Like so many women who experience domestic violence, Amber Heard’s voice will be continually silenced

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in January 2016
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

Last week saw a major Hollywood split come to everyone’s attention when it was revealed that actress Amber Heard had filed for divorce from husband and actor Johnny Depp.

And just as everyone digested this news, pictures of a bruised Heard emerged amid claims that Depp had physically, verbally and emotionally abused her throughout their marriage. Since then, Heard has been granted a temporary restraining order against him due to her claims of experiencing domestic violence, but people have not been kind about it.

Before I begin this blog post, I feel it’s important to let readers know I am fully aware that domestic violence can be experienced by anyone. However, the statistics show that in most cases, it is women who are abused:

· One in four women is abused during her lifetime.
· One in nine is severely physically abused each year.
· Two are killed each week .

(Source: Refuge)

And in most cases, it is women who must bear the burden of their ‘accusations.’

Domestic violence is a subject that is very close to my heart, and one that I feel is increasingly swept under the carpet. Quick to denounce Heard’s revelations was Depp’s friend and comic Doug Stanhope, who said in his guest column for The Wrap: “Abusing women is bullshit. Johnny doesn’t abuse anyone. And he told me that day ahead of time that she’d pull some kind of shit like this.”

Depp’s ex-wife Vanessa Paradis also came forward in a letter, stating that “in all these years I have known Johnny he has never been physically abusive with me and this looks nothing like the man I lived with for 14 wonderful years.”

Elsewhere, various publications like E! Online and my personal favourite,  The Daily Mail, scraped the barrel for news and reported that Heard was “all smiles” as she left her legal meetings. If you aren’t following where I’m going with this, you probably never will, as pointing the finger at any woman who flags domestic violence has always been treated appallingly. Even this time, it is no different.

‘Blackmailer.’ ‘Liar.’ ‘Selfish.’ ‘Manipulative.’

These are just some of the words used by those who have made it clear they do not ‘believe’ Heard, and it echoes how women are often treated when they finally find it within themselves to talk about their experience of domestic violence. “Why did she not speak up earlier?” and “why did she just not leave?” are questions that people always fire in relation to it. Women aren’t even given a chance.

Everything which has been said about Heard in the media now implies that Depp could not possibly do this. That it must be fabricated, a ploy to defame Depp, ruin his career, or get millions out of the divorce settlement. People are very quick to put on their rose-tinted glasses when their idols are attacked, so much so that they  end up refusing to see them outside of their roles as big time Hollywood stars. Reel and real becomes so blurred that people begin to follow the lives of their favourite actors almost like a tragic plot-twist in a movie: ‘no, our hero could NEVER do this!’

And as always, women are sidelined and told to silence themselves because they are ‘crazy’ or ‘delirious.’ That a woman should say a man has hit her becomes illegal in our apparently modern world. Nobody wants to hear about it, and worse still, nobody wants to do anything about it. But what else can women expect from a society and culture that Googles images of Rihanna’s swollen face after she is beaten by Chris Brown, but allows the same Chris Brown to continue making music? And Brown’s continued success does not even cover half of the pats on the back men receive despite their abusive nature.

Reading about the reaction to Heard makes me increasingly worried and furious about the millions of women worldwide who are currently experiencing domestic violence. As I type this right now, somewhere in our world, a female is being subjected to all kinds of atrocities. The fact that Heard’s visual evidence of abuse still cause the media and people to react abhorrently frightens me, since it takes courage, strength and real heart for a woman to finally express that she is suffering. Even more so if she is in the media spotlight. I for one don’t understand why a woman would go to such lengths if she was lying.

A woman’s position in society has always been decided for us, and yet again I can see Heard – and others who experience domestic violence – will have to battle again to find their voice in a world that stifles it. An abuser does not come with a flashing sign above their head saying ‘I am an abuser.’ Nor does a woman come with a sign saying ‘I am here to be abused.’ Yet why do we only choose to create that accusatory sign for women?

This is exactly why women find it so hard to speak about their experience of abuse: because someone on the other side will shake their head ‘no’ and dismiss their story. This is a cycle that has been repeated for so many times and left only those in power – like Depp and other rich, Hollywood celebrities – completely untouched.

Nobody will remember that a man carried out abuse, because they’ll only remember the woman who ‘accused’ him.

 

 

 

 

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Murdered by my Father’s Kiran Sonia Sawar: “Honour killings is an issue that needs to be dealt with”

Honour killings are confronted head on in BBC Three drama Murdered by my Father. Actress Kiran Sonia Sawar talks to me about ensuring Asian women are respected.

There is a moment in BBC Three drama Murdered by my Father where London teen Salma, played by Kiran Sonia Sawar, flees from her father’s imprisonment and jumps over the nearest balcony in her block of flats. While this happens, the camera pans to an Asian neighbour opposite who sees Salma escaping and in response, speedily closes the curtains. It’s a moment that is small, but extremely significant.

“Any close-knit communities will shut themselves out from directly addressing problems, but instead gossip about them, and I think that’s the problem”, says Sawar. “They’re more than happy to have a conversation with someone else about it, but they’re never going to hit it head-on. And I think that’s what that scene really effectively represents, it’s that problem of ignorance.”

Murdered by my Father focuses on honour killings and the plight of Salma, who becomes victim to her father’s rage after falling in love with cheeky charmer Imi (Mawaan Rizwan). As the title suggests, it ends with disastrous consequences.

Rather than feeling angry or upset about the family dynamic however, Sawar empathised with Salma’s father Shahzad (Adeel Akhtar): “I think it’s a gorgeous relationship, I think Salma really, really loves her dad and brother, and obviously Salma doesn’t see her dad’s demise, she doesn’t see that side of it until it’s too late, but her relationship with her dad is completely one of love.”

Having grown up in a Pakistani family herself, Sawar’s desire for discussions surrounding honour-based violence to be more prominent is palpable. While she has received incredible support from her liberal Asian parents – they have always encouraged her to pursue a career as an actress – Sawar feels a deep connection with Salma “in terms of love, intelligence, a passion for wanting to live your own life and make your own choices and deal with those consequences”. She adds: “That’s how you learn, that’s how you grow.”

But in trying to understand the mind-set of girls and women like Salma, portrayals of honour-based violence can often be inaccurate, dismissing the individual’s internal struggle to make life-defining decisions. “The media can describe it from a westernised point of view,” she says. Sawar understands the misconceptions attached to this issue and when discussing victim-blaming, her objection towards such attitudes is clear.

“It doesn’t make any sense in my mind. How can anyone dare to blame the victim in any situation where somebody is being attacked? Salma goes back [to her family] out of love, out of duty, out of care, out of passion, out of honesty, out of who she is as a person. For someone to want to walk away from their whole lives, from everything that they’ve built, and all their relationships and their parents, it’s a massive, massive, massive deal,” she says.

Sawar’s appearance in Murdered by my Father also comes at a crucial time for BBC Three. The broadcaster is redefining itself as a front runner in producing compelling documentaries and drama, while offering a platform for young emerging talent. And Sawar is no stranger to working with the BBC, having appeared in an episode of BBC One’s Holby City. More recently, she has also starred in the US TV series Legends, which aired on American TV channel TNT.

“My first TV job was only last year in June, which was ‘Legends’, and all three of my TV jobs have been based completely on the fact that I’m Asian. But I think that I’m not somebody who shies away from my culture and who I am, and should the story need to be told, I’m more than happy to comply and tell the story from an Asian perspective. That’s not an issue, but it would be lovely if there were more opportunities to play characters that are a bit different, a bit more daring, definitely.”

She is currently rehearsing for her next role in the world premiere of Brideshead Revisited. Sawar will play youngest daughter of the aristocratic Brideshead family in the adaption of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, set in 1943.

“I find that theatre is much more open to colour-blind casting and to casting based on what somebody can bring to a role rather than their appearance,” says Sawar.

For Sawar, Murdered by my Father is not just about using ground-breaking TV to educate girls. She wants to use this medium to change the mind-set of her male audience too.

“I’ve had lots of lovely messages from young Asian men. They’re going to grow up to be the next dads and uncles and grandads, and they’re just as important in this storyline,” explains Sawar. “If this is being taught to men from a younger age, about their treatment of women and their respect for women and how women are entitled to their own choice of freedom, then I feel like that’s my job being done.

“This is a human issue, it needs to be dealt with,” continues Sawar. “I don’t want honour killings to be another thing that people see and think: ‘oh, that’s not our problem, that’s this problem or that’s somebody else’s problem’, because it doesn’t just happen in Asian communities.”

Published also in The Asian Today:

http://www.theasiantoday.com/index.php/2016/04/22/murdered-by-my-fathers-kiran-sonia-sawar-honour-killings-is-an-issue-that-needs-to-be-dealt-with/

#ReclaimTheBindi: A backlash against cultural appropriation

The traditional South Asian adornment called the 'bindi'. Photo credit: imgkid.com
The traditional South Asian adornment called the ‘bindi’. Photo credit: imgkid.com

Both the married and unmarried Hindu woman is often the first figure attached to the wearing of a bindi, a term which in Sanskrit means ’round’ or ‘drop’. The bindi decorates the forehead between the eyes and has religious connotations. It is also a symbol of beauty, femininity, sexuality and even fertility, and some additionally believe it to foster a mystical meaning, representing a third eye that awakens the inner sight. However, the bindi is not exclusive to Hindu women, and is firmly rooted in South Asian culture overall, taking on a variety of meanings.

For the last 7 months, ‘Reclaim the Bindi’ has been campaigning through Tumblr and Twitter to fight cultural appropriation and scrutinize a growing number of non-South Asian females wearing the bindi as a fashion statement or a ‘festival look’, often without consideration of the bindi’s widespread cultural and religious meanings. In erasing the bindi’s context, its cultural appropriation means that while a fashion season changes and the bindi appears ‘in trend’ during one season, by the next, it could be considered less ‘trendy’ and ‘stylish’.

“Since day one, my aim with this campaign has been to educate and empower”, says the anonymous face behind the ‘Reclaim the Bindi’ campaign. “There’s no single end goal, per se, but to bring awareness to the struggles of South Asians, provide a platform for us to speak, and to curate safe spaces for Desis to go to while fighting these fights”.

Indeed, while fashion seasons change with the ebb and flow of things, cultural seasons usually tend not to. The ‘Reclaim the Bindi’ campaign is therefore a revolt against the likes of Iggy Azalea, Vanessa Hudgens and Kylier Jenner, all of whom have more recently worn the bindi in music videos or shared pictures wearing it through social media. As music festival Coachella approached last year – and even this year – an increasing amount of articles and YouTube videos promoted wearing the bindi to be trendy.

‘Reclaim the Bindi’ raises the pivotal issue of more dominant groups wearing the bindi in an undeniably problematic, offensive and hypocritical way, and particularly since many South Asian females have faced ostracization from the same dominant groups for wearing the bindi as part of their cultural traditions, which stretch back thousands of years. The campaign highlights how the bindi is now becoming more acceptable, beautiful and normalised as non-South Asian celebrities are pictured wearing it or endorse it through their music videos and social media, which subsequently spurs others to do the same.

Talking about the movement, the anonymous campaigner behind it says she is reclaiming the bindi because of “the number of times I rubbed off my kumkum after leaving the temple because I didn’t want to be ostracized. The way I tried to hide my pattu langas under my coat as a little kid because I didn’t want to be seen as different. The absurd amount of racial microaggressions I was forced to face as a Desi growing up in America. On me, my culture was a reason to be harassed, but why is it so amazing on someone else?”.

But what about claims that now, people in South Asian countries are also adopting Western cultural habits on a greater level? It is incredibly easy to visit contemporary India, for example, and see that a lot of the youth want to adopt Western cultural behaviours and implement these within their own social reality, especially as they are exposed to more choice. While it is frustrating for many second generation South Asian females in particular to see the bindi, a cultural tradition they have felt ashamed of in the West, being reinstated and upheld as something ‘fashionable’ or ‘exotic’, the @reclaimthebindi Twitter account often retweets claims that “brown girls do it better”. While the cause is definitely empowering and an important one, it can be unnerving to see a backlash that for some, may border on confrontational and threatening rather than ‘educational’.

https://twitter.com/__snehababyy/status/587363258044182528

https://twitter.com/sariboutya/status/587316168601374720

As such, while it is refreshing to see these South Asian women uniting, taking numerous pictures of themselves wearing a bindi and sharing it across social media, does it potentially create and perpetuate a further divide between “us” and “them”?

The campaigner firmly disagrees: “I’ve tried to, since the start, keep a polite tone and positive outlook no matter the responses I get. Tone policing, unfortunately, is something you often see when PoC try to speak up about their struggles… unless we making it pleasing to privileged ears, we are brushed off as angry and bitter… there are certain cultural and religious boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed under the pretenses of self-expression… when talking about Desis wearing ‘Western clothing’, we must take into consideration forced assimilation, colonialism, etc. South Asians (and all PoC, for that matter) have been fighting a never-ending battle against white supremacy, and being forced to wear clothes that Western society deems acceptable has been a part of our oppression. We don’t wear these things for fun, we wear them for survival. Because of this, we cannot compare me wearing a pair of jeans to a white girl wearing a bindi to feel ‘boho’ or ‘hipster’. The racial power dynamics at play aren’t the same… by telling white people to not use cultural and religious symbols that don’t belong to them, we are by no means being prejudiced or discriminatory, either. How are we marginalizing anyone by informing them to not take something out of context they shouldn’t be using anyway?”

While it is questionable whether ‘force’ plays into it, it must be factored in that it is a minority of females who wear the bindi and who are not South Asian, and that even within this minority, the intent may not be to superimpose their white privilege on another culture or trivialise the meaning behind the bindi. And what of those South Asian females who wear the bindi without any religious intent, and merely as a fashion accessory that compliments the rest of their outfit? Should we not be scapegoating them too? It is also hard to dismiss that many contemporary South Asian countries are also shifting their view of the bindi as it occupies again, a more stylish premise. In the UK itself, the bindi began emerging in mainstream culture in 1990s as Asian and dance culture meshed together, and soon after came the release of No Doubt’s single ‘Just A Girl’, showing Gwen Stefani wearing one in the video.

Even so, the ‘Reclaim the Bindi’ campaign taps into an relevant issue that demonstrates how the bindi should not be decontextualised to such an extent. As #reclaimthebindi continues to gain momentum and continues to trend on Twitter and Tumblr, the campaign proves it is the mouthpiece for a larger problem that has been avoided for too long. It is most fitting to end with a quote by writer Jarune Uwujaren, which the campaigner swears by: “so as free as people should be to wear whatever hair and clothing they enjoy, using someone else’s cultural symbols to satisfy a personal need for self-expression is an exercise in privilege”.

Another welcome celebration of women: ‘This Girl Can’.

THisGirlCan
Photo credit; The Independent

Let’s talk of the latest health campaign you should know about. Earlier this week, Sport England unveiled their ‘This Girl Can’ campaign, which is trying to remove long-standing shame and fear associated with females engaging in sports through a video that has racked up over 1 million views.

We all know that when we think of sports, we think of a male dominated arena where seeing men sweat, huff and puff, groan and talk boastfully about their recent gym session is frankly, quite normal. Even images and visuals related to this have always been welcomed in the mass media since it has always been more acceptable for men to ‘naturally’ fit with sports and bulking up, while women and their bodies have been moulded to see sports and fitness as a means of becoming skinny and heading towards absurdly set goals centred around unrealistic models in magazines and more recently, hashtags such as ‘thinspiration’ (with more unrealistic images of women, yay).

What this campaign aims to do is show that females of all shapes and sizes can engage in sports and fitness activities without the need to please anyone; essentially, it is normalising the normal, everyday female and the normal female body shapes that exist in our world. It’s about redefining femininity and ridding it of a long, enslaved history that has dictated it must restrain itself, be conservative and shy away from a love of sport and fitness. It is telling females that they do not need to engage in sports just to get fit and that actually, it is more about loving your body and loving yourself.

The campaign has received some criticism for being called “This Girl Can” and so excluding women an even slated for still being about sex, but I disagree. Girl or women, the campaign’s message is far more important than the name, and anyway, weren’t all women girls once? Yes, “girl” has younger connotations, but the campaign is essentially about shedding yourself of those factors that create fear within females and prevent them from engaging in sport – age being one of them. “Girl” suggests frivolity, letting go and embracing that inner youth that can never really be demolished, whether you’re a woman or not.

And while the video does capitalise on images of women’s flesh, well, what did critics expect to see when tackling sport? Some see objectification in it but if Sport England covered these females up and created the video, then they would see that it is a misrepresentation of women in sport and claim that women need to be empowered to in fact reveal their bodies when engaging in healthy activity. So the campaign would lose either way, right? I for one see sparks of female empowerment radiating from the women. If Sport England wanted to make this campaign sexy, it would scream sexy, but to me, it doesn’t.

What’s important is that the campaign works and the hashtag is easy to engage with. Girls or woman, this is about being female. We could all sit around and be picky but for once, let’s not. The message here is coherent and makes sense to many female wanting to make a go of loving themselves. Let’s focus on that!

image
Photo credit: sportandrecreation.org.co.uk

What does the attack on Gauhar Khan tell us?

Photo credit: The Independent
Photo credit: The Independent

The image above shows actress and TV star Gauhar Khan left shocked after audience member Akil Malik slapped her during the filming of a TV show for wearing a ‘revealing’ backless outfit. According to Mumbai Police, he justified his actions by stating that “being a Muslim woman, she should not have worn such a short dress.”

This incident has been on my mind since yesterday, when reports first emerged in the UK media. What surprises me is how this male managed to get passed 250 security guards and an audience consisting of 2,500 people and failed to get spotted as he made his way on stage and carried out the attack.

But this isn’t the only issue plaguing my mind. It is simply horrific that Khan was subjected to this act of violence because of her clothing and a desire to express herself through it. Not only has she been traumatised, she has been denied the right to choose.

Now, I understand that the Muslim woman is expected to cover herself, but I think we can all agree that this aspect of the religion does not follow suit on a national or global level. While some females may adhere, others do not choose to  cover themselves and ultimately, a choice is made to dress how they wish. While Khan may be Muslim, we must not forget that she is a woman, and more specifically, a human. What is wrong with Khan’s decision to wear what she wants? Should one be condemned for following a religion, believing in a God but doing it in a way that fits them? If that brings them solace but angers us, then why should we interfere and try and condemn them? Why should we play God? Wouldn’t God then be angry that humans were trying to steal his thunder anyway?

More importantly, however, if someone has decided to mould a religion to what they want it to be, then why does religion need to exist at all?

The slapping of Khan has acted as a warning for women of fame and fortune to cover up or face being subjected to violent treatment. Indian society seems to be saying:

“we’ll watch you on our screens, but if you appear in front of us in reality, wearing what we feel is ‘inappropriate’ clothing, then we have the right to make sure we violate that body and let you know that you’ve done wrong”.

Malik’s slapping of Khan is an attempt to control the female body and show that it is men who will decide and carry out a fitting punishment for women who are not doing what is ‘right’.  It’s a clear, patriarchal mentality to inhibit and shun female expression, success and sexuality, and it is wrong. Gauhar Khan has been victimised and found herself on the receiving end of everything that is wrong with how women – whether celebrities or not – are viewed. We are constantly hearing of the ridiculous suggestion that women should dress less provocatively in order to prevent sexual assault and rape, but these people fail to consider that men could change their attitudes to it. It is the perverse and patriarchal male gaze and the view that women are unequal and bodies offering unrestricted sexual and/or violent access that produces such defaming attacks on innocent women. Gauhar Khan will now think twice before wearing an item of clothing and stepping outside the house. One slap, and her whole outlook on her body, the way she presents it and her confidence will now change.

In my view, the slap was an act of hatred under the guise of religion. We should be questioning the perpetrator himself and asking whether he practices Islam in a way that is 100% accurate. How do we know whether or not Malik – who apparently condemns Bollywood actress for ‘exposing’ themselves – sits in his living room enjoying the show of flesh himself? What if he is indulging too? How can anyone know whether he is perfect? Who gives him the right to endanger a woman and enforce the ‘right’ way of doing things?

Gauhar Khan, although now ‘recovering’ from the situation, should not have had to face this. Muslim or not, she should decide what she wears and how she carries herself. We may raise our eyebrows, but at most, that is all we should do when pondering over the inconsistencies that religion brings out in people.

Sometimes, people just want to be themselves. Live with it.

INTERVIEW: Alan Javier Martofel – founder of Feminist Apparel.

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/FeministApparel

While browsing my Twitter feed a few weeks ago, I was introduced to a clothing brand going by the name of ‘Feminist Apparel’. Attached to the tweet in question was a quirky image of a princess, and boldly accompanying it were the words “DON’T SAVE ME”. Absolutely intrigued and of course, a feminist myself, I naturally flocked to have a peek at who Feminist Apparel was, and thus became acquainted with the first online feminist clothing store.

princess_peach_thumb_d4d66326-1cea-4b3b-a641-88ceec4f75be_grande_grande_grande
Photo credit: http://www.feministapparel.com

Founded by Alan Javier Martofel in December 2013, Feminist Apparel is currently based in Philadelphia, USA. With my interest piqued, I wanted to know more about the store and was lucky enough to ask Alan a few questions, which follow below:

Whose idea was it to get Feminist Apparel started, and how did you put the plan into action?

The idea for Feminist Apparel came to me while I was in between takes of a mini-documentary I was trying to produce about rape and rape culture in American college campuses. I thought of feminist t-shirts as a way of raising some funds for the project, and when I saw that there wasn’t a website dedicated to selling just that, the proverbial lightbulb went off.

Who designs the t-shirts and is behind the creative process?

The designs on the site so far have been a collaboration between my brother and I. He has the technical design skills and I give him the ideas for images and slogans that I want to see on a shirt.

If you could describe the Feminist Apparel clothing in 5 words, what comes to mind?

Clothing that makes an impact.

What are your main aims?

Our mission is two-pronged:

1) One of the largest hindrances to women-focused non-profits is the lack of funding. They don’t receive nearly as much as environment-focused or animal-focused non-profits. That’s why it was important for us to team up with the charity ‘Women’s Way’, which has been around since 1977 and does an incredible job at finding smaller non-profits in the Philadelphia area and lending them a helping hand.

2) The second part of the mission is why we remain a social for-profit instead of becoming a non-profit ourselves. Having a feminist for-profit company in the open marketplace means that we need to advertise as much as any other company in order to stay competitive. However, whereas most other mainstream companies put out advertising that highly underrepresents minorities, objectifies women and tries to make young girls feel like shit in order to sell to them, we plan on having billboards that call those companies out on their crap. We want to be in subways, on the side of buses, in our local print media and establishments, and eventually on television, promoting the ideals of intersectional feminism, which I believe lead to a better and healthier life.

How much money have you raised for Women’s Way so far, and how is Feminist Apparel progressing?

Since we’re only 3 months into this project, our stats aren’t the most consistent yet. We’ve sold about 500 shirts at this point and we’re already very close to turning a profit, which is pretty incredible and quite the testament to the unity and support base within the feminist movement. Most companies don’t see a profit for the first 3-5 years (source: http://www.entrepreneurideadads.com/2011/03/how-long-does-it-take-to-become-profitable/). We’re on pace to becoming profitable in the next 2-3 months.

You’re the first online feminist store. What effect and/or response have you had so far?

Honestly, its been incredible how overwhelmingly positive the response has been so far. We opened in the 2nd week of December and in the 3rd week of December, we were featured on Everyday Feminism’s Facebook page which at the time had 90,000 likes. I didn’t know we were featured when it happened. I just saw a trove of order notifications coming into my e-mail, minute-by-minute. I knew someone big must have featured us, but I had no idea who and I was just laying on the floor of my dark room quietly freaking out. Louis CK did this great bit – I think it was on Jay Leno’s show – about how he’s only famous enough that the people who want to know about him, know about him, and that you don’t start getting haters until you start popping up in front of people who haven’t actively seeked you out. We’re still on that level. We’re staking our feet firmly in the waters of internet feminism for now, and I think that FeministApparel.com is a perfect pivot for anyone that reads Jezebel, Feministing, xoJane, or any of the wonderful authors/curators who write about the feminist perspective of current events.

Of course, your target audience is women, but how are you trying to get men involved in this cause?

Women are definitely our largest customer base, however, we believe in bell hooks’ motto of feminism being for everybody, and so all of our designs come in a women’s cut fashion and a unisex cut fashion, as well as youth cut for some of the designs – mostly the ones that don’t say ‘fuck’ on them. Our shirts on the site range from XS-3XL, and we can accomodate up to 5XL. YOU get body positivity and YOU get body positivity, EVERYBODY GETS BODY POSITIVITY!!! (http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Oprahs-Entire-Audience-Are-Surprised-with-New-Cars-Video)

What t-shirts are especially popular amongst your customers?

“RIOTS NOT DIETS” sells pretty great, “Don’t Rape” is popular, and “Feminist As Fuck” too.

What is your favourite item from the store?

My favorite item from the store is the Gloria Steinem “We Shall Overcome” t-shirt. She’s a model for how to leverage your own personal privilege into social justice for all.

 Any parting words? What message do you wish to give your fellow feminists in general but also, about Feminist Apparel?

Fellow feminists: You are all beautiful. Non-feminists: You are also beautiful. Come on our site, learn about feminism and you will start having a happier and healthier mentality and lifestyle.

In my view, Feminist Apparel has emerged at a time when women – and specifically feminists – all around the world are in dire need of it. To have something as simple as an online clothing store providing full-fledged feminists – or even those interested in feminism – a chance to express themselves and their independence is still something we need today.

Considering that such clothing isn’t already available, Feminist Apparel have found and created another way for feminists to unite and express themselves while helping to raise money for local charity Women’s Way. Amidst all the news we are constantly exposed to regarding the sexual exploitation of women and the harrowing troubles still faced by many oppressed females today, the emergence of Feminist Apparel indicates that feminism remains pervasive and important in today’s society.

A massive thank you to Alan for firstly, taking the time to answer my questions but secondly, for founding Feminist Apparel, which is seemingly on its way to success.

You can follow Feminist Apparel on Twitter [@FeministApparel], ‘like’ their Facebook page [Feminist Apparel] and of course, visit their website to simply have a look or order yourself a t-shirt: http://www.feministapparel.com.

I better start saving up.

What’s going on with Beyoncé?

Beyonce in the new video for her single “Partition”.
(Photo credit: http://www.thegloss.com)

Opinion on Beyoncé and the new approach to her music videos is very much divided these days.

There has been a lot of talk that Beyoncé has succumbed to female sexualisation within pop culture and is doing what a few other female celebrities have also been doing – getting rather fleshy for the camera and shoving her bits in our face. A large number of fans and feminists are outraged that Beyoncé has resorted to such measures.

For what has happened to Beyoncé? What is the sudden need for her to resort to this sexualisation of herself? It’s just odd, right?

Not exactly, no.

A few days ago after watching her video for Partition, I was feeling disappointed that Beyoncé – who usually promotes female empowerment and strengthens women through her songs – was essentially defecating all over what she’d previously stood for and represented to the world. I was furious that a female who had embodied grace and for me, a more classy form of sexiness, was now reduced to parading around in minimal clothing and representing herself in an explicitly sexual way.

However, a Beyoncé music video marathon made me question my own view, and left me wondering: why are people finding her new persona so hard to accept?

If we take a look back at Beyoncé’s previous music videos, it is evident that her attitude and persona were extremely sexual even back then, and an older and mature Martha only picked it up yesterday. Her lyrics, attire and whole demeanour essentially represents a seductress lying in wait. Here’s a few shots of her more subtle (in Beyoncé-world) sexuality:

Beyonce in “Naughty Girl”.
(Photo credit: beautevintage.blogspot.com)
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Beyonce in “Deja Vu”.
(Photo credit: http://www.bestvideorap.com)
Beyonce in “Dance For You”.
(Photo credit: vimeo.com)

(Note:  The videos do all the talking, so I urge you to spend a minute or two actually watching them to get an idea of the point I’m making. Go and browse YouTube).

These stills show that Beyoncé has always been somewhat sexual, and sexualised. The videos for Naughty Girl, Deja Vu and Dance For You show her in this way. Did we pick up on her overt sexuality and need to be sexy and raunchy back then? If not, then why are we suddenly raving about it now? Where lies the boundary for giving someone a telling-off for female sexualisation? For Beyoncé could have been told that she was over-doing it then too, and the same issues related to female exploitation in the media applied back then as well. We could have easily said “tone it down love, because it’s a bit too much and you don’t need to make videos like that, it’s sending the wrong message”. I don’t think anybody did.

What’s even funnier is that in the music videos that relate to Beyoncé singing about empowering women, such as Irreplaceable and Best Thing I Never Had, she is again sexualised and adorned in suggestive outfits which to me, seem slightly odd and unnecessary considering the context of the songs. Have a quick look below:

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Beyonce in “Best Thing I Never Had”.
(Photo credit: http://www.hiphopstan.com)
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Beyonce in “Irreplaceable”.
(Photo credit: YouTube, and then screenshotted from my phone).

Was there a need for her to be represented in such a sexual manner? I don’t think so, but it happened before, and it’s sure as hell happening now.

So why the big shock about her new persona? Haven’t we been exposed to it for a while now? Didn’t you see it coming?

In my view, Beyoncé and her overt sexuality have been in the public domain for years. It may not have been as explicit as it is now, but its been around and people must remember that she is not the innocent broken-hearted girl character all the time. If anything, the victimised and innocent female is an image we’d like to construct for Beyoncé, but this is an artist who has done female empowerment-through-slaughtering-men and now is doing female-empowerment-by-normalising-more-explicit-sexualisation-of-herself. A part of me feels that Beyoncé is simply reminding women that heartbreak and love loss because of horrible men is one thing, but that falling deeply and madly in love, having a swell sex life and revelling in your sexuality is another – and that’s it’s okay to do so. Could this be a form of feminism and female empowerment in itself?

That being said, it continues to really upset me that a role model for so many female girls has also begun to take such an extremely explicitly sexual approach to her recent music videos. These 3 or 4 minute music videos are enough to give people the wrong ideas. The only message I’ve gained from Partition is that Beyoncé has lost any sense of originality. Many young girls and women will watch these videos and believe that the route to success is succinctly sexual. Many men will watch and gain the impression that that women are objects, placed in front of them solely for their sexual gratification. As Beyoncé sings “I just wanna be the girl you like” in Partition, I feel she is enforcing the wrong kind of values and sticking her middle finger up to everything that feminists have (and still are) fighting for.

For me, Beyonce is only fuelling the view that women in the limelight (and even outside of it) must bare all in order to be successful or establish their identity. It’s the wrong message to be giving women and I firmly stand by the view that she is not helping to shed women of this age-long weight. Beyoncé is now leading the race in who can sexualise women the best and who can be successful as a result. This is everything that shouldn’t be happening for us.

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Beyonce in “Partition”.
(Photo credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk)
(Photo credit: gigwise.com)
Beyonce in “Partition”.
(Photo credit: youtube.com)
Beyonce in “Drunk in Love”.
(Photo credit: style.mtv.com)
Beyonce in “Yonce”.
(Photo credit: http://www.aceshowbiz.com)