, I’ve always assumed myself to be quite clever. Sidenote: the word “clever” is brilliant. It implies a certain amount of intelligence without arrogance or what I scientifically class as “wankery”. Eight year olds are clever. The Doctor is clever. Meanwhile, in Trinity College, students are “bright” or “academic”, two words I absolutely cannot stand. It’s all in the language, folks. Use wankery terms and you will sound like a wanker, even if you’re not. Trust me, I know from experience.) Things came naturally to me – drama and storywriting in primary school, progressing to learning vocab and essay writing in secondary. Academics were easy-peasy in my head. I never really had to do much to be good at them. That’s not to say I didn’t work. The Junior and Leaving Certs. were four years of coffee fuelled toil for me — but I did extraordinarily well in both. Particularly in the latter, when I did so well that I got into Trinity College. Oooh, Trinity. Fancy.

That was almost a year ago. Maybe it’s listening to the current crop of LC students moan about poets and papers, but I’ve been thinking about one particular element necessary to exam (and possibly life) success. Practise.
Maybe it’s because it’s nine am but practise seems something that I, as a so-called “talented youth” never quite did. All my life I could just…do things. Things just got done. Spellings were just in my head. From a school point of view, I just knew things without much effort. It’s not that I  never had to try, I just didn’t have to try hard.
So anyway. What started out in my head as a SpunOut style article aimed at banishing procrastination has propelled me to new heights of narcissism. Shocker. What occured to me lately was this: nineteen years of free-livin’ has caught up with me. I have now reached a stage where a bit of practise wouldn’t go astray. For instance, writing. This summer I want to get into writing. I have a ton of ideas for what to write, and where to send said writing – but I can’t bring myself to write them. Why? Because I don’t want them to be rejected. I want them to be good from the word go, without me doing any actual work. That’s the curse of the interminably lazy former clever kid.
It’s the same deal with exercise. I’ve always been very, very lazy in this department but I’d love to be able to be fitter and a bit more…toned or something. I’m not sure how to describe it. This morning, I thought I’d go for a run, but I envisioned myself a sweaty, scarlet mess after 100m. I’ll never get fit cos I don’t want to practise.
How do you get over an irrational fear of working for something until you get good, when you’ve always been vaguely good? And how do you prevent your blogposts from derailing into a crazy train of narcissism? Christ.