Is it just me or is FemFresh and Vagisil sexist?

If you’re of a sensitive disposition look away now, ‪#‎fannyrant‬ coming up:

Am I the only person offended by the sudden onslaught of advertising aimed at women for feminine wash??? Every magazine I open has FemFresh shoved in my face berating me for using anything other than their specifically designed product and now I can’t watch TV without Vagisil popping up in between.

This is yet another advertising campaign designed to prey on the insecurities and create paranoia in women about their bodies once again. Yet another thing we’re being told we ‘need’ in order to be attractive and disguise the naturalness of our bodies. I’m sure we’ve all been successfully and adequately washing our fannies for years – It’s basic personal hygiene! We do not need a product aimed at us and pointed out to men to suggest the normal is abnormal. Just like fanny hair is now deemed gross, unsightly and a thing to be rid of (which incidentally stemmed from the porn industry).

If your minge really does ming then you probably need to see a doctor otherwise you do not need to spend your hard earned cash on yet another product subtlety oppressing the natural beauty of the female body. Besides, natural body smells are the sexiest in the world (except farts obviously).

I mean, is it just me who thinks this?…… #fannyrant over!

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On race and beauty

smaller bird shot

This week I watched a seriously disturbing video where 8 black preschooler children are asked a series of questions about two dolls – one black and one white.  The results are horrific indeed when each of the children when asked which is the ‘pretty’ doll points to the white doll and which is the ‘ugly’ doll points to the black one. Furthermore when asked which is the ‘bad’ doll they point out the black doll again and of course the white doll is the ‘good’ one. Most upsetting of all, the video ends with a gorgeous little girl being asked which of the two dolls is most like her and she points to the ‘black’ doll having previously identified it as the ‘ugly’ and ‘bad’ doll.  If you want to watch it click here.  It is more than uncomfortable viewing – it’s heartbreaking – and you have to ask where these children who are not even yet at school have digested these messages into beliefs at such a young age.

Also this week I read an article on ‘Why black women don’t date white men’ – rather than stress that black women do not fancy white men (though this was one of the points made) the majority of the article pointed to the fact that black women assume white men don’t find them attractive.  As a mixed race women who has mostly dated white men I don’t agree with most of the points, however, unfortunately I could to a certain extent identify when I thought back to my formative years.

Growing up in Milton Keynes in the late eighties and early nineties my sister and I were two of only 3 mixed race people in our year and only five black kids! Despite my sister and I not being unattractive girls the boys at school would never really entertain the idea of ‘asking out’ a girl who wasn’t white.  This was an unspoken rule but understood by all.  You could be mates with a brown or white girl but you mustn’t fancy her!  This quite obviously gave me a message that I was unattractive to boys – particularly white boys as out side of school we would often be approached by black guys.  Maybe there were some boys that secretly fancied us but they would never say.  It just wasn’t trendy or cool to fancy girls of colour (for want of a better phrase).  The ironic thing is that now, twenty years later, Milton Keynes is a melting pot of races with every other child per class being mixed race!

My mum, who is white, got pregnant with my twin sister and I at just 18 years old – she’d only seen her first black person in real life when she was 16! So are some people inherently more accepting and less prone to judgement and prejudice?  But I digress, my point is it seemed to be long before accepted that black guys could date white girls before white guys could date black girls – Although I must say my mum tells me of incidents where black women accused her of ‘stealing one of their men’ when she was dating my dad.  I remember being extremely proud that my very existence symbolised two races whose history was one of hate and conflict coming together in the ultimate act of love.

Strangely, even now I have to say I have a weird admiration and respect for the white guy who will approach, let alone date, a black or mixed race girl.  I’m sure this is leftover from my childhood views when i would be secretly impressed by any white guy that would act on their own perception of beauty and attraction and not what they felt everyone else thought they should be attracted to.

The media has a lot to answer for.  Beauty’s description has long been pale-skinned, blonde-haired, blue-eyed and slim-figured.  But why do we, both men and women, so readily consume this fallacy?  Her description is so opposite to that of the black woman that no wonder she has struggled to embrace her own beauty let alone celebrate it.

At University for a Media Arts project I did an essay titled ‘BLACK BEAUTY: Changing ideas of beauty and ideal femininity’ so I guess the subject has occupied space in my mind for some time.  Anyway, in the essay I concluded:

The origins of the exclusion of black women from the arena of beauty lie in the mix of racism and sexism.  Early representations from pre-colonial times were consolidated by the treatment of black women in slavery.  Throughout the years, these representations along with the white western woman as the ideal beauty, have been reinforced by the media.  However, these images and ideals have been forced to change in recent years.  This has mainly been due to the progression of the status of black people as a whole in society and also, and to a large extent, individual black women breaking through into the fashion industry.  Society today is much more mixed and this is beginning to be reflected in the media and the fashion industry.  At last there is increasingly a place and a platform for diversity where difference is celebrated rather than condemned.

What I find so interesting about all this is the fact that we let the media and other people define beauty for us.  We let them tell us what beauty is and anything outside of that is ‘unusual’, freakish even.  Being mixed race has always forced me to celebrate rather than fear difference and I am thankful that now it is my default setting for most things – I seek out and am intrigued by and attracted to the unusual, things ‘outside of the box’, challenges to the ‘norm’ and those that buck the trend.

We all need educating on this issue of beauty – true beauty that is – men and women, black and white. If beauty is really in the eye of the beholder then let the beholder look through their own eye without being forced to wear a pair of fake 3-D glasses that distorts their view!

Why Internet Dating is like IVF….

Warning:  If you are easily offended or have no sense of humour then stop reading now – Black comedy and highly un-politically correct content ahead.

They say longing for a partner is as agonising as longing for a baby as for some it just doesn’t happen ‘naturally’.  And so couples experiencing difficulty conceiving may turn to IVF whereas today’s love forlorn singles have Internet dating!  The more I think about it the parallels seem endless.

We all have those friends who met their spouse and soul-mate as childhood sweethearts and loved happily ever after in effortless bliss and we also know those who ‘held out’ for ‘the one’ and were eventually duly rewarded with their Princess/Knight-in-shining-armour.  Then there are the rest of us: Those of us whose experience if it were a line drawn on a piece of paper would be a kind of tangling, squiggly mess rather than a neat, straight and very pointy arrow! It seems so unfair that some things seem to come so easily and simply for some and are an endless, striving agony for others.

How then is Internet dating like IVF you say?  Well in many ways I answer.

Couples may in some ways feel a small sense of failure at not being able to conceive ‘naturally’ at first and I think many who ‘resort’ to Internet dating probably feel the same (even if they do repeat to themselves ‘modern times, modern methods’).  ‘What’s wrong with me?’ they might think and ‘why is something supposedly so ‘natural’ just not happening for me?’  The processes I guess in themselves are not necessarily artificial – you are still using the same ‘raw materials’ but, you are simply ‘introducing’ them together using a different method to the norm.  Both don’t always work first time and for some it takes a number of attempts which can be draining, painful and disappointing.  They’re also both bloody expensive!

Then there is the success rate.  We’ve all heard the stories of those whose IVF works first time and similarly the tales of people meeting their one true love on their first date with the first person they ‘messaged’ on an internet dating site.  It’s true as more people use these methods the success rates are soaring.

However, there are also those who despite numerous attempts for some reason it just doesn’t work.  They are forced to conclude that perhaps it’s ‘just not meant to be’ for them.  I can’t help wonder if that’s true for some people with a partner.  Statistically there must be some people who just will never meet the ‘right’ person for whatever reason.  Why do we think that it will happen for all of us? Is it really our right?  When we grow up we all assume we will one day meet someone and have babies if we want to.  I don’t think we consider for a moment when we’re young whether we ‘can’ or ‘will’ on either of these options.

I have a friend who due to her upbringing and experience assumes everyone will always meet someone right for them.  My experience and upbringing is unfortunately much more cynical.

And so I’m wondering, what is the ‘partner’ form of adoption?? Get a dog?  A Gay Best friend?  Or maybe 29 cats????

Why are men intimidated by successful women?

I have had this blog post brewing for some time now and then a series of events involving some of my girlfriends drove me to finally write it!

It all started when I was chatting to a very good friend of mine who I often go to for man advice when I need to ‘woman-up’!  She is my friend who will tell me to stop waiting in for his phone call, stop wishing that something will happen that clearly won’t and instead helps me not to cave in and call him but to buck up and move on!  If a guy is really interested he should be chasing me, right?  She is the voice of reason and reality amongst my girlfriends, a no-nonsense, head-strong kind of girl and stunning with it.  She is also single at them moment.   Anyway, said feisty-friend was telling me about a conversation she and a girlfriend were having in a sauna at their local gym with some guys.  Somehow the conversation turned to relationships (doesn’t it always) and one guy confidently admitted that he would ‘never’ approach my friend or her girlfriends as they were clearly confident and independent women who ‘owned their own cars, had good jobs and lived in their own places’!  The guy’s mates then all heartely agreed concluding they would ‘look’ from a distance and ‘admire’ but never ‘approach’.  My friend was not sure whether to be flattered or insulted but after reflection decided on the latter.  What is with that?  So a guy would not approach her due to the things in her life that are indicators of her achievement, success and ability in life??? When she challenged the guy (who of course grew increasingly intimidated at being questioned at all) he responded by saying ‘Well then what could I bring to the table if you have a good job, your own home and a car?’  Screwed up or what?!  Duh! How about love, support, encouragement, companionship??

The more we discussed this, the more angry I became at this skewed idea men have about what a woman most wants in a relationship.  I know there really are those women out there who want to be kept in Jimmy Choo shoes, Prada bags and dine weekly at The Ivy but really the majority of the women I know of all ages want to be loved, desired and cherished above all else – much more than any material provision.  Yes it’s important, particularly if you’re at the family planning stage, to have a stable income of sorts and to know your man will step-up and do what is necessary to support your family financially (as will you when you can) but I don’t know many women that really essentially need a man to earn more than them as their number one requirement in a relationship.

Just a few short weeks after this conversation, a young man of just 23 was telling me about his desire (verging on desperation) to get married by 25 and have children by 28!  He then told me about his brother who recently dated a beautiful woman who picked him up for their first date in a Bentley. After discovering that she and her friends earned upwards of £90K and she had a penthouse flat he swiftly dumped her and refused to see her again!  I can understand a little intimidation at that level of social circle but to dump a girl and potentially miss out on a soul-mate due to her high-earnings when she was really very keen on him (so clearly the financial imbalance did not matter to her) is frankly prideful stupidity!

Less than a week later another singer friend posted this image on her FB wall dedicating it to all her single-singer-girlfriends who had been told they were intimidating by men just because of the job they do:

Her post was flooded with ‘likes’ and comments with women identifying with her frustration.

Then, in this week’s Grazia magazine ana article says Chloe Sevigny says she frightens men  – but are they really intimidated by female breadwinners?  In the article Chloe actually goes as far as saying her success equates ‘romance suicide’.   Even more perplexing is that in the same article, writer Tony Parsons, says men always want to be the high earner and comments, ‘For if a man can’t be the bread-winner, then what exactly is the point of him?’  I’m just lost for words at this point!

So then, what is a successful, able and strong girl supposed to do?  Dumb herself down in order to get a man???

I discussed this with a male friend who pointed out that men have been conditioned since the dawn of time to be the ‘provider’ and it’s hard to escape the pressure and conditioning of that.  It’s a good point and I do appreciate and realise this.  I even get how a man’s self-esteem is often intrinsically connected to his earnings – not necessarily that they have to be ‘high’ earnings but, that if he is struggling in this area he is often struggling in every area of his life due to feelings of inadequacy – something I feel does not affect women with quite the same force.  However, I quipped back at my friend that many mindsets have existed since the dawn of time but have been challenged, evolved or even overturned as society progresses and changes!  It’s 2012!  We women can vote, we can choose to have a career or have a family or both at the same time and we are stronger and more confident.  This is progress people!  It is a mortal shame if the result of these breakthroughs mean we have to miss out in love, be alone or worse case scenario, not reach our full potential in all areas of life.

Surely there is another alternative or is it me that’s deluded? The alternative I had in mind was a man confident and secure enough to rejoice in my triumphs with me, to celebrate my victories and to spur me on to be all I can be to my highest potential.  It goes without saying that this is also a woman’s role in a relationship – a partnership!  Is this really not possible in 2012?  Really?  If so then what kind of progress have we really made?

Comments please – from BOTH sexes!

Thirty-something female: Things I’m still learning but really should know by now!

I read a great article recently in the UK Huffington Post called, ‘Turning 30: 30 things every woman should have and should know’. It was one of those articles that makes you smile, laugh and wince all at the same time.  I’m pleased to report that I faired not too badly but then I’m past the ’30’ mark already!  It was really thought provoking for me in terms of having a little ‘stop and reflect’ on how far I’ve come and also what I still want to achieve.  I think having goals are really important, short, mid and long-term ones (realistic, stretching and crazy) and whereas I’m generally a forward-thinking, leave-the-past-behind kind a gal, I do see the value in looking back on what you’ve learned and achieved if it’s in a positive and constructive context.

So, as I’m still very much a ‘work in progress’ (aren’t we all?) I’ve made my list slightly different hence the revised title – Things I’m still learning but really should know by now!  In fact there are 3 sections – things I should/do know, things I should/do have and things I should/have done! Please note, these are things personal to me and I’m not saying in any way these are things ‘all’ women should know, have or have done – but it might give you some food for thought 😉

THINGS I KNOW (OR ‘SHOULD’ KNOW):

  1. Drinking lots of water is good for you
  2. When a guy doesn’t call, he’s just not in to you – get the hint!
  3. Being organised really helps in life
  4. We are generally more attractive than we think we are
  5. Don’t read into a guy’s silence, words, actions or anything – he really isn’t thinking anything you think he is!
  6. Diets generally don’t work
  7. The friends you fall out with and then make up with again are your friends for life
  8. It’s important to smile every day and laugh often – it’s literally good for your health!
  9. It’s essential to forgive (including yourself) and to let go in order to have true freedom
  10. You really don’t get too many genuine friendships in life so when you come across new people you gel with, invest in them and cherish them.
  11. Similarly, when you find someone to love who ‘gets you’ and who you connect with, don’t waste time – hold on to them for all you’ve got!
  12. Time speeds up and passes too quickly
  13. Music can make pretty much every thing better
  14. To love hard and recklessly, not measured, reserved and careful
  15. A balanced view of your faults and victories, strengths and weaknesses
  16. There is never a ‘good’ or ‘right’ time to have a baby
  17. The power of a woman!
  18. Some pain is necessary and therefore good
  19. What you believe
  20. Patience pays off

THINGS I HAVE (OR ‘SHOULD’ HAVE)

  1. A car that’s new-ish
  2. An expensive, designer handbag (apparently)
  3. An outfit that immediately makes me feel ‘hot’ when I put it on
  4. Decent matching, underwear
  5. Good hair (!)
  6. A clear view of what I want and where I want to be in life and well on the path towards it
  7. A dessert Island song list
  8. A good set of knives
  9. 3 friends I can call on anytime day or night in any circumstance
  10. A dog
  11. A child
  12. A friend who knows the worst thing I’ve done and still loves me and accepts me
  13. Confidence in my looks
  14. A Gay best friend
  15. A heterosexual male friend who really is ‘just a friend’
  16. A healthy relationship with my parents
  17. An iPad
  18. Some FM shoes
  19. A favourite place in the world
  20. Great memories and stories to re-tell in my old age

THINGS I HAVE DONE (OR ‘SHOULD’ HAVE DONE)

  1. Lived abroad – preferably New York!
  2. Had a liaison with a guy way above my league
  3. Spontaneously wake up one morning and take off some where for the day either alone or with someone special
  4. A reckless thing and not regretted it
  5. Decided one day to change my life and really do it!
  6. Written a novel
  7. Danced naked in the rain (or at least in just underwear)
  8. Felt so sad and broken I thought I’d die then wake up the next day to realise I survived it!
  9. Felt so happy I could burst
  10. Ate something weird or unusual
  11. Something I dreamed of as a little girl
  12. Fallen in love
  13. Had my heart broken
  14. Loved and accepted myself
  15. Ate dessert for main dinner
  16. Held a piglet
  17. Trusted a man
  18. Written a song
  19. Slept on a beach
  20. Got my ideal body

Feel free to share with me your list as mine is in no way complete and ever evolving but it was fun to do! 🙂

Lessons in love from Adele

When I read about Adele ‘quitting music for love’ I felt an array of mixed emotions.  A part of me admired her putting her personal life first and at the very height of her career when she is clearly the darling of the moment worldwide.  However, another slightly louder part of me was screaming ‘what the hell are you doing girl??  For a man?? Giving up your dream??? Are you mad?  I did calm down and on reflection came to a more balanced but equally divided point of view and I had to explore my initial violent gut reaction:  There are the obvious reasons, I’m more than unlucky in love and clearly not designed for relationships with the opposite sex in most capacities.  Furthermore, I’ve always been fiercely independent and refused to give up my entire life just because I happen to be in a relationship.  It used to really concern me – ok totally freak me out – when I would see girls drop their girlfriends, personal pursuits and individual interests as soon as they found a man. This is destructive on so many levels:  Not only do you lose your identity not to mention your friends, but this relentless pouring into said man usually scares them off and in my experience guys actually like girlfriends to have their own separate interests at times for the purposes of space and toning down the intensity levels.  By nature I think women go in for things with both feet at full force with unswerving commitment but, relationships don’t have to be all consuming.  I’m not sure anything that is all consuming of our energy, time, emotions and self is healthy be it a relationship, a career or a hobby.  There is room in our lives for more than one ‘important’ thing and the variety can often not only add spice to the other but also, compliment and strengthen it.  For example, I love being a mum but by making time for other things rather than immersing myself only in my parent role I believe I do better in my role as a mother.

I guess with regards to Adele, if her dream is the man, then she is merely pursuing her true dream of love rather than abandoning the other dream of her singing career.  However, I can’t help but feel there is room for both.  I genuinely admire her sacrifice and commitment for her partner as she admits ‘When I’m constantly working, my relationships fail’.  It’s a clear and true statement and she is showing a certain level of maturity in learning from past experience.  However, she talks about marriage and children and then coming back to music and I can’t help but think that will be the stage when the commitment and prioritizing of family will be even more important.  There is of course the very real option that, with her level of talent, she’ll be able to make a career from studio albums and not have to tour at all!  I guess what bothered me underneath my reaction was the possible example being set to women that once again we should give up everything good going for us and make huge personal sacrifices in order to keep a man.

Going back to the girls I described before, when their relationships broke down with the idolised man they found they had no friends and even worse no identity!  I just think until you’re sure they’re ‘the one’ (whatever that means and that’s a whole other blog post!) and will show they same sacrificial love and commitment to you then keep your sense of self ladies and keep those dreams alive – it makes you a whole lot more attractive in the process!

No Sex and the City

Yesterday at work I was forwarded some very interesting findings from some research by Bauer Media into the women’s market.  Bauer Media own more than 80 influential radio, magazine, TV and online UK media brands, including heat, GRAZIA, Closer, FHM.  The research aimed to help advertisers find new ways to influence the conversation of British women.

The research concluded that five key roles are played in women’s conversation:

  • Queen Bee, the direct and unquestioned leader in the conversation – she is independent, strong-minded and with lots of outward confidence, friends look to her to organise things, take charge and make group decisions when they are unsure of what to do.
  • Northern Star, the indirect but respected leader – she has a mind of her own, is highly influential and has strong inner confidence. She is not the loudest in the crowd, never forces her opinion, friends turn to her for advice and guidance as she is deeply respected.
  • Socialite, the catalyst for conversation or new ideas – she is lively and talkative and her friends often see her as the ‘funny one’. She gets her energy from interacting with others and doesn’t enjoy spending time on her own, often socialising with many different groups.
  • Little Sister, seeks support and guidance and uses her friends’ feedback as a way to process her world and anxieties, often lacking inner confidence. She prefers to make her decisions after discussing it with friends and is happy to talk about her feelings openly.
  • Social Listener, supporting and listening to others – she is often the glue that bonds a group. Her friends rely on her to listen to their feelings and support them when they have problems; she prides herself on being a good friend and puts others before herself.

The research had the following conclusions:

Three main reasons for talking have been identified – affiliation, the need for bonding and belonging; mood uplift, for entertainment and escapism; and finally, a need to be ‘in the know’, to help make decisions.

It was fun thinking about my friendship circles and trying to identify the various different roles and characters (and I’m sure you can’t help but do the same when you read it) but, it also got me thinking about the power of talking and of friendship to women.  In fact the three reasons identified in the conclusions describe perfectly the needs of every woman.

For me, I get my ‘fix’ of these three things from my mummy-friends, my best friends and my girls prayer group which is a combination of the first two groups of friends.  In my prayer group we call ourselves the WOVs (Women of Vision).  It was going to be Women of God but the initials were a bit unfortunate!!   Now in case you’re thinking I’m all holy with my lovely prayer group where we sit around eating Quiche and out praying each other – you’d be massively mistaken!  We only manage to meet about once every quarter for a whole day of eating (mostly chocolate and cake), drinking (mostly wine and/or champagne) and chat (ANYTHING goes!).

I’m afraid this ‘prayer’ group is usually somewhat X-rated with no holds barred and certainly no judging and this is why I love it so much.  All the girls in my group are creative women who absolutely love God with all their heart but are also real and human.  In our WOV group we have found a place where we can express our needs, struggles and desires in a safe environment as well as our victories, successes and triumphs!  I honestly think we’ve covered every issue and subject going from masturbation to singleness to divorce to adultery.  I told you there were no holds barred!! I love the fact that one minute we’ll be laughing uncontrollably at some embarrassing or rude thing one of us have said or done and the next we’ll be crying as one of us shares a heartache or struggle and the very next we’ll be prophesying and speaking truth over one another.

I’ve often joked that one day I’ll anonymously write a book on our meetings and call it ‘No Sex and the City’!!! Who knows, maybe one day I will.

After probably my most difficult year to date these girls have been my lifeline and literally kept me sane as well as supporting me practically, financially, emotionally and spiritually.  And I just want to say a HUGE and public thank you to them X