Looking from the outside in - people, place and practice

Friday, March 1, 2013

Playboy SA's amazing cover

Okay so normally I wouldn't associate Playboy with helping or advancing the women's right movement, or anything remotely tasteful. Yet, with their March issue cover, they have impressed me.

No means no. The question needn't be asked right? Wrong. For so many men in South Africa and around the world the issue of rape - much to our disgust - is not a big deal. Some men might argue that the woman was asking for it or that she dressed too provocatively. Yet, no means no. Without consent, you are in fact raping someone. You are having sex with someone against their will.

I love how a publication such as Playboy, a notoriously chauvinistic magazine, brings the issue of consent to light. And on the cover?!

Their readership are probably 99% heterosexual males. I love the idea of preaching to men instead of women protesting issues of rape. We as women can protest all we want in support of victims - a great way to show our disgust for perpetrators and support for victims. Yet, men who rape will more likely stop raping when other men stop condoning their behaviour.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How Lena Dunham is changing the way I feel about my body

#Spoiler alert!

After watching the latest episode of GIRLS (Season 2, episode 5) I can't help but think about films like An Affair to Remember. Scenarios pop up in my head, making me picture beautiful villas, rich and handsome men sipping on 30-year-old whisky. They are charming and charismatic as they spend romantic weekends with young, doe-eyed women who have tiny figures and flawless skin. They usually spend these weekends taking long baths, drinking wine, having fireplace chats and engaging in hot sex.

For me, this episode of GIRLS was just that. Yet, Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, is nothing like the women described above.

She is a bigger girl, she has cellulite, she has a flabby stomach, she's not always perfectly manicured or impeccably made-up. She is so much closer to my body type than I am to any of those women I grew up watching in movies.

Hannah spends two nights in the Brooklyn brownstone home of a handsome, rich and very kind doctor named Joshua. He is the perfect gentleman and genuinely seems to be into her.

As he lifts her up onto the kitchen island, he rubs his hands over her in-no-ways bony thigh. It’s really sexy. I think Lena Dunham wanted to show that girls who are considered ‘average’ by societal beauty standards can also have affairs like this, and hot ones at that.

There is a scene in this episode where Hannah and Joshua engage in some bare-chested table tennis. She focuses only on the ball and forgets to be self-conscious. You can see how comfortable she is with her naked body and how appealing this uber-attractive man finds that.

Lena Dunham is changing the way I view my body. I slowly but surely seem to find all those imperfections appealing. The flabby stomach, the not-so-perfect thighs. It’s all about changing perceptions.

It elates me to think that imagery like this in GIRLS is becoming mainstream. It goes to show that it can take just one person to change our idea of beauty…

Thanks, Lena.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bredasdorp rape: How do we punish for such an act?

Warning: The content of this article is disturbing and may upset sensitive readers.

On Friday 8 February, a third suspect was arrested in connection with the rape, torture and death of teenager Anene Booysen. The trial is set to start this week.

‘Her throat had been slit, all her fingers and both legs were broken, a broken glass bottle had been lodged in her, her stomach had been cut open... That which was supposed to be inside her body lay strewn across the scene where they found her,’ Anene’s aunt, Wilma Brooks, told reporters from News 24.

Cut open from her stomach to her genitals. Her mutilated body left to die on a construction site. Does this gruesome incident remind us that South Africa is in the midst of a gender war/ violence epidemic? I think it should.

What do we say about such an appalling act? This was not killing for the sake of money or for any reason other than for the sake of torturing a female body. To the point that her womanhood, the essence of her as a human, and her life were taken away from her. How do we start to deal with the aftermath? And with the realization that, yes, such acts really do happen in South Africa. And they don’t happen infrequently, they happen all the time - some are just more publicized than others.

So what is an appropriate punishment? Is there such a thing? Since news of this atrocity broke, people have been calling for the death sentence to be reinstated. This, of course, would go against South Africa’s Constitution.

Yet, how do we deal with the culture of violence against women, which is now obviously spiralling out of control? The answer cannot just be ‘life in prison’. We have to get to the core, the root of the evil, which will continue to plague our society if we do not act. And fast.

Let us know what you think.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

French women can now wear pants

Yes, French women can finally, after 200 years, breathe a sigh of relief. They can finally slide their long legs into a pair of black trousers. Oh wait, they already have.

Okay, so until last week it was actually illegal for a woman to wear a pair of pants in public in Paris. Crazy, right? This was until Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, France’s minister for women’s rights, tossed this outdated law into the history bin. Clearly an oversight, Parisian women have been wearing trousers for years. For the French, there's nothing like a pair of black pants, right?

The law was first introduced long ago by Paris’s police chief, for fear that women would be mistaken for male revolutionaries. It was, however, amended several times: in 1892, for women wanting to go horse-riding, and in 1909, for female cyclists.

Many people knew about this old law, yet found that changing it was unnecessary. ‘No one really pays attention to it any more,’ people said. ‘It would just be extra admin.’ Well, Vallaud-Belkacem disagreed, saying: ‘This ordinance is incompatible with the principles of equality between women and men.’

By refusing to allow this law to rule their lives, women of course crushed its power. As a matter of principle, though, its abolition is welcome. The fewer gender-unequal laws there are, the better…

Some crazy US laws include:

A man with a moustache may never kiss a woman in public. (Iowa)

Beer and pretzels cannot be served at the same time in any bar or restaurant. (North Dakota)

In New Jersey, it is illegal to slurp soup; and for a man to knit during the fishing season.

A husband is responsible for every criminal act committed by his wife while she is in his presence. (Utah)

Info via here.


Friday, January 25, 2013

What if we had a gender-swapping plug-in for real life?

What if we had a gender-swapping plug-in for real life?

This blog post, A letter to the guy who harassed me outside the bar by Emily Heist Moss recently went viral. In the post the writer discusses how patriarchy is alive and well in everyday situations. As she walks to yoga, men whistle from their cars; teenage boys discuss her body’s measurements while she is well within earshot, men grope her in bars and harass her outside them. The list goes on.

She writes about how she wished that real life had a clever plug-in like Jailbreak the Patriarchy, which exposes sexist word choices in digital content.  Often you’ll find content, both online and offline, that describes or values women based on their age, hairstyle or make-up. Mentioning, say, Michelle Obama’s hair or Kate Middleton’s skin, their way of dressing instead of their intellect or their politics.

Imagine if we flipped the gender-swapping switch with online posts like:

Joe Biden Street Style

Today, the Vice President of the US donned a flattering ensemble of black on black. Is black the new black? We think so.


Should he be wearing those? 

Joe Biden was seen in these dark shades over the weekend. Is that not a bit too young Joe?


Joe Biden spotted by paparazzi

This photo, taken after many days of stalking, shows the Vice President tanning topless on a secret beach on the French Riviera. Is he keeping it tight? We really can’t tell.


Suspicions rise as Joe Biden wears a loose-fitting polo shirt

Trying to hide his voluptuous figure underneath large shirts and by holding potted plants (even during speeches and meetings), the Vice President of the US has not responded to claims that his body has changed somewhat. Will a public statement be made? We want answers Joe.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lea. T, Alek Wek and more for United Colour of Benetton

Known for their controversial advertising methods (which I love!), the clothing company's latest ad actually features some of their clothing. I just love this new ad, which features a bunch of very interesting people like Alek Wek, Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter, Charlotte Free and transgender model (above) Lea T. Check it out and be inspired.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lesbian couture

Remember that controversial photo of two French women kissing at an anti-gay marriage rally in France? Well, Karl Lagerfeld is also doing his bit to support marriage equality. He recently sent two models, hand-in-hand, down the Chanel runway clad in wedding haute couture at his Paris show. The couture has since been dubbed 'lesbian couture'.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Menswear gone too far?

Designer J.W. Anderson certainly had tongues wagging at this year's London Fashion Week, as he unveiled his latest collection. What do you think? Taking menswear too far?