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

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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)

Claimers: Strong is Wrong

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Image @ Telegraph.co.uk

 

Chatter: In an interview with The Guardian, Emily Blunt explained that she is tired of her character being referred to as a “strong woman” when she takes part in an action sequence for example. That men are never told:  “Oh, you’re so strong in that movie.”

Conversation: Using different language to describe male and female role models or the same language with different meanings is becoming more unacceptable.

As Blunt describes, it seems assumed that in an action role a man is strong. But for a woman, it requires pointing out. It is necessary to be more careful with the adjectives used when men and women are being described in order to avoid enforcing stereotypes. Therefore the goal here is to remove gender associated language – for men as well as women – and this narrative from cultural role models will continue to filter down accordingly.

We have evidenced this with retailers such as Halfords being criticised on language advertising used when describing toys to children, for example. And Leo Burnett ‘s campaign for P&G Always #LikeAGirl, the insight for which was based on reversing the negative connotations attached to the phrase in order to change its meaning.

 

 

Claimers: Lena Dunham: HBO to the Max

Image @ SNL

Image @ SNL

Chatter –  Zoe Kazan has been newly cast in Lena Dunham’s HBO show Max, written by Murray Miller and previously starring Lisa Joyce.  According to Variety “Max is described as a comedy set in 1963 and revolving around the stirrings of second-wave feminism, as seen through the eyes of an ambitious magazine writer who stumbles her way into the women’s movement.”

Conversation – Currently in the midst of third-wave feminism, it will be interesting to see the Girls writer’s perspectives on what went before. Female-centric comedies are on the rise at HBO, with Sarah Silverman and Whitney Cummings having projects in the works and YouTube star Issa Rae’s show “Insecure”  (which funnily enough features Lisa Joyce) being picked up for a series.

Claimers: Hailee Steinfeld Is Loving Herself

Image @ Billboard.com

Image @ Billboard.com

Chatter: Tomorrow (November 13th) Hailee Steinfeld releases her debut single from her Hais EP after having been in the acting game since her teen years began. The song “Love Myself” features a video with Steinfeld wearing a “Self-Service” outfit. The song’s masturbation connotations are referenced in an article with Time Magazine in which Stenfield claims the shoot for Love Myself was about her having a “good time”, when questioned about what it may be implying. However she continues “But yeah, that “Self Service” body suit was a conscious decision.”

Conversation: There are two trends at play here. The first is the continuation of the theme of loving who you are and that is certainly one of the “double meaning, or triple meaning, or however many ways people interpret it” messages to which Stenfield alludes. The other trend, largely in the spotlight due to Miley Cyrus and, in part Rihanna, is the changing attitude to the openness surrounding female masturbation. Part of the larger equality and self-expression movements, expect to see both trends as part of the chatter for music for the foreseeable.

Claimers: Sandra Bullock – It Ain’t All About The Money.

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Image @ variety.com

Chatter – In speaking to  Variety, Sandra Bullock said “It’s a bigger issue than money; that’s just a byproduct,” who argues that the media has long held a bias against actresses. “Down the red carpet, I’m going to be asked about my dress and my hair, while the man standing next to me will be asked about his performance and political issues,” Bullock says. “Once we start shifting how we perceive women, the pay disparity will take care of itself. I’m glad that Hollywood got caught,” she adds, alluding to the Sony hack that brought the truth of Lawrence’s salary into the spotlight.

Conversation – The gender debate gaining traction with more and more high profile actresses joining the conversation. Whilst largely seen, up until now, as the domain of the Millennials, we are increasingly seeing Gen X role models adding their perspectives and experiences into the conversation.