Thursday, 29 December 2011

What's the difference between porn and nudity?

This is a topic I see brought up time and time again. Men and women these days just don't understand what the difference is between nudity and pornography.

On the topic of banning newspaper pornography (also known as 'page 3 girls'), a supporter said: "the next logical step is to ban children from beaches and swimming pools where they can see lots of partially-clad women in the flesh" [From The Daily Star Facebook page]

Defending fully nude Playboy pornography being displayed in a shop window, a supporter said: "Assuming young children were breast fed it's not all that long in the past that they were doing more than just looking at bare breasts and there was nothing improper with that." [From The Daily Mail]

Two thing these idiots - I mean, people, have in common here. They are both defending the public display of pornography through the argument that non-sexualised partial nudity is fine. They really, honestly believe there is no difference between non-sexualised natural nudity and posed, strongly coded pornography which sole purpose is to sexually stimulate. The latter commenter really believes he can compare breast feeding with porn.

Lets just say those two things were the same, then. It is still illegal to walk around publicly fully nude, so why should it not be illegal to display fully nude and pornographic images in public then?

The hypothetical swimming pool or breast feeding situations they argued are not even similar visually, disregarding the pornographic element, to the full nudity they were defending. Secondly, would these people really support mothers breast feeding their infants publicly in shop windows and pictures of breast feeding in newspapers? The general consensus at the moment is no. A lot of people seem to think there is something "disgusting" about that (because it's natural, in a similar way big tummies and body hair is also "disgusting".) Facebook allows pro-rape groups to threaten and laugh about raping women, but bans pages on breast feeding and non-sexualised images of mothers feeding their babies.

I think that as well as being naive of the differences between porn and nakedness (good luck in your relationships by the way) that they're therefore extremely hypocritical, and well, idiots providing illogical arguments that most people seem to accept any way.

I can speculate on the reasons behind this being normalisation of sexualised women's bodies. The difference today is that if you reject porn, it's still inescapable. Day-time TV shows, billboard adverts, music videos, daily newspapers and magazines all represent women in this way. We're forgetting that this isn't natural, and doesn't mean it's automatically O.K.


The commenter from the Daily Mail also nicely added: "Are the Art Galleries to have their paintings painted over with jeans and T shirts to preserve the sensibilities of jealous old ladies?"

This is also an issue I see brought up every time I voice my apparent "freedom of speech" against the normalisation of pornography. I'm told by a stranger that I "must just be jelus" (note that they can rarely spell what they are dishing out.) They really, truly believe that everyone in the world believes the same thing that they do and the only reason they may be 'pretending' to be against it is because we all secretly love and really want to be in porn too but we can't because we MUST be old/ugly/fat/feminist; which means we're jealous.

I've been called old fat and ugly because I don't like porn. I'm 23, a UK dress size 8, and I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I'm not ugly. I'm guessing the guys sitting behind their desks thinking up defences of porn just because they use it, are much more likely to be old, fat or ugly.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Putting women in their place

Just a quick thought...

For some people they're just clichés, but for me there is something really sinister about the terms "acting like a woman scorned" and "women crying rape". The meanings are widely known and their persuasiveness is already culturally ingrained, they can dismiss and belittle a person in just a second - just like the "you're just jealous" argument which works instantly without need of argument because it is understood and cannot be disproved.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Why I won't be doing Christmas this Christmas

I'm sick of materialism at Christmas. I want to counteract this greedy atmosphere!

My family have never gone over the top with celebrating Christmas, although "over the top" for me would be a feeble celebration to most people. Today I heard my first Christmas song at work. These Christmas songs will now be playing every day for the next two months. Two months - that's a sixth of the year which is dedicated to this one day of commercialism, materialism, selfishness and waste. Something about this seems so wrong to me, that while we are over indulging by wasting food, things and money - there are a lot of people out there with really big problems that a few quid could save them from.

Most of the country are not Church-going Christians any more, the most Christian of Christians, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, do not even celebrate Christmas with material goods. The only pre-requisite of celebrating Christmas is a strong greed for lots of food and lots of things and the expectation that if you don’t join in with this then you’re a kill joy, or tight with money.

While I may seem like a miserable 'Scrooge' here, I do understand why people love it so much. For kids it's a happy and magical time, for some it may be the only time of year families sit around the table to talk and eat together. But why the expectation of expensive gifts? most of which will be left in a corner then make it's way to the bin a few months later.

Solution 1:
I recently found out about a website,Good Gifts, which I think is a great alternative to having to reluctantly buy someone something they don't really want. Buy a friend a charitable good gift in their name; it could be a goat, food, books, saving puffins... there are loads of ideas on the site and you can type a Christmas message to the recipient that goes along with their ‘gift’.

If they don’t like it then tough, you’ve shown this person you’ve thought about them and aren’t just tight with your money. If nothing else, you can feel good with yourself that you’ve not wasted packaging and money on unethical companies that are only after profit. It's MUCH more fun and rewarding than shitty toiletry gift sets that nobody wants! Plus, it's all done with a click of a button and no wasting of wrapping paper :)

Solution 2:
If you want something to show for your efforts other than a piece of paper, you could buy something from Lush such as Charity Pot Body Lotion which is fair trade, anti-animal testing and of which the profits go to charity!

Solution 3:
Buy Christmas cards from charity shops. Most of them sell brand new cards that aren’t much more expensive than your typical ones. They always print the charity on the card so the person you’re sending it to knows the profits are going to a good cause and you do too!

Solution 4:
Donate or volunteer to hand out food to homeless people at Christmas. A lot of churches take part in similar things too, so think about contacting your local one to see how you can make someone very happy. Visit Caring At Christmas.

Solution 5:
Do nothing, it's just another day!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Sexism: freedom of speech

Last night I took part in a "Rape Culture Page Bomb" along with over 300 other supporters in which we decorated a sexist Facebook page with an estimated thousand anti-rape messages and pictures. Together as a group, we worked to take back the message of the page.

Currently, the Facebook group ‘You know she’s playing hard to get when you‘re chasing her down an alleyway has 193,896 ‘likes‘. ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, I’ve got a knife, get in the van‘ has 73,243. ‘Abducting, raping and violently murdering your friend as a joke’ has 22,655. ‘Kick the bitch , why? coz she’s a slut’ has 115,303.

It is estimated that thousands of people have reported these pages, yet Facebook does not consider them offensive.

Joking about rape isn't just harmless fun. It's a part of rape culture in which rape is normalised and becoming acceptable. ‘Joking’ about rape isn't a joke because there isn't a punch line. This is hate speech against women and rape victims. 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men are raped in the U.S (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006). That means that statistically, every single person making rape ‘jokes’ knows rape victims. Rape is a serious issue, it’s not funny. Neither is ‘joking’ about it. Which, by the way, I don’t see these kinds of comments as ‘jokes’ anyway:

Now lets take a look at what we are legally allowed to find hate speech:

“In England and Wales, hate speech legislation has been balanced to avoid curbing freedom of speech: while much of the content on the internet may be offensive, it is not illegal unless it stirs up hatred on the grounds of race, religion or sexual orientation.”

This law reflects the wider cultural acceptance of sexism and sexist abuse, not just on Facebook but everywhere. Sexism needs to be seen as just as destructive as racism. No, that’s not going to stop it happening but then at least it wouldn't just be a huge “joke” which is making abuse even more acceptable.

So racism, anti-religion and homophobic abuse is illegal, but sexist abuse is not. Why? Is domestic violence and rape not as serious as racism? Is it not as bad as being against religion? Is it not as hurtful as homophobia? If they were saying the same thing but being racist rather than sexist, these Facebook pages would no longer exist.

WHY are women allowed to be victims of sexist hate speech.

Please prime minister, give me your best argument because I can find no reason why this is acceptable. Sign the petition against this shit here.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Page 3 debate

Currently the liberal democrats agenda reviewing ‘page 3’ is being debated. They propose “Tackling the projection of women as sex objects to children and adolescents by restricting sexualised images in newspapers and general circulation magazines to the same rules that apply to pre-watershed broadcast media.”

The Daily Star quotes page 3 girl Porchia Watson to argue against the proposed ban: “This is the last thing they should be thinking about. Only a few weeks back we had riots on the streets, now they are wasting their time with Page 3... We are not hurting anyone.”

Page 3 is part of what is often described as ‘raunch culture’ or the ‘pornification’ of our society. Aspects of pornography are everywhere, from newspapers and magazines to music videos and adverts. The problem for anti-page 3 campaigners is the normalisation of this; ‘Lad mag’ porn is being sold under ‘men’s general interest’ and topless models under the ruse of ‘news’. Thus the correct label is taken away from what it really is, making it more acceptable, readily available as part of our groceries and completely normalised. The problems with pornography include: unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies, distorted expectations of sex, self-esteem problems and habituation. While it is not being claimed that page 3 causes rape, it is a contributor to a culture in which women are increasingly seen as nothing more than sex objects for men’s enjoyment.

Providing an example of how normalisation can promote insensitivity, Cameron Forrest, 22 from Australia says; “Back home I hadn’t heard of page three, when I came to England I was very surprised to see topless women sold in every day newspapers.“ He added “It’s one thing to have it in actual porn magazines but I was really shocked that they’re being sold as news, it’s very strange.”

I was eager to see hear arguments from the page 3 supporters but unfortunately after several messages, nobody came forward directly. On the public Facebook book page of The Daily Star however, readers argue that “It’s all harmless fun” “They shouldn’t be talking about shit like that when the country is up the shiters” [spelling rephrased] and “if they think children need "protecting" from the sight of a partially-clad female body in a picture, the next logical step is to ban children from beaches and swimming pools.”

I have personally found that a common pro-page 3 argument is that it’s women’s own choice and that they get paid for it. While I agree with this statement, I don‘t think that it makes the outcome okay. It seems to go over most people’s heads when I try to explain I have absolutely nothing against the women who pose for things like page 3. I’m opposed to page 3, not the page 3 ‘girls’. In the same way as I may be opposed to an unethical chain store but not against the individuals who choose to work there.

I don’t think women or feminists in general are against the women in page 3 either. Actually, I found during a party I attended with guest page 3 models, that I was both the only female and the only feminist in the group yet I was the only person defending the women. While the men openly stared at their bodies and found them attractive, they thought badly of them as people. They were labelled a ‘shallow’, ‘teases’, ‘dumb’ and ‘sluts’ by the same men who ‘support’ their choice to strip. To me, that’s not respectful of the women’s choice at all. Instead they’re supporting page 3 merely because they enjoy participating in objectification.

I took many photographs of Sam Cooke, The Sun’s page 3 model at the party. I thanked her for posing for me and she smiled back politely, she seemed to do her job happily and professionally. I realised while photographing her absolutely for certain that I don’t hold anything against these women. Despite being told that I hate them and must just be jealous of them, I didn’t have any bad feelings towards her at all. I was happy to get the chance to photograph her and pleased for us both that the pictures turned out well. Topless models may be stereotypical or they may not be, they may be nice people or they might not, but it doesn’t matter to me. They’re just people the same as us, who deserve respect. I think this not despite of being a female or feminist but because of it.

Text and photography: L. Connett. Thank you to Sam Cooke and Cameron Forrest.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Challenging rape stereotypes.

Today I held my first workshop at the DIY feminist festival in Manchester. For the subject I chose rape myths. When asked, the group discussed what rape myths are and provided a variety of excellent examples. One that they neglected to mention however, is the myth that you can tell a rapist through their appearance and that you can tell who is a real victim through what they look and act like.

I asked the group to draw a stereotypical rapist and then what they think a real rapist actually looks like. I gave them the option to do the same thing with the stereotypical view of a victim. The results were interesting, as well as having a good laugh at our drawings we discovered that a few different people drew very similar things.

The victim stereotype was repeatedly drawn as:
-Big breasted
-Dressed provocatively

The rapist stereotype was repeatedly drawn as:
-Well built
-Strong features
-Big eye-brows
-Angry and evil looking (knives and fangs)
-Jumping from a bush or alley way

These are really excellent observations of stereotypes we are all passively fed all the time. Everyone drew similar things, which shows it’s a shared stereotype that is widespread. The ‘realistic’ drawings showed a real understanding of the type of people who really do commit rape - the complete opposite of the stereotype.
My favourite is Ellen’s drawing of a geeky looking boyfriend holding gifts and love hearts because the most common perpetrators of rape are partners, not knife wheedling fanged maniacs in bushes.

Thank you to the ladies who came to the workshop for letting me post their drawings - they’re all really good and you all had some interesting and well informed things to say.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The beauty myth - skin addition

A sunset is almost universally recognised as being a beautiful thing. Throughout history I don’t think that idea has changed. What constitutes beauty in humans though is subject to rapid change throughout time.

Oscar Wilde once said “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months” which humorously hits the mark, but I think it goes further than that. If fashion didn’t change then we wouldn’t have to chuck our old, perfectly good clothing out in order to replace them with this season’s colour and ‘new’ trendy style. Once something becomes ‘old’ and ‘out of fashion’ the fashion industry is then ready to sell us something else in a slightly different tone or design.

In a similar way, the concept of beauty is also subject to man-made rather than ‘natural’ change. Once two hundred pounds worth of hair extensions become fashionable, normalised and accessible, they’re beautiful and make a woman ‘hot‘ and successful. They also make the beauty industry an enormous amount of money. The beauty industry is huge, worth billions of pounds each year and it’s targeted almost solely at women. This isn’t a conspiracy theory although it may sound like one, it’s just business.

Views of what is beautiful has varied significantly and over a relatively short space of time - ie much faster than evolution. The changes tend to reflect what is the most difficult to achieve at each time in history. The beauty industry takes each tiny aspect of our bodies and scrutinises it. One favourite is skin.

Not all that many years ago, pale skin was widely seen to be attractive because it was difficult to partake in necessary manual work without being exposed to the outdoors. Therefore it was a sign that a person was of a higher class. Tanned skin is now a sign that we can afford to take a foreign holiday or pay for a fake tan. It also makes money, therefore it’s in fashion.

In India, the idea of light skin being beautiful is still prevalent and the huge industry of legal and illegal skin lightening creams shows us that even to darker skinned people.
Caucasian skin and features are seen as the ideal; ‘black’ models and celebrities such as Beyonce appear to be more white than black. Beyonce's skin has gotten much lighter over time, her hair straightened and bleached to look Caucasian. If she is the 'black' role model, I'm worried. I want to be seeing afros everywhere. Porcelain pale skin. Freckles. Something much less monotone than I'm seeing right now. Why is that those who live in a hot climate and have naturally darker skin seek lighter and the lighter skinned seek darker tans? we’re all being pushed towards one unnatural ideal which is hard to achieve. That’s why it’s ‘beautiful’.

Once we've perfected our skin to it's unnatural socially-acceptable colour, we have to worry about wrinkles. All skin is growing older every second which makes it the perfect thing for all of us to worry about. Cosmetic surgery and a myriad of creams are all kindly available and shoved in our faces all the time.

So you see those women in the magazines, airbrushed so they don't even have pores any more and we know how ridiculous that is. Now Clinique can help with it's new pore reducer so we too can look perfect, a picture of a woman rather than an actual living one.

These days the ideal is again very difficult to achieve and the problem is that it’s quite impossible to achieve. The ideal today seems to be an unattainable and unnatural body shape. The perfect image is getting more and more further away from even being possible. What kinds of images represent the beauty ideal today? Perfection. Young, perfect skin with no blemishes or wrinkles or pores. A slim body with unnaturally large breasts, Caucasian features but tanned skin and long, often blonde thick shiny hair, hairless, poreless, blemish free. These are some of the characteristics we are frequently presented with as being the ideal. We are told that this is beautiful and anything that doesn’t comply must be fixed. The beauty ideal has one purpose only. In this case it’s skin creams, hair removal, make-up, botox, silicone implants, fake tan, fake nails, fake hair, hair dye… We’re becoming fake because we’re being told our natural bodies are disgusting. For money.

So the next time you think you're ugly, remember why you think you're ugly.

Monday, 11 July 2011

What do Slut Walks have to do with street harassment?

Last month I attended the Manchester Slut Walk to protest against rape myths and victim blaming. Our point was to show the world that victims are being judged unfairly all the time and all around the world. By family, friends, the victims themselves, the general public and professionals such as police officers and judges. Amongst many other important things, they’re being judged on what they look like. There’s something new, a woman being judged on her appearance.

Photo taken by Kate Morrissey.

The general public believe the common rape victim must have been “slutty” but in reality the most common perpetrators of rape are partners. So, victims of rape are much more likely to be wearing indoor ‘lounge-y’ clothing or yummy sushi pyjamas rather than 'slutty' attire.

What about street harassment then? Apparently many men don’t realise how often women are effected by it. But if a man vocally objectifies a woman, she must be dressed in such a way to invite this behaviour. She must be dressed at least, a tinsy bit slutty. Therefore it’s what she wants, and it’s just a compliment anyway - so stop making such a big fuss.

I was in town with my best (male) friend last week and a man looked at him. He presumed the man was checking him out and went a bit mad, linking his arm around me to show the man he wasn’t gay, or interested, or whatever. Yet if a man shouts out something about our bodies and says he’d like to fuck “it”, we’re making a big deal over nothing?

I was walking along a main road in Salford with my sister on Saturday evening. I was wearing a long sleeved top, my scruffy jeans and had 3-day-old greasy hair. Two men on a motorbike shouted, most of it was inaudible but I managed to catch "look at the arse on that" as I crossed the road in front of them. On "THAT", see I'm not even a person, just a body part for them to look at. And I wasn't even wearing anything that made me look good and they still openly objectified me. Which goes to show it doesn't matter what we wear, whether it's "slutty" or not, men are always going to behave this way as long as it's encouraged by our media and culture.

Just to note, this doesn't happen to me very often but I know it happens to some women on a daily basis and they have no choice but to put up with it because it's "just the way things are."

Maybe he thought his mate would think he was super cool and “manly” or maybe he thought well hey, they do it on TV and in Nuts magazine so we’re normal and it's completely fine. It’s our entitlement because our culture says so. And woman are all sluts anyway.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

One man cried wolf. Women cry rape.

Women who "cry rape" makes an eye-catching headline. Both the general public and professionals could be forgiven for thinking it is extremely common and that most women lie about being raped. After all, we seem to hear these reports more often than the experiences of genuine victims.

Sharon Xuereb is a senior lecturer in Psychology and has worked directly with convicted rapists. She explains that professionals aren’t immune to rape myths; “rape myths are these unrealistic beliefs that various people hold… this includes police officers, people who sit on the jury… many people involved in the investigation”. She illustrates that openly doubting the victim is “a very dangerous game to get into” because they may well be genuine. As long as there is that possibility, they all need to be given the support and encouragement they require. At the moment though, this isn’t the reality.

The women who do lie and “cry rape” not only affect the falsely accused but real victims. It creates doubt in everyone, even the victim themselves. Victims of partner rape often find it hard to define the abuse as rape, because society tells us a ‘real’ rape is committed by a stranger in an alleyway. Anything other than that is difficult to articulate, especially if the victim is experiencing other forms of domestic abuse; physical and emotional which often comes as part of the package. Through my own experience and knowledge of other survivors of partner rape, I believe victims suffer from something similar to ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ in which they are so controlled by the abuser that they begin to doubt themselves and identify with the person abusing them. Antonella Sofia Zottola is a brave survivor of partner rape who wishes to speak out about her experience in order to encourage change. She describes the confusion her partner brought about; “most of the time I tried to be in denial because the truth would be too much.”

The police reasonably investigate allegations from both sides of the ‘argument’. However what is not reasonable is the method they can use to investigate, focusing on whether the woman is “crying rape” rather than whether the perpetrator is guilty or not. Joanne Holder knows from her experiences working with victims that the police “definitely question and doubt when victims tell them of any situation that might not be a stranger [rape] scenario” - acting on the myth of ‘real’ rape being committed by a stranger and anything else being viewed as suspicious, even though in reality only 8% of rapes are committed by strangers. This cultural and societal reaction along with the victims own confusion can make it very difficult to be taken seriously and treated the same as any other rape victim.

Some victims who report rapes and especially acquaintance rapes are still treated in insensitive ways; their morals and sexual history are put into question even though they are irrelevant. Antonella explains that she felt the police judged her not on her account and evidence she provided but on her sexual history and because she was wearing lingerie during the rape. Rape cases are notoriously difficult to reach court as it has to be proven beforehand that a ‘guilty’ verdict is likely before a trial is allowed. Even though she had a letter in which he confessed to physically assaulting her and additional forensic evidence, her case never even reached the court room. She describes that “I couldn't even explain myself, the police just had made their minds made up”. In partner rape cases there can be a strong argument that the rapist did not realise sex was not consensual just because they were already in a consensual relationship with the victim. Screaming “no” is not clear enough, struggling is not clear enough. What would be extremely clear in any other case, is not clear enough when a partner rapes the one they are meant to love. Antonella describes her own experience of this, “they said to me yes it's non-consensual but we have no proof that he knew what he was doing was wrong.” She also feels that she was not in a fit emotional state to make a statement but once she had made one, they “twisted” her words against her; “I said I wanted to take control meaning I felt I had no other choice. I was trying to see how I could control my safety and make it stop. They twisted everything, saying I wanted to take control meaning I was consenting.”. Antonella’s experience with the police strongly echoes that of many other survivors. It is disturbing to know that this treatment is so widespread. It is not a one off.

Additionally, we are still branding women as liars or being told that we are exaggerating, partner rape is not 'real' or serious and we are still blaming victims instead of rapists. Under 6% of rapists are convicted of the 20% that are reported. That means 98.8% of rapists go free. I thought this was meant to be a crime? Slut Walk is just the beginning of much needed media awareness. There are thousands of women right now screaming and crying out inside for their voices to be heard. Why are we still ignoring them?

A ten minute documentary examining a person experience of partner rape and the wider implications of rape myths:

Silence from Laura Connett on Vimeo.


Statistics: Allen, J and Myhill, A (2002) Rape and sexual assault of women:
the extent and nature of the problem. Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.

Permission given for use of quotes:
Joanne Holder, interviewed by Laura Connett during ‘Silence’ (documentary, 2011)
Sharon Xeureb, interviewed by Laura Connett during ‘Silence’ (documentary, 2011)
Antonella Sofia Zottola interviewed by Laura Connett (article research, 2011)

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Curiosity made the cat: Body hair

It is a widely accepted fact that today the ‘fashion’ of body hair has turned women’s bodies completely hairless from the hairline down. It has saturated our culture, from plucking, shaving and waxing to vajazzling and labiaplasties. This trend is relatively new, and is just part of our ‘pornified’ culture.

Recently a discussion was held on BBC Newsnight about the issue of women’s body hair. Jeremy Paxman seemed to misunderstand the feminist view-point and asked “You think it‘s something women should not do?” The contributors (barring “glamorous” lady) explained quite rightly that there is nothing wrong with what a woman chooses to do with her body, but the problem is that many women feel compelled to change their bodies to fit into the cultural ‘beauty’ stereotype. From the moment my underarms began growing substantial hair I conformed to the hairless stereotype because that‘s that women do. As time consuming, expensive and pointless as I thought it was, I knew I’d get negative responses if I decided not to shave. So some women aren’t choosing freely but because they feel they have to in order to ‘fit in’ and just be normal. Is this okay? I don’t think so. All types of bodies and appearances should be accepted in an ideal world. This is just part of the reason there are a ton of self-esteem issues that mainly women have to deal with every day.

The normalisation of hairlessness can cause body image problems which effects both women and men. Girls growing up in today’s culture increasingly view shaving, waxing and plucking as part of being a woman. There is no alternative for many of them if they want to be a feminine ‘real’ woman and be accepted by their peers.

This leads me to think that the BBC argument was looking at the issue the wrong way around, it revolved around whether it is okay for women to shave rather than whether it's okay for women not to shave. There should be nothing wrong with a woman’s choice to shave. But society has a big problem if we choose not to- so doesn’t this point to a problem? I have heard the words “revolting” and “feminist dyke” attached to anyone who either decides not to shave or simply forgets to. For example on the few occasions celebrities forget to shave and reveal a tiny bit of stubble, they’re criticised for it in the media. Lily Allen had her stubble zoomed into and blown up along the caption “Lily Allen reveals her unsightly underarm hair as she ran errands around London yesterday” So - is this ’trend’ really women’s own uninfluenced choice?

I have personally been called “disgusting” for only shaving my bikini line and not paying a small fortune for someone to wax it off for me, leaving horrible itchy red bumps (Caitlin Moran calls bare muffins "skinless Lidl chicken breasts.") One of my friends told me of a woman he saw with hairy armpits, he was truly sickened by the sight. Hair is a perfectly natural thing which does not generally revolt us on men, this was not a ‘natural’ reaction. He thought this way not from his own free opinion, but one effected by cultural norms. All he had been exposed to before that point were images of hairless women and all he had been told is that femininity is hairless. Many young men learn about sex through porn which is where the hair-free vulva thing came from = we can see it better. Also there's the whole pre-pubescent slightly paedophilic aspect of it. So they expect their girlfriend to be shaved down there and imitate a porn actress rather than be herself - this is just one aspect of how they expect women’s bodies not to look natural. This encourages self esteem issues, pressuring women to conform and as a result strengthening the overall expectation - it’s an unstoppable cycle.

Doesn't look as end-of-the-world-ish as you thought eh? I'm still a woman, too.

What I find so ridiculous about all of this is that we’ve now come to a point where men and even many women don’t even know what a natural female body looks like. We don't know what our own bodies, in their natural forms look like! When I see women on the street with layers of make-up on, orange 'tanned' skin, hair extensions, false eyelashes, false nails and gleaming white teeth. I ask myself. What do they really look like, do THEY even know? And that's without even going into fairly common cosmetic surgery procedures.

We aren’t shown pictures of natural body hair or of natural body shapes, we think we're weird and gross because we have hair and wobbly bits and blemishes and pores and we don't look like airbrushed pop stars. In fact, I had no idea what my underarms actually looked like before I decided to grow them - not to particularly make a point, but just to find out. Also because I couldn’t be bothered shaving every single day of my life and don't care what other people think of my choice. Also because I find Lisbeth Salander’s armpits in The Girl Who Played With Fire strangely attractive. She is hairy and still incredibly cool.

I now enjoy stroking my new fur occasionally, it's like a mini-cat. I have learned it is not "unhygienic" or dirty at all because my fur does not smell nor do I or my boyfriend find it repulsive. Nobody has thrown any rocks at me yet. The end of the world did not happen when I ditched my razor =O But if it did I'd call on Buffy to put a stop to all this nonsense.