Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Why is Chris Brown back in the charts?

Last week while casually procrastinating on the internet I discovered that Chris Brown was number 1 in the UK album charts, and in the top 5 of the singles chart. This is just so unbelievably depressing.

Three years ago Chris brown violently beat his then girlfriend Rihanna and threatened to kill her. Three years ago Radio 1 (and many other radio stations) stopped playing Chris Brown’s music because of his attack on her. Two years ago the UK refused to give Chris Brown a working visa and therefore entry into the country due to a “serious criminal offence” so he had to postpone his UK tour. Two years ago Chris Brown posted a video message begging his fans to buy his music still. I’m just confused to how we got to the point where the UK forgot all of this, and started buying his music again.

It’s almost like the UK is sending out the message that as a country it condemns domestic violence, but only directly afterward it happens, and then it’s all forgive and forget.  It is wrong to ‘move on’ from Chris Brown’s domestic violence as this sends a message out to society, and to young girls particularly, that domestic violence is socially acceptable. Sure, you’ll get a slap round the wrist, have to apologise, but then everyone will forget and you’ll be popular again. This is so completely wrong.  1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime and on average 2 women a week are killed by a current or former partner, killed. Nothing should ever suggest this is socially acceptable, even if it is indirectly suggesting this.

What if a teenage girl is hit by her boyfriend, and then he says he’s sorry, that he’ll never do it again and that he’s changed (like Chris Brown) and then she accepts the apology? Then he hits her again, this time harder. He apologises, she accepts. This is the beginning of the cycle of abuse. The music industry, and society as a whole, had the chance to take a stand against domestic abuse. They could have potentially prevented others falling into the same cycle of abuse by suggesting to these women and girls it is okay to forgive an abuser if they say they are sorry. They could have taken steps towards this by condemning Chris Brown. His current chart position shows that they failed miserably.

Then again, these tweets show that as a society on the whole, we are failing pretty miserably. Violence is not a compliment. We’ve got an incredibly long and complicated way to go to stop tweets (or thoughts) like this happening, but boycotting Chris Brown’s music would be a good place to start.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A Question of Having it All

Increasingly we live in a society that tells women that not only can they ‘have it all’ but that they absolutely should. It has almost become an expectation that young women today should aspire to have a high power career, a fantastic relationship with a romantic partner, a large social circle and active social life, a string of hobbies and interests, to be attractive, fit and in shape, a clean and tidy house and to juggle all of this with having children. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

As much as society seems to be telling women they should be ‘having it all’, it doesn’t seem to be making it any easier for women to achieve this. Currently female unemployment in the UK is at a 25 year high and increasingly middle aged women are the first to be made redundant, and the last to be hired. Women still do the majority of the domestic labour and on average the amount of cooking, cleaning and childcare done by men has changed little since the 80s. The cost of childcare continues to rise even though wages do not. This isn’t just about facts and statistics; it’s about real life experiences.

This week at work one of my male colleagues finished at 3 on Friday (our office hours are until 5.30) to go and pick his daughter up from school because he wanted to spend some time with her and take her to the park and he was widely praised for being a fantastic dad. Now I’m by no means saying that he isn’t a great parent as I’m sure he is, but there are lots of women in the company who work flexible hours so they can do the school run every day and to spend time with their children when they finish school and to my knowledge no one has ever called them a fantastic parent because they pick their children up from the school gates.  It’s because it is expected from women, in a way it isn’t from men. I’m in no way saying that this is true for everyone, I know many men are stay at home dads, and many do the most of the childcare, but this isn’t the case for the majority of people.  We need to stop expecting women to be superheroes, and to expect more from men when it comes to childcare.

I’ve also experienced women who choose not to have children being called selfish. Whether a woman decides she doesn’t want a baby because of her career, because she values her sleep or because she’d rather not be tied down, I can’t see how this is a selfish decision. Again, I’ve never heard a man be called selfish if he doesn’t have children and doesn’t want to. If anything, having lots of children when the planet has such overpopulation issues can be considered a selfish decision, but it’s very rarely that this will be brought up. Society believes that all women want, and should have children, and any that don’t aren’t ‘normal’.

As a feminist I strongly believe in choice. If a woman wants to and is able to be a stay at home mum, then she should completely do so, and her contribution to society should be valued much higher as raising children is incredibly difficult. If a woman wants to have children and a career, then society should be structured in a way that no only allows this to happen, but actually makes it easier to combine both. If a woman doesn’t want children then she should never be criticised, and she should never be seen as less of a woman because of it, I know plenty of people who believe that having a child is the mark of womanhood, and this is wrong. There are lots of amazing things in life, and having children is only one of them.

It shouldn’t just be a question of having it all and how to achieve that, but also a question of “is having it all right for everyone?” I think for a lot of women, it isn’t, and that is okay. Feminism is about having the freedom to choose, and being supported in that decision.

What about you? How do you feel about having it all?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

To "frape", or not to "frape"

Although by no means a new term, something that has been particularly bothering me this week has been the amount of times the word ‘frape’ or ‘Facebook rape’ has come up on my news feed. For anyone not familiar with the term, it is when someone updates a status on someone else’s Facebook account as a joke, they then the person whose account it is quickly points out to everyone on their news feed that they didn’t post that status and that they have been ‘fraped’. Sure, when this happens it can be annoying, or potentially embarrassing, depending on what is written, but it is in no way comparable to being raped. Being raped is a horrific and violent crime; that can leave physical, emotional and psychological scars that last a life time.  Completely not the same as your friend playing a joke on you.

Normally when I speak out about this, people tell me frape is just a word, and it’s nothing to get upset about and that I should really stop overreacting. They are wrong, it isn’t just a word, and I’m not overreacting. It’s a constant reminder and symbol that we not only live in a society that rape even happens in the first place, but that we live in a society that values women so little that one of the worse crimes imaginable can be turned into a joke. It is an insult to millions of female and male survivors of rape every time it is used.

It also massively bothers me that many people do not consider at all that using the word frape on Facebook so casually could potentially be extremely distressing and traumatic  for someone they are friends with, as statistically 1 in 10 British women will experience rape or sexual violence in their lifetime. It is completely possible that someone they know has been raped or sexually assaulted and they are making light of everything that friend has experienced by using the word to describe an untrue Facebook status. It’s disgusting. Even if this isn’t the case, even if no one they are friends with has been raped or sexually assaulted, by using the word it is perpetuating the message that rape is something to laugh about, that it is a joke, that it isn’t a serious crime and that in society women’s rights aren’t important.

We need people to not only stop using this horrible (and completely inaccurate) word, but to also confront every person they see use it. Simply not using the word frape isn’t enough, we need to challenge anyone that seems to hold the view that rape is a laughing matter.

What about you, do you find the word problematic? Or are there any other words you take offence to?