February 17, 2014


So, writing about love on Valentine's Day has been thoroughly overdone.
I am going to write about my favorite topic ever.

See, since I've started calling myself a feminist, I have had the hardest time accepting the fact that not a lot of other women are. I've come down with depressing horror realizations about how little other women in my life know about feminism. I mean: IT'S SO RELEVANT!!! I am baffled to say that the most satisfying conversations I've had about the ongoing relevance of the feminist movement has been with men. (Although, mind you, that is probably not an exclusively bad thing either)

And why is that? I don't have a universal answer for it yet, but through talking to a lot of my female friends, I think I see one major miscommunication:

The common assumption that feminists think women's default setting WITHOUT feminism is weakness, and that they can only find empowerment through it.

See what happened here? Someone took feminism and turned it into yet another freakish layer of female suppression. Speak: That assumption is bullshit. Feminism is about enabling ALL women to live lives free of inequality, judgement and objectification. It's a positive movement. We don't want fanatics or extremists, we just want an open dialogue about the shatteringly unfair shit that's still happening to women all over the world. And to see some changes.

So without further boring you with with my idealistic views of feminism, I'll share a little of my post and pre feminism experiences. We all love seeing before and after pictures of people's transformations, but here's a different take on it, since the transformation happened in my BRAINS!!! (Yes, this is an adequate moment for Zombie pronunciation of the word "BRAAAIIINSS")


Before reading about feminism and immersing myself in what I like to call an ongoing "study" of the ins and outs of women bashing, I shamelessly judged every single female that passed through my life. Even the briefest encounters are still, to this day, embedded in my brain cells as somewhat shameful memories.
I can still remember how freaked out I was by other women from a very young age. I felt so thoroughly intimidated by other creative women, other women who knew more about music than I did, thinner women, more beautiful women, women with longer hair than mine, women with partners, single but proudly careless women, women who made my male friends laugh. At the same time, I felt superior to women who I perceived as "harmless".. (CRRRRIIIIINGING so hard at seeing this in writing for the first time.)
Growing up, I was the only girl in a group of fifteen or so friends. I was the stand out tomboy, big mouth and all. I never had to worry about attention or validation and I liked it that way. It was safe and super low maintenance to rely solely on my gender as the one thing that made me stand out. 
Let me tell you it was more than a shock when the boys in my group got girlfriends, who then introduced their female friends to the rest of the group, and I slowly but steadily saw my status dissolve in a sea of "other women".
You see, I wasn't the type to thrive under pressure, I was the "scared dog who bites" kind of type. Can you see the ridiculousness in this sentence? I saw other women as competition, not potential friends. And it's even funnier to think that I felt threatened in these situations, when there was never a moment I was remotely interested in anything other than friendship with any of those boys.

Moving on to when I started going out, I don't remember many instances in which I made friends with women. I never acknowledged them as important enough to approach. Whenever there was a buzzing personality in the room, I would want to be close to them if they were male, and demonize or talk down to them if they were female. I was a scared dog.

There are a million other instances, in which I was confronted with my internalized misogyny, without noticing it. (I'll safe them for future posts.)
I never felt very good about my behavior, my actions were always accompanied by feelings of unease. I knew I was being a dick, but I didn't know why. I was riddled with self-doubt and had a constant urge of comparing myself, my life, my body or my talents to those of other women. It never occurred to me to do the same with other men.
Needless to say that aside from three amazing women I still call my best friends, I didn't have a circle of friends that was busting with gender diversity, which continued to nurture my misogynistic behaviors all throughout my teens.


In my last year of commercial college, I decided not to continue with conventionality by choosing a random uni course, but to take a gap year instead. I was angry, depressed, super insecure and felt completely out of place by the time I finished school. Looking back at my graduation photo, I can see the misery pouring out of my red, sore eyes. I put on so much weight in the final two months of school, I can hardly recognize my face on that photo. I didn't know who I was at that time. So I hopped on a plane in the hopes of finding out what the hell life had to offer me.

One thing I found, was that I actually really enjoy the company of other women.
But it didn't come to me like some sort of "Eat, Pray, Love" life epiphany about my misogynistic behaviors and my self hatred. Life never goes that way.

Instead I met women. SO many women. Women from other countries, women from other continents. Women of all ethnic groups, levels of wealth, different upbringings. And because we were on the other side of the world, completely alone, nothing to compete over, nothing to be ashamed of, no image to keep up, no walls to build, I finally started talking to them. I initiated conversations with other women for the first time in my life. I had to turn nineteen years old and get away from everything familiar, in order to not feel scared of other women anymore.

I listened to their stories, and they listened to mine. There was no judgement or jealousy. All we had were stories we shared and realizations we had, some of them about how similar those demons were, we were fighting at the time. The feelings of inadequacy, the body image issues, the suppression of our sexuality back home because of our fears of slut shaming, the abusive or otherwise terrible relationships we went through, the low self esteem issues, the anxieties and spurts of depression, the complete cluelessness of our life purposes.
Simultaneously we acted as each others' cheerleaders, something I never thought I could or should be for another woman. We called each other hot whenever we left for a night out, we gave each other sneaky thumbs up whenever one of us had a fling over, we cheered one another up if we felt home sick, we praised each others creative projects or professional achievements.

It wasn't until after I had stopped traveling though, that I started actively getting into feminism. I started reading books, blogs and websites, banned women's magazines and slowly but steadily managed to see a link between my constant urge of comparing and bashing other women, with my lack of self-esteem. I started paying more attention to my own, while fewer, still present judgmental thoughts. I axed words such as "bitch" or "bitchy" out of my vocabulary, in order to avoid criticizing other women based on nothing but stereotypes. After all, it's a lot harder to search for adequate adjectives, than to just label another woman as a bitch for whatever reason.

So hey, why not give it a try? I challenge all of you this week to not be judgmental towards a woman, without a factual reason behind it. In other words, if you can't find a gender neutral cuss word for an idiot of a human who happens to be female, you're probably being a misogynistic bum. Identifying those miserable thoughts already brings you one step closer to becoming a non-judgmental and more content Earth dweller! HAPPINESS!!!!

(multi media collages via http://instagram.com/ohfajar)

February 09, 2014

On everyday sexism on the internet PT 1

I try not to get too involved in online commentary. I can't handle the infinite level of ignorance people choose to freely put on display. My hands shake and my neck tenses as I get more and more involved and evenly frustrated, so I try to stay away.
It's a very soothing experience to deprive oneself from social media, but I found that once back online, the lack of manners and sensibility knocks you out cold. And then...you can't NOT throw your thoughts in the mix. You have to reiterate people's statements and dissect what was clumsily worded, ignorant, lacking a factual basis, hypocritical. We have so little say in our actual lives, being heard online and triumphing in a discussion, may its topic be as mundane as denim shorts, feels like a big achievement.

I got into two online kerfuffles in the last month (and mind you, that's more than the entire last year), both evolve strongly around what I am most passionate about, namely feminism and gender equality.

The first one I will talk about today. It started on a harmless ten minute break at work. I browsed my facebook feed, spotted a bikini I liked and, being on no-spend-January and all, opened the link to strictly have a look only at price and sizing. 

It was a $ 119 two piece by a young fashion label, that had been hyped by a couple of instagram famous models/entrepreneurs over the last year or so. I know this because I used to follow one of these girls on said social media platform, but stopped doing so when I did my social media detox at the beginning of this year.

In the process of trying to justify spending a whole weeks worth of my disposable income on a bikini, my eyes wandered down to the sizing chart. That's where they remained for a good thirty seconds, trying to make sense of what was optically processed.
Please note that the tops and bottoms cannot be purchased separately. 

At first I felt this horrible yet all too familiar feeling of inadequacy. According to the size chart I could barely fit my size 12 butt into the L bottoms, while needing the medium or even small top (I am a small C cup). 
My body is obviously not the RIGHT size or shape. 
I either need to lose weight or save up for a boob job.
As always, feelings of inadequacy go hand in hand with self-hatred....
"They don't want me to fit their swim suit, because I could buy it, then upload a photo of me wearing it and tag them on instagram, and I am clearly not their target group, they wouldn't want someone of my size associating with them. I'm not right. There's something wrong with me, the way I look, the way I am."

But hold on a second, I am not fifteen anymore. I actually feel quite good in my skin.
So seriously, it's not me who is in the wrong. It's them.

What they're doing is clear discrimination against body diversity. By determining that, for example, a size 6-8 bottom has to be accompanied by an A - B cup, they are discriminating against petite women with boobs bigger or smaller than that. They are discriminating against women like me, who wear a size 12 along with a C cup. They discriminate against any and all women who are larger than a size 10 - 12. They discriminate against any and all body types that don't fit these top/bottom combinations.

So what's the big deal here, you wonder? After all, most clothing lines don't offer sizes 12 or above, so why loose my lolly over this particular one? Why pick on one label, when they're all part of the complex issue that is the fashion industry and its sick mind fuck of a marketing machinery.

My problem with this particular sizing chart is that, no matter what size we look at here, it promotes one body type only: The large boobs on skinny frame type. The type we see on Victoria Secrets runways, in swim wear ads, most recently in gym attire ads, heck even cartoons. The only type that is glorified by our patriarchal society as the perfect female shape, while all other body types are ignored, mocked, shamed, considered failures or called "works in progress". And while the "skinny on big boobs" body type is JUST as gorgeous as all others, it is also uncommon (after all, hormones and freaky genes aside, boobs are generally made of FAT tissue, guyssss). It's expectations like these that make even the most sensible of all women feel inadequate. We as females end up censoring our lives because of not fitting that body bill. We catch ourselves buying clothes we love, but never have the confidence to wear. We feel like failures whenever the colourful women's magazine covers at our local news stand suggest we should finally get that damn bikini body THIS year. Every single one of the thousands of instances, in which we get bombarded with that image of the perfect female shape daily, turn into small self esteem wars.

At the end of the day, it doesn't make ANY sense to make a shape so uncommon, the standard for ALL women. In fact, it's a complete ludicrous expectation. It's like expecting everyone to be born with blond hair, and then shaming the crap out of tiny black* haired humans. It's boring, it's self-destruct and unhealthy, it's using up our energy; an energy we should really devote to bigger issues like equal pay or the fight against rape culture. Do you get me?

I posted the above picture on my private facebook and instagram pages. Needless to say it sparked a few discussions and "BS" was called on the sizing chart by more than a few female friends. I had comments such as "no one I know would fit these" and similarly angry statements flooding my feed. The most interesting response, however, came from the label itself. Of course I had to hash tag them on my instagram post. I wanted a response, even if it was a dissatisfying and cheap one.
So here there were, claiming that due to the size of their label they have to cut down on size diversity, catering to the general female public as best as possible by choosing the sizes above. (You can read the full response by following me on instagram). They didn't respond to my question about why they wouldn't offer tops and bottoms separately, seeing as they only take pre-orders anyway and it would probably increase their amount of orders, as well as my question about corporate responsibility...
 But hey, they're already catering to the general female public.

BTW: The average Australian female wears size 14 bottoms along with a C cup.

*you can, of course, insert any hair colour other than blond in here. Not discriminating against hair colour diversity on this blog!