Community: As Brexit Rages On, Anger Is Now All That Unites Us.

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Regardless of which side of the EU fence you resided on, or, indeed, if you sat firmly astride said metaphorical barrier, the fallout from Thursday’s vote is still reverberating around the world.

The result is in. No, not that we are leaving the EU but that we, as a nation, are, almost precisely, split down the middle. Culturally speaking we are a country that is divided in two.

The social conversation surrounding Brexit is ugly. It’s unregulated. It’s lawless and largely anonymous. We’re angry and the best place for us to direct that anger, it would seem, is online. We’re defending ourselves either way. Defending our right to choose, or publicly distancing ourselves from what we feel is a colossal mistake.

Taking little solace in our democratic privilege, we are angry because of what we feel it tells us about the person we’re married to, or best friends with, or the person with whom we share an office. We are angry because we can’t fool ourselves that what we voted wasn’t emotionally charged – and that was often ugly in itself.  But mostly we are angry because we have no control over what comes next. These are the messages in the midst of so many memes, tweets and posts being shared over and over around the world.

But this comes as no great surprise to those who study the trends of social media. Researchers of social networking explain that anger is the most influential emotion for messages spreading across social media and the truth is, for the remain voters, anger is an important part of the EU departure process – grief.

Denial – No, this can’t be happening

Anger  – What the hell has just happened?!

Bargaining – Let’s start a petition

Depression – The loss of certainty

Acceptance – Making the best of it

Even though it was the Brexiters who were victorious last week, the anger is universal. They have been ridiculed and belittled, accused of racism and bigotry, whilst, arguably for some, forced to make an unwelcome choice, by their own government. And there’s fear. Because change is coming now – and they voted it for it – so there’s no turning back.

There was always going to be blame. And fear. And frustration, but we had already lost. Because ultimately there would be no winner, whichever way the chips fell. It’s hard to remember a modern time where the choice we had to make so vehemently pitted us against each other. Make no mistake, the vote divided us firmly into our tribes. We were segregated. In vs Out. England vs Europe. Us against Them. Ironically, we were all looking for change, but the problem was no-one really knew what that change should look like.

For now, tensions are high, the line has been drawn and we all know which side we’re on. This unregulated and lawless social community’s providing both the fuel to our angry fire and the convenient outlet to let it loose. Whilst anger both unites and divides us for now, the conversation is an important part of processing the necessary stages of EU grief.

And only through this, can we begin to put the pieces back together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Claimers: BodyForm-ing Opinions

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Five days ago, Bodyform released a new ad as part of their red.fit programme which aims to keep women exercising throughout their period. The ad features women being brutally bloodied through gruelling training and exercise. And boy, has it got everybody talking.

Equating the bloody injuries to the menstrual blood women deal with whilst exercising, the strapline reads “No blood should hold us back”. And here’s the thing for an ad about periods, they actually depict blood. Not of the menstrual variety, but blood that is, for once, not strangely blue or watery. Nor does it arrive on screen out of a test tube.

Avoiding making periods a taboo or portraying menstruation with sunshine and happy images – set to a catchy (oh so catchy) theme tune – Bodyform has started a new thread of the ongoing conversation: when will we get real about the female body?

The ad continues the narrative that a woman’s body is not just for the sexual appetite of men; an object which is tarnished by openly acknowledging natural bodily functions (read: menstruation, breast-feeding). In essence, the ad refuses to sugar-coat periods in order to avoid making people uncomfortable.

We are all aware that periods are a natural occurrence for women and so it does seem a little unnecessary for ads to manufacture a sense of unrealistic mystique on their behalf. But then, bowel movements are also a natural occurrence, and nobody’s hoping for that Andrex ad.

So does being transparent about mother nature have any real benefit? There has been much applause for the ad from those who would seem to believe it does, and perhaps beginning a discussion is benefit enough. But, as one would expect, its received some criticism too from those who feel the move is unnecessary in the scheme of things and a shock tactic to shift more stock.

Whether you like or loathe the ad, Bodyform’s #redfit campaign is taking charge of the conversation surrounding women’s bodies. And it’s hard to argue that their chosen visual of strong, athletic women over girls prancing on a beach is a negative one. So the real question remains, is society ready to man up and accept that women are done hiding what’s naturally theirs?

Or is this one conversation that just needs to end?

Period.

Image @ BodyForm UK

Claimers: Why Feminists Don’t Know What They’re Talking About

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Following last year’s all-consuming Protein World ad – which needs no further introduction – I saw a follow-up ad last week and decided to play devil’s advocate by starting a conversation amongst a group of friends. It went a little something like this: “Hey, have you seen the new beach Protein Ad on TV? That’s such a great ad!”. And whoosh, like a volcano violently spewing its molten lava the “conversation” erupted.

Whilst I watched the all-female group argue, chastise and judgey-wudge amongst themselves, it struck me that the problem isn’t the point behind the argument.  I’m sure most women agree they should be treated equally to men and shouldn’t be objectified. But maybe it’s the conversation that’s all messed up.

It’s a tangled web with such confusion, and sometimes led by such suspect role models, that it seems that women are no longer sure what helps or hinders their cause. They’re screwing up their own narrative. Feminists don’t know what they’re talking about.

Here’s one of those 2015 tube ads, picturing a girl in a bikini that was altered to say:

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(Image @ Katpowder/Instagram)

However, this image posted earlier this year spurned a great deal of copycat celebrity images, in support of being #liberated:

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(Image@Kim Kardashian West/Instagram)

Kim Kardashian even wrote an essay saying that in 2016 we should be done with body-shaming and slut-shaming. And it would seem that a lot of people agree. But what’s the difference? Both images used the female form for publicity purposes yet it would seem Feminists can’t agree on what supports and what undermines women .

If both portray a woman with very little clothes on, why is one revered as being liberating and the other deemed as oppressive? How do we determine what is an image that supports women and what is an image that demeans them? Does it matter if they post the picture themselves or if a brand uses their image if the desired outcome is the same? Perhaps this is where the confusion lies.

Perhaps, having the Kardashian clan lead the message isn’t the best idea. Yes they are strong and successful women and not stick thin stereotypes. They break the internet with their curves and they change what it means to be a “supermodel” but they still do it in the knowledge that they manipulate their image and their popularity relies on others finding them sexy and alluring. That’s not entirely the definition of #liberated.

After the original PW campaign was crowned top “Turkey” of 2015, in January of this year the Global ad was awarded “Turkey of the Week” by Campaign. And, whilst I can go along with their criticism of the hackneyed “New Year, New You” slogan, I am thinking we are so quick to jump on the bandwagon that we miss the perhaps (or perhaps not) intended, two-fingered salute to the critics.

We didn’t like the idea that women should be body-shamed into losing weight to fit into a bikini. But here, no-ones suggesting they starve themselves in the pursuit of cultural perfection. Here is the depiction of strong and healthy women who living seemingly healthy lives. But they are doing it in bikinis.

What do feminists say now? Oppressing or liberating?

Would we like to see a fuller (pun intended) range of figures – sure. But can we say hand on heart say that this is demeaning to women – I don’t think so. The feminist narrative has to become clearer. If universally we want the female form to stop being a commodity then the message has to become, in itself, universal.

(Main image @ Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty Images via Time Magazine)

Claimers: Let’s Talk Lovely Lady Lumps

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 16.23.29.pngAnother day, another story about women’s bodies.

On Monday, Ofcom confirmed that Britain’s Got Talent would not face action following complaints over the way two of its judges were dressed. Nope, not the complaints they’ve (surely) received over Simon Cowell’s usual salsa instructor get-up, but the (gasp) plunging necklines of the female judges Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon.

As you can see from the image above, there are no *whisper* nipples on display, no one has their goodies out for all to see. In fact, I think Simon may actually be baring just as much of his chest (lucky us) as Amanda or Alesha. But it would seem that, as a society, we see fit to collectively comment only over women’s bodies and how they choose, or not, to dress them.

Last time I checked, the skin between my breasts, looks a lot like that on my arm or stomach. Bit more freckly than I’d like, but it doesn’t look anything particularly special. It has nothing offensive written on it and it’s unlikely to give people nightmares (in my opinion). And sometimes this skin is visible in the clothes I choose to wear. So, you know, no harm no foul.

Yet the number of stories we see whereby, by and large, girls and women are made to reconsider their clothes or appearance seems to be ever increasing. The trend of others feeling free, or obliged, to comment on how women display their bodies is one that just won’t seem to go away. In the case of BGT it smacks a little of, “Say, those curtains you have there, hmm not sure I like them, sort of in-your-face a little, you know? Offends me. Take them down would you – then I don’t have to look at them.” These women have become objects.

Whilst celebrities who are put front and centre in the public domain may have become used to facing scrutiny, worryingly, the trend for “slut-shaming” is becoming somewhat of a trend in the US school system as well. Recently a high school student in Montana was told that her choice to not wear a bra made another student “uncomfortable”. Whilst wearing a black t-shirt (and nipple stickers to prevent anything showing through the material) the student was asked to cover up.

The student in question, Kaitlyn Juvik, began the Facebook group “No Bra, No Problem “, following the incident, in order to draw attention to the double standard that women face regarding the sexualisation of their bodies. And the page continues to draw support and feed the discussion.

Regardless of the whole “women are not objects” debate. Perhaps what’s more concerning is that, by reinforcing the idea that a woman’s body ain’t nothing but a sexual thing, and by deeming certain clothing – or lack-of- “inappropriate”, it is perpetuating the idea that a female body is not natural; it is there simply for sexual purposes. And more so, it suggests that unless women hide these sexual bodies, men can’t – or won’t – be expected to control themselves around them.

That’s a message with a big problem.

(Image @ BGT 2016)

Insight: Oui Are The Revolution – What Does The Future Hold For Today’s French Youth?

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                                            “Cause we’ve been lied to by the liars,

                                              We’ve been sold what we can buy

                                                 In our hearts there’s a fire,

                                                 You can see it in our eyes.

                                        We are the revolution, we want it all tonight,

                                        We want to take back what’s rightfully ours”

Poor prospects for the future and a struggle for national identity. Is France’s emerging generation in for a fight?

As I was led down a curious rabbit-hole of French teen culture by a recent research brief, I kept hearing the lyrics to “Written in scars” by Jack Savoretti, in my mind. This coming-of-age generation is reaching maturity in a time of their country’s economic uncertainty; lacking prospects, employment and — perhaps even more importantly — a clear place in the world. Is it time for them to revolt?

Built upon a socialist foundation and raised with the belief that the French way of doing things is superior (termed “l’culturelle exceptionelle”) youths are quickly discovering that it is indeed those very things have led them to a point of lacking cultural relevancy on the ever-expanding global stage. Whilst France struggles to balance its traditional values of Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity) against the Western drive for innovation and wealth, the future is beginning to look very uncertain for the kids to whom it has promised so much.

Life in France is challenging. Alongside high levels of unemployment, there’s the most unpopular president of modern times and a lack of cohesion between cultures living side-by-side. With their country under attack three times in the past 18 months and the segmentation of cultures, their socialist ideals are struggling — leaving youths frustrated at being unable to fully start their adult lives.

In order to protect their way of life, the French authorities have gone to great lengths to resist influence from Americanisation, protecting what it means to be French, to have French values and to champion French art and culture. Indeed they are the only country to have an “Academie” which seeks to prevent the dilution of the French language, particularly in terms of anglicisation.

Yet as French teens gain greater exposure to their American and English counterparts on the digital stage, it would be foolish to expect that French teens are immune to the herd mentality of adolescence. Indeed at a time when doors to experiencing things for yourself are opening and the world feels like an endless adventure and, in digital terms, much smaller, the influence from American and English teens is amplified.

If we believe it takes a village to raise a child, then the French ideal is a whole country. But what happens when “mama et papa” insist that you follow rules that your American and English friends don’t seem to have to follow. Only for these “friends” to seem to have better opportunities? What if they have the “American dream” or the English balance between tradition and progression? Do you follow the rules unquestioningly? Or do you start to believe that, perhaps, whilst you can be your own person and honour your own culture, there is also room for inspiration and influence?

This is not to say that French teens disregard their own culture. Indeed they still seem to maintain a sense of superiority over the stereotypically superficial “Americanisms” and it is clear that there are some vast differences in their social systems. French teens value friendship with both sexes and dating is not a thing; relationships evolve out of existing friendships. They have fewer more deeper friendships and don’t divulge personal information quite as indiscriminately. Therefore social media, as a whole is not as popular as in the UK and USA, as it would seem that French teenagers are much more private. They are not as inclined to share information about themselves with people they are not close to. Overall they appear more mature and socialised from a much younger age; eating proper meals in a sociable manner, having their own role within the family and being able to drink, drive and travel abroad at a younger age.

As per the natural course of adolescence, teens are influenced by their peer group. But globally speaking, these peers are no longer restricted to school, neighbourhoods and their local proximity. Digital is dangling the carrot of exposure and experience. And the French government continues to grapple with its containment. So even in a country where Parliament has the ability to ban products and services that are counter to French beliefs or threaten French domestic commerce, American and British culture will undoubtedly break through.

For example, though popular US brands such as Netflix struggled for a long-time to enter a market where a French alternative already existed, the promise of locally produced content, such as the high-cost production Marseille, went a long way to helping their cause. Now, according to Paris-based research agency NPA, Netflix’s french subscription base will only continue to rise through the next couple of years. Additionally, amongst teenagers, brands like McDonalds have a loyal following and when the first Burger King opened in Paris in 2013 there were cues around the block. The same can be seen for sneaker brands Converse and Nike which, at odds with the resistance to American culture, have infiltrated street culture due to basketball’s big following in France and even high fashion, with sneakers being a trend at this year’s Paris Fashion Week.

See, we all know what happens when our “parents” forbid us to see a bad influence in our teens, they only seem that much more appealing. Young pushing against the old, is a tale as old as time. But what if traditional values begin to hold back the evolving generation. What happens then? They revolt. Fight against the system. Or they leave. And in truth, they have seen older millennials leave for the likes of London and California where they can leave behind high taxes, short-term employment contracts and low wages — so much for protecting French culture against the influence.

France has been left with a generation reaching maturity with no clear sense of a future. With poor prospects and a country under unpopular leadership the question is, what does the future hold for them? What does everything they’ve been taught about the socialist system their nation is built upon mean when it seems to be failing? They’ve been taught that the French way, is the right way, only to see it beaten and bruised with a struggling economy and outdated notions. So what now?

Perhaps the message of “resistance is futile” is getting through. A campaign in 2015 saw the French government beginning to lure back its tech entrepreneurs by promising that France is now the place to be. And lets hope for the sake of those coming-of-age that they’re right. Because with a generation currently as lost as its identity, French youths are in need of something solid and something they can hold onto; some certainty for their future. And the French concerns of favouring American or English cultures seems somewhat irrelevant. It’s not about dilution but more about redefining and reaffirming what makes it great to be French in the modern world. A marriage of culture of sorts.

Otherwise what’s left may not be worth fighting for.

(Original Image @ Jack Savoretti)