Gender-equality

“Complimenting” Women At Work Is Sexual Harassment

Don’t tell me my dress looks good on me between the hours of nine to five.

What It’s Like Having A Period When You Live On The Streets

“You just feel disgusting and there’s nothing you can do.”

Were The 2018 Oscars The Most Feminist We’ve Seen?

The Oscars and feminism have historically had a rocky relationship. But this year, something shifted…

Say Hello To The Super Cute New ‘Hijarbie’

Damn, this doll knows how to style a headscarf. 

Rafael Nadal, Tommy Hilfiger And That Underwear Campaign

With the US Open just around the corner, the world’s tennis elite have flocked to New York City to for the final grand slam of the year. However, amidst the frantic last-minute training sessions and nervous pre-tournament press conferences, one tennista is attracting more attention than the others. Former world number 1, Rafael Nadal, has recently been announced as the brand ambassador for Tommy Hilfiger, and the promotion has been a little…interesting.

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Although Rafa promotes the snappy suits and the new Tommy Hilfiger Bold fragrance, the focus is (of course) on the underwear range. When visualising sports stars and their generic underwear campaigns, the mind goes straight to the likes of David Beckham. He’s usually photographed in black and white, posing semi-seductively, face and body shrouded in shadow. The photos, while somewhat sexualised, do not come close to the almost pornographic imagery of female swimsuit and lingerie models. Don’t even start on the objectification of actresses when they promote anything and everything; right down to the last tube of foundation.

However, Tommy Hilfiger has well and truly flipped this sexist double standard on its head. This particular underwear promotion involves a three pronged attack. Firstly; the photo-shoot. It’s done in mostly bold colour, it’s very suggestive, and has a keen focus on Rafa’s extraordinary legs and booty, rather than the more conventional abs/biceps shot (although they certainly get a look in!).

nadal-shirtless

Curious yet? It gets even more fascinating. The second prong was featured yesterday in Bryant Park; a promo event with a twist. Rafa and a number of Hilfiger models (both male and female) took to a red, white, and blue court (Tommy Hilfiger’s signature colours) to play a game of strip-tennis. The rules were simple (and obvious); lose a point…lose an item of clothing. The idea was to eventually reveal the entirety of the Tommy Hilfiger range, bit by tantalising bit. Although Rafa fared better than the models, he lost the jacket, shirt, and tie of his new elastic suit; just enough to keep the fans happy, but still leaving something to the imagination.

Finally, the third tier that has everybody talking. Earlier this week, Tommy Hilfiger released a 30 second TV commercial featuring Rafa, his undies, and a locker room. It can only be described as a striptease worthy of Gypsy Rose Lee. Slowly, Rafa pulls off his shirt, jeans, and eventually his underwear, tosses his briefs at the camera, and saunters out of the room wearing nothing but a thin white towel. Just before he uncovers ‘everything’, the camera cuts to his face. He throws us a truly smouldering look, shakes his head, and turns away. That shake of the head must have broken a million hearts. What a tease.

Although this commercial is clearly a health hazard because it induces breathlessness and chronic fits of the giggles, it shines a new and surprisingly feminist light on the industry of underwear. Rather than the coy, casual imagery of every other undies campaign, Rafael Nadal, in all his Spanish glory, is teased, stripped, and objectified at the very same standard that women are held to.

There is nothing macho about it; no attempt to preserve the reserved/uptight masculine sexuality we are so used to. This is Rafa plus underwear plus raw sex appeal. As Glee star Jane Lynch put it, while hosting the strip-tennis match, it is “reverse sexism”.

But wait; there’s more! In addition, to showing off Rafa’s body in the same way a woman’s would be, Tommy Hilfiger has also moved a step closer to eliminating the standard of hetero-normativity in advertising. Obviously, the ad is aimed at straight men; they all (hopefully) wear undies. However, the overtly sexualised aspect; the portrayal of a male wearing very little clothing is clearly not aimed at women…they don’t wear men’s Tommy Hilfiger briefs (although some of them might after seeing the commercial).

If the global standard of heterosexuality were observed, Rafa would be in the usual Beckham-esque pouty poses. However, the seductive music accompanying the exposure of Rafa’s stunning body plus the steamy glance at the camera is also aimed at homosexual men. Rather than ignoring gay sexuality, this commercial takes it by the horns and uses it as an advertising tool. It’s the same as using women’s sexualised bodies to lure straight men into buying pretty much any product.

Maybe Tommy Hilfiger has dared to be so raunchy because of the European thing; the Spanish are, after all, a bit more comfortable with sexuality than North Americans and Australians. Maybe he subverted the idea of male sexualisation in this way simply to grab our attention. Hey; maybe it was Rafa’s idea. Either way, with or without realising it, Hilfiger has made quite possibly some of the most heartening progress in terms of eliminating the screaming double standard in male vs. female sexualisation. It even has its own hashtag; #tommyxnadal. So thank you, Tommy, for this (quite honestly) ground-breaking campaign. You and Rafa have given us all hope. And speaking of Rafa; it’s fairly certain that his support for the US Open has exploded spectacularly. Let’s hope he wins. As they say in Spain; vamos!

Images via Ilovefashionnews.nl and Mallorcaadiario.com

Hollywood Heroine: What Women Want To See On Screen

There has been a lot of talk recently about the glaringly obvious differences between male and female protagonists in Hollywood films, made even more obvious by the distinct lack of female protagonists. All films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards had a male main character. Not just any character either; they were heavy, quirky, complex, unique, context laden roles ranging from the beautifully historical (Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game) to the downright bizarre (Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson in Birdman).

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However, the fabulously talented women nominated for Best Actress had to be content with the serviceable but archetypical wife/mother/girlfriend/sexy murderess roles that seem to flood modern screenplay. In addition to this, the majority of supporting roles in all film and television are male, and are (again) many and varied in terms of age, shape and size, ethnicity, etc. Women are relegated to the ditzy college student, the ingénue, the pretty, late 20’s lawyer-type and the wise but cranky older lady. There is very little in between.

Hollywood has always been a bit of a boy’s club (hence the lack of female directors/producers), but the absence of the truly female story indicates that this is becoming more, not less, prevalent. The lives and thoughts of women are constantly revealed through a male lens. Whether the world of Hollywood realises it or not, the female experience is secondary to the tales of men. This is a terrible shame, because aside from the obvious gender (and therefore employment) inequality, women are really, REALLY interesting. Why wouldn’t viewers want to see a story filled with wonderful women? We’ve got our own way of thinking and our own unique yarns to spin.

This week, I had a long think about the issue and decided to ask a few of my female friends and colleagues what they specifically would like to see in a Hollywood heroine. What character traits would appeal to them and what do they relate to? Here, in a nutshell, is what women want to see on the big screen.

Katherine

Heroine’s age: I guess anywhere between 20-35, mostly I think I like to watch characters around my own age so I can relate to them better.

Sexuality: Straight

Special skills/superpowers if any: Well I would love for my perfect heroine to be able to defend herself – so have a good knowledge of self-defence skills – maybe some cool Game of Thrones style fighting skills.

Ethnicity: Purely because I want to relate myself to this heroine; Caucasian.

Five words to describe her personality: Kind, loyal, quick-witted, generally intelligent (interested in the world around her), confident.

Financial status: Middle class – working towards making some of her own money – paying for things herself not having her rich kinky boyfriend called Christian Grey do everything for her.

Traditional name or original name (e.g. Elizabeth vs Meadow): Always for the original name. I like names that are different to everyone else.

Country of origin: I honestly don’t have much of a preference. It doesn’t bother me.

Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: I think watching a character who is more bookish and reclusive learn to be more outdoorsy and outgoing would be great, possibly seeing someone who is quite shy coming into themselves and finding a healthy balance between the two.

General Thoughts: I think my perfect Hollywood heroine would have flaws. I don’t want to see someone absolutely perfect on screen and start to compare the inadequacies to myself, especially as I am a real life person; not a perfect, well rounded fictional character.

In terms of qualities in a perfect heroine though, I think I would like to see someone who is generally kind [and] always means well. Maturity that suits the age of the character (I hate nothing more than when the main character – who is an adult – starts to behave like a young teenager over something like a boy).

A lot of Hollywood is about romantic love/relationships. One of my favourite TV shows is Friends, because of the strong bond between those characters that really forms their own little family. I think the perfect heroine in Hollywood would have at least one good friend who she has a strong bond with and won’t discard once something/someone better comes along.

She should be witty; able to hold her own in a conversation, a bit like an Elizabeth Bennett against Mr Darcy!

Annie

Heroine’s age: 37

Sexuality: Maybe a lesbian, but it shouldn’t be the main thing. Like, she should just happen to go home and have dinner with her wife. Or husband. Gay or straight; it shouldn’t be what the movie is about.

Special skills/superpowers (if any): Sailing…and amazing chin-ups. Basically Sarah Connor.

Ethnicity: A real mix. A bit of everything, but not blonde with blue eyes. I had this teacher at school who taught me Latin and she was so beautiful. She had some Egyptian in her I think?

Five words to describe her personality: Capable, gritty, confident (like, Rebel Wilson confident), varied, adventurous.

Financial status: Has some money, but works hard for it (as in, if she’s super rich she should be a top investment banker; no mysterious money please).

Traditional name or original name: I’m a sucker for old names. Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Kitty, Lydia…

Country of origin: Oooh… Australia! No, maybe Iran?

Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: Outdoorsy. I’m so sick of the classic Hollywood girl who sits around designing or reading or writing or some other non-intrusive occupation all day and then a MAN has to come and bring her out into the world. Blah blah.

General thoughts: You didn’t ask about physical shape and size! I’d love someone who’s just normal looking, like a strong body that is beautiful but in a Sarah Connor/Jennifer Ehle from Pride and Prejudice/Emma Thompson. Like, not super sexualised. I miss the days when a woman like Julie Andrews was considered a star. I never saw a hint of boob or even a knee. Not that you SHOULDN’T show your boobs or legs or any of it, but it shouldn’t be why she’s cast.

Fiona

Heroine’s age: 25

Sexuality: Straight

Special skills/superpowers: Super strength. Mind reading.

Ethnicity: Hmm. Any really! There’s an appeal to all.

Five words to describe her personality: Strong, funny, empathetic, determined, just.

Financial status: Middle class.

Traditional name or original name: Original name.

Country of origin: Again, there’s an appeal to any!

Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: Book smart but fit. Perhaps was neither of these things and worked hard at both.

General thoughts: I just find an appeal to someone incredibly average doing extraordinary things and a woman being powerful without the end goal being a man.

Eloise

Heroine’s age: 20

Sexuality: Straight

Ethnicity: Caucasian

Five words to describe her personality: Feminine, witty, clever, dreamer, romantic.

Financial status: Lower-middle class.

Traditional name or original name: Traditional name.

Country of origin: America

Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: Outdoorsy

General thoughts: Confident but not 100 per cent sure of herself. She’d be in fine form but with curves!

Emma

Heroine’s age: Not too young. I think you want a woman who you can tell has experiences under her belt and is confident enough in herself to look the world in the face.

Sexuality: I don’t think in any way this should be a focus of a film and as such I don’t have a real preference for sexual orientation. However, I have often found that some of the women most accessible while still being confident and strong don’t necessarily place a label on their sexuality but are open to just accepting their love for whoever they find themselves in love with at the time (regardless of their partner’s biological sex).

Special skills/superpowers: I love intelligent characters who you can tell are bountiful in wisdom and don’t flaunt this over others but are patient , kind and understanding while still being strong enough to stand up for their opinions, those they love and themselves. These may not seem like extraordinary traits but too often in films women must be either intelligent OR loving OR strong. When she is able to have several of these traits rolled into one, that is when she is given the depth and complexity that a main character should have, and in a way, I see this as a superpower in its own right. I also love a bit of kick ass skills, witty banter, sass etc and an athletic protagonist.

Ethnicity: I wouldn’t have any problem with a Caucasian protagonist, especially because they are most likely to be relatable to my own circumstances. However Latino, African, African American, British African, Spanish, Mediterranean, Egyptian, any ethnicity really would be really cool to see. To have a non-Caucasian woman in a leading role that women can be proud of would be awesome because it reaches out to everyone in a completely different way eg. Lupita Nyong’o or Zoe Saldana would both be incredible.

Five words to describe her personality: Quirky, witty, confident, loving, multifaceted.

Financial status: Doesn’t matter as long as they work hard for their money. A character who works hard for what they have is more accessible for audiences because we get to see a bit of our daily struggles in that character. And if they can be strong, in both the good and bad times, working towards a worthy goal then why not us too?

Traditional name or original name: I absolutely love traditional names and they would be my first choice for any character I write about, but I think the name has to match the character’s attributes (if they’re quirky or stern etc.) and ethnicity of the character. I feel that if a character of a particular ethnic background is the lead then why not give them a name (and indeed experience in the film) that reflects their unique cultural heritage.

Country of origin: No preference.

Bookish and reclusive or outdoorsy and outgoing: I love a character that is intelligent and has a deep respect for learning but why should this mean they can’t also have a love for the outdoors and a deep-seeded belief in themselves that makes them strong and outgoing?

General thoughts: A woman who doesn’t have to be a sex symbol in every seen, who doesn’t have to look like a model. To see a female protagonist’s beauty come from her strength, intelligence, moments of doubt, protectiveness, sense of self-worth is a far greater beauty than looks alone and speaks volumes to audiences. Come on, Hollywood; listen up!

Image via Izismile.com

He’s A Stud, She’s A Skank: The Double Standard Of Slut Shaming

I don’t like the term “slut”. I first encountered it in my early days at an all-girls high school. None of us knew what it meant, so we threw it around as the most casual of insults. That is, until the older girls got wind of it and told us never ever to call a girl that because it was the WORST POSSIBLE THING you could say. “Why? What does it mean?” we asked. The hurried reply was, “It means a girl who has sex with heaps of guys and that’s something you really shouldn’t do, okay?”

There it was – the first time we experienced the phobia of female sexuality. Suddenly, every interaction with a member of the opposite sex was scrutinised. Giggling with a boy on the train? Slut. Kissed more than one guy at the school dance? Whore. Lost your virginity? Skank. The reverse was true as well; if you didn’t talk to boys, wouldn’t kiss anyone, and weren’t sexually active, then you were a frigid prude. You couldn’t win, and you couldn’t say anything about it.

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This paranoia was reinforced by mufti day dress codes; no spaghetti straps, no skirts above the knee, no hipster jeans, etc. It was these laws of appropriate dress that got me wondering. Why were we being forced to cover up? Being a precocious girl, I asked one of the teachers, and expected her to talk about wearing comfortable clothes for learning. Instead, her response (I kid you not) was, “Because we have male teachers at this school, and we need to be considerate of them.”

What the actual what?! How was that fair? And why did she have so little faith in male teachers?! Besides, the local boys schools didn’t have those dress rules. They also didn’t scold each other if one of them went to second base with a girl at so-and-so’s 16th birthday. On the contrary… they CONGRATULATED each other. So why was being a girl so different?

Right from the outset, women are conditioned to be ashamed of their sexuality. We come up against this every day, and not just because of our sex lives. This phobia inhibits our behaviour and the way we interact.

Here’s an example. When I am in a social situation with both men and women, one of the less inhibited men will make a few witty comments loaded with sexual innuendo. The whole group will laugh, happily joke with him, and move onto the next topic. HOWEVER…being fairly uninhibited myself, I will usually make a similar comment a few minutes later. Same context, same tone, same situation (and usually funnier). The reaction is always terrifyingly different. The group will stop, look around nervously, and inevitably say three things:

  1. “Ooh, you’re terrible!”
  2. “I can’t believe you said that!”
  3. “Well, someone’s sexually frustrated…”

There it is again! We now have a triple standard. Not only are women unable to have sex without being shamed, we also can’t even talk about it. It’s not normalised; you’re either terrible, unbelievable, or (my least favourite) sexually frustrated for bringing it up. And sadly, it’s women who do most of the shaming. Who can blame us? Being embarrassed by our own desires has become second nature.

Ladies, it is time to stop punishing each other. If you want to sleep with 10 guys this week, you go ahead and do it (just remember, use a condom). If you only have one guy you want to sleep with, feel free to do that too. Above all else, it’s time to stop using the word “slut”… I can think of more interesting four letter words.

Image via Dailyurbanista.com

How Your Uber Ride Is Helping Women Worldwide

Your cab ride home can now make a difference.

Ride-sharing app Uber has announced they are teaming up with UN Women to transform the male-dominated driver industry for good.

Uber has pledged to create one million jobs for women by 2020, and make more women feel comfortable to get behind the wheel.

RELATED: New Study Reveals More Johns Are CEOs Than Women

Uber’s communications lead Katie Curran told SHESAID the partnership just made sense. “We’re doing this because we share UN Women’s vision of equality and women’s empowerment,” she said. “The Uber platform makes so much sense as a way to help accomplish this mission.”

While the taxi industry has received criticism for being uninviting to women, Curran says their ride-sharing app is the perfect option for anyone looking for flexible working hours and conditions, be it a working mum or part-time student.

“Over the next five years, we will create one million safe, flexible and equitable earning opportunities for women,” Ms Curran said.

Uber driver Amy says customers are often surprised when she picks them up, but that she doesn’t feel uncomfortable as a female driver. “You don’t pick people up from the street – it’s all logged through the app so they [Uber] know who is in your car,” she told SHESAID.

“The only time I feel uncomfortable is when people sit in the front and don’t talk!”

The move isn’t just a publicity stunt. Ms Curran points out that employing more women is a shrewd business move.

“The International Labour Organization at the UN estimates that 48 per cent of the global productive potential of women remains unutilised – twice as high as the rate among men,” she explains. “This partnership is aimed at helping close that gap.”

The announcement to partner with UN Women comes as Uber tries to gather voter support to loosen government regulations on ride sharing laws in the upcoming Australian state elections.

Whether the rules are loosened or not, Uber is proving to be a game changer that has power well beyond the tech arena. And if our cab ride home helps to economically empower just one women, that’s a ride we’re happy to take.

Image via Good Worldwide Inc

New Study Reveals More Johns Are CEOs Than Women

Just when you thought we were making progress in the fight for gender equality a new report has been released that revealed there are fewer women CEOs in the workforce than CEOs named John. That’s right, more men named John run companies than women altogether!

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The US study conducted by Ernst and Young says: “Only 16 per cent of S&P 1500 board seats are held by women – less than the proportion of seats held by directors named John, Robert, James and William.”

This means that for every women on the board, there are four Johns, Roberts, James’ and Williams’. That’s not even including blokes with a different name. Furthermore, the study also went on to reveal that the proportion of women on boards has increased by “only 5 percentage point over the last 10 years.”

And while it’s still positive that the number has actually increased, Ernst and Young revealed that the companies had grown in size, raising the question as to whether “boards are holistically refreshing or simply adding more directors?”

So does this mean that the gender gap isn’t closing like we’re led to believe and findings are actually based on larger board sizes?

“In general, more women are being appointed to board and executive leadership positions though change continues to be gradual,” according to the study.

They say slow and steady wins the race, but if this study is anything to go by it appears the race is dominated by males. So let me ask you: Should we be stepping outside our comfort zones and pushing even harder for more female contenders, or is the corporate hierarchy just more appealing to men?

What You Can Learn From Emma Watson’s UN Speech

Earlier this year, Emma Watson was made a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and yesterday she launched the “HeForShe” campaign, extending a formal invitation to men and boys to get onboard the movement toward gender equality.

In her speech to the United Nations, Watson called for an end to the idea that feminism is synonymous with man-hating.

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“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminist. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive,” Watson considered.

“I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision making that affect my life. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.”

Watson’s speech serves as a reminder, not only of her continuing awesomeness, but that feminism is not a dirty word that denotes a belief that women are better than men. She reminds us that gender equality is not about women versus men. Gender equality involves everyone.

She states that the ideas associated with traditional masculinity – as those with femininity – are extremely disabling. That, due to ideas of what constitutes a “man”, men also suffer at the hands of a society infected with gender-based discriminations.

Watson explains that the current notion of gender needs to be overhauled, for the sake of men and women:

“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum instead two opposing sets of ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we just are – we can all be freer and this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.”

I hope we can all consider our position and what we can do to help our communities move away from gender biases and discrimination, and remind each other that we are worthy of equal treatment in the home, in the media, on the streets and in the workplace.

Read a full transcript of Emma Watson’s speech here, and visit the HeForShe website for more info.

Image via Hollywood Life.

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