You Are the Beauty Standard

This post was originally published in November 2021 in The Witness journal. The following is an updated version.

Never has there been a more important time to highlight the transience of social perceptions of beauty than in the age of mass media. The internet has become a safe space for the normalisation of insecurity, appreciation of diversity, self-love, and body positivity; it has also become a cesspit for vitriolic comments that demean a person based on their exterior. Falsified representations of real people. The glorification of a narrow set of physical characteristics. Chronic exposure to ‘perfect’ people launched into stardom. I do not want to undermine the positive development that is this increasingly diverse representation of physical appearance, but rather draw attention to the persistent dark side of such an appearance-focused era. 

Although representations of what is physically desirable may be expanding online, this appearance-centricity is part and parcel of having our own physical self-awareness heightened…so we often cannot help but hold ourselves to standards that differ from our own appearances. A recent US study investigated women between ages 18 and 25, discovering a link between Instagram and higher levels of self-objectification and body image related worries being developed — particularly amongst those frequenting fitness pages. This is part of a wider exposure to diet culture, weight loss motivation, before-and-after images, and toxic put-downs. It is also vital to acknowledge that while much value has been placed on the female appearance throughout history, with 11% of UK men surveyed in 2019 having experienced suicidal thoughts related to body image, this is a genderless phenomenon. 

With the growing relevance of social media to our daily lives, children and adults alike are forced to reckon with their physical appearance, not only daily but every time they stumble on to social media — and assuming you’re anything like me then the frequency and duration of those stumbles is an embarrassing statistic best kept between yourself and those horrendous weekly screen time notifications. Easily accessible photoshop apps, filtered selfies, TikTok algorithms that prey on the ‘insecure’ rifling through the pages of the ‘beautiful’, and undisclosed cosmetic surgery procedures are distorting beauty expectations and planting the seeds for judgment of both ourselves and others in accordance with unrepresentative standards. 

Remember when Snapchat’s ‘dog’ filter debuted, and you would be hard-pressed to find a Snapchat story that wasn’t jam-packed with unironic selfies of everyone and their grandma dog-ified? What was interesting was that along with blatant dog features — such as the floppy ears, doggy nose, and long tongue — came other classic markers of man’s best friend: resurfaced skin, widened eyes and a slimmer jawline.

Snapchat and Instagram filters that alter our faces to fit one specific definition of beauty may seem fun, but they can also promote insecurity. They decide what features are necessary to ‘improve’ our looks. If you are a filter-lover who doesn’t mind their effect, that’s fine — I’m not trying to be a killjoy, we all love a good filter and they can certainly be confidence boosters! However, it is important to acknowledge the specific beauty standards endorsed by so-called beautifying filters to understand why they can make people doubt their existing features.

Maybe I didn’t want to have easy access to what a supposedly ‘perfect’ version of myself would look like, yet here we are. You can’t humorously place your features onto a broccoli, or pretend to be on a FaceTime call with Snoop Dogg without first scrolling past yourself with Disney princess eyes, full lips, a baby-like complexion, a smaller nose, fluttering eyelashes, and a chiselled chin — talk about unlocking new insecurities! 

Understanding how the constant barrage of social media images impacts humans of all ages and genders feels especially poignant when looking to the results from a UK Mental Health Foundation poll in 2019: one in three British adults have felt anxious or depressed as a result of their body image; one in ten women had “deliberately hurt themselves” as a result of their body image, as had one in twenty-five men; one in four men had felt depressed as a result of their body image; one in eight adults have had suicidal thoughts as a result of their body image. It is also important to bear in mind what the real figures may look like, were male respondents to feel more comfortable sharing feelings on this topic. Concern with appearance has typically been associated with femininity throughout history, and so may be viewed as emasculating in cultures, such as in the UK, where toxic masculinity is present.

Older research indicated that women were significantly more dissatisfied and less confident after having viewed appearance-related TV adverts compared to those who were shown adverts unrelated to appearance. This is the crux of what beauty-related advertising sets out to do: encourage insecurity by facing us off with images of ‘perfection’. In the case of cosmetic adverts, this is done through before-and-afters, which use social constructs of ‘ugliness’ and ‘perfection’ to make us believe we can overcome our perceived physical shortcomings by buying the product. 

Nowadays it isn’t about just switching off the TV…we are constantly exposed to the above marketing mentality via social media, and it’s not only in obvious adverts, but in content creators —oftentimes unwittingly — acting as vehicles for the appearance-obsession and poor self-esteem of their viewers. Feelings of negativity for oneself help keep people in these addictive and vicious spirals on social media apps for as long as possible, generating revenue for social media companies and the clients using them for advertisement. Indeed, mass media has led to a greater probability of adolescents (regardless of gender) developing body dissatisfaction which, in turn, is a predictor for eating disorders. 

So, why do we care so much about what we look like? As social beings, we rely on one another for survival. These social bonds make our interactions with one another crucial for physical and mental wellbeing. We are socially conditioned to feel as though by looking a certain way, our value to others will increase; perhaps this comes from cultural sources, family members who irritatingly point out so-called negative physical traits, notions of pretty privilege, personality traits that make us more prone to appearance-based worrying, experiencing bullying…etc…..The media, for their part, communicate an ‘ideal’ vision of beauty for the time and place we are living in through branches such as social media, advertising, television, magazines, and pornography. Our self-perception is adversely impacted when we find ourselves to fall short of criteria for being ‘beautiful’. 

Many of these trends in physical features, however, are simply that: trends. In a world where genetics influence our physical characteristics, it is impossible to meet a universal standard. Societal attitudes are reflecting what is, in reality, entirely fluid across time and place. The ideal body type for a woman has fluctuated dramatically from full-figured appearances to ‘heroin chic’ and ‘boyish’ figures. While Eurocentric beauty standards have systemically engulfed and whitewashed concepts of ‘beauty’ at the global level. This reflects an oft-seen international attitude to appearance rooted in colonialism, then fortified by capitalism. Movements such a the Black is Beautiful movement from the 1960s and 1970s, and the Mexican indigenous movement rejected such colonial influences that are now foundational to much social conditioning. Such movements, along with increased representation, can empower individuals and provide the representation that boosts self-esteem and self-love. 

Although we have explored societal standards of beauty, it is important to reaffirm the obvious and clichéd statement that from individual perspectives, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Individual physical attractions are diverse and broad. Society’s attractions are what need changing in order to encompass similar inclusivity. Changing beauty standards show us that society can be conditioned to include all appearances. If we can just combat the dark side of mass media to bolster diverse representation that reflects each and every one of us, it would give us the sense of appearance-based value that we seek. We could instead transfer the time and energy we spend worrying about our appearance to other, healthier goals.

So, what can we do to boost the social conditioning that elevates diversity and inclusivity, while also navigating such a media-centric age? We need to hijack mass media to continue elevating what is normal and hold those who try to tarnish that accountable. 

  • Place pressure on companies promoting unrepresentative body types by bombarding their social media (damage their reputation in a way that impacts on profits) and encourage boycotts of said companies. Attacks on Victoria Secret’s ideal of ‘perfection’ and sickening connection to Jeffrey Epstein has ultimately led Victoria’s Secret to ditch their largely unrepresentative Angels in favour of am ostensibly feminist rebrand.
  • Support initiatives that lobby governments to ensure social media companies vet sites which provide harmful exposures to pro-eating disorder content, pro-cosmetic surgery content, and weight loss adverts.
  • Complain to Ofcom and the ASA about shows and adverts that see people discriminated against for looking a certain way, and that do not represent diverse body and appearance types. For shows such as Love Island, not only should representation be diverse, but people with varying attraction ‘types’ should also be included to demonstrate the wider pool of individualised physical attraction that is often ignored. 
  • Give your support to appearance/body-positivity influencers by following them and sharing their content. This will then boost their platform to allow so many more people to feel represented by them. Here’s one starting list, and here’s another
  • Educate yourself on campaigns to see how you can get involved and promote inclusive content related to appearance. Here is an amazing article on why the movement for promotion of men’s body confidence must pick up pace. 
  • Report bullies for body- and appearance-shaming online, and leave positive and kind comments on people’s appearances. This will not only impact on that individual, but also on other people who share common characteristics. Investigate ways of supporting initiatives that combat online bullying.

Motivation for the Wannabe-Motivated-Unmotivated

This one goes out to my dilly-dallying dreamers, the “do you think I want to be like this?!” kings and queens. There is no shame in being unmotivated, in struggling to get done what you want to get done. The word ‘lazy’ perpetuates a harmful stigma that fails to understand the complex cognitive and environmental factors that contribute to a person being unmotivated or unable to carry out tasks they wish they could. I know that sounds like it was spoken like a true lazy person, but it actually is not your fault. People are just neurologically wired differently or have curated different habits and attitudes.

I have really wanted to write again…to build a proper blog out of this website that I’m not sure my parents realise is billed to them annually. It’s like my sneaky Moshi Monsters membership all over again. Although, this venture lasted a lot less time than my commitment to feeding Lassie the Katsuma, collecting rare moshlings and checking if my fellow 9-year-old monsters had replied to what I thought was my casually flirty ‘I like your house’ left on their pinboards.

I was in the shower a few days ago when a slither of realisable motivation finally, after years, struck…what if I just take a deep-dive into motivation itself and compile some non-medical tips and tricks to get myself back on the — preferably lilac, if it’s going — wagon and hopefully find my own motivation inside that lilac wagon.

Yes, you have understood. I found motivation in being unmotivated by deciding to self-reflect on my lack of motivation, which finally motivated me to target the audience of fellow people who I call the wannabe-motivated-unmotivated. You may now be thinking, ‘how pretentious…she has taken pre-existing words, whacked in some hyphens and made a new definition out of them’ (*side note that I just tried to write ‘maken’ rather than ‘made’, which has only fuelled my efforts to start writing again, if only for recalling the English language I was raised with for 20 years). You would be right. This is unashamedly pretentious. It’s been over four years since my last post, I’m here to make waves not mess around with any unoriginal thought. In saying that, there’s a good chance one of 7 billion people have also had this idea, but this is not their time to shine.

After scouring the internet for ‘when you really want to do something but just can’t’ and finding no specific word that captures a generalisable term for what I mean — rather than prescribing it a symptom of varying conditions — I will be sticking with the long-winded wannabe-motivated-unmotivated as the umbrella term. It should first be prefaced that lack of motivation or lack of willpower is often associated with mental illness (such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder) and is also seen in neurodevelopmental disorders (such as ADHD and ASD). Please contact a medical professional, like a GP or a therapist if you suspect a mental condition. They can help with a diagnosis, talking and cognitive behavioural therapies and/or medication. So, give your doctor a call or find a local surgery here if you’re in the UK.

However, if you are already receiving medical help or are suffering from a non-medical lack of motivation then this light-hearted three-step guide providing non-medical tips on how to start being motivated and stop being a wannabe-motivated-unmotivated is for you! Strap in, it’s time to set the scene for the wannabe-motivated-unmotivated by borrowing traits from the motivated and the unmotivated.

1. First up is the Cambridge Dictionary definition of motivated: 1) very enthusiastic or determined because you really want to do something 2) having a particular motive (= a reason for behaviour)

2. Second is the Cambridge Dictionary definition of unmotivated: not wanting to do something, or not wanting to do something well

Finally, the Amy Powellian definition of the wannabe-motivated-unmotivated (obviously just as prestigious and trusty as the Cambridge Dictionary, so they should probably watch their backs now that I’m back in business): you have the qualities of a motivated person, such as being enthusiastic and determined to achieve goals, but you just can’t quite make yourself take the necessary steps to get there. You may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of these tasks. For me, this is usually down to the desire for every task I complete to be perfect; driven by a fear of rejection or failure that makes it difficult to work out where to begin, how to cherry-pick information, or how to plan effectively. This may occasionally be accompanied by a creeping sense of pointlessness that makes you wonder whether the task is actually worthwhile, especially if it doesn’t come easily to you — even if you do want the final outcome.

Ultimately, your goals stagnate, and you are overtaken by paralysis (manifesting as procrastination and other avoidance strategies) that prevents you from achieving desired goals. You may feel frustrated or drained, unmotivated in that you end up not wanting to do anything — yet you still desperately wish you could just achieve the end-goal (hence motivated-unmotivated). This sounds similar to ADHD paralysis, in which people become overwhelmed by organising an abundance of information (particularly in tedious tasks) and shut down; this can be accompanied by boredom and loss of focus that ultimately leads to un-started or incomplete tasks. Over time, this can worsen overall motivation levels. Similarly, the ‘Perfectionism, Procrastination, Paralysis‘ cycle experienced by those with anxiety leads to the same eventual shutdown that reduces productivity. Thus, the wannabe-motivated-unmotivated is simply the catch-all term for anyone paralysed by an internal barrier to realising their still-very-much-there-dreams: whether that’s information organisation, perfectionism, fear of failure, self-doubt, imposter’s syndrome, writer’s block, exhaustion, or even nihilistic tendencies.

Now that the meaning of the wannabe-motivated-unmotivated is clarified, fear not if you see any parallels because here is your three-step guide to success!

  1. Reinvent the task: remind yourself of the most enjoyable or meaningful outcomes and let them be your initial motivators.

This first step is for tasks that require self-discipline and self-starter behaviour. Whether that’s pursuing your entrepreneurial projects, completing an essay, applying for jobs, reading a book, or finishing a painting. Our paralysing lack of motivation can sometimes come from tasks we have found to be frustrating, boring, or dull; such tasks can easily lead to inattentiveness and/or giving up. Eventually, this results in not wanting to even attempt the task at all. This, in turn, can make you restless and stressed because you know the task should be done at some point.

This looming feeling of dread and anticipation can spiral into a general lack of motivation for many tasks, where you lose perseverance even for tasks you once found easy or enjoyable. Maybe you have become used to not finishing tasks or not performing to the standard you expect of yourself, and that seeps into the tasks you were actually once able to keep up with. You start to view yourself as unproductive, undisciplined, and distractible, drained at even the thought of performing a task because you don’t think you will progress — so what’s the point, right? Wrong — obviously, otherwise this would have been a short and depressing anti-guide.

If you are a ‘wannabe-motivated’ then there are at least outcomes that you enjoy the idea of and you know it, so remind yourself of those. You can even reframe tedious tasks, for example, if an essay is boring let your motivator be to find a unique and original take or have the feedback state that you went above and beyond. Perhaps write a list of enjoyable or meaningful outcomes that you can work towards, knowing that they have a purpose that means something positive to you — in other words, you will find them rewarding.

For example, I am writing this piece to get back on my blogging feet; this is because although I haven’t felt motivated to complete anything in over four years, I do have dreams of working in the media that won’t come true by themselves! I have been reminded of this in my current (failing) job search, where I have realised that I do need more experience and more stand-out features under my belt. Although I have been cheekily dubbing myself the proprietor of a ‘self-run society and culture website’ on my CV, the million-word ramblings of my 15/16-year-old self aren’t likely to be the milkshake that would bring employers to my backyard. By focusing on how rewarded I will feel after I publish this article and share it with the world (bit big for my boots, but friends and family sounded a tad less dramatic), I feel the drive to achieve that dopamine hit.

2. Minimise distractions, start the task and view anything that follows as progress — even the imperfect or unsatisfactory parts are part of the journey!

Sounds obvious, yes, but often the wannabe-motivated-unmotivated are too overwhelmed to even begin a task. Sometimes they also begin a task and immediately find themselves checking for non-existent notifications and watching procrastination videos on how to stop procrastinating. It’s cliche, but everything is easier once you have started it, just because you have more information to work with — however, set that Pomodoro timer, put your phone on the other side of the room and stay focused for a limited time only to get that proud feeling once it’s over. You may even have an actual notification waiting to reward you — keep ’em waiting! Even if it feels like you just aren’t ‘getting it’ — that’s helping you realise what direction you need to go in, perhaps asking for help or mulling it over.

There have been demoralising times when I have started an essay and it has resulted in me staring at a screen for 12 hours — in between the terrifying cycle of self-sabotage that is going off task and feeling guilt (particularly if the deadline is close) but not being able to stop — and making absolutely zero progress towards the final product. This is where brainstorming and activity come in, so long as you are actively contributing towards something that you can later alter or edit — or simply doing lots of background research — this will all have its place in bringing you one small step closer to just putting that information together for the end-goal. I wrote five paragraphs for this article that cringed the life out of me when I re-read them before I wrote a paragraph I was semi-happy with and decided to push on and edit everything later. If you have clear mini goals to finish each day — as we will come to next — or timers when focusing (whichever works best for you), then distractions become less appealing because you have a manageable task that is allowed to be imperfect.

I find in cases where you feel really stuck and alone that teamwork or asking for a pair of fresh eyes (sounds a bit disturbing, apologies) can be hugely beneficial. As social beings, sometimes all we want is reassurance — to know that we are on the right track — so ask for help! Help will put you on the right path and give you the confidence to know that you can progress in the task because you’re doing well and you have support! Bringing other people into your goals — whether friends, family, lecturers, or teachers — will make them more accessible and less lonely. Rather than mammoth-sized, daunting, and overwhelming tasks that you have to face alone and feel guilty for ignoring, they include other people who can be your safety net for stress, hold you accountable and point you in the right direction. It’s better to be a self-starter with a support network and an appreciation for others’ ideas than a self-starter who never finished because they put all the pressure on themselves.

3. I’m sorry but it’s here, hidden down the bottom so you wouldn’t immediately stop reading…start in advance, break it into chunks, and pace yourself to avoid last-minute overwhelm

This is a classic tip for deadlines — and a rather rage-inducing one when it’s being told-you-so style levied at you because you have once again left something to the last-minute and are in the middle of a breakdown. The truth comes out: the times I have unproductively stared at a screen for 12 hours have more often than not been dangerously close to deadlines. Naturally, this has amped up my fear and made it impossible to organise the masses of new information I need to cherry-pick in a way I am satisfied with; making it difficult for me to work my way through the task at all and making self-sabotaging scrolls of Instagram my new favourite activity — all while its 6am and the 2pm deadline seems to be hurtling towards me at a normal-time-defying rate. These are last-minute induced ruts that make it extremely difficult to concentrate and wreak havoc with your mental state.

Instead, use step one to get excited about an end-goal — like getting the best mark you’ve ever got on a piece of coursework — and then set bursts of time aside in the day to work towards your task. Make sure all your deadlines and commitments are in a calendar well in advance. If you start early enough, you can take really short periods of time each day to work towards your goal. Just make sure you actually are being productive in that time; the moment you feel yourself falling into a rut or getting frustrated, stop. Go for a run or a swim, read a book or watch a tv show. Then, come back to your task and try again — you have time.

One of the first things I now do with tasks is break it down into smaller chunks (yes, this may be what ‘planning’ is, but this phenomenon is new to me and I like the word ‘chunks’). This helps with feeling overwhelmed by simplifying the task, making it easier to start, and bringing you moments of reward that spur you on every time you finish a chunk. You feel like you are actually making progress. In written pieces, I create three or four headlines and then look at it as only around 500 words for each headline — the task becomes way more manageable, and you can put away your work for the day when you complete one chunk (knowing that you’re en route to the finish line and so deserve to be bingeing mind-numbing television!).

Refer to step two and ask for help if you need it. If you start in advance, you can afford to be in a momentary rut and it not stress you out too much, the key is just to make sure you come back to it later on and do something about that rut; do not just start avoiding the task. This is why leaving tasks last-minute is so dangerous, it may be that you end up in a rut that there is no time to get out of!

Eat, sleep and exercise properly; maintain a balance between work, socialising and resting. Avoid making your work the nightmare last-minute task that sees all balance go out of the window. I’m sure that you’ve told yourself you will do this before but then, whoops, another deadline tomorrow! So, pick something right now that is in a few weeks or a few months, perhaps a book off an upcoming school or university reading list, and take half an hour out of your day to get cracking (maybe in the morning so that it’s over and done with, or before you watch your night-time TV show so that you have a reward right after). The more you establish a rewarding routine for your brain, the easier it will get and the more in control you will feel over your life — which means less chance to feel overwhelmed.

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Once you attach motivation to the feeling of reward (or the dopamine hit) you get from completing a task that you have re-framed with the above guide, it will show you it is possible to reinvent even the most tedious of tasks and always do something that feels meaningful to you at your own manageable pace. Even if you don’t achieve the outcome you wanted, you achieved the task because you had a goal in mind — as well as pride in yourself for leaving your own unique print on it. There is plenty of time to improve and actually achieve the goal — the first part is just getting the things done that you need to get done!

P.S. I am now having doubts about this article, but you know what — I completed it, I will post it, I will get that sense of reward, I will write another article and I will improve. You have to start somewhere with this motivation cycle and it won’t necessarily be perfect, and that’s okay!

Words are Powerful, Words are Poisonous

All statistics in this article came from the “Ditch the Label” 2016 Annual Bullying Survey: Annual Bullying Survey 2016.

What in the world would drive a person to want to hurt, humiliate and degrade another person so badly that it would make them want to die? A question that should not have an answer…yet according to the 2016 annual bullying survey of the UK, 1.5 million young people aged 12 to 20  — that’s a staggering 50% of young people — had been bullied in that year. Of these, 33% were having suicidal thoughts. Biologically speaking, surely the aim of our lives is survival? So, for humans to be considering ending their own lives, something somewhere has gone catastrophically and unforgivably wrong.

Continue reading Words are Powerful, Words are Poisonous

Power Imbalance

Featured Image: “Don’t Rape – D7K 9862 ep” by Eric Parker is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Link to the license deed. 

This poem is aimed at a culture that is founded on a lack of respect and a power imbalance that is instilled from a young age. This poem attacks a system that excuses, tolerates and even encourages rape through everyday actions undertaken by all of us. Rape and sexual assault do not discriminate based on gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity or religion. In this poem and article I am primarily focusing on gender inequality in society in terms of the age-old power imbalance that is still very much present today for women when it comes to women as sexual beings and the rights a woman has over her own body. 

To be a girl is to be asked to be afraid

to wake up every day

made to feel it’s not your place to say

to feel intimidated,

forced to back away,

*

because you’re laughed at for taking a stand

against something they don’t understand,

like trying to ignore an unwanted hand,

to conform to societal standards

so deeply ingrained we automatically obey

to feel like you can’t trust a man

unless you’re prepared to pay

with your body not your brain

is the validation worth the pain?

*

tell yourself you aren’t worthless,

tell yourself that you deserved it,

convince yourself it was worth it,

that he didn’t do it on purpose,

*

expected to allow yourself to be objectified

lad culture that fakes being rectified

because of the idea that no means yes,

means “how about convince me instead”

but you don’t belong inside my head,

*

rape isn’t about sex,

it’s about power and violence

failed education

a need to remain silent

because of an existence of tolerance

a subject that is trivialised,

joked about with slander,

catastrophically undermined.

*

Don’t rate me, we are people not hotels

on the contrary to archaic, yet relevant, opinion,

I do have a brain and feelings as well,

so don’t call me a bitch, forget the word slut

don’t decide whether I am worthy

based on my boobs or my butt,

I am not a prize or a possession

going to say something crude?

then please just be quiet

I hear you judge girls so loudly

and I’m so sick and tired,

*

Your indifference isn’t powerful or cool,

it’s narrow-minded and it’s cruel,

don’t tell me I’m on my period when I challenge your views

don’t dismiss what I’m saying,

or assume that I’ll lose,

if  you feel uncomfortable,

if you think this is unnecessary

that women don’t battle every day

that we don’t walk alone at night

paranoid that we’re being chased

then maybe you should break your mould,

hurry home in her shoes, think a different way, 

*

realise that we still live in a society

that judges a girl for what her body has to offer

mostly in the way a girl looks, will she prosper

my worth is attributed to my physical appearance,

dependent on rib shattering corsets in the clearance

*

an ‘equal’ society where girls aren’t even aware

that in relationships, in jobs,

they don’t get their share,

a generation obscured by the illusion

that everything nowadays is equal and fair,

ladies, this is still a fight for our rights

being catcalled,

being inappropriately touched because it’s “flirting”

should not be a normal part of every day life

*

It’s a removal of autonomy,

taking away my right to decide

what happens to my own body,

to strip me of my dignity, my pride,

*

A question triggered by rape culture:

when you make a sexist joke,

or objectify with something vulgar

when dehumanising remarks are excused

with “boys will be boys”

does that mean all I am as a woman

is simply a man’s toy?

*

We teach little girls that if a boy hits them

it’s because he likes her

that if a boy is mean to you

it’s just because he wants to be with you,

so what did we expect to happen next

when that same boy becomes a teenager

and he abuses a girl and has no respect,

because he was taught that’s how to connect,

to mistreat her and touch her like she’s his pet.

*

On the flip side girls are taught to allow it to happen

the idea it’s normal and it’s because he loves her

instilled in her when he forces himself above her,

then, society labels her a pushover

people don’t have to say it, they think it’s her fault

after all…“she allowed him to control her”

*

it’s a vicious cycle of slut shaming

of “banter”, bets and victim blaming

this leads to normalisation

this creates a society that condones degradation,

because of our horrific inability to hold a conversation,

to call people out on sickening comments,

to talk to them about how their mind-set

is the catalyst for a system

that breeds harassment and rape,

that covers a woman’s mouth with tape,

*

whistling and making lewd comments,

acting as though you are superior

only ever focused on the exterior

exerting dominance and power,

it’s an age-old imbalance

of girl as the unwilling, delicate flower

*

sexual coercion, threats and groping,

your pathetic response is that you were only joking,

but tell me whether you’re still laughing

when your own little girl can’t walk alone at night

for fear of being violated again,

unable to tell anyone

a rapist tells her to stop overreacting

that it was just a bit of “fun”,

*

she would be slated

so it won’t be reported

she feels it would be disregarded, labelled unimportant

thrown out of court, she’d be told that

she wanted it, told that it’s a grey area

with no deterrence, walking alone’s even scarier

*

a justice system that allows rapists to walk free

a justice system that doesn’t bring women peace.

Molestation can make girls feel dirty and weak,

they feel they don’t have a right to speak

because she’s a slut and she’s a liar,

because she was drunk and vulnerable

and you somehow mistook that for desire.

*

Encouraged through a sense of normality

if a girl’s skirt is too short

“she’s clearly asking for it”

making a girl change her clothes

rather making a boy change his mindset

attitudes like this are not uncommon

in fact they’re so typical

you won’t even realise it’s a problem

*

a romanticised portrayal

of sex without consent, of controlling abuse,

of fantasised relationships where women

are on a lead, can’t be let loose,

*

welcome to a world that can successfully market

irrelevant products with a half-naked woman

welcome to a world that places a target

on the backs, on the bodies of young girls,

making it seem right

like a girl shouldn’t put up a fight

because their bodies are exploited

constantly sexualised,

in television, in music, in the media

this is what marketing is feeding us

*

capitalising on a woman’s insecurities

picking out appearance-based flaws rather than making her believe

teaching young boys that girls are meek

that they’re main purpose is to look pretty,

to give you pleasure

definitely not to stand up, to speak,

because if they do then they must “hate all men”…

get over yourself, we just want it to end.

*

Being progressive isn’t just not expecting girls to play

with barbies and dolls and princesses

when, to social media influenced standard beauty conventions,

young girls are defenceless

*

growing up being told you aren’t good enough

that if you aren’t pretty then you won’t be loved

cutthroat comments revolving around appearance

the shape of her body prioritised over achievements,

female celebrities are scrutinised

make the front cover of magazines

because they have cellulite on their thighs

and wait, god forbid they should have stretch marks

acne, a bloated stomach, blemishes and scars

*

when society and media dissect a woman

and tear her apart,

all that is natural, normal and wonderful

has been ridiculed and deemed repulsive,

an unspoken acceptance,

both men and women are the ones who condone this

*

forcing a woman to look a certain way

disregarding what she has to say,

because she’s a “man hater who’s just annoyed

that nobody wants to sleep with her and she can’t get boys”

*

why is a woman’s duty to please others?

to satisfy and pleasure a man,

to raise a child, to forget her own plans.

*

Girls are taught they are not sexual beings

love is the only thing a girl should be feeling

and if not she’s humiliated, she’s called a “slag”

while boys are congratulated, clapped on the back

*

why is it that girls are always sexualised

feminists are vilified

young girls are victimised?

*

but it’s not just boys belittling girls

girls putting down each other

hell bent on trying to make each other suffer,

ridiculing, bitching, judging, alienating

not sticking together as one

being divided by internalised misogyny and aiming the gun

*

let’s instead unite and destroy rape culture

because I would love to live in a world

where I feel comfortable and safe on my own

where I don’t walk the streets with my only comfort

being I have the emergency number already dialled on my phone.

*

So finally, if you ever look at me and

probably subconsciously

think that I am not strong

that I can be hurt and pushed around

that you can force me into backing down

simply because I’m a woman,

well, take your best shot,

patronise me, dismiss me, call me a “thot”

my sexuality and my body are mine

*

sexual assault isn’t just wrong because it’s a crime

it’s wrong because it’s the sickening silencing of a person’s voice,

the evil theft of a human being’s choice,

an abominable and monstrously violent act

that is excused and normalised and that’s a fact,

but you can’t take my power or make me shut up

so maybe you should back down

because your time is up.

Rape culture is the normalisation of sexual violence such as assault and abuse, it often involves the idea that the victim is in some way culpable for the actions taken by their aggressor. Unfortunately rape is viewed as something that is inevitable, it is systematic and encouraged through jokes, music, advertising, everyday language and images we are exposed to. Small actions can reinforce and excuse more detrimental actions such as sexual harassment and rape. In our society there exists a trivialisation of sexual harassment as seemingly harmless actions, such as a man putting his hand on a girl’s thigh when the touch is unwanted, making inappropriate or lewd comments on someone’s appearance, catcalling, making sexist jokes These actions are not compliments, they are threats,  although this may not be apparent, what you have to think of it as is one human being exerting power over another, degrading them perhaps without meaning to and potentially making them feel vulnerable or uncomfortable and unsafe.

Some girls do not mind being catcalled, as it is commonly perceived to be a compliment. Being praised for the way one looks can make a person feel good about themselves. Taking pride in yourself and feeling self-confident is a wonderful and important thing – being objectified and made to feel uncomfortable is not. This permanent focus and expectation on a girl’s physical appearance is extremely damaging, it teaches young girls that all that really matters is the way they look, that this is how they can validate themselves, in gaining the approval of men. It prioritises looking good for others over being comfortable within yourself and loving yourself. Equally there are far more socially acceptable and polite, respectful ways to go about complimenting a girl than whistling at her, she is a human beingnot a dog and treating her in this degrading way has a knock on effect, excusing far more extreme actions because degradation becomes normal and tolerated. While I am sure that many boys do not catcall with the intention of humiliating a girl, unfortunately that is not far from what this is, catcalling or calling out an obscene comment relating to a woman’s body as she walks by is an example of a man exercising his power over a woman, it is said for no reason other than to comment on a woman’s body as though it is public property and there is nothing a woman can do in response to this. This means that no matter how inappropriate the comment is and how uncomfortable it makes the woman feel the man is in control because he feels he has the right to make this remark to a woman he does not know and will likely never see again, which is why such crude comments and actions are for no other reason than because he can, the man expects no outcome, and although it seems innocent enough it is actually a reassertion of dominance that continues to reinforce this power imbalance for women in society.

Recently with many allegations of rape and sexual assault coming to light in Hollywood, it seems as though some people have entirely misinterpreted the positive and brave message of the Time’s Up movement, instead complaining that girls are overreacting and that flirting and friendly touches are not sexual assault, I agree, no they are not intended to be, but that choice is an individual one, it is not about simply patting someone’s shoulder playfully and wondering what the big deal is, it is about judging a situation. If a woman is clearly uncomfortable with being touched then don’t do it again, I do not understand why it seems to be so difficult to comprehend. You cannot just assume that a woman is perfectly fine with being touched, but then again maybe she might be, either way it is her choice and that is important to remember to remove the power imbalance and ensure the choice a woman has over her body is her own. It is all about reading a situation and making sure that boundaries are not being inappropriately crossed. This is not about women “overreacting”, it is about finally eradicating a culture of women being sexual objects, of fighting against this judgement instilled in so many people that if a girl is inappropriately touched or raped she is in some way “asking for it”.

It is so easy to sit and read this and think that you would never ever follow that train of thought and victim blame but it is something that is ingrained in our society, when something happens we question what a girl was wearing or whether she had been drinking and that in itself is taking focus away from the fact that rape is rape and rape is always inexcusable, it cannot be “slightly excused” or made to seem like less of an issue by challenging the victim’s part in it because THE VICTIM HAS NO PART IN RAPE, THE FAULT ONLY EVER LIES WITH THE RAPIST. I accept that people have responsibilities and that girls should be aware of the dangers they could  potentially face, when walking alone at night for example, but how sad is it that it has to be that way, if only we lived in a society that could teach humans not to rape as well as it teaches girls that they should compete for male attention.

Victims can feel unable to do anything to stop what they are experiencing, resulting in feelings of helplessness and creating an obvious power imbalance within society between men and women. This behaviour is still completely unacceptable, regardless of how small or irrelevant it appears making victims feel as though they have lost the rights over their own body or humiliated and objectified is never acceptable. Failure to address this as an issue can be seen in something known as  “lad culture” casual comments that degrade others, words such as “slut” and “slag” are thrown around a lot, usually in reference to a female, this makes women feel shame, they are told they are not allowed to be sexual beings yet girls are sexualised constantly by men, this means that a girl does not have power over her own sexuality but instead a man has this power that should belong to her. We are making it socially acceptable to label and dehumanise another person, and this can result in people not respecting the rights an individual has over their own bodies, exploiting, controlling and harassing them out of a lack of understanding and normality. 

Women are told from a young age not to dress “provocatively”, not to walk alone at night and to watch how much alcohol they consume. We teach girls to not get raped rather than teaching boys not to rape. Girls are frowned upon for being sexual beings but are sexualised every single day, the problem is not with a girl’s clothing, a girl has the right to wear whatever she wants, the problem is with a society that has sexualised the bodies of young girls and all women, implying they are public property, that they exist to appease men and although this is an indirect and subliminal message, it is a troubling one that goes hand in hand with rape culture. We are all completely aware that rape itself is wrong, but the little things like unwanted touch and degrading words make rape seem that bit less serious and makes it much more understandable as to why it happens so much more often than anyone would expect, people do not realise that what they are doing is wrong because it seems so normal. It’s the “grey” area surrounding rape that needs to be considered, for example a man who excuses rape because he was drunk can allow him to escape jail time or receive a much shorter sentence however a woman being drunk at the time of rape is blamed for her actions and made to feel ashamed and as though she is to blame for not being “more sensible”.  Alcohol, being on streets at night, provocative clothing are not at all causes of rape. The cause is always, the rapists themselves. A culture has been created where rapists and offenders do not even realise they are taking advantage of another person. These perceptions must be changed.

85,000 women and 12,000 men (aged 16-59) are raped each year in England and Wales alone, that’s roughly 11 adults raped an hour, an enormous and terrifying number, however only around 15% of these cases get reported. This is a startling figure and the reasons behind the low percentage of reports are even more disturbing. People do not feel comfortable coming forward and reporting rape, 20% fear retaliation from people who may blame them in some way for the rape, while many also believe the police would not do anything to help or that it was not important enough to report, these feelings are all a product of rape culture which acts to silence victims and encourage the normality of actions that condone sex crimes.

Take Off Your Blindfold

Featured Image: ‘Modern Man Television Brainwash‘ by Dimitris Vetsikas on Pixabay.

This is a poem about indifference and the selfish attitudes of the modern age that prevent us from opening our eyes to the real world.  It is about how we play straight into the hands of the media because we are successfully made to feel as though we are lacking and not meeting the required expectations for certain elements of our being. We are made to feel as though we are not pretty enough, not manly enough, not cool enough, not desirable enough. All of which, in turn, makes us inward looking and not appreciative of what we do have; as well as allowing us to live in ignorance and turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, even when we possess the privilege to help.

The oblivious ignorance of a western nation,

lives dictated by technology infiltration,

an inability to look at the world beyond a screen,

arrogant ideology, inward looking,

yet we do not mean

to alienate, to excommunicate

*

a refusal to acknowledge problematic

behaviour unless it’s at our own expense,

instead we live in a bubble of blissful pretence,

rose tinted goggles are our item of choice,

no real use of our voice,

*

irrelevant chatter, pointless conversation,

reality TV, watching intoxicated misogynists mock

an entire working generation,

while another human has their rights stolen.

Without a voice, without a choice,

but we have voices, we have choices,

talk is cheap and our morals are weak,

we don’t use our freedom of speech to actually speak

for someone who does not have that same privilege.

*

A generation made in the image of indifference

a simple minded misunderstanding of respect,

consuming misinformation, refusing intellect

no hunger for knowledge, no curiosity for life,

the misplaced values of our culture

Not humans, no humanity, lacking in empathy,

desensitised vultures

shaped and moulded to behave a certain way,

*

television teaches girls to compete for men,

online searches say acting ‘unthreateningly’ dumb is sexier than picking up a pen,

boys don’t think it’s okay to cry,

toxic masculinity, it’s impossible to deny

we’re poisoning our minds, poisoning a new generation,

frying our brains, encouraging objectification,

advertisement of genital mutilation as a cosmetic procedure

while we try to stop it happening to frightened young girls against their will,

a stomach-churning act of enforced control,

the need to change a stomach-turning, backwards and unprogressive protocol,

a display of nefarious dominance in the name of protection,

when destructive religious tradition meets western ideas of perfection,

there is a worryingly apparent intersection,

two equally disturbed ideologies,

a paradox of cosmetic, self serving plastic surgery jobs

and an uneducated mother’s muffled apologies.

*

So tear your eyes away from the screen 

open your eyes to the sickening social expectations becoming a reality,

open your eyes to your deteriorating lack of intellectuality,

to the old fashioned and barbaric lack of sanity

to the similar needless use of inappropriate,

demeaning profanity,

to the irrelevant “celebrities” with an absence of integrity,

to the social division,

to the violent and sexist, hate encouraging television,

to the loss of an age old inquisition

and a return to an age old oppression,

to our need for a revolution, an intervention

to our constant need for attention.

*

Practice what you performative preach,

believe in what you self-righteously teach

I am aware that sometimes I don’t

but keep the blindfold over my eyes from now on?

I definitely won’t.

Before you read this, I should probably make the important point that I am not generalising everyone. When I refer to the western community as “we”, I of course do not mean every single member of our society. I am instead making references to common notions that in my own opinion, are prominent within our society but not ones that necessarily apply to each individual.

We are becoming far too immersed in a materialistic lifestyle, one where we are so deeply submerged in a world ruled by social networks and modern media publicity, constantly surrounded by ideas of perfection and how we should be living our lives. This can make it so difficult for us to escape the new information age and to remain conscious of what is actually taking place in the real world, we are turning a blind eye to important values such as respect and compassion, values that are degraded and definitely lacking every time you turn on the television to be repeatedly exposed to violence and hate speech, to reality television that entertains the general public by filming unknown, conceited individuals who prance across a screen wearing little clothing before watching them drink themselves into a violent state, pushing each other around, screaming senseless profanities, watching girls pull out each other’s hair

extensions, while their faces are streaked with black mascara tears and fake eyelashes dangle from their eyelids at an awkward angle, and for some reason this is expected to give people some warped sense of enjoyment…

Now, I am not saying that reality television and horrifically violent and graphic shows need to be buried and forgotten or that absolutely no good comes from such shows (although that is a different matter entirely) but I am saying that when watching them we need to recognise and understand the damage that this is no doubt causing a generation who’s whole lives are dictated and influenced by these sources. We need to bear in mind that this is not the behaviour we should seek to replicate but the behaviour that highlights the wrongs within our society. I’m talking about children who are being raised to believe that drugs should be romanticised, that you won’t ever be loved unless you can make yourself look like the unachievable and unrealistic goals set for you.  Those broadcast by social media, even if this means risking your own life by going under the knife in the hopes of meeting conventional beauty standards.  The constant exposure to humans insulting and discrediting other humans because of the way they look, to the snide and derogatory comments made by not just men but women on reality TV in regard to the way another woman looks, simply because her boyfriend or love interest glanced in the direction of this other woman.  Perhaps it’s a man showcasing inexcusable lad culture by objectifying and “rating” women, using them and playing with their emotions, acting as a role model for boys everywhere who copy him because they deem him to be “cool”, rather than using him as an example of exactly how not to behave.

We are living in an age where we all need this constant validation of our own self worth and in order to achieve it we feel it necessary to put someone else down to build ourselves up. This in turn means that we are too busy worrying about how we act and what we say, the way we look, focusing all of our energy on ourselves.  In a highly judgemental and malicious society, who can really blame us for being self centred when we are the product of such a superficial and intolerant set of ideals? We do not take note of all the chaos and injustice in other people’s lives or in other parts of the world. It is clear to see that our western society has its own downfalls and its own systematic flaws to deal with, however the one luxury we often fail to acknowledge is our power to make a difference.  Our freedom to protest corrupt activity and our freedom to give a voice to those who cannot speak out, by using our freedom of speech not for demeaning and disrespecting but for rightfully fighting for the good of humanity and what will help and liberate people rather than tear them down.

I am suggesting that we need to discourage people from being small-minded and from accepting social media and television as a reality that need not be challenged because it has become a normality and instead to live in the real world and begin making a change so that we can eradicate the ignorance and the indifference and actually all make a real difference. There is no denying that technology, internet and the media has provided an amazing platform to spread a positive message to inspire change and to allow our voices and opinions to be heard and so I believe we should channel this and make the most of the opportunity. We need to stop technology from exploiting and manipulating us so that social drama and self hate becomes the top of our list of priorities and instead open our minds to looking away from the screen, to rediscovering imagination, curiosity, a hunger for knowledge, an ability to resist what we feel challenges our human rights as well as the human rights of others, an ability to want to help others and an ability to speak out rather than living in our own heads, constantly feeling as though we aren’t good enough.

Freedom of Belief

We are currently living in a society where there still appears to be a lack of respect for the beliefs of others. One where stereotypes are unfortunately not uncommon, whether it’s racial stereotypes, gender stereotypes, ethnic stereotypes or religious stereotypes.

The poem below addresses such stereotypes, as well as the way in which people of authority and power (throughout history) have sometimes attempted to take away culture and diversity because it does not fit in with their beliefs or their vision. Or, maybe because they have made stereotypical assumptions about a whole group of peoples depending on their religion or race. They mask this desire to control using the rhetoric of “freedom” but in fact are actually just dictating the way they feel someone should be living and making that choice for them as opposed to targeting extremism. This serves to show how terrorism can be a course of action taken to supposedly combat acts of terrorism committed by other groups of people. The poem also touches on the way we, in the western world, are becoming desensitised to what is going on in other countries due to continuous media exposure to “nameless” people who have died, remembered as a statistic as opposed to a valued human life.

What’s the cost of keeping people safe,

another human’s life at stake?

So, torture of people of a certain race

is allowed, because you think it’s justified,

if it makes your anxious fears subside,

looking for someone “different” to yourself,

a place to shift the blame,

but look to your own,

look to the people you know,

it’s homegrown,

but I’m glad you feel protected

while a 5 year old daughter cries

because her daddy is having to hide,

hunted for his race, for the colour of his face,

an assumption of a person’s identity

based on their religion, reasons for their entity,

an unforgiving, irreversible label

an uneducated collectivisation of minds,

an elimination of individuality,

“because if someone is of the same religion

surely they must all be the same”,

the only option to you seems clear

the murder of a million innocent civilians,

a mass genocide,

an air strike to target terrorism

that only serves to recruit

terrorsits,

but then again terrorism exists

in all religions,

in all types of peoples,

radicalism, extremism,

the dark side of human nature,

those hungry for power and control.

So why do we antagonise one religion,

insulting their judgement,

their intelligence,

dictating their temperament,

one race, one ethnicity

when everyone is capable of atrocity,

terrorism is not bound to religion,

if your son, your brother, your mother

were killed by a foreign government,

would you not seek to rise up

to fight against the evil, the corrupt,

for enforcing their culture on a broken nation

so many people

dead,

a product of hate grown and then bred,

grown from an abundance of

ignorant perceptions,

choices made throughout history,

spread by modern media, publicity,

carried out with merciless artillery,

children lying dead in a war zone,

a war zone that was their home,

but you see everything in black and white,

your mind is monochrome.

So see the wider picture, 

peace from violence is non existent,

war and conflict serves to fuel hate,

maybe not now but for a future date.

The problem is people,

the problem is me,

the problem is you,

the problem is us,

being desensitised to murder,

murder of the average man on the street

only looking to provide for his family,

nameless children in faraway countries

killed by our own,

and yet we feel so detached from it,

dodgy deals and lying politicians,

the problem is an unchallenged vision,

the problem is a vicious cycle,

a repeating cycle of history, an unsolved mystery,

a need to end discrimination targeted at a specific

group of people,

a need to stand for our rights

and defend the rights of those that remain voiceless

without enforcing our beliefs on other people,

leaving them choice-less.

Freedom is not freedom,

if you are choosing what belief system

people should follow,

whether religious, whether political, this is

when freedom becomes suppression,

when freedom is filtered,

because you believe in freedom but only if

it is your idea of freedom.

This blog post will primarily focus on religious stereotypes and religious beliefs. I would firstly like to address what “terrorism” is, as well as the views some people hold in regard to terrorism and the way in which this relates to religion. It is crucial to drive the words “terrorism has no religion, terrorism has no race” so deep into your mind, until you feel as though you will never inadvertently stereotype and speak hatefully or hurtfully towards a certain population of peoples who are just as distressed by terrorism as you are.

The definition of terrorism:

1.
The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
2.
The state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorisation.
3.
A terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Now, perhaps one person, from one religion, commits an act of terrorism in the name of this religion. This is not religion. This is one person, whose ideology differs from the majority of others within the religion. This is one person, one psychologically disturbed individual who feels justified in murdering and terrorising, in inciting fear within citizens and societies. The same can be said for terrorist groups who make up the minority of a religious population, this is a grouping of individuals who do not share in the same ideologies as other of followers of the same faith. So, all the followers of this faith should in no way be held accountable or blamed for actions taken by individuals who definitely do not represent the religion as a whole nor the mindset of all its followers.

Religion should not have to be a label, a person’s defining factor, each individual will have their own thoughts, their own opinions, an ability to make up their own mind. Being part of a religious community can give someone a sense of belonging and some would argue, a sense of identity, but I believe people do have a right to decide, only they can decide on who they want to be, on what makes them the person they are. I am no expert on this topic, but I do have the fundamental belief that everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions, that every race, every ethnicity, every faith, every way of life should be respected as should every individual, unless there is any known discrimination or intolerance of other cultures and beliefs, unless there is violence being actively encouraged and abided by within a population of believers, then I do not see the harm in one person seeking a greater meaning or sharing in a purpose with other believers. We should eradicate our preconceived judgement of religions and instead value believers as individuals, for their own views and opinions, for what they have to offer to the world as a person, the relationship between them and their God, despite what people seem to think, is absolutely nothing to do with us.

For me, problems begin to arise when when outdated and prejudiced religious teachings from centuries ago are applied to current times, for example, these teachings may encourage mistreatment of women or discriminate against gay people or people of different ethnicities. I do see a problem with people in a developing world who continue to live by these old fashioned values and practices as I would prefer to live in a socially progressive world where everyone has a right to be respected and everyone has a right to live in a safe and secure environment free of age old beliefs that could result in hate crimes and inequalities, or a belief that one human being is superior to another human being. Although I completely understand these ancient teachings may undoubtedly be embedded in these societies as teachings that are instilled in them from an early age and in order for this to change it will take education and time. We are now living in  a nation that should stand for values of acceptance, freedom, safety, and rights for everyone, in a nation that should show an intolerance for acts that contradict or go against these values, and for this reason people need to adapt any ancient and discriminatory values from a completely different time to more accepting values that fit in with modern times, times that I hope encourage and fight for acceptance, progression and social equality.

To judge someone’s character based on a narrow minded and unjustly appointed stereotype says more about your character than about theirs. To put it more confusingly, your hate of the hate of a group of individuals who have terrorised your way of life has overcome your sense of what is right and wrong, your sense of level headed observation, and now you are the one who is inspiring and directing hate towards an innocent group of people because your black and white vision has given you an inability to differentiate individual choice from religion.

The Importance of Appreciation

Growing up, the words that meant the most to my parents coming from me were not “I love you”, as is probably more commonly used to show how much a person means to you. The three magic words in our case were in fact, “I appreciate you”, and so this is why I have grown up feeling strongly that to appreciate someone or something is far more important than people realise. To show someone sincere appreciation is to value someone, and to let someone know that you appreciate them is to truly recognise the good qualities in that person, and to encourage these good qualities to be shown time and time again.

Love is an important emotion, it is one that is intense, one that is all consuming and one that does in some cases comes naturally, whether it is the love between a family or the love of a friend or a partner. But love is a feeling that we cannot necessarily have for everyone, no matter how hard we try, unlike appreciation, which we can have for everyone. We can appreciate everyone as a human being and we can treasure and value them as an individual. We can appreciate that we are in good health, we can appreciate teachers for motivating us, we can appreciate literature because it gives us the ability to learn and to imagine, we can appreciate art, we can appreciate doctors for saving the lives of our friends and family, we can appreciate our senses, our legs for allowing us to walk, we can appreciate the beauty of a rainbow, we can appreciate the kindness of strangers, we can appreciate that we have a home to go back to at the end of each day, we can appreciate that we have easy access to food and water, we can appreciate that we have a bed to sleep in every night, we can appreciate that going through tough times can make us stronger. My point being that these are not things that we can necessarily “love”. They are things that we possibly take for granted and things that we should recognise more for their purpose and their worth. This is why I believe that appreciation gives us a different, more simple and meaningful perspective on life, love can cause pain, love can cause wars but appreciation is simple, it is something that we rarely give the importance or acknowledgement it deserves. Ironic isn’t it? That we don’t even appreciate appreciation.

Appreciation inspires respect, it inspires gratitude and it makes us realise that there are good things in life. Appreciation allows us to understand what life is like for others, an appreciation for the hardship that other people go through, it unites us and makes us people who are more capable of kindness because it allows us to understand worth, to have empathy. Appreciation encourages us to open our eyes to the world and I can honestly say that it makes life so much more worth living, from appreciation we obtain joy and happiness, because we let go of expectation and we are thankful for our own life, however it may differ to what we would expect our lives to be like. When you can appreciate and value what people have to say, when you can appreciate the natural wonders of nature, cascading waterfalls and serene lakes, the wonderful and at times weird nature of the animal kingdom, the picture of the weasel riding on the woodpecker’s back for example, the wonder of different species of animals banding together to look out for or benefit from one another in a symbiotic relationship, even dogs and humans are an example of mutualistic symbiosis, the wonder of bee hives and ant colonies, working in harmony towards their specific purpose. The wonder of life in general.

Humans are complex and so are emotions, but appreciation is not complex, it just takes a moment to stand back in such a hectic world and appreciate the good things, in a way “count your blessings”,  because there is always something worth appreciating. This is why it is so important to tell people that you appreciate them, this is why for my parents, “I appreciate you” was the most heartwarming thing I could say to them, because the word “appreciate” shows someone that you value them, that they matter, it gives them meaning, shows your thankfulness that they have helped you in some way or that they have been there for you, that they have made your life better somehow, that you don’t just “love” them, because they’re your parents or your family or your best friend so the natural assumption according to society is that you should “love” them, but instead you appreciate them. When someone feels appreciated their kindness or trust or selflessness has been consolidated, given purpose and so it will continue. Showing someone that they are appreciated can make their day, it can make their year, it can change the way they view themselves, it can change their life. So, you have the power to change someone’s life, to empower someone, with just three meaningful words, it doesn’t cause you any harm or even take up more than 10 seconds of your time.

Equally as important however, is to remember that there are people in this world who will not show you appreciation, who will not give you the recognition you deserve, but acts of beauty or effort that go unnoticed are not for nothing, we should live without expectation and only appreciation, we should not expect rewards for kindness but instead simply carry out acts that are kind without thought of our own personal gain, and when we stop expecting is when people start appreciating us for our truthful and honest actions. If the people who do not show you appreciation are people who you do not need to keep around you, then do not waste your time and energy on somebody who only serves to drain you, physically or emotionally, and definitely do not start seeing yourself through their eyes because their lack of appreciation does not make you of any less value. Appreciate everything and the acts you do for others will not require any acknowledgement because you will feel content enough within yourself, confident that your actions are in fact helping others and not needing reassurance of it. This is where your own feelings of self-worth come into it, you need to know that you are important. That being said, it is my personal belief that we should be living in a world where people should be telling each other that they are appreciated, that they are important.

Teaching what love is to a 5 year old can prove to be slightly difficult, the overwhelming enormity and meaning of the intense and deep emotion can be too much for a young child to grasp, just as it can for a teenager or adult. Teaching a 5 year old what appreciation is however, is much easier, to teach them that when they are grateful or thankful for something, that when someone has gone out of there way to do something for them, when someone has made life better for them, there are ways of showing appreciation,  in my opinion, this a much more simple concept that is much easier to apply to humanity than love.

My parents definitely do deserve the many “I appreciate you” comments made by me over years, even if some of them may have not been genuine and were instead me trying to get out of sitting on the naughty step…I can tell you now though, that I do appreciate you for doing nothing less than your best for me, for your selflessness and guidance, your patience, and for always being there for me, for your unconditional love and support and for always making me laugh or giving me a shoulder to cry on and of course I appreciate you for teaching me the importance of appreciation. As it is my dad’s birthday today, I would like to share this poem with you in order to express my appreciation for how he has inspired me and shaped me as a person- I also appreciate him being my own personal taxi driver and I also appreciate my occasional loans taken out from the Bank of Dad.

He taught me to respect
to learn how to protect
myself, defend myself,
he taught me to fight,
to not remain silent and sit tight,
to be a shepherd not a sheep,
to make people listen to me speak,
because my opinions are important,
because my views are of value,
he showed me I have a voice,
made me realise how lucky I am to have a choice,
and showed me that for recognition
you need to work, work hard
but dream big, aim for the stars,
to not let life pass me by like
zooming motorway cars,
that anything can be achieved through sheer determination,
confident speech, setting goals and clear vocation,
sometimes we have to agree to disagree,
but strong opinions, strong people,
won’t ever break our family,
because nobody else could deal with our loud nature,
our frustrating inability to sit idly by,
trust me, you should see us try,
so I guess we’re just stuck together,
but with him I wouldn’t mind spending forever,
because my dad taught me what it is to make someone proud,
that hard work and sense of purpose cannot be dulled by a storm cloud,
he taught me not to ever settle,
maybe his temper can boil over like a brewing kettle,
but that’s because he’s so passionate,
a natural born leader,
a self assured preacher,
who would fight for the ones he loves the most,
even when I set off the fire alarms and burn the toast,
I know he still loves me,
and wouldn’t ever put anyone above his family.
As you will be told by me, James and Natalie,
he pushes you to do your best,
teaches you how to protest,
tells you not to take money for granted,
he taught me Blade Runner is enchanted,
that you can change the world single-handed,
an appreciation for works of art,
and that the Killers should always be top of the charts,
so thank you dad,
for sharing your heart,
and for inspiring me,
encouraging me,
to become the independent young lady
that I want to be

All photos containing quotes on this blog were taken from Pinterest and are not my photos.

Society’s Perception of Beauty

Featured Image: ‘Face 10‘ from Flickr by Paul Xhrouet is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Link to license deed.

Do not base your worth on a social construct that varies so broadly dependent on time and place. I beg you.

For people to love themselves and be happy with their own appearance, comparing individuals in terms of how “hot” or how “beautiful” they are needs to stop. Who is to say that one human is more beautiful than another? We all posses our own unique qualities, which shape our individuality. Subjective views on beauty arise from different people who are simply looking for different qualities.

We are being so heavily influenced by the environment we are in, which has created this idea of beauty—which is nothing more than an ephemeral social construct dependent on place and time. That beauty is an outcome of social conditioning should always be remembered. By falsely believing that current media crazes provide a fixed definition of beauty, we create a malicious and judgemental environment that breeds insecurity amongst individuals who are questioning their self worth. Self worth should never be based on physical appearance, yet we are such an appearance-obsessed society, with people constantly comparing themselves to others and feeling as though they are somehow inferior or inadequate.

However, all it takes is a look around the world and a history lesson on beauty standards to see that we can each find a number of our physical characteristics (likely ones that, according to current standards, make us feel insecure) reflected as the ideal at some stage of existence or in some society.

This poem addresses beauty as an ever-changing social construct and the negative impacts that modern day influencers, celebrities, television and the media can have on the younger generation, as well as the vicious cycle of unhappiness that inspires insecurity and self hatred as these children grow up feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. This dangerous mindset can lead to people taking potentially harmful health risks out of desperation to look a certain way because of the stigma surrounding beauty and the qualities that are perceived as “beautiful”.

A strive for perfection

a need for protection,

characterised by unrealistic expectation

the selfish desires of a nation

so it’s approval you seek

without beauty you’re weak

a disease of insecurity

infecting the population

the product of an appearance driven society

media influence and magazines inciting

the sadistic nature of conformity

an unspoken rule to look a certain way

deeply disturbing superficial hearsay

with a devastating effect on intellect

a social construct driven into young minds

little girls using anything they can find

to change themselves, to tear themselves down

aged 15 waiting in line for a cosmetic procedure,

a growing self hatred taking control like a seizure

wearing degrading clothing and a nature defying frown

values upheld through social media, in every city, every town,

a vanity desk crowded with makeup and new faces

lotions and potions reinforcing the devotion

to removing identity, to becoming a clone

spending all day looking up diets, eyes glued to a phone

self absorbed celebrities posting modified bodies,

captions reading  “be yourself” coupled with unnatural people

this is an outrage, shocking hypocrisy

steroids and protein shakes,

a requirement to be a certain weight

for your hair to sit a certain way

for your nose to be a certain shape

qualities we were born with

are judged and scrutinised

we are told to make a health compromise

to fit in with normality, in order to be loved

and those born “beautiful” don’t understand the fuss,

but that’s my issue,

your warped vision does not determine my worth,

my self value,

so who are you to tell me what beautiful is

to tell me it’s not desirable for my hair to have frizz

that my arse is great, but my legs are too big

because my purpose is not to please you,

10 year olds are starving themselves

and maybe you are too.

Social expectations and a company’s wealth

put before my mental health

and those 10 year olds become 40 year olds

hating themselves

because faces like theirs aren’t sold

aren’t publicised on television

aren’t featured in magazines

an infinite cycle that needs to be broken,

so forget what you know,

forget destructive taught values that you hold

corrupt ideas, social necessities you’re told

instead make individuality

your new sense of normality

to stop this nation wide health, happiness and identity

catastrophe

Differing Ideals

So here is a poem I wrote, it is one that highlights some of the key issues within our society on accepting other people’s different beliefs and ideologies as well as the darker side of human nature in terms of power and control. The feature picture is a cultural artist picture I took in China Town in San Francisco, this is to remind people of the beauty of separate cultures as opposed to only looking on the more negative extremist side. This is written from my point of view and the feelings of frustration at the continuous media attention on only distressing and hateful events that inspire fear as well as my exasperation at some people’s inability to understand that different people share in different visions and different beliefs and different people have different values and different ways of life and that there is nothing wrong with that unless this way of life is advocating hate towards a differing way of life- confusing, I know!

It’s hard to have faith

when the entire human race

seems to be up to their waists

in animosity and hate

maybe I’ll go to space

anywhere but here,

just another place,

because some people here forget

the importance of respect

the importance of acceptance

and the emptiness of resentment

hate crimes against humanity

are hate crimes against yourself

why can’t you see that beneath our unique

individuality, we are all from the same shelf

no god, no background, no colour, no love

should divide us, yet we judge each other

based on a bible, a book, a scripture

a man made construct, just like a bridge

something that can unite us or crumble and ignite

intolerance and judgement,

a belief that you are superior

because of your ideals, an inability

to listen, to hear the voices of others,

to embrace those who are different,

but instead you silence their voices,

you steal their human rights,

rights to be who they want to be,

a freedom of choice which they don’t have

because you don’t like what you see

because it goes against your ideals,

but why do you care?

making someone feel small

just isn’t fair,

I could judge you, for being so ignorant

for failing to to understand,

for being so indifferent

certain that your vision is real,

that your vision is right

that you are the puppet master

pulling the strings of man so tight,

deciding to fight

in the name of a religion

created by man,

to murder and to devastate,

an entire race, to attack a culture

to create chaos and incite fear,

no religion was born out of hate,

a pact of guidance between a person and their god

there is no harm in believing

there is no harm in seeking a greater meaning,

but there is harm in genocide, in discrimination,

in encouraging violence and breeding hate,

in playing god yourself,

and amongst all the delirium,

it can be easy to forget,

there are so many other problems,

but we can’t combat them yet

until we stand as one force,

an idealistic thought,

not government taught,

corrupt politicians with narrow minds,

empty promises lacking in empathy,

masked extremist opinions with no humanity,

it’s no wonder I’m losing my sanity,

so maybe I will go to space,

to see if there is another race

where misogyny is an unknown concept,

where they look racism straight in the eye,

where people don’t march for the sake of a change

they don’t understand

but for the good of mankind,

where people feel content,

loving someone of the same sex,

not a life where people are all equal

because that can only lead to the

selfish tendencies of human nature,

but a life where people are understanding,

a life where people wouldn’t rather die

than be themselves,

a life where girls feel comfortable

walking alone at night,

a life where boys are allowed to cry

rather than fight and not show fright,

a life where there are no negative

social constructs,

masculinity, virginity, sexual orientation

the house you were born in,

“the complexion of your pigment”

no unrealistic beauty standards

like the size of your waist,

the size of your nose,

when you look down on your stomach,

if you can see your toes

none of these should matter

hurtful, irrelevant schoolgirl chatter,

a life with only one goal

in sight,

to be kind but also to be honest,

to be opinionated but to be more than tolerant,

to be accepting of others, to realise

what another person does, doesn’t affect you,

because although it may trouble you,

life’s too short, to spend it

stopping someone with the same

biology as yourself, from living their life

just because they challenge false ideals

instilled in you from an early age,

so why don’t you break out of your cage,

and live your own life and instead

be an actor on your own bloody stage

A portal to help you either find wonderland or uncover its flaws…